Monday, January 25, 2010

Székely Gulyás

What's that, you ask? Hungarian deliciousness. (It's pronounced 'se-kay goo-yash', kind of, if you run across any Hungarians.) I've read various accounts of its origin, and I don't know which one is true, but it honestly doesn't matter to me. What it comes down to is pork and sauerkraut stewed together with paprika and caraway seeds, then finished off with sour cream. Definitely not health food. But your tummy will thank you.

I used 101 cookbooks' recipe, omitting the flour, and cutting back on the caraway seeds (because I hate the little buggers). I also upped the paprika, and added a bunch of freshly cracked black pepper. And I changed the sauté order around, browning the spare ribs first (and removing them from the pan), then the lean pork and onions, because that's how my Hungarian friend taught me to do it. I also didn't use the full 12 ounces of sour cream, only about 8, because the dish was rather liquidy. I think if I made this again, I'd probably only use 1/2 cup of water instead of the full cup.

However you make it, with the combination of pork, cabbage, and fat, you really can't go wrong. Oh, and make some spaetzle (or, in Hungarian, nokedli) to go with it.

I don't remember whose recipe I grabbed for the spaetzle (sorry!), but it was 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup water, and 3 tablespoons melted butter. I used my large-holed cheese grater propped over a pot of salted boiling water, and a knife to scrape the dough through the holes (don't waste your $$ on a spaetzle-maker). Cook the little dough-worms until they're done, a couple minutes or so.

After this, I'm eating nothing but salad for at least a week, or at least until I can feel my blood flowing through my arteries again.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Homemade Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips

I had one lonely russet potato in the cabinet, and had a craving for potato chips. I've made microwave potato chips before, so decided to try something different.

I absolutely love salt and vinegar potato chips, so decided to try making them myself. How to get the vinegar into the chip? I saw some recipes that said bake them sprinkled with vinegar, but to me, that didn't seem like it would get the infused taste I wanted.

Then I ran across a Martha Stewart recipe for grilled fingerlings that were pre-simmered in vinegar for a few minutes before being grilled. Hmm...that crazy lady was on to something.

So, I sliced the potato about 1/4" thick, then covered in vinegar (just plain old white), and simmered for 5 minutes. Ms. Stewart said let the potatoes cool in the vinegar for 30 minutes, so that's what I did. I then drained the potatoes, tossed them with olive oil, coarse sea salt, and pepper, and broiled them 6 inches from the heat, turning them over so they got browned on both sides. I really don't know how long. Until they were brown. Then sprinkled with more salt.

Delicious. Better than store-bought. And cheaper.

For future forays, here's what I'd do differently:
1. Probably cut them thinner. Once they got cold, they had that...well...cold thick potato thing going on. And if they're thinner, you probably won't have to flip them during cooking.
2. Blot them dry after draining and before tossing with the oil.
3. Turn the vent on earlier in the process. Little dog was coughing. And my kitchen is going to smell like vinegar for days.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Random Quotes from the WIP Household, Part V

I like walking around having music coming out of my butt.


Hubby: You're right, making an appointment was smart.
Me: Told you.
Youngest (to Hubby): Why didn't you make an appointment before?
Me: Mexicans don't make appointments.
Hubby: How did you know?
Me: Because I've been with you for 11 years.
Hubby: You've been with me for 11 years?
Youngest: Why do you think she takes so much medication?


Why is it that every time I look at the table there's a bag of carrots?


The gravy is just like Jesus.


<Al Green's Let's Stay Together comes on the radio>
Youngest: Don't change it. I'll kill you.
(This made me so proud.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

What to do with a Pig Ear (Part II)

Remember these?

My first attempt at cooking one up, while tasty, was rather dangerous. For the second round, I wanted to try something a little less...umm...splattery.

Again I turned to The Nasty Bits, a column on Serious Eats, and decided to go for Pig's Ear on a Hot Griddle, a recipe adapted from The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (a book that I would steal without compunction* from my neighbor if I knew she owned it). So I pulled out my cast iron skillet and heated the bejebus out of it.

*Why is guiltlessly a word, but compunctionlessly not?

