Skip to comments.What's Your Biggest Holiday Cooking Screw-Up (And How Did You Fix It)?
Posted on 12/19/2012 11:47:18 PM PST by nickcarraway
Holiday cooking catastrophes are nothing new, but when you're in the restaurant business, they can be doubly disastrous.
See also: - Chefs, What's on Your Holiday Wish List This Year? and What's Your Most Horrifying Kitchen Accident Story?
This week, Valley chefs and restaurateurs share their holiday cooking horror stories and let us know how they recovered from them.
Chef Taylor Domet, North, Kierland Fire years ago, I was working at a resort restaurant and let my executive chef help me with a Christmas event -- a plated dinner for 120 people. He said, "I'll take care of the chickens." Ten minutes before plating, he left for the night and I assumed he did what he said. The first five plates we sent out came back with undercooked chicken. It was almost a disaster. We managed to bring the chickens up to temperature and execute by the skin of our teeth! Lesson: Always double-check your misé en placé -- even if the executive chef prepped it himself!
Silvana Salcido Esparza, Chef and Owner, Barrio Cafe and Barrio Queen My biggest cooking screw-up was Christmas 1991. I was starting a new catering project, and it was my first paying gig. My staff was on site, but I got stuck at a train crossing and I had the food. I got there 15 minutes late and the host had already ordered Domino's. My staff and I went home, with hundreds of dollars worth of shrimp and finger foods, and had our own party. The following day, I signed up for culinary school in Scottsdale. To this day, I have a phobia about being late for catered events.
(Excerpt) Read more at blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com ...
My Mom made peach pies for me and the boy once to show her love at Christmas.
We awoke to such a clatter we said what the ****’s the matter?
We kinda peeked though the door and there she wa at 5 AM cussin and fussin and chipping at burnt sugar syrup on the bottom of the oven.
We said whats up? and she cussed and chipped at it and said she made it for us.
We acknowledged her effort, gave her a hug and salvaged the pies, which were quite tasty.
I don’t cook.
Well, have you ever chosen someone else to cook, and realized you made a mistake?
No, but I did make a mistake eating something that my sister cooked once.
1980 I shot a goose. Decided it was Christmas dinner, got a recipe for it, thawed it out and put the ingredients with it and placed it in the oven. Wife had invited twelve of her relatives and I had six relatives and two good friends coming over. wife and I left to get liquor, snacks and little gifts. Came back and while unloading the car I sniffed and said someone’s sewer backed up in the block. We opened the door and I gagged, ran to the oven and when I opened it the smell of rancid fish/ sewer made me almost puke. I threw the bird into the backyard and opened all the windows in the house (During a 12” snowfall). Found out later that my bird had been eating fish mostly (we lived on Lake Erie) and NEVER kill a goose if there are no big grain fields nearby. Called Domino’s for eight Pizzas. Good thing I was well stocked for liquor.
Then, I discovered brining.
And The Culinary Heavens Opened And Blessed Me.
How did I fix it? I had just mopped the floor that morning so I scooped it all up, put it back in the dish and served it.
home made lamb and feta cheese ravioli with home made sauce - plated for serving, turned quickly - spilled entire contents on floor - several hours worth of work destroyed
it's so easy even a caveman can do it, if he had a pot-or-pan and fire, so I'm not bragging or anything...
I catered as well (bbq on site) - didnt you use contracts? - i got 50% up front and allowed 100% refund up to one week before hand - after that - if they cancelled, they bought the groceries. Never had a cancelation
That said - try smoked bbq on a tow behind smoker in 98 degree heat on asphalt / no breeze - I got heat stroke 5x that year, and was seriously concerned about a heart attack
I still would rather be doing that - I love cooking
Dad pulled a similar stunt when we were kids - they shot a bunch of ducks and cooked a couple one night - come to find out they had been at the nearby sewage treatment outflow into Lake Ontario....I dont think he hunted much after that
oh yeah - and once - i had a large crock pot with a removable stoneware liner - the electric base was broken so I made baked beans and placed the stoneware in the oven - after about an hour there was a lot of smoke in the house - the stoneware had broken in two and 2 gallons of beans were on the oven tray
I guarantee I NEVER shot another goose again and gave up duck the year after. I did shoot a bear about two miles or more from the area dump, and I got a whiff of the thing while dressing and didn’t chance eating it. Gave it to a buddy who ate the meat and said it was “Interesting.” I translated that as ‘I don’t know if I don’t like bear meat or I didn’t know how to cook it’.
