Bachelor Week: Cheater’s Gumbo

February 27, 2012 § 10 Comments

Last week the wife went on an impromptu road trip with a friend, leaving me at home like a bachelor for 5 days. Without her to cook for I shamelessly regressed in my eating habits, subsisting mostly on various forms of meat, ice cream, and beer while watching almost 50 episodes of Psych. Whaaat?

In this fit of meat sweats and beer belchery, I managed to scrounge up the creativity to throw this dish together using chicken sausage, salsa, and some leftover rice from a stir fry last week. It was fast, simple, and it went down easy with a Red Stripe or 4.

I know I’m going to catch hell from my NOLA pals for calling this gumbo of any sort, but it got the job done. No process shots on this one because it’s so damn easy — just simple, kick ass bachelor food. Suck on this.

What You’ll Need How Much
Your favorite dinner sausage, 1/4-1/2″ slices 1 link (3-4oz.)
baby Portobello mushrooms, quartered 1/2 c
extra virgin olive oil 1 T
leftover rice, cold 1 c
Your favorite salsa 1/2 c
green onions, chopped fine 2 T
Cajun seasoning To taste
Chipotle hotsauce, optional To taste

What You’ll Do

1) Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sausage, and saute for 5-7 minutes, until mushrooms are tender and sausage is cooked.

2) Lower heat to medium. Add rice, salsa, Cajun seasoning, and half the green onions. Stir often until everything is warmed through.

3) Taste it. Spicy enough for you? No? Add more Cajun seasoning and/or hot sauce. Taste it again. Repeat.

4) Dump that goodness on a plate, and get frilly using the rest of the green onions as a garnish. Eat with your eyes.

5) Eat with your face.

Should feed 1 face. To impress your girl or friends, simply multiply recipe by how many faces you’re feeding.

Vegetarians: This recipe is uber-simple to veggify. Just nix the sausage, and add 1/2 c of both chopped red pepper and onion. Or, you could even substitute red beans for a more Cajuny vibe.

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The Inspector General: Ming’s Wok, Carmel, IN

February 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

This is the first of a new series I’m calling The Inspector General, where I go in search of the best General Tso’s Chicken, and I’m starting with the first of 2 Chinese joints in the Indy area whose Tso’s I consider top of the class, 5-star Generals: Ming’s Wok in Carmel, IN. (The other is Niasa Pan-Asian Cafe in Fountain Square. Stay tuned.)

Since this is the first post, let’s get into some history a la Wikipedia:

General Tso’s chicken is a sweet and spicy, deep-fried chicken dish that is popularly served in North American Chinese restaurants. The dish was unknown in China and other lands home to the Chinese diaspora before it was introduced by chefs returning from the United States. The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, or Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty general and statesman, although this connection is tenuous. He is said to have enjoyed it, and perhaps helped create a dish, but there are no recorded recipes. The real roots of the dish lie in the post 1949 exodus of chefs to the United States. The dish is reported to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970s as an example of Hunan cooking, though it is not typical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy and rarely sweet. […]

Traditionally, the dish is made with dark meat chicken such as legs or thighs; however, many higher-end Chinese restaurants use boneless skinless breast meat…Traditional basic ingredients include: Sauce: soy sauce, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, dried red chili peppers (whole), garlic, MSG. batter/breading: egg, cornstarch. dish: Broccoli, meat (cubed).

So what are we looking for here?

We’re looking for a good sweet/tangy balance with a bit of spice, and I personally like the broccoli garnish for a little bit of veggies. I like a Tso’s that doesn’t turn into a clump of gross in my stomach, that tastes fresh and bright and isn’t a syrupy mess of consistency.

As a baseline Tso’s, Ming’s Wok delivers exactly that, and matched with their pork fried rice, it’s an easy 5-star ringer. Snag the lunch combo for $4.95, or get the dinner combo with some crab rangoon if you’re feeling Carmel-rich.

Meatless Peanut Butter Cookies

February 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Adapted from La Dolce Vegan! by Sarah Kramer

Sometimes I feel bad for my vegan pals. It’s like they’ve become so accustomed to having to defend their food that no matter how delicious a dish might be, whenever they inform their non-vegan friends, family, or co-workers that it’s vegan, they seem to automatically to follow up with, “But it doesn’t taste vegan,” as though anything without meat or animal in it is worthless.

To prove that’s not the case, I decided to leave the pulled pork out of this peanut butter cookie recipe, and instead of an egg, I snagged some Ener-G egg replacer, which is basically potato starch and some proteiny stuff that when you mix with water and bake it, it acts mostly like an egg. You can find it in the baking aisle.

What You’ll Need How Much
vegan margarine, room temperature 1/2 c
peanut butter 3/4 c
sugar 1 c
egg replacer to equal 1 egg
water 3 T
flour 2 c
salt 1/4 t
baking soda 3/4 t

What You’ll Do

1) Preheat the oven to 350F.

