The Super Bowl Dinner of DEATH

People sometimes say to me: “Adam, you’ve been the Amateur Gourmet for three years. Are you always going to be an amateur?” As I consider the question I think of all my kitchen triumphs–my braised lamb shanks, my perfect roast chicken, my Amanda Hesser almond cake. I could very well answer, “No! One day I will graduate to something more than amateur, I’ll be the Perfectly Adequate Gourmet and change my website name and web address and my promotional t-shirt design.” Yet, every now and then something happens that knocks me off my pedestal, back to my humble place in the Amateur Pen. That’s precisely what happened on Super Bowl Sunday when I made this for dinner:

It’s a perfectly reasonable Super Bowl dinner. Some might even call it inspired. Sausages and onion rings: man food to eat while watching a PBS documentary about the history of the Broadway musical. The sausages were D’Artagnan wild boar sausages (available at Key Foods) and the onion rings were from an Epicurious recipe (you can read it here). The Dinner of Death began with the onion rings when I made the mistake that almost all cooks warn you not to make when frying in your kitchen… perhaps the most dangerous mistake I’ve ever made…

It started simple enough. Two onions, cut in half, sliced thinly and soaked in buttermilk. A flour mixture with cayenne and paprika and salt:


The onions go into the dry mix and you toss them around:


Meanwhile, you heat vegetable oil in a pot to 350. I purposely filled the pot only halfway because of Mario Batali’s warning, “Anything more and it could spill over: you don’t want THAT to happen.”

Why? Because hot oil can catch fire and if it’s spilling all over your kitchen, you can burn your whole house down.


I added the first handful of onions to the pot:


They fried up great. Took two minutes. I removed them to paper towels and let them drain. Then I added the next handful. Hell, I thought, I’ll add another handful. And another handful.

I wasn’t thinking. I was daydreaming. It took a moment and then I heard the fizzing up and watched as the oil began boiling over.

“Oh shit! Oh shit!”

Diana was standing near the bathroom.

“Oh God…” she said, watching in terror. “Oh God Oh God…”

I quickly moved the bubbling pot away from the stove but little deposits had already caught fire. Hot oil splashed on to the floor and I fully extended my arm over the end of the counter and waited for it to fizzle down. The fires on the stove top went out and after a few harried moments everything was calm and ok.

I set the pot down at the other end of the counter and turned the burners off. My heart was really racing: I was in high adrenaline mode. I really didn’t know what I was going to do if all that oil caught fire—we don’t even have a fire extinguisher. (I know, I know: I better get one.)

This is the scene of the disaster, though it’s hard to tell from the picture:


Here’s the pool of oil from the pot boiling over:


So much boiled over that the burner wouldn’t start again. (I later lifted the hood of the stove and sopped up all the oil with paper towels. Now our burners don’t burn as high, though, so I wonder what’s going on?)

Believe it or not, despite the trauma–this was my scariest kitchen moment yet–I had all these leftover onions and all this leftover oil so I charged ahead, like a brave soldier, and heated that oil up again. When it got to 350 I carefully fried the rest of the onions and they were super tasty. “It was worth it,” joked Diana.

You’d think that was the end of our peril, but then I started cooking the sausages:


I’ve never cooked sausage before, especially not wild boar sausage. When it got browned on all sides I put it on the bun and Diana asked if I was sure it was cooked.

“OF course!” I said and took a bite. The inside was completely raw. I ran into my room and looked it up on the internet and sausages need to cook for 12 minutes. So back into the pan it went until fully cooked, mad boar disease coursing through my veins. When it was really firmed up (10 minutes in) I cut in and saw that it was cooked. Into the bun it went.

And so, despite all the hijinks, the dinner was super tasty. Tasty and humbling. It’s moments like these that I’m sure of my status, secure of my title: I am the Amateur Gourmet, now and forever!

33 thoughts on “The Super Bowl Dinner of DEATH”

  1. From one amateur to another…GO GET A FIRE EXTINGUSHER…I pride myself on my cooking, however we all have our mis-haps. My father went out and bought me one when he new I didn’t have one (he’s a fire fighter and has seen it so many times)For your next deep frying trick try a sweet potatoe fries, I got a recipe off of epicurious… SOOO YUMMY.

