Anger Burger

Whitey Sweet and Sour Plus Some Crap You’ve Never Heard Of

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm

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

sauce:
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.

3 Posted in Make It So

A Little from Column A, a Little from Column B

Posted by on Oct 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm

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.
7 Posted in Make It So

As Long as We Are Arguing About Things Done Right: Welsh Cakes

Posted by on Oct 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm

We all know that Mike the Viking is typically wrong about things.

He is wrong about soup (that it is an abomination) and about beans (that they are poison).  He is wrong in believing that I am a shrew of a woman (I am not).  And he is wrong about Welsh cakes, and not in the way that Ann Romney is empirically wrong about them.

And here is where I have to tread very carefully.  He has brought home great baggies of his family’s Welsh cakes before, and I am historically not a fan of them.  Perhaps because he lets them - and likes them – to get quite stale, I find them to be dry and a little bland.  I mean his family no disrespect — I am certain that I make plenty of foods that fail to blow their skirts up.

So, Mike turned 40 this week.  In Viking years, that’s like 200.  I decided to make him Welsh cakes, and knowing no better place to start, I used the recipe off the Wales tourism website.

They are mixed together like a pie dough, a very buttery short dough made soft by the addition of egg, milk and baking powder.  I asked Mike if I might substitute dried blueberries for currants (since that is what the magical cupboard of unknown dried fruits yielded) and he gave me an emphatic “NO.”  I went and got some currants.

The dough itself is an easy and pleasant texture, and did not require a rolling pin.  I just patted the loose dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and a light dusting of flour until it was the right thickness.

The strange thing about Welsh cakes is that they are fried.  Or griddled, rather.  It is recommended that one use an electric griddle since the temperature is more easily controlled, but I decided to use my non-stick stovetop griddle, which is actually what I use for almost everything I fry.  I like that it has no sides.  This is shitty when trying to saute a large pile of something since 30% ends up somewhere on the stovetop, but que sera.

You cook them medium-low until they brown nicely on one side, and then flip them.  The balance is in getting the thickness of the cakes right so that they cook through and brown at just the correct rate.  It’s not really complicated.  You keep the flame lowish and watch them.  A lot of recipes call for tossing the finished cakes in a bit of granulated sugar, which I love the look of, but Mike frowned at for the sandy texture, and I later admitted was leaving a trail of sugar all over the house as we walked around munching on them.  Not that the dog minded.

When cooked they are Pokies similar to a scone, soft and buttery, with a soft but toothsome crust. I love these.  They are simple and tasty.  Mike agrees: excellent, though not like his family’s.  He could tell from looking at my dough and from the flavor that this recipe contains more butter, and no one is arguing that is a bad thing.  It surprises me not at all to learn that the secret to a Welsh cake I like is butter, but there it is.

Welsh Cakes
i weighed everything in this recipe, since the one i was working from offered no volumes.  i am sorry if you don’t have a scale.  the holidays are coming up, maybe you should ask for one. also don’t balk at the pumpkin pie spice, i swear it will not make these taste like something that fell in your mouth at Starbucks.  it lends just the faintest whiff of interest and nothing more.

225g/8oz plain flour
100g/4oz/1 stick cold butter
75g/3oz sugar
50g/2oz currants
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons milk

  • Dump the flour, spice, salt and baking powder into a bowl.  Cut the butter into small pieces and dump them in, and using your hands, smash the pieces into the flour by pressing the cubes between your thumb and forefinger.  Keep doing this until the butter has broken down into small bits, which will probably take about 3 – 5 minutes.  Think about things, like what you’d like to have for dinner, or if it is worthwhile to get a gun permit.
  • Add the sugar and currants and mix together briefly with your hands.  Make a well in the center of the bowl and dump in the lightly beaten egg and the milk.  Still using your hands, quickly mix.  It will not come together completely, and that is okay.  Don’t overwork it, treat it like pie dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of plastic wrap, and using the wrap, mash the dough together just barely until it holds.  Pat it flat into a disk that is 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut out rounds with a cookie or biscuit cutter.
  • Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle to medium low heat.  Do one test cake first to make sure the heat is correct – it should be golden brown on one side in about 4-5 minutes.  Flip and cook the other side to the same color.  When you’re sure the temperature is correct, then do as many as 6 at once.  Transfer to a rack to cool.  Traditionally (I guess?) they are tossed in a little granulated sugar while still warm, and this is really pretty and Christmassy, but it also make a damn mess, so my suggestion is to skip it.
6 Posted in Make It So

Like I Needed a New Rice Obsession

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:17 am

Fall just hit the Pacific Northwest like an egg hitting the kitchen floor, just all tra-la-la ooo the leaves are turning and then SPLAT.

