Article posted on Feb 3
(No pictures because #1, I'm lazy, and #2, it looks like chili.)
I originally set out to prepare a chili dip to re-heat quickly for tomorrow. That failed (the cooked dish was way too thin for dip), but what I instead created was, considering the ratio of tastiness to ease of preparation, the tastiest thing I have ever prepared.
Crumble the queso, mix everything together in a 2-quart covered baking dish, and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.
As you can imagine, it's pretty spicy. You can play around with the non-hot equivalents of the various ingredients as desired. When I was a kid, I really didn't like spicy foods, but over time that has changed. The likely reason is I'm getting older, and when you get older, you start losing taste buds. When I was in high school, friends and I used to go to Taco Bell often, and they had just introduced the Fire sauce. I would eat it to be "cool", but really I thought it was too spicy. These days, it's very mild. When I was in my 20s, I started liking things which were a little hot, but had a lot of flavor (like Frank's RedHot sauce, which despite the name isn't that hot). These days, I tend to like heat for heat's sake.
Article posted on Nov 8
Most of the dishes I've presented here have turned out well. However, I thought I'd document a dish that didn't work out the best, but still has potential for improvement. A culinary beta, as it were.
A discussion about "sausage rolls" started in IRC this evening. Sausage rolls are pretty simple, just sausage and seasonings inside a dough wrapper, and are popular in the UK, Ireland and Australia. I decided to try my hand at a variation, as a single sausage loaf, designed to be cut into slices and served.
I took a tube of crescent rolls, but instead of pulling them apart into triangles, I left the sheet of dough intact. I then spread a pound of Jimmy Dean "sage sausage" (you can use regular sausage, with some sage rubbed into it) over the dough, leaving some room on the sides and top. I then rolled the dough and sausage into itself, much like a cinnamon roll. Crimp the top and ends, patch up any exposed areas of dough, and put into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. I always leave a baking stone inside my oven, and put the mega-roll directly on the stone.
This was the result. I pulled the loaf after 25 minutes, and you can tell it was still a little pink in the middle. But another 5 minutes in the oven cooked it all the way through. I really liked the flaky outer crust, but the inner dough pooled in the middle, and was... well, doughy. It wasn't the consistency I was expecting.
It was certainly edible, but next time I'll make a few changes. Namely, instead of one rolled loaf using the entire sheet of crescent roll dough, I'll split into 4 quarters, still leaving the diagonal perforations connected. That way there is no inner dough, and the result will be a more consistent baking experience. But again, overall I liked the idea of using crescent roll dough, and baking directly on a baking stone turned out well.
Article posted on Oct 10
Here's another one from the family cookbook. The shrimp is great, but I've got to say that the cracker mixture is where it's at. I could simply munch on that if I had to.
* 1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined (cooked is fine)
* 8 oz (2 sticks) Ritz crackers
* 12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) melted butter
* 2 tbsp lemon juice
* 4 tbsp white wine
* 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
* 2 tbsp chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the butter, lemon juice, wine, worcestershire sauce, and parsley together. Crumble the crackers in a large work bowl, integrate the wet ingredients, and mix half of the shrimp in. Layer the rest of the shrimp on a 8x8" pan, and distribute the cracker mixture on top of the shrimp bed. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
If, like me, you do not go through enough white wine to use a little in cooking, I've found that 2 tbsp gin works equally well.
Article posted on Jul 13
Tonight I made sushi. The rice recipe is here, but you really need to see the Good Eats episode, as it deals with all aspects of sushi making, not just the rice. Actually, the rice is what I feared the most, as I've never had good luck with rice, and sushi rice is more complicated. That part actually worked out the best. It was fluffy and sticky, and didn't mush up.
I had Krab and avocado, but forgot the cucumber, so it's a Mostly California Roll. I was afraid to make it inside out, so I made regular Maki rolls. The first roll was way too big. The other 3 were decent. Pretty ugly compared to a sushi bar, but it all tasted the same in the mouth. And I ate too much, as is tradition with sushi. And then I tried to compensate with lots of water, as is tradition with sushi. This will be an interesting evening.
Always tip your sushi chef.
Article posted on May 30
My New England roots are showing.
While I'm from Green Bay, most of my extended family is from Rhode Island. There, coffee is king. Iced coffee is pretty much understood countrywide now, but this is a relatively new thing. Before chains such as Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts expanded nationwide, iced coffee was limited to pockets of the US, Rhode Island included.
But I'm not here to talk about iced coffee. I'm here to talk about, among other things, coffee milk. Coffee milk is the official state drink of Rhode Island, and is pretty analogous to chocolate milk. It's milk, mixed with coffee syrup.
What is coffee syrup? It's simply a coffee-flavored sugar syrup, and is distinctly Rhode Island. You may be able to find bottles of the stuff in parts of New England as a whole, but pretty much every grocery store in Rhode Island will carry bottles of Autocrat and Eclipse brand coffee syrup.
Sites like Only in Rhode Island can ship you bottles for a pretty decent price, but I decided to try my hand at making it from scratch, based on what I remember it tasting like. I think I've come close at a simple recipe, but I suppose I'm going to have to order a few bottles of the "authentic" stuff to compare, as it's been well over a decade since I've had an authentic Coffee Cabinet (more on that later).
