October 16, 2014

Dana Cowin on Mastering Mistakes & Perfect Carrot Soup {Giveaway}

MasteringMistakes hc c

I am no stranger to mistakes in the kitchen. The stories are almost too numerous to count. Dried out roast chicken? Check. Burnt cookies? Done. Forgotten ingredients in soup? Yup, been there. Obviously, I don’t write about all of the mistakes I make in this space. Instead I learn from them and try again before I consider a recipe completed and ready for publication. Sure, I know you’ll all make your own mistakes, too. And that is okay. Even the best chefs and food writers make them! Don’t believe me, you need to read Dana Cowin’s new book, Mastering my Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Different Recipes.

In it she shares delicious recipes she has worked on mastering over time, and the tips she got from the worlds best chefs on how to make them foolproof. Not only are the recipes perfect for home cooks, the mistakes she’s made over the years are sooo relatable. It is hard to imagine that someone in her line of work doesn’t have some kind of culinary omniscience we all strive for. But she doesn’t and, frankly, it is a bit of relief to know. She works to perfect her recipes just like the next person, and she’s written a book to help us all get a little more confident and excited about cooking at home.

MMM Potluck

To celebrate the launch of her new book I had the pleasure of attending a potluck at Dana’s with a group of amazing fellow food bloggers. It was such a pleasure to see the always fun Phoebe, Olga, Merrill, and Amanda. It was also my first time meeting Alexandra, Anna, Deb, Julia, and Silvana. We were asked to bring a recipe we’ve perfected over time, after making numerous mistakes with it, so I brought a Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake. During supper we each talked about our mistakes with the recipe we brought, what we learned, and how it has helped us improve our techniques since.

I could go on and on about Phoebe’s Gluten-Free Chicken Meatballs, Anna’s Green Tahini Dip, Ali’s Galette, Sara-Kate’s Bed-Stuy Sours, and Serena’s Cauliflower Gratin. They were all little dishes of perfection and the stories about how they came to be so perfect were priceless. It is hard to imagine there are so many mistakes behind such gracious food, but, believe me, there are quite a few. And they are all wonderful.

If you, like me, believe mistakes are the best way to learn (even if it does mean wasting ingredients) you will love Dana’s book. The engaging stories about solving the seemingly unsolvable cooking problems are valuable to even the most experienced cook. I mean, who wouldn’t want to know Ming-Tsai’s key to perfectly juicy dumplings and Mario’s tips on make delicious pasta. Dana has tapped the best for their knowledge and is here to share it with us. Best of all, I am giving away two copies!

To enter to win one copy of Mastering My Mistakes:

1) Leave a comment below sharing a mistake you’ve made in the kitchen and what you’ve learned from it.

2) Subscribe to my newsletter (upper right)

3) For an extra entry tweet the following:  ” Ready to master your kitchen mistakes? Enter to win @Fwscout’s new cookbook here: http://bit.ly/1CdTTIL ”

Contest runs from Thursday October 16th through Thursday October 23rd. Winner will be announced in the newsletter on Friday October 24th.  Good luck!

Chapter 1 Starters & Soups A131014 FW Making My Mistakes 2013

Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup with Pine Nut + Caper Topping

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Serving Size: 8

One of my favorite soups is carrot ginger, but until recently, it was definitely not one of my favorite soups to make. I’d screwed it up too many times. The first time I tried a recipe, I simmered the carrots in broth, then poured the hot liquid and vegetables into the blender. I put the top on and whirred. Within seconds, the orange soup had exploded out of the top and splattered all over the walls, the stove and my sweater. When I consulted Jenn Louis of Lincoln in Portland, Oregon, she had this recommendation: Use an immersion blender or, if using a regular blender, f ill it only halfway, take the plug out of the lid and cover the hole with a towel so some of the steam can escape. The softened vegetables will puree to a gorgeous soupy consistency, with no geyser!

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  • 21⁄2 pounds carrots, scrubbed and sliced 1⁄4 inch thick (about 8 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄2 cup roughly chopped pine nuts
  • 2 small garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, dried well on paper towels
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (about 11⁄2 cups)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. For the carrots, preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Put the carrots in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spread them out and roast, stirring occasionally until tender and very browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the topping: Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add the pine nuts and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add the capers and cook for another 20 seconds or so, until crisp.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor, add the parsley and salt to taste and pulse to make a not-too-smooth puree. Set aside.
  5. To finish the soup, heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and just barely beginning to take on color, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Add the roasted carrots, take the pot off the stove and place it on a heatproof surface.
  7. Using an immersion blender, carefully puree the soup until completely smooth. Alternatively, transfer the soup, in batches, to a conventional blender, filling it no more than halfway. Remove the plug from the lid, to vent the blender, cover the top tightly with a kitchen towel and puree. Add water to the soup if desired for a thinner consistency. Season again to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with the caper topping and serve.


