Friday, May 15, 2009

Compare and Contrast

And now for something completely different. My usual process involves taking some left-overs and doing bad bad things to them in the name of snacks. Not this time. Instead, I thought that I would play it straight. I'll take a regular old recipe and prepare it in the way it was intended. No tricks, no gimmicks. Just plain old cooking.

Well, not exactly. See, I still have to work within my own constraints here. It's still 2 in the morning, and I didn't exactly go shopping first. No matter. Maximizing the effects of the ingredients you have via substitution and adaption is the mark of a good chef, right? We'll call this crime recipe abuse.

Case the Seventh: The Unwellington

I have always wanted to make/eat a Beef Wellington. You may be familiar with it from Hell's Kitchen. If not, the basic idea is to take a delicious steak (good start), season it (awesome), apply some kind of paste to it (I like where this is going), and finally wrap the whole damn thing up in pastry and bake it (what could go wrong?). Looking around for a recipie, I stumbled upon something even better! I found an illustrated guide to making a beef wellington. Step by step instructions with pictures included. This is going to be cake.

Step 1:

Man, that looks good. Why it was necessary to give it the ol' stab-n-tie, I'm not sure.
Ok, our first problem. The instructions call for "Filets 1 inch thick". I don't have those. I don't even have filets at all. Or steak of any kind. Or chicken or turkey or any kind of beef. I don't even have some kind of meaty-fish. Never fear though, adapt!

Caution: Items may be more inedible and mealy than they appear.
Ok, there we go. Got my meat all squared away. Awesome, 1/7 done. This is so easy!

Step 2:

This appears to be browning on the top of a pot lid filled with Kool-Aid. Oh Yeah?
So, step two is to brown them filets. This process is shown above entirely more complicated than necessary. Basically, it goes like this: Turn on pan, toss raw meat in pan. Is it brown? Yes? Ok, flip it. Is it brown? Yes? Congratulations. You don't need to take it's temperature, for god's sake. Brown = Done, Not Brown = ...Not Done. It's pretty irrelevant either way, since my meat is a frozen blockasteak. So, I 'browned' it in the microwave, as the box suggested.

The meat is on the, right. Look how brown it is. I'm so good at this.
We are moving at some kind of hyper speed through this. I'm agog.

Step 3:

1: Get sand 2: Wrap white rag around sand 3: See how brown the sand made that rag? 4: That's good sand!
Step 3 is grandiosely entitled 'Prepare the Duxelles". Now, I don't know why the word 'duxelle' is plural there. Technically, nor do I in fact know what the word 'duxelle' means. The description calls for mushrooms, which I detest (and also do not have). So, time to adapt again! My paste is made of chopped chili peppers and sun dried tomatoes. The peppers are to add a flavor to the dish (the first thus far). The tomatoes are there because I like them.

Shown: peppers and tomatoes. Not Shown: The peppers that ended up right in my eyes (burning)
Consider my duxelle prepared.

Step 4:

1: What is it with this sand? 2: Meat on Sand on Cross on Wood
This step invloves laying out the pastry, and then assembling the Wellington. I don't have puff pastry (not that I have any kind of ideological objection, it just doesn't store well). I do have however, packaged three cheese biscuit mix. I'll just add a little flour to stiffen it up, and we're good to go.

This is what pizza looks like in Hell
Step 5:

Is that Beef Moon Waxing or Waning? Whichever is more delicious.
Some nonsense about trimming the pastry. I skipped it. Advantage: me.

Step 6:

1: Fold it over. 2: Fold it over (more) 3: Continuing Folding 4: Add triangles
This is a crucial step. The pastry must be carefully folded over your beef-paste mixture. You don't want to handle the puff pastry too much, or you will inhibit its...puffiness? This could take several minutes to do right apparently. In my version, I just glom-ed the edges together. I tore a hole clear through it, but just kind of mushed it closed. Advantage: me.

There could be anything in there. I'm going to pretend it's treasure.
Step 7:

This step should be called: Eat it up, Yum Yum
I'll reproduce the final instructions exactly:
Bake for 30 minutes and serve. Beef Wellington deserves it's reputation. It's both elegant, delicious, and can be completely prepped short of the final baking a day in advance; perfect for any special occasion.

