Anger Burger

Moules Marinières, or How I Was Nearly Outsmarted by Shellfish

Posted by on Jun 25, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I’m going to tell you that this story ends with me not being able to eat these beautiful mussels, and for no good reason.  It was the strangest thing.  I love mussels.  I love all seafood.  My mother ate buckets of oysters when she was pregnant with me and I am now part oyster.  Wait, that’s weird.  I’m a cannibal?  That doesn’t seem right.

Whatever the case, I love seafood, and I made a big ol’ pot of moules marinières (aka Fancy Frenchypants Mussels) as a sort of way of saying “Hay, summer, hope it’s a good one,” and then when I sat down to eat them, well, my stomach sort of flipped.  They smelled so good.  And they even tasted good, but my stomach basically told me it was leaving me unless I forgot about mussels.  I’m going to place the blame directly on the flu I had over a week ago, because what else could it be?

Have you ever seen a green-lipped mussel?  They’re outrageous!  They’re like the Cyndi Lauper of shellfish.

I don’t know what I mean by that either.  But moules marinières: white wine, tarragon, shallots, butter, some other garbage maybe, whatever the case, it’s fucking awesome and you end up with this pot of the most fragrant, rich broth which may or may be better than the mussels themselves.  Traditionally it’s served with french fries to soak up the broth, but I much prefer bread.  Oh, and a recipe?  As much as it shames me to say it, I use Emeril’s.  It’s pretty solid.

These particular mussels were real douchebags – so, you may or may not know that mussels tend to relax with their shells open.  So you can easily tell if they’re alive because you tap the shell, and they shut.  Well, no joke: I tapped each shell and of about 20 mussels, maybe only 5 closed.  I was livid.  I was fuming.  How dare my ghetto-ass Asian market mussels be dead! Of all the bullshit!  I stormed off to tell the Viking that he was driving me back to the Asian market so I could show them my bag of dead mussels, and when I pointed at the “dead” mussels in the sink one of them moved.  Indeed, over time, if I really, really snuck up on them, they’d close.  If I rapped them on the sink edge?  Nothing.  Oh don’t mind us, we’re just a bunch of dead shellfish.  Do us a favor and discard us in the closest convenient body of saltwater.  JOKE IS ON YOU, MUSSEL.  I murder you!

It really was the perfect summer meal, minus the part where each time I ate a mussel I wondered if I’d be able to swallow it.  I gave up after the third one.

Oh, uh.  Huh.

I can uh, see your… Uh.  You might wanna pull your shell down in the front there, ma’am.

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5 Posted in Make It So

I Mean it in the Best Way

Posted by on Jun 24, 2011 at 11:34 am

This cake was a pain in the ass to make, and I say that with great hesitation for two reasons, the first being that I know I just scared quite a few of you off even trying to make it, and secondly, I don’t entirely dislike that it was a pain in the ass.  Perhaps it’s just the riding crop and ball gag coming out to play, but there was something deeply rewarding about the process.  Oh, and the safe word is CAKE.

Problem 1: Pandan.  Pandan will also be problems 2 and 3, so I’ll stop with this writing format forthwith.  Pandan is a giant grass from Southeast Asia – mostly Thailand, as I understand it – with a strong fragrance used to flavor sweet foods.  Describing that flavor is the strange part.  I can best describe it as though you threw the following ingredients into a blender: puffed rice cereal, green tea, popped popcorn, fresh mown grass, vanilla custard, Wonder Bread and hazelnuts.

I love it.

It’s also called “screwpine” which makes me laugh.  What doesn’t make me laugh is that it’s a little difficult to find, though any Asian market that isn’t Japanese will probably have it.  That being said: my mom went to a primarily Vietnamese market in Olympia that answered her inquiries for pandan with the vaguely offended claim of “We’ve never carried that.”  I drove to a different market in Olympia that is owned by Vietnamese people but appears to carry a wider range of Southeast Asian products and immediately found a plastic bag with a giant wad of fresh pandan leaves inside.  This after my mom got lightly spooked due to her unfortunate sniff of a bottle of artificial pandan flavoring, which smells almost exactly like jet fuel.

Anyway, the giant wad of pandan smelled fresh and lovely and we regained excitement over the project: chiffon cake.  Pandan chiffon cake is very, very popular all over Asia, and for good reason.  It’s fucking rad.  You will love it.  What you may not love is that getting fresh pandan extract is not unlike doing yard work.

