Accidentally lighting myself on fire while trying to cook a nice, home-made meal for Tina is probably one of the worst.. But, alas, the human torch fire display was but the culmination of a long cooking tale involving, literally, blood, sweat, tears and way too few beers.. I guess we’d better take it all the way from the start, huh?
See, it’s no secret – especially for readers of this blog – that student life is hard, financially, at times.. As such, a freezer makes for a valuable investment as bulk purchases and shopping during sales makes for an easier strain on the food budget.. So, a few months ago, I came across both a bunch of chuck and a small mountain of ground beef and pork on sale at a price which in no way made me think twice about stocking up on about four pounds of chuck and six pounds of ground goodness.
I subsequently spent the next few weeks wondering what to do with this huge pile of meat I’d gotten my hands on.. And suddenly the idea dawned to me that, hey, I was not the only one suffering under a financial strain.. So maybe I should get hold of Tina and ask her if she’d be interested in splitting the expenses if we were to get together and cook up a huge batch of Chili Con Carne and Bolognese. As it turned out, Tina had no real problems with getting some 15 ready cooked meals at the price of DKK 10-15 a pop, so a date was settled dedicated largely to cooking, hanging out and listening to heavy fucking metal!
That very day, as mentioned in an earlier post, came off to a really odd start with my bedroom being invaded by random carpenters at 8 AM.. It also came off to a rather bad start for Tina who wasn’t feeling too well in the morning, but none the less pulled herself together and showed up only slightly, yet fashionably, late.. Leaving me just enough time to not only cut up the chuck and aromatic vegetables before she arrived, but also to sink the tip of my Global Chef knife into my right index finger.. But that was to be expected, it’s how I roll after all.
Either way, with Tina having safely arrived, cooking commenced with great precision and astonishing speed. I’ve always been notoriously bad at letting people assist me while cooking. My dad’s pretty much always been the only person allowed to do so, but I’m by now learning to let Tina help as well – and hey, it only took me five years! So, while I took on sweating vegetables and more or less coming up with a plan for what was to happen, I put Tina on spice roasting duty.. Roasting and grinding your own spices is a good way of getting every bit of flavor and aroma out of spices. When working with really hot, dried chilies, it’s also a good way of inducing tears and coughing.. A small, yet important, fact I’d forgotten all about, but which pretty quickly added tears to our tale of blood, sweat, tears and way too few beers.. But Tina championed through, showing not only great skill in handling a cast iron skillet at about half her own weight, but also at subsequently pounding the shit out of said spices.. Whether the coughing and the tears the spices caused her attributed to her being so eager to grind them finely, I don’t know, but the fact of the matter is she produced a great, fine chili blend.. Which was subsequently added to the browned chuck along with coffee, beer, some chipotle, tomatoes and additional seasoning.
“Can I stir this,” Tina said looking at the fuck off pot of would be Chili Con Carne. “Heaven forbid no!” I replied, not wanting the whole, tinned tomatoes to break up before their bitterness had had a chance to cook out a bit. “Well, aren’t you glad I asked?” she promptly smiled back, making yet another stab and reference to a situation where I may or may not have yelled at her a bit for stirring a pot she wasn’t supposed to. A situation I’ve tried hard ever since to make her forgive and forget.. Something that evidently hasn’t happened yet.
Either way, into the oven the chili went and we then set out on adding said six pounds of ground meaty goodness to another pot in order to build the bolognese. This, in turn, almost turned out a huge mess as I hadn’t really calculated on six pounds of meat and two pounds of veggies taking up a lot of fucking space, so the pot was a bit on the small side, but held up.. Even after adding a bunch of canned tomatoes and a splash of red wine. This splash of wine set Tina off with another spiteful comment as she remarked (in reference to Heston Blumenthal) that she thought real chefs used an entire bottle of wine. My reply was something along the lines of “Fuck you, sweetheart!” as I raised the bottle and emptied it into the bottle. This prompted first a shriek of surprise and then a burst of laughter as she apparently “didn’t think I’d actually do it.” I, of course, held that she’d known me for five years now and should know better!
These small arguments and the addition of a bottle of wine effectively ended stage one of the cooking process and we quickly jumped into stage two.. Reduction, reduction, reduction.. A tedious process which involves simmering dishes for hours on end in order to evaporate water and intensify flavors, and which I consider one of the few things besides wine production and cooking with butter that the French ever got right. The good thing about reduction cooking is that it’s pretty much just a waiting game allowing us to do all sorts of things on the side such as shopping, arguing, talking to my mother who we happened to run into at the super market and somehow convince people that we’re some odd couple of sorts.. Seriously, you yell at Tina ever so slightly from the dairy section some eight meters away to put down the fruit she’s fondling because “No, we’re not getting that!” – and suddenly everybody thinks you’re together or something.. Sheesh!
