Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Saturday May 28th: Late Burger Day!

So, for burger Friday this week, I decided to make pulled pork. But, by the time I got around to it, I realized that the pork had to be brined. So, I put together a brine of salt, liquid smoke, pepper, grey mustard and ancho pepper. I brined the pork with three trays worth of ice in the brine to keep it cold enough to prevent the meat from spoiling. A little paranoid, but, whatever. After the pork was brined I dried it off with paper towels and then dry rubbed it with this.

I tried to cook the pork at 220 degrees in the cast iron but quickly found that it was stewing in its own fat, I had to elevate it to keep it from becoming greasy and braised. I don't own any cooking racks, so, after a few minutes of pacing the kitchen and trying to figure it out, I realized that it's similar to the warming/draining rack I used with the Chicken Fried Steak. I decided to try and make a makeshift rack out of foil. It worked. So I went back to cooking it, 4 hours later the pork was finished, so, while I let it cool and teared it I made some home fries. I served the pork on a bun, it wasn't a burger, but it was served on a burger bun. So, Burger Friday lives on... a day late. What a fun day. The pictures follow, they're pretty self explanatory.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 24th, 2011: Celebratory Steak with Home Fries

In celebration of a job interview gone well (two interviews with the same place within an hour and then being told "just to be fair to the other applicants, we'll interview them and we'll call you tomorrow to let you know you got the job") I bought a porterhouse steak. I don't know a whole lot about steak, but... I'll give it a shot.

I rubbed both sides of the steak with salt and pepper, I figure I'd do it classic and not do anything that would taint the steak. I heated up some butter in my cast iron, clarified it and then threw the steak in. I chopped up some potatoes and pan fried them to make fries, too. After I finished cooking the steak to a juice medium rare, I took a bottle of wine I got for $3 (a 2008 Californian Chard) and poured it into the pan with the steak drippings. I let that reduce some, added some garlic and ancho pepper and then poured the drippings over the steak. Very delicious. I always forget that steak isn't my thing, but this time, with the reduction sauce, it was pretty good.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23rd, 2011: Repurposing Poor Ass Meals

So, I'm still without a job. And money is tight. So this meal is made using what's on hand. I decided to use Ramen noodles as the carb in the meal and try to follow some sort of "Pad Thai" idea of a recipe. The picture is the approximation of ingredients that I had to work with. Beyond that, I did include garlic powder, ancho chile powder, paprika, flour and soy sauce. It's like a mix of my previously made S&S chicken and Pad Thai. I was working off the ropes with this meal, so it was challenging. I "blackened" a tilapia fillet I had in the freezer, but it didn't truly blacken up like I would a catfish fillet. It was ok.

I boiled the ramen noodles in a seperate pan and then removed the fish from the pan and broke it down into small pieces. Of course, I have to include some egg in the dish, so I scrambled an egg in soy sauce and pepper, added the veggies and spices and "stir fried" them together. At least, as close as a stir fry as you can get in a non-stick on an electric stove. The next step was reintroducing the noodles and adding some ramen "chicken" flavor and then throwing the fish in. I "deglazed" twice with water to achieve a complete flavor infusion through the food and make sure the fish was completely cooked.

In the end, it was better than normal Nissan Ramen noodles, but... honestly, it wasn't that great. I've cooked much better food, but I've also generally had better ingredients to work with. The mix veggies I found in the back of my freezer were so old that the greens never turned a color other than "frozen green." It was at least a decent dinner. That's all I could ask for right now. Now, I gotta try and find a job!

Update: Blair got home and ate a serving of this (yeah, a single serving of Ramen turned into multiple servings of food! AWESOME!) and she had this to say "It's kind of fishy... is there fish in this?" and I replied "yeah, it's about two drops of fish sauce and some tilapia. The fish sauce may have been too much" to which she replied "yeah, one drop too much, if you ask me." I can't argue that it's too fishy, but at least it's got protein and tasted ok. So, Poor Ass Meal achieved.

May 20th, 2011: Burger Friday!

