TNS: Separate is not equal, except when everything sucks equally.


It’s not as bad as the night we tried to LIVE IT UP with Paula Deen and ended up with what was essentially a mayonnaise casserole, but it’s not good and is made even more tragic by its source: Suzanne GoinSunday Suppers at Lucques!

I can sum it up for you in one word: beets.

Make that three words: terrible, terrible beets.

It was not my decision to segregate the beets, she made me do it.*

The dish was herbed pan-seared halibut with arugula** and roasted beets in horseradish-creme fraiche.  The fish was flavored with lemon, thyme and parsley, a combo I didn’t realize until later is quite a favorite of Goin’s.  The only difference was the lack of saffron in this dish, and thank god because I would have been PISSED if I’d wasted saffron on this beet stinkbomb.

I was also going to make the dessert she suggested as an accompaniment to this menu, a brown butter-hazelnut cake with caramelized pears.  I didn’t make that, because we both had to work late and I ran out of time.

In retrospect, that was a mistake.  Instead of cooking the beets, trying to eat them and THEN throwing them into the garbage, we should have thrown the raw beets directly into the trash and eaten cake.  (Or eaten them raw in a salad, because I know for sure that I like beets that way.)  Live and learn, live and learn.

Anyway, I dutifully scrubbed the beets, tossed them in olive oil and salt, and put them in a roasting pan with some water, which was then covered tightly with foil.  Which, excuse me because I am not the head Chef at Lucques, but would that not be steaming the beets?  I believe the general rule is:

  • Steaming: Using boiling water, to be used when you want to preserve color and nutrients but keep your vegetables tasting vegetal
  • Roasting: Using high, dry oven heat, to be used when you want to make your vegetables taste good

*Next time – if there is a next time – we’ll bus some of the golden beets over to the red beet neighborhood. Maybe that will help things.

**Or spinach, if you happened to HATE arugula.

Duo of shallots.  Raw shallots + steamed beets. Yum!

While the beets “roasted,” I threw the dressing together.  There are actually two of them: a simple vinaigrette of shallots, 3 different kinds of acid (balsamic, red-wine vinegar and lemon juice) and olive oil that you toss with the beets to try and make them taste like something*, and the horseradish cream, which is drizzled over the whole dish.

I’m sorry if I’m giving away too much about my feelings surrounding this dish too early in the post.  The disappointment, it is difficult to bear.

Did I mention that we didn’t get to start cooking until 8.00 and we were starving and the fucking GIANT MUTANT BEETS took an hour to “roast”?  And that then they had to cool?  I’m just saying.


I admit it: It’s my first time eating horseradish.  Which did not make me more excited, because could there be a less appetizing name for a food?

The horseradish cream was next:  creme fraiche, heavy cream, a good dose of horseradish, some cracked black pepper and more lemon juice.

I have to take a minute to tell you about this heavy cream, because I have never encountered a substance of this texture that purported to be a liquid.  I’m going to throw it into the standing mixer tomorrow to see if there is any lag time at all between “whipped cream” and “butter,” because I have a feeling that just grabbing it from the fridge too quickly would churn it into butter.  Delicious butter, but still.

It comes from SkyTop Farms in New York, and I have never seen a liquid so thick that poured so slowly.  It didn’t just taste like heavy cream.  It tasted like HEAVY FUCKING-ASS CREAM, MOTHERFUCKER.*  It gets all up in your face like I DARE YOU TO TRY AND POUR ME, and I almost didn’t dare because I was a little scared of what was going to happen.  Which is just what the cream wanted.

I made Brian watch me pour it, and he was all like “Is that still good?  It looks kinda thick.”  And I was like YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.  Also, don’t distract me, because if I pour too fast it might turn into butter before it hits the bowl.

*Yep, more grotesque searches on the way.

Fish failure.

Dressings complete, it was on to fish.

I often fail to read recipes ahead of time.  Or I do, but fail to comprehend them, maybe because I am so easily distracted by heavy cream.  I was supposed to let the halibut sit with the lemon and herbs for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight, but instead it sat for about an hour while we wasted our time waiting for the beets to finish “roasting” and cooling, because of course they had to then be peeled.

At least they were pretty.

