Look at the above-pictured masterpiece compliments of my buddy, Ivon – the bacon on the inside gloriously crispy, the chicken meatloaf on the inside delectably juicy.  This, my friends, is tasty perfection, something we all aspire to every time we search out a recipe, track down unique ingredients (what’s a galangal?), or don that dainty apron your significant other insists on your wearing for fear you’ll get your jeans dirty.   Oh, I’ve exulted in my fair share of triumphs – amazing ice creams, delectably delicate fish,  mouth-meltingly tender pork chops – but have also anguished over tragedies as well.  There was the time I mistakenly substituted baking powder for baking soda in the very first chocolate cake I attempted when I was a kid (thankfully, the experience left no lasting emotional scars).  And there was the butter-fried shrimp I made once that were equivalent to feasting on soggy balsa wood nuggets.  And then there was this Sunday’s attempt at ice cream sandwiches…

Remember these sad little things?

So many things can go wrong, hubris can scuttle the surest of seabass recipes, and, sometimes, even if you do everything right, the fates may conspire against you and you end up with crumbly chocolate chip cookies.

Today it’s time to come clean.  Unburden yourself.  What was your greatest culinary catastrophe?  Have pictures? Even better.

Some of the hits and misses from Casa Mallozzi:

Crispy oven-roasted quail. HIT!
Why is the salmon so white? And why are the onions so blue? MISS!
Akemi’s balsamic roast onions. HIT!
The first (and last) time I made pizzza at home. MISS!
Jalapeno corn bread. HIT!

Crimes Against Spaghetti. Exhibit A. MISS!
Akemi’s okonomiyaki. Still #1. HIT!

39 thoughts on “November 20, 2012: Culinary Catastrophes! Hits and misses!

  1. Hmm. The worst one was probably a cake I made many, many years ago for a party. I’m pretty sure I followed the recipe very closely, but it WAS the first time I had ever used that it. Anyway, the cake was fairly firm coming out of the oven, but as it cooled it became firmer. And firmer. By the time it was served, it was like granite. And, in apparent defiance of the laws of Physics, it actually appeared to increase in mass over time. It started out kind of heavy, but by the time it was served it felt like a slab of concrete. Bizarre.

    Anyway, in other news, my step-mom is now back home! They did great work at the hospital and her condition improved dramatically after the operation.


  2. Baking powder vs. baking soda? Done it, turned a batch of chocolate chip cookies into one giant cookie. Also burned choc. chip cookies because I got absorbed in a book.

    Both of those incidents were over 40 years ago, however. Nowadays, it’s rare for me to do anything more complicated than Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese on the stove.

    Which reminds me…gotta get moving early tomorrow. Need to buy makings for the traditional ambrosia salad, a green salad, and creamed onions (which I prefer to giblet gravy). Brother & family decided to fly in from Maryland, so all three Lewis sibs & family will dine at Sister’s house on Thursday afternoon.

    Happy Thanksgiving, fellow USA residents!

  3. @Joe on food misses:

    I’ve had a few failures, as anyone who tries new recipes will likely have (sorry, no pictures):

    On the first cheesecake I made, I forgot to grease the bottom of the pan (and I hadn’t yet developed the technique of using parchment paper in the bottom of the pan). The result? The graham cracker crust welded itself to the bottom of the pan; I had a steel/cracker composite Frisbee with cheesecake filling on top. It still tasted good, but we had to chip the crust out after we finished the filling.

    And when it comes to pizzas, it took me a good six months of making it every Friday to get comfortable with the process, with a lot of failures along the way; over cooked dough, lumpy dough, badly stretched dough, too chewy dough, too puffy dough, dry cracker-like dough, sauce too sweet, sauce too salty, unmelted cheese, bland watery cheese, burned pizza, bad topping combinations…I’ve done it all. But I’ve learned a lot too. Like how to stretch dough on a floured cutting board, or what’s the best flour water mix/dough consistency, or how to handle a pizza peel. Lots of fun if you like a challenge. Failure just makes me want to try again so I can get it right.

    I’d encourage you to try to make pizza again and keep at it…you’ll get there and faster than I did I would expect. Good luck if you do!

