Thursday, March 13, 2008

when things go wrong

It has been an excellent week for cooking so far. And then everything went wrong today.

I attempted to make marshmallows. This probably would have been a straightforward process if I'd been willing to follow one of the recipes that calls for (high-fructose) corn syrup. But I am stubborn, and trying to stick to my principles, and so I gave it a shot using sugar alone. Ironically, I don't think that was the problem. I think I used too much water to soften the gelatin. At any rate, the marshmallows turned out like marshmallow-flavored Jello.

And then I botched an upside-down pear tart that I should be able to make with my eyes closed. Too many pears. Too much sugar. And I turned my back on the stove for a fraction of a second too long. The finished result? Too sweet and too burnt.

So what do you do when everything goes wrong in the kitchen? You can run out for more gelatin and more pears and try again. Or you could take a deep breath, clean the mixer, and put the tart pan in the sink to soak. Take out your knife, your cutting board, and your favorite saucepan, and make a simple, forgiving pasta sauce. You can tackle the disasters again tomorrow.

Pasta Amatriciana

Not authentic, but straightforward and tasty.

(Serves one, with leftovers)

Take one slice of thick-cut bacon and cut it into small pieces. Saute in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon turns crispy. Dice a small yellow onion and add it to the pan. Stir. Add a dash of red chili flakes and a splash of red wine or vodka. Cook until the onions are translucent, then add a sixteen-ounce can of peeled whole tomatoes, roughly cut up. Let the mixture reduce at a simmer until it becomes a thick sauce.

Put a big pot of salted water on to boil. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add half a pound of short pasta - penne, rigatoni, whatever you have on hand. Cook until al dente, then toss with the sauce. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and finely chopped fresh parsley.


Cakelaw said...

I've also had my share of run-ins with making marshmallow. I am freakin' terrified because I am gearing up to make marshmallow bunnies for Easter - last year they went well and everyone loved 'em, so I am now feeling the performance pressure.

Karyn said...

On the marshmallows - the light or dark corn syrup you buy in stores isn't HFCS, which is an industrial product unavailable, in its pure form, to the public. So while I wouldn't call organic light corn syrup "healthy," the body will recognize the sugar in it as sugar (not fat, as in HFCS).

I hope I cleared up some confusion!

I've had bad cooking days where I had to throw out an attempt or two before I gave up and made a salad or pasta (two dishes it's hard to ruin). It's always frustrating.

adele said...

Cakelaw - Marshmallow bunnies? How fun!

Karyn - Karo syrup is part regular corn syrup and part HFCS. I may hit the specialty stores and see if I can find glucose syrup instead.