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What recipe/method/ process has irked you the most? [moved from General Topics]

I have made many difficult things, some when I was too naive to know that they were supposed to be difficult or tricky. All sorts of charcuterie and pastry but being assingned to make orange cream filled napoleans with stacks of phyllo which did not want to stick together and then having to candy cranberies as a garnish really sticks out in my mind. If the gourmet club member had said to make them using puff pastry I would have happily made my own but the real fiddly kicker was candying those cranberries which wanted to explode when coated with the caramel and of course it needed to be fairly warm or it would not coat, I tried letting it cool a bit and it did not want to adhere, no clues in the recipe. Aaarrrgh! It has been years but every time I see a cranberry recipe I remember the wilting and exploding cranberries. I finally got enough to use but in all it was a highly thankless task.

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  1. Yes the filo dough and I usually are at war when making spanikopita. I have to remind myself it really doesn't matter....but still highly frustrating. The results justify the frustration however.

    I detest pan-frying for the mess it makes of the stovetop so rarely do it.

    Other than that, mostly enjoy the processes. I guess I've weeded out anything not pleasurable in my repetoire. What does irk me is when I spend a good amount of time, happliy chopping, sauteing, finishing, making a huge mess, and using nearly every pan in the kitchen, only to have hubby say at the table...."Gee, that seemed like an AWFUL lot of work...." as if the ends didn't justify the means in his eyes.

    Gr-r-r-r.... daggers!

    3 Replies
    1. re: toodie jane

      Years ago I visited my sister and brother-in-law. I had been travelling and not eating well (too much pizza, etc.) In the afternoon I asked BIL: what's for dinner? He said: I don't know, maybe we'll order a pizza. I thought: No. Not pizza; someone should be making a home-cooked meal in this . . . home, so that would be me.
      I went to the store and made a full, nutritious dinner including my signature parmesan chicken breasts and orzo w/ broc rabe. It was good. They liked it. Then my sister said to me: did you have to use every pan in the house? Grrr.
      At that moment I realized she and I were at entirely opposite ends of the spectrum in thinking about cooking. Is using the fewest number of pots the goal? From my perspective, the *point* of cooking is making a good meal. Pots and utensils are meant to be used in the course of said goal.

      1. re: NYchowcook

        I'm with your sister on this. I hate clean up. I don't mind when I am cooking because I have perfected the art of using fewer pans, utensils, etc. but when my husband cooks, whether it's grilling steaks or Thanksgiving dinner, it looks like WWIII hit the kitchen when he is done.

      2. re: toodie jane

        My hubby says the same thing--altho I'm thinking that may be because he always does the cleanup! He seems to enjoy the meal and I'm trying to clean up more as I go. When the recipe is new and/or difficult that doesn't happen.

      3. I don't like peeling shallots.

        1. Blanching. It's supposed to make life more convenient, but I'm really paranoid that I'm going to warp my vegetables in the process. For the record, white eggplant doesn't blanch well.

          2 Replies
          1. re: lemonfaire

            Does ANY eggplant blanch well? I mean, isn't that like taking a sponge to water?


            1. re: TexasToast

              Not necessarily. Have you ever let eggplant drain? There's a lot of water in those suckers. Anyway, I've had some success blanching the regular old thin-skinned purple variety. However, the white eggplant's skin was way too thick and I ended up having to slice it away. (With a big knife, after my peeler got stuck in the skin.) Naturally, in the process, I ended up slicing a way a good percentage of the tasty part of the eggplant, too. Sad.

              Thus, I should amend me post to say that I hate both blanching and peeling.

          2. I suck at getting the most flavor and texture from meat.

            1 Reply
            1. Peeling pearl onions - I've stopped using them, though I've noticed that they can be bought frozen, and may try that instead.

              Peeling tomatoes - I don't bother....

              Browning meat - I seem to be too impatient to get the oil hot enough to brown it properly.

              8 Replies
              1. re: MMRuth

                I agree that pearl onions are a pain to peel (ditto: boiling onions and cippoline). But when I feel I must, I find blanching for 1-2 minutes helps the peel slide off. Ditto for tomatoes, which I don't mind as much.

