I was once told that the old idea of the "American Melting Pot" was a little... off. In reality, I was told, America is more like a stew: each of the ingredients add something to the entire ensemble, but overall retain their own structure. America is much the same, with little outposts of culture here and there because America doesn't force assimilation. Where you might see some potato or carrot, you see the ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago or the Amish communities of the Midwest.
What makes America so great is that we don't force the whole stew into a blender, because any cook can tell you trying to put hot stew into a blender will just make it explode. If you must blend a stew, either wait for it to cool down or use an immersion blender. It may take longer, and you actually have to plunge into the thick of things, but at least there won't be an explosion. You can't expect the stew to go by your timeline or your personal wants, unless you want boiling liquid on your ceiling... and maybe some people do.
So you have your ingredients, and you prepare them: you first partially cook some of the ingredients with a little oil, add what will become the gravy, and leave it on to cook for a long time. If you're patient, you have an amazing dish... but what if someone looked at that stew pot and said "I bet I can do it better" by gussying it up? What if someone saw a perfectly delicious, if humble, dish and decided it needed more? What would being greedy in this kitchen get you?
Let's say this person wants to add a buttery crust to the top of this stew, making it more like a Great American Pot Pie. Now, there's nothing wrong with a pot pie, in theory, and I'm sure we all appreciate a good crust/gravy combination. The only problem is that the crust is going to take some time to make, so you'll have to try to speed up the cooking on your filling to make up for it. So you take the 90% on the bottom and turn up the heat. In making this crust, you had to cut some of the butter out of the stew beneath. Now, the meat or the vegetables get burned, but that's okay, this person says, because the crust will make it all worth it. It'll be so decadent, such a sight to be seen, that everyone will forget if the stuff underneath it is slightly burnt.
There's just one problem: in this person's quest to make the curst the envy of all, he added too much butter. To be blunt, the upper crust is too rich. As a result, putting in the oven will yield disaster: the crust will fall apart, and the stew underneath will boil up from the bottom, only hastening the destruction of the upper crust. Soon, instead of a tasty treat, you have an oily mess because the ingredients weren't distributed properly. In this person's quest to make something that looked super cool and fancy, it all ended in mushy, burnt nastiness.
So don't always try to re-invent the wheel. Make sure your Great American Stew Pot gets enough oil, and don't send it all to the top. If you must have an upper crust (and you can, that's okay) make sure you make it of strong stuff, and go easy on the richness. It might turn out to be a teeny bit tougher up there on the top, but it's worth it to not have an underneath on fire and an upper crust that can't support its own weight.
It's a recipe for disaster from the get-go, no matter how badly you want it to succeed. I know that sounds a little harsh, but it needs to be said, because when you have soggy, oily mush on top of burned filling, no one wins and, if you leave it the heat in long enough, hoping that will help re-form the upper crust... then everything winds up burned in the end.
At Your Service,