Thursday, December 24, 2009


I had big dreams for Christmas Eve diner. I blame my Grandma. Every year we'd all gather at her house in northern Wisconsin and sit down to a feast of Belgian waffles stacked two feet high, breakfast sausages sticky with maple syrup, 3 different kinds of syrup and toppings for the waffles, cookie plates mounded over with almond bark and peanut butter blossoms, cider so hot that if you tried it first you wouldn't be able to taste any of that other stuff. It was always a glorious revelry of food.
Tonight I attempted to recreate that feeling while putting my own twist on things. We didn't have any company so that was a big minus right there. With just the 4 of us it's just diner like we do every other night of the year. Then, I tried to get fancy.
I don't have a waffle iron. My kitchen isn't that big and I've never felt the need to drop $50 on a good one. That would buy a lot of yarn and frankly, I'd rather have the yarn. So, since waffles are out and I did pancakes last year, I decided this would be the year of Eggs Benedict.
Not only would I poach eggs ( a tickelish task by itself), I would simultaneously make hollendaise sauce. I also added to the menu Pig Candy(a highly unhealthy but totally awesome form of bacon coated in brown sugar and spices then baked until crispy), roasted potatoes with herbs, fruit salad (just to pretend to be a little balanced) and for an appetizer, crostini with soppreseta salami and provolone cheese.
I started prepping at 3:30 and things were moving along ok, I figured I'd have everything ready for 5 or 5:30 when we usually eat. I have the provolone and salami dressed, the crostini toasted and ready to go, the fruit salad made, the pig candy working and the potatoes ready to go into the oven by about 4:15 when my husband decides to take the Pudding to walmart with him for a little last minute shopping. I tell him that I'm hoping to have all this ready by 5:30 or so and he heads out the door.
While he's gone I finish the pig candy, put the potatoes in the oven but I don't start the eggs Benedict yet because none of it takes very long and all of it is supposed to be served as soon as it's finished.
5:30 Comes and goes and still no Dilbert is there. I call him and he says he's going to pick up cat food at the PetCo (the only place that carries our spoiled cat's special food). I figure that can't take too long so I assume he'll be there by 6ish and start heating up Canadian Bacon and boiling some water to poach a practice egg in. I also start studying my hollendaise sauce recipe. It says to put three egg yokes and a little bit of lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Done. Then it says add 8 oz of melted butter that is still hot slowly while the blender is running. The Tyke is scared of the blender and so is insisting on observing all of this from my hip which makes adding things while the blender is running a bit tickelish so this is I think where I made my fatal flaw. I dumped 8oz of hot butter straight in there, let the blender fly and hoped for the best. The recipe then says to add two teaspoons of hot water to help thicken the sauce. This seems counter-intuitive but I figure the hot water will cook the egg yokes slightly and thus thicken things so I add away. It doesn't seem to be thickening as the recipe says it should.
While the blender is whirring away, I take the crostini and the potatoes out of the oven. It is now after 6 and still no Dilbert or Pudding. I put a table cloth on the table, the nice glasses, the angle candle holder. It's about then that I notice that the pig candy looks a little under done. It's supposed to be crisp, not so chewy. Hmmm...
The crostini are cooling on the counter, the potatoes on the the table, the Tyke still won't let me put him down because the blender is still going, trying to emulsify this crazy sauce. I poach the eggs and warm up the Canadian bacon, I toast the English muffins, still the sauce doesn't thicken. I add more hot water as the recipe suggests, teaspoon by teaspoon, still nothing. In fact it seems to be getting less thick all the time.
Dilbert finally gets home about 6:30. The potatoes are cold and slightly underdone, the Pig candy is mushy, the crostini are hard as a rock because they sat out too long and the sauce still won't thicken. I finally start playing mad scientist in the kitchen in a deluded attempt to save this sauce that has taken so much of my life already. I put it in a skillet on low heat. I don't know what I was hoping to accomplish by this but adding flour didn't help. I ended up making something that closely resembled a brick red roux that is used to make jambalaya but it didn't taste as good.
Dilbert lit the candle in the candle holder, poured me some sparkling cider and I burst into tears. I didn't really but I sortof wanted to. I'm not prone to bursting into tears but this situation felt appropriate. Three hours of cooking and the only thing that really worked was the fruit salad I'd made in about 10 minutes at 3:30. Tomorrow is Christmas morning and I am sincerely hoping that sleep improves my mood. Bah, Humbug!

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