Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Swede Dreams.

Avocado and egg smørrebrød with hunters sausage and strawberries. Välsmakande! That's Swedish for tasty!

I have a secret love affair with Sweden. Okay, I guess it's not a secret anymore. Sweet, supple Sweden with it's quiet demeanor and tender, juicy meatballs. Just thinking about it makes me want to rub butter all over myself and... Oh you're still here. Hmm Where was I? Oh yes, Sweden is great. I have dreams of living in a small gothic castle off the coast of Gothenburg where I raise sheep and bats and make my own cheese. From the sheep, not the bats.

Ikea. I suppose we have to talk about it. I hate their furniture. Uncomfortable square sofas made of blonde press wood. No thanks. I will however take a trip to Ikea just to have Swedish meatballs while sitting in their depressing cafeteria. While sitting there enjoying my 'probably not the best introduction to Swedish food' meatballs I am blinded by the flickering 70,000 watt florescent light bulbs and surrounded by sad, bland people with their scores of screaming children. Anyways, once in a while I go there to buy candles or a cheap wooden spoon. Plus they carry a delicious brand of lingonberry preserves that go very well with the 100lb bag of frozen meatballs I've purchased.

My favorite rye crispbreads and my armpit. Enjoy.

Oh yeah. There's also ABBA or as I like to call them "The Devil". I just don't trust music that is so damn happy and on roller skates. Just hearing them makes me go into a fit of rage wanting to punch every blonde with a bowl cut in sight. When I live in my creepy castle I will have a moat filled with sharks and lions and spiders and broken glass. There with be a "No ABBA beyond this point" sign posted at the base of my driveway. Break this rule and it's into the shark lion spider glass pool with you. No exceptions.

Anyways, one of my favorite things to eat is Smørrebrød which is Swedish for open faced sandwiches. Just get yourself some dark rye breads or rye crisps (which are my favorite for the crunch). Slice an avocado. Drizzle a little garlic aioli (or this). Hard boil an egg and put that on there. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little hunters sausage if you like. Or perhaps some pickled herring. Maybe some lutfisk. Just kidding. I have nightmares about being forced to eat this rotten, see-through, gelatinous fish. I would rather drag splintered toothpicks and asbestos across my eyeballs than eat lutfisk. But yeah, you can pretty much put whatever you want on smørrebrød. Add some fruit on the side and you have a lovely little Swedish meal. Afterwards eat a whole bag of Swedish Fish candy. Yummmmy!

My mean, vicious cat guards the Swedish Fish. Gimme some candy you selfish, awful creature!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Soylent Greens.

Greens. I hated them as a child. I felt as if they were some alien torture device used to put the fear in children. I ate pretty much most things as a child including dog biscuits and rusty nails (long story) but greens made me unhappy. I didn't have the sort of mother that would make me sit at the table until I ate everything off my plate like some deranged dinner table prison guard. No, my mother figured that since I ate pretty much everything else off the table that the fact that greens were my kryptonite was okay by her. It wasn't that I hated vegetables. I loved corn from a can with lots of butter and pepper and green bean casserole made from cans. Oh and creamed corn from a can as well. Except for the occasional French dressing smothered salad we really didn't do too much in the way of fresh vegetables. Even our potatoes came out of a box.

Once I made a giant batch of mashed potatoes and set up a stand outside my house. I thought the idea was brilliant. Everybody loves mashed potatoes so why not start up a mashed potato stall in the cul-de-sac? My mashed potato wagon had become one of Woodstock Georgia's first food trucks. Cheap bastards. Surprisingly not one single customer. Where else could you get a room temperature cup of barely mixed potato flake paste? Tell me? Where? No where. I was way ahead of my time I guess. I ended up building a potato glue tower and sat across the lawn throwing rocks at it.

Anyways, I love greens now. Stewed collard greens are one of my favorites. I like corn off the cob and fresh green beans. My mashed potatoes come from the ground (well, actually the market). Sure, I add bacon to most vegetables but the sentiment is still there. Bacon just happens to be the party hat to go with the collard green party dress. Know what I mean?

Southern Collard Greens

1 1/2 quarts water
1 1/2 pounds ham hocks (or 1 lb. of diced bacon)
4 pounds collard greens, rinsed and trimmed
1 medium onion, diced (Vidalias if you can get them)
6 dashes of Crystal hot sauce
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper tt

Place the water and the ham hock in a large pot with a tight lid. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Add the collards, onion, and hot sauce. Simmer covered for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Shred the meat off of the ham hock and return to the pot. Season to taste. That's it. Deliciously simple. xo

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One More Warning and You're Fired!

Once in a while the standards here at The Hunger drop below par. That's when the bigwig suits from corporate decide to make a surprise visit with clipboards and frowns in hand (they frown with their hands, it's very awkward). We all scramble to turn our "Eat Shit and Die" t-shirts inside out and switch The Cramps over to Peter, Paul, and Mary over on the ole' 8-track pod (or whatever the kids are calling it these days). It's all smiles for the next 30 minutes. No matter how hard it hurts we unnaturally grin showing as much teeth as inhumanly possible and cheerfully yell in unison "Hello, welcome to The Hunger friend!" Yet no matter how hard we try there is always someone screwing everything up. "Dammit Violet! Why did you wear a ponytail today? You know they have a strict anti-ponytail policy! We hate you. Jerk."

Okay, truth be told. I'm the only employee here at The Hunger Corp. But I do like to keep myself in line. I just can't have myself slacking about and giving us (me) a bad reputation. I mean, what if someone goes onto the Yelp and writes about my poor customer service. I know what it would say too. "Although The Hunger has tasty looking food every once in a while I was severely turned off by the viciously frowning lady wearing a foul t-shirt and side ponytail." -0 stars. We just can't have that kind of thing. So here's one thing I can guarantee. From now on in more smiles, less ponytails, and less name calling specifically directed at you. 

Speaking of quality control, here are the rejects that never made it from my mouth to your eyes (eeeww). Delicious as they were they either fell through the cracks or photographed like a plate of oozing sores. Enjoy. xoxo

 Ham Steak and Eggs with Red-Eye Gravy: Tasty as hell but it kinda looks like barf on a plate. I sure like fresh cracked pepper. Yummm!!!

Double Smoked Pork Loin with Roasted Red Beets: This one just fell through the cracks of time somewhere. Tasty and not too terrifying to look at. I bought the amazing pork loin from the boys up at A&J Meats (one of my favorite meaty shops). Brown and red. Very brown and red.

Crispy Shrimp Po-Boy: Cornmeal fried shrimps are delicious. I had already done a post a while back on shrimp po-boys so I kicked this one to the curb (even though this one actually looks tastier).

Squid Ink Pasta in Brown Garlic Butter with Spicy Italian Sausage: Super delicious. I don't know why I didn't cut up the sausage. It looks all pornographic just glistening around the corner. 

Cajun Chicken Alfredo: Spicy and creamy and tasty but the photo looks a little bit Prison Chow Digest to me. Not that that's a bad thing. 

Grilled Pork Chop with Stewed Pinto Beans and Collard Greens: I have too many posts about pork chops. Yes, I love me a good pork chop but I don't want to be known around these parts as the Pork Chop Princess. I mean, you can call me that if you want. No really, call me that. Call me and say it all growly like. PS - I love celery. 

Sopressata & Fontina Stuffed Chicken Breast with Israeli Couscous and Sauteed Kale: An oldie but a goodie. Not much to look at but juicy and tender on the inside. I like to stuff things into chicken. Is that weird? I don't think so.

