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Gifted Gourmet

Worst mistake you ever made while cooking

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What was the worst mistake you ever made on the job, and how did you learn from it to make yourself a better, stronger chef?

Or, if you are not a professional, the very same question might apply ... what was your worst mistake and what did you learn as a result of making it?

Love to hear your "confessions" ... without penalty ... :wink:

To start: I was a new bride and made my first chocolate pudding with cornstarch .. used far too much ... pudding bounced, then rolled on the floor and smelled wonderfully chocolatey! Dog went over to investigate and, after one lick, fled ... husband joined him ... :hmmm:

Resultant learning? :rolleyes: measure!!


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Well, as a child I made "healthy" brownies by putting a bottle of vitamins into the batter. Does that count? Lovely chewy brownies with a terrible 'one-a-day' surprise in each piece! Thank goodness, no one I know remembers!

And, my first married Friday night dinner? I put honey in or on EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING! And, LOTS of it, too. My ex husband was so in love with me, he ate everything, even had second helpings! I ate one bite. Literally. UGH. Honeyed, peas, honeyed carrots, honey roasted potatoes, honey roasted chicken....UGH. I still shudder at the thought.


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My mother fondly recalls her first coconut cream pie. Recipe said "prepare pie crust." It never occured to Mom that she should pre-bake said crust.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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This was only a few years ago, I am ashamed to say. I was living in a 1920's era apartment with a tiny, completely unventilated kitchen. I was simmering a leftover chicken and some vegetables in water to make stock. It was Sunday, so I was fielding phone calls, watching a movie and doing laundry at the same time. I accidentally let the stock boil all the way down to the bones, so I just filled the pot up with water and tried again. And again I forgot and let it boil down to nothing.

When I finally returned to the kitchen, I was peering into the pot to see what had happened when I felt a drop splash on my head. I looked up, and found that so much stock had evaporated and condensed on my ceiling that it had literally begun to rain chicken broth on my head. The broth was also dripping down all the walls, resembling a horror movie set.

Cleanup took a long, long time.


www.foodmigration.com

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I had made a doubled recipe for pasta fagioli. I used only the best ingredients that I could possibly get and went out of my way for them. I put the entire recipe together except for the pasta. The single recipe called for half a lb of ditalini pasta and I figured that since I was making a double portion that I could get away with using half. Instead, what I ended up with was a big pot full of inflated ditalini with tiny bits of chopped veggies and pancetta here and there.


Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

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Since my father is not a member here, and probably couldn't figure out the whole typing thing even if he was, I will share a story of his. One night after my mom had a hard days work, we grabbed something quick for dinner. Well, when my dad got home, he decided that he wanted some corn on the cob from the farmer down the street from us (that I used to pick corn for... "Tony, why didn't you bring home any corn?", "I didn't know you wanted any". .. "Well, duuuhhhhh, it's corn season."... "Sorry Dad." I was 12. :shock: ) So, he put the water on to boil, about two inches, and took off for what should have been about a four minute round trip. Well, as he tells it, he got to the farm stand, and there was no corn, but the farmer who was friendly got to talking to my father. They talked for about fifteen minutes, and my father decided to go intown to the grocery store to get corn, about another ten minutes, which should probably still get him home ok. Well, when he got into the local grocery, they too, were plum out of corn. So, he decided to go 12 miles out of his way to feed his craving, to a farm that was owned by a family friend. He got to the new farm, and they started asking him some questions about their boiler. Well, he helps them out, shows them what nobs to turn and where to drain some water every now and then, gets the corn, and starts the trek home.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Me and my brother and mother are in our basement watching tv (it's a finished basement). All of a sudden, we start smelling this vinyl like metalic burning aroma :unsure: . We can't figure out where it is coming from, and then we see the smoke. :sad: A nasty blue smoke like you have never seen. A cancer-causing, lingering, color-the-walls smoke. :shock: We go running upstairs, just to see my dad walk in and pull the pot off of the heat. He holds it up by the handle to reveal what has transformed from a pot to a cylinder with a handle. He had completely melted the bottom of the pot away, ruined the stove, and the smell, oh the smell. To this day, when dad has a hankering for corn, we make sure that he has the corn in hand and peeled before he starts a pot of water on for it. :smile:


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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As mentioned above, most of my bad experiences have come from incorrect measurement of ingredients when doubling or tripling recipes. My sister in law was trying to make gazpacho for a large group and in tripling the tomato juice she way over tripled and came up with, well, lumpy tomato juice. It happens to me mostly when making batter or dough for some reason (Why is this so stiff? Why is it so runny? Why is it so sticky?) Forgot to double all the ingredients.