It is one of the things I just never could tolerate about Los Angeles.  It was exciting when it rained, but that is not the same.  That is the difference between a single freak wave and a hurricane.  There isn’t the feeling of hunkering down for the long haul.  Knowing that the weak won’t survive.  Knowing that I will come out victorious, the terrifying magnificence of newt-lady DNA come to bloom for all to see.

Also: pumpkins!

Oh wait, I mean rice.  Rice!

I often see recipes for “sticky rice” or “sweet rice” and like most white people, assume they mean for dessert.  For some reason it didn’t occur to me that they were talking about the same rice inside my favorite dimsum treat, the sticky rice inside a banana leaf, which is traditionally made with meat and mushrooms.

I found some “sweet rice” at my local small Asian grocery (here’s what the package looks like, but I purchased a smaller 5lb bag), as well as a bag of Japanese red bean (azuki or sometimes adzuki beans – these are also quite easy to find, Bob’s Red Mill even sells them) to make a traditional Japanese rice dish often served for special occasions.  And I have to tell you dudes, I did not anticipate this rice being so seriously excellent.

The sweet rice is not actually sweet, but sticky.  I mean sticky sticky.  But it isn’t slimy or mushy, instead pleasntly chewy.  It’s very hard to describe, other than to say that I am in love.  Twoo wuv.

You can pick up a corner of your rice pile, and the whole rest comes with it!  This is not appetizing, I know, but it’s too bizarre not to show you.  They’re like magnets.

If you’ve ever had red bean paste-filled Asian treats, like mochi or sweet buns, you know what azuki beans taste like. They taste like beans. But something magical did happen in my rice cooker, and I’m not at liberty to understand it.  I can only say that I now know why such a humble dish is served at special occasions.  And why there are now six portions stashed in my freezer, because I consider every dinner to be a special occasion.

Sekihan
Japanese red beans are absolutely not the same thing as American kidney beans.  do not substitute.  and the sweet rice is totally unlike any rice i’ve ever had.  i truly cannot describe how delightfully chewy and satisfying it is.  i used Just Hungry’s recipe straight up minus some volume adjustments (hers makes a lot of rice), but i will reprint it here anyway.

2 rice cups of sweet rice*
1/3 cup dry azuki beans
water
1/4 teaspoon salt

*Note that “rice cups” are 180ml cups that come with all ricemakers, as is Japanese tradition, and hold about 3/4 cups rice.  To convert to US measurement if you don’t have a ricemaker, the total rice AND water volume is 1 1/2 cups each.

  • Really, really wash the dry rice.  Wash wash it.  Wash it until when submerged in a bowl of water, the water remains clear.  Then let it soak overnight in this water.  OVERNIGHT.  Anything shorter is folly.
  • The next day, drain the rice of it’s soaking water. Cook the beans:  cover the 1/3 cup of beans with about 3 cups of water, and then simmer over low heat — really, you don’t want the beans spinning around in the water, just barely dancing — for about 30-45 minutes, or until you can smash a bean between your fingers.  It’s okay if they are just a titch undercooked, they will cook further in the rice.  Drain and keep the bean water.  Add enough tap water to make 2 rice cups water total.  Place the soaked rice, the bean water and the beans into a ricemaker and cook as you would a regular pot of rice.
  • To serve, note that the rice has better texture when it has cooled off a little.  Fluff carefully as you would any rice, and then let your bowl sit at room temperature for a few minutes before eating.

 

 

8 Posted in Make It So

Stupid Asshole Chestnuts

Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 at 5:42 am

I became so fixated on chestnuts this year that I woke up the other night to the sound of slight wind and rain, and debated briefly but genuinely whether or not I should get dressed and head out to the chestnut tree and harvest the bounty the weather was sure to have shaken loose.

But first, I have to tell you about how I spat chestnuts out all over the cobbles in front of an Italian street vendor when I was 17.

