A Krummy Dinner
by Susu, Hermi2
Menu: Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu | Herb Roasted Potatoes | Microwaved Stringbeans | Everyday Stuffed Mushrooms | Magical Caramelized BananasHermione was very nervous. An owl had shown up and it was big and bushy looking, and it held a maroon colored envelope in its beak. She was at home after her fourth year at Hogwart's, and her parents knew that the appearance of an owl with a letter could only mean a communiqué from the wizard world, and they were nonplussed. But not so Hermione, for she knew it wasn't from her friends at Hogwart's.
The owl was laboring and looked too warm, even though it was a mild-weather day in London. That was because it had flown down from the north, where it was considerably damper and colder, any time of year. But it waited for the response to her note, knowing she did not have an owl.
The note was in fact from Viktor Krum, the Durmstrang School's candidate in the Tri-wizard Tournament the year before, star seeker on the Bulgarian National Quidditch team, and who had found himself smitten by Hermione Granger during his stay at Hogwart's. She felt guilty, knowing he had wanted to hear from her, so she opened the note promptly:
Hermione gasped he would be here tomorrow!
She had told her parents about Viktor, but had not indicated it was serious or anything ... Hermione was really nervous about telling them who was coming and why, then second, have to deal with the suspicions levied against her that there was anything improper about Viktor's interest in her (she remembered Ron Weasley's accusation that she was "fraternizing with the enemy). But most of all, she had to deal with her very nervous mother who would always want things to be perfect for company, especially for an athletic superstar from the wizard world! It was even worse for Hermione because she knew her mother was not a particularly good or successful cook under pressure ...
Mrs. Granger tried so hard to bring off an amazing dinner of chicken kiev, stringbeans in tomato shells with a Hollandaise sauce, rice pilaf, mushroom gratin, and a banana custard pie ... but everything burned, collapsed, split, or came out raw ... and Hermione and Mr. Granger had to convince her to just make what she always makes a simple meal for the three of them instead in the time they had remaining before Viktor arrived. Mrs. Granger did so in tears ... would a young man as important as Viktor Krum think she was inadequate?!?
Menu: Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu | Herb Roasted Potatoes | Microwaved Stringbeans | Everyday Stuffed Mushrooms | Magical Caramelized Bananas
Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu
Mrs. Granger had originally intended to make a stuffed chicken breast called Kiev, which had been invented by French chefs long ago to honor some Russian ruler. The butter and herb stuffing was encased in the breast, then the chicken coated à l'anglaise, and then deep-fried. The chicken had to be served hot, and when cut, the hot butter sauce would spurt out onto the plate. She had intended to serve this with a rice pilaf, to soak up the buttery sauce. But she kept overpounding the breasts so they tore, didn't coat the chicken in the right order, which let the butter leak out into the frying oil. And she tried to cook too many at once, so the cooking oil spit and spilled over the stovetop! And because it was too many at once, the chicken didn't cook through and it was all raw inside ...
Mrs. Granger was a working mother and had a repertoire of simple recipes which always turned out well in very little time. But she had pride and liked to show off if there was company coming for dinner, which only had the effect of making herself crazy. In truth, her husband and daughter preferred the low-prep, quick cooking, non-fussy meals she made day in and day out, whether company was coming or not. So they made an effort to convince her to make a chicken breast dish they really liked: this chicken cordon bleu, stuffed with sliced deli ham and swiss cheese, held together with a toothpick and baked in the oven on a foil-lined sheet for easy clean up. Mrs. Granger made sure to take the toothpicks out before serving it, however!
Be sure to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts; if you didn't, you should cut away the bones and pull off the skin. Place the meat between two large pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper and pound them lightly till they are about ¼-in / ½-cm thick. Peel off the top piece of wrap or paper and season with salt and pepper.
On each piece of pounded-flat chicken, place one slice of cheese and a slice of ham. Roll up the chicken (like a sushi roll!) and secure the roll with a toothpick or two. Place the chicken packets on the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the breasts with the breadcrumbs, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or till nearly cooked through. Then put the extra slice of cheese over each chicken breast and return to the oven till the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted and slightly browned.
Remove the toothpicks before serving, if you'd like. Serves 4, piping hot!
Herb Roasted Potatoes
Mrs. Granger had enjoyed a rice pilaf at a fancy restaurant where she and her husband had gone for their anniversary dinner. She intended to make it for Viktor's visit, even though she was not used to cooking rice at home. She mismeasured the amount of rice to chicken broth, not realizing that rice will soak up 3 to 4 times its volume of liquid. She also cooked it in too small a pot so there was rice flowing out of it and burning onto the pot, both inside and out! Hermione and her father ran around the house with air freshener and setting out candles to try and beat out the evil, acrid smell of burnt rice yuck!
