Tag Archives: Srichacha

Happy Dogs and Burgs

7 Aug

Growing up as the baby of the family, 5 years younger than my sibling, I looked to my brother for almost everything.  When I was 6, I went through a phase of wearing umbros and giant t-shirts.  So somehow his pattern of food research became engrained in me at an early age.  He went on a caesar salad kick for a few years trying to hunt down the perfect combination of salad, cheese, dressing and croutons.

This summer has been my excursion into burgers and dogs — a staple of summer food and a personal favorite.  From my childhood, burgers were a home-cooked thing and McDonald’s/Swensons was a rare treat reserved for “Junkfood Fridays”.  The standard: thick, medium rare, small burger, bun with ketchup, grey poupon and pickles.  As I got older, I drifted to the cheeseburger, eventually the bacon cheeseburger, the triple cheeseburger.  But I didn’t realize the vast array of condiments I was missing until this summer when I had a burger at the Beer Engine and ordered the Southwestern Burger.

happy burgs

Oh my god. Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod.  Pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, roasted red peppers and chili sauce?!  I am completely hooked on this burger but more to the point, I’m in love with the idea of jalapenos on a burger.  My favorite little trick is tucking them in under the cheese when I make them at home so they don’t slip out.  Number one rule:  ALWAYS TOAST THE BUNS.

New Burger Adventures:

Srichacha in place of ketchup

Beets instead of tomatoes (if you love beets this will be your new favorite –  sweet, slightly firmer consistency than a tomato)

Worcestershire sauce and chopped onions worked into the burger meat (so much juicier and flavorful)

happy dogs

And as for hot dogs, my taste is undeveloped and seeking new ideas.  For some reason, in my household, hot dogs are always cooked in a skillet with water…this I detest — mostly because the water turns an icky color and the dogs look pallid and unhappy.  The happiest dog I have found is on a grill or in a skillet without water.  The skin crackles a bit, gets some nice color and then when it’s all done I take a knife to the top and score the meat on top, releasing the flavor and the color contrast is actually sort of beautiful in its own way.

Another trick I learned early on was putting the sparse condiments I use (ketchup and grey poupon) inside the bun first and the dog on top making it easier to eat.  As for most foods cooking away on a grill I really love a good old-fashioned IPA.  Recently I tried Green Flash West Coast IPA and found it to be a nice little hop bomb with a good amount of bitterness in the finish.  IPA’s that are not too floral I find are a good combination when eating grilled meats.

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Pseudo feijoada

22 Jul

As a way of saving money and still eating well in Milan on a student budget, I began to create one-pot stews enough to last me a week.  I am a slim woman but with daily stops at the local gelateria, pasta out the ears and panini for lunch I managed to put on 10 lbs.  So not only was this a economical choice but also a healthier choice.  My first try at a stew was feijoada — my absolute favorite Brazilian dish — which taught me the basics of making a bean and meat stew while allowing me to adapt and experiment with the recipe.  My second foray into the stew world was a twist on traditional feijoada using lentils instead of black beans.  Lentils are one of those superfoods with which you just can’t go wrong and such a stew as this is comfort food to the max.

LENTIL STEW:

(Shopping List)

1 bag green lentils (at home, rinse and drain, pick out bad beans)

1 large can whole, peeled tomatoes

2-4 bay leaves

Srichacha chili sauce

Ground cumin or cumin seeds

Chorizo or spicy italian sausage

Andouille Sausage

2 cloves of garlic

1 large red onion

2 shallots

The Business:

Dice shallots, garlic and onion.

Warm large stock pot on stove at medium heat with a enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Toss in shallots, garlic and onion and saute until golden brown.

Next  throw in the bag of lentils, minus the plastic of course! and the can of tomatoes with their sauce.  Stir and keep an eye on the water level: the lentils will soak up the water from the tomatoes and soften and the rest will cook off.

While all that’s going on, in a skillet brown up the Andouille sausage (you can either cut them into 1/4 inch circles before or after you cook them).  If you want, you can take the chorizo or spicy italian sausage and slip it out of its casing and brown in the pan as you would ground beef for tacos or slice it with the casing on the same as the andouille.  The idea behind just browning the meat is that you don’t want to cook it completely because after it’s been browned you will throw it into the stew pot and let the heat of the water/stew cook the meat the rest of the way while it soaks up all the flavors.  Once the meat is in the stock pot, toss in your bay leaves and cumin, as much Srichacha (or Defcon for that heat) as you can handle, lots of ground pepper.  This is mostly a waiting game once you’ve got it all together, usually an hour, so don’t be in a rush.  This is one of those dishes that is always better the next day.

