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As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been taking kind of a hiatus from my writing. As opposed to 2015 where I took an extended break to work through some personal issues, this was more from wanting to do new and exciting things. As I mentioned at the end of last year, I had a few different ideas about projects I wanted to work on and write about, so I wanted to step away from 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge. I started working my way through the Mighty Marvel Superhero’s Cookbook, however after a few quick posts I realized that it really wasn’t stimulating in the way that I thought it would be. Part of what I really love about writing is that it gives me a chance to look into new topics or ideas that I may not have thought about before. Making pancakes and frying eggs really wasn’t pushing any boundaries.

So while I dropped that format, I really didn’t have anything to put into its place. I’ve buckled down at work and put out some really fun food, but I’ve still been wracking my brain for something that grabs my interest and makes me want to write again. I looked at the 52 Weeks Challenge subreddit just to see what had been going on in the couple months I hadn’t been participating and it immediately grabbed me the same way it did almost 4 years ago now. I’ve always felt like I do better work when I’m given a ball park to play in. A lot of times it’s hard for me to come up with something out of the blue, but if somebody says “What about [XYZ]?” it seems to get my creativity flowing in one direction or another. So, at least for now, I think I’ll pick back up where I left off. I’ve missed out on nearly half the year, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

The theme of the week is presentation: Practicing one of the most crucial aspects of cooking, certainly in the professional realm if not in the home. Presentation can be as simple or as complex as your ambition permits. It could be as easy as slicing a nicely cooked steak before putting it on the plate or a sprinkling of complementary herbs on top of a lasagna, or you can bust out the tweezers and pipettes a la Chef’s Table.

With little effort, it’s easy to make food look as good as it tastes. It also doesn’t take much make delicious food that doesn’t look at all appetizing. The real skill, it could be said, would be to take food that may not taste all that great and make it look irresistible. Chef Jacques La Merde became an Instagram sensation for that exact approach, and I felt it would only be fair to try my hand at it.

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For all intents and purposes, this is a Lunchable. Ham and Cheddar with Crackers, to be exact. Oscar Mayer ham, Kraft cheddar. I made the crackers myself, only because I had the ingredients and I was a little bit broke, but other than that it’s the same ingredients you’d find in the fridge in the bright yellow box. [Side note: When did they stop putting chocolates and candies in Lunchables? What the fuck?]

I did deviate slightly from an exact Lunchable, so I wasn’t entirely sure how much it would really evoke the childhood memories, but it really, really did. There’s something about the taste of low-quality ham and low-quality cheese that never really leaves your mind.

Cheddar Cheese Sauce, adapted from Chefsteps
makes 1.5 – 2 cups

Combine ingredients in a small sauce pot. Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until cheese is fully melted, about 15 minutes.

Ritz-Style Crackers
makes 1 sheet

  • All-Purpose Flour, 2 cups
  • Baking Powder, 3 teaspoons
  • White Sugar, 1 tablespoon
  • Kosher Salt, 1/2 teaspoon, plus more as needed
  • Butter, unsalted, cold, 6 tablespoons
  • Vegetable Oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Cold Water, as needed
  • Egg, beaten, 1 each

Preheat oven to 400F. Add flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt to the food processor and pulse to combine. Add cold butter in small increments, and pulse to combine. With food processor running, add vegetable oil slowly. Add water a little bit at a time while pulsing, until dough just comes together. On a floured surface, roll dough out as thin as you can, adding more flour if needed when it sticks. Transfer dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a fork, poke holes across the entire dough. Brush dough with eggwash and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Bake 400F until crispy and lightly browned, rotating every 10 minutes, about 25 minutes. Allow to slightly before breaking into pieces.

 

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I think it probably goes without saying that having the web-slinger in the MCU is going to be super exciting. After years of lousy films featuring your friendly neighborhood Spiderman, one last reboot of the character might just be what they need to keep thing on the right track. With the brief glimpse of Tom Holland we got in Civil War, I have high hopes for Homecoming and beyond.

Next up in Mighty Marvel Superheroes’ Cookbook is probably the most simplistic recipe I’ve ever written about on C&K. Two instructions, no ingredients. Seriously.cookbook02

When I first got this book. This recipe was the way I would describe it to people; Step One: Make Pancakes.

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Please ignore my mediocre artistic talents.

Needless to say, this will work with whatever pancake recipe you like and whatever chocolate sauce you have on hand. It’s really that simple.

