HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


A failed experiment. What's yours?

I have been dying to make the red sweet and sour sauce from your typical American Chinese restaurants (yes, the gelatinous glop that in no way resembles real sweet and sour sauce). I've looked at a lot of recipes and felt that they were too over done, inaccurate or just weren't going to do what I was looking for. However, I can tell you, definitively, that you CAN NOT make it with sugar, rice vinegar, ketchup and tropical punch Kool-Aid. You can't. Do not try.

Anyone else have a failed experiment?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I once tried to make coconut marshmallows using coconut milk as some of the liquid (the recipe doesn't use egg whites so I thought the fat wouldn't be a problem) After whipping for almost 20 minutes (I usually do 12) they were still soft and we ate it with a spoon.

    1 Reply
    1. Do not try to improve on Cincinnati Chili with liquid smoke. Bleah. There's no fixing that.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Antilope

        You know...LOL...in "theory" that doesn't sound that bad! I'm surprised it wasn't even palatable. Course, I'm having mac n' cheese and PB&J crackers for dinner so what do I know about palatable but...it doesn't sound bad!

        1. re: Antilope

          Antilope: Oh, bad cook! Dontcha know Cincinnati chili is sacrosanct?? Now make a REAL potful and plate a 5-way for penance. :)

        2. Tried to make a stuffing for poblanos with brown rice. It was abject.

          1 Reply
          1. re: paul balbin

            There are no words I have to express how much I laughed after reading this. Astoundingly flawless description. I am humbled. I dang near screwed up boxed Mac n' Cheese I was laughing so hard...

          2. Cake balls... I can make complicated cakes and complicated international dinner-items.. but somehow I messed up mixing frosting from a can with cake from a box...

            1. Hubby informed me at the last minute of a cookout we were invited to. Since I never like to go empty handed, I thought I'd make devilled eggs. To get done faster, I had the "brilliant" notion to boil the eggs in the microwave. BAD IDEA!! The ensuing pressure built up inside the micro blasted the door open, flinging partially cooked egg parts throughout the kitchen. I was finding tiny egg bits for weeks afterwards. The large pyrex 4 cup measuring cup that contained them survived without injury, however. BTW, I only had 4 eggs in there as this was a cookout w/ 2 other couples and I don't eat devilled eggs, but everyone else in the crowd likes them. Amazing how much carnage 4 eggs can create after being in the micro for ten min.

              3 Replies
              1. re: sherriberry

                Okay, this just cracked me up! Somewhat reminded me of when my son tried heating up a brownie in the mw to eat with ice cream for umm...2 minutes :)

                1. re: sherriberry

                  My DH tried to microwave an egg this week instead of boiling it. Same result you had. Egg everywhere. Ick.

                  1. re: Kat

                    There's a thread on that. It works if you wrap the egg in aluminum foil, submerging completely.

                2. making fig jam. It tasted metallic. I had to throw it out.

                  1. Subbing fresh mango slices for peaches in peach crisp. Thick, sticky and SWEET. Not really bad, but definitely not what I'd hoped for.

                    1. I have tried on a couple of occasions to use carbalose flour (Carbquick tm) to make biscuits, dumplings and something else. None were any good The dumplings fell apart. The biscuits tasted odd and had an odd texture. Fail, fail, fail.

                      I cooked amaranth recently, and I won't even taste it, It is glutinous and gray colored. Not appetizing. I'm not eating it. Fail, fail, fail.

                      1. I tried to make passion fruit pate de fruit (following a recipe on the website from the passion fruit puree manufacturer) and it tasted like artichokes. Awful. Also it didn't set enough and I somehow forgot to grease the foil in the pan, but I thought we could eat it with a spoon or re-melt and form it, but we couldn't get past the artichoke flavor.

                        1. i've been a tad candy defunct as of late...

                          was making a buttermilk bread crumb fudge... had a huge thing of panko to use, so i subbed panko for bread crumbs. it never fully set up... and it kind of a resembled a creme brulee of sorts... a gooey custardyness on the bottom, and a layer of crunch on the top...none of it solidified. it was eaten with a soup. "...shut up and eat it. kitchen ran out of spoon bread, so ya got spoon fudge. eat up."