Here is what I actually did:
Bake for like 107 minutes and serve. If this kidney looking gross had a reputation, I'm quite sure it would totally deserve it. It was both sickeningly brownish, raw on the bottom, and should never be prepped by anyone on any day; perfect only for dogs and your enemies.

Shown with Macaroni Majesty
Our guide finished his with some svelte asparagus. I used mashed potatoes (made from real potatoes, yo). Then I took the included macaroni and cheese and deep fried it into little taste-wads.

Ease: D- (Seven steps? Are you kidding me? That's about five too many steps)
Flavor: Double Eff (Wow, this tasted bad. Like, the kind of bad that's hard to imagine. As if each part of it had its own terrible taste, that when combined created some kind of meta-yurk. The little macaroni things were very very good though.)
Criminality: A+ (This was so wrong that I almost felt bad about it. Then again, I actually ate it, so that might be the source of the bad feeling.)

PS- Thanks to Kevin D. Weeks, who's creation I abused herein.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

SMP (The 'M' is for Link)

Being the Student of Value that I am, I have learned to take a Borg attitude to cookery. In most cases, I assimilate the idea of the cooking and adapt it to my own situation. Rarely, however, I will lift a recipe in it's entirety for the greater good of the Catastropie Collective (can you tell I've been watching entirely too much Star Trek lately?).

Thus, the SMP. The origins of the SMP lie in a different time in a different land. Mystical, right? Anyway, the story is that my friend Sara's mother spent some time growing up in Alaska. As a kid, her favorite delicacy was the Moose Pizza. That's not some kind of clever word trickery, eihter. They took a pizza, tossed a big hunk of moose on it, and then? Consume. Well, when they moved back to the County (that's Southern Indiana, for all you city-folk), momma decided that it would be cruel in the extreme to deny her own children this pleasure. Now if you don't know a lot about Indiana you may not know this, but the Great Moose is not in fact native to our fine state. What's a caring mother to do?

The answer, my frineds, is inside a pig. Its called the Smok-Y-Link, and its zip code if F-L-A-V-O-R. Now, you can't get it in Tennessee, so for this SMP, it was necessary to use the cocktail weiner:

And sad defrosted weiners they are. The liquid they are suspended in is in fact tears.
But no matter, shikata ga nai.

Case the Sixth: The SMP (or Smoky Link Pizza)

Source Food:

He's wearing his lying face.
The Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit. It's actually 100% impossible to create that pizza with the included ingrediants. This box essentially says: Look at this! You don't want to eat this delicious looking pizza! Instead, you should buy this kit! The back of the box seems to be attempting to make up for this fact however:

I have never had that much fun doing anything, ever. Also: Is dad some kind of farmer?
After looking at the back panel, you all must be curious about the amazing wonders that lie inside. And you'd be right to be curious. I mean when you really get right down to it, what do you need to make a delicious pizza? Persumably some kind of tender yet crisp crust. Well seasoned sauce. A huge amount of cheese (perferably with several varieties). And toppings...well, the sky is clearly the limit.

The packed helpfully labelled 'CHEESE' contains horror.
Instead, you get that. A can of tinny tasting sauce (older versions of the kit didn't even have a label on the can), a plastic baggy of flour that clearly leaks all over everything, and a small packet of CHEESE. Inside this packet (which is too small to contain any actual cheese), there is a small amount of powdery substance that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike cheese.

Pantry Items:

Why does everything I cook end up looking just exactly like dog food? Are these Kibbles? Or Bits?
Other than the Weiners, the only thing I used from the pantry was the last bit of homemade cheese (and this created some controversy, as I'll describe later).

Step one is to ignore all the instructions for the pizza kit. In addition to giving you a bizarre mash of ingrediants that cannot possibly be combined into the picutred 'za, they provide a set of instructions that are at best misguided (and at worst, the recipie for another type of food entirely). Next (well, turn the oven on), mix the bag of flour with a bit of oil and a bit of water to make a goey sticky substance we'll call 'dough'.

Looks and smells like the inside of a sheep
Then cover it up with a towel and put it beside the oven. Leave it alone for 20 minutes. Don't peek at it, don't move it, try not to even think about it. Go away. After you wait it out, you can sort of slime it out onto your cooking vessel (a pizza stone is awesome for this). The kit suggests that you divide your dough into halves. Don't do that. Just slime it all out there and try to spread it out so it's even. If you are feeling awesome, you can try to form a sort of crust on it.