My neighbor was making a big pot of beef vegetable soup last winter. For some reason he decided to strain the meat and veggies out. Forgot to put a pot under the collander and dumped all the stock he'd been simmering all day down the drain.

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I think my single biggest goof was when I volunteered to be in charge of the annual celebratory dinner for the community chorus I used to sing with in Seattle. For prior dinners, people had basically hit Costco for frozen pre-packaged lasagnas and the like, accompanied by store-bought breads and home-made salads. Even from Costco, those lasagnas were an expensive way to feed an 80-person group, so they would get just barely enough for everyone to have one small serving--result, a not-all-that-celebratory-feeling dinner. So I was bound and determined to come up with a more interesting way to feed everybody, that was cheaper and didn't rely so heavily on prepackaged stuff. I had access to the big industrial-duty kitchen of the church social hall where this chorus met, so I thought "Ah-hah! I can bake off a whole bunch of potatoes, and then we can do a Gourmet Baked Potato Bar with a bunch of different toppings and stuff."

Only problem was, as a novice to large-scale cooking I had not taken into account how much longer it takes to bake a huge ovenful of potatoes than it does only a few--even if one's using a restaurant-style humongo-oven instead of a home-style oven. Fortunately, as an anal-compulsive type I had arrived really early to start the potatoes. As I realized my mistake, I cranked the oven temperature up like crazy, and that, along with my extra lead time, meant that dinner was eventually served only a few minutes later than originally planned. The chorus members definitely enjoyed the dinner, but I was a nervous wreck.

I definitely learned a new appreciation of the complexities of large-volume cooking. However, apparently so did the folks in my chorus, as in subsequent years people went back to the Costco lasagnas since nobody wanted to work quite that hard. :biggrin:


Edited by mizducky (log)

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I set fire to our BBQ. And I don't mean the coals. I have so many "worst" moments, but this was undoubtedly the most public.

We were grilling lambsicles and duck breast for customers on a wine festival weekend, but SO was speaking in a seminar at another winery, so I'm trying to keep up with the demand by myself, getting hot, sweaty and slightly panicked. He hadn't thawed enough lambsicles for the demand, so I needed to get some more from the freezer, and the coals were dying down, so I put on new coals, threw on a few dry mesquite chips for good measure, and closed the lid.

When I came back, flames were shooting through the lid vent and melting the black plastic on the lid's handle. The plastic was flowing like lava down the Weber and onto a wooden paper towel holder. The towels were turning black on top, and smoke was starting to waft up. I whisked off the lid by grabbing the sides with potholders and set it aside on the gravel, and picked up the paper towels. "No problem, no problem," I said soothingly to all the alarmed onlookers. "It's all under control."

I started to carry the paper towel holder to a nearby water spigot, smiling calmly of course, but halfway there it burst into flames in my hands. I shrieked, completely lost my dignity, and dropped the towels in a flaming mass at my feet.

By the time SO returned, slightly weaving from a zinfandel seminar, I had everything under control and was churning out perfectly seared lamb racks. "What happened to the BBQ lid?" he asked.

Slightly related topic:

Snow crab raviolis with Joy liquid soap, and other accidental combinations


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Quick one from my father: he decided to make my brother and I some Spaghetti-O's for lunch when my mother was away. He thought they were condensed, like Campbell's Soup, and added a can of water. It separated in our bowls before our eyes.

I haven't eaten that awful canned "pasta" type of thing since, and I thank him for forcing me to seek out better foods -- even if it was on accident.

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I was making a cassoulet and didn't have brandy. I was very young and did have a bottle of B&B (brandy & benedictine). Trying to save money, I just said, "What could happen?"

Note: Never put B&B in your food. The dog turned up his nose at it. It was only 1/2 cup, but it ruined the meal.

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Drew beverage duty at a company party (non-alcoholic, unfortunately...if I could have brought alcohol it would have made life a lot easier...stupid office rules...).

Figured I'd make something with an island/tropical vibe, so found a recipe involving coconut milk. Got to the office and put all the ingredients in the fridge...went to make the punch that afternoon when I found out that coconut milk doesn't stay rich and creamy when you refrigerate it.

No one mentioned the floating white "chunks" (that's the nicest, most aesthetic description I can muster) in the punch, but I did move quickly from utter humiliation to outright enjoyment watching everyone try to discretely pick these blocks of coconut from their mouths and put them in napkins, on plates, anywhere...priceless!

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This is still so embarassing I can't believe I'm sharing...!

