A Son’s Visit. Recipe Fails and Successes–and A Fine (Kitchen) Mess I got Myself Into!

Ok—I was going to devote this entire post to recipe fails. But—while I started writing yesterday, I received a phone call. From one of my sons.

The conversation basically went like this:

Me: “Hulloooo” (I’m classy when I answer the phone)

Him: “Hi Mom—It’s Jake. I’m coming home this week….”

Me: (Interrupting, as usual) “OMG! You’re coming home!!!!! I’m so happy!”

Him: “Well, I’m going to a party in Pennington so I really won’t be around that much on Saturday..”

Me: “Oona told me you may be coming home because of a party. ” “You wanna borrow my car?” “If you borrow it, don’t drink—if you drink, make sure you spend the night in Pennington!” “When are you coming” “Friday?” “Did you take the day off”???

Him: “No. I am renting a car.” “Yes, I have already made arrangements to stay over if I have a few drinks” “Yes, I’m coming on Friday but I’ll be there in the late afternoon early evening.” “I have a dentist appointment.”

Me: “OMG—are your teeth ok?”

Him: “Yes. They are”

Me: “I’ll bake cookies for the party ok—I’ll make the Milk Bar Corn cookies!!!!

Him: “You don’t have t….”

Me: (More interrupting)Yes I do—I want to make cookies”

Him: “OK”

Me:What do you want for dinner Friday?”

Him: “It’s fine, whatever you want to make will be great”

Me: “I know you love that Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken—I’ll make that. I’ll make Jasmine Rice. Oh. And I’ll make a nice side vegetable dish that I got from Rachel Khoo’s cookbook.” “You know her?”…Oh..And I’ll make that Barefoot Contessa Nougatine for dessert”. I know how much you love it”.

Him: “Really, mom, you don’t have to go through all that troub….”

Me:  (Interrupting again) “I know Jakeyyyyyy, but it makes me happy to cook for you”.

By the way, this conversation was between me and my 31 year old son. Bonaparte heard this conversation and asked me if I thought my grown son was 11 years old. Bonaparte got the pursed lips and squinted eye look from me!

And so it goes. You just cannot take the “mommy” out of the “mom”!

Anyway, last night I prepared the corn cookie dough—of which I, who am supposed to be watching my weight, aggressively licked the residue off the batter attachment of my Kitchen Aid and continued to lick the remainder of batter off the spatula.

scooped cookie dough in freezer bag

First I make the cookie dough, then I scoop it out on a cookie sheet and place in the fridge to get a bit hard. Then I place the scoops of dough into a freezer bag, and place the filled bag in the freezer.  Tonight, I’ll just take the frozen dough out and bake–it’s a time saver!

I licked more aggressively than my dog Chippy could! Chippy was impressed—maybe the both of us can get together and lick some crumbs off the floor instead of my sweeping them with a broom!

Then, I made the nougatine.    Barefoot Contessa Nougatine Recipe!

Click on the link for the recipe–this is EASY and FANTASTIC! Everyone loves it!

I made the pistachio brittle.

Homemade pistachio brittle for nougatine

I consumed quite a bit of this too. My thighs are slightly larger today!

Whipped the cream and sugar and egg whites, stirred in the brittle, placed it in a plastic wrap lined loaf pan and put it in the freezer. Tomorrow night’s dessert is done! I’ll serve with a chocolate sauce and a raspberry sauce!

Nougatine all ready for the freezer

Yeah, the nougatine may not look so pretty now, but when I turn it out on a plate and drizzle chocolate and raspberry sauces on it–it’s beautiful!! (I’ll take a pic tomorrow)

This morning I got up early to prepare the Tian Provençale from Rachel Khoo’s recipe.

Rachael Khoo Little French Kitchen

The recipe is from this book!

Khoo's Tian Provencale Complete Success

All prepared. I just have to pop it in the oven tomorrow!

Then I prepared the Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken—allowing the meat to marinade!

Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Recipe I Use       Click the link for the recipe.  I double up on the ingredients for a nice sauce!

Lemongrass chicken marinating

Chicken is marinating for tomorrow’s dinner. Everything but the rice can be made ahead!

So—what I was left with was one big mess. I’m a sloppy cook. But it gets better.

