Vinegar is vinegar

2 08 2007

It was one of those days when I felt I could do no wrong. I’d been watching a lot of the Food Network and felt invincible. I wanted to make my own steak sauce. Watching Bobby Flay make them on camera gave me a false sense of security. He talks about them casually, making it sound easy, while he puts them together with at least 200 ingredients. I knew it was my time.

Looking for a steak sauce recipe I saw this one from Bobby Flay and thought it sounded doable. So I set off to the grocery store in search of sherry vinegar, piquillo pepper, horseradish, and molasses. These were the ingredients we didn’t have on hand. They didn’t have piquillo pepper, so I got some poblano peppers instead, and they didn’t have sherry vinegar. Hmmm. Nobody around here has sherry vinegar.  I thought about just using sherry, but then the thought came to me, right there in aisle 12. “I don’t really know what sherry vinegar tastes like, but I like balsamic vinegar; I’ll just use that.”

For future reference, when you get ideas while you’re in the grocery store with three unhappy boys under the age of six, they’re not good ideas.

Every so often I’ll make something so bad that even I can’t muscle it down. This was one of those times. My first thought was “Maybe it’ll taste different on the steak.” But no, nasty in the bowl is still nasty when you put it on the steak. Karen spent a half hour trying to save the steak sauce, but the only one who ate it was the garbage disposal. Apparently balsamic vinegar is nothing like sherry vinegar. I ended up making Cabernet steak and mushrooms instead (which included another trip to the grocery store, and the liquor store for the wine).

This was one of those life changing moments when I realized one of my limitations. But I was so depressed at the time that I couldn’t even enjoy the steaks I’d made. I had been looking forward to this for weeks, and come to realize that I have no ability to make my own steak or barbecue sauces. Even from recipes.

If you’re wondering why there are no pictures to document my enlightenment, it’s because this happened last summer, and is one of the original inspirations behind this blog.



9 responses

2 08 2007

I do think I remember that affair. And also, I remember cooking portabello mushrooms– was it around the same time?

2 08 2007
mark - in my own defense

I think it was the same day, yes.

3 08 2007
Daddy Forever

That’s one of the reason why I don’t cook from scratch. I go to the store looking for the ingredients. Can’t find something, but do find something similar and I have no idea if I it’s close enough or not.

4 08 2007

I can’t imagine being so depressed one cannot enjoy steak. That is quite a shame.

4 08 2007


6 08 2007
sharon millar

Hi Mark,
i know exactly what you mean. And you just want to weep after all the effort!
Don’t worry, every day is a new day in the kitchen. All you need is a hearty appetite, a love of food network and the desire to smell food cooking, and you will bounce back.

14 08 2007
Michele B

Since this story fell under food and stupidity I thought I would share this tip: When you are trying to use up short term ingredients before going on a trip and you find a perfect recipe that just requires what you have left (namely a half recipe that allows one to use say her last 8oz of ricotta cheese) DONT let the dog hang out in the kitchen especially right after you dump the ricotta in your kitchen scale than stupidly walk out of the room for 10 seconds…

16 08 2007

Balsamic vinegar with steak can be rather nice, but using a cup full in place of sherry vinegar is maybe not so nice:
cook the steak as desired, and just before taking off the heat add a splash of balsamic (probably < 1tbsp, though I’ve never measured) and a teaspoon of honey, leave for no more than a few seconds or the sauce will burn and then leave to rest for a few minutes.

26 10 2007

Never had “aged sherry vinegar” but I have had sherry and imagine red wine vinegar would be an ok substitute. you could put the red wine vinegar in a pan and reduce it a bit to approximate the strongness if you felt like it.

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