If only mine were as comforting

Last night was the second night in a row I have ruined dinner.

I am accepting any and all sympathies.

The other night it was Harvest Paella gone awry. No pun intended, because there is absolutely nothing humorous about ruining a perfectly good meal. I literally woke up the next morning with hunger pains in my stomach for lack of dinner. I guess chocolate chip cookies are not that filling, after all.

My sister has made this rice dish before and I don’t remember it tasting like rotten cardboard. But that is what mine tasted like. The worst part is I can’t figure out what I did wrong. Either it was too much turmeric or dried basil gone bad–if that is even possible. But something was seriously wrong. I’m pretty sure food is not supposed to taste like that.

It was, in fact, so bad that my dog wouldn’t even eat it. Some fell on the floor (imagine that) and she came bounding over like she usually does eager to lick up any crumbs that fall her way. But after a 30 second perusally sniff over the rice, she decided that trash would be a much more enjoyable dinner. I mean really, the dog that has eaten her own vomit turned up her nose at our dinner. That’s how bad it was.

Last night it was fish. Yet another recipe I am familiar with. This one I have made several times before. It’s a favorite. It’s called My Mama’s Baked Fish, by Rachel Ray.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I am not a huge Rachel Ray fan. The 30 minute meals never really worked for me. They were always like 45 minute catastrophes, requiring me to stand at the stove whisking chicken stock and something else while chopping fresh basil and sautéing mushrooms in EVOO. They usually ended in tears. And it wasn’t because I didn’t like mushrooms.

That was about six years ago. My cooking skills have improved a little, to the point where I no longer cry after unsuccessful attempts, usually don’t burn food, and occasionally use ingredients like chicken stock, heavy cream, and fresh cilantro. Still, I am not overly confident in my cooking abilities.

Lately, I’ve been feeling bad about my lack of culinary greatness, or more accurately the lack of culinary anything happening in my kitchen. So, I have been trying to cook more frequently to expand my treasure trove of great family recipes…and to keep my family from starving.

However, with two toddlers standing at the stove for 30 minutes (nay, 10 minutes) frying chicken and chopping seven different herbs, just isn’t going to happen.

Actually, it may even be known by the state of California as some form of neglect.

For the health and safety of my children, I need Paula Dean to give me three ingredients, a 9 x 13 baking dish, and tell me to shove it in the oven for 45 minutes. Better yet, give me a crock pot.  That is my kind of cooking.

But getting back to the fish.  Like I mentioned, I have made this recipe before. It is one of my favorites. Classic, simple, and very tasty. It is from Rachel’s Comfort Foods cookbook, one I actually use. Not quite the three ingredient kind of cook book, but close enough, and about as new and far out as I am willing to venture these days.

With this recipe, I have always used Halibut or Tilapia. But this time, in order to save a few almighty dollars (actually, it was probably more like $0.75), I bought a bag of frozen Perch.

I know, I know the whole spiel about buying fresh versus frozen, but I don’t think that was my problem. My problem was PERCH. Ew, Perch.

I do not like this fish. I found out the hard way, all white fish are not created equal. The fish was soggy and slimy and had some sort of thin red scales still on its backside. It was mushy and gross.

To top it off, I burnt the toast and managed to overcook the “steam in the bag” broccoli I bought. (In my defense, the instructions said cook for 4 to 7 1/2 minutes…um that’s a pretty big time gap.)

It was complete and utter failure.

Tonight, we are going out for dinner. I couldn’t be more thankful. My kids, my husband, and my dog probably are too.

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