  4. I pride myself on my ability to eat almost anything edible. It makes me less afraid of the apocalypse.

    ALMOST anything…

    When my sister was tiny, she used salt instead of sugar in a cake recipe. It looked like a normal cake.

    I once put out of date chicken wings in the freezer so I wouldn’t have to put meat in the trash until trash day. (a fear of wild dogs thing, irrational for an area that even has a trash pick-up) I forgot why I put them in there and ate them. Then, I remembered. Always label what you freeze!

    I tried a vacuum sealer on asparagus. They preserve the vibrant color and freshness of a food for an extended time – but only on the immediate surface. Biting into the interior was a different story.

    I have this adorable picture of my daughter wearing her princess outfit and eating a ginormous, smoked turkey leg. The next picture in that folder is of her sleeping with a bowl on the bed and a hot water bottle on her belly. 🙁

    My husband insists catfish and sauerkraut was my worst idea ever. I think he’s a Recipe Nazi.

    I once made way too many substitutions for a simple cobbler recipe. What of oat flour, blackberries, sugar, baking powder, soy milk, and “butter” could possibly turn out green?

    And any time I thought I could bulk up a recipe to make it cheaper and hide an ingredient I don’t like in the same move. No. No. Bad. That doesn’t get rid of something I don’t like. It only ruins more food.

    My grandma’s crimes against spaghetti would make you sob.

  5. So, Mr M are u in anyway involved in ‘Stargate Unleashed” ?
    I see RDA, Amanda Tapping and Michael Shanks are all doing voices. Thought perhaps you an Paul wrote the story linesfor the game.
    Will be interesting to see….

  6. Can’t resist….like Ponytail says…:
    Joe, your pecan pie is thawing in the fridge. Marie Callendar.
    If you do drop over, we have to go to JeffW’s house. All I got is the pie.
    Waves to Chef Jeff.

  7. Made a glorious pie, bunch of money on crushed nuts in the crust… perfection. Four Libyan students who tutored me through the science section of Physics (the humanities section closed so I had to have it to graduate) over for dinner, went to slice it, slid the entire glass pan forward, tried to grab and ended up with the entire thing on my chest, stomach and floor. Sigh. 35 yrs later, I still remember it.

  8. Joe, I just took the pumpkin pie out of the oven. It is a golden color, perfectly risen. I set it to cool by the pecan pie which looks fabulous. In the oven now is the cheesecake. It smells like heaven in my house…

  9. I agreed to make two dishes for Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s. I think I only have one casserole dish in good shape. I’ll have to serve something in a dish that has a bread bag label stained onto the side.

    No, wait! I’ll use the cast iron skillet for one of the dishes and act like I meant it to look quaint. Never mind about catastrophe, I’m walking in high cotton.

  10. @Das – THANKS…for your advice regard blueberry juice and how it helped Mr. Das with cholesteral. After only a few weeks, my good cholesterol is up 20 points and I don’t need the meds any more. COOOOLNESS!!!!
    Using the Oceanspray diet version and it seems to do the trick!

  11. Square Swiss Roll – roughly the size of a housebrick and hard enough to be used as one…guess I didn’t have the “whisking arm power” needed for the light fluffy roulade required by my 9th grade Cookery Teacher…new I’d made a serious mistake when it started “crunching” as I rolled it carefully…never took that one home…

    Still make the delicious cheese & onion pasty I was taught in that class though…40 years on…

  12. Culinary Catastrophes! Where do I start?

    Last year I made my signature Swiss Chocolate Cheesecake but my oven is notoriously finicky and, even with an oven thermometer in there, it can still be tricky to get the correct cooking temperature. Burnt cheesecake you say? No, I’m a diligent cook and keep an eye on things in the oven. When I decided the cheesecake looked cooked I took it out to cool. I gave it the wobble test and it seemed a bit more wobbly than usual but it is always a bit wobbly when still hot. “No worries!” I thought to myself. Alas, after chilling overnight in the fridge the next day when I cut into it it was still liquid in the middle. 🙁 Still tasted good though!

    As far as pizza goes, as JeffW says, you need to stick with it and practice, practice, practice! I’ve been making pizzas every fortnight for over 10 years and I still don’t think I’ve got it mastered.

