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posted by Chris on December 15, 2009 11:31 AM in Food
Sous-vide cooking is not a new concept, but since Top Chef and the rise of the hipster foodie (he says with self-depreciating smugness) it's been brought to light as a truly innovative and important method of food preparation. The concept is deceptively "boil-a-bag" simple: vacuum-seal your food and drop it into a controlled temperature water bath. It may sound like a fancy term for botulism incubator but as long as you follow general kitchen safety precautions (such as washing your hands after handling raw chicken, preventing cross-contamination, not letting the cats lick the butter, etc) you're golden. The benefits are numerous. For one, your food is more consistently heated throughout. Consider what it takes to cook a chicken breast. In order to be able to serve it legally the internal temperature has to be around 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The typical way to achieve this would be to either cook it on the stovetop at a high temperature, or cook it in the oven at a high temperature. You're brute-force heating the outside at 400+ degrees to achieve a fraction of that temp on the inside. It's not terribly efficient. With sous-vide, the temperature is completely consistent. Steaks cooked sous-vide can be cooked medium-rare easily, with a perfect pink color throughout.
It's not an all-in-one Ronco™ style solution, however. It's just one step in the process. Most meals cooked sous-vide need to be seared or sauced after their water bath, but the results are phenomenal. Fancy restaurants have been using this technique to create consistently cooked dishes for years, but the equipment has been prohibitively expensive. In the past if you wanted to cook sous-vide you'd have to equip yourself with a Polyscience thermal immersion circulator, which would run you about a thousand dollars. There's a new solution in town, however, in the form of the Sous Vide Supreme. The first consumer-level sous-vide "oven", it's priced at a moderately more reasonable $400. We were lucky enough to get one loaned to us for a week, and we made some truly stellar dishes with it. I'm going to split up our experience with the SVS into multiple blog posts, cause this is going to get a bit wordy. I'm sure you don't mind.
In the past, Jinny and I would cook our steaks "ghetto sous-vide". This is actually a fantastic way to cook steaks (in particular). We've discussed this method on the podcast before, but I've never written it down for you guys to try at home. So! Here it is.
A Foodsaver or similar vacuum-sealer thingy (though to be honest Ziplock bags work just as well)
Our favorite cut of meat to use for this is a tri-tip steak. It's cheap, flavorful and the perfect thickness for this kind of preparation. Salt and pepper your meat and put it in your bag. Add a pat of butter (if you'd like, you can omit it) and seal the bag. If you're using a ziplock bag, seal it with your fingers all the way to the edge, leaving a small gap. Suck the air out and seal it quickly. Works in a pinch.
The temperature we're looking for is about 129-130 degrees for medium-rare. If you like your steak well-done, look elsewhere. You heathen. I've found that the water from my kitchen faucet comes out at around 125 at the hottest, so I'll fill up the pot with hot water, and anchor the probe to point near the middle of the pot. You want to monitor the temperature very closely. The acceptable range of temperature would be between 128-132 but don't go any higher. If your water starts getting too hot, pull it off the stovetop a little bit and pour some cold water into it until you get back to temp. It takes a bit of practice (and your results may vary) but after a half an hour your steaks should be done.
Get a cast-iron pan rocket hot. Take the steaks out of the water bath and remove them from the bag onto some paper towels. Pat them dry. The drier the better. Brown the steaks on both sides for 30 seconds or so, then remove them to a plate to rest. Rest at least 5 minutes. Then, enjoy the best steaks you've ever had in your life. Seriously. Outside of a good ol' fashioned outdoor grilling, sous-vide is hands-down the best way to treat yourself to beefy goodness.
The Sous Vide Supreme makes the process way easier. We cooked steaks in the exact same method we usually do, but no longer had to monitor the temperature. We just put them in and were free to prepare the other elements of our meal. It was wonderful. The consistency was the same but the process was much more streamlined.
In the next entry, I'll talk about the other dishes we made with the SVS, including scallops and halibut.
posted by Sparky on November 17, 2009 1:27 PM in Food
After an inspiring shallot and brown butter pasta lunch with the Weekly Geek crew this week I couldn't help but go home and experiment further. Two dinners later I've created a monstrously tasty pasta sauce that's quick and easy to whip up. This sauce features rich bacon and garlic tones balanced with lightly stewed tomatoes.
Ingredients (per serving)
1 strip of bacon
1 small clove of garlic
2 Tbs. salted butter
1 small tomato
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
The recipe listed is for a single serving of this sauce. If cooking for a group simply multiply each of the ingredients by the number of people being served. Start off by frying the bacon in a non-stick pan (not a cast iron pan as lemon juice is involved later). The bacon should fry up to be nice and crispy. While the bacon is frying mince the garlic and dice the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes on a paper towel to remove some of the extra moisture.
Once the bacon is good and crispy remove it from the pan and place on a paper towel to drain and cool. Pour out the bacon grease (leaving a tasty coating on the pan) and cool the pan to a medium low heat. Once the pan has cooled add the butter, garlic, and salt. Stir the butter and garlic mixture constantly and keep a close eye on the color. As the butter starts to change from its normal golden hue to a very light brown add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and drained tomatoes. Cook the sauce gently for a few more minutes to allow the tomatoes to become lightly cooked.