Salmon Stuffed Portobella Mushroom with Spinach Salad: Last but not least is this savory beauty. It won't grace the cover of Saveur anytime soon unless they ever do an issue of brown foods of 1972. I think it could happen. Never judge a book by it's cover. The cover may have a super oiled up, unattractive looking vampire drooling blood all un-sexy like but then you get into the meat of the book and realize that you just read the best Ukrainian vampire porn novel you have ever read. That's what this brown lumpy dish is like.

So that's it friends and foes. Thank you for you patronage here at The Hunger. Just remember, if we can't make you drool all over yourself than we're doing something wrong. xoxo 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Aint No Party Like a Bahn Mi Party.

Pork bahn mi from Seattle Deli. Yum.

Whenever you read one of those 'This city is known for this food' articles in whatever stuffy newspaper or rich people culture rag, Seattle always gets the ubiquitous salmon reference. We are known for salmon. That is all. Writers don't even need to visit to know what we're about. Salmon, Tom Douglas, Pike Place Market, Ride the Ducks. The end, consider my research finished. I say screw that noise. Okay, yeah. We are proud of our salmon. It's a nice fish and can be very delicious but we are so much more than that.

People like lists. Hell, I'm a virgo. I fucking love lists. What I don't like is the American obsession of always having to be number one. We're #1, we're #1 we're #1! We're the best and you suck it! I hate that kind of bragging and boasting. I like food lists that say "You are all very nice and delicious in your own different ways." That's more my cup of tea. If I don't like a place I'm just not going to waste my time writing about it. There's enough negativity in the world. Plus, food is so subjective. Your favorite cup of tea may taste like piss to me.

So anyways, I've decided to do my best to delve deeper into the delicious and sometimes seedy underworld of snacks here in this city of salmon and grunge. After 15+ years of living here I still have a lot to discover. In the words of the famously charming delinquent Ferris Bueller "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Me and K are ready for some bahn mi action. Taking pictures of sandwiches is serious business.

The Bahn Mi expedition. Part 1

K and I got all death-dolled up and headed to the International District (or the ID if you're hip) for some Vietnamese sandwich (bahn mi) action. Never heard of a bahn mi? Wiki that shit. Anywho, it was a hotter than Hades kind of day but we had work to do. These sandwiches weren't going to eat themselves.

I'm like a shiny, sandwich eating ninja. That guy wants his bubble tea stat!

The first stop was the infamous Seattle Deli. Seattle deli was packed with sandwich eaters. Lots of customers. They have tons of sandwiches and other options for snacks and even have a hot food buffet. So much to choose from.

Sandwich #1. The Classic Pork. It was Unctuous with juicy, smokey pork and had the perfect balance of picked daikon and carrot, jalapenos, cilantro, and a tiny bit of mayo. The French bread used at Seattle deli is perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Sandwich #2. The Xanxiu. This sandwich was equally delicious with a mix of Chinese BBQ pork and Vietnamese cold cuts. Lots of jalapenos which I love. Salty, spicy, and slightly sweet it gave the classic a run for it's money. Yum.

I used my Bebe fashion club card to cut the sandwiches in half because I'm classy like that. K takes notes.

The second stop on our adventure was Saigon Deli. Right across the street from Seattle Deli. Saigon deli was slightly less packed but full of delicious treats. Fresh Vietnamese shrimp rolls, big green and blue jello-y looking things. I wanted it all. The ladies behind the counter eyed us with suspicion until we ordered our sandwiches. Nothing brings people closer together than a sandwich.

Saigon Deli tofu bahn mi. Yum. My big hair almost ruined the nice Saigon Deli sign photo. Damn you tease comb! 

Sandwich #3. The Tofu. Saigon deli's bread is was little bit more dense but still pretty perfect. Crunchy and soft. The tofu bahn mi had big chunks of fried tofu smothered in a spicy sweet tomato sauce kind of like banana ketchup. Plus the pickled daikon and carrot. Super yummy.

Sandwich #4. The Meatball. I love me some Vietnamese meatballs. I always get them in my pho. The balls were juicy and porky tastiness. They were doused in the same yummy red sauce that the tofu was. They almost tasted like Swedish meatballs (which I also love). Two thumbs up.

The last stop on our sandwich hunt was The New Saigon Deli. Right around the corner from Saigon Deli. They have nothing to do with each other except for sharing the name (mostly). By the time we arrived at New Saigon the lunch swarms had pretty much disappeared. Greeted by two with frowns by two little Vietnamese girls we ordered a few sandwiches and some Pineapple bubble tea minus the bubbles. Once again, after sandwiches were ordered everyone was all smiles. A bit less frills and ambiance at New Saigon but delicious all the same.

New Saigon Deli! "What's this green sticky stuff?" K wonders.

Sandwich #5. The Ham Combination with Paté. The bread at New Saigon is a little bit harder and crispier than the other two but I liked it a lot. The cold cuts were salty and tasty. Not very spicy but super flavorful. I love Vietnamese paté. Yummy porky spread. So good.

Sandwich #6. The Chicken. The shredded chicken was a little dry but super tasty. By the time we got to this sandwich we were just about to explode. This was a super tasty sandwich but we had run out of something to drink and at the brink of bahn mi overkill.

Once we nabbed all of our sandwiches we went over to Kobe Terrace park. As we ate our sandwiches we also realized that it was crack corner and hooker central. We witnessed many drug deals and blow jobs behind the bushes. So much free entertainment. Dinner and a show. 

K and and probably a crackhead lurking in the bushes. Bubble tea! Tastier than crack!

So there you go. Bahn Mi Fest 2012. We had a great time eating way too many sandwiches and wished it would never end. At least until the crack whore started to yell creepy things. Oh ID, I love you. xoxo

Monday, August 6, 2012

Birthday Beef.

Ribeye au Poivre with Heirloom Sun Gold Salad

So a few weeks ago it was my cute lil' wife's birthday. She craved seafood but her special day landed on a Sunday and the idea of eating three to four day old fish was less than ideal. Nobody likes the taste of smelly old decaying flounder. Her next favorite thing; steak. A big juicy slab-o-meat. All dark and crusty on the outside and pink and juicy on the inside (keep your mind out of the gutter you nasty bargain bin, dollar store porn freaks). Okay, I just grossed myself out. Anyways, I'm not a huge steak eater. I can go all cave girl once in a while when I crave a hunk of cow but I'd much rather have a burger over a steak most of the time. 

When I was little the few times my parents took us out for steaks I'd order a plate of shrimps. I was that girl. The shrimp girl at the steakhouse. I do remember one time though when I had my first bite of a properly cooked, butter injected steak off my dad's plate (I think it was at an Outback steakhouse when they first became aces (that's Aussie slang for hot shit). I would come away from there from the Land of the Meat Down Under thinking "hey mate, maybe I do love steak" until the next time working class cuts of steak were killed to death on our backyard grill. My ten year old brain came to terms with the fact that fancy steaks and tasty lobsters were rich people food (or very special occasion food) and hamburgers and pre-cooked, frozen shrimps were working class people food. Sure there's a little grey area to be found in there but at the time I searched for answers and truth.

My cat Clara loves laying under garbage. She also loves steak.

