In preparation for my dinner party (date yet to be determined), I've enlisted a distinguished list of guinea pigs to get me ready for the big event.
On Saturday night, Becky, my old housemate, schlepped from the East Village all the way out to Brooklyn to try my cooking. Becky and I lived together for seven years during our 20s and during that whole time, I never once cooked for her -- or for myself, for that matter. Mostly, we subsisted on chicken with broccoli that we ordered from Mee Noodle Shop.
"Don't worry about impressing me," Becky said before she made the trip to our apartment. "I'll be impressed even if you just serve me some cheese and crackers."
Becky had no idea what I had planned for her. I had spent the bulk of the day cooking in preparation for her arrival.
"How are you going to roast the chicken?" Avo asked earlier in the day.
"In the oven."
"I wasn't trying to be funny. I wasn't sure what you were asking."
"Are you going to rub it with salt and butter or put a sprig of Rosemary in it or stuff it?"
"Um, I haven't gotten that far."
After consulting The Bible a.k.a. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, I settled on Lemon Chicken, which is pretty easy to prepare. I just rubbed the chicken with olive oil and squeezed the juice of half a lemon on it. The other half a lemon, I put inside the chicken. Then I cooked at 450 degrees for about 45 minutes.
I decided to roast the Brussels Sprouts in the same pan as the chicken and roast the potatoes in a separate pan. This was all fine and dandy until I burned my arm on the oven door trying to remove the potatoes. Things went from bad to worse when I realized I had neglected to flip the Brussels Sprouts.
"How do I flip the Brussels Sprouts when they're under the chicken?" I asked Avo.
"Figure it out yourself," he said.
I took this to mean that he didn't know how to do it. Later, I realized he was presenting a challenge -- one which I failed to acknowledge.
Instead of heeding his advice, I put the Brussels Sprouts of my mind until the chicken was ready to come out of the oven.
Oops. The Brussels Sprouts were more burned than my arm. They were so gloriously blackened, I should have saved them to display in The Burnt Food Museum (see photo above).
"You mean you didn't flip them at all?" Avo asked.
"You didn't tell me how," I said, accusingly.
"I didn't tell you not to flip them. I said figure it out yourself."
It's true -- I shouldn't blame him for my failure. Sweetheart that he is, Avo ran out to buy more Brussels Sprouts. The second batch came out perfect.
Here is the full of menu:
- crackers and a baguette served with a nice selection of cheeses
- a green salad with cherry tomatoes and sprouts
- roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Rosemary potatoes
- roasted Lemon Chicken
- Brownies (homemade) and mint chip ice cream (Alden's)
Aside from my burnt arm and the burnt Brussels Sprouts, dinner was a complete success. The chicken was cooked just right -- nice and tender. After it was done, I realized I had no idea how to carve it, so I begged Avo for help. I'll put "Learn how to Carve a Chicken" on my To-Do List.
The Rosemary potatoes were crisp and flavorful and the dessert was a big hit.
"These Brownies are so good, I would have thought they were from a mix!" said Avo.
"I'm impressed!" said Becky.
It was a helpful trial run since I realized I need to work on my choreography and timing. The potatoes were finished way too soon. Also, I need more serving utensils ASAP.
My new plan is to have one guest over for dinner each week to help me hone my skills.
Who's my next guinea pig?