I’ve been feeling a little badly about something. I re-read my post about last weekend’s Grilled Lamb Feast and had the thought: I don’t know if I would like me if I didn’t know me. Who calls their own number on a dinner party? If Phoebe read it, she might have called me “braggy.” The truth is, I was thrilled about that meal because for a few weeks there, I was feeling like Chuck Knoblauch in the late 90s when he forgot how to throw from second base to first. Like totally forgot to the point where the ball would sail 10 feet over the first baseman’s head and into the crowd. He was the second baseman for the New York Yankees. The New York Yankees! This was his job. Sort of like how I write about dinner, so I’m expected to know how to execute a your basic everyday skillet meal. But I started to feel like I was suffering from a bad case of the yips. I could not turn out a decent coconut curry chicken even though I’ve been making a version of one for over a decade. One night, I thought I was a genius for conflating Phoebe’s request for meatballs and Abby’s request for chicken teriyaki into “chicken teriyaki meatballs” — until I actually tried one and realized they tasted like balls of styrofoam with a hint of sawdust. I couldn’t even get mad at Abby when I told her there’d be no dessert if she didn’t eat more, and she responded, “Fine. I’ll have one more bite of this disgusting meatball.” I think my lowest point, though, was last Wednesday when I broke out a nice bottle of Gruner from the fridge and sunk the corkscrew right into the….screwtop cork-less cap. My first thought: Is today the day my family and my DALS readers find out that I am a complete fraud? My second: Thank God, dinner report cards already went out.
The point is, the Lamb Feast wasn’t just delicious, it was redemptive. And it was actually edible. Unlike some of these never-seen-before meals that one might call the DALS blooper reel. Happy Friday.
Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs: Not coming soon to a kitchen near you. (Unless I try again using ground pork instead of ground chicken.)
Shaved Beet Carpaccio with Feta: So elegant, so fresh, so…brown. I know that adding skim milk instead of cream to a hot sauce will cause curdling and that it’s never a good idea to add a sugary, likely-to-burn glaze to a piece of broiling fish until the very end — these things I know. But how, in my two decades of cooking, did I not know that golden beets turn brown if they sit out for too long? A quick Google search tells me to avoid preparing them until the last minute or to keep slices in “acidulated” water to prevent discoloring. By acidulated, I’m pretty sure those smarty-pants mean water with a squeeze of lemon.
You know things are bad when you can’t even make a bagel come out right. I toasted a bagel for Phoebe one night when we made fettucine with butternut squash. Phoebe doesn’t eat pasta, so I usually replace the noodles with something else in the carb family that’s healthy. If it wasn’t black as ash you’d see that this time it was a whole wheat bagel.
Earlier this spring we were working on a story for Bon Appetit about grilled pizzas. We used to make them fairly often but we never quite nailed the magic formula. So since BA is a real magazine — last time I checked they had 1.7 million subscribers — we figured we better get cracking on nailing the magic formula. We did, and you’ll be reading about that soon, but not before we charred half a dozen hole-ridden crusts with soggy toppings that never cooked and cheese that never got golden and bubbly.
Andy had a major vision while driving north on the Major Deegan this past spring. Salmon! He said, Crusted in Potatoes! Let’s make it for the girls and call it French Fry Salmon! How do we do that? (I know now that I can’t stop him, I can only hope to contain him.) I clicked over to my epi app, found nothing. My How to Cook Everything app, nothing. The most credible recipe Google could turn up was something from the Food Network. But Andy wasn’t worried — he had a vision! Like most things, though, visions mean nothing without reliable plans for execution. In spite of the instruction from one of the recipes to seal the potatoes on the fish with plastic wrap (shown above) before frying potato-side down, we could not make the potatoes stick to the fish to form a crust. In the end, Andy’s French Fry Salmon was salmon with a side of potatoes. And you know what? The girls still had dinner and no one showed up at our door with a warrant for our arrest.