Sunday, May 3, 2009

And the seeds that were silent all burst into bloom.

I am still kind of sick, so what do I do? Cook for others. The swine flu jokes never get old. I’m totally lying. They so do. My voice has been gone for most of the week, and I cannot keep from coughing unless totally drugged up on medicine that makes me feel all woozy and in a pretend world. Throughout, Mr. Husband has cared for me like the best super-husband-nursemaid ever. I’ve continued to go to work, trying to stay on top of projects, but it’s been hard. Relief must be right around the corner. It must because we have a busy life to lead.

I am no longer contagious, so we kept up with our social activities this week. The biggest event we had this week was a dinner party with The Cheeks and The Mackles. The Cheeks and The Mackles knew each other from college many years ago. Turns out, the Mackles are our new across-the-street neighbors. The man-part of the Cheeks used to be part of my lunch crew when Nader worked with us—he and his wife-part have been friends for over six years. Our circle of friends got a little bit big larger when The Cheeks and The Mackles realized they both knew The Stewarts. So we brought the happy group together for a dinner party that took, like, two months to plan since all couples are way too busy. After cancelled plans stalled the party at least twice, I was not going to let the stupid-cold-that-lingers-too-long kill this dinner party. No way. I’d done way too much planning.

On Monday, Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita arrived in the mail from Amazon. Tuesday morning, I quickly poured through the recipes while making Mr. Husband’s breakfast and lunch. Without much time, I selected three recipes: Veal Milanse (page 168), Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Herbs (page 196), and Zucchini Ribbon Sauté (page 190). The veal became chicken because, eww veal, the ribbon sauté had to be less than ribbon because I do not have a mandoline, and the fingerling potatoes had to become baby golds since Fresh Market was out of fingerlings. I am flexible and bendy. I can substitute and add and make it work.

The plan was to leave work at 4:30 and have dinner ready at 6:00. Did I mention that I was cooking from Frank Stitt’s cookbook? His meals take preparation and planning. His meals take time. I was still slow from the-cold-that-overstayed-its-welcome. I may have been too ambitious. I was. By the time dinner was done around 7:30, I was sweaty, anxious, rushed, had dropped the pan of roasted potatoes into the oven, burned the braiser pan because I do not understand how to cook with olive oil, filled the entire house with smoke and had to open all doors and windows to air it out, and quick-improvised the chicken that was supposed to be cooked entirely on the stove by shoving it half-cooked into the oven. It was not relaxing. It was hideous. I was embarrassed and visibly upset. This caused my guests to be most likely a little freaked out and feeling awkward as they tried to help. I could see the expressions on their faces—they were worried that the meal was going to suck. That was painful to watch.

Lesson learned: for a quick meal with more than two guests after work on a school night—make pot roast. Keep it simple.

Was the meal good? Yes. It was outstanding. Yes! I was more than pleased by the end result. The lemon butter herb sauce was the most amazing thing I’ve ever made. That part was easy and will move into our kitchen as a menu staple. I made my own breadcrumbs for the first time ever—super-rewarding experience. Could it have been better—yes. Definitely. I know what I did wrong and will work to improve the next time. And dear Frank Stitt will find his home in Saturday evening dinner parties. He needs more time. He is not welcome on a school night any longer.

One of the best parts of the evening was Mr. Husband and his entertaining the couples. He was magnificent. He was a social butterfly. He was so good at keeping conversation going and holding the party part down on his own without me who was totally freaked out in the kitchen. I would catch a hurried glance at him in the middle of the social troops and smile to myself. Look at my man! Look at my super husband being super. He saved the evening. My hero always.

He was rewarded with Mrs. Mackles ice cream casserole. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him happier. This dessert was the most delicious thing ever—ice cream, cookies, caramel. Yumminess. Mr. Husband ate two plates full of this heavenly concoction. Perfect.

Note: all photos taken with an iPhone since I was a hot-mess. See the smoke? Evidenced in the photos.

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