Over the last few years, short, snappy videos have taken over the internet. Across your Facebook feed and YouTube recommendations are these short videos, which show either a tasty looking snack, a fast meal, or a complicated dessert made easy. These videos rack up thousands, sometimes even millions of views, like the 30-pound burger. People in the comment sections share their baking results or the sounds their stomachs make after watching. These videos are an enigma. While they show a tasty dish, are they really that easy to make? Will the meal even turn out in a home kitchen? And, most of all, will the dish even taste good?
While I like looking through Bon Appetit videos, I rarely venture on to channels like Tasty when I’m on YouTube. I don’t go on Facebook much, so I miss the short videos that my aunt tends to reblog (and really, anything that an aunt reblogs). I have the same questions that anyone watching these videos will ask as they think about or even prepare one of these dishes. But for me, it’s a bit different. I’m a cookbook person all the way and the videos I look at have professional chefs. As I wondered if these recipes would work (due to my cookbook bias), I decided to put two viral recipes to the test. I chose two Tasty videos, as I rarely look at their content. I also wanted to make it realistic enough for a university student to eat it, so I chose a meal and a dessert: the one-pot chicken fajita pasta, which made its rounds on the internet a few years ago; and the brownie ice cream bombs for dessert.
One-pot chicken fajita pasta
Personally, I’m not a fan of one-pot pasta. The pasta can be boiled by itself and added to the sauce afterwards; it’s easy and no-fuss. One-pot meals certainly seem like convenient and a way to limit dish cleanup. Frankly, I just wanted to know if dish cleanup also means less cooking time and a tasty meal.
First, I cooked the chicken up in a soup pot and when that was done, I took it out and put in the vegetables. It was straightforward, and I had no complaints because the chicken flavours were infused with the vegetables. Afterwards, I put the chicken back in and tossed in the spices. The spices evenly coated everything, and it smelled divine, like an actual chicken fajita.
The only problem that I encountered was with the milk. I like to bake, and sometimes a bread recipe will ask that the milk be scalded. It is never boiled because 1 percent and 2 percent milk risk breaking and curdling. Products with a higher fat content can resist the high heats a little bit more and can create tasty components to a treat. Desserts, like mousse, use boiled creams as they are less likely to break. So, at that point, shouldn’t I have asked myself if the milk would break when putting it in the pot? As a matter of fact, I did think about that, but quickly shrugged, and dumped it in. After all, it was what the recipe called for.
The milk broke and curdled halfway through cooking.
I was also a bit skeptical about the cooking time for the pasta. The recipe stated that the pasta would cook in 20 minutes. At 20 minutes, it was still too firm to be considered al-dente. I found that it took an extra 15 minutes to make the pasta an acceptable texture. To be fair though, the pasta incorporated tastes from the chicken and spices, so it tasted wonderful.
After mixing in the cheese, the meal didn’t look as advertised. While the recipe stated that the milk would become a thick sauce on the pasta, it was thin and pooled a bit at the bottom. The curdled milk didn’t help its appearance either and deterred other taste testers (read: family) from taking leftovers the next day.
But the pasta didn’t taste bad. Quite the opposite, it was delicious. The spices were mild, and it wasn’t too cheesy. I sprinkled on some green onions, more cheese, and it tied all the flavours together.
Overall, it tasted fine. I would make it again, but not as a one-pot meal. You save time by boiling the noodles separately and they can be boiled in chicken stock if you want the flavour to be infused in the pasta. The milk can be scalded a bit with the chicken and vegetables, so it doesn’t curdle. Toss everything together and you have a delicious two-pot meal in less time.
Brownie ice cream bombs
The brownie ice cream bombs are just like they sound. A gooey icing coats a chocolate brownie, glazing the top like a layer of fudge sauce. The inside has a layer of ice cream and the bottom is another layer of brownie. If the melted chocolate frosting isn’t enough, there’s a raspberry sauce that goes with it.
The recipe called for a box mix of brownies, so I dumped the bag contents into the bowl and prepared it like the back of the box indicated. The Tasty recipe indicated that the brownies be made in a nine-inch by 13-inch pan, which differed from the nine-inch by nine-inch pan recommended at the back of the box. I used Tasty’s pan recommendation so that there would be enough for three servings and the cooking time suggested on the box. Frankly, I should have paid more attention during cooking, because the wider pan meant that the brownies were in a shallower dish, and cooked faster. When I pulled the brownies out, the outer edges of the brownie were a bit overdone, shown by the crunchy texture of the brownie after coming out of the oven. I even tasted the brownie before putting it together with the ice cream. It wasn’t unpleasant, per say. It had the taste of a plain brownie and the texture of one, but it didn’t have a deep chocolate, almost melt-in-your-mouth moment of a homemade fudgy brownie.
Assembly was also easy. I found a cookie cutter and cut out some brownie circles. I did have a bit of a problem trying to get out the overcooked bits from the pan, but overall, it went fine. I had to use a combination of spoons and fingers to get the ice cream in the ramekin and some squishing action to secure the bottom and plastic wrap. After assembly, I froze the pucks overnight for the next day’s dessert.
I ended up cooking the raspberry sauce the next day. It, like the rest of the recipe, is straightforward. There’s a combination of raspberries, sugar, lemon, and a bit of cornstarch-water slurry. Personally, I used frozen raspberries, because it’s March, and a tiny pack costs $5. Everything besides the slurry went into the pot and boiled, and the slurry went in for a moment. As that cooled, I started the frosting.
All I had to do was take store-bought frosting and melt it in the microwave. I ended up having a taste before and after. The store-bought, not to be named, name-brand frosting was surprisingly good (and I got it on sale!). When melted, it has the suspicious texture of a hot fudge sauce that you can get on a soft-serve sundae from an equally unnamed fast-food chain. But overall, it tastes wonderful, and I could eat it with a spoon.
Placing the melted frosting on the hockey pucks wasn’t hard; however, I didn’t have a cookie rack, so I used a broiler rack instead with a cake pan underneath to catch the drippings. It worked well. After pouring the melted frosting from a liquid measuring cup over the pucks and placing them in the fridge for a few moments, I could safely eat the leftover frosting from both the measuring cup and the cake pan underneath.
After 20 minutes in the fridge, I pulled them out. Paired with the raspberry sauce, I can say they were okay. The ice cream disappeared into the brownie and everything tasted overly sweet. The raspberry sauce was alright, though it probably could have used less sugar, for a purer raspberry taste.
Overall, the recipe is easy. The contents that make it can be easily personalized with a favourite brownie recipe and ice cream brand. The hot fudge sauce and raspberry sauce can be drizzled on top, rather than slathering the whole puck. Keep the fudge sauce the same though — you can eat that with a spoon.
I was a bit surprised by the results of both dishes. While the one-pot pasta tasted wonderful, it didn’t look appetizing. On the other hand, the brownie ice cream bombs looked delicious, but the ingredients could have been customized according to personal preference. The main take-away that I had was that these viral videos expose recipes to people that don’t normally cook or need a visual aid. These videos hopefully get more people cooking and have people get creative. They can explore cooking in a safe and easy format, as well as the satisfaction they made something that tastes great.