Not-Ruined Potatoes and the Barf of the Week

If you’ve read my past blog posts, you’re probably more than familiar with my disturbing ability to ruin potatoes.  POTATOES, of all things.  If you’re a new reader, let me tell you:  I usually couldn’t cook potatoes if my life depended on it.  I’ve always claimed I must be cursed, as I could dice a potato into half-inch cubes and bake it at 400 degrees for five hours and it would still be raw.

No matter how badly I ruin a recipe for potatoes, a certain amount of time always passes before I try again.  Things never get any better.  I truly deserve an award for perseverance, if nothing else.

Recently I found a recipe that instructed to dice the potatoes, place them in a bowl with a small amount of water, and heat them in the microwave for 6-8 minutes.  I’m one of those weird people who uses a microwave only as a last resort–call it a paranoia thing.  If anything classifies as a last resort, it’s cooking potatoes in the microwave because no other method works for me.

To my surprise, the potatoes did cook in the microwave–but they were a wee bit overcooked and slightly crumbling into a diced potato-mashed potato hybrid.

Tonight, I made a salsa chicken recipe I’ve cooked a few times.  Usually I make a side of rice or salad to go with it, but tonight I stepped outside of my comfort zone.  I not only decided to tackle microwaved potatoes again, but I didn’t have any kind of a recipe.  I was wingin’ it.

I diced the potatoes and placed them in a bowl with a little bit of water and a tiny chunk of butter.  I checked them every few minutes until they were perfectly done and then I tossed them into a preheated grill pan.  I sprinkled them with salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and BBQ seasoning, and tossed them until they just barely began to brown on the outside.

Pretty sexy, huh?

Pretty sexy, huh?

Not only was my husband impressed that the potatoes couldn’t have been more perfectly cooked, but he complimented me on how good they were several times as we ate.  Score one for my ego!

So, with the success story out of the way, it’s occurred to me that while the end result of cooking is often delicious and beautiful food, there are plenty of aspects of cooking that are truly barf-worthy.  Therefore, each week I will post a “Barf of the Week” picture to share how disgusted I am by some of the things we have to deal with in the kitchen.

This week’s Barf of the Week:  Congealed bacon grease!  EWWWW!

It smelled worse than it looked.

It smelled worse than it looked.

Weak sauce

I can’t decide which is worse:  food that tastes bad, or food that tastes like nothing.  Last night marked my second meal in a row that was as bland as a glass of water.

Earlier in the week, I whipped up some simple pork meatballs:  ground pork, egg, bread crumbs, garlic, and onions.  While they baked in the oven, I combined butter, maple syrup, and soy sauce for a glaze.  I didn’t follow a recipe, although I had used several maple glaze recipes for inspiration.  I did make sure to taste test along the way and it truly was pretty tasty.  When the meatballs came out of the oven, I dumped them in the pot of glaze and let them simmer in the sticky mixture for a bit before I spooned the finished product over a bed of white rice.  The glaze was pretty good by itself, but once it was on the meatballs and the meatballs were on the rice, you could hardly taste it.  It was like eating plain meatballs and plain white rice.  *Pout*

So I tried again last night.  I didn’t have anything planned for dinner and wasn’t up for a trip to the grocery store.  Using what I had in my kitchen, I made up a pasta dish.  I sauteed chicken breast pieces in a ridiculous amount of garlic, and then I added butter to the remaining juices and made a simple white sauce.  To the white sauce, I added corn, black pepper, and two strips of chopped bacon.  I stirred the chicken into the sauce and poured it all over a serving of egg noodles.

On the bright side, I have finally mastered the thick, creamy texture of your basic white sauce.  The downside:  the sauce tasted like liquid flour.  Even with the garlic, the chicken juices, the pepper, and the bacon, it tasted like a whole lot of nothin’.  How could I have been so stupid to not taste it before I served it?  After my first bite, I made a face at my fiance and reached for the salt shaker.  I’d assumed that since I was adding bacon, the sauce wouldn’t need any salt.  My fiance laughed when I said this, informing me that it would take WAY more than two strips of bacon to flavor a sauce to that extent.  Guess I’m not a bacon expert quite yet…

I’m really struggling with the concept of flavor.  I try to keep it simple because I’m still learning which flavors work well together and which flavors don’t, but simple is equating to bland, bland, bland.  What’s the best way to learn how to combine flavors when cooking?

BACON!

I did it, I did it!  I cooked bacon!

I know, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, does this lady also celebrate peeling carrots and closing Ziploc baggies?”  But those of you who have been following me for awhile might recall that I had never cooked bacon and just the thought of it had me shaking in my boots.  Well, last night I put on my bacon-makin’ boots!

I needed to cook bacon to use in a Green Chile and Cheese Egg Bake.  Before I got started, I asked my fiance if he would coach me through making bacon.  This was the conversation that ensued:

Me:  So, how do I start?
Fiance:  Get the pan hot and put the bacon in it.
Me:  [Sets pan on burner] What heat setting do I use?
Fiance:  High.
Me:  HIGH?
Fiance:  Yeah, it’s going to sizzle and pop.
Me:  [Turns burner dial to High] Do I need to use cooking spray?
Fiance:  No, it’s going to get nice and greasy.  Let the pan get hot first!
Me:  [Stupidly touching the surface of the pan to make sure it’s hot] It’s hot.  Do I put the bacon in now?
Fiance:  …….yes, put it in now.
Me:  Do I put it all in at once?
Fiance:  Well, no, don’t put it all in in one chunk.
Me:  I mean, do I put all of the strips in the pan at once?
Fiance:  No, you can only fit four or five at a time.
Me:  [Peeling a strip of bacon off of the chunk in the packaging] Okay, here it goes.  [Gently lays bacon in pan]  AAAAA, oh my god, it’s sizzling!
Fiance:  [I can’t see him, but I’m sure he rolled his eyes] Make sure you flip it when the fat starts to curl up.
Me:  Flip it?  What do I use, a fork?
Fiance:  No, use the tongs…
Me:  Oh.  Tongs.  Duh.

Cluelessness aside, making bacon turned out to be a thousand times simpler than I had imagined.

(Note the pig tongs that match my pig whisk.)

Once I crossed the bacon hurdle, I prepared the rest of the egg bake using a NEW, larger whisk.  I was nervous at first that it was a wee bit too runny.

I had to bake it for about ten minutes longer than the max time in the recipe, but the finished product looked (and tasted) pretty good.

I can’t complain about two days in a row of successful cooking!  Tonight, I’m tackling Cornish game hens.  *Fingers crossed*