|This is why people think they can't cook.
||[Apr. 30th, 2008|09:51 am]
So, I have this wall of cookbooks and I occasionally feel the need to justify the space, the dust, the stress put on the structure of the house, so this weekend I pulled out a casserole cookbook that I bought a couple of years ago. I have a nostalgic fondness for casseroles, having grown up on them, but often find they seem more work than "normal" unlayered food. I sort of like to cook things once. To have to cook them, then do something to them, then cook them again....my ADD has kicked in and I'm off to ride a bike. |
But still, this past weekend I was actually home all weekend and thought now would be a good time. Plus I had some fabulous shrimp and asparagus from the famer's market and I spotted this casserole that called for that, plus artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and parmesan.
So, I poached the shrimp that day to retain their freshness and picked up the remaining ingredients. And last night, thought, oh, I'll run home, just toss it together and throw it into the oven to bake off while we do yard work.
Except my achille's heel with recipes is that I often fail to read them through. AND, I don't know, rather than just use the recipe as inspiration and make it as I thought it should be done, I followed the recipe to the letter. The former cookbook buyer for a gourmet retail store took control and I went through this recipe as if I were evaluating this book for national roll-out. Plus I was on the phone the whole time.
By the time I had peeled the shrimp, I was bored. Then blanching the asparagus, and sauteeing the mushrooms...really, why the hell didn't I stop right there? I had a brilliant dinner. Perfectly poached shrimp that just needed a little finishing in melted butter. Toss the asparagus and shrooms together, top with the Parm, put the asparagus hearts on salad and boom -- 15 minute dinner and perfect.
But the pigheaded Dane insisted on layering them as instructed in a casserole dish, then making a white sauce. Only I was in the middle of a difficult phone call, so I actually followed the recipe and a tiny, sane part of my brain said, whoa, that must be a typo -- 4 Tbs of butter and 3/4 cup of flour, that's way too much flour. But I was busy trying to keep focused on the phone call, and figured there'd maybe be a lot of liquid coming on down the page...but there wasn't. So, now I'm cursing, and fishing paste out of the pan, so I can add the measly amount of liquid, thinking, you know how to make the sauce, why didn't you just make the sauce...hang up the damn phone and pay attention.
And despite my KNOWING that it would be better to mix all of the ingredients with the white sauce and then top with Parmesan...I was once again, strangely passive, as if I hadn't spent the last 10 years of my life cooking professionally. I swear, it was like the 8 year old in me was thinking "Hey, just how wrong can this go?"
The good news is, it tasted fabulous. Well, duh, cream, butter, shrimp, asparagus, artichoke hearts, cremini mushrooms, and parmesan cheese. It looked like crap and took forever. But, in a way, that's okay, because in my head I've already reinvented it as an au gratin and I know it will be an awesome meal.
But I'm just thinking of some poor bastard who follows this recipe and thinks "God, I suck. I can't cook for beans." It's so sad, really. If only I had time, and someone would pay me to do it, I'd develop an "idiot-proof" seal, reviewing cookbooks carefully enough so that you could go into the book knowing that as long as you followed the directions, it was going to come out good. And if it didn't...hang up the apron and back slowly out of the kitchen.