Monday, August 29, 2005

Spectacular Disaster

The beauty of building your own house or, in our case, restoring an old house, is that everything is exactly as you want it. When The Carnivore was restoring our house, he completely ripped out the room that became the kitchen and rebuilt it from scratch. The fun part for me wasn't until it was time for the finishing touches. I had always wanted a red kitchen, and The Carnivore indulged me there. The cabinets were a source of great consternation, with us spending many, many hours at Home Depot agonizing over our choices. We finally agreed to go completely over budget so that I could have the cabinets of my dreams. In many things, I am willing to scrimp (like with my own clothes, for instance, or with furniture), but with things that you will have to live with for upwards of 10 years, I believe in splurging.

One of the crowning glories of our kitchen is the concrete countertops. By the time we got to the countertops, Fat Baby had arrived and I pretty much abdicated all responsibility for aesthetics to The Carnivore. We had discussed countertops briefly, and I had nothing but ambivalence for my choices. Almost all counters look like plastic to me, and I don't think granite is all that attractive. The Carnivore suggested concrete countertops, something I had never heard of. These are becoming more and more popular now, but they are extraordinarily expensive ($65 to $125 per square foot). If I had known the prices, I would have hit the roof, especially since we had about 10 square feet that needed concrete (we used old beams for the surface on the island and the menu desk).

As it turned out, price wasn't an object. The Carnivore played with some concrete mix in a piece of tupperware, built a mold out of old wood, mixed his own concrete and built our countertops himself for little more than the cost of a couple of bags of concrete. Where we splurged on the cabinets, we more than made up the budget shortfall with the counters. There are times when I think The Carnivore is pure genius, and this is one of them. I LOVE THESE COUNTERTOPS. Not a day goes by that I don't run my hands along the counters and smile. Not only are they beautiful, but they are nearly indestructible. I can set a pan of boiling water on the counters and nothing will happen. I can cut eight watermelons on the surface, and there won't be a scratch. Love is too small of a word to describe my feelings about these counters.

The strength of these countertops was proven this weekend, in a way we had not yet imagined. The Carnivore requested fudge on Saturday, and I was happy to oblige. Of course, I am nearly incapable of trying the same recipe twice, so even after my three attempts at fudge from a few weeks ago, I stood up on a chair and started pulling down cookbooks. I picked a recipe, cleaned up the lunch dishes (I can't start a recipe without cleaning the kitchen first), and started to pull out the ingredients I would need. While standing on my tip-toes and digging around blindly in the tall cabinet where I keep my baking supplies, I pushed around countless bottles of vinegars and oils, trying to reach the baking chocolate. Too late, I realized too many bottles were moving. In slow motion, I watched the bottle of soy sauce teeter on the edge of the cabinet. I threw the chocolate down and lunged, too slowly, and the true strength of concrete was proven. In my little unplanned experiment, I learned the following:

If a glass object falls from a height of no more than 2 feet, the glass will shatter in heretofore unprecendented fashion, allowing soy sauce to splatter in a kaleidoscopic fashion, and propelling tiny shards of glass to the nether regions of the house.

In layman's terms, the disaster was truly spectacular. But, while the soy sauce was obliterated, the countertops weren't affected by the accident at all.

Miraculously, Fat Baby was in his high chair at the time and was not down amongst the glass which, by the way, traveled no fewer than 15 feet. I called The Carnivore in (apologizing profusely) to help with clean-up, which involved washing every glass canister kept on the counters; moving the refrigerator to clean up soy sauce from beside, behind and under it; scrubbing the backsplash, washing the stained glass, sweeping and Swiffering.

45 minutes later, I looked back at my soy sauce covered cookbook to see what other ingredients were needed. For pity's sake.

The fudge recipe that I used this time came from How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food, a cookbook I have had for years but have never used. The recipe was incredibly simple, which was what I was looking for after all the variations I tried last time.

  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, plus some for greasing the pan
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped (preferably kept far away from the soy sauce)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  1. Combine the chocolate and the cream in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until well blended and smooth.
  2. Add the sugar and salt, still over low heat, and cook, stirring, until the mixture boils.
  3. Stop stirring and cook until the mixture measures 236 degrees.
  4. Remove from heat. Add butter, but do not beat.
  5. When the mixture is lukewarm, add the vanilla and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and has lost its sheen.
  6. Add the nuts, if using.
  7. Scrape fudge into greased pan (8x8) and let sit until hardened.
  8. Cut into squares, wrap well and refrigerate.

This fudge turned out really well. It was easy to make, and the sugar dissolved fully (a problem I have had with other fudge recipes that used granulated sugar as opposed to confectioner's sugar). Sadly, I choose to use black walnuts, since they were all I had, and they are a bit odd in fudge. The aftertaste is too strong for such a rich and fabulous dessert.

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