Finally mince the crispy bacon and add it to the sauce moments before tossing with hot pasta and a little cheese for a deliciously rich dinner. This sauce goes perfectly with fresh egg pasta and dried pasta alike, although the fresh pasta will have better body and taste.
posted by Sparky on November 10, 2009 8:08 AM in Food
With thanksgiving just around the corner, pumpkin puree has been finding its way into a wide variety of things I've been cooking. Over the weekend I decided to try and make pumpkin pie cookies and came up with these delicious fall treats. Flavored with a reduced pumpkin puree and creamy white chocolate morsels these cookies are delicious with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or packed plain in a lunch at work.
posted by Sparky on November 3, 2009 3:27 PM in Food
Of late when I think of true alchemy in the kitchen my mind often wanders to the wonders of desserts. Caramels are one of those magic creations that have but a single ingredient, yet manage to have a rich variety of preparations with tantalizing end results. One particular kind of caramel bests all others in its ease (and potential danger) of preparation: Dulce De Leche.
Click through to learn how to make this drop-dead simple dessert enhancement.
posted by Sparky on October 20, 2009 8:46 AM in Food
Nothing starts the weekend off right like a lazy, delicious brunch with some friends. This weekend I tried my hand at making bunch and served up some beer batter cinnamon rolls hiding a bounty of bacon and pecans within their sweet folds. The recipe originally came from this post on Serious Eats, and is every bit as delicious and easy as the post claims.
Click through for my take on their recipe and a few hints on making this brunchy treat come out quickly and with great deliciousness.
posted by Sparky on October 13, 2009 4:59 PM in Food
Cake! Who doesn't like cake? I mean seriously: cake! Last night I needed some cheering up and decided to make a recipe from Joy of Cooking I'd been eying for a while: the orange rum cake. While this cake may not win any beauty contests it tastes great, and is rumored to go great with a chocolate glaze.
This is a quick and easy cake to whip together in 10 minutes and is ready to eat less than an hour later. The simplicity of ingredients produce a spongy, buttery cake with the warmth of vanilla and the zesty citrus of an orange, not to mention being doused in a few shots of rich spiced rum.
Making one is easy - click through the jump below to learn how to make your own tasty orange rum cake.
Serious Eats recently ran a series called "Hot Dog of the Week" where they featured a vast and delicious-looking array of regional tube steaks. Each of these posts was accompanied by an illustration of the featured dog by Hawk Krall. Mister Hawk (or Mister Krall, as the case may be) is now selling prints of a few of the more notable depictions, including the Tiujana Dog seen above. Bacon-wrapped goodness.
posted by Sparky on October 6, 2009 12:14 PM in Food
Nothing says comfort food like macaroni and cheese, and boy do I like to say comfort food. The other day I tried mixing up this great classic by using fresh feta-spinach ravioli I bought at the market rather than macaroni and the results were decadent. This makes for a quick recipe as if store bought ravioli from the market are used only the white sauce must be made.
Click through for my white sauce recipe, and instructions on how to layer up your own casserole of fabulousness.
posted by Sparky on September 29, 2009 3:08 PM in Food
Ever since my early cooking days I've been obsessed with noodles and different ways to make/prepare them. Today I want to cover a new technique I'm experimenting with that can elevate fresh egg noodles from their normal lofty excellence to something even better. You heard me: better than excellent! This preparation technique makes for a crispy salted exterior that crunches delightfully in the mouth while still having a rich noodley center with a bit of chew to it.
To follow along with the recipe, click through the jump.
posted by Sparky on September 22, 2009 1:26 PM in Food
Sometimes you need to take a break from things and kick back with a refreshing drink. This week is one of those times so rather than a big, meaty delicacy for Practical Alchemy I instead present a cool, clean drink to whip up with some friends. The Cape Greyhound lets the sweet essences of a Cape Cod combine with the sour delight of a Greyhound.
The Cape Greyhound
In a cocktail shaker combine the following ingredients with a generous handful of ice
3oz fine Vodka
4oz unsweetened cranberry juice
4oz pink grapefruit juice
a dash of fresh lime juice
Shake well and serve into two rocks glasses. Enjoy with a friend, or if your week requires a bit more refreshment enjoy with yourself. Twice.
posted by Sparky on September 15, 2009 7:59 PM in Food
Today's delicious alchemical concoction is a sweet tangy chicken served over a bed of mushrooms. This entree is something I've worked up over the last few months - it's moist, twice cooked succulence goes great over rice, either plain or a lemongrass rice. It's quick to make requiring about 10 minutes of prep time and 30 minutes in the oven, thus ideal for a delicious meal after a long day at work.
Click through the jump for the ingredients list and details on the preparation.
posted by Sparky on September 1, 2009 10:20 AM in Food
The crisp bite bite of a sweet onion balanced by sour cream and Gorgonzola, all layered beautifully with tomato and basil into a not-so-classic caprese salad. This delicious blast of flavor is mere minutes away from gracing your hungry mouth. Being new to cooking I don't feel bound by conventional ingredients, and as such started experimenting with the classic insalata caprese to create my own spiritual successor.
No need to wait to make one of your own - let's make these drop dead simple 5-minute appetizers here and now. Click through to follow along with the delicious.
posted by Sparky on August 25, 2009 9:44 AM in Food
Omelets are a quick, easy, and delicious way to start or end the day. Fluffy yellow eggs with a hint of butter wrapped around fresh vegetables or succulent bits of meat. After a long day at work the omelet's simplicity and ease of cooking (and single pan cleanup) make for a quick nutritious meal.
Julia Child has been referred to as the ambassador of the omelet and I must admit that the video below inspired this post. Check it out, then click through the jump for a few variations on her delicious 20 second French-style recipe.
posted by Sparky on August 18, 2009 12:00 PM in Food
Burgers are the classic American fare, ideally grilled up and shared with good friends over a nice beer. Burgers are simple yet can be deeply complex, with an infinite number of variations turning flavors this way and that. With a handful of cookouts under my belt, I have yet to make the same burger twice and I'm always excited to try a new way to serve them.
