Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gordon Ramsay's Beef Wellington: Fail

Well, I knew it was hard to do.  And I was lucky in the fact that it was just Fred and I who were eating it.  So, I didn't have an epic fail for dinner.  Just a regular fail.

Still, it was sad.  I had such high hopes.

I watched his video twice.

Gordon Ramsay's Video on Beef Wellington

The Groceries

First there was shopping for everything.  Did you notice that he mentions chestnuts.  Have you ever worked with chestnuts?  Well, fortunately, I have.  They are a pain in the a**.  And you don't just toss them into a bowl and crumble them up, Gordon.  They need processing.  AND, if you are in the US, where we don't eat chestnuts, you have to have a specialty store that will actually carry them.  Thank you Whole Foods.  

Chestnuts are covered in a thick, brown outer skin.  You can't just peel them.  You have to score an X on them and then roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes.  Then when they POP, or look popped, you can take them out and peel them.  That is where the pain in the ... comes in.  

But Gordon says, it adds a nutty flavor and Damn It, I'm doing what Gordon says.  

While I'm at Whole Food, I get the meat.  Filet mignon.  OMG.  Now I know why the article I read said it was ruinously expensive.  I asked for enough for two to try the recipe and the butcher gave me a roast that went from the tip of my finger to my elbow!  SERIOUSLY?!!!  But did I say, "You are insane?!"  No.  Because he was the butcher.  He was the expert and I had asked for his advice.  And if I now said, "You are nuts, that roast could feed Godzilla AND Mothra." That would be mean.  I nicely took the roast and said, "Thank you so much."  Besides which, he had worked so hard on trimming it. I felt bad.

And then I looked at the price. OMG.  We don't even eat beef that much.  Why are we eating this alone?  I curse the heavens.

I go home and unpack the groceries.  No prosciutto.  Crap.  Out to another store for prosciutto.  

And it has to be thin.  Paper thin. 

Cooking the Wellington: My First Mistake

My first mistake is in thinking that all will go smoothly.  I forget that the puff pastry has to be defrosted.  So I tell Fred that we can wait an hour to get started.  We will start at 5.  It only takes 30 min. to cook.  

15 minutes in the fridge for the filet to chill.  Another 15 to chill.  That's another 30.  That's an hour.


The mushrooms need to cook, but that shouldn't take long.  Chestnuts.  Oh yeah.  Gotta roast them.  Poo.  Do that now.  

What am I forgetting.

Freaking puff pastry!  It takes 2 hours to thaw!!!!  Show stopper.  

We need to start NOW!! We start on the chestnuts, the mushrooms.  Fred gets started on a red wine and shallot sauce to go on the side.  I have a white bean salad in the fridge waiting for us.  

I sear the filet and that's when I realize that this roast is really unwieldy.  It doesn't really fit in the pan to sear nicely.  Grr.  I'm trying to do the Gordon trick of searing it on the edge of the pan, but my fat, long roast is not cooperating, plus it isn't wrapped, and it keeps falling apart.  ARGH!!!  I know there are parts that aren't seared.  I pull it out.  

Fine.  I get the mustard out.  I can't find the pastry brush.  Gordon, why can't I use a knife?  A knife works just fine.  I spread mustard on with a knife and it looks exactly the same as the brushed on mustard.  Score one for me.

I put the filet in the fridge.  Wait, should it go in the fridge? Oh, I forgot.  I don't care.

Putting the Wellington Together: Second Mistake

I set up the plastic wrap.  Wait a minute.  Gordon has special plastic wrap.  I think he failed to mention that you need to have plastic wrap that is at least 8 inches on either side of a ridiculously small Wellington roast so that  you can do your neat little cheffy flips and rolls.  Where do you find this enormously large and long plastic wrap: at the Gordon Ramsay store, I bet.

Holy hell.  

Well, my plastic wrap is crap.   Great, I have to pull out great swaths of it and then layer them.  Then comes the prosciutto.  Oh, remember when I said I was getting really thin prosciutto?  That was a mistake.  All of my prosciutto is whisper thin and I am trying to untangle them from their neighbor.  

Oh, please save me from deli specialists who listen and give you what you ask for.  I need sheets to layer, not these cloud-like vaporous prosciutto wannabees.  I try to lay them down to make a sheet.  

Fine.  Fine. Just fine.

