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.)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pizza Magic

Does anything look less appealing than old pizza? Sure, I'm a firm believer that day-old pizza makes the best breakfast on earth....But it doesn't look good.

In looks pretty much like crap

So, for the first live-with-pictures update to this endeavor, I decided to tackle the old pizza.
That, and I just happened to have a pizza lying around. Therefore, may I introduce you to the second of the Great Abominations: the Transformation.

A transformation is talking one food and turning it into something completely different. This one sounds simple, but can actually be pretty complicated (witness tonight). Ready to bored the YumTrain to Flavortowne? All aboard for snax!

Case the Second: Chicken Penne with Stale Topping Sauce alongside Crustini (Oh yes, I went there)

Source Food: A modified Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch delivered from Dominos. I put it on thin crust and get roasted red peppers instead of diced tomatoes.

Pantry Items:

Milk (expires tomorrow, so just under the gun), Half Box of Penne (opened who knows when, but it's drygoods), Packet of Creamy Pesto sauce (A Re-Cook staple, along with many other instasauce powders), Frozen Butter (freeze it and it's good forever), Blockacheese (Parmesan this time, but any hard cheese will work. I know these are expensive, but often a few shavings will turn an 'I can't eat this' into a 'Well, I guess I can eat this afterall' meal. keeps forever). Lastly, I had some Fig Balsamic Vinegar that was given to me as a gift (not pictured).

Delivery pizza is by definition taking your chances, but I've generally had decent luck with this pizza from Dominos. This time was not one of those times. The pizza came tepid, chockablock full of floppy undercooked bacon, and buried under enough parsley to re-forest a strip mine. I choked down a couple of the edge pieces when it was still 'fresh' and let it loom on my desk for the remainder of the day.

Inevitably, the witching hour came again. That hour after I'm playing Warcraft for the evening, but not ready to sleep. When I'm awake but listless, I get bored. When I get bored, I HUNGER! Since I am commited to Value, and this baby didn't seem like breakfast material, I decided to See What Could Be Done.


My initial thought was some kind of bake. The idea was to cook up some pasta, strip off the toppings and make them into a sauce, then make the crust into breadcrumbs for a topping on the bake. Thus, step one (actually, step one was to start boiling pasta and turn the oven on to 350) was seperation. I decided that I wanted to pull the red peppers aside since I didn't want to just lose them into the sauce and I was afraid that they would gum it up. Thus:

How I manage to not just eat that all up right off, I'm not sure.
Next step was to place the crust pieces on the top part of my broiler pan and chuck 'em in the oven. As inundated with grease and sauce as they were, they weren't going to burn, but I wanted them warm and hopefully to firm up a bit. After that, I just tossed the chicken-cheese-sauce-bacon bowl into my small Calphalon nonstick. These pans are King and Lord of Cookery. I couldn't cook without it.

If you're poor (and lets face it, no one else would be reading this), you may have trouble justifying the purchase. Firstly, you can get Bed Bath and Beyond
20% off cupons easier than anything, and they frequently have after-holiday sales. I picked up my two pack (tiny pictured below, and a real whopper) for 40$. This pan means that I can be the laziest bugger ever and still cook a couple of times a week, easy. Nothing sticks to them. You can cook dinner, leave the soiled pan on the stovetop, let it set for a week, run some hot water, and then wash it completely clean with a sponge. Cheaper pans need the dishwasher which means I have to do the freaking dishes entirely too often. Consult the Vimes 'Boots' Theory if you still have problems with this concept.

But I digress. I put a bit of butter into the pan (I have no idea why I always do this...most of the things I'm re-cooking have plenty of fat in them to keep them from burning, and I often utilize this fat later in the process....but I feel better about putting the butter or olive oil in first). Once that is nicely melty, crank the heat up to high to get the mix going. I wanted the cheese to soften up and release and the bacon to actually cook all the way through. The thought was to use this bacon grease to serve in place of the 1/4c of olive oil called for on the sauce packet (since I was out of olive oil). This worked a little too well, and I had to put the whole mess into the strainer to drain off some of the excess fat.

While that was happening, I put the hot pan back on the stove and made up the sauce mix with the milk and powder and a little butter (to replace some of the fat I was draining away? No idea. Seemed like a good idea at the time). Sometime in this process, the pasta was done. Protip: never drain pasta until you're ready to eat it. Take it off the heat and let it sit in the water. It will eventually get mushy like this so don't leave it all day, but you can buy a bit of time this way if you misjudged how long the pasta would take (like I did here).

While the sauce was thickening, I pulled the crust pieces out of the oven for a check. They were still pretty floppy, but nice and warm and smelling ok. I grated some of the cheese over them and stuck them back in on Broil for a few minutes to shock them back into stiffness. A word of warning: Broil will ruin your life. It turns things from nasty to perfect to burnt to black to actually-on-fire-omg in roughly 8 seconds. The trick is to catch them at burnt (because you'll miss perfect every time). The trouble is that there is no way of telling how long they will remain floppy and gross before hitting the magic period. I have no advice for you here, as it seems to be different for me every time. Leave the oven door cracked so you can keep an eye on it (and who doesn't like blasts of searing hot all up and down their chest and eyes?). Next, I incorporated the maxmeatymix into the sauce.

This looks like dog-food and chewed up grass. No one is sorrier than I.