Now that I'm all grown up (yeah right) and a chef and whatnot I can cook a bad-ass steak at home. I love me some of the cheap cut meats but they just need a little more love. Plus if you can, it's nice to occasionally plunk down a wad of cash for some fanciness. For K's birthday I picked up some beautiful, local ribeyes. I sat them on the counter for an hour to come to room temperature. I put a cast iron skillet on the stove and cranked the burner to high. I lightly rubbed the steaks with some canola oil and seasoned both sides more than liberally with kosher salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper. Once the pan was screaming hot I placed the steaks down on the pan. Two and a half minutes later I flipped them (using tongs) and let them cook on the other side for two and a half minutes more. After 5 minutes of totally cooking time I pulled the steaks off and let them sit on a cutting board for 15 minutes. Do not even dare cut into the steaks prior to that resting time. That would be a serious meat crime and all of the meat juice would leak out of your steak leaving you dried up, expensive garbage.

So while the steaks were resting I turned the heat down a little and poured a little sherry and a bit of crushed black peppercorn into the pan. I scraped up some of the tasty steak fond (the dark crusty bit stuck to the pan). As the sherry reduced a tiny bit I poured in a little veal demi-glace and fresh chopped thyme. Over medium high heat I let the sauce thicken for about 4 minutes. Once the sauce thickened I added a bit of butter to finish the sauce. The steaks were so huge we only had a half a steak each. Served up with a heirloom sun gold tomatoes and a organic mixed greens salad.

Banana split!

After dinner I made K a banana split topped with homemade balsamic strawberry compote and dark chocolate sauce. Yum!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tiny Spam Taco Bubbles

Okay, everybody knows I love Spam. And everybody knows I love tacos. Some people know that I love Filipino food. And Hawaiian food. So the logical thing for me to do was to make Filipino/Hawaiian inspired Spam tacos. It had to be done. There, sitting right in front of me. A shiny, slightly dented can of "luncheon meat" and a stack of fresh corn tortillas. Instantly a creepy but satisfying rendition of Don Ho singing "Tiny Spam taco bubbles" trickled out of my brain. I could not turn my back on this opportunity. I started drooling uncontrollably and set forth on my taco adventure.

I've always had an affinity for 1940s era Polynesian fanciness. Sipping girly mai tais (paper umbrella in my glass) under a palm tree in a pretty tiki wrap dress. Sounds dreamy. The closest I've ever come to Hawaii was watching the Brady Bunch special where Bobby finds a cursed tiki amulet and shit goes bonkers. Oh, and the Charlie's Angel special involving lots of terry cloth jumpers and kidnappings and amazingly feathered hairdos. Oh yeah, and every episode of Magnum P.I. Is it me or did Tom Selleck's mustache seem to have a life of it's own? I swear it was looking at me. Anywho, yeah never been to the land of Hula Hula. Perhaps one day, but for now Spam tacos will have to do.

Spam Adobo Tacos with Sesame Lime Slaw and Sriracha Crema

(for the Sesame Lime Slaw)
1 head of green cabbage (or whatever sturdy greens you have), shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp chili garlic paste
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil
fresh cracked black pepper tt
kosher salt tt

In a large bowl mix all of the slaw ingredients together and let it come together overnight.

(for the Sriracha crema)
1 Tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
1 tsp Maggi seasoning sauce1/2 cup sour cream

Mix together and you're done. Can be made the night before too.

(for the spam)

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

1 can of spam cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup low sodium chicken stock

Mix together garlic, scallion, soy sauce, vinegar, and pepper. Add the Spam to the marinade. Marinate for 2 hours. In a large saute pan over medium high heat add some olive oil. Remove the Spam from the marinade (save the marinade) and pan fry until all sides are browned. Add the marinade and chicken stock to the pan and reduce until the sauce thickens.

(for the tacos)
corn tortillas
lime wedges

To heat up the tortillas either place on a hot dry pan for a few seconds each side or wrap in slightly damp paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. Top each (or double them up) with a big spoonful of the saucy Spam, then top with the sesame lime slaw and a drizzle of Sriracha creama. 

Enjoy my lovelies. Make sure you a mai tai or zombie in one hand and a taco in the other. That is the only way to do it. xoxo

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pretty on the Inside.

I have a soft spot in heart for ugly food. Those brown, squishy dishes that are just so damn hard to make pretty. Some of the most tasty things are just ugly as hell and there's nothing you can do about it.  Even if you try to spruce it up by shoving it into ring molds or garnishing with a little sprig of fresh herbs it still ends up looking like lipstick on a pork chop.

There's a saying the we eat first with our eyes (taken literally that sounds quite terrifying). Actually, I like to eat first with my mouth. You see, I'm kinda half blind most of the time depending on the position of the sun and the pollen count. Also I have a deviated septum and a slight crooked nose that has been broken two times (it gives me character). Anyways, on the best of days my shoddy sense of smell can't be trusted. "Hmmm, I think I smell lavender. Nope that's ham." I do trust my taste buds. I'm not a supertaster by any means but I have a trained palate and I know my flavors. Also, I have eaten a lot of food over my lifetime so my mouth knows the difference between a chicken leg and a prawn.

Do I like my food to be pretty? Sure I do. I'm just saying that once in a while you have to embrace the brown squishiness and focus on the taste. Some of my favorite dishes are ugly as hell. Chicken and dumplings, moco loco, chili dogs, picadillo, saag paneer, etc. Don't judge a book by it's cover. I actually have love in my heart for the monotone, brown and yellow haze of 1970s food photography. Sure it's drab but I find it very appetizing. Glistening dreary meat slabs with double starches. Tasty! Here's the thing. If you love food, you love to eat food. Not just look at it. 

So I made a deliciously ugly plate of Lebanese food. Lebanese Kofta with Zahtar Roasted Cauliflower, Persian Rice, and Kousa Bi Laban (courgette and yogurt sauce). Yes the kofta look like a cross between a football and bear droppings. Don't let them fool you. They are packed with delicious Middle Eastern spiced meaty flavor. For the Persian rice just saute basmati rice in some butter until the rice becomes fragrant and translucent. Then add 1 tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp of coriander, 1 fresh cinnamon stick, and a pinch of kosher salt. Add the water (1 part rice to 1.25 water) and bring to a boil. Turn the heat as low as it goes and cover. Leave it alone for 18 minutes. Take off the heat and leave the cover on for 5 more minutes. Fluff with a fork. For the Kousa Bi Laban simply saute some diced zucchini in a little olive oil with some minced garlic and shallots (don't forget to season). Let it cool. Toss it with some plain yogurt and fresh chopped dill. Season with salt and pepper. Try it, you'll like it.

Lebanese Kofta with Zahtar Roasted Cauliflower

(for the kofta)
3/4 lb ground lamb
3/4 lb ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced1 white onion, minced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp fresh chopped mint
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

(for the cauliflower)
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
2 tsp zahtar (Middle Eastern spice mix containing sumac, sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, anise)
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
olive oil

Preheat over to 375F degrees. Mix all of the kofta ingredients in a large bowl without over-mixing. Season well with salt and pepper. Shape 2 Tbsp of the kofta mixture into a long oval. Place on a sheet pan lined with foil. Repeat the process until all of the kofta are shaped. Do do let them touch each other on the sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the kofta rest 5 minutes.

Place the cauliflower florets in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the zahtar. Make sure they are well coated. Season with salt and pepper. Place dish in the same oven as the kofta and cook for 30 minutes.

