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Post-holiday debrief: what was your biggest piece of PITA prepwork this weekend?

Now that we've shared our meal plans and are in the midst of either finalizing or enjoying the fruits of our labors (or may have already done so)...what was the single biggest PITA thing you had to do to prep for your meal?!

I have key lime cheesecakes in the oven. They promise to be megadelicious as the whisk and bowls tasted even better this time than last time...because I squeezed almost an entire 1-pound bag of key limes with a wooden reamer. The things we do to make our dishes special!

How about youuuuuuuuuuu?

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  1. The Ina Garten's recipe for lemon curd - total PITA. Not only does it require a food processor, a mixer, AND a saucepan (all to be washed later, of course), but it took forever to come to temp! And, to be honest, it wasn't as tangy as say, Alton Brown's recipe.

    Let's just say I won't be using that recipe again.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jazzy77

      Oh, bummer! At least I felt the PITA factor was worth the payoff after the first bite--I will definitely make this again sometime after my memory clears the time it took to squeeze all those tiny little limes!

      1. re: kattyeyes

        I did a key-lime ice cream with the same effort and same frustration, as above...PITA=NWI in my book. (Translation: Not Worth It).

        On the other hand, the effort involved in the Zuni Cafe Mock Porchetta (chopping herbs, mashing garlic, lemon zesting, stuffing, tying) was PITA but SO worth it!

      2. re: jazzy77

        that's too bad, I've made her recipie a couple of times and was amazed that I could make curd so easily...but now I am in a serious baking / cooking slump so I should knock wood....I'll have to look at AB's.

      3. I made Gumbo z'Herbes for Good Friday and remembered again why I only make this wonderful gumbo once or twice a year.
        Yikes! In addition to costing so much, it takes forever and dirties half the pots in the kitchen.

        I bought a butt half ham on sale to bake for the haitch bone to make the stock and deglazed the pan to add to the stock pot. The rest of the ham had to be portioned, wrapped, and put into the freezer for future pots of beans.
        Made a roux and added chopped onions, herbs and spices, some from my garden.
        Added the stock and started on the rest of the work.
        Gumbo z'Herbes needs at least five, preferably seven, different greens and the superstition is that you will make a new friend for each.
        I had to wash and strip four of the greens which had to be cooked separately, then chopped fine before they were added to the gumbo with the pot likker from each of the separate greens.
        The three other greens were added raw but had to be picked from their stems and chopped fine.

        Once everything was in the pot, I looked at my kitchen and wanted to leave the house. It looked like a compost pit had exploded. What a wreck!
        I still had to make rice to serve with the gumbo...
        The gumbo turned out great. The kitchen got cleaned. All is well. Happy Easter.

        1. I made braised artichokes from a Marcella Hazan recipe. Sounded fantastic. A lot of work prepping (peeling, de-choking, etc) the artichokes. The end result: they were good but not knock-your-socks off amazing. Not sure whether I'd make them again.

          1. mine sounds easy in comparison. I made (sicilian) MIL's recipe for baked eggplant and had to salt and then saute the eggplant slices. used an entire roll of paper towels.

            1 Reply
            1. re: laliz

              i know how annoying that can be! so i tried skipping the salting and it came out IMHO great still ;-)

            2. mini pita...14 eggwhites for the Gourmet cookbook angel food cake recipe. It calls for 1 3/4 cups eggwhites. Also, sifting the cake flour and sugar 3 times. Really good if you like angel food cake, though. Moist and meringue-y.

              2 Replies
              1. re: bear

                Holy egg whites! And my hand aches for you with all the sifting. I think I would be numb!

                Here is a lazy confession: when I bake brownies and am supposed to sift, I have saved an empty canister of Ghirardelli cocoa just for this--I put what I'm supposed to sift into the can and just shake it. :) I loathe sifting.

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  Hey, kattyeyes. Great tip! A shaker can would have the same effect. I sometimes skip the sifting and just stir and lightly spoon the flour, but feel a little like a slacker. This would let me be lazy and actually follow the recipe.