My mom and I went to Italy together, and one of the first evenings we were there I smelled some kind of hot, indescribable ambrosia.  Like baked goods, but not baked goods.  Earthy and sweet, but the unmistakable smell of carbohydrates.  I followed it to a man selling small paper bags of roasted chestnuts, which I eagerly purchased using my terrible Italian, and reveled in the pure cinema of it. I had barely been outside Olympia, Washington, and here I was in Florence, walking the cobbles after dark as gypsies tried to read my future and gelato shops overflowed with happy laughter.  And hot, fresh roasted chestnuts, which I had never had before.

I peeled one – carefully, because they’re hot little fuckers – and popped it in my mouth.  And then spat it back out again.  Because what I hadn’t been expecting was a mouth full of something somehow both snotty and granular, dirty and sweet, and with a strong overtone of soggy cardboard.  My mom laughed until she nearly peed, the vendor angrily shouted at me in Italian as I threw the bag of chestnuts away in the nearest garbage can.

Let’s get back up to the now timeline.

Chestnut trees are not at all common in the Pacific Northwest.  We have a lot of buckeyes, or horse chestnuts, which are not edible.  There is, however, a famous European chestnut tree in town, and most mornings there is a small flock of Asian ladies out there, silently racing over to each nut as it falls, getting up under each other just right up to the edge of actually shoving one another.

Somehow, this year I knew I wanted to be one of those ladies.  I was going to force myself to like chestnuts, whether I liked it or not.

Unrelated:

I can’t stop breaking my own kitchen tools, lately.

Okay, so chestnuts.  I’ve been reading about them incessantly, learning all kinds of moderately useful facts, such as: they don’t keep well.  Some people say they freeze well, some don’t.  And lastly, no one mentioned that they are totally fucking impossible to peel.

After I roasted them, and of course this is the hilarious truth: the first one I peeled just popped clean out of it’s inner papery liner like a Boston Terrier squeezing out of a sweater.

Pretty much every other one after that was totally stuck, and disintegrated when I tried to peel  them.  Nearly two hours after starting I wasn’t even halfway done, my fingers were rubbed raw and I no longer gave a single fuck about eating chestnuts.

In addition to not having been told that I was undertaking a task destined for failure, I was also not told that you shouldn’t roast more than a few at a time, because the only chance you have of peeling them AT ALL is to do so while they are warm.  It was only after nearly an hour of research that I read that you should boil them, half a dozen at a time, and skip the roasting all together.  THANKS FOR NOTHING, INTERNET.

As an aside: most chestnuts you buy commercially are a crossbreed of a Chinese and European chestnut bred to product massive nuts that peel easily, but do not have an especially pleasant flavor.  These are the chestnuts roasted in carts and handed off to poor suckers like 17-year-old Sunday.  The tree that I harvested from is a true, rare European chestnut, whose nuts are smaller, sweeter, spicier and DO NOT FUCKING PEEL AT ALL.

I finally started microwaving them in a sealed ramekin, a few at a time, for 10 seconds, and that is the only reason I had enough to cook with at all.

I had grand dreams.  I was going to make some kind of Mont Blanc absurdity, but I took a page from my friend Yuko’s book and went for chestnut rice, or kurigohan instead.

And you know what?  It was delicious.   The chestnuts are very starchy and unlike nuts altogether – the nearest approximation I’d offer is to use a sweet potato or yam diced small and cooked with your rice.  The chestnut pieces are soft and creamy and strangely dry, and a little sweet.  They are earthy and pleasant, and made a very wintery, hearty pot of rice.

In this instance, I think even the crappy commercial chestnuts will work, if you can find them.  A long time ago a Japanese friend told me that chestnut-flavored foods are the same way that Americans feel about pumpkin-flavor: it means fall.  It tastes like holidays and cold weather.  I think I did actually successfully convince myself that chestnuts are good, in the right context.

Kurigohan
if you can find fresh chestnuts – and i mean really fresh, like with intact, shiny, smooth skins – then by all mean boil them and peel them yourself.  good luck, i don’t know what else to say.  i saw canned chestnut at the Korean market the other day, and i steered clear; with very few exceptions, canned anything is not an acceptable version of whatever food you want.  lastly, some parts of the country get vacuum-sealed fresh peeled chestnuts, and others frozen peeled, and i suppose these are fine but I have never tried them. i am serious about just skipping the chestnut dilemma entirely and making this dish with diced sweet potatoes or yams, it will be not exactly the same, but similar.  lastly, the kombu kelp is used for flavoring, not for eating.  it is not sushi seaweed, it is a thick, dry piece of kelp that has a strong mineral flavor, and is one of the base ingredients in that miso soup you love to get from your local sushi restaurant.

