Not Our Finest Moments

June 24th, 2011 · 24 Comments · Dinner, Domestic Affairs

I’ve been feeling a little badly about something. I re-read my post about last weekend’s Grilled Lamb Feast and had the thought: I don’t know if I would like me if I didn’t know me. Who calls their own number on a dinner party? If Phoebe read it, she might have called me “braggy.” The truth is, I was thrilled about that meal because for a few weeks there, I was feeling like Chuck Knoblauch in the late 90s when he forgot how to throw from second base to first. Like totally forgot to the point where the ball would sail 10 feet over the first baseman’s head and into the crowd. He was the second baseman for the New York Yankees. The New York Yankees! This was his job. Sort of like how I write about dinner, so I’m expected to know how to execute a your basic everyday skillet meal. But I started to feel like I was suffering from a bad case of the yips. I could not turn out a decent coconut curry chicken even though I’ve been making a version of one for over a decade. One night, I thought I was a genius for conflating Phoebe’s request for meatballs and Abby’s request for chicken teriyaki into “chicken teriyaki meatballs” — until I actually tried one and realized they tasted like balls of styrofoam with a hint of sawdust. I couldn’t even get mad at Abby when I told her there’d be no dessert if she didn’t eat more, and she responded, “Fine. I’ll have one more bite of this disgusting meatball.” I think my lowest point, though, was last Wednesday when I broke out a nice bottle of Gruner from the fridge and sunk the corkscrew right into the….screwtop cork-less cap. My first thought: Is today the day my family and my DALS readers find out that I am a complete fraud? My second: Thank God, dinner report cards already went out.

The point is, the Lamb Feast wasn’t just delicious, it was redemptive. And it was actually edible. Unlike some of these never-seen-before meals that one might call the DALS blooper reel. Happy Friday.

Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs: Not coming soon to a kitchen near you. (Unless I try again using ground pork instead of ground chicken.)

Shaved Beet Carpaccio with Feta: So elegant, so fresh, so…brown. I know that adding skim milk instead of cream to a hot sauce will cause curdling and that it’s never a good idea to add a sugary, likely-to-burn glaze to a piece of broiling fish until the very end — these things I know. But how, in my two decades of cooking, did I not know that golden beets turn brown if they sit out for too long? A quick Google search tells me to avoid preparing them until the last minute or to keep slices in “acidulated” water to prevent discoloring. By acidulated, I’m pretty sure those smarty-pants mean water with a squeeze of lemon.

You know things are bad when you can’t even make a bagel come out right. I toasted a bagel for Phoebe one night when we made fettucine with butternut squash. Phoebe doesn’t eat pasta, so I usually replace the noodles with something else in the carb family that’s healthy. If it wasn’t black as ash you’d see that this time it was a whole wheat bagel.

Earlier this spring we were working on a story for Bon Appetit about grilled pizzas. We used to make them fairly often but we never quite nailed the magic formula. So since BA is a real magazine — last time I checked they had 1.7 million subscribers — we figured we better get cracking on nailing the magic formula. We did, and you’ll be reading about that soon, but not before we charred half a dozen hole-ridden crusts with soggy toppings that never cooked and cheese that never got golden and bubbly.

Andy had a major vision while driving north on the Major Deegan this past spring. Salmon! He said, Crusted in Potatoes! Let’s make it for the girls and call it French Fry Salmon! How do we do that? (I know now that I can’t stop him, I can only hope to contain him.) I clicked over to my epi app, found nothing. My How to Cook Everything app, nothing. The most credible recipe Google could turn up was something from the Food Network. But Andy wasn’t worried — he had a vision! Like most things, though, visions mean nothing without reliable plans for execution. In spite of the instruction from one of the recipes to seal the potatoes on the fish with plastic wrap (shown above) before frying potato-side down, we could not make the potatoes stick to the fish to form a crust. In the end, Andy’s French Fry Salmon was salmon with a side of potatoes. And you know what? The girls still had dinner and no one showed up at our door with a warrant for our arrest.

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24 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Evan // Jun 24, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Oh man, can I relate to this post. It’s amazing how much humility comes from moments like these. But these risks come with the territory of experimenting in the kitchen – and when the results are good, they’re that much better.

  • 2 Michelle @ A Little P // Jun 24, 2011 at 10:13 am

    It is nice to know that even real cooks make mistakes! It makes me love your blog even more to know that you (and we) are human and not perfect. Keep it up (the great blog, not the mistakes), I love it! :)

  • 3 Heather // Jun 24, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I know what you mean. We get into a rut at our house too sometimes. It’s OK to be braggy though, I love it. I can usually brag when we make good food, as it’s usually DH making the good food and I do the side dishes or appetizer, LOL.

    As my DH always said about cooking, “mistakes are still edible”. Hmmm. Not mine.

  • 4 Mary Ann // Jun 24, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Your first few lines made me chuckle, because my first reaction to your original post about the dinner party was to feel totally inadequate. Inadequate as a cook, as a hostess, as a mother — but only in a “wow, she kicks my butt” kind of way (I wasn’t really getting down on myself).

    I tried writing a comment to that effect, but it ended up sounding kind of snotty, and I finally decided just to be happy for you and your dinner party victory. We all need victories, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Victories are relative, right?

