Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Feast

As usually happens, my meal planning for this week went down the drain - however the reasons for my schedule being thrown off were good reasons this time: company! We had made arrangements to have dinner with my parents on Friday but when Monday arrived there was a scheduling conflict discovered and we bumped the meal to Tuesday. Since this was going to be a bit tight for my Mom, I offered to host, and cook, the meal.
I had been holding on to a pork tenderloin for a couple days and decided to save it one more day so I could cook it up for company. However, since there were 6 people supposedly dining that night I knew I needed another entree, so I bought a pack of drumsticks to oven-fry. I had fresh green beans and asparagus and figured I'd throw together some potatoes at some point so I was remarkably unstressed about the whole meal. Considering the beans, asparagus and tenderloin needed minimal cooking times, it was a relief to realize that I wasn't going to have to be cooking the whole day (which is good, because I needed that time to clean!)
SO I got my house spotless (save the three baskets of folded laundry I had to put away - but considering every room in my house, even the laundry room, was guest worthy, I think I did well) and found a fancy-pants potato recipe from the combined efforts of Pinterest and Martha Stewart. I threw together the Crispy Potato Roast(thin slices of potatoes vertically layered around a cake pan) and had it in the oven by 3:30 and then leisurely whipped up an impromptu breading for my chicken. I was running low on panko so I added some crushed corn flakes and then seasoned with chili powder, Lawry's Seasoning Salt, some Sundried Tomato and Herb mix and a touch of chipotle. The chicken was in the oven (all 10 pieces of it) and I was just beginning to dress the pork tenderloin when my mom called to inform me that my brother and sister-in-law were going to be unable to make it, so there would only be 4 people eating. While I was on the phone with her, I was opening up the cryovac packaging the tenderloin came in, when I pulled out, not one, but two tenderloins (for $4!!!). So, we had 10 pieces of chicken and 2 pork tenderloins for 4 people. Not to mention an 8" round cake pan full of thinly sliced potatoes, asparagus, green beans, baked beans and bread. And I'm almost ashamed to say how little was left at the end of the meal :)
It was a pretty nice experience however. The leftovers were enough for lunch for me today and dinner for our family tomorrow. And the low stress assembly for a dinner for 6 showed me how ridiculous I am sometimes when it comes to meal planning. I need to learn to pair labor-intensive entrees with easy-peasy sides more. Typically when I have company coming, I am cooking from about 2:00 on, particularly if I am doing a roast. Had it not been for a last minute decision to make pretty potatoes, I could have started making dinner an hour and a half before we ate and not felt pressed for time at all.
Oh, I did forget to mention one sad component to this tale: the epic cheesecake flop. I had found a recipe for a Japanese 'Cotton' Cheesecake through Pinterest. This recipe intruiged me. Fluffy texture, at least half the amount of cream cheese of a normal cheesecake and still meriting the name cheesecake? I had to try it. Well, since the recipe was in grams it took me a bit longer than usual to throw some of the ingredients together while I weighed them on my kitchen scale (which was a great investment by the way - if you can call $10 an investment...) and I began to be quite glad that I had started this at 8:30 a.m. I took care to wrap the bottom of my spring form pan in foil so the water bath wouldn't leak in, and I even converted the cooking time and temperature for my convection setting on my oven to make sure I got the most even baking possible. At the end of the baking process I was pleased with the general result but I had noticed that the top wasn't browned exactly evenly. Since I had already turned off my oven I just turned it on to 'bake' and set the timer for three minutes and hoped the top would be done by then. Do you know what can happen to the top of a cheesecake in 3 minutes under direct, uneven heat from an oven element that hasn't been preheated? It burns. Alot. It goes totally black across the whole top. It also smokes. And it makes me feel like crying. Seriously, I was heartbroken. The cake had been beautiful! From what I could tell, it had cooked perfectly, except for one side was 'slightly' lighter that the other across the top. ARGH!!!!
Well, after speaking with my husband and getting his honestly brilliant input ("If you can't just cut the burnt portion off, why don't you crumble it and layer it with some whipped cream and berries and make it like a trifle?") I decided to see how much of it was salvageable. It was only when I opened up the springform that I realized how much worse off my cake was than I had realized. The foil hadn't kept all of the water out and the springform hadn't held its seal, so the bottom 1/3 of my cake was soggy. Yuck. So, the top 1/3 got cut off because it was burnt and dry. The bottom 1/3 got cut off because it was soggy and gross. And the middle 1/3 got crumbled, stuck in a bowl, and set aside for me to not serve that night because I was too grumpy about how my cake turned out. Thank goodness for Dairy Queen ice cream cakes!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

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