Hi! Anger Burger got an STD and now there are Viagra-type links in every single post back until the beginning of time. At this time we are not sure if there is an easy fix or if we have to manually remove the link from every post, but while we figure it out: don’t click the link if it seems suspicious. We are sorry. I am sure god is punishing us for abandoning you these last 18 months.
Some weeks ago Kristen contacted me and asked if I’d like to try some Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies and then remarked that it was perfect for someone with Crohn’s disease like myself.
And I couldn’t help it. I had to point out that Crohn’s people can actually eat gluten, or at least as much gluten as everyone else can (and this is
without me even starting on after deleting a rant about the ridiculous quantity of people claiming gluten allergy or intolerance, when what they mean is that they often feel terrible after eating too much at a sitting). It’s a common mistake to run Crohn’s together with Celiac, and those together with IBD and IBS, and maybe a little hypochondria just for seasoning. And as arrogantly superior as I am, it brought cookies to me, so I am not going to complain. Kristen is a professional and skipped over my being a butt about gluten and this package arrived in the mail.
If I am reading this right, the name of the actual brand product is THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES IN THE WORLD. Which you know, is like the kiss of death. Immediately my brain says that they can’t be the best, and only a fool would claim that a dry, manufactured chocolate chip cookie can be any better than a homemade cookie fresh from the oven, or even a few days later, softened by a relaxing stint in a ziplock bag.
Immediately I take pause. I go to the website. Aaah, I think. So this is what cookies would be like if they were made by Dr. Bronner. The packaging is covered in a curious mix of uplifting glurge and vaguely threatening patriotism (please take note of the bad registration on the blue print over the red flag stripes — THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD UNLESS YOU NEED BOXES PRINTED!).
And yet, I am charmed. Despite all the red flags and inexplicable engrish, it’s a kind of crazy that reminds me of living in Los Angeles. There’s an earnest quality that is not quite as honest as say, a Bay Area hippie, but a nevertheless frantic desire that you believe what they are trying to sell you. I miss it.
Every time I think it is over, it continues. The boxes themselves are stuffed with leaflets containing urgent messages about the state of our nation’s economy and the corporatization of other snack brands.
But I want to eat cookies, so let’s get to it. Kristen sent EXTREME CHOCOLATE and original cookies. I am now actively trying to avoid reading the packaging because it is distracting.
Holy shit! Not only is every single exterior surface of the package used as a soapbox, but the interior is covered in poems! I fucking love these guys.
EVEN THE COOKIE BAG ITSELF. I appreciate that they recommend a brief gassing off of the cookies before eating, and as a test I ate one straight from the bag and then again 10 minutes later. I couldn’t detect an increased complexity of flavor.
As I figured from the packaging claiming 45-50 cookies per box, these cookies are tiny! It’s everything I can do to not dump the bag into a bowl, pour milk over and eat with a spoon.
The double chocolate guys are also very misshapen, which of course I like.
I find it interesting that several times it is mentioned that the cookies contain less sugar than the consumer might be used to, because they do not taste particularly non-sugary to me. They seem to be just the right amount of sweet. But when was the last time I ate a Chips Ahoy? I can’t remember. Bart’s Bakery cookies are definitely rich in flavor, and in the original I can taste a forward hit of salty, almost cheesy butter that I find missing in almost every grocery store cookie ever made. The chocolate chips are excellent too, very melty and dark, so high in cocoa fat that they are nearly soft to the touch and instantly leave skin-warmed chocolate on your fingers. The double chocolate cookies are not quite the same, which is interesting – they are very cocoa-ey and despite appearing to be the exact same recipe as the original cookie (at least according to the ingredient list and nutritional breakdown), are lacking that pleasant shortbread burst of butter. It is likely the cocoa masking the flavor, and that is unfortunate but the nature of the beast when it comes to chocolate.
These are good. If I want to buy a box of tiny dry cookies, I can’t think of a better option. But are they better than homemade? Not for me. Is it fair to compare them? I am starting to think it isn’t. I don’t buy chocolate chip cookies ever, as a matter of fact, because it takes 20 minutes to make them. My ideal cookie has a soft, chewy center and lightly crispy edges, has a sprinkling of sea salt across the top and a little too much vanilla in it, and frankly, only I can make them. It is not fair to compare these to those. Bart’s Bakery has done a good thing here, and I’d buy them without hesitation in the event that I want the world’s most luxurious breakfast cereal.