Pictured: Me petting the crust-to-be softly, while gently crooning
Next, the kit suggests using the entire can of sauce. God in heaven, don't do that (unless you want pizza-soup...hmmmmmmm--maybe another day). You need maybe 3 tablespoons of sauce. An SMP is not a saucy creature.

Some kind of projective sauce Rorshach? Looks like a sideways pig to me.
Next, apply your smok-y-links liberally to across the surface. Don't be shy, you want a lot of them. They are the crucial ingrediant to turn this blandza kit into a delicious SMP. Once you have a good greasymeat coat going, it's time to shake your 'CHEESE' over the lot of it.

This is infinitely harder than it looks
I added some bonus cheese to the ensemble. This was the cause of intense debate, as I was breaking canon. Aparrently, the CHEESE is supposed to be necessary and sufficient for the needs of the SMP. However, that end of mozzerella needed eating up, so I was victorious.

Naturally, my Victory Mozz turned grey-brown as soon as it cooked. DELICIOUS!
Ease: A+ (it's practically a one-box meal)
Flavor: A (it's a pretty unique taste, all told...none of the individual components of it are actually very good, but when combined they form this kind of superfood. Who knows...)
Criminality: D (doesn't even have a food crime associated with it, but it's definately worth trying)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Super Fish Time GO!

I'm a born'n'raised good old country boy. Fishin' is one of the primary forms of entertainment in the sticks, and occasionally you actually manage to land a mess of fish. At this point you're left with an important decision...what the hell do you do with it? If you answered anything but "Fry it!" you're completely wrong. People grill fish, people poach fish...I've even heard of people steaming it. What the hell? Have you ever heard of a great big family gathering where everybody comes up from the hollar and has a grand old time called a Fish Poach? Can you even put malt vinegar on a piece flacid grilled fish? Toss a bunch of broccoli and cauliflower and fish into a steamer and then smell it. You want to eat that? Well, I'm sorry...even the re-cook has his limits.

At any rate, this has lead to my enduring love affair with fried fish. There is a problem however. See, fish live in water. Unless you live right next to some water, said fish has to be caught, processed, and transported before it can be eaten. This means that the farther you live away from where your fish live, the greater difficulty you have in obtaining that fish 'fresh'. You know how when you do laundry, your socks smell awesome? And then after you wear them for a couple of weeks they get all stiff and weird and smell? Fish works exactly the same. Ordering fish is therefore always a gamble. Sometimes you get fish that is delicious. Other times, you get fish that is like this:

You can't see them, but there may as well be stink lines...
All is not lost, however. Through the magic of re-cooking, even stale fish can harbor flavor (Did you catch that? If not, it a-piers that you do not afishiate ichtich puns--enough). This calls for a metafood!

Case the Fifth: Fishy Cakes

Source Food: A 'rustic' sea food trio from The Half Shell. All my complaining aside, they actually have a pretty good record of doing good seafood. The King Crab Bisque is almost always delicious. I'm not quite sure what made this 'rustic' (could it mean old?), but it consisted of fried tilapia, shrimp, and scallops servered over a 'pepper cream sauce' (which...I believe consisted of diced peppers in some cream). Scallops were tiny but good. Shrimp was actually pretty wonderful. The tilapia was....not great.

Pantry Items:

That potato and egg configuration seems suggestive...
Peas and Moirpoix (which we've seen before, and will see again), Potatoes, an Egg (singular), a bit of dry mustard powder (awesome to keep around, and it doesn't go bad), and a healthy dash of Old Bay (seasoning for anything seafood and other stuff....please remember that it's salty!).

I knew I wanted to do fish-cakes from the beginning on this one. I'd been itching to do a metafood since the last post, and this oppurtunity couldn't be missed.

Oven on to 350. I cut up that bit of roll into cubes, put some OldBay on it, and tossed it in the oven to dry out a bit. Water in pot, cut up potatoes, left alone to cook. Next, in classic metafood style, I seperated everything into bits:

The bits of seafood almost seem to be swimming don't they? It's an Illusion, they're not that fresh...
Moir Poix in a pan with some butter to saute a bit. Cut up the fish roughly with a knife, and then ran through the mini-food processor. Normally, I'd leave the fish roughly chopped to provide texture, but the thought of plowing into a stalefish chunk really turned me off. Once the Veg was good and heated up, I put it in with the breading bits and processed that a bit as well. Once the taters were ready, I mashed them with a fork a bit, and then stirred in the 'cream sauce'.

