I think a lot of people don’t cook because they’re afraid of failure. They’re afraid their chicken will be underdone, their soup will be too watery, or their steak will be dry. They follow recipes to the letter (which aren’t always 100% accurate) and get discouraged if they don’t work. They order takeout or heat up a frozen dinner and call it a day.
Cooking, like anything else, takes practice and time to build up skill and intuition. Ask any chef: they weren’t proficient on Day 1 of their first job in a kitchen. Ask a good one, and they’ll tell you they’re still learning every day. Me, I’ve been cooking since I was a little girl— more than twenty years at this point. I have had some epic kitchen failures. I have ruined pans, set off smoke detectors, undercooked poultry, had cakes fall– you name it. Those failures teach you about what works and what doesn’t. More than likely, you won’t make that mistake again.
The trick is to take failure and turn it into a learning experience.
For example, let’s talk about what I am calling the Kale Disaster of 2013.
I love Kale Chips. Love Force Raw Foods, based here in Cincinnati, does some “cheesy” ones with curry that I love, but at $8 a pop, I cringe a little every time I buy them (sorry, Love Force). I knew I could make them cheaper. So, early in January, I bought some kale, scoured the internet, and made myself some kale chips. Couldn’t be easier. In fact, it was so easy that I decided to do a batch today.
What did I forget?
Curly kale, which is fluffy and beautiful, does not make very good kale chips. Why? Its curliness causes the tops to cook faster than the center, so you end up with perfect edges and uncooked centers or worse: burnt ends and uncooked centers. So, that beautiful bunch of kale went from this:
Ick. And once you burn SOME of the kale, all of it tastes disgusting. I watched it like a hawk and it came out like that. Frustrating, as I really wanted some kale chips, but you live and learn.
Oath: I do solemnly swear that I will save curly kale for sautees and soups and salads, and always buy lacinato kale, with its flat leaves, to make fool-proof kale chips.
See? I learned something.
1 bunch Lacinato kale (NOT CURLY, did I mention that?)
1 tablespoon olive oil (flavored ones work well here– I have a Meyer lemon olive oil that is lovely)
Salt, to taste
Flavorings, to taste
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry the kale well (I use a salad spinner). Remove the fibrous stem with a knife or by ripping the kale. Chop roughly into large pieces of similar size. Put the chopped kale into a bowl and pour the olive oil in, tossing to lightly coat. Throw on your seasonings and toss again to coat. On a parchment-lined baking pan, arrange the kale pieces in one layer. Bake for about 15 minutes– after about 10, watch them like a hawk– until they are uniformly crispy and not burnt. Let them cool, put them in a bowl, and snack. Feel good about the fact that these are pretty darn good for you, and you spent about $3 on them.
Even my generally kale-averse Better Half loves these puppies.
Suggestions for flavorings: spice mixes from Colonel De, Parmesan cheese, smoked paprika, chili powder, Grippos spice (really), Old Bay, sesame oil and ginger. Just make sure it’s not something wet– dry flavorings and flavored oils work best.