Monday, May 2, 2011

Stranger's Cookbook: African Beef Turnovers

Time to get back to the project.  Posts are rare here for several reasons.  First, being poor, the first series of posts is out.  I don't eat out much anymore, and you can't get a good rip-roaring catastroipe going without takeout food.  Second, I still have the occasional sweaty toothed nightmare from the Can Game. Lastly, I'm both busy and lazy in equal measure.

Like this, but with more sweatpance and less cravats.

Let me tell you about my day.  I had a weekend that started crap, and then Got Awesome.  My standard bout of Sunday Night Insomnia hit, and it was suddenly 4:30 in the morning.  I decided that that was the best time to consider serious life decisions that aren't really relevant, and ended up feeling amazing.  Lo and behold, I woke up a mere 3.65 hours later and continued to feel amazing.  Today, I feel like a Big Damn Hero.  Today, I roll twenties.  Today, I learned that the combination of fatigue, Teenage Bottlerocket played at deafening levels, and near-lethal levels of caffeine are the perfect combination to make me experience honest-to-crazy levels of mania.

So, what to do?  Can I possibly handle such relentless positivity?  I know! I'll cook something that is capable of crushing the spirits of many, many men!  See, I've had this idea for a new blog-project for awhile.  I call it The Stranger's Cookbook.  Basically, it works like this:  I collect a bunch of old recipe cards from people I know.  These cards have old recipes on them written by, and this is important, people that I don't know and will never meet.  I'll cook them as written, with as much specificity as possible, and then write it up.  Will this be interesting or funny?  No fucking clue.  Battle on, Heroes!

Note:  My camera is sort of jacked right now, so all the pics for this week will be taken via my phone, and thus be shit.

African Beef Turnovers

This is a recipe cut from a newspaper, and pasted onto a card.  No clue as to its origins.  The paper is yellowed with age, mysteriously.  It's signed at the end with a sort of bold definitive 'S'.  In retrospect, I wouldn't put my actual human name on this either.


So, my 'rules' for this noble enterprise say that I can't change what's on the card.  So when it calls for bloody sirloin, it gets sirloin.  I dunno that I've ever even bought ground sirloin.  Also, I have no clue what makes this 'African'.  But then again, I know nothing about Africa, so we're good.  I did an image search for 'African food' and got this:

Is that beans or something?  No fucking beans here, guys.

First, the mise en place (it's French, fucking look it up).  Pretty simple this time, chop the onion, chop the tomato, soften the butter and cream cheese.  Oh, wait.  I'm supposed to peel the tomato.  How the hell do you peel a tomato?  I would have much rather used canned&crushed here, but it's Not in the Recipe.  I love self-imposed asinine arbitrary rules!

I'm not a fucking tomatologist, but the tomatoes I found at the shop look like trash.  Also, I don't have a peeler anymore (it is on the list of things what walked out of my apartment under mysterious circumstances).  Guess it's the old standby:

Hack at it with the knife.   

My phone makes these look sort of 'red-ish', but they aren't.  Inside, their color is best described as Ashes of Roses.  Which I'm sure is lovely for drapes and your ugly sister's prom dress...but not what I'm looking for in my vegfruit.  Maybe, I'm being too unkind to what is essentially a skin around a bag of acidic juice-filled crap with seeds.  After all, sometimes awful things can contain a wonderful surprise!

Not this time.  Also, they smelled a little like the compost from the garden in hell.

Next, I am to make the pastry.  According to Sssss, this is done by combining a little flour and salt with All The Fat in the World (8 oz. of cream cheese, and 2 whole sticks of butter).  Ok, I've made dough before.  Chuck it all in a bowl and mix it up.  I'll get out my pastry splicer and evenly distribute the fat throughout the flour!

Like some kind of Weapon X / Betty Crocker fusion.  Weapon Crocker.

No wait.  Actually, it says to mix it by hand.  S, I'm sorry that you're from the past and didn't have access to science, but this isn't a great start to our working relationship.