              2. I made a key lime pie except I made it with lemons that I had zested and squeezed months ago, and put in a jar in the freezer (and to be entirely truthful, it was my teenaged daughter who did the squeezing. I did the zesting.) So all I had to do was thaw, make a crust with already-ground crumbs, put together the custard, whip the whites and it all went together in about 10 minutes. This was for easter, after making the brisket, chicken soup, matzoh balls and very good cake for passover just a few days earlier! So I deserved a break. The moral is: get yourself one of those old-fashioned aluminum squeezers like your grantmother had, and you won't have to ream all those limes again!

                2 Replies
                1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                  Bet my mom still has one of those aluminum squeezers. GREAT idea--thank you from the bottom of my heart and hand! :)

                  1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                    Brilliant. I am going to remember this as a way to save extra lemons and save the extra work at the end to make a tart.

                  2. I have to admit ... all mine were easy. The biggest PITA was baking 8 racks of lamb and making sure they were all done at the same time but everything else I made ahead and had done. Catering does pay off when doing dinners like this. I was well prepared but did get a little hectic with the ribs and the sauce and making sure everything is hot and on time. Hate things that set too long. for me dinner was at 7 ... and dinner is at 7. Not there, you can eat when you get there. Sorry just my rule. But all in all nothing too big of problem.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      How long did you cook your racks of lamb? I seared mine just before the guests arrived, then about 40 minutes later put them in at 425, skin side down, for ten minutes, then skin side up for ten, and they were over done - still moist and tasty, thankfully. I definitely prefer them medium rare. Of course, I hadn't gotten around to figuring out fancy new meat thermometer!

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Right about 15 for the smaller and 20 for the larger rack 425, then covered with foil. While putting everything else on the table put them all in the oven at 300. They came out all medium rare except for 1 rack was medium to medium rare which 2 of the guests loved. So I guess it worked. I did have other items in the oven so I am sure that contributed to the total heat for cooking. It was funny because 2 of my racks were much thicker and two thinner. I had to adjust for each size. Sort of a pain. It wasn't that easy but luckily they don't take much and everything else was pretty much done. I rarely use a meat thermometer but did for these since they were all different thicknesses. My Sams Club had rack of lamb 2 racks 8 or 9 each for 16-22 per pack for 2 racks. What a deal. They were very tender but like you said I want them pink and tender so I had to work a bit and I was cooking alone. Next time I recruit my second hand.

                    2. I made sticky rolls for Easter breakfast, which started with brioche dough. Oh my goodness. Four rises, two rests in the fridge, then there was the rolling in with the butter, the rolling up, and the rest in the freezer! The good part was, they were amazing, and I'll definitely make them again. The bad part was, I made half the dough into the sticky buns (for just a few of us, the big dinner was later), and the other half I made into dinner rolls -- I should have used that other half to make into a roll of (uncut, unrisen) sticky buns too, and saved that in the freezer for next time. I'll make them again, because they were delicious, but not when I'm making a bunch of other holiday foods as well.

                      1. OH I'd say it all started with the carrot cake(s), that was the biggest pita of the entire day. I was supposed to make one cake, I started out with all my ingredients ready, and I thought I was using the right recipe. You see I have this terrible habit of comparing recipes and extracting what I like from each, and then writing a new one. And I think I have the best carrot cake recipe ever. Well the recipe that I rewrote, crashed and burned with my compter a few months ago, and of course the notes/changes I made are written on an old Victoria magazine, somewhere... not to be put off, I thought I knew the changes, well evidently not. The first cake after making it, I poured the batter into two round 9 inch cake pans, while baking they sputtered and bubbled over the top like some chemistry experiment, all over the oven. Mind you, this is after I shredded 3 cups of carrots in the food processor. Well being the stubborn person I am, I can' t give up, so I tried it again, only this time I used a rectangular baking dish11x13.
                        Oh no! It sputtererd and bubbled over the oven too! CRAP-ola! Now I am out of carrots. "Honey" I call out..."can you go to the store...."

                        The deal is I never made that entire recipe from the book I was referencing, just some of it, and I can't remember what part I did. But I know now, I more than likely didn't use 2 T of baking powder and 1 tsp of baking soda, BECAUSE THAT JUST doesn't work.

