April 13, 2011

Learning From Cooking Catastrophes

Not everything I make in the kitchen is good. Seriously. I am often reminded by my family of a 'Cheerios casserole' I made when I was in grammar school- my parents were enthusiastic supporters of my culinary adventures, giving me freedom in the kitchen to experiment. For a long time the results were extremely odd, I have a perplexing memory of a sausage milkshake... Anyhow, yesterday was one of those days, where everything I made was either just ok, or even below that, but still edible. Have you ever had one of those days? While those days are certainly not fun, or delicious, they have value! Value in learning what didn't work, or what you don't like, or what was just plain wrong. Yesterday, I thought I'd make us some pizzas on the big green egg. Now, I was in a bit of a hurry, so I bought some pre made pizza crusts and I went to a grocery store that isn't my usual one, so I wasn't able to get the ingredients as exact as I would have liked. Well, fast forward, the first pizza had two problems- the first being that the tomato sauce was too watery and the second being that I just couldn't get past the crust being not very good... The second pizza was not that great either, I had substituted a cooked ham for prosciutto and dried figs for fresh figs (not in season yet), and there was way too much goat cheese. And again, I couldn't get past the crust being kind of bad... But seriously, I learned a great deal from this experiment. First and foremost, the crust makes a big difference in how good I think a pizza is. And considering how simple it is to whip up pizza dough, it is worth the little bit of extra effort. I also learned that for a drier sauce, I could either cook it for a while to reduce it, but that doesn't help a busy mom, but what I could do is put the sauce in a wire mesh colander and press it with the back of a spoon to get as much moisture out as possible before I put it on the pizza. Finally, I also learned that unless I place the pizza crust on a flat surface, while I'm putting on the toppings, they all fall into the middle, which was kind of the problem with the goat cheese on the second one (meaning that it was on a concave plate). So, although we didn't enjoy our dinner as much as we could have, I do have some new knowledge I didn't have before. I hope this encourages you to experiment and not worry about following recipes to the letter. Give yourself permission to fail from time to time- you may surprise yourself with what you learn, and how you ultimately become inspired. Following the pizza catastrophe I attempted to make a graham cracker style crust using roasted almonds. Didn't work. But, mixed with a little creme fraiche and some blackberries with a hint of sugar, took care of my sweet tooth. What did I learn? That you can only make a graham cracker style crust (tiny pieces of crackers mixed with melted butter to form a crumbly dough) with things that absorb the butter, hence my problem with almond flour. But, what if I mixed graham crackers with almonds? Now we're talking... And without my dessert disaster, I never would have thought of it!

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