2 cups short-grain Japanese rice
2 cups water
2 teaspoons sake
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chestnuts/pieces
1 – 2 pieces of kombu kelp (optional)

  • Whenever you make Japanese rice, you need to rinse the dry rice in running water until the water is clear.  This is the number one thing that makes Japanese rice so clean, smooth, sticky and perfect.  Drain the rinsed rice in a mesh strainer for 30 minutes after rinsing, then add back to cookpot or ricemaker.
  • Add the other ingredients and cook how you would normally cook a pot of rice.  I have a fancy-pants rice cooker (that I LOVE LIKE SOME PEOPLE LOVE THEIR GRANDMAS) so I don’t know how you Philistines stove-top cookers do it.
  • I will say that the other secret to rice is to let it sit for 10 minutes after cooking (my cooker does this for me, of course) and then to carefully fluff and stir the rice a few minutes before serving.  This allows the trapped moisture to evaporate, leaving the rice clean and plump rather than soggy.

 

10 Posted in Food Rant, Make It So

Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain – Rainbow Salad

Posted by on Oct 14, 2012 at 5:08 am

It’s hard to articulate why I find this salad to be so covertly revolutionary, but it is.  If there is one thing that Jamie Oliver has always done well, it appears to be salads.  I recall watching “The Naked Chef” on TV many years ago, when he was basically a toddler, and lanky skinny, and so kinetically overloaded that he rocked from foot to foot and used his hands no matter what he was doing, no matter how briefly.  Hyperactive, they call that.  The frantic energy helped to form giant platter salads, heaped with produce, in a dizzying and voluptuous display.  And even years later, in his US food reform TV show: teaching poor eaters to chop their salads right on massive cutting boards, and to set the entire board in the middle of the table, triggering those nascent rabbit-brains to gorge.

His “Rainbow Salad” is a similar lesson in simplicity; grated vegetables, heaped in inartistic piles, while eaters make a dressing in their own bowls, to be topped with tongs of veggies.

Mike loved it, to my incapacitating amazement.  He loved that the salad wasn’t pre-dressed (he does not eat coleslaw unless as a topping for pulled pork sandwiches), and that to some degree one could control the quantities of each vegetable.

I tried to follow the book’s instruction on grating everything and then turning the whole bowl out onto a platter, but this recipe makes a shit-ton of salad, and my food processor bowl capacity cannot accommodate all the veggies at once.  I wish I had a giant platter so I could have separated the piles better, and I wish the recipe didn’t call for one-quarter of two different cabbages.  Because of this last point, I violated the Prime Recipe Testing Directive a second time, and use half a red cabbage and zero green cabbage.  Half a leftover cabbage is better than three-quarters of two cabbages that I will never get around to eating.

Actually, I’m lying.  I went way offroad here.  My resolve finally broke.  I knew what I wanted, and it wasn’t exactly what Mr. Oliver was suggesting, so that was that.  I left out the walnuts, and I did not even think about making a dressing with Worcestershire sauce or Tabasco sauce.  Otherwise still the same salad.  Sort of.  It originally called for pears, which were too soft and mild and I wished I’d used Granny Smith apples instead.  Otherwise: same salad.  Also later I realized that I should have used half a green cabbage instead of a red, for greater color contrast.  OTHERWISE IT IS EXACTLY THE SAME.

Shredded Rainbow Salad
adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain

2 raw beets, scrubbed very clean
1/2 green cabbage
2 large carrots
2 green apples
fresh parsley, fresh mint, chopped
1 green onion, chopped

serve with ingredients for dressing:
mayonnaise
mild mustard
balsamic or red wine vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper
poppy seeds
honey or maple syrup

or make a slaw dressing to serve:
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1/3 cup fat-free or low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 finely chopped green onion or one bunch of chives
salt and pepper to taste

  • If you have a food processor, use the grater attachment.  If you do not, use a box grater and have someone standing by with band-aids.  If using the fo-pro, grate each item in this order, one at a time, and dump the piles out onto a platter as you go: beets, red cabbage, carrot, green cabbage and then green apples.
  • Finely chop the herbs and green onion and scatter over the top of everything on the platter.
  • Either allow everyone to make their own dressings in their bowls, or make a small gravy boat of slaw dressing to use and save yourself the 10 minutes it will take to coach everyone on how to make their own dressing.  Let everyone serve their own salad.

