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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

                                Threegreed.

                                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.

                            2. Great, great subject. I cook mostly on weekends and my wife is a marvelous cook rest of time. Often I do one of the simplest things: grill a steak, but if she is relaxing, it is not that simple. Running back outside to the grill which has very expensive steaks I don';t want to burn, while cooking the garlic bread and not steaming the asparagus beyond mush or taking up another side dish makes me really appreciate what a cook goes through who is not cooking from mixes and boxes and microwaves. It ain's as easy as it looks. And as for the pea soup, I am quite certain it is more than a handful of peas thrown into the processor.

                              1. As for mexican cuisine, chiles en nogada and some mole preparations are a full-day labor of love. And a breakfast torta de lechon (suckling pig sandwich) at 7:00 am means someone has been up most of the night cooking.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Veggo

                                  It comes as a surprise to some guests that half of what you did was made yesterday, and the time you saved that day was used to go shopping. I wish to add to your list...

                                  Pulled pork.
                                  Chile rellenos.
                                  Ropa vieja

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Oh yes! Chiles en Nogado and Mole! So much work! So much love! You are so right, I don't think people realize how much it takes to make these dishes from scratch. Part of the problem is the availability of premade mole in jars. They can be good, but they are rarely as sublime as a home-made mole. And these products mean that people think you just opened a jar and spooned the stuff out.

                                    There is a resto here in town that makes lovely Chiles en Nogado on Mexican Independence day, they are made from scratch and they are fabulous. They are so much work to make, it is a real treat to have them made for you by chefs who care. I know where I'll be eating dinner this year.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      Mexican cooking, in general, I find to be more complicated and time-consuming than it appears on the face of it. Moles in particular are a big deal.

                                      I made an absolutely gorgeous 4-course Mexican dinner for my husband and his brother one day that, between shopping, prep and cooking took me a good six hours. And then my husband got home late. ERRR. Well-prepared food does not last forever.

                                    2. Pasta is deceptively tricky to cook and serve correctly. I can't handle putting the pasta into the huge pot of salted, rollingly boiling water until all diners are present. Then, the timing of any sauce other than pesto or marinara- flavored oil, seafood, veggies al dente etc-, reserving starchy water and the final mixing step done carefully so that individual ingredients are not overly homogenized, warming the serving bowl at the right time...very easy to screw up. And then the whole thing disappears in seconds, an amount of time inversely proportional to the amount of time that went into not screwing up the end result. Tricky, tricky.

                                      Don't agree? Try making cacio e pepe successfully- the "simplest pasta" as far as ingredients are concerned- spaghetti, toasted and cracked black pepper, pasta water, pecorino and salt. Try getting it right the first, second, or even third time.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                        Yes, abundantly agree with the pasta.

                                        To Cacio e Pepe I'd also add Pasta con Aglio e Alio.

                                        Beyond pasta I'd add the following:

                                        * Gohan (Japanese steamed rice)
                                        * Espresso
                                        * Yakitori (Japanese charcoal-grilled chicken, particularly Shio-aji, i.e. salt-flavored)
                                        * Sushi

                                        1. re: cgfan

                                          Yep on the gohan and the garlic/oil pasta. Another for the "deceptively difficult" category: I thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that granulated hon-dashi exists and is such a good product- tried making my own with tons of katsuobushi and it was no better than the stuff in the jar. If there were no shortcut, nice late-night udon with some greens and shiitake would not take ten minutes from the moment of desire to an empty bowl in the sink, especially when tipsy. Cheers.

                                          1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                            There's a dish that we actually call "flying spaghetti monster" in my house. It's garlic/oil pasta with a ton of chopped capers cooked into the oil to make a veggie approximation of anchovies. It is missing the meatballs on stalks, though.

                                            Hippie "Stir Fry" is really easy to screw up -- cook one thing too long and you've got mushy bits. Crowd the pan and everything is soggy. Too many ingredients and it all tastes alike. And ignore the appropriate veggie chunk size at your peril.

