It was a recipe for disaster. My brother-in-law comes to our house for dinner once a week. I spend a lot time in preparation for this once a week occurrence – even if it is just mental preparation. Not b/c I feel a need to impress him w/ my less than wonderful cooking skills, mostly b/c I need to feel like I have a good, well-rounded meal planned ahead of time so I will not be caught offering last week’s leftovers, although he has endured them on occasion – and eats as heartily as any other meal I serve. Also, I admit, I’m a sucker for his never ending praise of “that was delicious” each time he comes – he’s a bachelor with not much in the frig other than beer—not too hard to please.
Anyway, a recent trip to our local discount grocery store had me walking away w/ 2 pounds of thinly sliced Italian ham for around $4 – a good buy in my book, and had also jump started my mind into flipping through recipes which require such an amount of meat. Of course – a stromboli, which I have made many times since getting married almost 7 years ago, although my husband might argue not enough times to satisfy his appetite. In fact, my sister-in-law seems to be the stromboli queen. We may have eaten more stromboli at her house in the past 2 yrs since she was married then we have at our own. And she makes a good stromboli – with 3 (or 4 – I forget) different kinds of meat and tomato sauce, a key ingredient which I have been omitting for way too long. The last time we were there to eat stromboli, my arrogance got the better of me. She had undertaken making 3 strombolis to feed a large crowd of ravenous people – a feat which being the sleep deprived mother of a 4 month old and almost 3 yr. old can hardly fathom. I was exhausted just watching her roll out her dough, and sadly to say – very sadly to say – I was almost a little satisfied to know that she wasn’t Martha Stewart when her dough stuck to the countertop for her first stromboli, resulting in very small holes in the end product where the dough could not be stretched back together. (Why are women always competing with one another – can’t we just give each other a break?)
All that to say that when I started my own stromboli making endeavor this afternoon, I knew I could be Martha – I could have a perfect stromboli. I could picture it sitting on the table – Italian ham and roast beef, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, green and red peppers, black olives and mushrooms baked together in a delicious, soft, golden-brown healthy whole wheat curst…. whole wheat crust? Where did that come from? Recently, I’ve been experimenting with using whole wheat flour in recipes and decided that stromboli dough could also be whole wheat flour worthy. So even after I had mixed up my dough and let it rise for 30 min., I was unthwarted by the fact that it hadn’t risen a centimeter during that time. Was it the whole wheat flour? Was it old yeast? Who knows…Who needs puffy dough anyway? You just end up flatting it out when you roll it. Thus I proceeded to roll out my dough after thoroughly spraying my countertop with Pam so my dough wouldn’t stick. It was beautiful – all the layers of meat and vibrant vegetables intermingling. Wouldn’t Martha be proud, I thought to myself. Oh yes, she would have been too – if it weren’t for that next step of peeling the dough off the counter and sealing up all that glory. Now sometimes I am not a very careful person – in fact I get frustrated with fine details rather easily, as my husband can attest to… especially when things don’t go the way I feel they should. Instead of simply peeling the dough off the counter in one big sheet like I have done so many times before, I very soon realized my dough was stuck – not coming off without giving me a good fight… which of course, made me want to fight. The dough won. I did a reasonable job getting the the bottom sealed up – yes, there were some very small holes comparable to my sister-in-law’s, but hey – it was the bottom, and only I would know they were there. However, when it came time to flip the whole stromboli from countertop to baking pan so that the bottom would be in the pan, my patience failed me as it has so many times before. The top of the stromboli was stuck fast, and my fingers clawed at the dough, ripping huge holes until the whole mess was beyond recognition.
My anger flared, my pride wounded – the meal I had so carefully planned, imagined looking so nice, looked forward to hearing one more time “that was delicious” – would not meet any of these expectations. I considered throwing it out – getting rid of the evidence of my humanness. My mind searched the freezer looking for any meal that I might throw together in less than 20 min – but to no avail. Even if my SIL did have small holes in her stromboli, I’m sure she NEVER had any cooking experiment gone so awry. I could imagine my BIL telling my MIL, who IS Martha Stewart, about the horrible concoction I made him eat, while my FIL shook his head at the failure of a wife his son had married.
But I decided against all this, and pictured my hard working husband coming home to a wife w/ a vendetta against stromboli, which would probably be directed at him. Instead, I did something I have so rarely done in the past 3 or 4 years. I turned on the music… I found the perfect CD of the Cranberries, mad and angry at the world, and let them do it all for me. While I sang the words “You’re so pretty the WAY you are” to give my self-confidence an extra boost, I put my beautiful flop-oli into the oven for the last step before I would have to serve my failure – naked and vulnerable – to not only my husband, but also to my BIL. His words to me this evening as we sat down to supper…. “Was this a casserole gone wrong?…. This is delicious.” Victory.