I Won the Encyclopedia of Sandwiches Challenge, because your favorite sandwich sucks

I’m sure most of you saw the “What Sandwich Are You?” meme that was traveling around the internet earlier this week. Which, to me, really wasn’t good enough, because:

  1. I don’t think you should have to restrict yourself to just one sandwich.
  2. Some of these sandwiches need to be put in their place.

So I decided that it was necessary to rank these, 1-40, and make sure these sandwiches know which of them just don’t make the grade.

(I realize that I’m making the sandwiches anthropomorphic characters by shaming them…but that was their decision when they decided to become a sandwich.)

(This list is already somewhat discredited by the fact that the greatest sandwich in the world, muffuletta, is nowhere to be found, but you have to dance with the sandwich list you brung to the dance…)

SANDWICHES THAT DESERVE TO BE HUMANELY DESTROYED

40. Liverwurst

I’m always amazed that there’s the part of the deli section in the grocery store that has all of the “reject meats” (head cheese, olive loaf, liverwurst, etc.). Are they doing this because Big Liverwurst has incriminating photos of the head of the Deli Meat Slicer Union? Is there some sort of Dagwood Bumstead Appreciation Society that comes in during the early morning hours and wipes them out of it? Regardless, this is disgusting and should never be eaten.

39. Cucumber Tea

Has anyone in America not named Boopsy or Snifsy, or aspiring to compete socially with said Boopsy, ever eaten this abomination?

38. Bocadillo

Bread, rubbed with raw tomatoes? Ooh, I want all of the seedy slimy flavor of a tomato, without any of the meat of the tomato, because it gets in the way of the raw slime. Sign me up!

37. Bologna

I used to eat bologna when I was 7, and I mostly attribute it to my mom maybe hating me…at least that’s what came out in therapy…with the nasty aftertaste, no one should be touching this stuff.

36. Veggie & Hummus

Is this a real sandwich? Like, I want to eat crudites and hummus in mass quantities, and I haven’t been invited to a party in months where they would serve them, so I bought a mini tray at the market and shoved them between slices of bread to make it socially acceptable?

35. Jambon Beurre

Ham and salted butter? My god, does it come with a complimentary IV drip to re-hydrate you?

SANDWICHES THAT ARE JUST EXCUSES TO PUT RANDOM VEGETABLES ON BREAD

34. Falafel Pita

Yeah, I know that falafel is not a vegetable, just a vegetarian fritter, and jamming it inside a pita with a few vegetables doesn’t make it any better.

33. Caprese

For people that want a “sophisticated grilled cheese”, but with runny tomato goo in the middle.

(I’m not much on the raw tomato thing, if you can tell.)

32. BLT

Me: I’d like to get a bacon cheeseburger with everything.

Waitress: Great…ooh, but we’re out of burgers…and cheese…and buns…but I could put the rest on some white toast!

Me: What?

(to be continued…)

SANDWICHES FOR PEOPLE THAT DON’T WANT TO PUT ANY THOUGHT INTO IT

31. Turkey club

Waitress: And I could add some sad turkey slices and cut them into quarters and stab each one with a fancy toothpick!

Me: What?

Waitress: I’ll have Mr. Hedberg explain it to you.

30. Ham and Cheese

95% of all sandwich ham falls between slightly below mediocre and just plain mediocre. Except for Boars Head Habanero Ham, that seriously rules. I mean, if that’s all I had to choose from, or my other option was sad turkey, I would probably eat it…but I wouldn’t go there again.

INTERNATIONAL SANDWICHES THAT WILL GET ME IN TROUBLE FOR NOT LIKING

29. Gyro

You can call it lamb, but to me it’s just decent mystery meat in a pita with average creamy cucumber yogurt sauce.

28. Torta

I’ll confess that I probably haven’t had the right tortas, but what I’ve had seems to be just chewy bread with a variety of meat and cheese. Plus, beans on a sandwich? Nuh uh, I make enough of a mess of myself as is.

POSER SANDWICH ALERT!!

27. French Dip

In theory, this should be a pretty good sandwich. Roast beef with roast beef drippings sauce. Two big problems:

  1. 7 times out of 10, the sauce turns out to be super oversalted
  2. Soggy sandwiches are rarely appealing

SANDWICH PEOPLE LOSE THEIR MIND OVER THAT DOES NOTHING FOR ME

26. Po Boy

Again, tomatoes and shredded lettuce are no-nos here, so it’s just fried seafood and mayo sauce and bread. And that’s ok, I’m just good with having those elements separately.

SANDWICH THAT SOUNDS GREAT BUT IS WAY TOO TRICKY TO PUT TOGETHER SUCCESSFULLY

25. Bacon Egg and Cheese

So, you have to, in the space of maybe four minutes, toast your bread, fry adequately crispy bacon, and cook the egg just right. Anything less, and it’s all for nothing. Plus, then you’ve got the issue of eating a sandwich with a runny egg, so most of it is probably fork and knifing it, which is fine, but then you might as well make bacon and eggs with toast.

SANDWICHES THAT ARE JUST BREAD WITH GOOEY STUFF OVER THEM

24. Hot Brown

Taking a couple slices of bread and covering them with turkey and a half gallon of cream sauce does not qualify as a sandwich. Plus, the sauce is usually too salty, but if they put it under a broiler and crisp the top a bit…I don’t hate them for that.

23. Croque Monsieur

I don’t know what Hot Brown is in French, but they might as well call it that instead of Croque Monsieur.

22. Croque Madame

Add an egg to it, and you’ve got French Hot Brown with L’oeufs (oh yeah, Google Translate for the win!)

PERFECTLY PASSABLE SANDWICHES WHEN YOU WANT TO FEEL LIKE A KID

21. PB&J

Even with room temperature peanut butter, I still find it hard to spread it without ripping the bread. But it’s simple and tasty, and works best with the most basic jelly, like Welch’s grape.

Never buy the jars with the peanut butter and jelly in it though, or I will hunt you down.

20. Grilled Cheese

Again, if you use mayonnaise instead of butter to coat the outside of the bread like every hipster tells you to, it’s a hunt you down situation. No, plain white bread, Kraft singles, and lots of salted butter are the only acceptable ingredients.

SANDWICHES THAT CAN GO WRONG VERY EASILY, A LITTLE MAYO CATEGORY

19. Tonkatsu

Mayo isn’t necessarily a key ingredient here, but since it’s an ingredient I technically have to include it in the mayo category…because we’re all about following rules here. Anyways, tonkatsu is a pretty simple sandwich. And when you have a simple sandwich, you can’t miss on a single element. That said, even a bad fried pork cutlet is still pretty decent.

SANDWICHES THAT CAN GO WRONG VERY EASILY, MORE MAYO CATEGORY

18. Lobster Roll

The good thing about this sandwich: I never realized you could split a hot dog bun down the middle. Grilling it with butter is also a wonderful thing.

The bad things about this sandwich: if you don’t live in New England, you’re either getting an all-filler/no-thriller salad, or you’re paying $20 for a smallish bun.

16-17. Egg Salad/Chicken Salad

This is a dangerous group, because it’s almost entirely dependent on the mayo content, and whether the maker of the sandwich understands that mayo has no flavor content and needs to be well-seasoned. Also, some chicken salad has grapes and those people should be shot. That said, when done well, quite tasty.

15. Tuna Salad

Some of the same issues with the above salads, except that I find that people tend to get less cute with tuna than they do with chicken, so the quality is usually better. And when you add cheese and griddle it in butter…this needs to be on more menus.

SANDWICHES WHERE IT STARTS GETTING HARDER TO MAKE FUN OF THEM, BUT STILL AREN’T ELITE

14. Cheesesteak

The only reason this isn’t higher is because very few places do this the right way, actually cooking it on a griddle and instead just sauteing everything. Which is still pretty good. Also, any sandwich that people legitimately use Cheez Whiz on can’t be considered a top shelf sandwich.

13. Roast Beef

It’s like the ham and cheese, except you decided to make a sandwich that tells someone you love them, instead of one that you give them before you tell them that you’re writing them out of your will.

12. Bahn Mi

As has been explored previously, not everyone is a fan of this sandwich. But when it’s done right, with well cooked meats and pickled vegetables, they are fantastic.

Also, some of them have liver pate on them, so no elite status for you.

11. Monte Cristo

Some of this is a nostalgia play. I spent seven miserable weeks many years ago waiting tables at Bennigan’s. The only good memory of that place was that they had a monstrously beautiful Monte Cristo. Deep fried french toast stuffed with turkey & ham (both meats that I’ve maligned earlier, but they weren’t fried, so fuck ’em) and cheese was just a beautiful thing. But I won’t hate people that say the french toast sandwich thing isn’t for them.

