Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Adventures In Cooking

I bought a cookbook that I'd wanted for years called Top Secret Restaurant Recipes. I was very excited that I would be able to make some of my favorite chain restaurant specialties in the comfort of my own home. And if I wanted a second slice of The Cheesecake Factory’s cheesecake, I wouldn’t have to feel ashamed or pretend it was to take to a sick relative in the nursing home.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but these recipes are freaking hard. I like to cook, and I still found myself rolling my eyes and muttering swear words when I read that some things have to be marinated overnight, or cooked in the oven for two hours and then put on the grill for 5 minutes. Some recipes require random ingredients that my Middle American grocery stores don’t even carry. On weeknights, if dinner can’t be cooked in less than 30 minutes, I’m out. And that’s when I’m in a good mood.

My first venture was Shoney’s country fried steak (not my choice if you knew me, but marriage is about compromise). This involved a trip to the store, putting the steaks in water, then flour, then water, then flour again, and freezing them overnight. Something about preventing the breading from falling off, or something about making life difficult, I can’t remember which one.

The following evening I was ready to cook the steaks we were hungry for the night before, but had ended up eating peanut butter sandwiches instead. I personally don’t believe in deep frying things at home because I think that we both get enough fried food in our regular diets, especially at lunch. But again, compromise. Anyhoo, I heat the oil and drop in the steaks, only to receive tiny 2nd degree burns all over my hands and face. “This sucks” I thought, and I still had to make the gravy. I followed the directions to the letter, but the gravy would not thicken by the time the steaks were done. Though I knew better, I thought it would be a good idea to sprinkle in a little flour while the gravy was boiling. Not a good idea. While it tasted fine, it was now gravy with hard flour balls, or dumplings as I chose to call them. After about 1 ½ hours dinner was ready. This was after taking the shortcuts of making canned corn and instant mashed potatoes.

I put everything on the dinner table, which others would call a coffee table, but it’s my house and I’ll call it whatever the hell I want. My kitchen and my entire person were covered in grease and the whole house smelled like a Shoney’s, minus the anticipation of having a slice of their strawberry pie later. I said to Joe “I hope you enjoy this because I’m never making it again.” It worked out well for me that it wasn’t very good.

My next venture was Outback’s Walkabout Soup which is usually my favorite part of my meal when we go there. The worst part was slicing the 3 onions. I don’t mind the watering of the eyes or the running of the nose, but I don’t remember it ever being that painful before. My eyes stung for hours. The soup turned out pretty well, probably because it called for a cup of heavy cream. I froze the leftovers and reheated them for lunch a couple days later, and the result was not very good. I ended up having Pringles for lunch that day.

I don’t know what my next try will be. I’m thinking the Key Lime cheesecake, but it will probably require me to wait for the full moon to fall on a Tuesday, and for me to actually drive to Key West to get the juice.



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