  2. well, isn’t amateur derived from the latin word for “love”? if that’s the case then you love what you do and that’s not a bad thing! unless i’m thinking of another word…

  3. Hi, I read your blog almost everyday, but decided to post for the first time since I feel more and more related to your story everyday.

    For deep fry, I had my share of drama and had to drive myself to emergency room with 3rd degree burn on my hand from oil splatter (I live by myself).

    A lesson learn, get an electric fryer! No flame and it maintains the temperature itself so no fume from over heating oil…. I know I know, how many more kitchen appliances do we need? But if you like fried food, it’s a good way to go.

  4. That is really funny. I did the same exact thing on Super Sunday 2 years ago. However my fire sounds a lot worse because it was 3 or 4 feet tall and burned for a long time. I was frying up chicken wings and I made the same mistake as you. It was my last batch and I wanted to fit all the reamining wings in the pot. Clearly not a good idea. Nobody was hurt, but my burners were never the same again.

  5. as an actual amateur who seems to either light my oven mitt on fire or almost chop a finger off every time i cook — it’s reassuring (in an odd and not at all malicious way) to see a professional amateur have a mishap.

    also, i’m glad that you and your roomie are ok and that you triumphed over the onions, the oil and the boar.

  6. Hey first rule of cooking with grease- salt puts out grease fires. So keep some Morten’s around and ready. I thought anyone who cooked knew that.

  7. Hey Adam,

    Costco has the two pack of fire extinguishers available pretty cheap – one kitchen-specific and one general purpose. (I couldn’t find them online but I’m sure they’re there)

    Second – I always poach my sausage in beer on a bed of onions for 10-15 minutes prior to cooking them. Makes them taste great and avoids the raw sausage freak show. One bite of raw sausage converted me to this practice for life. Once poached just sear and heat through – otherwise it is really difficult to cook a sausage properly.


  8. Amateur means “one who does it for love,” so there’s no shame in always being an amateur.

    And it seems likely to me that the gas jets got clogged with the oil. I don’t know what you should do about it, though.

  9. Similar to Jeff, I brown my sausages… then add a quarter inch of liquid ( water, apple cider, apple cider vinegar, you get the idea ) and let simmer over a low heat — covered — for 7 to 10 minutes.

  10. Adam,

    I went to Costco and purchased a 2-pack of fire extinguishers after I caught some bread on fire in our toaster oven on…Christmas day? I think that’s when it was. But that was the catalyst, yes. I grabbed the toaster oven by it’s plastic sides that were cool enough to touch, set it outside on our grill and put the fire out with baking soda. (Others in the house had suggested water…at least we know enough to NEVER use water to put out a kitchen fire)

    The extinguishers weren’t that expensive, and you’ll feel better.

    I confess, I now need to take them out of the box in the garage and put one inside the house, probably under the sink. But we have them. :)

    Oh, and for Eroca above and anyone else, I made the Classic Buffalo Wings recipe on this page:

    and then broiled about 3 minutes on each side after coating the wings and they turned out GREAT with no fryer mess. I also did some with a sweet & sour bbq sauce, but that’s another recipe for another time… :)

  11. Like Jeff, I also poach my sausage in beer and sauteed onions & peppers before frying or grilling them. They always taste fantastic! Your onion rings looked great even with the drama. A fire extinguisher is an excellent idea. I should pick one up myself.

  12. Oh, poor dear! Your first oil fire is always the scariest.

    I have to admit, I learned how to cook sausage on an open fire (I’m a true cowgirl, ‘cept I hate horses and my family doesn’t keep cows any more). Because the heat is uneven over a fire, I was taught right before you flip the sausage, cut through the casing on the still-raw side. The heat will make the sausage basically turn inside-out, and then you flip it so the raw side can cook. I still do this, even when I’m cooking on my electric stove, but I don’t have to worry about raw innards.

  13. I second the comment about salt…very handy for putting out grease fires.

    For slightly undercooked sausage, the microwave is also your friend…just put them in for a couple of minutes if you notice they are a bit undercooked in the future.

  14. I’m glad to hear that you survived your Super Bowl Dinner of Death! Fire terrifies me! My rangetop once suffered an electrical meltdown and spewed showers of sparks all over my kitchen. I nearly wet myself.

