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Archive for the ‘Other Stuff’ Category

Happy New Year everyone! As I’m sure you may have noticed, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from writing. Not that I haven’t wanted to, but I’ve been trying to get back into some other hobbies I’ve dropped off from in the past couple years. I’ve got a couple good books under my belt this month, finished my first run through Borderlands 2, and caught up on Game of Thrones and Doctor Who (definitely going to be missing Capaldi after this next season).

By and large, what I’ve written here for a few years have been submissions for Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge. It’s certainly a fun challenge, and helps keep the creative juices flowing. Now that I’m gearing back up to write again, I want to do something a bit different. I’ve always really liked the idea of picking up a cookbook and just going straight through it, one recipe after another. Maggie Mariolis does a great series on Serious Eats titled Cook the Book , which follows that basic idea. You’re probably also familiar with Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia.

With stacks of cookbooks taller than I am, it was hard to narrow down one book kick off the new project(s). I have a few good books on meat preparation (including a wonderful read on organs and spare parts in general), a few antiquated books with interesting preparations people don’t see anymore, and a handful of Novelties like the Epic Meal Time cookbook (where portion sizes are often categorized ‘Feeds 6 puny humans or 1 Muscles Glasses). To ease myself into this kind of writing and cooking, I ended up picking a simple book, with a smattering of interesting recipes, and one that I’m sure will get plenty of fanservice (myself included)

marvel-cover

Stan Lee Presents: The Mighty Marvel Superheroes’ Cookbook

I got this book as a gift from my brother one year for Christmas, an original copy from 1977. It’s certainly an interesting book, to say the least. When I describe it to people, I normally say it has very little to do with food and even less to do with Marvel.

The artwork speaks for itself, as you can see from the cover. Joe Giella, known for his inking (depth and shading over an original sketch) work during the Golden Age on Human Torch and Submariner for Marvel and Flash, Green Lantern and Black Canary  for DC.

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A bit campy, sure, but lots of Golden Age comics were like that.

Recipes were created Jody Cameron Malis, a cookbook editor who largely worked on tie-in cookbooks such as The Newlywed Game Cookbook and The Dark Shadows Cookbook. As with the art, the recipes speak for themselves.

Not exactly what you might call high cuisine. Unfortunately, a large portion of the recipes in the book are like this. Even the recipes named for Marvel characters suffer from a lack of creativity, to put it lightly. The first instruction in the recipe for ‘Spidey’s Chocolate Web Pancakes’ is literally just to make pancakes. No joke.

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This may seem like a strange choice to start out a whole cookbook worth of posts and recipes, but I’ve figured out how to make it fun and interesting while still keeping in the spirit of the original.

First: I’ll only be cooking the named recipes through the book. That is to say, the recipes that are named after a specific character. There are countless pages of garbage-y recipes that I don’t want to waste the time and money on. Second: Rather than following those recipes exactly as they’re written, I’m going to be making an upgraded version of the same thing.

When it’s all said and done, here’s the recipes we’ll be looking at over the course of the next few months (or the rest of the year, I don’t really know how long this is going to take me)

Captain America’s Day Starters

Hulk’s Fried Potatoes with Bacon and Eggs

The Thing’s Clobbered Omelet

Spidey’s Chocolate Web Pancakes

Wasp’s Fruit Bowl

Hawkeye’s Corned Beef Hash

Galactus’ ‘He-Man’ Pancakes

Sumariner’s Submarine

Torch’s Fireball

Hulk’s Sloppy Joe

Spidey’s Parmigiani

Captain America’s Americana Hero

Shang-Chi’s Kung Fu Burger

Torch’s Char Burger

Thor’s Thunderburg

The Hulkburger

Mr. Fantastic’s Big Jaw Breaker

Panther’s Snack with Chips

Thor’s Asgardian Vegetable Soup

Iron Man’s Splendid Split Pea Soup

Silver Surfer’s Surfboard Sensation

Ka-Zar Steak Kabobs

Super Meat Loaf ‘Goliath Style’