Combination time. Seasoned the breading/veg mix with mustard powder and old bay, then mixed it with the fish crumbs. Put in enough of the potato mix to get a kind of mush (play it by ear here, it's hard to screw up). Lastly, put in frozen peas, bread from the oven (left corase, to provide the texture I lost by crumbing the fish), and cracked an egg on it:

Seeing this, I ate it all up. I actually had to go back to the resturant and re-order the meal to finish this post.
Time to get the ol' mitts dirty. Don't be squeamish, dive in there! The goal is to distribute the bread and peas all through the mix, and get it all coated in egg. Anytime you're making a patty, cake, or loaf you will need to use an egg in the mix. Eggs are the magic that holds the bits all together and keeps them from disintegrating in the frying pan. Next, I fashioned some cake/patty things:

See how thick these are? Don't do that. Also: why is the knife in every picture?
Time for the fryer. Used the tongs (tenderly, so tenderly) to transfer and flip. While they were cooking on the first side, I mixed up some Peanut Satay sauce and mayo to create Spicy Thai Mayonnaise (which sounds nasty, but tasted awesome). Did the flip, and then got out my bread and applied my Condiment liberally. Removed from heat, they looked exactly the same as they did before I fried them:

Grey-brown, lumpy, thick, and proxiknifal
The final step was to let them sog a bit, and then apply them to bread, thusly:

On the good china, with a little swirl of Condiment, what like in a Fancy Eatery

Ease: A (only took about 25minutes from start to stop. Metafoods are generally pretty easy)
Flavor: B- (given what I had to work with, it was ok. Biggest problem is that OldBay is saltier than drunken sailor and the patties are about 8 times thicker than they should have been for the onna-wheat-slice serving style)
Criminality: B+ (ordering fish, not enjoying it, leaving it in a car for 4 hours, refridgerating it for a day, and finally deciding that what it really needed was more cooking...that's pretty much Food Apostasy defined)

Monday, April 6, 2009


As human beings, we're creatures of hopes and dreams. Some people want to find riches, while others merely wish to be enriched. Me? I have legions of dreams (running the gamut from going to a class to take a final only to realize that I've missed every previous class all the way to starring in my own apocalyptic zombie adventure). Those are small dreams, and not really a great fit for this space.

Instead, lets talk about a greater dream of mine. That dream is cheese. Not tawdry dreams involving cheese, don't look at me like that. Rather, the dream of creating such wonders for myself. For too long cheese making has been the province of the industrial cheese monger, a cold anonymous face grimly doling out his cheddars and neufchatels. No more, I say. Furthermore, you too can share this dream with me. Read on, and imagine a kinder gentler world.

Firstly, while the world of consuming prodigious provolone and pounds of parm (also: crates of chevre, a gross of gouda...I'll stop) is a familiar one to me, I know very little about actual cheese production. On the theoretical level, I understand that cheese is simply milk. Technically, if you leave your milk out for a week or two, you will get a "cheese". Experiments in this area have yielded only stinks and icks...a far cry from the fetas of my fantasy. Clearly, more know-how is required. To that end, I purchased the D-Lux Cheese Making Super Kit from Leener's (a fine purveyor of all manner of DIY cookery kits). They advertise it as a kit, but in reality, it is a kind of Cheese Mongering Course. You start at the basic level (where we are now) and work your way all up the spectrum to the Aged-3 Month-Minimum-Traditional-English-Cheddar. Despite the gratitutious praise and prompting of my friends, I knew that I was not ready for such an event, and began at the begininng: The One-Hour-Mozzerella.

All cheese making starts with two things: Milk and a BDP.
Big Damn Pot (center)
The manual suggested that I sterilize all the equippage before beginning. Normally, re-cook policy is to sneer casually at such blandishments, but since cheesemaking is about controlled bacterial action, it seemed like a good idea.