Click through for my basic patty recipe and a few of my favorite topping combinations so far.
posted by Sparky on August 11, 2009 12:30 PM in Food
While many a sauce exist to top your fresh pasta, the classic tomato sauces reign for a reason - they rock. I've experimented around with quite a few recipes and melded a few of them to my own liking in the form of Sparky's 3 tomato sauce. The name three tomato sauce comes from there being 3 recognizable forms of tomatoes in the finished sauce.
While this preparation takes a little planning and time the results are worth the effort. Click through to find out how to make some for yourself.
posted by Sparky on August 4, 2009 8:31 PM in Food
While not as rich (and figure-wrecking) as a bearnaise-drenched steak, the humble salad can pack a flavor punch worthy of singing praise from the rooftops and mountain peaks. Crisp veggies, sweet fruits, and protein packed nuts (no, not those nuts) tossed together with exotic dressings can make for a healthy side or a meal by themselves.
Michael Ruhlman's Ratio provides the basic template for a vinaigrette: 3 parts fat and 1 part acid. This basic template can provide a basic dressing, but with a little creativity amazing things can burst forth from the mixing bowl. Click through for some ideas for your own
As any astute reader of Practical Alchemy will notice I'm a little obsessed with desserts. My obsession comes front and center again this week in the form of galette dough. A galette is a flaky pastry prepared similar to a pie, however with a stronger dough and without a pie tin. To clarify, a galette is pure delicious, a galette is a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a galette will be the driving force behind world peace in the year 2014*. As amazing as a galette can be the best part is galette is how quick and easy creating this fancy desert really is.
The galette dough can be made in bulk and frozen ahead of time, needing only a quick overnight thaw in the fridge before being rolled, having fruit added, and baked making it an ideal dessert to make when you are pressed for time, but really want to impress friends and family alike. Click through to find out how to stock your freezer with these ready-to-go discs of deliciousness.
Sourced from Middle Eastern culture, the kebab is a quick way to meld flavors by grilling meats, fruits, and vegetables together over an open fire. Kebabs are an easy out after a long day - at its simplest form you can chop some ingredients, thread them onto skewers, and grill with your meal ready to eat in 10-15 minutes.
When preparing the kebab almost any ingredients can be used. I'm a big fan of mixing beef, bell peppers, onions, apples, and squashes myself, although great results can be achieved with fewer or more exotic ingredients alike. I like to make sure I have a little mix of everything--sweet, spicy, and savory.
If using ingredients that cook at drastically different speeds, it may be advisable to put those ingredients on separate skewers to allow them to cook for varied periods of time. If all of the ingredients being combined cook at approximately the same temperature, then interweaving ingredients on the skewers can give the flavors a chance to blend during the marinating and grilling. Bear in mind that larger chunks of meat will take longer to cook. If you're considering pairing with tender vegetables, cut the meat into thinner or smaller pieces.
Once the meat, vegetables, and fruits are skewered, drizzling them with marinade can add a blast of flavor. Typically I prefer a more simple preparation with some oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper whisked together and poured over the kebabs 5-10 minutes prior to cooking. I re-drizzle the marinade a couple of times while rotating the kebabs during the cooking process to infuse more flavor and help keep the ingredients moist and succulent.
Unlike larger cuts of meat, the smaller bite-sized chunks used in kebabs won't need to rest after grilling because the juices won't need to redistribute and the temperature will already be more consistent. Kebabs are ideal for serving hot of the grill, either plated in their skewered state or quickly slid off the skewers and plated as a pile of pure deliciousness.
Having the family in town for the big 4th weekend meant a lot of grilling happened in the Sparky household including grilling my first pineapple. Almost immediately upon grilling my first pineapple I was struck with its sheer awesomeness and was required to procure and grill a second pineapple a mere day later. Have you had grilled pineapple? If you haven't you should - lightly salted, grilled pineapple is pure amazing wrapped in charred wonderfulness.
Grilling pineapple is drop dead simple. Chop the top and bottom from the pineapple and then slice off the sides to reveal a hexagonal pillar of sweet yellow goodness. Slice the goodness pillar into 1/2" hexagonal discs of sweet yellow goodness then lightly sprinkle with salt. Allow the salt to soak in while the grill heats, then once the grill is as hot as can be toss the slices on to their sizzling fate.
In a few minutes the pineapple will be lightly charred on one side. Flip the slices - and redistribute around the grill if you have hot spots (like I do). A few more minutes and the sweet steamy slices are ready to be whisked back from the grill to the kitchen. A few quick cuts to remove the succulent ring of deliciousness from the fibrous center and your pineapple is ready to serve.
While traditional alchemy relied on the alembic, vials, and lead, my alchemy relies on a different set of tools to perform the arcane culinary arts. While the end results of cooking are much more related to the ingredients used and the skill of the chef, the process of cooking is affected significantly by the equipment at hand. Like any mad scientist, I'm into the geeky gadgets that make my job easier, be that job dominating the world or just the taste buds of my guests.
Almost any chef will tell you that virtually any preparation can be made with a simple pan, a single knife, and a wooden spoon. In the spirit of Alton Brown I'm not a fan of uni-tasking kitchen gadgets, but having a few additional versatile tools in addition to those three will certainly make the alchemical arts easier. Click through the jump to see some of my favorites.
posted by Sparky on June 23, 2009 10:30 AM in Food
While the Practical Alchemy archives consist of a scant six entries, it's understandable that you'd feel as though it's not your end-all be-all resource when it comes to making a meal. I've got a couple other great Sparky-approved™ websites that I browse through for recipes, pairing ideas, or just general inspiration to give my creativity the jump start it need sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean always.
Click through to see a listing of some of my favorite online cooking resources, and then share your own in the comments!
