I was ambivalent about this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie assignment (Arborio Rice Pudding, selected by Isabelle at Les Gourmandises d'Isa).
Not because the recipe was complicated (it’s not – it’s very simple) or required special ingredients (it doesn’t – I had them all on hand). It’s not even because it required 20,000 hours of preparation (it doesn’t, unless you count the six hours of chilling, and I don’t).
No. The anxiety was there for a different reason.
Now, stay with me. Arborio rice = risotto. I like risotto, and I make it at home occasionally and am happy with the results, but only because I don’t have to share it with anyone other than the Golden Spouse, who loves me and is well-versed in handling those arcane situations in which I am unnaturally fragile.
Still not clear? You’re going to make me go there, aren’t you? The explanation for my deep-seated fear of risotto? Okay.
It’s because every time I make it – frantically stirring and obsessing over whether or not it’s absorbed enough of the liquid to add more – I hear Chef Gordon Ramsey screaming in my head. “What are you doing?! This is inedible!! Do it again!!”
Sometimes… he calls me a donkey. A stupid donkey.
GS knows this, and will occasionally come into the kitchen to pet me. It helps. He then assures me that although he likes my risotto, it would be okay with him if I never, ever put myself through that kind of abuse again. He’s a good man.
But I’m trying to redeem myself from my extended absence in October, and after missing the Kugelhopf (bless you!), I didn’t think I could miss another week.
So I persevered -- and it felt good. Really, really good. First-time-you-ride-your-bike-without-training-wheels good. First-time-you-go-off-to-college good. First-time-you-….. oh, but let’s not go there. (Hi, Mom!)
Except for.... well, we'll get to that.
I read the P&Q more closely this time, so I knew to extend the time on the stove to 45 minutes. Then I added a few magic Kelly-touches to ensure a successful outcome, which I will herein reveal because I am generous and non-territorial when it comes to sharing my cooking secrets. (You're welcome.)
While I was standing at the stove, staring at the sugared milk and willing it to boil, GS mentioned that we were going to have our first freeze that night.
(Simmer down, Northeasterners. Yes, we get into November before we get our first freeze. But remember, we also have mammoth mosquitos, rebel flags, and fried twinkies. And we overwhelmingly supported McCain/Palin and enacted the legal position that the only people worthy of adopting or fostering children are married heterosexuals. Our average temperature may sound enticing, but in other areas, we completely suck.)
My first thought was that it was time to switch from white wine to red and from rum to bourbon. My second thought was that there would be no more fresh-picked basil for a while. My third thought was something along the lines of, “There’s a smudge on the refrigerator. Cool.”
Eventually, it occurred to me that there were still about a dozen bright orange habaneros on the lone surviving plant in the garden that I should probably harvest. So I grabbed a bowl and went out to get them.
The disaster you are expecting did not occur. I did NOT come back in to discover the milk boiling over. I rinsed the habaneros, halved and seeded them, then put them on a cookie sheet to freeze.
Then I went to the bathroom. THAT is when the milk boiled over. (“Yes, Chef! I suck, Chef!”)
I wiped up the mess and added the parboiled rice, set a timer for 45 minutes, then settled onto the couch to commune with Facebook. About half an hour into the process, I rubbed my itchy nose and immediately realized that I had not washed my hands after cleaning and seeding the habaneros.
Oh. My. God.
Imagine the California wildfires overtaking your nostrils. I went to the bathroom to blow my nose, turning it into a flamethrower and singeing the cat. My nose was running like mad, so I kept blowing through the “this must be what it’s like to breathe in Hell” pain, thinking I would eventually expel all of the capsaicin. Then I rubbed my eye. (“You stupid donkey!”)
In between blowing flames out of my nose, pressing a cold washcloth against my eyes, and scrubbing my hands – the timer went off on the rice pudding.
I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe, but I stumbled into the kitchen and turned the burner off under the pudding, noting through the tears that it had thickened quite nicely.
I must have stirred in the vanilla and stuck it away in the refrigerator with a tidy plastic-wrap cover. I don’t remember doing it, but that’s where I found it the next morning – and it was delicious (although I don’t really know what the rice brings to the table in terms of the pudding experience as a whole).
There you have it. Maybe it was the milk boiling over in the early stages, maybe it was spending the last fifteen minutes of cooking in a distracted panic – but my rice pudding had the right consistency and tasted great, which I gather from the posts of my peers is a rare thing.
Too bad I can’t prove it. Needless to say, there were no pictures taken of the experience. They may have come in handy should we have to file my disability claim.