Last week, the blogger (@cookingstudent) behind one of my favourite food blogs, Cooking School Confidential, posted a piece enumerating some of the kitchen disasters she has learned from. There is the forgotten pot that burned. There is the odd amalgam of ingredients that produced odd textures or flavours. There is the grease fire that caused thousands of dollars of damage. This, after posting dozens of kitchen tips.
Both resonate well with me as I believe cooking requires patience and giving oneself permission to fail, as much as to succeed. I feel the Food Network does food both a service and disservice with how easy its shows make cooking look. In the kitchen, I have no team behind me, no prepped mise, no second takes, no cooks to back me up. Do I want to see celebrity chefs fail? No, but there is something inherently honest about watching Julia Child, in black and white episodes of the French Chef, working through prep, dropping ingredients, and “muddling her way” through producing something edible from a dish that didn’t turn out. All, in the single take it seemed her ground-breaking cooking show used to be filmed.
Let’s face it, we allow ourselves a single take in the kitchen with our lives heavily caffeinated and our attentions spread thin. With the onslaught of manufacturers stocking supermarket shelves with “innovative” processed products that promise no cholesterol when the ingredient list includes no animal fats to “naturally raised meat” that promises no hormones when hormones have been banned in Canadian livestock for decades, it is a wonder our diets are at all different from the ones Jamie Oliver encountered when filming his “Food Revolution.” Teaching kids basic culinary skills is one thing. Teaching a generation to cook again is something else.
I am a novice cook who is forcing himself to develop instincts, where there were none. There is a reason one of the earliest categories I added to foodiePrints was “disastrousEats.” Like many novice cooks, I am learning to handle the frustration that comes with failing to accomplish something in the kitchen. And, I want to share my lessons learned.
My kitchen disasters include the forgotten pot that burned, the knife mishap (mine required stitches), and the poorly conceived and badly executed recipe (a particular one resulted in a size-able dental bill). The following disaster is similar to Oliver’s elementary kids not being able to identify their vegetables. I got the ingredient wrong when I attempted a former Ottawa food blogger’s recipe for a favourite dim sum dish, ginger and green onion tripe.
In this case, I bought the wrong cow’s stomach. Apparently, cows evolved four stomachs, each to accomplish something different with the grass they eat. Each is thus different.
I bought honeycomb tripe.
I followed the recipe, augmenting the blanching liquid with chile, garlic, and a dash of kosher salt.
What went wrong? Honey comb tripe is thick and traditionally long and slow cooked. After blanching and stirfrying the tripe as per the recipe, the tripe pieces were inedibly hard.
The recipe called for omasum, not honeycomb tripe. Omasum comes from the third stomach and is layered. Fast cooked, it becomes almost crispy.
I decided to place the inedible honey comb tripe into a pot with some sriracha, some beef broth, and braised it soft.
Now edible, it became dinner as I reconsidered the original recipe.
Firstly, we bought the right ingredient, omasum.
Again, we heated a pot of cold water on medium heat to a rolling boil, adding a few dried chiles and seasoning with kosher salt.
Meanwhile, we washed the beef omasum under cold water, halved them, and placed the halves in the boiling water for 20 minutes.
Afterward, the omasum halves were placed into a large bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking.
Then, it was cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces and spun dry in a salad spinner.
Finally, it was stirfried in canola oil, chopped green onion, and slivered ginger at high heat in well-seasoned a cast iron wok.
Now, omasum tripe can be served as it is at dim sum.
Or, given its crunchy texture and slightly spicy flavour, it goes very well with broad rice noodles, soup, and braised beef.