NOTE The soup can also be made by cooking the carrots in the onion and stock mixture until they’re soft, for 20 to 30 minutes, then pureeing the soup. While you won’t get the caramelized flavor of the roasted carrots, you will still have a great bowl of soup.

MAKE AHEAD The soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Chef Tips from Jenn Louis

ON ACHIEVING THE PERFECT CONSISTENCY It is easier to thin a thick soup than to thicken a thin soup. If adding liquid to thin the soup, start with a small amount, then add more if desired.

ON GETTING MORE FLAVOR FROM CARROTS Roasting vegetables rather than simmering them will concentrate their flavor.

ON CHECKING ROASTED VEGETABLES FOR DONENESS When roasting the vegetables, make sure they’re soft enough that they will be able to fully puree, without leaving any firm chunks. To test them for tenderness, pierce them with a skewer.

CHEF VARIATION To make the soup even creamier without using cream, add more olive oil, fresh bread crumbs or nuts when you puree it.

From Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen by Dana Cowin. Copyright 2014 Dana Cowin. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


23 Responses to “Dana Cowin on Mastering Mistakes & Perfect Carrot Soup {Giveaway}”

  1. Marjory Lynn says:

    My biggest and worst mistake was Thanksgiving, made a Pumpkin Pie and forgot to add the sugar. Nobody complained but the did PILE on the whipped cream. It was still beautiful, but not sweet at all.

  2. Liz Schmitt says:

    It took me a long time to learn to crank up my burner when I was sautéing something on the stove –

  3. bellagirl07 says:

    One time used salt instead of sugar in a recipe and I started over to fix it and learned to pay attention next time.
    heather hgtempaddy@hotmail.com

  4. Joanne Walton says:

    Once when I was cooking dinner for my mother-in-law and sister-in-law (who’s a great cook!), I forgot about the hot oil in the pot on the stove and it caught fire! I panicked and set the pot (which was on fire) on my kitchen floor which was linoleum at the time and melted it! So now I am very careful not to turn on the oil for sautéing until I have cut the onions!!

  5. miranda says:

    I followed the recipe for how long to cook the pastry, but I burned it since my oven cooks fast

  6. miranda says:


  7. miranda says:


  8. bill says:

    I put the pizza (in its box) in the oven to keep it warm, and it caught on fire

  9. gary says:

    I tried to open a can of beans with a beer opener and it went everywhere

  10. Kristen says:

    I made the mistake of heating something up in aluminum foil in the microwave and it caught on fire.

  11. sara says:

    I have made countless batches of failed macarons. I know they are difficult and tempermental but boy did they cause me trouble. I finally got the technique down and it was such a triumph!

  12. gary says:


  13. gary says:

    newsletter subscriber

  14. Christina C says:

    I always cook eggs over too-high heat because I’m impatient, but I know that “low and slow” is best!

    newsletter subscriber, and I tweeted!

  15. Christine Mayfield says:

    I am a subscriber and the biggest mistake I made was putting 2 Tablespoons of cinnamon into Cincinnati Chili for my hubby instead of 2 Tsps. Ohh it was disgusting! I had to throw out the whole batch.

  16. Sarah H.P. says:

    I’ve made flat Macarons plenty of times and I’ve learned it’s all about the humidity on the day and getting enough air into your egg whites!

  17. Sarah H.P. says:

    I subscribe to your newsletter!!

  18. Anne says:

    The last few times I used the toaster oven for baking, everything burned on the bottom before being done. After microplaning the burned bits off slices of cake one night, I realized that it is sometimes totally worth it to turn on the “big oven” to get things to turn out right!
    [notheranneother {{at}} gmail {{dot}} com]

  19. Anne says:

    Oh, and I am already an email subscriber to The Naptime Chef. Thanks!
    [notheranneother {{at}} gmail {{dot}} com]

  20. susan says:

    I made a scratch chocolate cake for a family reunion. My best moist chocolate cake recipe. I forgot the baking soda. To look at it was not noticeable but the taste was embarrassing. From then on, I made sure I lined up all my ingredients instead of grabbing them as I read the recipe. I have another big mistake while making my apple pie for a picnic. I was in a hurry and grabbed the cheyenne pepper instead of the cinnamon. Very similar in color and they were side by side in my spice cabinet. My poor 9 yr old grandson was the first to try a piece. Poor little guy.
    I also am a subscriber of your newsletter.

  21. […] this fall I had the pleasure of meeting Anna Watson Carl at a potluck celebrating Dana Cowin’s new book. Anna and I hit is off immediately and I’ll admit I was secretly thrilled to finally meet the […]