10. Meatball

This is basically an excuse to eat a lot of meatballs and cheese with bread. It’s a good excuse.

9. Thanksgiving

Whomever decided to take all of the Thanksgiving leftovers and throw them between two slices of bread was a fucking genius. Done right, there’s taste and texture balance that makes you glad you spent three days cooking for family. And Monica Geller’s addition of the moistmaker is next level. The only weird thing is that, if you add stuffing/dressing, you’re eating bread between bread.

Also, the moistmaker got really dark…

8. Bagel & Lox

True story: when I was a kid, I used to use butter instead of cream cheese as my add-on for my bagel & lox sandwich. How I did not die form sodium overdose is beyond me. Nowadays, if you can find me a really good bagel (not the easiest thing to do in Texas), I’m sure I could source some quality lox and be a very, very happy boy. The above also neglects to mention the capers, which in my mind are a necessity. Oh, also, fuck that tomato.

SANDWICHES THAT BELONG IN ANOTHER STRATOSPHERE

7. Patty Melt

I was honestly surprised when I put this together, because I can’t remember the last time I’ve had one of these. Mostly because it’s rarely on menus, which seems ridiculous to me, because it’s not like it’s too difficult to make. Cook a burger, grill some onions, slap it in between two slices of bread and griddle it in a mountain of butter, is that a bad thing?

6. Italian Sub

To be fair, most Italian subs are a series of somewhat indistinguishable salty meats, piled onto a sub roll. I don’t see what’s wrong with that. Plus, you rarely get a scrawny Italian sub, probably because there’s usually a minimum of three meats on one of them. My go-to order when I go to a sub shop.

5. Pulled Pork

The only negative about this sandwich is, at some point during the consumption, it morphs from a pulled pork sandwich into a pulled pork plate. I’ve never seen anyone eating the entire sandwich as a sandwich. It’s still pretty awesome though.

4. Fried Chicken

Five years ago, I wouldn’t have thought much of one of these. But then hot chicken became a huge thing, and everyone started to up their fried chicken game, and then Popeye’s entered the chat and made everyone lose their shit, and that’s made us all better for it.

3. Italian Beef

The last one time I went to Chicago, I went straight to Portillo’s for a big ass Italian beef sandwich. If you haven’t had one of their roasted and slices beef sandwiches with a ton of hot giardiniera, and dipped into a pot of beef jus (the only timeI will violate my anti-soggy sandwich stance), you have not lived.

(And I’m sure some hipster will be sending me emails, telling me how Portillo’s is mass produced crap and there’s some hole in the wall that’s only open on prime number days between 3:17 and 7:13 that does it way better. To which I would say, great, and that means it’s even better than I thought it would be!)

2. Reuben

At what point in American history has anyone ordered a Reuben, eaten it, and said, I wish I’d ordered something else? It hasn’t. Ever. No one has ever walked away from one disappointed. Corned beef and sauerkraut and Swiss cheese (which makes it so un-kosher yet every Jewish deli loves to make these)…how could anyone ever hate these? It would be the king of all sandwiches…except for…

  1. The Cuban Sandwich

I had never heard of this gem until maybe 15 years ago- I blame Castro for that. Regardless, of all the breads that have a nationality in front of it, Cuban bread reigns supreme. And not a lot of places carry this, because, frankly, it’s not one that just anyone can make. You have to roast the pork well, source yourself some good bread, find decent ham but whatever with that, and be willing to take up a decent amount of griddle space to butter and press the shit out of that thing. Gimme all the Cubans you can get me.

Chick-Fil-A knockoff, because we are all out of fucks to give

So my lady and I were deciding on what to make for the coming week – which we have to do three days ahead of time if we want to get groceries delivered instead of navigating the hellscape that is a grocery store now – and came up with the idea of fried chicken. Because, really, healthy eating, now…psssh…whatever…

When we first moved down here, I used to make chicken and waffles occasionally for a Sunday night dinner. Now, I make a pretty damned good fried chicken, and a just fine waffle. Not a bad waffle, just nothing special about it. There’s just only so much you can do with a waffle; at a certain point, it’s just a very good waffle. Plus, the difference between not enough batter (where you get a sad burnt thin waffle with holes every third grate) and too much batter (where it flies out of the iron like lava from the Brady Bunch science fair project) is razor thin.

So, basically we decided that the waffle was essentially an excuse to have spicy chicken for breakfast, and ditched that part of the chicken and waffles equation.

Don’t believe that the chicken is the star of the show? Let me reenact how I think a couple conversations would go in this house:

Me: Honey, I just heard about this restaurant that makes the most amazing fried chicken, it’s just a 30 minute drive from here!

Very Happy Honey: Woohoo, do you prefer Google Maps or Waze?

And then…

Me: Honey, I just heard about this restaurant that makes the most amazing waffles, it’s just a 30 minute drive from here!

Not So Happy Honey: (throws a package of frozen Eggo’s at my head) What the fuck is wrong with you you never heard of a toaster oven why the hell do I even let you live here??

(That’s obviously unrealistic…we don’t have Eggo’s here)

Now I know what you’re thinking…frying food is a huge pain in the ass, loads of work, oil gets everywhere, and you might set yourself and/or your kitchen on fire.

The truth is, it’s not terribly difficult to fry food, but it is a bit of a pain to get everything set up, and you will probably have to use a few plates to prep and dry your chicken if you want to do it right. And, yes, there will be some oil that splatters, but if you use a big enough pot you can minimize the spray.

The one big issue is that, once you’re done, you’re going to have a big pot of oil that you can’t easily dispose of. Of course, where some see a problem, I see an opportunity…to fry a bunch of food! You’ll have a lot of leftovers, which granted won’t stay as crisp in the fridge, but that’s not going to matter to you, right?

I decided to make two different types of fried chicken: my normal Chick-Fil-A knockoff, and a Japanese style fried chicken called karaage. But, the karaage didn’t come out quite as well as I’d hoped, so we will spend zero more time discussing it.

(I should note that “my normal” is very closely adapted from J. Kenji-Lopez Alt’s recipe…and by very closely adapted I mean it really depends on what spices I have around that day)

I find my normal one works best with breast meat rather than thighs, probably more because the milder flavor of the breasts lets the spice and breading stand out more. And because I’m lazy, I just use breast tenderloins, which are more expensive but you don’t have to cut them up.

Typically these are best with a 24 hour marinade in buttermilk. However, here’s how this batch went:

Monday, 7:00 PM – Oh crap, forgot to put buttermilk on the shopping list.

Monday, 7:30 PM (following returning from Kroger, removing my mask, and washing my hands 35 times): Oh crap, the chicken is in the freezer.

Monday, 7:31 PM – Good thing we have a 3×2 inch empty pocket in the fridge, let’s just jam the chicken in there and hope for the best.

Tuesday, 7:30 AM – Chicken still isn’t thawed, good thing I vacuum packed it, stick that in a pot of water to get it the rest of the way.

Tuesday, 8:30 AM – Most all of it’s thawed, just give the icy parts a mild massage, say naughty things to it, oh yeah, your mom was a dirty little egg layer, who knows how many beaks she had in there…

Tuesday, 8:40 AM – Not weird at all, but they’re thawed.

Once you have your slutty breast tenders thawed, you’re going to stick them in a bag with some buttermilk and an array of spices. This time I used salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, smoked paprika, and onion powder. Garlic powder would have been better, but I’m not about to challenge the supermarket coronazombies to get a slightly tastier chicken. But really, whatever spices you have around should be fine, as long as there’s adequate salt and pepper, and not your mother in law’s ashes – nasty aftertaste.

Whatever spice blend you put together, make sure you have enough to season the buttermilk brine, the breading, and the tenders pre/post frying – yeah, we’re getting real with these things. I would say you should have at least 1/3 cup for the entire operation.

After your overnight/8 hour brining of the morally questionable breasticle meat, take them out (don’t get rid of the brine) and dry them off pretty thoroughly – they shouldn’t be completely dry, but too much leftover brine is going to mess up the fry. Once you’ve dried them off, hit them with another dusting of the spice mix.

From here, you just need to get your flour mix together to coat the chicken with. Again, drop some more of them spices in the flour, and then add about 1/4 cup of the marinade into the flour. You’re going to want to work the brine into the flour with your fingertips and get them all mixed together. This is going to help build up the crunchy bits on the outside of the chicken.

(Or as foodies would say, craggly bits. Because foodies just have to take every normal term and turn it into something that they created and tried to make their own. Like, oh it’s not fresh food, it’s farm-to-table, oh it’s not a place that serves food and beer, it’s a gastropub, oh it’s not a curry it’s a chickpea stew with coconut milk and every spice in a curry (we see you Alison Roman #Istandwithchrissieteigen).)

