6 kitchen skills I have yet to master
I'm a good cook. I'd go so far as to say I'm a damn good cook - not fussy or haute, but you could tell me that a James Beard-nominated chef was coming over to eat and I wouldn't panic. (They have, and I didn't.)
I also write about food for a living, which leads a lot of of people to infer that I've mastered a lot more in the kitchen than I actually have. I'm adventurous and fearless, but I still have a lot to learn. So, in the spirit of honesty (and letting the rest of you feel like Alton Brown in comparison), here's a handful of common cooking tasks on which I'd grade myself a C-minus or worse.
1. Poaching eggs
Yes, we ran a tutorial on egg poaching a while back and yes, I've gone through a few cartons and half a dozen methods in pursuit of egg-cellence. I still can't manage more than one credible specimen in a batch.
Perhaps the rest of humanity poaches weekday eggs as easily as I stand at the counter eating cold cereal. In my world, poached eggs signal a fancy weekend breakfast for two or more hungry humans, and I doubt they'd all care to divvy up the single one that doesn't look as if it came from behind a hatch on the "Alien" ship. For now, I'll stick with scrambling.
2. Deboning poultry
I can quickly and competently butcher a chicken or duck into serveable parts, and in theory, that's good enough. But in my rich, inner fantasy life, I'm able to whip out a sassy ballotine or turducken to my guests and be all, "Oh, this? No big deal..."
In reality, I end up with orphan flecks of pink flesh on the bone, the knife and wherever else it happened to land, and if there is one thing I hate more than feeling clumsy, it's wasting food. This one could likely be mastered with an abundance of practice, but first, I'll need to break the news to my husband that we'll be having chicken for dinner every night until the end of the fiscal quarter.
3. Making pancakes
I have no excuse here. The first one is greasy, the second one or two competent, and the rest scorched and entirely unlovely. I take this as a sign that the universe wants me to go out for brunch.
4. Keeping herbs fresh
I grow herbs. I use herbs. I have at some point written or edited an article on how to store herbs. Somehow, I always end up with sprigs of dried thyme hanging out by the cutting boards or moldy. brown rosemary in the door of the fridge. Perhaps one of these days I'll have a crisper stacked with moist, meticulously-rolled paper towels or bundles of fragrant cilantro propped up cunningly in water-filled mason jars and my kitchen will look like Pinterest sneezed all over it. That day is not today. I don't know why.
5. Decorating cakes
I have some complicated emotional issues around cake. On one hand, I earned a BFA in painting, inspired in large part by my obsession with Wayne Thiebaud's cake works. On the other, I always end up feeling like a jerk the second I stick my fork in and ruin a perfectly piped icing rosette or wreck my friend's face on one of those creepy photo cakes.
Perhaps this issue would best be addressed with my therapist, but I feel really strange about devoting a great deal of time to the appearance of an item that's just going to end up in my stomach. Or maybe I'm just trying to find an excuse for the fact that my cakes tend to look as if they were frosted by a five year old who's wildly overshot her naptime.
6. Rolling pie crusts
My pie crusts taste delicious. My pie crusts look like patchy, wonky hell. I've sat down with books, spoken with pros, plunged my hands in bowls of ice water and thrown down so much flour it looked like Scarface had partied in my kitchen. Still, they rip.
Perhaps my dear, departed Grandma Kinsman is taking me to task for not having spent enough time learning the craft at her side. I'd regret that even if my pie crusts looked like Martha herself had borne them from pin to plate. For her, (Grandma, not Martha), I'll keep on rolling until I get it right.
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