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The Single Most Overrated Dish

IMO, its the kebab. Any kind of kebab. They sound great in theory. What's not to love about your favorite meats and vegetables grilled together in loving propinquity? Alas, once the kebab leaves the realm of my mind and my plate, and passes my lips, its allure vanishes. Oh, the first several bites are nice, but soon thereafter eating kebabs becomes an exercise in tedium.

Well, that's my nomination. What's yours?

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  1. I am nominating crabcakes. At best, crab with filler. At worst, undercooked in the middle, underseasoned, plain old boring. I've had far more at the bottom of the scale than the top. Total waste of good crab.

    36 Replies
    1. re: tcamp

      If you're eating crab with filler, you're not getting the "at best" part you mention.

      LoL

      1. re: JayL

        You may be right, but I've tried. Everyone else is raving and me, meh. Now I just steer clear.

        1. re: tcamp

          The best are those made with zero filler at all. They aren't easy to find so I completely understand your stance.

          A few restaurants will make them with no bread crumbs at all...they are hard to cook w/o the extra binder, but it's possible.

          But we all have individual tastes...and that's a good thing.

          1. re: JayL

            No bread crumbs, but I do use saltines which just melt into the cake. i'm lucky to get lump and jumbo lump from the Chesapeake, so I'm spoiled!

            1. re: monavano

              In North Carolina we're lucky in that we ship most of our crab harvest (the largest fishery in the state) north to the Chesapeake Bay states so that you all can enjoy it! LoL

              1. re: JayL

                The largest fishery in NC is crab? That's fascinating. I woulda thought it was bass or a freshwater fish. I've never had (knowingly) NC crab, but then again I usually either catch my own or get 'em from someone I know.

                I tried to look it up, but can't find any information. Help?

                1. re: MGZ

                  I know I've seen Costco's lump crab that is packaged in NC. No idea what that means as far as to where it came from in the first place.

                  1. re: MGZ

                    MGZ, here are some quotes from the web, with links:

                    "The majority of whole blue crabs sold in Maryland restaurants are shipped in from North Carolina, Louisiana, Florida and Texas, while recipes requiring crabmeat are imported from overseas."
                    http://www.redorbit.com/education/ref...

                    Blue Crab is "North Carolina’s (N.C.’s) most valuable commercial fishery and ranks first in pounds harvested."
                    http://www.ncfisheries.net/stocks/blu...

                    Some websites indicate that North Carolina is the state with the largest blue crab harvest in the USA. But it looks like Maryland is again the nation's top producer: "The rebound in blue crab populations in the Chesapeake Bay was evidenced by the fact that Maryland regained its spot as the top producing state, with about 25% of the harvest."
                    http://www.fishchoice.com/For-BUYERS/... (updated April 2013)

                      1. re: drongo

                        That's interesting about Carolina. I watch Deadliest Catch and the blue crab hunt seems brutal, as in tough to find. Of course, that's a television show.

                        1. re: KrumTx

                          The blue crab in Carolina (and Chesapeake Bay) has nothing to do with the blue crab on Deadliest Catch. In Alaska they are fishing for blue colored King crab.

                          1. re: 512window

                            I had no idea. Thanks. Who knew? (besides everybody but me)

                            1. re: KrumTx

                              You're from Krum, Texas. What the hell would you know about blue crab? ;)

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                Ha! Apparently not much. Must be my degree from Texas Tech. (Aren't you in Lubbock?)

                                1. re: KrumTx

                                  I'm working on my doctorate in crabiculture. The playa lakes and Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos are just teeming with 'em.

                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    Y'know, I found that I just wasn't getting the best possible crab education in Texas. But here in Phoenix, I've joined a wonderful program for General Decapod Crustacean Studies. Very enriching.

                                    1. re: alliegator

                                      Lotsa sand crabs out that way, I gather.

                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                        Well, they are mighty tasty, and the amount of meat on those suckers is off the charts. But I prefer to gamble with my car, jewelry, and life and head down to Puerto Penasco for all my crabbing needs.

                                2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                  Lots, probably. I once got crabs in Ardmore, which is just up the road and I was there only overnight. Didn't check the colour.

                                3. re: KrumTx

                                  Sig and Edgar?