Pancakes, from Chefsteps

  • Pastry Flour, 200 grams*
  • Granulated Sugar, 30 grams
  • Malted Milk Powder, 20 grams (optional)
  • Baking Powder, 12 grams
  • Kosher Salt, 6 grams
  • Whole Milk, 240 grams
  • Eggs, whole 108 grams (2 each)
  • Butter, unsalted, melted, 60 grams

Sift together dry ingredients. Whisk together milk and eggs and combine with dry ingredients, mixing just enough to combine. Add melted butter and mix just enough to combine evenly. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add batter, about 1/4 cup at a time. Allow to cook on the first side until bubbles begins to form around the edges. Using a spatula, flip pancake and continue cooking 1-2 minutes (if you’re feeling daring, flip that badboy right in the pan).

*If you don’t have pastry flour, you can substitute 176g All-Purpose Flour and 24g Corn starch

Chocolate Gravy

makes about 3 cups

  • Butter, unsalted, 8 tablespoons
  • Granulated Sugar, 1 cup
  • Cocoa Powder, 1/2 cup
  • All-Purpose Flour, 1/4 cup
  • Whole Milk, 2 cups
  • Vanilla Extract, 1/2 teaspoon

Melt butter in a medium sauce pot. Whisk together sugar, cocoa and flour. Add dry ingredients to melted butter, whisking until smooth. Add milk slowly, whisking until fully incorporated. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla, stirring to combine. Let cool slightly before serving.

Using the same pancake batter, we can knock another recipe out pretty quickly.

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The only glimpse we’ve seen of a cinematic Galactus is in the 2005 Fantastic 4 adaptation where he appears as a cosmic hurricane, rather than a physical being. However, gigantic, stuffed pancakes are certainly a breakfast worthy of the devourer of planet.

The Cookbook offers a few suitable suggestions for filling these mammoth pancakes, but I went with the same formula I use for building the ultimate breakfast sandwich: meat, cheese, egg, something sweet, something spicy.

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Admittedly, this one really wasn’t super photogenic. For fillings, I’ve got ham, swiss, a runny egg, and a mango & hot pepper chutney.

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I’m still really not sure how to get into this style of writing. With a regular cookbook, I could write about the chef themselves, the history of the recipe I’m working on, or maybe what I think of their ideas on food and why they do certain things certain ways. But The Mighty Marvel Superheroes’ Cookbook is a bit different. The recipes are all super basic, and it really barely has anything to do with the characters at all. I’m just going to kind of wing it and see how it goes, sound good?

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Ben Grimm, better known as the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing: One-time leader of the Yancy Street Gang, military aviator, NASA astronaut, founding member of the Fantastic Four. Growing up in a Jewish family in the Lower East Side of New York City, Grimm’s early life was based largely on that of creator Jack Kirby. Along with Reed Richards and Susan and Johnny Storm, Grimm was exposed to high levels of cosmic radiation, mutating his physical appearance, as well has giving him superhuman strength, stamina, and resistance to injury.

In addition to being one of the characters most beloved by fans, The Thing is even one of the more popular characters in-canon; Heroes from across the Marvel universe were more than happy to attend his Bar Mitzvah (yes, The Thing had a Bar Mitzvah) and the subsequent poker tournament.

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Blushing Ben makes a few appearances throughout the Cookbook, the first of which being his Clobbered Omelet.

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Pretty straightforward with this one. When you get down to it, it more closely resembles a frittata, but cooked on the stovetop rather than baked.

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The Thing’s Clobbered Omelet

serves 4-6*

  • Butter, unsalted, 4 tablespoons
  • Poblano Pepper, seeded, diced, 1 each
  • Red Bell Pepper, seeded, diced, 1 each
  • Yellow Onion, small, diced, 1 each
  • Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced, 8 ounces
  • Mixed Vegetables**, about 1 cup
  • Eggs, 12 each
  • Heavy Cream, 1/2 cup
  • Kosher Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • Cheddar Cheese, shredded, about 1/2 cup

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add all vegetables, cook until tender and lightly browned. While vegetables are cooking, combine eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Increase skillet to high heat. Add egg mixture over vegetables and top with cheese. Cook until egg begins to set around the edges. Using a rubber spatula, gently pull cooked egg towards the center of the pan, allowing uncooked egg to fill the empty space. Continue pulling the cooked eggs this way until no uncooked eggs remain, about 4-5 minutes. Carefully slide or flip eggs onto a serving plate or platter. Cut into wedges, serve hot.

*If you’re not serving a crowd, feel free to cook the veggies and advance and store in the fridge. For a single serving, I used about 1/2 cup of the veggie mix, 3 eggs, 2 tablespoons of cream and just a sprinkle of cheese.

