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Elusive combinations


Shalmanese
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There are times when you'll make a recipe for the first time and tastes fantastic but every subsequent attempt to capture the magic of that first time turns out something pedestrian. Not bad by any stretch, but just missing that magic zing. Despite many futile attempts at tweaking the recipe, somehow the magic combination is gone.

I have two recipes that fall into this category.

The first is the Bang Bang Noodle recipe from The Cooks Book. The first time I made it, I was pretty much eyeballing it and making a bunch of substitutions willy nilly. When I tasted it, it was the best noodle dish I had ever tasted. Every other attempt since then has been servicable but I can never remember exactly what I did to make that first time taste so special.

The second dish is an accidental fish soup. I was poaching some cod filets and threw a bunch of stuff into the poaching liquid. I know I had corn on the cob, lemongrass, limes, probably fish sauce but I can't remember what else. It wasn't until later that night when my roommate commented on how delicious the soup I left on the stove was that it occurred to me to taste the left over poaching broth. The random assortment of goods I had thrown in without any measurement had managed to morph into an amazing soup. Because I had no idea what or how much of anything I had thrown in, I still, to this day, have not managed to replicate that soup.

What are your stories of dishes that you've never been able to recreate?

PS: I am a guy.

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Can I answer this one with a story about my DH? The very first time he did salmon on the B-B-Q with lime, it was so tender and sublime I was in heaven. With the most delicious crispy, burnt just so, skin. I did not share with the pups.

Since then, it's always be good...but never again sublime. He has no idea why.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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The first time I made my onion rye rolls they were perfect. Then I started trying to "improve" them . . . mostly for looks . . . now I'm trying to think . . . what was it? I know I tweaked the recipe a bit, which is unusual for me to do the first time I try something new. Did I use bread flour instead of AP? Dark rye instead of medium or light? Was is the particular kind of onions? Do I need to go back to using all raw onions and give up the pretty caramelized onions I used to top the rolls? WHAT was it???? WHAT?!

Still good eats, but not that moaning-in-bliss perfection of the first batch. :sad:

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Not quite the same, but years ago, a neighbor from the street down the hill came to my door with a bag full of ripe Santa Rosa plums. She said it was to make up for her son's band practicing in the garage (which I never heard) but I suspect it was that she was just making excuses to give them away. In either case, I ended up with a bag of perfect plums.

I ate some, but it was a big bag and I knew they wouldn't last, so I decided to make a sorbet. I was thinking about what to add to the sorbet and remembered a bottle of "Black Muscat" dessert wine I had. I'd gotten it at a wine tasting a while earlier -- a gift from the winemaker. I knew I was never going to drink the wine -- way too sweet -- but I thought it might go well with the plums.

In a word, the combination was perfect, and the sorbet was sublime. In a way, it was even better because I knew I would never be able to recreate it. I'm glad that I've never tried.

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This happens to me too often. A while back, for example, I made a pot of beans and threw in all sorts of spices and, because it was taking up refrigerator space I needed to clear out, a bagful of kale. It was a delicious dish. All subsequent attempts to make beans with kale have been disgusting, as one would expect beans and kale to be. But that one time, it worked. Go figure.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There is a very special, good flavor, I've achieved a few times by accident and tried to achieve a few more time deliberately, without success.

The flavor is in some stews and may be from some combination, I suspect actually from some chemical reaction, involving some or all of red meat, garlic, tomato, and red wine. The last time I achieved the flavor was from a lamb stew with garlic, etc.

Don't know what it is, but it would be good to find out and be able to do it consistently!

For now, I'm on a diet, and working on software!

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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I think intuitive cooks have that experience all the time. A dish is unique and that's the good (or bad) of it. I was once cook at a small dive lodge where we used the leftovers to make the daily soup. Guests would rave about the day's delight and ask what it was ... often I couldn't remember exactly what was in it and the lodge owner would simply say "cream of frig!"

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A few months ago I made an apple cake recipe and used all sorts of substitutions because I was determined to make it *that night*. Maybe my stubbornness added that special something because I haven't been able to replicate that cakes flavor or tenderness. And now it's apple season!

Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

Twin Peaks

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Traditionally, when we go camping, I make chili on the last night. In the pot goes all the thawed ground beef, broken burgers, bacon, leftover sausage, and whatever's laying around that would be good in chili. I always bring a huge mixed bag of peppers, like poblano, frying, banana, whatever's cheap and available, all different heat levels, thrown on the fire and charred, peeled, and cooked with the various meats and other seasonings till they're pulp. Onions, maybe, garlic, beer. A bag of dried beans sometimes shows up, or some cans of beans, or nothing. The operative word here is "whatever". Maybe 8 years ago, I made The Perfect Chili. Perfect. Perfect texture, balance of flavors, meat to beans to everything else ratio. Spicy, complex, smoky, meaty, thick, amazing. Angels sang, the Dutch oven fairly glowed with Divine Light. It was so good, we were sharing it with our neighbors, I was the talk of the state park. Of course, I can't remember what-all went in it. I mean, who could? I was literally cleaning out the cooler.

Ever since that day, all my chili attempts have been to try to even come close to that one. All in vain. :hmmm: Compared to that particular batch, they've all been decent. Pretty good. Tasty. My husband reminds me, every time, "it's good, but I wish you could make it like that one time, remember? When we were camping?" Oh. I remember. Pfeh.

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Chili is my elusive dish too. Two years ago I made some chili that was excellent. Smoky, just the right balance of sweet, tangy, sour, tomatoes to chiles, beans to meat. My mother couldn't stop eating it, despite that it was way too hot for her. I've tried to recreate it, but haven't succeeded since.

I remember it had a whole can of chipotles en adobo, and a squirt of barbecue sauce, but I can't remember what other flavorings went into it.

-- There are infinite variations on food restrictions. --

Crooked Kitchen - my food blog

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