Most COMPLICATED Dish You Ever Made
I'm starting this because the "Most time-consuming" thread seemed to have lots of posts about 16 hour smoking, etc. That is not really labor-intensive. Here, I'm talking about time AND work.
I once made a cake from the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (No, NOT the marijuana brownies) - I haven't seen the recipe for years but it involved, I think, 3 separate cakes that were put together at the end with several different frostings/fillings. It was absolutely delicious but I didn't care. I was so wiped out by doing this all day that I wasn't even hungry.
My partner and I made dolmas for 100 guests when were used to cater about 75 years ago. Our hands were in realllllly bad shape after handling all those salty grape leaves hour after hour.
My nominee for one of the most difficult dishes was from Paula Wolftert (some other chef's recipe posted by her). It was some mint parfait with chocolate placed inside it...you can probably see it online. Amazing!
Not one dish, but I will vent anyway:
I once made Christmas dinner for 12 adults and 2 children, all by myself. No big deal, you say? Among the guests was one vegetarian flirting with the vegan diet and a notion that food should be consumed in the order of how easily it can be digested. Then there were two Jews, who could not have a dairy/meat combination. Another two guests had dietary restrictions due to poor health. Oh, a couple with a 2 year old and a vegetarian dude were staying overnight. We live in a tiny 2 bedroom house...
I did all the prepping, cooking, serving and washing the dishes in between individually served courses (no dishwasher and only 2 sets of dinner plates). I don't remember much of the menu, but the first course was a stuffed quail in a red pepper and garlic sauce. That meant a faux bird for the veggie dude and a separate bland sauce for the dieters. At one point wild mushroom soup was served. For that course I had to make 3 different soups: Veggie dude had one with a vegetarian stock as a base, the kosher couple had a regular soup sans cream and a separate pot with a creamy version. Each course needed similar adjustments: at least 2 separate preparations in separate pots and only one tiny stove. On top of it all the guests were having a blast and wanted me there to share the joy. Most of the evening is a blur but I remember one thing vividly. Around midnight everybody, except the overnighters, left and I finally cleaned and put away everything. I sat exhausted,sweaty and red-faced on a little stool in the kitchen, channeling Babette after her feast and lit up a cigarette. Just at that moment the Vegetarian waltzed in, all pink and fresh from the shower and on his way to bed found time to lecture me on negative impact of nicotine on one's health. My husband told me later that he had never heard anybody who could fit more swear words into one sentence...
Bigos, you're a saint! Long ago I gave up trying to accomodate different guests' eating idiosyncrasies! If they want to accept a dining invitation, then they take their chances at what's being served. Someone wants to keep Kosher or be a Vegan (or a Vulcan for that matter,) that's fine. But I'm not doing special varietals of the menu for them. Food allergies are a special circumstance because I don't want to kill anyone although I do enjoy using my EMT skills!
Usually people that keep kosher either bring their own food or, and this is a different take on it, they just eat whatever the host is serving.
And vegetarians usually seem to make do with one or two courses.
Sounds like it was more than just the dietary restrictions that were giving you a hard time :)
This is an interesting take on things. When I know I will be entertaining someone like a vegetarian, I make veggie friendly recipes. That's not to say that I avoid meat altogether, but everything but a main meat dish is safe for them, or (most of the veggies I know will still eat fish) some type of fish. In place of meat, I come up with something protein-rich or meaty for them that should work (cheese enchiladas instead of chicken, grilled portabellas instead of burgers, caprese type pizza instead of something with salami or pepperoni, or a vegetarian pasta dish) to keep them from feeling like they're missing out! My mother in law will eat meat but doesn't like it much so having my in laws over for dinner helps to test recipes that will please my meat hungry husband and father in law but still satisfy my MIL.
