Anger Burger

Japanese Doria – I Don’t Know Why it’s Called That, Either

Posted by on Sep 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

The short version of the story is: you know that flu I had last week?  Well, it slyly worked its way into a full Crohn’s flare-up, which means I am on steroids right now.  In a way, I want to be all, “Dudes, its fine,” and in another way there’s always this skin-crawling sense of proximity that happens each time I have one of these attacks; this could be the hospital time.  This could be the one that the steroids don’t fix.  The last time I was this sick was the time I was at the top of Mauna Kea, as is mentioned in my “About” page at the top of the site up there.  Except, this time I didn’t have to shit outside and then ride with a van full of journalists 1.5 hours back down a winding mountain road, stopping twice to shit again in the red glow of the van’s brake lights.  But once again, that’s a story for another time.

So: steroids.  They’re insidious.  On one hand, they’re a miracle – the night I started taking them the pain stopped and I actually slept a full 8 hours without having to jump up and race to the toilet.  On the other hand, they’re like smoking weed and doing a little coke at the same time, but subtract any good qualities of either drug.  All the nervous energy you could ever want, minus the ability to focus it.  Except for food – particularly greasy, sugary food – you can focus on food.  Food that will never make you full, because the part of your brain that is tripped when your stomach is too full is totally incapacitated by the steroids.   And when you start to taper back off the steroids?  Oh boy, then the fun starts.  Ever been around a very, very sleepy 4 year-old that refuses to nap?  Magnify that.  A lot.

So the first day of my recovery phase, Mike the Viking suggested that I make doria for dinner, and I blew him off.  Because I don’t like doria, see.

Oh wait, what’s doria?  Let’s back up.

Japanese comfort food.  You’re not surprised that I love Japanese interpretations of foreign comfort foods, I know, so let’s move past that idiosyncrasy and cut to the chase:  doria might be Italian, but is sort of French at the same time.  Who knows.  But here’s what it is: a rice dish covered in cream sauce and cheese.

The most popular doria in Japanese restaurants (at least here in America) seems to be of the seafood variety – lots of shrimp and squid and scallops, it appears – but I can’t abide by creamy seafood.  The Viking’s favorite doria came from a restaurant in Seattle called Fort St. George, and is of the bacon and egg variety, of which I never could choke down more than a few mouthfuls.  And I love Japanese comfort food!  Fort St. George serves “butter squid with mayonnaise” for christ’s sake.  Oh, my heart.  Anyway, doria: white rice smothered in heavy, thick, gluey cream sauce and big pieces of soft bacon?  Nope.

Still, there was an air of challenge to his suggestion, and the steroids had me jogging in place while eating two cookies at the same time, so I jogged my crazy ass over to the computer and started looking into doria.  Turns out that Fort St. George’s version is pretty whack – most Japanese versions seem to be more of a European or Western-flavored fried rice topped with sauce, and this began to grow on me a little.  In fact, I decided that I could make something worthwhile, and more importantly, something within my strict carb-only recovery diet¹.

The result?  Much tastier version that Fort St. George’s, though not a wise main dish.  But as a side dish?  Divine.  Silky, creamy, mushroomy, comforting.  After I was done running laps around my kitchen and making motor-boat noises, it went down real nice.

Doria
there’s a lot of ways to make doria since its more a branch of food (like risotto) than a particular meal, but this recipes operates as a base anyway.  if making a seafood version (shrimp, squid, crab, halibut, salmon, scallops – you know what seafood is, right?), add it late in the cooking process just to barely cook through – it’ll finish cooking in the oven.  if making vegetarian, focus on the mushroom flavors and for odin’s sake, invest in some porcini mushroom powder.  it makes everything taste better.  provided that thing is supposed to taste rich and meaty.  otherwise maybe not.

