My dog has developed a weird and what would be intriguing phobia, if it weren’t so irritating. Every time I start to cook, or she thinks I am about to start to cook, or she thinks I am thinking about cooking something, she freaks out and tries to climb the stairs so she can pee in the guest room. If I prevent her from going upstairs, she goes to the front door. If I neglect to let her on the front porch in time, she pees on the area rug, which fortunately was cheap and came from Target. (She does not pee if she manages to get outside, though — go figure.) So if I am not super-vigilant, I will have to a) clean up dog pee, which is never fun and b) burn or overcook or otherwise ruin whatever it is that I started cooking that caused the problem in the first place. (Click the photo to see a picture of my dog when she is not agitated by my cooking.)
Now, I think I am a decent cook, so I don’t think my dog — who has been known to eat dead critters from off the road — is making an editorial comment here. The working theory is that she once got so scared when I set off the smoke detector while cooking (which we have since dismantled) that she has an associative phobia. But I think that my dog secretly and perversely loves to screw with anything that I enjoy. She’s just got that kind of personality.
Consider this as anecdotal evidence: I am an avid reader. When my dog was younger, she loved to eat my books, especially my favorite books. She stopped that once she reached adulthood except when the new Stephen King Dark Tower installment came out after his accident and we all thought he was going to die and never finish that thing. I have an extensive Stephen King collection and I bought a first edition of the book on the day it was released, and that night my dog ate its dust jacket. For no reason whatsoever. Except to laugh at me.
I still love her, though.
So this week was Halloween, and even though I bought six — count ’em — bags of candy, we still ran out with about an hour of official trick-or-treating time left to go. Luckily, I remembered that we had some ancient hard candies stashed up in the top cabinet, and we gave those out instead. They looked like cough drops. Which just goes to teach the younger generation that the early bird gets the Three Musketeers. Of course, I had suggested giving out floss and those tiny toothpastes so we wouldn’t get any trick-or-treaters next year, but Marty wasn’t going for that. He was pretty disappointed that he didn’t get any candy himself. He should have followed my example and snagged a few before Halloween.
As for that other thing, I am going back to work next week. Just for three days, so I’ll still have time for cooking and blogging. I’ll let you know how it goes, in case anyone is remotely interested.
Best Recipe of the Week
I tried a version of Huevos Rancheros from Cook’s Illustrated that was pretty much a smash hit (see the photo — apologies for the presentation, but my food photographer was a bit over eager). This recipe is more complicated than the version I give in my recipe for Hearty Scramble in that it involves roasting the vegetables for a rancheros-style salsa, crisping up the tortillas and poaching the eggs in the pureed salsa, but all those steps resulted in Southwestern-style diner food at its best. The tortillas stayed crisp under their blanket of salsa and eggs, and despite the appearance, the dish tasted fresh and light, not at all heavy.
There were a few “learnings,” though. Marty and I agreed that the recipe could have used a lot more kick, but I think that was due more to the quality of my peppers than anything else. Also, poaching the eggs in the salsa was problematic, because I didn’t make the wells deep enough and the whites spread out everywhere. The eggs took too long to poach, too, primarily because I think I drained away too much of the tomato liquid before pureeing the salsa. It was still yummy, though, and now I know better for next time. If I do adapt the recipe, I will share it here.
Worst Recipe of the Week
I love scones from the coffeeshop; they are one of my favorite treats. I actually like their cakey, crumbly texture. But apparently the folks down at Cook’s Illustrated don’t agree with me on that because their recipe for Cream Scones, found in The New Best Recipe, attempts to change all that. Their scone dough called for only
1/2 1 cup of cream and was so dry that it barely held together. The finished product tasted primarily of the 5 tbsp. of butter I used and was greasy, fatty and layered, nothing like what I expected or wanted from a scone. So maybe I am a plebe. But I want my scones the way I want them. So I’ll be trekking to the coffeeshop until I find the perfect scone recipe.