At Thanksgiving dinner, I popped a bottle of champagne.
The cork shattered parts of the chandelier over the table. Tally one entire dinner ruined by shards of glass. Oops.
My friends dad put a canned ham in the oven. Unopened. Said on the can “Heat and Eat”. Blew the door off the oven and there was hot ham all over the kitchen. It melted the carpet!
Nobody was in the kitchen at the time......
The fix? New carpet, paint and oven.....
...let me count the ways.
You need to pen up wild birds before the holidays and feed them on grains (or whatever). Same I think with other small wild animals that are edible.
THE NIGHT OF THE CHRISTMAS EVE GUMMY PASTA
My In-Laws gave my wife and I a pasta maker. A novelty item to be sure, but I was intrigued with it and began playing around with it.
After a while, I got pretty good, I could get the consistency just right...I was able to make batches of excellent fresh pasta, ziti, linguini, fettucine. I would put portions in zip locks and when I wanted some, I could just pull it out and have fresh pasta!
My in laws are Italian, they used to do the whole “7 fishes” thing (to the extreme) so I offered to make the main course of fresh pasta...my father-in-law, the Italian guy he is, would make the sauce, and good sauce it was. I was really going to impress my in-laws. This was a big deal...they were entrusting me, someone who was only 1/4 Italian, to make the pasta for the anchovy pasta.
The night before, I worked for several hours making enough pasta to feed 20 people. I carefully laid it out, placed it gently in zip-locks and placed it in the freezer.
Then next day, I came over with all that pasta. My In-laws have the biggest pasta pot you can imagine...it must be 25 gallons (in reality...maybe 10 I am guessing...:) so the thing took a frikking hour and a half to boil (or so it seemed)
When the water is boiling, I start throwing the pasta in, but...something ain’t quite right. It isn’t separating normally and is kind of...sticking together in great big huge ziplock sized globs.
Apparently, my clever little scheme didn’t scale up well, and the weight of the pasta on itself in the bags just pressed it all together.
Well...they had a good laugh at that, and my father in law mentioned he had boxes of pasta in the cellar (doesn’t everybody?) So...we dumped out the pot, threw away all that homemade pasta, refilled the pot and started heating the water again. An hour and a half later (again, so it seemed) the water was boiling, so I rip the top off the boxes and pour the pasta in.
I am watching it cook, dutifully stirring it, and I see all these little black specks and think “Hey...I didn’t put any pepper in there...”
And then I realized the pasta had been infested by weevils.
They still talk about that night in her family...
Hahahahahaha! That’s great! You just can’t make that up!
sorry that one made me laugh!
I am from the Deep South... but I attempted a nasty oyster stuffing for my family. I pulled it out of the oven, put it on the counter.. the Pyrex shattered from the sudden temp change. Who knew Pyrex would do that??? Fortunately I already prepared a large pan of my Cornbread Dressing for myself because I had not intention of eating oyster stuffing. The fix was sharing my famous cornbread dressing with family. Fortunately my kids have some Southern DNA. If you are wondering what the difference between stuffing and dressing is... don’t ask. It’s a Southern thang.
i had bear meat once - at a guide camp in Maine....with the most racist guide/person ive ever met (another story perhaps)....found it greasy and it made for an interesting next day in the woods....it should suffice to say I came back without a t shirt as i had to tear it up into strips and “use” it
a staple for Christmas eve
Our kitchen isn’t outfitted with all the extras. One Thanksgiving, I fixed turkey and dressing from scratch. It was in a glass oven dish (first mistake). I placed it on top of the woodstove, then later moved it onto the wooden butcher block. It exploded all over the kitchen, and we were severely limited on the dinner we served the guests. Husband had BAKED a country ham, which didn’t work; it was tough as whitleather. - Husband’s brother announced that very day that they would “be staying home for holidays from then on”; then gave an excuse for it instead of the truth - which was “this is the cruddiest Thanksgiving meal I’ve ever had!” - I couldn’t fix it as there was glass all through the dressing.
