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Easier than they'd have you believe

Piggybacking off of the thread about home cooking triumphs, what dishes have you made that you expected to be really difficult that ended up being a breeze? Souffles were one that were mentioned as not deserving their hard-to-make reputation. Myself, I've never made a soggy quiche, and I don't do much to safeguard against it.

Any others? It's good inspiration to try something that's always intimidated me!

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  1. Making mayonnaise by hand. Some recipes would make you think it's nearly impossible to do without it splitting, but it's not. It's so easy. And if you want to use a processor, go ahead, but using a whisk is only fractionally more difficult, and plus it's less to clean and the mayo will have a smoother texture.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Kagey

      I couldn't believe how easy it is to make mayonnaise using a stick blender and a mason jar. I would call it fool proof.

      1. re: Antilope

        It took me 6 months to work up the courage to make pasta at home and, while it was a bit time consuming, the actual process was much more simple than I expected. This was a little messy, however.

        1. re: notgreg

          Now this is inspiring, mess I can deal with. I want to make divine pasta and am scared to death. I do have my pasta machine out, and its staring at me.

          1. re: chef chicklet

            Chef Chicklet...

            My 15 y/o son, The Lima Bean makes his own pasta.It is BEYOND easy.

            Don't be scared, we're all here holding your hand. ;)

            LAst weeks batch was linguini flavoured with roasted capsicum.

    2. I have to go with the souffle. I got a recipe for carrot souffle from my MIL. Lucky for me I didn't know that souffles were hard to make, so I wasn't intimidated. When my friend asked what I was making and I told her (it was in the oven) she was so impressed. Then she told me how hard it is to get it to come out the right way, and I got nervous, but when I got it out of the oven it was perfect!

      1 Reply
      1. re: danhole

        I was scared to distraction by souffles. But, they really are not hard to make. I consider it one of the great milestones of my life.

      2. For years I excluded Risotto from my recipe vernacular. When I did finally rummage the courage, I was really surprised to find that is relatively easy to make. Now it's just about as easy as any other rice dish...except for the stirring. If I were to belive some chefs I've heard on various food programs there are those who do not stir, but I still do.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Gio

          Here is a microwave recipe for risotto that I use all the time. It requires very little stirring:

          Microwave Risotto

          5 cups chicken broth
          3/4 cup sherry
          1/4 tsp ground white pepper
          salt to taste
          5 threads of saffron

          3 Tbsp butter
          3 Tbsp olive oil
          3/4 cup onion, finely diced
          1-1/2 cups medium grain rice, uncooked (I use calrose)

          -Bring chicken broth, sherry, pepper, salt and saffron to a simmer in a saucepan, on the stovetop and keep warm until needed.

          -Add butter and olive oil to a round, covered 2-1/2-qt microwave-able dish.

          -Microwave butter and olive oil in covered dish for 2 minutes.

          -Add diced onion to butter and olive oil, stir well. Microwave covered for 4 minutes.

          -Add rice to onion-butter-oil mixture. Stir well to coat rice with oil. Microwave covered for 4 minutes.

          -Add simmering chicken broth to rice mixture, stir well. Microwave covered for 7 minutes.

          -Stir well (5 or 10-seconds). Microwave covered for an additional 7 minutes.

          Stir well again (5 or 10-seconds). Microwave covered for a final 7 minutes.

          Stir until any remaining liquid is absorbed and serve.

          Recipe for 1500-watt microwave.

          1. re: Antilope

            Interesting, Antilope! Thank you. I'll surely have to try your method.

          2. re: Gio

            There is a wonderful way to stir without using your hands or arms. It's a marvelous little device called a "StirChef." Around twenty bucks as I recall. It is a cylendrical shaped device with three "arms" that hold onto the side of the pan to keep it stable, then a rod that inserts through the center gear that turns the paddles that stir whatever it is you're making.

            I love risottos and puddings and other things that require constant stirring but I've developed some very unwelcome arthritis in my hands. This incredible device means I don't have to hire a sous chef to keep on cooking! Comes with two paddles that adapt to a wide range of pan sizes. Try it, you'll like it!

          3. Souffle, chocolate mousse and scrambled eggs - all incredibly easy.

            2 Replies
            1. re: LulusMom

              Who told you making scrambled eggs is difficult?

              1. re: saraeanderson

                scrambled eggs are very easy to screw up. too much heat, too long on heat, etc.

            2. I have a few components of food that I find to be no big deal that others fear.

              Pie Crust.
              and slightly harder, hollandaise.


              2 Replies
                1. re: Davwud

                  I found a t-shirt on the web..

                  "Hollandaise can smell fear"

                  That about sums it up for me.

                2. Hollandaise in the blender. I used to do the whole double boiler whisking/fretting method, but I got a Cook's Illustrated book on sauces that described the blender menthod, and it's fool proof and fast.

                  And by extension- Bernaise.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cheesemonger

                    I was about to post that I made Bernaise for the first time, using the traditional method (as part of cooking w/ Julia Child) and I was surprised at how easy it was. Next time I'll try the other method though.

                      1. re: shercooks

                        Use the usual proportions of ingredients- 3 egg yolks, dash of cayenne, 2Tbs lemon juice. Put them in the blender.

                        Heat 1/2 cup butter in a sauce pan- to HOT but not burned. (burning/browning will not work- if you brown it, toss it out, as it won't make an emulsion.

                        Turn on the blender, and add the hot butter in a thin stream to the yolks, etc.

