Monday, December 27, 2010

Ahhh, Don’t You Just Love Christmas?

The beautiful tree…The presents…The special dinner…with wonderful champagne…The blood…The emergency room.

All I can say is…the best laid plans…

It all started well enough. Just a lovely, lazy day…until I went into the kitchen. Actually, that was going okay too.

The soup was finished...

I had made the custard for the floating islands the day before. I made the meringue that morning. The recipe is at the end of this post.

I had softened onions and added spinach for stuffing.

Then I started on the boning of a nice big chicken, which I was going to stuff with the spinach mixture, roll up and tie tightly, then roast it and serve in it slices.

Don’t read this next bit if you’re squeamish.

Unfortunately, I had a run-in with a pair of kitchen scissors. As I was cutting through one of the bones on the chicken, I actually snipped right through my finger – my pinkie on my left hand. I immediately thought, I am NOT going to pull a Jamie, so I took paper towels (lots of them) and stemmed the flow (a bit) and got two bandaids on REALLY tight. I used compression and held it above my heart and it seemed to stop.

I went on with things for a while. The incompletely-boned chicken I decided would become butterflied chicken. I got that into the oven and I simmered the beginnings of the spinach stuffing in cream and called it creamed spinach. I even began the risotto.

Then I realized that the bleeding really wasn’t stopping. I took off the bandaids and it REALLY wasn’t stopping, so I summoned H and said perhaps we needed to make a little trip to the hospital. Right before we left, the chicken came out of the oven and was wrapped tightly in foil.

At the hospital, I learned that there had been many “lacerations” that day, all from preparing Christmas dinner. Someone had stabbed herself drying her knife; someone had had a rather serious run-in with a mandolin; there WAS a person who had fallen off her horse, but that was incidental to Christmas. I was the only one who had done the deed with scissors, so I felt a bit special and happy that no one could criticize my knife skills.

FOUR stitches plus one tetanus shot later...we were on our way home.

(See? I wasn’t faking and we’re talking about a tiny pinkie.)

The kids had heated up what they were supposed to and put the chicken into a hot oven for 10 minutes. Actually, (somehow) it was perfectly cooked.

The best part? The champagne, lots of it, which didn’t seem to hit me as quickly as it usually does.

I recommend it after every hospital visit.

So, ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas and please don’t become a statistic of careless kitchen deeds, like I was.

Floating Islands (serves 6, generously)

Printable recipe here


8 whites

1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 250°F. Butter and sugar (very well) a large soufflé dish (about 8 cups).

Beat whites until frothy on medium speed. Add cream of tartar. Beat on high speed just until soft peaks form. Add the sugar by tablespoons, turning down the speed just as you add the sugar and then returning the mixer to high. Beat until very stiff and glossy.

Put into prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean. Cool on counter. Meringue will fall…a lot. Cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. It may be baked early in the day for that night.

Prepare custard.


3 cups milk (1% is fine)

2 cups heavy cream

6 yolks

¾ cup plus 2 tbls. sugar (see note)

2 tsps. vanilla extract

Bring milk and cream just to the boil in a medium saucepan.

Beat yolks and sugar until pale yellow with mixer. SLOWLY, beat ½ cup hot milk and cream mixture into yolks. Keep beating. Slowly, pour in remaining hot milk and cream, whisking all the time. Rinse out saucepan and return mixture to it.

Cook over medium heat, stirring all the time, until custard measures 180°F on a candy thermometer. Strain mixture through sieve into clean bowl. Cool to room temperature and add vanilla extract. Chill for at least an hour. Overnight is fine too.

To serve, cut meringue into fat wedges and place each in shallow bowl. Pour custard around meringue. Serve immediately.

Note: One cup of sugar is a bit too sweet. ¾ cup isn’t quite sweet enough, so this is 2 tablespoons shy of a cup.


Tracy from Rah Cha Chow said...

Oh no! Who knew cooking Christmas dinner would be so hazardous?

Hope you have a happy new year, with no visits to the ER!

Kitty said...

