Mistakes can be blessings in disguise

May 31

So I’m sure all of us can attest to having made boo boos in the kitchen. My latest one involved a traditional Spanish dessert called Creme Catalana. I’ve made creme brulee a million times and so I wasn’t worried about tackling this particular dessert. How hard could it be right?? Wrong. The dessert is basically a recipe for a vanilla custard that, like creme brulee, sets and then the top is bruleed with sugar to create a contrast between creamy and cruncy. Delicious. Well, I did the recipe by the book, tempering the egg yolks properly, straining out any cooked bits of milk and egg and then chilling overnight. Well, next morning I went to look at them to see if they were set and ready to go and what do you know, they were just as liquidy as when I first stuck them in the fridge.

Needless to say, I didn’t have time to try it again so I racked my brains to figure out how I could fix them. Only thing I could think of was to stick them in the freezer and see if that would solve the problem. So I transferred them to the freezer and a couple of hours later, sure enough, they were set. I put them back into the fridge and then went on with my day of cooking and cleaning. At about 3pm, 3 hours before dinner, I happened to look in the fridge and noticed that not only had they thawed, but were right back to being liquidy again. Shoot. Now what??

Soooo, I put them right back in the freezer and let them set up again. Now I had to come up with a second alternative plan. My solution was to sell it as a new concept, frozen creme brulee. I wasn’t 100% sure this would fly but at this point I had to try. Went forward with the meal. Started off with Goat Cheese and Tapenade Stuffed Tomatoes, Mixed Greens with a Chopped Vegetable and Olive Salad, Paella and the grand finale, the special Cinnamon, Vanilla and Orange Blossom Frozen Creme Brulee. Sounded fancy huh?? I pulled the frozen custards out, which by this point were like ice cream, and let them sit at room temperature for like 10 minutes just to take the chill off a bit. Then I sprinkled the tops with sugar and caramelized the sugar with my blow torch, just like I always do with creme brulee.

Then I thought to myself, “Well, here goes nothing.” Off we went, presented the specialty gourmet dessert to our guests and then I went and hid in the kitchen, awaiting the response. The response was a bunch of empty ramekins and a lot of “that was the most unique dessert I have ever eaten.” Phew, disaster averted and possibly new menu item added to existing repertoire. Now, question is if I can recreate the disaster cum blessing in disguise. Point is, think quick. Be creative. You never know why things happen the way they do, but I’m a firm believer in karma and also in the concept that sometimes the best things in life come out of what at the time can be perceived of as something awful. I always say to my students, what’s the worst thing that can happen in the kitchen? You don’t like something and you try again. Big deal. But if you never tried to begin with, you’ll never know the pleasure of the experience of both making and eating good food.

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