OT: Cooking Error

Tonight, I was cooking filet mignon for SWMBO and I. It was a pretty simple recipie - pan fry the filets in a little oil, set 'em aside, deglaze the pan with red wine, add a little beef stock and shallots and cook down, and finish with cognac. The recipie (believe it or not) was from SWMBO's weight watchers cookbook - suprisingly yummy stuff.
While I was watching this stuff cook, it occured to me that it was going to be somewhat thin, and I prefer a sauce with a little more body than what I was seeing. Given that the final result was intended to be relatively low-fat, cream was clearly out. I didn't have time to make a roux. Then, inspiration struck - cornstarch! It works great for chinese cooking, right?
So, I reached into the pantry, grabbed the box, mixed it with a little water, and waited for the right moment to dump it in. When I thought it was time, I poured. Rather than thickening, the entire mixture foamed a little, then turned the color of india ink. More precisely, india ink with shallots floating in it. I thought, "well, dammit, that's ugly. Maybe it'll still taste ok..." If "ok" means "looks like ink, but tastes like paint" then it was ok.
I thought about cornstarch, chemistry classes in college, homebrewing, mixing custom finishes and everything else in the mental rolodex. I couldn't figure out why, exactly, this had happened. What had reacted with the cornstarch? What the hell reacts with cornstarch, anyway? Was it the wine? The sugars in the cognac? I knew it wasn't the beef stock, at any rate.
We dumped the stuff, and had the steaks plain, all the while staring at the black goo in the bowl on the table. I chalked up the whole thing as an experience. I'd have chalked it up as a learning experience, but I didn't really learn anything since I couldn't figure it out. So, still confused, I set to cleaning up the kitchen, and I found the little box I'd grabbed earlier sitting on the counter.
An orange box. With an arm. And a hammer.
Baking soda.
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<< An orange box. With an arm. And a hammer. Baking soda. >>
Hilarious...gracias.
Joe
                
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On Sun, 07 Nov 2004 04:07:47 +0000, Tim and Stephanie wrote:

Ouch.
FWIW, if you *do* want to use cornstarch, don't just add it to the sauce. Mix it with a bit of cool liquid first, preferably something close to what's in the sauce, but water will work in a pinch. This will create a slurry and will readily mix with the sauce. If you add the cornstarch in straight, you'll probably just end up with lumpy bits of cornstarch floating in a thin sauce. Once the cs slurry is added, bring to a boil, this is what kicks the thickening into high gear.
--
Joe Wells


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wrote:

He didn't.

He did:

Alton Brown is always reminding us of that. I think Emeril does, too.
- - LRod
Master Woodbutcher and seasoned termite
Shamelessly whoring my website since 1999
http://www.woodbutcher.net
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I know the feeling! FWIW I found that arrowroot starch makes a better thickening agent although more expensive. Also, I have a part of a case of Thickenup(Novartis) that comes in handy when my stir-fry gets too runny. The Thickenup is modified starch and similiar to that stuff in instant pudding mix.
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calmly ranted:

Try buying the arrowroot powder at the local health food section in the larger grocery stores. It's a fifth the price of the can or jar from the spice "dealers". I think I picked it up for 18 an ounce.
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The State always moves slowly and grudgingly towards any purpose that
accrues to society's advantage, but moves rapidly and with alacrity
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On Sun, 07 Nov 2004 10:33:11 -0800, Larry Jaques

Don't know how it compares to arrowroot in price or effect, but IME potato starch is the most powerful -- i.e., least amount needed to thicken. Started using it when in Europe -- it's what my friends there use. In the US can sometimes be found in the "Jewish foods" section at the grocery store. Powerful stuff. I use it for stews and the like, but corn starch for Chinese food. -- Igor
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wrote:

If you'd applied a seal coat of shellac to the filets, you could experiment more easily with sauces. If they fail, just wipe them clean and try again.
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Instead of steak knives, lay out some gent's saws instead?
I like it!
-Tim

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Twitch.
That said, I am reminded of one of my first solo cooking forays. On one of my first Boy Scout overnighters, I was appointed to cook oatmeal for breakfast. Fire going, large saucepan at the ready, box of Quaker's with instructions... No sweat, eh?
OKaaayy. Cup of this, two of that, and some teaspoons of salt. Teaspoon? Don't ask. This can be the object of a bit of scientific reasoning. What's that little spoon that sits on the dinner table next to your knife? That must be the tablespoon 'cause it's on the table! The bigger one must, ergo, be the teaspoon. The stuff was inedible.
Not sure whether I learned anything that day except that I should increase the volume of words and definitions in my vocabulary. Lest I go hungry again.     mahalo,     jo4hn (aka chubbo)
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calmly ranted:

You cooked a steak for "I"? (S/B "SWMBO and me." as in "for SWMBO" and "for me", ya follow?)

Oops! That must have tasted quite, erm...interesting.

Silly man. Everyone knows that the cornstarch box is _yellow_.
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Yah, yah... It's uh, um... A Jamaican affectation? You know, "I and I be cookin, mon."

"Interesting" would be an admirable understatement. "Unbearable" would be closer but probably still too gentle.

Yup. I know this. I knew it before I did this. On the plus side, as one of my old teachers used to say, "maximum learning has been achieved".
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Tim and Stephanie wrote:

Was it Mark Twain who said "A man who sets out to carry a cat by the tail learns a lesson that will always be useful and never be forgotten"?
--
--John
Reply to jclarke at ae tee tee global dot net
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[[.. snip ..]]

Been there, done _exactly_ that. circa 30 years ago. When Armand's product was in a much _less_ reddish-tinged box than it is today.
Was making "shaved beef and white sauce" -- it's a quick meal, and actually quite good over rice. Brown the beef shreds first, drain, reduce heat, add some water, then add the 'cornstarch'.
Spit! *sizzle* POP WhatintheHELL is going on here? Texture isn't right either.
*THEN* I notice I've got the _short_ yellow box (with the hammer in a circle), instead of the taller one with the ear-of-maize.
Off to the sink, and rinse _thoroughly_. Sample a couple of pieces of the beef -- no damage, So, back to the stove, making *SURE* I've got the right box, this time. Couple of comments at the table, that dinner was especially good that night. I did _not_ explain the 'variance' in preparation. :)
Note: I've _never_ made that error again. Might have something to do with the fact that I started keeping the cornstarch and the baking-soda at *opposite* ends of the shelf. <grin>
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wrote:

[snip]
I have a friend who would refer to this as "an intensely educational experience".
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
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