                1. re: NYchowcook

                  Me too, I hate this. Even after blanched. Also hate separating cabbage leaves for stuffed cabbage. Hate it!!

                2. re: MMRuth

                  I've got 2 bags of peeled pearl onions in my freezer right now. They are fine for all sorts of things and save much unappreciated effort/

                  1. re: Candy

                    I agree.. Frozen Pearl Onion are WONDERFUL!! :)


                    1. re: Dommy

                      I use them too, they really save time and I can't tell the difference from fresh. They can be hard to find in my area tho.

                      1. re: jackie de

                        You can get them in most supermarkets.


                  2. re: MMRuth

                    I usually brown meats under the broiler.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Peeling tomatoes is EASY. Just score the skin and cover with boiling water for exactly one minute. Lift out of the water and the skin will peel off every time!


                    2. Wrapping lemon mousse in marzipan pastry. The recipe calls for square blocks of mousse to be wrapped so that you can drizzle on a bow and it looks like a wrapped present. In order to do it you have to part freeze the mousse (otherwise it melts) and wrap it in a cruciform of cooked marzipan. The marzipan always sticks, it's never thin enough and the mousse always melts (a bit) then because the marzipan is too thick it cracks. Because the mousse melts the wrapping no longer fits the present. Silly idea. Looks great when it works and it is very impressive, but when I'm not trying to show off I just serve the mousse with cooked marzipan 'biscuits'.

                      1. I find it's the most remedial tasks that will really irk me, i.e. tearing and washing lettuce for salads and grating cheese come to mind. This is where I really lack patience sometimes.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Katie Nell

                          I forgot - cleaning mushrooms ...

                          1. re: Katie Nell

                            Ditto - and I can never get the lettuce or spinach dry after I wash it (salad spinners don't work for me; I wind up having tyo spread the leaves out on towels in layers with cloth between and rolling them up). What a mess when the bagged spinach wasn't available! Now they're telling us to wash our bagged produce; what's the point of buying it in bags if I still have to wash it?

                            1. re: Marsha

                              A friend who is a chef showed me a trick for drying greens. Wrap a bunch is a clean tea towel and gather the ends together in your hand. Standing outside or over the sink (better outside) do a quick jerk motion with your arm. You'll see loads of water flying out.

                              I probably wouldn't use this for really delicate greens, but since learning this trick I've kicked my salad spinner to the curb.

                          2. For me, pounding chicken breasts and deveining shrimp are killers. I basically refuse to try pounding out the breasts anymore; no matter what method I use, I always end up with a hole in the meat, so now I just cut a horizontal pocket in a boneless skinless breasts and stuff it that way. I do still devein shrimp if they are large or extra large which is pretty much the only size I buy now.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: Val

                              I bought a little gadget that makes peeling and deveining the shrimp a lot easier ...

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                MMRuth, it's not so much the process (well, okay it IS a tedious process) as the consistency of the vein itself that bothers me more...forgive me, but it's like snot. I saw Alton Brown's re-run of his shrimp show last week or 2 weeks ago and he said the same thing basically without using the word I used, though; I wished I could high-5 him!

                                1. re: Val

                                  I see what you mean ... it never bothered me before, but I may be thinking of you next time I cook shrimp! I find it hard to get all the little bits out ...

                              2. re: Val

                                I hate peeling tomatoes and deveining shrimp. Seriously, I just buy the frozen uncooked shrimp that are already peeled and deveined, I am that lazy.

                                1. re: Val

                                  i don't know if you are slitting the shrimp then deveining it, i've never tried this way, but i'm sure it would be a pain, but the way my grandma did it was to just take a toothpick, between the shells and pull it right out. It can get a little gunky, but its fast, and pain free. When I bring home shrimp, I always devein all my shrimp before putting it in the freezer into portion size bags. I don't cut that slit in my shrimp (we leave it to the restaurants). But i'm sure after using a toothpick, you can peel and slit your shrimp. Hope this helps

                                  1. re: mabziegurl

                                    Oh God, I wish this would work for me! I've tried it, and I just end up breaking the little vein. Any special tips? Is it really bad to eat? I hate deveining shrimp, too.

