Anger Burger

“Thai” Fried Rice (People of Thailand Forgive Me)

Posted by on Jul 30, 2011 at 11:43 am

About two weeks ago I blabbed poetic about my nascent love affair with nam prik pao, also called “Thai roasted chili paste” or “Thai chili jam”.  As I am not a learned eater of Thai foods, this revelation was intense.    The following day I ate a grilled cheese sandwich smeared with nam prik pao, and then a few days after that I made this fried rice.  Since then I’ve applied the chili jam to just about everything I can think of, including my sore wrist.  And guess what?  My wrist was delicious.

Since the fried rice was the more successful of the dishes, I will show it to you.

The jam is a little reluctant to incorporate into the rice, and in hindsight I wish I’d mixed it together with the fish sauce to encourage a more even application, but it didn’t really matter in the end.  Instead, I’d spooned big globs into an area on the griddle free of rice and let it warm through for a few seconds before mixing it into the rice, repeating the technique until there was enough flavor to melt my toenail polish off my toes.

It was magnificent.  It may be my new favorite fried rice, and I love me some fried rice I tell you what.  A little too late in the cooking process I thought of adding pineapple, and when I said so Mike the Viking frowned and shot me in the hip with a crossbow, which is how he says “No thank you.”  Odd, too, considering that he likes pineapple on pizza.  If it were just me, I would have added pineapple.

A fried egg on top and some terrible photography ends this lesson; when you’re starving and the food smells amazing, you may want to try and take a step back, reset your white balance and maybe break the egg open so that the golden, runny yolk dribbles alluringly into your rice, then take a photo.  Or!  Just eat your dinner and then tell everyone about how beautiful it was later.  THE END.

Chili Jam Fried Rice
if you don’t eat beef,  any other protein would be tasty, though I’d lean towards shrimp, personally.  if using shrimp, do not add them until near the end of the cooking time for the fried rice to avoid overcooking.  better yet, fry them first until just barely cooked through, set them aside to continue cooking rice as instructed, and then add the shrimp just when done to warm through again.  i’m a tremendous fan of using cooked and then cooled rice to make fried rice, though using warm rice is acceptable in a pinch – just be aware that it will be wetter and will break down a little more than usual during frying.  many stores now sell frozen, cooked rice that is perfect for last-minute fried rice cravings – don’t even thaw it, just dump the frozen rice into the pan and have at it.

1 cup jasmine rice, cooked and cooled (making approx. 3 cups cooked rice)
1 Tbsp. mild oil, such as peanut
8oz. thinly sliced beef
1/2 onion, sliced into narrow strips
3 Tbsp. nam prik pao
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup pineapple tidbits, drained (optional)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup chopped basil (Thai holy basil if you can get it)
1 – 2 green onions, sliced thin
fried eggs

  • Using a big electric skillet or a really big nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat, add the oil, let it warm through for 1 minute, and then add the beef and onions.  They should really pop and sizzle.  Let them cook for 1 -2 minutes, or until the onions just start to get transparent and/or get a tiny bit of color on them.  Add the rice and using a sturdy spatula, make chopping motions through the rice to break it up a little and stir the beef and onions through it.
  • While the rice, beef and onions are sizzling, in a small bowl mix together the nam prik pao, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Drizzle this mixture over the rice and again, use a chopping motion to incorporate the liquid throughout the rice.  Sprinkle the sugar over the rice and add the pineapple tidbits.  Stir again.
  • Allow the rice to sit undisturbed for about 30 seconds and then start using a flipping motion to stir the rice, like you’d flip hash browns.  The goal is to get lovely browned, caramelized bits of rice away from the heat while rotating unbrowned rice down to the pan surface.  If the rice isn’t browning, increase the wait time to 60 seconds.  If it is browning too quickly, lower the heat.
  • Take a moment to taste the rice for saltiness and sweetness.  If it is not salty enough, add a little more soy sauce or fish sauce.  If it has no detectable sweetness, add 1 more Tbsp. of sugar.  If it seems just entirely underseasoned to you, add 1 more Tbsp of nam prik pao.
  • Continue cooking the rice in this manner until the rice is no longer very wet and sticky, and until there are small patches of lovely browned rice visible when everything is stirred together.  In my experience, this takes about 5 minutes of cooking time, though it really does change depending on all kinds of factors – it’s taken me as long as 10 minutes to fry my rice properly.
  • When done, turn off the heat and add the lime juice, basil and green onions – stir through to distribute.
  • In a separate nonstick frying pan, quickly fry an egg over easy for each serving.  Take a poorly composed photo of your creation and then eat it.
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6 Posted in Make It So, Obsessed

Do Not Want

Posted by on Jul 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I decided to push my luck, see, because I’ve been feeling unusually healthy lately as far as my bowels not actively trying to kill me.  So I decided to go for broke: kale salad with brown rice and other gravel bits.