I know nothing at all about Jamaican cuisine. I think they have some kind of meat pie. There is a dish of savory fruit that has a funny name. There was a Jamaican restaurant four blocks from my house in Los Angeles that was one of the shiftiest places I have seen in my life. In the year that we lived there, I think I saw it open maybe half a dozen times, and when it was open, the diners looked like food was the last thing on their minds.
When Nancy at Buncha Jerks asked if they could send me a sample of their seasoning, I wanted to tell her: look, I’ve eaten jerk once in my life. I really like Appleton Rum. That is what kind of culinary commitment you are getting from me. But my kind of moron is perhaps the best kind: I am willing to try things, and I don’t have anything else to compare it to.
Immediately I decided not to follow instructions. I had almost exactly a pound of chicken thighs, which at Buncha Jerks’ advice would require 1.5 teaspoons of their seasoning. Their sample packet had about 3 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon). I licked the end of my pinkie finger and dipped it into the spice; half of the dose just didn’t seem like enough. What I tasted was a little warm, but not spicy. I dumped the whole packet in and left it all for 24 hours to think about what it had done.
The next day I asked Mike the Viking what Jamaicans eat with jerk and he answered something about Vikings tasting only the blood of their enemies, so I made some kind of scallion and cilantro rice thing that I made up. There was also coconut milk involved. Do Jamaicans eat coconut? Who doesn’t?
I broiled the chicken in my oven because I don’t have a steel drum spit down by the beach.
Verdict? It is a very tasty seasoning blend. Is it authentic? I have no idea, and it sort of doesn’t matter to me. More on that in a moment. For me, the seasoning was very allspice and cinnamon-forward, mostly flavors I associate with pastry and sweets, but with a lightly savory and only very mildly warm finish from the thyme and Scotch Bonnet pepper. I detected no sugar or salt, but my tastebuds are the sugar and salt equivalent of someone who does like $500 of heroin a day. I need a lot to maintain.
What disappointed me was the heat level. The only other time I had jerk was many years ago, and it basically ripped my face off. I did not enjoy it. However, I have turned into a chili head in the last year or two, much to everyone’s¹ surprise. But the chicken I prepared was barely warmer than if we had used a lot of black pepper, and certainly many times more mild than any of the quotidian hot sauces we have in the house. So was this a normal amount of heat? I truly don’t think so, and at their website I notice there are three levels of heat. Perhaps they sent me the mild one? I’ll let Nancy get back to me on that one.
I appreciate what Eric and Nancy are doing with Buncha Jerks. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and personal risk to try and address faults in the culinary industry, and I applaud that. I can only tell them I am sorry I am such a tremendous jerk noob (a jerk jerk, if you will) (I know you won’t) and that when they initially contacted me a month ago, they were trying to raise money through Kickstarter to really get things going, but failed to meet their goal. This is really too bad. They seem like nice people with an earnest product. That I wish was spicier.
As far as authenticity goes, can I volunteer that I am sort of over it? I’ve been cooking a lot of Japanese food at home lately, and really embracing the concept of yōshoku. There are dishes widely acknowledged yōshoku, but I like the general philosophy of it more: Western foods viewed through Japanese eyes. I really, truly enjoyed Ochikeron’s “Chicken Tikka Masala” (made with thighs instead of breast meat, of course) and recently read about and made my first batch of Spaghetti Naporitan (uh, needs work). These foods are deeply, deeply far from authentic. But they are delicious and have value and merit. I feel the same about Buncha Jerks: I suspect that everything about how I made my jerk chicken was culturally as far from Jamaica as possible, but it was delicious, and I am not Jamaican. I think that valuing ingredient quality is the only true aspiration in cuisine, and even that is taken with a grain of salt. I mean, have you had Bugles lately?! My friend just brought some into work and holy shit! They are fried in coconut oil!
I guess what I am trying to say is that I love it when people try to fill a niche. Thanks, Buncha Jerks, both for your spices, and for having a name that makes me feel like I am speaking like a sarcastic asswipe.
¹ Especially my colon.