Bigos - the next time I make a family "occasion" dinner I will think of your story and realize my plight is not so bad. This Thanksgiving I had one pregnant daughter who (during pregnancy only ) could not stand to eat poultry, one son in law who swells up and can't breath when he eats mammal meat, another daughter who is vegan, ex-husband's wife who is a fishing eating vegetarian and three of us who eat anything. This is pretty typical of a holiday or birthday dinner (except for the pregnancy). But we manage - I cook a lot, ex's wife brings salmon and we all have a good time.
The most complicated dish I ever made was a chocolate cake that looked like a chocolate cabbage - one spherical chocolate cake surrounding chocolate mousse and the whole thing covered with chocolate cabbage leaves made by pouring melting chocolate over real cabbage leaves, peeling off the cooled chocolate leaves and putting the whole thing together - on Christmas morning with two kids under 8 years old. No- that is not why the husband is an ex. but I will never again spend Christmas morning in the back yard pouring chocolate over cabbage leaves. The cake was spectacular and I wish I had a picture.
A full Thanksgiving dinner for 12 hungry young adults (starving college and grad school types) in a junior one bedroom apartment (that's smaller than a one bed, bigger than a studio).
16 lb. turkey brined for a day
homemade cranberry sauce
onion gruyere tart
saffron mashed potatoes
two kinds of stuffing
gravy made with extra drippings from a previous roasting of turkey pieces
two kinds of infused vodka
mixed non-alcoholic drinks
omg, I can't even remember the five other things I made. I did it all by myself, everything from scratch, cooking for about two days straight and somehow getting everything on the table at the same time and all piping hot despite the fact that my stovetop was too small to hold more than two pots at a time, and the turkey was so big there was only an inch between it and the oven coils.
The most complicated single dish I've ever been involved in was the Chinese stew "Buddha jumps over the wall." It's basically every $$$ seafood ingredient known to Chinese cuisine, and takes about three days to prepare. My mom and two of her friends all chipped in to make it, and I helped by getting into the fray.
Oh my, you are like me.
Unfortunately this is my fate every year. We have no family nearby so EVERY year I make EVERY course. Just removing the rosemary, sage, and thyme from their stems takes me two hours. Then there are the other 8-10 courses...
But as a single dish, it was definitely my Koulibiaca:
I'm going to attempt to make Buddha Jumps over the Wall." Do you have a recipe? The only one I've found online has daikon, carrots, quail eggs, lamb...as well as all the $$$ seafood. I'm looking for the Cantonese one like the one found at Koi Palace or something similar.
From the Bouchon cookbooklast summer, the Pork Trotters with Mache and Sauce Gribiche. Many many steps and it took about 3 days to complete and was worth every bit of the work. What would have been nice would have been a photo of the finished dish so I could have had an idea of what I was aiming for. I fed us one dinner of it and gave the other two portions to jillp. It was so rich a second go round the next night would have been over kill.
The pate was formed and then sliced, dredged in panko and sauteed. I have not made it this year. I think I am still tired from making it the first time.
Those "marijuana brownies" in the Alice B. Toklas book are actually a North African confection called Majoun. Not brownies at all, though sometimes (misleadingly) called "fudge," it's a dense mix of almond paste, honey, rosewater, other flavorings, and the active ingredient: hashish. Forty years ago a Moroccan guy I knew gave a party to celebrate Eid el-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. He put together a fantastic meal--lamb, couscous, and many other dishes, somewhat obscured in my memory by the passage of time and by the fact that dessert was Majoun, rolled into golfball-sized servings. I had one? two? and about an hour later got exTREMEly stoned.
my moussaka is very complicated and takes about 6-7 hours almost continuous work. It is so delicious but really so much trouble I hardly ever make it. I have taught other people to make it and they always say it is soooo delicious but they will probably never make it again. Need to slice thinly about eight medium eggplants top to bottom with skin on. Then salt, sit, rinse and wipe dry. Than fry every piece and drain on paper towel.This is very time consuming. Meat mixture with ground lamb, onions, red wine, cinnamon. Then make bechamel sauce. Then put together layers of eggplant, meat eggplant and then bechamel sauce then bake. Yummy- haven't made it in 3 years but now have a craving.
