Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kitchen Ballet

So the other night my poor husband had a small mishap in the kitchen. Admittedly, this little accident was partially my fault, though I refuse to take full blame for the incident. After all, I did warn him. Ok, wait. Let me back up and tell the story properly.

We decided we would have Orange Honey Mustard chicken for dinner - a quite yummy dish well liked by everyone I've ever served it to - except my 5-year-old. (If anyone wants the recipe, let me know. I'd be glad to send it your way.) Unfortunately, this particular recipe calls for baking the chicken on a cookie sheet with sides. This is only unfortunate because right now I don't have a cookie sheet with sides on it. I threw out the last one because it was a beat up piece of crap (and it wasn't more than a couple of years old.) So now I'm left with the two Airbake (or something like that) cookie sheets we got for a wedding gift over 12 years ago. Have you seen these? They appear to be two sheets of steel welded together, the top sheet having the traditional smooth surface you would expect to find on a cookie sheet. The second sheet (aka bottom of the pan) has these large round indentations in it. I really have no idea why. I think maybe they intended for air to be "trapped" in the indentations which would somehow prevent your cookies from burning. All I know is, they suck for baking cookies on. They take FOR-EVER (picture Squints in "The Sandlot") to bake all the way through. I've had more than one batch come out raw in the middle. And the sheets have no sides whatsoever, except maybe if you count a sort of bent up lip at the back, which I assume is there for easy retrieval from the oven. But they certainly last forever. I'll give them that. We really need a new set of cookie sheets. With sides on them. But being that I'd like to have a really nice set that will last another 12+ years. I have not been willing to break down and give my favorite store to hate, Wal-Mart, more of my money for a cheapo set. So, we make due with sideless.

Anyway, what's really the bad part about making this recipe on sideless pans is, the chicken produces a lot of juice/grease as it bakes (as does all types of baking chicken) that ends up dripping off of the pan either when you move it or before, and starts burning. This creates smoke. Lots and lots of smoke. And/or when you remove the pan from the oven, the juice splashes all over the stove top or counter top where you place it. Or on the floor. Which is what happened in this instance. (You can see this coming, can't you?)

In this particular preparation I decided to try to build sides onto the pan with tinfoil. An inspired plan - had it actually worked. The recipe calls for covering the pan with tinfoil anyway, though I'm not sure why. It does nothing to keep the pan clean, as the tinfoil is not wide enough to cover any pan fully. Even if you overlap the layers of tinfoil deeply, the grease still manages to seep in between the layers and soil your pan. But, whatever the reason, the recipe calls for it, and you know me and following the directions. So I covered the pan. I simply made the tinfoil wider than necessary, and formed short walls on three sides of the pan. Brilliant. Or so I thought.

As I watched the chicken bake, it looked like my plan was working. I couldn't see any grease dripping down in the oven, and there was no smoke. All was looking good. When it was time to take the chicken out of the oven, I made my first mistake. I thought I could move the pan with less caution than I usually used, because my tinfoil fortress seemed to be working. So, I picked up the pan and closed the oven door. As I turned to my right to put the pan on the counter top, I moved just a bit too quickly. Chicken juice flew out of the corner of the pan, apparently from under the tinfoil corner, in a centrifugal wave that sparkled ever so slightly in the air as the kitchen lights struck it, before coating the floor in a greasy, slippery puddle that stretched in an arc from in front of the oven, across the walkway between the island and the refrigerator and in front of the island. The beauty of such a splash was only spoiled by the immediate explosion of every swear word in the book from my mouth, which caused Sweetpea to come running to find out what was wrong. She thought it was pretty funny that it was mom who made a mess instead of her.

At that point I simply did not want to get the mop out, since by the time I was finished cleaning up the mess, our dinner that had just been made would have gotten cold. Instead, I just simply took a dishcloth and, using hot water and several trips to the sink to wash the grease out of the dishcloth, wiped up the mess. I knew I was not getting all of the grease off of the floor, so I warned Sweetpea that she must step over this area when walking through the kitchen, or not come through the kitchen at all. I thought I would just mop up the floor after dinner.

When my husband came in from the back yard, I warned him that he should be careful, as I had spilled chicken juice/grease on the floor. I told him I had wiped it up, but it was probably still slippery. I know he heard me, and I know he tried to avoid the mess. But somehow in the moving about in the kitchen necessary to get the rest of dinner with all the trimmings on the table, he managed to step right in the worst part of the mess - right in front of the oven. Regardless of the fact that he had shoes on (which may have hurt him more than helped), his foot slipped right out from under him, and suddenly he was doing a ballet move that belonged in Swan Lake. Luckily he did not fall down, and he did not drop anything that he was holding in his hands at the time. What he did do is nearly a full split, while still managing to stay on his feet. Ouch. It even made me cringe, so I can't imagine how much it hurt him. What was worse was that he was essentially stuck there. His feet were spread so far apart that he could not put enough weight on either one to bring himself back up into a full standing position, without them slipping the rest of the way out from under him. And because of the things in his hands, he could not reach out and grab the counter top for the stability needed to stand up. Likewise, he was afraid to move to reach out and put the items in his hands on the counter top, so that he could grab it to stabilize himself. He couldn't move.

After I managed to get over the initial shock at his position, I took the things from his hands and helped him to stand up, being careful not to slip myself. As he stood there, trying to recover enough from the pain of his position, Sweetpea decided she needed to correct her father's behavior. Out of the silence came her little chiding voice saying "Dad, it's really better if you step over these things, not in them. You could get hurt!" It was all I could do not to laugh out loud as I stood there supporting my poor husband, who looked as if he wanted to cry and laugh all at the same time. I guess in the future we'll just buy tickets to the real ballet, instead of staging our own.

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