The tools of a cheese-makers Art
Want to have a nice relaxing time? Slowly pour an entire gallon of whole milk into a pot. Don't dump it in like you're ashamed of it. No, let it trickle in, unaware of everything that is about to happen to it. Like the walk of a friend who foolishly went to the bathroom on his birthday at the ChiChi's, and is sauntering back unaware of the cacaphony that awaits.

Sorry that we sing so bad. DO DAH DO DAH.
Now, let your friend milk slowly begin to heat up. While that happens, let me take a moment to create an understanding. Most of the stuff in this compendium can be easily (if not wisely) replicated by aspiring re-cooks the world around, and to that end I provide detailed instructions about what ingredients I use (often inappropriately) and how I use them (frequently ineptly). Turning cow juice into cojack is not quite re-cooking however. It is instead, I submit, total magimythical alchemy. As ordered by the dusty vellum included with the kit, I spent a good fifteen minutes before beginning preparing my potions. Mixing this with that. Spooning that into the other. Stirring thrice widdershins with one eye closed. Quite literally taking spoonfuls of mysterious powders from small stoppered jars. Squeezing several drops of clear and bizarrly named liquid into water (all while my helpers did the Dragnet Goat Dance and chanted).

From left to right: Benzine, Powdered Ear, Liquid Snake, Salt (in spoon), and the liquid from a box of Wet Ones
I'm not exaggerating. Cheese is freakin' magic. For example...2 minutes after adding several of the above solutions to my pot, my innocent warm milk turned into this:

If you could smell this, you'd be dead.
I bolted the lid on and let it set for twenty minutes (after which it both looked and smelled much worse). Next, I drained the "greenish liquid" (their words, I'd have used far worse). The next recipie in the book involved using that lethewater, but as I didn't have a biohazard container and I still valued my relationship with the person in who's kitchen I was squatting, I put it down the drain. Wisely (in my opinion) the next process was to get as much of that stink out of my transforming cheese. This was done by smushing:

Under the master's hands, the cheese dances
As well as such other dignified techniques as straining, more smushing, heating, yet more smushing, a bit of squeezing, and finally kneading (which works out essentially to smushing). Finally, you end up with a nice shiny mass of proto cheese that is hotter than you can belive:

Shown here: smushing
Now the fun begins. I got to take this pile of searing white goo and stretch it. And then stretch it. And then pass it around the apartment, letting everyone stretch it. Nominally, this is to incorporate some air into it, and to help it to become more "stringy". In actuality, I believe it is to instill in the brand new cheesemonger a sense of wonder and awe.

Look at what I have created!
Normal men are content to drink their milk peacefully (or perhaps in a cereal). Not I. I have taken that innocent milk through dark places; and at the end, I have produced something beautiful that is far more than the sum of it's parts.

I'm still holding it. It feels so good. Milk No More.
I wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it firm up a touch in the fridge. Nothing for it but to slice and serve.

Top: Slice. Bottom: Serve (super haute cusine)

PS - If there are any special requests, post 'em in the comments! I'll work with anything, and while I cannot promise it will end up tasting or looking good, it will be one hell of a trip.

PPS - A shout out to all the folks from the Fugly Forums!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Footware to Fantasy

I have this love-hate relationship with steak. For the longest time, I thought that I just didn't like it. After all, it was tough, chewy, and bland. It took an A1 bath to get me to eat it at all. It turns out that I was missing something pretty vital: My da' has the uncanny ability to turn any piece of meat into a piece of shoes. All the time I thought I was eating strips and sirloins, I was actually eating the equivalent of tongues and heels. Can you blame me for not liking it?

This has led to me being picky about steak. When it's cooked right, it's delicious. If it's not cooked right, it brings me right back to the days of pulling laces out of my teeth and choking on aglets. A note on 'cooked right'...I'm an open-minded and non-judgmental individual. That means I will tolerate up to 'medium'. Everybody who is anybody knows that the proper way to order your steak is medium rare. Getting a steak 'medium well' or bygods 'well done' is saying: "Please burn the crap out of my delicious and often pricy meat! I'd much rather chew for 20 minutes than enjoy a savory meal!" I don't care if you tell me that it's "just the way I like it"....You're wrong, and you disgust me.