                                  Hey, who says television isn't educational?

                            2. re: drongo

                              But........MD and DE and VA do their part........most of the "Ipswich-type" clams you get in NE come from those shores!

                              1. re: drongo

                                In MD this year they are saying the crab population is way down from the past. Part of the blame they are putting on Sandy for shifting silt over the grasses where the crabs breed and the babies grow. They are also blaming fish which they say they are finding with baby crabs in their stomachs. I live in DE so this is kind of local news.
                                We don't eat a lot of crabs, but when the harvest is down the price per bushel goes way up.

                            3. re: JayL

                              Actually, as I said, I buy crab that was plucked from the Bay, not from NC.

                              1. re: JayL

                                I have no idea why that makes YOU lucky.

                        2. re: JayL

                          The right way to make a crab cake is with a binder, but it shouldn't overwhelm the crab. It isn't "filler" because it isn't there merely to stretch the crab but to give the cake the proper consistency.

                          But granted, it isn't the best way to have crab. I'll take a Crab Louis.

                          1. re: GH1618

                            Crab Norfolk isn't bad either. I don't know if they have a different name for it, but I love it on Smithfield ham. Thin slice of ham, big pile of crabmeat, butter. With cold beer.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              The best crab I ever had (blue crab, that is) was something along these lines at a friend's place in Annapolis:

                              http://www.oldbay.com/Recipes/Crab/Ma...

                              I've been around great crab cakes (according to my dining companions) - I just don't love crabs in that preparation.

                          2. re: tcamp

                            You know, this reminds me. I had a 12 course tasting menu dinner at Tru in Chicago a few years back. At that time it was ranked as one of the world's best restaurants. There were only 2 things I ate that night that I didn't like. 1 was the amuse bouche, no clue what was in it other than caviar, but the whole thing was not good. The second was the crab cake.

                            1. re: tcamp

                              Oh but real crab-filled cakes are so damn tasty.

                              1. re: tcamp

                                SO often demands crab cakes because he loves them so much. I love crabs as well. Crab cakes are OK, but I love steamed hard shell crabs and the whole picking eating adventure. Well, I shelled out an arm and a leg for lump crab which was quite expensive given I'm in Maryland and whipped up some crab cakes with very minimal filler such that they had to handled with kid gloves and very fragile. SO loved them, to me they were just OK, but nothing I'd ever request to eat. If you offered me a bushel of steamed crab though I'd be right there bib on and ready to go!

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  I do something completely different with my crab cakes; I put lots of crisp vegetables in them. And I bind them with an extra-thick béchamel. Not traditional, probably illegal (ha), but I like them much better than the ones that are 99.9% crab.

                                2. re: tcamp

                                  memories of crab cakes as a kid in and around NYC and suburbs was the classic "french" method of using scallops as a binder (pureed in food processor with cream) and bread as a filler, lightly seasoned, with variations adding some finely diced bell pepper (a chef trick in seafood to mask any "unpleasant fishyness") and maybe a small sprinkle of parsley for color. Flat top in butter or deep fried to order or sitting endlessly on a steam table as the 70's wore on...

                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                    You had me until the diced bell pepper. That's a flat out no for me in crab cakes

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        Me too. Especially _red_ bell pepper.

                                        1. re: The Professor

                                          I dont' know what it is about them. I've tried them. I've tried to like them. They just trigger a gag reflex in me and ruin everything they touch. I'm the same way about some olives. No idea why.

                                3. I might get flamed for this one, but the burger is it for me. Ground meat, a bunch of other stuff on top, bun. I'm just not in love with it.

                                  Good topic!

                                  34 Replies
                                  1. re: alliegator

                                    I think the burger is so darn ubiquitous that it's not given the proper attention to detail, like the right mix of cuts, fresh seasonal toppings to include a good tomato, or no tomato at all, and a proper bun, griddled with butter.

                                    1. re: alliegator

                                      I love burgers.

                                      It's such a versatile dish. The toppings can be as traditional, heavy, sparse, or eclectic as you wish. The meat can be from any cut or any blend of cuts (the possibilities go into infinity really). It doesn't even have to be all beef...or beef at all! The grind can be varied for textural differences. Cooking methods alone can change the taste...grilled, cooked on a flat grill to give that crisp exterior, briefly placed in a smoker before or after cooking, I've even seen them slid into a fryer and cooked through. Flavors change between thick burgers and thin burgers.