Last week I received an email from the publicist for 505 Southwestern apologizing for the hand incident, and a gentle encouragement to please, for all that is holy, at least taste the chipotle honey roasted green chile samples they sent me. And I feel no small obligation to do what they ask, mostly because, you know, they freighted me like $60 worth of their products.
Allow me to cut to the chase. This stuff is magical. I would happily buy jar after jar if I knew where to find it locally (I’m emailing the lady as you read this***). After all my eye-rolling and whinging and the waffling about how nice to be about being totally unimpressed by the salsa – these guys just poop out OH BY THE WAY HERE’S THE BEST CHILE PRODUCT EVER NO BIG DEAL.
Even the texture is gorgeous – rich and thick and syrupy, nothing at all like cans of limpid, pale green chiles floating in a sallow water. You can and I did eat a spoonful straight and found it to be up front both smoky and sweet, followed by the bright green of the chile and a slow, pleasant trail of heat. I jettisoned my plans to use it as an ingredient in a burrito (though that would be delicious) and instead concocted, on the spot, a delightfully bullshit recipe.
You see, I haven’t been feeling well lately. I feel best in the morning, and by mid-afternoon and evening my Crohn’s disease is acting up in a new and weird way (let’s try stabbing pains now rather than persistent cramping!) (also let’s bring rheumatoid garbage into play! why have just knee aches when we can have knuckle aches too!) and by the evening all I want are comfort foods. As a true story: I went to a low-income health clinic last week to explore my non-insured options for finding a GI doctor, and when I was telling the triage nurse that I had Crohn’s she looked me up and down and said “Oh! You seem so… robust.” In the spirit of being robust, I made mashed potatoes.
I made my usual mash and swirled in several large spoonfuls of chile. And topped with cheese of course because robust.
Here is a tremendous sigh. This was perfect. A little tiny bit sweet and spicy-hot, that distant whiff of chipotle, lots and lots of butter and cream and sharp cheddar cheese. You win, 505 Southwestern. Even cutting my hand open on one of your jars, you win.
Green Chile Mash
1 lb. yellow potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 stick/2oz butter
1/4 cup cream, half and half or whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup 505 Southwestern Chipotle Honey Roasted Green Chiles
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or more, probably more)
- Boil the potatoes in water until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Drain them and return them to the heat for just a minute to evaporate off any remaining water. Mash or rice or foodmill the potatoes until nearly smooth. Add the butter, cream and salt and pepper to taste. (Always make them just a tiniest bit saltier than you think is right, because potatoes absorb the salt and taste less salty in short while.) (That is not actual science, just let it go.)
- Stir in the green chile, then transfer to either one larger oven-safe dish, or several small oven-safe ramekins for individual serving. Top with cheese and place under the broiler for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and starts to brown in a few spots. As usual, when using a broiler NEVER WALK AWAY FROM IT. Watch it always.
***UPDATE: 505 Southwestern products are only available in the US southwest (derp), but the marketing director said they would hit nationally at Walmart this summer. The best part was her email that said “I know you probably won’t love this…” She is correct. I do not love having to shop at Walmart. But que sera sera.
A rare treat for you scoundrels! I asked my dad, Jay, to review some of the salsa sent to us by 505 Southwestern because to be totally honest, I just don’t like canned or jarred salsas. If I want to eat salsa, I typically make a pico de gallo or a very chunky, tomatoey guacamole. But my dad eats a lot of salsa, and has opinions about it. I mixed my sample jar with sour cream to make a “pink sauce” dressing for taco salad and found it to be tasty, but I am reasonably certain that any Mexicans I know¹ would cry tears of disappointment if they saw me do that. Also the words “taco salad.” In the next week I will review what 505 Southwestern really wanted me to try in the first place, their roasted green chiles. Anyway, without further adieu, here is Jay.
Having grown up in parts of South-Central and East Los Angeles, I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing some wonderful Mexican-American food. I’ve eaten from the home tables of dear Hispanic friends, where the humble tortilla and various salsas were mainstays with every meal, including breakfast. In thirty years I learned to love a good salsa. Red, green, mild or hot … they are the perfect spicy accompaniment for nearly every savory dish.
So there you have it, my ‘salsa credentials,’ as-it-were.
