Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eating Out Where You Live

So, I’m still cooking things n’ stuff. And in doing so, I sometime remember the occasional request for home recipes to attempt and enjoy. I’ve had a good run lately with some new experiments and rehashing some of my old favorites with a sprinkle of wild eyed madness. So, a few recipes of vegetableness for my sod-stalker friends and a few in my usual meatgasm style.

Let’s kick it off with a good ole spring bbq. When you’re digging through your crisper drawer to examine it for the stuff you’ve gotta get to cooking before it turns into some of the wines I had at the T&T of the Tower…well, you’re a lucky little boy when you come up with baby zucchini and some local grown asparagus. Beats the hell out of potato salad and chips as sides for your burgers.

I first learned that asparagus could be grilled at a friend’s wedding. Probably the second best thing to come out of the day. Once I got over my initial hesitation, I discovered that it’s quite easy and delicious even if they’re overdone. Asparagus chips anyone? Feel free to tweak the recipe to your taste, or even add in some different flavors. However you cook it, you’ll be the hero of the grill when you slide these bad boys onto an eager public’s plate.

Grilled Asparagus

1 lb fresh asparagus
½ cup olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8th teaspoon cracked black pepper

Simple stuff. Throw everything into a bowl and toss together. Let it sit for around 10 minutes while you’re fussing with your grill. You know you will be…nobody can leave a fire alone. When you’re satisfied that hot is hot, lay your 'gussies onto the grill. Perpendicularly please, preferably with the fat sides towards the hottest part of the fire. Let ‘em cook until they start to sear and blacken slightly on one side. Tongs are your friend here…flip the narrow, slippery little bastards over and allow that side to color up the same. So long as you’re not cooking over Satan’s self lit farts, they should be perfectly tender on the inside and have none of that water logged mushiness you get from steaming or boiling.

Grilled Zucchini

1lb baby zucchini sliced lengthwise ¼ inch thick (wide and flat cuts)
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8th teaspoon cracked black pepper

Hmmm, look similar? It is! Don’t bother peeling, just knock off the ends of the zukes and slice down the length. Give a toss in the oil and goodies and straight to the grill. These you want to mind a little more on the grill. It’s fine to blacken the skin on the outer cuts, but you only want to get some nice grill marks on the flesh of the veggie. Giving a squeeze with your tongs goes a long way towards telling when they’re done. I like mine to give a bit but taken off before they can get mushy. Usually if they fold in half without crinkling, they’ll be nice and tender.

We also threw down on some hamburgers, since I feel silly pantomiming stalking and killing my plated meal without some form of animal protein present. But I supposed you could substitute with one of them vegetable type patty things formed of beans and whatnot. Philistines. But the burger itself is so simple it doesn’t bear a recipe. I just put some salt and pepper on 80% lean beef patties that I make sure to mash out nice and thin. Too many jackasses think that a 6 inch thick burger is the height of burgerdom. And those same jackasses should have stayed in the special class. If I wanted that much meat in my face, I’d change my sexual orientation. A thin burger has all the beefy taste you could want without having to fist fuck your own face in public. Nothing against people who can actually fist fuck their own faces, but there’s a time and a place for these things and it’s called the internet. Oh yeah, and make sure to toast your buns. Heat wakes up the flavor in those ornamental sesame seeds. Garnish however you like and you’ve got a pretty pimpin backyard meal.

A decidedly non-vegetarian dish would be hot wings. I’ve seen attempts on their side of the fence, but they’re comparatively at the same level of technology as the Real Doll. Cosmetically they’re getting fairly close, but they can’t simulate the meat well enough to fool anyone who likes the real thing. Damn thing tasted like barbeque sauce slathered bread. If it was the doll or the wing, I’ll leave up to your imagination.

The main thing that intimidated me so much about throwing down on my own wings though, was the deep frying. Sure it was easy peasey when I was working one in a restaurant. They’re temperature controlled and have a halon system ready to go if you make that terribly stupid mistake. Plus, it ain’t my house on fire. But doing at home, there’s that risk, the chance that you’ll knock over a pot of 400 degree napalm right onto your cock and…well I think that last one trumps any of the others I was thinking of. But, having a decent electronic thermometer and an asbestos thong now, I was confident enough to give the demon wings a shot.