The leaves are very tough but need to be finely chopped with a small amount of water in order to extract the potent, bright green juice.  Recipes online always advise using a blender, but my mom doesn’t own one.  Our first attempt involved chopping the leaves with a knife and then hand-blendering it, which was a failure.

Second attempt was the food processor, which was a success.  Then the process of squeezing the juice out.

After my entire front side, the counter and some of her kitchen cabinetry were spattered with green juice and lawn clippings, I held forth my precious elixir with the glee of a Skeksis holding a vial of Podling lifeforce.

It doesn’t look like much, and it doesn’t really smell like much either – the toasted, creamy, yeastiness of the intact leaf is transmuted (temporarily, it turns out) into the smell of pretty much pure grass-clippings. We put the juice into the fridge and looked forward to making the cake the next day.

And!  Here is where I got the flu.

Two days later my mom agreed we needed to use the pandan juice before it spoiled, whether or not I was still hallucinating and suffering from short-term memory loss, which I was.  My mom was entirely in charge of making the final cake, and I barely even remember taking these photos.

I do remember being in charge of folding in the egg whites, which I prefer to do with a whisk.  I also remember arguing with my mom over how well to fold them in.

The final cake is a delight.  The recipe includes a tiny little 1/4 teaspoon of artificial pandan flavoring to boost the natural flavor, and my mom and I disagree on this final quantity – I think it needed more, and she thought it was plenty.  The cake is very, very mildly flavored, mind you, and this is how it should be.  The flavor is just so complimentary to baked goods, a sort of slight-of-hand MSG for cake that you don’t want to overdo it.  And chiffon cake, in all it’s fluffy, tender, face-cramming glory, should never be over-flavored anyway.

Pandan Coconut Chiffon Cake
recipe by Noelle Carter, via The Olympian
i truly wouldn’t bother making this without fresh pandan, but it’s worth the effort.  i’m already planning a trip to a market I know carries fresh pandan leaves so I can make this cake again.  i have a lot of questions about fresh pandan, too, that are as of yet unanswered: can you freeze the leaves for future use?  freeze the juice?  i suspect so, and will experiment at my earliest opportunity.

8 pandan leaves, chopped
1/2 cup water

2 cups cake flour
1  1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
7 eggs separated, plus 2 more egg whites (9 eggs total)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp. artificial pandan essence
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 cup of the extracted pandan juice from the above leaves and water

for the glaze:
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup toasted coconut, for garnish

  • Make the pandan juice: blend the chopped pandan leaves with the water in a food processor or blender until as finely ground as you can get it.  Press the pulp into a fine sieve or squeeze between several layers of cheesecloth to extract as much of the juice as possible.  Noelle Carter says you should get “almost 1/2 cup” (in other words, all the added water) but I couldn’t get more than exactly 1/4 cup.  Luckily, that’s all the recipe needs.
  • Heat oven to 325°.  Have a 10″ angel food cake pan with a removable bottom standing by.
  • In a large bowl sift together the flour, 1 1/4 cups of sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • Add the 7 egg yolks, vegetable oil, coconut milk, pandan juice and pandan essence and, using a whisk, mix together until well-blended and smooth.
  • In a bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, beat the 9 egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy – add the 1/4 cup sugar.   Continue beating until it reaches stiff peak stage.
  • Fold the whites into the batter by adding 1/3 of the whites at a time, and gently using a whisk to fold, fold, fold them together.  You can use a spatula to fold them in if you’re more familiar with that technique, but I think using a whisk to do it is easier and retains more of the air.  It’s your call.  When the whites are pretty much totally folded in, use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl down and fold three or four times more to make sure it’s all incorporated.
  • Gently pour into cake pan and bake until golden brown, about 60 or 70 minutes.  The cake will rise alarming big, but it will fall a little as it cools.  Remove from the oven when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  To cool it, turn the pan upside down and place it on a wine bottle (or similar bottle) by balancing it in the center tube.  Sometimes angel food pans have little feet on them that you’re supposed to rest the pan on when it is cooling, but don’t use these – they are too close to the countertop and will steam the top of the cake.  Let cool until completely cool, about 2 hours.
  • To make the glaze, mix together the coconut milk and powdered sugar until smooth and well-blended.  Adjust to your desired thickness by adding more sugar a few spoonfuls at a time.
  • Remove the cool cake from the pan, place on a plate, glaze and top with toasted coconut.  To cut chiffon cakes, never press straight down with a sharp knife, always use a bread knife if possible, and saw back and forth.  Not doing so will cause the cake  to tear as you cut it.
  • Cram it in your mouth.
4 Posted in Make It So

Up to Speed

Posted by on Jun 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm

The set-up is as follows: Mike the Viking sets a sack containing two loaves of my dad’s bread on the hall table at my mom’s house.  We’re going to take them to the Grandma River’s memorial.  That evening, my stepdad returns home from work and find a sack in the spot where he sets his cooler.  He moves the sack to the floor, puts his cooler in the usual spot and no one takes notice.  The next day, I leave the house for about 30 minutes to go to the grocery store, return home and discover that ThinkTank aka The Thing That Lurks has been biding her sweet little Boston Terror time and waiting for the moment I leave the house.  Because it hasn’t escaped her notice that there has been pumpkin and banana bread on the floor for 24 hours.