First, this brown rice blend from Trader Joe’s was languishing in my cupboard because it was essentially inedible.  Twice I’d tried to cook some up, each time finding myself the proud parent of a soup pot full of hard, damp rice and barley bits.  They had already cooked 10 minutes longer than advised, but still nothing.  It was like chewing rabbit feed.  And so then I thought: why not throw it into a salad?  The texture will be better appreciated, and hopefully I won’t be able to see what I’m eating.

The kale is beautiful right now, like I want to construct a car-sized pile of it and take a running leap into it.

After reading around on the internet a little,  I decided I wanted to make a dressing that was essentially hummus, but minus the garbanzo beans.  It tasted lovely and I was pleased with myself.

And how did it turn out?

Honestly?  Pretty tasty.  I liked everything about it, it was chewy and a little crunchy, rich and fresh-tasting at the same time.  And then I spent the next 24 hours sitting on the toilet playing my Nintendo DS.  So, sorry kale salad.  You go in the trash.

Kale Salad for the Stout of Bowel
i was very sad to throw this salad away, so please don’t let what happened to me because of my disease deter you from it – if you’re used to eating raw kale salads, you’ll be just fine pokies for free online.  also, don’t discard the lazy option of actually using hummus as the dressing – buy a tub of your favorite hummus, thin it with some olive oil and lemon juice and construct yourself this salad business.

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 large clove of garlic finely grated or chopped very, very fine
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt + more to taste

1 cup (before cooking) mixed grains, such as brown rice, pearled barley or farro
1 bunch Lacinato (also known as black or dinosaur) kale
1 large or 2 or 3 small Persian or English cucumbers
1 or 2 chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint

  • Set about cooking the grains – they take about an hour to cook, so they get started first.  Cook according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the salad dressing in a large bowl by whisking everything together and then tasting for seasoning.  Remember that the grains and kale can take a lot of flavor.
  • Prep the kale by washing it and then stripping the leaves from rigid center rib.  Finely chop the kale and rub the bits roughly between the palms of your hands.  This helps break down the kale a little before the salad is made.  It will begin to get very fragrant with an odor some people claim smells like bananas – I can only vaguely see this comparison, maybe if we’re talking about very green bananas.
  • Chop up the cucumber, tomatoes and mint and set aside.
  • Add the cooked grains to the bowl with the dressing and stir to coat, then add the kale, cucumber, tomato and mint.  Stir to coat and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

As Easy as Simulated Pie

Posted by on Jul 23, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Let us politely skirt around the subject of you being unable to make pie crust from scratch and instead focus on the positive: there are alternative methods to getting pie into your piehole.

Mike the Viking’s mom gave me a copy of a recipe from the April 2009 issue of Cuisine at Home magazine, a magazine I thought I’d really hate but I’ve snagged some surprisingly good ideas from.  It can be a little tiny bit Remedial Math at times, but it’s heart seems to be in the right place, and occasionally they bust out total show-stoppers like this one or the peanut butter bread.

Anyway: phyllo dough pie crust.  Oh man, this is a corker of an idea.  Astonishing!  It’s so ridiculously easy I’m ashamed of it and turned on by it all at the same time.  It was a slow burn, too.  At first I was all, meh, okay.  Sure.  And then the true gravity of the idea pressed down on me.

It really is nothing more than:

  • Don’t even bother with a bottom crust, just dump the filling into a pie pan.
  • For the crust, brush sheets of phyllo dough with butter, sprinkle them with sugar and then roll them into sloppy tubes.  Sprial these tubes around in circles to cover the top of the pie.
  • The circle part isn’t important, you can do whatever structure you want — lattice maybe?!
  • Brush top with more butter and sugar, bake for an hour.
  • Revel at the madness of it all.