Thor’s Cabbage Rolls

Dr. Strange’s Mysterious Stew

‘Be-Deviled’ Swiss Steak

Submariner’s Magnificent Tuna Bake

Hulk’s Jumbo Shrimp in a Basket

Spider-Man’s Catch Seafood Platter

Powerman’s Fillet of Sole

Daredevil’s Deviled Dip

Iron Man’s Special Salad

Ms. Fantastic Short Cakes

Dare Devil’s Food Cake

Hulk’s Applesauce Cake

The Angel’s Heavenly Angel Cake

Captain America’s Double Cracker Jack Cake

Shang-Chi’s Peaches and Cream Cake

Spidey’s Vanilla Cheesecake

Dr. Strange’s Cinnamon Raisin Bars

Shang-Chi’s Fortune Cookies

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Side note: The ‘Jolly Sandwich Maker!’ is my favorite picture from the book. So much so that I actually got it as a tattoo a few years back.

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So! We’ve yet again reached the end of the year! That means another round of the 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge in the books. If you missed it last week, I did a live stream on Facebook, making Nashville Hot Chicken in 30 minutes or less. This week I had just a quickie, Msabbha for Israeli week and didn’t really get around to doing a full write up, but it’s fairly self-explanatory.

This year has been a lot of fun, getting back into cooking and writing. 2015 was kind of a bust in that sense, but it gave me a good chance to get my head back on straight and start focusing on the things that make me happy, so I can’t say it was all for naught.

That being said, I’d love to know what you guys would like to see in the coming year! What excites you about food? What do you want to see learn? I’ve always thought it would be cool to do some food-based Mythbusters-esque pieces; what would you want to see examined more closely?

I haven’t entirely decided if I’m going to pick up the 52 Weeks challenge again for 2017, but it would certainly be a fun place to start. I kind of want to get into more essay style pieces. I kind of want to work on writing a cookbook (well, rewriting. Kind of. We can get into that later.) I really want to work on getting a business plan together to open a restaurant 5 years from now. There’s lots of things I want to get done, and lots of things that need starting. Time will certainly tell.

In the meantime, thanks for reading this year! Wishing all the best to you and yours this holiday season!

Eric

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You know how at the top it says “Food, and some Other Stuff”? Well up until now it’s mostly been just food and I haven’t had much of the Other Stuff to throw around.  But no longer! I’ve finally done some interesting Other Stuff that’s post worthy.

Unless you watch Top Chef or work in the restaurant industry, chances are you’ve never heard the term sous-vide before. French for “under vaucum”, sous-vide is a cooking method in which foods are sealed in an airtight plastic bag and cooked submerged in water for a long time at a low temperature. First described by Sir Benjamin Thompson in 1799, the modern usage of the method began during the industrial food boom of the 1960’s where it was used as a way of preserving foods for a longer shelf life. It made its way into the restaurant scene in 1974 when French chef Georges Pralus found that foie gras cooked with this method would retain its flavor and color much better. Since then, sous-vide has skyrocketed in popularity in many restaurants across the world. The uses are nearly endless: from cooking meats and vegetables perfectly to creating off the wall flavor infusions, and even the humble scrambled egg (I’ve been told by numerous sources that sous-vide scrambled eggs are life-changing). However, sous-vide cooking will only work with one key component: an immersion circulator.

PolyScience Sous-Vide Professional

When you hear the name PolyScience, you probably think of some crazy evil corporation developing mind-control pills in a bad early-80’s movie. Much to the contrary, PolyScience is a technology development company that specializes in culinary gadgets.  They’re the guys behind the Anti-Griddle (like a griddle, but it freezes things) and the Smoking Gun (a handheld cold-smoking device) and of course, the Sous-Vide Immersion Circulator. Pretty look, compact, works like a dream; pretty much the perfect device for all your sous-vide needs. However, if you want get a new one it’ll run you about $1200. Even used ones on eBay will go for anywhere between $500-$800,  not to mention a $4000 vacuum sealer. If you’re a restaurant owner, you may or may not have that kind of money to throw around. If you’re not, which I’m guessing you’re not, you’re pretty much out of luck… or are you?