I went into the small pantry and noticed that a box containing a tube of tomato paste was covered in oil. Bonaparte placed a large plastic milk carton with used oil in the pantry. Somewhere along the line, it must’ve cracked. Oil was all over the place.

Mess number 3 oil in the sink

I had to put the cracked bottle of oil into a glass pie plate into the sink and try to figure out how to dispose of this. You CANNOT ever pour oil down the drain!  I ended up pouring the oil into many smaller empty bottles and then into the trash… In the meantime, I dropped a box of confectioners sugar into the sink…..

Mess 1 flour or sugar on floor

…..sugar on the floor……

Mess number two. Conf in cake flour.

Sugar on the counter–then I found MORE confectioners sugar which I poured, by mistake into this jar of cake flour. THEN, I had to empty the sugar. Now my cake flour has a bit of sugar in it and I don’ care–it’ll be good for brioche!

spills on the dress

In the meantime, I had spills all over my “maxi house dress”. Remember Mu-mu dresses our moms used to wear around the house. This filthy maxi is my mu-mu. It drives Bonaparte nuts–and not in a good way!

This led to my cleaning and organizing the pantry…..

Cleaned pantry

Like my car, I give the pantry two weeks before it looks like a tornado hit it!

corn powder i'm running low

…..but look!   I incorporated this bottle of corn powder into another bottle that was half full of corn powder and….

Cardamom in old corn powder bottle

filled the empty bottle with green cardamom pods that were in a bag. I even cut the bag and taped the name on the bottle. I’m a regular Martha Stewart, I’ll tell ya!

Which led to cleaning out the fridge….

Fridge full of food I've prepared

…the fridge is nice and clean now too!

Which led to a major clean up job in the kitchen.

Cleaned the stove

…I had to send Chippy out while I washed the floor…

clean sink

The sink is spotless–thanks to some serious elbow grease and toothpick cleaning!

Back to the original theme of the post.

Some recipes can be challenging, but with concentration and effort and more than one attempt, it’s an accomplishment when you “get” it right!

First, I just wanna state that her “Tian Provencal” recipe was a huge success! I made it twice already. Perfection from the get-go. It is a keeper for sure!

But, oh. The failure. Khoo’s “Socca avec Anchoiade”—Chickpea pancakes with Anchovy Spread should have been tremendous but fell short.

Rachel Khoo Chickpea pancake and anchovy spread

This is Khoo’s Chickpea pancakes topped with her Anchovy Spread. I’m sorry for the quality of the pic but it’s from the book. Anyway, see how nice and light her pancakes are? Mine looked nothing like this!

Bonaparte said I was too hard on myself because he liked it. He especially liked the anchovy spread that I made. But he didn’t love it. And that’s what I’m looking for—love! Love of a recipe or a dish!

I Anyway, I do give Rachel Khoo credit for adding a caveat about her oven not being hot enough to get the authentic char of the socca.

My chickpea crepes/pancakes turned out looking a lot different than Ms. Khoo’s!

Chickpea pancakes fail

Here’s mine. Looking NOTHING like Khoo’s. They did taste really good though!

I like chickpea flour because its gluten free.

chickpea flour in bag

My new ingredient obsession. Chickpea flour!

I followed the directions in the recipe. Put the batter into the fridge overnight. Made the anchovy spread. The texture of my spread was more on the rustic side. Her spread is definitely smoother. The taste of the spread was fine. The lemon blended with the anchovy is a nice marriage of flavor. However, I would use a food processer next time rather than a mortar and pestle.

I used my crepe pan and got it super hot and used the correct amount of oil. The cakes stuck to the pan. (I realize that when you make crepes or pancakes the first one never turns out right, but this was happening repeatedly). I ended up switching to a non-stick small pan for the remainder of the pancakes. They were a lot darker in color than the pancakes that are pictured in the book. Also, in order to get them a bit crispier, I placed them in the oven at 400 degrees for five minutes. They were a bit crunchier—which was good.

Anyway, I prepared what I had for appetizers. I put the rest of the pancakes in the freezer. I’ll heat them up in the oven tomorrow as a little something extra while we have drinks. I did make a new batch of “anchovy” spread in the blender—it turned out worse than the first attempt. I’ll just doctor up some anchovy paste next time!

