Dinner gone wrong - food flops happen to everyone, right?

Dinner gone wrong - food flops happen to everyone, right?

I love to blog about dishes that I (and others) make that turn out wonderfully.

I rarely write about the flops - why would I? But I feel like it's a topic that should be addressed because it happens to everyone ... right?

I've been on a streak of food flops lately, the most recent being a recipe that involved lentils, smoked sausage and my slow cooker. It wasn't my worst, but it was close. The dish earning that distinction was when I made dinner for my mom and sister last spring. It was a healthy vegetable stew that even my health-nut sister wouldn't touch. It went straight to the compost pile - there was no point in saving the leftovers.

I think I would feel a little better about the dinner failures if I didn't feel so isolated. So I'm asking, dear readers, won't you share your terrible dinners with me, so I don't feel so alone? And if you have any advice for dealing with such flops, from "shut up and eat it" to ordering pizza, I'm all ears.

Bonus points to whomever can comment or e-mail me with a delicious lentil recipe.

Tags (2):food, cooking

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DenaS wrote on March 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm

heee. Did I tell you the stories about...

  • The time I actually burned Kool-Aid?
  • The accidental discovery of Swamp Monster Ramen, before I knew the difference between konbu and nori and thought seaweed was seaweed?
  • The Lima Bean Stir Fry that Wouldn't Die?
  • The accidental invention of Microwaved Lava Rocks (while trying to make Japanese mochi by following instructions from someone who must not have tested their recipe... and I have since then come up with a microwaveable version! The first few experiments, though... *shudder*)
  • Stuffed Green Pepper Fusion-Explosion? (Which is an actual recipe I do on purpose now, but definitely wasn't at the time, because as you can guess from the name it's very tasty but not at all decorative...)

And I have a couple of really tasty pseudo-Moroccan chicken-and-lentil dishes which are very, very good when you use dark meat. Gotta be dark meat. The innate dryness and flavorlessness totally takes over when you try to do the health-conscious thing and use skinless boneless chicken breasts with lentils. Those sacks of wings and drumsticks originally intended for buffalo sauce are quite handy for getting dark meat for said dishes. Will have to dig 'em up later...

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm
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Haha, perhaps I shouldn't feel too bad until I have a food flop with "explosion" in the title. And burning kool-aid? Do tell.
I'll keep that dark meat suggestion in mind for lentils. I've read articles singing their praises but don't typically have good luck with them.

DenaS wrote on March 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm

How To Burn Kool-Aid:

So there I was in the costume shop in college, and either we were out of green dye or I couldn't find it. And I didn't have a car to get across town to the fabric store. But there was a Walgreens right across the street.

Kool-Aid stains stuff really, really enthusiastically. And if you run it through a dryer, forget ever getting the color out.

Everybody's mom knows this, right? I figured I'd take Strategic Advantage (TM) of discoveries/complaints my mom had made while little brother and I were growing up about the future uncleanability of Kool-Aid stains.

So I bought a bunch of green Kool-Aid, made up a thick paste of it, slathered it all over the fabric that was supposed to come out spotty-moss-and-spring-green-and-camouflaged, and put it in a big pot on an electric burner to heat-set the color. Then I went into the back room to get down the next project.

Turns out the water evaporated out of the Kool-Aid sludge faster than I thought. Also, scorching Kool-Aid-and-fabric smells really, REALLY nasty.

....Without the burning, though, Kool-Aid actually does make good fabric dye! Dyed a costume shirt with it somewhere around 8-10 years ago and it's still bright pink. (Also still vaguely fruit-scented.) I've learned to just boil the fabric in the Kool-Aid in enough water to keep it submerged, though, and I save the color-splotching for fabric paints and actual dyes.

Stuffed Pepper Fusion-Explosion:

My mom makes stuffed green peppers with a recipe that involves canned tomato soup and Minute Rice. I like stuffed green peppers, but to me Minute Rice is an abomination upon the face of the earth. Also, roasted green peppers are much tastier than boiled ones because the flavor gets concentrated and caramelized instead of distributed out into the water.