The result is everything you want in a pie, minus the part where you have to make pie crust.  It’s buttery, crispy and flaky and the worst part of the whole process is having to wash butter out of your pastry brush afterward.  A box of phyllo should never run more than $5 and makes four pies.  The total fat content is 1/4 of a normal pie crust.  The phyllo cannot be ruined by heat or humidity.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  I’m not saying it’s better than traditional pie, but fucking hell, you guys.  I mean, honestly the single downside is that the phyllo gets soft by the next day.  I mean, I guess it’s a downside; I just told you you’d have to eat the whole thing in one day.

Phyllo-Crust Pie
any fruit filling will work for this pie, though the recipe from the magazine is for a rhubarb-apple pie.  i’ve listed my version of that recipe below, but really: replace it with any fruit pie recipe of your choice.  a note about phyllo: if you’ve never worked with it, be prepared to be amazed and horrified.  it is thinner than tissue paper and somewhat of a bitch to work with, but as long as you keep a sheet of plastic wrap securely over your working pile (they suggest a damp towel, but in my experience unless the towel is BARELY DAMP AT ALL you’ll end up with the top sheet of phyllo dough ruined and stuck to the towel) and remember that it doesn’t really matter what it looks like, then you’ll do fine.  oh!  and phyllo is found in the freezer section of your grocery store, next to the frozen pie crusts.

for the filling:
6 cups (about 1 3/4 lb.) chopped rhubarb
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. instant tapioca pearls
2 Tbsp orange juice (or any fruit juice you have in the fridge)

for the phyllo:
10 sheets phyllo
6 Tbsp butter, melted
granulated sugar

  • About an hour or so before you begin, remove one sleeve of phyllo dough from the freezer and set it on the counter to thaw.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the rhubarb, apples, brown sugar and tapioca.  Let it sit for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to redistribute the sugar and juices.  When the 15 minutes are up, dump the fruit into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan.
  • Heat oven to 325°.
  • Unroll the phyllo on it’s sheet of plastic, but don’t remove it from it.  Have a sheet of plastic wrap standing by to drape over the top of the phyllo when you’re not directly pulling a sheet off.  Don’t let the stack be exposed to air any longer than necessary – it will suddenly and irreversibly dry out if you do.  Brush the sheets of phyllo, one at a time, with a little butter.  Not a lot, just enough to more-or-less get it all over.  It’s better to have too little than too much butter on it.  Sprinkle each sheet with sugar (about a spoonful, no more) and then roll the phyllo up into a fairly loose tube.  Do not worry about appearances, it really doesn’t matter.
  • Place these tubes as you make them onto the pie filling, in whatever pattern you’d like.  Spiraling them around seems easiest.  When done, brush the top of the phyllo business with any remaining butter and then sprinkle with another few spoonfuls of sugar.
  • Bake pie until bubbling around the edges and when the phyllo has turned a deep, lovely golden brown, about 1 hour.
  • Eat all of it within 24 hours or you’ll turn into a Gremlin.
13 Posted in Make It So

A Friendly Reminder About BLTs

Posted by on Jul 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm

They are delicious.

That is all.

15 Posted in Food Rant

Comfort Where You Can Find It

Posted by on Jul 18, 2011 at 8:22 am

Because I’ve spent the last week eating nothing but frozen grapes and sparkling red wine, and also because I’ve blown all my body’s sodium out my eye-holes, it was time to eat something salty and full of coconut milk.

One of my favorite things ever is the Thai dish tom kha gai, or a chicken and coconut-broth soup heavily scented with the root herb galangal.  The soup simply cannot be made without galangal, so this is yet another of my food rants that will torture everyone not within a reasonable distance of a well-stocked Asian market.

Galangal looks almost exactly like ginger root, but tastes nothing like it.  Where ginger is sharp and spicy, galangal is floral, resinous and arcane.  There’s nothing like it in the world.  The good news is that like ginger, galangal freezes well — just slice it up first for easy use later — so if you find it, stock up.

But I’m not in the mood to draft an exegesis on tom kha gai for you.  If you’re really curious, Leela at She Simmers can tell you all about it.  My recipe is based heavily on hers, though I’m not sure she’d want my screwed up Caucasian-American version associated with hers.  What I’ll tell you is that my favorite version of tom kha gai was from a Thai restaurant in Olympia that they themselves no longer even make as good since they changed ownership in 2010.  It was so deeply layered, so complex and impossibly exotic, but it also had something that no other tom kha gai had: an orange oil floating on top.  Not a lot, just little orange spots where the oil floated.  I asked the restaurant and they said “spices.”  No further help.  And I gave up trying to recreate it.  Until I read She Simmers.

