I took a break from cooking last week to catch up on writing about the flurry of cooking I did over the holidays. But then I realized my DVR had gone out of its way to record a bunch of trash TV for me while I was away, and I figured I owed it to my DVR to watch those shows. In the meantime, I remained to committed to not cooking last week (which was easy to not do from the couch), so I haven’t amassed any more overdue dispatches from the frontlines. I owe you about three battles’ worth and since I won them all, I will definitely tell you about them.
But first let’s talk about how I caught my kitchen on fire last night.
I’ve been on a roll lately and have gotten super excited over my successes with the last few vegetables. At one point over the holidays I said to my dad, “I. Don’t. Know. How. To. Cook.” But because I delivered that line not long after we’d eaten the best sweet potato soufflé in the history of the universe, prepared by me, along with some pretty fine turkey gravy, prepared by me, my dad said, “How much longer are you going to use that excuse?” And I realized I really have grown. I am kind of starting to get the hang of cooking. I understand more about the physics of heating food, and I kind of know which utensils are better for what, and I can even begin to put together menu items in my mind….with vegetables I’ve never had before but imagine might be kind of good…and think, that might be awesome, I should try it.
So that’s where my head was last night when I caught my kitchen on fire. Cooking? Piece of cake. I’ve totally got this.
But first-first, does anybody care that last night was the first night of Brussels sprouts week? Yes, you do. What I’ve learned about Brussels sprouts is people either love them or hate them, and I’ve been catching it from both sides ever since I started this project. It is the number one single most talked about vegetable because people have such intense, visceral feelings and experiences that define their love or hatred. I have to admit, the people who express serious love for Brussels sprouts surprise me, since it’s supposed to be the vegetable that represents all other vegetables as the worst in the history of vegetablehood and the reason children feed veggies to the family dog, but they are serious about it. People love Brussels sprouts. And the minute they come up in conversation they turn all mushy faced, like they’re talking about a lover, and say sexy things like, “Mmmm, toss them with a little bit of garlic and olive oil and…” and then they casually throw out a bunch of other words and foods I’ve never heard of or cooked with but sound decent and sexy enough, like prosciutto and pancetta. However, the folks who hate Brussels sprouts, the good Americans who grew up hiding peas in milk, my kindred spirits, hate Brussels sprouts. And even though they look markedly less sexy when their faces contort into amoebic blobs and they gag and spit, I do get a little hot and bothered by this reaction. Me too, friend, me too.
For Brussels sprouts week we did what we always do: we learned a thing or two, we went shopping, we tried to figure out the best way to cook them, in that order. This is what we learned: Apparently it’s spelled and pronounced Brussels (with an –s–) sprouts. Like the city. Not brussel (lowercase, no –s–) sprouts, which is how I’ve imagined it and pronounced it all my life. I prefer my way, of course. At the grocery store, we had no trouble at all finding Brussels sprouts, which stands to reason since so many people love them. And once we got them home, we relied on our old pals Google and the Joy of Cooking to get the ball rolling. This part of cooking has become so easy and painless it’s almost boring to report on.
Thank god I caught my kitchen on fire.
While the sprouts were on the stove doing whatever it is they were doing at low heat for 20 minutes (is this just plain ole “cooking”?), Melissa and I were deliberating over what else we should eat with our sprouts. I’d located some OK-looking chicken fingers in the freezer, and we thought maybe we needed one more thing.
“Mac-n-cheese?” I asked. We love mac-n-cheese. And really, who doesn’t? The last time Melissa and I had mac-n-cheese the only other item on our plates was cake (mmmmm cake), so anything slightly nutritious would be an improvement; pairing Brussels sprouts with mac-n-cheese would be like gourmet dining. But she had brought a yummy loaf of garlic bread, so we decided to save mac-n-cheese for cake and have fancy bread with fancy sprouts. After the chicken came out of the oven, I popped some buttered slices of garlic bread on the top rack, and cranked the oven up to broil.
Last night’s dinner was not one that came together all at once (if I ever learn how to do that, that will be the best skill I learn from this project). It came out in bits and pieces, slowly. The chicken happened first. Then the sprouts. Then the bread. Sort of.
Melissa and I nibbled on a few pieces of chicken while we waited for the sprouts and bread to be ready. Then we thought maybe the chicken needed some punch, so I dug out some ranch dressing and the. world’s. best. hot. sauce. ever. on. the whole. planet. oh. my. god. In September Meat Pusher Elwood gave me some of his homemade hot sauce, which I think at the time he did because I like to put hot sauce in a certain adult beverage I consume in mass quantities, but I’ve kept it in the fridge waiting for a special occasion to break it out because homemade hot sauce just seems too awesome to waste on my frat party-esque drinking binges. While frozen chicken strips may not seem that special to the casual observer, it was Brussels sprouts night and I did catch my kitchen on fire, so I would say last night was pretty fucking special. Thanks, Elwood.
We had more or less devoured the chicken, so I guessed it was time to examine the Brussels sprouts and remove them from the stove. And then the fire alarm went off. I was like, what the what, Liz Lemon?! We all looked at each other, do you smell smoke? No, do you? No. Oh well. Ha. Ha.
Who does that? Who dismisses a fire alarm?
The dogs went a little berserk trying to root out the beeping, David opened the front door to let out the imaginary smoke, and I went back to my Brussels sprouts. Then, shockingly, the kitchen filled up with smoke. Melissa and I at the same time realized what was happening and dove for the oven. The bread! In the oven. On broil. For who knows how long.
We opened the oven and flames shot out everywhere. Melissa immediately reacted by herding the dogs into the other room, and I immediately reacted by standing there and staring at the fire. David ran in and I looked at him and said, not really with any amount of excitement or worry, but more matter-of-factly, “I don’t know what to do.” He looked at me like I was a fucking idiot. He grabbed a potholder, reached in, pulled out the flaming cookie sheet, dumped the fiery bread into the sink and turned the water on it. Crisis averted.
And then I heard “HOLY FUCK!!” And a bunch of other expletives too profane to include here on this family blog. Apparently the potholder David grabbed was actually a very convincing “decorative” potholder imitator, which melted to the hot cookie sheet and burned the ever lovin shit out of David’s hand. Oops.
So, I caught my kitchen on fire and maimed my husband. I suddenly felt the sharp rise in success I experienced in recent weeks was all for naught. And I would have been really depressed about this development, except for Christa. When Christa got home last night, she said, “You had a kitchen fire? You’re a real cook now.”
And the Brussels sprouts were great.