Serve with Persian rice and Kousa Bi Laban. Enjoy your tasty but slightly homely food. xoxo

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cocktailin' - The Havana Sunset

What better way to forget your crappy job and unpaid medical bills than a delicious alcoholic beverage or three. Being sober is not nearly as fun as it was when you were a kid (unless you were a drunk kid). When I was little there always seemed to be party happening at my house with happy slurring Cubans everywhere. I would play bartender and stir up a batch of rum and cokes for my relatives and neighbors. "One for you and one for me" was my motto. Don't get me wrong. I have a very healthy attitude towards booze snacks. I also have a very healthy gag reflex and sadly now that I'm older 2-3 cocktails knock me on my ass and I get a hangover for 6 days afterwards. So now I gently approach the liquid medicine and know my limits.

Anywho, enough of that. I was starting to sound like a bad After School Special PSA. Don't drink and drive kids. Being dead is stupid. 

So what we have here is The Havana Sunset aka El Gallo Borracho. Put on your favorite Carmen Miranda outfit (including the fruit hat) and shake, shake, shake.

The Havana Sunset

1oz white rum
1oz dark rum
1oz fresh mango juice (puree diced in a blender and strain)
1oz fresh squeezed lime juice
2 dashes of grapefruit bitters
maraschino cherries to garnish

Shake with ice and serve in a martini glass. xoxo

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wings and Radishes of Desire.

The bowl of pink shiny candy was dessert.

Well, it's officially summertime (everywhere but Seattle). Truth be told, I'm not particularly fond of the big, hot ball of fire in the sky. No, I don't drink human blood but I do tend to be as pale as milk and skulk around in the shadows. Occasionally, I crave the sunlight even if it makes me sparkle (especially after I roll around in glitter, which I do daily). Yeah, I'm a shiny, sharp toothed vamp... uh regular person. A real Jane Doe. Yup, that's me. I'll steal your soul and damn you to an eternal Hell!  Haha. Just kidding. So, who's hungry?

What I mostly crave about summertime is the food. I'm a sucker for fresh watermelon. I once ate a whole watermelon in one sitting seeds and all. I threw-up pink gobs of seeds for days. Still love it though. Grilled corn on the cobb? Yup, even the 7 years of painfully prying corn out of my braces couldn't sway me away from the golden, buttery treat. I still love the creepy warped music of ice cream trucks driving by and I've been known to bully my way to the front of the line for the last rocket pop (Sorry kid, get a Spider-man pop. That rocket pop is mine!). Another one of my summer favorites is chicken wings. Spicy, delicious, messy, tiny chickens with a handle.

Chicken Wing heaven.

There are a few ways to cook a good wing. On the barbecue, deep fried (when I make Buffalo wings I go this route), and baked or broiled. My go-to wings are broiled and have a South East Asian sort of thing going on. Glazed with sweet kecap manis (Indonesian sweet, syrupy soy sauce), spicy chili garlic paste, rice wine vinegar, & sesame oil. Super tasty. This time around I made a batch of those but I also made a batch of honey mustard BBQ wings. Sort of a Carolina style BBQ wing (minus the homophobia). I mixed together white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, chili powder, Worcestershire, cumin, garlic, and salt and pepper. Marinated the wings for a few hours and broiled them (on middle oven rack) for 7 minutes each side basting halfway through. So simple and tasty even a monkey missing a leg could do it.

I made three sauces to go with the wings.
sauce #1: Honey Mustard BBQ Sauce (for my super gay Carolina BBQ wings)
sauce #2: Harissa and Lemon Spiked Sour Cream (for both wings)
sauce #3: Fermented Black Bean & Chili Garlic Sauce (for my Indonesian wings)

I also made a fresh and cooling (especially since I made my wings so damn spicy) cucumber and radish salad. Very simple but addictive like crack for hippies or rabbits.

This is my kind of salad.

Cucumber and Radish Salad
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, thinly sliced
1 bunch of summer radishes, thinly sliced (I use a mandoline. You can chop some of the leaves in too)
1 small stick of celery with leaves, thinly sliced and the leaves roughly chopped
1/4 cup red onion, small diced
1 Tbsp fresh chopped tarragon
(for the vinaigrette)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove of roasted garlic (I always roast extra garlic and let it soak in olive oil. Use for a few days)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked black pepper to taste

In a bowl whisk together the rice wine vinegar, roasted garlic, honey, salt, pepper. Make sure you mash up the garlic. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. The whisk in the sesame oil. Toss with the remaining salad ingredients and serve.  Make sure you have a sixer of peach wine coolers to wash it all down. xoxo

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hot Potato.

There are a lot of cultures out there that seem to have a terrible reputation when it comes to bad, bland food. The British, the Irish, the southern half of Central America, Canada, Utah, the middle part of Africa, most of the former U.S.S.R., Australia, Hawaii, etc... I call bullshit. Every single culture has something delicious to offer. Just because you travel somewhere and have a bad meal doesn't mean that the whole country can't cook. Perhaps your Americanized palate just can't deal with jellied squid faces or petrified snake hearts. Truthfully I don't have an appreciation for most things squirmy or wiggly. Not my thing.

When you're a tourist, do some serious research on where to eat. Otherwise you'll probably wind up at a shitty restaurant eating bland or squishy things you don't like. There are things to love about all of the cuisines mentioned above. Shepherd's Pie, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Carimañola, Poutine, Funeral Potatoes, Muamba de Galinha, Borscht, Aussie Meat Pies, Spam Musubi, etc... all deliciousness. Be adventurous and try new things. If you travel somewhere and come back with the blanket statement "the food in that country/state/city/town sucks", you are an unimaginative pessimistic bore. Really, the two restaurants you ate at out of the thousands of other restaurants gave you a solid grasp of a whole culture's cuisine? Wow, you are like a god. All knowing and powerful. Shut the front door! Anyways, enough of my middle finger pointing. On to the tasty!

I'm a sucker for Irish food. I love the stuff. I love cabbage. I die for meat in pie form. Potatoes are my second favorite starch next to rice (Hey I'm Cuban, beans and rice are in my blood). I married into being Irish and I've done my best to represent. I make a mean Corned Beef and Cabbage, a seriously tasty Irish Fry, and one damn fine Black Velvet. One of my favorite Irish dishes is the simple but oh so satisfying Colcannon. Mashed potatoes with kale, scallions, ham, and butter. Sometimes made without scallions, sometimes without ham but pretty much always potatoes, kale, and butter. It's perfect on it's own or you can pair it with some roasted rack of lamb for a deluxe fancy meal. Go ahead, try it. I dare you to make this and still say that Irish food is boring. I triple dare you.

Colcannon (Mashed Potatoes with Kale, Scallions, Ham, and Butter)
2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes (about 4-5 potatoes), peeled and quartered
1/2 lb cooked ham, diced
1 bunch of kale (3 cups chopped), washed, stems removed, thinly chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

In a large pot of water pot add 3 Tbsp of salt and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil until the potatoes are fork tender (about 18 minutes). Drain in a colander.
Return the pot to the stove and set over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp butter and add the kale. Cook the greens for about 3 minutes or until tender. Add the scallions and cook for another minute.
Reduce the heat to low. Add the potatoes back to the pot. Pour in the cream, sour cream, and 3 Tbsp butter. Using a fork or potato masher and mash the potatoes, mixing them up with the greens. Mix in the ham. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with a pat of butter on top. Enjoy. xoxo

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My What Big Meatballs You Have.