I was visiting the home of my multi-talented and irreverent daughter (she was raised that way by her incredible parents). As I was about to leave she handed me a large jar of commercially produced red salsa saying, ‘Here dad, eat this and give me your gringo Angeleno opinion.’ (She emphasized the ‘white boy from L.A.’ designation with a passing chola accent. Impressive.)
I have one immutable law for my salsas: if the ingredients do not include cilantro (aka coriander), then it’s not salsa. This one does not have cilantro.
I guess I could just leave it there, let that be my impression and review, but I realize many folks are not as discriminatory as this old gringo.
So, I’ll try a little harder.
This salsa, like most, is formulated with bastardized Norte Americano tastes in mind. It’s thin (read: watery), mostly tomato-y (the first ingredient listed) and consists of all the ‘safe’ ingredients for very broad, generalized taste acceptance. Surprisingly, they have included jalapeños, so I’m compelled to give them that point.
I would never have found anything remotely like this in the homes of my Hispanic friends, nor in any self-respecting Mexican restaurant/eatery.
I respect the fact that they are attempting to market this to as many people as possible. That’s the nature of foods in the business world … so be it.
On the widely-used ‘star’ rating system, I can only give 505 Southwestern All Natural Salsa a 2.5 out of 5 stars. It just doesn’t do it for me.
That’s my opinion … now, ‘somebody get a rope!’
So there you have it from the Williams clan – two product reviews, one thumbs up (green chile sauce, when pureed, makes for tasty green enchiladas!) And two thumbs held sideways (the red enchilada sauce is a little intense for me, and I wish I could find another way of saying it that doesn’t make me sound like such a puss, but I can’t — it overpowered my chicken and corn enchiladas). And now this, the salsa. I didn’t think it was as watery as my dad did, but I did find it on the unremarkable end of the spectrum. But I want to clarify: I think this of all jarred salsas. They just taste like cooked tomatoes to me. A great choice to use in a 7-layer dip, but no fireworks as just chips-n-salsa.
And because I forgot in the last review, I do want to thank 505 Southwestern for allowing a website like Anger Burger to review their products. And they apologized to me in an email for my cutting my own hand on one of their jars, which was kind, because I am clearly a clumsy bastard and if I were them I’d regret sending me stuff.
¹ Hi Skrappy!
Mike the Viking somehow figured out how to use a mobile phone and sent me a text the other day that read: “You have a giant package waiting for you at home.” To which I responded “JUST LIKE EVERY NIGHT.”
But because he has no capacity for humor, he wasn’t kidding. The box was massive, and hid a Demon Core of a smaller, heavier box inside. It was so dense and heavy, in fact, that it was punching out the bottom of its own box.
So you know, I was pretty baffled. Who knew to send this to me and why? And then I had this memory of a million years ago in January when someone asked me for my address. I genuinely remember very little from January.
In case it isn’t clear: those are a dozen sixteen ounce jars. That is well over a gallon of salsa and green chile products. Mike the Viking and I were dumb with confusion. Also, why do no Japanese companies ever read my blog?
Well, fuck it. When life gives you salsa, make enchiladas. Also he had been smashing crockery for literally months now because I have been making myself a lot of enchilada soup (more on that later, but summarize it to: sounds gross, tastes rad) and as far as he is concerned I am wasting both enchilada ingredients and enchilada-making energy on something that is not enchiladas so get back in the shark fat curing hut you whore!
Lifehacker also talked about shredding chicken in a stand mixer like a year ago, and I kept forgetting until now. That sentence I just wrote is all you need to know about it, but it is worth reading through the comments and the WWIII level indignancy for WHY YOU NOT SHRED WITH YOUR HANDS, COMMIE? Frankly, I hate shredding chicken. I can’t explain it, but I find it tedious and slippery and unsatisfying.
I used thighs and my results were not as advertised, but still not bad for 20 seconds of work. If you’re shredding a pound or more of chicken, I say do it.
Anyway, I am not going to give you an enchilada recipe. I’m a white lady from Washington State. I put meat and some veggies and some cheese into a corn tortilla that has been softened in a little hot oil on the stove top, and then I dump a
can packet of enchilada sauce onto it. Also under it. I mean, still inside the pan. You know what I mean. Today’s masterpiece was shredded chicken thighs (KEEP UP, I KNOW WE’RE ALL A LITTLE RUSTY HERE), corn and some canned roasted peppers. Hilariously, not the roasted green peppers sent to me by the vat-full from 505 Southwestern, but some regular red bell peppers.