So these meringue islands: you pour liquidy custard over baked meringue? I LOVE anything with custard -- pie, flan, bread pudding, creme brulee, anything. This recipe sounds so good.

One thing I learned when making a flan with melted sugar was not to taste the melted sugar. (Can this REALLY taste like caramel? I HAD to know). OMG. I thought it would burn a hole through my tongue. I wondered why everybody but me knows melted sugar is like lava. The bad thing is I tried it again by sticking my finger in it. Yikes.

Sorry about your cut finger. I've done that before and had to have stitches which I removed myself, something I don't recommend.

Sounds like you had a good Christmas though. I wish my mother was still alive: the food she could make! I think I just had a sandwich this year, maybe a pound of bacon.


Sheila said...

Sue!!!! I am laughing out loud! But only because I love you and I've so been there. I was lucky to enough to have the doctor come to me in my own kitchen and stitch me back together with medical super glue! (and I wasn't deboning a chicken - I was cutting butternut squash.)

I managed to slice my thumb last week and have a decent scar forming... So my mom gave me this for Christmas.

MAYBE you should get one too!

Hope you wear your pinkie scar like a badge of honor!

Dinner sounds fabulous!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,
I'm glad you're OK! Nothing like a holiday emergency room visit to make you appreciate the joy of the season, right? Happy New Year!

Sue said...

Hiya Tracy,
Apparently there are tons of ninnies, just like me.

Happy Holidays to you too! Did we beat you in snowfall totals?

Hi Kitty,
In classic Floating Islands, you poach oval-shaped meringues in milk or even water. Then you serve them in a bowl of custard.

THIS recipe is easier, because you put the whole egg white mixture in one dish and bake it and it is SO good. BTW, I just added the step of sieving the custard after it’s cooked. I had left that out.

I also had a mishap (a second degree burn) with caramel many years ago. That’s when I learned that a sugar burn is MUCH more serious than one from oil. Did your tongue ever recover?

I don’t think one ever stops missing Mom on Christmas…or Thanksgiving…or birthdays.

I’m glad YOU’RE laughing. You had a doctor come to YOU?!! That’s amazing.

That glove IS great, but it’s kind of unwieldy. I have one, which I never use. Have you actually tried it yet?

Dinner, somehow, WAS good.

I’m fine now, I probably just wanted attention. And luckily, it’s getting better every day.

I hope you had a great time and your travel plans weren’t too affected by the weather.

Dona said...

Christmas morning I had a run in with my mandoline. Tiny slice, big bleeding that wouldn't stop. I went for the duct tape, something I learned on Top Chef. Worked like a charm.

Kitty said...

Sue, you almost made me cry about missing Mom. It's been almost six years since she died from cancer, that horrible disease, and even though I was 54 years old, I felt like an orphan. I stayed with her her last year (actually she only lived a year after being diagnosed) and remember having to help her to the bathroom because she had actually forgotten how to walk. Heartbreak.

I don't understand why so many sitcoms, like Everybody Loves Raymond (I hate him myself), revolve around insulting their parents and wishing they would go away. That's funny?

Anyway, sorry I called your Floating Islands Meringue Islands! I wonder how many times I'll have to try that before I get it right, if ever? I did make a buttermilk pie from described as custardy, and it was so good, I ate it in two days. I used frozen pie crust; I still haven't got the hang of that yet.

Did they not show a new episode of Top Chefs All-Stars on Wednesday, or did I just miss it?

Sue said...

Ahhh, Kitty, I know exactly what you mean.

Floating Islands ARE Meringue Islands. Whatever you call them, they’re delicious AND easy. Try them.

Thankfully, Top Chefs was a repeat, so more drama next year. Happy Holidays!!!

Emily said...

OH MY GOSH. I can't believe this! I'm so glad you're okay! That's horrible... I remember you emailing me about all of the prep work you were doing.

Has anything like that happened to you before? And to think it happened from BONING a chicken of all things! :)

The floating islands look gorgeous. I'm going to make your recipe soon...