Today was a pretty busy day, Worked in the morning, then the Lowe's guys showed up around noon to install the dryer. They ran into a problem almost immediately: the outlet is on the right of the old dryer, way on the opposite side from the washer. Way too far for the 6' cable they had brought, which is the longest cable made these days. And there's a shelf over that spot so we couldn't just move the washer and dryer stack over there.
The old dryer had this really long, kind of kloodgy-looking cable. I mean it looked like someone made it themselves, there's wads of electrical tape around both ends of the cable. The guy said he didn't think they had ever made them that long, so it probably was handmade. I prevailed on the guy to use that cable instead of the new one, allowing us to stack the washer and dryer, which was the whole point of this purchase, but only by promising that I wouldn't hold him responsible if it shorts out or starts a fire or something.
He also insisted that I have someone take a look at that cable & rewire the ends of it. Which is a good idea, but I have to admit I don't see the urgency of it. I mean, that cable has been hooked up to our old dryer since we moved in, what, six years ago? And he said that the new dryer wasn't going to draw more power than the old one did. (I'm actually thinking maybe less, since the new one is an energy efficient model.) So why is it more dangerous now than it was yesterday, when we didn't even know there was a problem.
That said, I do see his point that a rewired, perfectly safe cable is a better thing to have powering your dryer than a funky cable of unknown safety. It's too bad we didn't find this out a month ago, because Georg's brother is apparently very good with electrical stuff and he was here while we were in Vegas. Though it might have been a bit much, asking Rob to do electrical repairs while housesitting.
Other minor problems: they had to partly remove the screen door to get the old dryer out (that was actually no big deal, they just put it back together when they were done), and they couldn't use the new tubey thing for the vent, because the old tube doesn't connect to anything at the floor, it just goes right through the floor into the crawlspace. The guy wasn't willing to go under the house (who can blame him) and he couldn't connect the new tube to the old one, so he just used the old one. The old one is in pretty bad shape, it tends to crack and split, so Georg is going to try and replace it himself.
But all that aside, the new dryer is in! I've got to say it looks pretty impressive all stacked up like that. We haven't used it yet because we did all our laundry yesterday, in case anything went wrong today. I have some fabric I could wash tomorrow.
As soon as those guys left, I started cleaning the floor and wall where the old dryer used to be. It had been there since we moved in, and right next to the stove, so I think you can imagine how disgusting it was. (If you think I'm just a bad housekeeper, well you got me; I am. But still, if you have a freestanding stove, take a look behind it and see if you're not horrified too. If you clean behind your stove regularly, then I don't want to talk to you.) Took a couple of hours but I managed to get the grime up pretty well if I do say so myself. Did a number on my hands though. They still feel all pinched and dried out from the cleaning products.
Of course, it wouldn't be my house without a disturbing floor discovery. This time it's a large square hole in the hideous linoleum, that reveals more of the equally hideous linoleum from the dining room. I guess both rooms originally had that white stuff and then the red stuff was laid down in the kitchen at some point. The white stuff has gotten waterlogged and can be lifted up, to reveal hardwood in truly horrible shape.
The problem with creating all this free floor space was that, without the washer and dryer to use as countertops, we were left with less than 1'x2' of counter space. (that is not an exaggeration. I measured.) So I went to World Market -- I love that store -- and bought a kitchen cart. Fits pretty well into the space, has a couple of shelves, and seems like it will be a nice workspace. I think filling the shelves will hide the nasty spot in the floor. At least I hope so.
By the time I had gone to the store, bought the cart, wrestled it out of the car and into the house (no mean feat as it weighs 75% of what I do) and put it together, it was 6 pm and I was pretty well exhausted. So what did I do, did I lie on the couch watching TV until Georg brought home takeout? No silly, of course not! I guess I was feeling some kind of nervous energy, because I somehow decided that tonight was the perfect night to cook Julia Child recipes. I ended up making Suprêmes de Volaille à Brun et Épinards à la Mornay, Gratinés. Or in English, Sauteed Chicken and The Most Complicated F***ing Creamed Spinach Ever Invented.
