Archive for October, 2011
I’d heard of the waffle truck (aka Wafels & Dinges), even seen it parked at the farmers market, but never thought about stopping in. But it was a Tuesday afternoon, I had writers’ block, and I was staring down a half written corporate policy. When a coworker told me there were bacon waffles to be had I knew I had to check the place out.
On the walk over to the cart, I got a rundown on the menu. The bacon waffle is a relatively new addition and has bacon actually integrated into it. The deluxe waffle is called Da Throwdown and it packs spekuloos (a paste that is some kind of cross between a cookie and caramel) and whipped cream. It was added to the menu after the Wafels & Dinges beat celebrity chef, and asshole, Bobby Flay on his show, the Throwdown. You can choose to top your waffle with ice cream and/or scale everything back to an afternoon snack sized mini-waffle. The ice cream flavors rotate, and on this trip there was beer & honey (yeah, that’s right, beer ice cream!) and some kind of strawberry swirl something that I stopped remembering after I heard about beer ice cream.
I was glad the plan involved sharing. I ordered Da Throwdown and my co-worker got the bacon waffle with the beer & honey ice cream.
I had never had, or ever heard of, spekuloos. But it was a great waffle topping that seemed to add both sweet and savory flavors. And I normally don’t much care for whipped cream, it’s usually just some flavorless (but high caloric) foam that you have to get past to find whatever is underneath. This whipped cream was different. It was thick and rich. The waffle itself walked a perfect line between substantial and heavy. I don’t know what Bobby Flay made, but this concoction would be hard to beat.
And there was the bacon waffle which followed the universal law that bacon makes everything better. The beer ice creams was also a winner. The flavor was mild and overpowered when eaten with the bacon waffle. On it’s own, it had a light yeast flavor that that reminded me of a saison. In all, the ice cream was fantastic on it’s own, but not much when paired with the waffle.
As we were waiting for our orders, something else on the menu caught my attention: a BBQ pulled pork waffle. Rumor is that the truck is around the office every Tuesday. I think I know what’s going to be on the lunch menu.
This recipe showed-up on my Twitter feed last week, courtesy of Chow.com, and is in 140 characters or less: “Cinnamon-Sugar Pumpkin Seeds: Mix 2c pumpkinseeds/2t vegoil. Roast in single layer 375°F 10-15m. Toss w/2T sugar/¼t groundcinnamon.”
I was working with the seeds from four pumpkins, so I had more than the prescribed two cups. It’s fine problem to have; just toss all the seeds the with a reasonable amount of oil (just a light coating), place one layer on a baking sheet, bake, and repeat until all the seeds are used.
A bonus of having a few batches was the chance to experiment with flavors. The standard cinnamon sugar was good, but was also great kicked-up with just a little nutmeg. Going a little crazy, I tried making some curry pumpkins seeds. The concept seemed solid, the flavor combination worked, but I went more than a little to over the top with the curry powder–next year I’ll get it right.
I have fond childhood memories of my parents baking the seeds when my family carved pumpkins. This easy recipe was great way to reach back to Halloweens past.
This has been a disappointing football season so far, as any Vikings fan will tell you. Not only are the Purple stinking it up, but they’re doing so in the most frustrating way possible. They have some pretty damn good players (Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, AP, Antoine Winfield, Percy Harvin) but they prove week after week to be entirely incapable of playing like professionals. What’s more, they aren’t even in full blown re-building mode, as evidenced by the fact that before they re-structured Adrian Peterson’s and Chad Greenway’s deal they were right at the salary cap. I can accept losing from a team that’s trying to get young or is trying to free up cap space to make some moves, but we’re doing neither and sucking royally.
But at least we have something to look forward to now that Donovan “Chunky” McNabb has been benched for our first round pick, Christian Ponder. He may not be any better than McNabb… no, wait, I’m not going to go with that disclaimer. He will be better than McNabb. He showed a couple of things in his debut last week which are going to be huge upgrades. 1. He’s accurate, or at least far more so than D McB. He was putting passes right in front of people IN STRIDE, as opposed to 2 feet above a receivers head and 3 yards behind them. 2. He’s got some mobility and he’s able to throw on the run. Did you see that safety McNabb took last week? He saw a blitzer coming up the middle and just laid down in the end zone. Ponder looked pretty good at avoiding the rush. Finally, I think Ponder cares about winning. If the Vikes wanted McNabb last offseason they should have given him a contract so loaded with incentives that he would have earned slightly above minimum wage in that week 1 stinker where he piled up 39 yards over the course of the game, because you can absolutely tell he does not give a shit what happens in these games because he’s making $5 million in his last year in the NFL.
