TNT used to signify an explosive. Now it means “tried ‘n true” and refers to recipes posted on the web, which might still end up signifying an explosive, depending upon your digestive tract.
When you see “TNT” appended to a recipe, it means the submitter has prepared the dish at least once and that the recipe works as intended. The designation is supposed to instill confidence in the would-be chef that what he has here is a gen-you-wine foolproof recipe.
Alas, it doesn’t often work that way in real life. Not for me.
Take for example, the time a Shabbat guest gave me a mammoth piece of entrecote. Now, I am a carnivorous fool. I should have been over the moon at this largesse.
Stealing precious minutes away from my work at Kars for Kids, I turned to Google, finding at least 25 conflicting recipes for entrecote, all claiming to be TNT. They couldn’t ALL be right! Or could they??
Terrified to trust these random sources culled from the internet I turned to foodie friends and sought further advice, which was even worse. Suddenly, instead of cooking the thing according to weight, I was supposed to measure it with a tape measure at its thickest part to determine its diameter and cook it 25 minutes per inch in diameter. This, said my friend, was the real TNT method for cooking this cut of meat.
I got out my tape measure and entered the kitchen, prepared to do battle.
I opened the fridge and peered inside. The roast gleamed wetly at me from inside its plastic wrapper. I gingerly lifted it off the refrigerator shelf.
Its tail slick and capricious, the raw roast veered in the opposite direction as we wrestled for supremacy. After a prolonged struggle, I slammed that sucker onto my fleishig kitchen counter, crying out in triumph. The durned thing had nearly bested me.
I took its measure.
It was 4 inches at its widest girth.
I checked back with my “expert” and he repeated what he’d already told me: 25 minutes per inch in diameter. The same instructions I just didn’t want to believe. “It’s TNT,” he wrote again. “Always perfect. Every time.”
Oh, I doubted him and a voice inside me said, “Trust your instincts.”
Alas, I had none.
I went to bed, worried about the next day, Friday. I was worried about serving up a very large hunk of raw beef to my guests. The cooking time prescribed by my friend was brief, to say the least. I just didn’t trust these instructions, sworn by their author to be tried and true.
I mentioned the roast and the suggested cooking method to my mother in email correspondence Friday morning. She expressed her doubts. “I don’t see how you could possibly cook a piece of meat that size in such a short time.”
It came down to trust. Did I trust the friend who gave me that recipe?
I didn’t. Not really. He was just some guy I knew from Facebook.
I cooked everything else I intended to serve that night, saving the roast for last. My son, who knows his way around the kitchen, kept asking me, “Aren’t you going to start that roast?”
I pretended more confidence than I felt and blithely told him he should trust me, which made no sense, since I didn’t trust myself.
I don’t even want to describe what happened next. At the last possible moment of indecision, I decided I couldn’t possibly follow those instructions to the letter. I cooked the roast an entire hour longer than my expert had specified. And still, that roast was so rare at serving time it could have got up and danced the Hora on my table.
It was that particular shade of rare the French call “bleu.”
We all pretended it was fabulous. Except the kids, who pushed the barely edible meat around their plates and tried to hide the telltale fabulously EXPENSIVE red globules from sight, somewhere under the mashed potatoes and bread crusts where, had there been room, I would have liked to go as well. Mercifully, dinner ended at some point, far later than I would have wished.
I blushed on an off for several days at the memory of that failed dining experience, my self-image as a gastronome in tatters. And then it hit me.
TNT? It’s not just an acronym—it’s a note to the chef. When all else fails, the disgraced cook can make liberal used of the real TNT, trinitrotoluene, to self-implode.
TNT: the dishonored chef’s friend since 1863.