Weekend Question Thread

What’s the most complicated thing you’ve ever cooked?

This Christmas Eve, Mr. A’s parents are coming down and I’m making a braised pork belly for the first time. Have never braised anything ever. It’s going to be an experiment. Every year at Christmas the Bon Appetit holiday issue comes and I cook my way through it as a challenge. One year I made a nine-layer peppermint-meringue-chocolate-buttercream cake that took six hours and looked like ass, but it tasted excellent. This year it’s all about the meat.


7 thoughts on “Weekend Question Thread

  1. Although faux French meals with matching tastes are fairly complicated, they don’t actually take much time. I would guess that the most complicated thing I make (if only going by the number of dirty dishes and the time required) is a baked chocolate-orange cheesecake. Not only do the eggs have to be separated, it’s essential to whip the egg whites by hand and fold into the mixture to prevent the top from cracking. Plus hand-squeezing orange juice, hand-whipping cream, shaving dark chocolate for decoration, etc., is pretty labor-intensive (and expensive, since I never keep Cointreau around, and have to buy a bottle in order to make it). But, it’s worth it. It’s rich enough that one 3″ x 14″ cheesecake has about thirty slices, so it goes a long way. And no one ever says, “ooh, that’s disgusting. I can’t eat that.”

  2. Probably the sweet potato pecan pies I learned to make when working at New Orleans Take Out in Madison. Not nearly as complicated at montag47’s cheesecake, but layered…and with a handmade crust.

    Sigh: used to be able to whip up one without having to look at the recipe, but damned if I remember much if any of it now, after some 25 years…

  3. It’s almost certainly our biennial cassoulet. It starts with a duck confit which means carving the meat off a duck, rendering the fat, salting the meat, then preserving the meat in the fat. Then comes the real production with the white beans, sausages, pork skin, ham and so on. The duck confit and extra duck fat are just two of the ingredients. It’s one of those dishes that takes over the entire kitchen, and it grows quickly as the beans expand and the various ingredients are added in turn. Our cookbook has a note warning us to never, ever triple the recipe. We had a lot of people coming, so we did, but then our cassoulet grew so quickly we ran out of refrigerator space and had to store it on the back seat of our car. Luckily it was in the low 20s that night.

    Basically, the dish is a fancy version of franks and beans.


  4. hmm. my aunt’s ham recipe has a lot to remember. probably trying a bohemian beef recipe from a 1940’s folk recipe booklet i got at an estate sale. ended up good, but i already made something close + easier, so no more mini chop of onions + tie rolled beef. i don’t ‘plate’. i make food for eating. most stuff just takes time peeling + such. but i gotta say, trying the richly beef steak was inspired.

  5. I made duck a l’orange when I was really young, like 12, and I was not skilled at reading recipes at all so kept being surprised by things I needed to do. But I pulled it off. I’m making somethign rather involved tonight, actually: Toasted orechiette, Mushrooms, and meatballs from a wonderful local restaurant that has since closed. First you make your meatballs, then sautee maitake mushrooms with spices, then sauté dinosaur kale with garlic, then make the orechiette and cool them down, then you fry the orechiette until they are crisp and garlicky and then combine all ingredients with hot broth and serve. Delicious.

  6. I made this great Julia Child cake recipe once, which involved meringue layers made with lots of ground almonds (piped onto waxed paper in the correct size), and then fillings one of which was butter cream frosting and the other was homemade apricot paste. Then it’s all assembled and the edges covered with slivered almonds.

    It wasn’t exactly difficult but it took a long time.

    It was incredibly tasty, too.

  7. HAHAHA I looked up this recipe and it’s in the “Julia Child and Company” cookbook, which had a PBS show too. The apricot filling starts with a pound of dried apricots and a cup of vermouth, and just get better from there.

    Then Julia mentions that with a long skinny cake like this, the cook can cut a slice off the end and then refrost the cut part, and your guests will never know.

    Truly one of the great human beings of our time 🙂

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