Probably my earliest cooking experience was Jell-O. This would have been 1956 or so when I was 5. The old Jell-O came in a waxed paper wrapper. The mix was a lump you would crumble into a bowl, and this was my favorite part because you could lick your fingers when Mom wasn’t looking. No, hygiene wasn’t on my radar yet. It was akin to what would later be called Sweet Tarts. Next Mom would add the hot water and I would stir and stir and stir and stir and stir. Remember I was 5; anything more than a minute was too long and two minutes brought on death throes. Finally, she added the cold water and it was poured into a classic, 1950s, aluminum donut mold.
As I recall, it was lunch the next day when Mom, amid great fanfare, brought out the Jell-O Alex had made. Everyone was served and I waited with great anticipation. Now, my siblings were 10, 13, and 17 and quickly noticed the undisolved Jell-O mix like a mouthful of sand. They all nodded appreciatively with I suspect a commanding stare from our mother. Dad didn’t need coaching; I was the fourth. I ate a blissful lunch.
Reflecting on this experience reveals several things. First, I’ve been interested in cooking for most of my life. My mother encouraged/indulged/humored me through cake and brownie mixes at which point I lost interest for a few years. Real baking was complicated and stovetop cooking was too dangerous and rarely sweet enough for my taste.
Second, I do learn from my mistakes…eventually. My siblings and I shared at least one thing in common. I, too, by the third or fourth batch, could detect an obvious grittiness to my Jell-O. Given a few more tries everyone looked willingly upon my jiggly side dish.
Finally, mistakes – but I repeat myself. Only for emphasis. Reflections in a Skillet will be a reflection on my evolution as a cook. But, it is also a critique of the things I cook. I plan to suggest tweaks I would try the next time although I doubt I’ll make the same recipe again.
The above is one of my original blog attempts. It was tied to a nice seafood soup recipe which I will post another time. This week I posted my intro blog and feel like I want to get an actual recipe on line as well. Since this is the only recipe I have a picture for I’m going ahead with it.
By the way, I’m not too concerned about the photo. I want you to have an idea about my dish. I know the picture is of mediocre quality but my dinner was getting cold.
I pulled out some flank steak to thaw the other day; wasn’t sure what I’d make but it knew something would come to mind. Here’s what I came up with this time.
Flank Steak Fajitas for 2
2/3 # flank steak
2 flour tortillas
¾ c cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
1 tomato, diced (I had cherry tomatoes so I used them)
sliced black olives
- Lay out flank steak and remove excess fat or you can leave it on if you prefer.
- Season with salt, onion powder, and your favorite Mexican seasoning (ground cumin, paprika, and ancho chili powder for me today).
- Let rest for 30 minutes or so.
- Prep all the toppings.
- Heat the grill or a grill pan very hot. Once it’s hot add the steak and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from grill and let it rest for 5 minutes or so. It should still be medium rare or rare.
- Slice the flank steak very thin, across the grain, and on an angle (pretty hard when it’s so thin).
- Meanwhile, heat the tortillas. I use a flat griddle but a microwave works well with a moist paper towel. Flip the tortilla and arrange the steak on one half along with the cheese and salsa. Fold the tortilla over the steak and heat through a minute or so.
- Top with the rest of the ingredients and dinner’s ready.
Reflection #1: Flank steak is pretty tough so don’t overcook it. The cut of meat is pretty thin to begin with so cutting it thin isn’t easy but it does get the tenderness you want.
Reflection #2: We just piled all the toppings on and ate with knives and forks. It would work well as a side salad too.
Reflection 3: Don’t look for the lime or cilantro in my photo. We didn’t have any so we toughed it out.