10.19.2010

The Storm Before the Calm: Conclusion

Cut, coughing, choking for air, exhausted AND now burned,  I finished caramelizing the onions, and added liquor to my grocery list.

Just kidding about the alcohol. I don't drink and never will. But I confess, there are times I'm tempted!

On Thursday night, when I shimmied into the sheets, I became all Scarlett O'hara-ish and thought, "tomorrow is another day" Actually what I really thought is, "tomorrow will be a better day." I felt hopeful and grateful for a clean slate. But when I woke up early on Friday, tomorrow had turned into today. Since it was no longer tomorrow, hope stayed in bed.

I wanted to.

But, I got up and took the rolls out of the fridge, burped the lid and punched down the dough.... as if I were channeling my inner Ali. I then left it on the table to acclimate, and wiped out the mounds of ash in my oven from the bake-off the night before.

Time to tackle the cheesecake. Now cheesecakes are finicky little things. They must treated with care or they crack. Sorta like me at the moment.

So, I took all the precautions and followed the recipe exactly. Except'n that I forgot to cook the crust. Just poured the cheese base right into it. (Which is the norm in some recipes, so it isn't a HUGE faux pax...but still, I prefer my crust a little crusty.)

While the cheesecake was baking, I assembled the cake and frosted it. NO mishaps. Ta-da!!!

Now the caramel: I tried a new recipe. WHY? Who in heavens knows. I have a recipe that I love, love and like a good marriage, have figured out the recipe's little quirks and learned how to work around them.  But in my smoggy stupor....I became a traitor... a caramel traitor, choosing a foreigner, which seemed easier than the homeboy. I stirred, watched, stirred, watched, stirred, watched, stir.... my son asked me a question.... turned my head and didn't stir, didn't watch for 30 seconds. That's when the creamy amber colored caramel turned to creamy burnt amber. I quickly removed it from the stove. It looked golden and beautiful. It was the perfect consistency. But it tasted like..... uh.....let's see, if my tongue could accurately identify tastes now that my tastebuds were completely singed right off of my tongue from inpatience....like smoked butter....

That will never do. I pride myself on delicious caramel. Plus this caramel didn't have the depth, the creaminess to it that my old standby recipe has. MY old standby. MY recipe that is not mine at all, but rather my dear neighbor's, Mrs. Lawson, whose caramels wrapped in little pieces of wax paper were the highlight of my childhood Christmas culinary cache every year. I was waxing nostalgic. I didn't have time to wax nostalgic. But I waxed anyway.

I shook my head, mumbled "you are insane, Ms. Fish" and added [more] cream onto my grocery list. 

After my son returned from a store run, I began making the new caramels: stirring, watching, stirring, watching. Then I went to the sink to wash some dishes. ONLY because these caramels offer more freedom...they take over 40 minutes to cook and require the attention of a teenager...check-in now and then, but don't smother. That other stuff was like a toddler....needing you there every second. Abandoning the cooking caramel to do the dishes will be fine, people. They won't burn. I leave these caramels all the time. They are big boys. They can handle it. I know what I'm doing!

Uh...huh! I glanced over at the stove just as the creamy, sugary mixture was rolling over the top of the pan and slinking down the sides like hot magma. I shrieked. I ran. I turned off the heat. Then stood frozen and helpless at the stove, watching as the tan liquid transformed immediately to a black solid upon contact with the burner. Surprise! I had forgotten the cardinal #1 rule in making Mrs. Lawson's caramels: use my humongous heavy pot with high sides, cuz the caramels froth and bubble like a witch's brew.

One side of my pristine stove was now a burned, hardened, syrupy, sticky, stained charbroiled mess. My stove will never be the same.

Seeing (and hearing) the look on my face, my teenage son, Otto, and his friend immediately jumped up to help me. While I tried to salvage the caramel mixture, Eric and Otto scraped and scrubbed and worked on the stove. And for the rest of the day, until the guests arrived, they offered their services.... "what do you need now, mom?" It was enough to make me want to cry. They were so sweet and awesome.

The rest of the day, the three of us worked together: cleaning the kitchen, mowing the grass, sweeping the patio and front porch, cleaning the patio chair cushions, setting the table, preparing the cheese plate, making cucumber and radish sandwiches, rolling out and baking the rolls, cooking the beans, re-warming the potatoes, wrapping the pears in prosciutto, and getting out the serving platters.

My time simply ran out. When the guests arrived, many of the last minute things were undone like taking out the butter and honey butter to soften to room temp, finish preparing the drinks, put the sodas on the table, assemble the green salad, chop the apples for the pork dish, or turn on my Pandora playlist. The scene which greeted my friends was not at all what I had planned or envisioned. Yes, my good intentions gang aft agleyed.

My friends simply thought I was running a little behind or disorganized. That's why I call them smarty pants. What my friends didn't know is that I had about turned to drinking, ruined my stove, spent a small fortune on extra trips to the grocery store, lost 2 wonderful measuring cups, and almost curled into a catatonic ball on the floor with a sign on my front door that said, "party moved to Olive Garden."

But when my friends came, I perked up and did what any good friend would do: started ordering them around. And they cheerfully went right to work.

Once that happened, the rocky road I took to get to the party melted into a smooth chocolate superhighway, and the rest of the story sweetened.

I sighed and added thank-you cards onto my grocery list.

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One more word regarding microwave ovens. If you have any concerns about the color and texture of your food, the ability to identify it, the re-usability of your dishes, or the air quality in your kitchen, I strongly recommend that you do NOT....I repeat.... do NOT attempt to make sugared bacon in the microwave.

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And now you know the rest of the dreary story. Lemony Snicket would be proud.

Keep swimming!
Ms. Fish

PS: Watch for my upcoming cooking classes to be held soon (haha...just kidding....just a little Halloween horror joke!)

PPS: Am I the only one with days like these?

 

4 comments:

Ms. Fish said...

Mr. Fish was out of town. He swooped in just at the end of the dinner. He got to enjoy the eats without witnesses my defeats. I was happy for him that he escaped all the drama.

lovely lady lessy. said...

You're not the only one with days like that, although, I think yours was uh, pretty bad.
Monday was one of those days for me.
After a really long and tiring day at school, coming home with a monstrous headache, I only wanted to make something fast and easy to clean up. So I chose pancakes. Good, right? With syrup, only two pans, both of which wash and rinse without scrubbing. Easy.
But then, I spilled the hot syrup all over me, my floor and my cabinets. It got everywhere too, not just on surfaces, but inside my drawers and cabinets and under appliances.
Then, when I tried to flip my pancakes, I successfully burned, folded them over on themselves and missed the pan during a flip-over.
However, Branden, with a cold and everything helped me mop up the sticky mess while I changed/washed and then did the dishes.
So it was kinda the same as your experience, but with a lot less ingredients.

Ms. Fish said...

LLL,
Oh man, what a day you had! Syrup is the worst to clean up... I'm so sorry.

What a good, good man you have!

Thanks for sharing your story...we can commiserate in our misery and comfort one another in our foibles.

It's weird how some days are like that.

LGH said...

Jenni, you are such a good writer. And, as hard as this was to read, it totally made me smile because of your great story-telling ability...love all the puns, they are so clever. And, I've always thought Otto was a great help!

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