2 C cooked and cold white rice
4 oz. pork belly or very, very mild bacon, diced small
4 oz. mushrooms, diced small
1/2 medium onion, diced small
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. porcini mushroom powder (optional, but highly recommended)

for the cheese sauce:
1 1/2 C milk
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp granulated onion or 1/4 fresh onion, finely grated, juice and all
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 C grated fontina cheese, or any very mild, very soft white cheese

  • To prepare ahead of time, cook the rice and the cheese sauce to assemble later.  At least do the rice early, because it’s better if it’s cold and dry.
  • To make the cheese sauce, I have to say one thing that’s going to sound maybe bossy or judgmental, but I say it because I care about you and I want you to be happy: you should learn how to make cheese sauce anyway.  And I don’t really want to clutter up this particular post with instructions because I’m lazy, but without the cheese this is just bechamel, which is important.  Want to know why fancy restaurant lasagna tastes better than yours?  They use bechamel sauce in it, just a little.  True.  But in short: melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the flour and stir until foamy, stirring steadily for about 3 minutes.  Off heat, whisk in 1 C of the milk with a fleet hand – if you snooze, you lump.  Return to medium-low heat, whisking regularly while adding the onion, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  When the mixture thickens and begins to simmer, whisk in 1/4 C of the remaining milk.  When the mixture again thickens and simmers, add the last 1/4 C milk.  When the mixture again thickens and simmers, stir in the cheese and remove the sauce from the heat.  It is done.   You may now put it in the fridge by pouring into a container and placing plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce, otherwise a gruesome skin will form.
  • Prep all your meat and vegetables.  If using pork: saute this in a large saute pan over medium-high heat first, adding the onion, mushroom and salt when it melts off some fat but hasn’t started browning yet.  Keep stirring this mixture (turning down to medium if it seems to be browning faster than actually cooking down, if that makes sense) until reduced in volume by about 1/3 and showing lots of lovely caramelized brown pieces, about 10 minutes.  Stir regularly!
  • Add to the pan the rice, quickly stirring to thoroughly combine.  Add the soy sauce, ketchup, porcini powder and pepper, and then remove from heat.  This isn’t fried rice, this is just mixed rice.
  • Portion the rice either between 3 or 4 serving bowls, or one 9×9 inch casserole pan.  Immediately top with the cheese sauce, adding some extra shredded cheese to the top if you want, but the cheese sauce itself will actually brown without it.  Still, don’t make it a habit of turning down cheese.
  • Bake in 350° oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and starting to brown.  If bubbling but not browning, broil UNDER EAGLE EYE WATCH until aesthetically pleasing, probably 2 -3 minutes.
  • Eat and burn the shit out of the roof of your mouth.

¹ This part sounds like a joke and is not – no fiber, low protein. That’s what I can eat when I’m recovering. So it’s basically just me, a sack of rice and some cheese. Or potatoes, if I’m feeling risky. Sounds rad, except when you’ve finally gotten around to training yourself to eat better after almost a year of effort. Once again: fuck you, Crohn’s.

I Got a Fan Mail!

Posted by on Sep 27, 2010 at 7:20 pm

This is pretty exciting for me.  A button from the wrapper of my favorite painfully caffeinated non-beverage!  Man, I love the internets.  It’s handmade!

Thank you so much, Talia, I really do love it.  Though the dog may wear it sometimes.  I say this with the highest reverence – the dog is the best dressed person in the family.

4 Posted in Drama!

Confessions of a Snickerdoodle Addict Groupie

Posted by on Sep 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I have a hilariously terrible memory.  It has its upsides.  I can say with confidence that Hollywood loves me; I rewatch movies with fresh eyes on a nearly daily basis.  VADER IS LUKE’S FATHER?! The downside is that my mother never seems to believe me when I tell her I forgot to mail her Nintendo DS game back to her for two straight months¹.

So things sneak up on me sometimes.  Today it was snickerdoodles.  Last night my sister made some and commented on them, after which I desperately wanted one but could not have one (they were 1,200 miles away).  This morning I thought, hmm, I want some cookies.  My body seems to be taking its goddamn time recovering from my recent flu, which manifested yesterday as a seriously pissed off digestive system.  Of course I also have Crohn’s, but I can tell this isn’t just some typical Crohn’s bullshit.  This is Crohn’s bullshit + 1.

Anyway, cookies.  I’m feeling sorry for myself.  Think of it as classic 1980′s PMS if that helps – I am laying in my canopy bed, holding a hot water bottle over my abdomen, painting my fingernails neon colors and chatting on my princess phone with my quirky and stylish male best friend who secretly loves me and whom I’ll never love back.  And I’m thinking, fuck, I need some cookies.

Oh yeah, snickerdoodles!

Double oh yeah!  I totally just remember that weeks and weeks ago Anne at Friday Gourmet made them and made me want some then, too!

