Okay, deep breath. This blog is about trust because trust is a scary thing. Whether it’s putting faith in the boy who says he’s different… accepting your mechanic’s word when he tells you they fixed the problem and you’re now home-free… or believing in words… on paper… bound together… to form a cookbook. Ahhh… (hands are shaking, eyes darting around) I know I’m loosing my mind here… but I have a good reason, really I do. I left out something important in my first blog. My confession now: When I first decided to make every application in “Good Eats: The Early Years,” I made a promise to myself. That promise… I cannot skip any episodes. That means I have to fix applications as they come, without choosing which ones sound the best… which ones make my mouth melt… or which ones I’d love to know how to cook. Believe me, after reading the entire book, there are so many things I want to run into my kitchen to make… but I can’t. Not now at least. As Alton says, “Your patience will be rewarded.” Alton, I hope so because I’m trusting you. But seriously. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “That has to be one of the stupidest decisions ever. Fix what you want! Life is too short to take yourself that seriously.” But, the thing is I know what’s best for me… and this is one of the smartest decisions I’ve had in awhile. My not-to-skip-any-episodes-choice is perfect because I’m a picky eater. I stick to food I know, like, and trust. In fact, I have a guideline of what foods I will not eat. Don’t believe me? Here it is:
A) Don’t eat foods that leads me down the wrong path.
AKA-Shrimp. When I was little, I devoured a huge bucket of those little sea monsters… and threw up. Now, I don’t trust ‘um.
B) Don’t eat foods that looks disgusting.
AKA-Oysters. Yuck. I can’t get over it. Uh. My gag reflex is kicking in now… New topic, new topic…
C) Don’t eat foods I’ve thought a lot about.
AKA-Steak. A big, slab of animal muscle people carve, yes — literally carve into with massive knifes (so geniusly termed ‘steak knives’)… all while its red “juices” are sopping out of the meat. Uh. I wish you could see my face. It’s identical to a cartoon character’s frown… you know, the one where the “U”-shaped mouth is flipped upside down… Yeah. That’s me right now. Gross.
In fact, all of the above are gross… and definite reasons enough for me to never eat them.
Alas though, I said I wouldn’t skip any episodes. So what’s the gosh-darned very first one? No, it’s not strawberry cheesecake… or smoked Salmon… or fruit-filled crepes… awh… let me get a napkin; I’m drooling on myself… No, no. Back to reality; it’s none of these. It’s… steak. Enough said. …Okay, not enough said. Again — Steak.
Now steak and I have a long history. I wasn’t first introduced to this food until about middle or high school. Why? I have no idea. (PS-My parents kinda kept my sister and I in a culinary-bubble, as I’m sure you’ll figure out with more posts.) That changed one day when my dad decided he was going to throw on his grill-face and grab four, big, juicy-lookin’ steaks at the grocery store. Now, the first few times… okay… many times, didn’t go so well for my dad. Poor thing, he was (I think… or hope for the sake of an excuse for him) new to grilling… which means the steaks served were, how do I say it, black. Now he never gave up cooking them, because he was so frustrated with himself… so every couple weeks, we had a steak. To rest my dad’s reputation, by the way, he got pretty good at fixing those bad boys. He ventured out and asked the butcher questions about cuts and tried different ones; and he marinated, brushed, rubbed so many different things on the meat, I can’t even begin to name them all. No matter which one it was thought, and after each steak was cooked, my family sat at the table together, ate and discussed the meal. …Except this time, it was in great detail. My dad began talking about what cut the butcher said it was… and how it was better than the other cuts… where those came from… and how he felt his grilling skills were better because he could “hold in the juice” (AKA-steak blood… and that last word is one I cannot say without nearly fainting; remember that because I’m not saying that word again)… and how when chewing the steak, you could actually taste cow… and… and… I lost it. Taste cow? I looked at that big, nasty chunk of meat, soaking in it’s own “juices”… and I put my fork down; I couldn’t do it. …Ever since then, I haven’t touched a steak. That means it’s been… um… about ten years of never wanting, eating, thinking-about-eating steak.
