A brunch concept, poorly executed

Remember when I told you I was too vain to share my cooking failures? Well, I’m mustering the strength this morning to share an exceptionally promising meal gone awry.*

This past Saturday, I decided to cook brunch for some friends. I had the menu all picked out: smoked salmon, poached eggs, hollandaise and this beautiful potato thing I’ve been obsessing about since the beginning of the year.

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And honestly, everything went really smoothly for the first 2.5 hours! It was rainy and dreary and the perfect morning for eating at home, my roommate and I put on You’ve Got Mail because I’ve been on a big Nora Ephron kick and I’d absconded my mother’s food processor and discovered the glory of the grating blade.

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So what went wrong?

The potato thing is what. It’s called a potato kugel, it’s by Smitten Kitchen and it’s basically a giant casserole of hash browns, which I am very, very fond of. It even allowed me to use my new cast iron skillet.

But now, let’s do a comparison of what Deb’s looks like, versus mine.

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Deb’s glorious kugel, crispy brown with white potato strands, image from smittenkitchen.com
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My brown, brown, BROWN kugel

Mine, as you can now see, looks like a demented bird’s nest. Whereas Deb’s is brown because it is crispy, mine is brown because…why exactly? I guess it’s from the potatoes. They turned brown. Maybe it was just a bad potato. Maybe it was my new skillet. The point is, I don’t really know what went wrong (though I have some theories).

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The fact that it was already brown before baking should have been a warning sign

I do know that I didn’t grate the onions finely enough. I was scared of reducing them to mush and also Meg Ryan was waiting for Tom Hanks to show up at the restaurant so they could meet for “first time” and I was distracted.

If you would like to attempt the potato kugel, I’m leaving the recipe right here for you. I’m not going to try to reproduce it. Because, though I’m not blaming Deb for this flop in the slightest, there are some adjustments I’d like to try next time.

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Like: the recipe intentionally doesn’t call for you to wring out the potatoes before baking but what happened with mine was that even though my top was crispy and nice, the middle was a soppy, flavorless, potato mush. So next time I think I’m going to put my grated potatoes in a colander and sprinkle them with salt to draw out the moisture–and up the flavor game.

I also would use fewer than 5 potatoes due to the size of my skillet. I think if the whole thing is more compact the middle will cook better. So when I get over the trauma of the whole experience, I’ll share my adapted recipe.

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Lest you think that it was the potato flop alone that made brunch a disaster, I will continue to display my complete lack of hubris by admitting that out of 4 poached eggs, I messed up every. single. one and gave up and scrambled the rest.

The hollandaise, recipe here from Tyler Florence, was fine. It was just fine. The truth is, once the kugel came out all brown and dilapidated my heart wasn’t really in the thing anymore.

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The smoked salmon was good because I bought it. And the Bloody Mary bar was awesome because that’s my thing. Learn how to put yours together here. This time, we used bacon salt for rimming the glasses and now I want–no, need–to put bacon salt on everything. Do yourself a favor and buy it here.

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Bacon. Salt.

And so, friends, that’s all for now. Just your typical Monday morning spent lamenting a brunch gone wrong, and figuring out ways to make it better.

Recipes:

Potato kugel: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2015/12/potato-kugel/
Hollandaise: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/hollandaise-sauce-recipe.html

*What does this mean? Am I maturing? Is this a sign of strong moral fiber? Or just a commitment to the blog? I think the latter but you can be the judge.

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