The problem with being stuck in the house every night is we’re watching too much TV, and the problem with watching too much TV is there’s nothing left but cooking shows, and the problem with watching nothing but cooking shows is that everyone starts expecting three-Michelin-star fine-dining experiences, and the problem with everyone expecting three-Michelin-star fine-dining experiences is that I happen to be the self-appointed household cooking guy.
The paella was something like this (not).Credit:William Meppem. Styling by Hannah Meppem
Monday was Spanish night. I whipped up an authentic saffron-infused seafood paella – even pronounced it “pa-eeeee-ya” when I served up, that’s how authentic it was.
My son had a mouthful and said, “Did you use bomba rice?” I said ,“Uhhh no … I used arborio.” He said, “Shame. Bomba rice has the ideal liquid absorbency properties for paella. And it’s not pronounced pa-eeeee-ya, dad. It’s pa-EHHHHH-ya! PA-EHHHHH-YAAAA!”
Tuesday night: Peri Peri Chicken & Moroccan Couscous. My wife had a mouthful and said, “Did you make your own stock?” I said, “Uhhhh no … I used a pre-made supermarket stock."
She said, “Pity. It really affects the flavour profile. Also, we had Spanish last night – that’s two Mediterranean cuisines in a row. A bit of geopolitical culinary diversity wouldn’t hurt, Chef. Lift your game."
Wednesday night, I flipped continents, sourced correct ingredients, and presented a slow-cooked Dong Po pork-belly dish originating in Hangzhou Bay, in the eastern Zhejiang province of the Chinese mainland.
I had a mouthful and my inner-rabbi said, “Is this kosher?” I said, “Uhhhh no … it’s the belly of a pig."
My inner rabbi said, “Disgraceful! You’re defiling the 5000-year-old dietary laws of your people just for a few delectable morsels of pork!!! Which you forgot to render by the way. Render the pork fat next time, you putz, render!”
By Thursday, I was anxious and exhausted: I needed a meal that would dazzle the Mother, the Son and The Holy Inner Rabbinical Ghost.
So I settled on a dish that few attempt because it’s obscure, it’s complicated, and it has smutty schoolboy connotations that don’t sit comfortably with many diners: Jamaican Jerk Chicken.
I found some free online recipes, but free online recipes are never free at all – you have to pay with your soul to get them.
Free online recipes always start with The Recipe-Giver’s Memoirs: “Hi, I’m Abby, a midwestern wife who HEARTS giggling, drinking champagne, and recipes made with in-season ingredients!”
But you just want the recipe, so you keep scrolling down … she likes quilting too … scrolling … and “fabulous shoes". Eventually you come to … The Recipe’s Back Story: "Carl and I are still riding a Jamaican post-vacation high, so I tried to recreate the jerk chicken we had every night at our resort!”
It’s a whole novella, complete with photos of the Jamaican-resort jerk chicken and the Jamaican-resort frickin' jerks.
But you just want the recipe, so you keep scrolling down… “Carl complimented me on my Rasta accent, ya’mon … poor Carl got jerk sauce on his chin!…” Until eventually you get to … The Pre-Recipe Tips, Chapters 1 – 40, including “Delicious Jerk Side-Dishes” and “How I Cleaned Jerk Sauce Off Carl’s Shirt”.
But you just want the recipe, so you keep scrolling down … scrolling-finger starting to bleed … until you finally reach … The Actual Recipe.
But it’s an American recipe so you have to do complex imperial-to-metric conversions, diabolical Fahrenheit-to-Celsius mathematics, confusing scallions-to-spring-onions-substitutions … and after about an hour of reading, another hour of prepping, two hours of cooking, my Jamaican Jerk Chicken was finally served to my family and eaten in about 11 minutes.
“Not too bad, cooking guy,” they said. Happy with that. A three-Michelin-star review.
Danny Katz is a Melbourne humourist.
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