 

 

3 Posted in Make It So

Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain – Early Autumn Cornish Pasties

Posted by on Oct 12, 2012 at 5:35 am

I asked Mike the Viking what item he wanted to cook from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain, and he spent about five seconds flipping through maybe six or seven pages before slamming his massive, grizzled, hideous finger down onto the page and snarled “PASTIES.”

I glanced over his shoulder and was all, nope.  There was something off about it, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but before I said anything to him and as I looked up at him, I realized I should just let it happen.  Let this be a lesson to you: Sunday is the one that knows how to make meatpies.  Not Jamie Oliver.  Not Mike the Viking.  Sunday.

Problem the first: I cannot find a fucking skirt steak to save my life.  I mean, I tried two stores and gave up and used a flat iron steak, which is my go-to steak.  I even researched Cornish pasties online to see what other meat works, and all of them were like “Guuurl, you have to use skirt steak.”  Whatever.  But shit!  I am trying to follow my personal rule of making the recipe exactly as printed for an accurate review, but in this instance it is not happening.

So the thing is that the filling is not cooked first.  My eyes zeroed in on this and my hands started twitching in a feeble shadow effort to saute the onions at the very goddamn least, but no.  We are not doing that this time.  We are FOLLOWING THE FUCKING RECIPE.  I make the pastry, which has no resting time and no instructions to keep cold, and here is my now second violation of the Prime Directive: I put the pastry dough into the fridge while I do other stuff.

This proportion looks terrible.  It is all watery vegetables and maybe 10% meat bits, and an entire raw onion that the Viking will almost certainly beat me for.  And that is a gargantuan pile of filling!  I laughed aloud at the epic heap and how it was supposed to become only six pasties.

I did not take photos of rolling the dough into six individual rounds, nor folding those rounds over atop the TRULY HILARIOUS AND BY HILARIOUS I MEAN GENUINELY FRUSTRATING mounds of filling.  They weigh a pound each, easy.  I crowded them onto one tray because despite loving our dear oven Vader, he is not great at baking two trays of anything at once.  I did not want to handle the pastry hardly at all since it is literally almost 50% butter, so the crimped edges are very sloppy.  I didn’t give a shit.  This was going to be a miserable failure that for some reason I found satisfying, because I don’t know why.  Because any fool can look at those and deduce that nothing good will come of it.  There aren’t even vents cut into them.

I need to let out a very long sigh here.  Or better yet, let’s get disapproving Sunday back:

Because these are fucking excellent.  The pastry is crisp and thin and flaky and shattery and salty and rich.  The filling, which simply defies all logic, is soft and so very flavorful, just a masterpiece of both satisfying comfort and understatement.  It should not taste as good as it does, but it does.

This is clearly a Master Recipe, in the sense that my mind went breakneck to the next version: curry chicken thighs with peas and cauliflower.  Lamb with parsnips, carrots and mint.

We tried another one almost an hour later, still warm but closer to room temperature, and it was doubly as good as the first one.  They’d settled and mellowed and evened out even more, and I didn’t make it out of the kitchen to eat my half, I stood over the sink and let the waterfall of pastry shards rain down.

Jamie Oliver, you bastard.

Early Autumn Cornish Pasties
from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain, paraphrased but otherwise unchanged by Anger Burger

pastry:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
8oz (two sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup ice water

filling:
12oz skirt steak (I used flat iron)
1 white onion, chopped
1 white potato, peeled and chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
7oz butternut squash, peeled and chopped (probably just the neck of the squash)
1/4 fresh whole grated nutmeg
2 big springs fresh thyme
1 big sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
olive oil

1 beaten egg

  • Begin by making the pastry.  In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt together, and using your thumbs and forefingers, rub the cubes of butter together quickly in the flour until all the pieces are broken down.  Add the ice water and quickly mix it up and press the dough together into a big wad.  Do not overwork the dough.  Add a splash more water if there is a lot of dry flour in the bottom of the bowl still.  Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap to form the dough into a compact patty.  Place in fridge.
  • Cut the steak and veggies all to 1/3 inch pieces.  In a large bowl, toss the steak and veggies with the nutmeg, herbs, salt, pepper and a few glugs of olive oil.  Set aside.
  • Heat oven to 400°.  Line one or two baking sheets with parchment.
  • Cut the pastry into six equal portions for big giant pasties, and 12 portions for smaller ones.  On a flour-dusted surface, roll the dough out to the thickness of a quarter, about 8″ for large portions and 4″ for small ones.  Heap the middle of the pastry rounds with a lot of filling – if you don’t mind dirtying a thousand dishes, it is actually helpful to pre-proportion the filling so you get an idea of how much goes in each pasty, just use measuring cups to portion it out as evenly as possible.  It will be a struggle to get the dough over the pile of filling, but you must persevere.  Seal the edges first by folding them up around the pasty, then by pressing the edges with a fork.  Transfer to the baking sheet (this is easiest done by forming the pasty on a sheet of plastic wrap, then turning the whole thing upside down in one hand, peeling the plastic wrap off the bottom and dropping the pastry onto the baking sheet) and brush with beaten egg.  Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
15 Posted in Make It So, True Story

Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain – Charming Eccles Cakes

Posted by on Oct 11, 2012 at 5:32 am

Eccles cakes.  Supposed to be currants, but we are the colony so we don’t care.  Apparently called “fly pies” or “fly graveyards” because currants look like dead flies, a little bon mot that I am sorry Mr. Oliver didn’t roll with.  CHARMING DEAD FLIES PASTRY.  You Americans may not get it.

To the Bullet List!

  • British people are obsessed with demerera sugar.
  • It seems a little fussy that there is a fresh bay leaf in this recipe, but it truly requires it.  Dry won’t work, and leaving it out is possible but sad, like going back to make the police in E.T. carrying flashlights instead of guns.
  • Jesus, this is a lot of citrus zest for only like a dozen little pastries.  And a lot of spices.  A half a damn fresh nutmeg! FUCK I SHOULD HAVE GRATED THAT BEFORE THE CITRUS. Now I am washing and drying my stupid microplane grater.  I think that rich people might own two and not have this problem.

  • Oh my god this smells too strong, I feel like my nostrils are barfing.
  • I was interrupted and went outside to do something, and walking back inside I find that the kitchen is actually delightfully pungent, like Jamie Oliver was here applying Old Spice to his underarms.
  • You are supposed to roll out the puff pastry until it is 1/8th an inch thick, but to be honest the Trader Joes puff pastry is pretty much already there.  I try to roll it a little anyway and it isn’t going great.  I decide to skip to the cutting of the circle bits part.
  • This does not go great either.  Round cutter didn’t need a handle anyway.  Except for that sharp bit around the rim, I mean, that needed a handle.

  • I am not totally on board with the description for forming these things.  “Put a tablespoon of fruit filling into the middle of each pastry circle, then stretch the pastry up and over the filling, bringing it together on top and sealing it in the middle.” Actually now that I type it out it makes sense, but at the time it wasn’t immediately apparent that you are making a bun with the seal on the bottom.  I’m not sure why this was hard for me.

  • My first several attempts are pretty sloppy.  Ultimitely, I don’t really like this technique because it makes a small lump of unpuffed puff pastry in the bottom of the cake, but this is me being a whiny butt. Folding over and crimping the edges would make for nice crisp, chewy edges.
  • I feel like a jerk toward these things.  I don’t like how they look.  I don’t like the way they smell. I catch myself wanting them to fail.

  • They do not fail. They are, as a point of fact, charming. Somehow the great odiferousness has receded to a homey, complex perfume of fall and weekends. The bay leaf is remarkable – a woody cologne, a sort of savory partner that I was not aware pumpkin pie spice needed.  I am now considering bay leaf in pumpkin pie.
  • Son of a bitch, these things are actually delicious.  Mike the Viking and I can’t stop eating them.  I burn the roof of my mouth, and later literally cut the inside of my lip on a shard of melted sugar, and still it doesn’t stop me.  Mike says: “These are what I want cinnamon rolls to be!” to which I respond, we do not have similar memories of cinnamon rolls at all, I think.  He argues: “They are spicy and have raisins in them.”  He is not wrong but HE IS ALSO NOT RIGHT.

Charming Eccles Cakes
from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain, summarized lightly by Anger Burger for laziness’ sake.

filling:
1 large fresh bay leaf
zest of 1 whole lemon
zest of 1 whole orange
1/2 grated fresh nutmeg
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup demerara sugar*
5oz. mixed dried fruits, chopped fine (I used apricots, cherries and golden raisins)**
2 balls preserved ginger, chopped + tsp. syrup (I used chopped candied ginger + 1 tsp. honey)
2 1/2 oz. apple, diced small (about 3/4 an apple)

pastry:
17oz package of puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
1 egg
demerara sugar for sprinkling

*Turbinado sugar is more commonly found in the US, and is the same thing.
** The recipe also suggests sour bilberries (which people in Skyrim eat), and cranberries as options.