I spoon the mushroom chestnut mixture on top.  Oh, did Gordon mention you can only spread in one direction?  Because my prosciutto is coming up.  Crap.  Gordon, you are leaving a lot out.  Maybe it is all my fault.  I should have had thicker ham.  I'm sure Gordon isn't at fault.  He never is.

I get the filet out.  I plop it down.  I need more plastic wrap.  Can I quit now?  


I try to add plastic wrap to the left hand side.  It sucks.  I'm over it.  I decide that the left hand side doesn't exist.  I just won't look over there.  

I start to roll it like Gordon did.  It sort of works.  Sort of, because my mushrooms are gooshing out of the bottom.  Is that normal?  Should I scrape them off?  Or leave them.  Gordon!  You aren't very helpful.  I'm leaving them.  I'm sure that is a mistake.  I have left the realm of good decisions and am wandering around in kitchen hell.

I try to finish rolling it with plastic wrap and do the fancy thing Gordon does.  My plastic wrap laughs at me.

I give up and throw it in the fridge.  Fred and I go watch Maleficent. It is 7:30 pm.

I do the same for the puff pastry and we finally get the Wellington in the oven at 8 pm.  

Gordon says (play the video if you don't believe me) to cook it at 200 for 30 minutes.  I found the BBC recipe that said 220 for 30 minutes.  So, being the rule follower I am, I put the over at 220 for 30 minutes.


At 8:30, we look at it and it is doughy.  not brown and crispy at all.  I turn on the broiler.  Fake it, is my thought.  I'm HUNGRY.

It browns.  We take it out.  We slice it.  It is raw.

Fred uses the thermometer.  83 degrees.

GAHHHHHH.  Gordon!  You are nuts.  200 for 30 minutes is not how you cook meat.

We try for 15 more minutes.  97.

Finally, my hunger knows no bounds.  I up it to 320 for 20 minutes and we get an internal temp of 110.  We eat it.  

It tastes good.  It is after 9.  Way after 9.  Still, I will never make this annoying dish again.

Aren't you glad you didn't come for dinner?


Still One More Mistake!

I post this and then a friend points out that Gordon is in England.  Land of Celsius.

OMG.  200 degrees Celsius is 392 degrees Fahrenheit.  Did I really make that mistake?  So, if we had just used our common sense and said, 220 degrees seems wrong.  Really wrong.  Instead of blindly thinking that everything that Gordon says must be blindly obeyed, I could have eaten at 8:30.

Gordon, you really need to be much more comprehensive in these videos of yours.  Like, I'm in England, silly Americans.  Please make note of this as all my recipes are only for the English and will drive you Americans crazy on purpose.

Does Jamie Oliver do this too?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Brain at 50

About six weeks ago a shooting pain started in my right elbow.  I thought it would go away, so I ignored it.  After all, at 50, lots of things hurt.  But it didn't go away.  It got more frequent and my co-worker seemed concerned and said I should take some aspirin.

That got me worried.  I did a little digging and was able to diagnose myself with deep vein thrombosis. Yeah, I was going to take aspirin FOR SURE!  I made an appointment with the doctor. My symptoms got a little better.

In the meantime, I'd become a little congested and on the day of my appointment, I had a full on head cold. On the drive over to the doctor's office, I called Fred. "Is the doctor on Keene Road or Belcher?"

"Belcher!" He said it with a tone in his voice like he was completely amazed that I would not know what road the doctor was on.  It had been two years since I've been to the doctor's office, but still.  I should have remembered.  I said thanks and hung up.

I did give one or two thoughts as to why I didn't remember, but soon was concentrating on traffic, which did seem to require more of my attention that morning.

When I got to the doctor's office, they gave me a form to fill out because it had been two years since I had been in.  I started to fill it out and stopped at the social security number section. The first five went pretty well.  Then, the last four digits were a bit of a problem.  I got the first two, but the second two, hmmmm.  Did they go this way or this way? I just put a little question mark next to the numbers.

Really?  I've been coming here for 16 years.  You don't know my social security number by now?  I can't help you.  (Actually, I really can't help you because I actually can't remember the order of those last two numbers.  Figure it out yourselves.).

The nurse called my name.  I grabbed a tissue on my way in.  I was really congested.  We went back to the room and she began to ask me questions about what medications I took:

"How much of that?" She asked.

