Friday, February 12, 2010

Following Directions

Over my birthday weekend, both PJ and I were guilty of abusing directions.

PJ volunteered to bake shortcake from scratch. I handed her my shortcake recipe, a Mark Bittman concoction. Most shortcake recipes have two degrees of separation between them.

PJ soldiered forth following the recipe religiously including making a portion much larger than our needs. Since she is math-challenged I felt it best to do it that way even if it meant tossing out the leftovers.

When it came time to portion the batter on the baking pan PJ decided to dollop out five sizeable portions so that our strawberry shortcake treat could be a double-deckers. We don’t do strawberry shortcake often but when we do we make a dessert mountain.

Once in the oven I checked it as it neared its suggested cooking time. Most of the dough was still quite soft and uncooked. I grabbed the recipe. Aha, it suggested using a heaping tablespoon to portion twelve cakes. I pulled the pan from the oven and scooped them onto another pan since they were beginning to char on the bottom. I put them back in the oven at a slightly reduced temperature and baked for another 7-8 minutes. Once cooled, I scrapped the charred bottoms.

Shortcake salvaged. Dessert was a triumph.

Yours truly failed to read the Emeril recipe steps for leg of lamb. I thought I had selected it for its simplicity, though Emeril often uses more ingredients than the words in this blog. This time I didn’t care since on special occasions I spend more time. Duh, the recipe called for marinating the lamb for at least eight hours. This was problematic since I began preparing the rub around 4 PM. So I put the coated leg in the refrigerator at 4:30 and begin giving it deep-tissue massages. That was one relaxed leg of lamb.

I put it in the oven at 6 PM and made another mistake. Trying to make up time because I wanted to eat no later than 7:30, I increased the oven temperature from 400 degrees to 425 degrees. Then I failed to use the meat thermometer until 75 minutes later (for the math-challenged that is one hour and fifteen minutes.) By then the meat was nearly well-done, and with the suggested cooling time of 15 minutes (for you cooking cretins, the meat continues to cook), it was completely well-done by serving time. Our family likes our meat medium-rare. Still tasty, but disappointing.

The lesson is this—unless you are a chef, follow directions, at least the first time. This requires reading and comprehension. Pretty sure you and I had that course in high school.

Candidly, I believe cooking should be a required course in high school, and offered right after that reading and comprehension one.

No comments: