Yesterday my first two copies of the newest Darby Farr Mystery arrived via Fed Ex.
Vicki Doudera here. It’s always such an exciting moment to hold a new book in your hands, rifle through the pages, and feel that sense of accomplishment that comes at the culmination of a long project. It’s a moment worth savoring, for sure.
Deal Killer is the fifth in the series, and sometimes I have to pinch myself in wonder. (I would never actually pinch myself but you know what I mean.) Yesterday, when I opened the box and flipped through the book, I was struck by the good job publisher Midnight Ink does with my books, as well as the truth underlying my simple, one-line dedication:
To Ed, who makes it all possible.
Yes, it’s a sweet tribute to my husband of 28 years, a nice way to say thanks for putting up with me, but it’s also the truth. And if I’d forgotten that it was indeed a fact — that I would have been unable to write five murder mysteries without Ed’s assistance – a little experience on Sunday helped me remember just how important he’s been to my success.
Here’s what happened.
I woke up Sunday morning and suggested we have roast chicken for dinner. No reason – it just popped into my head. Since I’ve been on a Snowy Owl Quest of late (more about that at another time) I was headed out into the never-ending Maine cold, so I stopped at the supermarket in Rockland and bought not only the chicken but some salad fixings, Brussels sprouts from Mexico, and a spaghetti squash. (I don’t normally do the grocery shopping so bear with me.) When I walked in the door later and told Ed what I’d purchased, he said, “Sounds like you’re making dinner.”
“Well – okay,” I acquiesced. I then quickly called my mother and invited her to join us.
After checking with the internet experts on the best way to roast the chicken, I popped it in a 425 degree oven along with a few vegetables, including the sprouts. I pricked the squash all over with a knife and put in the oven as well, although in a separate pan. I then ran upstairs to my new office (another post for a future date) and picked up where I’d left off prior to my outing. (I’m revising the short holiday novel that I wrote during National Novel Writing Month, and wanted to get it to an editor Monday morning who is considering it for publication.)
After a while I got a whiff of extreme roasting (some might say burning) and hustled down the stairs.
The charred remains of the vegetables were seared permanently to the roasting pan, and both the pan (and certainly the veggies) looked to be a total loss. The squash was a little charred but seemed as if it would be okay inside, where it mattered. The chicken, however, was nice and brown, but according to the Internet experts still needed another 30 minutes of cooking. Up I went, back to my office, and buried myself once more in edits.
Time passed and I again remembered the chicken, so I yelled down to Ed to remove the bird from the oven. “Oh, it’s out,” he said and something in his tone sounded ominous.
Back down I went to see what was going on, and there was the chicken, out of the oven, with a thermometer stuck straight into it, like the American flag on the moon. Ed said something about it being so many degrees hotter than it was supposed to be(hinting in a not-so-subtle-way that it was overcooked,) but I just yanked out the thermometer, made my salad, and hoped for the best.
“It’s not crock-pot cooking,” Ed commented a moment or so later, meaning, I suppose, that most kinds of cooking require someone actually present to cook. Not someone upstairs focused on adding more
tension to the last fifty pages of a manuscript.
But I have a happy ending for you, because my dinner turned out delicious. The squash was perfect, the chicken somehow still moist, and the salad nice and fresh. But the whole thing made me realize two things: first, that I really love crock-pots (or, to use the new hip term, slow cookers,) and second, that I am lucky to have Ed.
Because – like many of my fellow female writers – my husband makes me a delicious dinner almost every night, freeing me to use that time to write without worry that I’m burning down the house.
I can hear some of you skeptics now, wondering if it makes that much of a difference.
As someone who likes very much to eat, I can say without hesitation, YES. Not only am I not having to do the actual physical labor, but I don’t have to do all of that preparation and planning that goes into a good meal. And when I had three children underfoot? Believe me, it made a HUGE difference that he took on the role of dinner chef. I KNOW that I could not have written these books without that very tangible gift of time and brain-power, not to mention, nourishment.
Still – once in a while I do like to cook, if only to remind myself that I can. But after Sunday’s near disaster? I’m sticking with my favorite multi-tasker, the kind of appliance that makes a Gemini girl smile. Here’s a recipe that I made a few months ago and really liked. You can pop it in the crockpot and read your new copy of Deal Killer at the same time!
Philippine Chicken Adobo with Smashed Sweet Potatoes – from Skinny Slow Cooker
2 to 2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces (use thighs or drumsticks, skin removed) * 2 cups sliced
yellow onions * 4 cloves minced garlic * 3 bay leaves * 1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered * 1 cup unsweetened light coconut milk * 2 Tbs. soy sauce * 2 tsp. rice vinegar * 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper * 2 Tbs cold water * 1 Tbs cornstarch * chives & black pepper for garnish (OPTIONAL : I added 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, along with some of the sauce, because we like spicy food.)
1. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium high heat. Cook chicken, half at a time, in hot skillet until brown. Set aside.
2. In a 4 quart slow cooker combine onions, garlic and bay leaves (as well as chopped peppers and adobo sauce if desired.) Add sweet potatoes. Top with chicken. In a medium bowl, combine coconut milk, soy sauce, vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Pour over chicken.
3. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 hours or until chicken and sweet potato pieces are tender. Meanwhile, go work on your book!
4. To serve, remove chicken with a slotted spoon, cover and keep warm. Transfer sweet potatoes to a medium bowl, mash slightly with a potato masher. Cover and keep warm.
5. To make sauce, remove and discard bay leaves from onion mixture. In a medium saucepan, stir together the cold water and cornstarch until smooth. Stir in onion mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Serve chicken with mashed sweet potatoes and sauce. Garnish with chives and black pepper if desired. Makes six servings – each with only 284 calories.