There on her post about tom kha gai was a photo – and not even the first photo, but halfway down the page – of the soup.  Orange-colored oil!  And offhandedly she mentions that adding nam prik pao, or Thai roasted chili paste, is the orange oil culprit.  She advises that it isn’t traditional, but I didn’t even shut my computer down or close the door behind me as I ran to the subway to ride down to Los Angeles’ Thai Town.

NAM PRIK PAO!  It helps if you yell it.

This stuff is a fucking miracle.  This is the condiment I’ve been missing all my life: unctuous, burny, sweet, salty, fishy, oniony, everything that is good about the world.  That’s it, that’s what it is.  Nam prik pao is an affirmation of life.  And don’t get scared off it if you’re not crazy about fishy and/or oniony things – the product transcends the sum of the parts.  It’s basically a jar full of FLAVOR.  In fact, I’d say the first thing you’d taste is salty-sweet.  This particular brand isn’t very spicy by my tastes, but the chili, anchovy, shrimp and shallot makes for this well-balanced and sort of unidentifiable savory foundation.

Added to my tom kha gai, it was the single secret ingredient that for years I had feared unfindable.

At She Simmers’ suggestion, the next day I had it spread on a grilled cheese sandwich (consumed with the leftover tom kha gai) and it was another epiphany.  I hadn’t realized that grilled cheese was missing something.  But it is.

Bear with me while I spend the next Cialis week Googling what else nam prik pao is used in.

Whitey Tom Kha Gai
there are no substitutions in this recipe.  lemon juice cannot be subbed for lime.  ginger cannot be subbed for galangal.  i’d maybe allow for white meat chicken instead of dark, but just don’t tell me about it.  anyway, though the ingredients may be elusive, the recipe itself is dead simple.

2 14oz. cans sodium-free chicken broth
1 knob of fresh galangal (about the size of a large lime) sliced thin
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, chopped into 1/4 inch slices
6 keffir lime leaves, each torn in half
handful of fresh mushrooms, preferably oyster or chanterelle, sliced
2 carrots, sliced thin
1/2lb. (about 3 or 4) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. nam prik pao
1 14oz can high-quality coconut milk (“Chaokoh” brand is best in my experience)

fresh hot chilis (Thai bird’s eye or whatever, who cares) (optional)
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
cooked rice to serve with

  • In a medium saucepan, reduce the chicken stock by almost half.  Do this by brining it to a simmer and then allowing it to evaporate down for about 10 – 20 minutes (how long it takes depends on the shape of your saucepan).  While this is reducing, add the galangal and lemongrass, both sliced thin (they won’t be eaten, so ignore how they look), and the lime leaves.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the mushroom, carrot and chicken.  Slice them however you’d like.  You can use any mushroom you like, and while it’s traditional to use straw mushrooms, they’re only available canned in the U.S. and I find the texture and flavor to be appalling.  I found fresh mushrooms at my local Thai market called “King Oyster” and they were great, really meaty.
  • When the chicken broth has visibly reduced in volume (don’t stress about it being exactly half), turn the heat down to medium-low and using a slotted spoon or small sieve, remove the galangal, lemongrass and lime leaves.  Discard them.  To the broth add the can of coconut milk – take care to get all the good thick stuff out of the can and into your soup! – and the carrot, mushroom, chicken, sugar, lime juice, nam prik pao and fish sauce.  Keep the temperature of the soup just barely and not quite at a simmer.  We’re basically poaching the chicken at a low temperature.  If it begins to bubble, nudge the heat down a little.  Depending on how large your pieces are, it could take anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes for the chicken, mushrooms and carrots to cook.  Just keep the heat at barely a simmer and check pieces regularly for doneness.  Because of the low heat, it’s pretty forgiving if they cook a few minutes too long.
  • When everything is cooked, taste one last time for seasoning.  It should be a perfect balance of salty and sour with an ever-so-faint whisper of sweet.  If it seems maybe too rich, add more lime juice.  The level of spiciness is up to you: if you like it very spicy, add the optional fresh hot chilis at this stage.
  • Serve with a garnish of fresh cilantro.  I really, really like to plop a big scoop of fresh hot rice into my bowl of tom kha gai just before eating, but you (like the Viking) may not like soggy rice.  You’re on your own.
17 Posted in Food Rant, Make It So

Posted by on Jul 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written.

