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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Cooking Under a Chaotic Sky

My new soil heating cables came today.  Just in the nick of time, too, since after several  mild, warm days the temperature is  taking a dive tonight and tomorrow night. I got the new cable  buried in the seed starting box and  as I  stepped up on the deck to  go in the house  late this afternoon, looked up at the western sky. It was quite beautiful with so many   shades of grey and  white, but there was something   a little unsettling about it, too. I got a sense of chaos from it. And chaos is about  what I got when I cooked supper tonight. In case you were wondering, Murphy's Law is alive and well and operating in my kitchen!
The plan was to attempt an entire menu from the Annabel Langbein cookbook:  Artichokes with vinaigrette, Chicken  and leek gratin, Garlicky vegetable  toss, with pear and hazelnut pies for dessert. It was going to be so beautiful and so delicious, just like on her show where she whipped it all together in a half hour.  Oh, yes, that was the plan. Suffice it to say,  it was another  plan gang agley.

We ended up not having the  artichokes- and there were no snow peas in the  garlicky veggie toss. They were in the fridge, but they didn't make it into the  saucepan.  I thought the chicken leek gratin turned  out nicely but Mr. G didn't care for it- he said the Proven├žal crust topping   had an off taste to him, maybe because  I had let it burn slightly. I also overcooked the zucchini in the veggie dish,  mis-measured the ingredients when I was making the pastry for the pies which made the  pastry more bread-like than pastry-like, and then I  dropped the compost pail, scattering the  contents all over the floor. But the icing on the cake, was the hazelnut butter for the pies. 
The instructions called for  roasting the shelled hazelnuts until  they smelled fragrant and the skins start to split. Well, evidently  my nose   was stopped up because I never smelled them and by the time I remembered they were in the oven, they were pretty over-roasted. But the skins were holding tight. Annabel said  to let the nuts cool, then  rub them in a clean dishtowel to remove the skins. What she didn't tell you was to start this  a week ahead of time, because it is not a quick and easy job, and the skins   do not want to be cast off, they are quite clingy. By the time I had finished, there were  nut skins all over the  counters, all over the floor, all over EVERYwhere!I finally got most of the skins off, whizzed the nuts in the food processor, added some salt and vegetable oil and Voila!  We had hazelnut butter.  Of sorts.
Then I rolled out the pastry into rounds,  peeled and halved a pear,  cored it, then sliced the halves lengthwise almost to the top so they formed fans when pressed down slightly.  I mixed the  hazelnut butter with some confectioner's sugar, spread the mixture onto the pastry rounds, topped each round with a  pear half and popped them in the oven. The recipe called for glazing the pears with  apricot jam  after baking, but my neighbor had given me a jar of pear honey she had made so  I used that. They didn't look too bad, and tasted fairly decent, so all was not a complete disaster. I did try to clean up most of the mess I'd made in the kitchen, but did leave enough mess for Mr. G to mutter over. I think he's be most disappointed if he didn't have anything to complain about when he's washing dishes! I don't know if I'll try any of those recipes again.At least not until I get some  kitchen elves to serve as sous chefs.


Rick Watson said...

Fun ain't cheap. When Jilda messes up a meal, I NEVER Complain. I wait because she calls it like it is. If she screwed the meal up she'll say, I should have gone with the pasta." But she usually figures out what caused the dish to go south.

Grace Smith said...

I have to keep reminding myself of what Julia Child said about cooking disasters: "I don't believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. . .Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile . . .then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile - and learn from her mistakes." Needless to say, I have never lacked for learning opportunities and I get to smile a LOT!