Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunday Night Dinner Gone Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Pasta n' Pancakes
Originally uploaded by Marni Molina
Generally speaking, I have pretty good luck in the kitchen. I can discern pretty quickly which cookbooks rock and those that aren't worth the trees that died for them. I'm also a pretty good cook, and can usually save a recipe midway if I see it going wrong. Sunday night, however, was just not my night. As a food blogger, I think it's important to talk about when things go wrong in the kitchen, because it happens to everyone. So here goes...

I selected two fabulous-sounding recipes from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, a book which I'm absolutely obsessed with and have had overwhelming success cooking from. The plan was to make Whole Wheat Linguini with Chestnut Cream sauce (pg 457) and Mediterranean Style Tofu Pancakes (pg 654/5). If I had time, I was also going to make a mixed green salad with a roasted garlic dressing.

Thing that went wrong the first: I roasted one pound of chestnuts and as I was removing the shells, more than half of them were bad with mold on the inside. Argh! I needed 8 ounces of roasted chestnuts for the recipe and I ended up with only 4 ounces of useable chestnuts. So, I decided to substitute with raw cashews.

Thing that went wrong the second: The pancake batter came together just fine, but I was unsure about the thickness and what my final product was supposed to look like. In the recipe, Bittman states, "It should be the consistency of a thick batter..." which isn't all that helpful. So when I went to fry my little pancakes up, they didn't set up right. They were burned around the edges, gooey in the middle and impossible to flip. I kept adjusting the batter adding liquid, adding flour, but I just never got it right. I finally ended up giving up and in a last ditch attempt, I poured the batter into a bar pan and shoved it in a 350 degree oven. I finally ended up with little Mediterranean Tofu Squares, which was fine, but I was really bummed I couldn't create the dish as intended.

Thing that went wrong the third: The Chestnut Cream sauce called for cream or half-and-half and it was my intention to veganize it. I know, from personal experience, that you cannot use soy cream like you can dairy cream if the recipe requires simmering or boiling. Some sort of bad juju happens to it and it evaporates or something. It's no good. Well, I forgot about this and ended up with a chestnutty, cashewy, globby mess. I threw it all in the blender and added unheated soy cream, trying to save the sauce, but it was really, really thick.

Thing that went wrong the fourth: By now, I was so frazzled and pissy, I started doing things without thinking. My plan was to make the salad dressing at this point and prepare the salad, but in an angry haze, I added the sauce to the pasta early. Well, once you add a creamy sauce to pasta, the clock starts ticking towards coagulation. I started frantically trying to get the salad dressing made, flinging dirty pots out of my way and The Husband came over to find out what all the noise was about. After a slew of curse words and angsty lamentation, he suggested I scrap the salad and we just sit down and eat what I had ready.

So, that's what we did. I'm determined to go back to both of these recipes and master them. Determined, I tell you!!!! The flavors for both of them were absolutely fantastic, so I know there is hope. The Chestnut Cream sauce was really sweet, so after I figure out how to not eff it up, I may play around with adding a bit of heat to it. Cayenne maybe. We'll see.

Thing that went right the first: That's right, the night wasn't a totally cluster! The only thing that went right that evening, and it was a big one and totally saved the night, was that my Chargers spanked the Broncos, 52 - 21. We ate our sad little dinner in front of the TV and watched the Chargers hand the Broncos their own asses which made The Husband and me (and every other Charger fan) so happy after all the controversy surrounding the first Charger/Bronco game this season. And by some super freaky twist of fate and stellar alignment, the Chargers are now 2008 West Division Champions.

So, at least there's that. But Chestnut Cream sauce and Mediterranean Tofu Pancakes, you will be mine. Oh yes. You will be mine.


Chelsea said...

Your food still looks beautiful even after all of that! Thanks for giving us the bad, too - it's a nice reminder that we're all human and fuck things up sometimes. I do that more than most, so I especially appreciate it :)

jessy said...

i'm glad that the flavors turned out, Marni - that's good news, fo 'sho! and hell yeah on getting back up on the pasta 'n pancake horse! ;) that rocks!

i agree - it is good to post some mishaps, we all learn from them. i also agree that "it should be the consistency of a thick batter" isn't helpful at ALL! too broad, indeed! that could pretty much mean a lot of things. and i'm sorry that you got so frustated! i totally get frazzled and pissy when stuff doesn't turn out. i bang pots, punch counter tops, and scream. you're husband is too good to say "we don't need the salad". he's brave too - dan would probably just hide from me in that situation.

and one more thing - what is WITH the chestnuts this year!?! i bought some organic ones a few weeks ago and 2 out of every 3 were complete poo. dan's mom even bought some from whole foods a while ago and out of the entire batch there were maybe 3 good ones - we even found bugs in several of them. bad chestnut juju, too!

i'm with Chelsea - your meal still looks delicious!

Bex said...

Its good to hear about the bad sometimes. I know it reminds me that I'm not alone when I'm in the kitchen stressing out because it's all gone horribly wrong (and it's almost always one thing after another). In those times we always think "why me?!?!" and everyone gets it at one time or another.

I do the same when recipes do not turn out as intended (especially if I suspect I messed it up or can fix it). I am determined to make it again fabulous!