                          also was making vanilla fudge, and my thermometer steamed up. (was going old school mercury style since my digital one has been acting up.) i panicked trying to watch the little line climb through the fog... i was almost certain i'd caught it before it passed soft ball. i was wrong. beating it when it had cooled slightly was a mute point. i tried. although, i must not have passed too far beyond 234/6/8, as there were a few sections with shaped up alright.

                          i'm gonna stick with simple penuche for a while -- brown sugar or malted.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Emme

                            "Shut up and eat it..." OMG! This killed me. Thank you!

                            1. re: Emme

                              Buttermilk bread crumb fudge? Do tell. Have never heard of it, am intrigued.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                am in a bit of chaos, but i will find and post.

                                i'd still like to know if i screwed up the stovetop portion, or whether my instincts are right that the panko crumbs were a uniquely misguided choice. ...i am not curious enough to repeat in the near future.


                                3/4 c toasted bread crumbs
                                1/8 tsp salt
                                dash of balsamic vinegar
                                1 cups sugar
                                4 tbsp butter
                                1/2 c buttermilk
                                1/4 teaspoon baking soda
                                1 tablespoons corn syrup
                                1 - 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (i go heavy always)

                                toss toasted crumbs with salt and balsamic. combine sugar, butter, buttermilk, soda, corn syrup on the stovetop. over heat, stir til sugar dissolves, then don't stir and bring up to 235 F. cool til it's just warm (roughly 110F). add vanilla, and beat til it's no longer shiny/glossy. stir in breadcrumbs and spread in a prepared pan and chill thoroughly before cutting.

                                  1. re: Emme

                                    Buttermilk breadcrumb fudge -- I googled that interesting concept and found this, with a picture.

                                    1. re: blue room

                                      that wasn't where i got it from, but there ya go! ...it also says nothing of substituting panko :-D

                                1. re: Emme

                                  "Layer of crunch on the top, gooey custardyness on the bottom". Sounds pretty good to me! I'll eat it!

                                  1. re: Jeri L

                                    try making the above with panko then ;)

                                2. Missus and I got some kale in our CSA box, so we tried to make a kale and potato soup. It was so vile that we threw it out immediately. Bear in mind that we both enjoy every other manner of greens. After several other attempts at kale recipes, though, we've just taken it off the menu.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: gilintx

                                    Years ago, when our daughter was young, she wanted a pet iguana lizard. It was small (about 6 inches long) and cute. A couple of years later we had this 3 foot long lizard that you could have used in horror movies. ;-) Luckily they are vegetarians. It loved kale. We found someone that wanted a large iguana and "Iggy" (they are all probably named that, they all look alike) had a long and happy life. I remember saving kale garnish in our restaurant doggie bags and bringing it home to the lizard.

                                    1. re: gilintx

                                      I'm with you. I like every other type of green I've tried, but kale can't be fixed. "Braised" to carbon, yes...

                                      1. re: gilintx

                                        I happen to think kale is good in frittatas....

                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                          The world is divided between the kale eaters and the kale non-eaters - it's rather like beets. I'm beets yes, kale no.

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            I only like it in a hearty Italian bean soup, which I would make if it would every be hearty Italian bean soup weather.

                                            1. re: roxlet

                                              It's tolerable in the Portuguese potato and soup too. Just don't like a big lump of the stuff. Even Mr. Bitter Greens himself couldn't be persuaded that trying those JP kale chips was a good idea.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                Haha! A good friend of mine who used to work in a food research facility discovered her love of kale late last year. She put it in soup, stew, lasagne, everywhere. A few months ago, her allergies started to act up, and her husband said "PLEASE tell me you're allergic to kale!", with a very hopeful look on his face. Sadly for him, it wasn't the kale lol!

