Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Meat: A Not-So-Bad-Romance

But man is a carnivorous production
And must have meals - at least once a day;
He cannot live, like woodcocks, upon suction,
But, like the shark and tiger, must have prey.
Lord Byron (1788-1824)

The Boyfriend cooked steaks tonight and it was lovely.  Sealed and charred nicely on the outside, pink-ish rare on the inside, butter, salt and pepper mingling juicily with the richness of meat in every bite.     

I know it's grisly, but I love the taste of flesh.  I love, love, love the feel of it, the juiciness, the fat, the (sometimes) mess.  Nobody except PETA models and certain pornographers get all starry-eyed and sexy over vegetables.  Mind you, this is no criticism of vegetables.  They just inspire a different kind of love.  A stalk of grilled asparagus dipped in mayonnaise (Kewpie please, or home-made) is it's own kind of heaven.  A plate of 5-spice crispy chicken ribs is another, although with the juices running down your fingers it really does feel more sinful.

The fundamentalist vegetarian would use words such as 'dead', 'rotting', 'unconscionable' and probably even 'yuck'.  However, I'm an omnivore and not ashamed.  A good steak is a treat, and I've been known to get very upset if I commit the crime of overcooking it.  It happened about two months ago and I still shudder at the memory.  There's something very heartbreaking about getting a meat dish wrong.  There's the expense, of course (although with the price of tomatoes these days...) plus the time and the waste.  

I overcooked not one, but two porterhouses and still haven't gotten over it.  Normally I'm the Queen of the Grill, the Barbecue Bitch.  In my house, it's me who wields the tongs.  When I'm not at the butcher,  I'm that annoying person at the supermarket who rifles through and scrutinise every vacuum-sealed pack to find MY perfect steaks.  

I am genuinely confounded by people who simply reach in and toss in any old package of chicken thighs/scotch fillet/lamb cutlets in their baskets.  Maybe it's an illness, but peering through the plastic I imagine how the fat will render, how the skin will crisp and imagine the thickness of that particular cut under my teeth.  Then I make a decision.

Anyhow - two months ago, I chose wrong.  The tiniest rivulet of gristle ran through each of these two steaks like a stream, as they must have been sliced right next to one another.  Which is actually reassuring, because it showed that they came from the very same animal.  Cold comfort, but in these days of Frankenstein meat and other horrors, I'll take what I can get.

Aside from choosing badly, I was also tired and impatient.  I quickly pulled the package out of the fridge, seasoned it and laid it on the pan.  However, the meat was still too cold and the pan not hot enough.  No sizzle.  No char.  Usually I take it out a good 5-10 minutes before I lay on the salt and pepper.  You don't want to shock the meat.  It's my version of winking at it across the bar and buying it a drink.  Or, more truthfully and less perversely, that extra 5-10 minutes allows me to chop vegetables/put away dishes/figure out what the hell I'm doing.

After committing the sin of putting cold meat in a cool pan, I committed another by leaving it alone for too long.  Then I further failed by hastily grabbing it out and not resting it.  Sure, I put more butter on it (because butter is wonderful) but the damage was done.  

The first bite was grey and disappointing.  So was the rest of it.  Like lying back and thinking of England, hoping it would be good anyway (it wasn't) and that it would be over soon (nope).  

The Boyfriend tried to convince me it was okay and he'd had worse, much, much worse but I was disgusted at myself.  I'd treated The Meat badly.  I promised it a good time and instead ended up being... premature.  It's awfully lewd, but cooking a fine steak really is like having good sex.  You need to be patient, gentle and watchful, all while letting it take it's own good time.  I tried to cheer myself up by thinking about all the other times, the other wonderful steaks I'd cooked.  

I was still unhappy.

So here's how to cook a steak, from Carlos and Anthony.  Because I'm still a bit ashamed.

[Make sure to watch from 4.20 onwards.  A beef bourguignon makes a small cameo, but just keep watching.  Ah hell, the whole damn thing is worth it.  You've read this far, what's another 13 minutes?]

No comments:

Post a Comment