Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mummy Potatoes or The Epic Pinterest Fail and Other Misadventures

October 31st - Halloween.  The theme for tonight's Monday night dinner was - fittingly - Halloween.

Initially, I was a little concerned that I would not be able to find a Halloween-themed potato dish, but I quickly discovered that this would not be a problem.  There were lots of possibilities!  After surfing the net for a bit, I settled on Mummy Potatoes - a Pinterest-worthy Halloween-themed take on the twice baked potato.

Source: onceuponacuttingboard

As usually, trying to make a dish that takes over an hour to prepare for a 7 PM dinner after working until 5 PM took a little planning.  Usually, I do some of the cooking prep on Sunday to streamline the process for Monday evening.  This time I decided to bake the potatoes the evening before.  That left me with only the preparation of the meatballs and the assembly of the whole thing the next day.

The recipe was easy enough:
Bake potatoes for 1 hr, cut them in half and hollow them out.  Add 2 cooked Italian meatballs to each potato half.  Then cover the meatballs with thinly (!) sliced mozzarella cheese to resemble the mummy's wraps.  Finally add 2 black olives as eyes and bake for a few minutes.  Simple - no problem.

I left work around 4:45 PM - a tad earlier than usually - to make sure that I would have enough time to reheat the potatoes and assemble the mummies.

When I got to my car, I pushed the remote entry button on the car key, but nothing happened.  Hm.. am I at the wrong car?  Nope, based on the items sitting in the back seat of this car, that's my car.  Oh well, I'll just use the key as a key in the lock - nothing.  The key goes in, but won't turn.  Hm..? That's weird.  Maybe the key will open the trunk?  (Getting into the car through the trunk was going to be interesting, but better it was still better than being locked out.)  Nothing!  What in the world?

Because it was still before 5 PM, I called my mechanic - "My car door won't open". He suggested that the battery on my key may be dead and asked, if I had a second key at home.  I did in fact have a second key at home.  I talked myself out of the thought that a dead battery would not explain why the key would not turn in the lock.  My main concern at that moment was making my potato dish and getting to dinner on time. I figured that, once I found my way home, I could make the potatoes, go to dinner and deal with the key issue later in the evening.

Most of my coworkers ride their bikes in to work, so calling them for a ride home was out.  Most of my friends would have still been at work.  On the other hand, my Ex is retired, and he's usually available for assorted shenanigans, so I called him.  He did pick me up, took me home and then drove himself to his daughter's house for trick-or-treating with the grandkids. Meanwhile I successfully opened my front door with my house key.

I was in the process of hollowing out cold potatoes when I got a text message from the postdoc in our lab: "Hey, do you know, if anyone grabbed my keys by accident?  They seem to have vanished since the start of lab meeting."

I looked over at my keys that were sitting on the counter and texted back:"I didn't". and a moment later "Then again, check my desk in the office." I figured that there was the outside chance that I had grabbed them after lab meeting and left them on my desk.

Clearly not putting 2 and 2 together, yet...

I have always been someone who was willing to double-check my assertions, because I've been wrong before... I could always be wrong again.  If his keys were in my possession, they would be in my jacket pocket.  When I lifted up my jacket to check, I noticed that it felt heavier than a key-less jacket should feel.  Oh oh.... I reached into the pocket (which also contained a bunch of empty dog-poop bags) and pulled out the postdoc's keys. SOB!  I had actually taken them!

Now I'm starting to put 2 and 2 together.

I texted him back immediately "SOB!  I did!" His reply: "HaHa!"

At least he had a sense of humor about it; maybe because he didn't realize - as of now - that I was at home with 2 sets of keys but NO CAR while he was at work - with a car - but no keys.

To make a long story a little shorter, I called him to inform him of that little complication and we found someone who was willing to swing by my house, grab the keys and take them back to him.  I'd find a way to get my car later. Luckily all of us live relatively close to work... .

While all of this is happening, I am hollowing out potatoes, microwaving meatballs (and tossing them in some tomato sauce) slicing mozzarella and assembling mummies. When the oven reached 400 degrees F, I put the baking tray in the oven.  I didn't add the olives yet, because I didn't want them to dry out in the oven.

At this point it was shortly before 6 PM.  At 6 PM trick-or-treaters could start coming to the door.  (My town allows trick-or-treating from 6 PM to 8 PM on Halloween night.) My ride was supposed to pick me up for dinner at 6:30 PM.

When I looked at the mummies after they had been in the oven for only a few minutes, they actually looked pretty good.  The bandages had wrapped themselves nicely around the meatballs - this was going to work out OK.  However, when I checked on the potatoes, they were still cold.  By the time the potatoes were warm, the "bandages" had disintegrated into a mess of cheese.  I tried to fix that by adding extra bandages when I added the olives about 5 minutes before the end of baking.  But in the end I simply ran out of time to fix this rather tasty Pinterest Fail. Maybe I should just call them "Alien Potatoes"?

Lessons learned:
Apart from the very important "Don't take your coworkers keys home", I can give the following advice for making these Mummy potatoes:
  1. Make sure that the potatoes are hot prior to the assembly of the mummies. 
  2. Microwaving the meatballs and coating them with tomato sauce works well. 
  3. The meatballs should also be hot at the time of assembly. 
  4. The thinner the mozzarella slices the better
  5. Put the assembled project in the oven for only a few minutes until the bandages have melted nicely.  Then take them out.
  6. If you have to transport these, add the olives on site or use something to attach them more firmly. They will fall off during transport.  (Maybe a toothpick could be used to keep them in place during baking.  The cheese may hold them after that.)
  7. Last but not least - even the ugly mummies were quite tasty.   

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