As the late, great wordsmith Bon Scott of AC/DC once said "Some balls are held for charity. And some for fancy dress. But when they're held for pleasure. They're the balls that I like best." I'm not sure but I think he may have been talking about meatballs. I love a good meatball. Moist and succulent. Perfect when covered in sauce. Okay hmmm, how to escape the somewhat nasty images floating around in my dirty bird of a brain. Oh, I know. From now on, I'll write the rest of this piece with Julia Child's voice in mind. That'll help get our minds out of the gutter. Or perhaps it just adds another layer of weirdness. Oh well, it can't be helped. Moving on...

The lowly meatball. Ground meat with spices. Perhaps some onion, garlic, and cheese thrown in. Every culture has a version of the meatball. In the Middle East they have kofta. In Spain, Portugal, and Latin/South America they make albondigas. In Sweden they make köttbullar. In Greece they make keftethes. In Antartica they make meatballs out of baby seals (okay, I made that up). Here's a nice bit of information of all the kinds of meatballs out there.

They other day I was thinking about meatballs and how simple and economically friendly they are. I decided I would make albondigas. Spanish meatballs spiced with onion, garlic, pimentón, and cumin. Fried up in olive oil and garnished with grated Queso Manchego (my favorite Spanish sheep's milk cheese) and a sauce made of roasted piquillo peppers. Serve it up as an appetizer or serve it with some fresh bread and a salad for a delicious meal.

Albondigas with Roasted Piquillo Pepper Sauce and Queso Manchego

(for the meatballs)
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup grated onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
2 tsp pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Progresso with garlic & herbs but use whatever you like)
1 cup chicken stock
Spanish olive oil

(for the piquillo pepper sauce)
12 oz of roasted piquillo peppers (usually found in a can or jar. You can also use roasted red bell peppers if that's all you can find)
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
kosher slat and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

(to finish)
2 Tbsp grated Manchego cheese
1 Tbsp parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together the pork, beef, onion, garlic, parsley, cumin, pimentón, and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Add the egg and bread crumbs and gently mix. Once the mixture is combined start shaping little meatballs. I use a Tbsp measuring spoon and scoop out 2-3 Tbsp for each meatball. You should have about 16-20 meatballs. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add a thin layer of olive oil and add meatballs to the pan. Brown the meatballs on all sides (in batches if necessary). When all sides are browned (about 2 minutes per side) add in the chicken stock to the pan and place the pan in the oven. Cook the meatballs, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, in a separate deeper saute pan saute the red onion and garlic in a little olive oil for the piquillo pepper sauce. Once softened add them to a blender with the remaining piquillo sauce ingredients. Pulse until the mixture is smoother but still a little chunky. Pour the mixture back into the pan and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Check the seasoning and adjust if needed.

To plate pour some of the sauce on the bottom of the bowl/plate. Place the meatballs on the sauce and top with the grated Manchego cheese and parsley leaves. Enjoy your balls. xoxo

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Keys To Having A Bad-Assed Pantry: Part 4 - Grains, Legumes, and Other Dried Goods

Okay, let's see here.

You should be all spiced up.
You must be all lubed up.
and of course you must be all sauced up.

Here we are, the end of the pantry stocking world. It's all about the dried goods. It may not seem that exciting but let me tell you, when the world collapses these are the items that are going to save your life. When I was a poor college student (okay, I lived on a collage campus but I didn't actually go to college. It's a long story for another day) I lived off of dried beans and rice. I could cook up a giant batch of beans and steamed rice that would feed 2 people for the whole week and it would only cost about $4. Check around your area and you probably have a bulk foods (perhaps a prepper supply joint) place nearby. Buy some sealable plastic containers and stock up in bulk. Beans, rice, flour, pasta, grains, etc... Those cans of beans you buy at the grocery store are loaded with salt and sludge and for the same price you could have had leftovers for days. So without further ado: Beans, beans the magical fruit...

Dried beans & Legumes
*Black, Pinto, Navy, Kidney, & Cannellini beans - The are hundreds of types of beans. These are some of the basic ones you should know about. Buy them in bulk and store them forever. To cook them just soak in cold water overnight. Drain and recover with water. Add whatever seasonings, aromatics you like. Simmer until tender (usually from 1-2 hours depending on the bean).
*Lima, Butter, Broad, & Fava beans - Larger beans that are creamy and delicious when cooked. I love my fava beans with a nice chianti. f-f-f-f-f-f-f (it's hard to spell out that Hannibal Lecter lip smacking sound)
*Chickpeas, Black-eyed peas, Pigeon peas - These legumes (peas to be exact) are awesome for soups and spreads. Also great for veggie burgers. Pigeon peas are not made from pigeons.
*Edamame - Yummy green soy bean pods that are awesome steamed with a little salt and sesame.
*Adzukis & Mung beans - Asian beans that are used for stews and even desserts (I for one am not a big bean dessert fan, just sayin'). Not necessary for your pantry but interesting and fun none the less.

*Long grain or Short grain. As with beans there are hundreds of varieties of rice. Some cultures are very serious about their rice. These generic rices are the perfect go to rice. 1 part rice to 1.25 water when cooking. Season with salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to lowest setting. Cover. Let it alone for 18 minutes. Remove from heat. Done. Just do me a favor. If the word minute or microwave instructions come with your rice. Throw it the hell out and learn to cook real rice properly.
*Basmati Rice - Nutty in flavor. Perfect for Indian or Middle Eastern style dishes. One of my favorites.
*Jasmine Rice - Slightly floral in scent with a delicate flavor. Great for Thai or Vietnamese style dishes. Also has a pretty name just like the Disney Princess.
* Calrose / Sticky Rice - This is the rice can be used for sushi rice. It's short grains become clumped together and 'sticky' when steamed. Great for cooking Chinese & Japanese food.
* Brown Rice - aka hippy rice. This is just the same as short or long grain rice but the outer layer (the bran) has not been hulled or removed. Brown rice is healthy for you (so they say) and takes longer to cook. People love or hate brown rice. I do not love it but I'm sure if you top it with some steamed vegetables and tahini dressing you will live longer than me and my white rice topped with chili and cheese. I almost shed a tear.
* Wild Rice - Sometimes there is no rice in wild rice. It's just a tasty mix of grasses & grains. Cooked with some chicken stock it makes a nice pilaf. Looks neat too.
*Bhutanese Red Rice - Here's a super fun rice to impress your guests with. Grown in the eastern part of the Himalayas. It's semi-hulled so it cooks faster than brown rice plus it's bright red color is super cool. I call it blood rice because I'm morbid and it scares my dinner guests.

Other Grains & Pulses
*Lentils (red, yellow, French) - Small and round. They are used for making Dahl (Indian lentil stew) and are perfect for soups. Lentils can be great for making salads as well. Neil in The Young Ones seemed to be always cooking a batch of lentils. Nobody seemed to want it or care. Except for Rick...

*Couscous -  Semolina grain originating from North Africa. Used a lot in Mediterranean cookery as well. Easy to steam and serve with stewed meats and chickpeas. Add a little lemon. So Yummy. Israeli couscous is actually tiny pasta.
*Bulgur - aka the hippy grain. A form of whole wheat used to add bulk to stews, great in veggie burgers and salads. Also great for stuffing a mummified corpse. 
*Quinoa - This grain-like pod is actually the seeds of the Goosefoot plant. Quinoa makes great salad and is tasty served with fish and veggies. Pronounce keeeeen-wahhhh.