Anne nails it, as I might expect of an analytical cookie eater.  And my heart swoons when she says: “But understand that this is only my favorite recipe SO FAR.”  Ah, cooking obsessive-compulsives.  My people.  I think what made her recipe work for me was the high quantity of quality vanilla (if you’ve never heard of Nielsen-Massey’s vanilla bean paste before, boy are you in for a treat) and the inclusion of some nutmeg in the dough – both work to bring the humble snickerdoodle up just a single point of interest.  Of course, I can’t let anything be, so I used all-butter (instead of half butter, half vegetable shortening) and upped the salt level to a slightly heaping teaspoon.

And they were perfect.  Just what I wanted.  I’m still licking cinnamon sugar from underneath my we’re-not-technically-married-ring-but-we-might-kill-each-other-for-the-insurance-money-anyway ring.

¹100% true story!

0 Posted in Food Rant, Make It So

Fried Rice, as Told to You by a Whitey

Posted by on Sep 24, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Upfront: I’m of Scottish-Melungeon stock, my people don’t know rice from a flaming unicorn shooting through the sky screaming “HIGH COCKALORUM!“  That being said, Mike the Viking once had a half-Chinese slave, so we’ve learned some things.  This is all true.

Mostly, there are a few tricks.  Two, really.  The first is: your rice should be cold and old.  Easy.  Make the rice the day before you want it, or even better, freeze it.

The second and trickier one is: you need a big-ass pan.  Making fried rice of any quantity in a small pan is a near impossibility.  It steams instead of fries, just like with meat, and the result will reliably be mushy, broken, sad fried rice.  In fact, we hardly ever made fried rice until recently when we invested in a big huge electric skillet, and now it’s a weekly occurrence.  Score another point for the e-skillet.

The lesser tricks consist primarily of using Chinese sausages, a trick my vegetarian readers will probably not break all of their principals for just because I swear by it.  So, at your own discretion.  But for the rest of you: Chinese sausages, or lap cheong, are shockingly bad for you and last a suspicious eternity in the fridge (seriously: months), but you’re using them as a seasoning agent rather than a protein source, so try and relax.  They’re salty-sweet and juicy-fatty, so your complaints will end the second you eat a piece.  Trust.  Also: easy to find at any even slightly Asian market.

They come mummified and withered in a vacuum sealed plastic bag, and while they can just be chopped and fried from that state, the preferred method is to throw them in the rice cookpot.  There they perfume the whole batch of rice with their porky majesty and absorb some water to plump and get juicy.  After that I dump the whole thing, sausages and all, onto a plate (don’t “fluff” the rice, as American rice-makers are hysterical to insist you do) and stick in the the fridge for at least 3 hours or until I want to use it.

Fried rice is a mise en place dish if there ever was one.  Everything should be ready ahead of time.

As a side note: I like to marinade my shrimp in a glug of that red, thick Thai sweet chili sauce that comes in big bottles.  It’s far from Chinese, but please refer to the first sentence of this post.  Also: I like to cut the shrimp in half long ways, makes more pieces and feels less lumpy than cutting the shrimp into little logs.  It’s an eccentricity.

From there the trick is to cook over as high a heat as you dare without making things too thrilling.  You want the rice to achieve crispy bits here and there, but you don’t want to carbonize anything.  I set my electric skillet thing to 325°, if that helps.

There’s a lot more soy sauce in there than seems possible, as well.  But really, all we’re making here is soy-sauce flavored rice, so it’s kind of what you’re signing up for.  I use whatever frozen vegetables are at the ready, which is about as white as I can advise anyone to be.

Egg gets scrambled right in the pan, in a well you’ve made.  There’s no finesse to this, other than to get the egg to cook.

In the end, reliably perfect.  It wasn’t always this way.  I screwed up fried rice for years and years, mostly by not using a large enough pan, but in a multitude of other ways as well.  It’s not a monumental achievement or anything — I don’t want my tombstone to read:

here lies
SUNDAY WILLIAMS
she made some seriously caucasian fried rice

But it tastes better than the whitey fried rice my local Chinese restaurant makes, so there’s that.

Whitey Fried Rice
it always seems like too much, and then somehow we only have one person’s small serving of leftovers afterward.  what can I say, we’re pigs.  if by chance you want fresh vegetables in your recipe, it doesn’t change anything.  just keep the pieces chopped small, add everything in the order given, it’ll work.  unless its snow peas, in which case add them with the green onion just at the very end.

