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What's the hardest dish to cook?

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 
I was just wondering...what do you guys think is the hardest dish to cook? Meaning, the one that takes the most skill...
I think a lot of people think beef wellington is pretty hard...
and by asking this I'm excluding pastries..because a lot of that takes skill too. ..so what do you guys think?
post #2 of 64
Based on a number of backyard barbeques I've attended over the years, I'd say grilled chicken could be a top contender for this prize!

While that is a rather flippant answer, there may be some truth behind it. I'm betting that some of the most difficult dishes to get right are ones where if done right, with few ingredients and simple, basic procedures, they are brilliant. If one little thing goes wrong, they are a disaster.

Omelets, souffles, slow cooked barbecue ribs or brisket, fried rice, potato pancakes, alfredo sauce, grilled steaks, hot and sour soup, cold smoked salmon, bearnaise sauce are all examples of food that requires some skill of various levels to do well, but for the most part are still edible if done less than correctly.

I'll have to think more about serious contenders for this thread.

mjb.
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post #3 of 64
Brisket cooked with an all wood fire and NO foiling :)
post #4 of 64
You might be right, at least as far as I'm concerned. Back in 1990-1993 I had a small BBQ business, and even using some qood quality, large smokers with offset fire boxes, smoking an entire brisket without tenting was the most difficult cooking task for me. It wasn't too hard to get right in larger pits, but even with the larger home smokers it was always difficult for me. Took almost a year, and i don't know how many briskets, to get it just right.

shel
post #5 of 64
a Consommé seems to give some chefs sleepless nights !! Bearnaise is anoth high contender I would say .
post #6 of 64
I'd say Beef Wellington would rank pretty high up. That and galantines served chaud-froid.

For Beef Wellington:

1) Make stock (24 hours)
2) Make demiglace
3) Make puff pastry (about 3-4 hours)
4) Make foie gras pate (24 hours)
5) Make duxelles
6) Sear beef
7) Make sauce
8) Assemble and chuck it in the oven

Of course you can just buy the pastry, pate, demiglace :D

Let's see, some more old world dining. Stuffed squab chaudfroid w/ cumberland sauce

1) Make demiglace (optional depending on stuffing)
2) Bone squab
3) Make forcemeat
4) Make veloute from squab bones (yuck)
5) Make chaudfroid from veloute
7) Poach the squab
8) Coat the squab
9) Make wine aspic
10) Glaze the already coated squab
11) Make jam
12) Zest citrus
13) Make cumberland sauce from 11 and 12.

That's a lot of steps! :D
post #7 of 64
I don't think cooking anything is particular difficult. Not if the prep work has been done right.

With that in mind, turducken has to be one of the more difficult dishes to prepare.

Shel and Mary: Interesting that you both brought that up. Brisket is the one thing I've never had trouble with. And I never tent. In fact, using my offset cooker, I can make perfect brisket every time; whereas ribs sometimes give me trouble.

Go figure!
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post #8 of 64
I always have trouble with chicken galantine. Lucky it's a dying dish.
post #9 of 64
I think the trouble with brisket is staying awake to cook it :lol: with my Klose it is easier but it can be hard to hit it just right.
post #10 of 64
Thread Starter 
ah yes...brisket...and turducken...a bird..within a bird within a bird...
2 hard dishes indeed. My aunt prepares turducken quite frequently but I've never done it. And I've never seen brisket done or done it myself...
and and thank you kuan for the recipes :chef:

and heirloomer I think you're totally right on the money. I think anybody can prepare almost anything but..how well? I think a good example of this a cheap buffet line or one of those odd social gatherings...like a neighborhood or community event one may find themselves at. The one where everybody brings something. You get there and almost everything is bland or hard as a rock...and even the most simple concepts such as a hamburger piss you off...
patooey!
post #11 of 64
What's your trouble with it? I made 5 a few weeks ago. Took me 3 days to make between everything else, but turned out to be well worth the effort.
post #12 of 64
Yep. can vouch for that.....only, I'll add that Bearnaise and hollandaise sauces pretty much stink and are inedible to "me" if done less than correctly.
post #13 of 64
LOL! There ya go! :D Three days.
post #14 of 64
Barbequed Brisket, cooked over an all wood fire, is kind of the holy grail of barbecue. If it was easy, a lot more people would do it well. However, once you've done it successfully a few times, it comes down to choosing good meat to begin with, proper trimming (1/4" isn't all that easy until you learn how), fire management (which has a LOT to do with the pit), good meat and injecting, cooking to the right internal, and properly resting.

