Monday, August 18, 2008

August 16, 2008: Disaster dinner

Lest you think that it's all virtuous breakfasts, golden vegetables and effortless treats in our kitchen, let me tell you about our latest cooking failure. For some time I've been wanting to try making my own gnocchi. Keen to enjoy it while the weather's still cool, Michael and I used a spare Saturday to pick out a recipe, buy a cheap potato ricer and some groceries on Sydney Rd and set to work. Along the way we decided to invite my aunt Carol to share dinner with us - it's been a while since we last had a meal with her.

This was a team task, and Michael and I worked together well enough. We got started long before Carol was due to arrive but the hour-long baking that the potatoes required set us back. We'd chatted and prepped and drank for a good hour with Carol before we had the little pillows pictured above, ready for cooking. Sadly, cooking transformed them into this:

We called for pizza.

Pathetic as out not-cchi were, Michael and I weren't too embarrassed. Carol takes great pleasure in food but doesn't bother herself much with cooking at all. Our efforts were impressive enough, and the pizza we eventually ate was happily washed down with a glass of red.

Dessert was my chance to make amends - I'd chosen another hearty dish that I wanted to try before winter ended. The Amish apple dumpling (as interpreted by Kurma Dasa): a whole apple wrapped in homemade pastry and baked with a caramel sauce. With the pastry prepared in the early afternoon, they didn't require too much extra effort and looked rather cute. Here they are, about to go into the oven:

As they baked, I wondered aloud whether I was supposed to have peeled the apples. Yes, actually, confirmed the cookbook. This is probably why:

Scandalously disrobed as they were, these apple dumplings proved to be entirely edible. The fruit (including the skin!) was warm and tender, the pastry golden with scrumptious caramel edges. Phew! A night for humility but not despair.

Though our gnocchi were terrible, the thyme vinaigrette and lemon cashew cream we'd prepared to eat with them were sensational spooned over tagliatelle the following night. We'll be back for more!


  1. Cindy, hahaha this post made me laugh. Virtuous breakfasts, that's a funny term.

    I remember when I made apple pie for the first time and didn't peel the apples too. The results was a very very ugly colour and look.

    Failures are just another step towards getting it right. Mellie has a recipe for gnocchi on her blog, you can check that out.

  2. commiserations but it is nice to cook for an easy going type on these occasions - I bet you will look back and laugh about this dinner

    hope you get back up on the gnocchi horse - although I think I prefer baked gnocchi for exactly this reason

  3. LOL. I love reading about cooking successes and failures. Makes me feel a lot more human!

  4. Thanh, it's a good reminder not to take ourselves (or our cooking) too seriously! I totally forgot about Mellie's post on gnocchi but have now chased it up and bookmarked it for next time. :-)

    Johanna, I knew you had a few gnocchi posts but didn't remember that any of them were baked! That does seem worth a shot.

    Mallika, I wouldn't want anyone thinking ours is one of those serene kitchens out of a glossy magazine! It's definitely a site of messes, cursing and a few duds as well as drinks, laughs, and food you'd willingly serve to company. :-)

  5. Ive had that same disaster in my early gnochhi days. Love the sauce you made though and the apples look yummy (despite the disrobing)

  6. If even you, the consummate planner of elaborate dinner parties, has made this gnocchi mistake then I feel a lot better - thanks, Dani! The apples were great, I plan to blog the recipe once I work out how to keep their clothes on. :-)

  7. Good work, trying out making gnocchi! On many an occasion I've read a recipe and thought, 'really, how hard could it be?', but have heard enough didn't-work-out stories to know it can be harder than it looks! That's why I respect you guys for recognising that the fact it mightn't work is a pretty poor reason for not trying out a recipe :)

  8. Thanks for the encouragement, FoodieFi. :-) I have read plenty of gnocchi recipes that warn it can be difficult, but then this one had nice pictures of the process and I similarly thought, "How hard can it be?" Hard enough to require a little practice, I guess. :-D