Let’s talk about fails

You ever go into a recipe super excited and super certain it’s going to be great, only to have the result be…underwhelming? Or even…awful?

I have more of the underwhelming-type fails than the awful-type fails (though let’s not speak of the time I tried to make a bûche de noël, known in this house as bûche de disaster), but they are still disappointing! I had one this week, but felt redeemed by a second attempt at a past fail – a bad fail, the kind where the result is inedible and you have to pinch-hit so you at least get to eat something.

I’ve written before about recipes from my book Keepers, which I received for Christmas a couple of years ago. The way I usually go with cookbooks is to get stuck on a few dishes and kinda forget the rest; so it has been with Keepers, in particular the Japanese meat and potatoes, coconut chicken curry, and sausage and white bean gratin. Once I made the London broil with chimichurri, which was good; I’ve also made the chicken pot pie (but wasn’t a huge fan).

I’m sad to report I was also not a huge fan of the chicken and rice with ginger-scallion sauce, otherwise known as Hainanese-style chicken and rice. The end result was “fine” but it was a lot of work for some pretty bland results. Once we added some sesame oil, soy sauce and plenty of the ginger-scallion sauce (that part, at least, was hella good) it was a mostly “okay” dish, but I wouldn’t beat a path to make it again.

What’s worse than cooking for an hour (or any amount of time, really) and ending up with something blah?!

Now for the bad fail: Earlier this year I tried to make Chrissy Teigen’s chicken pot pie soup and totally ruined it. It was salty enough to be absolutely inedible and I had to trash the whole pot (and it makes a lot of soup). I also managed to badly burn the pie crust “crackers,” which may have been a result of trying to use frozen pie crust as a shortcut. But also…maybe just don’t use pie crust? In my mind chicken pot pie has a flaky puff pastry lid, so do what I did and make puff pastry croutons, which we will discuss shortly.

To avoid making my salt mistake again, I ignored the recipe’s call for low-sodium chicken broth and used unsalted broth. Start from zero! You can always add salt, dummy (I said to myself). This worked very well and the seasoning wasn’t a problem. I also skipped stirring in the cup of heavy cream at the end…I really, truly don’t think you’ll miss it.

Now, for the croutons. I got this general idea from a recipe for puff pastry crackers, which sound very amazing indeed and which I will certainly make for some upcoming holiday occasion. I like the idea of these puffed croutons much better than the suggested crust crackers. which as I mentioned I’d ruined before and seem very dry and unappealing to me anyway (ruined or not).

Puff Pastry Croutons

Buy a box of frozen puff pastry sheets and thaw one per the directions (or both, I’m not here to judge you). Preheat the oven to 375.

Place the thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it out a bit. Move the pastry sheet to a parchment-covered sheet pan.

Lightly beat one egg and brush the top of the pastry with it; then use a pizza cutter to cut the pastry sheet into sixteen squares. Use the pizza cutter to carefully move the squares slightly apart from one another; about 1/4 inch should do.

If you wish, top the pastry with any or all of the following: coarse kosher salt, ground black pepper, everything bagel seasoning, or really anything you would like. (I used a garlic-and-pepper grinder we found at the farmer’s market.)

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the croutons are puffed and golden. After they cool, you can store them in an airtight container for a day or two. Eat them with your leftover soup! Or just by themselves.


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