Friday, October 24, 2008

Alas and Alack: The CHG Hall of Shame

(Before getting to today’s article, I have to mention this: I was standing less than two feet from Tom Hanks at a restaurant last night. On the outside, I was all laid-back and cool. On the inside, I metaphorically wet my pants.)

Between CHG and a new column on Serious Eats, I’m attempting to come up with three inexpensive, nutritious, culinarily sound dishes every seven days. Most weeks, out of five new-to-me meals, I can pick the best three and throw ‘em up on the ‘net. (NOTE TO SELF: Avoid phrase “throw ‘em up” when referring to delicious food.) Sometimes, I even get lucky: all five meals are great, and I can bank two for future posts.

Other times, like this week, everything tanks. (This is my clever way of saying, “I got nothing.”)

But! There's a bright side to this: I can show you a vast selection of recently-prepared dishes that blew the big one, and then tell you exactly why they sucked. What's more, this exercise lets you, the reader, know I don't post about everything I cook. A dish has to be halfway decent, or it doesn't go up.

So, without further ado ... BEHOLD! The duds!

Chayotes Relleno from Food Network
Chayotes are small, jade-hued, fantastically inexpensive squashes found mostly in Latin cuisine. They taste kind of like a cucumber mated with a honeydew, but less sweet and more … well, squashy. This was the first time I had ever tried them, and while I liked the vegetable itself, the dish was a lemon. First off, it took almost two hours to make. That’s not the food’s fault, but mine - I underestimated by almost 60 minutes, and was gnawing on The Boyfriend’s arm by the time it was finally ready. Second, it did funny things to my stomach. Not funny in a “Ha!” way, either.

Eggplant Steaks from Alton Brown
Great googly moogly, does it ever pain me to write this. Alton is the famous equivalent of my beloved 9th grade biology teacher Mr. G, who made me give a flying crap about cell walls. Alas, the steaks were too thick, the cooking time was off, and the marinade didn’t really do much. A big bummer.

Honey Peanut Butter Banana Muffins from the Weight Watchers Boards
Sure, the name reads like Elvis’ greatest fantasy (beyond a limo made entirely of shag carpet), but even the King would have disapproved of these dry, dang near flavorless concoctions.
Q: How can a creation with the words “honey,” “peanut butter,” and “banana” possibly fail?
A: When they blend so seamlessly you can’t taste ANYTHING.

French Toast-Peach Cobbler from Cooking Light
Oh man, I had such high hopes for this one. And while it was borderline acceptable, there are much better things to do with peaches. *Sigh*

Rum-Glazed Banana Tartlets from Martha Stewart
Step 1: pound bread into oblivion.
Step 2: burn rum sauce until it becomes ashy, gasoline-flavored muck.
Step 3: get banana all over hoodie.
Step 4: assemble, eat, and repeat the phrase “meh” at least 50 times.
(In this dish’s defense, I think the badness was mostly my fault.)

Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Peanuts from Martha Stewart
Let it be known that leftover pasta lasts approximately 30 seconds in our refrigerator. If given a choice between filet mignon prepared for me by a shirtless Olivier Martinez, or day-old capellini … well, I’d go with the first one. But the pasta would be a close second. Anyway – back to my point: this was gross. We made it, tried it, and didn’t touch it again. It descended into Moldville before I finally sacked up and tossed it.

Corn Flake-Coated Chicken from I Can’t Remember
Last week, while shopping for shoes with The Boyfriend’s mom, we spotted a hair shoe: a low-heeled Mary Jane covered entirely in short, poop-brown stubble. While I didn’t lick it, I imagine it would have tasted like this chicken.

Readers, how about you? Have there been any recipes you really, really wanted to like, only to have them come out tasting like tree bark? (Do tell, and I promise to have a halfway decent recipe up soon.)

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Leigh said...

Oh my go'! Post of the week!

Can we please make this a regular feature? You should see the disasters that I've created in the name of experimentation or thinking "I'm sure X will work great instead of Y."


lastmango2 said...

Girl, I feel you.

This week it was pasta with pumpkin and ricotta that sounded wonderful. The entire batch went into the the trash. Won't mention the blog it came from.

Last week it was some pumpkin bran muffins from the Weight Watchers boards as well. Dumb me made a double batch on the first try...everyone of them also went into the trash as they had that funny taste from too much baking powder.

Aryn said...

Last night I made a basic microwave risotto. It contained goodness - parmesan, white wine - but it lacked sparkle. I tried adding salt, which helped some. I've made other microwave risottos before, so cooking method wasn't the problem. This was a new version that fell flat.

Maybe it was the vegetable broth it called for...

