Saturday, December 3, 2011

Kitchen fail

Everything was simmering away on the stove, but our hopes were not high. It looked lovely but all we could smell was the cloves. It really was not a good sign. With an hour to go we were not holding out hope that the flavor would improve.

It is not often that I attempt something in the kitchen and come out disappointed. I am a good enough cook that I can normally salvage anything that is going downhill. I also know mine and the husbeasts pallets well enough to choose menu items we should enjoy even if they are new to us. I am not perfect.

With my teeth still a little sensitive from Thursdays marathon visit, and the weather turning cold and rainy, I decided that this would be an excellent weekend for a big hardy meal. I pondered through my well versed collection of soups and stews searching for something that would satisfy us all weekend long.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I didn't have to do something tried and true. I could do something different. I could be adventurous. I love taking adventures in my own kitchen. I was already planning on having craft adventures, why not food adventures as well.

I turned to Facebook and posed the question to my friends; what can I cook that will last all weekend, is warm, soft, hardy, and does not involve a crockpot* or beans**. I got a lot of things tossed around that were already in my culinary arsenal. Then one friend suggested making a posole.

I had never even heard of posole before. A quick google showed me it was a Mexican soup, and my friend was even so kind as to link me to a simple but tasty recipe. I might at this point should have remembered this friend and I don't have compatible pallets. Still reading the recipe it sounded good and I decided to give it a try.

The husbeast started the process, simmering the pork shoulder in all the fragrant spices. It was smelling and looking wonderful. We put the onions and garlic in to saute and were very pleased with the way the aromatics filled the kitchen with smells that promised a wonderful meal ahead. At this point we started adding the last of the spices.

When we got to the cloves we both frowned. It wasn't that we were surprised to see cloves in the recipe, just not that much of the spice. Making a quick decision the husbeast only applied half the amount that was called for, and we were both almost immediately regretful we had added any. The smell was overpowering. The lovely scent of onion and garlic was completely consumed by the almost sickeningly sweet clove.

At this point we should have dumped the onions out and just chopped another one starting this step over. Always trust your instincts in the kitchen people. We didn't follow that instinct and instead decided to trust the recipe. Foolish mortals are we.

Finally the time came to taste it, and our fears were realized. The flavor of clove was so overwhelming that the husbeast could not eat it. This was a disaster. Quickly I tried to think what to do to salvage it. I pulled out my trusty salt and a handful of fresh cilantro and began to try and cut through that awful sweet flavor. It was a vain effort I was sure, but I would be damned if I was going to give up that easily. Another 45 minutes to simmer in hopes the fixes worked.

At this point we actually ladled out a few bowls. The decision was if it was inedible still we would just order pizza. Now somewhere I had read that adding lemon slices to the posole made it really good. I figured nothing could make it worse at this point, so we each pretty much squeezed half of a lemon into the soup.

Surprisingly the lemon helped. Somewhere between the salt, the cilantro, and the lemon, it cut the clove flavor enough that we could eat it. It still had a mild clove like after taste, but it was at least edible. Small steps.

Unfortunately this was about the time I realized that hominy is not my friend. I like fried hominy so it didn't occur to me that I wouldn't enjoy it in this manner. I found very quickly that hominy boiled in soup is pretty much just like having beans in it. Considering I hat beans this was not a good development.

In the end dinner was not a win. It definitely goes into the fail column. We are however not that easily discouraged, or are huge culinary masochists. We have decided to try posole again. In the future when we make it we will leave the cloves out all together, add a little more cilantro in at the beginning and substitute the hominy for rice.

No it won't be a classic posole, and perhaps we are just not the type who would enjoy such a dish. We are however the types that will deconstruct something that doesn't work and reinvent it in a fashion that we find enjoyable.

*The husbeast had bad experiences growing up involving a crockpot. Namely his step father had no teeth and would cook everything in the crockpot until it was liquified. He once drank a steak through a straw.

**I don't enjoy beans. It is a texture issue.

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