Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Valentine's Day Dinner Massacre

There are times when I get just a little bit too full of myself, and there are, of course, times when I got taken down a notch or two. Yesterday, I ate humble pie (recipe not included here).

My hospital bills are completely outrageous, and our health insurance premiums are almost doubling next month, so all frivolous spending has been nixed around here. We actually put a stop to the discretionary part of our budget two and a half years ago when we decided to get pregnant and renovate a house, but belt tightening is being taken to a new level now.

Valentine's Day isn't such a big deal to us anyhow, and Preston and I both have fun poring over greeting card selections to find the ABSOLUTE perfect card for each occasion. And so, we agreed last week that greeting cards would be the only presents we would indulge in, and I would make us a special meal for Valentine's Day dinner. Seemed easy enough. After all, I love to cook. And I'm good at it, right? Piece of cake.

On Friday, I came across a recipe for a dark chocolate creme brulee and I ran right out to get the ingredients. Creme brulee is one of my favorite desserts, and it is one that I have never before attempted at home. I skimmed the recipe and decided it would be no problem to whip it up for dessert with our Valentine's Day dinner.

By Monday I had our menu: spicy catfish fillets, steamed Idaho potato for Preston and steamed sweet potato for me and Ray, spinach and feta side salad, and dark chocolate creme brulee. I was proud. But in hindsight, I now remember that pride cometh before a fall.

On Tuesday morning, I was up at the crack of dawn. By 7 am, I had showered, fixed my hair, put on makeup, packed the diaper bag and the briefcase, and gotten the grocery list together. By 8am, Ray and I were at the grocery store. By 9am, the groceries were all put away at home, and Ray and I were at mom's house, ready for me to begin work and for Ray to begin his playtime with his Aunt Tabby and Uncle Nando. Everything was going my way.

I got in a great day of work, and even managed to enjoy about an hour of pre-nap snuggling with Ray. I skipped my afternoon workout, and Ray and I went home to get a head start on dinner. I collected all the ingredients for each of the dishes, put my recipes side by side on the counter, warmed up the oven, and planned the order in which everything would happen. I was so organized. I wrapped the potatoes in aluminum foil and put them in the oven first. Then I prepared the spice rub for the catfish, and began the prep for the creme brulee. I had the schedule all worked out. The potatoes would cook for an hour and 15 minutes, then I would increase the heat in the oven and broil the fish for the last 10 minutes of the potatoes cooking time. While the fish was in the oven, I would assemble the spinach salad. And then, while we ate dinner, I would put the creme brulees in the oven.

We sat down to dinner right on time and enjoyed our spinach salad first course. And this is where everything started to fall apart.

The spicy catfish was bland and boring. I grumbled while I choked it down. Then Preston unwrapped his potato and I watched disconsolately as he tried unsuccessfully to get a knife through it. I unwrapped mine and had the same problem. Preston smiled at me. I had clearly not cooked the potatoes long enough. We pretended to eat a few bites until I gave up and went to check on the custards. I figured I could at least redeem myself with the dessert course.

But they hadn't even begun to congeal. "Dessert will be served a little late," I said. And then I read over the rest of the recipe to make sure I was prepared for the last step of torching the sugar layer on top. "Uh oh," I groaned. Preston grinned at me from across the kitchen. "Now what?" he laughed.

Well, here's the thing. The recipe CLEARLY stated the time estimate at the top. Hands-on time was listed as 20 minutes (I had already done this part - warming the milk, melting the chocolate, stirring in the extracts, and whisking in the eggs and salt). Total time was listed as 1 hour (made total sense - 20 minutes of hands on time plus 40 minutes in the oven equals one hour total time). WHAT WAS NOT MENTIONED IN THE TIME ESTIMATE WAS THE FOUR FRIGGIN HOURS OF CHILLING TIME IN THE REFRIGERATOR.

For pity's sake. I smiled winningly at my loving husband and said "Dessert will be served tomorrow night."


Anonymous said...

Frustrated dinner plans, but special laughs and smiles shared with your best friend in the world. I was glad to read that you were motivated to spend time in your kitchen once again, Sarah. Your life will move forward, but always with memories of your Bailey, and of working through this difficult time with Preston and Ray at your side.
nancy b

yolie said...

It's so good to see you cooking again. Love you.