* 2 cups double strength coffee
* 3 cups granulated sugar
* 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) light corn syrup
Brew the coffee. I found that 1/2 cup grounds to 3 cups water will produce a little over 2 cups of very strong coffee. Thoroughly combine 2 cups of the coffee, the sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan over high heat while whisking often. Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately take the pan off the heat and reduce the heat to low.
Do not walk away from this! Once the syrup hits a boil, it will foam up in literally about 3 seconds. If you don't move the pan off the heat, you will be left with a stove covered in napalm. (No, thankfully this is not known from experience.)
Bring the pan back to low heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and cool for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the syrup is cool enough to handle, transfer to a dispenser bottle. You should have almost exactly 3 cups of syrup. I initially tried a generic squeeze bottle, but I later found that a 24oz pancake syrup bottle works perfectly.
What can you do with coffee syrup? Coffee milk is the first suggestion. Simply combine 2-3 tbsp of syrup with 1 cup of milk, and stir for coffee milk. You can drizzle over ice cream, or even make coffee ice cream!
Or you could make a coffee cabinet. I've heard several versions of the etymology of "cabinet", but it's what the rest of the world would call a milkshake. Everybody has their own preference on how to make a milkshake/cabinet, but here's my favorite:
* 3 scoops coffee or vanilla ice cream
* 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) coffee syrup
* 1 cup milk
* 4 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse.
Coffee ice cream would be better than vanilla, but the only place I can find coffee ice cream is a store brand at Safeway, and it tastes pretty wretched. I'd like to buy an ice cream maker to make my own, but can't justify buying another kitchen appliance that'll be rarely used.
Oh, and the irony here? I don't drink coffee.
Update: New concoction:
The name was invented by teferi, who immediately disavowed it.
* 2 parts vodka
* 1 part Kahlua
* 1 part coffee syrup
* 2 parts cream
Combine vodka, Kahlua and syrup in a Old Fashioned glass with ice. Float the cream, and stir lightly. This is a standard variation of a White Russian, but with a twist: when first trying it, I forgot about the properties of the syrup and only lightly stirred. The coffee syrup mostly stayed at the bottom of the drink, giving you a pleasant kick of coffee at the end.
Article posted on Mar 27
Much better. Thinner slices, better meat, longer drying and a tweaked recipe made all the difference. It's very peppery, just a little hot, and only a slight hint of worcestershire.
Article posted on Mar 26
Following up on yesterday's post, I pulled the jerky yesterday morning before heading to work. It was ok, but not great. I'll try to rationalize why:
1. It wasn't completely dried. I only froze the beef for an hour last night, and ended up slicing it a bit thicker than I wanted. It ended up being about the same thickness as the gas station jerky you get that's sealed between two pieces of plastic. While there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, it does take longer to dry, and 12 hours wasn't enough. It was still a little bit squishy in the middle. Not terrible, but it wasn't totally preserved, and wouldn't have been able to last for more than, say a month.
2. Wrong meat. I got a middle of the road top sirloin from wal-mart, and there was a little too much fat hiding out here and there. Again, doesn't totally ruin jerky, but fat is the first thing to go rancid in jerky, and also would have contributed to only lasting a month or so in an airtight container.
3. The recipe included WAY too much worcestershire sauce. It was a bit of a put-off for me.
So I ate my losses and decided to try again. On the way home today I stopped by a local butcher (Butcher Boy), and got 1 1/2 pounds of "London broil" (flank steak), with very little marbling and very little fat to trim. The price per pound was about the same as I paid for the top loin, too. I froze it for a solid 2 hours, sliced it as thin as I could, and played around with the recipe. I used a full recipe, but only used about 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce instead of the 2/3 cup called in the recipe. I've got 3 teaspoons ground pepper + a handful of whole peppercorns, paprika instead of red pepper flakes (which I did in the previous batch but forgot to mention; that part was good), and I threw in a few drops of Tabasco.
I'll start the fan before I go to bed (about 2AM) and leave it running until I get home from work the next day -- about 15 hours -- and give it a check before deciding on more time.
Oh, and to those who were wondering about the filters -- they worked out very well, and can definitely be used over and over.
Article posted on Mar 25
Actually, I'm making beef jerky, according to this recipe (halved, 1 pound of beef). The beef is chilled, cut into thin, long slices, marinated, and placed on accordion furnace filters. A blank filter is placed on top, and the whole thing is bungee corded to a box fan. Here's the final setup, before being placed on my patio:
For the record, the filters are cellulose/poly air filters, not fiberglass. They ran me about $7.50 for a 3-pack, and obviously aren't usable as furnace filters after they're used to make jerky. But they should be reusable for future jerky batches.
I'll let you know how they turn out when they're done tomorrow.
Article posted on Mar 14
I first tried Pad See Ew ("fried with soy sauce") at a Thai restaurant in Seattle about 5 years ago, while staking out the city for potential colonization with friends. It was a few blocks our hotel, and we basically ended up going there every other night of the week. But, while there are many Thai restaurants in Reno, very few if any seem to serve Pad See Ew.
