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Next year, we’re going out for Christmas dinner


Laughing when things are funny makes you feel good. Laughing when things go wrong, works really well on stage and actually works quite well in real life too, as it helps put the situation into perspective. Of course when things are really bad it takes a little time for you to be able to laugh about it.

Enough time has passed since Christmas, that now I can laugh about my disastrous dinner. My lack of prowess in the kitchen is legendary, with good reason. I hate cooking. It is such a waste of time. There are so many other things I would rather be doing, and usually am doing, that I leave the potatoes or cottage roll on high. Thank goodness for smoke alarms! They have saved our house many times.

This past Christmas, we decided on a prime rib roast of beef. Now I am queen of the pot roast, well, if I remember to turn it down. Throw in some carrots and potatoes and take it off the stove a couple of hours later, however it comes out is fine.

But for Christmas dinner we decided to buy the best, big enough for 10 people. We sold our firstborn child to buy this thing and I wanted to do it right, so I asked the butcher how long to cook it so that it would be rare in the middle. He said use my meat thermometer. What is that?

It only cost three dollars, so I though what the heck, we will give it a try. But that doesn’t tell you what time to put this monster in the oven. 

So Peter helped me figure it out. He said call Walt Conroy, he knows how to do it. Walt laughed when he heard of the mission, but sent very specific directions and timing.  I didn’t think an-hour-and-a-half was enough time but then I never had anything come out rare before. Peter double-checked on the Internet and about six different sites said exactly the same thing that Walt did.  So, we bowed to their superior knowledge.

Dinner was planned for six o’clock. We got everything peeled, diced, and table set early, so we could enjoy our pre-dinner time with our guests.

We took that baby out of the fridge really early so it would be room temperature, patted it with butter and put on garlic powder and tossed it in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes at 400 degrees (whatever we were told, I don’t remember now) and then turned it down to 325 for the rest of the cooking time.

We turned the potatoes and carrots on, all coordinated to be ready when the oven timer went off. I was feeling pretty good about this. The timer rings and we shove that meat thermometer in the roast and absolutely nothing happened. We waited a few minutes in case it took time for the thermometer to warm up or something. Alas, nothing happened. We must have gotten a bad thermometer.

The only way we could tell if the roast was as it should have been, was to cut that baby open. Disaster! There was hardly anything cooked at the edge and the rest of it was raw….not rare…blue blood raw. Not again! Why does this happen to me?

We cut it in half and threw the thing back in the oven at 450 to try and cook more of the edges, hoping to slice off enough for those who pass out at the sign of pink in meat.

I turned everything else down or off, but you know what happens when things cook too long, you get mushy vegetables. What about my Yorkshire pudding?

Grandma Turner was from England, so a fancy roast beef dinner deserves Yorkshire pudding?  Mom used to make it, I won’t even try, so I finally found some frozen ones in the store. They were miniature ones, but hey, you toss them in the oven for like eight minutes and they aren’t too bad, although you need a half-a-dozen each. 

Now this will come as a surprise to many of you but I, the lousy cook, have a really neat stove that has two ovens. They took the pan drawer from the bottom, shifted the big oven down and put a small oven about it. We use the little one most of the year with only big roasts cooked in the big oven. I could put the Yorkshire pudding in the little oven. 

Hey! Maybe the big oven wasn’t working up to temperature! Maybe that was why the roast wasn’t cooked. We tossed the little oven thermometer in the oven and the temperature was all over the dial.

Well, that at least answered why the roast wasn’t done. Finally, we sat down to dinner, I was exhausted and very stressed. Guests who had an aversion to pink got the slightly crusty, charred, outside edges. There was a tiny bit of medium, but the rest of us got the rare. While we dined, the roasts were put back in the oven to finish cooking. It took a while.

Another failed dinner to add to my repertoire of cooking disasters.

Having blamed the catastrophe on a malfunctioning oven, we felt it best to get it fixed, but first we purchased a larger, easier-to-read oven thermometer. Threw a cheap roast with everything in the pan in the oven and checked it out. The oven went to temperature and stayed there. There was nothing wrong with the oven! Even the meat thermometer worked! It said that it would be just a wee bit too rare right in the center. It was right and the rest of the roast was lovely.

I learned a lot however. One, never waste your money on expensive cuts of meat and don’t cook anything outside of your comfort zone. For me, that would be not cooking anything!

Next Christmas dinner, we are going out!


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