We had both red and yellow beets, as Suzanne had instructed us to try and find multiple colors (unfortunately, there were no fun chiogga beets, widely known as the most party hearty of all beets).  Also as instructed, we kept the cooked, peeled and sliced beets in separate bowls so the red beets wouldn’t bleed all over the gold ones.  Because “roasted” red beets will bleed all over anything and everything and will make your kitchen look like you’re the demon barber of Fleet Street.  Anyway, I kept them segregated and dressed them with the vinaigrette in separate bowls although I can’t see what damn bit of difference it makes because they all end up on the same plate anyway but I’m sure there’s a great reason.

They were pretty, the beets.  I can say that for them.  Beets.  Pretty colors.  Maybe they’re meant to be decorative only?

Brian seared the fish off, while I followed Suzanne’s precise instructions for assembling the dish for presentation:

Seriously, they were really detailed.

  1. Scatter most of the arugula spinach on a serving platter.  Arrange the beets on top.
  2. Drizzle some of the horseradish cream over the beets.
  3. Strategically tuck bits of arugula spinach into the nooks and crannies among the beets to fill out the dish and make it look like the greens are growing organically from amongst the beets because that is totally believable.
  4. Put the fish on top, add more horseradish cream, and top with a drizzle of good olive oil

Guess which one of those steps I found the most irritating and unnecessary?  I’ll even give you a hint: it’s not 1, 2 or 4.

That was not very interesting, so an aside:  Have you seen Coraline? Have you been considering not seeing it because you’re a person who doesn’t go to see cartoons?  Screw your principles and go see it. Or at least read the book, and then read everything else Neil Gaiman has ever written, especially Neverwhere.  And then thank me. Because you will.

John Sununu is on The Daily Show, and I was SO CONVINCED that he was a character from Star Trek.  Turns out he’s just some lame ex-Senator

So there’s dinner.  Surprisingly, I liked the horseradish cream.  Especially with the hint of olive oil, it was fantastic on the halbut (and actually pretty good on the spinach as well).  Creamy, peppery, some bite to complement the richer side of the fish.

Should I even tell you how I felt about these beets?  If you have an eye for detail, you’ve probably already discerned my feelings.

These beets tasted like nothing.  A complete absence of any flavor whatsoever.  It wasn’t even a “not that bad, I’ll just eat them anyway” thing.  Literally, after putting a beet in my mouth and chewing, I had to stop myself from going slack-jawed and letting the half-chewed beets fall from my mouth to the plate.  I didn’t, despite the fact that I was in the privacy of my own home, but I wanted to.  Even coated with vinaigrette, mxied with raw shallots and topped with horseradish cream, they tasted like NOTHING.  They were like a flavor tractor beam that sucked the flavor out of any foods that touched them (I had to isolate my fish on the plate so I could finish it).

I still like the book and the other recipes I’ve pulled from it have all been tasty.  But these beets?  MASSIVE FAIL.

Damn, I wish I had made that fucking cake.

ONE YEAR AGO: Time to make the donuts!

0 thoughts on “TNS: Separate is not equal, except when everything sucks equally.

  1. What a pisser! There is nothing more disappointing than spending time and effort on a dish that sucks. Been there. Done that.

    I bet that horseradish creme would be good with beef. Mmm.. .

  2. Possibly roasting the beets -for real- would have been a better idea, seems your instincts are better than Goin’s (steamed beets? Oh by all that is holy, why?)!!! Did the halibut suffer from not marinading long enough?
    In my book? Goin – zero, Michelle – eleventy.

  3. I don’t understand your beets tasting like nothing. Even beets from a can taste like something, and I’m a confirmed beet-eater. OH WOW, that made me free associate with Beef-eater / Beefeater / Gin, maybe I have a new cocktail idea!

    Spinach for Arugula seems like a bad idea to me, I would not have made that substitution with either halibut OR beets and expected the meal to gel.

    99.9% of all the wasabi you’ve ever eaten has been horseradish.

    Regarding more important matters, I have Neverwhere on BBC VHStapes in a nice black plastic container. Neil Gaiman is just a great storyteller. Given that you appear to have literary taste, may I recommend Octavia Butler? Only the greatest writer of the second half of the 20th century.

