Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rule #1: Do not leave food to cool on the balcony unattended for more than a few minutes

It's Sunday, Grey Cup day, and I get to finish my laundry, pack my suitcase and head to the airport to fly back to Halifax. I normally fly out East on Mondays, but because of the major influx of travelers to Montreal this weekend, all the flights out were booked solid. I had to pick THE flight leaving 15 minutes after the start of the game. At least I'm avoiding the crowds, unlike Friday when I returned home. There were hundreds of people waiting for their luggage, five deep along the carousel, and an hour lineup to catch a taxi. Fortunately, my traveling companion (nice gentleman sitting next to me during the flight) offered me a ride home and I just couldn't say no. I would have otherwise arrived at home around 10 p.m. Thank you again Serge!

I had a busy day yesterday. I was attending a dinner in Rigaud, a small municipality in southwestern Quebec, a place you would drive by on the way to Ottawa. The dinner was organized by a colleague of mine (who lives out there and works downtown Montreal, yikes) and the theme was American Thanksgiving. You can guess what was on the menu. It was a potluck affair, so every guest was preparing one dish and I ended up (or picked, can't remember) stuffing. I have never made stuffing, but I knew that my friend Steve often cooked a mean turkey, so I contacted him for a recipe.

Steve kindly offered a recipe from Cook's Illustrated and I am going to keep this one as a reference for future stuffing experiments. The base recipe is what I prepared, it could not have been simpler. I only made a few substitutions: instead of drying my own bread, I bought white bread croutons from the bread section at Loblaws, and used salted butter, but didn't add any salt to the recipe. The stuffing came out moist and flavourful. I got a lot of compliments on my dish over dinner. However, my contribution to dinner could have turned disastrous, if my timing had been a few seconds off.

After the stuffing finished cooking, I took the baking pan outside to cool. I left the aluminum sheet over the stuffing to keep the moisture in and left the dish on the steps of the back balcony. When I returned to get the dish, it had been pushed off the steps to the floor and a large grey squirrel had started to tear the aluminum paper. "Oh no you don't!", I screamed to the squirrel as I stepped outside to save my stuffing. Such a close call. The dish could have tipped over and made a mess of stuffing on the balcony, but it didn't. Mister squirrel could have been a few minutes quicker and have started snacking away at the tasty stuffing, but he wasn't.

Rule #1: Keep a close watch on food left out to cool on the balcony, or else be ready to share dinner with the squirrels in the neighbourhood.

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