I may be a master chef in Cooking Mama's starry eyes, but in real life I can barely boil an egg.
Besides, the recipes in the "Cooking Mama" games can't be followed step-by-step (well, maybe the instant ramen is an exception). They were designed in a way so I could slice, dice and stir with my stylus, and they don't tell me the requisite measurements for actually cooking the food if I wanted to.
So when I saw that "Gourmet Chef" was coming out for the DS, and that it included "more than 70 recipes you can make at home," I just had to try it. After all, I still had France on the brain from my recent trip, so what better way to reminisce than by making some authentic French food?
Read on to see the results (photos and all) of the five dishes I made, and the ratings my hapless, taste-testing boyfriend gave them.
Difficulty (according to game): Easy - 20 Minutes
Ingredients: 1 avocado, 1 pineapple, 2 slices of smoke bacon, butter, lemon juice
Utensils: knife, cutting board, pan, wooden skewers
The Process: The instructions were pretty straightforward, and since there wasn't a lot of actual cooking required, this seemed like a good way for me to start making food that wasn't macaroni and cheese out of the box (my specialty). I easily peeled and cut the avocado without hurting myself, and as for cutting the pineapple, I cheated and bought an already-sliced one. Then all I had to do was melt a "knob" of butter to cook the bacon with. As I said, because I'm a cooking novice, "knob" meant "chunk" to me, so that's what I used (note: use less butter so that it doesn't splatter onto your appendages. Hot!). The directions also told me to "sprinkle" the lemon juice onto the avocado slices, but no amount was given so I just used a few squirts. When the two slices of bacon were done, I cut those up and put them on the skewers, alternating it with the two fruits, like the game told me to.
Pros: "It's an interesting combo, but it still works," my boyfriend said. (It should be noted that I urged him to be completely honest, and I promised no repercussions for it. I swear.) "It's a mix of sweet and savory, which I like."
Cons: "The pineapple is the most prominent taste; the avocado gets lost."
Verdict: B+ "This would be great for parties."
Difficulty (according to game): Easy - 20 Minutes
Ingredients: 8 tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 2 red peppers, 1 new onion, 1 shallot, 1 garlic clove, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper
Utensils: knife, cutting board, peeler, bowl, mixer
The Process: Eight tomatoes seemed like a lot for two people, so I just halved the measurements to make this dish (plus, I was nervous about how this one would turn out -- V8 soup, anyone?). First, I had to remove the tomatoes' skin by boiling them in water for 30 seconds. This seemed weird to me, but what do I know? And the skins came right off. Next I had to peel and dice the cucumber, red pepper, onion and shallot. For the garlic, I just used minced garlic from a jar. Then I was told to put all these vegetables in a bowl, add a tablespoon of olive oil and vinegar, and mix well to form a "homogeneous soup." Since I don't own a mixer (been meaning to get one), I just stuck everything in a blender. It did the trick. When it was all done I put in the fridge for two hours before serving. The estimated time is deceiving; make sure you read the instructions all the way through before making this (unlike I did) otherwise you'll end up with a dessert rather than an appetizer.
Pros: "Well, it's not as heavy or as salty as V8," my boyfriend said. "It's like a liquefied salad -- with extra tomatoes."
Cons: "Maybe too much tomatoes. It might be better with less tomatoes because I can't really taste the other stuff. Just a hint of the cucumber."
Verdict: C+ "I think once you get the balance right, it could be a good cold soup for the summertime."
Difficulty (according to game): Easy - 15 minutes
Ingredients: 4 beef steaks, 3 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons crushed peppercorns, 4 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 small glass white wine, salt
Utensils: frying pan, whisk
The Process: The game told me to place the crushed pepper on a plate and put the steaks on top as if I was coating them with breadcrumbs. Then to salt lightly. After that, it said to cook the steaks, two minutes on each side, with half of the butter. When they were done, I had to "deglaze" the frying pan with the "small glass" of wine and the heavy cream to make the sauce. I think I put too much wine in though, but "small" is such a relative term, isn't it? Then I added the rest of the butter to make the sauce thicker -- it didn't seem to thicken it that much, though. Oops. Then I was to serve the steaks coated with the sauce. This took about 22 minutes.
