I should have gone with the pot roast. A traditional, home spun, simple recipe. A crowd pleaser. But rather, I chose what I imagined a more elegant entrée for the upcoming dinner I would be preparing for my husband’s brother and new girlfriend. “Slow cooked Halibut,” was the name the recipe book had dubbed it. I had illusions far more grandeur with perhaps a tweak or two.
It is an age-old struggle. That nagging but harmless question swirling in and out of my daily consciousness, “What should I make for dinner tonight?” My sister once told me she had read a magazine article advising that the ten top stresses in life included not only the death of a loved one and public speaking, but what to make for dinner.
So, when I saw the gleaming crock pot that day in Costco, it was not the actual appliance that beckoned, but, rather the shiny, four-color recipe book attached, wrought with possibility. Arriving home with this fabulous trophy I sat in bliss, pouring over the pages in awe and wonder. But first things first — what to make for the special upcoming dinner? I again turned to the halibut recipe, ignoring the nagging voice whispering, warning “never try a new recipe for a special occasion, never, never, never….”
Later that evening, I lounged with our guests on the sofa, sipping wine and chatting contentedly. The table was set, the ambiance was jovial and my divine creation simmering in the kitchen, ready to be served at a moment’s notice. The beauty of a crock pot I thought happily, was that the dish could simmer indefinitely allowing more time for cocktails and chat. Now where exactly did I read that? “More wine anyone?”
At last the hour was upon us. My guests sat in anticipation at the elegantly set dining room table, amid flickering candle light and the strains of Nat King Cole. Approaching the crock pot I lifted the lid then stared down in confusion. The four pieces of halibut, which hours earlier had appeared firm and beautiful, had vanished. I frantically ladled the mixture hoping to uncover the wayward fish. Gone. My dinner had turned to liquid. Could I possibly pass it off as bouillabaisse?
I realized it was the tweak. Earlier in the day in a flurry of over confidence and mania, I had tossed a cup and a half of heavy cream into the pot in the hopes of achieving a rich and velvety texture to the halibut. This tweak that was not found in any recipe book but rather, was spurred on by the excitement of owning the shiny new crock pot and the endless possibilities it lent in creative cooking. Yes, creative cooking at its finest.
I poured the entrée into four serving bowls and confidentially approached the table. As I placed the first dish before my brother in-law, I carefully refused to meet my husband’s eye. “Rolls for dipping” I sang, as I disappeared back into the kitchen. Thank god the guests were family, I thought.
“What exactly is this called?” ” My husband finally dared. “Halibut a la cream” I replied. And as our spoons clinked in silence, somewhere in the distance, I heard Julia Childs sobbing.