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

nummanumma Aug 17, 2009 05:30 AM

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. b
    beevod RE: nummanumma Aug 17, 2009 06:31 AM

    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
      Rick RE: beevod Aug 23, 2009 04:21 PM

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

      1. re: beevod
        yayadave RE: beevod Aug 27, 2009 07:22 PM

        Please, beevod. Don't hold back.

      2. Lewes17266 RE: nummanumma Aug 17, 2009 07:09 AM

        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
          Popkin RE: Lewes17266 Aug 25, 2009 08:47 AM

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

          1. re: Lewes17266
            gillyweed RE: Lewes17266 Aug 30, 2009 01:27 PM

            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. KayceeK RE: nummanumma Aug 17, 2009 08:52 AM

            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. Paulustrious RE: nummanumma Aug 19, 2009 08:12 AM

              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
                jeanmarieok RE: Paulustrious Aug 19, 2009 10:28 AM

                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
                  Sooeygun RE: jeanmarieok Aug 19, 2009 10:34 AM

                  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
                    Paulustrious RE: jeanmarieok Aug 21, 2009 11:38 AM

                    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
                      ChefJune RE: Paulustrious Aug 21, 2009 11:47 AM

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

                      1. re: Paulustrious
                        jeanmarieok RE: Paulustrious Aug 24, 2009 10:44 AM

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

                    2. re: Paulustrious
                      Emmmily RE: Paulustrious Aug 24, 2009 06:32 AM

                      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
                        ricepad RE: Paulustrious Sep 3, 2009 11:39 AM

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

                      2. lynnlato RE: nummanumma Aug 19, 2009 10:45 AM

                        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: lynnlato
                          LA Buckeye Fan RE: lynnlato Aug 19, 2009 03:39 PM


                          1. re: LA Buckeye Fan
                            Paulustrious RE: LA Buckeye Fan Aug 20, 2009 06:49 AM


                            1. re: Paulustrious
                              goodhealthgourmet RE: Paulustrious Aug 30, 2009 02:38 PM

                              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
                                dagwood RE: Paulustrious Sep 4, 2009 07:04 AM


                                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. re: lynnlato
                              chicgail RE: lynnlato Aug 24, 2009 02:07 PM

                              Oh, yeah.

                            3. steakman55 RE: nummanumma Aug 19, 2009 03:49 PM

                              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. Veggo RE: nummanumma Aug 19, 2009 03:49 PM

                                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
                                  Paulustrious RE: Veggo Aug 20, 2009 07:01 AM

                                  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
                                    moh RE: Veggo Aug 20, 2009 07:58 AM

                                    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
                                      chicgail RE: Veggo Aug 24, 2009 02:10 PM

                                      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. SaltyRaisins RE: nummanumma Aug 21, 2009 10:07 AM

                                      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
                                        cgfan RE: SaltyRaisins Aug 25, 2009 04:32 PM

                                        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
                                          SaltyRaisins RE: cgfan Aug 26, 2009 10:33 AM

                                          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
                                            the_MU RE: SaltyRaisins Aug 31, 2009 05:48 PM

                                            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. KaimukiMan RE: nummanumma Aug 21, 2009 10:41 AM

                                        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. ChefJune RE: nummanumma Aug 21, 2009 11:46 AM

                                          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. g
                                            gordeaux RE: nummanumma Aug 22, 2009 05:49 AM

                                            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)


                                            1. Paulustrious RE: nummanumma Aug 22, 2009 06:22 AM

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

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Paulustrious
                                                thew RE: Paulustrious Aug 24, 2009 07:06 AM

                                                au contraire


                                                1. re: thew
                                                  Paulustrious RE: thew Aug 24, 2009 08:46 AM

                                                  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
                                                    thew RE: Paulustrious Aug 24, 2009 10:32 AM

                                                    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
                                                      alanbarnes RE: Paulustrious Sep 4, 2009 07:41 AM

