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Wednesday, 25 February 2015 16:32

Five-alarm cooking can be interesting

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If you do now or have ever lived in a condo or apartment, you’ve shared several walls with a few unintentional arsonists.


It’s one of the things they don’t tell you when they pitch “the carefree, all-inclusive lifestyle.”
So it came as something as a surprise when, barely unpacked in our first condo, a dozen years ago, we were awakened in the night by the sound of hell breaking loose (aka: the building’s evacuation alarm).
Mistaking it for an actual harbinger of destruction, we dutifully felt the walls and front door as taught in Kindergarten, then peered into the hallway to check for actual flames. After which we coaxed our ‘fraidy cat from under the bed with a can of tuna, and grabbed all the things that, at the time, we believed we couldn’t live without.
By the fifth or sixth evacuation of the year, having rolled our own “Boulder of Sisyphus” to the car and back so many times, we left the Kitchen Aid mixer to burn. Which it never did. Not even in the memorable Christmas Eve exodus that gutted one home and infused a nice smoked-drywall aroma into a few others.
Next came condo Number 2. From which we scurried, several times, carrying nothing but the pet caddy and IDs, thumb drives and a snack in case the firemen couldn’t immediately clear the building.
They did.
By this time, we’d become unflappable.
An alarm in the middle of cooking a souffle? Those things’ll puff right back up.
Sirens before breakfast? Pfft. Put some cereal in a coffee cup and eat standing on the sidewalk.
Even the great stir fry incident of 2007, when our across-the-hall neighbour tripped the heat sensors with some over-the-top wokking, was just another reason to get some fresh air.
When we once more piled onto the street, the week before we sold the second condo for a front door to call our own? A poetic goodbye to all those overzealous deep fat fryers, potpourri burners, indoor smokehouse operators and barbecue pyromaniacs.
Since then, having been expelled from our home not a single time in 23 months, we simply smile nostalgically when it happens to someone else. Like my apartment-dwelling friend, Susan, who lately reported:
 “My neighbour burned a steak in her broiler just now and set off the fire alarm. I grabbed my purse and computer, put on my shoes and a jacket and went outside, but only a few of us evacuated.
 “The fire trucks came anyway, even though she called to say everything was okay. I stayed outside and waited until the alarm had been turned off, because it was so noisy inside the building. What is it about firemen, though? They were all gorgeous! ‘Well,’ said my neighbour (kidding of course). ‘I was lonely and wanted company for dinner, but maybe this was a bit extreme.’”
Maybe just a little. But what I really want to know is, was there another steak?

Blackened Steak
for the blackening spice:
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 - 6 oz tenderloin steaks (baseball cut)
1 tbs vegetable or canola oil
Combine spices. Coat sides of steaks with mixture.
Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. Sear steaks for about a minute on both sides. Transfer to a 375F oven and continue cooking to desired doneness. Let meat rest a few minutes before serving.
Try it with blue cheese butter:
Combine 2 oz blue cheese with 1 oz room temperature butter until smooth. Place a spoonful of mixture on top of each steak and serve.
Or slice steak and serve on a bed of baby greens, with thinly sliced red onion, halved grape tomatoes, dressed with:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
pinch kosher salt
crumbled blue cheese
Whisk together first three ingredients until combined. Toss with salad ingredients. Top with sliced steak and crumbled blue cheese.

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