Lessons learned

Tortilla Pie
I had some recipe failures recently.

It happens sometimes. No big deal!

Unless it happens three times in a row. In a row!

The first failure was still edible. Really spicy, but that can be ok.

The second two?

I need to talk about it. Can I vent? Thanks.

Pretzels
Look at how pretty these were! All plump and soft. Sure they looked great, but the flavor? After two days of sitting on the counter uneaten, I threw them in the trash. Something was off. Very, very off.

I didn’t even take pictures of the next failure. I should have, just so you could see what I had done. I was so ashamed!

Have you ever made muffins that totally collapsed on themselves and tasted like a puddle of mushy goo? I hadn’t until last week. Bottoms burnt, insides mush, flavor unpalatable. In. The. Trash.

Man, was I a wreck! I have some thoughts on what went wrong, but I have never thrown that much food away at once. The hippie in me was totally devastated. The baker in me was pissed. And my belly was totally sad.

I had to do some immediate comfort/ego boosting baking. So I made these amazing muffins (and added chocolate chips, naturally) and these:
Chia cookies
Don’t worry, that post is coming soon!

So, what about that delicious looking photo at the top? Yeah, that didn’t turn out as expected, but at least it didn’t end up in the trash!

Can I tell you a secret?

Chipotle powder is a great substitute for Ancho chile powder. AS LONG AS YOU REDUCE THE AMOUNT!

I know that now.

I was loosely following this recipe, but clearly I need to work on it a little more before I post it. I’m going to think of my mistakes as public service announcements.  The more I learn, the more I can share.  And then you won’t end up like me: a sad and hungry hippie baker.

Happy baking!

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Poaching Victory!

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We all know I suck at presentation. It’s something I’ve learned to deal with, because for the most part, I can make it taste good.

I’ve made cheesecake without the top cracking.  I’ve made creme brulee the perfect shade of golden, caramel brown.  I’ve even made chicken pot pie without a pie dish!

But there was one thing that I’ve just never been able to achieve. I’m not talking “It didn’t look pretty, but it was edible” or “I made some mistakes but ended up with something almost as good.”

No, since I started this fun, laughable, delicious culinary journey, I have always wanted to poach an egg. Folks, it’s harder than it looks.

I’ve seen the tutorials. I’ve watched Julie & Julia more times than I’ll admit.

And I’ve wasted so. many. eggs. It saddened me. So I tucked it away in the back of my mind, in that place where I store things that nag me. Things I can’t admit to anyone else for fear of ridicule. What self respecting food blogger can’t even poach an egg?

Me.

Months after I had given up on my poached egg dreams, I got a call from my mother in law. She was visiting family, and someone brought up how delicious but difficult poached eggs are. In her sweetness, her blind faith, she said, “I know someone who can do it for sure!” And then she proceeded to call me.

I had to admit–out loud, no less–that I had never successfully poached an egg. The shame! It was too much. I knew I had to do it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I did it. On my very next try. I freaking did it!!

Start with hot water. Put it on the stove over medium/high heat.
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Crack an egg into a bowl. Cracking it right into the water isn’t going to cut it. You don’t want it hitting the bottom and then spreading out everywhere. Putting the egg into a bowl allows you to gently tip it in right at the surface of the water.
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When bubbles just start to form:
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Place the bowl right at the surface of the water and tip the egg in.
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And then leave it be!
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You don’t want to move the water around and break up the egg. After about 30 seconds, you can gently ever so gently start to lift the edges from the bottom of the pan.
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After awhile, you can gently ever so gently start to move the egg around.
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Then, after about 7-10ish minutes in the water, you can lift it out with a slotted spoon.
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I was so excited to try making a poached egg that I hadn’t really thought about how I’d serve it. Fortunately, I had some feta and an English muffin. Perfecto!
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I feel it is my duty to inform you that runny yolks can pose health risks. You’ll notice that my yolk wasn’t runny at all, but I didn’t know that until I had bitten into it. To be on the safe side, make sure you err on the side of more done, probably at least a 10 minute cooking time, depending on how hot your water stays. (It felt like it took foooooreverrrrrrrrrrrrr to cook, but I was really hungry at the time.)

Poached Eggs

Add about an inch and a half to two inches of hot water to a deep skillet, place on the stove over medium high heat. Crack each egg into its own bowl.
When the water starts to form bubbles on the bottom of the pan, turn the heat down slightly.
Place the edge of the bowl right at the surface of the water and let the egg slide into the water.
After about 30 seconds, use a wooden spoon to gently nudge the edge of the egg to loosen it from the bottom. If you get too overzealous with your nudging, the egg will separate and you’ll have a pan full of nastiness.
The more done the egg, the easier it will be to move around. Eventually it will “solidify” and you can take it out of the water.
***It’s important that you never actually allow the water to fully boil. Especially when the egg is in the water. You just want it right on the verge of bubbles.

Try this soon, and if it doesn’t work, give it a few months. Don’t give up!
Poached egg victory tastes so sweet.

White Asparagus: Answers

I got some amazing feedback from you guys about my white asparagus debacle.  There are tons and tons of great recipes out there, but the overwhelming consensus has been to peel it first!

Who knew?  I mean, besides all of you.  And Google.  And Food Network.  And eHow.com.  And Chow Hound.

Ok, so everyone knew but me.  I guess next time I’ll do my research first.  Seriously though, I had no idea it would be so different from green asparagus.  It was fun hearing from all of you though, so let’s just pretend that this was a pop quiz.

Congratulations!  You passed!  Can I come eat white asparagus at your house?

White Asparagus

Ok, for once, I had a kitchen disaster that wasn’t my fault. At least, I don’t think it was my fault…

Passing through the produce section of Costco, something strange caught my eye. Something unique.

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What on earth could that be?
How can asparagus be white?
Is this just asparagus that hasn’t ripened yet?
What does it taste like?
Is the texture the same?

With so many questions, we had to buy it. It was significantly cheaper than green asparagus (which should have been clue number one), but sometimes when Costco gets a new product they drastically reduce the price to get people interested in the product.

The next day at work (we didn’t have time to make it that same day), I was telling a co-worker about our mysterious find. She told me that she’d had it before, and it wasn’t very good. (Clue number two) However, she had steamed her asparagus, and when I said we always grill ours, she thought it might make it work.

Normally, I do at least one Google search on things I’m not intimately familiar with, but I thought “What the heck? How different could it be?”

It was different.

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We prepared it like normal (threw it into a bag with olive oil, fresh lemon juice and salt. Marinated for about 15 minutes and then grilled). And then? And then.

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It looked normal (with the exception of being white). It smelled normal. But it had the worst texture!

It was soft on the outside and mushy on the inside. Like, so mushy I couldn’t bite it. So mushy I couldn’t cut it with a fork. So mushy, I couldn’t even cut it with a knife!

We had to have undercooked them, right? So we threw them back on the grill.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. After fifteen minutes, we figured they couldn’t possibly be mushy anymore. They had to have crisped, right?

Nope.

Not even a little.

So, we need help!

Did we overcook them? Undercook them? Is there some rule that says you shouldn’t marinate white asparagus? Or is the rule to just eat the lovely green asparagus and leave the white alone? Anyone?

I have a few thoughts to add:
1. The bag of asparagus did sit in our fridge for about 3 days. Could have been a factor.
2. The stalks were very thick. As a normal rule, we go for the thinner-to-medium stalks. Could have been a factor.

I’m at a loss. How could asparagus go so wrong?