You know that feeling you get when you squeeze something with the exact consistency of poop?  It was like that.

Whatever.  Done.  Next, I'm to refrigerate it for 'a few hours'.  Shit.  It's already like 7pm.  Protip:  Read the damn recipe before you start trying to cook.

A Few Hours Later:

Picture a cool 'wipe' effect here.  Also, it was totally like 20 minutes.

Really though, why the wait?  I get it, S-hole, you're some kind of fucking society food writer and's a good idea when making Human Food to cool pastry dough.  It allows the fats to re-harden, so that they stay sort of localized in the finished product.  The whole Tender-Flaky Duality thing.  That's totally fine, I respect that.  Except you just had me handmush roughly 30 parts of fat with about 2 parts of flour.  You can tart around as much as you want here, Essie, it's still a fucking fat-slam.  Calling it 'pastry' is putting the proverbial lipstick on a pig.

Moving on.  Next step is to make the wholesome African filling....which consists of onion (kind of green), beef (sirloin, for fucks sake), tomatoes (Fruit of the Devil's Asshole), and peanut butter (yum!).  Brown the meat.  Protip:  When it says to brown meat in a recipe, it doesn't mean 'cook that meat all the way hard' means get some color on it.  I had a great picture for this, but it turns out that it was actually an awful picture.  Looked like a jogger blew in and snapped the photo while running in place (with palsy). Stupid phone.  Anyway, the point is that most of the time when you're browning something, the next step is going to be 'add more stuff and actually cook it'.  So when you cook the meet, and then cook it more, and then bake've done fucked up your meat.

Added the onion and tomaccos and cooked it down.  Swirled in the peanut butter.  Filling complete:

I get it now:  Somewhere in Africa circa 1989:
You got your dog food in my peanut butter sandwich!
 You got your peanut butter in my dog food!

The next step is to take out the dough, roll it out, and portion into forty-eight 3-inch discs.  4-8.  Really S(hitty fucking cook)?  This pile of crap is such a crowd pleaser that you need to have enough to serve your entire readership down at Learn to Hate Food Monthly?  Forget that.  I made 12 3-inch discs and put the rest of that crap down the in-sink-er-ator.  Maybe it was the Fumes of Fugue that were pouring out of that pan, but I had a hunch that 12 would be about 12 more than I really wanted to eat. The recipe next asked me to place one teaspoon of tasty filling slightly off-center, fold dough over, and crimp edges closed with a fork dipped in flour.  Maybe S is the kind of person that loves to spend Inordinate Amounts of Time Screwing Around with Food.  Maybe S breaks out the compass and fucking radiophone to calculate filling trajectories.  Maybe S has one of those Adhesive Forks that I've heard so much about....I don't know, and I couldn't care less.  I can't be having with this.

I sot of gommed some in and mashed it closed.

I baked it for 3 times as long as was suggested, and it never got anywhere near Golden, Brown, or Delicious. It was sort of close to being Flacid, Pale, and Malodorous.  I was going to broil it or something, but then I forgot that pans are hot and burned the shit out of my fingers.  So my 'finishing touch' was to snake them off the heating element with a tongs so as to avoid fire.  Bon Appetit.

I ate one-third pieces.

Verdict:  S isn't just some jackass food writer.  S is someone that was born only to hate me.  S is reaching across time and space to wrack terrible vengeance upon my inner portions.  You know though?  That's ok.  I completely understand.  I now feel filled with the unholy desire to put my fist through physics right in your direction too, Sbag.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 6: Know When to Walk Away

Tonight, we took a horrible gamble. I'll take full responsibility for it. In retrospect, it was clearly an error of truly epic proportions. The Man said it best, when he said "If you're gonna play the game, boy, you gotta learn to play it right."

Wise words, Kenny. Wise words.