(Yeah I just managed parentheses inside parentheses, I know my order of operations, don’t hate me ’cause you ain’t me.)

Geez, where was I, oh the chicken breading. Don’t be shy about pressing the breading into the chicken, you want it to really stick.

Once you’ve got the breading rubbed in, get yourself the biggest pot you have and fill it 1/3 to 1/2 way (and no more than halfway) with vegetable or canola oil, and turn the head on about medium to medium-high.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to only fill it up halfway. If you fill it beyond that, you run a serious risk that the oil is going to boil over and cause serious damage to your kitchen and skin. If you’re depending on me to tell you how to cook, there’s a fair chance that you haven’t considered this possibility. Unless you’re looking for an excuse to test out your fire extinguisher – again, probably something you don’t have.

Also, invest in a candy thermometer to take the temperature of the oil. Some recipes will tell you to stick a wooden spoon or chopstick into the oil and see if bubbles appear around it. Which, ok if you want to oil up your spoon, or maybe the Chopsticks R Us near you is still considered essential business and you can get yourself a few, but it’s worth just getting a thermometer. And no, you shouldn’t try and take your temperature with it to see if you have the ‘rona, I feel like I shouldn’t need to say that, but I will for liability’s sake.

(Also, don’t drink bleach. Again, I feel like it’s needed to say this.)

When the oil up to temperature, take four or so tenders out of the breading bowl and tap off the excess breading, and then carefully drop them into the oil one at a time. By carefully, I mean slowly lower it into the oil and then release it away from you, so you won’t splatter yourself. Don’t be tempted to put them all in, that will seriously drop the temperature of the oil, and you’ll be left with some sad, greasy, tough chicken. And also the oil might boil over – see above for why that could be a bad thing.

Four minutes is a good rule of thumb, you can cook them a little more if you want but I wouldn’t go any less. When they’re done, fish them out with a slotted spoon or a spider – don’t use tongs, you’ve done so much work to get the breading right, the tongs will just rip it off – and place them onto a paper towel. Then sprinkle some more of the spice mixture on top of them.

Chick-Fil-A Fried Chicken Knockoff

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 package of chicken tenderloins, about 1 1/2 pounds

1 1/2 T paprika

1 T salt

1 T black pepper

2 t cayenne pepper

2 t smoked paprika

2 t onion powder

2 c buttermilk

2 c flour

Vegetable oil for frying

Directions

Combine all of the spices into a small bowl and set aside.

In a large plastic zippered bag, pour in the buttermilk and 1/3 of the spice mixture. Add the chicken and mix around to ensure that all of the chicken is coated. Squeeze out the excess air, seal the bag, and place it in the fridge overnight, flipping at least once.

When ready to fry, in a large bowl, combine flour and 1/3 of the spice mixture.

Take the bag of chicken out of the fridge, and add 3-4 tablespoons of the buttermilk marinade to the flour. Mix it in with your fingers thoroughly, until there are no large clumps of flour.

Pour oil into a large pot and fill about 1/3 to 1/2 way. Turn the burner onto medium-high heat and bring the oil up to 350 degrees F.

Remove the chicken from the brine, allowing all of the excess brine to drip off. Place chicken tenders into the floured bowl and press breading into chicken.

When the oil is up to temperature, take 4 tenders and remove from the bowl individually, shaking off the excess breading. Place carefully in the oil.

Fry chicken for 4-5 minutes. When done, use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the chicken and place on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle spice mixture over chicken.

Repeat process until all chicken is cooked.

Pasta Bolognesish, because we are going to get into a lot of trouble with the food police

At our house, we like to have a homemade Sunday dinner, just a little something my lady and I can enjoy having made together. And by together, I mean that I do the cooking, and she asks me “honey do you need any help good I’ll watch over the dogs let me know if you need any help but really don’t we’re good here I’ll do the cleaning afterwards I don’t trust you to do it well.”

(She’s right, by the way, I didn’t make up the name Adam’s Messy Kitchen as satire. Division of labor rules!)

When we first started doing this – which wasn’t something intentional but kind of happened organically, just like our love for each other…AWWWW…or white nationalism OH GOD I JUST HAD TO GO OFF AND RUIN IT AND I WONDER WHY I WAS SINGLE FOR SO LONG!! – I asked her what she’d like me to make. She said that she loves Pasta Bolognese, which sounded absolutely wonderful.

I’ve made plenty of tomato sauces before, but never specifically a Bolognese, so I looked at some recipes to get an idea of what might work. The first one that popped up was by Marcella Hazan, author of the gold standard easy tomato sauce recipe. So this had to be a gem, right?

Everything looks really good, until I got down to step 4, and then this happened:

While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat.  To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary.  At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. 

Da fuq does that mean? How exactly am I going to know that the fat separated from the sauce? Does the fat gather in the formation of the band members of Journey and start reenacting the Separate Ways video? And what if it became really attached to the meat after all the time they’ve spent together, and it revolts against chemistry and science and screams HELL NO, I WON’T GO? And I don’t appreciate the authoritarian feel of saying that no water MUST be left. And what if there is some left, does the pot get sucked into the upside down with Hopper (oh yes, Joyce, he’s alive, #JusticeforHopper)?

The dispiriting thing was, I found that about 75% of the recipes online had similar instructions. Thankfully, there were a few that weren’t so out there, so I used those to create my own recipe to build a better world…one where fats and meats can live in harmony, free of the fear that cooks will try and pull them apart to satisfy “authentic Italian cooking” standards…

So, here’s everything you’ll need to make my Bolognesish recipe – at least everything that I remembered at the time I took the picture:

To start, we need to tackle the raw vegetables. If you have a food processor, I’m going to highly recommend using that to break them down. You want the pieces to be around the same size and shape of the ground beef. If you don’t have one, you can cut them up small and it won’t be a big deal. Or, if you have mad knife skills, you can dice them up fine without the food processor.

(You’re reading this blog, you don’t have mad knife skills.)

If you use the food processor, you are still going to have to cut the celery and onions into at least large chunks (unless you want to shove them in whole, in which case, make sure you post that video to YouTube!), and the carrots into smaller chunks. Make sure you do the mushrooms separately from the other vegetables.

Now, to clean the mushrooms, you can do it one of two ways:

  1. Wipe each mushroom individually with a damp paper towel, pausing every few mushrooms to wring it out and get excess dirt off of it, and after you’ve only cleaned 7 mushrooms in 10 minutes drop to your knees and scream WHY GOD DID YOU HAVE TO MAKE MUSHROOMS SIT IN THAT FILTHY DIRT WHY COULDN’T THEY GROW ON TREES LIKE PEACHES OR BUCKEYES BUT NOT THE ONES THAT URBAN MEYER LETS GET AWAY WITH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!!!
  2. Throw the mushrooms into a bowl, fill it with water, and toss them around a bit, drain it and repeat.

OH NOOOO, IT’S THE MUSHROOM POLICE!!!

See, “they” want you to think that allowing water to touch a mushroom for more than 1/4 second is going to into chewy water, because Rachael Ray once said that mushrooms are like sponges, so it must be true. Really, swirling them around in a bowl of water for a few seconds isn’t going to do anything to them, and they’re going to cook for so long that any water they do retain is going to be released anyways. And by doing this, you’re saving a bunch of paper towels. Look at you, Mr./Mrs./Ms./Non-binary identifying Environmentalist! You’re going to be the posterperson for the Green New Deal, AOC is going to be calling you any day now!

Anyways, you can cut the mushrooms into large chunks (stem them first, they get kind of nasty and it makes it a lot easier to clean them), but process them in two batches, the ones at the bottom break down very fast, and if you stuff too many in at one time that’s what she said they’re going to be pulverized by the time the ones at the top touch the blade. This is what everything should look like when you’re done chopping.

The only other item you need to prep at this point is the tomatoes. In hindsight, I would probably have used two cans of tomatoes instead of one – tomatoes aren’t a typical ingredient in Bolognese, but since we’ve established that traditional recipes are racist, I have no problem chucking them in.

You want to dump the tomatoes into a bowl, liquid and all, and squish them with your hands. Don’t be too gentle with them, they should break down into small pieces, so really get into it. Think about your ex…or your boss…or why Dances With Wolves and Crash won Best Picture over Goodfellas and Brokeback Mountain and don’t get me started on The Green Book!!!

(pro tip: before you go too crazy on them, make sure you puncture each one, otherwise there’s a non-zero chance that their tomato guts are going to explode all over the place.)

Once you’ve got your vegetables prepped and the tomatoes in full submission, you can start to cook the sauce.

I started with a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a big old stock pot, warmed it up on medium heat, and then I threw in the mushrooms.

