As promised I started working on a falafel recipe this weekend, and it has not gone so well. Ordinarily I wouldn't share a kitchen failure with you, but I thought it might be worthwhile to share my process. This will give you an idea of how I deal with recipes that just don't turn out well.
Whenever I try making something new, the first thing I do is look up a few
recipes using sites like Epicurious, Food Network, and All Recipes. I
look over each recipe, noting what they all have in common, where they differ
and, if it's my first time making something like this, I will follow one of
them through. I generally choose the one that is the most basic and won't
change anything the first time. I think it's important to follow a recipe
fully at least once so that when you start making modifications you know where
the failure is: in the recipe or in your changes.
Since I had never made falafel before, I followed my above process and chose
recipe. This is one of the few that didn't call for soaking the
chickpeas for 24 hours which I didn't really have time for. It also seemed straightforward. Reading
through the whole recipe I knew that I was going to have to make some changes
for when I eventually posted it here. For instance, I find non-specific
measurements to be unhelpful, so coming up with a description of pinch and dash
would be important. You will also see that it doesn't specify the type of
oil you should fry the falafel in and how long they should cook. These
types of omissions don't make a recipe useless of course, but clarity helps
increase your odds for success.
As I said, this recipe was a failure for me. What I ended up with was tasty,
bready, and oily. The tzatziki sauce I made to serve with the falafel was quite
good, though. Some of this was my fault and some of it the recipe’s. One
of the most useful skills you'll develop as you cook more is identifying which
is which. Everything in the recipe came together well, until it came to
frying the falafel. I noticed immediately that the oil level the recipe
called for seemed to be too high. This is not a fully submerged frying
recipe so the falafel shouldn't have been more than half covered. I made
a note to reduce the oil on my next attempt and continued on.
My failure in the recipe became apparent when I went to flip the falafel.
Since the recipe didn't indicate when this should occur I flipped the 5 pieces
I had in the skilled at 1 minute intervals. This would allow me to
identify when the best level of browning occurred without risking burning more
than one of them. As I started doing so, they began to come apart.
Not dramatically, but each time I moved one a small layer would separate into
This is when I realized what I did wrong. Not wanting to go to the
store to buy breadcrumbs and not having time to make my own, I instead crushed
some unseasoned croutons that I had on hand. I hadn’t anticipated how
important it was to crush them finely, so some mostly unbroken croutons made it
into the mixture. These larger pieces of crouton sabotaged things in two
ways:1) they absorbed more oil than they were intended to and 2) they were not
an effective binder, so they would drift away when the falafel was disturbed.
With this new understanding, and a new bag of bread crumbs I'm going to jump
back in and tackle the recipe again. I'll share my results with you later
this week. Since this experiment has put my mind on failure, next week
we'll discuss the concept of failing forward in RPGs. I’ll talk about how it can improve your games
pacing and make everyone feel more awesome.