    One memorable occasion I’d just finished assembling the pizza. Lovingly kneaded, proved and stretched dough. Delectably tangy and sweet tomato sauce. Fresh mozzarella and a sprinkling of quality toppings. As I’m lifting the pizza towards the oven the edge of the tray clips the open oven door and, in accordance with Murphy’s Law, flips over and lands on the floor topping side down. *sigh* You should have heard the swearing!

  13. @ Sylvia – Great!! I’m still amazed that it seems to work so well.

    @ Joey – You will really appreciate this. When Mr. Das was a teen he made a chocolate cake. Followed the recipe to a tee. He said the cake was beautiful – pure perfection! When his dad came home he sniffed the air and asked what smelled like fish. Mr. Das said he didn’t know, he just baked a cake. Well, after a bit of cross examination, his dad discovered that he had used the oil from the vegetable oil bottle that was used to pour off fat drippings, including those from fried fish. Despite Mr. Das’ pleas, the chocolate fish cake went right into the trash. Poor boy. 🙁


  14. @ Sparrowhawk – That’s okay, I forgive you. Russell is entertaining, but doesn’t really float my boat (except, mebbe, as ‘Captain Ron’ 😉 ). And I did check – broody kid was at least 18 when the film was made, so I think that makes it okay. I think. Okay, mebbe not. 😛


  15. Luckily, I don’t really have many kitchen disasters that ruin the whole dish. Sure, I’ve done the burnt roux, or the over roasted garlic. They’re a component and easy enough to remake.

    Although two years ago, I invited 6 friends over for dinner for some of my great BBQ ribs and brisket. (I’m really good at BBQ.) Even though I took into consideration the fact that it was March, and still in the 30’s outside, I didn’t consider it enough.

    What should have been a 6 hour smoke time, turned into well more than 10 hours due to the ambient temperature not allowing my smoker to maintain the coveted 225-250* temp range for any decent length of time. Even when they were close to done, they were not completely done. It was a mess. And a mistake that I’ll never make again.

  16. I have taught cooking for years. My family still makes my favorite dishes. I never really made an error in cooking. I loved it…and loved cooking for my family.

    My family will begin arriving today. They will be cooking all of our family favorites. I have a daughter that went to Cordon Blue (sp?) and is now a pastry chef. I can’t wait to see what she will surprise us with.

    Is code from photo bucket the only way to add a photo. I would prefer to add a photo that shows and not just a link. ???Is there a way to do that Joe??

  17. CANNOT master beurre blanc. Any other sauce, no problem, but this one gets me. It’s always watery or broken. Any thoughts, Joe? 🙂

  18. Recipe disasters? There are soooo many to choose from. The worst was when I was 15 and was making cookies. During an ADD moment, I forgot to add the flour to the cookie dough. Good thing they covered electrical/sugar fires in science class that year! Cooking with a migraine has been an adventure. Once I made a pasta casserole with Italian sausage in it. I forgot to pre-brown the sausage. Hubby asked me never to cook with a migraine again. I could go on…

    Your disasters don’t look so bad. Maybe not pretty but I bet some of them tasted pretty good.

  19. Most of my food comes out alright, although I’ve had a few slowcooker WTFs? and a batch of wrong cookies now and then. I tend to wing it on my cookie recipes. They may not be pretty, but they sure are edible. My fruit pies are always a tick too runny. One of my great achievements was a Buche de Noel one year, complete with the meringue mushrooms. Glorious! I can make pizza, but I use a bread machine to mix the dough. I don’t do a red sauce, so it is pesto and olive oil for us. Yum.

    I’m not cooking for Thanksgiving, so I’m thinking BOOZE!

    Hubby broke a bone in his hand at work, so he’ll be underfoot more than usual. Joy.

  20. Okay Joe, time to get to work. It’s chop/cut/splice/slice day, and I don’t have any of them fancy kitchen appliances that will do it for me. So it is hard labor time. Hey JeffW, you got one of those “Kiss the cook” aprons? Cooks deserve a kiss at Thanksgiving.

    I’ve got a dozen eggs on to boil for the deviled eggs, and I am washing, cutting, trimming the fruit to prepare for the big fruit tray, to be assembled tomorrow.

