Friday, March 14, 2008

Culinary Incompetence

I am reputed to be a "good cook", but there are a couple of things that I simply cannot get right.

The best biscuits I've ever had in my life came from a KFC right on the border of Chapel Hill and Carrboro (Siamese twin towns) in North Carolina. They were light and fluffy, tender and moist, a mile high. Pure ecstasy. Ruth's Diner, in Salt Lake City, has what they call Mile High Biscuits, they are delicious, but they're more like cake than biscuits -- much too sweet to be genuine. I'd never kick one off my plate, though.

I think degree of sweetness in quick breads is a matter of personal preference, but my preference is for not-sweet biscuits and cornbread. I can make truly excellent corn bread, but the Engineer won't eat it. If I make spoon bread, however, he devours it.

Wandered from topic again, haven't I...

Since I can't trot on over to the CH/C, NC KFC, I keep trying to make my own biscuits. Until a couple of weeks ago, all of my efforts were abysmal failures. Got the flavor right on that last batch using a recipe from The Bread Bible (and thank you to my niece for that Christmas present.) They tasted wonderful. I think it's because the recipe called for unsalted butter instead of shortening (yum!) They still didn't have the loft of the best biscuits, but I'm going to work on it.

This morning I ran into my other culinary brick wall. Poached eggs.

Of course, poached eggs are something I love. If they weren't, I'd wouldn't try to cook them, so I wouldn't know I'm terrible at it.

The itch was initiated a couple of weeks ago at my anniversary brunch. I had a smoked salmon egg benedict. The poached egg was perfect.

My Mom makes poached eggs using a little insert for her big sauce pan. It has three removable, round bottomed cups that she smears with margarine then breaks an egg into. As the water in the saucepan boils, it cooks the eggs by steaming them.

This is cheating. Poached eggs are supposed to be dropped naked into boiling water.


Every time I try it, even when I carefully pour the raw egg from a custard cup into the water, the white spins off into a mess of filaments and froth. When I scoop out the sad center that has managed to cling together I end up getting enough water to float the Spanish Armada along with the egg.
Now, imagine that scene from "Gone With the Wind" where Scarlet is standing on the hill with the blazing sunset behind her and the wind blowing her skirt and hair. That's me. And this is my vow: "As God is my witness, some day, some how, I will cook a perfect poached egg!"

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