Fruit cobblers are a sweet and easy way to finish a meal. A fresh, hot dumpling of dough and fruit straight out of the oven ready to be topped with vanilla ice cream or another sweet creamy sauce of your choice. Cobblers are great dessert recipes for any cook's arsenal, given both how quickly they can be thrown together and how many endless variations can be created on the theme.
Cobblers consist of 2 or 3 main parts: the biscuit-like cobbler dough, fresh fruit, and an optional sweet syrup to mix with the fruit. Since the dough takes 5-8 minutes to toss together and dicing fresh fruit is as easy as introducing your favorite fruits to your collection of knives, a cobbler can be in the oven in as little as 10 minutes flat &emdash; tossed in just before a meal begins and ready to eat when the main course has been consumed.
Click through to learn how to cobble together a cobbler.
Olive oil is a great base ingredient for so many types of food--flavorful, savory, and rich. When I found a recipe for a sweet cake based on olive oil, I was a little suspicious. But, hey, what did I have to lose other than 10 minutes of my time and a few dollars worth of ingredients? The gamble paid off and now I have a drop-dead simple cake in my recipe box ready to go for impromptu entertaining.
The greatest thing about this cake is how simple it is--in less than 10 minutes it can be in the oven, and an hour later its cooled and ready to serve. Click through the jump for details on how to make your own delicious olive oil citrus cake.
Since primitive man first cooked his meat over an open fire, the tradition of grilling meats has been evolving. Thick cuts of beef served with rich accompaniments enhancing the flavors of the meat - no meat eater could resist the call of such a scrumptious treat.
Luckily, the perfect steak is easy to make. All you need is a few basic ingredients and less than an hour to make a meal that any high-end steakhouse would be proud to serve. Click through to find out how to serve tender steaks topped with sautéed mushrooms and a buttery béarnaise.
Fresh warm bread is one of the treasured exquisite experiences baking has to offer - the melt-in-your-mouth freshness is hard to beat! Luckily baking bread is a simple (yet deep) process that anyone can do. Made simply of flour, water, and a pinch of yeast; bread is an excellent example of a cooking process which produces something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Food at its finest is simple yet satisfying and few foods can meet these criteria better than Pasta. With more than 4,000 years of refinement and experimentation under it's belt it's no surprise that noodles are a staple for much of the world. The best part about it is how quick and easy fresh egg pasta is to make.
The dried pasta you can buy from grocery stores are simply flour mixed with water. As easy as dumping dried pasta into boiling water is fresh pasta is easy too, taking only a few extra minutes to mix and knead the dough. Since I started cooking I've discovered the true joy that fresh egg based noodles bring, packing more flavor and a richer texture into your meal.
Much of my fascination with pasta stems from its versatility: once pasta dough has been mixed and kneaded, it can be formed into sheets and then cut into spaghetti, linguini, ravioli, or virtually any other form. From there the base pasta can be cooked and served as is with a light drizzle of olive oil or presented with any number of sauces or other accompaniments.
Click through for the noodley details on how to make fresh pasta yourself.
To some food comes easily, whipping together raw ingredients akin to alchemy, producing culinary gold. For others this combination of pre-food constitutes a mysterious process, wrought with danger and difficulty. Practical Alchemy hopes to help chronicle my personal journey from a terrified food neophyte scared to handle raw chicken to what may someday be an alchemical wizard, bending food to my very whim.
A scant 3 months ago I insisted upon wearing latex gloves to handle raw meat. 3 months ago I moved out of a condo which had an oven I literally hadn't turned on in the 6 years I had lived there. 3 months ago I was challenged by the idea of making even Kraft blue box Mac'n'Cheese. Luckily a stray neutrino hit my brain after the move and activated my magical Betty Crocker gene.
Having 20-plus-plus years of food eating experience under my belt, but for all practical reasons no food cooking experience to rely on has made a crash course into cooking an interesting experience for me. I've seen others perform this mystical art my entire life and have a great basis of what end results and effects I enjoy, however putting the process together from start to finish is proving to be an interesting journey.
Click through for a first (long) peek into that journey with my most favorite of creations so far: cookies.
Jinny is known for her random outbursts. Every once in a while, she'll just be sitting there on the couch and say something like: "I want waffles!" or "TEATIME!" And I feel obliged to sate her snack-lust. It's like a challenge for me. The weirder her request, the more excited and inspired I get. A few days ago, while gorging herself on Sour Punch Straws and playing Civilization Revolution on the 360 in a sugar-induced daze she exclaimed "I WANT CORN DOGS!"
Well we didn't have any corn dogs. But how hard is a corn dog to make, really? Turns out it's not hard at all. In fact, I'd say making your own corn dogs at home is one of the most fulfilling things you can do in your life. Screw publishing a great novel or seeing your kids go off to college, corn dog alchemy is the bestest. So, how is it done?
Take a thicker version of a basic corn bread recipe and dip skewered hot dogs into it and deep fry. Make a huge batch and freeze to microwave later.
A Deep Fryer (or a deep pan, oil, and a frying thermometer)
Wooden sticks for stickin' (thin bamboo skewers work great)
A baking sheet with a wire cooling rack for drainage (paper towels also work fine)
A tall drinking glass
A mixing bowl
A spoon for mixin'
The best, tastiest hot dogs you can find. I prefer either Hebrew National 100% beef, or Kirkland Signature Costco dogs (cut in half).
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar (or honey)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)
Heat your frying oil to 350-375
Mix your corn bread batter in your bowl and adjust for thickness by adding more flour if it's too thin, more milk if it's too thick. You want something as thick as pancake batter.
Pour your batter into a tall drinking glass. Don't drink it! It is not delicious yet!
Stick your sticks through your hot dogs until about half way up the dog, so you have a little handle on one end.
