Amazon has announced details of their upcoming new Kindle models. I got one for Christmas last year, and haven't bought a print book since. The self-publishing model has inspired me to take a crack at writing a novel, too. Watch this space for future details.
What better way to enjoy the run-up to Cinco de Mayo than with a detailed look at just how the archetypical Mexican-American food evolved? Being terrible iconoclasts, we absolutely do not consider fast food beneath us, and would probably eat at Taco Bell more often if there was a more convenient location nearby. Weirdly, Ellen didn't like Mexican food one bit until she was pregnant with Olivia. Now we usually have some sort of Mexican food (home-cooked or otherwise) once or twice a week.
Oh, and I must admit that Sonora dog sounds pretty darned tasty. My arteries clogged a bit just reading the description.
Good, important, science: physicist and BBQ nut Greg Blonder has figured out what exactly causes the "smoke stall," and how to get around it. The result is excellent meat in a much shorter period of time. Anything that makes it good and gets it to the dinner table faster is fine by me!
Recent research indicates thawing most kinds of meat in hot water is safe and effective. There are a few caveats, but really, who has a sink that can fully submerge a whole roast anyway?
BBQ you fail, but Frito Pie you are king.
I like Frito Pie.
After selling more than one million Double Down sandwiches in less than a month, KFC has removed the controversial item from its menu, the restaurant chain announced Monday.
Dear God! People actually ate this!?
News flash: if you spend four hours going at it, you can make a version of the McRib sandwich that tastes much better than the original. With that sort of time involved, I'm of the opinion one should do it all properly and use smoked pork shoulder and pull the meat as God and every BBQ place from here to San Jose intended. But I'm a purist that way.
Robert H. gets a no-prize that'll fuss pedantically while the bacon starts to burn for bringing us a software engineer's rant on cooking. I like Alton Brown's stuff precisely because he not only tells you what to do, but why it works. The former gets you started, the latter helps guide you when things go wrong. Little wonder that the most successful recipes I've ever tried have been Alton's. Especially that stove-top mac & cheese. MMMM!!!
So, while I did learn a lot about cycling this season, at least as important was learning how to make The Perfect BLT. As a reward and refueling, I allowed myself a fresh BLT from the downstairs cafeteria. It was only when the regular cook was gone and a substitute (BRIEFLY) took his place that I realized not just anyone could do it right.
Now that my main bike season is over, I've been BLT-less at work. However, after several weeks of quietly collecting tools and ingredients, I took a shot at doing it myself and ALMOST got it right, on the very first try! I'm sure you'll all be shocked to hear Ellen has noted I'm not the brightest bulb in the bunch when it comes to cooking, but if I see it made in front of me a few times, I pick it up fast enough. SO... here's my almost perfected recipe for the perfect BLT:
Ok, I need to find a better knife for the final slice. My knife cut the tomato fine, but was too harsh to make a nice split on the finished sandwich. My first try LOOKED retarded, but tasted JUST right.
Put it this way. Most of the time when I get creative in the kitchen, Ellen pokes at the result in the same way a chimpanzee examines a dead mouse. This time, she didn't even slow down when AMBER called. Heck, even the tortoise went after the bits of bacon that fell into her bowl. And Swoozie? Oh, we only thought french fries were her favorite food.
SO... there you have it. I'm sure you either knew all about this, or have an even BETTER technique. This is mine, taught to me (without knowledge or intent) by a short-order master. And it is so very, very good...
* Ok, so everything was going fine until our decrepit microwave, which also doubles as our kitchen vent, went KA-POW!!! and caused the breaker to throw downstairs, which killed the oven's warming tray (the oven's gas, but some part of the tray isn't, and they share the same circuit). A boiling pot of water with a metal bowl on top of it did just as well to keep "teh bayhcon" warm.
Anything titled "Who Wants prosciutto Ice Cream?" will likely be worth a look, and this low-key look at someone who's creating just that definitely is. Ellen would never take me there, because she knows all I'd order was chocolate. Still, chocolate ice cream with booze in it sounds... intriguing...
Push it to around 5-6 minutes to see the piercing goodness!