**If good, fresh vegetables are in season, definitely go with your favorite mix of fresh veggies. I used a frozen blend from the grocery store.

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Excelsior! As promised, I’ve finally got around to finishing up the first piece in a new series of cook-the-book style posts! First at-bat is Stan Lee Presents the Mighty Marvel Superheroes Cookbook. 

The book begins with a brief introduction and some basic tips on safety and kitchen cleanliness. Then, as any good morning would, delves into some breakfast.

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A wise man once said “There has never been a sadness that can’t be cured by breakfast food” and a trip to your local diner will prove that every time. While studies have more or less debunked the conventional wisdom that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, starting your morning with good food is a great way to set the tone for the rest of the day.

With Captain America’s Day Starters, we get a few different options for easy, healthy and delicious kick start.

‘Fresh fruit or fruit juice. Lots of vitamins C and A’

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I’ve wrote on here a few times about how great smoothies can be for breakfast. Blend up your favorite mix of fruits and veggies with some juice or milk (I also like to throw some type of sea vegetable in the mix) and you’re ready to go. Once you blend your mix, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray to make things even easier while you’re still groggy. This particular blend I threw together features banana, pineapple, orange, mango and sweet potato.

‘Milk is the best source of calcium. It’s need for strong bones and teeth. It also supplies protein – essential building blocks for our bodies’img_4825

Milk is certainly nutritious, if not a little bit weird as a concept, but yogurt has even more calcium and is loaded with beneficial bacteria. Mixed with granola and some fresh fruit, it makes for a hearty, protein-packed breakfast.

‘Bread or cereal, lots of variations in this department’

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For simplicity, flavor and customization, look no further than Avocado Toast, loaded with Omega 3 fats and complex carbohydrates. The only two things you need are in the name itself. Apart from avocado and toasted bread, the possibilities are near endless. The folks over that The Kitchn have a great piece to get your creative juices going; Here, I’ve got 12 grain bread with butter and sesame seeds, mashed avocado, and thinly sliced cucumber tossed with salt, pepper, chili flake and lime juice.

Now, for those looking for a more traditional American-style breakfast, look no further than Hulk’s Fried Potatoes with Bacon and Eggs

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This dish needs little explanation, if any at all. Bacon, eggs, toast, breakfast potatoes; Maybe some coffee, if you’re so inclined. I will give one little trick I recently picked  up while working mainly breakfast shifts: par-boil your potatoes with onions and garlic. This cooks them through, so when you fry ’em up they’ll be soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. It’s the same principle to making great French Fries.

In Our Next Exciting Issue…

The Thing’s Clobbered Omelet

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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)

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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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Miso Horny

I’ve been waiting for that joke for so long you guys. Anyway…

The Greek philosopher Democritus claimed that, when chewed, food broke into four distinct shapes, with the size and shape of the pieces determining the taste: Large, round pieces were sweet, while small, round pieces were bitter. Salt was given by small, angular bits, and larger angular chunks were sour.

Until the late 19th century, it was assumed that these were the four basic tastes. Then along came chef Georges Auguste Escoffier. Known as the ‘king of chefs and the chef of kings’ Escoffier developed nearly in its entirety what we now know as classical French cuisine. By developing rich sauces and deeply roasted meat dishes, he made food that didn’t just taste good, but was the best food anyone had tasted; A flavor that wasn’t simply a combination of sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Just a few years after the publication of Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire, Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda noticed that dashi made with kombu, a type of seaweed, was especially more delicious or ‘yummy’ (in Japanese, umami) that those made without. By studying the chemical makeup of the kombu, Ikeda pinpointed the fifth taste.

Glutamic acid, known now as Umami, create the flavor of savory-ness “common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat” as Ikeda described. Think about the crust of freshly baked bread. Crispy, roasted mushrooms. Soy sauce. Steak, seared in a ripping-hot cast-iron skillet. It’s why brown food tastes so great. However, it’s difficult to create a dish that’s strictly tastes of umami. As with the other tastes, balance is the key.

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I find that one of the more interesting ways to utilize umami is in largely sweet products. In the same way that salt makes chocolate and caramel taste extraordinary, umami ingredients provide a truly unique contrast.