                        The funny part is that I cut the rectangular cake in half, and because it was hot and moist, it was falling apart. So I tried to paste it together, filling in the the gaps with a spackle of cream cheese/butter frosting and then placing strawberries in the oddest places. It tasted fine but oh Lordy, what a mess.

                        And so that is how my Easter dinner went. Oh but wait, it gets better. I peeled my potatoes for the Au Gratin potatoes to get a jump on things, I put them in a bowl of cold water with lemon juice. I do this all the time for fries. The Au Gratin, is a simple, milk/cream,onion, cheese sauce which came together nicely. that is until I served them. As I was eating, I looked at my plate and the potatoes had turned black! I looked around to see if anyone elses did, I noticed they were dark, but the lights were low (thank goodness and they were busy talking) I use calphalon, and all I can think is that I didn't rinse the lemon juice off well enough (to keep them white). The ham? Forget it, at this point who cares. My kids were oblivious, they were so sweet, and ate it all, saying how they normally hate ham but love mine. What a disaster, I had a terrible sore throat (still do), do you think that's what through my cooking genie off? I can't remember a meal going so wrong ever.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          Ohmygoodness, poor you! I laughed all the way through your day of pain. I'm sorry! But you worded it in a way that let us all laugh along with you. I know I'm often my own worst critic (my mom is a close 2nd!). I'm sure it really was great despite presentation glitches. Who can argue with a clean plate? :)

                          Maybe your sore throat did throw you off. It's hard to be on top of your game when you feel like garbage. Take care, take it slow and feel better soon.

                          If it makes you feel any better, though my cheesecake tasted great and I truly love it, I had a "pan incident"--that is, my mom has two pans suitable for cheesecake making. The large one pushes up through the bottom (rather than a springform) and I used it about a week ago the first time I tried a variation of this recipe. The other pan is much shorter, but fluted. My mom thought the fluted one was so pretty--why didn't I use it instead? But we were going to see friends last week and I thought something with fluted edges would be more of a PITA to transport and plate, so I kept it basic. Don't doubt your instincts--it's like how they tell you on the SATs to stick with your first answer! I tried the fluted pan this time and whaddyaknow, it IS too short and too small for my cheesecake--just as I said. So there I was on Sunday morning, cheesecake batter to the brim and half a bowl of batter left to go. The kind person I live with came back from the supermarket with premade graham shells to rescue the rest of the batter.

                          Sunny-side up, though, the extra cheesecake is going to visit friends with me today. The other half with the megathick crust (because the pan was too small!!!) is in my fridge, half eaten. It's all a happy ending, but it didn't have to be such a struggle to get there. ;)

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            I've got such a sore throat I can barely swallow tea. CAn NOT imagine trying to cook feeling this way. Ya done good chicky, that meal was a labor of love.... but black potatoes mean TAKE OFF YOUR APRON AND GET IN BED.
                            (I'll share my green tea with you)

                            1. re: chef chicklet

                              chef chicklet, that's hysterical. I'm in awe of your perseverence with the carrot cake, and the black potatoes just added visual interest to the meal!

                              1. re: bear

                                kattyeyes, boccone dolce, bear, thank you so much for your kind words. Funny how one can have "one of those days" and it just seems like it goes on and on, so going to bed is the best advice!

                                Honestly, I think my kids think I am super woman in the kitchen and can do no wrong. They've never known a bad meal from me (ok rarely), and so I think that I sort of have them a bit hypnotized and spoiled if you will.

                                When I saw the blackish potatoes& I'm not kidding, my eyes darted around the room checking them all out, I was stunned, I've never seen that before! My youngest, - the cop, was talking about his stepmom's cooking, and how "not to be mean" (his words) he hates eveything she makes. And as he says this, he is putting a huge forkfull of blackish potaotes into his pie hole. I think the world of his stepmom, so don't get me wrong, its just she is a little challenged in the kitchen. But I swear when he said that, at the same time , I giggled, and when I feel better I am dying to tell, Mr. Observant Know It All, just what he ate.