Hey, if this thing doesn't count as a multi-tasker, I'm not sure what does. I got two problems: a) it looks pretty large in the video and b) dang, $900? Really? That's, like, really sweet stove range right there, I think. Still, if it catches on I could personally see shelling out, say, 1/3rd of that (which is, as I recall, about as much as a really nice mixer costs). Gadgets, FTW!
My favorite treat evar!
Pistachios have a significant amount of protein, healthy fat, and dietary fiber, all three of which can increase your feeling of fullness and the length of time it takes to get hungry again. When you’re feeling full, you tend to eat less throughout the day, which can lead to weight loss. Even savoring a snack of 30 pistachios (about 100 calories) may be enough to curb your appetite when hunger strikes.
Via The Skinny Nut.
My latest fun item in the kitchen is a yogurt maker. Why a yogurt maker? Well... it's a new year. My pants don't fit like they did anymore. ORrrr I can blame it on my age, but then again, I'm not *that* old. So eating healthier seemed the best and since I have a 6 year old yogurt monster, I figured it would just be easier to make it at home.
I won't tell you the machine I purchased since I don't get props from the company but I will say it has these cute little glass jars and a blue lid.
Now I've been making yogurt for the past few days with just 100% organic 100% full fat cow milk, and I have to say, it has come out great! No complaints from the 6 year old yogurt monster, especially if it's served in one of those "cute glass jars."
Then I remembered a fun thing I did a few years ago... make yogurt cheese! Hey, if I can make cow yogurt in 8 hours, the goat version is just as easy! The only problem is that my yogurt maker only makes 1 liter at a time. For decent cheese, you need at least 3.
Onwards to the... wait for it... goatyurt! It's EASY!! Especially if you have a machine!* If you don't have a machine, it sucks. Get a machine.
You will need 1 liter of organic goat milk. Ok, Ok... if you can't get organic, get the closest possible! Go to a farm stand (ours aren't open right now in the winter... so BOO on my end!) If all else fails, Trader Joe's, FTW! [And the husband doesn't get to protest that the parking lot is full of snow -- ed]
In a stainless steel or other NON REACTIVE pot, heat the milk to a boil. Remember to stir the milk frequently or even better... keep it moving with a slotted wooden spoon or spatula. NO hot spots in the milk. EVAR.
I bring my yogurt milk up to a boil... never a full boil, just to a boil. Remove from heat and put into a glass or plastic pitcher that you have CLEANED with soap and rinsed with boiled water.**
Cool the milk in the pitcher with a thermometer in it to 100 degrees. Yes, you must cool the milk or you will kill the live cultures you will add. 100 degrees is nice and cozy for lactobacilicus!
When you've hit your appropriate temperature you'll add 1/2 cup live cultured yogurt (non sweetened, not flavored etc., preferably organic) to your warm milk. Mix gently with your slotted spoon or spatula.
Then, using your handy dandy pitcher, fill those cute little cups to the edge and place in the incubator and incubate it for a minimum of 8 hours.
Remember, the longer you incubate it, the more tart the yogurt. The less fat milk you use, the thinner the yogurt.
After your set amount of time, you MUST refrigerate your yogurt for a minimum of 3 hours before enjoying. This gives the cultures time to slow down and the yogurt to 'gel' to the correct consistency.
NEXT ISSUE! CHEESE!
** Why boiled water? Because you are minimizing ANY microorganisms that will contaminate your yogurt and cheese. Remember, yogurt and cheese are living foods. Don't make your foods sick. You will only make yourself sick with them.
Ron gets a very tasty no-prize for bringing us yet more bacony goodness! Hey, if the title of the article is "Bacon Explosion," you know it's gotta be good.
Ron gets a terribly tasty no-prize for bringing us the Bacon and Cheese Roll, your one-stop-shop for heart-stopping cholesterol goodness. I definitely wouldn't want to be the one assigned to clean the oven after that got cooked in it.
Exhibit #1 (and #2) in "why Ellen didn't need to clean the kitchen today." Let me tell you folks, scratch-made pepperoni bread has it all over anything you can get from a store.
