In Week Thirty-One, I was able to begin writing blog posts again, thanks to the magical work of Emily. It is an interesting exercise to learn how to ask for help, and then to figure out what it looks like to actually allow someone to help. I find it equal parts exhilarating and exhausting.
On the one hand, there is no greater pragmatic gift than to have someone manage a task for me so that I can attend to other things. But on the other hand, handing tasks to another person and then diving into the process of letting go of control while maintaining the quality of the process is not easy. There is an up front investment of time and attention that feels counter intuitive. When I first hired her, I spent several hours with Emily explaining processes and methods, showing how I do things, and painting a picture of what success will look like.
When you already don’t have enough time to do the things you need to do, adding the task of teaching and training someone to help you feels like more work. For a couple of weeks I had to press pause on certain things so that Emily and I could figure out what we both needed in order to get into a productive groove. There were a lot of questions and text messages and conversations. But then, the investment pays off, and for me, it felt like cresting a hill.
I was walking uphill alone, dragging an enormous weight behind me. Each step up the hill was harder than the one before it, muscles burning, breath labored, sweat dripping from my brow. Will this get easier? Emily started walking alongside me, and I started handing her things. Little by little, the hill began to level out, and I began to coast. The pace quickened because now my load is lighter. The effort eased because now I am giving attention only to my lane. The output improved because we are a team working towards a common goal. It feels amazing to have helpful help. Like riding a bike down a hill with the wind whirring in your ears and the road blazing behind you as you take a breath and give your legs a break.
WHAT I COOKED
Chicken Piccata, At Home
Garlic Roasted Cauliflower, How Easy Is That?
Salad with Warm Goat Cheese, Barefoot In Paris
Chocolate Crème Brûlée, Cooking for Jeffery
Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables, Cooking for Jeffery
Shortbread Cookies with Dragées, Parties!
Hot Chocolate, Barefoot Contessa
Swordfish with Tomatoes and Capers, Barefoot Contessa
Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower, Cooking for Jeffery
Green Green Spring Vegetables, At Home
Scrambled Eggs with Truffles, Barefoot In Paris
Maple Oatmeal Scones, Barefoot Contessa
Seafood Stew, Barefoot In Paris
Seafood Stock, Barefoot In Paris
WHAT I LEARNED
I always let this recipe bully me. That is, until I get into it and remember how silly it is to think any part of the preparation is too much trouble. On first glance, there are multiple mental road blocks, too many steps, too many dishes, too much handling of raw chicken. But the truth is, none of these steps takes very long, and there are ways to reduce the stress caused by each one. If I am not in the mood for more dishes than necessary, I will dredge the chicken in disposable pie plates. And when I’m not in the mood to deal with chicken splattering all over my counter (which happens to be always), I use a gallon zip bag (squeeze all of the air out first). The cook time of this chicken is about two minutes per side, and the sauce can be made and held for a while before serving. I love the resulting thin, crisp, flavorful chicken, particularly when paired with a green salad.
GARLIC ROASTED CAULIFLOWER.
This is an amazing way to serve cauliflower, which in my opinion can be overly laden with dairy or just plain boring. I love the charred bits of the roasted cauliflower, the sweet roasted garlic cloves, and the hit of lemon and pine nuts at the end. It looks interesting on the plate and pairs nicely with the Chicken Piccata.
CHOCOLATE CREME BRÛLÉE.
I thought there wasn’t anything better than classic creme brûlée. Then I discovered this beauty. I agree with Elizabeth’s observation that it tastes a lot like our chocolate frosting. I will take it one step further and say it reminds me of the crusty bits of frosting left on the cake platter after you slice a cake. You know the part I’m talking about. The little remnents of frosting left behind that are soft in the middle and sort of crusty on the outside? That’s what this dessert reminded me of. And entire dish of yummy nibbly bites of chocolate frosting. I have loved learning how simple it is to prepare creme brulée, and I love any excuse to fire up the kitchen torch.
SWORDFISH WITH TOMATOES AND CAPERS.
I had never cooked nor eaten swordfish before this recipe. I learned that swordfish is a lot. It is very expensive, very rich, and very large. One steak (which Ina dubs as one serving) could easily serve four people for lunch or maybe two people for dinner. It’s so much meat on one steak. The smell is quite fishy, but the flavor is not. It is juicy, clean, and has a lot of bite and texture. I would not describe it as flaky. I also learned that we are not supposed to eat swordfish more than twice a year due to high levels of mercury, so I will not be adding this to my dinner line up any time soon.
CRUSTY BAKED SHELLS AND CAULIFLOWER.
Sadly, this is a hard no. The picture is beautiful and the idea captivating, but in the end, it did not deliver. There is way too much sage to make this work. There also is not a sauce, so the end result is kind of dry. The cauliflower is not creamy as the recipe would suggest. I kept taking another bite thinking it would start to taste good at some point, but it never did.