Technically, this is another violation of mushroom law, since you’re not supposed to overcrowd the pot with mushrooms because they will steam and not brown. Again, they’re going to cook for so long that it doesn’t much matter, and none of the vegetables are going to get browned in this anyways. And, if the mushroom police didn’t get you on the soaking violation, they’re not going to come after you over this.

After a few minutes, toss the onion/celery/carrot mixture in, stir everything up, and leave them in there for a good while. Let the flavors get to know each other, become friends, start gossiping amongst each other (have you heard about the carrot in the upper right quadrant? Total slut, she’ll do it with any root vegetable, where do you think that got the carrabaga from?), but not for so long that they decide that theirs is the superior quadrant and create Veggie Gilead.

Once they’ve been in there for a while and released most of their water, but before full scale oppression takes place, throw the ground beef in and let it brown up for a while. Ground beef will keep the unruly vegetables in line, it’s like Switzerland with the power of a G-5 nation.

Once the meat is cooked down and you start to see a little bit of browning, add the wine and let it cook off for a few minutes. This isn’t a “they” say cooking rule, this is a your dish will taste really wine-y and crappy if you don’t do it rule. Feel free to not cook it off, but pics or it didn’t happen.

After a few minutes, then yes, you can add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and bring everything up to a boil, and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for a couple hours.

This is where I remembered that there were a couple ingredients I didn’t include in the original picture. If I had Photoshop skills, I would have found a way to crop those in, like how they have to mess with those team photos where two players got traded to the team three days after the picture, and they tried to paste their heads over the two that got cut after a night out with Pacman Jones.

But I don’t, so soy sauce and fish sauce.

These seem like weird ingredients to throw into an Italian dish, but they add a meaty flavor to the dish, because they have glutamates. What are glutamates…fuck, I don’t know, they’re like electrolytes in Idiocracy.

Also, I threw in a few anchovy filets, which have the same property but they’re Italian, so it doesn’t seem too weird.

Check out the sort of foamy orange stuff on the top. That’s grease and other nastiness, you’ll want to skim that off as it cooks. You don’t have to get all of it, but if you leave it behind it’s going to leave a real greasy aftertaste in your mouth.

About a half hour before you want to eat, get your pasta water boiling. I would give it a couple handfuls of kosher salt. The old trope that “they” like to say is that your water should taste like the sea. Well, I don’t live by the sea, and the last Sea Water ‘R’ Us outlet near me closed last month, so I can only guess as to what it might taste like.

Another ingredient I forgot to take a picture of, and was completely used up by the time I realized it, is the fresh basil. Throw a bunch in about five minutes before you end cooking the sauce.

Then boil your pasta, drain, and serve yourself a bowl or plate of non-authentic non-racist Bolognesish!

Pasta Bolognesish

Serves 4 hungry people, 6 with a regular appetite

Ingredients

2 T olive oil

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped large

2 celery stalks, chopped large

2 carrots, peeled and chopped large

1 pound crimini mushrooms, stems removed, washed and cut large

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup red wine

3 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes

3 T tomato paste

2 T soy sauce

1 T fish sauce

3 anchovy filets

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced into small ribbons

1 pound dry pasta shape of your choice

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place half of the celery, carrots, and onions into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the pieces are the size of the ground beef strands. Empty contents into a large bowl. Repeat with the other half.

Repeat the same steps with the mushrooms.

Empty the tomato cans into a separate large bowl. Crush the tomatoes by hand into small pieces.

In a large pot, pour in the oil and heat over medium-high heat for a couple minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until they start to release liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the onion mixture and continue to saute until most of their moisture is released, about 15 minutes.

Add the ground beef, and continue to cook until the beef has released its liquid and begun to slightly brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Pour in the red wine and allow to reduce for a few minutes.

Add the broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, and anchovies to the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 1 1/2 hours, skimming the fat from the top periodically.

About 30 minutes before serving, fill a large pot with water for the pasta. Generously salt the water, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for the prescribed time.

When the sauce is ready, remove from the heat and add the basil leaves. Stir to incorporate.

Drain the finished pasta, plate, and top with sauce.

Spatchcocked Turkey, because it doesn’t get much better than this

image

So, I’m sitting on my couch yesterday, planning out everything for Thanksgiving dinner.  Since I only cook one Thanksgiving a year (we stopped celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving after Trudeau was elected), I had to go back and remind myself how to cook the spatchcocked turkey.  And I’m going through websites, leafing through cookbooks, trying to find it, and then I remembered…

OH YEAH I HAVE THIS FUCKING WEBSITE WHERE I POSTED THIS RECIPE LAST YEAR!!!

Anyways, I’m going to put the original post below, because I can’t say anything beyond what’s already there…

Ok, I did update the racist items that your drunk uncle is going to say…

And the Browns reference because they don’t totally suck anymore…

And Wong Wu’s was closed three years ago, not two…

But the rest of it is the same, so let’s jump into the wayback machine and head to the olden days of 2017…

giphy

One of the reasons that I’m not a trial lawyer is that I’m not quick on my feet.  Like, I’ll be in a conversation with someone, and I’ll take something they say as fact, which on its face is completely laughable, but again, not that swift of a thinker.  And then a few days later, I’ll realize that what they said made no sense, and a simple retort would have rendered their point moot, and I’ll say to myself “that’s what I should have said!”

That’s pretty much what happened when I cooked our Thanksgiving turkey.  It was a glorious bird, if I do say so myself.  And it didn’t hit me until a few days later, oh yeah, people would have loved to have had this recipe for their Thanksgiving.  Oops.

But the truth is, people don’t make enough turkey during the year, which is a shame.  I mean, turkey is delicious (if you’re one of those weirdos that say that turkey sucks and is flavorless, that’s because your mom sucked and was a really crappy cook, and you should be barred from spreading your genes into future generatio…I mean, you need to try this recipe).  It’s relatively cheap – usually turkeys run about $1.50/pound, and you can make so many meals out of one bird.  And, if you cook one outside of Thanksgiving, you don’t have to worry about rushing the carving to feed your shitty drunk uncle that’s going to spend half the night complaining about how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi are going to force you to have MS-13 gang members over for the holiday next year.  So, do yourself a favor and start learning to make one out of season.

You’re probably saying to yourself at this point:

  • I’m afraid to google spatchcocking, what exactly does that mean?
  • How does he know my family so well?

These are valid questions!

Spatchcocking is a fancy way of saying we’re going to butterfly the bird.

What does that mean?  It means we’re going to take the backbone out of the turkey, and then flattening it out by pushing down on the breastbone until you hear it crack, because WHO’S YOUR DADDY MR. TURKEY YOU’RE NOT SO TOUGH NOW ARE YOU I OWN YOU I AM THE PATRIOTS AND YOU ARE THE SAD LITTLE RAIDERS WITH YOUR JON GRUDEN CHUCKY-FACES!!!

Now, you may be saying to yourself, that seems like a lot of work.  Why would I want to do this?  You seem to have a lot of aggression issues to work out that I’ve managed to get through, why should I crack this guy’s back to help you deal with your problems?

Well Mr./Mrs./Ms. Smarty Pants, the reason why is that you’re going to get the turkey to cook evenly and crisp up the skin to make it absolutely delicious.  That good enough for you?

Here’s the thing: there are two types of bird meat: white and dark.  And they need to cook to different temperatures (the USDA will tell you that white meat needs to be cooked to 165 degrees, and dark to 180.  I will tell you that you can do 150/165 and be just fine.)

When you cook the bird whole, everything gets smushed together, so it’s hard to get everything cooked evenly, so the breast gets done well before the dark.  Also, some of the skin gets bunched up into the meat, so it stays sad and flabby.  But, if you spatchcock it, everything is laid out in one layer, so everything cooks evenly, and all of the skin is exposed to the heat.  The benefit is that you’ll be able to cook your turkey in about half the time of a normal bird, and all of the skin will be cooked super crispy.

So let’s start with buying the bird.  For spatchcocking, you’re going to need to get a relatively small bird, no bigger than 12 pounds.  Anything bigger than that isn’t going to fit on a sheet pan.  Besides, do those 20 pound turkeys look natural to you?  Each one of them looks like Morganna the kissing turkey.  If you’re like the Duggars, or Phillip Rivers, or one of my ancestors that had 10 kids because no one understood birth control back in the 1880’s, get two 10-12 pound turkeys.

Now, there is going to be planning involved.  You’re going to need to get the turkey at least three days ahead of time so it can thaw out, unless you can manage to find a fresh bird somewhere (you’re reading my blog, so you probably can’t).  You could speed up the process by covering it in cold water for several hours, but you’ll probably give yourself salmonella, so just stay away from that.

