Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Raspberry Lemon Drop

You know, people don't share often enough the things they try in the kitchen that just don't work out. Take, for instance, my first attempt at making, step by step, an actual recipe with no substitutions, something from Mastering the Art of French Cooking - Julia Child's masterpiece cookbook. Last night, still on a high from submitting a draft of a proposal and secretly hoping my advisor never gives it back to me so I don't have to look at it ever again, I decided to be brave by cooking a fish dish, and a fancy one at that. My bacon wrapped scallops turned out well; I should not be so afraid of the fishes.

I attempted the very French technique of poaching fish fillets in white wine and water. I followed, to the letter, Julia's instructions on how to do so, following a variation of the master recipe that included a sautee of mushrooms, carrots, onion, and carrot julienne, baked with a cream sauce made with the poaching liquid, cream, butter, and flour, topped with swiss cheese and dots of butter. Sounds amazing and simple, right? For some reason, I hated it. I loved the sauce - could have stuck a straw in it and drank it - but hated the dish. Dave said it was the celery that threw the flavors off. I think it may have been the cod. For whatever reason, I couldn't eat more than 5 bites, which was truly a shame considering I invested about 2 hours of my life on the dish, counting prep time, cook time, studying the recipe time, and cleanup.

If you know me, you know that I don't handle failure very well at all. And I saw dinner last night as a failure; subsequently, it ruined my night and put me in the foulest of moods for the remainder of the evening. Bless his heart, Dave tried to make it a learning experience, and help me articulate what it was that went wrong and what I learned from whatever mistake I made. I was having none of it. I think I gave him "a look." I just wanted to reheat my pizza and sulk and forget about white wine poached fish fillets, no matter how amazing they sounded or their sauce tasted.

Anyway. The last huge kitchen failure I had involved tilapia, that were supposed to be sauteed and ended up inedible. The one before that involved coconut shrimp, and I think I scared Jonathan from ever wanting to come over for dinner again. Let me say it here, now, I cannot cook a fish to save my life. There was one stellar performance involving Paula Deen's parmesan tilapia a few weeks ago, and the great scallops dinner, but that's about it over the course of my culinary adventures. Other things I consistently fail upon attempting in the kitchen are: biscuits, chocolate & biscuits especially, yeast breads, and bread puddings (including French toast). I don't get what I'm doing wrong in these areas; they just don't work for me. I think that there should be a once-weekly show on Food Network where they showcase the chefs making things that fail. This would truly make the home cook feel better about her accidents, mistakes, and shortcomings in the kitchen, and I bet it would be quite a learning experience as well. Instead of showing us what we do right, why not focus on what happens when things go wrong, and how to bounce back from such a disaster?

So tonight, I had to make up for last night's lackluster dinner performance. I made a version of Giada's Steak Salad, keeping the steak, cheese, and vinaigrettes but placing them atop a bed of bagged greens, adding toasted walnuts and caramelized onions (and I don't like blue cheese so I swapped out goat cheese crumbles on mine). For dessert, we have Giada's limoncello cheesecake squares. And, *finally* I was able to create a martini involving limoncello that is chuggable. Cause, you know, that's how I like my martinis.

Raspberry Lemon Drop
1 oz limoncello
1 oz cranberry juice cocktail
1 splash vodka
1 splash raspberry vodka
1/2 Tablespoon lime simple syrup (which is just 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and zest of one lime combined together over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves, then chilled)

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice. Shake vigorously, strain into a sugar rimmed martini glass.

Dave actually came up with the name, and the drink tastes like summer. It is pink and pretty and delicious. Very refreshing after a day of painting, laying out, cleaning, and cooking.

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