Blog of an aspiring foodie

Archive for October, 2005

Art imitates life and vice versa?

Posted by beer_chris on 31-October-2005

It may be debatable to consider 'The Simpsons' as art, but certainly McDonalds has created new questions about the influence of the show on American culture. On my way home today, I heard a promo on the radio for the annual McRib madness. However, this time the ad was simply an excited man exclaiming his love for the McRib, how he remembered when it was launched in 1982, his first McRib, how good it was etc. Then he began shilling for a website. Apparently, when 'a limited time' is up this year McDonalds is retiring the McRib for good. The site details the McRib 'farewell tour', and includes a 'Save the McRib' petition that true fans can sign to try and beg McDonalds to bring it back.

Sound familiar? Here's the synopsis for “I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can” from the 2002 (14'th season) of 'The Simpsons'

If I remember correctly, the Krustyburger Ribwich was made from some type of insect.

I've never eaten a McRib, and I probably won't start now, but this strange promotion (not entirely shocking that it is totally contrived – the petition is sponsored by the BPFAA – the Boneless Pig Farmers Association of America) definitely has peaked my curiosity. I may not be lovin' it, but I'm at least listenin'.

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Haru's spirit awaits . . .

Posted by beer_chris on 30-October-2005

I am SO ready to go to New York. There is apparently a NINJA THEMED restaurant that has just opened in Manhattan. Yes, that's right – this bears repeating: in New York, New York, USA there is a restaurant based on the legends and history of the Japanese ninja warrior subculture. Apparently this is the first American attempt at a highly successful Japanese venture.

Apparently your attending ninja even uses flash powder to bring dishes to your table.

Totally
Freakin'
Sweet

Maybe I could get my waiter to sign a copy of my Ninja Gaiden instruction manual.

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Some thoughts on working globally

Posted by beer_chris on 30-October-2005

I've had some new members of my team coming on, a trio of folks hailing from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Their joining the team is part of a larger corporate initiative of-sorts, and so the short is that they were sent to the US for two months (now just ending) as an onboarding experience.

I've learned quite a but about Malay food, but also how much a part of US corporate culture eating really is. One of the members of the team was fasting for Ramadan (also just ending), and this really obviated how much American office folk use lunch and snacks at meetings as socializing experiences. I think it has something to do with the sort of backing into it social structure most offices really create – you never really make close friends at the office – or at least it's the exception when it does happen. Getting office mates together seems to rotate around the 'well, they have to eat” theory – basically, if food is provided, everyone is guaranteed to come.

When one member of the team can't really participate (due to fasting, a diet, whatever) it's not difficult to come up with alternatives, it just goes as a lesson in how knee-jerk a luncheon or meal of some kind is a part of planning group activities, meetings etc.

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BBQ wars

Posted by beer_chris on 22-October-2005

Well, my tiny little corner of the blogosphere is buzzing over Instapundit's backhanded insult at Texas BBQ – specifically, the dismissal of beef brisket as a basis for a roasted meat religion.

Barbecue brings out a passion for food in people that might otherwise be content to eat beef stroganoff from a box every night without ever wondering if there's something out there that's better. Everyone (I don't care where you're from) knows someone who knows someone with a great dry rub, or a family recipe for sauce, or some special way of roasting a certain cut that makes it delectable. Barbecue is one of the things in America that reminds us all of the connections we can make with one another through food – it's not just a meal, it's a regional identity, a family heirloom, an absolutely indispensable part of a family gathering.

But why barbecue? Americans certainly have strong opinions about other made-in-the-USA dishes – the best hamburger, for instance, or how to optimally combine frankfurter and bread. There are certainly regional differences in how seafood is prepared, or whether fried chicken should be rolled in flour or not – but none of these disagreements turns into the passion of 'cue arguments.

I think it's because of the inverse relationship between complexity of preparation and expected mores for serving and eating the stuff. Generally, the complexity of preparation drives the rules about how it should be served and eaten – the harder it is to make, the bigger deal it is when you eat it. Souffle is ordered well ahead of a meal to allow a chef time to prepare – it is served with the utmost care, eaten slowly and considerately, and presented by itself in its own special dish. It's generally priced to match.

Cue, on the other hand, generally can be considered one of the most difficult types of food to prepare. Cooking and preparation is extremely time consuming, in line with the most complicated French pastry, and requires a large investment in highly specialized equipment. Recipes can take years to formulate and perfect, and are held and guarded as closely within families as most anything.

But how is it served? On paper plates at a picnic table. Cold the next morning. With a cold beer on a TV tray. It's sold by the pound (imagine pinafores sold by the pound!) Sauced (if it is sauced) directly by the person eating it. Covered in condiments (beans, bread, onions, rice, whatever, the more the better). This remarkable confluence of complexity in preparation and complete removal of any pretense in serving makes it distinctly American – accessible decadence. Now that's an American ideal we can all embrace, and that's what makes cue so special to us – drives us to get so emotional about it.

