Waiting for my book deal

20 05 2012

How is it that my blog never got picked for a book deal or movie rights?  Oh yeah, because nobody reads it.  Their loss, this stuff is hysterical.  I was going to send this story in an email to my sister but it’s so awesome I’ve got to tell everybody.

The CSA started  back up a couple weeks ago and we’ve got turnips.  Not a whole lot, but there’s turnips.  Honestly I don’t know what to do with turnips at all, so I went hunting.  I found a few interesting recipes on Cooking Light, so I chose this one:

Turnip-Parsnip Gratin

We had no parsnips, so Karen went to the store and bought the sorriest looking parsnips I’ve ever seen.  You make do with what you’ve got, right?  So Sunday comes and it’s time for some barbecue.  We’re going to make some steaks, some chicken thighs, potatoes, and the gratin.  While the coals are heating up I get out the turnips and parsnips and begin peeling them.  Karen asks “What should I use to slice the veggies?”  and my answer should have been THE KNIFE.  But the recipe says to use the mandoline, and we’ve got a mandoline, and we haven’t used the mandoline for several years so I say “Use the Mandoline.”

What happens when someone uses a mandoline for the first time in three years?  They go to the emergency room, that’s what.  Almost immediately Karen slices off a large part of her thumb.  It’s still attached, but she needs stitches.  She needs to drive herself so I can stay home with the kids, reassuring them that Mommy’s okay.    So she goes into the bathroom to rinse her hand and get ready to go.  In the meantime I grab the parsnips and say to myself “I’ll finish the job, but I’ll be careful.  Not like Karen.”  Almost immediately I slice off a piece of the palm of my hand.  You know, the meaty part by your thumb?  Yeah, sliced it right off, no flap or anything.  I grab the towel recently put down by Karen and apply pressure.  It’s not bleeding too bad, unless I, you know, release the pressure.

At this point Karen comes out of the bathroom and sees me sitting there with a sheepish look on my face.  I show her the wound.  There is nothing to stitch; mine sliced clean off.  So Karen goes to the ER.  I have the presence of mind to tell her not to drive the new car, so she doesn’t drip blood all over it. From my first aid training and I know that you’re supposed to apply pressure to a wound to stop bleeding.  So I grab a rag and a ace bandage and wrap my thumb/hand/wrist as tight as I can and still move my fingers.

While Karen is gone I finish the gratin; it’s already cost us a pound of flesh, I’m making it for dinner dammit.  The potatoes were already in the oven and the coals were hot by this point so I put the steaks on the grill and finished making the gratin.  For the kids I ordered a pizza.  Karen came home with a very professional looking bandage.  Mine, not so much.

Karen told me “The doctor poked the flap with a needle to see if it was still viable.”  After several convulsions I asked her WHY DID YOU TELL ME THAT?

The gratin was excellent.  In case you’re wondering (and I know you are) we used fontanella cheese.

 





So THAT’S why your blog is called that….

8 11 2010

I get asked a lot “Your cooking looks really good, why is your blog called Mark Ruins Dinner?”  Here’s your answer.

I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post.  There are barely any words to describe what happened today, let alone pictures.  I shall do my best.

We’ve been busy lately.  Like, too busy to cook.  So Karen’s been going crazy on the weekends to make enough food for us to eat all week.  This weekend she asked if I would help her out on Sunday morning while she got caught up at work.  I obliged, of course, for who in the world can mess up a pot roast?

Karen even gave me a recipe as a starting point.  “This looks really good,” she says.  “Just follow the instructions and it will be great!”  I admit, it looked like a great meal.  A sirloin tip roast braised slowly in the Crock-Pot.  Some nice root veggies in there and everything.  And Guinness.

I gotta be honest.  We’re not beer drinkers.  We don’t have any Guinness in the house.  We still had a Coors Light in our cupboards from two Thanksgivings ago, when we had company.  We still had some Miller Light from last Thanksgiving.  Karen had bought a six-pack of Bud this summer to make beer can chicken with.  That’s all we had in the house.

The recipe was called Beef and Guinness Stew and it’s from Cooking Light magazine.  I think.  Karen told me all about it, but I guess I wasn’t listening.  She left it on her computer and I glanced at it, but only to look at the list of ingredients.  I did look briefly at the instructions, but only to see when to add the beer, and how much.  How about I just go through the instructions and tell you what I did instead?

Step 1: Cut the beef into 1-inch cubes. Wow.  I never even saw this bit.  I ignored it completely, leaving the roast as one big lump of meat.

Step 2: Use 1 bottle of Guinness Draught. As stated before, we didn’t have any.  In fact, I even forgot about the Budweiser and used the year-old Miller Light instead.

Step 3: Use 4 cups of beef broth. Really?  Where did this come from?  I just saw that right now for the first time.  Maybe I didn’t look at the ingredients as well as I’d thought.

Stop laughing.

Step 4: After sautéing the onions, stir in the tomato paste. I knew this was coming, I just plum forgot about it.  You ever have one of those days?  Yeah, my mind really was somewhere else this morning.

At this point I chopped up some celery, carrots, and potatoes and put everything into the Crock-Pot.  I switched it on, blew it a kiss, and went about my day.  Later that evening I’m at the store and I get a call from Karen.  “Did you reduce the heat on the Crock-Pot to Warm just now?”

No.  I hadn’t.  I had put everything in the slow cooker and turned the dial one click to the left.  Once again, I wasn’t paying attention.  Now, from my food handling class all those years ago I am aware that for 8 hours my beef roast had been lovingly kept at just the right temperature to encourage bacteria to grow.  I didn’t put dinner in the slow cooker; I put an agar in an incubator.  So yeah, after 8 hours it was still raw.  Karen told me “I tasted it, so why don’t we wait until tomorrow and see if I get sick before we throw it away?”