The biggest inconvenience is that you’re going to need a good deal of refrigerator space for the turkey.  This would be a good time to get rid of that Chinese food from Wong Wu’s, which closed down three years ago.

Now, the day before you cook your turkey, you’ve got a choice to make – am I going to brine the turkey or not?  You’re not going to wet brine it, because it’s a pain in the ass and all you’re going to do is waterlog the turkey, and yeah it’ll be moist but so is a wet sponge and you’re not going to eat that, are you, never mind don’t answer that.

No, instead we’re going to dry brine it, if you’re so inclined.  All this means is that you’re going to coat the skin with a mixture of kosher salt and baking powder.  This will draw the moisture out of the skin, so it’ll crisp up and brown perfectly.  After 12-24 hours of brining, it’s going to get all light and transparent-looking, and you’ll know that it’s ready.

You can also decide not to, but really, if you’re going to take the time to hack a turkey in half, a few extra minutes of work shouldn’t be too much for you.  But, if you decide not to, you’ll probably be ok too.  Just be sure to salt it before you put it in the oven.

Now, the spatchcocking process.  Get yourself a good pair of kitchen shears – really powerful scissors will work in a pinch.  You’re going to cut the backbone out of it, which will take a few minutes.  Save the backbone, we’re going to use that for the gravy later.  Oh, and save the goodies in the plastic bag inside the turkey.

Once you’ve broken the breastbone and the turkey’s spirit, you’re ready to cook!

Now, that backbone you just took out.  You’re going to need to hack that into smaller pieces for the gravy.  If you have a cleaver, this would be a great time to use it.  Also, if you have a cleaver, stay away from me.  If you don’t, do the best you can to find some joints in it to cut through easily.

Once it’s finished cooking, and you’ve given it enough time to rest, it’s carving time.  Again, we’re going to the video, because I am not even going to act like I can teach you that.

When you start carving it, you’re going to hear that lovely crackling sound of super crisp turkey skin, and the bird will be the best one you’ve ever tasted.  And I’m sure you’ll drown it in too much gravy, but that’s on you.

Spatchcocked Roast Turkey and Gravy

From Serious Eats

Serves 10-12

Ingredients

For the brine

6 T kosher salt

2 T baking powder

For the turkey and gravy

3 large onions, chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

12 thyme sprigs

1 whole turkey, spatchcocked and butterflied, backbone and giblets reserved

2 T vegetable oil

1 1/2 quarts chicken or turkey broth

2 bay leaves

3 T butter

4 T flour

Directions

Place the oven rack on the middle position in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet or sheet pan with foil. Mix up 2/3rds of the onions, carrots, celery, and thyme sprigs, and pour them onto the sheet. Place a cooling rack over the vegetables.

Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry, and place it on the rack. Rub one tablespoon of the oil all over the skin. Season the turkey liberally with black pepper (if you don’t brine the turkey, season with salt as well). Tuck the wing tips behind the back.

Move the rack to the oven and roast the turkey until the breasts measure 150 degrees and the thighs register 165 degrees, about 75-80 minutes.

While the turkey is roasting, chop the reserved turkey parts for the gravy.

Add the remaining tablespoon of the oil to a 3 quart saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat. Add the turkey parts to the pan and cook until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add the remaining vegetables to the pan and cook until the vegetables soften and brown, about another five minutes. Add the chicken broth, remaining thyme sprigs, and bay leaves to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the solids from the broth, and skim the fat off the top.

In the same pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is golden brown. While whisking constantly, add the broth to the pan in a steady stream. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until reduced to 1 quart, about 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed, and cover the pan to keep warm.

When the turkey is finished roasting, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Carve the turkey as desired. Collect any juices from the turkey, and add them to the gravy.

Pressure Cooker Pho, because the Instant Pot demons make a great soup

IMG_0840

Way back in the days of 2015, my soon-to-be-lady and I were trying to figure out where to go to lunch.

Me: Have you tried pho?

My lady: No, what is pho?

Me: Oh, it’s this great Vietnamese beef noodle soup with brisket and flank steak, and you can put all sorts of jalapenos and cilantro in it.

ML: I LOVE CILANTRO!! Where is this magical place?

Me: It’s downtown, Pho Lang Thang.

ML: Ewww!!  We went there for Sharon’s birthday lunch, and she told us to all get these gross sandwiches, and they had radishes and pate on it, and we all hated them!!

It took me a minute to know what sandwich she was talking about, and then I realized it was a banh mi.  Which, depending on where you go, can be a bit of a crapshoot.

(Needless to say, we don’t hang out with Sharon anymore.  Also, her name isn’t really Sharon; it’s Omarosa.)

Nevertheless, I talked her into giving the place a try, and we were hooked.  I like to think that had something to do with us eventually becoming a couple – that’s about as far as my charm goes, semi-exotic foods.

So, pho, as I said above, is at its base a beef noodle soup.  But it’s soooo much more than that.  The broth is so deeply rich with beef flavor, the noodles soak up the broth, and you can add cooked brisket, flank steak, meatballs (which are unusually springy), and raw steak that literally cooks in the broth.

Making it at home, however…that’s another story.

It turns out that making pho broth from scratch is quite difficult.  First, they use a lot of seldom-used parts of the cow, like beef knuckle.  Which, I don’t know, maybe you can find that easily, but down here in Houston the last Beef Knuckles-R-Us went out of business last year, so that’s not easy to come by.

The other main obstacle to making pho at home is the amount of time it takes.  A good beef broth usually takes 3-4 hours or so.  But pho and all its beefy goodness…20 hours!!

20 hours??  Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!  If I wake up at 7:30 on a Saturday, I’m napping by noon, there’s no way I’m staying upright for that long!

So my dreams of cooking pho were dashed, until…

Enter the Instant Pot!

Duo-Mini-1

Have we discussed the Instant Pot yet?  How is this possible?  The Instant Pot is fantastic!  It’s a pressure cooker that you can saute in as well!  How have we not discussed this?

This is weird, because typically Instant Pot evangelists put that out there within the first three sentences of introducing themselves.  You know, the same way people say things like:

  • “Hi, I’m Tom, I have a great Crossfit class I can get you into!”
  • “Hi, I’m Kyler, I’m a vegan, do you like killing animals?”
  • “Hi, I’m Dan, 9/11 was an inside job, what do you think about chemtrails?”

Ok, I like the pot, but not like that.  Where the Instant Pot excels is as a pressure cooker (which I will not even pretend to be able to explain how it works, so let’s just assume it’s millions of microscopic evil demons jumping up and down on the food and telling the food to cook quicker because they have to be done by 8:00 so they can watch the latest Handmaid’s Tale episode because Aunt Lydia is soooooo dreamy!!)

Whatever the mysterious pressure cooker demons do, it allows you to make broths and other slow cook meals much faster than you can on a stove top, and without needing to worry about constantly tending to it – this is a huge plus for me.

And, with the pressure cooker demons on my side, I can use regular old soup bones and shanks instead of beef knuckles.  Who’s back in the game!

(Those are seriously three of the weirdest paragraphs I’ve ever written, I’m afraid that I could pass a pee test and still be fired for drug abuse based on those alone.)

Back in the sane world where we cook pho…

The broth itself isn’t terribly complex.  You’re just toasting some spices, sauteing a couple roughly chopped vegetables, adding the bones and the meat, and then let the cooking Gilead demons do their work.

(A quick sidebar about Instant Pot recipes.  You’ll hear IP evangelists tell you how you can cook stews and soups in just 30 minutes.  What they, and IP recipes, fail to acknowledge is the amount of time that it takes for the pot to come to pressure before the cooking begins.  Depending on how much you have in the pot, that could take anywhere from a few minutes to up to 30.  So, caveat emptor, or some other Latin.)

As good as the soup is, the toppings take it to another level.  Just a slice or two of jalapeno pepper, or a sprig of basil or cilantro, is enough to flavor a big bowl on their own.  A little squeeze of a lime wedge adds brightness to it.  Bean sprouts (good luck finding fresh sprouts anywhere) are a popular topping, and add a crunchy texture.  But don’t feel beholden to tradition; go crazy and add whatever else you’d like.  Sriracha, hoisin sauce, carrots, shreds of Urban Meyer’s reputation, whatever floats your boat.

I will not kid you, however.  This is not a simple to put together dish, or a one-pot affair of any sort.  In addition to the Instant Pot, you’re also going to need:

  • a stockpot to cook the noodles in
  • a colander to drain the noodles
  • a bowl to hold the noodles after you’ve drained them
  • a strainer to strain the broth
  • a bowl to strain the broth into
  • a bowl to soak the cooked meat in
  • plates/bowls to hold the toppings
  • serving bowls

This can make for quite a mess in the kitchen.  Around here, you could almost call it…Adam’s…Messy…Kitchen…

BAM SEE WHAT I DID THERE!!

tenor

Now, pho purists will tell you that the broth should be completely clear.  And if you’re a psychopath that worries about the Pho Police banging down your door, knock yourself out and strain it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.  The rest of us that have less of an interest in making our lives more complicated will just use a strainer and be happy with it.

