Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tastes like Burning

I have been in the mood for jambalaya ever since I got back from New Orleans. The food that we had while on the trip was awesome, and I truly have missed putting creole seasoning on everything.

So I was so excited when I came across a jambalaya recipe on Budget Bytes, a new food blog that I found. I figured I could trust Beth's recipe, since she lives in New Orleans. And the focus of her blog is making delicious, but affordable meals, which was definitely a positive. Plus, Chris was willing to try it, since the recipe does not include shrimp. Seafood is not his thing. 

I was so excited to make it on Friday night, especially because it was cold and dreary out. Something warm and hearty was sure to hit the spot. 

Short version: The recipe was great. The cook was terrible. 

As I was cooking the trinity (onion, bell pepper, and celery), I stepped to the other side of the kitchen to open my can of tomato paste and prep the next ingredients to go in. Remember how they tell you to have everything ready to go ahead of time? Prepped, measured, etc.? Yeah, that is important. 

As I added the tomato paste,  and 2 cups of dry white rice to "toast," it became really smoky in the kitchen and I had a coughing attack. I stirred the pan to discover that some of the onions looked a bit burnt. I didn't think this would be too big of a deal, so I kept cooking. I figured that the next thing I was going to add was the water, so nothing else should burn up. I added the rest of the ingredients and let the mixture simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

I stirred the pot a few times, and noticed that it was still definitely smoky, but I couldn't figure out why. The rice was taking longer than I expected to soften, so I added a little bit of water and let it cook longer. I also opened all of the windows in the kitchen hoping to clear out some of the smoke, which spread throughout the house and was causing Chris to cough in the other room. 

Reluctantly, Chris agreed to come taste the jambalaya, and said, "It's okay, but you can taste the burn." Not a good sign. We ate our bowls, but he was right, the burnt taste was overwhelming. Definitely beyond the smoky flavor of the andouille. I didn't understand how it could taste so smoky though, when there were only a few burned onions. Thank goodness I also made pudding. The instant kind, which I couldn't burn.

When it came time to put the leftovers in a bowl and clean the pan, that's when I discovered the issue. Whatever had been burning on the bottom of the pan continued to burn when I added the rice, forming a thick 1/4 inch layer of black on the bottom of the pan. The few times that I had stirred the rice, everything looked fine, because my spoon was no longer going down to the base of the pot. Which basically meant that it was burning everything even further, and infusing the food with the taste of burn. Ick.

Even the stiff brush couldn't get all of the black crust off of the base of the pot, which was brand new. Awesome. I hate ruining new things. 

The recipe made 8 servings, meaning that we still had 6 servings of jambalaya left. I kept them, and ate some of the leftovers for lunch yesterday. Perhaps I hoped it would taste better the second time, but nope - still tastes like burning. I just hate throwing away food.

I will definitely try Beth's recipe again, next time using more care to prepare and measure everything ahead of time. And to pay attention the whole time. Definitely a fail on my part.      

What is your biggest cooking disaster? 

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