Fighting with Richard OlneyFighting with Richard Olney

I am done with Richard Olney, for the moment anyway. I’ve had one of those weekends that Orangette described recently, where everything you try to do in the kitchen seems cursed. It wasn’t even the entire weekend, but really just Saturday. I had been looking forward to making Olney’s zucchini pie for weeks, and Saturday was my big day. I was feeling pretty confident after so many Olney successes; could this elaborate preparation be out of my reach?

First there was the dough to make, a Provençal olive oil dough, which sounds easy. How hard could an oily dough be to keep together? Hard as hell, it seems. This dough was crumbleville, even with the full 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup water in it, and I’m not experienced enough to know what to do when it simply won’t hold together no matter how much I work it. The dough ended up in the trash, which didn’t seem too tragic since I had a large disk of Pierre Hermé’s buttery dough in the freezer, but it’s never fun losing two cups of Sir Galahad.

Anyway, the dough was just one part of the ridiculous puzzle. There were the 10 ounces of zucchini, which had to be diced, salted, and left to disgorge for two hours. So I got that going, and then I started roasting the garlic that was to be mixed with the zucchini, and stewing the onion that was going in there as well. Once I had the my parmesan grated and everything else for the filling mixed together, I rolled out my pastry, which just wouldn’t thaw enough, so it kept splitting. But I finally got it in there, poked a couple of holes in it, brushed it with oil, and got it in the oven after about three hours of preparation.

In the meantime, I cut up a raw chicken and cooked the legs and breasts. I couldn’t even get that right. The pan wasn’t hot enough, the skin wasn’t brown enough, and the meat just wouldn’t cook. I finally threw it under the broiler, and even then I had a pink center on the legs. I had cooked them for an hour! So we ate the breasts, saved the legs after cooking them a bit more, and made stock of the carcass.

The zucchini pie, which I took out of the oven once it seemed like it was going to catch on fire, was good, for its crust and filling. No surprise there. But what a waste of time and ingredients. I must have done something wrong, or missed some step. It didn’t sound as hard it was. (Neither did Olney’s coffee custard, which I made before anything else and which never set, even after 24 hours in the refrigerator. Grrr!)


Man, what a time you’ve had. So frustrating when things don’t work as they’re supposed to. Why can’t the food be all perfect and all glorious all the time (and the dishes be always done)?

Didn’t mama say there would days like that (isn’t this a song?). Even the greatest cooks and chefs have kitchen disasters, each one a learning experience. Sometimes a few tries are necessary before getting it right. Keep at it!

Among other things I cooked on Sunday, I threw together a loaf of bread, just so we’d have sandwiches this week. Then, Sunday night while we were out it suddenly occurred to me that I forgot to put salt in the bread. Not a disaster, but annoying. As I have said before, this kind of thing is more likely to happen with stuff I make all the time; I’m not paying as much attention.

Saw your blog featured on Culinate and had to head right over. I’m a bit obsessed with two-author blogs, and I love what I’ve read of yours so far. Can’t wait to see what pops up in my RSS reader. :)

Add a comment