Enough football talk, time for football food. The other week Rick and I had another of our patented football ho-downs with 10.5 straight hours of food, beer, smoking and football. During this particular one, I got to try out a new Food Network recipe which turned out amazing. The only downside of it is that it’s pretty heavy and somewhat greasy, so if you’re not careful you will eventually have wished that you had a bit more self control as you nurse an over-full belly.
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil*
- 1/2 pound Spanish or Mexican chorizo
- 1/2 pound mushroom caps, quartered
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
which has more than enough fat to render out without adding additional oil.
It’s been two weeks since I used the weekend to make a solid amount of food for lunches for the week, so I decided that this latest lazy football Sunday called for a big batch of chili. Fortunately, on the Key Foods run, I was talked out of making the MEGA batch. (Thanks Iggy!) As it was, what I thought would be one large pot, grew to two when it came time to get my cook on.
Since the size of this batch was crazy, I’m just going to talk about the ingredients at a high level. You first start with onion and celery at a 4:1 ratio. Be generous with this mix, it adds great flavor, but cooks down a lot so start with maybe 1/8 pot worth. Pour a little olive oil into a pot and cook (stiring regularly) the onions and celery until the onions are translucent and just starting to brown. Then add some ground meat. You can really use whatever suits you (beef, turkey, pork, etc.). I usually just get what’s on sale. Today I got a big pack of beef and normal pack of pork, again at a about a 4:1 ratio. As the meat finishes browning, throw in chopped fresh garlic to taste. Then you need to add tomatoes, you can just use canned stuff–some tomato sauce, some stewed tomatoes, some diced. Again, whatever is on sale works, but a mix is a good bet. Next are beans. Red kidney beans are a must. You can just stick with these or expand a little into white kidney beans (which add a bit of color) or other similar beans. For spices, go with some chili power and red pepper flakes. If you want to experiment with spices, just add them in small amounts. Chili is a perfect taste and modify as you go dish.
My fun addition to this batch was roasted jalapenos. You skewer em’ and roast them over an open flame on the stove until they’re blackened. Let them cool, chop, and add to the pot. It adds a little smokey flavor, a little sweetness, and a little more spice.
Then you just need to let the pot simmer for an hour and a half or so. And BOOM. You have enough chili to feed a hungry crowd for the night game and for lunch through the week.
(Tragically, the Vikings did what they do best against the Bears (aka lose), at least this chili was there to soften the pain.)
It is officially autumn here in the Tundra, and I’m loving it. You pretty much have to appreciate fall if you live in Minnesota because the winters are a test of will for even the hardiest of Scandanavian descendents. The spring is always wet and muddy as the piles of snow melt away, so if you’re no fan of fall then you’re pretty much stuck with just June, July and August. I was able to get out to a local Park last week and do some hiking and the crisp air and beautiful foliage really got me into the mood to enjoy fall and all it offers.
One of my favorite things about fall is the apple crop in Minnesota. Apples are one thing we do pretty damn well. The University of Minnesota has a long history of introducing new varieties of apples and they’re all pretty good. My favorites are definitely the Zestar and the Fireside apples for eating raw. And with all the apples coming ripe in early-mid fall, there is apple cider everywhere you look around here. I’m somewhat surprised that I’ve never before tried to make a drink with apple cider considering how much I fiddle around with making random cocktails, but no time like the present, right? I don’t have a whole lot of experience in making new cocktail recipes which can be recreated by others. so here goes the first try:
- 2 shots of bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
- 2 shots of Apple Cider
- 1/3-1/2 shot of fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp of REAL maple syrup
- Dash of ground cinnamon
Finally. Only a modest amount of weekend work. No trips to Atlantic City. No out of town visitors to lure me off to adventures through the city. And, best of all, the Vikings play the night game. On a normal Sunday, the only way for me to watch the Vikes is to head into the city to Bar None (MN Vikings bar here in the Big Apple). Don’t get me wrong. I love taking down $9 pitchers of beer with fellow fans, but it’s a full day investment. Today is different. Today I get football–at home–and some great fall cooking.
Today was chicken stock and some chili action which is to be shared with a few Bear friends as they watch Chicago fall to the mighty land of ice and snow.
Chicken stock is just a good thing to have around. It pops up in more recipes than you might think. And while you can buy it at the super market it just doesn’t have the depth of flavor of the homemade stuff.
