November 24, 2009

Kitt Says Relax: Chilling Out about Thanksgiving

Good evening, this is the pot, and I'm about to call the kettle black. Cooks need to relax in the kitchen, especially around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. These holidays are about family and the time spent together, not about slaving away in the kitchen and bursting into tears when the roast isn't perfectly cooked.

I came to this realization via a total Kitchen Fail I had while my boyfriend was visiting recently. I'd been cooking a lot and feeling pretty sure of myself in the kitchen, when the night in question occurred and reminded me that I've been cooking pretty much only for myself, and that I am a Master Rationalizer who can cast any failure in a successful light if I try hard enough. And that I'm not very good at strategies.

Enter T, the boyfriend, who is supportive and kind and has been really sweet during other Kitchen Fails. I want to cook a wholesome meal for T that consists of more than one dish, so I decide that the best choice is to cook two things I've never tried making before (sautéed asparagus and herb roasted chicken) and one thing I know pretty well (acorn squash). This does not occur to me as a poor choice.

Since I'm an English teacher, I'll tell you that my tragic flaw is an utter inability to plan things out rationally, especially when under pressure (pressure being my baseless conviction that T will not like me anymore if I cannot manage to cook a decent multi-part meal).

Right around Wheel of Fortune time (7 pm), I start cooking. Instead of putting the acorn squash in the huge toaster oven that's hogging counter space in my kitchen, I decide I'll cook it in the oven and do the chicken after, since the two dishes require different temperatures. Does it occur to me that this eliminates the possibility of eating both dishes fresh out of the oven? Nope!

While I'm waiting for the acorn squash to cook (which takes between 40 minutes and an hour, by the way), I decide I'll make the asparagus. I peel, chop, and sautée the asparagus, and it turns out great. It also turns out to be ready about 40 minutes before the squash, and the chicken is still straight chillin' in the fridge, un-herbed and un-roasted. I get nervous about how long everything is taking and serve T the asparagus, trying to pass it off as a "salad course."

Then, I remove the acorn squash from the oven after a few pokes with a fork indicate that it might be done (it isn't) and put the chicken in to roast for, oh, another 30-40 minutes. By the time T and I have eaten our asparagus, suffered through undercooked acorn squash, and finally eaten some (admittedly tender and juicy) herbed roasted chicken, Jeopardy (7:30 pm) is long gone and The Office (9 pm) has taken over. Planning: Fail. Timing: Fail. Kitchen Fail.

But you know what? That asparagus was pretty damn good (thanks, Mark Bittman), and the chicken was flavorful and juicy. T got some good mileage out of just how faulty my planning skills are, and I got some material to share with you, dear readers, so that I might help you to avoid making the mistakes I make.

Whether you're cooking a meal for twenty or for two, the key is to get over it before you even start. You're just making food for people, and you're doing it to bring them together so that they can talk and laugh and tell embarrassing stories about you while you run to the kitchen for more cranberry sauce.

Let the day happen. Enjoy Thanksgiving, and I'll try to, too.

1 comment:

  1. great comment Kitt! My family has been following your blog here in Fayette country West Virginia for awhile now and we really agree that sometimes we get too stressed when cooking with our family. we have already started prepping the log cabin for our relatives in anticipation for tomorrow. hope your feast is as joyous as ours.