                                                      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. k
                                                  Kagey RE: nummanumma Aug 22, 2009 08:40 AM

                                                  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
                                                    Paulustrious RE: Kagey Aug 23, 2009 10:22 AM

                                                    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
                                                      adamshoe RE: Paulustrious Aug 23, 2009 05:40 PM

                                                      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
                                                        Paulustrious RE: adamshoe Aug 24, 2009 05:39 AM

                                                        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
                                                      penthouse pup RE: Kagey Aug 23, 2009 03:51 PM

                                                      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
                                                        NellyNel RE: penthouse pup Aug 24, 2009 10:43 AM

                                                        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. r
                                                      Rick RE: nummanumma Aug 23, 2009 04:31 PM

                                                      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
                                                        goodhealthgourmet RE: Rick Aug 30, 2009 02:16 PM

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

                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                          KristieB RE: goodhealthgourmet Sep 3, 2009 11:26 AM

                                                          And mine!!

                                                      2. meatn3 RE: nummanumma Aug 24, 2009 10:24 PM

                                                        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. c
                                                          cinnamon girl RE: nummanumma Aug 25, 2009 07:43 PM

                                                          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
                                                            goodhealthgourmet RE: cinnamon girl Aug 30, 2009 02:35 PM

                                                            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
                                                              dmd_kc RE: goodhealthgourmet Aug 30, 2009 09:41 PM

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

                                                              I love you, goodhealthgourmet.

                                                              1. re: dmd_kc
                                                                goodhealthgourmet RE: dmd_kc Aug 30, 2009 10:09 PM


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

                                                          2. Richard 16 RE: nummanumma Aug 26, 2009 12:43 PM

                                                            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. yayadave RE: nummanumma Aug 27, 2009 07:21 PM

                                                              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
                                                                givemecarbs RE: yayadave Aug 30, 2009 04:10 AM

                                                                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
                                                                  yayadave RE: givemecarbs Aug 30, 2009 11:36 AM

                                                                  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
                                                                    givemecarbs RE: yayadave Aug 30, 2009 08:58 PM

                                                                    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
                                                                      yayadave RE: givemecarbs Aug 31, 2009 11:29 AM

                                                                      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
                                                                        givemecarbs RE: yayadave Aug 31, 2009 01:00 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                        pikawicca RE: givemecarbs Sep 1, 2009 03:41 PM

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

                                                                        1. re: pikawicca
                                                                          givemecarbs RE: pikawicca Sep 3, 2009 06:13 PM

                                                                          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
                                                                  AngelSanctuary RE: nummanumma Aug 28, 2009 08:43 PM

                                                                  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. thew RE: nummanumma Aug 30, 2009 07:42 PM


                                                                    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
                                                                      the_MU RE: thew Aug 31, 2009 05:50 PM

                                                                      Might as well try to cook gyros at home.

                                                                      1. re: the_MU
                                                                        thew RE: the_MU Sep 1, 2009 07:32 AM

                                                                        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. m
                                                                      melly RE: nummanumma Aug 31, 2009 12:41 PM

                                                                      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
                                                                        tatamagouche RE: melly Sep 4, 2009 07:25 AM

                                                                        Fried chicken was my first thought too.

                                                                        1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                          MandalayVA RE: tatamagouche Jan 7, 2010 09:25 AM

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

                                                                      2. m
                                                                        melly RE: nummanumma Aug 31, 2009 12:49 PM

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

                                                                        1. f
                                                                          falconress RE: nummanumma Aug 31, 2009 12:59 PM

                                                                          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
                                                                            sisterfunkhaus RE: falconress Jan 8, 2010 04:17 PM

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

                                                                          2. yayadave RE: nummanumma Aug 31, 2009 02:12 PM

                                                                            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
                                                                              givemecarbs RE: yayadave Aug 31, 2009 06:01 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                                yayadave RE: givemecarbs Aug 31, 2009 07:01 PM

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

                                                                                1. re: yayadave
                                                                                  moh RE: yayadave Sep 1, 2009 05:29 AM

                                                                                  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
                                                                                    yayadave RE: moh Sep 1, 2009 09:07 AM

                                                                                    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
                                                                                      goodhealthgourmet RE: yayadave Sep 1, 2009 10:21 AM

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

                                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                                                        moh RE: goodhealthgourmet Sep 1, 2009 02:52 PM

                                                                                        Like me! I'll appreciate them!

