Saturday, August 23, 2008

You Can't Smash Peas

Making dinner yesterday became, to a degree, a comedy of errors. As I skimmed over a few different recipes the night before, I came across one that sounded interesting enough to try. My husband and children enjoy fish of almost any kind so I stopped at one that already I had most of the ingredients. Typically I would make a short express lane list for items I lacked. Unfortunately I neglected to create a post-it for myself so mistake number one, that inevitably I will recreate at some future date, make a list.

I knew that I needed to stop by the market to pick up halibut, which was the fish of choice for the recipe. In the back of my mind I was sure that must be all, since that was all I could specifically remember about the dish. The grocer who had every other type of fish, including what a friend from Boston recently described to me as scrod, had no halibut so I settled by purchasing four red snapper fillets. After returning home and scouring my kitchen for the rest of the ingredients I sent my husband, Dennis, for five more items including, peas.

It was supposed to be the most simple part of the dish to make. Cook peas with some finely chopped onions, parsley and garlic until very tender and all the water had evaporated then add a couple of tablespoons of cream and mash everything with a fork or potato masher. My education into the art of pea mashing there ensued.

Peas fit through a hand held potato masher. Strike one. The idea of squashing all twenty ounces of peas with a fork certainly didn't appeal to my sense of quickness. Then a thought occurred to me, I mash my potatoes utilizing my Kitchen Aid mixer in order to make them nice and fluffy, that might fix this conundrum. So I pour the pea mixture into the mixer bowl add the beater and turn on to medium. I watch in anticipation of peas becoming a nice green mash but as I waited I noticed the diced onions separating from the peas and sticking to the upper edges of the bowl and the peas dodging their demise through the beater with every turn. Strike two. Luckily, since fish cooks quickly, I was sure to come up with a solution before I had to start cooking it as well. I looked over my counter tops and spied my new blender. Aha! Pour it all into the blender and all will be well in my attempt to smash peas. I get my blender ready for the peas last hurrah only to read, "do not blend hot liquids." What??? Strike three??? I was ready to call it quits and give up on my smashed peas that I was to lay the fish atop and garnish with a roasted cherry tomato and basil sauce.

I wanted a meal to look pretty for a change not the typical protein on one third of the plate, vegetable on another third, and a grain rounding out the last third. This was supposed to be a dish to rival some restaurants we've eaten at recently; a home cooked meal with class.

As I was considering giving up Dennis called on his way home from picking up Darby. I recounted to him my frustration at not being competent enough to smash peas. He replied simply, "what about your Cuisinart?" Located in the dark depths underneath and in the very back of a bottom cabinet (I obviously use it all the time) the thought of a food processor never crossed my mind. I thanked him profusely for the idea and pulled out the small appliance. Poured, yet again, the peas into the trusty chopper and turned it on high. I watched with happy pleasure as the grass green peas changed color slightly as they blended into a smooth puree. I set them back in the sauce pan in which they began set the stove to low finished the fish and cherry tomato sauce just in time to eat as Dennis and Darby walked in.

What was supposed to have taken a mere thirty minutes to complete took closer to one hour and my kitchen was in complete disarray. How did it turn out you ask? The bacon wrapped red snapper atop smashed peas and garnished with a roasted cherry tomato butter sauce was a smashing success!

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