In the past year, I have discovered cooking. I have learned so much about this fabulous art, for instance: everything tastes better with onions and garlic. Salt should be used sparingly. Recipes do not have to be followed to the letter. Baking powder and baking soda are NOT the same thing. A turkey continues to cook when it is taken out of the oven. These are just a few of the valuable lessons I have learned.
Another is this: Having fancy cooking tools does NOT make me a good cook.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had more successes than failures (and I think my Chico would agree). However, there have indeed been a few flops. But before talking about those, I’ll tell you about a few successes (just to make myself feel good).
First, there were my stuffed peppers. They were so moist and delicious, stuffed with a very simple risotto (you can find the recipe here – I substituted peppers for tomatoes), and they were a big hit at the dinner table. Then, there was my tortilla de patata (Spanish omelette) which received rave reviews from my Chico (and he should know, considering he’s a native!). I fried the potatoes perfectly and (miraculously) succeeded in flipping the tortilla without (much) incident. And my go-to recipe and crowd pleaser is this pesto-crusted fish dish that never fails to have guests ooing and ahhing over my mad cooking skills.
I have been blessed with many gifts of good kitchen equipment from family members. A recent wedding gift from my aunt consisted of a fabulous set of Le Creuset pots (merci, tante! I promise to send the thank-you notes soon!). A housewarming gift from my parents was an excellent set of knives and non-stick pots and pans. These tools never fail to slice, dice and cook evenly. The question is, can I keep up??
Sadly, the answer is sometimes, “No.” For instance, an attempt at a roast sirloin tip last Friday was so fraught with miscalculations that instead of eating at 9:00pm as planned, we had dinner at 10:15pm (thank goodness there were no guests!). The Le Creuset casserole and the oven cannot be blamed, for they are brand-spanking new! Then, there was the time we had 8 dinner guests and I thought that doubling this recipe would be a piece of cake (hahahaa, cake is food–get it??). Sadly, great quality as my pot was, it wasn’t large enough to accommodate twice the amounts, AND it turns out that you have to be careful when doubling spice quantities. Heh, who knew? Thankfully, the dish only turned out bland, which could have been worse.
The most spectacular near-disaster, however, wasn’t so much a question of equipment but more an issue of planning. Trust me, folks, you should never EVER plan to pick up your turkey on Thanksgiving day. Always get it the day before. Especially when you’re dealing with a butcher who apparently can’t tell the difference between “fresh” and “frozen.” But that’s another story for another time. (Perhaps on Thanksgiving day 2013, when, after a successful meal, I will reminisce about the hilarious near-disaster of Thanksgiving 2012.)
For now, I suppose I will just need to keep cooking. There’s nothing like trial and error, and I’ve got to get up the courage to try those failed dishes again. The next sirloin tip roast I do will be glorious, I tell you! Thank goodness for the internet and a mother readily available on Skype. (If anyone has any Sunday roast suggestions, your feedback is very, very welcome…) If anything, I know that thanks to my fabulous pots and pans, the presentation will always be flawless. Here’s hoping the taste eventually catches up.