                                                                                  2. re: yayadave
                                                                                    Gio RE: yayadave Sep 3, 2009 09:37 AM

                                                                                    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
                                                                                      yayadave RE: Gio Sep 3, 2009 10:17 AM

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

                                                                                      But, then, Gio is a Chowhound legend.

                                                                                      1. re: Gio
                                                                                        Veggo RE: Gio Sep 3, 2009 11:29 AM

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

                                                                                  3. re: yayadave
                                                                                    tatamagouche RE: yayadave Sep 4, 2009 07:25 AM

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

                                                                                  4. greedygirl RE: nummanumma Sep 1, 2009 08:19 AM

                                                                                    Yorkshire puddings.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                      Paulustrious RE: greedygirl Sep 1, 2009 01:36 PM

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

                                                                                      1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                        greedygirl RE: Paulustrious Sep 2, 2009 02:03 AM

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

                                                                                    2. c
                                                                                      carbonaraboy RE: nummanumma Sep 2, 2009 04:31 AM

                                                                                      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.


                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: carbonaraboy
                                                                                        tatamagouche RE: carbonaraboy Sep 4, 2009 07:26 AM

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

                                                                                        1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                          carbonaraboy RE: tatamagouche Sep 4, 2009 10:24 AM

                                                                                          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...


                                                                                      2. n
                                                                                        Normandie RE: nummanumma Sep 2, 2009 04:32 PM

                                                                                        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: Normandie
                                                                                          thew RE: Normandie Sep 2, 2009 05:06 PM

                                                                                          2 words - rice cooker

                                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                                            Normandie RE: thew Sep 2, 2009 09:52 PM

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

                                                                                            1. re: Normandie
                                                                                              Lewes17266 RE: Normandie Sep 3, 2009 03:12 AM

                                                                                              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
                                                                                                Normandie RE: Lewes17266 Sep 3, 2009 06:47 AM

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

                                                                                                1. re: Normandie
                                                                                                  thew RE: Normandie Sep 3, 2009 08:56 AM

                                                                                                  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
                                                                                                    Lewes17266 RE: thew Sep 3, 2009 11:24 AM

                                                                                                    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
                                                                                                      Normandie RE: Lewes17266 Sep 3, 2009 11:35 AM

                                                                                                      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.

                                                                                                      1. re: Normandie
                                                                                                        Lewes17266 RE: Normandie Sep 3, 2009 01:10 PM

                                                                                                        I do that too occasionally.

                                                                                                2. re: Lewes17266
                                                                                                  carbonaraboy RE: Lewes17266 Sep 3, 2009 01:16 PM

                                                                                                  This is the way James Beard recommended cooking rice.


                                                                                          2. goodhealthgourmet RE: nummanumma Sep 2, 2009 05:20 PM

                                                                                            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. k
                                                                                              Kelli2006 RE: nummanumma Sep 2, 2009 10:55 PM

                                                                                              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. h
                                                                                                HillJ RE: nummanumma Sep 3, 2009 01:35 PM

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

                                                                                                1. e
                                                                                                  eastside foodie girl RE: nummanumma Sep 3, 2009 09:36 PM

                                                                                                  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. s
                                                                                                    sisterfunkhaus RE: nummanumma Jan 8, 2010 04:13 PM

                                                                                                    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. s
                                                                                                      Sinicle RE: nummanumma Jan 8, 2010 06:09 PM

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

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