There’s an old saying that goes something like this. Comedy is when you stub your toe. Tragedy is when I stub my toe. The incident that night in the kitchen was actually both. But it made my wife Carla laugh. In fact, it caused her to get the no-breathers. That’s a good thing, after all. One should periodically try to make one’s partner laugh. Because if you’re funny, maybe--just maybe, they will tolerate your lame antics for another day.
As a preamble to describing the incident in question, I was just re-emerging from quarantine for the second time in more than two weeks after experiencing the Paxlovid rebound thing. I was eager to fuss up some dinner, Carla having manned KP duty the entire time I was holed up in my office. Dinner that night would be marinated boneless chicken thighs sauteed on the stove top and finished in the oven, accompanied by roasted potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and garlic. A salad would round things off. The vino would be a just-released vintage of a California Sauvignon Blanc.
As expected, the prep went without incident. The only hitch was my brain, meaning I had to stop momentarily from time to time to remind myself what the hell I was supposed to being doing. That’s COVID brain for you. Yes, everything was going just ducky. The table was set, bubbly water poured, and a small votive candle lit. Things were in the oven and the salad was ready to go. Then like proverbial lightning, major kitchen disaster struck.
When the timer on my phone went off I opened the oven door, potholder in the other hand. The goal was to take the large skillet containing the chicken out of the oven to check the temp. Two things before getting to the brief action sequence:
First, I always use a quick-read thermometer to make sure that chicken gets to the required 160-degrees. Medium-rare may be A-OK for beef but slightly pink chicken gives me the yeechies.
Second, the new fancy stainless steel pan Carla bought late last year is heavy. One Sunday in January during the NFL playoffs I followed the instructions on how to cure the cooking surface to the letter, only for the pan to end up looking like a mess of Rorschach ink blots. It definitely didn’t resemble the photo in the instructions--just like the sea monkeys of old.
Now to the incident. Rest assured that I’ve taken things out of a hot oven thousands of times. But for whatever reason, this time was different. COVID brain--or serious operator error--must have interfered. What happened next was this. Using the potholder, I grabbed the now very hot metal handle of the pan and removed it from the oven rack. But in microseconds, as I turned to put the pan on the stove top, I realized the entire palm of my hand wasn’t covered by the potholder. In fact, it was now registering all 375-degrees from the oven. Fire. Hot.
The result was, as noted earlier, simultaneously tragic and comic. I lost control of the pan just before getting it to the stove top. Then, just as with car accidents, time altered. It was like Sam Peckinpah movies when everything goes into super slow-motion and all the cowboys get shot.
Instead of witnessing a rain of gunfire, I watched in horror as the fancy big sauté pan filled with our winner-winner chicken dinner and the melted butter/olive oil combo slowly fell from the sky and hit the parquet floor. On impact, it made a great noise, as they used to say in the bible. I reacted by doing my best Little Miss Muffet imitation and jumped back several feet, lest I got splattered by hot oil. I also watched the chicken bounce a few times before finally settling on the floor.
At this point an expletive or two was definitely merited.
@#$%&! @#$%&! @#$%&!
In days past I would have barked like a beleaguered sailor. But experience has taught me that hissing curse words is far more effective and satisfying. After all, it worked for Voldemort. Otherwise, I was somehow eerily calm. The damage had been done. Then I heard Carla calling out from her office. “Everything OK?” I responded with something along the lines of, “yes, everything’s great. And dinner just hit the deck.”
Immediately it occurred to me that the 10-second rule was now in effect, meaning that food dropped should only spend seconds on the floor. Only problem was that I had already spent those ten precious seconds staring at the scene of the accident and swearing. I wondered if there was such a thing as a 30-second rule. If not, there was now.
I finally roused myself into action, picking up the chicken with a pair of tongs and putting it on a plate. I gently and thoroughly wiped it with multiple paper towels in an effort to remove any unwanted floor detritus. I then used almost half a roll of paper towels to wipe up all the oil that had splattered on the floor. However, despite my efforts, the floor was still shiny and a bit slippety, as we used to say to Maria when she was a tyke.
From there, it was plating dinner and calling the kids to the table. Entering the kitchen, Carla took one look at the floor in front of the stove and then looked at me. Then she got the giggles. By the time she sat down, she had the no-breathers. I laughed too. After all, what the hell was I going to do? Patrick was flummoxed. I didn’t bother to explain.
As for dinner, the chicken was fine. But there were a couple of bites on the gritty side. Chalk it up to roughage. Beyond that, the good news was that I somehow avoided burning my hand. And I had survived the chicken catastrophe unharmed. Rest assured that I’ll use the largest oven mitt we own the next time I reach for a hot pan in the oven. Otherwise, if anyone would like the recipe for gritty chicken, I’d be more than happy to share. It’s called Chicken Floorentine.