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)