Atmo the Amazing Suborbital Dog, Planet Eater, Prince of ‘Mos, beloved furbaby of my dad’s, has passed on.

he once watched a cooking show on PBS for 20 minutes

This dog was loved in a way that I cannot articulate right now, and perhaps not ever.  I don’t talk about him much here at Anger Burger, but  Atmo and my dad were each other’s bestest friend ever; weird, bickering, idiosyncratic and deeply loving friends.   I’m blasted dumb with shock that I’ll never see him again.

We love you, buddy Momo, for ever and ever.

13 Posted in Totally Unrelated

My Definition of Restraint is Eating Only Three Muffins for Breakfast

Posted by on Jul 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm

From my standpoint, the only problem with baking is that it lacks austerity.  The desire for “a chocolate chip cookie” will land you with two dozen chocolate chip cookies, all demanding to be eaten while still warm from the oven.  These are of course not the problems of large families, but for a lonely slave girl and her Viking captor, there’s little room for entire frosted cakes or vats of banana pudding.  I actually save recipes for the hope that someday there will be enough people to warrant cooking them.  If that doesn’t deseve a sad trombone, I don’t know what does.

I’ve been using a lot of this “white whole wheat” flour business lately, and with mixed results.  I think the flour I got from Trader Joe’s is not finely milled enough and the results sometimes suffer from the same ponderous dryness that standard whole wheat flour produces.  Still, I like the flavor of the white whole wheat a lot, and it helps make these feel like muffins and not cupcakes.

Though I mean, you know, let’s not fool ourselves here.  It’s a big, soft chocolate chip cookie.  Luckily I am a giant woman-baby, and if I want to feed myself dessert for breakfast, fuck it.  My only responsibility is to document it so I can take you down with me.

Six Lonesome Chocolate Chip Muffins
the original recipe is from King Arthur Flour – normally i don’t reprint a recipe jacked so verbatim, but i figured you might be sleepy like me and not want to do the math for this easily halved recipe.  i also add 1/8th teaspoon each of cardamom and cinnamon, which is not enough spice to make them “spice muffins” but instead adds a pleasant commercial-bakery-scent flavor to them.  for an even more delightfully fake-ass commercial bakery flavor, find “vanilla butternut” artificial flavoring at your local grocery store.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 2 oz) softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 heaping tsp. salt
1/8 tsp each cinnamon and ground cardamom (optional)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (or “vanilla butternut”)
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 heaping cup chocolate chips

  • Heat oven to 350°.
  • In a mixing bowl and using a hand-held whisk, beat the shit out of the butter and sugar together until they turn pale and almost white and start looking vaguely fluffy.  Add the baking powder, salt, spices if you’re using them and vanilla extract.  Add the egg and beat until smooth.  Add the milk and again beat to combine (mixture may look slightly curdled – ignore it).
  • Add the flour and stir with a spatula just to combine, then add the chocolate chips and again stir just to combine.
  • Spoon the batter into six paper-lined muffin tin hole things.  The batter will come to the tops of the paper but don’e be alarmed, they won’t overflow.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or just until lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out without any damp crumbs attached.
5 Posted in Make It So

Banh Mi Burgers

Posted by on Jul 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I encourage you to Google recipes for banh mi burgers because they are many and varied, but this one is mine.  It’s also probably going to err on the side of frustrating, because that’s where I live.  Err side, Frustration Street, America.  But this reason is: there aren’t many ingredients in this burger that a normal person has sitting around in their fridge.  The upside is: but you can soon, and for cheap.

Much about my burgers are a preference thing, as you might imagine.  For example, I used all beef, but mostly because the stupid asshat grocery store near my house was sold out of ground pork (this isn’t surprising, as they are regularly out of at least 25% of whatever I go there to purchase – the checkers have stopped asking me “Did you find everything you were looking for today?” because I started furnishing them with actual lists).

The toppings have a fairly inarguable list of traditional banh mi ingredients: cucumber, cilantro, sliced jalapeno, mayonnaise and some pickled carrot and radish (I like the recipe from The Ravenous Couple the best, but if there is a Vietnamese market nearby they almost always sell prepared tubs of this stuff in the refrigerated section).  The jalapeno I bought for our burgers had actually ZERO heat – it tasted like a particularly bland, weird green bell pepper – so I jettisoned it in favor of a fairly thick glob of Sriracha sauce.

