Today is B’s birthday. Happy birthday, B! 🙂 That is not the purpose of this post, though. The purpose is to tell you all about our crazy, crazy day.
Back in January, I requested two dinners for my birthday, one at Pasta da Pulcinella and one at Bottega. B kindly obliged. In return, B requested two dinners of his own. So last night I set out on the first one: beer-can chicken with fresh corn spoonbread, oregano green beans, homemade biscuits, and Key lime cheesecakes for dessert. (Click links for recipes.)
Crazy Event #1
This first bought of insanity is really quite mild compared to what was to come. Because cheesecake has to chill, I made them yesterday afternoon. I’d had this recipe before, so I knew it worked and knew they were delicious. I’d just never made it myself.
Now, I’m normally a big fan of Southern Living‘s recipes because they work. They’re pretty dependable, and they don’t use too many ingredients that will cost me my mortgage to purchase. (I recently thought I’d make a Cooking Light saffron shrimp recipe that looked tasty, but that went down the drain when I learned that the saffron was going to cost me $20. For one recipe. I think not.)
This recipe was not so flawless. The batter was very simple and came together without a hitch. The chocolate crumb crusts were not so perfect. To begin with, SL said to divide the crumbs among 12 jumbo aluminum foil baking cups that you’ve put in a 12-cup muffin pan. Hold on there. Am I putting jumbo cups into a regular-size muffin pan, or a jumbo muffin pan? They don’t say. I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that if I was supposed to use a jumbo pan they would have told me so. And, the jumbo muffin cups are too small for my jumbo pan and wiggle around annoyingly. Into the regular-size pan they go. (In the end, I think this turned out to be correct.)
Then they tell me to divide the crumbs among the muffin cups, and press them on the bottom and two-thirds up the sides of the cups, and say it’ll be “about 3 tablespoons each.” Cool, I can handle that. Except after measuring out 3 tablespoons per cup, I run out of crumbs after only 10 cups. Then, I have a LOT of batter leftover that won’t fit in my cups, after filling them completely full as the recipe stated to. It looks to be even more than my missing two cups. Sigh. I throw the batter into empty muffin cups and bake it anyway, minus crusts. We’ll see how they turn out.
After baking, the recipe said to remove the cheesecakes from the pan immediately. Immediately? They’re cheesecakes in a muffin pan. Do they expect me to turn the pan upside down and dump them out onto the counter? How am I supposed to get them out?
I briefly consider using a fork to lift them out of the muffin cups. But they aren’t cupcakes, so they’re fragile, and very hot. I was afraid this would cause them to crack or break. I settled for prying them from the flaming hot pan by the tiny bit of muffin cup that I could grab. B laughed at me the whole time. That is, until I dropped one. It landed directly on top of another one I had just removed from the pan. I could not have done it any more perfectly than if I’d planned it that way. Insert curse words. Pry the just-from-the-oven cheesecake off of the other cheesecake it just swashed. Curse again because there is now an exploded ring of Key lime cheesecake on the counter and what was supposed to be 12 individual cheesecakes is now down to 8. Burn the rest of my fingertips carefully prying the rest of the cheesecakes from the pan. Curse Southern Living and the Heavens for not thinking of this. Let the darn things cool before chilling them. Move on, frustration pouring from my ears, to the chickens.
Crazy Event #2
The beer-can chickens are our recipe. A few months ago, we bought this contraption from Williams-Sonoma.
It’s a two-in-one beer-can-chicken roaster, and it’s awesome. The metal cups are removable for washing. You simply fill them halfway with whatever liquid you want, and then position the chicken over them. They sit pretty securely over the cups, so there’s no worry of them tipping over onto the grill. (I mean, it could happen, but you’d need to be using some really huge chickens I’d think.) We filled ours with Heineken and a rosemary sprig on one side and Heineken and Cajun seasoning on the other. We prepped one chicken by sprinkling the skin with Cajun seasoning (and nothing else), and the other chicken by sprinkling with salt and pepper on the skin, and placing rosemary sprigs and lemon slices under the skin on top of the breast. (Because the chickens are place on top of the metal cups, you can’t stuff their cavities.) We then brushed them with melted butter.
Preheat the grill to 350° to 400°, and then turn off one side. Grill the chickens on the indirect side (without the heat) for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 165°-180°, turning them halfway through so that they’ll brown evenly. (We go to 170°.) Maintain the heat around 350°. We use tongs to carefully remove the hot chickens from the metal cups, and then let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.
The Williams-Sonoma product is great because you can also roast veggies in the metal basket portion while the chickens grill.
While the chickens grill, I began the side dishes. This is when things got really crazy. First off, I had to wash some dishes. I don’t like to cook in a really messy kitchen. I don’t have enough room to maneuver, there’s no counter space, I have to wash something so that I can use it…you get the gist. So I was about to do the dishes when I remembered that B was looking for a Lowes receipt. He had something he needed to return. So I thought, I’m standing right here, let me check and see if it’s inside a plastic bag (we sometimes throw them under the sink before we put them inside the plastic bag holder we have that’s attached to our under-the-sink cabinet door). But when I started to go through the bags, I noticed that they were wet. Uh oh. Then I looked up and saw something we’d never noticed before.
