If you're like me, you have at least one Disaster Dish in your past--a dish that sounds so good when you read about it that you think you just have to try it and, when you do, it turns out to be so completely awful that you toss it in the trash and whip together a pathetic turkey sandwich instead. And yet, a few months down the road, you decide to give it another go. And it's just a bad as the first time. And a few months later you think, "Maybe third time's the charm." But third time isn't the charm.
Unfortunately for me (or, to be more accurate, for my poor wife, who has to eat this stuff), I have quite a number of candidates in the running for my Disaster Dish.
Shepherd's Pie is one: ground beef, onions, and mashed potatoes cooked up together. How hard could it be? I try it religiously once a year, turning to a new recipe each time, and each one turns out pasty and tasteless and a complete loss. I even tried Pastisio, which I think means "Shepherd's Pie" in Greek, and it turned out to be the same horrid glop as the British version, albeit with a cinnamonny accent that didn't help things at all.
I absolutely love gnocchi and eat it at restaurants whenever I can because--to be honest--I simply cannot make it at home. I've read countless recipes, absorbed all the secret tips, and watched closely as television chefs turn out one flawless little potato pillows after another. In my kitchen I end up creating a sticky floury mess that coats every square inch of counter and boils to squishy mush in the pot.
Today I stumbled across another one: posole, a rich stew made from pork and hominy. This is a recipe I've been eager to tackle for quite some time, and when I noticed a big can of Mexican hominy in the grocery store the other day I decided to give it a shot. I made up a from-scratch chili sauce (using my tried-and-true recipe), then sauteed up some diced country-style pork ribs along with a little onion. Once the pork was well-browned, I simmered it for a good hour or more in the chili sauce and, upon tasting it, found it to be quite savory. So, I added in the hominy and the other ingredients and thirty minutes later--a sticky mess. So I let it go another half-hour, thinking the hominy needed time to soak up the chili sauce. Then another half hour. Finally I threw in the towel, picked out a few of the bigger pork bits and ate them, then dumped the rest of the mess down the In-Sink-Erator.
But this time I'm going to be smart. I'll leave posole to the pros and save my chili sauce for plain old chili. (Until next year at least!)