In fact, I’m not even sure you have to season the burger patty at all, the toppings are really where the action is.  I ate my burger in about 45 seconds flat, so I guess it was pretty scrumptious.  In all honesty, this is one of my favorite flavor combinations in all the world, either as a real straight-up banh mi, or like this as a burger — I’m certain I could eat a patty of horse manure if it were done up so.

Banh Mi Burgers
the inclusion of Vietnamese fish sauce-sauce (nuoc cham) in the burgers is delicious and advised, but then again I keep a big mason jar of the sauce in my fridge because I really like it spooned over cooked rice.  if you don’t have it it’s okay – but consider it.

burger patties:
1 lb ground beef OR 1/2 lb each beef and pork
2 Tbsp nuoc cham (again, The Ravenous Couple’s version is my go-to)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

if not using nuoc cham, also add:
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. lime juice (about 1 small lime)
1 finely grated or chopped clove of garlic
1 tsp. sugar

do nothing but salt and pepper and it will still be awesome

cucumber, preferably Persian or English since they are firmer
fresh cilantro
pickled daikon and carrot
finely sliced jalapeno

Sriracha hot sauce
more nuoc cham
sweet Thai chili sauce

  • Prepare all the toppings before you prepare the meat or begin to cook.  Slice the cucumbers and jalepenos thin, wash and dry the cilantro, have the pickled veg ready, and so on and so forth.
  • Just before ready to cook, in a bowl and using your hands, very quickly mix together the ingredients for the burgers.  Just barely mix them – if meat gets overworked the texture will be unpleasant.  Form them into patties the size and shape of your preference.  Remember that ground meat will shrink by one-third when cooking.  I prefer thin patties and like to pat them out on squares of wax paper, flipping them straight onto the hot pan or grill and then lifting the paper off the top.  If you prefer fat patties, they probably don’t require this technique.  Cook the burgers to your desired doneness.
  • Assemble the burgers by giving the buns a liberal coating of mayo and/or whatever other sauce you like – I actually spoon an extra dose of nuoc cham on my bun before applying mayonnaise, allowing the sauce to soak into the bread.  Top with the jalapeno, cucumber, cilantro and pickled vegetables.
  • Consume immediately before someone else does.
5 Posted in Make It So

Somebody’s Grumpy!

Posted by on Jul 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I watch a lot of daytime Food Network, so let’s get that little admission out of the way before I progress.  There are shows that I simply, absolutely cannot watch at all, the primary example of these being Down Home with the Neelys. Watching Gina Neely try to pick food up without letting it touch her manicure makes my scalp bleed, and this is before Pat and Gina start their profoundly awkward and honestly kind of inappropriate-for-food PDA routine.

Most other shows I watch with a combination of terror and delight.

You might think I hate Rachel Ray the same way some people hate root canals, but I just don’t.  I don’t feel much of anything about her, to be honest – I find her mannerisms and speech to be occasionally abrasive, but her food seems pretty normal to me.  Er, I guess with the caveat of: of the two recipes of hers that I’ve tried, neither were anything I’d care to repeat.  One was an apple cider beef stew that was almost inedibly sweet, and the other was some kind of potato dish that I only recall as being unnecessarily greasy.

Recently, I became madly infuriated with Giada De Laurentiis.

I started out sort of liking her – all I knew was that she was a professionally trained chef, her crazy bobble-head made me laugh, and she seemed to really eat on TV (unlike Ina Garten – more on that later).  And then all those things turned bad.  Her bobble-head still makes me laugh, but is it just me or does her giant head amplify sound?  Because each time she takes a bite of something and frantically chews it, all I can notice is the damp, loud SMACKSMACKSMACK of her eating.  Then everything went downhill.

The first problem was an episode called “California Sushi” wherein she declares that she’s inviting her girlfriends over for a sushi-making party.  Step 1?  Stopping off at Hamasaku (where sushi rolls cost about $20 each) to buy the pre-made sushi rice.  PRE MADE.  There are so many things about this that are weird, not the least of which is that sushi rice is easy to make.

I can’t find anything to back this up, but there was an episode where she made buttercream frosting and thinned it with water.  WATER.  Oh my god water.