I planned on making a full meal that day. And I did. I had a handful of vegetables on hand, but I still needed some burger toppings, so, I bought some tomatoes. Being that, nothing was really spent on this meal outside of the fridge/freezer, which is important to me. So I made a burger/corn on the cob/hash meal. There isn't much to be said about this. The burgers I made lacked most of the normal "burger spices" I use, but this time I added liquid smoke to the meat. It made delicious burgers. I'm just gonna post pictures, no real description for this one. The burgers were topped with Provolone cheese, tomatoes, vidalia onions and Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet Vidalia BBQ sauce. Very delicious. I call them "Onion Proof Burgers"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 21st, 2011: Travesties in fast food Part 1.

Today, we'll be discussing the Taco Bell "Big Box Meal" or "Five Buck Box," names interchangeable and often times a colloquialism between folks. For the history of fast food, places like McDonald's, Burger King Hardee's and Taco Bell have always attempted to pack as many calories per dollar into the American diet. Some meals are absurdly high in caloric content and sodium, take for example, a proper meal at Hardee's. A Double Thick Burger with coke and fries reaches a grand total of nearly 2000 calories with 4000mg of Sodium. YIKES! My girlfriend refers to this meal as "a heart attack on a bun," a title that I hate. I've never eaten one, but I can see the draw to such a rich meal. I just can't fathom the idea of eating an entire day's worth of meals in one sitting.

But the Taco Bell five buck box is an oddity. And a shameful one at that. It comes in two varieties, Crunchy Burrito and Melty Beef Burrito (I recently found out that there have been multiple iterations of this deal, it changes constantly, so, when you read this, it might be completely different). Or something to that effect. The first includes a burrito that is stuffed with meat, cheese and fritos... yeah... fritos. What the fuck! The "sides" in the first box are a hardshell taco, beef burrito, Cinnamon twists and a crunch wrap supreme. The other includes the new Melty Beef Burrito, which just has more cheese in it, plus a supreme chalupa, Cinnamon twists and a taco supreme. The one I'm eating currently is the second, the melty beef.

The first problem that arises when dealing with the Big Box is the box itself. It creates an air of shame when you get it. I arrived at my local T-bell to find a nasty long line at the drive thru. I endured it and placed my order at the box and felt ashamed of myself for just saying it. When I got to the window, they handed me not a bag of food, but a box that advertised the fact that I'm a fat-ass trying to kill myself with horrible, horrible food. I hoped that the people behind me were distracted enough to not notice that I was ordering an item called the "Big Box Meal" with one drink. I should have ordered another drink to make it look like I was splitting it with someone.

Now, I want to stress the fact that I eat Taco Bell semi regularly, but I often keep my meals down to one or two items that are under 200 calories a piece plus water or diet soda. But, today, I'm putting my body on the line in the name of science. Although, last night I was up until 6am with stomach cramps and being sick to my stomach... so, this might be a terrible idea.

First off, the food in the box is entirely mediocre compared to the food I'm used to eating, but it's still completely edible. The other thing about this box is that it's just hard to eat. I've only put down the Melty Beef Burrito and Chalupa and half my Mountain Dew and I'm honestly having trouble mustering the courage to eat the rest of the meal. So far, I've consumed about 5-600 calories with 5-600 more to go. It is a 1390 calorie box.

What really freaks me out is that a Whopper Meal from Burger King actually yields the exact same caloric value. I never realized quite how many calories are in BK's food. It does always leave me feeling sluggish and tired, too. I once ate a JalapeƱo Stuffed burger, medium fries and drink and only afterwards did I realize I had just consumed 1600 calories. It was a horrible feeling. Taco Bell seems to hit me with that "full feeling" a lot sooner than BK or McDonalds. Oddly, though, McDonalds seems to offer a better option when it comes to health, but just not much. I still much prefer the concoctions of my own kitchen or a proper restaurant.

What an odd event this was. I ate this big box meal for about a half hour before posting and throughout the whole posting, and I'm only a little over half done. Man... Taco Bell, lot of bang for the buck.

