Wednesday was Rob's birthday. In spite of our family's crazy hectic schedule, I planned a dinner that is a little fancy and a little rustic at the same time but all of it needs to be gobbled up by 5:15pm since Declan and Rob are headed to soccer practice at 5:30pm. On the menu: Roasted chicken a la Mario Batali, Crispy Buffalo Potatoes, chunky blue cheese dressing with fresh cucumber spears, Parker House Rolls, and for dessert, Goo Goo Pie Parfaits.(Let's just say that I got a little inspired by the October 2014 issue of Food and Wine Magazine.)
I created a timeline, I planned it all out. I even had Rob open his gifts in the morning before heading off to work so that wouldn't hold up the meal. I'm sure you know what's coming next: It did not exactly work out as I planned.
While I was out purchasing some dry rubbed sage for the baked chicken, my cell phone rang. Rob. Hmm.
"Hi. It's me. You're not going to believe this. I got half way to Boston and they called to tell me that the meeting is tomorrow. Not today. I'm planning on stopping at the office and coming home early."
My mental response: "AAAAAH!!!"
My actual response: "Well, you will have to find something to do. I have a very busy afternoon planned!"
Probably not the nicest thing to say on someone's birthday. But dammit! I was preparing a special meal for him!!!
Once I calmed down from that news and I arrived home from my sage purchasing, I started on the dough for the Parker House rolls and attended to other tasks. I finally had a few minutes to relax and my cell phone rang again. This time it was work.
"Hi Andrea. We have a little problem, well when don't we have a problem? I have an issue with my sinus it feels like my face is paralyzed. I thought I could make it until Oct 9th when I have an appointment but I think I need to go to the emergency room. Do you think you can close the store tonight?"
My mental response: "F'ing Seriously?!!!"
My actual response: "Listen, it's Rob's birthday so if you can get someone else to come in, that would be great. Go to the emergency room NOW. Let me know what they say. If I have to, I'll close the store since the boys have soccer practice tonight, anyway."
My boss isn't a tyrant and she was doing all she could to be sure I didn't have to close but there wasn't anyone else to do it. I crossed my crossed my fingers that #1 her face isn't paralyzed and #2 I don't have to close the store, after all.
How does this happen?
As all of the turmoil was happening, I realized that the caramel component I made for the dessert(while doing to many other things at the same time) looked a little dark. I tasted it. Bitter. I tasted it, again. Maybe it's supposed to be bitter. I left it. Then the kids got home from school.
"Ooooh! it smells good in here? What is that? Can I try some?"
I gave each child a little caramel on the tip of a spoon. Declan's scrunched up face and and squinched eyes said it all. BITTER. I had burned the caramel. (insert sad face emoticon here, hash tag, frustrated.)
I scooted the children off to begin their homework and threw the ingredients for a new caramel sauce into a pan and got to work again. I checked the chicken which was now in the oven. Did I mention that roast chicken is one of the things I have been trying to master for a while? It's just not in my comfort zone, so of course, I chose to add this recipe to my list for today. What the hell is my problem?!!
The next hour was a blur as I focused on the meal coming together. Chicken roasting, potatoes crisping up, rolls nice and golden, cucumbers sliced, blue cheese dip mixed and in the fridge, serving bowls and utensils out and ready to go, chocolate custard chilling and the second batch of caramel cooling on the counter. I managed to get it all on the table by 4:45pm (30 minutes before the boys had to take off for soccer practice) in spite of the chicken juices dripping all over the butcher block and running off the other side all over the floor (needless to say, the dog was very happy!). In the middle of it all, I received a text from my boss. She was fine and sent back to work with a heavy dose of antibiotics. Val came over to lend a hand and add to the festive, yet hectic occasion. I finally sat down and ate too many rolls slathered with butter, glad I pulled it all off.
Then I realized, I never took a photo of the chicken before it became merely a carcass and the buffalo fries were completely devoured. However I did manage to photograph Declan's dessert by yanking it out of his hands after he took a few bites. As for the rest, you'll just have to take my word, for it.
While writing this, I remember one last thing and perhaps the most important detail that I forgot: I never put a candle in Rob's dessert and we failed to sing "Happy Birthday" to him. So much for a spectacular celebratory dinner. At least I heard that the team of 8 year old boys serenaded Rob on the field before pummeling him with soccer balls.