How to Make a Five Hundred Dollar Fajita

Anticipating May’s Cinco de Mayo Mexican theme this Christmas, I was all revved up to try some Mexican inspired recipes.

Craving some fresh from the grill goodness, only fajitas would fit the bill–moist strips of chicken, the sliced peppers and onions, all boasting those flavour boosting char marks, that cross hatch of heavenly goodness.

Barbeque encased in a tomb of ice, the only way to make it happen was to break out my cast iron griddle. Its last use, however, was cooking up a big ol batch o bacon for fellow campers last fall. It was sooty, greasy and my wife would have my hide if she saw me using it on our stove, or worse, caused a grease fire in the kitchen.

A little scraping, and some clever MacGyvering (MacGrubering?) I’d shield the ceramic stove top from the greasy grime with a double layer of heavy duty foil. Griddle pre-heating and veggies prepped I applauded my genius as I seasoned the surface with a frozen puck of reserved chicken fat.

At the first sign of smoke I laid the chicken across the griddle’s ridges and was rewarded with a cracking good sear. Dark chevrons of deliciousness crisscrossed the morsels. I couldn’t have asked for a better result in spite of strident proclamations of disaster from my smoke alarms. I should have taken note.

With wide-open windows I drove smoke from the kitchen, living room and bedrooms, pulled the cats quivering from somewhere inside the couches, and cranked the furnace to recover the lost heat. At last I was ready to eat. Fillings tucked snug as a bug in a flour tortilla I spotted another opportunity to bring some brown to town. The tortilla’s white canvas was crying for char, yearning for burning. After several minutes on the grill there was no indication of toast. I inched up the heat and my anemic munchies were tantalizingly tattooed.

I wish I could tell  you what the Fajitas were like. They may have been delicious, or disgusting for that matter, I’ll never know, because the events that followed erased any recollection of them from my mind.

Cleanup started easy, aided by my handy kitchen helper, a stainless steel scraper which has proven indispensable time and again. With a final wipe of Windex, the counters again gleamed and he griddle was cool enough to buff with my barbecue brush.

The griddle separated effortlessly from the foil. The foil, however, declined my invitation to leave the stove. It tore, shredded, fell into flakes and to my horror was apparently embossed upon my ceramic stove top in a pattern vaguely evocative of the Great Lakes.

My wife securely ensconced in the basement sourcing obscure show tunes on the mainframe, I hastily Googled every iteration of melted tin foil+ceramic stove top on the upstairs laptop. In spite of my stealth, she found me out. Wives have a way of doing that. I think I have a tell. Perhaps it was the sudden silence after a marathon of great industry.

I have to hand it to her, she took it well. Google and I reassured her that others had experienced similar dilemmas and I began to read her the remedies, the best of which seemed a heat and scrape strategy.

While I continued to search for contingencies, my wife went to work. Heat. Scrape. Heat. Scrape. A few minutes later her voice brought sweet relief from the kitchen.

I think I got it…I think it’s gone.

I joined her in the kitchen, set to give her a hug but found her standing proud of her achievement in a haze of noxious fumes, the nub of a silicone spatula emerging from an oven-mitted hand, oblivious to the fact that the foil was not only still there, but now masked beneath a veneer of hot plastic.

Exchanging Google for elbow grease, I broke out the big guns, cranked the affected elements to high and armed with my Ove Glove and stainless kitchen scraper went to work. I wore away the plastic with relative ease. The aluminum wasn’t going anywhere.

But it’s aluminum. A soft metal. Only 70 microns at best separating me from my perfect stovetop. I posited perhaps a mild abrasive could wear it away.

With the judicious application of 400 grit, wet-dry sandpaper the cast aluminum lakes relief receded. But like the glacial retreat that created the real life lakes, I was left with a deeply scarred landscape, a permanent etching on the dual and small burner of my less than two year old Whirlpool stove.

Dogmeat. I am dogmeat. I’m never going to be allowed to cook again. My days as a foodie are finished.

Again to Google. Last ditch effort. Search: Whirlpool replacement parts. But in the pinnacle of my panic my wi-fi, a temperamental motherfucker at best, fails. Connection lost.

Oh that’s just what I need right now. SONOFABITCHPIECEOFFUCKINGSHIT! I below, sending the cats deep into another piece of furniture.

I lurch from the couch on my way to reset the router, shoving my laptop in a show of disgust. Now I have to point out that my wife has an almost unnatural need for order and, despite a borderline obsessive compulsion to clean everything within an inch of its life, she does has a wonderful eye for placement and style. The beautiful crystal pedestal bowl for instance, a stunning coffee table centrepiece adorned with pine cones, cinnamon sticks and Christmas tree ornaments. What a lovely piece. Just lovely. And it remained lovely even as my laptop scudded across a pledge perfect high gloss surface to collide with it.

Both came to rest on the brink of disaster, hovering perilously at the edge of the table. Unfortunately, the brief but violent contact was too much for the laptop’s delicate liquid crystal display to endure. A jagged black triangle juxtaposed a ghastly illuminated smear reminiscent of a chalk sidewalk sketch just after a rainshower.

I must admit to a little screaming and stomping. Maybe even a little crying (the laptop was a birthday gift from my mom), but I gained enough composure to search for a replacement cooktop and now, laptop screen, on the downstairs computer.

At $79 the laptop screen was a bargain. The stove top…after exchange, shipping and duty. Well suffice to say the new Frigidaire, blessedly on sale at Leons.com, has been working just a treat. I miss my Whirlpool and I’ll never make another fajita.

3 Responses to “How to Make a Five Hundred Dollar Fajita”

  1. Eric Friesen May 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Hilarious! Glad you can laugh about it now (or can you?) Thanks for a great story.

  2. What can you do but laugh. A postscript to the story, two months after delivery, I was boiling two pots of water on the large front elements of my Frigidaire stove when there was an almighty crack and the ceramic top split into three equal pieces. Thankfully they identified it as a manufacturing flaw and it was replaced under warranty.

  3. Much like a fine wine, this story has matured incredibly well, and a few months since The Day of the Fajita, it’s a good mellowed into a great yarn!

    Glad I’m not the only one who googles madly during kitchen emergencies!

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