Yes eggplant is such a pain with all those steps! I have the same problem with my eggplant parmesan...slice, salt, rinse, dry, fry...plus my grandmother's recipe calls for putting two fried slices together and re-frying. Plus making the tomato sauce to go with it. It's not as much work as your moussaka, but it's tiring enough that I can hardly be bothered anymore. And that's such a shame because my family and friends love it.
+1 on the eggplant parmesan....I love it, but it really is quite a process! I've made it once this summer, and will probably do it at least once more. The recipe I've been using most recently is from Skinnytaste.com and calls for roasting the eggplant, which does cut out the breading and frying step (or steps, in the case of your grandmother's recipe!).
I never bother salting aubergines any longer. Over here (London, UK) you tend to find that the 'bitter' aubergines have been bred out so you needn't bother. It has made my moussaka making far more straightforward, ditto parmigiana, last made with beautiful Sicilian aubergines, no bitterness - no problem.
As for time consuming, dolmades made with fresh vine leaves (first step pick then you have to blanch first and it's always a stinking hot day) and the only way of making it bearable is to make hundreds as you know you won't do it again that year! Then, people come and eat them and no matter how many you make they're gone in a flash.
I'm sure there have been more complicated things, but I the one I remember is doing Thomas Keller's Short Ribs:
Boil and Flambe wine to remove alcohol.
Add Mire Poix
Rise and pat dry ribs
Season, Flour and Sear ribs
Place in Pan
Strain, Boil, Skim, Cheese-Cloth the Marinade
Add to Ribs
Make Parchment lid,
Braise for 6 hours
Remove ribs, cool, chill
Strain Sauce, Cheese-Cloth sauce, Chill
Skim fat from sauce
Remove meat from bones, Shred, Wrap in Caul-Fat, and Saute until ultra, ultra, crispy
Reduce sauce by half and finish with butter.
Serve with turnedos of root-vegies blanched in slightly sweetened and salted water.
Add Veggies to Sauce, serve over crispy rib-meat.
The reason I remember it is that, despite it being a 3-day affair and a fair chunk of work, it is so good that I do it at least 2-3 times a year. Although, I have been know to use brisket so that it will hold together enough for the finally re-crisping without the Caul-fat wrapping.
The Brisket version crisps fantastically without the Caul. In fact, I have never seen meat crisp so well outside of deep-frying. Okay, crisp is maybe the wrong word, but it gets crunchy bits like a fond or the top of a roast almost instantly. I think it is because of the way the long cooking and marinading with wine have de-natured the proteins.
Th caul fat is really only usful for presentation and for portioning (and holding the shredded meat together.
I made individual beef wellingtons once. Could have been a lot simpler if I didn't decide to buy a whole untrimmed tenderloin (took forever to trim and portion) AND make the puff pastry from scratch. It was okay, but next time I'm buying the meat trimmed and DuFour All-Butter puff pastry from the freezer section.
My wedding cake. I had three tiers -- two of a "Spanish Vanilla Cake" which involved (hand) grated chocolate, ground almonds, and had beaten egg whites as a separate step. The third tier was a grand marnier almond flavored pound cake. I baked all the layers on Sunday night, froze them, then on Wednesday filled them with orange marmalade (not homemade, alas) and grand marnier syrup (homemade), then made a grand marnier buttercream, and for all 3 tiers did a crumb coat (a thin layer of buttercream) chilled, and then did a full frost of buttercream, trying to get it as smooth as possible. This all went into the fridge overnight. Thursday, I rolled out the (storebought) fondant, which is time consuming in and of itself, flavored it with almond candy oil, and colored it with paste food coloring (wedgwood blue). Draped each tier with the fondant, and let it set. Then I drove straws into each tier for support, trimmed the straws, and stacked the tiers. Then I got more fondant (uncolored), rolled a baroque stencil onto it, and cut out all the little pieces in the stencil, which I affixed to the cake tiers with royal icing (homemade). The wedding was Saturday. Beautiful, tasted fabulous, but a LOT of work.
