I wanted to write something about failure and trial and error.
What you’re looking at is the results of attempting to fry up a batch of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Falafel. On the left are the pre-shaped, chilled for over an hour, made to the exact specifications of the recipe falafel balls. On the right are the balls just after frying in the correct oil at the correct temperature. I watched in horror as they sort of frothed up and spun around in the oil, unraveling completely into a mess of burnt crumbs. The recipe itself, while specific, was not exactly labor intensive, so it wasn’t as big of a loss as, say, a deflated soufflé. But nobody likes to waste, so I decided to flatten the falafel into little patties and do a pan fry instead.
Well, that resulted in another burnt, green, greasy mess. So what to do? Well, if I was going to fail so fully I may as well take it all the way, right? So I took the remaining falafel, mixed the dough back together and added an egg and about 1/3 cup of flour. Chickpea flour would probably be perfect here, but of course I didn’t have any, so regular flour worked just fine. After a moment or two of hand mixing I plopped spoonfuls of the mixture into a pain with some hot oil and gently pressed them down. Voila! They began to crisp up and hold their shape, resulting in a falafel patty of sorts that still tasted just as vibrant and fresh as the usual shape.
Not all kitchen errors can be righted of course, but the point I mean to make here is that sometimes, even when you measure exactly, use your scale for weights, wait the right amount of time, and even test temperatures, things can literally fall apart. This wasn’t my only failing of the day, either! It was actually my third in less than a day. I also tried to make these caramelized saltine snacks, down to exacts and it failed miserably. Another loss turned rescue was this recipe for homemade pita that I somehow didn’t nail quite right either, despite using the weights suggested. I did all the wait times, kneading, misting with water and still ended up with un-puffed pita. It was still tasty, sure, but it wasn’t quite as light and pillowy as I hoped. So what to do? Pita chips of course.
What I mean to say is that even with cooking being a science, even with exacts and lots and lots of experience, things can go awry easily in the kitchen. I think it’s important to think on your feet and not be afraid to take risks, though! So many of the greatest things in life seem to be happy accidents, an accidental spilling of this into that, unusual applications on the usual things. So I hope if anything, if there’s a recipe out there that’s intimidating you - don’t be afraid to try and fail. You might end up with something even better as a result, and you’ll definitely learn along the way.
Now, for something that did work! This recipe for Smitten Kitchen’s ethereally smooth hummus, the sort that rivals what you get in restaurants and always wonder “how did they make this so smooth?”. Now, it does involve peeling the outer skins off soaked chickpeas (I used canned) and saving the liquid from the soaking or can to help smooth out the hummus, but that’s it! That’s the trick! It’s wild how much more satisfying this homemade version is than anything I could pick up at the grocery store. It’s also funny how the smallest, possibly most obvious tweaks can transform something decent into something decadent. That is, in essence, what I love so much about cooking anyway, isn’t it?
I hope you’ll try that hummus trick and share your versions with me in the future, and if you’ve got any food fails turned successes share them in the comments below! Happy cooking, and happy accidents too.