I was 18, away at college, and having my first-ever Thanksgiving away from home. Several frosh buddies and I decided to cook a Thanksgiving feast — how hard could it be? We’d all seen our Moms do it many times.
I thought it would be great to have homemade bread, so I whipped up the dough, popped it into the pan and shoved it in the preheated oven. 45 minutes later out came this glob of a mess in the pan — I didn’t know what “letting it rise” meant. The rest of the meal was actually pretty good.
We barbeque our turkey on the Weber charcoal grill every year and use my Mom’s bread and sausage stuffing recipe. Her “secret” is to moisten the stuffing with the water used to boil the giblets. Turkey always comes out perfectly cooked with crispy golden-brown skin. The Weber is really fool-proof and highly recommended (plus no danger of a huge kettle of oil catching on fire). Just use the indirect method and fill up the charcoal once an hour.
When we were pretty sure that the giblets were cooked, we opened up the pressure relief valve and waited until no more pressure was released. We also placed the cooker under cold, running water to cool it down. We were sure that the pressure had all been released, but the lid wouldn't twist the one inch it needed to twist in order to open. It had to be broken or something.
After about 10 minutes of struggling, I finally realized that I could probably take a screwdriver, wedge it between the top and bottom handles, and pry them apart horizontally to twist the lid open.
You can guess the rest.
Something had clogged the pressure valve to keep air from escaping. Once the lid twisted far enough, the remaining pressure threw the lid across the room and spewed scalding water and giblet chunks all over the kitchen. I got burned a bit (nothing serious) and we were cleaning turkey parts off of the ceiling and from every crack and crevice in the kitchen for the next week.
Learned from similar experience.
Honestly, i am rolling on the floor and ROARING at these stories on this thread! i’d have blown my brains out had any single one of them happened to me!
A friend of mine was officiating at a Scottish gathering and he was to open the first bottle of champaign for the evening. Dressed in full kilt, doublet, festooned with sgian dubh, dirks and steel flintlock pistols. He pulled out his two handed broad sword and swung it with the intention of cutting the neck off with the sword in a grand manner. The bottle went into the air, shattered on the floor and bathe some of the meerymakers in Dom Perignon. People laughing so hard they were holding each other up.
And that is how the Scots celebrate in Texas.
Thanks for all the dinner invites but I am very busy for the rest of the year! lmao
Your story has to be the winner of this thread! Oh my gosh I never thought about a champagne cork hitting the chandelier. lol
God did NOT want you all to have pasta that night! lol
My ex girlfriend (wonder why she's an ex?) decided she was going to be nice and make me some sugar cookies. To do this, she, of course, needed 3 cups of baking power and 2 tbls of flour.
Yes...you read that right...3 CUPS of baking powder and 2 tbsp of flour. She mixed up the recipe...had to go out and buy something like 12 cans of clabber girl...and it never donned on her that something was wrong. Imagine my surprise when I bit into her nice deed.
Initially...you could taste the butter and for about 1/2 second...it was "interesting'...then the baking powder taste hit me. That was 20 years ago and where I was and my reaction is etched upon my mind. She had the nerve to get mad at me because I didn't like it.
Any stories you can share?
After the initial shock, the women rallied. The able ones flocked into the kitchen to clean the considerable greasy dripping extended all over the floor. The intact turkey was rescued from where it had slithered and was put on the big wooden cutting board for the required "rest" before slicing.
My mom, an excellent cook, was able to swiftly make considerable and delicious gravy from the browned pieces in the bottom of the pan.
Within twenty minutes or so the beautiful turkey was grandly placed on the festive table, the savory gravy was in the gravy boat, the prayer was said, the bird was sliced, the feast began....and the menfolk and the older aunts who had been sitting in the living room were never aware of the extent of the near-catastrophe in the kitchen.