                                      2. many of the foods above can be done quickly and easily, often by purchasing prepared ingredients. it is only when you taste the truly homemade version that you appreciate the difference. The sad thing is, many people either don't notice the difference, or just figure that "somehow" it just turned out right this time. Yeah, right, "somehow."

                                        I can throw together a bowl of chili in less than an hour, and its not bad at all. But when I take the time and start the day before it becomes a whole different dish.

                                        1. interesting topic! The two th ings that came immediately to mind as being more than what most people think were risotto. Doing risotto well definitely takes time and the cook's full attention (more or less). Certainly isn't a preparation you can stir up, put the lid on and set the timer! and gumbo. Most of the chefs and home cooks who make gumbo call it "raw" the first day. So they always make it ahead. In restaurants that do it "right," the gumbo you're served today was made yesterday, and should it sell out, they won't serve you the "raw." ;>O

                                          1. BBQ - it's not difficult, but putting bbq sauce on somethign and then throwing it on the grill is NOT bbq.

                                            an omelet (lost art)

                                            Tamales

                                            1. Polenta. Luckily I'm not that keen on it.

                                              4 Replies
                                                1. re: thew

                                                  Just to be contrary ... that's still a lot more work that a pound of spaghetti, two cups of boiled rice or some baked potatoes.

                                                  I did create a polenta desert once that had a stack of butter, all-spice and brown sugar in the it. It was served reheated with ice cream and maple syrup. Turned out remarkably well. Some of the Italians considered it a travesty.

                                                  1. re: Paulustrious

                                                    i'd say to me it seems it's about the same amount of work as a pasta, or rice , at least unless you have a rice cooker

                                                    1. re: Paulustrious

                                                      You want easier? Try Barbara Kafka's recipe.

                                                      1 cup polenta, 4 cups water, and a big pinch of salt in a large Pyrex bowl. Microwave on high for six minutes. Whisk. Microwave on high for another six minutes. Whisk again (with a little butter and cheese if you want). Let stand 5 minutes. Eat.

                                                      Seriously, this doesn't give up **anything** to traditionally-prepared polenta.

                                                2. Eggplant parmigiano. I'm always shocked at how something that took me hours to make is gone in 20 or 30 minutes. When that dish comes out of the oven, nobody sees the endless frying of eggplant, the freshly made tomato sauce, the dirty pots and pans, the flour and egg all over the counter, the bits of cheese scattered everywhere, and all the cleanup. But I'm certainly not going to tell them!

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Kagey

                                                    We've just spend three hours making arancini. Now they are a PITA. If you've not seen them, try to imagine making deep-fried stuffed risotto.

                                                    1. re: Paulustrious

                                                      You are a God!! When's dinner? Can I come? Recipe please... Arancini or Suppli di Riso are just about my favorite fried cheesy thing ever!! adam
                                                      edit: just saw your profile and I guess I'm not gonna make it to Toronto from California in time to eat; so bummed ;)

                                                      1. re: adamshoe

                                                        Recipe? There as many of those as there are Sicilian children that say their mother made the best ever.

                                                        And every one of them is right. Except mine are better. Although SWMBO thinks her mother's were best.

                                                    2. re: Kagey

                                                      I very much agree about eggplant parma, and lasagna, too, is a dish that requires a good deal of effort. Also: sushi rolls, and many dishes in Japanese cuisine that formally appear "simple" yet require detailed prep, time and patience...

                                                      1. re: penthouse pup

                                                        My family lasagna!
                                                        Grandma made it seem so easy!

                                                        But gosh - the homemade gravy, preparing, rolling and frying the tiny meatballs, the delicate cooking of the lagagna sheets, the layering-, evening out the perfectlt seasoned ricotta, strategicly placing the meatballs in the perfect spot....ugh what a PITA! (but totally worth it

                                                    3. My mom's thanksgiving dinner! The woman spends three days cooking and baking and it's all gone in about 30 minutes! She makes 7 pies plus a cheescake for 12 people!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Rick

                                                        i think your mom & i may be related. i do the same thing :)

                                                      2. In addition to those already mentioned, I would add gravy and mashed potatoes. There is an art to both, even though there is a lot served that is severely lacking. They may not take a long time to prepare, but they do require the right touch, an understanding of your ingredients and a careful watch.

