Nothing is Sacred
April 16, 2009
As I was packing up to leave home after a relaxing Easter break, I realized there was nothing left in the house to eat.
By nothing, I mean, there was lots of leftover ham.
Hungry, and inspired by an almost hidden recipe in Gourmet, I decided to give in and eat ham again, but this time as miniature ham croquettes. Only a little bit daunted by the recipe’s injunction to “deep fry” the croquettes in a stomach-churning amount of vegetable oil, I dutifully followed the recipe, mashing white rice, ham, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and egg together into sticky balls and rolling them in bread crumbs. Maybe I didn’t let the rice cool long enough, or maybe my egg just wasn’t enough like cement, but my croquettes looked more like misshapen footballs than the cute, symmetrical spheres in the magazine’s pages. Armed with the longest spoon I could find, I plopped those tentative blobs into the hot oil and hoped they wouldn’t disintegrate too much. And then, as I noticed the thick smoke billowing through the kitchen, I mercilessly abandoned them as I frantically opened all the windows and doors within a fifteen foot radius.
Miraculously, the croquettes were only mostly burnt.
The good deed done, the leftover ham used up, I took my benighted croquettes to the table and took a bite.
Bland. Bland, bland, bland.
Why, you may ask, am I telling you this? Let me tell you.
I am telling you this because it teaches some valuable lessons about cooking. One, that not everything you make will be good. Two, that some things will be bad. And three, that the recipe is never sacred.
Taste copiously while you cook to make sure that it’ll turn out all right, and if it doesn’t taste good, add something new, like horseradish or cumin or caraway seeds. If you’re cooking with raw eggs (see: this disastrous attempt), you may not have that privilege. And in that case, when it’s done and it’s awful, call on your friends Harissa or Texas Pete, and invite them to dine. Unless it’s completely and utterly charred, spoiled, smashed, or exploded, don’t throw it away. Almost everything is a little bit salvageable.
In this case, I slathered those deep-fried bundles with either wasabi or Dijon mustard, and ate them with a little more appreciation.
Alas, as I went back to the fridge to rummage for more condiments, I heard a thud behind me and whirled around to see Molly the Beagle chomping the last of them with much more gusto than I had mustered.
So then I had a deviled egg.