Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dirty Little Secrets Version 2.0 : I can't make grilled cheese

 Why would I tell you this? Because I don't want you to confuse me with a certain person whose name rhymes with Blartha Blewart. I'm a good cook - you wouldn't keep coming back for my recipes if I weren't - but I suck at a lot of things. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen my cookie confession over the holidays (more on that later). It's so odd, all the things I'm bad at are really simple things that most people can do blindfolded. Like make a grilled cheese sammich.

I can roll sushi. I can break down a chicken in under 3 minutes. I can turn melted sugar and cream into magical candy goodness. I can make butter-poached salmon that would make you weep. But I can't make a grilled cheese sammich. Or chocolate chip cookies. OR plain rice on the stove.

Sad but true, I am a victim of gadgetry. I can't make a grilled cheese in a pan because when I was a child, other people did it for me. When I got older, a little thing called a George Foreman grill came into my life and I used that to make what we all now know as "Panini." Then my Nana (the one that DOESN'T cook) gave me this:
I'm not showing you the inside because I'm not in the mood to clean it...

It makes perfect little triangles, with toasty brown outsides and gooey insides. If I attempt to do that with a spatula and a frying pan, the results are either burnt yet cold in the middle or a soggy mess. I have accepted the fact that I cannot make grilled cheese, and must rely on machines or other people to do it for me.

Note: try putting some Sriracha on your grilled cheese - whether you make it in a pan or a machine. You will thank me, assuming you like fiery hot Asian sauces. It's also fantastic on pizza. And in chicken noodle soup. Confession: I put it on everything. Maybe that will be Dirty Little Secrets Version 3.0 ...

While we're talking about machines that do things for me and fiery Asian sauces, lets talk about my inability to cook rice on a stove-top. Once upon a time I was capable of this simple task. Like anyone raised in the Lowcountry, or most parts of asia, I eat a lot of rice. A LOT. I used to cook it quite often, usually with success.

Then I moved to Japan and discovered a fantastic little thing called a rice cooker.

Say hello to my little friend. No, not the bottle of bourbon in the background, the rice cooker.

"You mean you just put it in there and push a button and it comes out perfect every time?!?! No boil overs? No adjusting of temperatures? I'll take three of them!!!"

That was ten years ago and I haven't done plain rice right on the stove since. Now don't get me wrong - I can cook a mean pilaf or perloo or whatnot. That's different. It's the plain stuff that kicks my fanny every time. If it were up to me, no one in America would be subjected to the torture that is cooking white rice on the stove - every home should have a rice cooker.

On to the Cookie Fail... This embarrasses me almost as much as the grilled cheese (which I am now craving, thanks to typing it over and over)


At least I could make rice at one point in my life. I have never, EVER, made a chocolate chip cookie worth it's weight in dough. They always come out looking like they dropped from the wrong end of a cow. Assuming they come off the pan at all, as seen in the above photo. The scraps and scrapings are usually edible, but they are ALWAYS ugly. And I don't understand it. I took Baking 101, and although my teacher was a bit of a tool and we all had to hit the bar before and/or after class to tolerate him, we managed to turn out good cookies. Every Christmas I bake like a crazy person and turn out bar cookies and crackers and candies that are divine. I can make a baguette that would make you want to run out, find a Frenchman, and hit him upside the head with it, but I can't make a stupid cookie. Even my 7 year old daughter knows my cookies look like bovine feces, so we stick to making marshmallows together. (So much fun, by the way - try it if you have a stand mixer!)

There you have it. A few of my culinary weaknesses. I also always overcook white fish, and although my baguettes are pretty pimp, my brioche would make a Frenchman want to hit me upside the head. Fudge confuses me, and I have yet to master pound cake (I know, I'm a bad southerner). But all those failures and things I can't do are what make cooking so much fun. Sure, they result in me throwing a fit of epic proportions, but they also show me that with food, you can never stop learning.

No matter how many cookbooks you read, blogs you visit, recipes you come up with, you will never know it all or be good at it all. I love discovering things in the kitchen, and I get as excited as an 11 year old at a Justin Bieber concert when I learn something new about food. That's why I write this blog - because I can't keep it to myself. I love to share my discoveries with everyone else, and I love teaching other people how to cook things. I also love being honest about my failures, because for all you may learn from visiting my world, I'm still learning too. I hope you like the food that I am good at, and I hope you keep coming back for more. Just know that you will never see chocolate chip cookies on this site. Go ask Blartha for that one.


  1. Enjoyed it....thanks--
    love your style of writing....not just saying that cause were related :)

    The earring lady.

  2. This is HYSTERICAL!!!! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!