What's Your Biggest Holiday Cooking Screw-Up (And How Did You Fix It)?
Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Miss a question? Go here.
Holiday cooking catastrophes are nothing new, but when you're in the restaurant business, they can be doubly disastrous.
© Aaron DuRall
This week, Valley chefs and restaurateurs share their holiday cooking horror stories and let us know how they recovered from them.
Five years ago, I was working at a resort restaurant and let my executive chef help me with a Christmas event -- a plated dinner for 120 people. He said, "I'll take care of the chickens." Ten minutes before plating, he left for the night and I assumed he did what he said. The first five plates we sent out came back with undercooked chicken. It was almost a disaster. We managed to bring the chickens up to temperature and execute by the skin of our teeth! Lesson: Always double-check your misé en placé -- even if the executive chef prepped it himself!
My biggest cooking screw-up was Christmas 1991. I was starting a new catering project, and it was my first paying gig. My staff was on site, but I got stuck at a train crossing and I had the food. I got there 15 minutes late and the host had already ordered Domino's. My staff and I went home, with hundreds of dollars worth of shrimp and finger foods, and had our own party. The following day, I signed up for culinary school in Scottsdale. To this day, I have a phobia about being late for catered events.
This year we brined the turkey in Dr Pepper, black sea salt, and brown sugar, resulting in a purple turkey. Yikes! We fixed the turkey by adding extra gravy to disguise the blooper.
The first time I cooked a holiday dinner for my family, I tried to replicate my grandmother's sweet potato and apples dish. It never came out right and I ended up making three separate trips to the grocery store to buy more stuff. Finally, I gave up and had my mom come over early to walk me through it.