The first two dinners of the week were less than blog-worthy, but I think it’s important to talk about my flubs and failures as well as my successes. Everybody has them, after all, and I hope that, particularly since today is Mike’s birthday and I’ve got something special planned for tonight’s meal, that the last few days aren’t indicative of a downward spiral.

the dinner that wasn't

I had such high hopes for Monday’s dinner. Since the first hint of chill in the air and the appearance of winter squashes at the market, I’ve wanted to make an apple and squash risotto, so I wrote it into the menu for this week. Even when I turn out a meal that isn’t up to snuff, I’m lucky that I don’t often turn out a complete disaster, but this, folks, was inedible. The squash I used was all wrong for the dish, the apples were too sweet and soft and reduced to mush rather than caramelizing like I wanted them to, and the ratio of rice was far too low – the texture was just off. The risotto didn’t come together at all, and it pains me to admit this because there is little that I hate more than wasting food, but I just couldn’t save it. So at 9:30 at night, after going through the seven stages of failed-dinner-induced grief, I made spaghetti with sautéed tomatoes. And it was fine, if uninspired. We didn’t go to bed hungry.

Another dish I was desperate to make immediately if not sooner was Terry B’s gorgeous pizza. Mike usually does the pizza making in our household, making his own dough, grilling pizzas in the summer and turning out an iron skillet version in colder months, but I wanted to start sampling some of the pre-made pizza dough available to us. I had him pick up a package of dough (from Olga’s Cup and Saucer) at Whole Foods, and I used it as the base of our pizza. I sautéed a mix of white and small portabella mushrooms from Wishing Stone Farm with plenty of fresh thyme and a healthy splash of sherry, and layered them on the par-baked crust with a little roasted tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced red onion and grated parmesan. I topped the pie with a big handful of baby arugula when it came out of the oven, a sprinkle of flaky salt and a drizzle of olive oil. The crust smelled and tasted great, but I let it bake too long – it was, shall we say, extra-crispy. The toppings were fantastic, though – a great combination of flavors and textures, and I must thank Terry for the inspiration.

Despite the fact that neither of these dishes turned out quite as I had hoped they would, I’m eager to try my hand at them again. I just hope I can get back on track tonight.

7 thoughts on “Fumble

  1. First, happy birthday to Mike! I’m sure tonight’s celebration will be birthdayriffic. And second, glad I inspired some pizza making. The mushrooms and sherry sound like a great choice, Jennifer. And I hadn’t thought about looking at Whole Foods for premade pizza dough. With all these options available, I may never get around to actually making dough.

  2. Christine says:

    Happy Birthday Mike!

    The pizza sounds amazing, even if it did come out a wee bit crispy.

    As for the squash risotto, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a stuffed squash after seeing a savory one on Dorie Greenspan’s site and a sweet one somewhere on the web stuffed and steamed with a coconut milk custard.

    Maybe a squash stuffed with halfway cooked risotto and then baked?

  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you consistently create amazingly creative and beautiful dishes day after day! Your self-proclaimed ‘fumbles’ are nothing next to the disasters I’ve churned out. Last night, for example, I overcooked a chicken and some eggplant on the grill. Then there was the bluefish-for-breakfast fiasco a couple of weeks ago – I was surprised Steven came home to me after work that day!
    I’m sure Mike’s birthday dinner will be a roaring success.

  4. Well, this just proves you ARE in fact human – I was beginning to wonder with all the magic you produce in your kitchen! Wheneve I make a dish that, shall we say – SUCKS – we end up doubled over hysterically laughing and wondering if we can even feed it to our dogs.

    Can’t wait to hear about the special birthday dinner!

  5. Know the feeling 🙂 At leat ground glass was not involved!

    I like stuffing that (edible and ornamental) squash with Middle Eastern Things, after cooking it first in bubbling water…

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