Now, most people seem to order steaks the wrong way, leading to many restuarant cooks being unable cook a steak the right way to save their lives. For example, exhibit A:

A well done(burnt) steak and an ocean of MashPotate

I don't mean to imply that I'm a food snob what gets pissy about every over-cooked piece of meat. In this case, it wasn't bad. I had just wolfed a huge amount of cheese fries (the remains of which will be the next post) and some soup (which tasted and looked exactly like white gravy with potatoes added). I picked at it, but seeing that it was burnt, I decided it was better served as blog-fodder than anything else.

The thing about leftovers...It is never the same meal as it was the first time. Even if you ignore a re-cook's advice and just eat them straight up, it is fundementally different. The first time, your food was served fresh off the heat (and likely still cooking). In much the same way that heating changes the texture and falvor of food (we call this 'cooking' in the biz), cooling back down has the same effect. In a way, cooling your food down in the fridge overnight is merely another type of cooking method. Trippy thought.

The long winded and belabored point here is this: Just because your food wasn't very good the first time does not mean that the leftovers won't be any good. Today is a prime example of this practice, which I'll term Reincarnation. What started as an overcooked steak and some seriously bland potatoes turned into one of the best tasting things I've cooked in a long time.

Case the Fourth: Let There Be Shepherd's Pie

Source Food: Most of a 'Cowboy Sirloin' with Garlic Mash from Rafferty's.

Pantry Items:

Cheesy Biscuit mix (easier to deal with then the canned pre-made variety, since it doesn't expire), red pepper flake, fennel seed, Woozy (Re-Cook gold here. Woozy is one of those things that will turn something from being bland to being awesome. When you're buying it, check the label...if it doesn't have anchovies in it, put it back), Frozen Moir Poix mix (fancy cook word for Carrots, Onion, and Celery), Frozen Peas (frozen veggies are awesome, and I always try to keep at least several varieties on hand)

Lastly, the biscuit mix calls for water. But water is pretty 'meh', so I wanted to use milk. Except that my milk is Gone Round The Bend. Cue a re-cook staple: Powdered Milk. Still your knee-jerk reaction here, and think about how many times you've gone to the fridge wanting to cook something only to find out that you don't have any good milk. How many times have you had to pass on mac-n-cheese and choke down yet another pizza or bowl of ramen becausey milk is stupid and only lasts a week? The twin gods of Value and Sloth demand a better answer, and that answer is powdered milk. Buy a box and stick it in the back of the pantry, behind everything else, a secret kept from all your friends and family (hide your shame!). When you use it, mix it double strength and pretend. Does it taste like milk? Not a chance in hell. But it does taste 'milk-y' and when your actual milk becomes 'cheese-y', you'll be glad you listened to your friendly re-cook.


My original idea for steak was a Wellington (which is still in the cards, so stay tuned!), but I had that whole mess of mashed to deal with. Instead, I took another great tip from Sara and went with Shepherd's Pie.

Note: My friend Mandy suggested that I do a Vegetarian Option. Well, to all the vegetarian types reading, you do have an option. It's called 'meat' and it's absolutely delicious! Offensiveness aside, I work with what I've got skulking in my fridge, and so far it's been meaty. Vegemeals will happen eventually, have no fear.

Ok, it's time to rock. Oven on 350. Tossed some of the moir poix mix into the pan with some butter on medium high heat. Chopped up the steak into bits, and ground up some of the fennel seed in my spice grinder (they're marketed at 'coffee' or as 'spice' grinders, and you can get 'em cheap). Once the Veg was good and soft, I added the meat in a big pile. Then I splashed a whole lot of Woozy over it.

We're in flavor country, here.
I put the biscuit mix in a bowl, used the rest of my 'milk' (probably close to a cup of the powder), and added 1 cup of water. Whisked all that up and let it set. Mix was coming along nicely, so I added even more Woozy and a couple of teaspoons of flour to gravy it up a bit. Look at this:

It all turned into the best food color ever: Brown
Added the frozen peas (don't ever put peas in until last, else they explode into mushnasty). Spoon it all into your vessel of choice (a classy glass pie pan for me). Flatten it out and pat it down with your implement.

Could the peas be more unevenly distributed?
I nuked the potatoes for the lesser amount. Microwaves have all these fancy settings, but it's not really necessary. All you need is a popcorn setting, a 1-lb defrost, 45 seconds, and 1:15. If it's not done in 45, give it another 45. If it's not done in 1:15, give it another 1:15. You're going to want to stir whatever it is up anyway, so why muck around with all the timing guess work?

