Dana Cowin is the longtime editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, so you might think her kitchen skills are as strong as her editorial prowess. Take it from a self-professed dish-ruining home cook: sometimes you need a real chef to step in and show you the ropes. Cowin’s new book, Mastering My Mistakes In The Kitchen, was inspired by (and with help from) some of the country’s most beloved chefs, to bring your confidence up to your taste buds’ level. 

I hadn’t cooked for just my husband in fourteen years. I’d fed him, of course. Hosted dinner parties with him. Made his coffee and fried a few eggs in the morning. But I hadn’t really made a romantic dinner for two since before our first child was born. With the kids at camp, I decided to make his favorite meal, steak au poivre: a New York strip steak crusted in crunchy crushed peppercorns with a flamed Cognac and mustard sauce. My biggest fear was that I would set my kitchen on fire. I held my breath as I struck a teeny wooden matchstick to light the Cognac. That went well! The flames eventually died down, and I proceeded with the rest of the recipe. Disaster was averted, or so I thought, until we tasted the steaks. The sauce had a bitter, astringent edge.

Alex Guarnaschelli, of the New York City restaurant Butter, identified my mistake: cooking in a cast-iron pan. As she explained to me, if you’re making a pan sauce that has acid in it, you need to use a nonreactive pan.

Reprinted with permission from Mastering My Mistakes In The Kitchen