I once made a massive batch of individual quiches, at a french restaurant I worked at. They looked absolutely beautiful as they went into the oven- quiche lorraine, mushroom, brocoli and blue cheese, roasted pepper and parmesan... mmmm

Only problem was, they wouldn't set. After about an hour and a half, I was really concerned and went to speak to the chef. He just looked at me with a smile and said: "Did you put eggs in the batter?"

:huh:

I think it did make me a better chef, that was about 2 years ago and I haven't made a stupid mistake like that since.

So stupid... I just kick myself when I think about it.


Edited by Patricia Bon (log)

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I'll add an incident to this thread despite being embarrassed:

When I was about 19 I made my first batch of chili from scratch. Using

dried beans seemed like a great idea so I did. I didn't know they had

to be soaked and pre-cooked. The result was gravel in a meaty tomato

sauce.

:blush:


I know it's stew. What KIND of stew?

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This is one from a friend, who is "challenged" in the field of cooking:

I bought a homemade tiramisu to work and she wanted the recipe. As it is a very easy recipe, I thought she could handle it. She told me the next week that she tried the recipe and it just didn't come out right. I was surprised since the recipe is no cook, just call for combining some common ingredients that you can pick up in any supermarket. The problem: she didn't have marsala wine at home so she used red wine. The sad part is, it's been about 10 years and I don't think she fully understand why she couldn't substitute the marsala wine with the red wine.

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My mistake was using Basing soda instead on flour for a roux. I now make sure that I label containers.

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I nearly set the ansel off in my Asian cuisine class. I learned to never assume that your actions are well coordinated when you are trying to do three things at once, two of them dealing with oil-laden cloths and open flames.

I also learned that my eyebrows are made of an asbestos-like material, because they were still intact after that little incident. And no, I still haven't lived that little epsiode down.


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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I once overcooked 80 dollars worth (1 whole lobe) of duck fois gras when I had just started cooking at a fine dining restaurant. I made up for it though by making the next batch of fois gras torchons perfectly. Since then I havent made any major kitchen mistakes, not even as much as a dropped pan.

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I worked the 5:30 shift today and did the morning bake. We have two rack ovens and one is normally pushed up to 480 to do all the breads during the day and needs to be reset to 360 to do all the morning pastries. Well, I didn't check and rolled a rack of scones, biscuits, puff pastry items and such right into it, set the timer for 18 minutes and went away. Toasted. The only things I could salvage were the puff pastry stuff. And then I had to crawl into the freezer and make another complete setup and then bake it right. I eventually went home early not feeling well, forgot my bp pill on the way out the door this am, and the last time I did that I wound up in the emergency room.

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Made a chicken pot pie where not all the chicken was done! Ewww.... gross! Luckily, I investigated before we got too far!


"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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I remember when my sister and I tried to bake shortbread cookies for the first time, without a recipe. We had seen my aunt do it the week before, and we remembered it only had 3 ingredients--butter, flour, and icing sugar. So we went home and decided to use as much butter and as little flour as possible (more butter is better, right? :raz: ) Then we shaped the butter-dough into cookies, and sprinkled them with festive red and green sprinkles. Into the oven they went...15 minutes later, we were pulling a pan of melted, crispy, colorful butter blobs. I think I must've been in grade 7 or so, and my sister was in grade 5. The next time, we used a recipe. :laugh:

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At a restaurant I used to co-own in southern Utah, we had about a half acre we used for a garden for the kitchen. One morning we were gathering vegies for fresh gazpacho to be served that evening. While gathering we knoshed on the okra which had just started coming on and was only about a inch long. It was so tender & crisp we decided it would be great in the soup. We finished the soup and put it in the walk-in to chill for several hours before service.

When the first order came in, of course they wanted our pride & joy - the ultimate fresh soup from our garden. The ladle went in, and as it came up I gasped. Long strings of of snotty looking tomato puree with bits of vegies hung down from all around the ladle. We tried to break up the congealed mess with a whisk, but it just made it worse. It tasted great, but looked like a bowl of bloody nose.

Lesson learned - after that all okra was always pickled, fried, or boiled.

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Forgot to put a pot under the collander and dumped all the stock he'd been simmering all day down the drain.

I've done that. TWICE!

Add me to the list.

I think what happens is that you're away from the kitchen for a while and out of the groove. When you return, you see that pot and go into autopilot, treating the pot like it's full of pasta. The time I did this, I didn't catch it until I had already poured out all the liquid and was removing the solids to a trash can! I was so angry that I set the pot back down and pretended like it didn't happen until the following morning. :wacko:

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