  21. Right, I totally want Ivon’s recipe. That looks amazing. …and all the other hit recipes, too.

  22. One of my hits was accidental. I used to be the morning lead chef at a Christian family camp in Santa Cruz(Mount Hermon) and on Saturdays for lunch, the only people I’d be cooking for is the staff, so I’d take requests. Over the course of the summer, I was perfecting a recipe for my own red sauce for both spaghetti and lasagna. While making the lasagna, I ran out of a soft creme that I would use to kind of smooth out the harshness of the tomatoes we’d get(our salad dept. would chop them up for us, but we would “sauce” them[as we called it] ourselves). Well, the closest thing I had to it also had some of the flavors that people were telling me it was missing. That’s when I decided to add a little bit of ranch dressing. Yes, ranch dressing. I was in a bind and needed whatever was available. I didn’t add very much to the batch(the bowl of a 6 foot Hobart mixer, I think it’s a 20 galloner) but it lightened the color of the sauce overall and acted as a slight binder for some of the spices and accents I put in there to begin with. It really just brought everything together and smoothed it all out.

    It was a hit. I got all kinds of compliments from fellow staffers on the lasagna and following spaghetti I made with a slight variant of that same sauce. So much so that I started doing it for the conference guests’ meals that used variations of that sauce. I got all kinds of compliments sent back my way. I also got consistent compliments on my bacon. There was nothing special about the bacon itself, it was just the way I prepared and cooked it, that made it so awesome.

    That was a fun time. I got to experiment with a lot of different recipes of mine, especially my stir-fry, and perfected a few of them that I still do to this day. Nothing overly extravagant, but great spins on everyday dishes that make them just a little bit more special. Sadly, I never had many opportunities to work on my meatloaf. I haven’t worked on it in years, but my newest thought is adding short ribs and a type of sausage to the mix for a wider palette of meats. Maybe I’ll try that on Friday…..

    -Mike A.

  23. I’m not a great cook. In fact I usually either ding or ping. However I can usually follow instructions okay. So…I do have a confession to make.

    When I lived at home I grilled my dad a nice juicy sirloin steak. I made a good job of it too – it was the right colour, texture and I actually managed not to burn it. Then, I don’t know what happened but as I went to take it off the grill I dropped it on the floor. I looked around and no-one was there so following the 3 second rule I picked it up, dusted it off and put it on the plate. To the day he died I never told him. Do you think I’ll go to hell for that?!

  24. Break time. Don’t feel like I have accomplished much. But the green and red grapes are pulled from the vine and washed, the broccoli floweretts are cut up for the salad, the huge blackberries are washed and ready, the strawberries are washed and cut Akemi style (heart shaped), and the deviled eggs are ready. My house stinks thanks to the eggs (and fartbutt maggie the beagle!)

    Joe are you going to leave that sad last image of your homemade pizza attempt with us forever? Come on, you can do it!! Try again. Ask yourself, “what would Rob Cooper do?”.

  25. I remember the recipe called for canned pumpkin in the chocolate cake mix to make brownies, ick, and then there was the black beans in the chocolate cake mix to make brownies, ick, I think I will stick with chocolate cake mix and brownie mix on their own.There have been others but I threw those recipes away at husband request. Making cheesecake with strawberries for turkey day dessert, I know its good!

  26. I’m an actual chef/manager, with degrees and experience, and I have never successfully made fudge. I think I affect the humidity in the room or it’s an old Romanian curse or something. How do I know? If you’re in the room with me, you can’t make it either. I once snapped a wooden spoon in half stirring a batch.

  27. The very first time I cooked a roasted chicken it came out burnt on the outside and totally raw on the inside. Don’t know how I managed that.

    My mom has a very good pizza recipe so that’s what I’ve always used.

    Et je dois dire que je suis quand même une bonne cuisinière… mis à part ce poulet trop et pas assez cuit. 🙂

  28. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


    Waving right back! I still have some frozen Macarons for you and Sparrow_hawk. We’re having a Christmas Open House on Saturday, Dec. 15th. If you all want to stop by and pick up the Macarons (and enjoy some proper English Puddings), I’ll post the details of the Chicagoland Foodie Tour list.