The sauces sure look nice. I mean, green chile sauce never looks good, it always looks like it’s time for antibiotics.
Which is when I noticed something that shouldn’t matter but does:
I really can’t stand it when companies put religious shit on their products. And I don’t begrudge them the option to print it on there or anything, just that I am clearly not their customer base. Did they even read Anger Burger? I unfriend people on Facebook for posting well-meaning but nevertheless overly simple, naive and glurge-y garbage about everything happening for a reason. I could keep talking about this all day, but it isn’t the point of the story. The point is that while I was bitching about this to Mike, I failed to notice the following:
See that? I didn’t.
It’s a short little cut, but it’s weirdly deep, and not the place I’d advise having an open wound while trying to assemble and roll up two dozen tubes of flaming hot chili sauce.
The green chile sauce is not advertised as enchilada sauce, and is in fact suggested as a sauce for slow-roasting meat (green chile carnitas, for example) and a base for stews (chicken, or “white” chili), but I was still unhappy with how thin the sauce was versus the large chunks of chile and tomato. Immersion blender to the rescue! Two seconds later I had green enchilada sauce.
I tasted both sauces out of the jar and wasn’t blown away. 505’s red enchilada sauce contains no tomatos, and in fact is made pretty much entirely from dried red chiles. The flavor straight from the jar was a little harsh and acrid, and the sauce itself is thicker than what I normally use. I thinned it out with some water before I poured it into the pan.
Verdict? The green chile sauce is the clear winner. Excellent flavor, and after blending smooth it needed zero additional ingredients. Nice heat, too, not too mild and not too spicy. Goldilocks. The red sauce was less successful, though still better than anything out of a can. The sharpness of the chiles was not lessened in cooking, and the flavor overall was somewhat overwhelming. I can’t believe I am saying this, but it was just too potent. If I had it to make again (AND I DO, THANKS GIANT BOX OF SAUCE) I’d mix the red sauce with a jar of green sauce — even if I just wanted red sauce — to knock the whole face-slam of chile flavor down a little. As it was, we could barely taste the fillings, and certainly couldn’t taste what kind of cheese I’d used.
I will get to the rest of the case of sauces later, because guess what? It’s a mixed case. And two of the jars are unlabeled and there is nothing on 505’s website that gives and hint as to what it might be. Uh. Hooray?
Oh yeah, hello again friends.
Starr Wall passed away on January 24th after 8 years of very bothersome chemotherapy. She does not recommend it as a way to go. But she stuck around because she loved the following: snow storms, graphic novels, Kalaloch, Cannon Beach, hobbits, overfeeding the fauna, pho, sushi, fish and chips, coffee, quiche, pork chops, madeleines, soft serve with hot fudge and peanuts, and other foodstuffs. She is sorely missed by her husband Virgil, father Vern, secret lover Legolas, daughters Layla and Sunday, daughterly niece Tina, grand-daughter Allyson, grand-niece Heather, ex-husband Jay, son-out-law Mike, and a whole train car of relatives that you would grow tired of reading the names of. She will be missed most of all by her army of fat, insolent squirrels.
As a co-founder of Babette’s Bakery of downtown Olympia, Starr was known for her world-class granola, irreproducible pear bread, and the mysterious Scottish Oat Cake, neither Scottish nor Cake, but definitely Oat. Prior to baking, Starr was a Registered Nurse. Her advice for any ailment – from heartbreak to head cold – was to take a nice hot shower. It works most of the time.
By Starr’s adamant request, there will be no service. In remembrance, please bake yourself some cookies (any kind but gingersnap), eat them warm with coffee, read a comic book and take a shower.
I am going to say up front that I am not 100% sure this is a thing worth the trouble. Wait, let’s go back a little.
Nearly three years ago my mom told me that she saw a TV show wherein Ruth Reichl, ex-NYT-food-reviewer and writer extraordinaire, makes sweet and sour pork with the exquisitely exotic-sounding osmanthus flower. My mom was captivated, because what fool wouldn’t be? The thing is, the recipe is otherwise unremarkable. Or rather: remarkably bland-sounding; it consists of nothing more than sliced pork, black fungus (which tastes like is sounds) and a tangy-sweet syrup. The longer I mused on it the less appetizing it sounded.
