Thanks to a marvelous suggestion, you will all have the pleasure of reading my adventures of cooking in my new "kitchen" or at least something of the sort.
All those who know me, know that I love to cook, bake, etc. My mom says that it began long before I was ever even allowed to touch the microwave. She tells me that I used to play for hours in the dirt and sand piles of our back yard, turning Frisbees into pie plates, rocks into cake decorations, flowers into vegetables, etc. However, I soon discovered that flour (the kind that "grown ups" used to bake with) was WAY more fun that just dirt and I started pulling a chair up to the counter, taking a dirty shovel and *stealing* flour from the flour jar. Dumb? Yes. Creative? Of course? But dumber was the fact that I would lie, say that I hadn't done taken anything (while brushing the trail of white stuff into the rug that trailed from the kitchen to the back yard). Oh well, no harm done. I grew up to still be a bad liar that loves to cook.
But I digress.
Anyways, my NYC kitchen is well, SMALL. There is approximately 16 inches of counter space next to an under mounted sink. <180 degree turn> A refrigerator/freezer combo next to mini 4 burner stove with built in microwave. the kicker of it all...the kitchen is quite designer- granite counters, stainless steel appliances, custom natural cherry cabinets. But more on the cabinets...thank god I really don't eat much processed food because I have 1 1/2 cabinets for food. What's in the rest of the cabinets?? I have a drawer of flatware, a canister of kitchen utensils, a cabinet filled with tableware for 12, a cabinet filled with cleaning supplies (my OCD for cleanliness plus a cleaning lady who lives to shop for cleaning supplies = more bottles of cleaner than humanly necessary), a cabinet filled with mixing bowls, vases, a pasta pot, a veggie steamer (two actually, one specifically for asparagus), two colanders (one fine, one thick), a cabinet with cookbooks, menu's, and Tupperware, and last but not least, one and half for food. Oh yeah, its important to mention that I'm 5'4, but I have 10 foot ceilings with cabinets that go to the top...case in pint, I need a stool to reach a vast majority of what I keep in these spaces.
the other night, I gave the kitchen it's first real test. Although I cook for myself most every night and make my daily lunch for work, that's a whole lot different from cooking for people (yes, plural!)
It sort of reminded me of an episode from the Food Network show, "Dinner Impossible". My challenge was to cook chicken parmesan with homemade sauce, al dente linguini, fresh grilled vegetables, and a homemade béchamel sauce for 4 (my vegetarian self excluded). I had a time line of 2 hours. I got home from the grocery store at 6 and my guests were coming at 8. (Random note, there are more fresh, organic markets here than I know what to do with. Yes, some of them are outrageously priced, but what the hell. This is New York and my friends and I are worth it. Plus organic makes *cheese* and *chocolate* seem less bad, right???)
Here was my strategy:
6pm (20 minute allotment): slice peppers, zucchini, summer squash, purple onions for grilling; dice Vidalia onion, mince garlic, chop Roma tomatoes for sauce.
6:20 (15 minutes): coat veggies for grilling with ExVirgOO and herbs; sauté the onions, then add garlic, then the tomatoes.
6:35 (15 minutes): remove chicken breasts from fridge to allow to come to room temp on counter; fix coating for chicken (bowl of seasoned flour, egg wash, bowl of seasoned bread crumbs with extra grated parmesan cheese) preheat oven to 350 and turn broiler on
6:45 (15 minutes): add tomato paste and white wine to sauce, stir, cover, simmer on low for 30 minutes; coat the chicken in flour, egg, bread crumbs.; put veggies on grill pan and place under broiler
7:00 (15 minutes): heat oil in skillet, brown chicken on both sides; place chicken in covered baking dish in preheated oven); flip veggies under broiler
7:15 (10 minutes) stir sauce and recover; make béchamel sauce with chive cream cheese and milk-stir consistently, turn off heat and cover; check veggies- wrap in foil and place back into the oven
7:30 boil pasta water; place bread in oven to warm; flip chicken
7:40 add pasta; turn off oven, but keep door closed to keep food warm
7:45 (5 minutes-I know, quite a skill): hop into shower, change into clean clothes
7:50: uncork red wine to breathe; set table (i.e. oversized circular glass coffee table) and place pillows on floor as cushions
7:58: stir sauce one final time
7:59 sigh of relief
8:00: greet guests! and pour a LARGE glass of wine
So hopefully that didn't scare all of you non cooks out there. I swear I'm not crazy. In case you were wondering, dinner was a success! Everyone was so full that they didn't even care that we didn't have dessert. However, with full bellies, a tired eyes, the guests left by 11, and I realized what a mess I had to deal with. I had washed the pans as I served the food, so they were done, but now I had all the dishes (if you hadn't noticed apartment kitchens rarely have dishwashers), and the messy stove top, and the drips on the floor, and the finger prints all over the coffee table. Now don't get me wrong, I had a lovely time, but I was really tired and wanted to go bed. However, if there is one thing that drives me crazy, it's waking up to dirty dishes in the sink and smelling the food from the night before (okay, maybe the smells thing is from waking up after a few too many fraternity parties and having a sudden recollection of just how much beer I drank the night before and smelling the contents of my stomach coming from the bathroom....too much detail? sorry) Alas, I cleaned the dishes (let them air dry), Windexed the table, and gave the stove a spit polish shine and THEN I went to bed at 12, to get 4 1/2 hours of sleep and begin my day with a good long workout.
And for all those who wonder...can you cook and entertain in a NYC apartment kitchen? OF COURSE! All it takes is a little planning, a little patience, and of course, a little creativity! (Think Bibbidy, bobbidy, Boo!- Cinderella, of course)
Thanks mom, for never stifling my desire to get into the kitchen, even if my first creations were nothing more than apple pie with whipped cream (sand with rocks and wet flour).