Everything was just peachy until it was time to roll the bacon.
I hadn’t sliced the potatoes thin enough, you see, so it was like trying to roll a strip of bacon around a pair of cargo pants. The roll gets too fat, you worry about ripping the meat and your whole day is shot.
We’ve all been there. You know how it is.
If it sounds like I’m just thinking aloud here, it’s because I am. My assignment was simple: watch one of those super-fast cooking videos you see on Facebook all the time and see if I could actually create a dish both edible and appealing to the eye.
I would have done it, too, if not for those meddling potatoes.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The dish in question is called “Crispy Potato Roses Wrapped in Bacon.” As the name implies, it involves placing sliced potatoes over strips of bacon, seasoning with spices, sprinkling with shredded cheese and rolling into nifty rose shapes.
Fun at parties! Amaze your friends!
WHAT REALLY FRIES MY BACON
The video clip I was working from is 45 seconds long. In it, some culinary whiz prepares the dish with nimble fingers and, presumably, a song on his lips. Each step is presented at high speed while funky music plays. It’s catchy music. Until, you know – you’ve stopped and started the video a few thousand times to the point where if you hear that damnable music one more time, you just might hurl your computer AND stove into the river.
Not to mention those stupid potatoes, sliced to the thickness of hockey pucks.
If you’re one of those people who can watch a 45-second instructional video and keep every step in your head, never having to rewind a single time, congratulations. You’re a culinary genius and a terrible, terrible person.
For me, it didn’t work that way. For instance, the very first step presented in the video is the slicing of potatoes using a mandolin. Me, I’ve never used a mandolin. Frankly, I thought a mandolin was a musical instrument.
The video dedicates all of six seconds to the slicing of potatoes, never once mentioning a specific thickness setting or any of that noob mumbo jumbo. With no working knowledge of how a mandolin works, I had to: A. come up with a mandolin; B. figure out how it works; and then C. watch the same six seconds of that hateful video a dozen times to make sure I was doing it right.
I did it right, mostly, although there were several instances where I nearly lopped off the tips of my fingers. Using a mandolin, I found, is like playing a game of chicken with a potato. And since this particular recipe didn’t call for the addition of fingertips, I had to slow down, which is a real bummer – real cooks do everything with speed and confidence, which makes me think that showing off must be half the fun of professional food preparation.
By watching the mandolin portion of the video, I was able to see what should be the correct thickness for these crispy-rose-whatchacallits. The problem is that the mandolin’s setting kept slipping wider and wider to the point where some of my slices could have been used as door stops.
I made a mental note: overly thick potato slices will be punished by being turned into French fries. By someone. Not me.
Back to the video. The next step involved melting butter, which surely I could handle, using either the microwave or a heat gun from Harbor Freight. The problem is that the video flashed the amount of butter to be melted for – and I swear this is a fair estimate – one one-billionth of a second. That meant rewinding the video a few more times, getting greasy stuff all over my computer keyboard and making me hate that cooking music a little bit more.
The instructions next called for adding black pepper, garlic salt and rosemary, the latter of which I assumed was some kind of spice and not an actual person by that name. How much of these ingredients should I add? I don’t know! Because it was displayed this time for just one one-TRILLIONTH of a second, meaning more rewinds and more black hatred for that terrible music.
I was next supposed to lay out strips of bacon on the cutting board sheet, which seemed like it should be as simple as dealing cards. And it is, mostly, but I soon discovered that bacon has a way of turning everything greasy, including my entire arms, my face and everything I touched, looked at or thought about for the remainder of the day.
Spoons and knives squirted out of my hand, as did the small camera I was using to document this culinary marvel. Every foot-thick potato slice I handled thereafter tried to jump out of my grasp like a live thing. I washed my hands perhaps two dozen times, only to get them greased up again by returning to the computer keyboard in order to rewind the wretched video some more.
I huffed. I puffed. I flung the potatoes onto the bacon like an enraged blackjack dealer. In my head, the crispy potato roses had morphed into demonic things that were even now conspiring to engulf my kitchen in flames.
Then a crazy thing happened. It occurred to me that I was having a meltdown over a task whose worst possible outcome was a pile of inedible bacon-flavored goo and maybe a small explosion. Hell, I reasoned all at once, the more awry this cooking project went, the more fun it would be to write about. If I managed to singe my eyebrows, the story might even get extra love on social media.
Bring on the greasy fingers, I declared to a spatula. Bring on the non-compliant potatoes and butter melted to the temperature of Napalm.
So I sprinkled the cheese and rolled the bacon up as tightly as I could around the slices of misbehaving potatoes. When I was done, a few of them looked vaguely flower-like. A few of them did not. No matter. They all went into muffin tins and then into the oven to await their fates.
According to the video, they were to be baked at 400 degrees for – hold on, I need to rewind a few times to get it – 30 to 40 minutes, which to me means exactly 35.
Say what you want about my vaguely flower-like bacon potatoes, within five minutes the house began to smell delicious. And I mean mouth-watering delicious. When bacon marries potatoes and they honeymoon with cheddar cheese inside a hot oven, magical things happen.
Exactly 35 minutes later, they came out of the oven and a few of them still looked a little bit like roses. Sort of. If you squinted. And who cares how they looked, anyway, because in the end they’re going to end up chewed, swallowed and floating in digestive juices.
I devoured two of them while they were still scalding hot and I regret nothing. Was it worth the frustration of rewinding the video over and over and enduring the pain of that hellish music? Easily. Once I stopped caring about them, those crispy critters managed themselves quite well. There may be a lesson in that.
But probably not.
For the baking noob, my tips for video-based cooking are few:
* Go through the video and write down the instructions ahead of time. Seriously, filmmakers, would it kill you to keep the text up on the screen for longer than a Planck second?
* If you need to look at the video while you’re preparing the ingredients, get someone else to man the controls. Bacon grease on a keyboard is bad news. Could cause embarrassing typos or premature emails.
* Adopt an attitude of indifference. Who cares how the dish comes out? Just go for it. Don’t be afraid to get in there and singe your eyebrows.
Crispy rose potatoes. Sort of.
Potatoes, some sliced to the thickness of hockey pucks.
The author says using a mandolin is like playing a game of chicken with a potato.
Seasoned potatoes lying on bacon, waiting for the cheese.
Uncooked crispy rose potatoes ready for the oven.
Crispy rose potatoes, allegedly.