1 1/2 C uncooked long-grain rice (to make approx. 3 cups cooked)
2 Chinese sausages (lap cheong)
1/2 lb. meat, seafood or tofu
1 C frozen peas/corn/vegetables
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 C + 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp + tsp. sesame oil
2 eggs
fresh ground pepper

  • Cook rice according to directions on package or for ricemaker or whatever, adding two sausages directly to the cold water before cooking.  When done, dump everything onto a plate and stick in the the fridge and forget about it for a while.
  • Prep the rest of your ingredients before you start, including chopping the now-cold Chinese sausage into small pieces, as well as cutting any raw meat you might use into bite size pieces.
  • Heat a very large, high sided skillet or electric griddle to medium-high heat.  Drizzle over 1 Tbsp. sesame oil and immediately dump on the cold rice, hacking it into large pieces with a spatula.
  • Pour 1/4 C + 2 Tbsp of soy sauce over the rice, flipping and chopping with spatula to combine.  Don’t worry about lumps of unincorporated rice – these will break down over the cooking process, and you want to retain some intact lumps.  They’re good.
  • Allow rice to sit and fry for 2-3 minutes, unmolested, then flip sections with spatula.  Dump vegetables and Chinese sausage into the rice and roughly flip to combine.  At this point, make a well in the center of the rice and, if you’re using meat (NOT seafood yet) dump it into the center of the well and let it everything sit for another 2-3 minutes while it cooks.  Again, roughly flip everything to combine.
  • After another 2-3 minute cook-and-flip time (if the rice is cooking too much during this time – like, really really browning instead of just browning a little — reduce the heat a little), make another well in the center and add 1 tsp sesame oil to the empty spot.  Crack the two eggs into the spot and lightly rough them up with the edge of the spatula.  Let it sit for 2-3 minutes, after which you should be able to sloppily flip over the whole egg section.  While the other side is cooking a little, use your spatula to hack the cooked egg up into quarter-sized pieces, then once again, combine everything on the griddle by flipping it all around with the spatula.  At this point you should be getting some nicely cooked sections of rice that sort of disappear into the great rice conglomerate when you mix it.
  • If you’re adding seafood, do it now during this last cooking period.  Once again, make a well, add the seafood, let it cook a little, then combine everything by flipping it all.
  • Give it a flip again, mostly to see if it is all the right texture.  Nice combination of dry/sticky?  Everything seemed cooked and combined?  Great!  Not sure?  Easy: repeat the cook for 2-3 minutes and flip thing until the rice seems right.  I like mine pretty well cooked, but if for some strange reason it all seems to dry to you, you can always add a few spoonfulls of water at any time.  Turn off the heat, add pepper to taste, and last of all, stir in the chopped green onion.

I like mine drizzled with some hot chili oil, which can even be found in whitey supermarkets in the Asian foods section, often a brand that calls it “Mongolian Fire Oil” or some crap.  But hell, it tastes good.  Also good: some hot chili flakes, or some Sriracha.  Or none of the above. But be advised: the leftovers are excellent. Try to save some for later.

7 Posted in Make It So

Cupcakes of Ultimate Neutrality

Posted by on Sep 23, 2010 at 9:27 am

I sense a seething jealously from ya’lls when I mention the food truck blessing that has rained down upon Los Angeles over the last year, and for good reason.  It’s incredible.  I rarely have emotions that vary from WORRY (of which there are 17 complicated stages, I’ll tell you about it sometime), but I have some pretty strong ones for the food trucks.

There’s some semi-minor drama going down about the trucks, too.  Some Los Angeles council members are being leaned on heavily by brick and mortar restaurants that don’t understand we’d rather eat from roach coaches than their overpriced, underwhelming mega-plates of slop.  Tom LaBonge is the worst of these council members, vocally encouraging absurd limitations on the trucks whenever he’s given the platform to do so.  My favorite was to limit the number of trucks that can operate in Los Angeles at any given time.  I’m not sure how this guy figures out how to put his pants on in the morning.  In fact, I wrote him this letter, and I’ll accept your praise for not using a single swear word:

Dear Mr. LaBonge

I love Los Angeles.  I do!  My father moved to Los Angeles as a young teen and made the city his own — his stories are the stories of most Angelenos, filled with craziness, fame, adventure, and hardship.  Years after he’d left and raised a family, I’d also move to Los Angeles and make the city my own.  One of the things I list when describing the wonderful and bizarre L.A.  are the food trucks.