As an aside, I might mention that today's turkeys are bred to have huge (and lean) white meat breasts. The bird is now like one big breast. Therefore, there's nowhere near the huge amount of drippings and scrapings after roasting as was the case in yesteryear. This is also the case with other fowl and meats today due to "leaness" being all the rage....very little drippings and pan crusties after roasting.
Moral of this Thanksgiving saga.......always have a couple jars of store-bought gravy on hand for holiday emergencies. It could happen to you.
Shot a bear in Alaska and it had dark blue colored meat. It ate blueberries. Was so excellent I hunted bear in PA and got one from the city dump. Big difference. I’d like to buy a bear and turn him into a blueberry eater, cause the taste was so different. It all depends on what they eat and how you cook it.
LOL...I think if you are a certain type of Italian it is, but for many people, they go "Eeeeew!"
I am not a big fan of it, but my Italian-Armenian mother used to make it and my siblings all liked it. I kind of picked at it, but it didn't make me gag. I just didn't have much enthusiasm for it.
I made it for my wife one time, who adores it, and she told me that's how she KNEW I loved her!
I had bear meat once...didn’t taste bad at all, but you are right, boy, was it ever greasy!
Thank your God you don’t live my life. Sometime I’ll tell you about me, the cat, the fish I was dressing and the homeless guy.
blueberries? - blue meat? - cool - now if we can just get them to baste themselves in wine beforehand
of course Im into tripe and squid too - both excellent if prepared properly
GASP!... so do I, Kraft has a pretty good one... LOLOLOL
There are many wonderful traditions that Modernized, American Italians’, (meaning the setting aside of Slaughtering of a farm animal on the backyard patio,(rolling eyes)) that are still observed on various Holidays, almost all of which pertain to food..
One that is still common, having a religious cogitation, is the eating of seven different fish and seafood, on Christmas Eve.. However, that too has been somewhat modified.. The boiling of live Octopus, and Eel, has met with some growing resistance in recent years.. Ha!
We still observe a few of the more widely, and socially acceptable, traditional entrees, deserts, and appetizers on our Holiday fare.. A somewhat unique Lasagna, and/or, Ravioli are always present in the feast.. Snails, and Squid are still favorites among my brood.. Side dishes, Italian hors d oeuvres, canapes, and finger-foods are in abundance, and add color and variety to the festivities..
See post #44... Seven fish on Christmas eve..
I’m just another Southern Italian/American, greaseball I guess.. LOL.. MERRY CHRISTMAS.. Carlo
My wife used to cook turkey in a paper bag in the oven. This is safe, since the turkey cooks at 350, and paper doesn’t burn until 451.
Except that one year, she stapled the bag shut.
The staples heated up, caught the bag on fire.
She yelled for me, and I opened the oven, and sprayed it with the fire extinguisher.
That’s when I learned that it’s best to use water if you want to eat things after they catch fire.
I began dating my wife in November the year I met her, and she invited me to Christmas Eve dinner with her family.
My grandmother was Italian, so the feast wasn’t a total surprise, but...I fell into the trap of feeling as though I had to eat everything put in front of me...out of politeness.
It damn near killed me. I was so distended, I really did feel like I was going to bust. It was so bad, I never made that mistake again. I politely but firmly refused the offers of more food in the future, and I never had that same kind of experience again.
Plus,there was a lot of food that wasn’t up my alley, yet I ate it to be polite. THAT was how much I loved the girl I had been dating just over a month...:)
You know I am an Italian, as was my first wife.. I’m assuming that your bride is an Italian, so you have my condolences.. You are on target about keeping your head when confronted with Italian hospitality, especially on the holidays..
The only way the food will stop coming is when you pass out, become rude, or pull a weapon.. That said, I miss the traditions, as bizarre as they often were.. Buon Natale!
Did you stuff the bird? A neighbor got a Weber and decided to do a stuffed turkey. The stuffing absorbed too much of the smoke to be palatable.
Turkey was fine, but it took forever, especially when "insulated" by the stuffing.
Try Maine. IIRC, the children's book Blueberries for Sal takes place in ME.
Both Sal and a bear cub are eating blueberries on the same hill, out of sight of their mothers...
Don't remember the rest, other than each are recovered by the correct mother for a happy ending.
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