Pressure Cooker Pho

Adapted from The New York Times

Serves 4-6 good sized bowls

Ingredients

For broth

3 pounds beef knuckle, marrow or other soup bones, rinsed and drained

1 pound beef brisket, preferably flat, rinsed and drained

1 Fuji apple, cored, peeled, and chopped coarsely

1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced thickly

2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into large coins

2 ½ pieces star anise (if you can’t find star anise, 2 teaspoons of anise seed will work, fennel seed could be used in a pinch)

1 3-inch cinnamon stick

3 whole cloves

9 c water

2 ½ t kosher salt

2 T fish sauce

1 T Sugar

For assembly

6 ounces beef steak, ribeye, flank, or skirt steak

12 ounces dried narrow rice sticks or pad Thai-style noodles

½ small yellow onion, sliced into thin rounds

2 green onions, greens and whites diced small

¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

Several sprigs of Thai or Italian basil

1 jalapeno or Thai chili, sliced very thin

1 lime, quartered

Directions

To make the broth

Put the star anise, cinnamon and cloves in a large Instant Pot. Using the sauté function, toast for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until just fragrant. Add the onion and ginger, stir, and cook for a minute or two until just browned.

Add the water, bones, beef, apple and salt, and lock the lid.  Set timer for 30 minutes.

While the broth is cooking, to make your life easier

Put the steak in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, to make it easier to cut.  Slice very thinly across the grain, and set aside.

Cover the dried noodles in hot tap water and soak for 15-20 minutes.  Drain, then rinse and set aside.

Soak the yellow onion in water for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, drain and set on a plate with the green onion slices, cilantro, basil, and jalapeno slices.

Once the broth has finished cooking

Allow the Instant Pot pressure to release naturally, about 15 to 20 minutes.

While the pressure is releasing

Fill a stockpot with water and bring to a rolling boil.

Once the pressure is fully released

Carefully remove the lid.  Transfer the meat to a bowl (if you used shanks, add those as well), cover with water and soak for 10 minutes.  Once cooled, cut into bite sized pieces.

Strain the broth into a medium stockpot or saucepan through a mesh strainer, and discard all solids.  Add the fish sauce, sugar, and salt to the broth taste.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Add the noodles to the boiling water, and cook until the noodles are just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from water and divide noodles among 4-6 bowls.

To each bowl, add the cooked and raw beef, arranging the raw slices flat.

Ladle broth over the noodles and beef.

Top with onions, green onions, jalapenos, or whatever other toppings you like.

Orecchiette with Corn, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Pine Nuts, because you can’t trust a farmer

 

 

IMG_0397Last weekend, I decided to get all creative and stuff, and went to a farmers market to see what they had for sale, and then create a dish around it.

And I saw some ears of corn, and decided I just had to make a dish around them, because I’m sure they picked the ears this morning from their backyard and they’re totally fresh and no I don’t even need to check them because why would a farmer sell product that wasn’t totally fres…

IMG_0672

Fuck that lying fucking farmer!

The next ear of corn had a worm in it, which was too fast for me to take a picture of.  Which, I guess I have to respect.  I mean, if you’re wanting to replicate the whole farm to lying farmer field, what better way to do that than to add a slimy worm to your nasty-ass lying corn.

By this point, I was determined, come hell or high water, to make a dish with corn as the centerpiece.  Also, using the phrase “come hell or high water” outs me as a 126 year old man that took his first date to a sodajerk for a phosphate and then spent the rest of his life blaming those damn Irish for the decline of civilization and got the off-the-menu Fox News only package from Comcast…where was I again…

Oh, yes, corn.  Luckily, there was another neighborhood farmers market right around the corner.  I think it was called Kroger.  This time I didn’t trust their corn so I pulled back the husks and saw that these ears, in fact, were telling the truth.  So, up yours, local corn!

Now, one place that did tell the truth was the farmer that sold cherry tomatoes, and holy shit were they good!  Even though they cost way more than supermarket tomatoes, they were so far and away a superior product that they were worth it.  I actually ate a few on their own, like candy.

(I can’t stress enough how amazing of an accomplishment this is.  When I was growing up, I would literally not touch a vegetable outside of corn/potatoes/mushrooms.  This is an undeniable miracle.  If you told my mom when I was a kid that this would eventually happen, she would say, oh sure, right, and around then there’s going to be an orange-skinned president that’s a narcissist megalomaniac and brags about grabbing women by theOHHHH I SEE HOW THIS ALL HAPPENED!!!

Sorry, if I knew this would happen, I would have stuck with the other vegetables.  My bad.)

So I’ve got the corn and tomatoes, and they’re good enough that I don’t want to drown them in too much stuff, so I figured that a good pasta salad would work.  Luckily, I had some orecchiette laying around, which makes sense, because it’s an ear shaped pasta.  You know, ear pasta…ears of corn…you get it??  I got all sorts of good dad jokes waiting for you.

I also had some basil laying around, as well as some pine nuts.

Now, I was all set to make a joke about pine nuts not being from pines, because I’ve never seen nuts in a pine cone, and why do they call them pine nuts if they’re not from pines.  But…the tiniest bit of research showed that they do, in fact, come from pine trees, just a small number of species.  So, there went that…oh screw it…

AND WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH PINE NUTS?  THEY DON’T COME FROM PINES, WHY DON’T THEY CALL THEM TREE NUTS?

Anyways, the not fake pine nuts need to be toasted to get the flavor out of them.  I’ve never seen a recipe where pine nuts weren’t toasted.  I guess it’s too much trouble for big pine nut to pre-toast them.

(Actually, there’s a perfectly good reason – they would go rancid – but still…)

Overall, this is a pretty healthy recipe – I sauteed the corn in some butter, but you could do it in some olive oil, or even dry in a non-stick skillet.  So it won’t kill you if you throw some shredded Parmesan cheese on top as well.

Orecchiette with Corn, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Pine Nuts

Adapted from Epicurious

Serves 6

Ingredients

1/2 c pine nuts

4 ears of corn, shucked and kernels removed

4 T butter

1 pound orecchiette

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 c basil leaves, cut into small strips

1/4 c Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Add pine nuts and toast, stirring frequently, until they just begin to turn a light brown color.  Pour into a large serving bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter in the same skillet, and add corn.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kernels begin to color, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove and add to the serving bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook the orecchiette according to the package instructions.

Drain the pasta, and add to the bowl.

Add the tomatoes and basil. Stir to combine, making sure not to smash the tomatoes.  Top with the cheese and serve.

Anthony Bourdain’s Scrambled Eggs, because you deserve a lot of butter and an Alice reference

IMG_0680

I liked Anthony Bourdain, probably more than the average person.  I read Kitchen Confidential, and I have two of his cookbooks (Les Halles is fantastic, Appetites…less so).  I appreciated that he could have done anything with his rags-to-riches fame and fortune, and he decided to explore the world, have lots of disgusting food, and meet people and listen to them – without interrupting – to show us that it’s ok to understand other cultures.

So when I found out that he’d died, I was saddened.  So I wanted to do a couple things to honor him.

  1. I watched two hours of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, because I’d like to think he’d say something like “why do you hate food” to me
  2. I made scrambled eggs, using his recipes

(sidenote: I always appreciated his harsh criticism, because I never felt like it came from a bad place.  He had high expectations of the food he ate, and he felt like the people preparing the food were up to the task to meet them.  It was never meant to make them feel small.  It wasn’t manufactured rage bullshit like Gordon Ramsay, who seems to get off on being generally mean and destructive.  Ok, I’m done there.)

His recipe starts out with diced bacon, so I sold my lady that I would be making bacon and eggs.  The next couple minutes went something like this:

 

Me: “Hey honey, I’m going to make bacon and eggs, would you like some?

My lady: “Yaaay, that sounds great!!”

Me: “Great, I’ll start dicing up the bacon.”

(takes bacon out of the fridge)

Me (internally): “Hmmm, I’m not sure it’s still good, but it’s bacon, it’ll be fine.”

Bacon (out loud, to me only): “Yeah, you should really throw me out, I’m past my prime.”

Me: “Oh, I can get by with it, it’ll be fine.”

(pause)

Me: “Wait, what?”

(pause)

Me: “Yeah, honey, it’s just going to be eggs.”