I can’t even get angry at her, honestly.  She waited until I was gone, politely ate her fill of pumpkin bread and plastic wrap, and then set about her business laying in sunbeams and farting mustard gas.

Unrelated, I don’t know if you’ve ever driven up the west coast of America, but there’s a point in northern California where you come over the mountains and suddenly Mt. Shasta is in front of you like this impossible monument, and though Mike and I were feeling a strong case of the sads¹, Shasta’s weird energy vortex never fails to cheer me.  Maybe in part because we talk about meeting there after the apocalypse since it’s almost exactly halfway to my hometown from L.A..

Speaking of weird energy vortexes, I know what you’re thinking: that crucifix isn’t big enough for a grown man.  Maybe it’s for children.

Once home, I was alarmed to discover that my garden has thrived in my absence.  The tomato plants I was 100% certain would be dead upon my return were instead in the same shape, but their fruits had actually progressed toward ripening.  Impossible!  And better yet, my passion flower vine had been busy:

Passion flowers only  bloom for one day and the quantity of dead blooms revealed the plant had probably started the day after I left for Washington, but that’s okay.  There are enough left for me to enjoy the frazzled wackadoodleness of them.

I was sort of looking around the vine wondering how many blooms were left when I saw this:

Motherfucking fruit!  Holy shit!  I had been told and had read all over that passion flowers do not fruit on the first year after planting, that many people wait three years to see fruit.  Well!  Further proof that my family is contrary just to be contrary.

Lastly, a gift from the Viking’s mom, Jane:

SHE MADE IT.  It’s so awesome!  She goes to thrift stores and buys old glass plates, bowls and votives, drills a hole in the middle, stacks them and then cranks it all together with silicone and a marine bolt and voilà!  Glass flower!  She had literally dozens of them, none of them even close to being the same shape or color, and I picked this one to bring back.  They were also all over the forest outside Grandma River’s house at the memorial, and Jane invited guests to “pluck” some glass flowers to take home, one of the coolest, sweetest gestures I’ve seen at a memorial.  It’s pretty much the Viking’s mom in a nutshell: clever, industrious and not afraid to drill through glass for the sake of beauty.  Meanwhile I’m hiding in an air-conditioned house and knitting.  Some of our gentle arts are more gentle than others.  By which of course I mean I am a wiener.

¹ There were a lot of things about our brief trip that were not fun, and combined with a large bowl of Home-Sickness Cereal for breakfast, we didn’t so much drive as mope our way back to California. Like I told Mike – it’s not that I want to move back to the NW, it’s that I’d like a magical doorway that goes back there.  Like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe wardrobe, but instead of Narnia I step out into my mom’s backyard.

7 Posted in Totally Unrelated

Chocolate Ambrosia You Cannot Have

Posted by on Jun 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm

You will never be sad if you make friends with foreigners¹, and here’s why:  they may bring you things.  Take our friends Sol and Yuko for example – they go to Japan about once or twice a year, to show off the babies they made to Japan in general.  And it is not uncommon for our favorite brand of tea² to make it back to us or some toe-socks or some other delight.  And this time while I was barfing my bone marrow out my nose, Mike the Viking went as envoy and returned with this:

I don’t know what I thought it was going to be, but I fell upon it like a caveman handed an iPhone.

What the hell is going on with it?!  It’s like they can’t even package a bar of chocolate right.  And there’s a stick with indeterminate function.  It wasn’t until I reached the protective plastic shell (!) that I started to suspect something magical was going to happen to my face.

