|Where's my Slap-Chop?|
Following the first step, I prepared a pan of rice and simmered a few cups of chicken broth as called for by the recipe. I loaded my vegetables into the pan containing the rice and eventually mixed the steaming chicken broth into the rice and vegetable concoction. Happy I didn’t burn myself in the transfer of the broth, I covered the ingredient-laden container with aluminum foil and placed it into the oven for the required baking time of 45 minutes. I felt like I was on the right track with my cooking experiment as I continued preparing the other components of the recipe, which called for a cheese sauce and cooked turkey sausage. Over the next 30 minutes I continued my trend of making awful messes as I prepared flour, milk, and cheese for a saucepan. Doused in white powder from an unfortunate incident with the bag of flour, I poured the ingredients into a saucepan and simmered it down to what I thought was an appropriate thickness.
Just as I completed the sauce mixture, a timer signaled me to pull the pan containing the rice, vegetables, and broth from the oven. With anticipation, I opened the oven door to see how my culinary creation had advanced. Upon pulling the pan from the oven and removing the foil cover, I was greeted by a mess of half-cooked vegetables and rice floating in a liquid hovering at the brim of the pan. Baffled at the sight of the unappealing slop, I extended my arms and attempted to position the pan on the stove. Liquid and small bits of vegetables poured over the edge of the pan as I set it across two burners, splattering across the stovetop, my torso, and the kitchen floor. Frustrated, I scratched my head and let out a a few choice words. “How the hell can somebody mess up a casserole?” I asked looking over my mess.
In a state of confusion I went back to my recipe and quickly read through the list. From what I saw at first glance, it appeared I had done everything correctly. Coming to terms what I thought to be a total failure, I let out a defeated, “Oh well...” and proceeded to the bottom of the step-by-step instructions. There I found a line advising me to add the cheese sauce to the already full pan. Figuring I had nothing left to lose, I decided I would proceed as called for by the recipe. In turn, I dumped the cheese sauce into the already full baking pan and slowly mixed the contents as more liquid spilled onto the stovetop. Once finished, I took one more look at my instructions. I ran my finger across my computer screen as I read the lines immediately following my previous step. I was stunned when the recipe said to let the casserole cook uncovered for a mere 10 minutes more. “This can’t be right,” I said to myself as I looked back at the overflowing pan of cloudy liquid.
|Last ditch effort...|
Convinced I must have missed a step somewhere, I went back to the top of the recipe and read through it one more time. I carefully read each line as I looked for some indicator I could still rescue my first attempt at a casserole. Finally, midway down the page I saw a line tucked in the bottom of a small paragraph. My hand struck my forehead in disbelief as I read instructions to bake the pan of rice, vegetables, and broth for a second 45 minute period after the foil cover was removed. I felt a brief moment of relief as I realized I had only cooked the mixture for half of the time required to let the vegetables and rice fully cook. However, the feeling faded quickly when I remembered I had already mixed in the cheese sauce and sausage that was supposed to be added in the second to last step.
Hesitant, I placed the baking pan back into the oven and reset the timer for 45 minutes. After closing the oven door I stood still for a moment, wracked with worry that my early addition of the cheese sauce would create a burned, sticky mess of vegetables, sausage and rice. Eventually committing to letting the rest of the casserole experiment play out, I left the kitchen and busied myself with random tasks. As the minutes passed, a faint smell of crisping food began to fill the air. At first, I ignored the smell, choosing instead to get caught up with some family members and to finalize plans for the weekend. I remained in my blissful state of ignorance until about 30 minutes into the second round of baking. With a strong burning smell now filling the air, I decided I had to check on the casserole to ensure I wasn’t about to burn my house to the ground. Raising from my position on the couch, I walked into the kitchen and put on some oven mitts in case I needed to perform an emergency extraction of the baking pan. Turning to the oven, I leaned forward and grabbed the wide, white handle on the front of the appliance. A wisp of rolling smoke escaped toward the ceiling as I slowly opened the oven door. Lowering the door further, I closed my eyes until I felt the oven door come to rest at an open position.
|Not too shabby...|