Monday, October 26, 2009

The Hunger Presents: White Trash Girl - Episode 1

I spent roughly 12 years of my life in a place called Woodstock Georgia, about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta. My mother had a pretty hard time making friends in the South being born in Cuba and raised in New York. The Southerners back in our little neck of the woods (and I do mean woods, we were kind of in the middle of Deliverance country) were friendly enough from a distance but didn't want the brown people at their party if ya know what I'm saying. I think we were the only ethnic people within a ten mile radius. Hell, I don't think I even saw a black person until I went to junior high. Pretty messed up. Anyways, my mother had an interesting cooking style. She cooked a lot of Cuban food and some Italian (my godfather is Italian) but she also adapted to the South by trying out all these 50's Americana, Southern white trash sort of dishes. Things like tuna noodle casserole, hamburger mac, fried bologna sandwiches, etc. I loved the stuff. I have a serious addiction for these kind of dishes. I definitely do not have a salt or cheese deficiency. This kind of food is a part of my history. Now that were in another semi-depression these kind of meals are becoming more and more popular. They're cheap to make and they are filling. As you can probably tell, I am not a food snob. While I love organic, local, sustainable foods I also have a deep respect for down and dirty food. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to use crap ingredients. You can elevate white trash food by using local, high quality ingredients. In my mind you are still cooking with white trash spirit which is good enough for me. Even though I am part Cuban, Chinese, and French Canadian, once you live in the South, it becomes a part of you. I still hear my Southern twang come out once in a while and I still love my hot dog and tater tot casseroles.

Spicy Taco-Mac

16 oz. macaroni pasta
1 lb. ground beef
2 cups half and half
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp AP flour
1 packet of taco seasoning (or make your own)
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper tt
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (my fave is Beecher's Flagship cheese), grated
your favorite hot sauce (Tapatio is mine)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 12 baking dish. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked al dente. Set aside. Meanwhile, brown the ground beef whole in a skillet on medium high heat until just cooked through. Mix the taco seasoning in a 1/2 cup of water. Add to the beef and simmer until the sauce thickens. Add a few good dashed of the hot sauce. Set aside.

Heat butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour making sure there are no lumps and cook the roux, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in half and half, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Stir in the cheese until melted. Stir in the taco beef. Pour pasta into the cheese sauce and mix well. Pour mixture into the baking dish and bake 30 minutes until golden brown. If you want to get really white trash, crumble nacho flavored Doritos with a little butter and sprinkle over the top before baking. Enjoy and leave your guilty feeling at the door.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sovereign State #7 Argentina

Entraña Asado con Chimichurri (Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri)
Puré de Patatas con Ajo (Garlic Mashed Potatoes)
Pizza Argentina con Jamón y Aceitunas Verdes (Pizza with Pancetta and Castellino Olives)
Pizza Argentina Margherita (Pizza with Heirloom Tomatoes and Fresh Basil)

Argentina is an interesting amalgam of European cultures. Like an adopted child, it knows that it's biological parents are of Spanish descent but it has been raised in German and Italian foster homes for most of it's life so Argentina has taken on a German, Italian sort of attitude. "Yeah sure, I'll eat my empanadas but you better serve some spaghetti and grilled sausages with it." Pretty much the red meat capitol of the world, and with the amount of cow that they eat I'm surprised these nice people aren't dropping like flies from heart attacks.

Grilled meat is pretty much the holy grail of Argentinean cuisine. Being an apartment dweller I had to use my trusty grill pan to achieve a lovely "pho-grill" seared steak. I grilled a beautiful skirt steak that I first marinated for an hour or two in some olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, garlic, and rosemary. I turned a burner up to medium high and grilled the steak about 2 minutes each side until perfectly medium rare. Then I let it rest for 5 minutes. Always let your meat rest after cooking. Never cut into your meat right after cooking. Resting helps the the juices redistribute and seals in all the moisture. I wish I could use a charcoal grill to get that nice smokey flavor only an outdoor grill can provide but alas, here I am in my lovely little kitchen. Perhaps next summer I'll build a little window ledge and put a grill on it. As long as it doesn't drop three stories and take someone's head off or burn the building down, I think it'll work. Don't you? Is that a fire hazard? I'll just put it right next to my indoor smoker that has a rigged exhaust pipe that goes directly into my annoying neighbors apartment. Okay, okay don't get all ready to call the fire marshal on me. I'm just kidding, my little grill pan works just fine. So anyways, the condiment of choice in Argentina is chimichurri. A tasty salsa minus the tomatoes. It's basically, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and sherry vinegar thrown in a blender (salt and pepper tt). I love the acidity it brings to the melty fattiness of the meat. I served the skirt steak and chimichurri with garlic mashed potatoes and a little basic green salad. The next day I made steak sandwiches with my go to cheese Beechers Flagship and a little chimichurri mayo. Served up with my favorite salt and pepper chips. I could eat that skirt steak for every meal it was so good. Such basic, clean flavors. No need to muck it up with a bunch of nonsense.

Argentineans love pizza. You heard me right, they love Italian food. So much so that they pretty much eat pasta and pizza every second of every day. Seriously. Okay maybe not that much but Italian cuisine has definitely crept into the homes of these South American peoples to the point of having something covered in tomato sauce and cheese on nearly every menu. Pizza and Argentina go together like junkies and crack rock, ya know. They love the stuff. Maybe even more than Americans. Argentina is said to have the best Italian food outside of Italy, and who am I to argue? I've only had American Italian food so as far as I'm concerned, it's probably true. So the day after steak-fest 09 I decided to truly represent Argentina I had to make pizza. I made one with pancetta, pitted, green castellino olives, and fresh mozzarella and one with black krin heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted goat-horn peppers, and fresh mozzarella. The dough was a little sticky but the result was a super crusty, chewy crust. I cranked my oven to 525 degrees (as high as it goes) for about an hour and cooked the pies for about 8-10 minutes, turning them once for even cooking. The results were definitely awesome. Best pizzas I ever made. I used Elise's dough recipe from Simply Recipes and it worked out really well. I used my quick tomato sauce recipe and it added just the right flavor. So stinkin' good. I just a ate a slice cold for breakfast. Yum.

1 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sherry wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper

Puree all ingredients in blender or processor. Eat with steak or fish.

Quick Pizza Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 15 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
a few fresh basil leaves
kosher slat and fresh cracked black pepper tt

In an unheated sauce pan add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Turn the heat up to low and cook for a minute or two until the garlic becomes fragrant. Meanwhile in a food processor, add the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper and pulse it a few times. Add the tomatoes to the pan and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes and then remove from the heat. Top a pizza with it or whatever else you can think of.


For more info on this project, read this: 203 Sovereign States

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Shannon was K's amazingly awesome sister and best friend. She is missed and loved. To remember her and celebrate her birthday we went to the beach, ate her favorite tuna fish sandwiches on white bread with BBQ chips, and watched one of her favorite movies, Fletch.

Here's my recipe for my tuna fish sandwich. I'm sure she would've liked of my version.

your favorite bread, I like rye, baguette, or kaiser rolls.
6 oz white albacore tuns, drained
1 Tbsp Mayo
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 scallion, chopped
1 Tbsp Spanish Olives, chopped
2 dashes of hot sauce (Tapatio is my go to)

Mix everything but the bread. Put the tuna salad in between two pieces of bread. You can insert lettuce and tomato if you like. Sometimes I'll add cheese. When I'm feeling especially like the fancy white trash that I sometimes am I"ll broil them open faced with American cheese on them as a tuna melt. Eat with pickles and chips. Watch with a good Chevy Chase or Bill Murray movie.