First off, the set up. I'll admit that today was kind of a cheat. See, one of the rules of the game was that you weren't allowed to plan meals around cans. However, we skirted through a sort of loophole (that I just made up completely)...we hadn't planned any meal for tonight. Since it has been brought to my attention that skipping days all willy nilly is costing us the trust of our readership (which we all value incredibly highly), we needed to crack open a can anyway. Little did we realize that this would send us into a greater cooking process than anything we had done thus far.

The can we chose bore some cryptic and helpful warnings:

How kind! Instructions on how best to enjoy the Righteous Happy Beaks within!

Oh. Nevermind.

Since we had no meal planned, there was nothing for it but to crack it open. The internal compromise that I worked out with myself for bending (totally breaking, but whatever, they couldn't eat fucking gravy) the rules was that we would not taste the substance within. We would smell it, look at it, and plan the meal from those impressions alone. Thus, this meal represented A Great Gamble.

Crystal Gravy?

On first glance, it looked like most of the cans we had opened. Some kind of translucent liquid with who knows what (OH MY GOD KILL IT KILL IT) within. Because it almost said to 'serve hot', we decided to dump it into a pan.

If you've been reading this blog, this is a very ominous picture.

As I poured, we kept waiting for the other "shoe" (or tentacled spiny horror) to drop. Nothing. The whole can was this translucent goo with some kind of little meaty chunks in. Well. As we put our noses over it to savor the bouquet, the only thing we got was that it smelled 'spicy' (like poison) or 'fruity' (like hot trash).

I suppose the only explanation is that the very innocuousness of the substance put us off our guard. Remember what we've been eating all week. Something that was just clear goo couldn't possibly be that bad right? This is what caused us to Make A Huge Fucking Mistake.

Meg said that maybe it was just gravy. Which sounds crazy, but it actually sort of fits. See, I'm kind of known for eating gravy. On top of that, Mike went to extreme lengths to apologize loudly and vehemently about the cans we had left. As I was staring at the pot, in my mind I was thinking: Ah ha! Perhaps he doth protest too much! Those of you who are acquainted with Mike know that he has no scrap of duplicity. He lies about as well as the Lamb of Hosts. This somehow led me to believe that it was likely that the reason that he warned us so thoroughly was that he was trying to set up an elaborate trick (like the time he managed to convince Kurt and I that magic was real, and then destroyed our burgeoning sense of childlike wonder in a dickmove worse than 10,000 Grinches, all within 20 minutes--nevermind, another story).

Now, all of that being said, Sara was still involved. So a simple poultry gravy was Right Out. Still, maybe it wasn't 'normal' gravy. Maybe it was made out of some kind of inapproprate meat animal.

Or perhaps it was made out of chickenoids what had all their blood removed and then replaced with gravy. Meta-gravy.

Whatever. How bad could it be? So we planned a meal to utilize gravy. Easy. Chicken Fried Chicken with Homemade Mashed Potatoes. We had everything we'd need to put it together. So I tossed the 'gravy' (as an aside, you've all probably figured out that by this point in the game that there is no earthly fucking way that they would have chosen anything so edible as gravy...I can only say that perhaps the smell of it burned out crucial logic paths in our brains) onto the back burner and prepped everything I'd need.


I really got in to this. I think that I was perhaps giddy with excitement to be preparing something that was going to be so edible. For the first time since the competition began, I was really cooking! I seasoned the pans of flour with two different layered blends designed to be distinct and yet still be complementary. I pounded out the chicken to ensure even cooking. I washed, peeled, and cut all the potatoes that we had left.

I meticulously and perfectly executed the 3-stage 2-hand breading method for the first time ever.

Through the entire process, I kept slowly stirring the pot on the back of the stove. I nobly resisted the urge to taste it. I was just completely convinced that this was gravy.

They sizzle, awaiting what can only be incredibly delicious gravy!

After the tempest in the kitchen was over, everything was ready to rock. I got it all dressed up on plates. I was so hopeful that I may have skipped my way to the table.

I completely doused my portion.

