It’s not me, it’s the resolution.

For the record, my second attempt at risotto was even more spectacularly disasterous than the first, and creamed gravel is officially dead to me. Last night’s catastrophe succeeded, however, in reminding me that one should never attempt more than one unfamiliar dish per meal, and while I impressed the dickens out of myself with my first stab at butterflying a chicken, my off-the-cuff marinade was failblog-worthy and I am now responsible for that bird’s meaningless death. Poor Mr. P was severely disheartened after “dinner,” and we’ll be ordering pizza tonight, lest I clinically depress my entire family with another epic bungle in light of my recent vow to take more brazen culinary risks.

Moving on. If you’d like to learn how to butterfly a chicken, which enables you to cut both cooking and carving times, watch this short video, then set up your laptop in the kitchen to play/pause as you go. And hey, Chicken Fingers, don’t forget to sanitize the computer afterwards.

Risotto Fail 1.1

Oh, Lidia, the contradictions. Had I not spent twenty harrowing minutes last night wavering between her discrepant orders to maintain “a lively simmer,” while adjusting the heat level “so the rice is simmering very gently,” Mr. P and I might have enjoyed an accompaniment to our t-bone other than potato chips. Surprisingly, in spite of the onion uprising, the flavor was all right, though slightly reminiscent of invalid cuisine due to the massive amount of chicken stock indicated.

Well after the last of the stock had been incorporated, as well as the forbidden additional cup of water, the resulting porridge was creamy indeed, but the grains were beyond al dente; I’m assuming risotto should not crunch. I didn’t expect to get the timing exactly right in my first attempt, but it always stings to produce something inedible, especially after investing so much time.

After such a rare but disquieting failure, I like to recharge by spending a few hours at the firing range. A medium Smith & Wesson revolver provides enough heft to give your arms a good workout without hampering your aim. While my politics tend to run left of center, I’m a stickler for the second amendment; I’m not as much interested in bearing or keeping arms as I am in borrowing and shooting them every so often. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to know one’s way around a gun, just in case one ever finds oneself in a post-apocalyptic free-for-all (excluding zombie scenarios).

Round two is slated for tomorrow evening, and with any luck, success will allow me to slam the book closed on risotto, a bafflingly difficult starch for which I’m losing enthusiasm by the minute.

Risotto Fail 1

We had our first risotto failure last night without even turning on a burner. I chopped the white part of the leek, clipped the whites and greens of the scallions separately, grated the granite block of Parmesan, and minced the meanest yellow onion with which I’ve crossed paths in a while, sticking my head in the freezer for a little relief every thirty seconds. Ten o’clock found all ingredients prepped, utensils readied and pan positioned, so Mr. P suggested a cigarette break.

The first time I stayed up for over eighteen consecutive hours was about two years ago, and only because someone started yelling directly into my ear on a nightly basis. When 10 PM rolls around, my body begins looking for the first opportunity to close up shop, and anything remotely resembling a mental wind-down triggers the landing gear. Within five minutes, I was bumblingly throwing cling wrap over the prep bowls in an effort to get everything in the fridge before passing out, and fell asleep misguidedly impressed by my foresight.

As Billy the Kid dragged me downstairs this morning for his 6 AM milk and coffee, I noticed that my house smelled like the produce section at Market Basket. Opening the fridge, both BK’s and my faces seized up as the pungency of all those onions heaved forth in a cool belch. My two options at this point appear to be either masking the odor with a house-wide insect bomb or waiting out the smell until I’ve become accustomed to it and then never leaving again.

In what promises to be a lasting lesson in biting off more than one can chew, I will complete execution of round one with my sins from last night, if for no other reason than to set an easily surpassable bar. Let’s hope I’m not about to strip the paint off my walls.

Turns out you can’t close up the kitchen when you have a kid.

While I’d love to shirk kitchen duties for a week and ignore all dishes, surfaces, waste and dust, meals must go on. Often, after pulling off the planning, preparation and execution of a challenging and complicated meal, I need a week until I can face buttering up another pan. My two lumberjacks, however, are in no way on board with such a hiatus, so I’m depending on two things to keep my culinary zeal elevated for the post-holiday dulldrums. First, the telepathic Mr. S gave me a new apron and hot mitts, along with a gift card to heaven; I’ve already begun combing through the website, and I foresee a glass dome cake stand in my near future. Second, Mrs. S graciously lent me her copy of Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen after I mentioned I’d like to learn a few Italian dishes as well as the fundamental principals and techniques. I’m unfamiliar with this Lidia, but her book looks promising, and my faith in her referrer is unwavering.

My self-dare for this week is to get my mind around this thing called risotto, and then practice, practice, practice until I produce something that might not infuriate Chef Gordon Ramsay. Oh, and I’ve never had risotto; it’s rice, right? I don’t know that I’m comfortable with the frequently applied adjective, “creamy,” but I admire the nonexistent margin of error. Lidia offers that “there are no two ways of making risotto; either you make it right, or it is not risotto.”

If Lidia’s recipe proves successful, I will post a comprehensive review and the recipe verbatim (and it’s a long one). If not, get ready for a lengthy character assassination of a certain public television figure. Any of my gentle readers who consider themselves masters of this dish are welcome to weigh in, and I would hugely appreciate variations, suggestions, and warnings. I can offer a Fed-Ex box of chocolate chippers and general immortalization in exchange, a rather generous reward if you ask me. And if anyone could advise me as to the best cooking vessel (material, finish, size, depth), I would be beside myself with gratitude.

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