                                I'm still trying to figure out what happened, it was as if when the air hit them, they got darker and darker, because when I tested them for doneness, and put a spoon to serve, they were fine. oh well.
                                Still have a sore throat - day 4.

                              2. re: chef chicklet

                                with my lumpy cream cheese frosting we would have served quite a dessert:)

                              3. all scratch coconut cake with lemon filling - and yet another botched attempt at yeast rolls

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: bayoucook

                                  Do you think some cooks just don't have the baking gene? I had to start all over with the cake and then screwed up another part of it that didn't seem to matter. But yeast rolls!?
                                  I use a thermometer for the warm water, I buy fresh yeast. I measure carefully, I pray.
                                  Nothing. Nothing works. I can't do it. In truth, I have little patience for it - the cream this/beat that/mix dry ingredients together and add alternately GAH - But consistently my yeast rolls (10 times now) have not risen. Why?

                                  1. re: bayoucook

                                    I'm an average (but hoping to someday be kickass) baker and I, too, have had problems with yeast rolls...until this year. I used my grandmother's recipe for 'refrigerator rolls'; a pretty rich roll recipe that comes from an old ladies club cookbook called 'Charleston Receipts' and let me tell you: they were perfect. I'm pretty pleased with myself.

                                    1. re: jencounter

                                      I see that recipe, page 170. I'll try that next time, thanks!

                                      1. re: bayoucook

                                        Oh gosh, I am laughing! I didn't think anyone else had this cookbook.

                                        Mine has the recipe on page 187. Does yours have mashed potatoes in it? I'm told that's the secret.

                                        1. re: jencounter

                                          Mine is a re-re-reprint. Yes, it has mashed potatoes in it and potato water!
                                          You might want to check out the Bon Appetit Y'all thread on here - we were talking about Receipts on it. My aunt got my grandmother's copy of it (only fair), so I had to have my own - love it.

                                          1. re: bayoucook

                                            I will say that I subbed butter for the shortening, btw

                                    2. re: bayoucook

                                      I'm an experienced baker but I still have the occasional batch of yeast dough that doesn't rise. I'm pretty sure it's because I've killed the yeast by mixing in too-hot water or milk.

                                      I made an Easter bread out of Gina DePalma's "Dolce Italiano" the other day _one of those slighly sweet, braided yeast breads with whole eggs stuck in the braid. I was afraid I'd killed the yeast again and the bread wouldn't rise. But it did rise! Made my day. The bread looked so pretty and festive. It wasn't too much of a PITA either.

                                      1. re: NYCkaren

                                        That does sound so pretty and festive. It must have been especially so to realize you've mastered yeast dough. Nice going!

                                        1. re: NYCkaren

                                          I make pizza dough all the time, it never rises the same twice. I use the yeast that's in the large jar, so its the same yeast and I keep it refrigerated. It's the weather, a warm place makes the best rise. And give it time. You know if its dead, by putting in a little sugar, no foam forget it. And that too, sometimes it takes longer for the foamy thing to happen, just is different each time. Nothing like the smell though when its baking is there?

                                    3. My "sous-chef," really the co-hostess of our Easter dinner, was tasked with making whipped cream for our desserts. Drunk only 30 minutes into hors d'oeuvres, she skipped away from her post to make a fresh drink, sending the handmixer plunging into the bowl of cream and globs of white fluff all over the kitchen and all over my Easter clothes. The cream also wasn't up to temperature and after 20 minutes, still wouldn't whip to consistency.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        Ooooh, that is funny and not funny all at the same time. That sux about your Easter clothes and kitchen! :(

                                          1. re: jencounter

                                            Next time I agree to co-host a party, I am instituting a no-drinking before entrees rule for everyone who wants to help in the kitchen. The scene was more ridiculous than an "I Love Lucy" episode.

                                            1. re: JungMann

                                              Usually it's my husband when he's supposed to be manning the grill.