One is for a New Year party this afternoon. The other is mine!
Could the introduction of infra-red burners to a gas grill finally give die-hard charcoal users a reason to switch? Those who value charcoal for its higher temperatures will most likely want to take a look.
We still use charcoal, not because of any particular preference, but because it's simple, cheap, and compact. These things should be much more affordable when the time comes around for us to consider a full-size grill, so who knows?
How I was NOT allowed to spend my Easter day.
Bless Wikipedia, without which we would not have such easy access to a detailed description of Medieval cuisine. Hop-less beer drunk fresh from the keg. Progress is a good thing!
And no, they are not in search of nuts
They like to bake too! No Really!
"Learning to bake and use an oven responsibly is so much more fun with an oven squirrel."
Ellen, to me: "Could you come here and stir this? I need to answer the door."
We're in the middle of... "seasonal" cleaning, which nowadays means an almighty shedding of the previous season's toys. We give them away to charities and other deserving folk. Which is why Ellen answered the door.
So I'm stirring chicken and onions on the stovetop, trying not to dump any of it into the burner. At first I concentrated quite fixedly at this task, sort of a clutzy terminator with a wooden spoon. Eventually though, I noticed something. Something... colorful...
Ellen, coming back up the stairs: "Well that's a happy family!"
Me: "Umm. Ellen? Why is the chicken... blue?"
We both peered down into the frying pan. Sure enough, certain pieces of chicken were spotted with a quite pretty shade of cerulean blue.
Ellen: "That? That?" I looked significantly at her. "Oh that," and here she did a wave-off that would do Jack Benny proud, "that's nothing to worry about."
I'm not sure what's worse. The blue chicken, or the fact that I accepted the wave off without question. You see, Olivia has recently been involved with finger painting. Using Ellen's cutting board.
Oh well, the stuff's non-toxic, right?
Make your very own fizzing fizzing bath bomb!
Our new stove. We are total SIMS!
Carrie gets a surprisingly practical no-prize for bringing us this Washington Post article detailing how cooks are finding nifty tools in unexpected places:
Practicality rules in the restaurant galley, where some tools come straight from the hardware store. A putty knife can make perfect chocolate curls, and simple polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe can mold an elegant appetizer. Chefs find such items are often sturdier or less expensive than the designer widgets sold in kitchen stores.
Alton Brown of Good Eats fame has been doing stuff like this for years, but it's hard to say who got the idea first.
We have yet to this out.
Alton's got a new book out, so we're getting nifty articles about him again:
As an adult, Brown came to understand how cookery can be a great teaching tool.
"I wish they had offered home economics when I attended high school; I might have done better in science and math. The science of baking gives equations context," he says.
"In biology they made me dissect a fetal pig -- a skill I have never needed since. However, if they had made the class dissect a whole chicken -- now there's a life skill."
We've got Iron Chef America on season pass now. On the very first episode every dish was something we would've eaten. Which is 180 degrees out from the original, in which we considered dishes successful when we didn't gag thinking about the smell (eel ice cream, anyone?)
Then again, there's always the drinking game...
WHY would anyone want to cook with this stuff is beyond me!
No Scott, we will NOT be trying ANY of these recipies.
Excuse me while I go vomit (there is probably a site on cooking with vomit for all I know).
that I posted yesterday, you may have come up with a case of the beer flu or the Monday morning disease - in other words, you're hungover. If so, there are things you can do to help ease your pain.
See? We do care.
Here at the Kitty Condo, we're always concerned about our (okay, well, Scott and Ellen's) readers. We sincerely want you all to enjoy your summer days off. To that end, I have two drink recipes which you might find enjoyable. The first is a favorite of Ellen and Amber, the second is my personal favorite.
In a blender, combine two cups of ice, two cups of chopped up seedless watermelon, and 6 ounces of Rum (your choice on the rum, we use Malibu Caribbean Coconut flavor). Blend until the whole thing is nice, smooth and creamy. Serve it in a hurricane glass with some whipped cream on top. If you can pull it, get the little drink umbrellas and a slice of the watermelon for garnish.