Safely returned from the store and the prying looks of soccer moms who seemed to be of the opinion that we were undergoing some sort of marital crisis, we did the first batch if dishes, watched an episode of Top Gear, at the fruit I’d obviously not convinced Tina to put down.. And then sent out to do some more crying! See, Tina really wanted French onion soup and I’d promised I’d cook it for her some day.. So what better day than that very day? Now, the good thing about French onion soup is that it’s good.. The rather bad thing about French onion soup is that the production process involves peeling and cutting well over two pounds of onions.. Which was okay for Tina who was wearing contacts but started to kinda get to me in the end.. The suffering I endure for the people I love!
Either way, it was all soon over because as luck (and logic) would have it, peeling and cutting onions is a much faster process when you’re two at work rather than when you’re doing it alone. So, into the pot the onions went and into the living room we went while the onions were allowed to sizzle away and caramelize on their own. I spent the time by properly schooling Tina into the black arts by forcing her to watch “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” which I figured it was about high time for her to watch as she’s starting to really get into metal (which both in some strange way both fascinates and scares me) and the movie really helps define and explain the ways of the metal.
After the movie and after the onions had met some Chardonnay, some beef broth and various herbs, it was time for Tina to go on with her active chores if the day.. Namely going to the gym.. Which left me in charge of finishing off the various dishes we had cooking and cook up a few more as Tina had left me with the responsibility to figure out dinner.. And wine, most importantly! Her only request was that we have a bit of the soup for starters.. So off to the store I went, again, and looked for something that’d go well on top of onion soup and white wine.. Chicken somehow became the obvious choice.. I had some leeks left in the fridge from earlier.. And well, leeks’ best friend in the world would probably have to be.. Bacon! (believe it or not!).. So, chicken over fried bacon and leeks in a light cream sauce featuring plenty of black pepper, chardonnay and Noily Prat it was.. Topped with cheese and raw leeks, of course.
Granted, chicken is a bit of a gamble with Tina as I’m still guiding her onto the goodness of chicken.. So, my genius plan was to mix up a Mojito for her as she arrived back, get her tipsy, then lay down the plan! A plan that worked just beautifully, coz, well, a well-made Mojito is one of the few tricks I know, and will admit to using, to get my will over Tina.. Lasagna is another, but that’s another story.. Not that I think she’d really mind the menu anyways, but I kinda wanted a Mojito, too, so there.. And what a hit that was, prompting compliments from Tina as she arrived back and inducing comments such as “pre-made drink mixes is for fucking idiots who don’t know what they’re doing.. Which is why I’ve got you!”
As it turned out, the menu was approved, too, without much fuzz and she did seem impressed with my borderline ritualistic way of preparing French Onion Soup.. Which went all well up until the point where the bowls with croutons and cheese on top had been under the broiler and I were to evacuate them from the oven, using my fancy oven mittens courtesy of my grandma.. For some reason, I wasn’t really paying attention to my doing so rather than grabbing the bowls, I thrust both hands onto the broiling elements of the oven, not really realizing anything was wrong until I saw the look on shock on Tina’s face and started smelling something burning.
“This is a problematic result,” I proclaimed as I pulled a burning mitten out of the oven, blew out the smoke and started to laugh and crack jokes at my own stupidity, not realizing that my other hand was, in fact still on fire.. Tina, apparently now used to my ingenuity in finding new ways of hurting myself, didn’t really say much as I struggled to beat out the fire in my mitten-clad left hand with my own right hand.. Now freed of its mitten.. She simply shook her head, going, “only you would do something like this..” “Yes,” I acknowledged, after having fought down the flames and finally gotten the little soup crocks out of the oven.. “But look, I made cute, little starters.”
So, that was the fire aspect of the tale of blood, sweat and tears.. And still, the only damn beer involved was the one that went into the Chili.. But no worries! The last cooking procedures were about done and we spent the rest of the night more or less feasting on French Onion Soup, Chicken with Fresh Pasta, expensive Chardonnay.. And Rammstein and Slipknot.. Y’know, to add to the sophistication.. Or whatever, it was good times.. But all good times have to come to an end and at around 0:30 AM, we decided we’d probably had enough so we set out on bagging the large amounts of freezer food we’d prepared over the course of the day, threw half of it in a bag for Tina and I then walked her home before making my own way back home for a bit of rest and some much needed sleep.. Which, I’m happy to say, was in no way interrupted by unknown carpenters.