Meg, in her wisdom, was more cautious. Gravy on the side, and a big ol' bottle of Hydrocodone ready to go.

First taste. Not gravy. Not even close to gravy. Gravy is not in its ancestry in any way. The people who regularly eat this have never even heard of gravy. The people who 'cooked' and canned this substance actually despise gravy. Gravy killed their parents. There was a gravy flood that drowned their entire village. They were kidnapped as children, and force-fed gravy for twenty years, only to escape and swear terrible vengeance.

Now, we tried. The first taste was bad, but it wasn't repulsive. It mostly tasted like fish. Probably some kind of fish soup. Eating chicken and potatoes covered in hot fish soup was no fun at all. Meg gave up. She couldn't do it. I wanted to persevere though. I didn't want to just give up. We'd come so far through the week! We were so close to the end! I ate a whole chicken and at least 25% of my potate.

Then I found this.

Aaaaaand this:

It's true. Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me.


Day 6: Apparently it's OK to skip days.

So I finally got those jellied farts I was looking forward to. I'm glad about that, I guess. Although, Jamie cryptically told me earlier that I have one "really awful" can and one "kinda awful" can left and I can't tell you which one I picked tonight. It was the second can to actually make me gag while eating it, but the other to illicit that response was the seemingly innocent gravy, so do what you want with that. Anyway, both of his are fucking terrible, so that's gonna be fun for everyone (me).

Seriously, though, this is the first time since we started this game that I couldn't even accurately describe to you what I just ate. Clear, slightly sweet with a bitter aftertaste and cubed. Oh, and it was probably a (fart) plant.

Can you see the packing date on that can? 2008. Nearly TWO YEARS AGO.

Oh, that's right. Not only did these guys find all this stuff out behind the Meijer, they picked up the stuff that sat on the shelf for two years. This can probably rolled back in between the shelves and some stock boy found it, took it into the break room so everyone could joke about how the store hadn't stocked this product since 2008 where it sat for a few months. After the shift manager (Karen) threw it out, Jamie and Meg find it on one of their opossum-adventures and decide to feed it to me since "technically, it's still not expired". I did the only thing I could in this situation.

I fed it to Mike.

Five minutes later he wasn't dead, so...

I fed some to the dog.

Let me explain something about Sandy (the dog). She'll eat damned near anything. I know what you're thinking...most dogs will eat anything, but Sandy will eat shit like radishes and watermelon rind. Not dog things like 'LoL my dog eats peanut butter, isn't that crazy (LOL)?!'. Sandy will eat a fucking turnip. She eats topsoil in great clumps because it smells loamy. I've also seen her swallow a goose whole.

Sandy balked at this stuff. The dog that will knock you down to lick soapy dishwater off the kitchen tile had to think about putting this in her mouth. When I finally convinced her it was 'Food, Sandy! Cookie! Yum Yum!', she chewed it thoughtfully for about 20 seconds, then sneezed. She didn't really want anymore after that.

She didn't die or puke, though, and Mike didn't mind it and thought it was kind of like a pear, so I threw it in a strainer to get a better look at what I was dealing with and how it would go with our Campbell's Soup recipe (baked chicken and Cream of Celery soup) and egg noodles.

Can't wait to shove double-fistfuls of that into my yammer.

I still have no idea what this jellied-hell is, but aside from the texture (which is really damned awful, like a combination of a grainy pear and those strings from celery but also Jell-o), it doesn't have an extremely offensive taste.

Fuck it. WhipCrem.

Even after huffing half the propellant out of that whipped cream can, I could barely handle the texture of this stuff. I gagged trying to make myself finish my allotment, but I did it. I look over at Mike and see this:

Those are the eyes of a man whose soul is long departed.

I can only hope Jamz and Meg enjoyed their can tonight as much as we did.

Bonus Cool Pic! Mike got his infrared camera today and took this while we were getting dinner...the cool part? This is the heat from our bodies reflecting off the fridge doors!