Friday, September 18, 2015

The Summer Of Cooking Dangerously (Cooking Disasters Take 2)

Amber Leigh Williams

Several months back, I detailed some of my more unfortunate escapades in the kitchen…specifically The Broccoli and Cheddar Soup Disaster of 2015.

Although I haven’t had any other broccoli or soup-related incidents at the stove lately, I’m still indulging the little foodie inside me by reading and hoarding recipes as diligently as I read and hoard historical romance novels and by trying my hand at new challenges – such as homemade pie crusts, roasted vegetables, and mastering what is now lovingly referred to as Taco Night. I’ve made some meh dishes that either weren’t repeated or have since been improved upon with the aid of my burgeoning spice collection. I’m proud to say I’ve hit some dishes out of the park. My new rosemary chicken is requested every other week as well as the honey-glazed carrots that complement it like peanut butter and jelly.

However, if there’s one thing you can count on in experimentation, kitchen or otherwise, it’s the mess that comes with it....

This I have come to accept. Even if it does come with the occasional meltdown, kitchen disasters make great book fodder. Hence, the heroine of my current WIP, Roxie Honeycutt, a recent divorcee, learning to cook and - to the perplexity and horror of her unwilling roommate/guinea pig/hero - experiencing several kitchen disasters of her own. There are some kitchen disasters I wouldn't repeat, however...which leads me to the charred pages of last month's kitchen log....

I’m a clumsy kind of person. I don’t think I’m clumsy by nature. It’s more that I’m so internal, lost in thought, that sometimes…okay, a lot of the time I don’t pay as much attention to the task at hand as I probably should. Hence, more than my fair share of skinned knuckled while grating cheese or carrots…and, yes, several cuts while using the knives from the butcher block. Also, banging my head on the kitchen counter yesterday while unpacking the beach cooler—not just once, but twice. The first time hurt pretty badly and woke me up. The second knocked me flat and had my husband sprinting across the room to scoop me off the floor. A nice goose egg on the forehead resulted. Having seen more than his fair share of kitchen mishaps on my part, though the hub knows to stay at a safe distance away to watch me work, I’ve caught him standing on the threshold eyeing me and my angry potato peeler warily. (Is it just me or does nothing sooth The Mean Reds like peeling potatoes?) Only a few times has he ventured forth to intervene because I tend to growl at him whenever he gets near me and my stove. In this case, however, I'm rather happy he did choose to (almost literally) jump into the fire.

When I was little, my mother made THE BEST fried chicken and mashed potatoes. It was one of my childhood staples. So when I came across a yummy-looking fried chicken recipe on Pinterest, I decided to give it a whirl. The problem with this kitchen experiment is…well, I’m ignorant when it comes to frying things. Though I do own a fry daddy, it intimidates me. I usually only drag it out when the hub brings home fresh-caught fish from his brothers’ night-fishing trips. Even then, I tend to stand back and let him cook his well-earned feast. I know little about hot grease or frying in general, which is probably why I get spattered and burned most every time I cook bacon. I must note that one of my cooking philosophies is that challenges are meant to be hurdled. So I decided to suck it up and try my hand at frying.

The recipe didn’t call for the fry daddy. I wound up with hot oil in a shallow pan on the stovetop. Everything was going pretty well. The first batch cooked beautifully. Then I added the second. Anybody who’s fried anything knows that when you introduce pretty much anything to hot oil, things get a little messy. Soon I was wearing pot holders on both hands, oil was spitting onto the other burners on the stove in droves of hot specks, and I was starting to get a little harried. Enter the hub. We’ve been together over a decade and I can count the times I’ve seen his beautiful Cheyenne complexion go from healthy to pasty on three fingers. 1) The time he had walking pneumonia. 2) The time he spilled half a gallon of paint on my grandmother’s new flooring. 3) The time my blood pressure took a dramatic dip in the delivery room. This appeared to be the fourth time. He quickly elbowed me out of the way, turned off the burner under the hot pan and proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that I was about to burn the entire frigging house down. It’s taken me over a decade to convince the man I need my own fire extinguisher. I’ve set pot holders on fire. I’ve melted plastic tuberware lids in the dish washer. If this foray into fried chicken achieved anything, it was to convince him that yes indeed Amber should have her own fire extinguisher. (Still, it is difficult to toot my horn too much now that I know just how close I came to a grease fire.)

