I avoided it as long as I could. This week is my turn to cook for the Friday Feasts.
I laughed and laughed when Ashley couldn’t keep the can lids out of any of her bowls or pans…but look who has the last laugh now? (Hint: it isn’t me because I’m too busy squeezing lemons and preheating ovens)
The bonus to this recipe is that tilapia is actually something that every member of my family will eat! We always grill our tilapia (and by “we” I mean my husband), and I thought this would be a good chance for me to find my own way of preparing it. I don’t want to be left out of the tilapia action! (I TOTALLY want to be left out of the tilapia action. Ashley is actually forcing me to do this entire project.)
But I didn’t stop there. NOPE. I wanted to tackle something that we DON’T normally eat. I wanted a vegetable side dish to add to our rotation of broccoli, broccolini, peas, green beans, and corn. Because I absolutely detest cooked cauliflower, I chose to make Roasted Ranch Cauliflower. I am nothing if not up for a challenge.
For me, cooking is always a series of semi-emergencies, followed by a couple of disasters, that generally ends with children crying and being carted off to McDonalds. Thus, begins my cooking adventure.
Cauliflower Mishap #1— This happened when I opened my wall oven door. There was some weird looking charred pan in there. WHAT? Where did that come from? Why is it there? How LONG has it been there? NOT an auspicious beginning. (and kind of gross to boot)
Cauliflower Mishap #2— I needed the juice of half a lemon. I thought I had one of those old- timey plastic things you twist a lemon on to juice it, but it turns out I don’t. I must have been thinking of the one in Cookie’s kitchen in St. Louis. I didn’t think I had the wrist strength or desire to squeeze enough juice using just my hand. I considered omitting the lemon altogether, but what if lemon juice was the one ingredient that would make me not want to hurl while eating this dish?
I asked Robert to squeeze the lemon half for me (Hey, he’s stronger than me, likes to cook, and walked in the door at just the right moment!). He suggested I use the fancy lemon press thing we got from Williams-Sonoma. OH, YEAH! I’d forgotten we even owned that! That is the hazard when you don’t use the items in your kitchen much. Crisis totally averted!
Putting it all together, my spirits lifted. This is basically cleaning cauliflower, tossing some stuff in a bowl with it, and shoving it in the oven. I can do that! How did I not know all these years I have the makings of a master cauliflower chef?
Cauliflower Mishap #3— This is not so much a mishap as an occurrence. The entire time it cooked it smelled…burn-y. Yes, decidedly burn-y from the first second it went into the oven. Maybe that’s the heinous nature of cooking cauliflower. Hell if I know. I was irritated because I had to keep checking on it every few minutes. I am not down with high maintenance vegetables. Once I decided to just leave it until the timer went off, I was much happier.
Moving right along despite the fact that there was the scent of burn-y cauliflower in the air and the sound of the children fighting in the playroom…
Fish Calamity #1— I decided on a hybrid approach to this recipe: baking the fish for the first part of the recipe then switching to broiling when I got to the the cheese/mayo/butter/seasoning sauce step. Pale looking fish will not be eaten by my kids. I needed the golden crusty appearance that only broiling would to bring to the table.
As I took out my Pyrex 13 X 9 pan I saw these annoying words: NO BROIL stamped right on the bottom. Oh, FFS. That was the pan I was planning to use. I have to hand it to the Pyrex company, though. They know I will take the first opportunity to explode their glassware in the broiler the minute they turn their backs, so they chose to stamp it right there on the pan for my protection.
Nice, but that still left me without a damn pan. I then looked through the rest of my drawers. I found two Le Creuset small baking dishes I got as a gift one Christmas. Maybe they would work? This question lead to…
Google Inquiry #1— I rarely get through a cooking session without having to Google some piece of information most people already know. This was to be no exception. Google assured me that Le Creuset was enamel covered cast iron and could be broiled. Yay!
But I picked it up and just thought it was WAY too light to be cast iron. Is all Le Creuset enamel covered cast iron? This lead to…
Google Inquiry #2— It turns out that this is NOT enamel covered cast iron but rather their bakeware line which is made of…bakeware. How am I supposed to know? I’m not a pottery wizard. Their website clearly stated that it could go in the broiler, though. Whew! Why they just didn’t stamp that on the bottom like the good people at Pyrex, I’ll never know.
Fish Calamity #2— I forgot to put the butter on the counter to soften it. My butter was as hard as a rock yet still had to be incorporated into the other ingredients to form a saucy paste. I decided to nuke it a bit and hope for the best. It worked!
Fish Calamity #3— I was supposed to cut up green onion for the sauce, but the tips of green onions are white. Was I supposed to use that part or only the thin green part? (Do you see why I dislike cooking now? Who KNOWS all this stuff?). This should have lead to Google Inquiry #3, but hey…I don’t have time to Google everything. I’m just one woman. I had cauliflower burning in the oven after all. I made the executive decision to just use the green part. Feel free mock me in the comments if you want.
It was right about then when Bobby walked in the kitchen, looked at the counter, and began hyperventilating, “OMG ARE YOU USING MAYONNAISE?? IS THERE MAYONNAISE IN THIS??”
I wholeheartedly assured him that there was absolutely NO MAYO in ANYTHING I was cooking. It was just sitting out from lunch. (This was a COMPLETE LIE. I’d never leave mayonnaise out on the counter, and there was totally mayonnaise in the fish parmesan sauce.)
Although I have always hated cooked cauliflower THIS WAS ACTUALLY DELICIOUS. I did burn it a tad, but it was GOOD. Robert and I both gave it a thumbs up. Lucy happily tried it and liked it too! She even heaped two more spoonfulls on her plate. Bobby ate his one obligatory florette, smiled, and weakly said it was “good”. (He is polite enough to know not to wretch at the table). He declined to put more on his plate and immediately drank two cups of water (I’m assuming to get the taste out of his mouth). He didn’t cry or faint, though, so there you go. I’m calling that 3 thumbs up out of 4.
I was most impressed with the tilapia. When this came out of the oven it looked fantastic. It smelled unbelievably good. I thought it was heavenly as did Robert. Lucy loved it so much that she GASPED when she took her first bite. I am not kidding. She could not stop praising this dish. Bobby ate his obligatory two bites, and then drank three cups of water in rapid succession. He said it was…interesting. (Damn you, mayonnaise!) This was a very solid 3 thumbs up out of 4.
I actually considered this whole thing a rousing success. I only had three setbacks with each recipe and two questions for Google. That’s got to be some kind of a (good) record for me! Plus, I had the unexpected experience of everything looking fairly good and tasting fantastic!! (except to Bobby and at least he was well hydrated from drinking all that water).
I felt almost triumphant until Lucy said, “I want you to cook every night! Your food is so good! What are you making tomorrow??!!”
Oh, what have I done?