So, I can understand why barbecue devotees – those that have spent large parts of their time on this Earth thinking about, experimenting with and most importantly EATING cue – get upset about the moral definitions of what is and is not the defining quality of the food they love. It really is part of their nature.

My perspective? Cue is what cue is – if you have an emotional attachment to cooking meat in line with the framework I've described, you're probably eating cue, regardless of the type of sauce, the meat, the prep method, whatever. I don't quibble about what 'cue is and isn't – long as I get my own plate of it.

Just don't forget the links. That's *real* barbecue.

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I realize now the bologna has nothing to do with the matter

Posted by beer_chris on 20-October-2005

It's worth sharing that the somewhat insane food-based superstitions I've held for some time I believe are gone now. At least somewhat. No longer do I feel that bologna and cheese sandwiches have something to do with Astros relievers giving up dingers. I'm pretty sure it had more to do with Dan Miceli then with meat that has a first and second name. I even ate a ham and cheese during Game 4, and we pulled it out.

I also have dismissed my need to eat two (2) Totinos party pizzas (combination) in the first three innings of each playoff game to seal the win. The Astros did just fine without my consumption of this particular frozen masterpiece.

No, that stuff is hooby-dooby crap – I realize that now.

What I now know to be true is the power of seafood. Specifically, stone crab. Monday night, Game 5, was spent at Trulucks. It being all one can shove into ones mouth night, Brendan and I happily obliged. We ate. and ate. and ate. Then we waited, ate a little more and then, ate a little more. I think I had 21 claws, B slightly more then that. By the end of our meal, reclining deeply and enjoying some Courvoisier (we were still at the restaurant), Berkman had hit his homer, and it was 'on' for the good guys.

Then we paid the bill and left.

Before we got home, Eckstein (he puts the 'hit' in bullshit) had rallied with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 9'th, Edmonds had walked, and Pujols had clocked a slider that must have been twice as meaty as those delectable crab claws looked to me dipped in drawn butter.

In Game 6 I made the elk chili again (except this time with beef instead). The Astros pulled it out and made the series. Truly, I'm better now – I don't believe the chili had anything to do with that win.

Lucky for me there isn't a Monday night game in this series – if rain delays or something else make that happen, I know where I need to be – Trulucks, gulping down the claws – and this time I had BEST not stop before the end of the 9'th, unless I'm trying to seal my team's fate again.

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Behold the power of pork trimmings

Posted by beer_chris on 2-October-2005

The first time I dealt with raw chorizo sausage, I found it pretty disgusting stuff. It is basically the leftover parts of a pig after processing the prime cuts, mixed with some paprika, red pepper and cumin (among other spices) and then extruded into casing. Usually, it is quite creamy in consistency and requires squeezing to get out of the casing. When cooked, it releases a LOT of fat, and takes on a crumbled texture, like ground beef. It must be cooked, as it is a raw-processed sausage.

That said, I have had much firmer chorizo – some Spanish chorizos are firmer, and I have seen some cured varieties. However, I have not seen a Mexican chorizo that was not raw processed.

Creamy pork leftovers? Disgusting – until you taste it. It tastes like spicy bacon, and it compliments other foods like bacon as well. In other words, it is good in just about everything

Lots of places down here have it or make it, and it is becoming more and more popular in many dishes. Since I have gained a recent fascination over the past few years with the defining qualities of a cuisine d'Houston, I have been putting it into more and more of my own dishes as well. It adds all the great qualities of bacon and paprika to a dish – smoky, heady fatty flavor of bacon with the subdued earthy spiciness of paprika. It really kicks up a simple ground beef dish, and makes Mexican dishes taste, well, more Mexican and less 'from an envelope'.

Chorizo is available in every grocery store in town, and has become a staple in my kitchen. I like to mix a link up with scrambled eggs instead of bacon to make a spicy breakfast dish. It is really good in enchiladas, I discovered last night (recipe to follow), and it is a good add to just about any normally straightforward ground meat dish that can take a little spicing up (hamburgers, chili, etc)

Ytee's Beef Enchiladas

  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Brown 1/2 lb of ground beef along with an equivalent amount of chorizo (~4 links, removed from casings).
  • Drain the fat in a strainer (there will be a lot of it – probably on the order of 1/4 cup).
  • Put the meat to the side and allow to cool for a few minutes – now is a good time to grate the cheese
  • Fill corn tortillas with the beef mixture and a tbsp or two of each of the cheeses
  • Roll the enchilada up and put seam side down in a 12×9 casserole dish
  • Pour your favorite enchilada sauce over the dish, and sprinkle with equivalent amounts of the cheeses (about 1 cup total)
  • Bake for 15 minutes

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