Thursday, June 22, 2017

Live and Learn—a Cooking Failure

A dismal morning made it hard for me to get going. I was sluggish. No rain, and as the day slowly brightened, so did I.

I’m still in lost in Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year. Her description of a grilled cheese sandwich and how to do it is sublime, so I tried today at lunch. You butter the bread, grate the cheese and pile it on as thick as you can. Spread a thin layer of mayo on the outside of the sandwich to prevent scorching and press more grated cheese into the bread. In theory, that will give a crisp crust. I worried about keeping that grated cheese on the bread while I flipped.

Turned out that was the least of my worries. I settled the first side in the pan easily, but the cheese stuck to the pan, not the sandwich, and when I tried to take it up, I came away with a soggy sandwich and the crisp cheese crust remained in the pan. Flipping it did no good—now I had two soggy sides. The cheese did form that crisp crust in the pan, but I had to scrape it up and eat separately. I’m quite sure this is not what Reichl intended, and I have tweeted to ask for directions. Should you cook at high heat or low (I did low, envisioning a long, slow browning). Should you put oil or butter in the pan? I put olive oil, but maybe that was wrong.

Grilled cheese is always problematical to me. It’s like the little girl with the curl: when it is good, it’s so very good, and when it’s bad, it’s horrid. I too often burn the bread before the cheese melts. At least now I’ll always grate the cheese—makes it melt faster and better.

I tried to recover my cooking skills by making a layered salad for the Jacob adult birthday Jordan is having tomorrow night. Layered salads require a lot of chopping—eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, green onions, cutting up bacon, etc. While I chopped and cut, I kept thinking how much Ruth Reichl enjoys that part of cooking and wishing I enjoyed it half as much. The salad was a big problem in terms of a container too—I discovered the glass dish I’ve always used has gone to some child’s house, and I had no appropriate dish. Friend Subie finally came up with one that although not glass will work. And tonight Betty said of course she has a trifle dish! Aarghh!

Betty and I took Jacob out to dinner tonight while his parents went to some event connected to Christian’s work. Jacob declared he wasn’t hungry, picked at his mac and cheese, but ordered two root beers and left the second sitting on the table. Conspicuous consumption! Betty and I split miso salmon on a bed of spicy vinaigrette noodles—absolutely delicious.

So now I’m home, settled, and anticipating the first big party to be held in the house since we made the big move. I used to host parties a lot, particularly at Christmas when I had a no-tree tree-trimming party. When December came around last year, none of us had the energy or the will—it was a low point for me. So now I’m delighted to anticipate a party in the house and yard. Jordan has worked hard getting it all perfect.

To my hot-blooded friends who couldn’t sit outside: I sat on the patio tonight for a long time and loved it. Just perfect.

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