Now, let me just say that we generally don’t spend too much time examining our plumbing. We bought the house a year ago, we got a home inspection, we were in the house while he ran all the water and tested our pipes, we consider that a done deal. Of course, the more we live in this house the more we think our home inspector (who was recommended by a friend), kind of sucked. Or had a bad day. Either way, he whiffed on a lot of things at our house. None that make us regret buying it, but he whiffed.
And this was one of those whiffing moments. Because as I tried to find out why the plastic bags were wet, I looked up into the top of our cabinet at the pipes, and saw it. The pipe leading from the left side of our sink to the main pipe that leads to the drain was not attached. 100% not even slightly trying to be attached. I don’t normally say this, but o.m.g.
After relocating all our cleaning supplies, we realized that it’s probably been like this for forever; at least from before we moved in. There was a white no-slip cabinet liner over the bottom of the cabinet, so it disguised all the water damage underneath. There was a standing puddle. The bottom layer of the cabinet was peeling off. I’m surprised it wasn’t filled with mold.
So we mopped up all the water and tried to organize our thoughts. We’re going to have to get it fixed pronto. But in the meantime, I had a birthday dinner to make and cleaning supplies all over the kitchen.
Crazy Event #3
After relocating the cleaning supplies so that I had the counter back and making a mental note not to use the left side of the sink, I mixed together the spoonbread (super-duper fast and really yummy) and popped it into the oven, and then got to work on the green beans.
Let me just say, I love Le Creuset. I’ve invested in a few of them over the years and happen to live semi-near an outlet store of theirs, so whenever they have sales I try to sneak over and see what deals I can snag. Their cookware is some of the best I’ve used, and I try to use what I’ve bought whenever I can. So last night, I got out my favorite Le Creuset: a Caribbean blue square casserole dish that I bought for myself for my birthday last year. I’ve used it a number of times and really like it.
The green beans recipe is pretty simple. I started by heating 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium (setting 4/8 on my gas stove) heat. Then I added 1 teaspoon of minced garlic and stirred for a few seconds. I didn’t want the garlic to burn, so I added the fresh green beans next, and stirred it all around. Then I added a can of diced tomatoes, and then 1/2 cup of chicken broth. All of this detail is to show you how not crazy this recipe was. It’s simple. Really simple. Only this time, craziness ensued.
At the exact moment that I added the chicken broth, the pot exploded. You read that right. The pot shattered right down the middle. I let out a scream as a flame shot up (not too high, but still. A flame) when all the liquid in my pot poured out onto the flame, extinguishing it and pooling around the cooking eye. Then I just stood there, staring in complete disbelief at my pot, which now sat in three perfect pieces on my stove, cradling my diced tomatoes and green beans in its broken center.
“Everything okay?” B called from outside, where he was checking on the chickens.
“No,” I said. He hurried in. Then he cursed. We cursed together. I thought about crying. I was honestly so floored by it that I didn’t really know what to do. I started by carefully removing the green beans—which were not even hot, guys. I picked them out with my bare hands. That’s how low the heat was—and we mopped up the liquid, which was also not hot. Then we rinsed off the beans and began the recipe again in a new pot.
I still haven’t moved the Le Creuset from its spot of death on my stovetop. It’s sitting there, a martyr of my birthday dinner part one.
The worst part of this is that I learned this morning that it is 100% my fault. I raked my brain all night about what could have caused this, but the only thing I’ve ever heard that could cause a pot like this to shatter is a) putting a hot pot directly into cold water, and b) broiling with a non-broiler-safe dish.
But this morning, as I explored Le Creuset’s website in an effort to find out who I could email this photo to and give them a piece of my mind (and maybe get my pot replaced), I discovered this on the webpage for this pot:
DO NOT use any Stoneware piece on the stovetop or any other direct heat source.
Stoneware? Hold on a minute. Storeware?
I know what stoneware is. I just didn’t know that I was using stoneware. Stupid of me? Perhaps. I’ll give you that. What can I say? As I read this, I ran through the other Le Creuset dishes that I have in my head. They must all be cast iron. I had no idea this pot was any different. Perhaps when I was purchasing it I got too caught up in the pretty shape and lost this detail, but it turned out to be a pretty important one.
So now I can’t complain to Le Creuset. It was my fault. And I now have an $80 dish sitting atop my stove with a matching lid. The lid is still useable. The pot not so much. Talk about a lesson learned.
Oh, yeah. The beans cooked just fine in my KitchenAid Dutch oven. They were fantastic. So were the cheesecakes. B loved the menu and we’ll make it again sometime. Hopefully without the craziness.