                                      2. Became enamored with the beautiful packages of duck wings at a local Asian market. My (not-so) bright idea of duck wings for Football Sunday instead of chicken wings ended up in, my husband's words, as "the time you tried to kill me by making eat rubber bands".

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Rubee

                                          A friend made roast duck that the husband had requested. She didn't like duck and dreaded having to eat it. Luckily, while it was cooling in the kitchen, the cat jumped up on the counter and started eating it. Good kitty!

                                          1. re: Rubee

                                            Wonderful! I'm sitting here nearly in tears! What a wonderful story! Wow...just....wow.

                                          2. I can't claim this, but I will say this was an effort by my twin sister. Early out of college, we're on our own in apartments. She has a Christmas party. The beverage, CANNED eggnog (my then boyfriend, not husband made it from scratch.) The crowning touch a light dusting of ...... poultry seasoning. Oops. Grabbed the wrong spice container. She will never live this down.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: berkleybabe

                                              We once went to a large Christmas party where the hostess had attempted to make Wassail by stirring beaten egg into hot beer. The heat of the beer instantly cooked the egg. I remember a lot of people standing around holding cups of hot beer with scrambled egg floating on top. There were a lot of international students at this gathering and we overheard one of them asking another, re the drink he was holding, "Is a zup?" and his friend tasted it then shook his head sagely and said, "No. No is a zup". From then on, for long years afterward, any time I served my husband something he wasn't too sure about he would ask, "Is a zup?".

                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                  That would have made me die laughing, I think!

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    Shades of your Egyptians! Except ffor the beer part. This makes me laugh every time I think about it. I love family expressions.

                                              1. Was impressed by my friend selling tofu to her family, and them enjoying it, in a stir fry. She called it "soft chicken." Cubed and sauteed in flavorful spices and soy sauce. Tried it here. Husband and two kids slammed the forks down and demanded "What is this!." (BTW they were in grade school.) I tried to sell the soft chicken story. No way, no how, not ever. I am still paying for this some 18 years later.

                                                1. When I was in college, I was disappointed with the lack of ethnic food in my hometown when I was home on break and decided to make Indian food. The worst thing was the naan. Of course, I could not find naan for sale anywhere so I convinced myself that I could make it by steaming pita bread and then adding butter and garlic. Ughhh.The pita bread was wet and limp and just disintegrated. OMG it was vile.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Kat

                                                    If it makes you feel any better, I was without power for 5 days after Hurricane Irene, and also had a craving for Indian food. I resorted to canned chicken breast, canned diced potatoes, some "just add yogurt" tikka masala paste, and (in the absence of plain yogurt) some creative but stupid blend of evaporated milk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and a dab of tomato paste. Fortunately, my dog is an adventurous eater.

                                                  2. Last year I got this hot notion to do the same thing with persimmon pudding I'd done with apples and gingerbread: cook the apples in butter and brown sugar, then pour gingerbread batter over that and bake it as an upside-down cake (and that was REALLY good!), only use the hard Fuyu persimmons in place of apples, and pour over that a pudding batter made with the gooey Hachiyas. It would have been very smart of me to do a trial run with one Fuyu is a small dish, just to see if it kept its shape as apples do, but I didn't. And they don't. They may be firm as apples when they're raw, but there's an awful lot of moisture in there and flesh that just melts.

                                                    It was not a total disaster, since of course it tasted really good, but it was just a little more solid than a good thick brown gravy. Kind of like chocolate pudding only spicier and fruity. Anyway, I'm gonna stick with my good old plain persimmon pudding from now on.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                                      That gingerbread apple cake sounds really good. I might just have to try doing that.

                                                      My most spectacular failures involve hard-crack sugar. I tried to make candycanes. . . let me just say that I am not going to be putting the Spangler people out of business any time soon.