UPDATE! It is now nearly 8pm. I have had one margarita and three beers since eating this at 2pm. When I burp, I feel that I am at risk of throwing up Taco Bell, still. My stomach still feels overly stretched out. I also took a five mile walk to try and work off the food and gross feeling, but I'm still suffering from it. And that's after I threw away half the taco supreme and half the twists. I'm not proud of what I did, but it was an experience. When eating at Taco Bell, try to keep your caloric intake of solid food below 400 calories, that's my advice. Besides, it costs like $2 to eat "healthy" at Taco Bell and $5 to eat this abomination. Next time, I'll tackle the KFC Double Down! PS, more than likely, there will be a video accompaniment to the Double Down.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 19th, 2011: Chicken Tacos

So, I'm a touch on the strapped for cash side right now, seeing as I just graduated college and have yet to land a job. It kind of sucks. So, I wanted to do some cooking and I missed Mexican Wednesday, yesterday. So I made Mexican Thursday.

Meats I have on hand are ground beef, chicken breasts, chicken cutlets, pork shoulder and cube steak. Choice made: chicken cutlets. Though I can't seem to find the cube steak in the freezer... did my girlfriend eat it?

Vegetables got a little weird, though. I had Serrano peppers, vidalia onions, asparagus and potatoes. So, I threw em all in together in my new cast iron skillet and then pour some water, several types of pepper spices, garlic, cumin, cilantro, bacon and curry in and cooked the hell out of the mix. It turned out smelling and tasting delicious, but it's completely awesome tasting and amazing! I was surprised, cause it didn't look too hot.

The tortillas are a brand they sell at my local Meijer that are organic, natural and handmade in the area. I melted cheese between two tortillas in bacon grease to warm the tortillas and instill a porkish quality to them and then put a dab of sour cream on top. It was fucking delicious, but not too great looking.

Edit: I apologize, the tortillas are actually hand made in California by La Tortilla Factory.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16th, 2011: Beer Battered Chicken, bacon wrapped asparagus and roasted pototoes

I'm just gonna put up a series of pictures, I really have no words for this right now. I'm in a bit of a food coma, right now. In the future, I may expand on this.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

May 6th, 2011: Burger Friday! Weird Ass Burgers!

This is the first "post class" post on this blog. Any it's not a great one. I truly wish that I had pictures and everything for the Sloppy Joes I made the other day, but... I don't. I made some lame burgers yesterday, and that's it. Right now, I'm watching My Best Friend's Girl and wondering... how did I go wrong with my burgers last night? Well... one way.

I planned to make some burgers with a mango topping and make a side for them that consisted of baked potatoes or fries or chips or potato skins or something. In any case, I ignored the potatoes. I can't say that it was really my fault that the side didn't get made, since I didn't get home to cook until a couple of minutes after I had to start the burgers.

So to start the burgers, I fried up some bacon. Oscar Meyer, which I had so I used, because it's kind of lame... but I haven't been able to find a new bacon brand since hearing about Smithfield's immigrant trading philosophy (see Food Inc). I had some onions and bell peppers chopped up to put into the burger. Unfortunately, cheese, peppers, onion and bacon makes a burger to unstable that it breaks apart in to the pan.

The topping that I made for the burger was a Mango-Lemon vinaigrette. I mixed one mago, diced, with the juice of one lemon, some cilantro (fresh out of my planter) and olive oil and then strained the dressing to make a topping.

Two patties stayed together and made edible burgers. Well, all pieces made edible burgers, but the first set was more like a hash. My girlfriend ate up the first set as part of her "no carb diet" while the second two patties made great burgers for me to eat. It was great! We ate them and enjoyed Anchorman and I Love You Man while I tried to prove to Blair that I wasn't too immature to enjoy The 40 Year Old Virgin, I still can't figure out how I'm too young to get that movie.