                                    1. re: AppleSister

                                      if it breaks, i just put the toothpick in another grove... and pull the rest out

                                      based on what i've tried, if you put the toothpick at the middle, it seems to break, i usually put it about one or two grooves from the middle (towards the head) and that seems to get most of it.... put the toothpick in a little deeper, instead of right at the vein...

                                      hope it helps... more trial and error than anything... i've been using this method since i was 10 or so, so i've had 13 years of practice...

                                  2. re: Val

                                    I LOVE to pound chicken breasts. I got this really neat (and heavy) gadget at Williams-Sonoma and it makes chicken marsala so much easier to make!



                                    1. re: TexasToast

                                      Me too! I finally got so sick of trying to find something to use to pound meat (mostly chicken, but sometimes lamb) that I broke down and bought the $25 (obscene) pounder at WS. Not like yours, but something that looks more like an old fashioned office stamp...except heavy as heck. I LOVE using it.

                                      1. re: danna

                                        Yep, it's great for lamb chop lollipops too. I didn't understand the concept of even cooking surface until I started pounding!


                                        1. re: danna

                                          i pound mostly chicken, but it seems to be aggravating... i use a wine bottle or a rolling pin or my huge costco honey... but i'm really whacking it, instead of shaping and tapping it... there has to be an easier way...

                                    2. Prepping fresh herbs. While I very much appreciate that fresh herbs are often essential to a bright flavors, prepping them is about my least favorite task. Okay, parsley is not so bad, but getting the leaves off thyme stems and *then* chopping? And when you need a few different herbs, I feel in drudgery land.

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: NYchowcook

                                        Ooh yes, thyme leaves can be a pain, especially if they are of the more delicate variety!

                                        1. re: NYchowcook

                                          I'm with you. I hate the prep of herbs. And, I grow a lot of them. Taking all the little leaves off the thyme stem drives me batty. So does marjoram, oregano and rosemary.

                                          The worst is when you prep all the herbs and then realize you don't have enough. Back to the garden to snip (which I like) and then the drudge returns.

                                          I also hate taking the leaves off of basil. And, now that fall is here, and the first frost is near, I have to make pesto out of the basil. aargh. If only there were a herb prepping fairy, I would be so happy.

                                          As for chopping, I use a mezaluna which makes it easier. But, sometimes I don't learn from my mistakes. If I use a light plastic cutting board that doesn't adhere to the counter, sometimes it will slip. Causing, herbs to fly all over, including the floor. Which, ensures that I will have to prep additional herbs. Sigh.

                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                            I too enjoy the traipse out to my herb garden for snipping. If I've snipped, washed and prepped and find I don't have enough, well, generally I decide in fact I do have just the right quantity!

                                            As for sending the product of one's labors flying off the cutting board -- and making one seriously consider the benefits of eating solely out of cans -- I've found that wetting a paper towel and laying it out on the counter underneath the cutting board keeps it in place.

                                            1. re: beetlebug

                                              beetlebug, can you please e-mail me at valnaples@aol.com? I have an herb-growing question for you and that topic is not allowed on these boards. Thank you in advance.

                                              1. re: NYchowcook

                                                Thyme: just lightly pinch the thyme twig, and run your fingers up the twig, against the grain of the leaves. They pop right off. That's it. I don't chop.

                                                1. re: danna

                                                  I think the tricky thing is that sometimes the twig isn't really a twig - it's softer than that - and then the leaves don't come off easily, instead the "twig" breaks. I don't chop thyme leaves either.

                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                    Exactly what I usually run into... especially this year, all my thyme "twigs" were very flimsy.

                                                    1. re: Katie Nell

                                                      Here's a tip for liquidy dishes using thyme: tie several branches of thyme together with thread or kitchen string, and tie the other end to the handle of the pot. In long-cooked dishes, the leaves will cook off of the stems, and you can just pull the string out of the pot and discard the twigs.