Dried Pasta
*Italian - Spaghetti, Linguini, Tagliatelle, Penne, Rigatoni, Macaroni - Italian pasta is one of those things that pretty much everyone has in their pantry. All you need is salt and boiling water. Pasta is delicious tossed with some butter, olive oil, cheese, tomato sauce or baked into a casserole. On a sad note, I am still nostalgic for Chef Boyardee. When I'm sick I need a can of Spaghetti-os and meatballs. Just thought I'd share.
*Chinese -  Rice Noodles, Choy Fun, Chow Mein, Egg Noodles - I am a chow mein fiend. I love the stuff. Tossed with some shrimp and chicken and pork and squid it's delicious! They say that egg noodles originated in China. However my favorite kind of egg noodles are the ones made for making some delicious white trash food such as turkey a-la king and tuna noodle casserole. Also the Eastern Europeans really dig the egg noodle.
*Japanese - Ramen, Soba, Udon, Somen, Shirataki - Ramen isn't just for starving college kids. Real Japanese ramen is chewy and delicious, made with homemade stocks and garnished with tasty treats like bright pink and white swirled fish cakes. I also really love eating soba noodles, made of buckwheat. Just cook them off and toss them with some soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallion. So good.
*Southeast Asian - Cellophane, Bami, Pancit, Laksa Noodles - I love the chewy rice noodles in a spicy bowl of malaysian laksa. So comforting and filling. I'm also a huge fan of Filipino pancit. Short chopped up rice noodles tossed with cabbage, lap cheong, shrimp, and scallion. Masarap!

*All Purpose Flour - As the name implies this is the go-to flour. Baking, frying, thickening, welding, loving, sleeping. This flour can do everything. It's like the Swiss army knife of cookery. This the flour that you should always have. When a recipe says AP flour, that's what this is. There are a ton of other flours that serve different purposes. Here's a great list of flours and their purposes for you.
*Cornmeal - Grains/flour made from corn. Used for polenta and corn bread. Great coating for deep frying. Cooks in the South use it for everything.
*Semolina - Not to be confused with Somalia (that's a country in Africa). When ground as flour, this is the one you want for making Italian pasta. It has tons of protein and a great chewy consistency. 

Dried Odds & Ends
*Corn Starch - Awesome for thickening sauces. Makes a light crispy coating for meat when mixed with egg and flour for frying.
*Yeast, Baking Soda, Baking Powder - If you bake, you need these things.
*Dried Chilies - These are essential in my pantry for making sauces, adding to stews, and making marinades. Just soak them in hot water for a little bit and they'll be reconstituted and ready to use. Or you can toss them in a spice grinder to make fresh chili powder. There are tons of different chilies to choose from so start exploring.
*Dried Mushrooms - These are the non-hallucinogenic kind. I know, I know. Cooking with me is no fun. If you want your Salisbury steak to make you see tracers and contemplate the mysteries of the universe that's your business. Same rehydrating concept applies to dried mushrooms. Great for making mushroom stock. Their flavor is usually a little more concentrated than fresh so they can be used to enhance any dishes that you want a deep mushroom flavor.
*Breads, Cereals, Crackers - You have these things. No really, you do. Go look.

Alright folks. If you've listen to a single word I've said over the four installments of The Keys to Having a Bad-Asses Pantry you should have one serious ass-kicking bad-assed pantry. You can cook anything now. You have reached culinary enlightenment. Start a fire and cook like there's no tomorrow. The meats and veggies are sold separately. No batteries necessary. Enjoy my darlings of cookery. Eat and be merry. xoxo

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tater Tot Heaven

You know those days where everything just seems way too hard. You’re hungry but you’re also kinda broke so ordering pizza for the third night in a row just aint gonna happen. Cooking an elaborate meal is out of the question as well. Times like these I usually just end up eating a bag of taco flavored Doritos (even though they kind of smell like vomit) and then clutch my stomach in disgust for the rest of the night.

Whether it be a hangover, lady pains, manic depression, post outpatient surgery, or you’re just a lazy person, some days you need something comfortable and simple to eat. You know, one of those dishes made of crushed tater tots, canned soup, and lots of cheese that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

When I was a kid my mother and father worked a lot so sometimes it was up to me to figure out my own dinner situation. I loved to cook. I would gather an armful of delicious ingredients that seemed like they would be even more delicious all piled together. 

Sometimes things would work out nicely such as the first time I inadvertently made tater tot casserole. Tasty! However, once in a while things would go really, really wrong. Once I dumped a frozen box of egg rolls on a microwave pizza and smothered and covered it with a can of chili and Velveeta cheese.

I know what you’re saying: “But Violet, that sounds amazingly delicious!” I know right, I thought so too. However, after a few minutes in the microwave the moisture from the ‘who knows how old’ freezer burned egg rolls leaked all over the place and turned the chili and cheese into a pinkish brown sludge that covered the entire microwave. Even still I ate some, unhappily scraping the crud out with a big spoon.

Aside from going hungry that night my mother was pretty unhappy about the fact that pizza-egg roll surprise was covering the majority of her kitchen. Still, much to her credit, she urged me to keep on cooking my little heart out.

Here's my version of Tater Tot Casserole. It's so delicious and I promise that you don't even need to be high to enjoy it. 

Tater Tot Casserole

1 lb ground beef
1/4 lb of bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery rib, diced
2 scallions, sliced
2 Tsp Cajun seasoning
salt and pepper
1 bag of tater tots (or 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and grated)
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
a few dashes of hot sauce
1 can of cream of mushroom (or celery) soup (or 1/2 lb diced shiitake mushrooms
simmered in 1 cup of heavy cream for 20 minutes, plus 2 Tbsp sour cream)

For this recipe I give you the down and dirty version with an option to make it more classy and refined (as refined as tater tot casserole can be). I myself prefer the classic white trash version. That’s how I roll.

1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a sauté pan over medium high heat cook the bacon until the fat renders. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towel.

2. Cook the onion, celery, and garlic in the bacon fat (about 3-4 minutes until soft). In the same pan, brown the ground beef.

3. Add the scallion, Cajun seasoning, cream of mushroom soup (or the shiitake mushrooms with cream and sour cream. Add a little corn starch slurry if it’s too watery). Season with salt and pepper (careful the canned soup has a lot of salt so taste before adding more). Stir to combine.

4. In a 2 quart baking dish, add the soup and meat layer. Then top it off with a layer of tater tots.

5. Cook uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes. Pull the dish out and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top. Cook for another 15 minutes. Serve outside with no shoes on and a nice cold Bud light. Dang that’s tasty! xoxo

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Like a Fine Swine.

There's nothing like getting a series of serious sinus infections to make you dislike food for a while.  Well, I'm on some sort of beginning of a mend and thankfully food seems appealing once again. No more cans of chemically enhanced soup and cough drops for dinner. Nope, I'll be using my teeth to chew things from here on in.

So I don't know about you but when I get better from a cold or whatever I get a serious craving for meat. My inner carnivore monster comes crawling up with a thirst for blood. Not in a creepy I crave human flesh, zombie kind of way but in a "I sure would like a giant chunk of meat to go all cavewoman on" sort of way. You know, I want a brontosaurus steak that I can hold like a barbarian with meaty juiciness dripping off my chin. Don't you get that way? No, it's just me? 

Anyways, one of the first things I crave after a meatless streak is pork. Must be the Cubano in me. One of the first meals that I've actually had the pleasure of cooking in quite a while is Cuban Roast Pork. Marinated in mojo (garlic, citrus, cumin, oregano, pepper, etc) for at least 12 hours and roasted low and slow for half the day. This chunk of meat will quiver and threaten to fall apart just by glancing at it. Served up with a side of arroz con frijoles negroes (vinegary Cuban black beans and steamed white rice) and a ensalada de aquacate (avocado sliced with sherry wine vinegar and Spanish olive oil tossed gently with red onion and cilantro).

