Keep it simple silly!

3:19 PM

A day after Christmas, this is this Tata Docomo commercial line that keeps going through my head and for a good reason, I SHOULD have kept it simple. Cooking wise that is. My menu was fairly simple: Potato gratin, grilled chicken breast in shiitake mushroom sauce and a nice homemade cake for desert.
The problem with that plan, is that first of all I should have started some preparation earlier, because I spent all Christmas day in the kitchen washing dishes, preparing one thing or another, and running after Ishita to get her out of trouble because DH’s jog had him tied to his stupid laptop in the living room on a public holiday, nothing less!
So I started with the cake, taking the same sponge cake recipe I found last year and just applied it to a different cake mould, last year the result was fine enough, and this year it should have gone better because a) I found the self raising flour the recipe asked for and b) I had my hand help electric beater to do the job. How wrong was I! For some reason the batter never raised in the oven, and I’ll blame it on that freaking self raising flour that was total crap, then the amount of batter might not have been sufficient enough to begin with and the top cracked open in the cooking process, that would have been fine in a normal tin, but not in a funnel tin. So I took the cake out, went for a shower, and started cooking another one, this time with MY own trusted recipe that some will argue isn’t light enough for a sponge cake, but that has never ever ever EVER failed me, my good old 4 quarter ratio cake, the ultimate basic of baking 101, which basically has you pick up the quantity of eggs you need (I picked 4 because it was a big tin) weight these very same egg still in their shell and then weight the same amount in flour, sugar and flour, and add 2 teaspoon of baking powder and the flavouring. Since my cake was a vanilla base, all that went in extra was the vanilla.
I used that base recipe countless of time, to just do about any flavour, it never failed me, and true to its reputation my second cake was perfect, lesson learned, I will never ever trust one of these other recipe ever again. Baking twice got me tired and behind. But I still got to peel my kilo of potato and felt back on track and decided to take a nap.

The main issue of the day was the chicken, I specifically needed boneless chicken breast WITH skin, because I wanted to grill it and not end up with some dry meat. If I had a big conventional oven, I would have bought a whole chicken, and shoved it in the oven with the gratin and it would have been easy, but real big nice convection ovens or even gas ovens aren’t a norm in India, as I mentioned it in the past, so I have a microwave/convection one, the size is small and you can only bake one thing at a time in there, and since the gratin needs to be eaten straight from the oven, I didn’t want to have two baking item on the menu.
Simple enough huh? Well not so much, chicken with skin is apparently though to get in Mumbai, in Bangalore it was easy, in Mumbai most meat shops don’t keep it, and they told me I had to place an order the day before, which we did, only for DH to go in the afternoon of the 25th to pick it up and be told that no they could not do it…Thanks for not calling us guys. Apparently they didn’t get why it was such a big deal and that skinless breast is just the same!
DH called me to ask me if he should go ahead and buy the skinless one, and pissed I told him that yeah, but I was fuming inside wondering how to get my meal done now.
DH sensing my irritation, went to every meat stall in the neighbourhood and ended up in our maid’s village and she helped him find a good shop, the guy there told him that yes he could get us 3 chicken breast with skin, but we would have to buy the 3 chickens as he had to kill 3 to get it done just for us, my maid agreed to bring it to us as soon as it was ready and DH went back home to tell me all about it, while I assembled my gratin to shove it in the oven later.

The chicken came on time, but we decided to do present time before Ishita became too irritated as she forgot to nap, and we enjoyed some good time, away from the chicken madness, and kitchen. When I went to the kitchen, the breasts still had the bone and they were ENORMOUS, clearly the chicken shop he found had access to far bigger birds than all those shops selling prepped and packaged ones, since it was running late, I decided to wash the pieces, and use the leg pieces instead as they were huge and would spare me the deboning, all that while my gratin cooked. I wrapped the pieces I would not use to put in the freezer, and of course my mom who announced she would call called, but not sensing the tone of hurry in my voice kept blabbing about her Indian visa almost not getting done on time (she is coming next weekend), a huge long story she could have told me next week, but chose to give in detail while all I wanted was prep this legs to grill them before the gratin finished cooking. By the time she was done, my gratin was, so instead of grilling my legs, I put them in a baking tray, and seasoned them to roast in the oven having to wait another 40 minutes for them to cook while the gratin mushed, and seeing DH sleeping on the sofa and Ishi starting getting super whiny, when everything was finally ready, I was dead, DH was tired and hungry, and Ishita was tired, cranky and stubbornly refusing to go to sleep in bed by herself so I left the table let my gratin and chicken get cold telling DH to go ahead and eat without me, came back to the table to eat my now cold Christmas dinner, and we ten took my cake in front of TV to try to watch Inception until the end, but our brains were too fried for us to get the movie and we stopped midway.
The cake was a success, I filled with with jam and iced it with royal icing, where I even managed to get some red doodle in icing made over the white coat. But I can say frankly, I should have kept the rest of the meal simple, a roast chicken, pasta or rice and a green vegetable would just have done the trick in twice less hassle and time spent in the kitchen, or heck even just Chicken and French fries.

Lesson learned, next year I’ll do it better, I even already wrote on several December pages in my 2012 Day planner to just remember this year’s craziness and just keep it simple, because the best part of Christmas isn’t slaving in the kitchen to get out a fancy special meal, it’s about family.
Not that I didn’t grow up used to the idea that Christmas was about the food, my family is big on food, parties and fancy occasion meals that has you sit at a table for hours going through zillion courses, realistically I know I can’t do just that, I don’t have the stepford wives gene my grand mothers seem to have running in their blood, or rather not the patience for it, and in my immediate family my dad was the masterchef when it came to holiday meals, my mom is more of a cook by necessity like many wives of her time, but my dad just cooks for fun and enjoys it, so yes even Sunday evening meals were big so he could indulge in his passion.
I like cooking, I do, but I do recognise my quick temper, impulsive behaviour and lack of patience, that combined with a kitchen that is probably better equipped for daily continental and Indian fare, it makes trying to replicate a holiday feast just too exhausting for me to really get into the spirit of Christmas without any meltdown.


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