                                                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                        I have a large mesh tea ball that I put herbs or bouquets garni in. Makes it very simple to fish it out and it has a handy clip to fix to the edge of the pot.

                                                        1. re: Candy

                                                          I like the method in the Balthazar Short Rib recipe ... put the thyme/bayleaf/rosemary in between two pieces of celery & tie up. I enjoy doing it every time for some reason!

                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                            That is fun... a little thyme boat! I like that! :-)

                                                  2. re: danna

                                                    I never understood what the problem is with thyme and other herbs. If the stem is so small /tender than the stem breaks before you can strip the leaves off you can just chop the stem with the leaves. You have to do a complete job chopping, so your don't have a mouth feel difference, and there is no problem with serving small bits of young stems.
                                                    It is not necessary to separate all the parsley leaves for the stems. I try to lay the leaf on its side and use a long knife to remove the leaves in 1 slice.

                                                2. Pet peeve: the proliferation of brining recipes that result in oversalted stuff! i love brining a turkey properly but boy have I been suckered by some recipes, notably from Cooks, that should be deep-sixed!

                                                  1. I agree with the pearl onions, so tedious and not worth the bother when the frozen are quite fine. I tend to think of pearl onions as a refining addition to dishes, the flavour are generally not as important as say, the quality of the beef, etc. I did a beautiful tomato sauce from scratch yesterday (our local farmer's market was selling huge bags of less than visually prime but still delicious tomatos - at a steal of a price). By the time I blanched, peeled and seeded over 50 tomatos my finger tips resembled morel mushrooms and felt kinda icky to boot. The sauce however is gorgeous. I added finely chopped carrots to add a bit of sweetness and it is lovely. Will use it with some ground veal and ricotta today in a lasagna. Yummmmy.

                                                    1. Dicing a lot of veggies when visual uniformity is not essential, particularily for soups.

                                                      1. Deep fat frying. I can't get it right and don't do it often enough to learn. I even have one of those deep fat frying machines sitting unopened in the basement.

                                                        Peeling crabs. I can't be bothered to get everything out.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          Get that fryer out of the box...is it one of those self-contained things, or the open kind? Start off with something easy like onion rings. Perfectly fried food is a truly great culinary treasure...

                                                          1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                            It's self-contained. I never know when to pull the food out...or put it in. I've tried testing it with a piece of bread but I can't make it all work out w/out either raw food or drenched in oil. I had a terrible experience at the Melting Pot (meat fondue). I love perfectly fried food. I just can't master it! You've given me incentive to keep practicing.

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              I recently rec'd one of those self-contained ones as a freebie, and I'm quite surprised at how well it works. Mine has a dial on front with specific temp settings (annoying pictograms, but the accompanying manual translates the glyphs into temperature equivalents). You pour the oil into it, plug it in, set the temp dial, and a light comes on when the oil is at the proper temp. Damn near foolproof. My only complain is that the basket is pretty small...you couldn't really use it to fry large things (chicken quarters or such). It also has a viewing window on top so you can see when the bubbling/boiling slows down & thus you don't have to open it up to check on things.

                                                              And those meat fondues at Melting Pot ARE awful. Stick to the cheese & dessert ones...

                                                        2. Baking....cookies, cakes, etc. Each holiday season I begin to feel heightened anxiety come on at the thought of cookie baking...there have been some OK years and some not so OK years...not so good is especially memorable during my years of participting in a cookie swap. Picture one baking 12 dozen gingerbreads in a NYC kitchen. Ugh! My sister is the baker and I am the "cook". I really want to be good at baking (that's why I keep trying every year) Now, I have learned to keep a stick of Pillsbury Sugar Cookies on hand...just in case. Or steal lots of mom and sis's cookies and claim them as my own when passing on to friends and co-workers.

                                                          1. Sugar sculpture. I can do it for wedding cakes and fancy centerpieces but its not my idea of a way to spend a relaxing afternoon.
                                                            I would much rather make marzipan, strudel dough,puff pastry or make baklava on a hot humid afternoon. I still don't like rolling pie dough.