I stuck the ear into the skillet, and pressed down on it continuously with a smaller skillet, until it was browned all over and charred in spots. The recipe in the link says "thoroughly charred", but that didn't seem like it was ever going to happen. Plus, my stupid skillet isn't properly seasoned yet (it's only 8 years old), and I have a sticking problem.

Et, voilà:

The recipe says serve with mustard, but I didn't bother, mostly because I wanted to really experience the unadulterated flavor. (People will eat chocolate covered crickets, but will they eat a naked one?)

I ate the thinner crispy bits around the edges, then started to get slightly squicked by the fat in the thicker middle part. So, once again, I'm glad I tried it, and the dogs were happy.


Oh, and in case you were wondering, there will be no Part III. Yes, there were three ears, and yes, I had a third recipe planned (the second one from the Serious Eats link above), but I goofed and boiled it along with the other two because I didn't read the recipe first. So you all lucked out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What to do with a Pig Ear (Part I)

Yes, you read that correctly. Pig ear. I saw a bunch of packages of them at the market, and picked one up, having absolutely no idea what I was going to do with them. I figured if I couldn't find a way to cook them (for people), at least the dogs would have fun. Warning, if you're squeamish, you might want to skip this one. I thought the whole process was pretty interesting, myself.

Turns out, I was able to find a few recipes. They started with boiling the scary things for a couple hours until they were tender. So that's what I did. Observe.

Upon seeing the three ears on the counter, my Youngest asked me, "Three? How did that happen?" I told her maybe the second pig had an accident. I almost said maybe the pig had a genetic disorder that made him grow a third ear, but she was already freaked out enough by their mere presence, so I'm glad that my shut-up switch worked.

My first recipe was for Crisp Fried Pig's Ears. Kind of like bacon bits, or pork cracklins. Only, ears. So, the next step was to let the ear (I stowed the other two in the fridge) cool until it stopped wobbling. Then, I proceeded to slice.

Isn't it neat? Skin, fat and cartilage in distinct layers. Up at the end (or, I guess, the beginning) where the ear used to attach to the head, there was a little meat as well.

Next, you make sure the strips are as dry as possible (foreshadowing), and coat them in a 50/50 mix of flour and cornstarch in attempt to prevent spattering when you deep-fry them (more foreshadowing). Heat some neutral oil to 350, carefully slip in a few pieces at a time, and stir them gently while frying so they don't stick together.

The finished product:

The taste?  Like the crispy skin from a pork roast. But with that cartilage-y bit in the middle.

Now, I skipped a part. A really important part. The part after you carefully slip the ear strips into the oil, and all of a sudden you have oil popping and hissing and splattering absolutely everywhere. Because when you boil an ear for hours, it soaks up a lot of water. Then when you drop that water-logged ear into hot oil, the water turns to steam, forcing the oil out of the pot. Onto your clothing. And hands. And ceiling. And dangerously close to your eyeballs.

So, would I do this again? Hell, no.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lamb Kofta Curry

Back when I had promised to make lahmajun for my friend, I had such a hard time finding ground lamb, that when I did, I bought a bunch. I stuck it in the freezer and promptly forgot about it.

Not too long ago, when I was searching for something else, a package of ground lamb jumped out of the freezer and landed on my foot. So I decided to make this Lamb Kofta Curry that I found over at Gel's Kitchen.

I tweaked the recipe a little, cutting back on the onion in the meatballs slightly, adding some cayenne to the curry, and blitzing the sauce after it was cooked with my immersion blender, since I decided at the last minute that I wanted it smooth, not chunky.

Served with jasmine rice, and boiled-then-sauteed kale with garlic and hot pepper flakes. Not very photogenic. But tasty.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sansai Ramen

A while back, we went to Chopstix in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood of San Diego because Youngest had a ramen craving, and I'm trying to wean her off of the $0.20 a bag MSG-laden crap from the grocery store. I had sansai ramen for the first time, and loved it.

A few weeks later, I was at Mitsuwa market, and spotted a bag of sansai vegetables. I thought, why not make my own sansai ramen? So I picked up the bag o' veggies, some fresh ramen noodles, and a package of fish cake.