"Three." I grabbed a tissue and sneezed.  Would my head explode?  So much pressure.

"No.  How many milligrams?" She had my chart filled with 16 years of information in front of her.

My head was pounding.  I was sweating. It was like the road question.  Belcher or Keene.  And the social security number.  "I don't know." She looked at the chart and wrote down a number.

"How about this one?"

"Oh. Just the one big pill." She was giving me an odd look.  I started to get worried.  Was I supposed to have all this memorized?  I remembered my neurologist had given me a card to write all of this prescription nonsense down.  I looked for it.  I didn't have it.

She consulted the chart and wrote something down.  Damn.

"And this one?" Am I getting graded on this? Is there a camera in here?

"Point one two five." Woot! Score one for me.  I stop myself from fist pumping.  The next three were as needed, so yea me.  But the last one I didn't know.

"I don't know." She went back to her disappointed look. She glanced in her file and wrote it down.  Damn it.  If she had all the answers, why did she continue to ask me? Honestly! Why didn't I remember the strengths?  Why didn't I remember the street the doctor was on? Why didn't I remember my SSN?

Wait a minute.  I'm 50 now.  Do I have Alzheimer's?

I wait until she leaves and then I pulled out my iPhone and looked up symptoms of Alzheimer's.  I looked at the stages of Alzheimer's.
  1. Stage 1 no impairment.  OK 
  2. Stage 2 memory lapses. Check.  Got those.  Street names.  Forgot them.
  3. Stage 3 trouble remembering names, with memory. Check.  Forget names all the time.
  4. Stage 4 Impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic — for example, counting backward from 100 by 7s
At this point I thought to myself

100...93....................OMG! I have Alzheimer's! There was no way I could count back from 100 by 7s. Who does that?

Then my doctor walked in.

"And what are you here for today?" She said.

I looked up at her from where I was sitting with my iPhone in my hand, still glowing with the stage 4 diagnosis and said, "Well, I thought I was here because my elbow hurt, but I think now that I have stage 4 Alzheimer's. I mean, I just turned fifty, and now I can't remember what street you are on or my medications. "

She started to laugh.  "You sound a little congested.  Are you feeling ok?"

"No.  I have a cold."

Turns out a cold will screw with your brain just as much as Alzheimer's, although I'm not really all that good with the counting backward, but at least I can get past 93!  And I don't advise self diagnosis while at the doctor's office while you have a head cold! Or if you are the least bit of a hypochondriac, which evidently, I must fall into that category.

I do advise that you see your doctor every year.  That makes remembering what road they are on much easier.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Turning 50: Who Knew I Had Such Poetic Friends?

I turned 50 on Friday and contrary to what the media leads you to believe, it was quite an enjoyable experience. I've never been one to lament the turning of the years, so I didn't expect to gnash my teeth or have a nervous breakdown, but this joyful bit of harmony has been quite a boon.

Fred and I decided that in lieu of a present that we would just have a nice dinner out with friends.  So, we invited friends to dinner and we had that dinner last night.  My mom, who is ever thoughtful, bought lovely flowers for the table: 

The lovely bouquet that mom bought for the table.  I sat by it. It had yellow, pink and orange flowers.
My good friend Nancy, who also raises guide dog puppies seen with me below, was very sweet and got me a birthday tiara (how can you have a birthday without one?!) and balloons. 

Cheryl and Nancy.  Cheryl has her tiara on and it matches her purple dress. How did Nancy know?
When Nancy asked Fred about the tiara and balloons I think Fred got a little nervous and didn't know what to say. Nancy just told him not to say anything and she would handle it!  It worked out great!

The balloons were awesome.  They are at home now.
Fred had asked people not to bring gifts, but to bring a poem or funny card instead.  Several of our friends did write amazing poems. And I am realizing now that I didn't get photos with everyone! Poo! 

Susan, Cheryl and Nancy
It has been so much fun to add all of the amazing puppy raiser friends into our lives.  We consider ourselves very blessed since we have moved to Florida to have such a nice friend group.  It was really special to have this dinner and know that we truly do have lovely, kind friends.

