Friday, April 04, 2008

Common Sense Never Set In...

I have developed a new recipe that I have now made three times in the past week. It’s become such an indulgence, that last night Trina went out after a long day at work to get ingredients after having been home relaxing. I guess to say that I developed this recipe is not all together accurate. I guess I just got motivated to put it all together. This tasty treat is loaded-down fries.

It’s pretty simple actually. Throw some salt and pepper on frozen fries, and into the over with them. 450 degrees until they’re almost crispy, then broil for a few minutes so none of them are soggy when it’s all said and done. Once they’re done, melt some mild cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Drizzle some Ranch dressing on top, and crush some crispy bacon on top. Nothing particularly difficult there. So why is this concoction worth of a blog? That has something to do with the first time I considered making them at home.

The plan was to do the whole thing from scratch, which would include making the fries. I pulled up several recipes online about how to make them, which sounds obvious enough, but we don’t have a deep fryer. Not to be outdone by the situation, I looked at the alternative methods for cooking them in oil in a stockpot right on the oven. I knew this could be a potentially messy affair, but I was willing to risk it.

And at no point did common sense set it…

I went to the store to get what would be needed. Anyone out there know how much oil fries require to cook? I’m not exactly sure what the amount is, but it’s probably a few cups at most. Totally unaware of this situation, I figured I better get a little extra incase I screw up once or twice trying to figure out the timing. By the way, any mistake involving oil is going to be messy, so keep that in mind in your future cooking exploits. But in my infinite wisdom, I figured 2 gallons of oil oughta do it. Unless you cook A LOT you have no concept of how much oil 2 gallons actually is, nor how long it will take to use it.

And at no point did common sense set in…

I went home at that point, thrilled with the prospect of things to come. I cut my potatoes and started warming the oil to what I assumed might be a decent temperature. No thermometer to be found mind you, I had it all figured out. About the time that the way-too-much amount of oil in the pot got way too hot, I figured it was time to have a go. When oil is smoking, it’s too hot for anything, by the way.

And at no point did common sense set it…

Too dark, too light, golden brown but raw in the middle. I just couldn’t figure out what the best combination of circumstances was going to be to make this thing work. It was at this point that a shrill sound coupled with my dog barking forced common sense to set it. The oil was smoking so badly that I had set off the smoke alarm, clouded the kitchen (and dining room, and living room, and part of the hallway), and everything was getting messy in the kitchen.

I had no choice but to concede defeat. I turned off the stove, let the oil cool, opened the doors and windows, and sat in utter frustration. Having made new recipes in the forms of tuna tartare, banana’s foster, crab-stuffed mushrooms, and potato and leek soup in the past 2 months, I now sat bested by a potato.

I’ve been to gun shy to try again with the fries from scratch and all. It’s probably better that way to be honest. It just never occurred to me that making fries would be so complicated, and surely an amateur chef of my experience could swing it. But as I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I have received a fair amount of knowledge and inspiration from various celebrity chefs, Rocco DiSpirito among them. His philosophy is that shortcuts are not bad things. Using premade purees, pastes, food processors, or in this case, frozen fries requires chefs to spend less time in the kitchen, affording them more time enjoying their creations with the people for whom they cooked. That generally is the point, after all.

So take a page from the books of the pros. Allow for the simplest idea to be the right one, even if it feels too simple to make sense. Otherwise you may fall victim to a pain-in-the-ass scenario where common sense just never set in.


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