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Omnivore - When the babysitter cancels

Cooking under pressure when the night out never happens

I was meant to be at No. 246 last night. We had guests in town, eager to check out something interesting in Decatur. We had a reservation. I was anticipating the chicken liver mousse, and the fritto misto, and the agnolotti. And ... our babysitter couldn't make it.

My wife frantically calls up every babysitter she knows, and several she doesn't know. The necessary qualifications for an acceptable babysitter drop exponentially as the clock approaches departure time. But nothing pans out. Maybe we'll just take the kids with us? Nope. The restaurant can't accommodate more people at our table, so we cancel the reservation. Guilt and dejection set in - I hate doing that to a restaurant. Will they fill the table? Surely they will fill the table on a Saturday night. Should we just go out somewhere else with the kids? Or should I throw something together?

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I decide to scramble ... what do we have in the house to impress the guests, to salvage a night meant to be out on the town? I poke around the hidden corners of our freezer and refrigerator, and I'm in luck. Random gourmet foodstuffs do come in handy every once in a while. Some aged gouda from Costco gets things going. Some duck breasts from Hudson Valley were in the freezer, probably way too long (what? use within a year? you gotta be kidding me). Some Anson Mills corn polenta, too, picked up at Star Provisions long ago, cold and happy, aging in the freezer for many months. All the merrier. In the fridge I find eggs ... and caviar? Well, a jar of something that is probably in the not-quite-really-caviar-but-just-fish-eggs classification. Probably past its expiration date, too, but doesn't it just get better with age anyway? More salty? More of-the-sea???