                                      Then you come to that bun you mention. How many types of bread can you sandwich your perfect burger between? Holy Cow! You name it, you can make a burger out of it. There are regular buns, fancy buns, bready buns, tasty buns, or just plain 'ol sliced bread. You can serve the bun as-is, or you can steam it or toast it...you can cook it on a grill or a flat griddle for different flavors. The bun can be seasoned before cooking or cooked plain.

                                      Such a versatile food to be considered overrated.

                                      1. re: JayL

                                        Like lamb and bison burgers. So good!

                                      2. re: alliegator

                                        See I don't like a bunch of other stuff on top. Maybe cheese and bacon, that's it. But I'm happy with a big ole meat patty and nothing else, assuming it's good meat. I don't like all those fancy burgers with all kinds of toppings and sauces.

                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                          When I was a kid, if you wanted even lettuce and tomato on your burger, you had to order it California style and that raised the price to 35 cents. We ate them unadorned.

                                          1. re: grampart

                                            That's the way it should be. I end up paying for a bunch of toppings I don't even want now.

                                            1. re: juliejulez

                                              I like Salisbury steak, but putting a bun around it ruins it.

                                              1. re: RobertLaughlin

                                                I don't think a hamburger and salisbury steak are the same. Salisbury steak has stuff mixed in with the meat... I compare them more to meatballs, just flattened.

                                                1. re: juliejulez

                                                  They are both OK t me but I much prefer a hamburger. I too see them as different and don't really get the point of Salisbury steak. Although tasty I guess I'd rather just put the gravy on a steak.

                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                    I think salisbury steak, like meatballs, are better when reheated when compared to burgers, hence their popularity in frozen dinners. But that's the only reason I could think of to eat salisbury steak instead of a hamburger.

                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      If you were old, like me, you'd know the best thing about Salisbury steak is the memory of it in a frozen Swanson dinner, eaten with a once-a-week bottled Coca-Cola while watching Donny & Marie. Be glad you were born after those times:)

                                                      1. re: KrumTx

                                                        With mashed potatoes and corn. We loved when my parents went out for dinner because that's what we'd get.

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          Did the Salisbury steak have the brownie or was that the fried chicken? I just remember putting my fork into the brownie for a piece and the whole dang thing would come out, rounded sides and all.

                                                          1. re: KrumTx

                                                            I think the brownies came w/ the fried chicken, or another dinner because it was always a tough decision between salisbury steak, which was my favorite and not having brownies or the other w/ brownies. I haven't had one in 40 years about and am now wondering if I'd find it edible. I used to love them.

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              Maybe the salisbury steak came with the apples?

                                                              1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                Good memory. I think you're right because I hated the apples and wanted the brownies, come to think of it. Tough decisions when you're 7 or 8.

                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  Haha, I always loved the apples. Which sucked because I always wanted the fried chicken. Yeah, if only our problems could still be that simple!!

                                                              2. re: chowser

                                                                Children!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                When I got my first TV dinners of Salisbury Steak and Fried Chicken, there WAS NO SUCH THING as a brownie in it!...........And Donnie and Marie!!!!!!!!!! My Gawd......let's go back to Syd Caesar

                                                                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                  Syd Caeser? Is that Julius Caeser's brother?

                                                                  1. re: Bkeats

                                                                    Yeah, and Ernie Kovacs was just silly man with a mustache!

                                                                      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                        Hipper even than Lord Buckley, he was a man ahead of his time.

                                                                         
                                                                        1. re: grampart

                                                                          And most of it was "live".you flub, you try and make the most of a flub

                                                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                            And old Ernie had a very hot wife! EEFUM!!!!!

                                                                            1. re: grampart

                                                                              And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.......unless Edie adams was doing the commercial!

                                                                      2. re: Bkeats

                                                                        More like Julius Caesar's SISTER!
                                                                        ...now SID Caesar was funny!

                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                          More like Julius Caesar's SISTER!
                                                                          ...now SID Caesar was a funny guy!