Oh shit, yes.  This isn’t a bar of chocolate.  This is a goddamn orgy where everyone is beautiful and generous and you are their fetish.  The pieces are solid little blocks of ganache, or the interior of a particularly fine chocolate truffle.  They are impossibly smooth textured and even more unbelievably smooth in flavor – there is zero bitterness (despite this being “bitter” flavor), none of the sharp sour notes that put me off so many dark chocolates. As someone who enjoys only the pussy versions of dark chocolate (Lindt, I love you, but lets be serious here), this dark chocolate nugget made me swoon.  Full on Anger Burger mode, like, the most amazing thing ever instantly followed by a feeling of pure rage BECAUSE WHY IS THIS NOT AVAILABLE FOR MY MOUTH ALL OF THE TIME?

I frantically set to the internet to find more info on this stuff, and while there is plenty to read, it’s not what I wanted to hear.  There appears to be no way to get this stuff in the US, or at least reliably.  I mean, sure, Japan.  Singapore.  Hong Kong.  Those bastards get to eat it whenever they want.  The rest of us have to make jet-setting friends and making friends is hard.

In all honesty, if you know anyone going to the Asian Pacific Rim and you can put in a request, please, please ask for Royce Nama Chocolates.  They come in a variety of flavors and I’m certain they are all the most amazing thing ever.  And then, you know, send me the empty package afterward so I can sleep with it inside my pillow case and dream about a better life.

¹ Or people who travel a lot, but if we’re being honest I just don’t know anyone that rich.
² Though no longer! THANKS FOR NOTHING, RADIATION.  Stupidest.  Meltdown.  Ever.

12 Posted in Food Rant, Obsessed

TESTING

Posted by on Jun 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm

OKAY.  So.  That was a little hairy.

Certain programs are still missing from my computer, but I think I’ve gotten my Photoshop back under control.  Except!  I lost all my actions and forgot how to optimize color for the web, and if you don’t know what that means then you’ve probably got a life outside blogging.  Anyway, test image:

So!  I’m sitting on a heap of photos and at least one recipe to share with you guys, so thanks for your patience and stand by.

Technical Difficulties

Posted by on Jun 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Well!  That could have gone better.  I realize that radio silence on blogs is a death-knell, but I assure my readers that the exorcism is working, there’s just a lot more head-spinning and pea-soup vomit than expected.

Speaking of vomit, I got one of those hilarious little kid flus¹ where I basically woke up, jettisoned everything inside my body and then hallucinated for a two days while I nursed a jar of applesauce and seventeen bottles of Smartwater.

ALL WILL BE WELL SOON.

¹ Flus? Is that plural for flu?

Greatest Hits

Posted by on Jun 16, 2011 at 8:31 am

My computer is going into the shop for an exorcism¹, so to everyone who is holding your breath for the next Anger Burger delight: sign your will.  Everyone else: say a little prayer that my bootleg Photoshop makes it through.

Real quickly -

The Viking’s dad, Elder Viking, is an agricultural hobbyist, which I love about him.  Home brew cider?  Check.  Shiitake mushrooms?  Under the deck.  Fortified wine?  Ha-ha!  I realize two of those last three things weren’t agricultural, but whatever.  Anyway: the new thing is oysters.  They have waterfront property up the sound a ways, and he started buying seeds to keep a regular, rotating crop of 3 year-old oysters to harvest just a one-minute walk from his front door.

This is a Pacific Triploid, a crossbreed grown for hardiness and its resistance to getting “milky,” a naturally occurring, harmless but unpleasant change in the texture of the oysters that happens according to heat of the water, bacterial levels and the presence of witches in the area.

I wish I’d taken a photo to show the size of the oyster, but we semi-jokingly said they’d be graded as extra-extra-extra-extra smalls.  Still, perfect little bites of brine.

Because I basically forget that beef exist unless Mike the Viking suddenly starts losing consciousness, my mom obliged to cook him up some outrageous steaky monstrosity that kept him quiet for a good 10 minutes.

Another night, another giant baking pan full of sushi.

And the reason that most of my mom’s children come around:

Fresh local steamed mussels, fresh Nisqually Dungeness crab, some salad and garlic bread and then no one spoke for a solid half hour, and there was a fine spray of crab juice splattered all over the walls and ourselves.

¹ I’m the last Vista user in the world, and I’m not proud.

8 Posted in Food Rant

Nita’s of Shelton – By My Vote, the Queen of Burgers

Posted by on Jun 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm

This is going to be one of those times I ask naysayers to politely step off.  Not that we get naysayers much around here at Anger Burger – or rather, we’re all naysayers, so it doesn’t seem strange. I might ask yaysayers to step off.