After a few good stirs, I put the heat on low-medium and tried to decide what to do with the peppers. I knew they would make some kind of sauce, but...the pasta already had a sauce. I decided to forgo the 'bake' part (I didn't want to wait on it anyway), and leave the crust as-is for a kind of side-dish to the pasta dish. I quick-ran (well, a kind of shuffle really, but it was like lightning) to the pantry and grabbed the Fig Vinegar. I cut into the wax seal to open it, and manage to cut the entire ruddy top off of the bottle. Cue another suffle into the other room for my Swiss Army Knife with Corkscrew, which not only got the cork-stub out, but also managed to coax the fig vinegar out and all over my hands and table. I blended the peppers in the food processor, and added enough vinegar to make it into a gooey topping-like consistency.

That's pretty much it. End result:

Lookit that. Right out of the Hobo Olive Garden.
Ease: C+ (none of the steps was all that complicated, but doing them all at once is a bit of a handful. also, some of the ingrediants were non-standard pantry fair (re: the vinegar))
Flavor: B+ (Crustini was actually pretty tasty, although you could probably say that if you put roasted pepper and balsamic onto sticks and mud. Pasta was pretty good, although too salty. Remember when using OldBacon that it's going to be salty. Sauce thickened into a kind of sludge about 10min later, but I had eaten my capacity by that point anyway)
Criminality: B+ (Pizza and Pasta are pretty harmonious ingrediant wise, but turing one into the other seems dangerous. Furthermore, using the curst in such a way offends reason)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Original Sin

Future posts will consist of pictorial representations of the before and after, fear not. However, for the first couple, I'll be working off of memory. You can all utilize your vivid imaginations to picture the powerful flavors.

The inspiration for this chronicle comes from a meal I prepared some time ago. Being a penniless graduate student, I at least pay nodding attention to Value when I go out to eat. Being someone who loves to eat and to cook, I go out to eat probably more than I should. The combination means that I eat at places with large portions, and quite often have leftovers. After all, paying 25$ for one meal is entirely beyond my budget. However paying the same 25$ and eating it 3 times equals GREAT SAVINGS.

That being said, the same leftovers only last for so long. How many times can you eat on the same pizza before you'd rather starve? For me, the answer it twice. Thus, the birth of the first abomination on the list: The Metafood.

A metafood is a food that is deconstructed and then reconstructed into a similar food. Sound complicated? Well, maybe a little. Why would you want to do such a thing? Pure Flavor, baby.

Case the First: The Tamale Chimi

Source Food: Delicious Tamales over Chili from Corky's

Pantry Items: Tortillas

Corky's does a BBQ nachos to die for, but I feel ridiculous ordering an appetizer as a meal. Besides, when split 2 or 3 ways, they are not nearly sufficient for a full meal. My meal choices are generally the BBQ Chicken dinner, some kind of Ribs, or the Tamales. They're all good, but that day I chose the Tamales.

Fast forward 8 or 10 hours, and it's time to eat again. No food in the house, and it's the hour of the morning where defrosting something is just not going to happen. The only Recent and Edible thing in the fridge is my leftover Tamales. Since I'd been burping them all afternoon, just scarfing them down wasn't going to happen. Thus, the first catastropie.


I scraped all the chili out of the box and off the talames, and stuck it in a bowl. I then chopped the cold talames up into small pieces, and blitzed them in the food processor. I now had a thick porky paste. In a pan, I saute'd some Pepper Onion Blend (Re-Cook Essential Ingrediant) with some butter. Into this I added some chopped garlic (Another Essential, keep it in the fridge, it'll stay good forever) and a bit of chipotle pepper from the freezer. Once this was smelling good and turning brown, I mixed it in with the porkpaste.

Next, I began heating some oil in a skillet. I used just enough to start coming up the sides of the pan. While it was heating, I began spooning the think mixture into the tortillas (I probably thinned it with something, sour cream maybe? I can't remember). I folded the tortillas into the standard shape, and put them seam side down into the now-hot oil. Once they were brown on the bottom, I flipped them. On all but one, the seam stayed closed...success!

Once they were all done, I dolloped some sour cream on top. If I had had some salsa, it would have been a nice touch too, or maybe some kind of cheese sauce. However, we must deal with what we have in front of us.

Ease: B- (food proccessing is always a pain)
Flavor: B- (needed something more to accessorize)
Criminality: A (metafoods are hilarious...try describing to someone the process of essentially making a burrito out of an old burrito without looking like a jackass)


We've all been there. Staring at the fridge at 1am, starving. You can't remember the last time you went to the grocery store, but judging by the date on the milk, it's been awhile. You glumly survey the pantry, wondering what on earth you were thinking when you bought 3 cans of white beans.

The dilemma? There's nothing to eat. Nothing. All the easily prepared box foods are gone. The snack food is just a memory. The mysterious white packages in the freezer could be anything, and you've already eaten on the leftovers twice.

This is a blog for you. Moreover, it's a chronicle of my own personal journey through the underworld of food. The tagline mentions Abominations, and that's not a joke. I'll be combining things inappropriate ways...turning foods into other foods...sinning against nutrition itself.

Sit back and enjoy the trip. Don't expect to find recipes that you can repeat exactly. The whole point is to make do with what you have, when you have it. If you ever go to the grocery store and purchase ingredients for one of my flavorcrimes, you've missed the point. On the other hand, please tell me all about it!