January 13, 2013

Kitchen Disasters

Awhile back, after posting about this lovely orange marmalade cake, and my holiday soirĂ©e, I promised a soon-coming post on kitchen disasters. Well, here it is. 

Meet my kitchen. 

Meet the magic that sometimes occurs even with limited counter space.
(What you see above is the counter. All of it. Seriously.) 

 Now meet even more kitchen chaos:

 Including the cake that simply fell apart when I tried to move it:

(For the record, that was supposed to be a chocolate peanut butter marble cake -- but I'm going to guess the original recipe didn't use natural peanut butter like I did, which is probably what should have kept it together.)  

Then there's the ganache that was far too gooey to roll into truffles: 

And oh so many more dishes that never get photographed...

The bottom line? For every wonderful creation I make in the kitchen, there is often a kitchen disaster story to tell. It might be a ruined dinner, a cake that somehow didn't bake properly, or something as silly as a dropped egg. (My mom used to say that eggs make the same sound no matter which floor they drop on... I have dropped enough eggs in several kitchens to know she speaks the truth.) Usually that dropped egg is the last one I have on hand and necessary for the recipe.

Thankfully, the Sailor doesn't mind a disaster every now and again -- as long as we have pizza delivery on speed dial, charcoal for the BBQ, or a Five Guys within driving distance, we'll be okay. He has also encouraged me on more than one occasion by reminding me 'that's how we learn...' 

I have definitely learned a thing or two.

Years ago, I paid too much money for a little black book on basic cooking. I thought I could use some help in the basic area of cooking some days -- most days in fact. 

Sure, I could do a lot of basic things. Growing up, I always prided myself on being able to boil an egg -- that often seemed to be the standard by which people judged someone's cooking ability: "So and so can't even boil an egg."

But I'd never poached an egg before, and my omelettes sometimes turned to scrambled eggs. Ironically, my egg timer supervised this sauce-of-something-or-other that turned whatever cake I made into a dish nobody should have to taste. So awful was the cake, I've completely blocked out the name of it. I couldn't tell you what was actually bubbling below except for that lonely cinammon stick.  

Like that cake, this basic book was a major disappointment. You see -- it was almost too gourmet to be 'basic'. They used words like 'chiffonade' and 'poivrade sauce'. It had recipes for lobster bisque and snail butter -- foods I never actually wanted to eat, let alone create from scratch.

When I wanted to make some simple scalloped potatoes, I searched high and low in this book for the recipe. I just wanted to know the cooking time and temperature. The book contained more than half a dozen potato recipes but nothing for scalloped spuds. (I eventually found the recipe in that old wartime cookbook...

Yet even though I keep wanting to just get rid of this book, something stops me every time I put it in the 'giveaway' pile. I think it's because I need to just try something 'basic' out of it -- even if I can't pronounce it -- even if it might be a flop.

Tonight, when I picked the book back up and flipped through it, I saw the instructions for how to poach an egg. 

I suddenly realized that after all of these years, I have still never tried to make poached eggs before. They are pretty basic, after all.

Perhaps it's time. I think my little kitchen can handle it -- as long as I don't drop the eggs on the floor first. 

If I master that, maybe I can work my way up to snail butter. I've discovered there are no snails actually in the butter -- just garlic, parsley and shallots.  

And when all else fails, I know I can still boil an egg. I can also make oatmeal like a champ. I'm also convinced that anything tastes better in Pyrex. Read more here at the Pyrex Collective III about my hunt for cereal bowls.  

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