Let's Get Something Straight

I just realized, rereading my previous posts (all two of them), that I may possibly be creating this impression that I am some kind of infallible culinary wunderkind. And while I totally dig the idea of anyone thinking I'm such a naturally gifted cook who can produce perfectly pouffy souffles in her sleep, it just ain't so. I'm very very fallible. And sometimes, I'm just stupid.

There was the time I was making the Madeira sauce to go over a mustard crusted beef tenderloin for a little new year’s eve shin-dig. The pressure was building: I still had to change my clothes and fluff and coiff and the guests were due to arrive at any moment. I added the tomato paste to the alleged sauce, but didn’t look at quantities and plunked the entire 6oz can in, as opposed to the two tablespoons the recipe called for. I’m no Mensa candidate, but it didn’t take me long to realize that my Madeira Sauce was now Tomato Paste Sauce. Lacking any alternatives, I tried to doctor it up, pouring in the rest of the Madeira and adding more of the other ingredients, and served it anyway. No one ate it, not even me.

One slightly more gruesome kitchen fiasco happened in a class I was taking at the Institute of Culinary Education on working with Phyllo Dough. Given the task of slicing apples for the apple strudel, I went at it with the confidence and speed of a professional. And, since I am not a professional, I proceeded to hack a large chunk of finger off. It was bloody. It was painful. It was the end of any future I had as a hand model.

I’ve botched plenty of other things, from the Fresh Pasta Debacle of `01 to the Great Bread Sauce Blunder of `05. And I'm not even going to recount the legion of leaden lumps I turned out when I began making bread. But the point is that I probably wouldn’t be so proud of the successes if I didn’t know that every single one of them had real potential to be failures. I’m sure I have plenty of clunkers waiting in my comestible future (I’m about to embark on a pancetta making project. That has trouble written all over it.), but that's part of the joy of being the Casual Cook. And, frankly, the duds make for much more entertaining cocktail party conversation.

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