Category Archives: Kitchen flops

I’m glad I’m not cooking Thanksgiving dinner!

Yesterday I made calzones–they were lovely–but placed them each on an oiled cookie sheet (they were huge), which, when placed in the hot oven, smoked. Ew. Hot oil smoke smell is pretty vile, and it stuck around til today…

When I covered it with burning bread smoke, thanks to two apparently not-so-quick-cooking pork chops and a pan that got waaaay hotter than I thought. I really wanted a ham steak but wouldn’t spend the money at Whole Foods–now I have rapidly cooling potatoes and two chops in the oven. Oh, and a house that smells like smoke.

All I’m saying is that my friends and family should be thankful I’m not cooking Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. We’d have a raw bird and some calcified sweet potatoes, or stuck mashed potatoes and vile stuffing ūüôā Some weeks are just like this–my cooking mojo somehow falls away and is replaced by Awkward in the Kitchen Girl.

Hopefully the cookie dough I just made will make lovely cookies, and I’ll be back on the tracks. Til then, happy thanksgiving! I have much to be grateful for this year–and a wonderful place in which to cook is the least of them. A wonderful spouse. A loving family. A job I love. A city I….am much better with this year than last year. Great neighbors (compared to last year, these guys are above and beyond fantastic). And a happy orange kitty. Happy cooking!

And you know what they say about good intentions

the applesauce from HELLLLLLLLOh, people.  See this applesauce?  A recipe I have made (and canned successfully) a half-dozen times?  Today it was a total mess.  I nearly threw in the towel multiple times.  I should probably not tell you this story at all.  But today was the day of good intentions, and the ridiculous, insane sequence of events that followed.

We should probably start with yesterday, a perfect fall day, when Mr. Pea and I set out to go apple-picking. ¬†This is not Mr. Pea’s favorite activity, but since we no longer live near my traditional apple-picking buddy, he takes me, so that he gets 1) a happy wife and 2) a pie. ¬†Fair enough. ¬†But our google directions to the orchard were, uh, flawed, so we got lost in the Connecticut countryside. ¬†Not so awesome.

We finally got to the orchard, and the line to pay for apples was, I’m not kidding, nearly the length of a football field. ¬†But we put on our happy smiles, enjoyed the lovely weather, and it was fine.

Today I decided to make applesauce. ¬†I figured this would take about an hour. ¬†I forgot I’d used some of my pint jars for pickles, which are still in the fridge. ¬†So I went to Whole Foods to get more. ¬†They only had quarts, but whatever, I thought–I’d meant to get some this summer, anyway.

Ha.

So I got home and set to work–washing, peeling, cooking, sterilizing. ¬†That’s when I realized that my jars *just* fit in my hot water canner. ¬†They were so close to the top I had doubts about being able to cover them with water for processing. ¬†I should have heeded those doubts.

And that’s when I knocked one of my last remaining cherry juice glasses off the counter with my elbow so that it shattered all over the floor. ¬†Mr. Pea and I picked it up, and I went back to work. ¬†But if you’ve read this a while, you know how sad it makes me when I break them.

After what seemed like forever for my apples to cook down adequately (there were 20 of them, which probably had something to do with it), I fished my jars out of the sterilizing bath, filled them (which made a hell of a mess), and placed them back in the water. ¬†I had to heat up more water in a kettle to cover them. ¬†I heated the water to a boil…..and water began to splash out, all over the stove, over the stove, onto the floor, splash, splash, hot hot. ¬†I had a mild freakout.

I dug out an old stock pot that I thought was tall enough for the jars–and it was, by probably 1/2″ more than the canner. ¬†I carefully pulled the jars out of the boiling water, placed them in the stock pot. ¬†Then I began to pour the just-under-boiling water in. And it splashed. ¬†On the island. ¬†On the floor. ¬†On me. ¬†Ow.

I set it to boil, and after some time, got it to a steady boil without boiling over.  Joy.  I started making lunch.

