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Worst experimental culinary disasters?

I know we've ALL had them. I don't typically use recipes when I cook, either because I don't want that kind of constraint, or because I don't like spending money on weird ingredients that won't be completely used up before they go bad. Most of the time, this is a total blessing because I've gotten good at making some tasty and unexpected meals out of whatever I have on hand. Occasionally though, it ends in total, inedible disaster. Here are my most memorable ones:

- I once had an eggplant in my refrigerator that was perilously close to being unusable, so in a last-ditch, minimal effort sort of way, I tried to saute it with cooking oil and some spices. I had a feeling it would be bland and kind of borderline, but I was in college, so I was willing to eat it in the name of saving money. It was so bad, I had to throw it out completely. I love eggplant, but I guess it's just meant to be served with a flavorful sauce or coating.

- I made chicken one night and decided to marinate it in poppyseed dressing first. Sounded like a great idea, but the seeds burned like you can't imagine! Despite my using cooking spray, they burned so quickly and easily that it took me FOREVER to scrub them off the skillet.

- Lastly, I once decided to make meat sauce using ground lamb. I loved lamb, and I loved meat sauce, so it should have been an ideal marriage. But it was SO GROSS. To this day, I have problems eating lamb because the flavor takes me back to that terrible concoction.

So I'm curious as to what others have unsuccessfully tried their hand at. And, on the flip side, I'd be interested to hear about an unusual combination that turned out to be surprisingly good.

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  1. I've had two absolute culinary disasters. One I've written about here before that happened when I wanted to make lobster thermador for our two month (or was it week?) anniversary. I didn't know wine from swine back then, so I asked my supermarket manager for help picking out a "dry" wine,,, He failed to tell me he didn't know any more than I did. He sold me a bottle of Mogen David concord grape wine. You do NOT make lobster thermador with fermented purple syrup! Can you say "UGLY FOOD" that doesn't taste good? blech!

    The other disaster came after returning from Germany, where the chef/owner of an amazing small 400 year old family hotel outside of Wiesbaden shared his recipe for venison slow roasted with cranberries, morels, and apple wine. It was (and still is) the singularly best venison I have ever had in my life!

    Okay. Back in the states, finally settled in Ohio. Took me months to track down morels, then they were dried and expensive. We're talking 1961. Found true German apple wine made from apples. Found everything but venison, and my husband was NOT a hunter. Then I got a flier that my local Kroger was having some sort of celebration and was selling buffalo! American bison! Big woolly beastie with a hump in its back. Well, hey, it may not be venison, but it's not a steer either.

    So I bought a nice big round oblong roast. No Idea what part of the beastie it came from, but it fit the pot well. And I slow roasted it, as per directions, in a 225 degree oven for 24 hours. It came out of the pot and onto the platter with grace. It looked delicious. The morel cranberry sauce was amazing! Everything was wonderful until you put it in your mouth. Had I flown to NYC, gone to the docks and cut a ten inch length of one of those huge big fat ropes they tie ocean liners with, I'm sure it would have been more tender had I cooked it. That buffalo was probably the model for the first buffalo nickel.

    I will say this for my first husband. He was very appreciative of anything I cooked, including that ancient buffalo. I never had a second bite of it, but he insisted he eat it all... Took him a week. If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, that roast buffalo was a super highway!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Caroline1

      I had some fresh peas on hand, in the little bag from the supermarket and I tried cooking them with some butter, salt and fresh mint leaves, it tasted very strange! I just couldn't eat it.

      1. re: Caroline1

        I cook a lot of game, and even at that low temp, your buffalo was way over-cooked.

        1. re: pikawicca

          Just followed the chef's recipe for venison. His venison was incredible! Moist, tender, delicious. My buffalo was tough, stringy, and tasted like buffalo chips! Who knew?

          1. re: Caroline1

            I think the chef gave you the wrong cooking time. Perhaps 6-8 hours, but 24 is insane. Any meat would be "tough, stringy" after that much time in the oven, unless you're roasting a whole ox.

      2. The only one coming to mind (not that aren't many, but it is late) involved a 9 year old me talking our babysitter into thinking that making donuts would be a good idea. I was looking at a cookbook (I loved looking at my mothers cookbooks) and found a recipe. We did have to make one slight substitution - regular flour for the Bisquick the Bisquick Cookbook called for..we ended up with confectionery sugar covered hockey pucks and a good sized greasy mess. It took me probably 20 years before I finally realized why our substitute didn't work!

        1. i had a hard avocado, and tried to pan cook it to soften it up.

          yeah.....riiiiiight.

          1. Some years ago I tried to broil a fairly large lobster on a charcoal fired Weber. I knew that the good east coast seafood places broiled their lobsters, although I didn't know many of them steamed first.
            So I put the poor creature over the coals, on the grill, and turned it several times. The results after 12 or 15 minutes were really uneven. The shell stayed mostly green, with just a bit of red. Some of the meat was well done, some almost raw, and not very much cooked perfectly, like the seafood roadhouses.
            I was really disappointed, especially since I had to re-cook much of the meat on the stove.
            I was unaware that the redness results from a reaction to heat in the water, but may not happen when broiled or grilled.
            I've since learned to steam lobsters for 4-5 minutes in a pressure cooker, and it comes out hot, red, and moist.

            4 Replies
            1. re: jayt90

              jayt90, i like that pressure cooker idea! is a pressure cooker too much for, say, snow crab legs?

              1. re: alkapal

                The pressure cooker is ideal for the crab legs in my market (Ontario). The crabs are large legs, steamed and frozen in Alaska or Prince Edward Island. (The Canadian government actually has to bring in Russian workers to process crabs on the east coast!) A short re-heat in the p.c. (2-4 min) is fine, but if you want to retain the length of the legs they will have to go in the oven, probably 10-15 min.

                One problem with a fresh lobster in the p.c. is the tail curling up. My way around that is to split the lobster with a 10" chef's knife, and put the pieces in the p.c. meat side up. Not very pleasant, but it works.

                1. re: jayt90

                  thanks! re curling lobster tail, have you tried the trick of inserting a wooden skewer or two? (like done with shrimp....)

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Considering that, but it is still alive! Better than splitting it in two.

            2. When I first started learning to cook, I took a smoked ham butt and put in the crockpot along with some carrots, celery, onion and potato. So far, so good. At the last minute I decided to add a clove or two of garlic. When I came home, all I could smell was "hammy garlic." Blech! Nothing in that pot was edible :-(

              1 Reply
              1. re: jacquelyncoffey

                My first attempt at lasagna for some reason turned into a pan of lasanga soup. I had way too much liquid in the pan.... I was home from college and made it for my parents... I don't think they ate any. I ate what I could salvage of my pride and the ingredients. Never had that problem again. No clue what I did that day that went wrong.