In 2010, fellow food blogger and kitchen nerd Scott Heimendinger aka the Seattle Food Geek created his own immersion circulator for about $75 and was kind enough to shareinstructions for whoever wanted to build their own. After running across the article (probably from Reddit), the prospect of making much better food for only 6% of the cost instantly intrigued me. I had never actually attempted any kind of project like this before, so I knew I was going to have substantial obstacles in front of me, but I knew that I wanted to go for it. For the sake of readability, I’m not going to post step-by-step instructions. If you want to read exactly what to do, head over to Seattle Food Geek.
The Brains

The brains of the whole thing: a PID temperature controller with SSR output. This computer will receive and send information to all the other parts and keep everything running smoothly.

The Body

The body: a clear plastic container. Mine is shown here with the cutting templates taped in place.

failure is always an option

First attempt at cutting the plastic went less than well. I got one small drill hole in before punching a giant hole right through the bottom of the casing. The container was made of acrylic which is very brittle and breaks pretty easily. SFG had access to a laser cutter for his, which probably would have made this much easier.
New Body

The new body I decided to go with was a basic plastic food storage tub. The plastic was much softer and was much easier to cut. It also opened from the top rather than from the long end, which would make wiring everything a lot easier.

Heating Elements

Three immersion heating coils that are normally used for aquariums. Plugs cut off and ready to be mounted.

secured in place

Coils mounted and sealed with tub and tile caulking.

Thermocouple

The thermocouple probe, which will read the temperature of the water and feed it to the controller. It wasn’t listed in the original instructions, but I sandwiched the opening with metal and rubber washers to ensure a water tight seal.

first bend

First attempt at bending a mounting hook also didn’t go so well.

J Bend

J bend mounting piece with a thumb screw for securing the whole thing to a container.

sloppy wiring

I forgot to take some pictures while it was still all apart, but here I have the power switchpump and relay in place and everything is very sloppily wired together. Since this was my first time ever doing any kind of electrical wiring, I was less than hopeful that I had done it right on the first try. Suprise of the Year: I didn’t do it right on the first try. When I plugged it in, I ended up shorting out the outlet and literally melting the power cord. Being that I had never done any electric work before, I didn’t even know what it was that I had done wrong or where to begin fixing it. Lucky, I had another switch and a few more power cords laying around. After looking up what I may have done wrong and taking everything back apart, I realized I had wired all the power cables to one terminal on the switch and the grounding wires to the other terminal. Way to go, me. I redid all the wiring and sealed everything back up and hoped for the best.
It Lives!

It lives! When I flipped the switch and everything was running properly, I was beyond psyched. I honestly had very little hope that I was get it to work properly without dropping a bunch more money into it, but it did! It actually works! I ran it for a while to make sure that it wasn’t just a fluke and everything did its job properly. The pump runs on its own power supply and isn’t regulated by the controller, so that worked fine. The thermocouple feeds the temperature (red number) to the controller, which will signal the relay to turn on or off the heater coils based on the set temperature value (green number) is. I’ll definitely have to start off with hot water, as it took about an hour to raise the water temperature by about 25 degrees. The mounting bracket to hold it on the container is a bit weak and the whole thing is very heavy on the heater end, so right now I have to hold it up with a support bar across the basin, but I can live with that for the moment. At the end of the day, I’m into this build about $150 in parts and tools (I ended up having to buy a new hack saw, drill bits and a soldering iron). More than I really wanted to spend, but still a fraction of the cost of buying a professional one. I have some good plans for cooking with this thing, so make sure to check back for recipes and more testing!

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