    Having said that, I think it would be an apropos swan song. I imagine the headlines to read:

    “Amateur Gourmet Dies in Fiery Apartment Accident on Super Bowl Sunday. Firemen on the scene were unable to rescue him, but did appreciate the wild boar sausages and onion rings he tossed out the window to them. They further noted the sausages were delicious and cooked just perfectly.”

  15. A word about sausage: when cooking, it often tends to look pink, even when it is well done. I have seen sausage registering an internal temp of 180 – yet still appearing rare.

    No idea why, but it still freaks people out….

  16. Fear of frying is my biggest handicap as a cook — my little brother burned himself on hot oil (after making onion rings) when we were kids — he poured the leftover oil into the coffee can we used for grease, then picked it up, and the hot oil sloshed all over his 10-year-old hands. The pack of us kids dispersed through the condo complex snatching ice trays out of everyone’s freezers for his poor submerged hands. Ever since — Fear of Frying. (Luckily my boyfriend makes a mean fried chicken!) — oh, and get a fire extinguisher!

  17. Close call! I think the First Rule of Frying should be changed to “never more than 1/3 a pot of oil”. The Second Rule of Frying” is “Never, never NEVER fry naked”.

    My home frying solution was buying a large electric FryDaddy (I think it’s actually called a GrandPappy). It was like $20 on ebay. One of the nice things about it is that it has a lid, so if you’re going to fry a similar item before the grease goes rancid (which takes a loooong time) you can just cap it when it cools and save it.

    But it sucks when you forget the last thing you fried (fish) and then fry something else a two weeks later (tofu). Nasty.

  18. Way to perfectly cooked sausages – shove a thermometer in and keep track of it that way. I never watch the clock, just watch the therm and haven’t had a raw sausage disaster yet…

  19. I have an unnatural fear of frying. When I absolutely must fry (and sometimes, you MUST), I wear oven mitts because I’m a dork like that.

    My husband and I often prefer to fry in our wok because it uses less oil and the depth is ideal for avoiding the boil over issue.

  20. But Adam, what I’m really dying to know is: how do you plan to commemmorate Prince’s naughty shadow trick in pastry form??!!!

    Seriously, though, I’m terrified of deep-frying – when I was a kid, I witnessed my mom suffer severe burns on her forearms from oil that caught on fire, and that was enough to scare me off for good. I give you props for getting right back on the horse and finishing that batch of scrumptious-looking onion rings.

  21. Thank God, you’re alright. What would I do without you? I’m (feeling kind of) stuck here in Thailand, and your good old American food adventures (fire, football and all) are keeping me from totally freaking over another freaking plate of rice!

  22. Adam: At least you have the courage to tell the truth. I’ve been cooking for fifty years, and have done them all. Keep up the good work. I would even accept a title like that. Would love to be a food critic.

  23. I don’t have any safe-frying tips, but I thought this was hilarious:

    “…man food to eat while watching a PBS documentary about the history of the Broadway musical.”

  24. I’m confused as to why you would fry in that tiny, thin-walled, bottom-ply pot when you have a gorgeous, enormous cast-iron pot on the other side of the stove. Fry in the Le Creuset! it is crying out your name! It is so lonely! Aaaaaadaaaaaammmmmmm!

  25. If the gas jets are partially clogged with oil, does that pose any future fire hazard? Maybe it would be worth asking around… or having them cleaned.

  26. A Big Fan of the AG

    AG, you are a lucky man. I too was deep frying (soft tacos in my parents’ kitchen in high school) and I left a wok full of hot oil on the stove unattended for one minute – I returned to find the kitchen cabinets in flames and black smoke about four feet deep everywhere. I threw beach towels on the wok and took it off the stove, then beat the living daylights out of the cabinets with more beach towels to put out the flames. Scary stuff. I don’t know how I didn’t burn myself, but I did get the fire put out before calling the fire department. Funny end to the story – the fire chief commended me for saving the house from burning down.

    At least you got to eat your meal!

  27. So glad to hear you’re safe and your meal turned out wonderfully in the end!

    Please PLEASE PLEASE– if you have a grease/oil fire DO NOT USE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER!! It can blow hot flaming oil all around your kitchen without necessarily putting it out. Listen to the posters who recommended baking soda or salt. The idea is to smother the fire without spreading it.

    Even so, a fire extinguisher in the kitchen is a must for so many other reasons! Please get one. :)

    Love your site… love your stories and recipes.

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