Walk me down a new road

It’s a problem I have realized if you can only stick to the original plan. I had some friends over for dinner the other night and I had leeks and potatoes from the farmer’s market. I decided to make orchiette with wilted leeks, fried potato batons, fresh basil and parsley and lemon zest. There is nothing wrong with that except that the day dinner happened I woke up crying and couldn’t stop. Jonathan and Ferdinand went to the beach and I stayed home and cleaned the house from top to bottom, reaching corners in this house that the vaccum cleaner had never seen before. I glued the menu to my brain and started to cook. I had no orchiette, but I pushed on. The potatoes I bought wouldn’t do their potato thing, like they had before. I don’t know what this particular potato was meant for, but it wasn’t frying. If potatoes or anything else that you make is going to work when you add it to something else, it needs to be delicious going in. The first time I made them they were creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside and perfectly seasoned with seasalt, crispy bits of dark green basil and infused with the garlic that I had started in the olive oil. Now they were doing nothing; limp and tasteless and complaining to get back into the dirt they came from. I decided to ignore it. I didn’t have enough leeks. I pushed on. As I was about to put the pasta on the table I realized that’s all I had; there was nothing else. I had no salad, no sides and no surprises. Putting Ferdinand in kindergarten had rendered me useless and I had no business having people for dinner. Dinner is supposed to be a pleasure, and people don’t mind if you call them, even the day of and say, I am looking a little like Linda Blair at the moment, would you mind coming over tomorrow? And if your menu isn’t working, pull in the ranks of those who are near and dear to you and run your ideas past their knowledge. In a minute, Jonathan would have said, “honey let’s have some soup–that’s what potatoes and leeks were meant for and you can push their limits some other time.” He could have easily come up with swinging by the cheese mongers for some divine slices of cheese that arrives at the table a work of art as is and tossing together tiny leaves of greens with shallot and a dijon vinagrette with a perfectly fried, soft yolked egg resting on the top. He’s good like that.
God bless my roots in pastry. Dessert brought me back to the living; even weeping I can make one darn good and delicate shortbread crust. I baked it til it was nearly golden, let it cool and then covered it with a pastry cream that had just a little bit of freshly whipped cream folded in and nestled in some fresh figs from our tree out back. For the pastry cream, always use a saucepan, keep it from bubbling while you let it thicken and stir only enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Bring 1 cup of whole milk to a simmer with half a vanilla bean. Add a few drops to three egg yolks that have been whisked together with 1/3 cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons of flour, to temper. (Be sure when adding the sugar to the yolks to add it in a steady slow stream or the yolks will granulate.) Add the yolk mixture back into the milk, off the heat, whisking constantly. Return to a simmer, and continue to stir over low heat until the cream thickens. Strain through a seive and cool in the fridge with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface.

2 thoughts on “Walk me down a new road

  1. I just now read this: I completely feel for you. September 11 2001 was my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. It leaves a mark, doesn’t it? I still adore school pickup, all out of proportion to the event, every day. So glad to get her back. Stay strong!

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