After 20 minutes of processing, I pulled the jars out and set them up on a towel. ¬†Then the applesauce began to splooge out of the jars and down their sides. ¬†What the hell???? ¬†I’ve never had this happen before. ¬†I thought I’d left plenty of headspace for expansion but evidently not. ¬†So now I have jars that are processed, but a mess. ¬†You can see it in the photo above. ¬†The lids all set, by some miracle, but I’m only hoping that the sauce trapped on the edge of them, between them and the rim of the jar, doesn’t get nasty. ¬†I will have to wash these suckers down before storage, though, that’s for sure.

The process was so inordinately stressful and took far longer than it should have, so I’ve decided to camp out on the couch watching football and reading and to order out for dinner, instead of attempting the butternut squash enchiladas I was planning. ¬†Tomorrow’s another day.

Oh, and if anyone in New England wants to swap 10 pint jars with lids for 10 quart jars with lids, let’s set up a meeting.

I’m not much of a pickler

Pickles...Last week I picked up a fun little book at the library–Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon is a great stash of ‘kitchen projects’–including pickles, bacon, and marshmallows, oh my. ¬†The photos are enticing and the instructions, while they could sometimes be a little fuller, are preceded by interesting anecdotes. ¬†But today I tried the pickle recipe, and frankly, I’m not sure it went well. ¬†And I don’t think it’s the book’s fault–I suspect it’s me.

I should tell you that this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to make pickles, and that last time, it did not go well, either. ¬†Mr. Pea and I made pickles several years ago and the process left us mostly with burns and rather un-tasty specimens. ¬†As such, my hopes weren’t especially high for these pickles, even though my canning experience has increased.

The pickle recipe from Jam It includes a lot of herbs. ¬†A lot. ¬†They fill up about 1/2-1″ of the pint jar, which made it then really hard for me to get my pickle spears and slices in comfortably. ¬†According to the recipe, 3 pounds of veggies=3 pints of pickles. ¬†But I had lots and lots of cucumbers left–I think I only used 1 1/2 to two pounds and ultimately ended up with 4 jars. ¬†At any rate, the spears didn’t fit well, and then when I poured a vinegar, salt and water solution over them, they still poked out the top. ¬†I’m not sure what impact this will have on the shelf life of the pickles. ¬†But I pressed on and processed them–I think a minute or two too long–and so I might have also doomed my pickles to squishiness. ¬†Plus, the rim of one jar was not tight enough, and it actually *lost* brine in the processing. ¬†What gives?

Oh well. ¬†I did have enough pickles and spices to assemble a jar of fridge pickles. ¬†The whole project cost about $2.50 and a few–maybe 4?–little garden pickles. ¬†And maybe if I toss the processed jars in the fridge, they will turn out ok.

Strike 2 (in 9 years)

Gorgonzola and Zucchini RigatoniLast night I learned, to my horror, that Mr. Pea is not wild over gorgonzola cheese. ¬†I learned this because he did not like dinner. ¬†What? ¬†How can this be? ¬†This is only the second time in the nearly 9 years we’ve lived together that he hasn’t liked what I’ve made for dinner, so I was a little surprised. ¬†Strike one–back, oh, in 2002, I’d guess–was when I first started really cooking on my own and made chicken piccatta but forgot to strain the capers, making the whole dish ridiculously briny. ¬†But this is strike 2–pasta with gorgonzola and zucchini, via Serious Eats.

Now I did make one mistake when putting this dish together that might be responsible for Mr. Pea’s reaction (though, for the record, I liked it, which is good since there are a looot of leftovers I will have to eat. ¬†No tossing–gorgonzola’s too expensive!). ¬†I was supposed to add 4 oz of cheese. ¬†I had a 6 oz container and got a little overzealous with it. ¬†I put at least 5 oz in there. ¬†This certainly would make some difference and the dish was likely more pungent than it was supposed to be. ¬†But really, it’s a lesson learned. ¬†Mr. Pea said, as he ate his peanut butter sandwich, that he’s never been that crazy over gorgonzola, especially in quantity–a little goes a long way for him. ¬†Now I know. ¬†Nice to know there’s still stuff to learn about a person after 15 years together!

