Coming off of my stunning success with family Greek Salad Bar night, I had a sneaking suspicion that my sophomore effort was doomed. Sure, I let myself revel just a little bit in the accomplishment of pleasing all of my picky eaters (and tricking my father into eating mint!), but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was about to go down in flames. If only I’d listened to my intuition and just mailed this one in with some Whole Foods takeout…
Truth be told, I blame the baby. She had me craving Mexican food so badly that I proceeded with a meal I *knew* was destined for complete and utter failure. Excessive ambition may have also hampered my efforts: I desperately wanted my sister to reconsider her little bean embargo. Cooking for a vegan who doesn’t care for beans or tofu is borderline impossible, unless you like eating plain salads, grilled vegetables, vegetable soup, and oh yeah, vegetables. I thought that if I could just get her to come around on beans, cooking for my family would instantly become a million times easier. Having prepared this Bon Appetit recipe for chile-spiked pinto beans countless times before to excellent reviews, I convinced myself that this dish would be the one.
Rounding out my delicious-but-ill fated menu? Homemade enchiladas, Jessica Alba style (meaning healthy, not with a side of bitchface) and clementine jicama salad. My mother was totally into it (being a notorious enchilada hound), but my sister was far from encouraged by my promises of bean nirvana (she might have also been pissed that the rest of us were going to be feasting on enchiladas when she could eat neither cheese nor tortillas). The recipes themselves were not complex — the salad itself is all knife skills, and the “homemade” sauce for the enchiladas turns out to be a combination of canned commercial sauces (P&V recommends Hatch green sauce and Las Palmas medium heat red sauce ). I did, however, go all-out insofar as effort was concerned, poaching my own chicken for the enchilada filling (although a store-bought rotisserie chicken would be a brill substitute if you’re tight in time) and soaking dried beans (P&V favors Bob’s Red Mill) rather than using the canned variety. I can’t say enough what a revelation dried beans are — yes, they require some advance planning (although an hour-long quick soak is usually enough for very fresh beans), but truly, once you compare the fragrance of an earthy pot of dried-and-soaked beans versus the (let’s not mince words) Purina-esque aroma of canned beans, you will. Never. Look. Back.
Two-ish hours of cooking later? Well, my sister still hates beans, but I may have made some progress in that she objected to their flavor rather than their texture (so really, she might not hate beans but she definitely hates my beans). My father took a cruise by the dinner spread, listened to my mother’s enthusiastic pitch about the meal (she must have known he would hate it) and declared that he would “eat later.” It wasn’t until the next morning that I found out he had eventually made flipping french toast for dinner. My mother, on the other hand, loved the enchiladas so much that she went back for seconds, which might sound like success but really means that the next day she felt guilty and told me she was having grilled vegetables for dinner that evening (i.e., she was done with my sinful cooking, thankyouverymuch).
All in all, this was hands-down the most poorly received delicious meal ever cooked in our kitchen. I’m discouraged, to be sure, but sophomore efforts generally tend to be underwhelming. Wait, does that make me the Hootie & the Blowfish of family cooking? Dammit!