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The Hardest Things to Cook Thread

What do you consider the hardest things to get right at home? More than just the equipment needed... what do you find yourself (or friends) most often failing at?

For me it's got to be Thai curry. I did find a solution:
http://www.jonvandalen.com/lte/?p=1459

Also,

- good (crispy, golden, fresh) french fries [I did figure it out finally

]

- good barbeque ribs [figured these out too, finally]

And, for some reason, a damn fried egg, especially over-light. I always break the yolk and nothing makes me more furious in the kitchen than watching that beautiful yellow liquid spilling all over the hot pan.

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  1. Croissants for me. Too much skill required.

    13 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      I'll teach you how to make perfect croissants in 4 hours if someone could teach me how to make a proper stir fry or curry on a residential stove.

      1. re: Kelli2006

        Haha. Well, here's my tip on stir fries on a residential stove - use a medium sized black steel "Lyon" pan (eg deBuyer) instead of a wok. Fry in batches at very high temperature settings. A regular stainless steel pan can work too, but not as well.

        On curries - hmmm...that just takes practice and a good cookbook or video. You may already know these tricks: toast whole spices before grinding; sizzle and pop whole spices in your ghee or oil, and when cooking your aromatics and your spices together - wait for the oil to separate out before proceeding to the next step (this gets rid of the raw, floury taste). My goto cookbooks are Vij's http://www.amazon.ca/Vijs-Elegant-Ins... for the recipes and 50 Great Curries for the technique http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/19049...

        1. re: fmed

          My curries improved when I used more salt and more oil.

        2. re: Kelli2006

          Rolling dough into a perfect rectangle with even height--if I could just get that, I'd be happy! I took a class, the instructor did it quickly, no problem but it's not that easy.

          1. re: chowser

            Rolling dough into a perfect shape and thickness is about controlling the pressure on the pin, and a lot of practice. Its fun to impress someone by doing it but it isn't very important.

            1. re: Kelli2006

              Can that be done with a strip of wood/plastic of the correct thickness on each side of the dough?

              1. re: Joebob

                You can roll a even thickness with wooden/plastic rods on either side of the dough, but you don't want to let the puff pastry touch the rods or it will disturb the layers.

                @JoeBob,
                You can make croissants in 4 hours but I prefer to let the dough chill for a bit longer because it makes it easier to work with when it is cold. Its not as difficult as many people make it out to be , but you must measure carefully and follow the techniques exactly if you want to be successful.

                There are many YouTube demonstrations to make croissants.
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxCE96...

            2. re: chowser

              Wish I could do that too, especially when making puff pastry (not just when rolling out the finished product).

            3. re: Kelli2006

              I would very much like to learn to make croissants in four hours, or did you mean that you would have to lecture us for four hours?

              1. re: Kelli2006

                Cooking lesson bartering! What a great idea!

                1. re: Kelli2006

                  Rich Indian curries traditionally get their texture from ground nuts used as thickeners. Cashews work quite well, but peanuts are a good choice and I've used all sorts of nuts(brazil, macadamia, chironji). I drop half a dozen nuts into the coffee grinder and add them to my curries to produce a nice texture.

                  Curry powders can make delicious dishes and the first two sentences of the method below can be substituted by a nice madras curry powder. However, if you make your curries with whole spices, you will have more control over their final color and fill your house with some very nice aromas.

                  Break a 2-inch cinnamon stick into a few pieces and drop it into 2 tablespoons of heated oil. Add 3 cloves, 4 cardamom pods, a bay leaf broken in half, a piece of mace, and 1tsp cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle, add 1 whole chopped onion with some salt and saute it until browned. Ginger and garlic should be added to the curry in whatever proportions you like, I add 2 tbl spoons of each ground and cook with the onion. Add a teaspoon of turmeric, tsp powdered cumin and bright red chili powder to taste, then mix in 2tsp finely ground nuts. An optional chopped tomato for richness, and some water to help it reduce.. mine usually takes about 15 minutes stirring occasionally at a higher heat. When the oil separates, add the beef/lamb and cook it through. Stir in 1/4 cup(or more!) of cream or coconut milk, salt to taste and finish with Corriander leaves.

                  If you want a yellower curry, add minced green chillies(jalapeno/serrano) instead of chilli powder and avoid the tomato. If you want the oil to separate out and finish your curry faster, add pre-cooked tomato sauce - I make a batch of sauce and use it throughout the week in curries and other things.

                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    You can do decent stir fry on a residential stove with a cheap $15 cast iron pan. Get it smoking hot, and cook things in small batches. For speed, you can even have two cast iron pans going at once...

