When a Recipe Goes Bad

What do you do when a recipe just doesn’t work out the way you expected? I’ve been on a roll lately. Last week, soggy sweet potato fries. Last night, undercooked sausage. When will it end?

This weekend I made Nigella Lawson’s one-dish chicken, sausage, and sage bake from last month’s Food and Wine magazine. It was supposed to be so easy: marinate a cut-up chicken in olive oil, lemons, and sage overnight. I had ample time to set this up on Saturday afternoon, so no problem there. I felt so proud of myself to actually be thinking 24 hours ahead for once.

On Sunday I threw the chicken in a pan with some sausages, added some fresh sage, and baked it for an hour at 425 degrees. I even carefully turned the sausages over after half an hour, so that all sides would cook evenly and oh-so-beautifully. I was ready for a no-stress, hearty dinner that would last me at least 2 days this week.

Well, when I took the pan out of the oven, the liquid marinade increased to half the depth of the pan, as if the tide had suddenly risen. I don’t marinate that often, but I don’t remember such an event ever happening before. And the sausages were pink, inside and out. The rational part of my brain said this couldn’t possibly be true; the little suckers had been cooking for an hour! But my anxious mind wouldn’t let it go. Guess which side won?

I made Jim spit out his first bite of sausage and worried aloud that with that one bite of possibly undercooked meat, he might die. I put the rest of the sausages under the broiler for a while, but even this extra step couldn’t assuage my raw-meat fears. The chicken came out fine–nice and lemony. But I was too stressed out by the sausage to enjoy it.

I don’t think it’s the fault of the recipe, but I am guessing there’s something going on here that I just don’t understand. It sure wouldn’t be the first time. To add to my general lack of success, I can’t even find the recipe on the  Food and Wine website. Wish me luck on the leftovers.


5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Sandra Dravillas said,


    You don’t say if you had a lid on the pan or not, but if you had a lid on the pan, that could be your answer. If you didn’t have the lid on, I have no suggestions on where all the liquid came from. And, if you don’t put a lid on the pan, you will need to add a little liquid every once and a while.

    We are enjoying your blog very much.

    Mom and Dad

  2. 2

    Ashley said,

    I made this the other day and had trouble, too. My sausages were fine. (I think my oven runs hot.) But, my trouble was that the chicken and meat ended up pretty dry. There was plenty of liquid in the marinating bag when I put it in the fridge, but it was completely dry when I took it out. Chad thought the chicken had just soaked up the juice and it would come out again during the cooking process, but it never really got moist. Hmmm….Maybe life is rosier for Nigella.

  3. 3

    Cheryl said,

    I’ve been so curious about this recipe! I’ve seen Nigella do it on TV and then I saw it in Food and Wine. I thought the same thing, “That looks so easy.” So, it’s interesting to see both you and Ashley had problems with it! These things always look so easy on TV! To answer your question, what to do when a recipe goes bad? If you’re like me, you assume it’s the fault of the recipe (of course, it had nothing to do with me because I’m an awesome cook!), and move on to the next experiment 🙂

  4. 4

    Lisa DeMayo said,

    ok. hmmm… yes please nuke all leftovers…. no want die.

  5. 5

    Sue Dravillas said,

    First address the sausage question? Pork, like chicken, (or like chicken used to be when
    chicken had both “white” and “dark” meat ) Take a look at a center cut pork chop with
    a tenderloin. The main portion is “white ” but the tenderloin portion is “red”. The sirloin
    chops or butt portion will also be dark. Most sausage is made from the butt (which is
    actually the shoulder of the pig), the leg or ” ham” is the rear. When cooked, this meat
    will look “red” even when fully cooked. If a meatloaf is made using beef, veal, and pork,
    when cooked and sliced, some areas will have “redish” spots from the pork .

    As to the liquid problem, there are several variables. Was the chicken previously
    frozen? Was the pan “crowded? Was the chicken removed from the marinade or
    was the total put in the pan. It should have been removed. Ah! trial and error,it’s forever.

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