  • With a mortar and pestle, bash up the bay leaf to release the oils.  Add the lemon and orange zest, the nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice and as much of the sugar as will comfortably fit into the mortar.  Give the whole thing a couple seconds of vigorous stir-grinding, then turn out into another bowl with the rest of the sugar.  Mr. Oliver does not say anything about what to do with the leaf, which got very tatty and broke down pretty far, so I just picked out the big stringy bits and left the ground up leaves.  Add the dried fruit, the diced apple and the ginger (and honey, if you don’t have the ginger jarred in syrup, which you probably don’t because presumably you don’t live in the UK, but I realize a few of you do so congrats).  Set aside.
  • If your puff pastry is really thick, roll it on a lightly floured board until 1/8 inch thick.  Otherwise continue with cutting out 4-inch circles. If you have a 3-inch biscuit cutter, as is more common, that is OK – just take each circle and gently stretch it out with your fingers until it is bigger.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment and heat oven to 400°.  Put a tablespoon of filling into each circle of puff pastry and pull the sides of the pastry up around it, sealing at the top like a balloon.  Turn over and press down pretty firmly to flatten from a ball-shape to a fat-patty-shape, without breaking the pastry.  Make a few cuts in the top of each one, and then brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

I’m Going to Make this Gratin My Bitch

Posted by on Oct 9, 2012 at 5:46 am

I overlooked the recipe because baked rice dishes tend to be goopy, dairy-heavy glops (though now that I write it out like that, it sounds good) but my mom called and told me she’d tried Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini rice gratin, and how I needed to STOP WHAT I WAS DOING and AQUIRE ZUCCHINI.  I trust my mom, but we have sometimes different food preferences, so I told her I totally would walk out of work right that very moment and get cooking.  I didn’t, though.  In fact, I didn’t for about two weeks.

I am glad I finally did, though my version of the gratin is now comparable to the original only in that it is rice layered with roasted vegetables.

It’s not a quick dish, even though it’s pretty easy.  In my oven, the vegetables need to be roasted one pan at a time, and I’m up to three pans now.  It leaves a lot of time for my other pursuits, such as watching my dog filthy up her freshly washed purple hoodie.

(Speaking of real problems, that’s a fort in our own backyard that we can’t use.  The landlord offered to rent it to us for an additional fee, which we declined, and so it sits.)

You aren’t limited to zucchini and tomatoes, clearly.  I had some leftover butternut squash that went in, and I think that fennel and carrots would be perfect too.  I was also a little gun-shy — last time I made this recipe the zucchini I used was very, very wet and instead of roasting it turned into sauce.  This time I didn’t want to push it too far, but it could have taken the push.  Still delicious, but not as caramelly as roasted things get in your dreams.

One thing Smitten kitchen has you do is saute onions to add to the rice mixture – something that took me several cookings before realizing that you can just roast the onions in the oven with the rest of the veggies.  Now my only two dirty cooking dishes are the rice cooker, a big bowl and a few utensils.  Smarts!  Achieving great laziness through great mental effort.

I don’t like topping anything with Parmesan since it just browns and gets hard, so I topped my latest gratin with Meadowkaas and it was diiih-viiihne.  Meadowkaas is a spring gouda that some cheese shops say can only be found “three months of the year” but I keep seeing it around town here, so I keep buying it.  It’s a soft, salty, creamy gouda and I am going to marry it.

The light failed me, and there were no good photos of the baked dish, but this aerial of the dinner table gives (the served gratin is in the lower right corner) an indication of how the rice-to-vegetable ratio is very even in my gratin.  I like it that way.  (The red slaw stuff is from Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, which we will discuss soon.)

