Saturday, October 20, 2018

the featured chef

On Friday, despite having a stuffy nose that kept me from smelling and tasting everything all day, I spent the day prepping and cooking both Korean galbi and Korean-style fried rice. Dominique and I had gone shopping for ingredients the previous day, and I ended up too tired to start prep work that same evening, so I went to bed with the intention of waking up early on Friday and putting all the food together.

I was given two Friday tasks by Dominique: (1) let in the guy who was going to come by before noon and restock Dom's supply of wood pellets (granulés de bois) for his heater, and (2) pick up two bags of bed linens from a particular truck that was to come by in the early afternoon. The pellet dude turned out to be friendly; he finished a bit before 1 p.m., which is about when I had wanted to walk over to Maman and Papa's house for lunch. Right as I was leaving, though, the bed-linen guy drove up and handed me two heavy sacks. I don't think he even realized I wasn't French. I went to lunch after that, but I couldn't taste a damn thing because of my cold. It all looked delicious, though.

After those two distractions and a lunch that looked delicious, I was able to return to and concentrate on my cooking. Fried rice takes a hell of a lot of prep work, which goes slower when you've got a cold, and you're using the world's dullest chef's knife. I spent most of the afternoon simply cutting things into tiny cubes for easy frying later on.

It's the start of vacation for several of the Ducoulombier kids now; the dinner table promised to be full, and I had also cavalierly invited Maman and Papa to dinner with us. Was dinner going to be a triumph or a tragedy? I was confident in my marinade, but not in my execution of the beef: Dom and I hadn't been able to find the correct cut of meat despite help from the store's butcher, who promised to read up on galbi cuts.

In the end, I made twice as much fried rice as I should have, and enough meat that the entire family ate maybe five-sixths of the galbi. I found the meat way too tough, but people around me had seconds and thirds, complimenting the Korean sauce and the fact that all these flavors were new and unexpected. Dom reassured me that the meat had been cooked well by French standards, but I did see Papa give up on trying to cut his own meat (along with being 83, he's also suffering from macular degeneration, which makes him bemoan his "handicapped" status), and Maman cutting it for him.

I think the fried rice was a bigger hit: Héloïse demanded the recipe and helped herself to rice several times. I'm just happy it all turned out edible: cooking without being able to smell or taste anything is like flying blind: a truly nightmarish experience. I'm very unhappy with the tough texture of the meat, and I'm not entirely convinced that all the compliments were genuine; the Ducoulombiers are considerate enough to want to avoid hurting my feelings. Then again, I did watch most everyone at table go for seconds and even thirds. Would they do that if they hated the food?

So this was a failure, as far as I'm concerned. I wish I could have been able to taste my own cooking; that would have helped me make a more objective judgment of the evening. In the meantime, I'm thankful to Dom's kids, three of whom helped me finish my prep in various ways: Tim helped pan-fry the meat; Héloïse and Joséphine helped mix and reheat the rice.

Sorry for the lack of pictures. I had my cell phone with me, but I was too busy cooking and stressing to bother to snap any images.

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