Pros: "The steak is surprisingly good," my boyfriend said after watching me make it in fear. "The cream sauce is tasty and sweet, and it goes with the spiciness of the pepper."
Cons: "The ratio of steak to pepper is off; the pepper is overpowering on some parts of the steak. Also, the cream sauce may have a little too much wine in it."
Verdict: B- "This was really good, and it could be better once you get the ratio of wine and pepper right."
Difficulty (according to game): Easy - 45 minutes
Ingredients: 1 pie dough, 10-1/2 tablespoons diced bacon, 3-1/2 oz. grated Emmenthal, 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1 cup whipping cream, 1 cup milk, salt, pepper, one pinch nutmeg
Utensils: frying pan, bowl, whisk, pie pan, oven
The Process: Since I couldn't find "pie dough" anywhere, I went with a pre-made Pillsbury pie crust. Which I didn't realize expired in February until I got it home (five months old can't be that bad right? Plus, it's been in the freezer!). Next, I had to fry and dice the bacon. Then in a bowl, I was to beat the eggs, milk and whipping cream and add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then I placed the diced bacon and grated Emmenthal cheese on the bottom of the pie crust and poured the concoction over it. The pie crust may have been too small for the amount of mixture; it nearly overflowed. I dumped a little bit of it out and stuck it in my oven at 350 degrees. The recipe said it would take 25 to 30 minutes. When I checked on the quiche after a half-hour, it was still kind of soupy. So I left it in longer, checking on it every 5 to 10 minutes. It ended up taking an extra 35 minutes to get the middle not-so-soupy. It was still squishy, but that's how quiche is supposed to be, right?
Pros: "It tastes good; it's a good mix of ingredients," my boyfriend said. "The cheese and bacon are really flavorful."
Cons: "The pie crust tastes stale; it's kind of powdery. Also, I think there's a little bit too much bacon and cheese. I may have a heart attack."
Verdict: C "The texture is a little weird; it could've been firmer. And the pie crust -- bleh."
Difficulty (according to game): Average - 30 minutes
Ingredients: 3/4 cup of milk, juice and zest of 1 lemon, 3 eggs, 2-1/2 tablespoons sugar + 1 tablespoon, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon butter
Utensils: pan, bowl, whisk, electric mixer, ramekins, oven
The Process: First, I had to boil the milk in a pan, and then mix it well with egg yolks with sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and the zest. After that, I was to pour everything back into the pan and whip the mixture on medium heat to obtain "a thick confectioner's custard." At the same time, I was supposed to whisk the egg whites with one tablespoon of sugar until it formed "firm peaks." I whisked as long and as hard as I could, but never obtained "firm peaks." Then I mixed everything together (there's a lot of mixing) and poured it into a buttered cupcake pan (I didn't have ramekins). It said to fill it to three-quarters of the way and then bake for 10 minutes. When I checked at 10 minutes, it seemed really unbaked. I checked with the Food Network to see what the lemon souffle was actually supposed to look like. It said, "Bake 25 minutes or until tops have risen and turn golden brown," which wasn't in the "Gourmet Chef" directions. So I actually left it in for 40 minutes because that's when the tops turned brown. The inside was still really moist and squishy.
Pros: "Um, you can really taste the lemon flavor?" my boyfriend said.
Cons: "Is it supposed to look like that?"
Verdict: D+ "I don't think I would eat this ever again."
All in all, "Gourmet Chef" has pretty good recipes, and it seems like it can get even a cooking novice myself to make a few things that were edible. However, it could use more explicit details and larger images of the final dish to give me a better idea of how things should turn out (versus feeding it to my hapless boyfriend). So the game's not so much "Gourmet Chef" as it is "Decent Cook," but I guess practice makes perfect. C'est la vie.