We had 7 people for brunch this past Saturday morning. Normally, brunch is a piece of cake for me. Eggs, grits, maybe scones or biscuits (in this case scones), a potato of some form, fruit, and bacon. Hubby handles the bacon – cooking it on a large electric skillet on the breakfast table, out of my way in the kitchen. I cook everything else, and have made brunch so often that I can do it in my sleep.
At least, usually that’s how it works.
Now, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for me – our dog’s had 2 surgeries (but now cancer free, thank you God), hubby’s been sick, my stepfather is ill – and I wasn’t in the greatest place for entertaining. But we had weekend company – my college friend B–, I wasn’t cooking dinner that night, and we always do Saturday brunch when B–’s in town. Brunch is easy, and cheap. (Which was important because lots of money went to the dog’s surgeries.) No biggie.
I made lemon ginger scones the night before, cut out the dough, and froze it so I could bake the scones fresh Saturday morning (and I have extra in the freezer to enjoy another day). I had all my pans and ingredients at the ready so I could get started first thing in the morning. I’ll cut up fruit first, start the grits and home fries, then get the scones in the oven and make the scrambled eggs while everything else cooks.
I have this routine down. I know when to start each item so they all finish at about the same time.
Except the bacon. That’s what screwed me up. I decided, since hubby hadn’t been feeling well, that I would let him sleep in and I would take care of the bacon. Now, I can’t easily go back and forth from the electric skillet to the stove when I have three burners and the oven in use, so I decided to bake the bacon. Chefs do it all the time on TV, even Cooking Light in their March 2011 issue said baking gave you the best bacon, and you didn’t have to babysit it. I have the oven on anyway, at nearly the same temperature that Cooking Light calls for, why not kill two birds with one stone?
Did I mention this was turkey bacon? That makes a difference in the cooking time. And I wanted to do a whole pack of bacon, which didn’t completely fit on the baking rack so I had to overlap a little. (Only have two oven racks, one of which was occupied with scones, so couldn’t use two baking sheets for bacon.)
Tip: If you want the bacon to brown and cook evenly in the oven, air must circulate around it. Air can’t circulate if the entire rack is covered in bacon. I wound up having to flip the bacon and rearrange it halfway through baking. So much for hands off.
Have I described before how small my kitchen is? It’s a one-butt kitchen, as we say, and I don’t have a lot of counter space. I’m already using three burners, a large baking sheet for scones, and now a baking sheet for bacon. I pulled the scones out when they were done, but the bacon wasn’t quite finished, and I had no where on the counter to put it. I turned the oven off, left the bacon in, and tried to finish the rest of my dishes.
My oven retains a lot of heat when the pizza stone is in it. Food continues to cook in that residual heat. So by the time I had counter space free where I could put the baking sheet, the bacon was overdone. Crispy. Crunchy. Slightly black.
You know what? No one cared but me. People still ate 3/4 of the bacon, and devoured every other part of the meal.
(Actually, that’s a lie. Hubby cared, so even tired or sick, he’s doing the bacon from now on.)
What did I learn?
- Don’t try to do something to take the load off someone else if you’re already managing 5 things and adding one more will throw off your routine and possibly risk all six tasks. Hubby is always happy to help, and I should have let him do what he does best.
- Don’t try to cook something for company that you’ve never made before. I shouldn’t try to bake bacon for guests until I’ve cooked it that way for myself and know what I’m doing.
- I need to give myself a break. Everyone else took the bacon in stride, and were just happy to be fed. One bad dish didn’t spoil the brunch, and my friends would argue that it wasn’t even a bad dish. I’m dwelling on the bacon, and everyone else is enjoying the scones, grits, eggs, potatoes, fruit, and yes, the bacon.
So what’s your burnt bacon? Ever screwed up part of a meal for guests but overcame it? Please share your story in the comments!