Nov 25, 2010 - 3:50 am
(Blue Oyster Cult reference)
Coming into this Thanksgiving, I tasked myself with making oysters rockefeller. Don't ask me why. I do not believe I've eaten them since I was a bus boy at the Officer's Club at NAS Norfolk WAAAY back in the day. They were, of course, free.
But, we live at the beach and I felt like we needed to add a little ocean spice to the traditional turkey do, and somehow (actually, quite directly, as my wife said: Okay, you do it, but not on Thursday...I do not want you in my kitchen on Thursday.") I ended up with the task.
I watch lots of food shows these days. I have mentioned that they are like porn to me now. Not that porn is good for you :). (I will plead the fifth on that one.) So I have had a general (even keen?) interest in food preparation for some time now. But I am not a sophisticate, I am not a culinary expert by any stretch, I am not a gourmand. I am a grinder who can barely get through the making of an egg without screwing it up (although I do not let others make my eggs for me, as they screw them up even worse :)).
An interesting project then, as it called for some items I was not familiar with or, more special to me, for items I had wondered about via the food shows but never actually dealt with or eaten.
To wit, until now all of my parsley came in a bottle with a bunch of holes and/or slots on the top of the bottle. I had not heretofore dealt with fresh parsley. Having now dealt with it, I would like to point out that I wonder why anyone would go to the trouble of cutting up fresh parsely when there is perfectly good parsley in flake form waiting for you in your very own spice rack in your very own home.
Before now, all of the spinach I ate (or dealt with, really) was of the type that Popeye ate: It was chopped up and done up by someone else prior to me being involved with it. True, I may never have actually MADE anything with spinach in it before tonight (this morning, actually), but when it came to me, when it was on MY plate, it was not this weird leafy thing that I suspect even horses would avoid.
Okay, okay. I've seen people eat spinach in salads. They are weird. Horses, as a rule, are not.
So, right away I had two weird ingredients to deal with (and I mentioned that I am not a chef, right?).
To be fair to me, my wife threw a curveball into the deal by refusing to let me cook oysters on the halfshell. I forget her reasoning now, but it's her kitchen and I just live here.
(Sort of like the world, now that I think about it.)
This means I had a great recipe for oysters rockefeller (perhaps: we shall see, we shall see), but the recipe was for oysters baked in their own shells (half shells, to be precise). I was now doomed to placing some nice looking (I must admit, and by that I do not mean that I would date them, but they were healthy looking oysters, of which my wife made a pointed comment about their price -- to which I should have replied, "Well, I could have bought a couple of buckets-full down at the pier for half the price and they would have even had shells!", but didn't because this is a stressful time for her, being the holidays, and all of that, and I certainly do not want to deal with that, her stress, I mean :)) into some baking, um, things...glass things that you can stick into the oven...most of you probably know more about them than I do, since I just tonight learned that you could stick them into the oven, things made of glass, that is.
Oh, I remember her reasoning now: ain't NOBODY shucking oysters in my kitchen; you HAVE NO IDEA what you would be getting into! She likes to think she is a real Beach girl and that I am a visitor for some reason, even if I have lived here longer, so I let her have that illusion. I'm really a good guy, deep down inside.
She might have had a point. One of my great fears is bleeding to death. The other main one is dying some other way.
Ergo, no shucking of oysters, something of an embarassment for a Virgina Beach boy, but not as embarassing as being told NO! by your wife and saying, meekly, "Ok."
That turned out to be a great decision on her part. The kids came in with their kids rather late tonight and the kids of the kids are sporting some colds and such (the 7-month old has thrush, and when I tried to sympathize, empathize, by reminding my wife that I had that following my first cancer bout, she wanted nothing to do with me. She can be like that). While I found them to be happy, more or less, I was in the minority, I suspect. My daughter and her hub looked like they hadn't slept for three days (they hadn't slept for three days) and I suppose I was supposed to feel sorry for them rather than remember raising HER and her little brother...but, as usual, I digress.
I had issues. The recipe called for Pernot, something my wife regrettably told me was Perdom... I could not place it, despite SearchDoodle's best efforts. Actually, I found some Perdoms, but not one of them made sense in a food dish.
Pernot, you probably know, is an anise-based liqueur. Many of us do not stock it with our milk and lemonade. I am among the latter.
This lack, frankly, put me into a static mode, where I would stare at the recipe, look at my ingredients, see the spinach and parsley, frankly, and head back to the den and my rocking chair, where I could re-read the recipe while watching one of the food channels for motivation.
Now, my agreement with my boss, I mean my wife, was that I would not be invading her kitchen with my oyster fetish once the sun came up. Whatever I was doing (if anything) was going to happen last night and this morning, in these wee hours, while I was alone with the aforementioned oyster fetish.
I would therefore have to do anything I was going to do NOW, with the proviso that I could of course wait until today to actually bake it (what a heart she has).
I paced, in a sort of virtual way. I didn't really pace per se...I kept walking between the den and the kitchen, eyeing my ingredients, studying my recipe, and wondering what to do about the Pernot (and whether or not I REALLY wanted to eat anything with monster spinach in it).
My wife, before she crashed and burned, suggested sherry to replace the Pernot. This created another dilemma, along with the advice to use Pam in the bottom of those glass dishes, since neither was apparently available in our home and I was not prepared to cook in anyone else's home, especially at this late hour.
A VERY studious search for sherry led me to the conclusion that we did not have any. I am still convinced of that. An equally studious search for Pam (that stuff you put on the bottom of stuff so it is easier to clean, apparently) led me to the same conclusion, while also leading me to think it was unfair of my wife to use all the crap we have and then expect me to make something with none of the called-for weapons.
I was prepared to give up until I found the Pam behind a big dish (blush).
With that sort of motivation, I headed back to SearchDoodle and discovered that I could 'in a pinch' substitute white wine for the Pernot. I went immediately to the wine rack (um, we have five or six wines and neither of us drink them, as a general rule, not counting the Mateuse Vin Rose I bought in a nostalgic moment). Turned out we had two wines that LOOKED white. Back to SearchDoodle to see if either was really a white wine (I should reveal that not too long ago, a recipe I tried called for a white wine and I used some Portuguese bottle of whatever, and we had to scrap the whole thing, so, yes, I was tentative...still am.)
SearchDoodle indicated my Chardonnay was a white, so I went with that, and that got me rolling.
I had to improvise, of course, because I, after all, had no oysters on the halfshell, but instead, a bunch of healthy looking fellows in little glass, um, things. And I never did like the spinach mix, the look of it, so I ultimately stuck it in the blender and blended the heck out of it. I am NOT eating like a weird horse!
I feel pretty good about it. Even as I learn that most of our guests either do not like seafood or specifically do not like oysters.
I'm not even sure I can EAT oysters, but I will find out later today, even if I'm the only one.
I am going to tell my family and friends that I give thanks to them. Literally. I am not a god person, as my friends know, and I usually pass off the thanks and prayers to others because it is obviously hypocritical to pray to something you do not believe in, but I have found a solution: I am going to give thanks, not to a god, but to THEM.
I give thanks to you as well, my CSN friends. It is friendship, it is caring, it is sincere concern, it is sharing, it is all of these and more that insist within us that we must keep going, that we WANT to keep going, most importantly.
In my life, you are all part of that.
I hope you are not reading this on Thanksgiving day, my friends :).