                                                    2. I've been playing with Charcuterie recipes and I have had my shre of failures with novelty sausages. Fortunately, they all seem to be somewhat edible!
                                                      My most recent failure was based on an anecdote about a local "gourmet" hot dog joint: a Reuben Hot dog.
                                                      I bought a corned beef, sent it through the grinder and tasted the resulting meat- SALTY!!! I diced up a pumpernickel bagel and throw it though the cinder and whipped it into the ground meat for the primary bind. TH taste was great, but the meat, already fully cured, wouldn't become cohesive- after a gentle simmer on half of the batch and a hot smoke on the other, I wound up with corned beef hash in sausage casing!

                                                      1. I made some cookies for a friend with lots of food sensitivities - one of the few grains she could eat was rice. The recipe said 'rice flour' and I had glutinous rice flour to hand so I used that. The result was a cookie that dissolved and stuck to the roof of your mouth with a texture of window putty (not that I've eaten putty but that's what immediately sprung to mind).
                                                        Strangely my friend loved them.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                          1. We used to live in the West Village where they have the big Halloween Parade. In the old days, it was a community thing, and then it just got bigger and bigger and more commercial. Anyway, we would give a Halloween Party every year for everyone to come and eat after going to the parade. One year, I decided to make a Mexican bread for the day of the dead. It was an egg bread, as I recall, and one with a lot of sugar, so it had apparently browned very quickly and I had taken it out of the oven early for fear it would burn. As I was cutting into it to serve, I realized that I had under-baked it and that it was kind of raw in the center. Since it was so festive looking, I wanted to put the whole thing out, so I cut a big circle in the middle, and cut little slices on the perimeter of the bread. At one point during the party, I saw a friend of mine cutting into the center part and eating it. I told her that I had purposely not cut that part since it was raw, and she said that she had thought it was some sort of ricotta filling that she thought we were saving for ourselves! My husband and I have a joke about "ricotta filling" every time something is under baked.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. I use my crock pot a lot to leave hot food for my family while i'm at work. Nothing I make comes out as amazing as my home cooking but it is still a helpful tool.

                                                              However, you can't make spaghetti squash in the CP. It does not come out all stringy but rather as mush, and won't fool anyone that it is spaghetti any more than berkeleybabe's family will believe tofu is soft chicken.

                                                              1. I don't have any particularly amusing incidents, just dumb & wasteful mistakes. (Or you could call it an expensive education :-)
                                                                The top 2 that come to mind -- terribly overbrined pork chops -- thick premium special occasion pork chops too salty to even look at.
                                                                And after making 8000 pumpkin pies in my life I thought I'd try sweet potato pie. Thought I'd really make it special with extra spice -- I must have somehow quadrupled the ginger etc. because it was literally like eating soap casserole.

                                                                1. I once tried Giada's lasagne recipe from her Everday Italian cookbook. It was my first time making the bechamel sauce - not sure where I went wrong, my mother who was there thinks it was the recipe not me (gotta love Moms!) - it was absolutely inedible. I cooked it carefully, mixed everything carefully, but the end result was awful!!

                                                                  I used to use my breadmaker to make jam all the time - with wonderful results, perfect strawberry jam everytime. Then for whatever reason I stopped making it and put it on the shelf and proceeded to forget about it. Then last year I thought I should make some, and ended up with some pink disaster - it's a low sugar pectin recipe and it just ended up all foamy and pink - not sure why but it sure wasn't jam!!

                                                                  1. When I was young and still thought I could change Mr. Pine's eating habits, I made him a packed lunch of homemade "health bread" (this was in the 70s), spread with some ground nut concoction, sunflower seeds sprinkled over, and raisins. He brought home the sandwich, still in its Baggie cocoon, wtih exactly one rounded bite taken out of the corner. Only 1 question: "what the hell was this supposed to be?" Sigh. Went back to making him processed turkey sandwiches and he was a happy camper.

                                                                    One more Mr. Pine story: cut up fruit for his work lunch, and he came home saying "why was there antelope in my lunch?" I laughed for an hour before I told him it was cantaloupe. Failed experiment in healthy eating.