Ron's Sex on the Beach
There are about 1.5 billion recipes for a SOTB, however, this is the one that I've enjoyed over the years. In an ice-filled shaker, combine 4 oz of vodka (Absolut 80 proof), 2 oz of Chambord, 2 oz of Midori, and 4 oz of Orange/Pineapple juice, along with a splash of grenadine. Shake liberally and pour of ice in a tall glass. Looks like reddish-brown dishwater, but tastes wonderful. And you don't even notice the vodka after the third sip or so...
Note: As we want you to remain our loyal readers, please drink responsibly.
Ya know, today I learned something.
I learned that you should make sure after cutting hot peppers that you wash wash wash wash wash those hands till they are raw before rubbing your face near your nose (near... not in... nope, not in. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)
I learned something else today. I learned that no amount of jumping up and down, running in circles, climbing stairs, or washing your nose with soap and water will stop the burn.
Finally, I learned that putting milk on a cotton ball and shoving it up your nose is the only thing in the world that will stop the burn.
Oh, don't worry, Scott's on the couch tonight. "It does a body good" when your spouse is streaming milk out of her cotton-stuffed nose is only funny when you say it on the inside.
Ellen, pushing a red target shopping cart down the aisles: "We need a grill."
Scott: "Our yard is 10ft x 10ft. The garage is full of spare parts and gardening stuff. The association Gestapo will take our child if we get a grill and leave it outside. I have it on good authority it's not a good idea to grill inside."
"We need a grill. This grill."
"We'll have to sit on the ground with that! We'll look like extras in a cross between The Brady Bunch and Dances with Wolves."
"We need a grill."
Ellen: *blink* *blink*
So a grill we got, a Thermos brand table-top grill, about 18 inches per side, 2.25 square feet of flame-broiling goodness. The learning curve was steep but short, with a small bag of "match lite" briquettes (which have the advantage of smelling like a fireworks factory while being only marginally safer) being replaced by "regular" charcoal and lighter fluid (OOK! THAG MAKE FIRE!), and then, after Ellen saw how I worked with that, a chimney starter that didn't require lighter fluid.
Scott: "But! But!"
Ellen: "Listen sparky, I didn't spend all this time, effort and money buying a house just so you could play Willie the mad match thrower around it. My house, my rules."
"Look! Grill tools!"
Actually, it all worked pretty well, at least in small batches. The chimney starter would fire up just enough coals to cook four burgers, two steaks, or a pound of chicken with enough heat to do the job quickly while leaving cool sear marks. Of course the operative word here was small.
Scott: "How many people did you invite to Olivia's birthday party?"
Ellen: "Umm... lemme count... looks like... sixteen. No. Seventeen. Since we have a grill now, we can have a barbecue!"
Scott: "I thought this was supposed to be a really small get together?"
Ellen: *blink* *blink*
So there I was, trying to figure out how to feed more than a dozen people with a grill the size of a briefcase. The biggest problem, I thought, would be getting enough heat. No way the chimney starter will work this time, doesn’t light enough coals. So I filled the grill up with charcoal, maybe two layers deep and corner-to-corner, doused it with lighter fluid, and hit it with the grill lighter.
What I was expecting was a nice, even, hot grill. What I got would compare favorably to the ass-end of an F/A-18 on full afterburner. The frozen pre-made hamburger patties we'd gotten specially for this occasion started to sear six inches from the grate, and hot dog wieners turned a crusty black in seconds. Dripping grease from the patties caused flare-ups that would take the eyebrows off the unwary (well, they would have if anyone could have gotten that close to the Kilauea-in-a-can I'd created). What went on as patties and dogs came back as roof shingles and dried rat turds.
Eventually a real grilling expert, in the form of my father-in-law Billy, coolly stepped in to save me from the miniature forge-of-Hades I'd created in my driveway. A few strategic water-hose blasts here, a few vents closed there, and (after about fifteen minutes) hot dogs started taking minutes to sear instead of seconds. Burger patties no longer charred in arching hellfire flare-ups, instead cooking nicely, if rather quickly. Most glorious of all, both wife and mother-in-law were far too busy hosting the estrogen-fest upstairs (twelve of the seventeen attendees were female) to make it down for a critique.