Seriously, that spinach recipe was insane. It took 2 1/2 hours! First blanch the spinach. I started on a note of rebellion by refusing to follow her instructions on how long to do this. I don't care if she is Julia Child, boiling spinach for five minutes is not "blanching until almost tender." That is boiling it into oblivion. I kept it in the water for a minute and even that much was painful.
Next, soak the spinach in cold water, then drain and squeeze it by handfuls to get rid of excess water. At 3 pounds of spinach, this took a long time. While the spinach was draining, I sauteed a half pound of sliced mushrooms in butter and olive oil. Next, chopped the spinach and then cooked it (in the same pan, ha ha, Julia's fiendish plot to cause dishpan hands is foiled!) in a bit of butter until it looked dry. Then, my second diversion from orthodoxy. I was supposed to sprinkle flour into the spinach, then add a cup of stock and let it cook slowly. But I was concerned about the amount of flour in the sauce so I omitted the flour here, and only used a half cup of stock. Cover and simmer for fifteen minutes.
(I should mention that each of these substeps is a separate recipe in the book, and she has you salt and pepper every one. I gave it a light sprinkle of pepper each time, but I'm not crazy about salt, plus the cheese was really salty. So I hardly added any salt.)
While the spinach was simmering I made the mornay. Which is a bechamel with cheese in it. Which is made by melting butter, mixing in flour, letting it cook, then dumping in two cups of boiling milk (uh oh, another pan. The dishpan hands are gaining on me). Well actually, we didn't have milk, so I used a combination of half-and-half and stock. Anyway, dumping in two cups of boiling liquid and then whisk, whisk, whisk while bringing to a boil. I was expecting a horrible clumpy mess but by some miracle, it turned out just right. Mix in grated cheese (should have been swiss, but I used monterey jack and some really nice pecorino romano, which was what I had) and there it is, sauce mornay.
Now, a buttered casserole, some sauce in the bottom, then the spinach and mushrooms, the rest of the sauce on top, sprinkle with more cheese and into the oven for 1/2 hour. That makes about 50 total minutes of cooking the spinach, plus the 5 minutes I was supposed to have boiled it for at the beginning. I'm surprised to say that the spinach did not dissolve into mush. In fact it was really really good. Athough, I must confess, I wondered if it was worth all that work. I mean, it wasn't the redefinition of spinach, after which all other spinach dishes pale in comparison. Just really really good creamed spinach.
While the épinards were baking I made the chicken. Which was much easier by comparison. Just melt a huge honk of butter in a saute pan (same pan, but I did have to wash it after the spinach. Damn you dishpan hands!). My third break with Julia: I was in no mood for clarifying butter, so I used regular butter. Also, I used white onion instead of shallot. So the chicken was a bit more rustic than in the original recipe. I wonder how you say "rustic" in French. "Rustique" maybe? It's "rustico" in Italian so it must be something like that.
Okay, so we have a huge honk of non-clarified butter in a pan, making that beautiful white foam that clarified butter does not make. Add boneless chicken breasts which have been sprinkled with pepper, but not dredged in flour, because again there was enough flour to go around in the mornay. Cook until done, then remove to a plate. Throw the white onion into the pan with all the butter and stir up all the "chicken gunk" (I don't know what that stuff that sticks to the bottom of the pan is really called, but it's the best part). Then add port and stock, turn the heat up to high and boil until it thickens to a glossy syrup. This might have happened faster if the chicken had been floured. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley, and there you have it. The chicken was nicely cooked and the sauce was divine. Probably too rich to have the chicken and spinach together, but it's not like we eat like this every day. (do you even want to know how much butter I used? A stick and a half. We only ate half the spinach, so I figure we each consumed about a half stick of butter. Ai.)
The recipes weren't hard, just time consuming. I can't imagine how Julia/Julie managed to do this night after night, two or three recipes a night, when she wasn't even getting home from work until 8 sometimes. I started cooking just after 6 and we ate at 8:45. After which I suddenly realized how tired I was and collapsed. Good thing there were idle times during the cooking that I was able to wash most of the dishes, because I'm sure not doing them now.