I would be spending at least $100 less a month on food if I weren’t eating at lunch trucks a few times a week.  I work from home and the trucks are my splurge.  Shaved ice, Brazilian hamburgers, hum bao, banh mi, Philly cheesesteaks, crepes, hot dogs and dosa — I love them all!  These foods are Los Angeles to me, and while I eat at brick-and-mortar restaurants with regularity as well, I am not exaggerating when I say that much of my motivation behind living in the La Brea area is walking distance to food trucks.  While there are a long list of cons to living where I live (expensive! no parking!) the list of pros is short, but contains one notable point: FOOD TRUCKS.  I’m not kidding.  Food trucks!

You see, when I call home, I tell my mom and dad what I ate that day.  It sounds bizarre, but it’s true: my parents are lovers of food strange and delightful, and a large part of my life here in California are the gastronomical delights. For better or for worse, my entire feeling for the soul of my adopted city includes – among many other things – the ability to walk to a busy street and see a vista of possible edible treats spread before me like a feast table in some Medieval movie.  It fills my heart with hope and my tummy with a rumbly.

Please do not limit the ability of these trucks to make people like me happy.  There should be no villains here — what a wonderful time to be a lover of food in our city!

Sincerely,

Sunday Williams

Some brick-and-mortar shops like Sprinkles – arguably the most famous cupcakery in Los Angeles – wasted no time recognizing the power of the truck and launched one tout de suite.  They aren’t shedding a single drip of sweat over lost business – they’re pulling up at street corners and selling out dozens of $4 cupcakes in the time it takes to drive from one end of town to the other.  Bitches is smart, yo.

This is all a very long introduction to say: I walked by the Sprinkles cupcakemobile entirely on accident – THOUGH ONE MIGHT ARGUE THERE ARE NO CUPCAKE ACCIDENTS – and had my first taste.   First: $4?  Too much for a cupcake.  Sorry, charlies.  Still: what beautiful packaging, yes?  Makes a nice little gift.  To your own face.

Unless you walk like the hunchback of Notre Dame with a sprained ankle, in which case this happens:

Whoops.  Oh well.  That’s what the frosting is for.  Slap that thing back into shape.

This is an orange cupcake.  And how’d it taste?   Well… boring.  I know!  But so entirely one-note.  Just: orange.  I couldn’t even detect any salt in either the cake or the frosting, and if there was vanilla in there I missed it too.  Admittedly I just got over the flu, but I kept taking bites expecting to be wooed and getting just somewhat buttery orange instead.  Even that sounds too interesting.  The frosting was a more straightforward disappointment: gritty.  It takes several minutes of whipping butter and confectioners sugar together before they become smooth and creamy – it takes a while, but the sugar will eventually break down.  But it takes patience.

Lets try this beauty: the marshmallow chocolate cupcake.

Very attractive, first of all.  Though, I admit a childish and petty irritation that the gumpaste dot on top was inedible.  It was technically edible, but in the same way that Hot Pockets are technically edible.

Here the chocolate flavor was very good, rich and fudgy, but would it fucking kill someone to use some salt at Sprinkles?  I thought America had unanimously agreed that salt was great all the time.

Sprinkles has a pretty solid cupcake, at least of the two I tried, but no way I’ll ever pay $4 for them again.  Until someone smuggles some sodium chloride into their kitchen, I’m out.

10 Posted in Eatin' Fancy

The Great Hand Pie Formula

Posted by on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Every once and a while I actually impress myself.

It started with the guava pies.  You remember them – I actually anger burgered myself, which I don’t think has ever happened before.

And then a kernel of an idea started forming.  Maybe not so much an idea, even, as an understanding.  I had dismissed the hand pie thing in the past, thinking that the filling was too complicated – my fruit pies tend to be overflowing and gloopy, thickened with lots of tapioca (unbeatable, in my opinion, for gelling quality and reliability).  But I knew right away it wouldn’t work for hand pies – they don’t cook long enough to cook the tapioca, for starters.  And much as I knew the obvious solution was to cook the filling first, I have to admit that my work-detector is triggered.  Dirty a sauce pan on top of everything else?  Nah.

But the guava paste, it was my spirit guide.

