Sunday, January 14, 2007

I really should have known better...

Boy, was I ever ambitious tonight! Three new recipes, and not one in the bunch quick and easy. Well, the fish, perhaps....

Remember how I said way back in the beginning that I really, really don't like fish? I AM trying, though, because I know it's good for me. I decided to try a recipe from The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook, Hawaiian Sunfish with Cherry Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic, & Olives, thinking anything based on garlic has to be good. And in fairness, it actually was. However, before I could begin the recipe, I had to roast the garlic. This cookbook's recipe calls for two cups of peeled cloves to be gently warmed in a cup of olive oil for 40 minutes, followed by 20 minutes in a low oven. It really did produce some wonderful roasted garlic--mellow and sweet. (Is anybody counting the minutes here--and this was before I could start cooking--and after I peeled two cups worth of garlic cloves.)

While the garlic roasted, I started the Wild Rice Pilaf from Barefoot Contessa: Family Style. It needed an hour to cook, but I figured not too bad, because of the long cooking time required for the garlc. A quick chop of half an onion, a shimmer of olive oil in a brasier, and we were off to the races. Fifteen minutes later, I added the water, salt, and wild rice, then covered to simmer for another 50 minutes. Meanwhile, I chopped scallions for the final preparation of this dish.

But was I done? Oh, no. I also madeMashed Yellow Turnips with Crispy Shallots from The Barefoot Contessa: Family Style. This recipe required six shallots to be peeled and cut into sliver-thin rings, then cooked in olive oil (no lower than 220 degrees, nor higher than 260 degrees) for 40 minutes. While those were cooking, there was the peeling, cubing, boiling, and pureeing of the turnips. And let us not forget slicing the multi-colored, heirloom cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives, or preparing the chiffonade of basil for the fish.

I want you to close your eyes (well, keep one open so you can keep on reading) and picture my kitchen at the end of this. I swear, every single pot, pan, knife, cutting board, and prep tool I owned was either dirty or ready to become dirty. Oil rings covered the granite countertops, and there wasn't an empty inch of counter space. Plus, I was tired and sore (remember the broken foot I told you about from ten days ago?) after the grocery shopping and this marathon cooking session. Finally, though, with everyone's help, we got the kitchen cleaned up, and I prepared to finish off the fish (just a quick saute) and the sauce (a minute in the pan after taking out the fish) so that I could serve dinner.
By the time we sat down, our hopes were high for a really good meal. I took my first bite of the fish, and promptly got stuck in the mouth with a bone. Hello! This was supposed to be a fillet. So, at that point, I was done. Dinner was over. I did taste and nibble at the rest, but I was exhausted and too disgusted to eat.
What did I learn? To trust my instincts. I'd rather waste some ingredients, or figure out how to use them later, than become so focused on a crazy cooking project that it detracts from spending time with the people I want to nourish and love. I did know better, and I ignored the voice inside that was screaming, "Stop! This is insane!"
When I am over my snit about the dinner misery, I'll post recipes, because honestly, every one of them was worth trying--just not all on the same night. Tomorrow, I look forward to a much simpler dinner that will allow me to focus on the ones I love.

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