For the famous and my very first attempt at making a Thanksgiving Day Meal, I had planned to tackle:
Turkey with mojo criollo
Anyway, on Turkey Day, I woke up around 9 a.m., skipped breakfast and set off my cooking strategy. The game plan featured trouncing first the black beans in a pressure cooker while simultaneously baking mini-flans in the oven. Once the flans were finished, I would let them cool for hours and immediately progress to a smackdown of turkey roasting and annihilate those candied yams! I would leave boiling the rice and apéritif preparation for last.
But I didn't use any ordinary pressure cooker. I used SEB.
I have seen my mother use a pressure cooker countless times back in Miami and now it was my turn to experience handling black beans on my own! Prior to using SEB, I remembered my mother's sage wisdom in which I needed to fill the device halfway with water, heat it up and then wait for the little dial on top to start twirling rapidly and emit a FWHEEEEEEEEEE sound. I also needed to let SEB make the high-pitched noise for maybe 15 to 20 minutes.
I did as I was told. I filled SEB with water and organized the ingredients for the dish. It was then that I noticed that I was missing something crucial to the recipe: LAUREL LEAVES.
Not wanting to jeopardize the recipe by excluding a key ingredient, I rushed to the phone and called Isabelle, my landlord's wife, to see if I could bum some leaves from her sure-to-be-better-stocked-than-mine kitchen. Well, not only did Isabelle have laurel leaves but also some fresh oregano from her garden! I also remembered that I was in need of some vanilla extract and sugar.
I evenutally tossed in the other ingredients with the black beans and then covered SEB with her metal top and screwed the topmost dial to firmly lock it in place. SEB sat patiently on the heated burner and I waited for the dial to go FWHEEEEEEEEEEE.
After 20 minutes, I noticed that SEB still hadn't made any noise.
Something inside me said that I should once again ask Isabelle to see if, by any chance, she had had them. Then another part of me, the lazy, idiotic prideful side, said "nah, just use a different glass container."
I chose a receptacle that had sides that were at least half an inch thick. I filled it with four tablespoonfuls of sugar and added four teaspoons of water to create the caramel layer. I then needed to heat the sugar on top of the stove, so I placed the container on the burner.
I tore open the windows to liberate the accrid haze and had the instinct of shutting off the burner. I stared at my disaster, helplessly gazing at the sugary syrup as it bubbled and boiled lugubriously in plain sight.
This is the aftermath:
My combustive glass container fiasco shattered how I viewed my cooking abilities. The Dainty Domestic Diva? More like Clumsy Two Legged Fire Hazard.
My perception of my surroundings also altered. My SEB was no longer a jolly, trusty kitchen aide if not a threatening murderer with a penchant for blood-thirsty vengeance.
What do I when I'm in trouble? I call for help.
Help came in the form of Isabelle. As it turns out, she did have the little glass pots for the crème caramel. I wanted to kick myself in the head when I discovered that because I could have saved myself an extra moment of exploding shards and eventually scraping off burnt sugar. I also pointed out to her that, after perhaps 30 minutes, SEB still had not made any noise.
Her verdict? "You probably didn't screw it on completely."
Isabelle worked her magic and SEB suddenly got the message to sing:
Amazingly enough, the rest of my cooking quite went smoothly. Once SEB got on a roll with the beans, she engulfed my kitchen with aromas that struck me of my mother's.
Overall, I was quite satisfied with my work, particularly the black beans.
(As an added touch of irony, I wrote this post while sitting at my kitchen table. It has considerably snowed in Dijon since last night, and the kitchen just so happens to be the warmest room in the apartment!)
Barb the French Bean