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Jan 8, 2010 08:15 AM

Fess Up, Fabulous Home Cooks. What have you ruined lately?

I thought about this when I was telling the story of my inadvertently blackened beer can chicken, which was supposed to be the star of our backyard Easter dinner, to a friend. She was surprised that I would admit that I ruined dinner, would share photos of the disaster with far away friends, and could still laugh about it months later. Apparently, her MIL, who is a fabulous cook, never admits a mistake. She would never tell anyone that she ruined a meal, let alone laugh about it over cell phone photos of a charred bird with stumps that remained where plump legs used to be.

The way I see it, if you cook a lot, or try new things a lot, SOMETHING has to go terribly wrong sometime. It is the law of averages. Mistakes don't make me feel like less of a good cook, they just prove that I am human. Humans do things like shake cayenne into the food instead of paprika, or leave a chicken unattended on their new grill a little too long. Her MIL, however, will deny it and will even try to cover up, rather than admit that she made a mistake that ruined a dish.

So, I ask you all -- what have you ruined lately, and are not afraid to confess? Or shall I say, are not afraid to confess here on these boards (where you can remain relatively anonymous)?

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  1. undercooked my broiled Tilapia with a chive cheese gratin last night, was tired and nothing seemed to work right....have made this dish a thousand times but must have been distracted. I make mistakes at times and always seem to learn from them, that's how I learn and grow as a cook. Am terrified of baking thoug because I am MUCH more likely of messing the whole thing up!

    1. Last week I ruined fried chicken. I am newly on a mandated dairy-free, soy-free diet so I decided to cook it at home, which I haven't done for, oh, at least 15 years. It was bland as f*ck. At least it wasn't burned on the outside and raw on the inside I guess. We ate it anyway, with a lot of salt. :-/

      My most famous screw up was a sausage-cornbread-pecan dressing for Thanksgiving that I talked about making for weeks. I burned the f*cking pecans, then threw them in anyway thinking they would mellow out with the sausage. Wrong. And the cornbread never set up, so it was like mealy, vaguely wet cornmeal and sausage with a burned pecan taste. Mmm, yummo.

      1. I turned a couple of nice pork chops into leather the other day. And the braised onions and cabbage were way too sweet. I just couldn't get any of the flavors to balance. It just got worse the more I fussed.

        1. I made tagliatelle with mushrooms and spinach in a white wine and cream sauce. Topped with grilled chicken. The chicken was just fine. It was the pasta and sauce.
          First, the sauce was so bland due to really, really crappy parmesan that I had to settle for at our crappy neighborhood Safeway.
          Second, the pasta kept on absorbing the sauce. The leftovers had no sauce left in the container.
          Bland, boring and once the chicken was gone, it was heated up with some water to give my dogs a "treat" wit h their meals.
          The loved it, so it wasn't a total loss!
          Oh well-mistakes are good learning experiences. I think I went wrong with the pasta. I've used regular spaghetti and linguini with far better results. I think I'll save my next batch of tagliatelle for when I make Marcela's bolognese.

          1. I can't believe I'm making this public, but I often screw up instant pudding. Seriously. I buy the sugar free stuff and for a low carb quick fix in a house with no sweets, I often get the heavy cream/milk/water ratio wrong and it's either thick like almost dry mortar or grout or unset. I'm a long time accomplished home cook, really I am. I just don't think about what I'm doing and forget what worked in the past each time.