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Mar 1, 2009 10:30 AM

What have you given up trying to cook?

I'm a pretty good and fairly intuitive cook, but to save my soul I cannot make duck that isn't greasy AND tough. So I gave up and only get it at restaurants. I've tried everything I've ever read about cooking duck, and finally decided to stop ruining a really good dish.

What is your Waterloo?

(Definition A notable and decisive defeat for an individual; often in the phrase 'meet one's Waterloo'.)

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  1. I almost gave up on pad thai but I gave it one more shot and finally nailed, it to my satisfaction anyway.

    13 Replies
    1. re: givemecarbs

      Beef Wellington :( I can never get it cooked a perfect med. rare

      1. re: kalenasmith

        Search Gordon Ramsey's Beef Wellington. Easy as pie...

        1. re: fourunder

          If you refer to short-grain rice (e.g. sushi rice), a really good rice cooker may be all you need (e.g. Zojirushi).

          1. re: smilyfoodcritic

            Or even a cheap one like the one I got at Walgreens for $15. I used made rice OK, but this is great, you don't even have to watch it after it's done. I make all kinds of rice perfectly now, and steam stuff on top in the basket at the same time.

          2. re: fourunder

            Perfect rice is easy if you follow the right steps. Wash the rice until the water runs fairly clear, soak it for about an hour. Put it in a heavy bottom pan (for even heat distribution) with a well-fitting lid. Heat it until it boils. Turn the heat down to a simmer and put the lid on. Cook it for 20 minutes and never touch the lid. Turn off the heat. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes with the lid still on. Fluff and eat.

            Note: use 1.5 cups of water for every cup of rice

            1. re: Orchid64

              That would not work with main-stream rice like Uncle Ben's. No washing needed or soaking. With it the water to rice ratio is 2:1 but then the same process, bring to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and leave it alone for 20 mins. then turn off the heat and give it another 20 mins.

              1. re: Candy

                Even with regular rice I have more luck with the 1.5:1 ratio. No rinsing or soaking, though.

                1. re: evewitch

                  Yeah, I agree with the 1.5:1 ratio.... Becomes less effective the larger the quantity of rice you're cooking, though...

              2. re: Orchid64

                20 mins. cooking time would kill most delicate long grain rice, let alone letting it sit for another 20 mins... Basmati mush, anyone?

                1. re: Orchid64

                  Mine is always fluffy and perfect when I put a clean folded dishcloth over the pan underneath the lid. It really works!

                2. re: fourunder

                  My method (taught to me by Indian friend, Ganesh Rajacapor): In pot, to one cup rice, add 2-1/2 cups water. Cook till there's no steam. No lid and don't touch it till it's done.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Microwave with a "rice" programis all you need---one part rice two parts water press the rice button---PRESTO

                  1. re: weem

                    Hello Weem: "Candy" can mean anything from boiled fondant bonbons dipped in chocolate to ?, but if you just want some candy to eat, my husband (who absolutely does not cook) made very successful fudge last week by this recipe: Heat together but do not let come to a boil 3 cups chocolate chips, 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, and 1 14-oz can condensed milk. Just warm things together over low heat, stirring a lot, until everything has melted together. Remove from stove. Add 2 tsp vanilla. Pour into a buttered 8 x 8 pan. That's it.. Of course you can add nuts if you want, with the vanilla. Cannot fail.

                    1. re: Querencia

                      Hi Querencia. I suppose I'm talking about hard candies, brittles, things like that. And I suppose I'd fail less if I bothered to get a candy thermometer. But thanks for the encouragement and the recipe.

                  2. I refuse to admit defeat, but...simple potato gnocchi Made them many times, rice my spuds, let 'em cool, a little flour, make a well, etc. etc. Sometimes they're perfect, but usually wind up falling apart. Grrr!! The 1'st time I made them, they were flawless & I've rarely achieved that since. adam

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: adamshoe

                      I was just discussing my pathetic inability to make gnocchi. Maybe if I start out intending to make gruel, I will magically achieve fluffy potato dumplings. Sigh.

                      1. re: small h

                        I can't make gnocchi either. Not only were mine leaden, they were grey. Bad bad bad.

                      2. re: adamshoe

                        Me too. I have only tried once ... they fell apart. I ended up making pasta (yes, dried). I can't muster the strength to try again.

                        1. re: adamshoe

                          don't cool the potatoes, they should be somewhat warm to the touch

                          1. re: adamshoe

                            My grandmother's recipe with loads of practice uses a 2 to 1 mix of old russet potatoes to sweet potatoes (makes for a wonderful 'surprise' in the flavor). Boiled with skin on until just barely tender (check each one individually and don't let them overcook or become sodden)....the sweet potatoes come out way earlier than the russets.