Because the only thing worse than screwing up a party in front of your wife is, of course, screwing it up in front of your wife and her mother.
The scene: watching an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats, Alton begins his introduction on how to make a pie crust from scratch
Ellen: "Making a pie crust is a bitch. Just do yourself a favor and buy them from the grocery store."
Me: Nodding sagely, Ellen bakes, Ellen should know.
Alton proceeds to show a simple way to make a pie crust.
Me: "Well, that didn't look too hard."
Ellen: "Of course not. He showed you the easy way to do it."
The art of female verbal jujitsu, rule #7: When cornered, change the rules of the game.
And people say I can't cook...
Long time readers will know our fascination with Alton Brown and our occasionally successful attempts at implementing his techniques. Folks will also know that, as far as I'm concerned, half the fun is the "gear" of cooking. Fancy pots, pans, knives, spatulas, food processors... you name it, I either have it or want it. Turns out now there's going to be a whole book by good ol' AB himself that's nothing but gear.
Not all of it's expensive... the 12" Lodge cast iron he recommended is used at least 3 times a week at our house to cook something, and it only cost $24.95 (and if you don't have one yet run, don't walk, to the nearest crate & barrel or williams-sonoma and pick one up... damned useful piece of gear).
My new addiction. I have to say, they are more satisfying than chocolate and or icecream.
Especially the Coca-cola flavored one.
I want to record for posterity that all these squirrel recipies (be sure to read the comments) were posted by yankees, and that Michele herself is an Italian-American from New Jersey. So none of that "what kind of squirrel did you eat in Arkansas, Scott?" crap from you people anymore. Understand?!?
I've been getting oodles of questions on WHERE you can find Alton Brown's salt conatiner.
This is where I found it. Crate and Barrel. The store itself, not the website. Although now that I look at the container, it DOES look like something that would hold parmesean cheese in it.
It was a total accident that we found it in the store. Scott and I were buying his 'Lodge" cooking pan, and we stumbled on it in the condiment area. Neat huh?
So for all of you that want a container like AB, go to you local Crate and Barrel.
I'm not sure, I guess it comes from having a dad who could do amazing things with meat, fire, and spices, but I've always considered the ability to cook a steak a hallmark of being a "true guy". Being able to create something edible from a raw hunk of meat speaks to the caveman deep inside me.
It took a surprisingly long time for me to even consider trying. We grilled constantly at home, but it was always something the grownups did. When I was in college it just never occurred to me, and by the time I moved out here I didn't have access to a grill. Once I did finally get access to grills, they were these gross "common area" cheapies that couldn't cook things evenly if you dropped them in hot lava.
It was only after I got Alton Brown's book (I'm Just Here for the Food) that I discovered you didn't actually need a grill to cook a good steak. You just needed the right kind of pan.
Since then it's taken about nine months of alternating between shoe leather and something almost still mooing for me to stumble onto the right combination. It turned out to be a real b*tch for me to get "medium rare" (the only way to eat a good steak. If you haven't, try asking for "medium" just once. Guarantee you'll never go back!) with any consistency. I know there must be a million different ways to do this, and I'm sure you guys (and gals) all have different ones, but in the interest of helping other "not-quite-guys" out there, here's mine:
Note: Vegetarians or Vegans should just not click through... it gets pretty graphic in there. :)
The Perfect UnGrilled Steak Scott-style:
What you need:
How I do it:
(well, Ok, I made that last bit up, but you get the picture). Anyway, you'll probably need to put it back in for 3-10 minutes more. I keep pulling mine out and checking every two minutes or so. This is why you leave the oven on for so long before you start... all this opening and closing makes it lose a lot of heat, and by letting it sit the walls get hot enough to help retain said heat.
Again, this is how I do it. There are probably some grill aficionados out there somewhere spitting beer over how I do it. If ya gots a better way, please put it in by commenting below. Also, if you have any neat rubs or spices you think would work well be sure to let me know about them too. I'm always up for new ideas!