My ramen is still a work in progress, but it is already very complex. First, I have to wait for the confluence of several events - I have to have made a batch of yakibuta (or char sue pork) in my smoker out of a blade roast (boston butt), and have kept the bone and trimmings in the freezer. Next, I have to buy a Costco rotisserie chicken, piece it up, remove the skin from the breast and freeze the skin and the carcass (this actually happens quite often in my house). Then I need some raw chicken pieces - usually a bunch of wing tips cut off and kept frozen from having buffalo or black bean wings, and a thigh or two. Anyway - once all that has accumulated, they go in a stock pot with standard chicken soup offerings (mirepoix), plus konbu, daikon, ginger, mirin, a touch of shoyu. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 2 hours. Let sit to cool, then filter through a fine mesh or cheesecloth, and put in the fridge to cool down completely. Remove fat from the top (most of it) when ready to use.
I should note that I never use cooked chicken for chicken soup - ramen is the only exception, and I still have to add the raw pieces for the real chicken flavor. I wanted a certain amount of flame-broiled flavor in the stock, and found that using the rotisserie chicken was a good way of creating it.
The ramen would be considerably harder if I didn't use store bought noodles. I have found that the fresh yakisoba packs are wonderful ramen noodles - made with the proper amount of pottasium and sodium carbonate (kansui), with just the right bite and flavor. The flavor packs it comes with are completely useles - I toss them. I actually like these noodles better than the fresh ramen packs.
With some dried shiitake, sliced kamaboko, thinly sliced scallion, some menma, and of course, 3 slices of my home-made, smoked, yakibuta... and some more added shoyu at the end, well, it comes out pretty darn good. But I keep working on it - it'll get better.
20 chickens boned out, each one covered with a meat pistacio farce on the meat side with 3 lengths of ham wrapped in spinach in centre. The whole lot was rolled and sewn up then poached. When they were cooked they were glazed. The idea was that it would look pretty when sliced for a buffet. At the time I had a small kitchen and I must have taken complete leave of my senses to do it, the place looked like an abbatoir. It took 2 days and the worst bit was that at the buffet people chose other simple stuff that they recognised. This was about 15 years ago and I haven't boned out a single bird since, the pain has almost subsided and I can only now look at a chicken without invoking the nightmare!
Hmmm, I'd say a toss up......and maybe this answers my question for me.....between Turkey day several years ago:
Goat cheese, SDT, pesto torta served with crudite
herbed cheesecake served with homemade crostini
Hazelnut and Prosciutto encrusted turkey (20ish lbs brined for a day)
Roasted Salmon with scallion, corn, Roasted pepper relish
homemade cranberry sauce
dressing, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole
Brown Sugar Cheesecake with Bourbon sauce
(I had such a good time - I had a spreadsheet and a folder laying out each day the week before)
This extremely complex Pork en croute dish that involved cooking down three lbs of mushrooms and organizing it into a puff pastry. Doesn't sound hard but it was!! Took forever to cook, too.
Wow- memories. Early in my cooking career armed w/ Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volumes 1 & 2 I was fearless. The most complicated I think was a tangent of my own trying to do a "Duck Feast" which involved the whole duck, cleanly boning out the breasts and turning them into a duck pithiviers w/ home made puff pastry, then the legs in a coq au vin prep, all preceeded by a duck soup that involved all the extra bones in a roasted bone stock and tiny dumplings that included a forcemeat of all the leftover meat I was able to pick off the carcass. The stuffed breast of veal from Julia's book runs a close second because I elected to bone the breast myself....very finicky to bone it & not have a bunch of punctures which would let the stuffing leak. Actually, the list goes on. Good topic.
POISSON EN PAPILLOTE
This started out with scaling, gutting and filleting a couple of red snappers, then scoring the skin, coating lightly with vegetabe oil and fresh thyme, and refrigerating the fillets while the rest of the dish was prepared. (After doing it this way at school and once at home, I got smart and took an hour off the prep – not to mention a ton of clean-up – by having the fishmonger do the scaling, gutting and filleting for me.)