                                                                    1. By way of preface, I'll note that I love foods that are hot and spicy - the more sweat inducing the better. For example, I frequently make a summer breakfast of habanero slices and chunks of fresh melon. Now, with that thought in mind, and a working familiarity of the 50/50 ratio of Frank's hot sauce to butter as the basic Buffalo wing recipe, I decided it was time to make some really hot wings. My normal chile powder rub was placed on some wings that I cooked indirectly on the grill using a wood/charcoal fire. To finish, I opted for a 50/50 sauce of Dave's Total Insanity sauce and butter. Needless to say, the preparation was never repeated.

                                                                      1. Is it tacky to reply to your own OP? Hope not.
                                                                        So, I wanted to make home made potato chips. I bought a bag of potatoes (Russet) they worked flawlessly (I even used my mandolin without maiming myself or a family member). Yumz. Next time I got Yukon Golds. Soggy mess. Shoestring potatoes with Russets Good! Golds? Soggy mess. Okay, fine, I'll just boil the golds and make some mashed potatoes. I must have boiled them too long or they don't boil well but what a gluey mess they were. Yukon golds are fine for baking but don't ask them to be something they aren't. 5 lbs of potatoes wasted because I got the wrong kind then treated them poorly. I'm sorry poor Yukons, you deserved better.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Aabacus

                                                                          This might help: Yukon Golds and other "boiling" potatoes will go to glue if you mash them, yes. But if you drain them and dry them (same pot over low heat, stir for a few seconds) and then add plenty of butter and enough salt and pepper, you can take your wire masher and just press down on them - I called them "smashed" years ago and now it's all the rage. As long as you don't whip or pound them they'll have a sweet flavor and non-gooey texture.

                                                                        2. i was once in the midst of making my beloved spicy black bean dip when i realized i was short on black beans and the mixture was going to be too loose & soupy...so in a moment of stupidity i decided it might tighten up if i added a little black bean flour.

                                                                          oh, perhaps i should clarify that it was *raw* black bean flour. ever taste raw bean flour of any kind? don't. it's NASTY. and it'll ruin whatever you add it to if the recipe isn't eventually going to be cooked.

                                                                          but there *was* a silver lining...instead of tossing the whole batch i formed little patties out of it and cooked them. they turned out to be tasty little veggie burgers!

                                                                          1. I tried to make matzoh-ball-like dumplings using cornmeal. I formed the balls and simmered them in stock. Well, I guess the cornmeal needed more flour to hang together well, and I ended up with a porridge-like concoction and not anything remotely resembling dumplings. The silver lining was that it tasted really good...

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: visciole

                                                                              you made me think of my matzah ball tragedy from a while back. i was in a rush, short on time and patience. i crammed waaaay too many balls in the simmer broth... the damn things just wouldn't cook through no matter how long i let them go. sinkers, real sinkers.... i mean, stinkers. patience is a virtue. nobody likes to be rushed, especially not matzah balls.

                                                                            2. Shaker Lemon Pie. I've tried twice. Once with the Cook's Illustrated recipe. BLEH! Bitter, stringy, inedible. Never again. I'll stick to plain Lemon Meringue Pie.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Antilope

                                                                                I think that recipe just doesn't work, period.

                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                  I agree. The recipes all say to use the pith. That's where the bitterness is stringyness is. I may modify a lemon meringue pie and include the pulp (I already use the zest), but the pith is going in the trash.

                                                                                  1. re: Antilope

                                                                                    I learned to up the lemon with more zest, but pith no thank you. I don't really even like (salt) preserved lemon.

                                                                                  2. re: buttertart

                                                                                    Agreed. That was also a failure in my house. Pith plus anything equals nasty.

                                                                                2. Back when I first started cooking for myself, something I did a lot was pasta covered in a faux scampi sauce made with a stick of butter. One day, a friend suggested trying a bechemel. He was a bit nonplussed when I used a whole stick, but we decided to just mess with the proportions of flour and milk. It ended up with the exact consistency and taste of instant mashed potatoes, no joke. We laughed and I made my sauce the way I normally do. We ate a bit of the non-potato potatoes, but mostly we doled it out to our friends who came by to see if we could convince them it was mashed potatoes. We could.