Alton Brown finally managed to complete his Slashdot interview. Give it a read here...
What I Learned When Using a Pressure Cooker:
Ah well, maybe I'll try stew next...
We freeze all the meat we buy at the grocery store. This creates a problem, because we usually forget to put stuff in the fridge to thaw in the morning for dinner that night. For the longest time we'd stick the microwave on DEFROST for 7 minutes and nuke whatever we wanted until it was thawed. Anyone who's ever done this knows what ends up happening is you get a defrosted center, but it cooks the outside edges, which is gross. It also pulls juice out of the meat, which makes it not taste as good.
Sometimes all it takes is a single line in a book to get the creative juices flowing. At one point in Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food, he mentions a quick way to defrost is to put the item in cold, circulating water. He mentioned how well a shower worked, but I didn't want to waste that much water. Besides, for just two people, we rarely need to defrost more than a pound of meat at once, usually half that.
So I pulled a $7 mop bucket out of the closet. We had one of those cheapie "mood" fountains sitting on top of it, so I grabbed that too. One quick cleaning of both items later, and I had myself Defrost-o-Matic Mark 1. Fill the bucket with water, drop the whole fountain in (the pump was permanently attached to the ceramic bowl), then put the frozen meat in a ziplock bag and drop that in too. Swear to god, in 5 minutes it'd defrost a whole pound of hamburger meat without cooking the edges or altering the flavor. It was quicker than the microwave.
There were two problems with Mark 1. Firstly, the fountain itself took up a lot of space, and second the pump eventually stopped up and wouldn't move any water. So we thought, "what moves a lot of water and is cheap and easy to find?" Yup, fish tank pump.
One trip to the pet store later and I had myself a $19.95 "aquaclear mini" pump and filter. This is the kind designed to sit on the top edge of the tank, with the pump assembly sitting outside and a long tube extending into the water. The thing mounted beautifully on the lip of the bucket, and now I had the entire bucket to use. 1 pound of hammer-solid frozen chicken thawed in 6 minutes! When I was done, I just dumped the water , dropped the pump into the bucket, and stuck it all under the sink. Setup and takedown in minutes!
So, to build yourself a Defrost-o-Matic, go out and buy 1 standard 14qt mop bucket and the cheapest top-tank water filter you can find. Mount them together and enjoy quick, easy, environmentally-friendly defrosting! My cost: $26.95 (although technically the bucket was free, since we already had it).
Say woo-hoo! :)
Ok, what I want to know is who the hell needs 6 gallons worth of stock pot?. I know, I know! My mom does. The one who stores cardboard boxes in the oven (do you look in an oven for flammables when you preheat it? I didn't either).
For some reason the Nichols/Riley women only know how to cook for 30 or more. My mom only expresses this gene when she wants to cook soup. In spite of the fact it was just our small family of 4, she'd bang around in the kitchen until she dug out the biggest pot I'd ever seen. It was big enough for me to stick my little brother's head and shoulders into and bang with a spoon a-la Bugs Bunny (which is why I think it stayed hidden most of the time... bastard got too big for me to do it by the time I'd figured out where it was). She'd fill it to the brim with soup and then we'd be giving away the stuff for the next six months.
So, yeah, this pot would probably be a good mom-soup pot, even though it's probably as tall as she is. I'm still looking for my 5-qt casserole!
Update: Nope, don't want this particular stock pot. Once we move into the new house I may get one or two wal-mart stock pots though. AFAIK they don't have to be all that fancy.
Ok, I did not know what to put this under category wise. I consider beer a food only because I can drink a Guiness and not eat the rest of the day. *cause you have to eat it with a spoon half the time- thats only at the GOOD places with it on TAP*
Anyhow, brewers have managed to bring to life a 4000 year old beer recipe to life!