Dip the dog into the batter, swirling it around in the glass to coat. Gently pull it out and let the batter drip off a bit. You want a nice even coat all around the dog.
If your oil is at temp, quickly dip your battered dog into the oil. As it cooks, shake the basket or rotate it with some tongs so it cooks consistently all around. Depending on the size of your fryer, you can probably fit 2 or 3 corn dogs in one batch.
Once the corn dog looks like it's *almost* golden brown (see picture), take it out and put it on your wire rack. This should take about 4 or 5 minutes.
Repeat with the remaining hot dogs, adding more batter to the glass from the bowl as needed.
Keep in mind that with any fry job, the first couple things you fry may look a little wonky. Your fryer will also perform better if the oil has been seasoned from multiple uses. Don't worry about cleaning your fryer so much. Honestly, the oil won't go bad easily. If it smells off, throw it out. If it smells delicious then yay. Once the corn dogs have cooled (and if you haven't eaten them all by then) you can throw them into freezer bags and save them for later. Pop em in the microwave for a minute or so. They hold up surprisingly well. See how easy it is to make corn dogs at home? There is literally no reason to buy the crap they sell in the freezer section at the grocery store.
Feel free to experiment with batter additives (a dash of garlic powder, or some minced jalapenos would be nice), hot dog brands and dipping sauces. I like to dip 'em in mustard. Ketchup is for children and people with poor taste in things. Enjoy!
Ross, Ryan, Jinny and Chris come together this week to talk about all the junk they've been geeking out about. We've got GDC news and announcements, news about new Katamari games, Fable DLC and the return of The Phantom, Modern Warfare 2's trailer's effect on the developers versus the commenters, the ridiculous bullshit of OnLive Where the Wild Things Are's stunning trailer (no matter what Ross says), how to make home made corn dogs and mailbag. Yep. That's right. Corn dogs. Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes!
posted by Chris on March 13, 2009 10:11 AM in Food
Just about every day Jinny and I excitedly plan our dinners far in advance. We both delight in the whole process. Making dinner together is our jam and pretty much every night is date night. I live a wonderful, charmed life let me tell you what. Anyway. Yesterday was burger night, one of our staple go-to meals. Usually we'll get a big pack of meat from Costco and grind our own hamburger, storing it in Foodsaver bags in the freezer. Add seasoning, shape into patty, fry. Suuuuper easy, but man cannot live on burgers alone! No, sir. We need the Robin to burgers' Batman. We need tots.
Normally I'd have a bag of Ore-Ida™ Brand Tater-Tots™ in the freezer for these occasions, but alas we were out. Not keen on leaving the house, I thought "how hard can making homemade tater tots be?" The answer? Not very hard at all. After consulting the hive mind (thanks, Papapishu!) I concocted a recipe that actually ended up kicking serious amounts of ass. See that photo up there? That's how much ass I kicked. The tots came out crispy on the outside and nice and tender in the middle, just like tots are supposed to be. Though most tots are made through an extruder, I sculpted these by hand. They came out looking like tots you might see as a canapé at a fancy restaurant. I could see serving these at a party, or even just as we did last night - alongside a really great hamburger. Here's what went in 'em!
Chris Furniss' Fancy Tots (worst band name ever?)
(measurements are approximate, adjust as you see fit. Maybe one day I'll actually measure this stuff in grams or whatever)
4 medium sized russet potatoes
1 cup Flour
1/4 cup minced Shallot (onion can be substituted, but shallots are best)
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Pepper
Dash of Cayenne pepper
1. Grate the potatoes either with a mandoline slicer or a normal grater. Chop into smaller pieces. The point is to get nice, small slivers of potato. Work quickly so the potatoes don't oxidize. Grate onto a paper towel or put into a salad spinner to draw out moisture.
2. Add the potatoes and the rest of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Start to squeeze some of the mixture into your palm like you're making a snowball. If it's sticking together, good! If not, add a bit more flour.
3. Get your fryer goin'. A deep fryer works best, but if you don't have one you can always do a shallow fry in a pan with a lot of vegetable oil. Heat the oil to around 350 degrees.
4. Shape your tots. Squeeze a little bit into your palm and push it together. I tried to make them slightly cylindrical to look more like the classic tot shape, but just as long as you keep them small and uniform the shape is up to you. Place each finished tot on a baking sheet to fry in batches, or drop each finished tot directly into the oil. Cook for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious.
5. Remove from fryer onto a baking sheet with a wire cooling rack, or onto paper towels to drain. Be sure to season liberally right when they come out so they can absorb the seasoning better. A little sprinkle of kosher salt is good, or you could go all out and use some seasoned salt or even (gasp!) bacon salt. Keep in a warm oven until time to serve!
For dipping, I usually gravitate toward Ranch dressing, but I could see a nice homemade mayo or even some sriracha playing quite nicely with these gems. Just don't disgrace them with ketchup, please. I mean, seriously. If you try these, let me know what you think! I'm contemplating making a big batch and then freezing them myself. They were just too delicious to go back to Ore-Ida™.
There! The Tater Tot mystery is solved. You're welcome.
Interested in more food porn? I'm always uploading snapshots of stuff Jinny and I make for dinner, check out my Flickr stream!
posted by Ryan on February 25, 2009 1:00 PM in Food
I've got a thing for fandom. While usually reserved for deeply layered characters, niche creations, or historic franchises just about any (well executed) public display of enthusiasm seldom fails to please. Though my own attendance at various conventions, midnight movie premiers, or sordid book signings has typically remained content driven I can imagine several scenarios appealing to a broader audience, harnessing a sort of universal sensory appeal which lures aficionados and passers by alike.