Years later, I decided to give it a whirl myself. This was not an original recipe, so I'll defer to the site I got the recipe from, and just note my experiences:
I did not get thick/dark soy sauce, and instead opted for the "normal" kind. It didn't really affect anything, in my opinion.
I cut the leaves of the Chinese broccoli from the stems, and cooked the stems before the leaves, as the recipe suggested, but I did not cook the stems long enough. The result was a woody, bitter taste that threw off the final product. In the second batch, I simply left out the stems, and it was great.
I used sesame oil for the cooking as well as the marinade, since I had it available for the recipe. The resulting taste was not unpleasant, but was overpowering. I'd recommend sesame oil for the marinade, but something with a lighter taste for the cooking. The recipe recommends grapeseed oil, which I have no experience, but I'd recommend regular olive oil.
If you don't have a wok (I don't), use a large stainless steel frying pan. I did this for the first batch (pictured), which made a horrible mess on the pan (lots of gunk stuck to the bottom of the pan), but in trying to scrape it down as I cooked, the burned bits came off into the dish, and actually tasted great. For my second attempt, I used a large nonstick pan, which was a lot easier to work with, but resulted in a blander flavor.
So, rice noodles. It's literally rice and water, extruded into noodle shapes and dried. As such, there are a variety of shapes. Pad See Ew is traditionally made with broad rice noodles (about an inch wide, and cut into rectangles). However, all of the local friendly megamarts only seem to carry fettuccine-sized rice noodles. The Asian supermarket on Fifth street carries a variety of sizes, but only seems to up to about 1/4", which is what is traditionally used for Pad Thai. This is the size I ended up using.
Rice noodles are my new favorite substitution for rice, can be used pretty much anywhere rice is called for, but preparation is completely different. The normal method is simple: Break the noodles out into a large pot of warm water, and let them sit for 30 minutes. All they need is this re-hydration. They can be boiled, but will come out grainy and sticky, and should only be used in a frying situation (but the soak method is still preferred).
Article posted on Dec 23
Wisconsin is not necessarily known for its health food. I have a hard enough time explaining cheese curds to people, not to mention why they must be breaded and deep fried. But today's recipe I blame on the Germans -- namely German influence on Northeast Wisconsin cuisine.
Down the road from Lambeau Field is Kroll's, a small-town diner. You seat yourself in any of the booths, browse the menu, and when you are ready to order, you press a button next to the table to summon a waiter. Kroll's has a wide menu, but is particularly known for its burgers. You can order hamburgers, or bratburgers from the menu. And while not on the menu, you can ask for a combo burger, which is a hamburger patty and a bratburger patty. And what makes Kroll's burgers unique is that each burger is served with a pat of butter between the bun and the meat. No, the bun isn't buttered per se, but a pat of butter is put directly on the underside of the top roll, along with the other condiments. The butter is mostly melted by the time you eat the burger.
Now, let's step back a minute: bratwurst. Bratwurst is a staple of Wisconsin grilling. Brats are usually in link form, and are often boiled (usually in lager), grilled, or both (boiled in beer, then seared at the end). Brats are also often made in patty form, and cooked as you would a hamburger (with a few limitations, as I will get to in the recipe itself).
Now, when I moved from Wisconsin to California in 2000, I simply could not find bratwurst in local stores. Nobody carried it. Same deal when I moved from California to Nevada in 2002. However, over the years, grocery stores started carrying brat links, usually Johnsonville brand (a company based in Sheboygan, WI). Today you can find both raw and cooked links in many grocery stores, so I'm assuming the brand has gone national.
Calorie count: you don't want to know
* 1 lb lean ground hamburger
* 1.25 lb bratwurst (5 quarter-pound links), raw, not pre-cooked
* 8 hamburger buns
* 16 slices American cheese
* Toppings: Yellow mustard, sauerkraut, onions
Toast a hamburger bun. While the bun is toasting...
Take a bratwurst link and remove the casing. Start at the top and cut down the side of the link, then the casing should be able to be pulled off in a single, sticky piece. Cut the link into two, and take one of the 2 oz halves and form it into a thin patty. Take 2 oz of hamburger and also form it into a thin patty. (See pictures below.)
Grill both patties. This should take no longer than a few short minutes, since the patties should be "fast food" thickness.
When bun is toasted, add a pat of butter and condiments. The bratwurst is the star of this burger, and Northeast Wisconsin tradition dictates that only 3 condiments are acceptable for bratwurst: onions, yellow mustard and sauerkraut. You may subtract from this list, but you may NOT add. ESPECIALLY not ketchup. I personally go with just the mustard.
Layer hamburger, cheese, bratburger, cheese. Serve with fries and/or a pickle.
Makes 8 burgers, plus a leftover bratwurst link to do with as you please. Since you're only left with one, I'd skip the beer bath and go straight to the grill.
(By the way, the malt vinegar is decidedly a [New] England thing, and not a Wisconsin thing. Most of my extended family is from New England, so I'm allowed to cross cultures a bit.)