In response to How To Cook The Perfect Steak
and in a style that is a tribute
to Helen Fielding
29th Jul 2000: Cigs 40 (v.b. but is understandable, given stress), Alcohol Units 1 bottle whiskey (again v.b., again stress), steaks cooked to perfection 0, pieces of meat destroyed 1, scars gained Many.
20:30 Come home from work, late as usual, must find better more fulfilling job that will expose inner creative self and allow short hours with lot of money.
Decided will attempt to cook steak as have all principal ingredients as per How To Cook The Perfect Steak. Actually not all principal ingredients but as close as was possible given language barrier in France and time issues re work. Problem also that v. hungry and must first marinate steak which takes long time according to recipe.
Decide to start marination (?) process and do laundry thus taking mind off hunger and creating better zen-like feeling through achievement of small goals, i.e. will then have clean underwear for first time in 3 days.
Referring to recipe need extra virgin olive oil which have v. large bottle of, minced garlic (have garlic, will mince), roughly crushed black or green peppercorns and sesame oil. Could not get peppercorns and so got just black pepper in small dish thing (think is much same anyway as is pepper, no?). Also lack sesame oil since could not find in French supermarket, is in there somewhere but v. difficult to find things in supermarkets here as products laid out in crazy, illogical manner in aisles and labels are in French which is acceptable given location (i.e. France) but does not make things any easier.
20:35 Now have serious questions as is always case with damn recipes. Recipe writers are people who cook all time and are constantly just whipping up something in kitchen. They do not account for cuisine impaired type people like self who have busy life and no time to learn such things. Sometimes think is conspiracy by type of people who can cook to keep rest of population away from doing so, in order that they might look superior at hosting dinner parties etc. First of all how do you MINCE garlic? Secondly and more importantly how do you marinate something? Is it simply matter of putting steak thing in plate and covering in mixture or must entire thing be submerged in manner of soaking clothes? May seem obvious to recipe fascists who write such things as marinate for half and hour and then glibly pass on to next part of procedure but I have no idea.
Decide must soak completely in thingie and have enough oil anyway. Start to mince garlic as best as possible
20:50 Ugh! Garlic is horrible stuff, poured large amount of oil into bowl and started on mincing garlic. Did not know how to mince so just put all three cloves into small bowl and attacked with fork, trying to crush as though was potatoes. Did not work well as would not go into small pieces, picked out larger pieces and cut with knife but was v. difficult and ended just pulling apart with nails. Fingers smell terrible, yeauch. Eventually put all smallest pieces in bowl with oil and mixed a bit. Had expected garlic to melt into oil but did not, just sat and started falling to bottom slowly. Got pepper out to mix in too, was new pepper dish with ground pepper and silly spout thing. No matter how hard tried shaking over bowl no pepper would come out. Used screwdriver to punch extra hole in bottom of plastic bit. Held dish over bowl and gave one big hit with hand. Whole plastic bit fell off into bowl along with all pepper in dish. Frantically started spooning what decided was excessive amount of pepper back out of bowl before it mixed with garlic and oil. Got a lot out and fished out remnants of plastic bit with fingers, think got most of it. Mixed a little more but now have black soup like substance which stinks. Now have no more garlic or pepper however and must proceed with plan in hope that will be ok. Got steak from fridge and put in toxic mix bowl. Stirred a little to get flavours flowing type thing. Will now leave for 1 hour and do laundry.
21:30 Hah! Had small whiskey or three to settle nerves following harrowing marination experience. Put all dirty clothes in machine and had 'nother whiskey or two. Have put ALL underwear in machine so as to have maximum benefit from wash cycle and reduce damage to environment. So am now cooking without any clothes on. Hah! Am true Naked Chef as in BBC2 television series.
21:40 Put oven chips in oven to be ready in 30 mins as says on packet. Decided not to try roast potatoes recipe at same time as steak in case of over-complication of kitchen requirements. Oven chips will go well with steak anyway.
Heated frying pan at full heat on electric ring. Says in recipe must heat until seems v. hot. Have no desire to touch but do not know how else to tell if v. hot since is just sitting there, unchanged by heat. Leave for 10 minutes at full power setting to be sure.
21:50 Recipe says to put small amount of marination oil into frying pan. Again is recipe fascist type statement. What is SMALL? Have v. large bowl of marination mix, could easily fill pan twice over. Small is too relative a term, should be given exact measurement in spoon type measures. Decide to cover bottom of pan to 1cm depth as seems this will be sure to cover steak no matter where it goes in pan.
AAARRGHH. Was me, in pain. Whole pan thing practically exploded in cascade of hot liquid as started pouring in mix from bowl. Hands covered in hot splashes. Recovered a little and pull steak out with fingers from rest of mix to put in pan.
ARRRRFHFHGH. Was me, pain again. When put steak into pan was showered from top to bottom in splashes of now searingly hot oil/pepper/garlic mix. Splashes hit naked genital area. Eyes still watering from pain.