Except for the single star of the show, osmanthus.
I let it percolate in my brain for a few years, until a few months ago when I was in Seattle and wondered past a little Chinatown tea shop that sold bulk osmanthus, and then it all came drifting into place. The smell is what got me: it smells like apricots. Like fruity, warm, orange-yellow light, summery and evanescent.
Instead of Reichl’s recipe, I added it to my solid many-years-tested sweet and sour recipe. Instead of making a syrup, I steeped it straight into the pineapple juice I use as the primary liquid.
I love my sweet and sour, but Mike the Viking does not and therefore I rarely cook it. He claims it is all vinegar, I claim he is a buttface. We are at a standstill.
But the addition of osmanthus? A fleeting, minuscule whiff of it survives cooking. It is lost amongst the strong flavors, and though I still won’t make the recipe from Reichl’s TV show, I understand now why there are essentially no other ingredients involved. Meanwhile, my standard sweet-and-sour recipe remains a paragon of whitey-Chinese, and I implore you to try it. It is, admittedly, very tangy and not very sweet, but as it should be. If it is a little too sharp for you, add a little more sugar and ketchup to balance it out, but as I make it, it is refreshing, nutritious and light, not the sugary loogie you get from cheap Chinese take-out¹.
Don’t skip the tomatoes stirred in at the end, either. It is one of my favorite parts of the recipe, the way they remain intact and uncooked, but just warmed through. The usual caveats apply to the rest of the ingredients: chicken breast will be dry and sad, but whatever, I’m not the boss of you. I prefer chicken over pork, but even tofu is good (though I vote for the fried stuff). Any vegetable works, but I have never beat the combination of green bell pepper, onions and carrots. It is what it is, and for me, it is perfect.
Whitey Sweet and Sour
in the scheme of things it really isn’t that whitey of a recipe. i mean, it isn’t neon pink and made almost entirely from high fructose corn syrup, but it is made from pineapple juice and ketchup. for the pineapple juice, i usually buy a large can of pineapple chunks and use the juice from the whole can, but only HGH about half of the actual pineapple pieces. and then i eat the rest of the can of pineapple while i am cooking, but that is a side story. if you don’t want actual pineapple pieces in your food, buy a can of pineapple juice, because the recipe still needs that tangy fruity flavor. lastly, osmanthus can be found online and at Chinese teashops, if you are lucky enough to live near one. Reichl advises using chamomile if you can’t get osmanthus, which is an interesting suggestion, but part of me just wants to tell you to use some apricot nectar instead of pineapple juice. TOO MANY IDEAS. i will shut up now.
2 Lbs. cubed boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 onion, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1 carrot, sliced thin, diagonal if you’re fancy
1 tomato cubed
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1 scant cup pineapple juice **see note
2 – 3 heaping Tablespoons of osmanthus flowers
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons brown sugar or more to taste
1 Tablespoon finely diced fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons corn starch
rice for serving
**Note: if you use a can of pineapple chunks for the juice, it will not produce a full cup. It will be a little shy of a cup. That is okay, keep going as planned.
- Heat the pineapple juice to a simmer (microwave is easiest, unless you’re against mutant pineapple juice, in which case on the stovetop in a small saucepan is the way to go) and steep the osmanthus flowers in it until the pineapple juice has cooled, about 10 minutes. Squeeze the remaining juice from the filter/teabag and discard the flowers. TEABAG! Haha!
- In a medium saucepan, over high heat briefly sauté the chicken pieces until they are browned on a few sides, but still have visible pink flesh. This will take 3-5 minutes. Add the green pepper, onion and carrot, and lower the heat to medium and allow it all to cook together for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce and cornstarch together and set it aside.
- In the pot with the chicken and vegetables, add the remaining ingredients of the sauce: osmanthus pineapple juice, vinegar, ketchup, salt, brown sugar, and ginger. Let everything bubble over medium heat until it is as cooked as you like. I prefer my veggies pretty crisp, which means they are done cooking in 3 or 4 minutes. If you like yours soft, let them continue to cook a few minutes longer. When you’re happy with it, add the soy sauce and corn starch mixture, stirring rapidly as you pour to incorporate. Let it bubble and brap until thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, add the diced tomato and pineapple pieces and stir to combine. Eat it.