After eating this meal I actually started to feel sort of human again. As human as I ever felt being a creature from the depths of the darkness. Hahahahahaha! Okay, enjoy my super secret pork recipe that I'm just going to tell you. Don't tell anyone else. It'll be our secret.

Cuban Roast Pork

(mojo marinade)
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp oregano oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup sour orange juice, or 1/2 cup orange juice plus 1/4 cup each fresh lemon and lime juice

Put of the mojo ingredients in a blender and pulse until the garlic is minced up.

(for the pork)
4-6 lbs. pork shoulder roast
Pour the mojo over the pork shoulder and marinate overnight. The following day preheat the oven to 250F degrees. Transfer the pork (fat side up) and marinade to a roasting pan and cook for 4 hours basting every 1/2 hour. Add a little water to the pan when it starts to dry out. Pull the pork out and let it rest for 15 minutes. It should be so meltingly tender that it falls apart just by touching it. Enjoy.

Oh and you wanna know the best thing about making Cuban roast pork? The next day (or that same night even) you can have Cuban sandwiches. Yum to the tenth degree. Make sure you have sliced ham, swiss cheese, Cuban bread (or a soft baguette), dill pickles, and mustard.

Just talking about it has made me hungry. I would kill for one right now. No really, I would kill you and take your Cuban sandwich if you were nearby and happened to be holding a Cuban sandwich. You should be glad that that is not that case. Anywho, I need to go find someone with a Cuban sandwich. Hmmm, or maybe I'll just make one. Less jail time that way. Yeah, that's what I'm gonna do. You should make one too. xoxo

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Whole Enchilada.

I am a sucker for Mexican food. That includes the sauce covered, down and dirty stuff that was born in the states. You know, the deep fried ground meat concoctions swimming in pools of greasy orange cheese. Tacos (those crunchy taco Tuesday bar tacos that are made with already broken Ortega taco shells and a teaspoon of oily meat covered in iceberg, shredded cheddar and Tapitio hot sauce) and cheese covered, cheese filled enchiladas are my weakness. They are my kryptonite. What's even worse is that I have a seriously unnatural addiction to a fast food taco chain. I can't even drive by the place without uncontrollably salivating with the phantom taste of fire sauce in my mouth. It's ludicrous. Perhaps I have a cheesy, spicy, tortilla cradled meat deficiency. Yeah, it's a medical condition.

I'm not saying that I can't tell the difference between good and bad Mexican food. I definitely can. I am a huge fan of fresh, regional Mexican cuisine. I'm just saying that I can appreciate Americanized Mexican food too. Taco night was a huge occasion in my house growing up. My job was to chop the tomatoes and lettuce. My mother would bake off the store bought taco shells and open up a bag of pre-shredded, bright orange cheddar cheese. Tons of ground beef would get browned in a pan and a packet of mysterious taco spice would get stirred in. Sour cream, jarred salsa, and hot sauce were set up on the table. It was so much fun. It was like having a crazy taco buffet but at home. We'd build our tacos and sit in front of the TV and watch Jaws or whatever new movie HBO had on.

I know it's hard to see the cuisine you were raised with get bastardized. I often get annoyed when I see the words Cuban Sandwich on a menu (unless I'm in a Cuban restaurant). Just because you put pork on a sandwich, that doesn't make it Cuban! But I love Cuban American food. A lot of my favorite dishes were created in Little Havana, Miami. It's only natural for cultures and cuisines to adapt to their environments. Is it better or worse than the "real" thing? Or has it just become it's own unique cuisine. As long as it's tasty, I really don't care if it's authentic regional food or not. So long as it's cooked from the heart.

Chicken and Green Chili Enchiladas

(for the sauce)
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon New Mexican or ancho chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 serrano chili, minced (optional if you can't take the heat)
2 clove garlic, minced
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

(for the filling)
2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast
olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped scallions
1 cup roasted green hatch chilies (you can use roasted poblanos too)
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

(for enchiladas)
8 (10 inch) flour tortillas
1/2 pint sour cream
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
a few sprigs of cilantro
sliced black olives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
In a roasting pan bake coat the chicken with olive oil and season well. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked though (165F).

Meanwhile, in a pot over medium heat add all of the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes so the flavors can meld.

Shred the chicken and mix with the scallions, green hatch chilies. Let the mixture cool and add the pepper jack cheese.

In a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pour a little of the cooled enchilada sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place a tortilla in the dish and roll up 1/8th of the mixture in the tortilla.  Repeat until you have all the tortillas filled side by side. Cover with enchilada sauce and the cup of cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 30 minutes.

To serve garnish with sour cream, black olives, and cilantro. Enjoy. xoxo

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Keys To Having A Bad-Assed Pantry: Part 3 - Sauces & Condiments

Okay, by now your pantry should be spicy via The Keys To Having A Bad-Assed Pantry: Part 1 - Spices and lubed up via The Keys To Having A Bad-Assed Pantry: Part 2 - Oils & Vinegars.

Now we're going to move on to the sticky, saucy, and chunky stuff. It's no secret that I am a hot sauce junkie. I pretty much add it to most of the things I cook. I love the little hint of sour from the vinegar and the the pop of heat, just spicy enough to clear my sinuses. I don't care for food so hot that it flays my tongue off and all you taste is burning. Just a nice kick of heat to feel alive, that's all I need. Here's my top five must have hot sauces that I can't live without. If you eat my food, chances are that one of these sauces are in it. I swiped an earlier hot sauce post, polished it and inserted it straight up into this post. The very beginning content may be slightly similar but all the names and dates have been changed. Read on.

1.  Tapatío Hot Sauce.  Pronounced ta-pa-tio, not as my lovely friend Jade says Ta-pash-eyo.  This is my all time favorite hot sauce.  I love the sour kick to it and it has the perfect amount of heat.  I drink this stuff like it's my job. Not just for Mexican food my friends.  No ma'am.  I'll add a little to spaghetti and marinara, cassoulet, scrambled eggs, a turkey sandwich, whatever.  I trust the little mustached man in the sombrero.  I find his smile comforting.  If I travel, I'll carry this in my purse like the crazy hot sauce toting Southern belle that I am.

2.  Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce.  Mixed with a little soy sauce and rice wine vinegar or sesame oil this is probably my favorite for dipping sauces.  I also make Asian style BBQ using chili garlic, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), rice wine vinegar, and honey.  The garlic really pops out when you add it to some stir fried broccoli or asparagus.  I add it to soups, congee (Chinese rice porridge), or my favorite breakfast of steamed rice, fried eggs, and kimchi.  The rooster on the logo also happens to be on the next sauce as well.

3. Sriracha Hot Sauce (aka Cock Sauce).  Get your mind out of the gutter. Cock as in rooster. Another home run from the Huy Fong family.  Sriracha goes great with anything.  A little bit tangier and peppery that a lot of other hot sauces.  It punches you in the gut with garlicky deliciousness. Here in Seattle you'll pretty find sriracha on the tables of most restaurants.  It's bright reddish orange color scares that hell out of people that have never tried it before.  It looks like it will rip your face off it's so hot but it's actually got a mild complexity to it.  Add enough to your big bowl of beef Phó though and you be filling your soup bowl with sweat. 

