People sometimes say to me: “Adam, you’ve been the Amateur Gourmet for three years. Are you always going to be an amateur?” As I consider the question I think of all my kitchen triumphs–my braised lamb shanks, my perfect roast chicken, my Amanda Hesser almond cake. I could very well answer, “No! One day I will graduate to something more than amateur, I’ll be the Perfectly Adequate Gourmet and change my website name and web address and my promotional t-shirt design.” Yet, every now and then something happens that knocks me off my pedestal, back to my humble place in the Amateur Pen. That’s precisely what happened on Super Bowl Sunday when I made this for dinner:
It’s a perfectly reasonable Super Bowl dinner. Some might even call it inspired. Sausages and onion rings: man food to eat while watching a PBS documentary about the history of the Broadway musical. The sausages were D’Artagnan wild boar sausages (available at Key Foods) and the onion rings were from an Epicurious recipe (you can read it here). The Dinner of Death began with the onion rings when I made the mistake that almost all cooks warn you not to make when frying in your kitchen… perhaps the most dangerous mistake I’ve ever made…
It started simple enough. Two onions, cut in half, sliced thinly and soaked in buttermilk. A flour mixture with cayenne and paprika and salt:
The onions go into the dry mix and you toss them around:
Meanwhile, you heat vegetable oil in a pot to 350. I purposely filled the pot only halfway because of Mario Batali’s warning, “Anything more and it could spill over: you don’t want THAT to happen.”
Why? Because hot oil can catch fire and if it’s spilling all over your kitchen, you can burn your whole house down.
I added the first handful of onions to the pot:
They fried up great. Took two minutes. I removed them to paper towels and let them drain. Then I added the next handful. Hell, I thought, I’ll add another handful. And another handful.
I wasn’t thinking. I was daydreaming. It took a moment and then I heard the fizzing up and watched as the oil began boiling over.
“Oh shit! Oh shit!”
Diana was standing near the bathroom.
“Oh God…” she said, watching in terror. “Oh God Oh God…”
I quickly moved the bubbling pot away from the stove but little deposits had already caught fire. Hot oil splashed on to the floor and I fully extended my arm over the end of the counter and waited for it to fizzle down. The fires on the stove top went out and after a few harried moments everything was calm and ok.
I set the pot down at the other end of the counter and turned the burners off. My heart was really racing: I was in high adrenaline mode. I really didn’t know what I was going to do if all that oil caught fire—we don’t even have a fire extinguisher. (I know, I know: I better get one.)
This is the scene of the disaster, though it’s hard to tell from the picture:
Here’s the pool of oil from the pot boiling over:
So much boiled over that the burner wouldn’t start again. (I later lifted the hood of the stove and sopped up all the oil with paper towels. Now our burners don’t burn as high, though, so I wonder what’s going on?)
Believe it or not, despite the trauma–this was my scariest kitchen moment yet–I had all these leftover onions and all this leftover oil so I charged ahead, like a brave soldier, and heated that oil up again. When it got to 350 I carefully fried the rest of the onions and they were super tasty. “It was worth it,” joked Diana.
You’d think that was the end of our peril, but then I started cooking the sausages:
I’ve never cooked sausage before, especially not wild boar sausage. When it got browned on all sides I put it on the bun and Diana asked if I was sure it was cooked.
“OF course!” I said and took a bite. The inside was completely raw. I ran into my room and looked it up on the internet and sausages need to cook for 12 minutes. So back into the pan it went until fully cooked, mad boar disease coursing through my veins. When it was really firmed up (10 minutes in) I cut in and saw that it was cooked. Into the bun it went.
And so, despite all the hijinks, the dinner was super tasty. Tasty and humbling. It’s moments like these that I’m sure of my status, secure of my title: I am the Amateur Gourmet, now and forever!