My Anchovy Spread. Looks unappetizing. I think I'll just use anchovy paste instead.

The anchovy spread I made in the blender. I wasn’t going to post this pic because it looks really unappetizing–but I’m honest.  Next time I’ll go back to the mortar and pestle…actually…

Anchovy paste from the tube

next time I’m doctoring up this anchovy paste from the tube. I’ll add garlic and lemon. It looks MUCH better and more like Rachel Khoo’s!

Will I try this recipe again? Yeah. I’m on my second attempt with the spread—and I’ll keep practicing with the pancakes/crepes. I want this recipe to be perfect suited to our tastes!

I’ve had another recent fail that left me scratching my head. Are you familiar with Bal Arneson? The Spice Goddess?

Spice Goddess Bal

Bal, the Spice Goddess has a nice demeanor and some good recipes!

Her show on Cooking Channel, Spice Goddess is very interesting. I’m a big fan of Indian food. It’s one cuisine that I want to learn more about. She made vegetarian burgers that looked great. I needed to make them. Off I went to Barnes & Noble to find one of her cookbooks but there were none in the store.

I found the recipe on the net, printed it out and headed off to a local Indian market for ingredients I didn’t have on hand.

Spice Goddess Veggie Burger Recipe

I followed the recipe to a “t”. Esthetically and texturally, the recipe was a failure. The flavor, however, was great!

Spice Goddess' Burgers

The burgers should have looked like THIS!

The issue I had was that more filler was needed to make the burger more “solid”. Honestly, the patties had the texture of something found in a baby’s diaper! The burgers also could have used a bit of rolled oats or something to absorb the refried beans. The chickpea flour didn’t quite do the job. The patties looked nothing like the ones in the show or in the photo from Cooking Channel’s website.

Spice Goddes Burger Fail Frozen

This is what MY burger turned out to look like. This is frozen–the recipe makes four burgers. Trust me. I failed–but not completely because it tasted good!

Anyway, before I cooked the burger, I dredged it in a bit of rice flour so that it wouldn’t fall apart in the pan. The rice flour kept the burger together and the spices used blended well with the beans—giving it a pleasant aromatic flavor. NOTE: Remember Spicy does NOT equal heat! There are lots of aromatic spices that can be used—and that’s what I love about Indian and Middle Eastern food. The spices are so aromatic. If I want heat, I’ll use peppers or chili paste or harissa or shiracha.

I’ll be playing around more with this recipe until I get it right—especially since I’m trying to eat a healthier diet these days.

I’ve had other fails, but I used these two as examples because they weren’t total failures. Both can be played around with until personal satisifaction is achieved—and that’s what we want out of cooking and baking—personal satisfaction! We all have different tastes and need the recipes to be adjusted to our own tastes. Right??

Listen—I have to tell you, one of the reasons I love Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is her attention to detail. Tosi doesn’t miss a trick! She gives specifics on how long to mix and blend and has an entire glossary of information. As a home cook and baker, you cannot go wrong when someone is there to guide and instruct you along. I swear up and down and sideways, Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is the best dessert book of all time! ALL TIME!!!

messy corn cookie page

Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar Corn Cookie recipe. Look how messy this page is. The entire book is like this. I use it constantly. She is soooooo attentive to detail. I have a girl crush on her!

Every recipe from that book that I’ve baked has become a mainstay in our home (..and with ex-coworkers too!)

So hey, fuggetaboudit! Attempt those recipes that look promising. If you fail—it’s just a way to improve with your personal touch!

Really—after a morning spent making a mess of my kitchen and making a complete mess of me, I think I cleaned up really well!

Ima mess

I’m a hot mess!  (Bonaparte, bless his French heart, gets so upset when I post unflattering pics of me. But hey, it’s what I look like after I’ve been a cookin’ and a cleanin’)

I do clean up well

But after taking a bath, shaving my legs, putting deodorant on, mascara, liner and gloss, I clean up fine!

NOTE TO SELF: Try to become friends with a blogger who’s makeup, hair and clothing always look perfect. Maybe I can have a make over!

