Sunday, March 2, 2008

mashed potano no noes.

Thursday night I had a craving for biscuits. This happens on a fairly regular basis, even though biscuits have never been a staple of my diet -- I blame the quarter of my heritage that hails from Georgia, USA.

Since biscuits aren't, by themselves, a whole meal, I threw in asparagus and mashed potatoes.

The biscuits were from homesick texan's recipe, with milk soured with lemon juice, as I don't stock my fridge with buttermilk. They were quite excellent -- recommended, even -- although not quite the perfect biscuits that I have been searching for. I didn't really like the folded-overness of them (I'm sure there was a better way of saying that -- essentially, you roll the dough out very thin, fold it in half, and cut the biscuits from the folded-over dough). It made them divide into halves very easily, which was convenient, but it was a little more like having two very skinny biscuits than like having one nice-and-thick biscuit. The fluffy center is my favorite part, after all.

The two that I made from the scraps were more appealing to me -- perhaps next time I will follow the recipe, without the folding, and see if I end up with something closer to the perfect biscuit.

The asparagus was roasted with red pepper -- I would say it's hard to screw up, but then I would screw it up dramatically next time. It was good. I put a raspberry-vinegar-honey mixture over them, because I think asparagus on its own is a little uninspiring, and NVE recommended fruity vinegars. Fruity vinegars... fruit and vinegar! hey! What can I say... I work with what I have.

And it turned out all right, so I can't be doing that badly.

The mashed potatoes, however... oh, the mashed potatoes weren't any good at all. That's entirely my fault -- basic mashed potatoes, just tuber and milk and butter, is one of my favorite things ever. But I decided to mix it up. I decided to get fancy. I tried to mess with a good thing.

I decided to make garlic and tofu mashed potatoes.

I know. I know. Tofu and mashed potatoes just sounds awful. Also, the recipe is from a vegan website, and WHILE THERE ARE LOTS OF EXCELLENT VEGAN WEBSITES WITH EXCELLENT RECIPES, (I am yelling in the hopes that nobody will yell at me,) there are also lots of vegans who care more about the veganosity of their food than about its taste. I am on a making-up-words roll today.

Anyway, finding vegan recipes is like finding low-fat or low-carb or gluten-free recipes... you have to check to make sure your source actually cares about flavor. Especially with a recipe whose basic form, with milk and butter and deliciousness, is pretty much perfect.

I messed up big time. It was a mistake -- a one-off! I am sorry, basic and delicious mashed potatoes! I will never cheat on you again!

I am going to post a photo below. If you would like to avert your eyes, so as not to see the tragic truth of the horror I inflicted upon my mashed potatoes, do so now.

*Sniffle* Can you see that? The little granules of tofu? Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

It wasn't even that garlicky. That recipe is enthusiastically NOT recommended.

The mushroom sauce was a little more successful -- I would call it a mushroom gravy, but I'm not sure exactly what a sauce has to do to qualify as a gravy. I have a labor-intensive mushroom gravy recipe that calls for roasted flour, nutritional yeast, and slowly sauteed mushrooms. I am teh lazy. I did my own thing.

I made a roux (my mother taught me both how to make a roux, and that it is called a roux. Both are very useful -- knowing how to make a roux, because it is a base for many sauces, and knowing that it is called a roux, because it makes you sound like you know what you are talking about. At least, I like to think so) and added vegetable broth.

Incidentally, I have finally given in and bought broth in a can. I'd never cooked with broth-from-a-can before, just broth from bouillon, but after months of failing to find vegetable bouillon, I tried this powder stuff that was just. plain. awful. So now my pantry finally has some proper broth -- not the good stuff, but edible (drinkable? sippable? usable? ooh, how about palatable...)

Anyway, I added some vegetable broth until it was a lovely, thick consistency.

Then I added lots more. Why do I do these things to myself? I now had a watery mess, and was full of despair. I frequently despair while I am cooking -- perhaps it is one of the reasons I like it so much. How often in my life do I get the chance to swoon and say, "Oh, woe is me! All is ruined!" while fanning myself profusely? Not often enough, let me tell you what.)

Anyway, then I put in very finely chopped mushrooms and let the whole thing sit for a while and think about what it wanted to do with its life. I as really hoping it would decide to thicken, but it was a rebellious teenage mushroom gravy, and just wanted to hang out with its bad-influence friends and smoke shrooms. (Does that count as cannibalism?) So I had no choice but to add more flour. Is that even allowed? I don't know any of these things. I feel like it's not wrong, but maybe it is.

I tell myself that everybody has to go through this phase where they don't know anything - part of the learning curve and all that -- but I don't quite believe it. And I'm sure I'm learning, but it's still very stressful. That moment where I am like, "this could ruin everything!" Stressful.

But very dramatic. I usually pause to fan myself profusely again and send passionate entreaties up towards the uncaring sky while I'm waiting to see how it turns out.

It thickened without disaster, and I added thyme and sage and called it a day. It tasted fine -- very mushroomy, which William is opposed to, but good enough for me.
I can see, however, why my labor-intensive groovy gravy recipe calls for toasting the flour and adding lots of soy sauce. The end result was a definitely grayish sort of brown, which was not as appetizing in appearance as it was in taste. Lesson learned.

I find myself saying that over and over again, as a sort of mantra. It is how I convince myself that all my little failures are not failures, they are Learning Experiences, And Also Very Useful.

At the end of the day, I had an edible meal with some quite-excellent biscuits and quite appalling mashed potatoes. My craving for biscuits was satisfied. Let's call it a success.

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