Next step was to prepare tomato concassé: chop some onions, shallots and garlic and sweat them in butter; peel a couple of tomatoes (boiling water, ice bath), seed and chop them; add the tomatoes to the onion mixture; cover with parchment and cook on low heat until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with S&P.
Next some mushroom duxelles: chop a bunch of mushrooms and some more shallots; sweat the shallots in butter, add the chopped mushrooms and a squeeze of lemon; cover with parchment and cook on low heat until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with S&P.
Next julienne some carrots, celery and leeks: cook each vegetable separately in a little bit of water with salt; cover with a buttered parchment round; simmer on high until tender; add bit of butter and season with S&P – times three.
Get a grill pan searingly hot; wipe the excess oil/thyme marinade off the fish and sear on the skin side briefly. This is just to get a nice grill mark on the fish and add another layer of flavor, not to cook it.
Cut parchment paper into four large hearts; on one side of each heart, place a mound of the duxelles and some of the concassé next to it; put a fillet on top, skin-side up, and place a bit of each of the three vegetables in three rows over the fish, plus a sprig of thyme and a splash of white wine. Fold the parchment over and seal the edges by folding in tiny increments.
The filled papillotes go on an oiled sheet pan into a 450°F oven for 8 to 12 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillets).
Dinner was served around 9:30 p.m. and I went to bed immediately following dinner. My husband has hinted around that he’d like this for another special occasion dinner and, while the dish is absolutely spectacular, I’m not sure I’m up to it again.
I totqlly forgot, or put out of my mind, making the house dessert from The Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg, VA Death By Chocolate from the Deslaunier's book of the same name. Oh wow what project! Sorry no photos. It was before digitql cameras were abundant. It was also several days in the making. Delicious, but never again!
Seems to me that most of my dishes are complicated anymore... bad attitude due to healing process I'm sure.
My friends make me laugh that want to learn how to make things like tamales, chile rellenos and pork buns. 8hrs later exhausted, I had to laugh that they want to learn such things and I tell them I'll bet you're sorry you asked and now you won't make them for another year!
But no, I think tamales is the winner for me. Grinding chiles and spices, soaking the chiles, making my sauce, and because I can't decide on which kind, I make red and green, yes which means chicken and pork. Then the ceremonial soaking of the husks and then finally. A day of back breaking tamale making. I know I am stubborn, I have to tie the ends with little strips of husks. Why? Because,that's the way I was taught, and also because they taste better that way darn it! My husband thinks I'm crazy when I make lumpia, but when I make tamales he wants to leave town. Which reminds me, Christmas is somewhere around 120 days away...
Francois Payard's Chocolate meringue mousse cake from Gourmet's Feb 2008 issue. I HATE baking, but for some strange reason I decided to make this cake. I fail every time a recipe requires precise measurement, but I managed to make this cake with the help of my then boyfriend's stand mixer (god bless him :p). It turned out beautifully and now I want to make it again!
I just love making complex dishes that involve many components and beautiful presentation - my favourites are anything from Thomas Keller's or Jean-Georges books. And some by Heston Blumenthal (those I can make at home). For example, Salad of Petite Summer Tomatoes with Vine-Ripe Tomato Sorbet - you must make sorbet, tomato coulis, garlic tuiles, tomato salad, brioche croutons and basil oil. Another is Fricassee of Escargots with a Puree of Sweet Carrots, Roasted Shallots and Herb Salad which is comprised of a red wine sauce, snail dish, carrot puree, roasted shallots, brioche croutons and herb salad. And one of my favourites Cote de Boeuf with Golden Chanterelles, Pommes Anna and Bordelaise Sauce (with homemade chicken stock, etc.). I enjoy making powders such as carrot, citrus, mushroom, tomato, beet, mustard, dried horseradish...
