Friday, October 24, 2008

Alas and Alack: The CHG Hall of Shame

(Before getting to today’s article, I have to mention this: I was standing less than two feet from Tom Hanks at a restaurant last night. On the outside, I was all laid-back and cool. On the inside, I metaphorically wet my pants.)

Between CHG and a new column on Serious Eats, I’m attempting to come up with three inexpensive, nutritious, culinarily sound dishes every seven days. Most weeks, out of five new-to-me meals, I can pick the best three and throw ‘em up on the ‘net. (NOTE TO SELF: Avoid phrase “throw ‘em up” when referring to delicious food.) Sometimes, I even get lucky: all five meals are great, and I can bank two for future posts.

Other times, like this week, everything tanks. (This is my clever way of saying, “I got nothing.”)

But! There's a bright side to this: I can show you a vast selection of recently-prepared dishes that blew the big one, and then tell you exactly why they sucked. What's more, this exercise lets you, the reader, know I don't post about everything I cook. A dish has to be halfway decent, or it doesn't go up.

So, without further ado ... BEHOLD! The duds!

Chayotes Relleno from Food Network
Chayotes are small, jade-hued, fantastically inexpensive squashes found mostly in Latin cuisine. They taste kind of like a cucumber mated with a honeydew, but less sweet and more … well, squashy. This was the first time I had ever tried them, and while I liked the vegetable itself, the dish was a lemon. First off, it took almost two hours to make. That’s not the food’s fault, but mine - I underestimated by almost 60 minutes, and was gnawing on The Boyfriend’s arm by the time it was finally ready. Second, it did funny things to my stomach. Not funny in a “Ha!” way, either.

Eggplant Steaks from Alton Brown
Great googly moogly, does it ever pain me to write this. Alton is the famous equivalent of my beloved 9th grade biology teacher Mr. G, who made me give a flying crap about cell walls. Alas, the steaks were too thick, the cooking time was off, and the marinade didn’t really do much. A big bummer.

Honey Peanut Butter Banana Muffins from the Weight Watchers Boards
Sure, the name reads like Elvis’ greatest fantasy (beyond a limo made entirely of shag carpet), but even the King would have disapproved of these dry, dang near flavorless concoctions.
Q: How can a creation with the words “honey,” “peanut butter,” and “banana” possibly fail?
A: When they blend so seamlessly you can’t taste ANYTHING.

French Toast-Peach Cobbler from Cooking Light
Oh man, I had such high hopes for this one. And while it was borderline acceptable, there are much better things to do with peaches. *Sigh*

Rum-Glazed Banana Tartlets from Martha Stewart
Step 1: pound bread into oblivion.
Step 2: burn rum sauce until it becomes ashy, gasoline-flavored muck.
Step 3: get banana all over hoodie.
Step 4: assemble, eat, and repeat the phrase “meh” at least 50 times.
(In this dish’s defense, I think the badness was mostly my fault.)

Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Peanuts from Martha Stewart
Let it be known that leftover pasta lasts approximately 30 seconds in our refrigerator. If given a choice between filet mignon prepared for me by a shirtless Olivier Martinez, or day-old capellini … well, I’d go with the first one. But the pasta would be a close second. Anyway – back to my point: this was gross. We made it, tried it, and didn’t touch it again. It descended into Moldville before I finally sacked up and tossed it.

Corn Flake-Coated Chicken from I Can’t Remember
Last week, while shopping for shoes with The Boyfriend’s mom, we spotted a hair shoe: a low-heeled Mary Jane covered entirely in short, poop-brown stubble. While I didn’t lick it, I imagine it would have tasted like this chicken.

Readers, how about you? Have there been any recipes you really, really wanted to like, only to have them come out tasting like tree bark? (Do tell, and I promise to have a halfway decent recipe up soon.)


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