It has been said that I’m an impatient cook. I won’t refute this. If you were to look around a kitchen in which I’ve been baking, you would find nearly every surface covered with the floury evidence of my temperament. However, it’s been some time since I’ve flown into a full on rage over a dish. Experience has taught me which dishes will invoke my wrath. Since I’m relatively self-aware, I know when and if to attempt them. I also accept that an unexpected bad mood can and should alter the evening’s menu; instead of a complicated braise, perhaps a simple pasta lest my cherished red enamel Dutch oven and some spendy cut end up in the yard. Unfortunately, Big Red nearly did become airborne last Sunday.

Jeff and I had high hopes for the weekend. Bum-killing lows were predicted, so we decided to hunker down and make red sauce. Saturday would be red sauce with spaghetti. Sunday would be Jamie Oliver’s honeycomb cannelloni, which would give us leftovers for Monday’s lunch. Plan set, supplies were procured. Saturday was successful; we cooked and puttered around until the sauce was ready. Lovely. I cleared the dishes early Sunday afternoon to make space for assembling the baked dish. I don’t know what happened entirely, but as I schlepped sauce onto the vertical pasta, I couldn’t escape the feeling that it wasn’t going to work. The base layer of sauce wasn’t displacing into the shells as it should. The top layer wasn’t filling in and I only had half the required crème fraîche, known as crema fresca in my ‘hood, to complete it. On a good day, these challenges would be easily overcome. Even on a slightly off day, I would still be in good spirits if the dish failed. I guess I was more than slightly off last Sunday because, after the third round of baking at 350 degrees for another 45 minutes, I was strategizing which window would facilitate the biggest visual impact. If Jeff hadn’t been at my side to say “We can take out the uncooked tubes and just use the sauce,” the upstairs neighbors would have witnessed quite a spectacle.

Looking back on the Honeycomb Cannelloni Fiasco, I see where I may have gone wrong. Manicotti is thicker than cannelloni. This I did not know because the latter never crossed my path. One would think, however, that additional cooking time could compensate for this factor. I also let Jamie Oliver’s book seduce my critical eye into silence. Pasta cannot be trusted in the hands of most Europeans outside of Italy, particularly the English. (Sorry, London crew. You know we have mad love fer ya.) He cooks it uncovered, whereas I know damn well that you need foil after succeeding with so many no-boil lasagnes. To my credit, the last two rounds of baking were covered. Perhaps my rage came from the fact that it’s been a little over a decade since pasta bested me in the battlefield. Pasta is one of the first things people learn to cook, so fucking it up after so many years is like failing a written road test after a driving career. With each failed 45 minute interval, my rage increased to the point that it killed my appetite. I refused to eat that night and even stopped eating the next day when, upon sitting down for lunch at work, I found a stray bit of uncooked manicotti in the sauce. As I packed up my stuff, I meditated on a dramatic heave and Tupperware elegantly spiraling to earth from the fourth floor. Thankfully, those windows don’t open.

Advertisements