Monday, March 22, 2010

CHG Hall of Shame, Part III: Return of the Breadi

Today on Serious Eats: Moroccan-Style Chickpea Soup. I give it three snaps up in Z formation.

Every few months, instead of highlighting a newly beloved edible, we at CHG will compile a list of dishes that totally bombed. Sometimes the recipes themselves are bad, but mostly, it’s my own fault, since I’m semi-literate and terrible at improvising. Seriously, there’s a French Onion Soup at the bottom of this post that didn’t just make me doubt my own skills, but the existence of god.

The reasons for the Hall of Shame pieces are threefold:
  1. This way, you know we don’t post everything we make. Dishes can’t just be cheap and healthy. They have to taste like actual food. That people would eat. Without accompanying upchuck.
  2. Bad food is funny.
  3. I forgot reason #3.
So, without further ado, here’s the very best of the very worst. Please respect me in the morning.

Parsnip Fries
Okay, you know how one of the basic tenets of food prep is chopping ingredients into similar-sized pieces, so they cook evenly? I ignored that rule here. Some parsnips burned, others didn’t heat through. I think the one in the middle is giving me the finger.

Turkey Meatballs
Giada DeLaurentiis’ turkey meatballs are widely known and well reviewed. “Hey,” I thought, “Why not ignore her directions completely, add more egg, and chop the onions into something resembling hubcaps? Then, I’ll burn the meat beyond recognition and cover the carnage in red sauce.” Bad plan, me. Bad plan.

Lime Basil Sorbet
It turns out, when a recipe calls for an ice cream maker, you can’t substitute an 8x8 Corningware baking dish. Doy. This block of lime and basil ice haunted our freezer for a month before I finally sacked up and tossed it. Apologies to Cooking Light, which deserves better from its readers.

Parmesan Steak Fries
This one wasn’t me! At least, I don’t think it was. No, it was probably me. Either way, this Everyday Food recipe tasted like nothing. They’re usually infallible, so I shoulder the blame. Martha, please forgive me. Don’t hit me with your ornamental loom.

Watermelon & Feta Salad
When an excellent, competent food blogger asks you to cut up a block of feta, and you use cheap pre-crumbled cheese complete with anti-caking agent, you deserve whatever weird Watermelon-cheese soup you end up with. Which is what I did.

Pureed Broccoli Pasta
Sigh. Again with the feta. I don’t think I added enough liquid, either, meaning the only thing grainier than my picture was the sauce itself.

French Onion Soup
Once upon a time, there was a culinary nitwit who wanted French Onion Soup, but didn’t have the time to make one from scratch. So, she opened a can of Progresso, crumbled up an old roll, and melted a hunk of about-to-go-bad mozzarella on top. This all occurred in the microwave, which actually yelled at her for attempting such a travesty. Then she died of bad food. The end.

The cookies. THE COOKIES.
A few months before Christmas, I received an e-mail from a major food publication asking me to enter a baking contest. Ecstatic and newly motivated, I devised a recipe for Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies, which was supposed to whet editors’ appetites, revolutionize cookie making, and bring about world peace. Eight slightly different batches later, they still sucked and I gained seven pounds. We’ll get ‘em next year, Buttermaker.

And that’s the whole shameful bunch. Readers, what dishes have you mucked up lately? Do tell.

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Elizabeth said...

I tried to make french onion soup from scratch...and what seemed like an easy soup turned out awful. Turns out that an apartment grade electric stove + thin pot + long cooking times = horrible, bitter mess of burned food. No matter how low I turn the heat on my stove, if its been on for more than 15 minutes, it seems to just do high heat.

wosnes said...

What I hate is when I make something tried and true (that is, that I've made successfully many times) and it fails. I never know exactly why it happens, either. I went through a few weeks of that recently. I felt like my ability to cook had disappeared.

I know a recipe will never turn out exactly the same way twice, but I hate it when it's really bad instead of at least "pretty good."

shannon said...

In an attempt to use up some of the roasted pork currently residing in my freezer, I found a recipe on Cooking Light for Pork Fattoush. I even followed the directions.
It was just "eh." I couldn't get my husband, who eats everything, to eat it.And the leftovers went in the trash. So much for being inspired while I use up those leftovers.

Esther said...

I love reading about mistakes, only because it makes all of us human. And if we can't laugh at ourselves, who can?

I know what you mean. I get all cocky and start adding nasty ingredients to an otherwise awesome dish. I made risotto out of lamb stock. What a waste of precious time and delicious resources!!!

kittiesx3 said...

We won't talk about my first attempt at making mac & cheese from scratch. Without a recipe. Let's just say the local pizzeria right around the corner got some unexpected business that night.

Brighde said...

@Elizabeth - try carmelizing the onions in the oven. Bake at 350 for 90 minutes, stiring every 15-20to make sure they all get nice and brown. The proceed as usual. I've never had a bad batch of onion soup since I started cooking the onions this way.

Rachel said...

I mucked up the parsnip fries too! So disappointing! I became concerned during the roll-them-in-parmesan portion of the recipe, since the parm didn't want to stick to the parsnips. Someone needs to improve on this recipe and report back!

wosnes said...

kittiesx3's post reminded me of something. There is one recipe by a very popular blogger than I've made twice. It's a casserole. The first time I kept checking the recipe because it didn't look right to me. I've made enough casseroles to know what they should look like before they go into the oven. I couldn't see that I'd done anything wrong, so I proceeded. It's the only thing I've ever made that went straight to the trash after one taste and we ordered out. Since there are numerous positive comments about this recipe on her blog, I decided I must have done something wrong. I tried it one more time with only slightly better results. We ate it, but no one liked it, and the leftovers went straight to the trash.