Uh huh.

The best part is this.  It was a pot roast.  That’s dinner for three days in our house.  So I didn’t just ruin dinner.  I ruined dinner for the week.

So, after a lengthy hiatus, it’s good to be back.





“Honey, the kids can’t breathe…”

11 05 2010

This was supposed to be my first official post blogging the CSA, its food, and how we cooked it.  Instead you get treated to a story actually living up to the name of my blog.

NOTE: While reading this story keep in mind that we had company in the house witnessing the horror unfold.

I don’t just cook dinner, I entertain.  And I’m fairly good at it.  So it was Mother’s Day weekend and Karen suggested going out to eat.  I’ve waited tables on Mother’s Day and I didn’t relish the idea of waiting two hours for a table with a screaming one year old.  That’s a celebration of motherhood, isn’t it?  So I decided to cook up some gourmet food  for my foodie wife instead.  That way she can enjoy a fine meal and appreciate my awesomeness at the same time.  My menu included Steak au Poivre, potatoes, CSA veggies, baguettes, and some creme brulee for dessert.    So the day before I made the desserts (they have to set in the fridge you know) and started the poolish for the baguettes.

What follows is proof that a little knowledge can be dangerous, and ignoring other knowledge can be very dangerous.  I’ve made Steak au Poivre before with success, so I figured that this was in the bag.  The steaks used before were filet mignon, about an inch and a half thick.  This time flatiron steaks were on sale, and these are very thin.  So I decided to increase the temperature in the skillet so that I can achieve a good sear on the outside before overcooking on the inside.  What I forgot is that I was still cooking with butter and olive oil in the pan and we don’t have a hood over our range to suck the smoke outside.

See it coming already, don’t you?  Yes, what you’re thinking is exactly what happened.  The skillet was, in fact, too hot, burning the outside without cooking the inside.  The fat in the pan burned completely off quickly, all the while filling the house with black-pepper-filled smoke that choked the lungs and stung the eyes.  So there I was, opening every door and window in the house to vent the smoke, and it was cold outside that day.

The vegetables used from the CSA on Mother’s Day included chives for the potatoes and broccoli raab cooked via a Mario Batali recipe.  In it you poach it over medium heat for 20 minutes in a little water, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and finish it off with sliced olives.  We didn’t have olives so we used capers.  It looked good, but we only had one third as much green as the recipe called for but I sill used the same amount of pepper.  What resulted was so spicy I couldn’t eat it.

Once the smoke had cleared we sat down in our now 55 degree dining room and I then realized that I hadn’t made anything that the kids would eat.  Jonathan doesn’t like potatoes, the broccoli raab was too spicy and the steaks were too raw rare.  I sliced up some pieces of steak, washed the peppercorns off, and cooked them through in a skillet for the boys.  Jonny had some grapes and they each had a few pieces of the baguettes that turned out well (even though they looked like femurs).

The only thing I hadn’t done is set the house on fire.  So, for an encore I got out the blowtorch and set to work on the creme brulee.

Sorry I didn’t have time to take pictures of the carnage as it was being ruined.  I was trying to keep my house from burning down at the time.





Perhaps a little humility…

8 03 2009

It’s a very bad thing to upset karma.  Sometimes karma waits and pays you back after you think you’ve gotten away with something.  And sometimes you run out of the church after stealing from the collection plate and get hit by a bus.  I’m not sure how I got on the wrong side of karma. Maybe it was me claiming the ability to affect the outcome of Super Bowls (even if I was right).  I’m not sure.  But to whomever I offended, I’m sorry.  

“What is he going on and on about?”  Let me tell you.  Pull up a chair and enjoy the show.

The Death of the Cockroach

Karen’s car, the cockroach, the 14 year old Olds Cutlass, had been overheating.  I made an appointment with the mechanic and we took it in to be checked out last Wednesday.  I got a call midday telling me the repairs would cost $650.  This exceeds the value of the car, so we made a tough decision to say goodbye to the old girl.  I started shopping online for a car for Karen.  In the meantime Karen drove the van to work.

The next day – Thursday – I got a call from Karen after work.  “The van won’t go.  It goes – kind of – forward, but it won’t reverse at all.”  Yes, that’s right, after 150,000 miles of abuse the transmission in the van failed the day after we decide to replace the Olds.  So Karen bums a ride from somebody at work to the mechanic’s to drive the overheating Olds home.  I told her to get a ride to work the next day.  She drives the Olds to work anyway.

The next day  – Friday – I get a call from Karen on her way home.  “I’m on the interstate and the car is really overheating.  I can’t make it home.”  She drives back to work (stopping often to let it cool down) and leaves the car there while I find an angel of a friend to go pick her up and bring her home because – remember – I DON’T HAVE A CAR EITHER!!!!!!  No, I’m stranded at home with four kids while my wife maneuvers the interstate in a car that is minutes away from exploding into flames.

Saturday I get out of bed and I’m ready to go car shopping.  Except one thing.  You kind of need a car to go car shopping.  I call around and get my next door neighbor to drive me to pick up a rental car for a week.  I go car shopping.  I find a van.  I buy the van.  Everyone at the dealer enjoys my story.  But it’s an hour away from home and I’m in a mid-sized rental car that seats four.  Luckily the dealer offers free delivery so they promise to bring it to my house Monday morning.

Cars are evil.