In Week Twenty-Three I experienced a lot of frustrating moments in the kitchen. I’m not sure why so many things went poorly, but I found myself disappointed more than seemed possible, given that I love Ina’s recipes and consider them trustworthy.
I always find it particularly frustrating when things don’t turn out the way I expect. Cooking from scratch takes a lot of time, not just in the kitchen, but also in the planning, the grocery shopping, the list making, the ingredient gathering. If, after all of that effort, the dish does not satisfy or taste good or turn out the way it looks in the photograph, the whole endeavor feels like a waste of time and resources. Of course, there are always lessons to be learned through failures, but they are not fun or easy. This week held a lot of those lessons, which left me tired of cooking and weary from putting forth effort that yielded a diminishing return.
WHAT I COOKED
Savory Palmiers, Back to Basics
Roast Chicken with Radishes, Cooking for Jeffery
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes, Make It Ahead
Broccoli Rabe with Garlic, At Home
Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars, At Home
Roast Loin of Pork with Fennel, Parties!
Sautéed Cabbage, Parties!
Baked Virginia Ham, Parties
Cranberry Fruit Conserve, Parties!
Roasted Vegetable Torte, Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Old Fashioned Apple Crisp, Parties!
Maple Vanilla Cream of Wheat, Make It Ahead
Raspberry Corn Muffins, Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
WHAT I LEARNED
INDONESIAN GINGER CHICKEN.
In the spirit of being authentic and honest, I am going to tell my true feelings about this dish. Indonesian Ginger Chicken was a huge disappointment. It’s a rare occurrence with Ina’s recipes, but when it happens, it really sticks out. This chicken dish should be good. It has everything going for it: bone-in, skin on chicken; a saucy marinade of spicy ginger, salty soy sauce, and sweet honey; an overnight drenching in the sauce; a nice hour bake in the oven, the last half of which the chicken is cooked skin-side-up so that the sauce can thicken and glaze the chicken. But at the end of the day, this is merely a recipe for a tasty sauce, not a tasty chicken. By now I should know better than to assume that unseasoned chicken is somehow going to magically become infused with flavor. It won’t. Even when it marinates overnight, if there isn’t any flavor going into the meat of the chicken, the chicken is not going to have flavor. The marinade in this recipe sits on the surface of the chicken, and chicken breasts are very thick. A surface smattering won’t suffice. In order to season chicken, you really have to get the seasoning onto the meat. This recipe might have worked its flavor magic better with thinner cuts of chicken. This chicken was average at best. This dish wasn’t worth the time or effort.
TWICE BAKED SWEET POTATOES.
These are interesting, in a good way, if you like sophisticated flavor combinations. The recipe calls for tellegio cheese, which I had never tasted before this recipe. Tellegio is definitely a funky cheese (in a good way). It has a very distinct flavor, and when combined with the shallots, thyme, butter, and roasted sweet potato flesh, it is complex and interesting. However, I did not love the presentation of these. I found that by the time my sweet potatoes were cooked all the way through, the skins had lost a lot of their structural integrity. They were kind of floppy and didn’t do a great job holding up the filling once I returned it to the cavity. All that being said, the finished dish was different and delicious.
PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY BARS.
These are awesome! This recipe is based on the same idea as Ina’s Raspberry Crumble Bars, but with peanut butter. They really do taste like everything I love about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The end result is not too sweet, with a peanut-forward flavor. Were it not for our bakery case already being full of peanut-butter flavored things, I would consider adding these to the Hurley House lineup.
For a cabbage side dish, this is simple, easy, and so very delicious. Cabbage is underrated in my opinion. Cabbage is cheap, feeds a crowd, and when flavored correctly (as this one is) can really shine next to pork or chicken. This method of cooking is so fast and simple, and the butter and salt is mandatory.
OLD FASHIONED APPLE CRISP.
What Ina lacks in her recipe for apple pie, she totally makes up for with this apple crisp. This is the best apple crisp I have ever made. I think a lot of the success has to do with using McIntosh apples. Do you know this variety of apple? It is sweet, but it keeps its form when cooked. The results have texture, but not in an applesauce kind of way. The topping is perfect, and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this is a top ten dessert.
BAKED VIRGINIA HAM and CRANBERRY FRUIT CONSERVE.
There is not a lot to say about ham covered in glaze except to say that I have never made ham covered with glaze until this project, and now I have made it twice. I quite enjoy it. It is the world’s fastest main dish, and for holiday buffets, there is not an easier choice. This version is incredibly flavorful with the conserve beside it. I served it with biscuits (from the freezer), and we were all very happy.