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A Year in Failures

I like to think I’m pretty up-front with you guys. When something doesn’t work, I admit it—especially on WTEB’s Facebook page, where I’ll often talk about current experiments. Many turn into blog posts, but more than a few end so miserably I can’t possibly inflict the recipe upon you. Instead, here’s a roundup of a year in fail. So, so many, it was hard to choose…

This is my most recent kitchen disaster, from just a few days ago. I had some leftover butternut squash, and after a lively discussion on the Facebook page about how to use it, I decided not to take anyone’s suggestions and just do my own thing. Bad idea. Brown Butter Banana Butternut Bacon Muffins don’t taste anywhere near as good as they sound. Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound all that good, does it? Stephen and I had a hard time choking down the one that we shared, but Harry? Oh, Harry. He ate THREE. I believe this eliminates all doubt that his eating habits are largely about contrariness. Whatever we do, he does the opposite.

Reaching further back, to last week (sometimes failures come in clusters)… After my amazing birthday dinner at Franny’s, I tried to replicate one of the dishes—a soft, creamy polenta, baked with greens and melted cheese on top. Instead of the spigarello they used, though, I subbed in broccoli rabe. Bitter, bitter, bitter. We muddled through dinner the first night, but the bitterness became so pronounced in the leftovers that we actually threw away food. Which, given our current financial situation, should tell you how bad it really was.

This bulgur pilaf seemed promising—it had broken bits of vermicelli, chopped olives, and finely diced preserved lemon. But the clumpy, gummy texture made for downright unpleasant eating.

Another pilaf that wasn’t blog-worthy. This one was mushrooms and barley, with what I think are small bits of chicken breast. Far too tomatoey is all I remember. If you could see the grimace I’m making from the sense memory of that flavor…

In July, I attempted to riff upon a very simple recipe for flatbread by Mark Bittman. I’m not sure anymore what I put in there, but it was a giant FAIL. Stuck to the pan, and what parts I could scrape out tasted like sawdust.

This was an attempt to make a quick, single-serve microwave chocolate cake. Because, frankly, this is something I need. But, um, it didn’t quite work out as hoped.

And here are a few I actually did blog about—though I spared you the recipes:

Ahh, the infamous grilled pizza.

My hamantaschen melted.

And let’s not forget my spectacular caramel sludge.

There you have it, friends. A year in failures. Hopefully 2011 won’t have quite as many.

Tonight we’re having some friends over with their daughter for a make-your-own pizza party: Lahey’s dough, with toppings that include fresh mozzarella, sweet or spicy salami piccante, olives, mushrooms, and fennel. Salad alongside, cupcakes for dessert (with strawberry frosting, which remind me to share with you because it’s amazing!), and at the stroke of 8PM, prosecco for the grownups and berry-ginger fizzes for the kids. I’m fairly confident none of that will turn out badly.

Happy New Year! How are you celebrating? And if you feel like sharing, what was your most spectacular kitchen failure of 2010?

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Casey@Good. Food. Stories.

    I feel your pain. I had a meltdown two nights ago trying to make miniature cherry pies at 10 pm. Overfilled pie tins=sticky burnt goo all over the place. Oh well – they made tasty cobbler!

  2. Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi

    I have FAIL clusters as well. Like the mayo that wouldn't emulsify and the extra egg whites from that made into meringues that I burnt. Sigh.

  3. Darlene

    As someone who makes "5 minute" cakes I can tell you what went wrong. First the mug wasn't large enough. Since I don't have any mugs capable of holding 1 1/2 cups of water, (the amount of space required to cook the cakes without overflow) I use a small cereal bowl instead.

    Second thing is it was cooked WAY too long! I have an OLD microwave and I only cook my cakes for 1 3/4 minutes, NOT the 3-5 minutes most recipes call for. The cake is done when the top no longer looks "moist", you touch the top with the pad of your finger and it comes away clean and it just SLIGHTLY pulls away from the side of the container.

    I have a whole page of "cakes in a mug" recipes on my blog. I've tweaked some of the recipes so they work for me and added some suggestions for easier cooking.

  4. What's For Dinner?

    Oh goodie! My most recent failure was a campanelle pasta, pineapple, pine nut, fresh green bean, and Asian vinaigrette marinated pasta salad. WHY why WHY? Is all I could ask myself. I knew none of those ingredients went together. But somehow I couldn't help myself. And I boiled the noodles in chicken broth. Some days are just an epic FAIL. I blogged about the whole catastrophe as well. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your 2010 failures with us!

  5. sarah henry

    LOVE this post, Debbie. Not least of which because I've been consumed with writing and reading "best of" posts over the past week and they're wearing thin…trying to recall my biggest recipe fails of the year….a recent stir fry with way too much tamarind paste comes to mind.

    But, hey, I reckon you had so many fails because you actually cook. A lot. This is a good thing.

  6. Reidy @ altdotlife

    Lesson learned this year: don't make sweet potato pie in the toaster oven. This was a two-time fail. First I did it, resulting in slightly burned-on-top marshmallows. Then a couple of weeks later, my husband tried it, and we had our first kitchen fire of 2010. Will we remember for next time? Probably not.

  7. debbie koenig

    You guys, I LOVE these stories! I think people, especially food bloggers, feel the need to make it seems like nothing ever goes off the rails. But seriously, half of my life is off the rails. So good to know I'm not alone!

  8. Brittani Blue

    My most memorable FAIL was an eggplant parm. The eggplant was so bitter and I couldn't bear to eat more than one bite. My husband ate it though, which was strange to me because he's so picky.

  9. debbie koenig

    Interesting, Brittani! I've read that most of the eggplant grown today has had the bitterness bred out of it–I don't bother to salt mine anymore & I've never noticed a difference. OTOH, I've also read that eggplant gets bitter the longer it sits in refrigeration. Perhaps yours was lingering in the fridge for a while?

  10. Dianne Jacob

    Hey Debbie, an old boss used to say, "He who doesn't stub his toe ain't moving."

    How refreshing to have a post with these hilarious photos.

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