Vegetable Rice Gratin
adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who in turn adapted it from Gourmet

2 cups uncooked wild rice and long-grain rice pilaf mix
3 total pounds veggies (whatever ratio you want: a pound each zucchini, tomatoes and butternut, for example)
1 yellow onion
2 eggs
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme or sage
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded soft gouda
salt and pepper
olive oil

  • A few hours or a day ahead of time, cook the rice pilaf according to package directions (if you are using boxed pilaf mix and it does not come to 2 cups of uncooked rice, you can add plain long-grain rice to make up the difference) and set aside to cool. Refrigerate if waiting a day.
  • Heat your oven to 450°.  Meanwhile, line two (three if you have them) baking sheets with parchment, and brush/rub olive oil all over the parchment.  Slice all the veggies including the onion pretty thick – at least 1/4 inch – and arrange them on the trays.  Salt and pepper the veggies a little.  Bake one sheet at a time for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, with the exception of the tomatoes,  which cannot be flipped.  Keep your eye on them.  Sometimes the first batch takes a lot longer.  Move everything around as needed to get everyone in there browned.  When one is finished, remove the veggies, put a fresh sheet of parchment on the tray and repeat the process.  Turn off oven when finished.
  • When they are cooled enough to handle, chop the onion up and put it in a large bowl.  To the bowl add the cooked rice, two eggs, herbs, Parmesan cheese, a few glugs of olive oil and some salt and pepper to taste.
  • Grease a 9×13 casserole dish with olive oil and spread half of the rice mixture into it.  Layer half the veggies in, and sprinkle half the gouda.  Layer in the rest of the rice, arrange the veggies all pretty on top, then sprinkle with more gouda.  At this point you can refrigerate the gratin to bake later, or bake immediately: set oven to 350° and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the edges of the rice just begin to take on a pleasant toasty shade and the middle is warmed through.
6 Posted in Make It So

Jjarlepjnir-Maek, official snack of Ragnorak

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 at 10:54 am

Greetings, Angry Burgarians, it is I, MIKE the VIKING. Do not be alarmed. Cooperate and your villages and maidens will be mostly spared. Mostly.

Perhaps you are aware that 2012 is the Year of the Jalapeno*? People are becoming more familiar with how to use the blessed things, not just as a way to get back at gringos, but as a kung-fu fightin’ secret flavor agent. The trick is that jalapenos (like most peppers) are fantastic when roasted.

Jalalapeno works best when paired with cheese. This is something of a revelation, since the traditionally  jalapenurous are loth to use cheese. You don’t get cheese on a torta. You don’t get cheese in a bahn mi. But the cheese is such a good flavor carrier- it smoothes out the spicy peaks and really spreads around the jalagoodness. Jalapeno and Pineapple Pizza? Oh yes. Jalapeno Cheeseburger? So angry-making.

Which brings me to my point: Jaeleapeneaou Mac and Cheese. So obvious, and yet, overlooked. How is it that after centuries of Macaroni, we’re only now getting this, mere months from Ragnorak?

Sunday brought this to my attention after a recent Portlandia away trip. She and her boon companions** purchased the Jalamac at  one of Portland’s thousands of Mac n’ Cheese trucks. Now it’s on the menu at Fig Manor, and we couldn’t be happier.

RECIPE TAILORING: JALAPENO MAC

I’m not going to tell you how to make Mac and Cheese, because I really don’t know. There’s probably a video on YouTube about it. I don’t mean to get all Paula Deen on your buns, but this would work with box mac as well as frou-frou mac.

Ingredients:

  • USUAL MAC and CHEESE ingredients;
  • Jar of Pickled Jalapenos;
  • Fresh Jalapenos (If you’re fancy)

Directions:

  1.  Add in a goodly amount of finely diced pickled Jalapenos when you add the cheese (sauce). Mix well.
  2.  Transfer Jalamac to oven-proof pan (pie pan or such).
  3.  Add grated cheese (to taste- my preference is some sharp cheddar and some parm) over top of slurry.
  4.  Distribute sliced (pickled or fresh) Jalapenos in an artistic pattern across the cheese bog.
  5.  Bake at high (375-425 depending on oven) until cheese is well-melted and slightly browned, like the cheese on a pizza, and the jalapenos are toasted or shrively (flavor!).
  6.  Remove from oven and allow sufficient time to cool (optional).
  7. Eat entire pan while you mope about how BRIDE of CHUCKY stole the box office from your crappy self-indulgent guilt-fest (optional).
  8. If you failed at #7, transfer the remants to a refrigerable container and eat at your leisure (microwave for 120-150 seconds).

Enjoy!

*side note: I always want to spell it jalepeno. Also, I am aware that there’s some kind of weird accent marque on it, but I’d sooner be torn apart by frost giants than learn the code for that.

**chicken-fanciers and all-around nice folks, Krista and Jess

Coming up on ANGER BURGER: Oh the Things you’ll find in Jars

6 Posted in Food Rant, Make It So