2) In a medium bowl, cream together margarine, peanut butter, sugar, egg replacer, and water until smooth.

3) Stir in the flour, salt, and baking soda until well mixed. Add another tablespoon of water if the dough seems a bit dry.

4) Roll dough into balls, put them on a cookie sheet*, and flatten them with a fork. Feel free to do that classic cross-hatch thing or pentagrams or whatever you want, really. (Britt said she used to add a bit of sass to them by dipping the fork in some sugar between each pressing.)

5) Bake the cookies on the center rack for 8-10 minutes, or 10-12 if you’re like me and roll some fatty cookies.

6) Let them cool (or not) and put them in your face, naturally.

Makes 15-20 cookies, depending on the size of your balls.

*Do yourself a favor and leave that non-stick coated bakeware on the curb for the trash man. Get you some good old-fashioned aluminum bakeware. For cookie sheets, I recommend that Air Bake kind.

A Bucket of Links

February 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

I don’t have a lot of time today unfortunately so I’m going to just have to settle for a link bucket post of rad action that’s happened this week:

I had a couple poems published this week:

“How to Hunt a Glacier” at Punchnel’s
“Shake Ya Ass” at Everyday Genius (Collabo bromance poem with the Dean Young to my Tony Hoagland, Tyler Gobble)

This person loves cookies and typography and is baking cookie typefaces. (HT: Jim at Down the Road)

Before we went to Oregon, my ma-in-law informed us that we are related to the makers of Moonstruck Chocolate. We completely failed to take advantage of this familiar relation while we were out there, but it just popped up on oh, ladycakes as her favorite chocolate ever. Coming from a gal who admittedly spends $80/month on fancy chocolates, that’s a hell of an endorsement.

This gorgeous conversion chart at Chasing Delicious. (HT: Rebecca at Bake & Brew)

Back to the grind. Love you; don’t change.

La Magie Bakery, or If You’re a Free American, The Magic Bakery

February 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

La Magie Bakery was the first place on vacation that took my pants off. Or, knocked my socks off. Or, whatever the hell that phrase is. We went there our first night in Bend, Oregon after chowing on some Soba Noodles, a rather decent Asian place that I wish existed in Indy.

Look at how shiny and new their cafe is.

La Magie is a brand-spanking-new establishment in downtown Bend — quite literally only 10-days old when we walked in the door. The lady behind the counter was regaling us with tales about the chef who had studied in France under some world renowned baker and so on: things other more reputable food bloggers would have probably taken notes on. But I couldn’t stop slobbering all over myself staring at the desserts cooler.

It was pretty well picked through by the time we got there for post-dinner dessert, but I managed to snag a slice of white chocolate and strawberry cake that had chunks of strawberry in the frosting between the layers and good God man! Britt got a brownie that even she couldn’t finish, it was so rich and had the density of a Greek god. (Are those dense? I’m assuming they were.)

Before we left that first night, the counter lady gave us some free samples of a delicious samosa, a curry puff pastry that was [insert drooling sound here], and a croissant that I saved for breakfast the next morning with a little Nutella. I’ve never had a better croissant in my life.

We went back a few days later with the excuse that I needed to shoot some photos, but really, I just wanted more La Magie.

Counter lady remembered us and was excited to see us back, saw me shooting a bunch of photos like a douche and asked if I worked for a publication. Even after I admitted that, “No, I’m just a dude with a 5 week old food blog,” she still offered to stage something for me. But, I declined because evidently I have this poor self-image thing where I don’t think I’m worth the time to actually ask someone stage something for me to photograph.

But I got a couple other decent shots, like this shot of an apple crumb cake and some brioche that we bought for breakfast the next day:

And this shot of a pastry cream swan thing that is just fucking adorable, amirite?

Only in a French bakery.

Counter lady was excited that I wanted to blog about the store, and I thought, “You’re really sweet, and my blog kind of isn’t, so I hope if you find my blog, you appreciate how much I love your store and don’t mind the fuck word.”

Lastly, from what my brother-in-law says, there’s a really high turn over rate of shops like that in Bend, so if you live in, around, or plan to visit Bend anytime soon, you had better fucking go to La Magie, because I want it to still be there the next time I visit. If you don’t, and if it is gone when I return, you are to blame, and I will fight you so hard you will die.

A Grilled Cheese for the Stubborn Lactose Intolerant

February 13, 2012 § 11 Comments

Well, I am unfortunately back from vacation, and I have tons of stuff to tell you about how awesome the Pacific Northwest is, but before I do that there are photos to process and notes to sort through and souvenirs to distribute and yadda yadda.

Actually. I didn’t take notes. I was on vacation. But there is shit to do before I can let you in on all the highlights and kick ass places I found to put food in my face. You can count on it, but for now, you’ll just have to settle for this gnarly grilled cheese recipe.

