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Old 01-13-2010, 08:38 PM   #1
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Confused at result!

Hey! I wonder if anyone has any ideas, I've just cooked the most disappointing meal!

Its a salmon asparagus fettuccine recipe: (courtesy of 'the joy of cooking')
asparagus (boiled then lightly fried (1min in butter - though I used mainly olive oil for health reasons and only a little butter)
mix in a skillet with cream and lemon zest, heat through (i may have done this longer than recommended...
add cooked spinach fettuccine, cooked salmon, chives and chopped parsley

i'm very new at cooking so didn't do it EXACTLY as the recipe said, cos my timing is bad, but i thought this sounded easy and tasty.. but it was SO SO bitter! so gross! what could it be? could it be one of the ingredients? would the fact that I combined olive oil with a little bit of butter make it bitter (i'm sure thats a terrible no no in cooking! ). could it be the asparagus? can asparagus be bitter? or did i cook the asparagus in the cream too long? what about the parsley? I don't know what it could be! the salmon I think tasted ok on its own.

any tips/comments would be much appreciated! thanks a million!

i'm very confused.. i could taste through the bitterness that it could be a lovely recipe, but just SO bitter!


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Old 01-13-2010, 09:23 PM   #2
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I just looked up the recipe in Joy, and there are 3 elements that are or can be bitter. Capers - lemon zest - undercooked asparagus. There is nothing sweet to offset all these bitter ingredients.

My first reaction is reduce the quantity of lemon zest and/or capers just a bit, and make sure your asparagus is cooked until it's tender.

My second reaction is to add some sweetness. Onion or shallot sauteed until golden might help, a tender sweet vegetable such as diced carrot, or as a last resort, a TINY pinch of sweetness from sugar or honey.

The olive oil/butter ratio did not cause the bitterness.

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Old 01-13-2010, 09:23 PM   #3
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It's not uncommon to cook with a combination of oil and butter. That's not the issue.

When you zested the lemon, did the white pith under the yellow zest get into the pan? The pith is bitter. I don't men touch of white here or there on the back of the zest.

Parsley stems can be bitter when cooked.

If all the ingredients are fresh and still tasted good individually, that's what I came up with.
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Old 01-13-2010, 10:02 PM   #4
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You might check your olive oil for freshness - if it's a bit off it would cook up bitter. Otherwise all the suggestions are ones I would use! Keep trying! My husband often says that when I cook good I cook very very good but when I cook bad it's awful! Not every dish will be a raving success but keep trying and your ratio wil improve!
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Old 01-13-2010, 10:39 PM   #5
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i agree that the lemon pith is bitter. capers shouldn't be bitter, they're briney & vinagery.
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Old 01-14-2010, 07:16 AM   #6
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if you're using asparagus that is quite thick, you should peel most of the green skin off, from just below the tip. this is mainly because of its stringyness, but it can also be bitter. also, parsley stems tend to be bitter, cooked or not; use only the leafy part.

other than these and the white part of the lemon peel, there's nothing else that ought to be bitter in your recipe.

while preparing food, it's a good idea to taste (almost) everything before you use it. for example, red wine that has been opened and stored in a warm place can turn in an amazingly short time. here in japan i often come across potatoes and zucchinis that are quite astringent.
let me make sure that wine's ok before i use it.
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Old 01-14-2010, 07:42 AM   #7
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The parsley and lemon zest are most likely the reason for the bitterness. As others have said, if you zested down to the white then that will be bitter. Parsley can also be bitter.

Combining the butter and oil is not a no no by any means. It is a very common cooking technique. That would not cause bitterness. Neither would the capers or asparagus.
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Old 01-14-2010, 09:12 AM   #8
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Thanks all for your tips/comments/thoughts! MUCH appreciated! I think perhaps this was a combination of these things, because i have seriously never tasted anything so bitter and disgusting! Even my boyfriend, who will eat anything, irrespective of even its expiry date, couldn't stomach it.

I thought the recipe said (and i may have misread) to boil the pasta in the same water the asparagus had been done in, so if the asparagus was bitter, that would've just infused everything. Also, i may have slightly over zested my lemon and been a little liberal with the parsely stalks.

Thanks again! I'll keep trying, though perhaps i'll avoid this recipe for a while until the trauma abates... :)
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Old 01-14-2010, 11:14 AM   #9
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I have never really liked lemon zest. It tastes artificial to me. Whenever a recipe calls for it, I use lemon juice instead. Recipes always turned out fine. I love lemon in so many things.
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Old 01-14-2010, 02:33 PM   #10
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imho, lemon zest is one of the best flavor enhancers known. You just have to use it with a very light hand, and make sure there is NO pith (the white part just under the yellow skin) or it will be awful.

OP, I don't think cooking the pasta in the asparagus water would hurt it, but I probably wouldn't do it on gp.

I never use parsley stalks, except sometimes in soup or a bouquet garni. Most recipes call for the leaves only when you're chopping.

I'm betting on the lemon zest (and that you got some pith in there) as the cause of the bitterness.

Learning to cook is just like learning to ride a bike. you have to practice. It might be a good idea to sign up for some local cooking classes where they are teaching recipes you'd like to make. Then you will add a few to your repertoire that you know how they are supposed to come out, and you will have practiced making at least one of them.

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