The first step: cook a whole chicken. I like to roast it with some veggies. But it doesn’t matter much how you cook it; you’re after the picked-over bones. If you’re not going to make the stock for a few days you can just freeze the remainder of the bird until you’e ready for stock time.
When you are ready to start, there isn’t a “right way” to make chicken stock. Basically, you take whatever is left of the chicken and put it in a pot with a bunch of water, some chopped celery (and/or celeriac), chopped carrots, and a few herbs. Then you let it all cook for a 7-9 hours, run it through a fine mesh strainer to get a nice pure liquid that is free of all of the small chicken bones. But for those of you looking for an actual recipe, below is an ingredient list courtesy of Alton Brown:
- 4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and backs
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2
- 4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2
- 1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 to 10 peppercorns
- 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 gallons cold water
Tragically, I have no clever backstory for this cheese. Fayaz just showed-up with it one night after making a Union Market stop on his way home. The cheese itself will have to be story enough.
Saint Nectaire is a semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk in the Auvergne region of France.
This particular cheese had a medium sized and soft rind. The flavor was medium to light, savory, and creamy. The savory flavor took on a nutty (maybe almond) flavor.
All-in-all a solid cheese that might pair well with a beer.
As anyone who knows me can tell you, when given the choice of savory or sweet I almost always yield to the siren call of savory. I have, on more than one occasion, enjoyed oysters, foie gras, or french fries as my dinner companions muddle their way through somethin’ sweet. Still from, time to time, I run across a honeyed creation that peaks my attention.
I picked-up this Chua chocolate bar as a I grabbed a few Friday treats for the office. Only on my first bite did I realize awesomeness of the fun little gem I stumbled across.
This guy clocks in with 60% cacao (the stuff that gives dark chocolate its great bitter flavor) I recommend holding a small piece in your mouth an letting it melt. At first the flavor is mild. But as the melting starts you get a wave of cacao, then you feel a warmth and get a little smoke from the chipotle, all the while the salt lends a savory depth. AND THEN THE FUN STARTS. Suddenly you feel the little prickles on your tongue and soon the feeling fills your mouth and the popping sound fills you head. I was a little kid, visiting my grandparents, and eating poprocks for the first time.
Whether you’re a chocolate snob or high end chocolate bar skeptic, this bar is a must try.
Today I finally made it out of the office before 7:30 and naturally made a beeline for the cheese aisle at Union Market. (Okay, so I stopped by to pick up the makings of dinner, but I couldn’t keep myself away from the cheese.)
After a few minutes of browsing I found my self holding a little bundle labeled Kunik and described as a “white mold-ripened cheese made from goats milk with Jersey cream.” Never heard of Kunik? Neither had I. Apparently it’s a triple crème cheese hailing from Nettle Meadow (a New York farm and cheese maker that often shows up on the shelves at Union Market). It’s a soft cheese, like a brei, to which I’ll mostly be comparing.
The first thing I noticed as I cut in was it’s thick, but relatively soft, rind. The creamy inside is thick and holds it’s form well after being cut.
The flavor is rich and creamy–much more so than a brie. There is background flavor of goat cheese in there somewhere, but I don’t think that I would have been able to identify it if I didn’t have advanced notice of its addition. While delicious, the cheese is heavy and hard to eat much of at once, perhaps making it an ideal addition to a cheese plate for several people.
In terms of classic tried and true cookbooks, the Joy of Cooking is right up there with the best. It’s the size of an unabridged encyclopedia and carries about the same amount of information. Recipe’s from scallop ceviche to saltwater taffy and everything in between, culinary techniques, chemistry lessons, cocktail notes, conversion tables, and cooking temperatures are just a small sampling of what you can find in this 1130 page tome. Whenever I have a particular idea in mind of something I want to try making, I can rely on two things: 1) The Joy of Cooking will have some version of that recipe I’m looking for and 2) That recipe will be a solid interpretation of the dish at hand, with good reasoning as to why certain steps are taken or ingredients used. The JOC recipe might not always be identical to the final version I decide that I like, but it’s always a good start.
To start what I hope becomes another recurring series on this foodiest of blogs, I’m sharing the Italian Meatball recipe from the Joy of Cooking. Ingredients are as follows:
- 1lb ground beef
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons dry red wine (optional)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano (I substituted 1/2 tsp of minced fresh oregano and 1/2 tsp of minced fresh sage. In hindsight, I probably should have doubled those amounts)