My Chinese-American husband is a fantastic cook. Andy can make any cuisine, from pulled pork barbecue to agedashi tofu.
His eggs Benedict are sublime. Pretty sure I joined Instagram just to make people envious over of his beef Wellington.
I am content to give Andy the cooking crown in our household. I focus on baking, which is my strength.
I stay in my lane.
Andy is NOT staying in his lane. He is veering over into MY baking lane. Maybe it’s because I showed reluctant promise with the crockpot. Maybe it’s because he’s nursing a grudge after I took his neighborhood cooking title and kept it for several years. He stole it back two years ago, but last year we tied.
Maybe he’s trying to redeem his birthday cake failures.
Or maybe it’s because he’s bored and quarantine is a great opportunity to prove he can rule the oven as well as the range. In the last two months, he’s made scones, lemon bars, and even madeleines. All were either overcooked or undercooked just enough that we both knew my baking remained superior. (Okay, his doughnuts were fabulous, but that’s more cooking than baking. It doesn’t count.)
I may have baked a batch or two of cookies just to reinforce my dominance.
Suspiciously soon after I put up post on making Shaker bread, Andy presented me with his first batch of baguettes.
“Not bad,” I told him.
“You don’t have to sound so surprised,” Andy huffed.
The second batch he shaped too small.
“Did you mean to make breadsticks?” I asked.
Andy glowered at me.
The third batch collapsed before going into the oven.
“The dog loves them!” I assured Andy. The dog growled at me until I gave him another piece. Andy just growled at me.
The fourth batch? Delicious. Almost Parisian, especially with French brie. The only one unhappy with that batch was the dog, who didn’t get any.
Yesterday, Andy made his fifth batch of baguettes. He shaped and scored the loaves like a pro. He checked on his loaves every 30 seconds, spraying them with water to mimic the old French ovens and give them a good crust. Before he spritzed, Andy even laid a dishtowel over the glass in the oven door to keep the cold water from shattering the glass. (This is important when baking at 500 degrees Fahrenheit.)
The first two baguettes turned out brilliantly.
Andy put in the second set of loaves, spritzed them, and closed the oven. “I think I’m getting really good at baking bread!” he told me triumphantly.
Andy pulled the oven open to spray his loaves again. Smoke billowed out.
The oven was on fire.
Well, not the actual oven. Andy had left the dishtowel in the oven after the last spritz. It was burning.
Andy grabbed the flaming dishtowel and threw it in the sink. I turned on the fan.
“That was almost very bad,” I observed.
“Yeah,” Andy mumbled. “Good thing I have to spray every thirty seconds.”
My friend JM called a little later and asked, “How’s your quarantine going?”
“Well, Andy tried to burn down the kitchen today so–”
Andy yelled, “I was not TRYING. And it was only a TOWEL.”
I took my phone outside as JM said, “Wow. I don’t usually hear Andy yell. Is everything okay? Or at least not still on fire?”
“Everything’s fine,” I assured her. “More than fine. He was getting pretty cocky about those baguettes. But now? Now they’re extra crispy and I am still the queen of the oven.”
The slightly scorched oven.