I’m thrilled to report that I am no longer the only one under this (blessedly still standing) roof who has endured a kitchen fiasco. Before I go any further, I should mention that prior to me venturing into my foodie adventures, the hub was the one who mastered the kitchen, especially when he spent a year in the restaurant business. He could make excellent cheesy, herby raviolis. Mmmm. He concocted his very own fried rice recipe, which I still dream about with relish (the happy kind, not pickled). The man taught me how to boil an egg, fry an egg, toss an egg to make an omelet…and to this day he’s still so much better at the latter than I am. His strawberry salads are to die for if you can bribe him into making them. And don’t even get me started on his hot cakes. Oh, the hot cakes….

Recently, we’ve become reacquainted with dieting restrictions. That is to say my nursing mother diet restrictions. No alcohol. Very little caffeine. Even more little dairy. If it’s wonderful, chances are I can only have it in moderation. Just like he refrained from Corona Extra and Crown Royal while I was preggers, he’s pretty much given up the delights of cheddar, mozzarella (though he still clings to his parmesan on spaghetti nights), and milkshakes. However, it wasn’t long after our second bundle of joy was born that I began craving dip. You don’t realize how hard it is to find dip without cheese and/or onion until you have to give them both up. Around mid-summer we discovered hummus.

Ah, where has hummus been all my life? I love it! As a bonus, it’s much healthier than my old fallbacks—queso or French onion. We’ve been devouring hummus by the bowlful for weeks. And this new eating habit has gotten a tad bit expensive in the meantime….

Last week, the hub bought several cans of chickpeas. He went to several different stores hunting tahini (ground sesame seeds, which puzzlingly enough comes in a liquid, not a solid). He then dragged out the dreaded blender (re: The Broccoli and Cheddar Disaster of 2015). “I’m going to throw this recipe together real quick,” he explained as I peered over his shoulder curiously. “It should only take ten minutes.”

Ha. Now that our little family has grown to four, things no longer happen “real quick” around here. Getting dinner ready on time? Don’t make me laugh. Getting ready to go out? Diaper changes, road snacks, and things like getting the corresponding pair of pants on the correspondingly-sized person tend to slow us down. Trips to the grocery store? That sound you hear is me laughing and weeping at the same time. Only two things tend to happen “real quick” around our house. One of them is showers, which sadly seem to be growing further and further apart. (Hehe, *sob*) The other only happens when Baby Cakes is napping and Big Tough Toddler Guy is happily installed in front of the television with Mickey Mouse and a book of stickers. As you might have guessed, Daddy’s hummus-making exercise was anything but quick.

I had retired to the living room to feed Baby Cakes. I could hear the sound of the blender churning away. Then I heard something crunch, followed quickly by the hub’s voice chanting, “No, no, no, no, no.” Thankfully, the crunch didn’t involve what I first thought it did—a digit. Instead, it was a rubber spatula. What the hub was doing with the top off the blender to begin with after witnessing firsthand The Broccoli and Cheddar Debacle is still unknown to me, much less why he felt compelled to stick a rubber spatula into a running blender. Nevertheless, chunks were missing from the end of the spatula and they were blending quite well with the not-yet-chopped-up chickpeas. After much cursing, the hub decided to try to salvage the recipe. Fifteen minutes of painstakingly spreading spoonfuls of the chickpea mixture out on a plate resulted in finding all (or most) of the rubber bits. “If you happen to get something you can’t chew, you might want to spit it out,” he advised. “And if you accidentally swallow it, it will probably pass through your system in five to seven years.” Well, that’s a comfort, I suppose.

If you’re wondering, the hummus turned out fabulously with (so far) no rubber chunks. We took turns comparing it to the store-bought version, deciding his had a smokier taste and was far more delicious. Since by that point it was eight o’clock at night, after putting the kiddies to sleep we decided to skip dinner altogether and pig out on hummus. We tried it on tortilla chips (nom), Ritz crackers (nom nom), and French bread with a dash of extra olive oil (nom! nom! nom!). We brainstormed other ways we could use it. As an optional topping for Taco Night. As a spread on sandwiches in lieu of mayonnaise. “Still,” I told him as I licked the spoon, “you do owe me a new spatula.” “Don’t talk to me about spatulas, woman,” he groaned.

So there you have it—the latest in cooking disasters from my kitchen. I’m certain I’ll be doing another round-up of foodie mishaps soon. Until then, happy reading and eating—and, of course, be free to sound off on your own cooking disasters. Bon appetit!



Mary Preston said...

I have had a few disasters in the kitchen, but nothing lethal so I'm okay with that.

penney said...

I had a few in my time one that really scared me was when I had a frying pan of eggs cooking and a bit of grease jump out and hit the cooker and a big foot long flame of fire shot up but luckly it went right down and was gone. We have a all electric oven I wish we had gas I like it better.

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