4. Crystal Louisiana Hot Sauce.  Being somewhat raised in the South, Crystal was the hot sauce of choice at a lot of my favorite restaurants growing up.  I cannot eat fried chicken, fried catfish, hush puppies, gumbo, or collard greens without a few dashes of Crystal.  I sure as hell won't eat an almighty Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich with out some Crystal.  If you were to rummage through any food loving woman's purse in the south chances are you'll find a bottle of Crystal.  God I want some fried chicken right now.

5. Cap Jempol.  This Indonesian hot sauce can kick your ass if you don't respect it.  It has the kind of heat that slaps you in the face and then settles in for a slow lip numbing burn.  However, use a little of it to add a spicy sweetness that can't be beat.  Even the label is giving you the thumbs up so you know it's good.  I love to use cap jempol when making Indonesian spicy chicken and rice and mixed with a little kecap manis and Maggi sauce (see below) it makes a purfect dipping sauce for lumpia (Filipino egg rolls).  Yum yum yum.

The not quite top five list of hot sauces that rock:
* Harissa - Algerian chili paste. Super spicy with a deep chili flavor.
* Chili Black Bean Sauce - fermented black beans, chilies and garlic.  Yum
* Piri Piri - lemon infused African cayenne chili sauce.  Very hot and very delicious.
* Sambal Olek - Malay condiment of crushed lime leaves, chilies, shallots, peanuts, and herbs.
Gochujang - Korean Chili Paste. Pungent fermented chili, glutinous rice, and soybeans. Sour spicy.
* Cholula, Louisiana, Tabasco, Franks Red Hot, El Yucateco.  They're all good, just not the best.

Okay, the spicy is out of the way. Now let's talk about the unspicy sauces. The liquids that bring saltiness or flavor. I'll break it down by region.

* Soy Sauce - Everyone should have soy in their pantry. If you make Asian food, you need this. Most Asian cultures use soy sauce in place of salt. Salty and sour and rich. I use soy in a lot of dishes (not just Asian either). There are a few types of soy such as light soy sauce, dark soy, sweetened soy, low sodium, etc. To start off just get yourself a jug of regular soy and call it a day. Here's my favorite soy commercial from Kikkoman. See, even the cat would rather hang itself than run out of soy sauce.

* Kecap Manis - Indonesian sauce similar to a sweet soy sauce flavored with garlic and star anise and sweetened with palm sugar. Has a sweet caramel flavor and is perfect for glazes (I make a BBQ sauce out it) and sauces that need a little rich sweetness. Can you tell? It's sweet.
* Ponzu - A Japanese citrus sauce (kind of like limes) that can be made simmering with mirin, rice wine vinegar, katsuobushi flakes, and seaweed. I buy it from the Asian grocery already made and mixed with a little soy. Yummy in dipping sauces or in sour soups.
* Miso - A fermented soybean (or rice) paste. It's full of cultures so technically it's alive. Salty and acidic it's great in salad dressings, miso soup (duh), sauces.
* Maggi Seasoning Sauce - Okay, Maggi is actually a brand but they make a sauce that is very popular in Filipino and other South East Asian cookery called Maggi Seasoning Sauce. It's like a cross between soy sauce, Worcestershire, and chicken bouillon. It's salty and magically delicious.
* Oyster Sauce - A thick oystery sauce that adds a savory element to whatever you're cooking. Especially awesome in stir fries, vegetables, chow mein, etc.  Many many Chinese dishes use oyster sauce.
* Mirin - Sweet Japanese Cooking Wine. Made with rice, mirin is one of the components in teriyaki sauce. It's sometimes added to dishes in place of sugar or soy. Adds a bright flavor.
* Teriyaki Sauce - You can buy it in a jar but it's beyond super easy to make yourself.
* Jufran Banana Sauce - Filipino banana ketchup. A little sweeter and spicier than tomato ketchup. Once you try it you'll probably give up the tomato version. Masarap!
* Garlic Chutney/Pickle - A spicy sweet Indian garlic spread that is so addictive you will put it on everything. Trust me, you need this. Just don't eat it before a hot date, stinky mouth.
* Fish Sauce - Sounds strange but this salty treat goes great in sauces, dips, and stir fried dishes. Fermented fishies! Yum!
* Wasabi - Spicy Japanese root similar to horseradish. If you can't find it grate your own but prepared wasabi works in a pinch. It'll clear your sinuses too. Exchange it with your partners toothpaste and watch as hilarity ensues.

Okay now we move on to lands of tatertot casserole, spotted dick, and poutine. That's right, I'm lumping North Americans and Europeans together into one big happy family. Deal with it. I'll assume you've heard of the likes of Ketchup, Mustard (including stone ground, yellow, Dijon, etc...), and Mayonnaise. All of the above items should always be at arms reach. You just never know, they may just save your life.

North America and Europe
* Worcestershire Sauce - A spiced malt vinegar anchovy sauce used to flavor Welsh rarebit and bloody Marys. Goes great with meat and is a must in your pantry.
* HP Sauce - Similar to Worcestershire but with the addition of tomato and more spices. Very British. I myself prefer the spicier Canadian version of HP Bold Sauce. It's like Hp but with a hip check in every bite. (Any hockey fans in the house? Yeah!)
* Curry Ketchup - Bavarian style ketchup with curry spices in it. Heil hot dog! Too soon? Yum!
* Prepared Horseradish - The stuff actually comes from a plant root and you can grate it yourself. Sometimes I don't feel like manual labor and I just stick a spoon into a jar of horseradish and stir it into my Bloody Mary. Simple and works just fine in a pinch. Mix with sour cream or mayo for a zesty spread. Zesty!
* Barbecue Sauce, Cocktail Sauce, Salad Dressing, Pickle Relish, Fry Sauce, Pesto - Make your own. It will be better and often be cheaper as well. If you are lazy you can buy it in a jar.
* Steak Sauce - This one also falls into the make it yourself category but there is a special place in my heart for a tasty bottle of A1 Steak Sauce. Put it on a burger. Tasty!

Okay, we had Africa in the hot sauces, Asia with fishy spicy things, North America and Europe with their many brown sauces. Last, let's move onto the tropical lands of bananas and revolutionaries.

South America & The Caribbean
Salsa - Everyone has a jar of salsa in their fridge. Is scratch made salsa better? Yes, by leaps and bounds. However, once in a while you have tortilla chips that need immediate dipping or tacos that need serious topping.
* Sour Orange / Mojo - Mojo is better when scratch made as well but I have a couple of bottles of Badia Cubano Mojo in my pantry. Great for marinating hams and pork roasts. Also delicious on chicken or add a little to your frijoles negros.
* Alcaparrado - Manzanilla olives, pimientos & capers all crushed up together. Perfect for that little salty Island party in your mouth.
* Recado Rojo - Achiote paste with spices. Brings a great orange-red color to your dishes as well as delicious flavour. Rub it on your skin to replicate a horrible rash. Impress your friends while cooking.
* Pickapeppa Sauce - Known as Jamaican ketchup Pickapeppa sauce is made of tomatoes, onions, sugar, cane vinegar, mangoes, raisins, tamarind, peppers and spices. It adds a tasty sweetness to any dish.
* Jerk - No, not you. Jerk paste has like 507 ingredients in it. I keep a jar in my fridge to spice up some chicken, fish, or goat.

Well folks, thats pretty much it for sauces and condiments. This was a hard one. Let me know if I have forgotten anything. Stay tuned for The Keys To Having A Bad-Assed Pantry: Part 4 - Grains & Legumes. The excitement never ends!