    I dedicate this meal to Odin! Rawrrrr!

  4. I really, really love beets. But I’ve only ever had them roasted or Harvard-beet style (boiled, sliced, and mixed with butter, sugar, and vinegar), so maybe it was the steaming. Or maybe they were just shitty beets. That happens with store produce sometimes, no matter how good it looks.

    Now I really want some beets. Except we will not HAVE beets in the garden until at least May. Dammit.

  5. 1. I’m sorry about the beets…they can be awesome when done right. I have found that for people that dont like them so much, i peel them and chop them in fairly small dice (like homefries) and toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. or sesame oil, a dash of vinegar and Herbs de provence (dont ask me why that works) and roast the heck out of them, like potatoes. they loose some of the excess water that bogs down their flavor sometimes, and condenses their good stuff.

    2. RE: Coraline: So, does Danny Elfman come all over this movie as well? It’s been Tim Burton’s biggest downfall over the last few movies…Danny Elfman’s propensity piss his name all over everything…in elevating decibels of musical numbers. bleh!

    having said that, I *heart* Neil Gaiman and really want to see this one way or another…even if i have to suffer through a Danny Elfman love fest

  6. Sorry about your horrible beet-roasting experience. I hope you try roasting them again because they are awesome when they come out right. We roast beets all the time cause we love ’em so much!

    I cut them into 4 pieces and throw them in a pyrex dish, cover the dish, then into a 400 oven for about 90 minutes or until a fork goes through with no resistance.

    Let them cool just enough so that you can handle them, then scrub the skins off with a paper towel.

    It does take a while but you can do it days in advance and roasting them this way concentrates the sweet flavor.

    We usually serve them in a fruity vinaigrette, sprinkled with goat cheese.

  7. When I’ve roasted beets, I’ve peeled and sliced them beforehand, mixed them with other veggies, and put them all in a big pan with salt and pepper, olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar. Yum!

  8. erin, i know. but it was REALLY good on the fish. plus, now i have half a tub left in the fridge. i predict that everything i eat today will have creme fraiche on it.

    gammyp, i bet a stronger version would. the creme and heavy cream really dialed down the sting here, not enough strong flavor to stand up to a good piece of beef.

    anna, the halibut didn’t suffer; it was still citrusy and herby and delicious (although i don’t doubt that it would have been even better had it sat longer).

    fuzzy, re: the beets, it remains a mystery to me. also, i will happy eat any food over baby spinach that has been spritzed with a little acid, but cannot abide arugula. i have never had wasabi either, because sushi and sashimi make me want to hork. and finally, i LOVE the bbc’s version of neverwhere, and octavia butler has been on my list of “must read but never get around it to” for years.

    kristin, that’s the thing – i also like beets. i especially like them raw in salads. i’m thinking that despite their good looks and whole foods origins, they were just really shitty beets.

    steph, you need more help that i can give.

    vera, see, now THAT is the way i would cook a beet (see above, i usually eat them raw).

    also, coraline is free from danny elfman because it is NOT a tim burton movie, just the same style fo producer. i don’t know if this makes it better or worse for you, but it does include some there might be giants.

    DJ, of course you do. because as we’ve established, roasted = better tasting veggies. i’ve tossed whole little beets in with other roasted veg and have never had this kind of beet tragedy.

    matt, yes, see, but no water! no steaming! you want the water OUT of the beets so they taste more beet-y, you don’t want more water IN the beet!

    i’m really convinced that the weird cooking method + shitty beet combo was the culprit here.

  9. I am very excited for Coraline, and the hubby and I are going tomorrow as our “date”. And I believe it is directed by the same person who did The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it took them 7 years to agree/come up with the screenplay, so… hopeful.
    For the unaware: “Coraline” and “The Graveyard Book” are his “children’s” stories, but clearly only a very cool child is reading Neil Gaiman. (Tho he did win the Newbery Award for The Graveyard Book last month.)
    I also loved American Gods, Good Omens, Neverwhere, and Anansi Boys (tho slightly less).

    A tasteless beet is a tragic thing, as when they are done right, they are oh so sweet and tender. I blame the foil tent blocking the roasting goodness.
    Tonight I am attempting 2 different Ina Garten recipes, both involving puff pastry and various cheeses. I’m not sure how they can go wrong, but wish me luck!

