Love's LaborsMoney was tight this year so Scott and I decided to keep our Valentine plans pretty simple. I volunteered to make a nice dinner, have the candles lit in the fireplace (it's non-working--decorative only), we'd enjoy our meal together and settle in for a quiet evening just the two of us. I'm pretty adept in the kitchen so I thought nothing of this. I can throw a pretty good meal together without even thinking about it. I do it all the time and can even time it to be ready when Scott walks through the door on his way home from work. Protein, starch, vegetable and sometimes even desert. Very Donna Reed.
Last week as I sat in the waiting room at my therapist's office I perused her Martha Stewart Living magazine. I came across the recipe I mentioned yesterday on the very last page. It didn't look that difficult and I've made Linzer Cookies before. In fact I've tried several different recipes in search of just the right one. Well, if this is Martha's recipe, I thought, it must be good. Plus with that beautiful photo of them on the cover how could I go wrong? What a perfect valentine. I ripped the recipe out and shoved it in my bag.
I make it a point to read recipes all the way through before trying them. So I knew I had to toast the pecans and cool them completely beforehand (figure 30 minutes for that). I knew the dough, which was easily assembled, had to chill for a full 2 hours before rolling out. I knew that after rolling the dough out to an 1/8 inch thick, I had to put the pastry board back in the fridge to chill the rolled dough for an additional 20 minutes before cutting the cookies out. (Calculate 40 minutes for this, there were two halves to be rolled). Fine.
Finally, I preheated the oven. That's when the alarm went off "BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, Warning: Carbon Monoxide. BEEP BEEP BEEP!" It was DEAFENING! Over and over again, "BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, Warning: Carbon Monoxide. BEEP BEEP BEEP!" Carbon monoxide? What the hell do I do about that? Is it the oven? How much time do I have to live? Should I call 911? And what about the damn cookies I've already invested over 3 hours in? Not to mention that I haven't even started dinner yet.
A frantic phone call to my father followed. He told me to open the window (which I had already done) and then described the chemical make-up of carbon monoxide to me in great detail (he's an engineer) assuring me that it was most likely not the gas from the oven, but something burning off inside it. "Probably grease," he said. The VERY IDEA! "My oven is perfectly clean, Dad!" He then instructed me to just turn the oven off and see if the alarm stops. Great. Now I'll have to preheat all over again but maybe I won't die.
I used the opportunity to start dinner. The alarm stopped and halfway through dinner prep I preheated the oven again. Now I'm browning pork chops and cutting fluted little hearts out at the same time. And because it's a Martha recipe, she has to add the additional step of straining and reducing the cherry preserve filling. Why cherry and not raspberry like every other Linzer recipe? Well, I'm sure they had a big editorial meeting over at MSO Headquarters and decided to go with cherry because the color is more Valentiney. So now I'm reducing cherry perserves on the same stove top on which I'm braising pork chops. The cookies are in the oven with no alarms sounding and are sharing space with a baked macaroni and cheese I planned for a side dish. By the way, have I mentioned that I still hadn't showered at this point?
So, with the mac and cheese baking, I managed to dust with confectioners sugar and glue together a respectable amount of cookies with their reduced cherry preserve filling. The pork chops still had 20 more minutes to braise. To hell with a vegetable. I made a mad dash for the shower.
Just as I was working my hair up into a nice big shampoo commercial lather, my buzzer rings. My apartment is now 40 degrees from having the windows open for the last two hours. I clutch a towel, but still manage to drip water all over the floor on my way to buzz my gentleman caller in. I unlock the door, hop back in the shower and hope that it is indeed Scott at the door and not Norman Bates, because I'm a prime candidate for the Psycho shower scene at this point. Luckily it was him. The house was still a mess and a mountain of dishes were piled in the sink.
I threw something on and we sat down for our meal. I began apologizing for the mess and the lack of vegetable and the fact that it was freezing and that the flowers I planned to arrange were still in the cellophane. I explained how I was going to trim the pork chops into heart shapes but there wasn't time and I just wanted everything to be perfect for him. "Relax," Scott said "everything IS perfect." And that's when I burst in to tears--because he was right and I believed him. It WAS perfect. We were together. And really what else mattered? To hell with Martha.