I speak of Grilled Cheese.
Admittedly we have a history, hours spent in dimly lit spaces hunched over a lease-violating hot plate patiently watching the subtle reactions necessary to achieve that edible, viscous gold. I'd gently prod the intentionally burnt spillage whose bubbling surface signaled the climax of a reaction entirely vital to the reproduction process.
This level of devotion is pleasant but unnecessary.
Look now through the above portal for a brief account of the 2nd Annual NorCal Grilled Cheese Invitational. Witness the screaming throngs, manic man flashing, and overall spectacle centered around this universal act built on the simplest of culinary combinations. While the event organizers and participants are undoubtedly hardcore the energy bursting from attendees is what strikes me as the purest. I can easily imagine a casual passer by - whose thoughts of grilled cheese do not border on sexual - suddenly alert, nostrils flared and body in tune with the siren song of sizzling skillets. They act on pure instinct, joining those already present in a wordless worship of both simple and complex mastery.
They likely don't frequent food blogs, drool over the glossy pages of a favorite chef's cookbook, or swap recipes in their off time. Yet they are fans still, devotees if only for an afternoon caught up in either the spectacle or experience of a mob whose immediate goals are perfectly genuine. While levels of fanaticism certainly vary I doubt the outside observer would be able to discern any difference in the antics displayed above.
It's pleasing to know these events exist, transcending the norms of obsession and morphing to a kind of inclusive flash mob whose only defining characteristic is enthusiasm.
posted by Chris on February 11, 2009 10:09 AM in Food
The fois gras debate has ramped up in Seattle recently as local fundamentalist crazies who won't listen to reason NARN began protesting Lark, a restaurant in my neighborhood that serves fois. It's been discussed ad nauseum on the Slog, but Kate from Accidental Hedonist provides the most level-headed voice in the crowd. Fois isn't as cruel to geese as NARN or other animal rights activists may lead you to believe, despite the kneejerk reaction you may have to the term "force-feeding".
The quiet, contemplative Dan Barber gave a highly informative and compelling lecture at TED concerning the issue of fois gras and sustainability. If there's one ingredient that seems completely contradictory to the concept of sustainable food, it's fois gras. Dan tells us about a farmer in Spain he met who is doing everything so right, even nature itself seems to agree with him. His geese are so well-treated that the wild geese in the area actually come to stay, mate and feed. There's no force-feeding going on, it's just happy geese gladly getting fat.
I absolutely adore fois gras and while it is a bit too expensive for me to order on a regular basis, I'll still treat myself every now and again. There's so much wrong with the way we produce our food these days, but I think attacking fois gras is misguided at best. Dan shows us that with a bit of thoughtfulness and conscience, we can overcome these moral issues while producing the best quality product possible.
posted by Chris on October 14, 2008 8:49 AM in Food
I've been fascinated by something called Miracle Fruit for a few years. It's a small berry that is supposed to enhance and change your taste buds for a short period of time. Containing the dubiously named active glycoprotein molecule "miraculin", Miracle Fruit makes acidic foods taste sweet, and Guinness taste like ice cream. There's some controversy surrounding this amazing berry, as it could be one of the few sweetening alternatives to sugar that doesn't cause cancer in lab rats. Supposedly the sugar industry kept the fruit from becoming commercialized for fears that it would put them out of business. Whether or not that is true, the Miracle Fruit has long been a nifty centerpiece for tasting parties and now ThinkGeek is carrying this craziness in tablet form.
Previously, in order to obtain some Miracle Fruit you'd have to go through some dude on the internet with a plant. Now you can have crazy food tripping Miracle Fruit parties with reckless abandon! I've ordered a pack, who's coming over for dinner?
posted by Chris on August 19, 2008 9:59 AM in Food
There's bacon salt, bacon chocolate, bacon band-aids, bacon wallets and bacon suits. Bacon has become a timeless internet meme, allowing nerds everywhere to embrace and celebrate the crispy, porky goodness. I'm a fan of putting bacon on just about everything (bacon-rapped hot dogs being a staple in my home), but what is the best way to cook it? Frying in a skillet will cover your stove (and yourself) in oil splatters and shrinks the strips to little unmanageable curled messes, and those clever microwave solutions turn out to be not-so-clever in practice. Enter the Alton Brown method, as outlined here on Eating, Etc. I've been cooking bacon in the oven for years for a few reasons: it's convenient and it produces a consistent shape. Perfect for stacking your BLTs, flat bacon is the way to go.
My method differs slightly from the article I am linking to, but the gist is the same.
1. Place a wire cooling rack on a cookie sheet (foil lining isn't necessary, though it does help with cleanup)
2. Place a few strips of bacon on said wire rack. Use as many as you would eat. Do not eat it yet, though.
3. Place the sheet into a cold, non-pre-heated oven and amp up the temp to 400 degrees. Go sit down. Do something else for a while.
4. Once the oven is preheated, check every 5 minutes or so until it reaches the consistency you'd like.
5. Now it is okay to eat the bacon.
Seriously, every time I cook bacon like this for people they are impressed. It is so easy.
Jinny and I are always jotting down ideas in a shared Google Document for a possible fancy dinner party menu. We love cooking for people, as it seems that not many people in our generation really cook for themselves anymore. We've been experimenting with a ton of different styles of food, Jinny brings mass amounts of Korean cooking knowledge to the table, while I lean more French/Italian. We'll post some of these recipes here in case you Geekateers would enjoy following along on our quest for culinary perfection.
