First, you saute bacon. I just read that you should never heat the pot beforehand when cooking bacon; you don’t get as much rendered fat. So I dutifully threw the chopped bacon in first, then turned up the heat. It was Sunday morning and soon the smell of sizzling bacon filled the kitchen. I removed the pieces with a slotted spoon and let them rest on a plate of paper towels.
Next, with the rendered bacon fat still in the Le Creuset pot, I browned 4 chicken legs that had been salted, peppered and floured. Those also got removed to a plate. Now the kitchen smelled really good.
With bacon fat and browned chicken bits still warm on the bottom of the pot, I threw in a couple handfuls of shiitake and baby portobello mushrooms. They quickly soaked up all that delicious fat. Around this time, Barrak returned home from working on the trail. “Something smells good!” he said, plodding in from the laundry room. Mushrooms get removed to a bowl.
Next, a handful of chopped yellow onion and 6 smashed garlic cloves. Now to me, nothing compares to the smell of sautéing onions. Forget apple pie. This is the smell of Thanksgiving morning and football and mom.
A quarter-cup of dry white wine helps you scape the brown bits off the bottom of the Dutch oven. Then all those separates that you’ve exiled to their own plates all get to come back into the pot together, along with thyme, bay leaf and chicken broth, and it all bubbles away on the stove for 2 1/2 hours so that when you come home, the house smells amazing and the chicken is falling off the bone.
Dumplings made of flour, milk, eggs and nutmeg start as a teaspoon full of sticky dough and come out of boiling water just a few minutes later twice their size. They get spooned on top of the chicken and mushroom stew on the burner next door.
Then you all sit down to eat this amazing smelling stew you’ve been tending for more than 24 hours and it tastes like…. nothing. Chicken and dumplings at Perkins. Chickeny blandness. Bland chicken. How could something that smelled so luxurious and homey taste so blah?
Magnus got way more enjoyment out of the bowl of Cheetos he’d had earlier in the day.
“I WUV Cheetos!” he swooned. “They are so de-WISH-iss!”
Sometimes it just does not pay.