The performance of a meal

I enjoyed so much the memories you brought back with your father’s day gift of Spinach Surprise. It made me think of all the different ways I used to make it and also brought to mind my special Three Cheese KD, but that’s another story.

I tried to perfect it over the years and settled on a recipe outlined in the following rambling prose. Spoiler alert: the Surprise now comes because there is no Spinach in the soup.

Assume you are cooking for one other person. You have invited them over and you will prepare the meal in front of them. Before they arrive, assemble the ingredients (fully sliced and diced as necessary) and keep them hidden. When it comes time to prepare the meal pull out the ramen pack and place it on the table in front of them in a moderately challenging way. They will ask, either verbally or with skeptical/disappointed eyes if that’s what they will be eating. “No” you reply as you unpackaged the ramen, discard the noodles and present the flavour package. “That is what we’ll be eating,” as you turn around to begin preparing the meal.

Grab a medium-sized saucepan, put it on the stove and empty the packet in it.

Turn around, grin, and with a moderate amount of flair and a little flourish, reveal the ingredients.

Cover the bottom of a medium sized saucepan with oil. High heat until the oil takes on the rippled quality of the back of a middle-aged ladies leg. The aromas from the flavour packet should be released. Take care not to burn them.

Drop in one onion, sliced into long strands. The pan should be hot enough so that the onion starts browning quickly. Move this shit around until the brown starts turning black.

Another path opens up! You take it, it is the meat path. You will be frying a small piece of steak on the side. Start it now. I won’t give you too much direction here, you’re a man, you got this.

You will have some oyster (or regular, but they don’t slice long and thin) mushrooms prepared as follows: sprinkled with soy sauce (you don’t want to overpower the mushroom flavour), a clove or two of garlic, the amount grated ginger you can fit between three fingers. Add this to the onions and get busy with it until the mushrooms start to dewater. You should be getting a nice thick blackish brownish goo forming on the bottom.

Deglaze time! Add 6 cups of beef stock, stir it all around until you have moved all the deliciousness from the bottom of the pan into the liquid. Bring it to a boil. Crack two eggs into the pot, stirring vigorously. This move is brilliant if you can pull it off, because it requires the one-hand egg crack. Practice beforehand to get it right. The egg will cook right away and strengthen the broth.

Now pay attention to timing, you may have defeated the first boss of the game, but there are more. Is your steak ready? It should be nice and pink inside but not bloody, unless your date can handle it, then by all means go bloody. The heat of the soup is going hit the steak hard, you don’t want to lose the tenderness before it hits the table. The other thing you want to avoid it over cooking the bok choy ( and sui choy if you want to go full bouge). Use baby bok choy if you can, the whole leaves are aesthetically pleasing. If you can’t, slice the larger leaves up, like everything else in this meal, to optimize their interaction with chop sticks.

Add the noodles. If they are the thick, chewy udon noodles from the vacuum pack, stir them around and mix everything together. If it’s another type of noodle, make sure it’s cooked and ready to go at this point. Once that’s all in, the cooking part is done. Turn off the stove and start putting together the dish.

Evenly full two large bowls, another tricky part. It will take great care to not serve some soup up on your carefully selected shirt. You love that shirt, it’s a great shirt, what a shame to draw any negative attention toward that shirt.

Your steak has now been resting the required 5 mins on the cutting board. Slice thinly and fan out beautifully on top of the soup. Look at it, apart from the red of the steak, you got fifty shades of brown – an awful book title and an awful presentation. You should have created a nice bed of criss-crossed sliced basil green and pickled carrot (thinly-sliced carrot will also work) orange. Add some interest with sliced radish and then lay your steak on top of that. Top with green onions, sesame seeds and some drops of toasted sesame oil. You want that to pool around the sides, it’s aroma will be carried by the steam and be a bold first sensation when you serve the plate.

Before the bowl arrives, make sure your table contains: sirracha, chopsticks, napkins, dark ale, shichimi togarashi, and your guest.