                                                        1. Some things are more time consuming than they're presented as being, but not necessarily difficult. Lasagna and layered things always take longer than I expect them to. Salad, with all that washing and drying and picking off all the nasty bits takes longer than it should - I totally get why people buy bags of salad. And stir fries ... by the time I get out the 3000 jars to make some kind of sauce (even tho' I keep them clustered as best I can in a lge container), it seems like I could have made a 3-course dinner.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: cinnamon girl

                                                            salad is *definitely* under-appreciated at times. my mom asked me to make one for her Passover seder this year, and even though this group would honestly be happy with some bagged greens, sliced cucumber, tomato and bottled dressing, that's just not my style. that salad took me *two days* to prep. made two different vinaigrettes from scratch the day before. roasted the red peppers instead of buying the jarred ones. roasted the garlic. did paper-thin slices of cucumber, radish and onion, and soaked all three in separate bowls of ice water to ensure crispness and remove some of the bite from the onions. cleaned and prepped three different kinds of lettuce plus the fresh mint and parsley. sliced and seeded the cherry tomatoes. collected the pomegranate arils from their shells. i *did* stop short of making my own cheese, though...opted for a mild, store-bought feta so as not to overwhelm the many unadventurous palates at the table ;)

                                                            anyway, i packed each ingredient in a separate container and assembled the salad when i got there so that it would be as fresh and crisp as possible, and look beautiful...and it was, and it did. but you can be sure none of them had *any* idea how much work went into that salad. and if they had known, they'd have questioned why on Earth one would want to go to so much trouble for "just salad." some people just don't get it. fortunately, for those of us who do, there's Chowhound.

                                                            don't even get me started on the 3 different cakes i also made for that same Seder...

                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                              I've always suspected it, but now I'm certain:

                                                              I love you, goodhealthgourmet.

                                                              1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                *blush*

                                                                damn, dmd, you're easy. the declarations of love usually come after someone's actually *eaten* my food ;)

                                                          2. Sushi rice. I'm easy to please but difficult to impress. Of well over 100 sushi bars I've been to I've only been impressed with a handful. Too much or too little su with off-balanced salt, vinegar, no kombu, etc., falling apart or overworked. And it's not getting better with the focus on cutesy named complex rolls.

                                                            Macaroni & cheese. It's not hard to make one that's OK, but get the right texture, blend of cheeses, white sauce, etc. a great Mac & cheese is hard to find. (Except mine and yours, of course.

                                                            1. The simple truth is that any food well prepared is harder than people realize or credit. It just doesn't happen by accident. People on these boards have posted long threads about something as simple as caramelizing onions for 2 hours or 5 hours. And that's only ONE ingredient in a preparation. If you want to make a really good sandwich, don't you agonize over what bread to use? And preparing a whole meal starts with selecting the right elements to put on the plate together. And even if you have a wonderful, proven recipe, you still have to have the technique that is not written in the recipe.

                                                              Isn't this why we're here?

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: yayadave

                                                                Well said Dave! A family member made some fried tomatoes with milk gravy over bread slices last week. I was grateful as fried tomatoes do take some effort. I expressed my sincere gratitude but made my own last night and wow! Same ingredients almost but what a difference. Sometimes it really is the little touches that matter. Mine took at least twice as long for me to make. Also, some things can't be rushed.

                                                                1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                  One of the things I like about these boards is finding out about stuff I never heard of, like "fried tomatoes with milk gravy over bread slices." What?!? But I can see that this could be some side that nobody notices or it could be a center piece for a light lunch. It always starts with the amount of care you bring to it followed up with the skill/technique to bring it off.

                                                                  So, can you write up what you did to bring it off and share it for future generations?

