Creativity doesn’t always work. Occasionally, my no-recipe approach to cooking yields some horrid results, which deserve documenting as much as the successes. Here is the story of avocado meringue.
First, a short preface on a game played by my friends based on the television series “Iron Chef”. An ingredient is chosen by the host, invitations are issued, and everyone cooks using the special ingredient. We have had some great meals. Ingredients have included pears, mint, yoghurt, citrus, tea, cinnamon, cranberry, and mustard. Allow me to put aside modesty before describing the worst dish I have ever made. During these events, I have made some great food: quail stuffed with apples and minced camel meat, dessert that used mustard three different ways, duck with mint pesto, Earl Grey crusted beef, and the list goes on.
One event that has become rather legendary was the ill-fated Iron Chef avocado. When the host, Mike, suggested the topic to me, it is with full conviction that I can say that it seemed like a great idea. After all, we both love avocados. I actually would argue that I love them as much as I dislike cilantro. (Guacamole laden with soapy cilantro is sadness in a bowl.) We tackled the project full-on, first by going to St. Lawrence Market on a Friday night and buying all the ripe avocados that the vendors were saving for the Saturday morning rush. With over six dozen avocados to our name, we were off.
Eventually, I found out that most of the guests actually disliked avocados so they were not able to fully appreciate the dishes. As one of the main cooks, I was looking for a dish that would have wow factor. An idea came to me after making some avocado crème brûlée that maybe I could do something with 16 egg whites leftover from the recipe.
Surely my mind was in overdrive. Mini-western sandwiches made with egg whites and topped with mashed avocado would have been perfect. But no, I wanted to make a dessert meringue. After some beating, I had an Everest of egg whites and dutifully added cream of tartar and sugar and carefully folded in avocado puree. The meringues, then pale green, finally went into a low oven to cook.
Avocados should not be cooked since they change colour and smell as though they have spoiled. In fact, every person who ate part of the meringue asked me what kind of fish I had used.
The dish was disastrous on every level. It stuck to the aluminum foil, the smell was horrid, and it looked truly unappetizing. And there was so much of it! 16 egg whites meant that every person had a dinner-plate-sized personal meringue. Meringue can also sweat and there were small beads of unknown fluid on the surface that clung to the blackened fibrous bits of avocado. The texture was unlike anything I had ever tasted since the avocado component was, at that stage, very slimy, except on the outside where a crust had formed. Once the crust was pierced, the fish smell would appear. No one could eat more than a mouthful since it was essentially inedible. Those who ate any did so almost as a dare.
Without any doubt, it was the worst dish I have ever made and seriously expected to turn out. At the next Iron Chef gathering, I had a new responsibility: the dishes.