I didn't need them hot, I just needed to soften them up so I could spread them on top of the meatpile (used a fork, worked fine). Next, pour your biscuit mix over the potatoes. That's pretty much all there is to it. I have a shitty oven, so I covered it with aluminium foil for 20min, and then cooked it uncovered for another 15. If you try to bake things and the top burns before it's done all the way through, use foil. End result:

*tears up* It's so beautiful

Seriously, why aren't you eating this right now?

Pie with huge monster bite out. Yeah, I did that with my mouth, dripping hot beef and gravy all down my chin.

Ease: A+ (this is so easy to do its ridiculous. I took like 10 minutes of prep and 35 to cook.)
Flavor: S+ (I ate a bowlful. Then, ate another bowlful. Then, started on the post. Then had to stop because I was looking at all the pictures, and had to eat more of it. It's that good.)
Criminality: F (This dish is not criminal, it's miraculous. Jesus turned water into wine. I turned crappy old burnt steak into this. I'm not going to post the score here, but you can guess.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Irish Onion Soup?

The Half Cheeseburger. It's almost a universal leftover. There's probably one in your fridge right now somewhere. These days, with portion size increasing beyond all sense of good taste, it's hard to complete an app, salad, soup, and your entire meal. Generally, by the time the server comes around sweetly asking about dessert, I just want to grunt at her and slip into a food-coma.

So, more often than not, I end up with this:

Reclining on a bed of OldFries

Now, the textbook solution is just to nuke-it-and-eat-it. However, old burgers are dry and usually taste of warm and not of flavor. Added to that, Value compels me to save the fries, but there is no cooking preparation on earth that can make leftover chips edible.

OR IS THERE?!? This is mostly a Transformation, but it also gives me a chance to demo a new Abomination: The Unholy Fusion. Fusion in cooking means to mix two different cusines into a harmionous supermeal. My vareity is much the same only without the 'harmonious' bit.

Case the Third: Ye Olde Irish Onion Soupe

Source Food: Half of an Irish Burger from Celtic Crossing and some chips.

Pantry Items:

Delicious Tab in background. Would love to ronch, but all gone. Hurm.
1 box of beef stock (re-cook pantry gold, here...I try to keep a box of beef, chicken, and vege stock in there), freezer butter, red onion (I like red because I like them in everything...onions also keep a long time, but don't refrigerate them until you've cut into them), and the 'bouquet garni' (a fancy cook word for bunch of herbs) made up of whatever bunch of herbs i had in the pantry.

The Celtic is my new favorite haunt. Wonderful pub food, and 2.50 pint night Mondays....What more could you want? Yesterday, I got the Irish Burger, which is a burger with muenster cheese and a rasher (kind of like bacon, but not really) on top. Ordered it medium rare, and got it well done, but we were there right before the kitchen closed, so I can't complain.

Today, true desperation struck. No food in the house, and a reheat on that burger didn't seem to cut it. A catastropie at lunchtime? So be it.


I wasn't 100% sure where to start with this one. I was discussing it with Sara and Mike over dinner (now knowing the fate of all leftovers In The House of the Re-Cook...). Mike suggested that I make a burrito out of it, and that is because he is an ass. I mused that I could do some kind of soup with it, and Sara suggested French Onion. Brilliant! Fits perfectly. Burger has cheese on it, and the bun can turn into the croutony-thing. Sure, French Onion soup doesn't have beef or potatoes in it....But no matter. Onward!

Firstly, oven turned on to 300 to dry out the bun. Pan on the heat with some butter melting to begin sweating the onions. Seperate burger into it's component bits. Chop up fries and beef (seperately). Stick the bun in a pan and put it in the oven to crouton-ify. I didn't have enough cheese by half, so I turned to the fridge for some old pepperjack. It certainly wasn't fresh, and a couple of pieces were starting to show a little mold. The cool thing about cheese is that you can just cut the mold off and the rest of it is fine.

Find that a repugnant thought? You should perhaps take a closer look at how cheese is made.

