I said I would make dinner on Mondays. It’s 5:15pm, I’m in hour two of helping my 5th grader with homework, and I haven’t been to the store. Plus, the cookbook I’m flipping through is apparently going to make me do something horrific to a pigeon. That isn’t a typo. I didn’t mean chicken. I wish to all that is good and holy I meant chicken, because I think we can all agree that pigeons are the rats of the avian world. Why would I ever want to… pop(??) a pigeon? It’s called “popping”? Everything is wrong with this, and I’ve lost my appetite.
Fine. Other people probably still want to eat, though if I told them about the pigeons, I would probably solve the whole needing to make dinner problems. Next cookbook. I can’t even look you in the eye right now, Tim.
The first recipe I opened to in the Williams-Sonoma book was Chicken Souvlaki. Doesn’t a souvlaki sound like a breed of dog. Oof! Too soon on the heels of the pigeon situation. Next! I flipped past the soup section. Tomorrow is Mardi Gras, and there will be time enough for soups during the long days of Lent. Oh hey now! Pasta! Now we’re talking! Spatzle? That sounds so delightful, I don’t even care what it is… except that apparently you need a spatzle maker with which to create it. It’s a little late in the day for a kitchen store run. Okay, here we go: Roman-Style Fettucine and Chicken. This involves a bottle of wine. It’s not the meal I wanted, but at 5:45 on a Monday night, it’s the meal I need.
I’m still learning to navigate the grocery store. Usually Eric does this part, as usually he does the cooking. I mean, I basically know where things are, but things like say… capers. How does one categorize those? Maybe I shouldn’t judge myself too harshly on this particular ingredient. There is probably some childhood trauma lurking just below the surface. My maternal grandparents loved to make gumbo, but even more, my uncle loved to tell us kids that the capers were crab eyeballs. I would pick mine out and hide them in a napkin.
The girls and I finally made it out of the store, and I even remembered to bring all the groceries into the house. I put on my brand spanking new food prep gloves, because yes, I was a vegetarian for several years, not because I had some deep altruistic love of fluffy animals (though to this day I’ve never eaten veal or lamb), but because I read some horrible sci-fi book about prion disease (don’t ever Google this) and then found it utterly traumatizing to touch or eat meat (especially ground beef) for several years after. After putting on the manual prophylactics, I placed the four chicken breasts into ziplock bags and grabbed the meat hammer. Is it called a meat hammer? Meat cleaver? But cleaver sounds sharp… Now I’m singing Maxwell’s Silver Hammer in my head. Meat tenderizer! Got there! See, I can have a culinary brain! If there is one thing I’ve learned from my bearded chef, it’s that you beat the snot out of the meat before you cook it. So I got out some Monday aggression. And generally, I’d recommend it.
I tentatively placed the raw chicken into my skillet and popped my latest audiobook onto the bluetooth speaker. Next, I twisted open the white wine (nothing screams class like a screw top, y’all) to celebrate getting past the meat handling portion of the evening, and was taking my first sip as my tween daughter wandered passed looking for tidbits to nibble, she stopped and raised an eyebrow at me.
“Are you… listening to Dracula while you cook our dinner?”
Judgement at every turn. I tell you what.
Eric came home while the chicken breasts were browning and I had just pulled out the red, orange, and yellow mini bell peppers to chop. While I was tempted to be impressive, because my husband chops ingredients like the Iron Chef, I took it nice and slow and was feeling pretty pleased with the pretty flower like shapes that fell in three colo– OW!!!
“What did you do?? Are you cut??”
“No! Kinda of! I think it just got my thumb nail.”
“Why was your THUMB in there?”
“Because I am amongst the lucky few species who possess an opposable thumb with which to hold things?”
“No! I mean your thumb shouldn’t be near what you’re chopping. And WHY are you holding the knife like that?”
He nudged me aside and tried to show me the correct way to chop. Once again moving with the speed of a Food Network poster boy. I attempted to mimic his hand grip.
“Not like that!”
He moved around behind me and put his hands over mine. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful it was… no really, I can’t. Because all I could think about was every cheesy movie ever where a guy tries to teach a girl to hold a baseball bat, so that he can have an excuse to move in on her, so I was laughing too hard to really pay attention. But eventually the vegetables got cut, and I only sliced through one more nail in the process. No blood, no foul– amiright??
Everything went into the pot to simmer and was smelling pretty darn good if I do say so myself. Also, I learned that sometimes you WANT the little burned black bits on the bottom, because you scraped them up and they give flavor to the sauce. Clearly all those meals I burned were really just my culinary precociousness coming through!
“Don’t you want to start cooking the pasta?”
“Nah. This has to simmer for 20-30 minutes. I’ll start it in 10 so it doesn’t finish to quickly.”
In ten minutes, I put the enormous pot of water on to boil. Ten minutes later, the first timer went off. The chicken looked pretty done, but still not so much as a bubble in the pot. That’s fine, it said up to 30 minutes. Ten more minutes pass, still no bubbles. I turned off the burner under the chicken. Once it eventually boiled and the linguini was cooked, I decided that it would be a brilliant idea to do the stick to the wall test. Clearly, this requires an Italian wall. Though I must say, it stuck to the countertop where it fell quite nicely.
I put everything into a dish and went to take a picture. “You do realized it’s past their bedtime?” Eric asked. “See here, my good sir. Dinner isn’t finished until it’s photographed…. There. See? All done. Oh wait. I was supposed to shred the chicken…” Insert husbandly death glare here.
Look. The point here is that I got dinner on the table… and at just a shade past 8pm. Oooops. This time everyone really enjoyed the meal (probably because by that time they were starving beasts, ravenous for any scrap I’d toss their way). I was not as impressed. I’m used to my bearded chefs amazing abilities with spices, and to me, it all tasted pretty bland. Plus, we don’t eat much pasta in our house, and I couldn’t even finish my plate, because it was so filling.
However, I’ll call this one a win, because everyone ate it without complaint, and I only lost two fingernails and no blood.
New goal: More spice, less carbs.