Apparently its the same beer the pharohs drank. Pretty neat! *not to mention that beer was a main staple of the pyramid builders*
No, not that kind of pot. I'm talking cooking pots! All-clad baby, all-clad! And Lodge, oh my I love my lodge! Now I'm cruising e-bay looking for all-clad deals and trying to score a cast-iron dutch oven so I can deep-fry and cook soup and do all kinda cool sh*t. Ellen is kind of amazed, almost a little frightened, that I've suddenly taken this interest in cooking. She doesn't understand that Alton Brown taught me cooking is about gear. And every geek knows that gear is where it's at.
We're noticing that 1) when you use good pots & pans, stuff heats up a lot faster, and cooks a lot easier, than with cheap aluminum stuff, and 2) we're eating better now that we're both cooking.
Also, I made the earth-shaking discovery that if you use the burners that are actually under the vent hood, you don't get anywhere near as much smoke in your living room. Dur...
Cast iron fans: I'm having a problem keeping the bottom of my Lodge seasoned. The heat seems to take the cure off it. After noticing just a teensy bit of surface rust on the bottom, I re-season the outside (inside has a nice solid black cure going right now) using heavier canola oil this morning and ended up with this nifty gloss coat, but I'm worried that the next time I use it the cure'll come off again. Is this normal? Any tips?
Gah! How could we miss Alton Brown on NPR?!?. A great introduction if you've never been able to catch the show.
So yesterday I got to try out my spiffy new Lodge 12" cast-iron skillet. For me, cooking has always been something you pulled out of a box and followed the directions to get. Hamburger helper was my original bachelor chow. After I discovered I was rooming with a person who was writing down everything I took out of the fridge, down to the last dollar, I would make a pot of this stuff and then hit the microwave with it for the rest of the week. I think I saw a look of severe concentration as this person tried to figure out a way to charge me for the electricity.
I'm a picky damned eater. Not as bad as my brother mind you (Mr. Biscuits and Gravy is a Food Group), but picky nonetheless. I'm especially not fond of seafood, bell peppers of any sort, mushrooms, or olives. Yeah, I'm a freak, but that's the way it is. Most of the cook books I pulled out always had recipes that seemed to include one or more of these items, and tended to start out with "remove your French curly double-bronzed copper broil pan from its protective leather case..." And they were boring.
But then I got I'm Just Here for the Food, by Alton Brown of Good Eats fame. Unlike other cookbooks, this one gives you entertaining examples of why foods turn out the way they do. In it, he introduces the most common forms of cooking: searing, boiling, baking, grilling, and others I can't remember right now. There are recipes, not many, but they all sounded interesting in a tasty way.
Like auto maintenance, having the right tools seems to be half the battle when it comes to cooking. In the back of the book is a helpful appendix called "necessary tools" (or something like that). #1 on the list of pots & pans was a 12" cast-iron skillet, according to Brown one of the most versatile things in anyone's kitchen. It took a long time to find, but eventually we acquired ourselves a 12" cast-iron skillet. And wouldn'cha know, it's even a Lodge, the same brand recommended in the book (oh god, I'm becoming a cook groupie).
Ellen did a Bad Thing the next day by going to work and leaving me at home by myself with my new cooking widget. I'd "seasoned" the thing the night before, and it was fairly speaking to me, "Scott... Scott... pay attention dammit, stop playing on the computer Scott... cook with me... it will be tasty... "
So I pawed through the book to find something to cook with my new pan. There's a whole chapter that involves meats and cast iron, called "searing". Sounds sizzley, but I got no steak or duck or tofu, and am pretty much without most of the spices and things in the recipes. But what I do got is hamburger. I got lots of that. So I read forward a bit about "grilling", which has a whole sidebar about burgers. The whole point is to improvise, so why not?
Now, it may have been that I was cleaning the oven at the time I was ginning up this plan, but it sure as hell seemed like a brilliant idea to me. So, here's what happened:
And you know what, it was darned tasty! Next up, seared chicken...
Oh my god!!! I found the kosher salt holder Alton Brown uses in Good Eats! You will have to email me for more info. I am not going to advertise for the store.
Of course as soon as I got home, I had to fill it right away. I got a warm fuzzy from it.
Scott had to purchase a cast iron skillet. I have no idea what he is going to cook, but he had to have one.
12/01/02 UPDATE: Salt container solution is here.