Today’s Guest Post is from Chef. She is a transplanted Edmontonian living in Texas with her little ones and husband. She writes a food blog over on MidniteChef which I find to be delicious! She understands my love for Disneyland, Spatzel and Alfajores. Please read and enjoy while I am off to attempt #2 of my 12 new things to try.
Improv in Disneyland
I must explain that this is not a tale involving Mickey Mouse. You see, “Disneyland” is the nickname we’ve given to “Grandma’s House”. This is a large ranch home with pearly white wrought iron fence and gate. There is a cast of characters who all wear fur: chivas (the goats), Bobcat (the orange tabby), Mitcha (the granny cat), and then a threesome of canines. The kids always have a blast at the grandparent’s house, even though it’s not even close to being baby-proof. Grandma and Grandpa spoil the kids with attention, ice cream, and fun playing outside. There’s a swing set, merry-go-round, stairs (which are very steep and they are not to be played on, Big Brother figured out how to “surf” down the stairs), cookie jars, soda pop, fruit bowls and cartoons. The 5 hour drive home is predominantly quiet due to the very overdue nap the kids need to recover from over stimulation.
So the stage is set for a string of improvisations.
We arrived two days before Christmas, I was ready to help prepare dinner for our family. At Thanksgiving, I had toted along a box of my essentials (herbs, spices, notes). It was not really necessary and I decided to leave my stuff at home as not to insult our hosts. Ahead of time, I had phoned to find out what the main dish was going to be, turkey, ham, or a roast beef? Grandma said she would find something and not to worry. So I didn’t. That is until I found a pork butt thawing in the sink. This was not the “worry-free” meal idea I had in mind for a holiday dinner. Pork butts (or shoulders) are best slowly roasted or smoked after a good brine bath. There was no time for a brine, there was hardly enough time to thaw the butt out! I’ll just improvise: a dry marinade that I loved from Julia Child’s cook book (coincidentally the very same one Grandma had given to me for Christmas some years ago).
I start pulling out the ingredients for the rub. Garlic cloves, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, allspice, garlic press… Garlic press? I had half a head of garlic to plow through and could not find a garlic press in the four jam packed drawers of kitchen tools. I’ll just improvise and finely mince with one of the multitude of dull knives (I couldn’t find the knife sharpener either).
Dessert was next. An upside-down cranberry-orange cake, this required the zest of the orange. In all my searching for the garlic press I never noticed a micro-plane to get a fine zest off the oranges, instead I improvised with a vegetable peeler and chopped the skin strips. Half way through, Grandma found me and pulled a micro-plane in two sizes from the exact place I was rummaging minutes earlier. Why couldn’t she stay in the kitchen with me? Oh, right, the kids were pulling her in all opposite directions from where I needed her.
The kids needed her watchful eye more than I needed a garlic press, so I let it go in my mind and continued working alone.
In the rush to leave our house, I forgot to grab my camera and the cheese dip mix I had prepared to take with me. They were perched on top of the fridge next to my recipe notebook I’ve had since 7th grade.
So… I improvised! One of the dip mixes was an onion dip from Epicure (my step mom sells Epicure in Sherwood Park). I bought some onion soup mix and used that instead.
By the time dinner was ready, I felt depleted of tricks to get through making dinner in a pinch, Disneyland requires many pinches. To top the evening off, Big Brother was running around without socks or shoes (not recommended in Disneyland), he was told “Don’t run around with bare feet!” He paused and retorted “I’m not a bear. I don’t have bear feet!” We all laughed aloud, it was the perfect end to an imperfect time in the kitchen.