When Good Meals Go Bad

I fancy myself an intrepid cook, one who strives to try out new ingredients and push my own boundaries on a regular basis. Every so often, I'll pick some dish I've never made before -- flour tortillas, berry sabayon, cote du boeuf -- and I'll set out to do it with a confidence in my abilities that perhaps borders on hubris. Well, a couple of weeks ago, hubris struck an awful blow as I managed to turn three whole, fresh Florida pompano into cat food. Before you ask: No, I was not making cat food.

Actually, I was making pan-seared pompano fillets with mango beurre blanc. Unfortunately, most of my $40 worth of fish never made it to that stage. We don't need to dwell too much on the how or the why; let's just say I had neither the tools nor the abilities to properly fillet the thin little buggers. I grew pretty frustrated, and I may have destroyed a couple of kitchen utensils in the process. But really, all was not lost. I decided to roast one of them whole, and it came out OK, and a couple of my fillets turned out decently enough. Still, I ended up with a whole load of mangled pompano that I couldn't bear to just throw away.

So I ended up roasting said pompano shreds, then pulsing them in the FP with some spices and folding in some whipping cream. And just like that: pompano mousse. I then sliced up some French bread, brushed with olive oil, and popped it the toaster for some cheap crostini. Top those with the mousse, a bit of that mango beurre blanc that wasn't going anywhere, some capers, slices of grape tomato, and a little olive oil, and voila: Dinner was saved.

It wasn't the finest thing I've ever made, but it did the trick. And it also proved a point -- sometimes your game plan just doesn't work out when you're cooking things you've never tried before. So you've got to adapt.

Anyone else had a cooking experience go catastrophic? How'd you recover?

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