What if I used something else very sweet and thick with just some unmolested fruit on top?

This round was almond filling (you can make your own, of course, or you can just buy a can) and fresh pears.  Each hand pie got a heaping spoon full and about a quarter of a pear.

One of the most crucial aspects of the hand pies is blow-out prevention.  Egg washing around the edges goes a long way toward preventing this heartbreaking and family-destroying tragedy.

I wouldn’t recommend making these without plastic wrap, either.  I roll the dough thinner than I’d roll a normal pie dough, and the plastic wrap provides not only something to hold onto, but keeps you from directly handling it too much, which makes the fats melt too fast.  For the record, I still swear by the vodka pie dough method, though I reduce the butter to 8 Tbsp (1 stick) for easier handling.  One batch of the vodka dough is perfect for making one dozen hand pies.

How you seal the edges it totally up to you.  You can go for a simple empanada-style and just fork the edges closed, or do what I do:

Which is to first sloppily roll and smash the edges to further seal them and then fork them as well.

It’s triple-overkill, but then again, none of my 12 pies leaked.  So, bite me.  Or a pie!  Pie tastes better.

And again, because they spend less time in the oven, they need a full-on egg wash.  I also like sugaring because it makes them crispy, particularly the edges.

And once again, dudes: fuck yeah.  Though!  These were pretty sweet.  And by sweet I mean literally sweet — the pears were much more sugary than expected, and should have either been tossed with lemon juice before placement in the pies or replaced entirely by a nice sour green apple.    I should amend that with: the Viking loved them.  He didn’t mind how sweet they were since he always has a cup of coffee with them, but I found one of them to be plenty.  Whereas I could have eaten six of the guava-peach pies.

But this isn’t the point: the point is, the formula will work with ONE MILLION COMBINATIONS.

lemon curd + fresh berries
peanut butter + raspberries   <— Viking’s idea!
apple butter + apples
apple butter + bananas
fruit jam + any fruit
cranberry sauce + mandarin orange slices

And that’s just fruit stuff!  What about:

hot fudge sauce + marshmallow creme + peanuts + bananas = SUNDAE, BITCHES!
pumpkin pie filling + nuts + caramel
caramel sauce + apples
marshmallow creme + sweet potatoes

Hmm, it appears my math skills still haven’t improved.  Anyway, you can maybe understand how my brain started to push against the tightness of my skull.  You see – with something like lemon curd or jam or hot fudge sauce, you’ve already got your thickener.  The fruit will exude some juice, but it won’t be enough to spill over the hand pie.  And then the other obvious bonus: you can make each pie a different flavor, for all it matters.  If you have different jams in the fridge, experiment.  I’m relying on all you smarties to point the many obvious combinations I’ve failed to mention and in the mean time I’m going to stay awake nights knowing I’ve missed something.

I’m kind of hung up on the sundae pie idea.  Stand by.

12 Posted in Make It So

Banana Intermission

Posted by on Sep 21, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Have you ever seen such fuckery?

I can’t believe this.    My bananas self-destructed.  I only noticed because a swarm of fruit flies blew out of the splits, so now we can’t eat them because they’re undoubtedly full of mini maggots.  They weren’t like this when I bought them, obviously.  Maybe not so obviously.  But still.

7 Posted in Drama!

Apple Bread That Makes You Go ‘Meh’

Posted by on Sep 20, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Like most problems, this one begins with my mother.   She makes the perfect apple bread.  It’s almost more apple than bread, and the apples themselves are cut into pretty large chunks, making for this final product that is cotton-candy soft, so moist it’ll drip if you squeeze it and smells like I wish a cider mill did¹.  Years ago when I went to make it myself, I wasn’t entirely surprised when it came out all wrong.  Mine was leaden, greasy and attracting fruit flies almost before it cooled off.  I told my mom, we trouble-shot it a little, and the next time I made it the same thing: nearly inedible.

We did what we always do in times of baking need: we made two together, side by side.  I mimicked her perfectly.  Our breads were identical.  Until we baked them, and mine came out of the oven looking like an oily paper weight and hers was its usual angelic self.

“Wow.”  She said.  “You’re right.  Only I can make it.”

And that was that.  Suffice to say, about once a year I try a new apple bread recipe and each time they’re just not right.  They’ll never be right.  I’ll still be on the lookout for that eye of newt I know she slips into hers.

