7 Quick Takes Friday!

7 Quick Takes Friday! June 24, 2011

Well, tonight is the night. The night that I am cooking the Ogre’s favorite meal, Poulet au Porto (colloquially known as flaming chicken) in honor of his last weekend with us. The night in which his entire family will gather, sans his sommelier brother who, naturally, has to work, for the last time before he takes off to Vegas to finish the last leg of his pre-dissertation doctoral journey.

Luckily, this meal is such a pain in the ass to make that it’s keeping my mind off the fact that my husband will be leaving in just a few short days. Thank God for small mercies, eh?

Julia Recommends
serving Poulet au Porto with these tiny, olive-shaped potatoes that are really difficult to find. The first time I made it I followed her suggestions as if they were the commandments handed down from Sinai. And oh, man, how I wish I hadn’t. The thing is, she also recommends peeling the things. So imagine me, 8 months pregnant with Liam, peeling away at two pounds of olive sized potatoes. It took me two and a half hours to peel the damn potatoes.
To Make Matters Even Worse
I suck at potatoes.
Overall, I’m a pretty good cook. Really. But there are certain things, things that are generally considered “staples” and “simple” that I simply cannot master, no matter how much I practice. Potatoes are one of them. Toast is another.
I can make a mean mashed potato, don’t get me wrong. The secret’s all in the creme fraiche. But as far as roasting them….forget about it. My roasted potatoes are, without fail, overcooked on the outside and undercooked on the inside, rendering them both mushy and hard at the same time. It is bizarre and disgusting, and my guests politely choke them down but never ask for seconds.
How is it, You Ask,
that a woman who can whip up a killer Poulet au Porto, put the smack-down on any pasta dish ever created, and who knows her way around a tiramisu like nobody’s busness, can’t blunder through a simple task like roasting potatoes or properly buttering a piece of toast?
The thing is, when the Ogre and I were first married, I couldn’t cook my way out of a paper bag. It’s not really an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t boil water. I could bake cookies like nobody’s business, but as I quickly discovered, newlyweds cannot live on peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and Stouffer’s lasagna forever.
So I decided to teach myself to cook.
With Disastrous Results
The Ogre was so thrilled with my new-found desire to be wifely that he eagerly promised that he would always eat whatever I made.
That night, I was driving home with a friend, trying to figure out what I should make for dinner. I listed off the contents of our refrigerator, and when I got to “steak,” she said, “When I was growing up, my mom used to take steaks and coat them on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic before cooking them. It was really good and really simple. Why don’t you try that?”
When I got home, I was all excited about this divinely simple meal I would make my darling husband. I pulled out the steak and potatoes, found a recipe for smashed potatoes, and got to work mincing garlic.
I probably should have realized that my friend had said, “a steak” and what was laying on my counter were tiny cubed pieces of steak for stew, but the disparity didn’t even give me pause. Rather, I busily coated every single side of each individual steak cube with finely minced garlic, kosher salt, and coarsely ground black pepper.
When the Ogre got home, I proudly laid out the meal in front of him. After we said a prayer, he smiled at me and took a huge bite of steak.
To His Great Credit
the Ogre’s facial expression never changed. He chewed and swallowed, then dug into the potatoes, which weren’t much better.
Pleased, I stabbed a few pieces of steak with my fork and put them in my mouth. 
Oh. Holy. Hell. 
I have never felt that much searing, salty pain in my mouth at one time. The extreme amounts of garlic and pepper made my eyes water and my nose sting, and the salt made my mouth dry up and pucker instantly. I didn’t even chew; I just spat it out and began alternately gasping for air and gulping water. 
After I regained control of myself, I insisted that the Ogre did not have to eat that horrible meal. But he had promised, he insisted. And so he ate the whole plate. 
Over the Years
 my cooking has improved drastically, but we still have the occasional culinary mis-hap. Nothing as wretched as the infamous steak cubes, of course, but there was the unfortunate kalamata olive/orzo pasta that ended up looking and tasting like an oily purple pile of mush. Which the Ogre ate. And then there was the rice pilaf with peas and proscuitto which never got quite thoroughly cooked and was…crunchy. And which the Ogre ate.
I’m really grateful to him for keeping that promise over the years. I think that I would not have the confidence that I have in the kitchen now if I hadn’t known that no matter what the result was, my husband would eat it, smile, and thank me.
Nevertheless, there are a few staples that I never quite mastered, and potatoes and toast top the list. I cannot tell you how many pieces of half-buttered, potholed toast he has choked down, nor how many half-roasted, half-raw potatoes he’s happily eaten.
I Love That Man
“What do you think you’re doing? Don’t put my picture on your blog.”
Go see Hallie lfor more quick takes! And be sure you drop by Jen’s place to congratulate her on the birth of little Pamela Scholastica! Have a happy weekend, everyone!
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