Bruce Boudreau managed to do the unthinkable. He turned a perpetually low-scoring hockey team into one of the NHL’s highest-scoring lineups.
The Wild finished the regular season with a franchise-record 266 goals, which helped the team earn a franchise-record 106 points and secure the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Not bad, but that’s child’s play compared with what Boudreau’s wife, Crystal, accomplished. She taught the world’s worst cook how to bake something that tasted pretty darn incredible.
Not that I want to brag on myself or anything.
The idea was to determine which feat was more impressive: Coach Boudreau’s impact on the Wild or Chef Boudreau’s ability to prevent me from burning down the kitchen at her workplace, Sur La Table in Woodbury.
Chef Boudreau gets the nod because she had far less to work with than what her husband inherited.
The Wild doesn’t have ham-and-eggers on the roster. I once made eggs for my kids for dinner and upon looking at my finished product, they promptly asked if we could go to IHOP.
I hate to cook. I’m terrible at it. I need instructions to boil water. If it doesn’t involve my grill, my usefulness in the kitchen is like eating soup with a fork.
My wife and I have an agreement. She cooks, I clean. I’m an expert at dishes.
Chef Boudreau agreed to help. She’s been a pastry chef for years. She used to be a banker but always dreamed of becoming a baker.
She never had formal training. She’d bake cakes for fun and give them to friends and neighbors. That turned into a gig making pastries for a casino and then steady work making desserts for restaurants.
She found jobs at each stop along her husband’s coaching odyssey. She decided to make baking a career during a stint in Mississippi. She became known as the “Chocolate Lady” in New Hampshire. Chefs at The Capital Grill in Washington, D.C., helped with recipes and answered her questions.
At one point, she was making 40 desserts a week for restaurants. She did most of the baking in her own kitchen.
“I have loved to do this forever,” she said.
She used to bake goodies for her husband’s teams, but not as much anymore because “they’re all eating so much healthier now.”
Her husband has two favorites that she makes him: banana cream pie and French silk pie.
Crystal took cooking classes at Sur La Table as a way to meet new people after the Wild hired her husband. Crystal was answering other students’ questions as knowledgeably as the chefs, so the Seattle-based cookware retailer, which has full kitchens for cooking classes in many of its stores, offered her a job as pastry chef.
Boudreau teaches various classes, sometimes as many as four per week during holidays. I didn’t find “Cooking for Dummies” on the list so I settled for something that sounded cool: “Incredible Italian Baking.”
The menu included four dishes — Tuscan grape focaccia, anise biscotti with almonds, Parmesan-rosemary grissini and lemon almond cake.
I quietly wondered if building an interplanetary spaceship might be easier.
Boudreau divided our class into three groups of three. Luckily, my partners, Chris and Jennie, were pros compared to their third wheel. Students mixed the ingredients, Boudreau and her assistant handled the prep work and ovens.
My heart raced when one of our first instructions was to activate our yeast. I had no clue what that meant but figured it was probably more complicated than activating a player to a roster.
Pro tip: Put flour on your hands before handling yeast. That oversight earned me a trip to the sink to scrub it off. My partners knew better.
I was our group’s designated egg cracker. That job I mastered, leaving no shell pieces in the bowl.
I also got a few turns running the mixer, which started with a faux pas.
“You should keep your hand out of the mixer,” Boudreau cautioned, saving my fingers from becoming part of our yeast.
I made a tragic attempt to roll our biscotti log. The thing looked deformed. It was unevenly shaped, kind of like a baseball bat. Boudreau stepped in, massaged it for a few seconds and voilà, perfect.
My technique in rolling breadsticks wasn’t much better. The more I tried, the longer the dough stretched, requiring us to break it into two pieces because it was too long for the pan.
I found my groove by the end and learned some new tricks along the way, such as sprinkling salt with my hand held high because that helps distribute ingredients evenly. I proudly share that tidbit with anyone I meet now.
The moment of truth came at the end of class. Chef Boudreau walked over and cut out a piece of our lemon cake. I held my breath and prayed she didn’t gag.
“Mmm,” she said, taking a bite. “That’s really good lemon cake.”
He shoots, he scores!
We each got to take home a sampling of our treats. My family couldn’t believe how delicious everything tasted. They even asked me to bake something for them on my own.
Let’s see the Wild top that in the playoffs.