  10. Sorry you had bad beets. I’m not a beet person myself, so I would likely not have even tried this. Actually, I did make a mixed-vegetable nad beet soup a while back, and it reminded me why I don’t like beets. Moral of the story: don’t try recipes with ingredients you know you don’t like.

    So were these worse than the fish noodles?

    I”m quite psyched for Coraline. If they would only make a movie out of the “Sandman” graphic novels, or a movie version of “Good Omens”…

    I know they sell Skytop Farms cream at my local Whole Foods. I must obtain some the next time I need cream for a recipe. (Goes off to find recipe that contains cream)

  11. I’m reading that book right now. Sunday Suppers, not Coraline, but I’ve been meaning to read Gaiman one of these days. I’m all excited to try several things from SS, but maybe things other than this. I do love beets though.

  12. I had that horseradish cream with some outstanding beef short ribs and wilted spinach at Lucques in December. If that recipe is in the book, it’s a far better use of the cream than this appears to be…

  13. I’ve always thought I hated beets, but then once it was our hostess’ choice for me to make a roasted beet salad for one of our dinner parties, and it was damn good. I haven’t had them since, of course, but I do hold that fond memory.

    I was confused at TDS last night, because wasn’t there a John Sununu press secretary or something to GWB? But that guy was fatter and older or something, but I don’t give enough of a shit to look it up.

    In closing, horseradish is awesome. Now you may commence putting it in everything, it’s almost always welcome. OK, maybe not in oatmeal.

  14. holy crap, I could have sworn i saw Tim Burton’s name attached to it! and now checking IMDB, i’m happy to see i was wrong! huzzah YO

    please go back to your food talk now

  15. chessa, i feel like i’m the only gaiman fan in the world who didn’t like american gods (not true: brian didn’t like it either). maybe i need to give it another go.

    we might go see coraline again in one of the theaters w/3D. i don’t really mind, since i got in free the firs time. go go brother in law who manages a movie theater.

    rachel, there is no way in hell these were worse than the fish noodles. i mean, these you could eat if you HAD to. the fish noodles, apart from being gross, were virtually impossible to actually eat.

    i’m betting the skytop cream makes ridiculously amazing butter.

    lisa, on the whole, i really like the book. the other smackdown we did, with the saffron chicken and parmesan custard and pea shoots was great.

    arthur, now that sounds good. i’d actually wanted to do one of her braised recipes (either the duck or the osso bucco), but failed to plan far enough ahead and didn’t feel like eating dinner at 3 in the morning. although i would probably wait up that long for a good braised short rib.

    peggassus, i’m glad you have a happy beet memory to which to cling. my beet-related memories are all like, “okay, decent.”

    vera, told you so. you must now see it immediately. it’s visually stunning. plus it has the voice of john hodgman.

    for those planning to see coraline: wait until the end of the credits. the very, very end, when the screen goes black and you think there couldn’t possibly be anything left. and you will be rewarded with humor.

  16. but but i love beets
    i’ll bet you bought suck ass beets
    it’s too soon for beets
    beets rule
    beets make sugar
    beets beets beets

    still, looked beautiful
    i’d have enjoyed it.
    i just know it.

    i appreciate your attention to step 3
    you win a trip to peoria for your painstaking attention to detail

  17. please explain the beet love or hate? everytime i have beets all i taste is dirt… every.single.time. no matter how they are cooked. is this like how some people hate cilantro because it tastes like soap?

    as for step three, it’s a little twee. i would want to smack her if i saw ever meet her.

  18. wow. that is a seriously stupid recipe for beets. I hate yellow beets. they taste like the sweet mush I used to feed my horses. When I smell them it makes me think I’m in a barn. Some people hate green peppers, I hate yellow beets. We all have our culinary Waterloos :-)

  19. Hrrrmmmmm I’ve always been positive I didn’t like beets, but I made them in soup last week and they were actually pretty good. And there’s something really macabre about the color.
    Speaking of:
    1) It always gives me a tingle of joy when I get references to things like Sweeny Todd!
    2) I think we’re going to see Coraline tomorrow for Valentine’s Day. It looks like a good V-day movie, no?

