You should, of course, never leave the house after 6pm on New Year’s Eve, because it is an awful night on which you must pay £25 to get into a rammed venue you’d visit for free on any other occasion, then queue for 20 minutes to get a drink because not only is the place overly busy, it’s populated with pub amateurs who never set foot in one outside December and order complex, time-consuming cocktails then stand at the bar drinking them so no one else can get past. No, no: invite people round, go to someone else’s house, or stay in on your own, drink three cans of Yeastie Boys White Noise and absolutely fuck up a steak you were really looking forward to.
I get back from two days at a friend’s house in the lull between Christmas and new year, and out of some culturally ingrained desire to make the evening somehow “special”, I want to cook a steak. I also need some onion rings. And a light bulb.
On my way down the high road I end up accidentally walking past Iceland, where I was heading for the onion rings, and obviously I can’t just turn around and start walking the other way because people would see me, so I stop and look at my phone for a bit, which will lead any onlookers who have troubled to watch me for more than a minute to believe that I have discovered some information on it which requires me to change course. A man approaches, holding a plug extension board whose cable is draped round his neck like a snake handler, and tells me he is tripping. I end up rolling a cigarette to give him while we talk for a few minutes, because he’s in no position to do so himself. He asks me whether I feel like my life’s on the right path, and whether existence is a straight line or more of a dotted one. I only came out for onion rings.
Having picked up what I need and two thick sirloins from the butcher, I’m home and ready to make potato salad, which I’ve been doing a lot as a side recently because you can generally get a biggish bag of orange-stickered potatoes in the Co-Op for about 35p. I want it served cold anyway, so doing it now means I’m not doing too many things at once later. I boil up some potatoes, crush them up with the fork and add some pea shoots to wilt with the lid on for a few minutes. Once I’ve let it cool a bit on the stove (you’re better off dressing a potato salad when it’s cold, otherwise you’re wilfully creating a hot mayonnaise scenario) there are a couple of capers still floating around in the jar so I add those and some of their spirit vinegar, plus two chopped gherkins, horseradish and light mayonnaise.
Steak itself has always been a meal I’ve thought a bit overrated, and never worth ordering in a restaurant unless it’s a Hawksmoor or something like that, when steak is the whole point you’re there. But this year I’ve got into it a bit more in an attempt to learn to cook it properly.
Some pieces of often-conflicting advice on cooking steak I’ve read on the internet:
- Oil the steak, not the pan
- Rest it for at least as long as you cooked it
- Season it a couple of hours before you cook it
- But obviously don’t season it until just before you cook it, because the salt draws out the moisture, you prick
I’ve done a couple of dry rubs for them this year (bit of brown sugar, cayenne pepper, paprika, celery salt, that sort of thing) but this time I just want to keep it simple with a bit of seasoning and some garlic. I crush up a big clove and spread it on both sides with some oil.
Once the onion rings have done half of their 16 minutes in the oven and been turned over, this leaves me the last eight to griddle and rest the meat. The pan’s at about searing temperature. I tong the steak onto it. The garlic on the underside immediately falls off and burns uselessly. After about two and a half minutes I turn it over and leave it for the same duration. What’s apparent now is that the sirloin’s thick strip of fat isn’t going to be compromised much. Rather than oiling the meat, I should’ve held the edge onto the pan for a bit first to render the fat, then cooked it in this.
I rest it for a good four or five minutes while I get the pan in to soak. In the end the meat itself is fine and bleeding just enough, but the thick fat, which I’d usually eat most of, is too chewy to do anything with, and I have to leave it, but I can melt it down for lard tomorrow, which makes nice little flavour bombs to add to other things. A bit of sinew wedges itself between two of my teeth, and later on it turns out I was right at the end of a roll of dental floss, so I have to remove it with a tiny string of floss that I can’t wrap round my fingers. My jaw hurts a bit from all the chewing. The onion rings are the best bit, but then you could say that about 2018 as a whole.