                2. For me it's anything fried -- simply because I never learned the technique. I try to make Indian pakoras and dahi vada, and I just can't get the frying right. Even more lightly-fried items, like zucchini fritters, I can't seem to manage. I either burn them, or never get them crisp, or make them too oily, or get them so hot they pop out of the pan.... on the positive side, I guess it keeps me from cooking too much fatty food :)

                  I also have tried, multiple times, to make schaum torte, which is this meringue dessert popular in Milwaukee. I guess I can't do meringue, either. I mean, I can "make" it, but it never turns out correct.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: anakalia

                    made my husband his favorite last night. something I've never managed to perfect by the way. < chicken fried steak or is it country fried steak? either way, he loves Cotton Patch recipe in Dallas. I called them to ask for help, they didn't give me any. they said the seasoning is in a large bag that comes from the wearhouse and isn't marked with what the seasoning ingreds are. crud. last night, because I pounded the veal [I know, not the usual suspect] until my arms fell off, it was fork tender so that much I mastered, FINALLY. how or what so I use in the seasoning of the flour or is it in the egg wash that is seasoned? HELP

                    1. re: iL Divo

                      It seems to me highly unlikely that the Cotton Patch uses veal.

                      1. re: Joebob

                        oh Joebob, of course not.
                        I never said they did or would [it's way too expensive] but it's what I bought and I knew I had the pounder/tenderizer mallet and only hoped it would tenderize what may not be automatically tender. I succeeded.

                        now back to what to use in the flour for seasonings or it is the egg bath that gets the secret seasonings?

                        Sidebar: I've been told I need to take my husband to Randalls south of Norman OK. They're said to have perfect chicken fried steak, perhaps one day I will.

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          Season the meat and the flour. Egg wash really doesn't need to be seasoned. Use salt, pepper, garlic powder if you want, your favorite herb; you're making chicken fried steak so thyme is the herb of choice. I use this technique: lightly dredge the meat in flour first, then tenderize, then dredge in flour again, then into the eggs and then into the flour AGAIN, (so that's three trips through the flour) that's how you get the nice thick breading. Then fry.

                  2. Chinese hand-pulled noodles. I have tried and tried and tried and I can't get the dough to last more than 5 pulls. No wonder they say it takes 5 years to learn how to make these. I just had to check in case they were lyin'.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: runwestierun

                      listen Bob Bloomer had a really hard time and it took him a week with an instructor and he still didn't master it.

                    2. Tuilles. I can never get them the way I want them.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: AndrewK512

                        Ooh! Ooh! Tuilles!!! Me, too. They taste so delicious but I can never get them to bend around the mold without them slipping or clumping up. I ended up last time just giving up and serving them the way they came out....it looked like a 4 year old had made them out of clay...but they tasted great.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          What are you using for the mold? Some folding is expected and unavoidable, but they should stay on the mold.

                          1. re: oakjoan

                            Get one of those metal pans used for multiple baguettes. You just slide the tuiles in and they curve naturally.

                          2. re: AndrewK512

                            I just use a rolling pin. Since I collect rolling pins, its easy to find one that is fat enough or skinny enough depending on what I want my end result to be

                            1. re: AndrewK512

                              Yeah, I can't get tuiles either. Either I'm not mixing right, or not cooking them long enough. They'll curve round the rolling pin to start with but don't crisp up and when cool, they won't hold their shape. I need a really detailed recipe I think

                              1. re: loukoumades

                                I suspect that you are not spreading them out thinly enough on the baking sheet. I use a small offset spatula to spread them.

                                The recipe I have works well, except that it tells you to mix the sliced almonds in with the batter; I find that if you do that you cannot get a thin enough spread. Instead, I sprinkle the almonds on top and then press them in lightly.

                                1. re: souschef

                                  I think I'm with you on this cuz I do them very thin, like almost too thin and then immediately move them over to the awaiting rolling pin or wooden spoon depending........I know it wouldn't come out the same but have you tried placing them over a ramekin or a tea cup so they can be used as a cup/bowl for berries etc?

                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                    Yup, done that. Used them as a bowl to hold home-made ice cream. Turned out just as crisp

                              1. re: Robin Joy

                                :-D

                                Desserts as a class, though probably because I have little interest in them.

                                1. re: Robin Joy

                                  It doesn't dry out, if you cook it whole, but it's a bitch getting the oven door to close.

                                  1. re: Robin Joy

                                    Robin Joy, I think you forgot to add the 3 vats of raki before lowering them into the pit.

                                    1. re: Robin Joy

                                      And they are so... unwieldy! And then if you punch thru the humps while stuffing - well there go the calories thru the next millennium.

                                      1. re: Robin Joy

                                        uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ;]