  20. Beets are completely useless. And soul-sucking. Back in the days of the Puritans, when that and offal was about all there was to eat (and I bet you’d be awfully fucking grateful to have it, too.) I can understand. Nowadays, there are more rewarding root vegetables to deal with. Beets shall never darken my doorstep.

  21. Yeah that “roasting” method was a surprise coming from that book… have you made the Devil’s Chicken Thighs? I’ve had that one pulled for 4 months waiting to make it and was thinking of starting tonight so we could have it for dinner tomorrow.

    Sorry about the meal. At least the fish and cream were good. I would hate to have wasted the fish, really, more than anything.

    I can’t wait to see Coraline! I am no anti-cartoon movie person, quite the opposite. Steve and I – I even more than he – are huge animation fans. Plus, it’s a Neil Gaiman tale and he, you know, doesn’t suck. ;)

  22. claudia, so, you like beets then? but i’m telling you: you would not have enjoyed this.

    also: one trip to peoria per lifetime is enough for me, thanks.

    ECM, see, and i don’t get the cilantro people. it’s one of my favorite all-time herbs.

    ann, while i didn’t like either of the beets, the red at least suggested that they might, one day, taste like something. the yellow? not so much. just purty looking.

    kate, the color of the red beets is terrifying, and it really does get all over everything, no matter how hard your try.

    coraline, in the end, is a sweet movie (it was a kids’ book, after all), so have a lovely V-day.

    allison, beet will never be parsnips. but i don’t expect them to be. i just want them to be, you know, something.

    melissa, not yet. like i said, i’ve been bad at planning lately so anything that involves day before prep flies out the window. i’ve heard great things about that chicken, though.

  23. Out of the entire post, the Coraline mention struck me. I read the book; it’s amazing. In fact, I found it extremely well written and extremely creepy! If the movie is true to the book, it’ll be amazing.

  24. Beets have to be roasted forever to get them to taste like anything. Ninety minutes at 400 degrees sounds about right, which means you really have to want beets to make that big of a commitment. There are so few times that I have wanted beets badly enough to run the oven that hot for that long that I could count them on the fingers that grow directly from my elbow. I too have had a one time experience with beets that convinced me that I can live a long and happy life without them.

    Except pickled. I do like pickled beets.

    My personal commitment to making wise use of my oven requires that if I am going to turn it on, I must cook as many things as I can reasonably fit into it at one time. Other than oven fried chicken or baked potatoes, there aren’t many things that cook well at 400 degrees. Which means that the beets would spend a long time in that oven alone. Which is against my rules of frugal energy expenditure.

    That was really nice of you to say that you like my user name. It’s Welsh for Edith. I’m neither Welsh, nor am I named Edith. I just like the name.

  25. Had my first bite of beet in what must have been 40 years in an antipasti today at Papa’s Tomato Pies in Trenton, NJ, which, I might add, serves a FINE tomato pie. That’s one thing you Yankees have over us down South — we can’t get decent pizza. Anyway, I now remember why I haven’t had a beet since my grandmama made me eat ’em when I was a kid.

  26. Like Aldyth, I like pickled beets if I have to eat beets. I tried canning some one time. The little pint jars looked so nice on my kitchen counter, but two days later they started hissing at me as I walked past. My husband hustled them out to the front yard just in time–beet juice blew about 30 feet out to the street. I just buy them now.

  27. I found your site through the bloggie awards and I LOVE IT. You are hilarious.

    Beets. I think they taste too much like dirt. Maybe I need to try them again. Last summer the most enjoyment I got out of them was watching a friend’s kid squish some red beets between her toes after throwing one of those ubiquitous beet and goat cheese salads on the ground at barbecue. I did have to peel pounds and pounds of red beets at work, which may have led to my distaste of them. The peeling, and the follow-up comments of “oh, is it that time of the month!?” by all my male co-workers. Oh, they are so hilarious.

  28. What a disappointment on the beets – I LOVE roasted beets, especially when they’re dressed in a simple vinaigrette. Oh, and with horseradish. Maybe it was the boil/roast that sucked all the beety virtue into a flavorless void of culinary brigadoon?

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