                                                                  1. re: yayadave

                                                                    Glad to Dave! But first some background. It is my most favorite dish from childhood. Both of my grandmothers made it, and my mom made it too. I was quite the sensible eater as a little girl. Could not possibly finish a whole glass of soda, struggled to finish an ice cream cone, but fried tomatoes was the one thing I would over-indulge on. I can still remember laying on the sofa at my grandmother's farm in Mainland groaning with an upset stomach because when all the fried tomato slices were gone I had slices of bread with the gravy. It is something of a pain to make so it was one of the first dishes I learned to cook. My mom was like, make it yourself when I would beg for it as a teenager.
                                                                    You just start with lovely ripe tomatoes sliced fairly thin so they cook quickly. The slices are coated in flour mixed with salt and pepper and fried in oil. I like mine slightly blackened and thoroughly cooked. While the slices are cooling on paper towels or paper plates the scraps of tomato left over from the slices are stirred with some of the leftover flour until they are nicely browned. I also toss in any slices that got half broken apart. I chop up the cooked scraps with the side of the spatula and then add the rest of the flour from the plate I used to dredge the slices. Usually there is a bit of oil remaining in the pan, but if not I add a little more. When the flour and tomato bit mixture has formed a nice roux I add milk to form the gravy. I like to add a bit of salt and pepper and bring the milk gravy just to the boiling point. Now for my mom's super secret tech! A very light squirt of ketchup is just the ticket! Yum. Just put a coupla slices of white bread on a plate and top with tomato slices and gravy. So good! My family always served this as a breakfast dish but I could eat it anytime I have the energy to make it. In the fall green tomatoes can be used, they turn red in the pan, hold together better, and have a delicious nutty taste, but I like the ripe ones best. When I first made this myself I would undercook the milk gravy so that it had a slightly starchy taste from the underdone flour. But that starchy taste got all mixed up with the swell of pride I felt the first few times I made the dish all by myself. Next time I'm undercooking the gravy! There is no logic to childhood favorites!!!! :)

                                                                    1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                      Thank you. I am soooo hungry. This would probably be easier to make if you have a mandolin that's easy to clean. (Mine's a pain.) I couldn't figure out what you were doing for gravy. Dija ever put poached eggs on top?

                                                                      1. re: yayadave

                                                                        He he Dave! I got famished just writing about it. Never have tried poached eggs on top. I love eggs now but hated them when I was a kid. In fact the thoughtful family member who made the dish for me dipped the tomato slices in a beaten egg. The slices turned out a beautiful golden color from the egg but ended up being undercooked with a raw tomato taste. Slightly blackening some of the slices just spikes the fried tomato taste. So good! I also like to put the gravy over the bread and then add the tomatoes now so their taste comes through more clearly. To add to the list on this awesome thread, perfectly cooked freshly picked corn on the cob. Corn on the cob is so easy to overcook and it is such a shame when that happens.

                                                                      2. re: givemecarbs

                                                                        Try making the same dish with bacon fat in place of oil -- your toes will curl for sure.

                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                          Sounds yummy pikawicca! I've been known to buy bacon just to get the fat for cooking. Not sure I can bring myself to do it with my beloved fried tomatoes though. That little girl inside me, the one who stuffed herself with this dish insists that the recipe must be frozen in time. Hmm that might be a good chowhound thread.

                                                                2. A good pasta sauce! Or a lasagna! This is going to sound weird but I find croissants much more relaxing to make! Croissants are time consuming but at least most of the process is just waiting for it! I personally thought croissants are pretty easy to make...=/

                                                                  But a pasta sauce...oh my god. I had to cut this and dice that, seed these and reduce those. I swear I have to use every cooking method just to make a pasta sauce. The cleaning was ridiculous.

                                                                  But the outcome was fantastic!

                                                                  1. pho

                                                                    given the price point out, adn the work to do it right at home - i expect to eat it out for the most part

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                      Might as well try to cook gyros at home.

                                                                      1. re: the_MU

                                                                        the pho came out great. but when it costs $6 for a huge bowl, i can't see spending 8 hours doing it again. I might try to use a pressure cooker to speed it up next time i try, and probably see if i can get the same flavor is a less "authentic" manner, or with fewer ingredients.

                                                                    2. a perfect hard boiled egg, brioche (it's not just bread), french beef stew (Julia's), perfect scrambled eggs, my meat loaf, stuffed cabbage rolls, excellent fried chicken, potato soup.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: melly

                                                                        Fried chicken was my first thought too.