Another frown. So here I am present day… faced with a challenge. Steak. The first application. Episode one, Season one: “Steak Your Claim.” And I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to claim anything that had to do with this. Yet, I promised myself… and my boyfriend, who I forgot to mention was really proud of me for stepping up to the plate and accepting the fact that I’m going to eat food I either haven’t had… or refused to have. So, I couldn’t let myself and him down.
When I first started Alton’s book, I had a different set of eyes on, so-to-speak. When I read about ribs, loins, briskets, shanks, skirts, etc… I looked at that darn cow diagram, and I was fascinated. I like knowing where my first steak in about ten years was coming from and what the gossip was on it. That first steak: A Pan-Seared Rib-Eye.
To get me through this whole procedure (which I didn’t hesitate to remind people — was not to be taken lightly), James constantly encouraged me… and hey, I got to get a new piece of kitchen gear: A cast-iron skillet. 12-inches. That’s huge! I was so excited… despite the heeded warning my mom kept saying, “If you don’t get a good one, it’s going to rust! If you don’t clean it right, it’s going to rust! If you blink the wrong way at it, it’s going to rust!” …Okay… she didn’t say that last part, but she was very serious about the whole cast-iron-skillets-are-no-good thing. Whatever. I’m the beginning cook here, and as I told her, “Listen. You learned from experience. Now’s my turn.” (PS-Here’s where I could use help. I tried the whole paper-towel-to-clean-the-skillet method… and it didn’t work so great… well, not up to obsessive-compulsive standards. There were shreds of paper towel in the skillet, and I just wanted to clean it more… Any suggestions? Anyone?)
Moving on… My experience cooking steak: It went okay. James and I were moving from one end of the kitchen to the next in super-quick, lightning movements. The application calls for heating the steak in the skillet for, at most, four minutes. Four minutes total, only four! And I’m reminding you again — Here I was, told to eat a steak that has been cooked less that the fingers on one hand… less than what kids first learn to count to! But. I gave Alton a chance; I wanted to trust him. Let me say though, Alton likes his steak medium-rare (which in my dictionary is raw: not entirely cooked; still seeing red or pink; not 100 percent brown). But for my first steak, I didn’t think that would be a good idea. So, I went with medium. Hey, don’t judge. Do I really have to bring it up again… ? I was trying a steak. Enough said.
I want to add too, that while James and I were cooking our dinner, we got exactly what was advertised: Smoke. Lots of it. In fact, I had no idea putting a room-temperature steak into a super hot skillet could produce that much smoke. We opened windows, turned on the hood fan (is that what it’s called?), and… I felt almost defeated… defeated because I’ve grown up brainwashed that smoke means burning… so in my mind, I failed my first application. However, with Alton’s warning of smoke, I said to myself, “Hum. I wonder if I can trust him?”
And trust I did. I went with everything (except the cooking temperature of the steak) he recommended. The application calls for the steak to be “rested,” so while it was taking a quick nap, James and I worked on the steak sauce which Alton included right after the steak. (Yep, so smart!) Let me say I’ve never “deglazed” anything before. Up until this application, I was obsessived with wiping, draining or removing any “stuck on pieces”… but I learned those pieces are the “good bits”… or “good eats.”
Overall, here’s the answer to everyone’s question: How was the steak? It was… okay. Being honest, Alton’s application didn’t make me want to eat another steak, but I appreciate the food now… and if I am ever in the urge to eat another slab of meat, I will go to this very application. My boyfriend’s opinion: He loved it. He thought it was delicious, and he raved to his family about how good it was! (I am still so excited about that.) Oh, and the steak sauce — Perfect. In fact, I don’t like side sauces, dips or dressings… but this was savory; I couldn’t have invented a sauce more suited for a steak.
In the end, I made it. I lived through my “first” steak. But more importantly, I lived through my first application in Alton’s book… and while I knew he wouldn’t steer me the wrong way, I didn’t realize the impact trust has on someone. I don’t trust many people, but I trust Alton now. I trust, with his guidance, I can and will eat other foods that fall into my “No Eat Guideline.” Be it shrimp or oysters (ugh), I (think) am ready.
Alton, you impressed me. Beyond words. I ate a steak. I. ate. a. steak. Enough said.