cooking at a run

I wanted to make a birthday treat for John, so I arranged with Mike that we’d bring something by around 10, when the two of them would be done with dinner. With that in mind, I signed out of work a little early to get dinner done so that I could make a Dried Fruit Tart in a Walnut Pastry (plus creme anglais). Kate came home early (7) with a couple of supplies from the store, notably a lot of dried fruit. But then dinner (an improvised Tom Yum Goong which came out really, really well, imo) took longer than I thought, and I started to worry about the time. The dishwasher was clean and full, so a lot of the dishes involved in dinner were still piled up as I started making pastry dough and simmering fruit in water in sugar and gently heating cream and trying to figure out how to get everything together in sequence and still make it by 10.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this rushed, cooking, and while the results came out okay (the crust was too thick, and I don’t think I’d use prunes again even if Epicurious says I should), the process of getting there was a little rough. Thinking I was being clever, I poured the reduced fruit/sugar syrup into a measuring cup on the edge of the sink to catch the splashes, and then promptly knocked the cup into the sink, requiring a restart on the fruit, since the syrup’s a critical component for several parts of the tart. The crust wound up cooling on a rack outside in order to be cool enough to take the fruit when it was finally done. Every additional component required its own dish or pan or spoons; normally I’d have been washing and reusing things as I went, but with three things running at once (fruit, crust, and creme anglais) I was spinning madly and hadn’t the mental space to clean. Every surface in the kitchen was either covered in flower, chicken soup, dirty dishes, or sugar; I can’t remember when I’ve ever had so many of our bowls out and in use. Thank god for Kate, who stepped in and helped clean, pour, taste, and finish.

Miraculously, everything came together at 10:05. The tart was cool, the creme anglais was awesome (but how can you screw up cream, egg yolks, vanilla beans, and sugar? Other than overcooking it, I guess), and we had a really nice little birthday visit with John before Kate had to crash. One dishwasher load is running, and I’ve cleaned the counters and readied the next, so the recovery tomorrow will be easy.

Things to remember: start earlier, don’t take phone calls when on a tight timeline, and don’t think gravity isn’t watching you like a hawk. It is.