                                                                        1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                          This. I can't make fried chicken worth a damn.

                                                                      2. Really great chicken soup...with or without matzoh balls...or with or without noodles.

                                                                        1. Hard boiled eggs.

                                                                          I know someone mentioned eggs upthread, I just want to simplify that even more, to zero in on that one task that is the punch line of so many jokes. In my mind, it represents a multitude of kitchen tasks that can each be done in many ways, or that can be done properly, but only rarely are, and even more rarely is the proper preparation method acknowledged or appreciated by anyone but the cook.

                                                                          Not sure if this is where OP was going, but I guess I wasn't the only one who thought of this first. My alternate answer would be - a Génoise.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: falconress

                                                                            I agree. Most hard boiled eggs I have eaten have the green ring or are really dry.

                                                                          2. A looong time ago I made something that I thought would be superb and even elegant for a holiday dinner. I put a lot into it, and it really was superb. But nobody realized. I guess they all thought double consume is only for when you are sick.

                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                            1. re: yayadave

                                                                              Wow Dave, sorry no one but you appreciated it. My mom told me that her grandmother in Rydal would always start off Christmas Eve dinner with bowls of really rich delicious chicken stock. She always looked forward to it.

                                                                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                I think at one time it really was thought of as elegant.

                                                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                                                  Again, I think part of the problem is that no one makes consomme from scratch anymore. People think soups and stocks come from bouillion cubes and Knorr soup mixes. Wy would anyone get excited about boiled water and powder? It is a hard mentality to beat down.

                                                                                  I love a good consomme. I think it is a lost art. But nowadays, people want smoke and mirrors, foams, agar gels, exotic garnishes. "Simple' broths don't excite.

                                                                                  1. re: moh

                                                                                    It was a great recipe that I got from Bon Appetit back when it was a cook's book and I was learning from it. I remember not being able to figure out how to get the broth out of the pot with-out getting the bones and meat and used up vegetables. I bot a length of plastic tubing and siphoned it out. Thinking about it now has me thinking about looking for that recipe to make it again. No sharing the soup, this time!!

                                                                                    1. re: yayadave

                                                                                      "No sharing the soup, this time!!"
                                                                                      ~~~~~~
                                                                                      you can still share, just be sure to do it with someone who will appreciate it this time! ;)

                                                                                  2. re: yayadave

                                                                                    My mother was the consommé queen. Her two best were a chicken consommé: clear, golden, rich flavor. A thing of beauty in her elegant two-handled vintage bowls. The other was a shrimp consommé with just a few small shrimp floating in a clear briny ocean of flavor. Each seemed so simple to make but took hours of careful execution. Her dinner parties are legendary.

                                                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                                                      Well, back in the day, MY consomme was a belly flopper. TeeHee

                                                                                      But, then, Gio is a Chowhound legend.

                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                        I suspect Gio's lasagna is an all-day affair, and it's legendary status is just beginning.

                                                                                  3. re: yayadave

                                                                                    Oh, good one Dave! (Heh, name that tune.) Double consomme's a BITCH to get right.

                                                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                      Nothing difficult about them. I can turn out saucer-shaped gelatinous puds one after the other.

                                                                                      1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                        Lots of people can't though. And truly great puds, like my Mum makes, are an art!

                                                                                    2. Gnocci. Only 4 ingredients. A lot of technique involved. Plus if you have the wrong potato and/or too much moisture in them, they'll turn into fishing sinkers.

                                                                                      --Rich

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: carbonaraboy

                                                                                        Absolutely. I've yet to get gnocchi right after many tries.

                                                                                        1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                          I'm still working on it too. Moisture is the enemy. Use russet potatoes (lower moisture content), bake them in their skins, scoop out the innards while still hot. Even with that...

                                                                                          --Rich

                                                                                      2. I've had a lot of simple fish filets that weren't prepared properly--e.g., underdone, overdone, crowded in the skillet or saute pan so that they were "steamed" (and hence a little rubbery) when clearly the chef hadn't meant to steam them, or broken due to improper searing. I don't think it's always easy to cook fish properly. I know it took me a lot of practice, and sometimes I still mess up, though not too often now. But it's one thing I notice in restaurants, and if the chef can cook fish as intended, then I'm confident in his/her cooking abilities.

