by Tara Davis
My arms are covered in scars. Some are fresh and pink. Some are years old, but forever a part of me.
People who don’t know me, or who aren’t familiar with my work, sometimes wonder about them – and me. But food industry folks always know, these marks are burns.
My job requires good timing, attention to detail, and a complete and utter willingness to put myself in some dangerous situations. With the sharp knives, open flame, hot grease and boiling liquids that are my every day companions, the least of my worries is my appearance. Safety first means making sure everyone in my kitchen knows the proper way to handle things, set timers for food they have cooking and are aware of their surroundings.
But we are human, and this, of course, does not always happen in the most ideal of manners.
Sometimes profanities prevail and oven doors are flung open in an attempt to rescue precious dishes. Along the way, we often make inadvertent contact with various forms of heat, resulting in more profanity and the inevitable searing of not only animal flesh, but our own.
But worry not! It is well worth the sacrifice of smooth, unmarred arms and hands to ensure your food is cooked correctly. Those precious creations born of our hard labor and joyous palates give meaning to our days in more ways than you can know. The bacon for your club sandwich, the braised beef and flambeed desserts make us as happy as we hope they do you.
Fire forever changed our future, giving us ways to quickly prepare and infuse all kinds of flavors and potential into our foods. Boiling and braising keep the moisture in, while grilling and roasting provide that color, texture and char we all so adore. Without the gumption of those who came before us, where would we be? Eating raw or dried, unseasoned foods. That’s where. Rejoice in the risks and the risk takers, my friends.
In what ways do you put yourself in danger for your food? Is it worth it? Sure it is!
Here are some of my favorite ways to play with fire and earn these decorations-
Seasoned bacon – line a baking tray with parchment paper. Toss one package of your favorite bacon with 1 tsp each black pepper, garlic powder and chili powder. Line strips of bacon on the baking tray and bake at 375 degrees 20-25 minutes, or until desired crispness. Check often to avoid burning, and careful about the grease!
Seared Tuna -Allow tuna steaks to come up to room temperature, season well with oil, salt and pepper. Turn your grill up to 425 degrees, or super hot! Place steaks on hot grill for no more than 30 seconds per side to get a nice char and fully sear the surface. (It should still be pink in the middle). Serve with fresh herbs and yogurt.
Mixed Fruit Flambe – Mix 1 lb mixed fruit of your choice (I like seasonal berries best) 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp vanilla extract. Cook until fruit is soft. Remove from heat, add 1/4 cup brandy or bourbon, return to heat and (CAREFULLY) light with a long match or grill lighter. Shake pan, coating fruit until flame dies out. Spoon over ice cream to serve.