I’m not going to give you the recipe, but I got it from Kita at Pass the Sushi if you’re interested.  There’s nothing wrong with the bread — it merely tasted like bread.  It was not especially apple-y, or anything else really.  The four eggs made the texture a little too rubbery for my taste, too.

This recipe-neutrality has been happening a lot with me lately, and it’s taken the wind out of my sails.  Also: being so sick I hallucinated my aunt speaking to me on the phone.  Boy was that solicitor confused!  I think my somewhat insane cackle toward the end of the conversation helped clear things up.

¹I suspect an actual cider mill smells like gasoline, dirt, rotten fruit and sweaty immigrants.

1 Posted in Eatin' Fancy

So Hey, What’s Up

Posted by on Sep 19, 2010 at 10:13 pm

A lot of stuff has happened!  And nearly none of it is interesting.  In no particular order:

  • Why is the Where the Wild Things Are movie so profoundly bad?  I was overwhelmed literally within seconds of this film, nearly obliterated by feelings of displacement and unhappiness.  In fact, it’s still playing – I couldn’t even wait until it was over to register my discontent.   All I could think was: what if  Spielberg c. 1983 had made this film?  I can tell you one thing for sure: the entire 15 minute introduction would have happened in under five minutes.  You’d be introduced to the neighborhood, the harried and likable single mom, the older sibling who loves the younger sibling but has his/her own things going on, and then we’d get into the action.  Secondarily – isn’t the kid playing Max just a little too old?  Everything about book Max that was cheery and joyous (despite his anger) was in the film grating and uncomfortable.  Instead of: this kid needs a time out, you have this kid needs his Ritalin.  And we haven’t even gotten to the Wild Things yet!  It all goes downhill from there.  With lines like “Are you here to take the loneliness away?” Mike in I actually looked at each other in horror.  I have a stomach ache now.  I mean fuck, I watched Scanners yesterday and had a more lighthearted time.
  • I got really sick!  And not from the sushi.  It was definitely the flu.  The day that I thought I was really going to have to go to the urgent care clinic and maybe even get some IV fluids I suddenly and magically got better.   Still, all I ate for three straight days was udon soup and some tater tots.  She’s healed!  It’s a miracle.
  • It took one day of being shaky and light sensitive and happy to be alive before I could do anything else.
  • Then I did laundry and bought groceries for what felt like all day long.
  • Then I got some work!  When work comes, you do it.  For two days I did work.  It was boring.  I lost a bunch of data on an Excel sheet and threw a tantrum and it ended up taking me only 10 minutes to redo it.
  • I had to run some errands at the mall and stopped into Crate and Barrel for no reason and bought this and this dishtowel.  They are so amazing in person!  I don’t know about the longevity, but the colors are great and lord knows I normally hate color.  You think I’m kidding and you’re wrong.
  • Previously, I read Packing for Mars, which I really, really loved.  And it solved a should-have-been-readily-solvable mystery for me: why I get Crohn’s attacks while flying in planes.  Turns out!  And this is so stupidly obvious, I really don’t like admitting how amazed I was at the answer, but gas expands at high altitudes.  WHICH I KNEW.  And like, I don’t know if you’ve read my “about” page up there, but on it there’s a photo I took of myself at the top of Mauna Kea (which is like 13,000-something feet), where I also had the worst Crohn’s attack of my life.  Everyone including myself thought I had a perforated bowel.  And of all the fucking doctors I told “Yeah, I was at 13,000-something feet and BAM!  All of a sudden it was the worst attack ever,” each and every doctor just got a puzzled look and went “Huh!  And were you eating lots of fruit up there?”  And now, years later, I am shouting NO I WASN’T EATING FRUIT, BUT ALL THE GAS IN MY BOWEL EXPANDED AND CAUSED ENOUGH PRESSURE TO CREATE A SPASTIC CASCADE THAT ALMOST KILLED ME.  So.  Note to self:  no high-altitude living.  Roger that.
  • I may have eaten a little too much fruit earlier that day, too.
  • I baked some apple bread and it made me sad.  I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.  But I didn’t scream about it.  See following note.
  • Some day I’ll tell you about my neighbor drama, but there was another incident where she screamed like she was being murdered, about 6 people called the police (true!) and then when the police (four squad cars!) arrived she acted like we were fucking assholes for calling them.  Not only is this not the first time this has happened, it is not the second or third time.  And why was she screaming?  She was sad.

