Over the years, I’ve developed confidence in my ability to cook just about anything except bread. I regularly search for different recipes online, but also don’t hesitate to come up with my own creations.
My first kitchen experiment occurred when I was about 10 years old, and was trying to earn some kind of Girl Scout cooking badge. One of the requirements was that you had to make your own recipe. I decided to make pepper meatballs. I have no idea where I came up with this one, but my mother — trusting soul that she was — left me to it.
I proceeded to make a bunch of meatballs from a pound of ground beef. The pepper part? Well, in the middle of each meatball I poured about 3-5 Tablespoons of black pepper. Then, for good measure, I sprinkled the outside of each meatball with more black pepper. I then cooked them in some oil (probably way too much), and proudly served them over some heated up SpaghettiO’s. Yikes! After one taste, my mother made something else for everyone to eat, and suggested that I stick with recipes for awhile.
I suspect that watching the unique combinations that the chefs on Chopped make from the mystery baskets may have given me a bit too much confidence lately. Last week, I heard someone mention a stir fry made with mangoes and chicken that sounded really good. Problem was, I couldn’t remember where I’d heard about it. So, instead of doing the smart thing and actually searching for recipes, I decided to experiment. It seemed to me I had all of the ingredients that would make a tasty dish.
I first sauteed some onions, then added in some chicken breast sliced into small pieces. After it was all cooked, I added some frozen mango cubes (and these are normally rather flavorful), and when they were warm, dumped in a sauce mixture I thought would be quite tasty — peach salsa, some soy sauce, and a bit of red pepper sauce. I then mixed in some cooked whole wheat pasta, and expected a true taste treat….not so much.
It was bland, horribly, horribly bland. Now mind you, I had a huge wok filled with this mixture, so hated to let it go to waste. I dumped in a bit more soy sauce, a bit more red pepper sauce, and out of desperation, a bit of salt. It helped, but it still wasn’t fantastic.
But, I’m a big believer in leftovers, so saved the remainder for the next night. On the second night, I decided to add some toasted almonds to the dish. Again, an improvement, but definitely not something I’d replicate. On the third night, I added in some edamame, which truly did improve things, but still not enough to make me ever want to cook it again. Finally, on the fourth night (yes, I made a lot), I just couldn’t face it again, and dumped the remainder out.
Since then, I’ve made much simpler, more tried and true recipes. I think it’ll take awhile before I do another experiment quite like that, but I may actually start looking for mango and chicken stir fry recipes on the web, once I get the taste of this one out of my mind.
Do you ever experiment in the kitchen? If so, what have been some of your biggest successes? Your biggest disasters?