                                                            1. Cutting napoleons. I don't understand how anyone cuts them into neat little rectangles without squashing them and squeezing out all the fillings. My encounter with this daunting task occurred when I worked as an assistant to the pastry chef in a New Orleans restaurant, and she always got annoyed with me for ruining the napoleons.

                                                              Oh, and another thing from that job . . . removing the membrane from orange segments. Not to mention the dreaded chocolate-dipped bananas rolled in toasted coconut -- sounds easy but it wasn't. This is why I don't make fussy desserts.

                                                              Sarah C

                                                              1. Peeling unpeelable hard boiled eggs. Hulling strawberries until my fingertips are sore.
                                                                Coming to the part of the recipe (near the end) where it says "Pour into pan." But I can't pour into pan, because what I have is a solid mass. Or it says "Spread into pan", but I don't need to spread, because water seeks its own level...

                                                                1. detest using an oven broiler...i avoid it completely now. usually poor results, waaay to much cleanup and it dries out everything.

                                                                  1. Browning meat - lately, I've been doing a lot of it (through the ABB cookbook project) and not enjoying it. It's a step that I can't and won't skip. But, it's so messy. All the oil splatters everywhere and when I flip the meat, oil always splatters on my hand. By the time I finish flipping the meat, my hand is a greasy splattered mess. And, the little splatters on the stove, on the pot handle, on the next burner, everywhere. This also doesn't include the oil splatters on my clothes. I finally smartened up and started wearing an apron.

                                                                    Also, I hate touching raw meat. Especially chicken. The worst is having to cut off the skin when I am using bone in pieces. It's all slimy and icky. I try and get over it, but it just grosses me out.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                                      On the browning thing, I think you have the temperature too high. I always wear an apron (I find I don't feel that I'm cooking w/o one) but oil should not be splattering all around and burning you when you're browing meat. It's too hot!
                                                                      I don't find it annoying, but rather soulfully satisfying to see raw meat turn a luscious brown. And there's no painful burns involved!

                                                                      1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                        I'll try lowering it, but I usually have the heat on medium high. The oil splatters is like a heavy mist. It doesn't really hurt when it lands on my hand, it's just irritating and messy. I also think it's because I use a large skillet so the sides are lower. When I brown in my Le Creuset (which has higher sides), it's not as messy because the sides catches the splatter. I use the skillet because it has a wider surface.

                                                                        1. re: beetlebug

                                                                          Are you using very "wet" meat, as you know oil and water don't mix?


                                                                          1. re: TexasToast

                                                                            Nope, I've actually been very good about drying the meat off.

                                                                          2. re: beetlebug

                                                                            Beetlebug, Have you ever considered buying a splatter screen to cover the skillet to prevent the grease/oil splatter? They are available everywhere, and it will be the best $5.00 you ever spent.
                                                                            If you dislike handling raw meat, you can use a cooking fork or tongs or simply wear latex gloves.


                                                                            1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                              re: the gloves. I think it's a great idea. Unfortunately for me, it's like the apron, I think of it after the fact. I have a box for cutting up hot peppers and I always forget to put them on. Then, I rub my face. It's not a pretty sight ;-)

                                                                              As for a splatter screen. That's brilliant. I'm going to pick one up next time I go to a kitchen store. I was wondering if there was something like that. For some reason, my idea was to have a cone shaped thing surrounding the pot. you know, the kind they put around a dog's neck to prevent the dog from biting itself? This way I could see the meat. But, I'll take the screen. Much easier to implement.

                                                                      2. Peeling chestnuts. Though I like chestnuts. Yay frozen, canned & dried. (Some of the recipes on the chestnut thread look awful good.)

                                                                        1. Divinity is my nemesis. Twice I have tried to make this candy on a dry day; on a humid day the fluffy white candy will not set. I guess the weather wasn't dry enough both times because all I got were puddles on a cookie sheet. I'll have to wait until the winter, I guess. Maybe this is why divinity is a candy associated with Christmas.