And that’s it.  More tomorrow.

My Version of Skydiving, or, How an International Incident Was Narrowly Avoided

Posted by on Sep 15, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I just ate several-day old sushi that was hand-carried from Japan, and I’m feeling pretty good about it.

The long version of the story is as follows: our friends Yuko and Sol were visiting us from Seattle, yes, but also were just passing through while they picked up Yuko’s mom and dad from Japan on their way to a family vacation to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.  We figured out pretty quickly that the plan to get them from the airport in a taxi was going to cost as much as a rental car, so they sprang for the car and I became the de facto tour-guide/driver.  And thus, Anger Burger Tours was born.

I’m sure it was great for her elderly parents to disembark from a 14-hour flight to see this clumsy, tattooed American girl grinning at them, capable of speaking only food words¹ in Japanese so that I just repeated “hamachi kama!” and “okonomiyaki!” to them.  I’m sure that was respectful.  I then walked them over to our ridiculous giant rental Suburban (the only vehicle available that seated more than four adults) and drove them to our apartment.  Along the way we saw the Randy’s donut, a grisly car accident, and the Hollywood sign, and all that wasn’t even the deluxe Anger Burger Tours package.

In thanks, Yuko’s dad hands me this package and bows, to which I say “Don’t touch my mustache,” and Yuko explains, “This is very nice gift of sushi.”

I stared at the package in my hands, assuming I’d misunderstood her.  “Sushi?”

“Yes.”

“From Japan?”

“Yes, it’s wrapped in bamboo leaf, it looks like there’s mackerel and maybe snapper in here?”

“Right, but wait.  Sushi?  They were just on a 14-hour flight.”  I mean, really?  This is some Pearl Harbor level food poisoning we’re talking about right?  “And it’s… okay?”

“Yes, it’s vacuum sealed and keeps for a long time.”

I put the package in the fridge and forgot about it until today, when I assumed the sushi was really too deadly to eat any more.  On the other hand, I’ve contracted some form of Typhoid from Yuko and Sol’s beautiful children and my muscles ache, my throat hurts, orange fluid is leaking from my head and the skin around my eyes is ice cold.  If there was ever a time to eat four-day old sushi that was at room temperature for at least 24 hours, today is that day.

The smell coming from the package is very encouraging – fresh and clean, but like food.  Also, how pretty?

The packages are painfully cute.  I’d eat anything wrapped up like this.  I mean, I’m about to, aren’t I?

Wow!  I mean, wow.  My knee joints are in some kind of rigor-pre-mortis from whatever viral infection I have, but I don’t care.  I want to eat this whatever this is more than I’ve wanted to eat anything potentially deadly in my entire life.

And it’s delicious.  Definitely mackerel, with what tastes like a large, thin sliver of pickled daikon draped over the top.  The rice is incredible, too, firm and sticky without being dry or weird from the cold.  Or age.

The next one is unidentifiable to me; the Viking guessed salmon, but I don’t think so.  Either way, it’s pickled, so I can’t tell from the texture or taste if it is salmon.  Also delicious, though bitter, I’m guessing from the lemon.

The dog accurately senses that something delicious and by all rights fetid is going down.

Man, I can’t stop eating these things.  I am not hungry at all, but they taste amazing and the texture is fascinating.  I can’t believe how well they hold together but yet aren’t pasty or gummy.

I’m duly impressed, and if I am not bjorking my stomach contents out in the next 5 or 6 hours, I’m guessing these are what we’re having for dinner.  I’ll be sad when they’re gone, too.  My first sushi actually made in Japan!  I admit I thought I would also be in Japan when this happened, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Anyone else interested in the Anger Burger Tours, take note.  We don’t accept cash or credit payment, only experimental foods.

¹I recognized them telling me “arigato” frequently, so I asked Yuko how to say “you’re welcome” in Japanese.  Despite her telling me probably 20 times, I still would have to dredge up the memory by using her phonetic suggestion: don’t touch my mustache.   The actual words are do-itashi mashite.  But if you say “Don’t touch my mustache” fast enough and with a slur, it sounds pretty close.  That reminds me, though, that I already knew how to say “ita daki mas” which means “LET’S EAT!” and can be better remembered by the phrase “eat the documents.”

10 Posted in Food Rant