And then, the Le Cordon Bleu episode.  In an episode titled “Cooking School Made Easy”, Giada sets out to make her three favorite things learned from her time at school.  The first, pavlovas, are constructed without drama.  The second I sort of cringed at: a chocolate and cheese danish, made from frozen puff pastry and mini chocolate chips.  I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and while I agree that making puff pastry from scratch is a foolish endeavor for a home cook when frozen is so high quality and readily available, something about the mini chip filling rubbed me the wrong way.  Perhaps because if reminiscing about Paris, shouldn’t we be using  Pierre Hermé or Valrhona?

And then she made madelines from cake mix.  Oh haayl no.  Here’s hoping that Le Cordon Bleu Paris just deleted her graduation record from the computers, because bitch, you did not just make a classic French cookie from motherfucking Betty Crocker.

I’m going to calm down a little bit and talk about Ina Garten.  Garten was under fire recently for refusing – twice! – a Make-a-Wish child’s request to cook lunch with her.  As hilariously Cruella de Vil¹ as it is, it’s not what bothers me about her.

The first is a purely cook thing – she cuts her food into pieces far, far too large.  For example, she makes a watermelon and feta salad, and advises cutting both the melon and the cheese into 1-inch cubes; the recipe online instructs to cut the feta to 1/2-inch, but I assure you that on the program she says to cut them both to 1-inch and reinforces it by saying that she loves how the big pieces look.  I can assure you that this is an essentially inedible salad.  Even if you could get a bite each of feta and watermelon into your mouth, the ratio is still insane.  Feta is a strong cheese!  This sort of madness is repeated recipe after recipe – broccoli florets left whole for an Asian salad, the pieces so large they wouldn’t even fit in your mouth – her famous chicken curry salad she cuts into massive cubes, easily larger than 1-inch square, and brags at the luxuriousness of it.

This brings me to the part where she appears to loathe tasting food on television.  It’s such a snarling, swearing pet peeve of mine that I admit to enjoying it.  She barely takes a bite of food, literally as little as she can get away with, and she absolutely will not chew it.  She does this strange sort of lipping to get it into her mouth – she will not open her mouth very wide (oh, hello Giada) and appears to be keeping her lips pulled taught in an effort to keep her teeth from showing.  Through this prissy slit-mouth she’ll take a microbite and then tell you it is delicious.  I’m pretty sure I ate just like this when I had my wisdom teeth removed and my jaw muscles were swollen nearly shut.

Phew. And I didn’t even get to Paula Deen or Sandra Lee.

¹ I think she’s a real iron cunt at her core (I can just tell by the way she pops her shirt collars) but if it makes you feel better she’s famously pro-gay marriage, and has steadfastly always refused to do fundraising in conjunction with the Food Network. I think that if someone doesn’t want to do a Make-a-Wish, they shouldn’t have to and shouldn’t be hunted by the media as a result – there is quite possibly an understandable reason for her not wanting to participate. She claims she didn’t even know about the request. Or she may just hate children. Either way.

30 Posted in Drama!, Pet Peeves

Cartoon Wine

Posted by on Jul 3, 2011 at 7:46 am

When I was younger and saw people drinking wine in TV I thought it would taste like, well, grape juice.  But like a lot of kids, I have a distinct memory of my first drink of wine and the immediate feeling of hurt — why would someone have given this to me?  What did I do to deserve this awful crap?  Why does it burn?  Who actually likes this?  Can I have a rootbeer now?

I grabbed this bottle at total random the other day, mostly just because I’d been wanting to try a sparkling red wine for years.  And this bottle was $5 at Trader Joe’s, which doesn’t hurt.  Five dollars!  Some Google-fu suggests it might be at World Market as well, for those of you without a Trader Joe’s nearby.

So: La Grotte Reggiano Lambrusco?  Tastes like I imagined wine would taste.  And it’s fizzy!  Michael Jackson would have been pleased to serve this to his underage friends.  It’s refreshing and light, it’s very fruity and just a little floral (violets?), and borderline dangerous.  It’s chuggable.  It is a delightful summertime tipple for the unadventurous and lazy.  The bottle even recommends it paired with pizza – pizza – and they are absolutely right to do so.  We ate it with pasta salad, s’mores and True Blood, and it was perfection.  I’m going back to buy a half dozen bottles just as soon as possible, for I intend to be a wino this summer.

16 Posted in Food Rant, Obsessed