Hot Wings

2lbs chicken wings (pre split with skin on)
Salt and Pepper
A quart of vegetable oil

The trick here is hot oil and a thick bottomed pot. I prefer 375 degrees. CAREFULLY add your wings to the oil one at a time, keeping an eye on your thermometer in the oil. It’ll blow your mind how quickly and how much a few wings will drop the temperature of your oil. And I like to cook the living hell out of my wings. The old stove can’t really keep the heat up very well, so I was cooking between 10-12 minutes. When you first add them, you’ll want to move them carefully around with your spider (the only tool for hot oil at home) so they don’t stick to the pot or each other. As they’re getting close to done, you’ll notice that they’ll begin to float in the oil. Roll them around if the top side isn’t getting browned properly or hold under the oil with your spider. Once they’re floating and browned all around, take out of the oil and allow to drain and cool for about 3 minutes or they stop hissing at you. Once cool toss in the wing sauce. Don’t know wing sauce? There’s another one that doesn’t need a full recipe format. Take a stick of butter and a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot (or your own homemade hot sauce) and simmer while whisking together. Pour about a half cup over each batch wings in a bowl and toss together. Serve with more wing sauce or a little blue cheese. Not so terrible, just make sure to remember to turn off the heat to your oil before you go diving into wing heaven and collapse into a poultry induced fit of the ‘itis.

And lastly, we come to a strange and wrong food experiment that a sick imagination brought to light. You see, I originally learned to make spaghetti from my father, who is decidedly not Italian. No, no Chef Boyardee crap. But, we lean towards quite a bit of meat and shocking amounts of tomato paste. It wasn’t until my 30’s that I learned that most recipes only call for a couple tablespoons of the stuff, not the whole can or 3. The result being very tasty, but thick enough that you can stand a metal fork in the saucepot without fear of it tipping over. My friends got into the habit of calling it chili spaghetti, which stuck. And so tonight I was looking at making dinner and noticed I still had a ton of home made chili powder left over from taco night and a terrifying insanity seized hold of me. If we call it chili spaghetti, why not take the term to it’s absurd yet literal end? So I did!

Chili Spaghetti

1lb linguini
¾ lb ground beef
¾ lb sweet Italian sausage
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 diced shallot
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 pinch sugar
1 can tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground sage
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/8th cup chili powder (recipe after this one)

You’ll need a decent sized sauce pot for this. First, take your sausage and pinch off some little meatballs. About the diameter of a nickel and start them frying. Give a light dusting of the chili powder and cook until they’ll hold together without mushing into each other. Then crumble the ground beef over the top and add the remaining chili powder and cook well. On the side, toss your tomatoes, spices and shallot into your food processor and beat it all down like it pee’d on your couch during the bbq. Add this to your ground beef and sausage and bring to a light simmer. Simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, during which you should get your pasta water salted and boiling. Add your tomato paste to the sauce and stir it in thoroughly and set to lowest simmer for another 6-8 minutes, or however long it takes for your pasta to cook. Drain the pasta, toss it with a little olive oil, put 'em together and serve. You could garnish with a little cheddar cheese and/or some sour cream if you’re feeling chili-traditional. However, you can blow your chopped onion right out your ass Howard. What’s the matter with you?? Why, I oughta!!!

Ok, ok, breathe…breathe…AUM! AUUUUMMM. All better. I dunno if I should share my chili powder recipe. You friggin onion lovers… But since it does have onion powder in it, I suppose it’ll be ok this time. But only because the onions are tortured to death in an Arizona like industrial blow dryer and then crumbled between uncaring rollers until they’re naught but dust. There’s some other stuff too. Chili’s mostly. I like using my stick blender’s little mini food processor attachment for this. It seems to get a better powder consistency than a full sized food proc.

Chili Powder

6 dried California chiles
4 dried Ancho chiles
3 tablespoons dried ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 TINY pinch of clove

De-stem and de-seed your dried peppers first. Add your salt and spices to the food processor with a couple of the chiles crumbled into the cup. Spin that up until smooth, then add a couple more chiles. Repeat until everything is spun together in a nice, smooth powder. There will be some flakes of chile remaning, but don’t fret. And DON’T SNIFF IT! We all do it once, totally forgetting that there’s aerosolized dry pepper spray wafting around in there. It’s not habanero, but once this hits your schnoz, you’ll wisely and loudly declare yourself a moron as you wonder if it’s possible to snort milk. And mind you, when you’re not attempting to use this as a crank substitute, it’s actually a very very mild chili powder. You can up the heat by adding in a tablespoon or more of red chile flakes or substituting in a couple hotter dry peppers like some Thai’s or cayennes.

Well that’s that for now. Hope we gave you some fun ideas to try for dinner and maybe have inspired you to do something bizarre like throw a mutant chili recipe over some pasta and call it genius. Don’t be afraid to take some risks. Unlikely combinations can be delicious if you put your own special twist on them. Sorta like Ponch and John, riding their Harley Electra Glides down the 405 of your digestive tract to the San Diego of your butt, smooth and spicy all the way to the border.