What is so great is that our friends from all of our walks of life, Paradyne, Berkeley and puppy raising, come together and get along.  It truly was a very enjoyable dinner last night.  The couple on the left, Bob and Suzanne along with Patrick and Theresa gave me a concrete fire hydrant, which also doubles as a fountain.  This hydrant (see below) caused quite a stir with the wait staff as they all wondered, What in the HELL did this mean?  Finally, near the end of dinner, they could stand it no longer and sent the head waitress over to me to ask.  I told them about raising guide dog puppies and that it was actually a fountain.

Fire hydrant lawn ornament for peeing or for a fountain! 8-)
It weighed a ton!  Suzanne also got me a book by Gail Sheehy living a passionate life.  Sounds interesting!

Notice everyone but me is looking away.
I reverted back to the sorority photo days in the photo above.  We used to have our formal parties and you always had a photographer walking around taking candid shots.  Candid, haha.  We would pose and shout, "Over here!"  So, you got very good at realizing where the camera was and then smiling.  This was one of those shots.  Scary.

Susan and Brian are first couple on the right hand side and then Ken and Linda are the second couple next to them down the table.  Here is Susan's poem:

Nifty Shifty
Cheryl Is Fifty
Brian picked out a very funny card.

Now, Linda and Ken were bad and got me a present (super cool crochet bowl) and a card (thank you!), and it was a little too loud for everyone to hear Ken's wonderful poem, but here it is.  He had an introduction that reference the our puppy blog and how it had made him laugh and cry and how much they enjoyed reading it.

Stopping by the hardware aisle while shopping
With (many) apologies to Robert Frost
by Ken Ko
 Whose store this is I think I know.
Our friendly local Home Depot;
Yet Jam thinks there's a men's room near;
A quite appalling place to go.

I thought I made it very clear
That we would not be stopping here,
Caught by surprise, I hadn't planned
 To turn and see Jam's hunched up rear.

If only there was some command
To stop this act in no man's land.
But he commits, so I do too.
At least, I have things well in hand.

The store has nuts, and bolts, and glue,
But I have cleanup work to do, 
And miles to go so he can poo,
And miles to go so he can poo. 

 Tremendous!  If you want to read the original story, click on the link.  It is pretty funny, but I wouldn't want to do it again.  Wait, I did.  Damn.  I need to stop doing that!!

 Now, the first couple on the right is Michele and Erik and together with their son Kelland, they came up with this limerick (and a nice gift card):

There once was a woman, CD
Who raised puppies to help people see.
   She liked to crochet little hats
   But never for cats
Yet she is still our favorite lady!

Woot! I love it.   I also love the Downton Abbey card that the couple on the left gave me: Kim and Mark.  They have been good friends for years and it was so good to have them with us at the celebration!
The Downton Abby Card. Did you notice the poo bag?

I have to say that Fred did an amazing job organizing and coordinating the whole dinner!  He was splendid.  I have the best husband there is!

Fred with balloons.
 Our friends Christy and Eliot gave me a really funny card (and a gift card) about the light at the end of the tunnel.  I actually laughed out loud.

I stole this photo of them from their facebook site,  because I don't have a shot of them together.
Here is there poem:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
If you get lost
We will put out a silver alert for you!

Aren't they sweet?!

Fred and Nancy.

Cheryl and Melisa.
Melisa, my screenwriting partner, found a fabulous screenwriting t-shirt for me and a cool Paris Tervis mug for me to use as we write. She is a very thoughtful gift giver. (A trait all my friends seem to share! I am very, very lucky.)

The final poem of the evening was written by Carrie and it was splendid!

Carrie, from her facebook page.
There once was a friend from Clearwater
Who enjoyed being her own dog walker
But one day without fear
She said, "Fred, Dear,
I think we should raise dogs for others!"

"Bingo!" Said Fred "What's the plan?
Let's try not to get in a Jam.
I've got an approach,
We should get a Coach!"
And so the adventure began.

Willow said, "I was alone.
A one dog house and my bone.
And now it's all screwy."
Her eyes got all Dewey 
 "Why wouldn't they just get a clone?
 So Birthday Girl, here's to you
 50 years, full of life and alive!
 You've got a big heart,
 You're doing your part
 Let's stay at 49.95! 

Nancy, Cheryl, Brian and Susan, with Susan clowning around!
 And finally, the gang was all there.  We had a few people who were either out of town, or sick or just couldn't make it, and we are sorry they couldn't!  We missed you!!  But we had you there in spirit.

The gang!
Thanks for making my journey to the other side of 50 a pleasant one!