31 May 2010

Kitchen disasters: smoke and mallows

I've nearly burned down the kitchen twice.

The first time, I was attempting to fry falafel. As I plopped the nuggets into the hot oil, the sizzling quickly gave way to smoldering to, truly, great balls of fire. Fortunately I was quick to recall that baking soda puts out grease fires, as does smothering the heat. Crisis averted (though I've never again attempted falafel at home).

The second time still haunts me.

We'd just finished remodeling our kitchen. I mean, that DAY. The new white cabinets gleamed; retro black and white tiles glistened. Everything was pristine.

To celebrate getting our kitchen back after 10 long weeks of cooking in the microwave and washing dishes in the bathroom sink, we concocted a celebratory meal. A christening.

And what celebration doesn't call for dessert?

I'd seen Rachael Ray make a mean pan of s'mores brownies on 30-Minute Meals a few days prior. A longstanding sucker for the gooey goodness of warmed marshmallows + chocolate, I knew they'd be perfect for the occasion.

I whipped the mix together and poured the batter into the pan, planning to pop them in the oven as soon as I returned from teaching a fitness class at the local pool.

You probably think you know where this is going. Oh NO! She didn't put the brownies in the oven then walk out the door?! She couldn't have!

She didn't.

I knew better than to leave my factory-new oven unattended.

I waited until I returned home, exhausted and smelling of chlorine, to set the treasures into the oven. As I showered, the aroma of chocolate wend through the hallway. I sighed, contented.

The oven buzzer rang. I hurried to the kitchen, pouring our glasses of milk and waiting for the brownies to cool.

But something wasn't quite right... There was the chocolate, the graham. The brownies looked pristine -- perfectly crackly and shiny and... oh DANGIT! Why could I see the top of the brownies?

I had forgotten the marshmallows.

Partway through the recipe, I was meant to have dotted the batter with the fluffy, sugary pillows, letting them nestle between the par-baked brownies, securing to the top of each bite as they continued to bake and brown.

We couldn't have s'more brownies without marshmallows.

Grabbing what I thought was my thinking cap, I decided to put the marshmallows on now. "I'll just tuck them under the broiler for a minute to toast them," I told Nate.

And now you see where this is headed.

I turned to the sink to wash up -- a mere two feet from the slightly ajar oven door -- for a speck of time. I scrubbed a spatula and, maybe, cleaned a bowl. 30 seconds tops.

But in my haste, I'd lost track of my internal checks. I'd put the newly crowned brownies on the top rack -- mere centimeters from the broiler element. And, thinking we'd get to devour dessert sooner, I'd set the broiler to High.

Instead of golden, toasty perfection, we got fire and flames. Now, instead of chocolatey goodness wafting to my nostrils, it was thick, billowing smoke.

I screamed. I had to get a flaming pan out of the new oven, but I had no idea where I'd stashed the oven mitts in the new kitchen configuration.

I prepared for the worst (and peppered the air with cusses).

Fortunately, Nate is the level-headed one in our household. He grabbed a dishtowel, whisking the brownies from the oven and into the sink, batting out the flames.

Meanwhile, I cried, envisioning our sparkling white kitchen ashen and destroyed.

The story has a happy ending: The only thing charred that night was our brownies -- and the aftertaste in our mouths as we tried to eat them, even after spending 10 minutes scraping off the burned bits. The kitchen was safe.

And I learned a new adage to add to the list of life lessons: Don't turn your back on the ocean -- or a new oven.

I know I'm not alone. Tell me, what's your worst kitchen disaster/cooking snafu?


  1. I nearly burnt down my whole house once. I was out of the fuel for the fondue pot and decided to use the fuel from my camping stove instead. BAD DECISION! Everyone survived, but it wasn't pretty.

    Great to see you the other day!

  2. @ Tea, Oh no! That seems like such a good idea, too... Glad it all ended up (mostly) ok! And yes, so great to see you, too!

  3. I'm sure I shared my story with you before:

    I was baking an apple pie (shocking) and realized that that juices were dripping quite heavily. The juices had made their way towards the heating element in my oven and started smoking rather badly. I thought, "Hmmmm....I'll just scraped them away from the element and that will buy me more baking time." As I went to scrape the hardened juices, I thought it would be a good idea to lift the element to REALLY get it all. You see where this is going..... I managed to lift the element too far and it sparked from the back wall, flames flying, catching the juices, and starting the dreaded fireball in my oven! Meanwhile, my sister phones me and while I would typically ignore such a distraction amidst a disaster, I answered my phone and yelled, "Lemme call you back, my kitchen's on fire!" Like you, I fortunately had enough common sense to smother the flames.

    Two dish towels and one smokey apartment later, I had a lovely apple pie.

  4. It wasn't fire. But one day I was making a blueberry smoothie and I didn't realize but the lid wasn't on fully. I put the blender on full blast and it was like Violet Beauregarde spontaneously combusted on my white wall, floor, me, my dog, the counter. I found blue smoothie on the ceiling the next day. It was hilarious (the next day)

  5. @ Hema - Ha! Yes, I do remember this story, and it does still make me laugh! Love that you bothered to answer the phone to tell your sis your kitchen was in flames.

    And @ Becky - oh my!! Why is it that the stuff that spills is always of such deep, ridiculous color? I once unpeeled a pomegranate and the aftermath looked like a crime scene. Just last week I launched a full glass of deep red wine all over our white walls & cupboards. Maybe it's time to paint the walls dark red