Slice and fry up the fish cake (you can't see it in the picture, unfortunately), heat the veggies, cook the noodles, make the broth. There. You now have ramen. Yeah, I cheated and used the packet of concentrated broth that came with the noodles. But it was MSG-free. So there.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Baby Zucchini Frittata

I had to go to the mall today to return something. Yuck. I hate the mall. I was dreading it. But it had to be done.

Errand accomplished, walking out of the hated place, I passed by a Vista Farms stand, and saw the most adorable baby zucchini with the flowers still attached. "These would make a wonderful frittata," I thought. So I bought a large handful for $1.50.

Once home, I cooked up some bacon and then crumbled it, shredded some Panquehue cheese, minced a clove of garlic, and chopped up a green onion. Saute the garlic and halved squashy-babies in butter, add 5 beaten eggs, salt and pepper, most of the cheese, the bacon, and the green onion. Top with the remaining cheese, and bake until the eggs are set. Toast some bread while the frittata is baking. Oh, and be careful when you're slicing up the frittata - remember, you just took that skillet out of the oven, and the handle is hot. (In other words, don't be a dummy like me.)

I guess the mall isn't such a bad place after all.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Random Quotes from the WIP Household, Part IV

"Let the drunken bastard eat his cannoli." (This one didn't actually happen in our household, but was spoken by the drunken bastard himself, and couldn't be omitted for that reason.)


Stop not wearing pants.


That's stucking foopid.


Hubby to Me: What's wrong with you? Why do you always have a disgusted look on your face?
Youngest: Well, she has seen you naked.


"You smell like a French whore."
"I am a French whore."


[reading from some webpage] "The proportions for Barbie were actually based on those of Eva Braun."
"Does that mean Hitler didn't have a weenie?"


Friday, January 1, 2010

Non-Food Post - Books Read in 2009

Yes, this is a food blog. So why is my first post a non-food post? reason, except that 2009 is over, and therefore, this is the first post that I have ready.

So, here's the list of books I read in 2009. 22 more than in 2008, but 2008 had some brutal ones, like A Linguistic History of English and The Origins and Development of the English Language. 2009 was more fluffy. Looking over the list, the most brain-intensive was probably Guns, Germs and Steel (highly recommended). And if you're looking for something to totally screw with your head, completely piss you off, or possibly both, try House of Leaves.

The Valkyries – Paulo Coelho
A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
A Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin
A Storm of Swords – George R. R. Martin
A Feast for Crows – George R. R. Martin
Genghis: Birth of an Empire – Conn Iggulden
The Gnostic Mystery – Randy Davila
First Rider’s Call – Kristen Britain
Dragon Champion – E. E. Knight
Eldritch Horrors: Dark Tales – Henrik Sandbeck Harksen, ed.
Coraline – Neil Gaimon
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
The Alexander Cipher – Will Adams
Something Borrowed – Emily Giffin
Spiders of Allah – James Hider
Garlic and Sapphires – Ruth Reichl
Something from the Nightside – Simon Green
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt
Come On In! – Charles Bukowski
The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson
Tales of Ordinary Madness – Charles Bukowski
Baking Cakes in Kigali – Gaile Parkin
The Way of the Wolf – E. E. Knight
Something Blue – Emily Giffin
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Draegon Taymerz – A. Steve Zimm
The United States of Arugula – David Kamp
Black Widow – Patrick Quentin
The Sexual Life of Catherine M. – Catherine Millet
Postmortem – Patricia Cornwell
C is for Corpse – Sue Grafton
ghostgirl – Tonya Hurley
ghostgirl: Homecoming – Tonya Hurley
Walking in on Mum and Dad: Adventures in Embarrassment – Brian King
A Knight of the Word – Terry Brooks
Night World No. 1 – L. J. Smith
Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant – Jenni Ferrari-Adler
Let the Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist
K is for Killer – Sue Grafton
Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond
From the Borderlands – Elizabeth E. and Thomas F. Monteleone, eds.
House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
Sons of the Oak – David Farland
Stephen King – Under the Dome
Mia King – Table Manners
L is for Lawless – Sue Grafton
N is for Noose – Sue Grafton
Best Food Writing 2004 – Holly Hughes, ed.
Angel Fire East – Terry Brooks
Heat – Bill Buford
Dragon Avenger – E. E. Knight

I hope you all had a pleasant New Year, and I wish you the best for 2010.