End goal:  lentils that are al dente and not crunchy, a stew that is thick and not watery or soupy.  Eat hearty and drink up.  I would recommend a really tart gueuze or a saison with this to take some of that heat off the tongue and clear your palate for another helping, such as Cantillon Gueuze or Saison Dupont (incredibly versatile beer with food).

*Browning meat is like giving it a sun tan – the skin touching the pan heat will turn a different color than the insides but you don’t want the whole piece to be that color. So when one side gets a touch of that sun tan, flip it and let the other side have a chance.  This is a very quick process, we’re not talking minutes in the pan.*

The Food Pushers

21 Jul

II. So I’ve been reading two books this summer that my mother recommended, A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright and The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser.  And it lead me to think about how we view food, and food coupled with drink.  Myself, I am a slave to pastas of every variety and the blue and yellow of a DeCecco box are enough to make me swoon, but what about everybody else?  My 4 months abroad in Italy gave me a chance to make some lifelong friends and alter some of my perceptions while strengthening others.  Everyone had different tastes, many of which I found amusing.  My dearest roommate, a Persian pescatarian who didn’t cook, relied heavily on Buitoni pre-made pizzas, gelato from Chocolat (I am happily, equally as guilty) EXY — the local vegetarian take-away store — and hard boiled eggs.

She is not a fan of cooking but she is a lover of food and would eat anything I put down in front of her never shying away, even when I brought out the Srichacha chili sauce.  Her pescatarian ways also challenged me to produce meatless meals and remold my brain from its strong convictions that a meal isn’t a meal without some meat.  It was a running joke when she would catch me hunched over my computer for hours looking up recipes for our next dinner party or sniffing out the new Italian microbreweries/brewpubs around Milan.  There were still others in our friend group who would order plain cheese pizzas, something I’ve never understood, and a Becks. However, when sat at our kitchen table they too ate what was in front of them and enjoyed it.

Back in the states, I had an illuminating conversation with a dear friend of mine who is also an avid cook and a lover of good beer.  We had a discussion about how we were raised when it came to food and drink.  Her family rule was no matter what you were served you were expected to eat.  In fact, she and her siblings would become the catalyst for other families’ picky children to try new foods when faced with the attention-creating prowess of their eating habits.  This too was how I was raised and we both benefitted from parents who could cook, who were adventurous in travel and diet and with the money to do so.  Is the blame or the responsibility for “good eating” shouldered solely by the parents as Willy Wonka would say ?  Are we faced with a combination of good parenting and personal choice or are some people naturally inclined towards, as Visser would say, neophilia – the pursuit of the new?

We also talked about the idea of the “food pusher”, or one who forces food upon one’s guests consent given or not.  She places herself in the  more aggressive streak of food pushers whereas I find myself in a more insidious position:  if I invite people to dinner, I place all the food on the table equally in front of everyone and food in the middle to be eaten by hand.  The arrangement uses unseen peer pressure as the trigger for the others who lag behind.  For example, if everyone is eating fettunta and you are the only one not, you feel kind of stupid and HUNGRY when everyone else is making those lovely yummy sounds and wolfing down the few pieces left.

From a personal stand point, I have never been afraid to try new foods and actively crave the seeking and eating of these new morsels.  A pivotal book in my high school years, was Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: the one line of advice I took away from the book was to never order something I’d had before.  Even in my baby diary my mother wrote (besides, “she cries when is told No.”) that my new favorite food was mulligatawny soup.  I have the same craving when it comes to craft and microbrews.  The emotions I feel when confronted by a wall of pasta are much the same when I step into a beer store for the very first time.  I’ve been compared to a kid in a candy store when I shop for beer: in the beginning, I had no control and could spend $100 on beer, oops!  My drive for the new usually means I try a beer and move on to the next, so that drinking a beer I’ve already had feels counterproductive — like I’m wasting my time on a beer I know, when I should be plowing through to discovering unknown breweries.  However, this urge too I have learned to control and recognize the benefits of coming back to some beer to dig a bit deeper and create a better understanding of it.

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