We love making hamburgers. It's easy, quick, and infinitely variable. Hamburgers are one of those foods that anyone can appreciate (unless you're a vegetarian, in which case - get out of my kitchen) and can be instantly bumped up to gourmet status with special ingredients, and a little bit of technique. It's so simple to make your own hamburger patties, and the ones you mix at home have way more flavor and texture than those crappy frozen pre-made ones you can buy at the store. As with any dish, it's all about the quality of ingredients. If you can't find some of these ingredients, you could always make substitutions, but food is one of those things that Jinny and I never skimp on.
Here is a great Italian variation on the burger we came up with. Last time we served this to friends, tears welled up in their eyes as they uttered "This is the best burger I have ever eaten". I definitely agree. And if you're a bit squicked out by anchovies, don't worry. They only exist to accentuate the flavor, the burgers do not come out all fishy. This is an adapted recipe from the photograph there, we have since improved it. Cooking is all about evolution, like Pokémon!
Feeds two humans
1lb ground beef (grind your own or get the least lean package at the store. The more fat the better!)
Potato Hamburger Buns
Pesto (for spreading. A jar would do. Or make your own!)
2 Anchovy fillets (packed in oil is best), minced
1 large shallot, minced
One nice heirloom or beefsteak tomato, sliced
Balsalmic Vinegar (any old kind will do. Don't use your best, though. Save that for salads.)
Soft cheese such as chevre (Ricotta would also work. Need a dry, salty cheese.)
2 slices panchetta (bacon makes a good substitute)
Kosher salt, pepper
1. Spread butter on the buns (tee hee) and toast until slightly brown. Let cool.
2. Finely chop the shallot and the anchovy and mix into the hamburger in a big bowl. Use your hands for this. Squishy fun ensues. Add about a tablespoon of kosher salt and a half a tablespoon of cracked black pepper. Add about 2 tablespoons of balsalmic vinegar and a hefty squirt of the sriracha. Don't have sriracha in the house? Well shame on you. You can substitute with a dash of cayenne pepper. Mix well. Squish squish.
3. Form two patties by creating a ball with half the mixture and pressing it between your hands. Try to keep the edges from falling apart and be gentle. Place on a plate and make a slight depression in the middle. Cover plated patties with saran wrap and put in the fridge to set.
4. Heat up your pan (preferably a cast iron skillet) and cook the panchetta or bacon until crispy. Do not drain, as bacon fat is what Jesus' tears are probably made of. Remove panchetta from pan and let drain on paper towels.
5. While the pan is still hot and the bacon fat is fluid (but not smoking), place your patties into the pan. Don't move them at all for the first minute, as this will impede the progress of the browning. Try to avoid the silly fast food thing where you press the meat with a spatula. You really don't want those juices to escape, and the depression you made earlier should keep the shape nice and neat. Flip once (and only once!) and cook for another minute on the other side. These are best at medium rare, but if you like charcoal burgers you could always cook them longer. Remove to a plate and let sit while you dress the buns.
6. Spread chevre on one side of the buns and pesto on the other. Place burger on the bottom bun and top with pancetta. Add a slice of tomato and serve alongside fries or tater tots. I prefer tots.
Nescafé will be releasing a number of limited edition coffee cans featuring illustrations from the best-selling franchise because one can't be expected to assassinate well unless one is properly caffeinated.
I know now that absinthe is legal in the states, all you crazy kids are going to want to go out and get all wacky on the green stuff. As a long-time absinthe drinker myself I can tell you that it is indeed delicious, but it's not the crazy party drug pharmaceutical that movies such as Moulin Rouge portray it to be. You won't see Kylie Minogue in a Tinkerbell outfit if you drink it, though you might get a special headache in the morning if you are lucky. This intrepid baker has decided to incorporate the beverage into a cupcake recipe, which to me sounds awful.
Making absinthe cupcakes is not at all a fun mash up like adding bacon to ice cream. That fits. Absinthe is an anisette, which means that it tastes not wholly unlike licorice. Have you ever had licorice cupcakes? With one giant sugar cube on top? No? There's a reason for that. The horrible taste is the reason. If you get your hands on some absinthe (might I recommend MANsinth for the comedic value of the name alone?) please don't make this recipe and then blame me for your projectile vomiting. I absolve myself of all responsibility.
This is a little anecdote I believe I may have mentioned on the show once before, but I may not. And it may have been back in the college radio days. Either way, I wanted to share it with you all (again).
I am a huge food fan. I love to cook, and I love cooking for people even more. Alton Brown is my hero, Anthony Bourdain is my idol and one of my favorite material possessions in the universe is my cast-iron skillet. One of my life goals is to go to El Bulli in Spain, just to experience the 8-hour dinner ordeal first hand. Can't make it to Spain? Maybe (not likely) you can get a reservation at Thomas Keller's French Laundry in California. A super exclusive and critically acclaimed establishment, The French Laundry features dishes never before created, and a rotating menu of wonder. This man is a food magician (he even was a consultant on Ratatouille!).
With my left hand, I picked up one of the crabs from the platter and held him from behind. In my right hand, I held the scissors. As I got the scissors close to the crab's face, it started twitching and writhing, and I couldn't do it. I don't know if you've ever held or touched a soft-shell crab before, but instead of a skeletal underbelly and a hard shell on top, the underbelly is not very hard, and felt as thin as a shrimp shell. The top shell feels like thin leather, or perhaps fish skin -- probably the same thickness/texture as halibut. So, when the crab started moving around, I could feel his insides moving, too.
I put him back on the platter and paced my tiny, tiny kitchen trying to talk myself off the ledge. I saw a bottle of Ketel One on my wine table and thought maybe a shot of liquid courage might help, but I didn't do it. Instead, I grabbed a pair of tongs and used those to pick up the crab. I opened the scissors and let out a "aaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii'msosorry" as I cut its face off. Things started to ooze out of the front of his head, and I just repeated a mantra of "thisisgross-thisisgross-thisisgross-AAAAACCCCCKKKKK" as I cut off the large claws, then removed the remaining legs. I did this for each crab to get all the cutting overwith at once.
