Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Gauntlet

Making risotto tonight for the first time since beginning my mostly self-taught master chef class was like shipping off to Normandy after a few months of basic training. Sure, you can be ready in theory, but once you're really in the shit it's a whole different ballgame. No, I'm not actually going to compare stirring rice into broth with the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, but I will say that if Spielberg had filmed me with a high-shutter-speed handheld camera from 7:00 to 8:00 this evening, he probably would have won an even bigger Oscar.

I'll now do my best to recollect the course of the proceedings. Kind of a live-blogging after-the-fact thing. Here goes.

Yesterday: Walk over to Trader Joe's and pick up box of Aborio rice, carton of vegetable broth, and mushrooms. Think to self "this should be fun," unaware that the Fates are thinking the same thing but grinning much more devilishly.

6:45 P.M. tonight: Look up risotto recipe online and take notes on the back of a page-a-day calendar page.

6:50 P.M.: Prepare ingredients. No burners turned on yet; kitchen still comfortably cool. Chop onions, measure out broth, rice, white wine, etc. as makeshift kitchen stereo plays preselected cooking mix. (First song on said mix is "Hell" by Squirrel Nut Zippers. Fates continue grinning devilishly.)

7:00 P.M.: Turn on burners to heat up 2 pots: a 2-quart containing broth (herein referred to as "Thing 1"), and a 3-quart containing olive oil ("Thing 2"). Slap a lid on Thing 1 so it simmers a little faster. Add chopped onions to Thing 2 and begin sauteeing.

7:05 P.M.: Add garlic to Thing 2. Some of the onions have sunburns by now, but so be it, I'm not a master chef yet.

7:07 P.M: Add rice (all 2 cups of it) to Thing 2. Begin stirring with large plastic serving spoon ("Skippy").

7:09 P.M.: Dump wine into Thing 2. Continue stirring with Skippy.

7:12 P.M.: Wine has absorbed into rice. Dump 1 cup of broth from Thing 1 into Thing 2. Stir, stir, stir. Everything still fine. Approximately 10% of rice remains blissfully unaware that it has less than 20 minutes to live.

7:15 P.M.: Still stirring, but occasionally setting Skippy aside to do other things. Dandy Warhols play on kitchen stereo.

7:20 P.M.: Add more broth to Thing 2. Take out some mushrooms to add to the mixture later on. "You're gonna fall behind me," sing The Donnas. "You're falling behind on stirring me," sings the rice, who, not possessing quite the same lungpower as a bunch of hot girls in their early 20's, goes mostly unheard.

7:28 P.M.: Add a little more broth and continue stirring Thing 2 with Skippy. Some rice is sticking to the sides. Oh well. See previous comment about not being a master chef yet.

7:33 P.M.: Notice unpleasant, smoky, decidedly un-risotto-y smell coming from stove area. Pick up Thing 2 from the burner and discover fallen bits of onion and garlic. Remove said bits, congratulate self on job well done, move on.

7:35 P.M.: Except...

7:37 P.M.: ...those were totally not the things causing the smell.

7:38 P.M.: Snap self back to reality and realize that Thing 2 is smoking worse than pregnant Britney. Turn on overhead stove fan. Not doing it. Watch smoke travel up towards ceiling, possibly towards smoke detector (still not exactly sure where it is). Remove Thing 2 from burner, open apartment door, watch smoke continue coming out. Consider aborting entire project, but figure that it's still salvageable at this point.

7:39 P.M.: Empty remaining non-burned rice into new pot ("Backup"). Take Thing 2 to sink and turn on faucet, sending good portion of rice to a watery grave.

7:40 P.M.: Put Backup on stove and resume heating. Add some more broth from Thing 1, who has managed not to complain or otherwise cause any static.

7:42 P.M.: Cooking playlist has ended, leaving me in silence. Want to put on more music but have learned lesson about leaving rice unstirred for more than 5 consecutive nanoseconds. Reach compromise by stirring with right hand while picking up iPod with left hand. Silence finally broken by Flock of Seagulls.

7:45 P.M.: Somehow, sautee mushrooms and butter in skillet while still diligently stirring Backup with Skippy. This does involve putting Skippy down for a few seconds at a time, which of course results in more rice sticking to the side, but not enough to cause apartment to go back into Defcon 2.

7:47 P.M.: Add mushrooms, butter, and some truffle oil to Backup after finally adding the last of the broth.

7:50 P.M.: Dump a healthily unhealthy amount of grated cheese into Backup and stir vigorously with Skippy.

7:52 P.M.: And so on.

7:55 P.M. And so forth. And add some salt and pepper.

8:00 P.M.: Taste some of the risotto and decide it's done. Want to rejoice at having made decent-tasting risotto without entirely losing security deposit, but lack energy to do anything more than sit down and eat. Relate earlier trials and tribulations to Paula and Rossanna via phone.

8:10 P.M.: Consider saving some risotto for a future meal.

8:15 P.M.: Nix that plan and finish eating it, figuring that cooking the risotto has already burned off more calories than could possibly be contained in it.

8:30 P.M.: Start cleaning.


Eti said...

Imaginge your scenario with Gordon Ramsay screaming at you, two possible ex-marine sous chefs monitoring and a crapload of video cameras in your face.

At least nwe know now why those crazy kids were totally flipping out during risotto hell week.

Anonymous said...

At least the new pots are very photogenic!!