 

Anyways, I figured at this point, since I won’t be adding talking bacon to the eggs, I’ll need to add a little more butter to the pan than normal.  Then I realized that I would probably have done that anyways.

Then we get to the eggs, which I was able to get farm raised.  It doesn’t show up well in the picture, but the yolks were almost unnaturally orange.  That’s because their chickens eat plants, insects, scraps, whatever they can forage for.  Unlike the mass produced chickens that get fed grain, supplements, Chris Christie, whatever the producer can get their hands on cheaply.  If you can get your hands on farm raised eggs for a reasonable price, I highly recommend picking them up.  They are so choice.

The last ingredient that he uses to make the eggs oh-so-tasty is sour cream.  Which sounded great, until I opened the tub of sour cream and saw that it was well past its best days.  Interestingly, it didn’t talk to me, which you would expect dairy in a tub to do (bonus Mel Sharples content below!!!)

What we did have, however, was French onion dip.  Which is really just sour cream, dried onions, and other ingredients that I’m sure we don’t want to know about but taste absolutely delicious.  And I’m sure Anthony would cringe for a second, and then say, “that’s actually a pretty good idea”.

(This is a man that admitted that KFC mashed potatoes were his guilty pleasure late night post-drinking food, he can appreciate sodium bombs.)

(He’s also right, those potatoes are delicious.)

I added some diced chives, because we had some laying around.  By all means, use whatever you’d like to empty out the fridge, but I wouldn’t use too much – these are good enough to stand on their own.

 

Scrambled Eggs

Adapted from recipes from Anthony Bourdain

Serves 2-4, depending on your level of hunger

Ingredients

3 T butter

8 eggs

2 T French Onion dip

2 T diced chives

salt and pepper to taste

 

 

Directions

In a large non-stick skillet, melt the butter over low heat.

Beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl, using a fork, until eggs are combined but not over-beaten – you want to still have some streaks of white if possible.

Once the butter is melted, add the eggs.  Let them sit for about 15-30 seconds, to let them start to set.

Using a rubber or silicone spatula, stir the eggs in a figure 8 pattern, occasionally dragging it around the sides and folding them to the middle.

When the mixture has come together and is starting to set, add the dip and stir it through the eggs.  This will bring the temperature of the eggs down and slow the cooking process.

Once the eggs are close to your desired doneness, pour the eggs onto serving plates – they will carry enough residual heat to finish setting.  Add salt and pepper, and top the eggs with the chives.

Spatchcocked Turkey, because you don’t have to wait 346 days to cook a turkey

One of the reasons that I’m not a trial lawyer is that I’m not quick on my feet.  Like, I’ll be in a conversation with someone, and I’ll take something they say as fact, which on its face is completely laughable, but again, not that swift of a thinker.  And then a few days later, I’ll realize that what they said made no sense, and a simple retort would have rendered their point moot, and I’ll say to myself “that’s what I should have said!”

That’s pretty much what happened when I cooked our Thanksgiving turkey.  It was a glorious bird, if I do say so myself.  And it didn’t hit me until a few days later, oh yeah, people would have loved to have had this recipe for their Thanksgiving.  Oops.

But the truth is, people don’t make enough turkey during the year, which is a shame.  I mean, turkey is delicious (if you’re one of those weirdos that say that turkey sucks and is flavorless, that’s because your mom sucked and was a really crappy cook, and you should be barred from spreading your genes into future generatio…I mean, you need to try this recipe).  It’s relatively cheap – usually turkeys run about $1.50/pound, and you can make so many meals out of one bird.  And, if you cook one outside of Thanksgiving, you don’t have to worry about rushing the carving to feed your shitty drunk uncle that’s going to spend half the night talking about chemtrails and how 9/11 was an inside job.  So, do yourself a favor and start learning to make one out of season.

You’re probably saying to yourself at this point:

  • I’m afraid to google spatchcocking, what exactly does that mean?
  • How does he know my family so well?

These are valid questions!

Spatchcocking is a fancy way of saying we’re going to butterfly the bird.

What does that mean?  It means we’re going to take the backbone out of the turkey, and then flattening it out by pushing down on the breastbone until you hear it crack, because WHO’S YOUR DADDY MR. TURKEY YOU’RE NOT SO TOUGH NOW ARE YOU I OWN YOU I AM THE PATRIOTS AND YOU ARE THE SAD LITTLE BROWNS!!!

Now, you may be saying to yourself, that seems like a lot of work.  Why would I want to do this?  You seem to have a lot of aggression issues to work out that I’ve managed to get through, why should I crack this guy’s back to help you deal with your problems?

Well Mr./Mrs./Ms. Smarty Pants, the reason why is that you’re going to get the turkey to cook evenly and crisp up the skin to make it absolutely delicious.  That good enough for you?

Here’s the thing: there are two types of bird meat: white and dark.  And they need to cook to different temperatures (the USDA will tell you that white meat needs to be cooked to 165 degrees, and dark to 180.  I will tell you that you can do 150/165 and be just fine.)

When you cook the bird whole, everything gets smushed together, so it’s hard to get everything cooked evenly, so the breast gets done well before the dark.  Also, some of the skin gets bunched up into the meat, so it stays sad and flabby.  But, if you spatchcock it, everything is laid out in one layer, so everything cooks evenly, and all of the skin is exposed to the heat.  The benefit is that you’ll be able to cook your turkey in about half the time of a normal bird, and all of the skin will be cooked super crispy.

So let’s start with buying the bird.  For spatchcocking, you’re going to need to get a relatively small bird, no bigger than 12 pounds.  Anything bigger than that isn’t going to fit on a sheet pan.  Besides, do those 20 pound turkeys look natural to you?  Each one of them looks like Morganna the kissing turkey.  If you’re like the Duggars, or Phillip Rivers, or one of my ancestors that had 10 kids because no one understood birth control back in the 1880’s, get two 10-12 pound turkeys.

Now, there is going to be planning involved.  You’re going to need to get the turkey at least three days ahead of time so it can thaw out, unless you can manage to find a fresh bird somewhere (you’re reading my blog, so you probably can’t).  You could speed up the process by covering it in cold water for several hours, but you’ll probably give yourself salmonella, so just stay away from that.

The biggest inconvenience is that you’re going to need a good deal of refrigerator space for the turkey.  This would be a good time to get rid of that Chinese food from Wong Wu’s, which closed down two years ago.

Now, the day before you cook your turkey, you’ve got a choice to make – am I going to brine the turkey or not?  You’re not going to wet brine it, because it’s a pain in the ass and all you’re going to do is waterlog the turkey, and yeah it’ll be moist but so is a wet sponge and you’re not going to eat that, are you, never mind don’t answer that.

No, instead we’re going to dry brine it, if you’re so inclined.  All this means is that you’re going to coat the skin with a mixture of kosher salt and baking powder.  This will draw the moisture out of the skin, so it’ll crisp up and brown perfectly.  After 12-24 hours of brining, it’s going to get all light and transparent-looking, and you’ll know that it’s ready.

You can also decide not to, but really, if you’re going to take the time to hack a turkey in half, a few extra minutes of work shouldn’t be too much for you.  But, if you decide not to, you’ll probably be ok too.  Just be sure to salt it before you put it in the oven.

Now, the spatchcocking process.  Get yourself a good pair of kitchen shears – really powerful scissors will work in a pinch.  You’re going to cut the backbone out of it, which will take a few minutes.  Save the backbone, we’re going to use that for the gravy later.  Oh, and save the goodies in the plastic bag inside the turkey.

Once you’ve broken the breastbone and the turkey’s spirit, you’re ready to cook!

Now, that backbone you just took out.  You’re going to need to hack that into smaller pieces for the gravy.  If you have a cleaver, this would be a great time to use it.  Also, if you have a cleaver, stay away from me.  If you don’t, do the best you can to find some joints in it to cut through easily.

Once it’s finished cooking, and you’ve given it enough time to rest, it’s carving time.  Again, we’re going to the video, because I am not even going to act like I can teach you that.

When you start carving it, you’re going to hear that lovely crackling sound of super crisp turkey skin, and the bird will be the best one you’ve ever tasted.  And I’m sure you’ll drown it in too much gravy, but that’s on you.

Spatchcocked Roast Turkey and Gravy

From Serious Eats

Serves 10-12

Ingredients

For the brine

6 T kosher salt

2 T baking powder

For the turkey and gravy

3 large onions, chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

12 thyme sprigs

1 whole turkey, spatchcocked and butterflied, backbone and giblets reserved

2 T vegetable oil

1 1/2 quarts chicken or turkey broth

2 bay leaves

3 T butter

4 T flour

Directions

Place the oven rack on the middle position in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet or sheet pan with foil. Mix up 2/3rds of the onions, carrots, celery, and thyme sprigs, and pour them onto the sheet. Place a cooling rack over the vegetables.

Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry, and place it on the rack. Rub one tablespoon of the oil all over the skin. Season the turkey liberally with black pepper (if you don’t brine the turkey, season with salt as well). Tuck the wing tips behind the back.

Move the rack to the oven and roast the turkey until the breasts measure 150 degrees and the thighs register 165 degrees, about 75-80 minutes.

While the turkey is roasting, chop the reserved turkey parts for the gravy.

Add the remaining tablespoon of the oil to a 3 quart saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat. Add the turkey parts to the pan and cook until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add the remaining vegetables to the pan and cook until the vegetables soften and brown, about another five minutes. Add the chicken broth, remaining thyme sprigs, and bay leaves to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the solids from the broth, and skim the fat off the top.

In the same pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is golden brown. While whisking constantly, add the broth to the pan in a steady stream. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until reduced to 1 quart, about 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed, and cover the pan to keep warm.

When the turkey is finished roasting, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Carve the turkey as desired. Collect any juices from the turkey, and add them to the gravy.

Crispy Chicken Skin, because don’t act like this doesn’t look delicious

chicken

Ok readers, let’s have a little honest chat here – I believe that the kids call it “real talk” (I’m 45 going on 106, I say things like “the kids”).

We all love fried chicken.  It’s so delicious, the meat is so juicy, the buttermilk tenderizes the chicken and makes it so easy to chew.

Bullshit.

You want the skin.

You love the skin.

The crispy skin is the best.

Sometimes you get a full bucket of chicken just so you can peel the skin off, and throw perfectly good chicken flesh away just to devour the 12 secret spices and the fatty goodness of the skin.

And it’s ok.  We all love it, though I’d seek help for the last point.  Because it’s fatty and crispy and delicious when cooked up right.  So, no shame here.

This brings me to today’s recipe.  A few weeks back, I was making a recipe (which wasn’t good enough to make the cut for the blog) that called for skinless, bone-in chicken thighs.  And the only way to do that is to buy a pack of chicken thighs and skin them yourself.

So I’m skinning the thighs, and there is just a huge pile of skin when I’m done with it – almost a half-pound! (That picture would look disgusting, just plow through it)

I can’t throw all of that away.  What would the starving children think of me throwing that all away?  Would the pioneers approve of me wasting part of the animal?  Would the Pioneer Woman approve of me wasting part of the animal?  Hell no!!

(For those of you that think this sounds disgusting, ask yourself what pork rinds are?  Yep, pork skin.  And if that disgusts you, I don’t know why you’re still reading this blog.)

It took me no more than a minute to find an excellent recipe from Bon Appetit, which is incredibly simple – so simple that I can’t even justify using the HTML code to write it up.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Then grab a couple baking sheets, and line one of them with parchment paper.

Now, your pile of gross looking skin that will turn into fatty crispy goodness.  Separate them and cut them into about 3 inch squares, or something close.  This isn’t a French Laundry dish, no one is going to look down on you if they end up looking like rectangles or trapezoids or Dom DeLuise.

Place the squartanglzoidLuises on the parchment paper, and flatten them out as best you can.  Then you shower them with salt and pepper.  A lot.  More than you think you need.  How you do it is up to you.  I prefer to throw it in the air like I just won the lottery and asked for the cash payout in quarters, so I can swim around in it and splash them around…or just sprinkle it on, whichever.

Once you’ve made it rain on the skin, cover it with another sheet of parchment paper, and put the other baking sheet on top of it so they don’t curl up into sad little balls.  Then put them in the oven for 1 hour.

SEMI-PRO-TIP: Open a window or two, or run the fan.  These get smoky and will leave a kind of unpleasant smell behind if you don’t.

Once you pull them out of the oven, they will look browned and smell like absolute heaven.  Your best move is to let them sit for a bit to come to room temperature, and then snack on them over a long football Saturday or Sunday.  You probably won’t be able to resist, and just start eating them right there, which will burn your tongue, but you were going to do that on a slice of pizza anyways, so go for it.

Alternatively, you could chop them up into strips and use them as a garnish on a delicate chicken dish, as a texture enhancement.

Nah, you’re going to just eat them whole.  And that’s ok too.  I give you permission.

Miso Chicken Ramen, because you deserve more than just the packet

ramen

Several years ago, I was talking with one of my friends (yes, I have more than one…usually) about food, and they were telling me about how ramen noodles had become a big thing.  Here’s a brief recollection of how that went:

 

THEM: You really need to try this new place, they do some amazing ramen noodle bowls.

ME: Wait, ramen noodles?  That’s like 20 cents a packet, why would I pay good money to get that?  I haven’t eaten that since high school, one time I cut up a hot dog and put it in the bowl, I thought I was some serious hot shit.

THEM: No, it’s nothing like tha…

ME: HOT DOG RAMEN IS THE BEST!!!

 

Fast forward about a year.  I was in Honolulu on the tail end of a long vacation.  I was exhausted from multiple days of hiking and sightseeing.  I was suffering from a mild staph infection, for which I had to convince the doctor to prescribe me anti-biotics for, and then had to wait in line at the pharmacy behind a woman that was reading the riot act to the pharmacist because they didn’t have her prescription ready and they made her late to work which seemed odd since she was wearing a bikini top and short shorts.

So I had very little energy to do much of anything, but I seriously needed some food.  And I’d heard a lot about this ramen place down the street, so I figured I should go see what they were doing that was so much better than my elegant hot dog ramen.

When I got to the restaurant, I saw this sign outside of it:

IMG_2014

I suppose some of those are hot dog ramen in some sense, but that is NOT what I bargained for.  But, I was tired and didn’t feel like finding a new restaurant, so I went forward to try the non-porn ramen.

I ordered whatever bowl of noodles and broth, and got some fried things along with it.

IMG_2015

Obviously they have different ramen packets over there.  But the noodles were thick and chewy, and the broth was super-meaty and perfectly seasoned.  Again, different packets.

Once I got home, I decided that I had to try and make it myself.  But, every recipe for the broth required you to boil bones for 12 hours or throw some crazy ingredients in like East Asian Yak Tail.  And I couldn’t find dry Asian noodles that were close to what I had in Hawaii, and there is no way I was going to make them from scratch (I will never understand home cooks that make their own pasta.  Yeah, it’s going to be better than the dry stuff, but the joy/pain ratio of making you own over the dry is extremely low.  It’s like building your own watch instead of buying one from a store…if anyone still wears watches…)

As I increased my ramen knowledge, I found that you can actually have thin noodle good ramen, which was helpful.  And, after seeing a recipe on Tasty, I found that you can use the instant ramen noodles in good recipes – you just have to throw away the packet.  Which, sometimes is very good to use, but it’s just a MSG bomb, and we can do better than that.

I’m not going to lie, though.  This is not a quick and easy recipe.  It won’t take as long as making your own broth, but there are a lot of elements to it, and you’re going to have to use some good time managements skills.  But, you will be rewarded with a restaurant quality ramen bowl in a fraction of the time they take to cook theirs.

This is a basic template, you can add and subtract however you’d like.  Don’t like corn?  Throw some bamboo shoots in!  Have some extra mushrooms around?  Slice ’em up and toss them in at the end!  Want to go the extra mile and marinate your eggs?  Do it!

 

Miso Chicken Ramen

Makes 2 bowls

Ingredients

1 T butter

1 c corn kernels, fresh or frozen and thawed

2 eggs

2 c baby spinach

4 c chicken stock

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 3 inch piece of ginger, sliced into small coins

3 scallions, chopped

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 T miso paste

2 blocks of instant ramen noodles, packets discarded

Additional scallions for garnish

Directions

 

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.

In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, add the chicken broth, garlic, ginger, and scallions.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  Add the chicken breasts, return the broth to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken and set aside.

While the broth is coming to a simmer and cooking, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add corn and saute until warmed through and just starting to brown.  Move to a bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring just enough water to cover two eggs to a boil.  Heat to high.  Once boiling, add eggs to the pot.  Boil for six minutes, then remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and carefully place in the ice bath.

Add spinach to boiling water and blanch until the spinach is just wilted.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.

Strain the broth of all solids, and return to the stockpot.  Stir in the miso paste, and simmer for a few minutes.

Shred the reserved chicken with two forks.

In a medium saucepan, cook the noodles according to the packet directions.  Drain the noodles and set aside.

Once the eggs are cool to the touch, remove the shells from the eggs.

To serve, add half the noodles to each bowl.  Ladle the broth over the noodles, and garnish with the spinach, corn, reserved scallions, and chicken.  Cut the eggs in half, and place on top of soup.