A few days ago I caught a snippet of a half hour cooking show on which this dish was being made that looked delicious and simple. I actually only caught the end of the show, when the dish was coming out of the oven. The chef tasted it, and then did what they all do, gushed effusively with her mouth full. “Mmmm. MMM! That is SO amazing!” Just once I would like to see one of them take a bite and immediately spit it out onto the floor, wipe out their mouth with a dish towel and say “oh wow, what the hell happened there?” I’m just saying, it might make them more relatable.
Did I mention this program is only a half hour long?
I decide this dish looks simple enough for me to make. On a weekday. It’s called “weekday cassoulet”, after all. I go online and check the ingredient list. I check my pantry and fridge. I already have everything! Serendipity. The next evening I come home with realisically around forty-five mintues to make dinner. I print out my cassoulet recipe. Then I see the following, in small print.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Inactive prep time: 15 minutes (is this when I stop prepping, have a glass of wine and stare into space?)
Who has an hour and forty minutes on a weeknight to make dinner? I am starting to suspect that the prep time is thirty minutes if you are an expert chef with a team of people to prep everything for you. Like Miss Thing from the cooking show.
I give my daughter a large snack and return to hell. “4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs”…Okay, I have boneless, skinless. My bad. “Cut in 1/2 through the bone”. I’m not sure a knife would work, there. I don’t have a hacksaw, so it is fortuitous that my chicken is boneless. “1/2 pound slab of bacon, sliced into large lardons”. What the heck are lardons? I have regular bacon, presliced into what I believe to be standard sized pieces? I assume this will do?
Many vegetables to chop…1/2 cup white wine. I check out my stash. Take away 1/2 cup and there won’t be enough for my “inactive prep time”, which I’m really looking forward to. I send hubby to the liquor store.
Then follows a series of insane steps. First rendering the bacon fat by cooking the bacon on low heat, until crispy. This takes a very long time. Who cooks bacon on low heat and expects it to get crispy? Then I have to remove it to a plate. Then I must brown the chicken, and remove it to a plate. Repeat this process with several other components, and my countertop is filled with plates of ingredients and a lot of time has gone by, and hubby has not returned with my vino so I’m sipping on what’s left of my stash, and read that I need to use it to deglaze the pan. Crap. I sadly dump the wine into the pan and “carefully layer” all the plated items into a casserole dish. I slide the dish into the oven and survey the scene, greasy plates and vegetable scraps everywhere.
Hubby returns and I start my inactive prep time. Of course, this has been eaten up by the actual prep time, which took FAR LONGER THAN THIRTY MINUTES. I flip through The Joy of Cooking to see if there is a similar recipe made for real people with lives, and find nothing. My daughter wanders into the kitchen and peers around me. “I don’t know why that book is called the Joy of Cooking,” she remarks. ”Every time you read it you get all mad.”
The final steps prevented me from walking away and allowing the oven to do its thing. Oh no. I had to stay there, and after ten minutes remove the lid to the dish and change the oven temperature. Then after another ten minutes I had to take it out, and “artfully arrange” a sliced tomato on top (what the f—, it’s a f—ing tomato) and sprinkle the whole thing with homemade garlic bread crumbs. I flip through the recipe. Nowhere does it allow for prep time for this. Of course! I should have had this in my pantry already! What do you do when you find yourself with a spare fifteen minutes? You should use that window to whip up some homemade garlic bread crumbs. Yummy!
This is why I’m not supposed to watch the Food Network.
The next day, I’m watching the Food Network (instead of what I should be doing, working on my novels, and making garlic bread crumbs) and hubby walks in, and proceeds to deliver a lecture about what happens when I watch the Food Network, causing me to miss all the crucial instructions for the dish being made.
“See?” I huff. “This is why these recipes don’t come out right. I can’t pay attention because you’re yapping at me!”
Hubby sighs. “I think there might be more to it than that.”