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.

Steaming, take two: meatballs

Lesson learned:  meatballs belong in the oven.  Let me explain.

Because my current Two-Week Technique is steaming, I found myself perusing the recipes at foodsteamer.org.  When I saw a recipe for Mini Chili Tomato Meatballs, I was ecstatic.  After all, I’m a girl who loves her meatballs (no dirty jokes, please).

Things started off about as uneventful at meatballs normally do.  I mixed my ingredients together, shaped them into balls, and arranged them neatly on a sheet of parchment paper placed inside my steamer basket.  Nothing out of the ordinary here…yet.

Once the water was boiling, I placed the steamer basket over the pot and set the timer.  I left the little darlings to cook.

Ten minutes later, I approached my stove and the sight was horrific.  First lesson:  steamed meatballs should be made with extra lean beef.  Greasy meat drippings, anyone?

I scooped the meatballs out of this mess with a slotted spoon, genuineley thinking this mother of a grease pool was no big deal.  Gross, yes, but problematic?  I ain’t afraid of no grease!  And they looked like regular ol’ meatballs, so surely they would taste like regular ol’ meatballs.

Considering the number of flavors packed into these meatballs (tomato paste, garlic, onion, chili pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and freshly ground salt and pepper, to name a few), there was a HUGE flavor deficit in my meal.  The meatballs were so flavorless I couldn’t even taste the meat itself.  I am convinced–though I may simply be making excuses for a bad recipe–that all of the flavor was left behind in the puddle o’ grease.  Whatever the reason, I took one bite of my meatballs and the udon noodles they were served with, and I tossed it in the trash and made myself a ham and cheese sandwich.  I’m not particularly fond of “cardboard” flavor.

Steaming probably isn’t the best choice for prearing meatballs.  Fattier ground beef is an equally poor choice for preparing meatballs.  Keeping a supply of lunch meat, cheese, and bread while teaching yourself to cook is of the utmost importance.  So many lessons…gotta love it!

Handmade pasta, take two: herbed fettuccine

I’m going to mentally return to my first batch of homemade pasta–the bowties that turned out to be such a success.  You see, revisiting the successful moments in my mind is what keeps a girl like me sane.  Otherwise, I’m left to dwell on my second (and failed) attempt at homemade pasta.

The goal of round two was to make basil-and-thyme fettuccine noodles.  In the beginning, all seemed perfect.

I did struggle a little cutting the dough; who has the patience to cut perfect, even fettuccine noodles by hand?  (Hint:  not me.)  Cutting the noodles so they were the same length and width was a challenge.  They still looked pretty good when I was finished, considering!

And that’s the last hopeful photo you’ll ever see of my basil-and-thyme fettuccine.  Since it would be a couple of days before I’d need the pasta, I followed the recipe’s instructions to store the noodles in an airtight container in the fridge.  My guess is that my container wasn’t quite airtight enough, because when I opened it, this is what I saw:

Gray.  Gray.  Gray.

They smelled funky, too.  Not “bad,” just not “good.”  Not like fresh pasta.  My fettuccine joined my Cream-Filled Cake Roll in food heaven.

Tonight I’m going to make some ravioli.  Somehow crossed fingers just don’t seem like enough.

Oh, before you move on from reading this:  does anyone else see the resemblance between this egg, soy sauce, and garlic mixture, and a big ol’ puddle of vomit?

Happy eating!