    Now, it’s nice to see that you’re not totally perfect when it comes to the kitchen. But even some of your failures are way over my head! That’s why the blackened bagel was a nice touch. It’s something we all can relate to. :)

  • 5 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag // Jun 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Hey no worries, I like you and I don’t know you! Such a cute post! You guys do the best job of keeping it real in the kitchen! And I’ll be waiting to check out that grilled pizza in Bon Appetit :)

  • 6 Kate // Jun 24, 2011 at 11:33 am

    That top pic is awesome. Thought it was a spice jar at first punctured in the heat of frustration. Screw top + wine opener = hilarious.

  • 7 torrey // Jun 24, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Oh, wine opener in a screw top has happened in our house more than once…my best screw up happend when I was visiting my dad with my kids–I always try to come off as a super capable mother when I visit my dad (paging Dr. Freud, I know) so it was even better this would happen there. I decided to make homemade falafel sandwiches for this kids and was convinced i knew the recipe by heart. Under the somewhat skeptical gaze of my father I got to mashing and mixing and then put the little balls in to fry. They all just disintegrated into the bottom of the pan in what looked like a giant oil slush. Not edible, not salvageable. I realized I’d forgotten the beaten egg. Oh well. We all had pizza instead.

  • 8 Tara // Jun 24, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Oh man, have I been there lately! I recently managed to make a totally inedible version of my grandmother’s easy, easy, easy chocolate cake. In this house it’s hard to make anything with chocolate that doesn’t get eaten. I’ve made this cake dozens of times. I still don’t know what happened! We had to throw it away! I was kind of scared yesterday when I pulled out the muffin tins to make banana chocolate chip muffins from some languishing bananas. But it worked out okay and my confidence as a baker is (mostly) restored.

  • 9 Jenn // Jun 24, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I don’t know you, and I like you! Thank you so much for sharing this. Every once in a while I serve a really disgusting dinner to my family – it doesn’t happen often, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one and that this happens to the best of us!

  • 10 Carolyn // Jun 24, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I say toot your horn. When its good its good, damn it! Be proud and call it like it is! (BTW, what is the Singapore Math equivalent to your security questions???)

  • 11 Barry // Jun 24, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    One time I thought I could try to make a Gorgonzola cheese sauce with linguini. It was not only inedible, it smelled HORRIBLE. But I ate it anyway. *Shrug*

  • 12 Amanda // Jun 24, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I’ll admit when I read the grilled lamb post I did think to myself, “Man, I need to up my game when it comes to guests and dinner.” But I have had those exact proud moments when you are just so freaking blown away with what you did in the kitchen and you want the world to know it! I learned the hard way that most of my friends do not appreciate my meal planning via Facebook, so there you go. But a blog? Brag away, my friend, because if we – your readers – don’t appreciate it then we just aren’t getting it for what it is – a proud parent/cook/grilling moment. Brag on (and show us the failures too, cuz I love those!).

  • 13 Shawnee // Jun 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I used to have a pretty high cooking/experimenting in the kitchen batting average. But them I had a baby. And for some reason everything I cook now tastes disgusting. It’s the strangest thing. She’s six months old. I should be figuring things out by now, but it’s like some higher power said, “We’re taking your cooking powers and giving you an adorable baby instead.” I obviously would make that trade any day, but man I miss my non-runny strawberry pie and boy, am I tired of eating chunky carbonara. I guess my point is, I can relate. When you’re hot your hot, and when you’re not, you’re not.

    BTW–I What’s the polaroid looking camera app that you’re using?

  • 14 Barbara // Jun 24, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Oh, thank you thank you for a good laugh! I needed that.

  • 15 Torrie @ a place to share... // Jun 25, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I so appreciate this… as a blogger, as a parent, as a cook. I totally “get” your excitement =).

  • 16 Tracy // Jun 25, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Way to rock a dinner! This is so worthy of celebrating, in my opinion, because so often something somewhere in the meal can be less than what was hoped for. To put in all that time and effort and get something so amazing and satisfying – whoo hoo!! I happened to read a Bon Appetite recently, and had the pleasure of reading your article about yogurt chicken for the grill. After I read the first sentence I thought, “I think these are the DLS folks” and it was!! I love when that happens. Here’s to many more rockin’ dinners, . . . all summer long.

  • 17 Kate // Jun 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Several things: I remember that moment in Knoblauch’s career: it was so horrible, because we could all relate to him completely! It follows that we have all had these streaks of cooking horrors, too. But just so ya know, I didn’t find the lamb post braggy in the least.

  • 18 Taylor // Jun 26, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    haha love this post! I think we all have these moments in the kitchen! It’s nice to hear even you do as well, because sometimes in the world of blogs it’s easy to think everyone else has it all together and has post-worthy meals every night! :) I still think you’re ahead of the game though!

  • 19 Elizabeth // Jun 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I love this. Thank you so much for sharing the less-than-perfect. It actually makes me feel MORE motivated to cook. :)

  • 20 Erin // Jun 28, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Both these posts, the proud one and the humble one, are why I’m here.

  • 21 Cassandra // Jun 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    This post makes me happy because it proves that I am not the only one capable of burning toast.

  • 22 lynne // Jul 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I find you charming in all of your moods! I loved both posts … and when you are excited about a dinner that came out great I just feel excited to try it for my family.

  • 23 Emily // Feb 15, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/11/potato-crusted-catfish_n_1263817.html?ref=canada-living

    When I saw this, I immediately thought “French Fry Salmon”!

  • 24 Kathryn // Oct 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Huzzah! Vulnerability 1: Dinner 0

    This makes me feel so much better about my failed potato salad last night. In. Edible.

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