Also, this is the third time in one week that I have used a "mango" topping, because... let's face it: I didn't know what mango was before a week ago. I guess there's another fruit in my repertoire, now. Awesome.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 02, 2011: Due Date for Final Project

Well, it's the end of an era with this blog. I didn't get to quite make as many meals as I would have liked and the professional grading my cooking garnered was far less than complimentary. About the only thing I feel confident about is that I can roast walnuts... and make burgers. I'm'a a burger god. But the fact is, this semester has been very powerful, in a culinary way, for me. Be it Barbara Kingsolver laying a guilt trip on me to eat local and fresh produce and meat, Micheal Ruhlman amping up my excitment to go to culinary school at ICC (which I'm not, if I do a culinary career track, I'll just do apprenticeships) or Tom Naughton further confirming my cynicism of Morgan Spurlock. This semester has been a growing experience that helped me stay afloat at times when I felt like I couldn't and helped me learn more about myself. While I can't justify spending the extra money to go to Whole Foods or Naturally Yours, thanks to Barbara Kingsolver and Micheal Pollan I'll be spending money on locally grown food at the Farmer's Markets around here, I feel that it is more important for me to purchase food that didn't travel thousands of miles than food that has a "story" as Pollan put it. Strangely, much like the food at Whole Foods, this semester has been a story and a new chapter is about to begin in less than a couple of days. I intend to maintain this blog, but I'm not sure how long I'll be able to maintain myself. At that point, we'll see exactly what I'll be doing. There are three avenues that I'll most likely end up walking down: the food industry, retail or grad school. So, we'll see exactly what I do. For now, though, I'm signing out and finishing up my finals. The next post will most likely be May 6th's Burger Friday. And beyond that, a meal out of Claire Robbinson's 5 Ingredient Fix cookbook. This chick is my favorite Food Network Host, hands down.

Well, enjoy the rest of your week, and I'll be seeing you again for Burger Friday.

Edit: I lied... I don't know why, but I made sloppy Joes last night. From scratch with no recipe what so ever. I just started throwing shit in a pan and low and behold: SLOPPY JOES straight from Lunch Lady Land (sorry about the poor quality, too make up for that, here's my favorite Adam Sandler bit: Cajun Man)! Well, not straight from lunch lady land, since mine kicked ass. In any case, I'll probably try my hand at beef jerky down the road, thanks to Alton Brown.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April 30th, 2011: "Moroccan Style Sole" and Potato Hash

After a disappointingly tragic time at the "Iron Chef" style event at the end of the semester for my "Food Class" I went home a little forlorn. Being told I was "competent," coming in third and then being told I probably would never cook again didn't make me feel so great. From the Field Cooking School is a nice place with great prices for their classes, but don't expect to be coddled by the proprietor. I, more than likely, will end up taking a couple of classes there. Once I get a real job, anyway.

We cooked a few very simple dishes there that didn't impress too much. The dishes seemed more complicated than they actually were due to naming and portioning. What threw me off with the tilapia dish was that it was a 2" circle of fish on top of a 2" circle of toast and then the hash was called "Potatoes Hash Cookies" and I couldn't comprehend what either of these dishes were.

After finishing a paper I decided I'd give these dishes another try and give myself one hour to make them. This time, instead of making them as part of a team, I made them on my own. I spiced up the "hash" which was bacon, potatoes and chives, at the contest, by adding green peppers. Not a big change, but the pepper flavor added a much richer dimension to the dish. I was very pleased with myself on that.

Instead of using tilapia in 2" circles, I decided to make it into a main dish instead of an appetizer and use sole instead of tilapia. The original recipe called for pepper, cumin, coriander and salt, I added paprika and ancho pepper to the mix to give it a bit more bite. To top it, at the contest, we used a mango and cilantro topping. I added a dash of white vinegar and olive oil to give it a more "dressing/sauce" type of feel, something I wish I did at the contest. The bite and flavor of my mango topping was much more complex and complimented the taste of the fish and spices much better than the simple topping at the contest.

I also found that I'm not that keen on Sole. It's just not that great of a fish, it seems bland and boring to me. I also added to my kitchen this weekend by re-purposing a pint size whiskey bottle into my olive oil bottle. It looks totally bad ass. My girlfriend and I enjoyed the meal while watching Date Night, a movie that was surprisingly fun, and over estimating how quickly my body was able to metabolize alcohol. She was impressed by the meal, she found it to be a much more elegant meal than she anticipated me making within an hour