Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Flavor Burgers (p.31) and Perfect Oven Fries Every Time (p.17)

Well, it was bound to happen. Not every recipe can be a winner, and this dinner was a big swing and a miss. Neither dish lived up to expectations and it made for a rather depressing evening.

The main dish was Flavor Burgers, courtesy of Teodor. Teodor is a young bear (college age, maybe a little older) who has kind of a snobbish, frat boy attitude. He is, however, a pretty darn good chef and very into gourmet food. In fact, the stories in Achewood about his cooking are part of why I was inspired to get better at it myself. At one point, I toyed around with the idea of having this series exist in a world where the Achewood characters were "real" and might stop by and see how I was handling their recipes. This conversation with Teodor that I had scribbled down illustrates his character pretty well, I think:

"Me: So, this is my kitchen.
Teodor: Hm. Dried spices, no fresh herbs. Do you just want me to open the Chef Boy-ar-dee can or heat it up for you, too?
Me: Well, um, there's some good spice blends in there...I order from this place in Chicago where...
Teodor: I guess I can make do with these pots and pans. At least they're not covered in Teflon. All-Clad would be nice..."
Me: We can't all have generous billionaire cats as benefactors.
Teodor: Oh my god, a knife block!? Like you bought a set at Target? You've got to be kidding me.
Me:, keep them well-sharpened.
Teodor: Look, if you can't afford a set of Henckels or Wusthoffs, whatever, but this crap isn't even full tang! I might as well cook with a rusty Boy Scout knife.
I curled into the fetal position in the corner, while Teodor used my pathetic implements to craft the finest duck confit with truffle oil and an oyester ceviche that I'm likely ever to eat.

Anyway, given that background, I expected a lot. I mean, in Teodor's introduction to the book (all of the characters get one) he begs Chris (the creator of Achewood) to let him include fancier meals. Unfortunately, these burgers didn't live up to the hype. They weren't bad, by any means, but they never really formed right (and one of Melissa's was pretty undercooked in the middle, though this was my error, not the recipe's). Plus they stuck to my non-stick griddle (the recipe specifically said to put them in a dry pan, so I did). The mustard was too overpowering for my taste, and the texture wasn't right- likely a result of mixing the cheese into the patties. It's possible I used too much or not enough cheese, but I think I was pretty close. It didn't help that the cheese I used was an overly-sharp cheddar. I used it in something else last night, and it didn't work well there either. Overall, I think I could make some improvements and make some nice burgers here, they just never came together that night.

Ray's Perfect Oven Fries Every Time were probably the bigger disappointment. I've seen several reviews of the Achewood cookbook where this recipe alone is quoted as being worth the cover price. I followed the recipe perfectly and this is what I ended up with:
I don't know if it reads in the picture, but those puppies are blackened. My sloppy knife work resulted in two tiny fries that I expected to burn. However, the rest of them were charred, as well. You flip the fries once (from their back to their sides) and also take them out and increase the heat once. By the time I increased the heat, the side the fries had been flipped on to was already black. I don't know why. The foil was shiny side down. Could the fact that it was non-stick foil cause a potato to blacken that much faster? Enlighten me. It's especially troubling since the recipe tells you not to worry about overcooking the potatoes. Well, overcook them I did. I could taste a hint of the crunchy-then-fluffy goodness this recipe was supposed be on some of the larger fries, but it was always tempered by the dry blackness below. It was like these fries had the plague, and I had been sentenced by my medieval lord to eat their bodies from the "bring out your dead" cart as punishment for steeling a pig. So disappointing. And, two days later I can still smell burnt potato in our apartment. Just lovely.

Oh well, they can't all be winners. I'm sure at least part of the failure for these recipes lies in my inadequacies as a cook (but seriously, those fries should be hard as hell to screw up), but I'm not willing to shoulder all the blame. More recipes tomorrow, hopefully to cleanse the palate.


1 comment:

  1. My oven fries are pretty good and simple:
    - take potatoes
    - cut into spears or slices
    - put in a bowl, top with olive oil, toss around
    - add sea salt (and some other seasoning, if you feel wild)
    - cook at 400, turning once after about 10-15 minutes, til they look done. Add a bit more sea salt, serve.

    Or my new thing is to get those tiny potatoes that are about the size of decent-size olives at the farmer's market, bake them with some oil, and serve these mini-baked potatoes in place of fries.