I’ve been crying a lot recently, although not all that often at dinner. Close friends will say that’s nothing new. I’m quick to tears. A song, movie, advertisement can have me sniffling. And don’t even get me started on that NPR feature StoryCorps; that’s always good for a sob. When I talk to people, about anything at all, the weather, the Giant’s winning, the recent election (ok, that could be cause for tears), I will often well up. Teachers and grocery check out people probably think I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I’ll blame my recent even more frequent tears on perimenopause. But then, I have blamed all sorts of things on perimenopause, for, like, the last ten years or so. It’s like teething for babies; explains every ailment.
I dropped the girls off at school the morning of Halloween. 1.0 was in costume (Cher from Clueless); 2.0 was not. She carried a couple of options (one of which was Magenta from Rocky Horror) in a bag just in case the mood struck her later in the day. I rounded the corner from school and saw a dad walking his two daughters across the street. Two princesses (Snow White and Cinderella) decked out in Disney’s sparkly finest. I started to cry, really cry. The father held each of the girls by the hand and I can remember what that felt like, clammy little palms, fingers clutching mine. I miss those little people!
I know, I’m romanticizing that time, leaving out the tantrums and the middle of the night wake-ups and the whining, all the whining. But what I wouldn’t give to go back, do it all again. Or maybe even start again now. Madness, I know. I’m forty-five, on the cusp of the empty nest (new adventure!) and (remember?) perimenopausal. And I’m lucky, I like my Husband, so getting to be just the two of us again will be great. But it would also be great to have a couple more kids, like a second family, except with the same father (don’t think I could break in another husband). I’d be better at it this time, wouldn’t I? Pay closer attention.
And maybe all these tears are about my identity. I’m a stay at home mom and I’ve relished that roll; even when it sucks, it’s a fantastic gig. So what will I be in three years when Daughter 2.0 is happily (please God) ensconced in college?
Daughter 1.0 has been asking me to drive to school lately. She has her license and the use of a car and had been getting herself and her sister to school. I am a circle driver extraordinaire and more than happy to take my girls (though I do reserve the right to grumble about it occasionally). Maybe this is 1.0’s gift to me, a way to let me know that I’m still needed. Or maybe she’s feeling not quite ready to be so independent, wants someone to take care of her for a little while longer. Or could be she just wants to save on parking money. That’s ok, I’ll take it.
My Husband made an amazing paella like dish for Saturday night dinner. He based it on Thomas Keller’s recipe, but simplified it for the home cook. So yummy! There are many components, but really it’s not hard.
Faux Paella with Chicken, Mussels and Clams
1/4 cup canola oil
Half an onion chopped finely (like a grain of cooked rice)
2 teaspoons saffron threads
2 cups short grain rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken drumsticks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Spanish chorizo sausage cut into 1/4 inch slices
12 small mussels
24 little neck clams
1/4 dry white wine
4 roasted piquillo peppers from a jar, cut into strips
1 cup blanched green beans and cut into 1 inch pieces
Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley to garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Heat the canola oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat until hot. Add the onions and a sprinkle of salt and reduce the heat to medium low and cook gently for 3 minutes. Add the saffron. Reduce the heat to very low and cook for another 2 minutes, careful not to brown the onions. Add the rice and turn up the heat to medium, stirring the pan and cooking 1 to 2 minutes to toast the rice.
Add the stock to the pan and stir once, scraping the side of the pan if necessary. Cover the rice with a piece of parchment paper with a whole cut in the middle. Adjust the heat to cook the rice at a simmer for about 12 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed. Do not stir the rice. You want it to develop a brown crust at the bottom of the pan.
When the rice is cooked, gently stir in the piquillo peppers and green beans.
Sprinkle the chicken with kosher salt and pepper and Piment d’Espelette on both sides. Heat canola oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken skin side down and lower the heat to medium low. Cook the chicken without moving for 8 minutes. It will develop a nice crispy golden brown skin. After 8 minutes, flip the chicken and continue to cook for another 6 minutes, or until golden brown on the other side as well. Transfer the chicken pieces to the rice pan, arranging them on top of the rice.
Heat canola oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook until well browned. Transfer the chorizo to the rice pan along with the chicken. Put the rice pan into the oven.
Pour off most of the chorizo fat from the sauce pan then add the white wine and and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and clams and cover the pan, cooking until the shells have opened, about 3 minutes.
Remove the rice form the oven and arrange the mussels and clams on top. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and salt and serve. Be sure to scrape up some of the brown crust from the bottom of the pan for each serving.