My Dinner with Terry

"Come on over", he said, inviting me to a home-cooked meal.  "What’s for dinner this time?", I asked.  It had been a while since I trusted my good friend to lavish me with his version of haute cuisine .  Last time I was there, he waited about 10 minutes too long to take the dessert souffles out of the oven, even though he had tested them for doneness right at the half-hour mark and determined that they had been totally cooked. I remember the moment well.  "Shouldn’t you remove those from the oven?", I asked.  "Nah – they look done, but believe me, they aren’t.  They can take another few minutes – I’ve done this before, trust me", he said, in an almost chiding tone.  When he removed the ramekins from their water bath, they looked leathery and tired.  Inedible, these sad attempts at pastry basically ruined a fantastic meal.  Clearly my friend tried to overdo it, getting that extra little lift when there was no lift to get.  So I was nervous about another meal with him.  Who knew what would happen this time.

"I’m braising stuff tonight – it’s impossible to screw up" he offered, quite confidently. "Short ribs.  The best – you just let them stew for hours, if need be. You can’t possibly mess them up".  When I arrived they were already in the oven, cooking along quite efficiently.  He said he had browned them well, getting a good caramelization right at the start, searing them on high heat and moving them to a casserole dish and then into the oven, where they would remain for a minimum of two hours, but where they could stew for up to four – a huge window of opportunity for culinary delight.  We sat, had a glass of wine, reminisced.  At the 90 minute mark, he shot up out of his chair.  "Time to get them out.".  "Why?", I asked. "Not sure what is telling me this, they didn’t look done when I last checked, but I have a strange feeling they’re finished". I protested, quite effusively. "They can’t be done.  Don’t take them out.  You’ll regret it.  They’ll be tough and undercooked.  You can leave them in.  Please, leave them in",  I implored.  But he was having none of it.  Out they came, plated, and served almost immediately: no rest for this weary cut of meat.  Chewy, with the texture of rawhide, the short ribs had been wrested from the process far too early.  They weren’t, as I feared, ready to come out. 

I promised never to go back to Terry’s house for dinner again.  I just can’t take the "cooking by hunch" thing.   There’s science in it, but my friend disavowed that science at the moments when our gustatory pleasure depended on it.  No more, I thought. From here on in, I cook my own meals.  And then the invitation came.  Tonight. 8:10pm.  I thought about it for a while.  Should I go?  What kind of bizarre confection will get mangled tonight?  Will he drop the decanter full of ’82 Lafite?  Will he remember to get the cobbler into the oven to warm up, in time for the close of the meal?  Will he go on hunch, or will he make sure the juices are running clear?  So many questions.  But then I realized it’s an impossible offer to turn down.  It’s free.  There’s a good chance it will go well. He always works with great ingredients, and his third course is usually pretty reliable.  I have to give him the chance, I suppose.  Even though he may not have the perfect touch in the kitchen, he’s still better than most. I just have to know how this meal turns out.

25 comments… add one
  • Great. Absolutely fantastic post. One of the funniest I’ve read. And so, so, so sadly true.

    Paul SF August 8, 2006, 12:43 pm
  • Nicely done.

    Devine August 8, 2006, 1:35 pm
  • Awesome!!! Here’s to a perfectly grilled steak!

    Cape Codder August 8, 2006, 1:38 pm
  • After the first paragraph I’m thinking, ok, this could still turn in to SF totally turning his doom and gloom around with some great Food/Red Sox analogy. Middle of the second paragraph and I still like the story but now I’m wondering when will this turn in to something that’s related to our beloved team? Finishing the third paragraph, I say to me self, ok, nothing about the Sox, but I’m going to go have dinner with you and Terry again tonight and maybe it will be different, maybe the Sox will turn it around tonight.

    LocklandSF August 8, 2006, 1:45 pm
  • Who does Wallace Shawn play in the movie version?

    Nick-YF August 8, 2006, 1:51 pm
  • Wow, very well done SF (no pun intended), comparing Sox pitchers to souffles and shortribs. Hopefully, writing this piece was theraputic for you because I can literally see your blood pressure rise through the computer screen whenever the issue of Tito’s deciding when/or when not to give Sox pitchers the hook comes up.

    bloodyank78 August 8, 2006, 2:15 pm
  • One question though: Why wasn’t Ron Jeremy invited?

    Paul SF August 8, 2006, 2:20 pm
  • Ok, I lied, two questions: Where was the night when Tito asked the food if it was done?

    Paul SF August 8, 2006, 2:23 pm
  • He’s currently playing for the Yanks. It would be akward.

    Nick-YF August 8, 2006, 2:24 pm
  • Mmmmm. Short ribs.

    SF August 8, 2006, 2:24 pm
  • Fascinating.

    Laura August 8, 2006, 2:26 pm
  • Souffle problems, huh? That’s funny. My friend Joe always knows exactly how to close out a meal. Been doin’ it the same way for about a decade, and it almost always ends well. Sometimes he overdoes it with the third course—he has a habbit of relying on the same mediocre recipes that have been around forever—but it’s hard to complain about a guy who spends his day working for a guy who makes Gordon Ramsay look like Mister Rogers.

    YF August 8, 2006, 2:26 pm
  • Didn’t you have a similar experience eating at Grady’s a few years back?

    lp August 8, 2006, 3:19 pm
  • Grady’s place got shut down by the authorities – health code violations. Stopped going there gladly.

    SF August 8, 2006, 3:20 pm
  • this post would be very appropos if we were talking about grady little. or ken macha. or eric wedge. i don’t think francona is in the same group.
    but we’ve gone around about this already.

    beth August 8, 2006, 3:28 pm
  • this post is about SF’s complicated relationship with Terry. SF would not even entertain an offer of dinner from any of those other managers. Their food stinks.

    Nick-YF August 8, 2006, 3:31 pm
  • Eric Wedge I hear tried to put out a grease fire during one of his shindigs a while back. Used a gasoline can to do it. Big mess.
    Inexplicably, he did the same thing two nights later, then just let the fire burn itself out on the stove.

    Paul SF August 8, 2006, 3:39 pm
  • I’m going to start calling Beth “Tito’s Bodyguard”. Everytime Francona gets criticized or razzed over here she pops in to defend him. Cracks me up. But hey, good on you Beth, I’d defend Torre if I thought he was getting unfairly attacked.

    bloodyank78 August 8, 2006, 3:49 pm
  • Paul you just made me laugh so hard w/your Eric Wedge and gasoline line.

    bloodyank78 August 8, 2006, 3:51 pm
  • Oy, Beth. Laugh a little.

    SF August 8, 2006, 4:30 pm
  • beth, have you talked to any Phillies fans?

    lp August 8, 2006, 4:34 pm
  • BY: the problem is that Beth ALWAYS thinks Terry is being unfairly attacked. Even in overtly humorous posts rife with food metaphors in which Tito is described as a chef who is “better than most”.

    SF August 8, 2006, 4:37 pm
  • I know SF, she’s super sensitive about anything said about Francona.

    bloodyank78 August 8, 2006, 4:56 pm
  • You wanna try these ribs? They’re real good, reaaal good. They reaaly know how to get the job done, yeah. And they’re sooooo good when you need them to be. Real good.

    Kevin August 9, 2006, 2:12 pm
  • Torre hasn’t cooked a meal in years. He’s been phoning in the orders for a while. We’re waiting for Chez Girardi to open in the Spring of 2007.

    Old Hickory August 9, 2006, 3:46 pm

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