                        Done. Perfect.

                        For bernaise, the lemon juice is subbed with tarragon and shallot infused vermouth or white wine vinegar, that's been reduced by half, and at the end chopped tarragon is added after the butter.

                      1. re: janeh

                        As a long-time resident of Texaswho has just retired to Hawaii, I would very much appreciate seeing an easy method for making tamales.

                        1. re: Joebob

                          Truth be told, my missing "ingredient" was courage, which I gained at a wonderful cooking school (Mexican Home Cooking School) in Tlaxcala, Mexico. I think that the best recipe/technique I've seen is in Rick Bayless' books. mex/grocer.com is a great source for ingredients (corn husks, masa) that might be hard to find in Hawaii.

                        2. re: janeh

                          Tamales is right! I love making them!

                        3. I agree with soufflé. It was the first thing I made as a kid - for my mom' b-day, and she was stunned because she'd never dared to try.

                          Risotto. Again, one of the first things I made, this time with my parents.

                          Mousse. It's much more stable than it looks.

                          Donuts. Yeah, it takes time (if you're making yeast donuts), but it's pretty fool-proof.

                          1. I have to second fresh pasta. In fact, I don't own a pasta machine so I had to hand roll my pasta (I was making Keller's sweet potato anglotti) and quite frankly: it wasn't too difficult. I used the methods Marcella Hazan taught: rolling it out flat, stretching it and pulling it. It got really dry fast but I got it just in time and froze the rolled out pasta. It turned it to be perfectly tender and delicious. So yea, seeing how easy it was to hand roll I'm thinking I probably don't need a pasta machine now.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: digkv

                              kellers sweet potato anglotti? can you paraphrase, this may be my first pasta.
                              I love sweet potatoes, what sauce did you use?

                            2. No one ever told me risotto was hard, so I guess I have to plump for that. It's on my menu for this coming weekend--for a guest who doesn't eat "mammals." Being a good Southern cook, it's hard to separate me from my pork, but there's no bacon in rissotto :)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: foiegras

                                But there can be, of course (grin) - I made one with pancetta, sage and corn this summer - wonderful.

                              2. Pate a choux - I am not much for baking in general, but it makes for such cool presentation... it's actually REALLY easy to make.

                                Polenta, though I will admit to using a microwave recipe now. But I was very afraid to make it on the stovetop for the first time.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: jnstarla

                                  I agree with both of those, and with roux. I've been making roux since I was 12 -- it was only years later that I realized that's what that step in my favorite recipe was!

                                  1. re: jnstarla

                                    pate a choux is the only "baking" thing that I can do that I don't f*ck up. I can't make chocolate chip cookies, but I can make pate a choux.....I think it's cause you just dump everything in and stir with a wooden spoon...pretty easy

                                  2. Pie crust, polenta, pasta, and oxtail soup. (I don't even have a recipe for that, and it comes out absolutely wonderful!)

                                    1. Angel food cake. I remember a friend in college telling me how hers had failed so badly. Even she admitted it was because she didn't know how to fold. I knew how to fold, but it still scared me. I tried my first angel food cake and it was completely successful.

                                      1. Creme Brulee and my famous chowboard rosemary crackers. People literally freak out when you make things like your own water crackers. "You can MAKE crackers?!" Stupid easy.

                                        1. Pate a Choux for profiteroles, eclairs, gougeres, or the like. It takes a bit of muscle and a hot oven but is really easy to do.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: Euonymous

                                            Yup. And pipe the pate into circles through a big fat star tube, drop them into boiling oil, dip 'em in a glaze, and voila! French crullers! (my faves)

                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              you gotta be kidding! How wonderful. Regular Pate a Choux???

                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                Yup. Sometimes I use parchment to pipe them onto because it's more "non-stick" than other stuff, and be careful not to splash yourself with the hot oil when you tip them in. ORRRRR... You can just pipe "cruller sticks" into the hot oil.

                                                I too was surprised to finally find out that French crullers are simply made with pate a choux! I had tried a whole bunch of my own recipes with no success. Can't remember how I happened to stumbled onto the great and simple truth.

                                                Krispy Kreme makes really nasty crullers with cake doughnut dough. blech!

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  Caroline I bookmarked this and somehow missed it, but I am still puzzled with the French Crueller thing. I make a pate a choux, like for a puff, right? Put it in a bag with a star tip, and on parchment make a circle like about 3-4 inches in diameter. Then slide it in oil. (maybe spray with Pam first) and then what's the icing? or do use confectioners sugar?
                                                  I am making these, I guess a glaze would be okay?

                                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                                    I usually add a tablespoon or so of sugar to my pate au choux when I''m boiling the water/butter. You can also replace a T of water with a T of vanilla, or you can simply add the vanilla to the glaze.

                                                    Unless you have a really large star tip, 4 inches across sounds a bit large, but who can say until you give it a try? And yes, glaze or powdered sugar or whatever else sounds good. It's play time!

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      puff pastry. It takes a day or so, but it is not difficult to make --- I do it by weight rather than cups

                                                      1. re: dutchdot

                                                        Puff pastry? I'm not following... :-)

                                          2. Parisian macaroons. I always thought they were so $$$ because of the technique involved, but made them and found they were simple: a different technique, yes, but so few ingredients and steps. I made lazy-man macaroons, with nutella instead of a normal filling, but wow, they were exquisite!

                                            Similarly, Pavlova. A weird, impressive dessert that is easy to make.