For those of you who do like some pungent cheesy pasta, here’s the recipe:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2009/08/seriously-italian-farfalle-with-zucchini-and-gorgonzola-recipe.html

Definitely, keep an eye on your cheese amount. ¬†As the author notes, the pungency of the cheese should mellow. ¬†In my case, it didn’t quite mellow enough!

I think I ruined a batch of yogurt

I made a batch of yogurt yesterday afternoon, not really paying attention to the time. I checked it after 7 hours of incubation, before I went to bed, and it still seemed thin. I figured, well, I almost always seem to wake up at midnight since we’ve moved, I’ll just pop it in the fridge then. But alas, last night I slept all the way from 10:30 until 6 this morning–and my yogurt incubated from about 3 yesterday afternoon til I woke up. That’s some 15 hours. The cooler was nowhere near 100 degrees by morning, and the yogurt still seems thin, to boot. Some websites I’ve checked simply say that longer incubation times yield tangier yogurts; another one said that as the temperature changes and time marches on, it becomes ripe for mold. I’m not sure what to do. If I toss it, I’ll lose 3 pints of yogurt, worth about $1.30 in terms of milk, and I’ll have to start over with a new culture (ie, new cup of plain yogurt, rather than my own). I’ll probably do that–better safe than sorry, I suppose. What a bummer, though I am glad for the sleep.

Mushroom Sandwiches

While I have no photo for you, I did make dinner tonight–portabella mushroom sandwiches. While Mr. Pea said they were good, I’m on the fence, and it’s mostly because of user error.

Portabella mushrooms are great big fungi. I’ve tried making them on the grill with some luck, but tonight I did them in a deep skillet/saucepan. After taking off their woody stems (I bought HUGE caps), I dusted the dirt off of them, placed a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the pan, and made mistake #1: I turned the heat up too high. My idea was to sear the caps, but what ended up happening was that the parts of the pan that did not have direct contact with the mushrooms got reaaaaally hot. Then when I flipped the caps, the bits of cap stuck to the pan that weren’t now covered (ie, I can’t flip onto the exact same spot) got reaaaaallly hot, and a little smoky, even after just a couple of minutes.. I splashed the caps with Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder, and pepper, and covered the pot. If the pan wasn’t so hot, the mushrooms would have generated enough liquid for a gentle steam. Instead, we got a bit of steam and a whole lot of water that just made the hot mess of the pan worse–we got crazy amounts of smoke. If I was paying attention, I would have caught this, but I was dawdling online and didn’t notice until the kitchen was terribly smokey. Olive oil smoke is really pretty nasty, too. Then I added the cheese and covered the pan, adding water to the pan and turning the heat down. While this caused the burning and smoking to stop, the steam that resulted flavored the delicate mozzarella I made this afternoon expressly for a tasty mushroom topping and instead of creamy dairy goodness, it just tasted like portabella and olive oil smoke. While they weren’t terrible, these sandwiches were not what I’d hoped, either. However, they would be really tasty with just a little modification, mostly to the heat–keeping the heat at medium would eliminate the smoke and the burned flavor of the cheese.

Lesson learned!

Darn it.

Tonight I made granola. I tried to make granola. But our oven temp is wonky, and I was adapting a recipe I’d never made before, and I forgot and added the fruit before baking rather than after, and even though it was in there for only 3/4 of the time the recipe called for, the granola over-cooked and now has a ‘browned’ smoky flavor. What a waste of 2 1/2 cups of oats and almost a cup of pecans. I also didn’t add enough honey, I don’t think, as the granola doesn’t have any crunch. Except of course for the currants, which are like tiny coals. Dammit. Tonight’s lesson: Always read the directions ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Extra bonus lesson: learn to like toasted granola, as there’s plenty of it.