Biting off more than we get to chew

I had such a fine plan for Friday night. Make a cool meal, settle in for the season premiere of Stargate Atlantis.

(We are huge SciFi channel freaks. And in looking up that link I discovered there are full episodes online of Eureka, one of the best shows on TV, so it looks like I’ll be watching shows on my computer in preparation for THAT season premiere. So thanks.)

My ambition outstripped my capabilities here.

My family loves Chinese food. I do too, but I hate paying $30-plus to feed everyone, and thought surely I could make some of this, and fresher tasting.

I have The Book of Chinese Cooking, an excellent primer on Chinese cooking, and resolved to put it to full use: appetizer, entree, dessert. Spring rolls, I decided, with homemade skins. Mandarin chicken on egg fried rice. And Peking apples to end the meal.

Bwahahahaha. I was kidding myself in staggering fashion, going 1 for 3, and not without using five skillets, much to the dismay of my daughter, who had dish washing that day.

I tried to do all the prep work first, scattering little bowls and cups of ingredients so all I had to do was combine things at the proper moment. This worked fine for the chopping and liquids, and I added several items to the bowl we’ve starting keeping for organic waste. I made batter and syrup for the apples and set them aside. I made batter for the spring roll skins and set that aside. I made spring roll filling, the chicken dish and the fried rice, all without incident.

Then came the spring roll skins. I poured the thinnest layer of batter possible into a 6-inch skillet, just as instructed, and swirled it around to coat the bottom. Already, I was wondering how I was going to get 20 skins out of this batch. The skin cooked quickly, and I set it aside, covering it with a wet cloth.

I kept going, but the oddest thing happened. As they cooled, the skins seemed to get thicker, almost fluffy. OK, maybe less batter, but how?

I ended up with about eight thin pancakes. I dutifully tried to roll one up with filling inside, and it cracked as I thought it would. No amount of egg wash was going to seal this thing. Deep frying only would make things messier.

About this time I gave up. I had been at this for pushing two hours from the beginning of prep, I had enough food cooked to serve and I was done. The apple batter and syrup went into the refrigerator bottom drawer. The spring roll filling became an extra entree. And many, many dishes went into the sink.

My husband expressed empathy, knowing how long I’d been working just to be only half successful. I shrugged, philosophical. “You try new things, some of them are bound to fail,” I said, truly not upset, just a bit disappointed.

Dinner the next night: brats he grilled, and deli potato salad.

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