Next, I cut up the onions into slices. Don't bother breaking them up yet, as that will happen naturally as they cook. Protip: got onion juice on your hands? Don't want the stink of it to linger for days? While washing your hands, rub them on the stainless steel of the faucet. This will take care of the smell. Onions go into pan, with some salt on top. Diced up the rasher into little bits to put some extra fat and taste into the pan.

Arranging them like this took me 4 hours

And now you should go start writing that novel you've always wanted. Put the heat on medium-low and just let them sit. Don't even stir them for 20 minutes. Don't do it. They're not going to burn, so leave them the hell alone. After 20, you can start to stir them, but not all that often. I've seen onion soup recipies saying you need to stir it once a minute, which is complete crap. I stirred mine every 5 or so, and it got the job done. Because my stovetop is roughly 40 years old, I had to consistently alternate my heat setting between '3' (sitting in the sun on a cloudy day) and '2' (sitting on the surface of the sun). Your mileage may vary, but remember that this is a 'sweat' and not a 'saute'. If you hear that exciting sizzling sound, your heat is too high (sweating is the boring ugly cousin of saute). It takes forever, but this is the way you want to do it, trust me (or at least, it's the way I did it...)

There's nothing really productive to be done while the onions go. I posted auctions on Warcraft, checked my email, listened to music...Checked the onions:

They're still onions. Glistening limply in the pan.

I wrote a song, published a book, made a house of cards, whittled
out the last supper....You get the idea. All in all, it took about an hour for them to get all brown and good (imagine if onions were made of milk chocolate...this is about the color we're looking for here). Don't be paranoid about it, you're not going to burn them on this heat setting. The pan turns brown on the bottom, but we want that. Added the beef in at this point.

--Crap, forgot the effin bun! It's been in there I don't know how long. Pull it out. Looks burnt. Too bad, it'll have to do, I'm out of bread...--

All that brown turns into superflavor if you can get it off the bottom of the pan. How? Well, they call it 'de-glazing' in the business. That sounds all hoo-doo, and basically it is. You know how you put hot water on a pan to clean it? Well it's the same thing. You use a hot liquid to clean off all that yum and get it back into your soup. French Onion soup generally uses wine to deglaze (you can use any liquid, but liquids that taste good are preferred). I refuse to keep some kind of liquor around just for cooking, so if I don't drink it, I don't have it. Therefore, since I detest wine, I never deglaze with wine. Water is too boring, and i'll be adding plenty of beef stock in a minute. Instead, I opened the stash and got out my medicine:

Rum is God's Drink

Dash a little of that in the pan, ensuring to hover over the ensuing steam to smell one of the best smells on earth. Cranked the heat up to high, and begin scraping the bottom of the pan with my implement (this bit is why I didn't use a non-stick). Once all the stuff on the bottom was loose, added all the beef stock and my herbs. Let it boil, then put the heat on low for another 20 minute simmer.

Wow, that's some brown there. Big Ol' Pan O' Brown
Finally, it was go time. Flipped the oven up to broil. Tossed the chopped chips into the mix, and seasoned it with salt and pepper (and fished out the bay leaf). Took my ramekin (fancy word for bowl, essentially--the difference is that it's cermaic and can stand heats up to 500 indefinately) and ladled some of the soup into the bottom of it, filling it up to about an inch below top. Then I put the bun pieces in with the smooth side up (if that makes any want the absorbant side down). I layered the cheese on top with a bit sticking over the side for that oh-so-enticing cheese rim. Stuck the result on a pie pan (don't just put it in the oven, how the hell do you propose to get that nuclear ramekin back out?) and put it in. I hunched in front of the window like some kind of pathetic hungry kobold and watched it do it's thing.

End Result:

Don't worry, all that brown is still in there, it's just hiding!
Ease: F- (good god, french onion soup is a pain in the ass. Don't start this if you have somewhere to be in the next few days)
Flavor: A (I was worried about this one, but it actually tasted awesome. That burnt bun? Turns out it was actually perfectly cooked for this....those soggy chips? Turns out that they morhped into some kind of yumnuggets and were the best part of the soup)
Criminality: B (Hamburger into Soup isn't something that just springs to mind, i think. It works well as an Unholy Fusion, as it is essentially a French Onion soup + an Irish Cheeseburger = Something that it not quite either, but tastes a bit of both.)