So I know I was supposed to write about privacy on the Internet. That’s what I promised this week.
But I lost interest at this point. That’s what usually happens when I get a full seven hours a sleep. I wake up with a totally new positive outlook on things. To the angry mob of YouTubers pining for a televised murder of a Google executive, my advice to you is to do the same. Just sleep off the disappointment. By the time you wake up, Google will be as out-of-touch with real people as Microsoft is, and you’ll feel a lot better.
And truth be told, I was really only writing it for one person I had in mind. Well rather than boring you all with a broad sea of text to skim, how about we move on with our lives.
And to you, my Google-loving heel, you see me after class ;)
On to something different. This week is a recipe.
You have to twitch before you can crawl
If you have ever spent any time with my family, you should know that my parents love to cook. It’s not just mac ‘n chees ‘n tots ‘n casserole either – I’m talking real gourmet stuff. In our house growing up, cedar plank salmon was a Thursday. Additionally, our spice cabinet was bigger than my book shelf, I think.
All that to say, now responsible for feeding myself, I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. Launching into Apartment life, in this regard, was like stepping off a shuttle after a long stint in space. I felt throbbing in muscles that had been long-lost to atrophe. For the first time in my life, the pang of hunger wasn’t going to be followed by a crab cake. I grew up without ever paying attention to anything. I knew nothing of what happened before things hit the plate. I no longer had an ambassador between me and Trader Joe’s. I was useless.
Given my handicap, I feel I have a unique perspective on cooking. I decided to learn brutally. Feed yourself with what you know, and then let your stomach tell you what to make next. In other words, learn to twitch before you learn to crawl (and the misquote of the popular maxim was intentional, because what I know now hardly deserves to be compared to crawling).
It’s been a painful first few weeks living off of Ramen, oven pizza, and sunflower seeds, but I think my plan is working. My meals are slowly gaining some respectable complexity, all driven behind my adopted mantra, “There is no ignorance in discovery“. In other words, I’m trying not to rely on other people so much for recipes and advice. If something is really a bad idea, then it will be obvious. After all, I’m the one who has to choke it down. I’m trying to let the ideas do the talking.
Now, I am proud to present to you my first meal. To give tribute to it’s rich lineage of soggy prototypes and kitchen meta-fires, I call it the “Miss-Steak”.
Building the Miss-Steak
Figure 1: The Cheapest steaks you can find
Figure 2: Random Vegetables
Figure 3: Pretty much everything out of your "sprinkles" cabinet
Butter, Olive Oil (extra virgin… or not… whatever)…
Figure 4: Whatever this thing is. It’s ninety pounds, impossible to clean, and it scares the hell out of raw meat
Now that the gang’s all assembled, it’s time to make a grown man’s meal. Go ahead and rip open the steaks. Don’t worry about the smell – we’re hopefully going to fix that. For less than three bucks per steak, I’m just assuming they’re doing the bear minimum to make this thing technically edible.
Now slap it down on a plate. This is where you are going to need all the sprinkly stuff out of your cabinet. I take a minute to shake everything onto each steak, following one general rule: the amount of spice you use from the container should be governed by the size of the container itself. For example, I have no idea what cumin is, but because the container is smaller than a tic-tac box, I’m going to treat it like it’s really precious (the spice gets bonus points for counter-intuitive spelling too).
Get it nice and… powdery… after all the spice is applied (more specifically, salt, garlic salt, pepper, cumin, chile powder, and basil), give the meat a nice, aggressive rubdown. I picture it like I’m a medic from Saving Private Ryan trying to pinch off a spurting artery.
Figure 5: If you’d like to add to the analogy, you can bark coordinates over your shoulder, and wonder out loud “Where the hell is my airstrike?”
Next, you want to let the meat sit and get down to room temperature. This usually happens in the time frame of two grand theft auto shooting sprees. When it’s ready to go, drop your enormous red salvaged-from-a-helicopter-cockpit griddle-pan onto the stove, add a little oil, and start heating.
While that’s getting happy, I cut the vegetables. I don’t have any insight into how to cut vegetables. It kind of just devolves into savage ripping and tearing. If I have a hard time getting the stems off, I might even cry a little.
By now, your freak-griddle should be ready to bring the pain. Grab the steak and drop it across the merciless grooves.
Do it quick, because hell soon-after flies forth from the grill. I swear those drops of oil go for the face like a heat-seeking missile. Seriously, it makes a big mess. My first instinct was to grab a spatula and move it around, but you just need to let the metal and the meat work out their differences. I should mention that if you ever feel the need to do something with your hands (like if someone is watching you cook, and you feel you would lose their trust if they saw your arms at your side while flames and hot oil lick the air, put a little pot of water on the stove and stir it occasionally).
Now that the steak is on the heat, don’t touch it for another three minutes. The impression I get with steak is that it is really important that you only flip steak once. Take the opportunity to get the vegetables going. If the butter turns brown, and then hisses at you, that means you burned it.
If someone is watching you do this over your shoulder, just calmly dump the refuse in the sink and prelude your next attempt with “… now that the pan is deglazed…” Do not offer an explanation for what “deglazed” means, because we don’t know. It was just meant to disarm the situation.
It might be time to turn the steak over. I really don’t know when. I know how to fake it though – poke at it, look at it from an angle, hold your thumb up to it, count out loud in your head… just do something to make it look like you are being a decisive chef. The nice thing about beef is that, no matter when you stop cooking it, there is someone on the planet that prefers to eat it like that.
If you turned at the right time, the bottom of the steak is going to be golden brown, crispy, juicy, and tread with defined grill marks. It kind of reminds me of the base of my toilet right now, come to think of it.
Do the same thing for the other side. You would have to, wouldn’t you? That’s not even cooking… that’s just the principles of symmetry.
All throughout, give the veggies a poke every now and then – half for just the sake of keeping your hands busy. When in doubt, just add more butter. Butter saves most bad inventions in the kitchen. I suspect even a cup of broken glass, if well-buttered, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for at least the first few bites.
At this point, both the veggies and the steak should be nearing completion. Before you pack them away, go shut your smoke detector off. Don’t be alarmed if you didn’t hear it – it’s probably just the fumes from your poorly ventilated apartment stove getting to your head.
Lastly, throw a couple of slices of bread on the griddle where the steak last left off. Anything with those grill lines brazed on it, no matter how meaningless and last minute they are, taste more delicious than without.
Figure 9: Now this is definitely going to set off the smoke detector. Maybe even the carbon monoxide detector if you are using the right kind of bread.
When you are all done, turn everything off and scrap the whole greasy vegetable-meat mess onto one delicious sandwich, and optionally serve alongside some effeminate sweet potato fries (just to counteract all the manliness).
Figure 10: Oh… forgot the cheese. But you were going to do that anyway. You probably just put cheese on everything… you disgust me.
And there is the biggest Miss-Steak of your life. If I am unknowingly poisoning myself with my ad hoc combination of ingredients, please let me know. I eat this meal a lot. But until I’m corrected, let whatever sandwich that doesn’t kill me, in the end, make me stronger. Have a great week, and eat to survive.