Happy New Year!
I decided my first post of 2009 would be a look back at 2008 ... at the dishes that didn't work. I suppose that seems negative, but each recipe was a lesson learned, and hopefully helped me become a better cook. Maybe posting these will help you avoid the mistakes I made!
1. Basic (blah) Brownies -- These weren't inedible, just blah. Luckily they had a texture that was chewy enough that I could use them in mini trifles, which were a hit with friends who came over for dinner. My photo was picked up by Tastespotting, and the post was also featured on YumSugar, so the post was one of the most popular posts of 2008. Go figure.
2. Anne Burrell’s Fregula with Braised Butternut Squash -- I'm sure this is a good recipe. I just killed it by having a heavy hand with red pepper flakes. Lesson learned: go easy on these little flakes, and TASTE before you add more!
3. Butterfinger Bars – I found this recipe on the Cooking Light bulletin board, posted by a friend who is known for being a great source of recipes. It looked like a good use of candy corn, which I don't care for, plus it was really easy -- melt candy corn, stir in peanut butter, refrigerate, then dip in chocolate. Well, my candy corn never fully melted -- maybe it was a tad stale? When I mixed it with the peanut butter, there were little bits of candy corn suspended in the peanut butter. I tried microwaving the two together, to no avail. I ended up dumping the whole mess.
4. Baked Butternut Squash Fries (right) – These sounded like a good idea but I think the picture sums up the problem. They were limp and yucky. You can cut something the shape of a french fry, but that doesn't make it taste good.
5. French Onion Soup, Cooks Illustrated 2008 – I didn't get any photos, but the recipe was an involved process and none of it went as described. First, you cook the onions in the oven. The result was supposed to be onions in a lot of liquid, but mine went completely dry. Then you put the pan on the stove and sautee the onions, deglazing them three times. All it took was for me to turn my back on the pan for a minute and the bottom of the pan became a burnt mess. I remedied the situation by dumping the onions into a separate pot, but all the flavor that would have come from the deglazing process was lost in the burnt crud. The result, of course, was so-so. The disaster was my doing … but in any case, it’s an involved recipe that calls for a lot of attention.
6. Roasted Delicata Squash with Spinach – This was a Wegmans recipe that I tasted at the store. The problem was me (again). The cauliflower was cut bigger than the delicata squash, so the cauliflower barely roasted, while the delicata was mushy. See those little black things in the photo? Those are my burnt onions. Lesson learned: when you are roasting veggies in the oven, cut them about the same size.
7. Rocky Road – This was based on a combination of chocolate and peanut butter, with marshmallows mixed in. I added peanuts, which isn't what caused the problem with the recipe. The chocolate mixture was solid only when it was refrigerated. Even then, when you picked it up, it melted immediately upon contact with your hands. Never again.
8. Stephanie Izard's Banana Bread -- This time, the fault wasn't mine. It was definitely the recipe, from last year's winner of Top Chef. It called for 1 teaspoon of salt, which gave the bread a pronounced salty flavor. I've wondered if the recipe might be the result of sloppy editing on the Bravo site, but I checked, and the recipe is still the same. Either way, it's not my cup of tea. Charlie would have eaten it, though.
9. Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade Sauce from The Southern Living Cookbook – This recipe called for 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley, and that amount overwhelmed the whole recipe. I tried adding various things to perk it up but the sauce was just blah. I served it to company with crab cakes, because I didn't have an alternative. The rest (and wouldn't you know, it made tons) went down the drain.
10. French Onion Burgers from Cuisine at Home Magazine -- I saw this recipe in a sample issue the magazine sent me. Our family is a big fan of French Onion Soup, so I thought I'd give the recipe a try. It wasn't a hit with us. It was bland and didn't evoke the flavors of the soup at all. If this is a good example of their recipes, I wouldn't subscribe.
Coming up next: my Top 10 of 2008!