While her mother sat down to try and relax, Hermione and her father washed and cut up some potatoes, which they always had in the house. The tossed the chunks in a mixture of dried herbs and olive oil, then stuck it into the oven till their guest had arrived. They'd learned long ago that any dried herbs from the spice cupboard would go well in this preparation, but dried rosemary is the classical preparation. Just remember to salt them, too!
Wash and dry the potatoes, then cut into chunks about 1-inch / 2½-cm in size. In a large bowl, place the oil, salt, pepper and crumble in the dried herbs, then mix them together. Toss in the potatoes, coating them in the oil mixture well. Scatter the potatoes in the foil-lined roasting pan. Bake for 20 minutes or till tender. Serves 6.
Alternate baking directions: If you already have something in the oven at a lower temperature (350°F / 175°C is common), put the potatoes in the oven with whatever else you are baking, but increase the cooking time.
Mrs. Granger was going to "top and tail" some greenbeans to blanche them. She intended to core out tomatoes and stuff a bundle of beans in the napkin-ring type opening, to roast as an elegant vegetable accompaniment. But other things had to be done ... like the Hollandaise sauce, which required continueous whisking over low heat, or else it would cook and you'd end up with fluffy scrambled eggs, at best! Then coring out the tomatoes turned out to be much fussier than she expected and they were far too big, and by the time she got the first one done, the Hollandaise had overcooked and the butter split out of the sauce. There was no more time, and she threw her hands up in frustration.
So Hermione trimmed the stem-end of the beans (leaving the rather whimsical looking curly tails on to save time), and simply placed them in a plastic bag with its corners snipped, with a few spoonfulls of water within, and microwaved the beans. Them came out perfectly cooked and crispy, without a sauce. Too bad Viktor was used to canned beans, with the overcooked, mush texture. He whispered to Hermione that her mother had forgotten to cook the beans, which in fact, Mrs. Granger HAD forgotten to cook them!
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.
Mrs. Granger intended to slice and sauté mushrooms and serve it as a gratin, which meant coating them in cheese and breadcrumbs and finishing them in the oven. By now, she was so overwrought that she cut herself on the first mushroom! Mr. Granger took her to the hospital emergency room for stitches, and whispered to Hermione to make those simple mushrooms he liked so much, while he was gone.
Hermione knew which dish her father was speaking of, for he asked for it nearly every day. And it was so simple that Hermione often made it to help her mother out. Though Viktor didn't like the stringbeans, he did appreciate these easy to make stuffed mushroom. And since stuffed mushrooms are considered fussy and fancy by most people, Viktor really enjoyed them, taking more from the serving platter than even Hermione's father did! (Who knows if this bode well or ill in Mr. Granger's eyes?)
Cook the bacon in a cold pan over low heat with a lid on the pan. Cook till the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Turn off the heat. Add the breadcrumbs, stirring till well-combined.
Scoop a teaspoon or so of stuffing loosely into each mushroom cap and place on the greased, foil-lined pan. When done, sprinkling all the mushrooms with parmesan cheese, to taste. Place in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, till the mushrooms look wrinkly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6 as a side dish, or about 12 as an hors d'oeuvres.
Mrs. Granger had insisted on making a banana cream pie. She'd heard from Hermione that the Durmstrang School was located in the far north, and she thought that he might not have seen many bananas in his life. Hermione was tense about her mother's choice, knowing that pie crusts were not her mother's forté, and so much could go wrong with a custard, too! Mrs. Granger had done a good job with the piecrust actually, and it sat awaiting it's creamy filling. She thought it would be best to serve a crisp crust, so she intended not to assemble the pie till dessert was was to be served.
But the custard had been cooked too late, and was not only burned because she couldn't attend to it properly, but any salvaged parts were way too hot to put into the crust, even by the end of dinnertime. It made the pastry soggy and the over-whipped chantilly cream which she fitfully used to cover the wreckage melted and slid right off the custard. Mrs. Granger dissolved into tears at that point.
What to do?? The poor woman only had leftover bananas to serve for the dessert. And she had taken so long in the kitchen that the family and their guest worried about her and peeked into the kitchen. Seeing her in tears, Viktor, who was actually quite a valiant young man, took over the situation. He smiled at her, told her she was so considerate to get bananas for him, and could he show her a trick he'd learned from the ladies of Beauxbatons School? In a daze, she let the handsome man dip the bananas with sugar, and with the flick of his wand, the sugar boiled and cooked into a hardened caramel!
Gasping, Mrs. Granger was lead away back to the table. Alone with him, Hermione scowled at Viktor, reminding him that they could not practice magic in a muggle setting. Viktor enjoyed just watching her do anything, even something as mundane as spooning ice cream out of a container into bowls. But he was sad as he sat down to eat the dessert, for Hermione had told him she was not coming up to visit him in Bulgaria after all ... At least not this time, "Make sure you send your owl sooner, next time! And my name is Hermione!"
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