Sunday, March 21, 2010

Misadventures in domesticity

This week I've learned:

1. That VW key fobs are machine washable. Not only did mine come out of the washing machine sparkling clean, it is thankfully still working. (Don't try this at home.)

2. That when you press the release button, the canister on our new vacuum opens from the bottom, not the top. And if you're unaware of this and therefore not holding it over a garbage bag at the time, you not only get to vacuum the gray nasty pile a second time, you get the added pleasure of vacuuming your own shoes.

2. That sometimes it's best to just follow the recipe. This is a tough one for me. For whatever reason, following someone else's directions (or worse, using a mix) without somehow making it my own seems like cheating. It feels like a "real" cook does not need directions.

But I had two culinary failures this week. First, I made chicken pot pie. Instead of following the tried and true easy recipe I've used a million times, I decided to "fancy" it up a bit. It was intended as a gift for our neighbors, who just had a baby. So I changed it up, adding sauteed onions and mushrooms, and using a bit of heavy cream along with the milk. Then instead of my usual pie crust, I used frozen puff pastry.

I am sorry to say that I gave the new parents their pot pie before trying the one I made for us. The filling was very tasty -- at least there's that -- but for some reason the sauce was thin, not thick and creamy. And the puff pastry was soggy and gross.

I'm holding out hope that the sogginess was because our version sat in the fridge for several days before we had time to cook it, and that if our friends cooked theirs sooner, it wasn't so bad. In any case, I'm sure they're too polite to ever say anything, so I will probably never know. (The brownies I sent along with it were scrumptious, so there's a degree of redemption in that.)

The second mistake was adding real strawberries to a strawberry cake mix. I was improvising: We had no breakfast food in the house, so I was making "muffins." I tried to make them a little healthier/more muffin-like by adding frozen strawberries. Well, not only did they not rise very well, but they too came out mushy.

I'm chalking it up to creative experimentation. And like my fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Vincent said, "An experiment never fails." Sometimes it just teaches you to follow directions.

Addendum: The cake turned out fine (yummy, actually) when I baked the rest of it. Perhaps it was only my impatience that caused the goo problem.

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