A wintery lunch that is not dark brown and meaty.
Before I get into my first really big failure cooking a recipe from “The Cookbook”, I’ve got two things I’d like to mention.
(Anything to forestall my public shaming, right?)
Mr. Henderson and his crew recently got to sit down and have dinner at El Bulli.
The meeting of rustic simplicity and cutting edge. I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall during that service! If you’d like to follow the meal as they ate, here’s a link to their twitter updates. Just move forward from there. Thanks to David Shaw for the heads up.
Secondly, the Queen of Candy (AKA my friend Trish who I’ve mentioned multiple times) sent me these:
Sorry for the terrible picture, I ripped into the Bacon Peanut Brittle and Boccalone Lard Caramels thinking that I had a good shot of the packages. These awesome porky treats are the offspring of the joining between Humphry Slocombe and Chris Cosentino of Incanto and Boccalone Salumeria.
My favorite of the two were the Lard Caramels. They were perfectly sweet, but with a meaty undertone. That probably sounds strange, because it was strange experiencing it. The flavor was confusing at first, but soon my taste buds had sorted things out. They’re like little tan chunks of whimsy wrapped in wax paper. The bacon brittle was tasty too, don’t get me wrong, I’m just in love with those Caramels.
Now, on to my royal screw up. So let me be right up front about the reason I claim that this recipe was such a mess: I was overconfident. This recipe seemed so easy that I just didn’t pay the proper amount of attention while I worked. Had I simply taken my time and used even a smidgen of kitchen knowledge, I’m sure I’d be here fawning all over this recipe. I can speculate that when I make it right the next time that I’ll really like it, but until then I’ll hold my review.
What I will be doing is explaining exactly where I went wrong at every turn.
I started with a large head of celeriac (or celery root, depending on where you are). I had picked out the nicest one too, which makes me so sad that it ultimately went to waste.
I carefully peeled and cubed the root, cleaning off any excess dirt.
Mistake #1: The recipe called for “well-salted water” and I went WAY overboard. I think I dumped roughly a cup of salt in the pot and filled it halfway with water. The celeriac made up the rest of the volume. I brought the pot up to a boil and left it bubbling for twenty-five minutes.
Mistake #2: I needed to chop a handful of celery leaves for the recipe, so I did a few quick hacks with my knife and moved on. Now, I don’t know if you’ve eaten celery leaves lately, but there are velcro-like little barbs on the underside. By not cutting the leaves a little finer, I was setting myself up for a three minute session where I had to jam half my hand in my mouth to try and rip one of these little bastards off my left tonsil.
Mistake #3: After boiling the celeraic, I drained off the ultra-salty water and returned the chunks to the pot. Then I began the process of gently mashing the root with two whole sticks of butter. If I had been paying attention, I would have noticed that Mr. Henderson had specifically mentioned that I didn’t need to add all of that butter at once. What I should have been doing was adding butter a bit by bit until I felt that enough of it had been absorbed by the mash. And before you start clamoring that there can never be too much butter in something, I’m cutting you off. This dish proved that massive amounts of butter can be a bad thing. I’ll get more into why later on. Oh, and I added MORE salt since the recipe told me too. Mistake #4.
The handful of superglue-sticky celery leaves mixed into the mash, I decanted everything into an ovenproof dish.
Six indentations were formed in the celery root mash for the eggs to fit into. What’s that on top of the eggs? More salt and pepper? Sure, why not! Mistake #5.
The dish was then placed in a hot oven for about five minutes. When the time had elapsed, the eggs hadn’t firmed up at all like they should have. Back into the oven the dish went for another five minutes. Nope, still not set. Another five.
The eggs were supposed to be only cooked enough for the whites to be firm, but the yolks needed to still be runny. That’s not what I got at all. What I had were over-cooked whites and almost completely cooked yolks. Mistake #6.
At this point I hadn’t tasted the final product. I figured I could just mock up a decent picture of the dish and just talk about how good it tasted.
Wrong on both counts. That picture is just embarrassing, and I wish I had something better to put in its place. Mistake #7.
Now, onto the taste. I’ve been sitting here for the past 15 minutes trying to figure out a good way to describe exactly how salty everything was. The best I could come up with was, “Animals that enjoy a good salt lick would pass on this.” And then to make a bad thing worse, the butter was so prevalent, so over the top rich that it became annoying. I was actually annoyed that I was eating butter! After the second spoonful I got the celery leaf stuck to the back of my throat, which was all I needed to throw in the towel.
I’m not counting this recipe as completed. Too many mistakes on my part just isn’t fair to the recipe. It was a learning lesson, and a warning that I’ve got to pay attention to every detail. Even the simple recipes deserve that respect, and it’s something I won’t soon forget.
Zero down, sixty three to go.