                            Remove, dry and start peeling them as soon as you can get them into a towel (to help with the handling). Remove skin but also remove any parts that are soaked or soggy. Rice them immediately with a fine potatoe ricer and spread out on a cookie sheet to dry and cool for 15 minutes. Lightly rotate them to help continue drying about halfway through. Season with salt, very fine ground pepper, lightest hint of nutmeg.

                            Typically for about 5 lbs of potatoes, I use three large egg yolks to help bind together with all purpose flour. The goal is to touch the mixture as little as possible and minimize the amount of flour incorporated therein. Mix with your fingers adding the flour in tablespoon increments (I start with about 1 full cup of flour and add by tablespoons) to reach the right consistency. Once you achieve a dough that is just barely sticky, I begin to work on a floured board to roll the dough out into finger thick strands, cut them to length and go into production shaping them on the backside of a clean dinner fork. After the first couple, you can tell by the quality of the dough curling and taking on the ridged impressions from the tines if you got the texture right.

                            Each gnocchi is rolled onto a floured cookie pan, making sure they don't touch each other. If freezing them, will dust lightly with flour, quick freeze each tray and after 1/2 hour put them into ziplock bags. But who in their right mind goes to the trouble to make homemade gnocchi and doesn't make a fresh platter for dinner? So one tray or more gets added into a huge kettle (12 quart) of boiling salted water.

                            Keep them from touching each other and get into the boiling water; stir gently and reduce water to just a simmer. Usually they are light enough to rise to the top within 2 minutes. I cook for about 1 more minute, taste one to make sure there is no raw flour flavor and immediately lift out with a big chinese wire spider strainer and place each batch onto a clean, cotton bar towel to dry the surface water (fold up the ends into one hand and lightly roll them around inside for 15 seconds. (I end up using 4 or 5 towels for a 2 tray batch)

                            Immediately dump from the towel into the baking dish that has (my nonna's pink sauce; 1 part bechamel with cheese melted into it with 2 parts homemade 'Sunday' red sauce) spread across the bottom. Lightly mix in the gnocchi, cover with grated parmignano and repeat by cooking and adding a second cookie pan portion of gnocchi. That fills up a family size 9 x 12 baking casserole; add more sauce to cover, cheese and a mix in a heavy chiffonade of fresh basil but get most of that inside under the top layer. I bake the dish at 375 for 20 minutes covered with foil (a few steam vent slots) and then 10 minutes uncovered. Serve immediately. Light, delicate, fragrant, transports me back to her kitchen every single time. A perfect gnocchi has no weight, just the slightest texture and dissolves without really chewing.

                            1. re: ThanksVille

                              Wow, lovely, thanksville. I make passable gnocchi after drying the potatoes on the stove a bit prior to ricing; I probably would not have thought of spreading on a cookie sheet to dry after ricing. Bet that dries far more and far more evenly.

                              Could you use the same proportions for all Russets?

                              You should post this to the recipe section of Chowhound. It really looks fantastic!

                              1. re: cimui

                                We spent about a month trying variations on the potatoes and proportions. All red bliss, yukon gold, idaho russets, maine fingerlings, thanksgiving sweet potatoes, etc and also played with other additives such as minced basil, minced spinach, feather-ground cheese combinations, etc. Some simply did not hold together, some took on way too much flour and some just were too far a stretch to call them gnocchi's anymore.

                                I have done the recipe with all russets and the results are very good; but the addition of sweet potatoes adds a subtle, low caramel undertone that seems to play off the tomato sauce flavors. We found that the drier russets yielded progressively lighter and lighter gnocchi as we worked through a couple 20 lb sacks that we purchased for the 30 or 40 batches we made to work out her recipe. Now we just buy the potatoes a week or two in advance, keep them open to air in a cupboard to dry out a bit.

                              2. re: ThanksVille

                                ThanksVille, have you ever tried baking or microwaving the potatoes to avoid the water issue?

                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                  Interesting concepts as I know that Mario Battali has championed a version that bakes the potatoes as a way to minimize the amount of moisture they absorb. Will definitely try that technique at some point in time but I tend to use the same boiling water from the potatoes that I use to cook the gnocchi in for serving that night so after heating up a big pot once, I just keep it simmering in the background, lid on and exhaust fan on. Gnocchi dough tends to get heavier and sodden in humid weather and within a steamy kitchen so I work accordingly. As for microwaving, I have never been a fan of nuked potatoes as the texture seems swarmy rather than delicate light and dry. I guess that makes an even stronger case to try the baked version. The time factor it takes to prep and make gnocchi doesn't deter me. I just have to be in the mood to spend 3 or 4 hours at a stretch cooking and just get into the zen of the kitchen

                                  1. re: ThanksVille

                                    I microwave potatoes all the time when making mashed potatoes or home fries and i don't really notice any difference in texture. I will say that there is a lot of steam trapped inside the potato so it's best to break them open immediately to let the steam escape so the spud drys out as quickly as possible.