Patrick said...

This isn't recent, but one of my worst duds was a pecan chicken dish that I made for Valentine's Day for the gf. We had recently eaten pecan chicken at a wedding absolutely loved it so I attempted to recreate it from a recipe on the Internet.

I think dinner ended up being a Hot N' Ready that night...

Koriann said...

I've made baked macaroni and cheese several times and it was wonderful. But, of course, this was back when my metabolism worked so quickly I struggled to gain weight.

Keeping in mind that this is not the case any longer, I tried to adapt a recipe (Alton Brown's) to be relatively healthy and I figured I'd go ahead and throw in some roasted vegetables for good measure.

I was so disappointed with what I ended up with, I didn't even bother to pack it up and put the leftovers in the fridge.

Liz C said...

Yeah, I've got one sticking in my craw right now.

Over the past few months I've tried a couple of variations of 'chickpea and greens'. I love chickpeas like the sun. I love greens. And both recipes were not even good enough to merit a 'meh...'

I was bitterly disappointed. Yet I may well try again. Because I'm that way.

The Diva said...

Eggplant steaks? Yuk! That sounds so gross that I give you credit for even trying it!


Our Common Cents said...

Can't. Stop. Laughing.
This is a welcome alternative to the usual "OMG, diet food is SO AWESOME" posts. As most of us who try to eat healthy know, sometimes the name of the dish far exceeds the taste. Perhaps an alternative would be chewing the magazine which said recipe came from...
Please post more duds! It's helpful to know what NOT to try.

Our Common Cents said...

PS - tried your Eggplant with spicy tomato sauce this week - it was delicious. Even the carnivore hubs wants to include it in the regular rotation.

Money Maus said...

SUCH a hilarious post. A lot of things I've tried this month have gone down the wrong path (aka into the garbage bin) but it's a fun learning process! :)

Danielle said...

LMAO--this should be a regular feature (not implying you screw up in the kitchen a lot, but you know what I mean!)

Seriously though, I couldn't stop laughing--finally, someone else with kitchen bloopers!

Marrid66 said...

Man do I know what you are talking about. Some of mine have been trash can specials.

Karen aka marrid66

Lady said...

Wow. Found your blog through links of links. :) I was very happy to have stumbled upon your blog!

Your post was full of yummy and healthy, *Affordable* delights. Thanks for sharing. :) At least I know that I can afford a living a healthy lifestyle. :)

More power! :) Cheers!

Moosie said...

I love this post because it reminds me that we're all human. =)

I tried to make a Mexican omelette and it ended up being a... um... Mexican scrambled eggs.

Kris said...

You guys, I'm so happy I'm not alone with this. No matter how good I think I'm getting, there's always a dish that's like, "Oh, silly woman. Try again."

Caroline said...

Sometimes recipes are just bad — weird proportions, or more often, poorly written instructions. But recipes, after all, are just guidelines, and there's no telling what will happen once you get going in the kitchen.

Both Cooking Light and Martha Stewart have let me down in the past — too-sweet desserts, dry cakes, a yogurt-pasta disaster that I should've known would curdle. That's not to say these are terrible publications, just that when I read their recipes and test them out, they seldom work in my kitchen.

Mark Bittman and Deborah Madison, on the other hand, tend to work out fine, even when (because I can't resist) I fiddle with the ingredients and proportions. Their recipes are both flexible and reliable in my kitchen.

Maybe you just need to find the writers/recipe developers whose recipes seem to "work" in your kitchen and then riff from there.

But hey, kitchen-disaster stories are always a riot, so please keep sharing!

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear. You didn't really try a recipe from the WW boards. I've made scads of those, and the only two that were even edible were the 1-Point Cheese Soup (which is actually more like 4 Points if you serve it in portions for adult humans, but some versions of it are lighter than others) and a brown rice and lentil soup with red wine in it from the Veggie Board.

The rest of them have made me suspect that the reason some people are so successful on WW is that they don't actually like food.

Anonymous said...

Just ran across this thread (i know, it's old) but Elie Kreuger has a great Cornflake chicken recipe from Food Network. Maybe it's the dijon mustard (i add more) or the garlic (i use fresh..and add more), or the yogurt/egg whites, but they come out crunchy and moist and delicious.

Anonymous said...

I once made black beans from the NYT Natural Foods Cookbook. It was so bad I just moved it around on my plate; my husband was game and went for it. He paid a gastronomic horrible price for a few days.

But, big question: I've bombed with the Weight Watchers squash lasagna too. I would love to know 'zactly what you did to tart it up and make it edible. On paper, it seems like such a winner.