Flfowers always make things pretty

Bonaparte bought some new flowers……

Now I'll relax to the sunroom

…and I “repurposed” what I could salvage of the old flowers into the sun room. I’m going to go read now! 

Today’s little song:  The adorable Jacques Dutronc from 1966!  Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi.  (me, me, me!)!!!


About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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14 Responses to A Son’s Visit. Recipe Fails and Successes–and A Fine (Kitchen) Mess I got Myself Into!

  1. Jane Billman says:

    love your blog enjoy it so much – I noticed one of my college roommates likes your blog too!! This is a treat!

    • Catherine says:

      OMG. Jane! I’m so happy that you are enjoying my blog–and I’m doubling that happiness knowing that one of your college roommates like it too! Makes my day!!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!!

  2. Lynnette says:

    Hi Catherine,
    I’m new to your blog and just luv it ….
    I found you while browsing the Paris forum on TripAdviser as we will be in Paris in November..
    Reading about your great buys are just making me more excited to visit this wonderful city.
    I’m in my late 50s and live in Australia .

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Lynn! Welcome to the club!! I’m so glad you enjoy the blog! You are going to have THE best time in Paris! It’s just as great in the cooker weather as in the warmer weather! I hope you stick around and read the blog regularly!! I just turned 60–oh, where in Australia are you from?? I have relatives in Brisbane!! A few years back I had the pleasure to visit Australia and the country and the people are great!!! Thank you for your positive feedback!!XOXO!!

  3. gk says:

    I make besan pancakes all the time. With the leftovers I will cut them in triangles and bake them and use them as chips for dip. I use them as pizza bases, sweet pancakes with syrup (add a bit of sugar/cinnamon to the batter, vegetable crepes (add veggies into batter), and also to make fritters (sweet or savoury). Besan is good stuff!

    • Catherine says:

      GK!!! I’m thrilled to learn that you make the chickpea pancakes! Any helpful tips to add so that I can improve on them? It’s early in the morning and I am seriously debating on whether or not to make another test batter. Seriously, I think besan and me are going to be fast friends! Who knew????? I like the sugar/cinnamon addition. Do you use cardamom at all? I purchased some on a whim and am really liking the flavor. XOXOXOXOXO!!!

  4. Lynnette says:

    Catherine I’m from Noosa on the sushine Coast
    about 90 minutes from Brisbane…. So glad your enjoyed as Aussies…
    I will definitely stay around to read your blog …xx

    • Catherine says:

      Thank you, Lynn, for sticking around! Actually another trip to Australia is on my wish list! Taronga Zoo, The Rocks…….the people……..OXOXOXOXO!

  5. Jean says:

    Your phone conversation with your son….hahahaha. I admire you for retrying flop recipes. I note something in my cookbook like “yuk” and that’s the end of that. So glad you’re back as I missed your writings!

  6. Catherine says:

    Thanks Jean, I’m happy to be back. Yeah, my phone conversations with the kids are usually me doing a series of interruptions–I’m just so happy to talk to them–I think that’s why they text me more often–so they don’t have to listen to me!! LOL! The only reason why I think I try flop recipes is because it pisses me off that I didn’t get it right the first time! I should pop a Zoloft into my mouth each time I try a “first” recipe–this way if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be chill about it–bwaaaahhhhh!!! Enjoy this Friday!! XOXOXOXOXOXO!!!

  7. Margaret says:

    Wow, you’re a whirlwind in the kitchen! If I did all that in one day I’d have to take a nap, seriously! The recipes look great and your Tian Provencal is worthy of a spot in a food magazine. Your family is lucky to have you as their chef!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Margaret! You are too kind! Thanks for your support of my recipes! The Tian Provencal is a gr”eat” dish because it looks so impressive but, in fact, it’s easy as all get out to make. The slicing is the easy part due to the mandolin–but I have to watch my fingers! Last night’s meal was a total success! XOXOXOXOX

  8. Miss Bougie says:

    Oh dear, your post just cracked me up; So funny! Being a keen cook and especially baker myself, I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. Will try some of yours.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Miss Bougie,
      Glad to give out a few laughs–it makes me happy! Definitely try some of the recipes–and let me know if they are a success or fail!!! Best, XOXOXOXOXO!

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