I wanted to title my food book "Dining Disasters" and just lament all the times I tried to cook for people and failed. The book would have been long but I guess it would have become tiresome eventually. I would have included a few success stories but I think the crux of the book would hinge on describing the people I fed and, since I mostly like my friends and want to keep them, it wouldn't have been very revealing. And, maybe it's kind of ridiculous--the way I shoot to make something so delicious and fail so often.
One of the things I wanted for Christmas was Dungeness Crab. No one believes that I want ingredients for Christmas (well, my sister Val believes), so I bought one on sale at New Frontiers for $7 and came home and cleaned it. It had been awhile since I'd had to clean a Dungeness Crab but it came right back. I stood over the sink and cracked and dug. I ate the green butter on the inside. I picked the legs clean with my nutcracking tools. I got about 12 oz of crab out of that dude. Not bad for $7 and half an hour of picking.
So, last night, I tried to make crab-stuffed trout. That's a dish, right? I started at 4:30. This should have provided enough time. But, as often happens when Erik and I hang out in the living room, talking and having a pre-dinner drink, I wander into the kitchen for five minutes here and there but mostly return to hang out by the fire and with Erik and the kids. This dinner should have been easy: mixed green salad with French vinaigrette, roasted fingerling potatoes, spaghetti squash and this crab stuffed trout. I love crab. I love trout. I love butter that makes the stuffing that makes the crab stick to the inside of the trout.
This dinner was the kind you could make in five minute spurts. Squash in the oven at 4:30. Potatoes in at 5:00. Make the vinaigrette at 5:30. Stuff the trout at 5:45. Dinner should be ready by 6:00.
Stuffing: egg, scallions, melted butter, lemon juice, breadcrumbs. Stuff the crab inside cleaned trout, read the recipe. Bake at 400 for 5 minutes and then broil for five more minutes.
I pulled the fish at 6:10, having given it 7 more minutes than the recipe called for. When we went to pull the bones out of the trout, the stuffing fell out. Worse, the bones wouldn't come loose because the fish wasn't all the way cooked. I tried to restack the fish and the stuff and baked it again. For ten more minutes.
I did not like it. The trout was soft. The skin. Soft. The stuffing. Soft. The potatoes, overcooked, were soft and so was the spaghetti squash. The only things sharp were the salad and the salad dressing. Mostly disaster in my book. The only good part? I had roasted the potatoes in butter but, in this disaster dinner, the butter didn't soak in even though I poked the potatoes. So Zoe and I broke the potatoes in half and dipped them in butter. That was success. But the crab? Barely tasted.
Fortunately, I have some crab leftover for which I have to write a different kind of apology.