Brilliant discoveries that you'll never be able to reproduce?
So, inspired by the recent Chow item on buttermilk fried chicken, and the fact that I had some leftover buttermilk in the fridge and chicken legs in the freezer, I decided to make fried chicken tonight. I knew I'd be getting home late from work tonight, but figured, "Hey, I have tons of slaw in the fridge. That'll work for dinner."
But, the reason I have tons of slaw is because of a bit of a disaster over the weekend. Namely, I was making BBQ, and had half a head of cabbage in the fridge that needed to be used. I don't like sweet slaw - I like vinegary ones, especially to cut through fatty meat, so I decided to throw together a quick vinaigrette slaw to use up some old vinaigrette that had been in the fridge for...a long time.
Long enough that I had forgotten that it contained anchovies.
Not a lot of them, but enough that my slaw had a decidedly...oceanic?...quality to it.
So...no problem...I also had half a head of Napa cabbage in the fridge (living alone leads to weird leftovers) which I used to make a more BBQ-appropriate slaw.
But I still had a LOAD of fishy slaw. (Not to be confused with a load of vichyssoise, which would be less of a problem, methinks.)
So I figured, I can eat the fishy slaw with the fried chicken. It'll work. But...can I make it better?
When I smelled the chicken frying, wing sauce sounded like a good idea. So I tossed a whole bunch into the fishy slaw.
Voila! Buffalo slaw! The pepper flavor came out strong, nice and spicy, covered up the fishiness, but not all of the other stuff that was right with the original.
And oh dear LORD did it go well with that chicken.
But I'll be damned if I'll ever be able to duplicate it, what with the anchovy vinaigrette of dubious origin that made it all happen.
And then it dawned on me that I do this a lot, because I never write down what I do in the kitchen, even if I AM following a recipe. More often than not, I'm making it up as I go along, and by the time I figure out how delicious it is, I'm a couple of glasses of wine in and can't be bothered to find a notepad for posterity's sake.
So what have you accidentally invented that you'll never be able to duplicate?
Many years ago I worked at a church camp in the Catskill mountains. Campers slept in tents and two meals a day were prepared over open fire. We would pick up supplies for the meals prepackaged from a trail house.
One day we were given the supplies for something that was supposed to be a vegetable beef stew. We also had a container of a Bisquick like product. My boy campers were preparing lunch that same day with a group of girl campers.
We decided to make dumplings out of the biscuit mix after preparing the stew and getting it going over the open fire. We dropped the dumplings on top and let's just say they never dumplinized or whatever the word would be. The girls counselor and I decided to just take a chance and gave the whole pot a good stir and cooked it longer. Now I am not sure what you would call it but it was good and the kids loved it. The dumplings just kind of thickened the whole mess and made it very tasty.
Needless to say we were never able to duplicate that meal again. We also did a lot of baking in a reflector oven sitting by the fire, but that is a whole other story.
Once upon a time on a rare morning when my brother and I decided to do something together we decided to make breakfast (pre-teen cooperation among brothers is as rare as a double yolked egg.) So we decided to make biscuits. At least that is what I thought we were making. My brother thought we were making muffins. Whatever cookbook "we" were following had them on opposing pages (breakfast for dummies??)
We ended up with this odd concoction that was way to wet to call dough, and way to dry to call batter. Being to young to know better, we scooped it into greased muffin tins and threw it in the oven. Sure wish I knew what we did, because they were really really good. Light and fluffy like muffins, but with a nice brown crust on the top and bottom like biscuits. Alas it was years before my brother and I were on terms good enough to do a project together, and we have never been able to recreate the recipe.
I make cakes without a recipe, I once made an apricot and raisin cake that was to die for but sadly could never reproduce it. Last week made a buttery sourcream chocolate cake, again, no recipe so can't make it again.
most of my cooking is done like this, soups, stews, stuffed mushrooms etc etc. Whatever is in the fridge or pantry type of cooking.
KM, this is awesome. I mean, your mutant baked good offspring sounds fantastic, but it's tragic that it is lost forever... :(
smartie, I admire your ability to improvise while baking. I don't bake often enough to be able to really fiddle with cakes and such - if I don't follow a recipe, I'm not going to end up with a baked good I'm inclined to make again. :)
Oh hell, at least half the soups I've ever made! You know the sort: I have this, this, this and that...I'll make a soup! The oldest denizens of the fridge dictate the flavors of the soup. And some are wonderful, leading to the futile conversation.
Hub: " y'know that soup you made back (then).
Hub: "make that again - it was really great. What did you put in it?"
K: "I have no idea whatsoever. Whatever was at the ready."
Hub: "I'm sure you can make it again..."
K: <eyes rolling>
It's brutal. If I were a more intelligent primate, I would write these things down, but I don't.
I've often thought a security camera in the kitchen would be nice, so one could review what went into the soup pot!
Oh gosh! I wish my oldest daughter still lived at home (she is 31 now) because she has a great palate and if I made something really good and didn't take notes, I could try to recreate it and she would stand there and tell me what I was missing. Now that she is gone I have to have a steno pad nearby. I jot down what I have done, and if it is a success then it is a keeper. If it isn't - into the trash! I made a pot roast last night, in the crock pot, which is against what I have taught my daughters how to do it, but it was great. Now I just have to figure out how I did it. No, I did not use the steno pad, but I think I can write it down tomorrow. But the gravy . . . not sure about that!
That's one thing I DO have written down! I wrote a blog post a few months ago that captured the two very tasty and very different soups I managed to make out of odd bits of Thanksgiving leftover ingredients. That is the start of an effort on my part to preserve the things I do right. Otherwise, though, I'm not much of a soup chef (although I am a very good sous chef...I am apparently punnier than normal tonight...).
ROFLMAO! Seriously, I get some good chuckles out of Chowhound, but thisone had me crying my mascara off. Your soup making sounds like my approach to chili. If I have leftover anything that might even resembles something a reasonable person might put in chili it goes in a ziplock bag in the freezer. The moment of truth comes when people tell me it's some of the best chili they've ever had and what do I put in it. As you said, I have no freakin idea, but it sure is good.
Y'know, cyclo, modern technology has given us some fridges that can tell us when we're out of milk and such and generate grocery lists...what say that fridge could also tell us what bits of this-n-that came OUT of the fridge or freezer on any given day so we'd know what odd bits of leftovers went into something superlative? Then give me a voice interface where I can say: I am making X with these ingredients on Tuesday the x/xx/xxxx.
Or, I could just keep a notebook handy. But it's not going to happen! Perhaps some mysteries are best left mysteries?