    I don’t have a “Kiss the cook” apron, but I do have a Washington Redskins apron…will that do? My wife deserves the kiss today…she’s doing all the side dishes.

    Now of to check on the brining turkey. We just found out our neighbor’s wife is recovering from a hernia operation, so we’re inviting them over as well (otherwise it’s Boston Market for them). That brings the count to 7 adults, 2 teenagers, and two small kids. I’m hoping we have enough turkey…desserts are covered though.

    1. I’ll do you guys one better. I had a Masterchef coat and apron. I gave the coat to a budding chef who it would better fit, and the apron I kept. It’s still very white (which means hardly used).

  29. My most dangerous disaster was caused by being overly neat. I lined the top part of the broiler pan with foil to make cleanup easier when I broiled a particularly oily fish. We did manage to put out the fire and salvage most of the fish.

    Second disaster: buche de noel. My vanilla sponge sheet cake just refused to cook in the middle. But much can be disguised by a good chocolate ganache!

    Hits: biggest hits are my nutella croissants and pecan croissants. Making them for Thanksgiving!

    @das: There is no reason we we can’t enjoy watching 18 year old broody guys… 😉

  30. “chicken meatloaf”
    Never had or even heard of chicken meatloaf until now, have to try it. 🙂

    Read recently in some online article that sometimes a dye is added to salmon to give it that nice color people expect, so blame it on the cheap dye that disappeared when you cooked it, not yourself. And the dye is what changed the color of the onions too, of course. 😉

    Another pet food recall:
    Carolina Prime Pet Inc. Announces Recall Of Priority Total Pet Care All Natural Bullstrips Because Of Possible Salmonella Health Risk

  31. @Tam Dixon: The croissant recipe is from The Joy of Cooking. I put about 1 measuring teaspoon of nutella in the middle when I roll them, brush them with a little egg for gloss and sprinkle some crushed hazelnuts on top. Yum! It takes a little time to do (I start the evening before the event) but it’s soooooo worth the effort.

  32. Am I too late to join the confessional? It’s been a long day, starting at 5:30 a.m. with work, Christmas shopping this afternoon, and turning into a whirling house-cleaning dervish after dinner, till I’m sweaty and very tired. DAS, you would be proud of me!!!

    So many kitchen fiascos, since junior high. Of course I wanted to make cake since I love cake, and it would turn out hard, or not done enough. Have done the baking powder/soda switcheroo, too! I did find a good basic sour cream cake recipe that can be adapted many ways, but still had another groaner this year. One time I wanted cake in a hurry (“CAKE! Must have cake!) and used an Internet recipe for microwaved bundt cake. Heh! I got cake in 12 minutes all right, but it was chewy and spongy.

    One big success was baking bread. I love bread! (Or maybe it’s all carbs.) The appeal was punching the dough down, to rise a 2nd time. Not sure which recipe I followed, but it gave me license to slam the dough on the counter, making a big bang. What 13-year-old girl doesn’t like to slam things and get away with it? 🙂 And you know, the bread still wasn’t too tough after all that venting. I braided it, brushed it with an egg wash, and sprinkled poppy seeds over it before baking. Turned out great! Although now I know not to eat it before any medical test. Poppy seeds make you test positive for opiates! 😯

    I love everyone’s stories! This was fun. Thanks, Joe! I second the request for Ivon’s chicken meatloaf recipe.

    Maggiemayday — My fruit pies were runny too until I read a reviewer’s comment on a recipe. They recommended adding pearl tapioca to the fruit before baking. Perfection! Gotta take those victories when you can. 🙂 Love the idea of your pesto pizza recipe. Share, please?

    Ponytail — Can’t wait to read your Thanksgiving recap! Or Tam’s, or everyone else’s. Tell me stories anytime, and I’m happy.

    And now, will put up my aching feet, and dream of the pumpkin cheesecake from Costco my brother is bringing tomorrow. (Say what you will, Costco knocks it out of the park when it comes to desserts.)

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the U.S.!
    I am thankful for Joe & all of you in the blog community. I don’t comment on everything, but I find edu-tainment here every day.

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