A couple months ago I found out I was lactose intolerant. Evidently, your belly is not meant to be in a near constant state of gurgling and fart-development. I did not know this. But my wife*, after 2 years of dealing with me and my gastric acrobatics, finally said, “That shit’s not right.”

What this means is when I sit down to any sort of meal where dairy is involved, I don’t fuck around. I make it count. If I’m drinking a glass of milk, it better be frothy cold and delicious. If I’m eating a pizza, the pepperoni better be pungent and plenty.

And you bet your ass, if I’m eating a grilled cheese sandwich, I’m not settling for some Kraft singles on Wonder Bread. No. Here is how I do.

*Cute Valentine’s Day themed note since tomorrow is the day: The first time I ever made these grilled cheese sandwiches, it was for the first V-Day Britt and I ever spent together. D’aaaawwwwwww!

Grilled Lactose Sandwich

A sandwich worthy of the lactose bomb.

What You’ll Need How Much
Rustic Italian pane 8 slices, 3/4″ thick
extra virgin olive oil 1/4 c
smoked gouda, shredded 1/2 c
Gruyere, shredded 1/2 c
sharp cheddar, shredded 1/2 c.
Pecorino Romano, shredded 1/4 c
fresh cracked pepper 1 t
dried oregano 1 t
dried thyme 1 t
onion powder 1/2 t
garlic powder 1/2 t

What You’ll Do

1) In a bowl, grate together the gouda, gruyere, cheddar, and Pecorino Romano. Add the pepper, oregano, thyme, onion powder, and garlic powder. Mix evenly.

2) Brush the olive oil on the slices of Italian pane.

3) In a grill pan over medium heat, put a slice of Pane oil-side down, and cover with 1/4 of the cheese mixture.

4) Cap it with another slice, oil-side up. Cook about 5 minutes, until you get good grill marks and cheese begins to melt, and flip. Cook another 5’ish minutes.

5) Remove to cutting board, cut that shit in half, plate it up, and put it in your face.

Should feed 4 faces.

Pro-tip: If you can fit all 4 sandwiches on your grill pan, good for you. I can only fit about 2. Either way, never let a grill cheese sandwich sit for too long flat on its side. The steam condensed between the sandwich and your plate will turn that side into a soggy, soft piece of shit. Cut the sandwich in half and stand it up in a tepee or something. Get creative. Just please, for the love of all things holy, don’t let the sandwich soggify.

Your Fix While I’m Away

February 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’m on vacation this week in Oregon spending time with Britt’s sister’s family in Bend, and meeting some pals in Portland for a couple days. So no posts from me this week, but I thought you could use some reading material while I’m away. Pay attention, because there will be a quiz. And, I think maybe the winner will get cookies or something.

I’ve only really been caring about food blogging for like, a month now. I’ve poked around a bit at different food blogs, and these 7 blogs are some of the cream I’ve scraped off the top.

The Bake and Brew: Rebecca is one of the 2 people who encouraged/inspired me to start Put It In Your Face. She loves carbs in both the solid and liquid physical forms. She bakes amazing things and drinks beer while doing so.

plums in the icebox: Carrie is the other of the 2 encouragers/inspirers of PIIYF. Her blog is a combination food and literature blog, and she also contributes recipes to Hello, Giggles which is rad. She has a fixation with the American Southwest and quinoa, to a possibly clinical degree.

oh, ladycakes: This is one of the first food blogs beyond B&B and plums that I started following. Her design is impeccable and her photos bright and shining. She does a lot of gluten-free stuff if you’re into that sort of thing, and she’s not afraid to talk about poop.

What Katie Ate: I just started following this one last week, and from what I’ve seen she doesn’t post recipes, just incredible, incredible photography of food. Since I’m primarily deficient in my food photog skills, following some of the best food pornographers seems the best way to learn.

Souvlaki For the Soul: Another blog I started following for the food porn, and found he also has some pretty fantastic looking recipes, mostly of the Grecian variety. Greek fare is another culinary area of deficiency, so I’m excited to try some of the recipes here to learn how the Greeks do what they do.

Wrightfood: Another pornographer, and this guy seems to be a lighting expert, which is what I need. He doesn’t confine himself to that standard “bright sunlight everything white and gleaming” theme you see pretty much everywhere in food photography, which I appreciate. He takes those photos, sure, but he also knows when to draw out some good, rich, deep color. I’m saying he’s versatile, which is what I want to be.

spoon fork bacon: Lastly, but the complete opposite of least, is spoon fork bacon which I quite literally started following today. This blog is so good, from the design to the photography to the recipes. It is perhaps the pinnacle of the food blogs I’ve seen. (HT: Jennifer Olmstead, who I wish I could have design my blog)

* * *

See you next week. Expect Bend/Portland themed posts when I return.

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