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Epic Culinary Blunders

Today I braised a whole brisket for a Hanukah party I'm throwing tomorrow. I browned some onions while I seared the meat, then make a braising liquid by adding a teaspoon of paprika, garlic, stock, and wine to the onions.

I poured the liquid over the meat and covered the pan with foil. I stuck it into the over and set the time. That's when I spied some errant onion bits on my wooded spoon. I look a nibble, and to my surprise, it was really spicy! I look down at the counter, to find, where the paprika bottle ought to have been, a bottle of cayenne pepper!!

"#*&@," I said to myself, "Double #*&@!"

After a bought of despair and light-headedness, I decided that my only option—given that I was not about to go out and buy more onions and then spend another 45 minutes browning them all over again—was to strain the braising liquid and add new stock and wine.

This I did, and what's just come out of the over 4 hours later seems to be a bit feisty. Not something my Eastern European ancestors would have enjoyed, but hopefully my guests tomorrow will find it tasty. If only I could think of a clever name to make it seem like I'd done this on purpose...

Needless to say, the cayenne has been relegated to a less accessible cabinet.

Anyway, what spectacular culinary blunders have you committed?

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  1. Many years ago, I was baking a lemon chess pie, and peeked into the oven to see how it was doing. It looked rather odd to me, so I waved my roommate over (who had made such pie in the past) and asked her if "this is what it's supposed to look like?"

    She nodded rather vigorously, and beat a hasty retreat back to her room.

    Later, when I took the pie out of the oven and then sliced it, I discovered that graham cracker crust (which I had made in place of the pastry crust in the recipe because I had had a volume of graham crackers in my cupboard) does not work with lemon chess pie. In the heat of the oven, the crust had floated up through the filling and was sitting on top of the pie!

    "You said this is what it's supposed to look like!" I accused my roommate.

    "I didn't want to discourage you!" she replied.

    Anyway, we dubbed it "lemon chess upside down pie."

    1 Reply
    1. re: sidwich

      I was having a few people over to dinner and was tossing salad to serve with eggplant risotto when one of the guests arrived. So I was looking at her and not at the bowls when I poured salad dressing into the risotto -- whoops. I managed to scoop most of it out but the risotto was definitely... tangier... than it was supposed to have been.

    2. My daughter baked a beautiful rhubarb pie to take to a company picnic. Everyone commented on how delicious it looked. Luckily, her husband was the first to take a piece and much to his surprise, she had made it with cubed ham instead of rhubarb. She was in a hurry and grabbed a bag from the freezer that looked like rhubarb, but just happened to be ham. Her husband quickly disappeared with the pie before anyone else could get a taste.

      4 Replies
        1. re: King of Northern Blvd

          Hilarious! Oh,but don't tell my Hub, or I'll be forced to make Ham Pie forevermore!

          Still - have have a bunch of rhubarb in the freezer...make a bean and rhubarb soup?

          My worst was the result of an April Fool's Day prank by the husband and son. Not only did they change out the sugar in the sugar bowl for salt, they swapped the canister stock as well. Hub (ex-Hub, I might add) subsequently invited Boss to dinner. My coffee service was, shall we say, savory.I'm for locked cabinet doors when one has merry pranksters around.

          1. re: King of Northern Blvd

            Don't you DARE mention this to the people discussing Bacon Brittle over on Home Cooking, else we'll all be raving about a whole new treat come next year and it'll be all your fault ;-)

          2. re: ncs821

            I always thought the IQF rhubarb looked a lot like ham chunks.....

          3. Oh you crazy chow hound misfits. I feel better already.

            Less than 24 hours till I serve the spicy brisket!

            1 Reply
            1. re: mhoffman

              one year my aunt made brisket for our holiday festivities... We're all jewish, she's not. Our traditional family recipe is essentially lipton's onion soup mix and a bottle of chili sauce. My aunt decided to try it with Thai Garlic Chili sauce. Let's just say, it wasn't quite what the family expected.

            2. Several years ago, I hosted a formal New Years Eve dinner party for 4 couples, all close friends. Everything was planned and decorated to a T, complete with white linens, the good china/silver, floral arrangements, the whole shebang. The last thing I had to do as the guests were arriving was to toast the walnuts for the salad. I accidentally set the oven to "broil" instead of "bake", and as my guests and I were making champagne toasts and nibbling on caviar, the smoke alarm went off and huge clouds of black smoke started coming out of the oven (which is what happens when walnuts catch on fire.) We managed to put the fire out and get every possible door and window open to vent out the smoke. Once the smoke cleared, there was a lovely layer of soot over everything in the house, not to mention my guests' formal attire. We ended up cleaning as much as we could, continuing with dinner (sans walnuts), laughing like crazy, and getting REALLY drunk. Thank god for good friends.

              9 Replies
              1. re: adroit_minx

                What a perfectly wonderful tale--about even more wonderful friends!

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I had no idea walnuts were combustable.

                  DT

                  1. re: Davwud

                    If I wasn't using a gas broiler, things might have gone differently... but due to the super high oil content in walnuts and the amount I was toasting (almost 3 cups, planning to use the rest in other recipes), it went flammable as soon as the flame ignited the walnut oil and POOF! The large amount of walnuts also made for the large amount of smoke and soot. Like SamF said, thank goodness for friends, who actually appreciate this kind of thing more and more as time goes by.

                    1. re: adroit_minx

                      I always say "you ain't cooking if the smoke alarm isn't going off."

                      1. re: missclaudy

                        Yes, the "cooking by ear" theory, I know it well. :)

                        1. re: adroit_minx

                          I hate to tell you this, AM but dinner parties are not much fun unless something goes wrong. It's just much more fun that way.
                          Of course, it kinda sucks if you're the one who is throwing the party.

                          DT

                          1. re: Davwud

                            I totally agree, DT, some crazy screw-up always results in the most memorable and fun dinner party. There was one less-funny time when a projectile champagne cork nailed a guest in the eye, but he was OK after bonding with a bag of frozen peas for a few minutes.

                2. re: adroit_minx

                  Oh I love this story! I always have a problem with smoke clouds from my oven during dinner parties.. ;)

                  This past summer my parents held a party for some 20+ friends and I offered to cook for them. I threw 30 mini-hamburger patties into the oven and foolishly forgot to cover them in tinfoil. They had already been seared on the BBQ earlier and were just in the oven to finish cooking through.

                  Well, all those lovely meat oils went flying about in the oven and when I opened the door to retrieve them a gigantic cloud of smoke came out; all I could do was slam it shut and RUN over to the fire alarm in a desperate attempt to waft the smoke away from it.

                  It turned out fine other than a really sore arm, a stinky kitchen, disconnected fire alarm and sympathetic dinner guests ;) Burgers were actually great!

                  1. re: NovoCuisine

                    Since this topic is "epic" blunders, I shared the one that surpassed all others... The sad fact is that I can recall at least a half dozen times when I forgot about dinner rolls either finishing or warming in the oven as I received guests and poured drinks, only to remember when the smoke alarm went off. At one dinner, after a series of these incidents, one of my dinner guests arrived with a fresh baguette and said "your sauces are so good that I can't stand not being able to mop them up with bread..." And of course a wink after that. (So yeah, I hear ya' about the smoke alarms.) ;)

                3. MH, You may want to pick up a copy of "Don't Try This At Home". Each chapter recalls a major chef's culinary blunder. (Like ruining 900lbs of lobster for a banquet.) It's a great read and very reassuring to home cooks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Walters

                    That book had me falling on the floor laughing at the same time I was gasping in horror. Loved it!