Today I am making a Provencale Daube that is not difficult in the least but takes 48 hours (heating/cooling twice). Delicious and well worth it.
Just a simple margarita pie. One bowl for egg whites, one for whipped cream, one for yolks, one for gelatin with lime juice, one for lime juice without gelatin. Pot for cooking syrup, pot for cooking yolks, bowl for mixing some whipped cream with some lime juice... Very yummy results but I have never made anything that used so many dishes for a dish that appears so simple.
I remember when I was 12 years old, the first year I was given a subscription to Bon Appetit for my birthday, the issues starting coming in March. well, I announced to my mother that from now on, I was going to have Easter Lunch at our house, and I would be cooking, and she could invite our favorite family friends. The idea was to celebrate all the best new spring foods; asperagus, lamb, strawberries! (I started cooking when I was 6, and got kind of serious fast - I was sure I was going to be the next Julia Child!)...
This was going to be a new tradition, I was sure. The first year, I did some crazy boned, stuffed leg of lamb wrapped in puff pastry out of the Bon Appetit- it took 3 days. I boned the lamb, made the pork, green onion, orange, ground lamb stuffing. Stuffed the lamb, did a pre-roast. Cooled it, then on Easter day, got up at 6am to roll out and cover in pastry and decorate. Then baked it. It turned out really great - I still remember what it tasted like. I have a photo somewhere in an album of my holding the platter and beaming for my Dad.
I also made for that same first Easter lunch, a frozen strawberry mousse dessert with a crisp merangue bottom and top layer; pics of that somewhere too.
It was an instant hit - my 'new tradition" Easter meal, but mom suggested next year - perhaps something simpler?
Now I have it down (35 years later) Easter is grilled butterflied lamb, spanikopita, baked shirred eggs, and the guests bring asperagus salad, strawberry desserts, and we all drink too many mimosas. Much easier!
Crazy crazy crazy. I was 20-something, it was my birthday the next day and I wanted to bring a baked treat to share with coworkers. What do I make? Baklava! Crazy. Never made it before. All those steps, the orange juice, the honey, the nuts, the buttering of the philo layers. And I hadn't been cooking all that long. I think I stayed up til the wee small hours finishing it. And you know what? It tasted great. But seriously? I could have picked up something like a cake from a bakery and everyone would have been happy.
Before I started REALLY cooking, or was much of a foodie, for that matter, I remember "helping" a friend of mine who was having an elaborate dinner party for at least 12 in her little 1 bedroom OLD Hollywood apartment. I had to clean 10 lbs. of squid! That is something I will never forget! I was dressed for the party, NOT for cleaning squid.
I now always buy cleaned squid, not because it is that difficult, but just because of that incident!
Anthony Bourdain's Cassoulet from his "Les Halles" cookbook. It was my DH's birthday and thought about doing it. Took me three days (and a lot of $$$) to complete it! It was really good (because I put in more than the amount of pork fat that was called for!) and very rich! Heart attack waiting to happen in a dutch oven.
That said I still think that the Cassoulet I made was better than the one I had at a SFO French bistro. :P
When I was not long out of college, I decided to make a "gift-wrapped" chocolate cake for my boyfriend's birthday at his family's house. It was my first time meeting them and I wanted to impress them. It was a chocolate layer cake with a chocolate-orange-raspberry filling and chocolate ganache frosting. I made the mistake of subbing real OJ for the concentrate in the filling, which made it too runny. When assembled, the cake layers started to slide around because the filling wasn't firm enough. I was this close to tears before it miraculously firmed up with all the frosting gluing it together. THEN I had to make ribbons out of fondant and "tie" them into a bow on top of the cake.
It was gorgeous and they liked it, but they really didn't appreciate it considering the blood, sweat and tears that went into it. To be honest, it wouldn't be that hard for me now, but at the time it was at my skill limit.
I've also made the 3 day Julia Child boeuf bourgignon with the multiple steps and straining with cheesecloth and whatnot, but it wasn't traumatic. :)