I have an opinion about burgers.  And I have an opinion about the ambiance of where a person might procure a burger.  And these two points collide in a sleepy, desaturated Washington State logging town called Shelton.  Internet, I’m telling you about Nita’s.  It’s sort of a secret, but it’s alright if you know.  If Guy Fieri shows up someone is going to get a shiv in the kidney, and by someone I mean Guy.  And not that anyone at Nita’s would do that!  I mean that I’d fly all the way back from Los Angeles to take care of it.

First, you should know that my mom’s mom took her here as a child, and that Nita was cooking the burgers then.  And still is.  In other words, we were trying to politely guess Nita’s age and settled on “around her 70′s.”  From there, you should be able to guess the rest.

Mike the Viking ordered a Coke and was asked, “Small or large?” and he answered, “Small.”  I’m not sure if you can comprehend this, but:

That’s like 6oz of soda.  Which is AWESOME.  I’m totally serious here: do you know how often I want this much soda?  Often.  More than this?  Almost never.  I just can’t even express my joy that basically three big sips of Coca-Cola is an option.

And whenever I order, this is was I am distracted by as I sit at the bar:

Hot chocolate with ice cream?   I want it!  And it never seems like the right time to get it.  Next time for sure.

But we’re talking about burgers.  Mike ordered a Nita’s Special, which is a bacon cheeseburger served with fries – the hilarious thing is that I think this is the only burger that gets served with fries – all others get potato chips.  You can order a side of fries, but their presence next to a burger like this is an anomaly.

Here’s my cheeseburger:

First: Nita cut it in half for me.  Without my asking.  Secondly: slices of pickled beet and an olive as a garnish.  Third: this burger is perfection.  You can see a little better on Mike’s burger, but the patties are hand formed of fairly thinly-patted, but loosely packed ground beef.  The grind is pretty big, it tastes like 80/20 to me, and is seasoned with salt and pepper.  They’re cooked until just cooked through – no pink – but very juicy.  All burgers are served with mayonnaise and “relish” which is red and very finely chopped.  To me it tastes like a sweet relish with a little ketchup in it — I’ve never seen anything like it in a store, but I’m also not sure they make it themselves.

Viewed from afar and with a clinical eye, this burger should not be a contender for anything, in any way.  And yet, and Mike can now swear, there’s a heart-skipping level of magical happening on those old mismatched plates.  The buns are perfectly soft, the beef patties are cooked just so, the condiments are expertly proportioned, and every little old-fashioned courtesy  from the pickled beets to the halved burger is just perfect. Words cannot convey my love for this burger.  I JUST WANT TO GRAB SOMEONE BY THE COLLAR AND SHAKE THEM.

Nita also makes pies every day, and today was raspberry (which I often make at home) and peanut butter (which I have never made).  Peanut butter it is.

What the hey now?  I was expecting a fluffy peanut butter pie, but what was got was a peanut butter pudding pie, and I gotta tell you it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

I mean, it was just vanilla pudding with some peanut butter mixed in, dropped onto a baked pie crust and then topped with some Cool Whip.  Don’t overthink this.  The pie was sweet enough without being cloying, just a little salty, not at all too peanut-buttery (I’m sure that peanut butter monsters would find it insipid) and I can’t hate on whip topping presented in this manner.

If you miss your grandma’s cooking, or if you never knew your grandmother or she was an awful cook, don’t despair.  Nita is your grandma now, and she’s gonna blow you right outta the kitchen and onto the street, dazed, full of affection and joy and wondering where you lost $20.

12 Posted in Eatin' Fancy

Preparing for the Apocalypse Maybe Doesn’t Start Here

Posted by on Jun 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Guess what’s for dinner?

Beef (flavored) vegetarian meat substitute.  From a coffee can.  Pull up a chair and grab a fork!  Or possibly a straw! Later, when you’re stinking up the chemical toilet, light one of these candles:

8 Posted in Food Rant, True Story

How the Whole Family Became Bloated and Gassy

Posted by on Jun 11, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Road trip = dog torture.

Tummy torture.

Freshly expired, as they were meant to be eaten.

“Chocolate flavor.”  Now with less brown.

I used to have enough money once or twice a week to buy a Moon Pie on my way to high school in the mornings.  I remember them pretty much exactly like this: somehow not dry but totally crumbly.  I expected to abandon eating it halfway through but didn’t, it tasted better the further into it I got.  I can’t explain it.

The dog is allergic to potatoes.

So french fries are ideal tools of torture.

Sorry if Anger Burger is dog-heavy on the content lately, there’s only so many photos I can take of trail mix, Sausage McGriddles, filthy Motel 6s and I-5 before I’m legally forced to convert to a LiveJournal account.

4 Posted in Food Rant