The kitchen Gremlin. I have one. And he only makes his presence known when I’m cooking for company. I do occasionally like to cook outside of my comfort zone, and in the past I’ve discovered new dishes and taste combinations that I hadn’t expected, and was so blown away that I couldn’t wait to master and introduce them to my family and fellow foodies. But then, HE appears and all hell breaks loose!
I have two dishes that I have previously produced in world-class fashion and couldn’t wait to share with others. One is the classic béarnaise sauce. I loves me some steak, and I can’t think of a more perfect, decadent accompaniment than a just-made, thick, buttery béarnaise. The first three times that I attempted this sauce it came out perfect! I couldn’t wait to have the gang over for a French gorgy, and watch their eyes roll up into the backs of their heads after they took their first bite of a perfectly cooked dry-aged filet mignon smothered in the crack cocaine of butter sauces.
But the Gremlin had other ideas and decided at the last minute that a greasy version of egg drop soup would (for some evil reason), be the only sauce that came off my cook top. A hurried second attempt produced a scrambled egg dish that looked like yellow cottage cheese. What the hell? I had this down! I could feel the ghost of Julia Child bitch slapping the back of my head as I whipped up a sorry version of a Dijon crème sauce in its place.
My second Gremlin dish is one that I initially tried on a dare.
I’m not a big fan of anchovies unless they’re in a freshly-made Caesar salad, so when I came across a steak recipe in my edition of ‘The Union Square Café Cookbook’ that called for anchovies in a tomato sauce I thought it sounded kinda crazy. But I was looking for something outside the box, and after I tried it I couldn’t believe how good it was. Tangy and sweet without a fishy smell or back taste. A couple of months later I made it again, and again I was amazed! Time to make it for friends, right? Well, my dinner invitation apparently made its way to Gremlin Central because the dish that I made that night wasn’t the same I had previously produced. To make matters worse, one of the friends I had invited over for this meal was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, which left him feeling queasy and weak. And, he wasn’t a fish eater. He didn’t even like fried shrimp. What was I thinking?
Enter the Gremlin. Not only did I horribly overcook the steaks, but my kitchen smelled like I was hosting a mermaid orgy. The anchovy taste was so overpowering I could barely keep from heaving all over my plate during my apologies. Not only had I ruined about two hundred dollars worth of beef, I made my home smell like a cross between a cannery and a holding tank from ‘Deadliest Catch.’ My mailman asked me if a whale had died in my backyard. To this day I can’t eat a traditional Caesar salad, and whenever I invite friends over for steak I always get asked, “It’s not that anchovy thing is it?”
So the Gremlin squashed my ‘outside the box’ thinking and has left me less than adventurous when it comes to trying new things. Some day I’ll attempt the béarnaise again, but when it comes to fish dishes, I’ve become the chicken-of-the-sea. I know he’s still there, waiting for the right moment to scratch one more item off of my limited repertoire of culinary favorites. The bread won’t rise? The sauce won’t thicken? The middle of my deep dish pizza is cold? GREMLINNNNNN!!!!!!