¹ I have a friend that called cheap Chinese sweet and sour “neon abortion”. This turn of phrase has stuck with me over the years, though I cannot now remember who said it. I now pass it along to you, friend. Enjoy.
I have heard every major city argue that they have a heinous population of hipsters, and that their hipsters are unique and awful. Brooklyn, San Francisco, Austin; I have lived alongside Los Angeles hipsters, who are a magnificently infuriating sub-species that cannot be reproduced elsewhere, but are nevertheless still just hipsters. Seattle doesn’t quite show up to the Department of Hipsters Faculty Meeting the way others do, they are stuck in a charming and dated spiral of a post-grunge, lingering goth thing. But then there is Portland, Oregon.
There is actually a reason for the TV series Portlandia. It is not inaccurate. There is a well-educated smugness laying over the city like a vintage Pendleton blanket. There is a joke/not-joke here about “when Olympia moved to Portland” and indeed, I know a lot of people in Portland whom I knew here, in Olympia, back in the day. And the one thing they do, in all their vintage boutiquing, chicken cooping, streetside composting, gourmet food trucking bumptiousness that drives me insane is that they never stop talking about how fucking perfect Portland is.
“All I ask for is a decent goddamn donut shop,” I wrote on my Facebook page one day (my private one, not the Anger Burger one – don’t go fact-checking, you’ll be disappointed). MOVE TO PORTLAND my friend in Portland writes, as though that were helpful¹. And after complaining about healthier energy drinks, my friend Jason tells me: DRINK VISO. IT IS MADE IN PORTLAND AND YOU CAN ONLY GET IT IN PORTLAND. WOE IS THE FOOL THAT CANNOT DRINK VISO. I may be putting some words in Jason’s mouth, but that is the gist of it.
This last summer I was at a local store and did a double-take at a beverage cooler case. There on the shelf were three cans of Viso. I had never seen them before, only heard of them. And here we were, 120 miles from Portland. It must be some kind of mistake – surely Portland wouldn’t allow one of its precious products outside the fortress walls? I bought one, and a few hours later drank it. And then went back and bought the other two at the store because it was fucking delicious, and asked them when they would be getting more. Never, they said. The distributor wasn’t answering their phone calls. I write Viso and asked them if they were distrubuting to anywhere in Olympia. They didn’t answer. I wrote again. They didn’t answer. Their Facebook page is a sea of crazed Viso fans asking questions, complaining about availability of favorite products, and all without answer from Viso. As near as I could tell, Viso didn’t really exist.
And then a few days ago it shows up at my local Co-Op. The label is different, the flavors different. The flavor I tried before was “Will” a sour cherry and grapefruit flavor, now it is cranberry and grapefruit. The sugar-free flavors are now stevia instead of sucralose. So it would appear that Viso has quietly reinvented itself in preparation for — I assume — national distribution, with preliminary accounts in Wholefoods in the Pacific Northwest (in addition to my local Olympia Co-Op). I certainly don’t recommend ordering from their website, as a case costs $21 with SEVENTEEN DOLLARS SHIPPING. You are fucking kidding me, you guys.
Speaking of caffeine, each bottle contains 300mg, which is the equivalent of three and a half small cans of Redbull, or between four and five shots of espresso. So, basically it’s a fucking disaster in a bottle. And I love it. The flavors are truly well-balanced: faintly sweet-sour, and bitter and mineral from the caffeine and vitamins. It’s a poor description, but they taste, well, real. Like fruit juice and vitamins. And 300mg of caffeine? Holy shit. I basically live in an eternal state of sleepiness, like some nodding junky without any of the fun heroin parts. The last few days of having a Viso around for quick drinks here and there have left me productive and alert. My god, the possibilities. I may now have the energy to shower every day!
So, I am sorry if you can’t find it, but I have a hunch that you will be able to within the next year. Keep a lookout for them and remember after drinking one to take a couple laps around the block just to keep from tearing your own eyelids off.