Steak was to be in pan on one side for two minutes as per recipe, whole pan is billowing black smoke and making loud crackling noises with random shots of oil coming out from pan and shooting into the air across kitchen. Decide must cover naked self to protect from attack by boiling oil but must also be able to get back into kitchen in time to turn steak before causing it to burn. Grab two large towels from bathroom and cover top with one and wrap second round waist.
Back to kitchen to turn steak. Have no tongs to turn with as could not find in shops here. Cannot just use fork as recipe says this is bad for steak. Have therefore created tongs using two spoons, an elastic band and a clothes peg. Is v. clever. Spoons are face to face with clothes peg half-way down handle and elastic band just little bit further up from peg. Thus when squeeze end of spoons they open up, when let go the elastic band pulls them together. Is small pieces of genius such as this that prove true intelligence of self no matter what stupid co-workers/ex-girlfriend may think.
Pan and oil combination is still billowing smoke and oil and approach is not easy. Wrap hand in dish cloth to protect from oil and ready self with home made tongs. Put oven glove on other hand to make holding handle of pan safer. Take hold of pan handle and try to get tongs round steak, steak simply moves around pan causing even more violent eruptions of oil. Is v. difficult to see properly as kitchen is black with smoke. Remember now that can turn on vents in kitchen. Will do so once steak is turned. Manage to corner steak and get tongs round it. When try to lift however get steak just above pan when tongs break apart because elastic band has snapped. Steak falls back into pan in massive oil explosion, drop spoons, clothes peg and elastic band of former tongs into pan in fright as I jump back trying to protect eyes. Noise levels from pan are terrible now as plastic clothes peg and elastic band start to cook. Was lucky chose metal spoons or they would being doing so also. Smoke now smells of plastic and is getting thicker.
DAMN, damn and damn. When steak fell back into pan was still on wrong side. Still have to turn damn thing. Decide will remove from heat before trying but is v. important to do so quickly or steak will surely burn. To hell with recipe, will use fork.
Put air vents on in kitchen and open window so as to help reduce smoke levels as am coughing quite a lot now. Dash back to steak armed with fork and oven glove/dish cloth combination. Towels covering self are showered with hot oil and beginning to stick to skin underneath in manner which is v. sore but must turn steak now! Stick fork in and flip steak over. Is far easier with fork but still have to jump back from ensuing oil/burning plastic explosion type thing that happens when steak hits pan again. Decide not to put pan back on heat as is hot enough.
Ugh! Can now see side of steak that was cooking before. Is black! Cannot be correct, should not look like that. Decide may already have over-cooked steak and should not leave other side for entire two minutes as per recipe. Get bowl from cupboard to put steak in and head toward pan again to retrieve with fork. Fork will not stick properly into burnt side of steak and only just manage to remove steak, which seems to now be sticking to bottom of pan. Think maybe is because of plastic from clothes peg which has melted in pan and is pouring smoke in black mess.
With steak now in bowl I remove myself from kitchen to examine in relative peace of bedroom. Throat is very soar now from smoke and eyes streaming, coughing a lot also. Steak is black on both sides, v. crispy. Will leave in bowl for 15mins as per recipe.
Waaah! Fire alarm has gone off, rush through to kitchen to find I have put pan back on heat by mistake. Is now on fire and smoke levels so bad is almost impossible to see. Grab pan and quickly throw out window, forgetting, in panic, am on 6th floor of building. Still is safer not to try to put out such oil fires by self as have no extinguisher to hand and know of dangers of using water. Fire alarm still blaring however and smoke going all through hotel room. Noise is v. bad and am scared will attract attention of hotel people so get chair and remove battery from alarm to stop noise.
Checked out bedroom window on position of pan. Is ok. Hit no-one. Pan looks still in one piece and gently smoking on street below. Will retrieve shortly. Have also opened all available windows in room to help clear smoke and put vents on at full in kitchen. Feel ill from smoke as is v. black and smelly.
22:40 Panic again. Having small whiskey to calm nerves and help breathing when remembered chips which were put in oven for 30mins over 1 hour ago. Retrieved from oven easily enough but are blackened mess. Cannot eat those, would lose teeth in crunching them. Cannot even scrape from bottom of cooking dish as are all stuck solid. Decide to wash self up a little and try steak which has now been in bowl for far longer than should have been.
22:50 Towels had stuck to skin a little with oil, lost some skin in quite painful manner trying to take towels off. Thus remain naked with burn cream in strategic areas. Now to slice steak as in recipe.
23:00 Steak was quite impossible to cut. Is rock solid from all approaches as appears to be covered in plastic coating from clothes peg. Am no longer hungry anyway. Have massive headache and lung problems from smoke and feel like death. Will finish whiskey bottle and go to bed.
23:30 Hah! Whiskey is good, no cooking no problem, just drink. Will become rich and from now on eat only in expensive restaurants. Will leave cooking things to people who are employed to do so.
Ok, so it wasn't quite like that. I followed as best I could sensei's plans in How To Cook The Perfect Steak and ended up with something that was, to my delight, excellent. Not the best steak I'd ever had but it tasted all the better for me having made it myself.
A big thank you to sensei for helping me do something I'd always wanted to be able to do.