                                        1. We have a brunch in the morning, and the biggest PITA for me was cooking 5 pounds of bacon and 10 pounds of home fries ( also made sausages and cheesy potatoes, but they were easy) Love bacon, but 5 pounds is a lot to cook at one time- and next year I think I will have to cook even m ore home fries!

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: macca

                                            Holy smokes--for how many people???

                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                              There were 24- and lots of them are teenaged boys. They eat a crazy amount of food! There wa a bit of bacon left ( also had a spiral ham, omlettes, scrambled eggs, pancakes, fruit salad, and lots of desserts!), but the potatoes were gone- 10 pounds of home fries, plus the cheesy potaotes ( frozen ore ida, sour cream, butter, creamof chicken soup, sharp cheddar, topped with corn flakes ) I made the cheesy potatoes gluten free, so did not use the corn flakes or cream of chicken soup. Found a wedsite with substituions for gluten recipes, as I have a neice and nephew who have celiac.

                                              1. re: macca

                                                YOU made dinner for 24!!! Let's give macca a round of applause!!!
                                                clapping loudly!

                                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                                  Nope- did not do it all muyself!! I did none ot the desserts, and did not do the pancakes. To make is a bit more of a PITA- I had to transport the food to my brothers house! He decided he wanted to host the Easter brunch this year. Much easier when I have it at my house- I started cooking at 6:30 am, and then had to lug it all to his house! I guess he uses the term "host" a bit more loosely than I do!
                                                  But I do cook for 25+ every Thanksgiving! I am from a large family, and never know hoe many will be at the table on Sundays. A few weeks ago, I had invited 4 relatives for dinner, but by the time we sat down, there were 15 of us! Good think I was having a turkey, and was able to throw on additional potatoes and vegetables.

                                                  1. re: macca

                                                    That's a lot of people! And a lot of bacon! Good work!

                                                    I can't say that I had any real issues, so I'm thankful. We celebrate both holidays minorly. For Passover, we went to someone else's house, and I made Ina's raspberry cheesecake -- but with a different crust and strawberries because I couldn't find any raspberries in the DC area for some reason. It would have been a waste to cook them down as she did, though, so I'm happy with the results. And I must have had some lucky premonition from above in terms of the pan, because the nine-inch pan she suggested would have been REALLY full with 2.5 lbs of cream cheese and other stuff, so I happened to have, and used, a larger springform pan.

                                                    For Easter brunch I made baked French toast that I prepared the night before (or at some early hour Sunday morning ... zzz). But it was easy, and all I did was pop it into the oven for an hour, starting when the oven was cold. Maybe the big PITA here was that we had a jelly bean tasting BEFORE breakfast, and we did ourselves in with sugar before having real food. Most of us overcame that, though, and went on to eat the French toast, bacon, fruit, and cheese that I served. Dinner was a collaborative effort, so I only had to put together the shish kabob and do the actual grilling -- others made the mashed potatoes (odd with shish, but mashed potatoes are a tradition on Easter ...), other vegetables, and even dessert. :)



                                                    1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                                      Love baked french toast. You just reminded me- we had NO jelly beans this year. Dont know how that happened- but we had lots and lots of PEEPS! The kids like to put them in the microwave, and cook them until they expand.

                                                      1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                                        wow all this in one day? You are very ambitious!
                                                        And shish kabob too? I have come to the conclusion that shish kabob is not an easy dish, very time consuming. congrats on your lovely day!

                                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                                          No jelly beans?? We have FIVE kinds still -- come on over!

                                                          And thanks! It was a lot of food--but somehow it didn't actuallly seem like a lot of work. The french toast I put together the night before, and that was pretty fast. And the shish kabob I set to marinating in the early afternoon, so threading the stuff on the skewers was probably the longest part. :)

                                                          1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                                            oh sure I had jelly beans, the usual cheap ones. But I splurged on my all time faves, the popcorn jelly bellies, and I would of had bubble gum too if I could found them. I hide them... i eat a couple at a time, making them last and last, don't even care if they're stale.

                                                  2. re: macca

                                                    Teenage boys are amazing in their ability to put away food. I second chef chicklet's idea of a round of applause for you. I have NEVER made dinner for 24 people in my life. Clap, clap, clap for macca!

