Five "House-Made" Foods That Nearly Always Suck

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I applaud the back-to-basics ethos that's creeping through American dining recently, where chefs are taking seriously the idea of cooking from ingredients, rather than cooking from prepared foods. It's a sort of anti-Sandra Lee, anti-Semi-Homemade revolution that, in general, is improving American dining. More importantly, it's re-training American palates, which will pay off down the road.

That said, some of you need to actually taste your food before you serve it--and have someone whom you trust to tell you the unvarnished truth taste it, too. Certain foods should only be preceded on a menu by the words "house-made" if you actually know what the hell you're doing. Sometimes it's because there is one brand and one brand only that people like, and sometimes it's because you're an idiot and don't know how to cook these things. Read on for an incomplete list of these things.

5. Fake Meat

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This is at the end of the list because it belongs only to a certain sub-sub-sub-category of restaurants. It's tempting, when you run a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, to play with texturized vegetable protein (TVP) or other meat substitutes and try and imbue them with some flavor more appealing than sour cardboard. Unfortunately, pretty much nobody knows how to do it, and the result is me, sitting at a brightly colored table surrounded by batik prints, wishing the kitchen had sautéed the box instead.

4. Mac 'N Cheese

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Cheese sauce--the stuff that goes onto mac 'n cheese--is simple stuff. It's white sauce with cheese melted into it. Unfortunately, ninety percent of the chefs in this country need to go back to middle school home economics and re-learn how to make a damn white sauce. If I had a dollar for every gluey, floury mac 'n cheese I've eaten since my daughter was born, I'd be able to rent a goon squad to beat some sense into the chefs of America. You suck at mac 'n cheese, chefs. Please, please, please go to the South and learn how to make it properly.
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11 comments
Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young

Being from 'Back East', I'm surprised you think that throwing cheese sauce on elbow pasta is 'Mac and Cheese'. Mac and Cheese is elbows, layered with a sharp cheddar, and then with enough milk with a bit of flour added to moisten the whole thing. Stick it in the over, bake an hour at 350, and there you have it.

LPHastings
LPHastings

Dave, do you like Haven's mac and cheese? That stuff makes me feel like I can die happy. Their ketchup however, confuses my brain.

Rayann Castro
Rayann Castro

 Milk + Mayo + Packaged Dressing = perfection. Damn. I want ranch.

Rayann Castro
Rayann Castro

I have to agree with the fancy ketchup trend. This is when it went way too far. Look - it took me 28 god dang years to perfect my Heinz 57 bottle smacking technique and I have it down now to a dog gone science. Just give me the bottle. Please.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Macaroons with two Os are the coconut piles of sweetness—I think of them as Jewish myself, maybe because they're so popular on Passover. Macarons with one O, don't pronounce the S, are the things I'm describing above. They're French.

Kwelch29
Kwelch29

Ive never seen macaroons like what you described. I thought macaroons were a kinda dense cookie like thing. A coconut macaroon for example. Those look like merenque cookies.

NathanPralle
NathanPralle

Amen to the ketchup, esp. now that they have fructose-free if that's your bag, baby.    I don't doubt there's probably a way to improve upon it, but nobody *I've* ever met has done so without making it taste like spaghetti sauce gone horribly wrong.   Best we give up for now, I think.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Regarding your #4... you actually have to cook the roux to get the flour taste out, use enough milk to stop it being gluey, and add the cheese correctly so it turns into a sauce and not a paste. Clearly, though, this is beyond pretty much every cook outside the barbecue belt...

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