Friday, April 27, 2012

Making Dinnertime Memories...

OK, defrost the chicken, chop the cilantro and jalapeño and add to processor. Now, where are those cashews I made a special trip to the store to get...alright, add a cup of those to the processor, get the garlic and toss it in with the oil and the soy sauce, squeeze guts out of lime...warn the girls of impending loud noise...blend until paste is achieved. Shoot! I forgot the brown sugar...there...blend again...paste again...Voila! 

On and on droned my internal narrator coaching me as I prepared a nifty new meal for my family who had not enjoyed a real-life everyone-at-the-table-no-meetings-after dinner for what seemed like forever.

If I do say so myself, I had it all together. I'd begun the meal prep in time to allow the chicken to marinate in the above concoction for the prescribed amount of time. I had assembled a wonderfully diverse pair of side dishes that were sure to please.

There was the obstacle of Kate's softball practice smack dab in the middle of dinner time at 5:30, but I was working around that and surely practice would be called for rain...or not.

Kate and I scooted in the door as the clock neared 7 and, channeling my inner Rachel Ray, I promised my gang dinner in thirty minutes or less. I turned on the oven, stopped to inform a lovely child that even though tomorrow was swimming day with our homeschool group, we would NOT be going to the store tonight to purchase a new bathing suit. "I am NOT leaving this house again tonight!" I announced and turned to heat the vegetables on the stovetop. After that, I headed to the porch to light the grill for its inaugural performance of the season.

Put the chicken on the grill, oh listen to that sizzle, smells good, might be a keeper? Back to the kitchen to check oven...fine...veggies...check. Time to turn the chicken...back outside to the porch...WHO thought it would be a good idea to build the porch off of the living room and not off of the kitchen??? 

Just as I was mentally reengineering the layout of my home, the sight of smoke outside of the back door caught my attention. Hmmmmm...."Honey??? Can you peek out here a minute? Is it normal for fire to be coming from that part of the grill?"

"No. No, it's not."

"MEGAN, bring us a large cup of water!!!"

"Wait," I said, picking up a piece of chicken with tongs and blowing it out, "we can have a New Orleans theme tonight...blackened chicken! I can scrape most of the charred part off..."

"Gretchen, turn off the grill. NOBODY is gonna be able to eat that chicken."

"But the other side isn't completely ruined. Surely we can make do?"

Or not. The chicken was pink inside and thick-crunchy-black on the outside.

Megan appeared with the water and we were able to douse the flaming grill pan and blow out the rest of the chicken much like one would blow out candles on a birthday cake. I placed each piece of chicken on a plate and carried it back into the house, still smoking.

"Why is da chicken on fiya?" asked an already pajama-clad Molly.

"Oh, Molly, it's not on fire...anymore."

"Somebody get clothes for Molly, everyone else get shoes on and get into the car," the assistant fire chief directed.

Well then, another one for the memory books. The family dinner I had planned with the whole gang ooohhhhing and ahhhhing over my snazzy new chicken creation had quite literally gone up in smoke, but a family dinner happened all the same.

 The oooohhhhing and ahhhhhing still happened too, only it was focused at the very spicy salsa and queso we were enjoying at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

NOTE: If you, like me, missed the part of home ec class where "Getting Your Grill Ready for Grilling Season" was covered, there is a spiffy little article here which will tell you just what you need to do to avoid arriving at the local Mexican restaurant precisely at your three-year-old's bedtime.

There is also another enlightening piece here by Consumer Reports that discusses what may have been the cause of my enlightened chicken...The Five Most Common Grilling Mistakes.

Education, folks, is the key. Now I'm off to get a lecture from Smokey Bear...

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