Every time I see another positive comment on that recipe, I wonder what kind of garbage people are willing to eat!

Elizabeth -- I have problems cooking things on low heat for long periods of time. What solved the problem was a heat diffuser/flame tamer. Mine was less than $5 at my local hardware store.

Becky said...

I'm one of those pickier eaters who is trying to branch out. I've had asparagus in things before and liked them, so I recently decided to try a Cooking Light recipe for chicken and asparagus in a white wine sauce. For the most part, it was awful--I could only tolerate the asparagus when eaten in simultaneous bites with the chicken, and I couldn't even taste the sauce at all. I also discovered the next day that the reheated asparagus was really, really disgusting. It could be that the asparagus wasn't very good, because I got it from the supermarket (no farmers' markets open here yet) and it was kind of bendy before I even cooked it. I tried more creative ways of using it up--making a grilled cheese, chicken and asparagus sandwich, etc. It was still awful. I finally dumped out the rest of the asparagus and the sauce and just ate the chicken up by turning it into a quick n' dirty chicken parmesan ripoff. The one thing I will say for the recipe was the chicken itself was really tasty. So I rewrote the recipe to be just the chicken cutlets. And I think next time, I'll just eat them with my tried-and-true potatoes. :P

Susan said...

Thanks for showing your food disappointments. Helps me feel braver in the kitchen!

Ellen said...

I can't remember one particular dish but there have definitely been a few! I know one looked "wrong" to me from the beginning but I dutifully followed the recipe as I usually only try to muck with them the 2nd time around. Ugh. Another was just blah. Tasteless. Something I threw out without hesitation. Luckily I had side dishes and I think some leftovers we brought out to fill up on or we made sandwiches or something. I hadn't thought to actually write them up much but this was a great post!

Ellen said...

Ha, oh I just thought of one. I made basmati rice just last night in the rice cooker. I love my rice cooker. I usually use Calrose medium grain I think...but was at Trader Joe's and saw the basmati and thought to try it. I rinsed it like I normally do but maybe I shouldn't have? It was just bland little white pieces that pretty much looked like tape worms. Gross. Was it the rinsing? Or does basmati not do well in a rice cooker?

Kris said...

These are great stories, you guys. And wosnes, whenever I don't like a dish that was really well reviewed, I wonder what's wrong with me.

There was a roast chicken a few months ago that wasn't bad by any means, but it was far from the BEST CHICKEN EVAH that folks were calling it. Weird.

AMH in Ohio said...

French Onion Soup is definitely hard. There must be some kind of secret to it because mine did not taste very good either.

DRosa said...

How are you guys making French Onion soup? Mine is "cut up onions, melt butter, saute onions in butter until translucent. Add beef stock (usually straight from a carton of beef stock since I'm lazy about beef stock - chicken stock I'll do).

cut french loaf into slices. Put soup in bowl, float slice of bread, top with provlone cheese, put under broiler for a minute or two.

MJ said...

When I was just out of college I worked as an unpaid intern for a publishing company that did a lot of cookbooks by local personalities. For the Christmas party, I decided to make cranberry-orange bread from their best-known cookbook. It didn't come together at all--it was just a bunch of crumbs. I took it anyway, and explained what had happened. One of the editors said, "Oh, you didn't try to cook from that book, did you?" Then she laughed merrily, and we went outside and fed it to the squirrels.

My mother and I went over the recipe, and discovered that it had no binder. No oil, no shortening, no anything, and I wasn't experienced enough yet to notice while I was making it.

I still can't believe nobody tested the recipes... and seriously, everybody in town had this book in the late 80s. It's still in print, even though the company has been bought and sold a couple of times since then. I just wonder if anybody else has ever tried to cook from it. :-)

Kate said...

This post made me giggle. Thank you. :)

Recently I've started making sweet potato fries -- baked in the oven. They always come out floppy, not crisp, so I asked some friends for advice. One told me the secret was coating the fries in egg whites before baking. It didn't occur to me to grease the pan I baked them on, so they stuck fully and completely to the aluminum foil I lined the pan with. Still, that didn't stop me from eating every single one of them.

I also want to point out that I've had one or two Everyday Food recipes go awry and I'm pretty sure I wasn't at fault. But don't tell Martha -- I don't want her to come after me with her loom either.

MS said...

I made this delicious Cumin Herb Rice Pilaf from epicurious ( ) many times before. At one point, I even had the recipe memorized and whipped up a batch for girlfriends on an out-of-town girls' weekend. They loved it and demanded the recipe. Months went by. Possibly even a year or more. And last night, I tried making the recipe from memory, only this time I made it in a new rice cooker (I'd always made it on the stove before) and added wild rice, you know, for kicks. And I left out the oil (though, to be fair, I'd significantly cut down on the oil when I'd made it before). And I didn't brown anything or toast anything in a pan before dumping the ingredients into the rice cooker. And I used a different kind of broth than I'd used in the past. And somehow, I was surprised when the resulting dish wasn't as good as I remembered. And that the rice turned out a wee bit undercooked and crunchy. Fortunately for me, the hubs actually kind of likes crunchy rice.