Chuck Palahniuk ain't got nothin' on Carol. Vivid and insightful, this blog is definitely one for the feed reader.
This past weekend, White Mage and I got a chance to see Pixar and Brad Bird's latest magic joyfest, Ratatouille. Chris, Caspian, and their respective ladyfriends were also in attendance.
As with all Pixar films, I've been excited to see this ever since the first teaser trailer came out. They just do everything so right. Pixar owns the world of CG animated movies, and there is no disputing that fact.
For those of you who don't know, Ratatouille is the story of a rat named Remy who is born with an amazing sense of smell. Not content with eating garbage like his rodent brethren, he sneaks into the house in the French countryside where his colony is inhabiting the walls and puts together culinary delights for himself to snack upon while watching his favorite TV chef, August Gusteau. An accident forces them all from their home and Remy gets seperated but ends up in the sewers below the late Gusteau's very own restaurant in Paris. Remy befriends a clumsy garbage boy from the kitchen of the restaurant and uses him to live out his dream of being a famous chef.
So I'd seen on the ol' internet a while ago about this wacky bag of chips from Doritos that had only an odd product number instead of a name. Apparently, they've got a new flavor and want us to come up with a name for it. If you win, you get free Doritos for a year. Whatever.
So anyway, whilst grocery shopping at my local Albertson's, I happened to come across a bag of these things and decided to pick it up to see what they were like. Wanna know what mystery chips taste like? Well click the jump and find out.
OH YEAH! (Oh no). Slashfood posted this ridiculous picture today of some insane lady's Kool-Aid marinated dill pickles. Now, I have heard of using Kool-Aid to dye your hair, to make candy, and even (gasp) mixing it with water to drink, but I am intrigued to find out what a pickle floating in the stuff would taste like. I guess it would all depend on the flavor.
I like sweet pickles just fine, and watermelon pickles are to die for... so maybe these aren't as bad as they sound. Look. As bad as they look.
Full disclosure: I am a Quiznos guy. Their sandwiches, though still fast food and utter shit, are way less shitty than Subway's sandpaper and barkdust special. In a recent ad, Subway's advertising agency proves themselves completely out of touch by showing a fat kid playing video games and just getting fatter.
How could you make this commercial work? Make it funnier. I say when the kid in the game eats the junk food, have the kid in the commercial get exponentially more fat, Mr. Creosote style. Then have Jared come in and stab the kid in his weather balloon-sized stomach with a sandwich, letting all the fat out in a torrent rivaling a fire hose.
Usually when I have my choice to go out to eat, I'll pick either something crazy and new, or comfort food. My usual choices range between sushi and mexican food. Sometimes, you just feel lazy and don't want to make any sort of effort when you go out to eat, even in digestion. Enter the KFC Famous Bowl. It's pretty much already digested for you with it's sickening stack of mashed potatoes, popcorn chicken, sweet corn, gravy and cheese. What else do you top something so fatty? Oh, of course, cheese.
Even though it looks pretty much the same going in as it does coming out, it is one of the most delicious things ever invented by man. But boy howdy is it unhealthy. Blogger Hungry Girl has come up with her own, healthier version of the Famous Bowl if you feel like constructing this monstrosity in your own kitchen. I know what I am having for dinner tonight!
We seem to discuss bandages a lot on The Weekly Geek. Maybe it's because geeks tend to be accident prone, perhaps it's just because everyone as a kid would fake getting an "owie" just so that they could sport that new cartoon character band-aid their parents picked up from the store.
As adults with our own incomes, we can now recreate that child-like feeling with Urban Outfitters' bandages. For six bucks you can pick up a tin of 25 bandages in flavors like Jesus, Bacon & Eggs, Pirate and Beef. Thus proving that yes, everything is better with bacon. These will go very well with my bacon wallet, and the bacon car air freshener my wife got me for my birthday.
Make sure you remember where you were the moment you learned that Sexualcabinetry began his weekly column on the Weekly Geek, The Mind Boggleth, because in 30 years, it will come up in conversation much like Kennedy's assassination, only somehow better. This week, he examines that creepy Burger King and his latest foray into video games on the now defunct (and wip3d) X-Box 360. The views expressed in this column don't necessarily reflect those of weeklygeekshow.com or the majority of the human race, for that matter, but it's about time a lone man... in a time of hypocrisy and greed... takes forth a blade... AND FIGHTS FOR WHAT'S RIGHT... COMING THIS SUMMER...
I like to think that people who visit this website probably have some of the same sensibilities I do, so I bring you food porn. Last night I made pretty much my favorite food in the world, caprese salad. It is fresh mozzerella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil. Simple, clean, and absolutely amazing. Here's how to make it!
What you'll need:
2 Balls (Approx 8 ounces) Fresh Mozzerella must be fresh, in the liquid. If you use shredded or string cheese or something I will kill you.
2 smallish tomatoes (romas are best for this).
A hefty handful of fresh basil again, if you use dried basil or something, death is imminent.
Your best extra-virgin olive oil (you should have this on hand anyway, shouldn't you?).
salt (kosher is the best).
fresh ground pepper.
Cut the tomatoes and mozz into medallion sized pieces. You can do the basil in a number of ways, chiffonade is good for maximum basil coverage, but you can tear the leaves or use them whole if you want it to be more of a salad green kind of thing. Mix gently in a bowl (so you don't crush the cheese) with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. After it is all mixed, dress with a swig of more olive oil on the top, grind some pepper, and you are ready to eat! EAT IT! IT'S DELICOUS!
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