July 17, 2010

You Win Some, You Lose Some

I think it’s important to document kitchen failures along with successes for two reasons. One, to show that culinary disasters are pretty much an everyday occurrence and that everybody experiences them. Two, because I’m not ready to go to the grocery store just yet, so any other cooking has been put on hold for a day or two.

What I’m saying is that it’s important to remember that mistakes and mishaps are an essential part of cooking. That’s how you improve a recipe, discover a better one, or simply learn that you have a new least-favorite food. It’s all part of the journey.

Take this recipe, Salmon, Eggs, and Onion with Bagel Crisps, or as I like call it, “Caramelized Yuckiness”.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty picture, this dish was just plain strange. On paper, it sounded quite good. Scrambled eggs mixed with smoked salmon and caramelized onions bring to mind an interesting new take on lox and bagels. Instead, it just tasted…weird. I can’t really place the flavor, something between fishy and smoky and salty. It wasn’t necessarily bad, seeing as I ate half a plate of the stuff as I tried to decide whether I liked it or not, it just wasn’t what I had expected. In the end, I just didn’t think it was good enough to share here.

Shortly after the Caramelized Yuckiness came my first attempt at Chimichurri.

I had seen the recipe in a many a cookbook and it looked really good- bright and fresh and herby green. After deciding to give it a try, I did a bit of research online for a truly authentic Argentinean (Argentine?) style recipe. The one I found completely refuted most of the everyday chimichurri recipes I had seen. It still contained a lot of parsley, but it had tomato, red bell pepper, onion, and a lot of earthy spices blended together with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Seeing as the website I found it on insisted that this was the true way to make chimichurri and that the pretty green puree found in so many cookbooks was not, I thought I was heading in the right direction.

When I first made the chimichurri it looked pretty good, it was just when I took it out of the refrigerator to serve with some grilled flank steak a few hours later that I discovered a lovely little surprise. Thanks to chilling, the olive oil had solidified around the top edges of the mixture, looking truly disgusting. The stuff underneath was still fine, though, and I was excited to try it with some of the steak.

The steak, however, proved to be another obstacle. Thinking myself very clever, I decided to use part of the chimichurri as a marinade, not taking into account that flank steak can be extremely tough and needs some sort of acidic liquid (like lime juice) in any marinade to help tenderize it. To make a long story short, the steak turned out incredibly chewy and the chimichurri did little to help.

In the end, I simply want you all to know that everyone has bad days in the kitchen. No one makes a recipe perfectly every single time and sometimes even the best of recipes can yield the worst of results. I think Julia Child summed it up best when she said, “…try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!"

It’s just that simple.


  1. How true! We had one of those evenings today. I'd read a recipe that added tequila to pinto beans et al - bleech. Then, the shrimp tacos were nothing to write home about. So, the evening left me nothing to blog about ... But, that's ok since I've still got about a dozen in the draft stage.

  2. Kate, I can relate. And I totally didn't mean to rhyme just then. I'm always glad to have some posts already in the works for those rainy days.

  3. Good advice Koci, and regarding flank steak-I find myself switching to other meats due to my failures with that cut of meat. Maybe I'm cheating, but flank steak has defeated me more than once. My fajitas are made with pork and chicken more often than steak due to my failure to achieve any tenderness with flank steak. Roasts give me no trouble and my brisket falls apart it's so tender, but some lessons are still to be learned. Thanks for sharing your challenges.

  4. Ugh! Somedays you just can't catch a break! I have definitely had my days like this in the kitchen too. But like you said, it helps us learn! Next time, your chimichurri is going to kick butt! ;)

  5. @Lady Cooks the Blues~ I have to admit, I tend to like other cuts better than flank steak, unless someone else makes it. :D

    @Marisa~ hahaha Thanks!

  6. luv that you posted a disaster story! most people don't. i think it's often more interesting than a perfect-meal post, really. but maybe it's cos, though i have loved food since childhood, i'm not anywhere near being a great cook! haha! (fingers crossed that will change in time!)

  7. Surviving Suburbia, I'm with you on that. Even though I love a pretty recipe post, I find something out of the ordinary (or slightly disastrous!) much more entertaining. I think it helps us all remember to not take ourselves too seriously. It's much more fun that way!


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