Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thoodie Thursday

I was in the middle of titling this post, "Foodie Friday," when I remembered it was Thursday.

We're having a few friends over for dinner tonight. In a burst of enthusiasm I found a recipe for "Easy Authentic Canneloni" on the web.  "Prep time 5 minutes," it said. "Cook time 45 minutes." Excellent, I thought.

Unfortunately the recipe required ground veal, which I know I can't get at my local Food City. That was okay, though. My husband wanted to serve some authentic Italian cheese as well--something beyond Kraft mozzarella--and that gave me the excuse to drive to Johnson City to visit Earth Fare, the one trendy grocery in our area. I don't shop there often because every time I do I spend a million dollars on fair trade organic chocolate and imported cheese.

Turns out your organic localvore chichi groceries don't sell veal, either; the guy behind the meat counter at Earth Fare looked like I was accusing him of personally torturing sweet baby cows when I asked him. My bad. I settled for grass-fed antibiotic-free ground beef, and some ground pork that looked pretty much normal.  (The recipe already called for both of those as well.)

Then nobody sold canneloni tubes. The recipe told me how to substitute fresh pasta sheets, because, yeah, you can find those in the middle of upper east Tennessee. I grabbed a box of Jumbo Shells.  Close enough. I bought some fancy tomato sauce to make up for the fact that I was not, as the recipe suggested, going to make my own from scratch, from imported canned Italian plum tomatoes or possibly some I grew in my own organic garden in my backyard. This was when it began to dawn on me that "Prep time 5 minutes" might be a complete and total lie.

When I got home I discovered that having the recipe on my phone was a pain in the ass. Since my battery used to keep running out, my daughter reprogrammed my phone so that it shuts off every 10 seconds. "1 cup chopped onion," I read. I got out an onion. The phone was dark. I hit the two buttons to turn it on, entered my password, read, "1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped carrot," went to the refrigerator, returned, and the phone was dark. You get the picture.

Perhaps "Prep time" was meant to refer to how long it would take you to get all the ingredients out of your pantry and fridge. It took me 5 minutes just to chop the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic, and I'm a fast chopper. I set those to saute, started some water boiling, then checked my phone.

I had a Facebook message from a friend: a photograph of the menu of a Peruvian restaurant, English translation included, that offered, among other things, fried guinea pig.

I asked him if he was going to try that. A moment later, thinking further, I wrote to ask if he was visiting Macchu Picchu. I've always wanted to go there. "No," he replied, "I'm in New Jersey!" Think about that. Someone in New Jersey is slaughtering guinea pigs. It's nearly as bad as baby cows.

OK. Next step, add meat, brown while stirring, add a whole bunch of other stuff, and "boil 15 minutes." We've now disrupted the space-time continuum. That, or the boiling part gets counted in the 45 minutes of cooking time. That and the sauteing.  So now we're at 30 minutes shopping, 130 minutes driving back and forth to shopping, 10 minutes prep, 25 minutes cooking.

Next I made a homemade white sauce with chopped fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese. I kid you not. I think I understand why Italian grandmothers are always so crabby. They're getting duped into cooking stuff with "Easy" in the title.

I let the meat boil mostly dry, let it cool (cooling time equals? Prep? Cooking? Doesn't matter. We're over the limit on both now), stirred in egg yolks, nearly had an egg white disaster, stirred in some other stuff, skipped over the "make your own tomato sauce," and discovered I was supposed to put the tomato sauce into a bowl and stir in some cream. By which point I was out of clean bowls, so I used the white sauce pan. Then I got to stuff all the little shells, and line them up like soldiers, and drown them in a mixture of chichi unauthentic tomato sauce and brilliantly authentic cream, and sprinkle more cheese on top.

It's waiting in the refrigerator now, before it goes into the oven for half an hour.  I've cleaned the kitchen and the dishwasher is running. All may be well--it may, in fact, be spectacular--but the proof is in the eating, and that's still hours away. Meanwhile I've remembered something that causes me concern: the day I spent 5 hours making a brilliantly authentic and entirely inedible Italian dessert, which we dubbed TiramiSoup.

Fingers crossed. The end.