                                                                    1. re: KrumTx

                                                                      The chocolate flavored sponge! I was all about the whipped potatoes.

                                                                  2. re: KrumTx

                                                                    . . . . on a folding TV tray in the family room. :D

                                                                    1. re: thimes

                                                                      With the Quasar in the corner and Ted Baxter intoning the evening news.

                                                                    2. re: KrumTx

                                                                      Would you say you are a little more country or a little more rock 'n roll? :-)

                                                                  3. re: juliejulez

                                                                    Hamburgers can have things mixed in with the beef. And it isn't always a bad thing. The best burger I've ever had was around 10% pork. And other burgers I've had around the country were made with some panade and seasonings.

                                                                    Those are still hamburgers. And damned good ones, too.

                                                                    1. re: The Professor

                                                                      Yes but at least for me, I don't want to see my hamburger with egg and breadcrumbs in it. That just makes it a flat meatball.

                                                                      My own personal ground hamburgers have bacon ground up in them, so a mix of meats is not the issue... it's adding in non-meat ingredients. Don't even get me started on adding in stuff like onions....

                                                              3. re: grampart

                                                                When I saw and had my first California burger in 1964, it was as if I had died and gone to heaven! Lettuce (the dreaded iceberg that I love), tomato and thousand island dressing. OMG!
                                                                THEN I found my first REAL supermarket, after living in Chicago, NYC and New Orleans, my blink rate totally halted!
                                                                California!
                                                                Then, that same year I found my first Japanese lunch with
                                                                bronze leaf lettuce salad and tempura'd shrimp and veggies!
                                                                Hail CA!

                                                          2. A kabob is interesting to me, what's not so much are long swords of chicken, cow and lamb. Just puts me off with the though of it.

                                                            1. If that is all the kebab is to you. then you are perhaps eating sub standard kebab... if it is grilled over open coals, marinated with interesting flavors, and the variety of things that can be turned into kebab (lamb, pork, beef, chicken, fish, shellfish, vegetables, ground meat etc) it really has a lot to offer. Perhaps the dried out meat served with rice pilaf is where it has landed in the american lexicon of pseudo ethnic foods, but when done right it really is a thing of beauty.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: cwdonald

                                                                I agree with the suckage of the kebab but I swear that my head is about to explode over somebody maligning my beloved hamburgers.

                                                                1. re: cwdonald

                                                                  I think it's also useful to distinguish between shish kebab (often meh) and the hyperdeliciousness that is something like a lula kebab.

                                                                  1. re: Savour

                                                                    The lone kebab I'd readily try again is a tandoori sea bass kebab I had many years ago. It was sublime. I've never since tasted its equal.

                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                      I agree with the kebab, at least the homemade kind I've been subjected to. My husband always suggests them as a "easy," "time-saving" way to feed a crowd. There's way too much slicing, marinating and skewering to make it "easy." We usually disagree about how to skewer, too. I like to make them all-meat or all-fish, then the veg on separate skewers. Because generally, I find all the ingredients cook to their optimal point at different times.

                                                                      Generally what I get at other people's picnics or dinners have overdone meat and veg burned on the outside yet raw closer in. And everyone else seems to love them that way.

                                                                      1. re: lsmutko

                                                                        I think it's the idea of the kebab that is so appealing to people. And the ideal tends to override the reality. Did for me for the longest.

                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                          And we were discussing what to cook over the Memorial Day weekend away and one of the friends we're going with said, "Kabobs, so we can keep this easy."

                                                                          Oh well.

                                                                  2. re: cwdonald

                                                                    I've had all sorts of kebabs, containing all my favorite things, marinated in many a way, and they just don't melt my butter. I've tried to like them, but have resigned myself to hating them instead. That's more honest.

                                                                  3. I think it's more of an execution issue rather than a single dish that doesn't work. A great kebab is, well, great! A great crabcake is more than sublime.

                                                                    Perhaps your question might be what dishes are most ruined by too many people?

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Terrie H.

                                                                      Hear hear. A kebab isn't a "single" dish, there are as many variants as there are people who prepare them. Ditto all the other dishes mentioned here. It's hard to condemn an entire category of food simply because the examples you had weren't to your liking.