I remember my parents telling me a story once about my grandmother's (possibly unreasonable but totally understandable) drive for perfection: She was having some people over for Sunday dinner and so, the day before, decided to make new curtains for the kitchen. Since it turned out to be a bigger project than expected, she essentially had to stay up all night to finish sewing on the fringe.
I can totally identify with that. Take this weekend, for example: On Saturday, after the 100-mile bike ride and the polo match, I got home around 11pm and still had hours of cooking ahead of me. You see, not only was I having James and Chip over for dinner on Sunday, I also was bringing dessert to a Memorial Day party. Since, for reasons that I'll explain later, I had to drop off my car and said Memorial Day dessert at a friend's house before Sunday dinner, I basically had to have all of my cooking for both days done simultaneously.
The main dishes that I needed to make were (1) a double batch of Mexican chocolate pots de creme for Memorial Day, (2) balsamic honey pulled pork for Sunday dinner, and (3) a chocolate cake for Sunday dinner. I had all the ingredients; sequencing was the challenge.
I decided to start with the pots de creme, since they were both the most tedious (lots of chopping and stirring) and the most discrete (no need to wait for them to bake or stew).
|coconut milk, ancho chili powder, cinnamon, egg, salt
|melting, melting, melting
|instead of miniature ramekins, I used picnic-friendly plastic cups
(with matching silver spoons) that Jennifer had stashed on hand
By the time I'd finished pouring chocolate into all 24 little cups and stuck the whole batch in the fridge to chill, it was 2am. I was tired, but I also knew that if I didn't bake my cake then, it wouldn't get done. That's when I thought of my grandmother and her all-night sewing project. I decided that the lessons of that story were (a) I'm definitely related to my grandmother, and (b) staying up all night to bake a cake or sew fringe is kind of ridiculous. So I abandoned the cake project and went to bed.
Next morning, though, I was back in the kitchen bright and early. A cake may be optional; the balsamic honey pulled pork wasn't. I started with the meat and vegetables, chopping everything up and getting it into the slow-cooker first thing. Then I turned to the barbecue sauce. It's the first time I've made barbecue sauce from scratch, and let me just say that there's a lot of different ingredients that I'd never have thought would go together: balsamic vinager, honey, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, garlic, black pepper, etc. It was quite the brew.
I finished the sauce just in time for church, and then I was in meetings and running errands until literally five minutes before James and Chip arrived for dinner -- which meant I had zero time to test out the pork to see if it was edible. I only had time to throw everything on the table and serve it up. Fortunately, it was delicious. And with a bowl full of succulent watermelon, no one ever missed the chocolate cake.