Steak And Tater Night

Posted: August 5, 2011 in The Roper Files
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Work was an endurance test this week; just getting through forty hours keeping a straight face and not going just out-right bat-shit crazy was nothing less than torture. Sunday I cooked pinto beans in a mixture of barbeque sauce and molasses and Monday through Wednesday this week I ate my own pinto bean burritos . Heated flour tortillas on a pan on the stove and shredded the beans into a pulp with my food chopper, then heated them on the stove. They were actually pretty good with some lettuce, chopped tomatoes shredded cheese and salsa mixed in with the beans and rolled up in the heated tortillas.

But by Thursday afternoon I had racked up forty hours and to my relief they didn’t ask me to come in on Friday; I sprinted out to my truck in a hurry to get out of there. It was 108 degrees that afternoon according to the local AM news radio station as I sped down the freeway and it felt every degree of it. It has become a daily practice to fill my insulated coffee mug with ice water before I leave work; it’s the only way to survive the drive home this summer. Dinner was already on my mind when I pulled into my driveway, but that wasn’t happening until I took a shower first.

After a nice cold shower I fixed a glass of tea and inventoried my dinner choices. As usual the good stuff was still frozen (forgot to pull out the roast again; whoops) Three frozen chicken breast dinners were staring me in the face; I could thaw them outside I guess…what else do I have? I had an entire box of Angus hamburger patties and buns but no fresh lettuce and tomatoes. Still had beans but was out of fresh tortillas; but then I spotted a package in the back of the fridge that I had picked up as an impulse purchase earlier in the week: a five ounce beef filet wrapped in bacon.

Further inventorying revealed I just happened to have a big baking potato. Instantly I turned my oven to 450 and located a roll of aluminum foil. Split seconds later it was wrapped and in the oven; now to go outside and start a fire in the grill. Insert the sound of screeching brakes here; this is the point my enthusiasm hit the brick wall. According to my porch thermometer it’s 105 degrees and that’s in the shade, mind you. Shit! Am I crazy? Am I insane? What kind of mallet-headed moron is out starting a nice hot fire in this heat? THIS kind of moron; that’s who. Well a hungry moron anyway; I’ve got a steak to cook.

I took a phone and a large glass of tea outside with me and put on my sunglasses. Took a deep breath and opened the door. The heat hit me in the face like a punch; my air conditioning had spoiled me. Felt like I had crawled into the oven with that baked potato. Unlocked my storage bin and dug out the charcoal and put some into my grill and soaked the coals with starter fluid. Tossed a handful of hickory chips on top of the coals, put the lid on the grill and bolted back in the house. That was about all I could take of being outside; forgot the matches anyway.

The ten cubes of ice I had in my glasses had melted into tiny little lumps in mere minutes; I poured the entire glass of watered-down tea down my throat and took another deep breath. Found my box of wooden kitchen matches and poured another glass of ice tea and got some fresh ice out of the freezer. Took another deep breath and opened the Door To Hell once again. Wham! The heat was relentless; even at 8pm it was still over a 100. Stepped outside, squinted then lit a match and touched it to the coals.

The flames leaped up into my face, then turned to heat; guess I used enough starter fluid. Forgetting I lived in a duplex for a moment, I made the Frankenstein Monster noise as the flames jumped up towards me and flailed my arms like Boris Karloff. My Indian neighbor next door looks around the corner at me from the carport on his side confused: “Are you alright?” My attempt at explaining the joke to him goes nowhere the longer I try to explain it to him. “Okay I was just asking” as he understandably disappears back around the corner.

Mortified, I return to the grill and dump another handful of hickory chips to the fire. The coals are turning white around the edges; the fire seems to be starting alright. I bolt back in the house to my glass of ice tea and the creature comfort of my air conditioning. We are in the thirty-something day of 100+ degree temperatures and about the break the 42-day record of 1980. Back inside I unwrap the filet from its packaging and put it into a bowl and sprinkle it with Adobo seasoning and soak it in Worcestershire sauce and put it back into the fridge. Then I take a big gulp of tea and go back outside to check the fire.

The hickory chips I put on the fire are blazing; looks like a good bed of red coals are getting started. No point standing around out here; go back inside and screw around on the computer for a few minutes and drink more green tea, then take the steak back out there a few minutes later. A good red/white bed of coal await me and the steak; dump the steak on the grill and it makes a satisfying sizzling noise. The smell of cooking beef fills the air almost instantly; I close the lid to the grill and head back to the house.

I’ve cooked these filets before and have always found them challenging. They are a thick cut of beef and it is a fine line between rare and burnt black. The bacon wrapped around them makes it hard to tell if the meat is cooked all the way through. Tonight I am going to do this right and keep and eye on this; going to flip it every three minutes. And oh yeah; I forgot to set the timer…whoops. Run back outside and check the filet. Flip it over; not burnt but just starting to look cooked. Another couple of minutes on the first side wouldn’t hurt. Go back inside and forget to turn on my kitchen timer again. The phone rings. “Hey man what are you doing?”

Cooking a steak” I reply as I hang up the phone. Hey what’s that smell? Smells like….steak…oh shit… Bolt back out the door, open the lid and flip the filet over. Good news: it’s not only NOT burnt, but it looks delicious. Whew! Close the lid and go back inside. This time I actually remember to set the timer for three minutes. This soon turns into a routine: flip the steak. Go back inside and drink tea. Go back outside; flip the steak. Repeat…A few minutes later the steak appears cooked but not burnt and the bacon wrapped around it begins to fall off. I can see the steak appears to be cooked the way I like it with no pink visible. Stick a fork in it and put it on a plate and bolt back inside.

Dig out the potato from the oven and slice it open. Then I put butter, salt, pepper and shredded cheese on it and let it melt as I slice up the steak. The steak is perfectly cooked; I have outdone myself this evening. A little Heinz 57, put a piece in my mouth and chew. Yum…..

This week may have sucked during its best moments, but tonight I have a new Best Moment. This is the one that was worth working its way up to. The one that made the entire week worth living. No beans for me tonight. Its Steak and Tater Night….


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