It’s Spring. Opening Day approaches. Men who know how to swing baseball bats distinquish themselves from who just have baseball bats. They’re out of my league.
Instead, I have an enormous chandelier in my dining room.
The table is set for roast leg of lamb, couscous, sauté pepper mélange, and carrot cake.
Susan prefers hostessing less formal come-overs because: “It’s always the way. The ones that don’t RSVP appear out of nowhere unannounced, and the ones who ‘swear we’re going to be there!’ don’t show up.” Tonight, it was the latter.
And, the roast would not cook.
Following Rombauer to the letter about 20 minutes/lb., 20 minute rest afterwards, Dale and I calculated to the second, “Roast goes in at six, comes out at 7:15, rests until 7:35, sauté takes 20 minutes; we won’t need hors d’oeuvres“.
Except the roast did not roast.
“I’ll go worry my roast!” I jumped up more often than an expectant father and excused myself to the kitchen. Fanning the oven door probably didn’t help, but the thermometer, carefully stuck in the middle of the thigh, would not move.
“Hmmm, Houston, we have a problem.” Serving time approaches, and the piece de résistance is raw.
The larder holds two hors d’oeuves: a can of cashews containing a residual of crumbs, “I’ll put those in a precious little dish, and it will make them seem special”…sort of.
And, a jar of olives which I had planned to serve anyway at table.
Starving guests, meting out portions of nut and olive onto red paper cocktail napkins, fended off hypoglycemic comas with bravely gracious anecdotes of how “timing a roast could be tricky.”
“I’ll go worry the roast!”
Conversation lilted and lagged with the buoyance of a famine while Dale and I strained at what to do.
“Let’s sauté the peppers, boil the couscous, and eat the lamb as an intermezzo before the cake!” we resolve as the minute hand rounded the bend towards the third hour of roasting.
Frustated, I grabbed the intransigent lamb out of the oven as if to glare at it would help. I wiggled the thermometer which jumped at my touch. 120, 130, 140…the pointer once static now races for Auschwitz.
“I can’t look,” I tell Dale.
Instead, I rush out of the room.
“Never fear. The roast will not be raw. The thermometer stuck. It will be perfect. Grab your drinks. Find your places. And grab all the serving pieces off the table. We’ll all crowd the kitchen and take up dinner.” I had no idea what condition the entrée would be in. I was just relieved that there would be one. Action and activity replaced concoctions of conversation.
Stopping at 150 degrees with another five anticipated during the rest, “it’s not the 135-140 target I was hoping for. But, it’s all right.” I think to myself while grabbing a knife eager to plunge into the char and ash.
Peppers sizzling on the stove landed on their platter; the couscous went into the bowl. Mint jelly went into its saucer, and I could not wait any longer. The twenty minute rest really was about eight and one half. My knife went it.
Succulent, juicy, and tender.
When I announced the layout of the platter, “rarer on the right, doner on the left.”, someone corrected, “Some of the rarer is getting doner as we speak,” owing to the abbreviated rest.
With food in their bellies, those who had arrived transformed into the personalities we had expected.
“A lovely evening.” Grandmother would say.