                                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                                      Its funny- dinner for a crowd is really not that difficult, just all about the timing. The trick is timing so that everything is served together, and is hot. I leave the mashed potatoes until last. Every year, a group of 20 of us vacation together- one huge house in NC-We have the shopping and meal preparation down to a fine art now. This year we are bringing 2 crock pots with us to see if that eases any dinner prep. But we always surprise ourselves- after a day at the beach,and a bit of relaxing by our pool, we get great dinners on the table with relative ease. We do have to have a crudite plate for the boys to graze on while we prepare dinner, and one of my SIL is the queen of desserts, which is great for all of us!

                                                2. re: macca

                                                  It isn't quite the same but love bacon in the oven. Can make lots more, line a cookie sheet with parchment and set the bacon on it. No clean up and it bakes. I still usually make 1 pan on the stove just to get some bacon grease to use for cooking eggs.

                                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                                    Well- I had the countertop connvection oven making the cheesy potatoes, and the stove oven keeping everything warm, so no room in the ovens! Had to use the cast iron frying pans. Boy, did i have a lot of bacon grease! My cast iron pans got a good reseasoning, whether they needed itor not!

                                                    1. re: macca

                                                      Good for you. I'm impressed. Yes you definitely had your hands full! I'm sure the guest and the pans were very very happy :)

                                                3. We cooked a bit more involved meal than we probably should have considering we have a 7 week old who is a bit colicy and had family in town that wanted to see the area. But despite some technical difficulties it all worked out. We had 9 (supposed to be 13) adults and 6 kids.

                                                  The biggest pains: my husbands immersion blender blew on Saturday night right before he went to start a sous vide dish. Luckily we have an alternative set up, but he had planned on both.

                                                  The meringue: I make meringue a ton, but with the baby i was trying to rush through Italian meringue and over did the first batch, underbeat the second, but it still tasted fine.

                                                  The printer: because we do a symbolic meal, we print out menus with the symbolic connection - anyway, our printer died. Of course it is 10 years old and doesn't owe us anything, just bad timing.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: jsaimd

                                                    Jsaimd: I bow down to you! you did all that--meringues and printed menus--with a 7-week old with COLIC??? You now have official CH permission to feed your entire family leftovers for 2 weeks!!!

                                                    1. re: jsaimd

                                                      I agree wholeheartedly with LJS--you are quite ambitious!

                                                    2. Crusty Dinner Rolls...Had to start the sponge on Friday, mix the dough, let it rise, portion them out and refrigerate on Saturday, bake on Sunday. They were so hard and crusty that we had to microwave them to make them somewhat chewable..I didn't want any guests chipping a tooth. Won't make those again. Oh those and thinly slicing a 5lb bag of potatoes for au gratin..that's a PITA when you don't have a mandolin.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: krisrishere

                                                        <<thinly slicing a 5lb bag of potatoes for au gratin..that's a PITA when you don't have a mandolin.>>

                                                        I second that emotion. That is infinitely worse than reaming a pound of key limes!

                                                      2. I can sum it up in one sentence: Dinner for 37 people without a working sink. Made all the recipes seem like cakewalk.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                                            We were out a sink for 5 days. We bought 2 bins at Home Depot - Wash water and rinse water- and forged ahead. Most of the cooking was done, but it did make preparations a real challenge.

                                                          2. re: doc_k55

                                                            wow! what happened? were you able to have the dinner? i remember our hot water broke once the day before Thanksgiving, and another Thanksgiving, the kitchen sink pipes clogged as wer were starting to clean up after dinner for 20+- not fun.

                                                            1. re: doc_k55

                                                              Hah, we didn't have hot water for most of the day (and there were periods, when the plumber was there, when we had no water at all). I share your pain.

                                                            2. Frenching 5 racks of lamb. I still have blisters on my thumb, but it was so worth it.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: phofiend

                                                                6 racks and thank god for Sams Club ... 20.00 (or so) for 2 racks (8 bone each) all frenched. I was so happy. There were better than the ones I bought last year at twice the price.