¹ As an aside, Voodoo Donuts? Total bullshit. I’d rather have a Krispy Kreme served to me by a pleasantly bored teenager after I have stood in line for zero minutes.
As I mentioned last week, Mike the Viking turned 40, which is alarming to anyone who knows him. He looks and acts like a drunken, rage-filled toddler, and the number 40 lends him an unearned air of respect. I made him pie.
My first and most important tip to you: for a graham crust, replace one third of your graham crumbs with nuts. Almonds and walnuts seem to work best, I haven’t tried hazelnuts yet but I think they’d be great – maybe with chocolate grahams? Nutella crust?
Just place whole nuts and grahams in a food processor and whiz them together into a fine meal. If you don’t have a food processor, I’m not sure how you grind nuts. I suppose the alternative is to use graham crumbs from the store (or smash them in a bag, which in my experience leads to graham shards getting smashed clean out of the plastic baggie due to plastics tension failure, but I digress) and pre-ground almond flour. It will work.
The crust ends up never getting as rock-hard as cold graham crusts typically get, and the flavor is infinitely more interesting.
The pie filling was the result of a existential argument some years ago over whether I should make a coconut cream pie or a banana cream pie for some event now long-forgotten. Mike asked “Why can’t you make a coconut-banana cream pie?” and we never looked back.
If you don’t like bananas and just want the coconut part, that works too. Just skip the fresh bananas part. I once debated the efficacy of making a pineapple filling for the pie as well, but fresh or canned pineapple would weep too much in the hours the filling took to set, so you’d have to make a cooked pineapple jam-style filling, which would end up very sweet. It’s a theoretical project I still want to tackle, but for now I am busy watching ST:DS9 and wondering what the fuck I should make myself for dinner tonight.
Either way, when the pie is assembled it is imperative to press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard, or else it forms a rubbery skin that will delight children and terrify everyone else.
If you have never made a cream pie before, this is the one. It uses both egg folks (for flavor) and corn starch (for reliability and stability) to make the custard, and comes together quickly and with little skill required. Oh, and I almost forgot: coconut milk. You get to basically eat an entire can of coconut milk. So there’s that.
Coconut Banana Cream Pie
traditional American shredded coconut comes in very long, thick, sugary strings, and if you don’t like the texture of it in your pie you can actually skip that part; the flavor or the coconut milk will Generic Viagra shine through. another alternative is to try and find finely shredded dessicated coconut, sometimes found in the Indian section of bigger supermarkets. also, we used to have a bottle of natural banana flavor that i would add a single drop of to enhance the banana, and that was nice, but when the bottle started to smell off i threw it away and never got any more. that was a boring story, i’m sorry.
for the crust:
5 whole grahams (the entire conjoined piece), or about 3/4 cup crumbs
1/2 cup nuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
for the custard:
1 14oz. can coconut milk (not the sweetened kind)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch **(see note)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into two pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 or 2 bananas sliced, depending on taste
**note: to measure the cornstarch, fluff it and level it with a knife and try to avoid packing it into the scoop.
- To make the crust, blend the crackers and the nuts together until a sandy texture (if using preground, just put them in a bowl). Dump into a bowl, add the sugar and salt, stir briefly, then add the melted butter and stir until combined and sort of loose and sticky-sandy. Press into a pie pan and bake at 375° for 10 minutes, or until the edges are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before adding filling.
- In a medium bowl, whisk yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until thoroughly combined.
- In a medium sauce pan, bring coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt to just barely a simmer over medium high heat, watching carefully to make sure the milk doesn’t boil over. When it starts to bubble around the edges of the sauce pan, turn it down a little to make sure it doesn’t boil while we are doing the next step.
- Whisking constantly, gradually add about two ladles of hot milk mixture over yolks; whisk well to combine. Whisking constantly, gradually add the yolk and milk mixture to the sauce pan in a steady, slow stream; it will almost immediately begin to thicken. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened and mixture “braps” like lava bubbling, about 1 or 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat.
- Off heat, stir in butter and vanilla until butter is fully incorporated. Pour hot filling into cooled pie shell, layering in sliced bananas as you go. Smooth surface with rubber spatula; press plastic wrap directly against surface of filling and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours. Really, don’t try to cut it before the three hours are up.
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