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Aug 17, 2009 05:30 AM

what do you think are deceptively difficult dishes? easy to take for granted if you're not knowledgable?

I had the funniest experience recently.
I went to the restaurant where my husband is the sous. I do this from time-to-time and eat at the bar alone, just to check it out and enjoy the food, see what is up with the staff gossip, etc...
There was a table of four behind me on a fairly quiet night, so i heard a lot of what they were saying. I often zone in on people talking about the food because it is pretty hard to get unbaised, honest opinions out of people.
They had the cold pea soup with a sour cream garnish- I know what goes into this soup and how hard it is to make a soup that is absolutely delicious-
First, I hear a diner say, "well this is just gazpacho, isn't it? No big deal. This is a gazpacho!"
and i hear one of his tablemates try it and reprimand him that it is far more than gazpacho, not a gazpacho at all, etc...
Then he says, "well, it certainly wouldn't be hard to make- jeez, you just toss peas in a food processor- no biggie!" and he proceeds to hold forth about how anyone could make that soup at home and why would you be paying $7 for it and so on...
It was killing me. I wanted to take him back to the kitchen and show him how the soup was made, or at least see him try to create what he was eating by simply putting peas in a food processor! At least somebody at the table seemed to know enough to know what went into it, and to discern the difference between it and a poor version, but it was pretty funny.

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  1. I get much the same response to my meat loaf. My guests unaware of the four hour prep that goes into it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: beevod

      I'm curious, what do you do with your meatloaf that takes 4 hours?

      1. re: beevod

        Please, beevod. Don't hold back.

      2. A fresh croissant is a gift. I have such an appreciation for the human who can produce something so wonderful.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Lewes17266

          mmmm, yes bless the souls who make those flaky, buttery bits of delight.

          1. re: Lewes17266

            I made them once. If I recall, I think it took about 8 hours from start to finish. Absolutely delicious, but not something I foresee myself repeating as long as I have good bakeries near me.

          2. I find the timing of food (at least being prepared at home) can sometimes be taken for granted. It's quite a feat to have guests over and have an appetizer served to everyone (maybe a salad or soup), then the main course ready to go for everyone, still warm, all accompanying sides prepared, etc. Not feeling rushed, just enjoying a well-executed, well-timed meal...quite a thing indeed!

            1. The first category is the potential disaster. One that springs to mind is a souffle. It has to be right, the guests have to be sat at the table - not all that easy if one pops out for a smoke, another goes to the restroom and another is showing-off his new GPS. You have a two minute window.

              The next category is the little extras that you put time into and which are hardly even noticed by the guests....

              The tomato sauce, the pesto, pickled juniper berries, your peanut oil mayonnaise, roasted pepper dressing, diced smoked chicken in the potato salad - you know what I mean.

              The next category are those dishes that need time in advance...

              In my eyes a gazpacho is easy. A lot of work, but for me it has to be prepared at least a day in advance to allow the flavours to meld, for the garlic, ginger and heat to mellow. I also believe a fruit salad is the same, provided you do not add the staining fruits or banana or pear till just before serving. A good fruit salad looks easy to make, but it takes a lot of time.

              A ceviche - relatively easy, but must be prepared a day in advance, and I like to stagger how the fish is added.

              A fish soup (or if you prefer long French words - a bouillabaisse ) is another. The success is in the stock.

              The steak will have been ageing in my fridge for three weeks. We dare not tell, as some people would be horrified they are eating 3 week old meat.

              The sauerkraut; my latest batch is one week into it's 4 week fermentation cycle.

              Home made burgers with home ground meat and home toasted spices left for 24 hours in the fridge before bringing to room temperature. That's another thing I tend to keep hidden in another room. Some people are petrified that the meat will putrefy in the 1-2 hour interval between the fridge and the grill / oven.

              My miso, coming up to one year old and still not as good as the stuff you can buy. Well you can't win 'em all.

              I cook only partially to feed my guests. The other part is for my own satisfaction. To know what I did was right and what was wrong or mediocre. To learn for the future.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Paulustrious

                I'm with you, Paul, on all points. I made an amazing shrimp bisque last weekend, and everyone gobbled it up, and then asked me if I would make more the next day. No idea that it took me a long time to make the stock, etc... But at least they really liked it! As you point out, a lot of what I make is for myself, to learn a process, or try something I haven't. The art, I think, is to make it look easy.

                Could you post your sauerkraut process, sometime? I have tried it a few times, and haven't gotten a good fermentation yet.....

                I think a great burger is so much more than the sum of its parts.

                1. re: jeanmarieok

                  Definitely wouldn't make more bisque 'the next day'. We buy raw shrimp with shell on and then collect the shells in the freezer until there's enough to make stock.

                  Our guests are often surprised at how little time we actually need to spend in the kitchen at dinner time. It's all in the prep and doing as much as possible ahead, but a lot of people don't get that.

                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                    I don't make the traditional huge bucket of whole / quartered cabbage heads. cabbage heads. Just a four pound white cabbage diced in the processor. To each quarter I mix a tablespoon of salt. The lot gets packed tightly (ie punched down) in a stainless pot. I then use another SS pot that just fits inside. In this I put a couple of bricks and water. A cloth on top to stop crud / flies falling in. In 24 hours the water should have risen above the cabbage. For some unknown reason I now stir it up, add a few peppercorns, repack and re-weight. If there is not enough liquid to cover the cabbage in 48 hours then add some extra water.

                    Leave it somewhere cool for a month.

                    At the end of that I pack it into 4 mason jars and top up with the brine. I normally add a teaspoon/tablespoon of sugar and any ground spices I fancy. (Experiment - cumin / fennel / ground mace / Indian spice mix / garlic & ginger / Vietnamese dipping sauce ...whatever)
                    You then decide whether you want to keep it in the fridge and slow the process, or leave it in the basement to continue to ferment. It will get more acidic. with time.

                    The sauerkraut produced is too salty for me unless I give it a quick rinse - my neighbour prefers it if I leave it salty. It needs some cooking before using it on a hot dog.

                    My preferred meal with it is to add finely chopped smoked chicken, some herbs and some whipping cream. I can eat a stack of it. My OH doesn't like pickled or smoked food, so this is a self-indulgence.

                    1. re: Paulustrious

                      ooooooh, delicious! Thanks Paul. I have copied and saved this one, for sure. ;)

                      1. re: Paulustrious

                        Thanks sooooo much! I will start this process this week!

                    2. re: Paulustrious

                      Funny, souffle goes into my "deceptively easy" category. I <3 my Payard chocolate souffle recipe; blows 'em away every time. Though I've only ever made them in individual dishes, not a large one to be divided up and served. I'd imagine that's rather more fall-prone.

                      1. re: Paulustrious

                        Care to share a bit about your miso method, please?

                      2. Eggs! There are a lot of bad poached, scrambled & fried eggs out there. So much so that I think most people don't know what a fabulously poached or scrambled eggs tastes like. When don't right, they are sublime.

                        5 Replies
                            1. re: Paulustrious

                              yep. properly cooked eggs are a lost art - omelet, scrambled, hard-cooked...99% of the time they're overcooked, which is why i usually don't bother eating them unless i've made them.

                              1. re: Paulustrious


                                I spent most of my life thinking I hated eggs. Then I learned how to make them myself. lynnlato hit it on the head, sublime is the only word.