                                    1. re: KTinNYC

                                      And you have the option of cooking them pierced or unpierced and in plastic or not wrapped in plastic.
                                      If I'm just nuking a potato to eat, as is, I wash it and wrap it up wet.
                                      Cooking them pierced and naked will certainly dry them out more....
                                      I could get into how being pierced and naked requires more liquids, but I don't need to go there.

                            2. Sushi, it isn't hard, but so much more fun to go out and eat. I made it once, not worth it. I go out and get my faves. I cook pretty much everything else so I don't feel bad.

                              2 Replies
                                1. re: EWSflash

                                  I go to this once place and get to select 12, 3 or each It is so much fun. A little of everything. Then who ever I go with does the same 4 others. 16 to choose from. Why would I make them.

                                  It was fun and a experience. but naaaa, Pacific Rim is my restaurant. I don't eat out a lot, but definitely for that.

                              1. Any kind of fish that's pan-seared and sauced.

                                14 Replies
                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  I've yet to give up on a dish, but I really suck at pie dough

                                  1. re: haggisdragon

                                    Ah yes, pie dough. In my household a/k/a the doorstop. I gave up on perogies because of it. They made me cry so I don't talk to them anymore.

                                    1. re: haggisdragon

                                      I think this is one of the things I'll never be truly good at, either, despite all the little tricks I've read about through Chowhound (though I still make them under duress). I wince a little each time I have to subject other people to it.

                                      1. re: haggisdragon

                                        I shudder when I need to make pie dough since it's playing russian roulette when I do. It will never be sure fire like my grandmother's (who made one almost every day - and probably with lard).

                                        1. re: alwayscooking

                                          I actually make really good dough. I baked a lot when I was young. After age 25, I hardly ever baked, to this day I don't. Not too much for sweets. Gradma did me well. Make an awesome pie crust. Too bad I hardly use it.

                                          1. re: alwayscooking

                                            My mother's, ditto. I use lard and am still never satisfied. I think it's one of those things that never seems as good to oneself as it does to others, given the memory of the beau idéal one cherishes.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              Well, see below, but shortcrust is just butter and flour :/

                                            2. re: alwayscooking

                                              I think I have finally figured out the secret to pie dough, and it is watching the person whose dough you're trying to emulate while they're making it. My mom got the hang of it watching her mother-in-law (God bless her for marrying my dad and trying to live up to his pastry standard - according to him, she did eventually surpass his mom, but WOW with the difficult task), and I am FINALLY getting the hang of it because I made my mom let me watch her one Christmas. Okay, so she's my mom, so she made ME do it while SHE coached, but it was still a technique, not a recipe, and my pies are much better now.

                                              Still not as good as hers or my grandmother's, and they probably never will be, but I'm getting there.

                                            3. re: haggisdragon

                                              Pie dough problems solved! Go to your (local, if possible) kitchen store and look for a zipper-close circular plastic pie-crust bag, like this one:


                                              They are inexpensive, and make it possible for you to roll out your crust perfectly without manhandling, and thus warming it up.

                                              I have never had a single pie crust failure since switching to these puppies. They are absolutely indispensable.

                                              1. re: dmd_kc

                                                Get OUT! I think I love you dmd_kc. THANK you.

                                                1. re: dmd_kc

                                                  One more thing to buy, clean and dispose of. I guess my mom was a good teacher; I've never had an issue with pie crusts. And (sorta) talking out of both sides of my mouth, Amazon just cancelled my order for silicone mats! Now I have to find another source.

                                                  1. re: Scargod

                                                    Those pie crust bags are zippered and are not throw away items. They are not expensive and are well worth the purchase. It allows you to roll out an even crust and transfer it to a pie plate with ease. Afterwards you wash and dry and it is ready to use again. Rose Levy Birnbaum recommends them. No more wax paper or plastic wrap. They are quick and efficient. I've had one for about 3 years. No one is partine me from mine. It is a great addition to pie baking equipment.

                                                    1. re: Scargod

                                                      As Candy says, they're reusable to the extreme. My current set is at least a decade old. Wash them in hot water and Dawn and let them dry out. They aren't indestructible, but they're pretty sturdy.

                                                      Googs, you won't believe how much easier pie crust is with them.

                                                      1. re: dmd_kc

                                                        OK, beat me up about it... but I just use a piece of waxed paper. No problem