So I started swapping things around. No boiling the peppers, just stuffing them with partially cooked rice, and using salsa instead of tomato soup, and some bulgogi beef instead of hamburger, and some kimchee instead of cabbage, and some extra broth to make up for the difference in fluid. So by the end it was still teeeeechnically based on my mom's recipe, except that I'd changed literally everything. Then I shoved 'em in the oven to roast.

Turns out rice still has some expansion to do even when it's part way cooked.

Also turns out roasted peppers are much lower on the structural integrity scale than parboiled peppers.

Messy, but ohmigosh so tasty. :9

(Now I just roast the peppers separately, chop it all up, and cook it together for a crazy transcontinental kind-of-stir fry.)

Lentil recipes once I dig 'em up!

Aubrie Williams wrote on March 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm
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The first meal I made my now-husband in college was fried chicken. Despite explicit directions from my mother and hands-on help from my roommate, I burned that poor piece of chicken so badly it was pathetic. And then I had the nerve to look at him funny when he tried to put ketchup on it. I may not be the best cook, but I have perfected THAT recipe -- 11 years later.

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm
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Aw, that's a cute one, Aubrie.

algon wrote on March 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm

And he still married you! He must not have minded, that good man.

flashingreds wrote on March 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I appreciated this post from the professional bakers at King Arthur Flour yesterday. It's full of pictures of their recipe flops:
http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2011/03/29/0331-april-fools-rush-in/

I like lentils, but I find that the French green lentils can be more universally appealing, since they keep their shape and have a more firm texture than the brown or green. My favorite lentil recipe is for French lentils cooked in red wine, and I think this recipe is very similar:
http://www.elliemay.com/beansandgrains/FrenchLentilsInRedWine.html

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm
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I really enjoyed that page of flops. And thanks for the lentil recipe and suggestions. I actually think part of the most recent failure was that my slow cooker was too full and I didn't cook the recipe longer to compensate. The lentils were almost crunchy, which I did not appreciate. I kept them cooking long after dinner, but they never did reach anything near mushy.

algon wrote on March 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm

If it helps, I don't remember the vegatable stew thing from last year. Although maybe I blocked it out.

The lentil/smoked sausage concoction is still very fresh in my memory though!

Also I set the smoke alarm off at my you-know-who's house. And bless his heart, he said "Oh that thing sometimes just goes off for no reason."

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm
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Hah, I'll never forget you staring at it in disgust, sort of poking it with your spoon and suggesting it was maybe "too healthy." I think it might have included sweet potatoes and lentils. There may be a trend there...

Does the smoke detector at your house go off for no reason, as well? Because I seem to remember learning the perfect fanning technique to make it stop screaming...

algon wrote on March 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Very funny.

And no comment.

mom to someone wrote on March 31, 2011 at 8:03 pm

My 2nd Thanksgiving as "Head Chef" the sweet potatoes that had been specifically requested would. not. cook. They were in the oven for 2 hours- hot, and raw as the day they were dug up on the inside.

The first time (and only time) I tried my mom's stuffed bell pepper recipe, I missed the part about cooking the ground beef before you stuff said peppers. Good thing pizza delivers quickly around here.

Meg Dickinson wrote on April 01, 2011 at 7:04 am
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Hah, these both gave me a laugh. Sounds like stuffed pepper recipes have plenty of potential for disaster!

busybeigh wrote on April 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm

I've had many many flops around here. Thats the only way you learn and make better recipes! I think the most memorable was a brownie recipe my mom gave me about 10yrs ago. It called for coffee. For whatever reason I didn't think it meant brewed coffee. They came out chocked full of coffee grounds... Yum.

Meg Dickinson wrote on April 14, 2011 at 8:04 am
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That's a classic!