                                                                                        Another item is rice. It can turn out gloppy and mushy, instead of with nice cooked, separate, fluffy grains. I think it does best with a heavy pan and as little "peaking" once it's covered as possible. I add a little oil to the pan and put the rice in dry with the seasonings, saute it a little bit until it just begins to turn golden, then add the water and put the lid on. That method has improved my finished product greatly, and it also cuts the cooking time. You do have to look and check now and then on the liquid, because different batches of rice will absorb liquid differently, and weather also affects it. I just try to resist the urge to check more than once or twice, if I can.

                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                                            I use my small (2 quart) enameled dutch oven. Works like a dream.

                                                                                            1. re: Normandie

                                                                                              Normandie, My mother-in-law made perfect rice every time. She cooked it as if it were pasta. I have never seen anyone else cook rice in that way.
                                                                                              I have recently discovered the orange box of Uncle Ben's regular white rice. I follow the directions on the box and the result is always perfect.
                                                                                              We eat a lot of rice.

                                                                                              1. re: Lewes17266

                                                                                                Lewes, do you mean that she cooked it in quarts of water, versus cups of water, and then drained it?

                                                                                                1. re: Normandie

                                                                                                  answering for lewes, yes. i have seen, though not personally tried, this technique, and many cooks and chefs swear by it. i believe sara moulton used to cook it this way on her show, if i'm remembering correctly

                                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                                    Yes, fill a large pot with salted water and bring it to a boil, then add whatever measure of rice you need, give it a stir, and let it boil for about 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover it and begin checking it for doneness within a few minutes. When it is done pour the rice into a colander. Rice cooked in this manner is not sticky. I did this until recently. The only negative I can see in this method is that you have to stay with it and pour it out as soon as it is done; if you do not, it is no good.

                                                                                                    1. re: Lewes17266

                                                                                                      TY, thew and Lewes. That's interesting. I've never seen that before. I have a feeling it approaches the same effect the method I use achieves, but from a different direction. In other words, if you're boiling the rice first and the grains have plenty of room, then they must be sealing before the starches can attach to one another. It does make sense to me.

                                                                                                      I'd think that would be the same purpose of the method I use, coating the grains with the oil before the water is added, so there is that barrier again between starches. A chef told me about this method, also. One of the things I like about it is that the rice and seasons are being caramelized just a little bit (nothing drastic) before the water goes in. I like what it does to the flavor.

                                                                                                2. re: Lewes17266

                                                                                                  This is the way James Beard recommended cooking rice.

                                                                                                  --Rich

                                                                                          2. carbonara boy's mention of gnocchi reminded me of another one...*really good* matzo balls. the ingredients may be "simple," but without proper technique you end up with a pot full of leaden sinkers.

                                                                                            1. Strudel dough is amazing when done well but it is exasperatingly difficult to make. Ive tried hundreds of time but my hands are too warm.

                                                                                              I agree with the mention of mole'

                                                                                              1. Homemade pasta. The truly sublime pasta, the artistry.
                                                                                                Easy to take for granted.

                                                                                                1. I didn't have time to read through all the answers but two items pop into my head at once (I'll never make these items at home again).

                                                                                                  1. Beef Consumme. It is not made by dissolving Knorr into water.

                                                                                                  2. Macarons. Meringues are tricky little rascals.

                                                                                                  And I agree about homemade pasta (although I don't think it's hard, just time consuming and a lot of elbow grease). But wow, what a difference.

                                                                                                  1. Omelets. They are supposed to be easy, but most people have no clue how to make a good one. Most I have had made by others or resturaunts have browned bottoms, and often the insides are brown if you open it up--an indication that the omelet was flipped. Why would you flip an omelet when it is so much easier to make the right way? Also, people have this odd need to stuff them way too full with things. I like some things in my omelet, but not 1/2 lb of potatoes, bacon, and cheese.

                                                                                                    1. Tortilla espanol. Simple peasant food, but needs to be just right.