A lot of "all wood fire" is the pit. If you're trying to run an all wood fire in too small a pit, you're hosing yourself. Even if you keep even temps, one slightly funky piece of wood will wreck you. IMO, Barbecued Brisket cooks better at a higher temperature than pork. I usually cook at around 275 -- which is not an easy temp to hold in smaller pits. Much over 250 and a runaway fire is a real possibility.

That said, you can make brisket every bit as good in a small pit -- you just have to use a mostly charcoal fire. A little bit of hardwood chunk in the charcoal at the right time in the right way will put every bit as much smoke into the beef as an all wood fire in a big pit. I think the prep and management techniques aren't all that difficult as long as they're suited to the pit. Charcoal baskets are an enormous help in smaller offsets. The biggest obstacle to managing the fire in a small pit are novice pitmasters. They insist on doing it the most difficult, most wasteful, least reliable ways as though there were some virtue to them. One constant, they always have reasons.

Barbequed" Chicken, whether grilled or actually barbecued is mostly a matter of simple techniques. Admittedly it takes a rather large bag of tricks to cover all the various styles, but when it gets down to it the techniques are more numerous than difficult. One of the few constants is brining. Brine your chicken, dag-nab it! Interesting note: Chicken is generally best grilled over a low fire, and smoked over a hot one. Go figure.

Intewestingwy, wabbit can be cooked outdoors in many of the same dewicious ways. Or even fwied or a fwicasee if you have a pwopane burner. Heheheheheh.

Beef Wellington (Wehwington?) is a lot of prep; nothing really difficult about it. Unfortunately, a fillet of beef does not benefit from being cooked en croute. No way. No how. Admittedly some are better than others, but bottom line: Not so much difficult as impossible. The Duke of Wellington, at least the one who defeated Napoleon, did not eat it. That's a canard.

Speaking of canards, I used to make a PITA called Stuffed Duck Charles Vaucher, cribbed from Pellaprat's cookbook. Sort of a turducken on steroids with PMS, but lacking the sense of humor -- possessing instead a stick up the vent.

"Imagine if you will," removing the bones and the meat from a duck -- except the drumsticks, and wings -- without breaking the skin; make a rather complicated farce with the meat, some pork, truffles, olives and the rest of the usual over-priced French suspects; stuff, sew, and reshape; a fussy braise; chill and coat with aspic; blah blah blah. You get the picture.

The first time I did it was to challenge myself, and the second time to pefect it. Then I started bragging about it. Mistake number one. Then I put it on my catering menu, and kept it there when I moved down South. Mistakes number two and three. Then I served it at my self-catered wedding reception which included a number of clients as guests. Mistake number four. This was on the way to being my "signature" dish when I quit catering. In fact, the thought of getting one more request for "four of those duck things you do" was a big part of the reason I quit catering. Now that I think about it, I have no desire to make it again. None. D'rien. Don't even think about it. I can't hear you.

Chicken Marengo is otherwise pretty straightforward. but for the mushrooms. It's not the fluting that bothers me, it's the peeling. Something about peeling a mushroom just chaps my @ss. DW's worth it. The only other people on the planet I'd do it for are my kids.

BDL
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post #15 of 64
Roast chicken with moist breast meat and crisp skin.

An egg cooked in the shell to exactly the right doneness.

Complicated recipes are nothing but a lot of little recipes strung together -- nothing really to be afraid of, if you understand the steps and their science. And they offer so many chances to cover up mistakes.

It's the "simple" ones that have the least wiggle room. And that makes them harder to get right.
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post #16 of 64
Any dish made over a holiday with someone trying to "help" who isn't willing to take orders.
post #17 of 64
Not difficult, just usually done with bad chicken, bad technique and bad results.

It is a miracle, isn't it? Hard eggs I can do. Coddled eggs I can do. In the middle it's still a little hit and miss, even after all these years. So many variables -- different sizes, different breeds, different freshness levels -- how can you hit it right consistently?

This is why I responded to you. This is so true and so well put. Brava! Brava bravissima!

Quality ingredients, clean technique, no shortcuts, pay attention, touch it, taste it, don't rush it.

BDL
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post #18 of 64
A chocolate souffle for a 5 course demo. :(
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post #19 of 64
...cooking an egg in the shell exactly right......

this task is extremely easy and consistent - with a "but"

you must control four things:
temperature of the egg in storage.
amount of water used to boil the egg2.
burner setting
the time immersed.

water boils at a relatively constant temperature (varies by altitude and barometric pressure....)
heat transfer from "boiling water" to egg "at temperature X" is a "constant"
when you put the egg in boiling water, it "chills" the pot
to control the "rebound" time to boiling you must control the amount of water and the burner setting i.e. the amount of heat being put into the 'system'
after that, it's child's play to experiment with the time to get "the exact egg"

oh, did I mention I'm really quite fond of soft boiled eggs?

I use the same pot, two cups of water, gas set to medium high hash mark, eggs on bottom shelf of fridge, water to the boil, in with the egg, 4 minutes 20 seconds out comes the egg to the egg cup at room temp.

the "but" problem is: quantity of eggs to be cooked affects
size of pot
amount of water
cooking time (rebound varies)

the good news is: it is all empirical - just measure, keep records
perfectoeggoes!
no rocket science involved.
post #20 of 64
For some people, it's perfectly light matzo balls. ;)

Suzanne, you're right on the money about the eggs and the perfect roast chicken. I also agree about being able to cook chicken on a grill. Ironically, that's the only think my non-cook husband does perfectly.

I'd also say cooking today's ultra-lean pork chops perfectly, without them being tough and dry, is difficult.
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post #21 of 64
Souffle potatoes is quite difficult as well. Takes a lot of feel. First you gotta get the setting right on the slicer by slicing a few and then fry testing them. Only when you've gotten the correct thickness then you start frying them in small batches. Frying them takes a certain amount of guesswork. You put them in the oil at 300F, constantly agitate the pan, then when it's "time" you turn up the heat to 375F and hope they souffle. It's like half guesswork all the time, and maybe half of your potatoes even ever souffle.

All this assuming some other person doesn't change the dial on the slicer while you're doing it. :D
post #22 of 64
It's OCD, but not hard. I'm posting a "perfect roast chicken" recipe.

BDL
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post #23 of 64
i dont think there is one dish in particular that is extremely difficult... however i do think the hardest thing to do is to replicate a dish exactly the same way 1000's of times... if you cook a meal that one may feel is elaborate, complex or complicated and the person eating it enjoys it... then congratulations, but if you cannot replicate the meal the next time around then whats the point???
post #24 of 64
Same situation as lean poultry - brining is your friend, overcooking is your enemy. Bone-in chops are a bit more forgiving than boneless.

mjb.
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post #25 of 64

from my point of view

The hardest dishes for me to prepare are the one's that have to be done on the fly after either yourself or a co-worker has messed up and then you have no dishwasher, so you have to wash your stuff first and your missing a key ingredient so you have to improvise. I find it exciting but frustrating at the same time. Any one else with me on that? Or even better when Im making my dad dinner at his house and he doesn't have any equipment, ingredients or counter space and then he comes in and asks me if I know what im doing. RRRRRRRRRR
post #26 of 64
lol, i love that (sarcasm) when youre at a friends place and they do not have any tools and equipment or ingredients... then you look like the *** bc you have to improvise... i usually just keep my knives and tools in the trunk you never know when theres going to be an impromptu jam session.
post #27 of 64
Just speaking for myself, the hardest dishes are the ones I really love. The more I like a product, the greater my romantic expectations of the final outcome will be. Squab, for example, is my favorite meat. And it also happens to be merciless in its cooking. For me is has to be perfectly medium rare. Due to its small size and leanness (and heats inability to "stop on a dime") I often take it a shade too far. If it wasn't a product I didn't adore so much it wouldn't bother me, but something like squab which I have to special order at some expense, is truly grating.

--Al
post #28 of 64
Just speaking for myself, the hardest dishes are the ones I really love. The more I like a product, the greater my romantic expectations of the final outcome will be. Squab, for example, is my favorite meat. And it also happens to be merciless in its cooking. For me is has to be perfectly medium rare. Due to its small size and leanness (and heats inability to "stop on a dime") I often take it a shade too far. If it wasn't a product I didn't adore so much it wouldn't bother me, but something like squab which I have to special order at some expense, is truly grating.

--Al
post #29 of 64

Boiled Eggs?

I must chime in on the egg talk to try and spread the perfectly cooked egg love...Put the cold eggs in cold water with a little salt and put uncovered on a high flame. As soon as this comes to a rolling boil (you must be watching) turn it off, take it to a safe place, and cover it. In 6 minutes you will have cooked whites and a warm runny center, in 8 minutes you will have what I call a "French" hard boiled egg. In 10 minutes you should have what most Americans consider a perfectly cooked boiled egg. This, assuming you immediately drain and shock them after the said times. Of course there will be variables. The most important is the size of the egg of course, but also, don't put too much water either.

If there's one thing I can cook perfectly, it's an egg.

Now peeling them is another story....
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post #30 of 64
My 2 freinds have literally nothing. I have to lug everythng I need over there for what ever Im making. Im not going to carry my whole kitchen to theirs and there have bee an few times where I forgot something and needed to improvise. Needless to say. My knifes are usually in the car with me when I go over there.


I think the hardest dish is one that impresses me with what I made. (im never happy with what I did becuase I know it could be better, the wife hates that quality about me)
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