This week, I wanted to take a page from friend and queen of doughnuts Ren Weiner. Miso, a Japanese seasoning of fermented soy beans or other grains, is jam-packed with umami goodness, and plays quite well with rich, eggy doughnuts. The dough itself carries a smattering of white miso (also called yellow), which has a mild, smooth taste (I swear this isn’t a cigarette ad). Red miso, with a more intense, aggressive flavor gets blended with plain ol’ sugar to make a nice topping. My miso sugar didn’t really dry out like I had hoped it would, but was spectacular tasting nonetheless.

Miso Doughnuts, adapted from Bon Appetit

makes about 10 doughnuts

  • Red Miso, 1 tablespoon
  • Granulated Sugar, 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon, divided
  • Active Dry Yeast, 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • Egg, whole, 1 each
  • Egg Yolk, 1 each
  • Butter, unsalted, melted, 3 tablespoons
  • Whole Milk, 3 tablespoons
  • White or Yellow Miso, 3 tablespoons
  • All-Purpose Flour, 2 cups, plus more as needed
  • Vegetable Oil, for frying

Pulse red miso and 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor until mixture resembles brown sugar. Spread out evenly on a parchment-lined  baking sheet and let sit until dry, 2−2 ½ hours. Pulse in food processor until no clumps remain. Transfer miso sugar to a bowl and set aside.

Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over and let sit until foamy, 5−10 minutes.

Beat egg, egg yolk, butter, milk, white miso, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment until smooth. Add yeast mixture and flour and mix until a loose ball forms.

Switch to dough hook and mix on medium until dough is smooth,  5−7 minutes. If dough is wet, add more all-purpose flour as needed.

Place dough in a large bowl lightly coated with nonstick spray. Cover and let sit in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, 1−2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; lightly flour. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat out to 1″ thick. Punch out rounds with biscuit cutter. Repeat with scraps. Transfer rounds to prepared baking sheet, cover loosely, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, 45−60 minutes.

Pour 2 inches of oil into a large heavy saucepan. Heat over medium-high until thermometer registers 325°. Working in batches, fry doughnuts until deep golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels and let cool slightly before tossing in miso sugar.

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America really is the melting pot of the world, especially and literally when it comes to food. As a nation of immigrants from its inception, American cuisine really had no other way to come about than through numerous cultural influences. Fusion of ingredients and techniques from the world over has strong historical significance, although it may seem to be a more modern trend.

But there is certainly a line to be drawn to between the way our culinary forefathers cooked and ate and what’s often thought of today as “fusion” cuisine. Thoughtfully prepared dishes that maintain the integrity of their contributing parts can certain be wonderful, but shoehorning things where they don’t belong is where the style draws criticism; It’s the difference between swapping sauerkraut for kimchi on a Reuben sandwich and filling egg roll wrappers with the ingredients of a Reuben. Right up there with not-really-fusion cuisine, Spanish Tapas have gotten swept up in the wave of appropriation. In any major urban area, you’re sure to find restaurants offering overpriced and bigger-than-an-appetizer-but-definitely-not-an-entree dishes alongside tequila cocktails and surprisingly thoughtful red wine lists under the guise of being a “tapas bar”.

At its earliest origins, tapas were pieces of bread that you would put over your glass of sherry to keep flies from getting in. Tapas have evolved as bar culture has to include a wide range of small, snackable items to have while you’re drinking. Hell, in Spain some places will still give them out for free as long as you’re still drinking (think like popcorn and nuts at your favorite dive bar). In essence, the idea is simple: food that you don’t have to think about too much, to be consumed innumerably, while drinking. Sound familiar?

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While the types of foods that are normally served as tapas can vary widely, a few strongholds are always there: olives, sausages, bread, potatoes, cheese. Things to enjoy, but also to fill you up a bit.

Chorizo a la Sidra

  • Spanish-Style, dry-cured Chorizo*, 1 large sausage**
  • Hard Cider***, as needed

Heat a heavy-bottomed sauce pot to medium-high heat. Cut chorizo into small chunks and cook until slightly crispy and fat begins to render, about 4 minutes. Add cider and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking chorizo over low heat in cider at least 20 minutes. Traditionally, the chorizo is held warm and served directly from the pot of cider

Papas Arrugadas

  • Baby Yellow Potatoes, 2 pounds
  • Kosher Salt, as needed

Cook potatoes until tender in very well-salted water, beginning with cold water. Strain potatoes and return to pot. Cook over medium heat until potato skins dry and a layer of salt form. Serve hot.

Mojo****

  • Red Bell Pepper, seeded, chopped, 2 each
  • Garlic, 3 cloves
  • Sweet Paprika, 1 tablespoon
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch, stems removed
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, 1 cup
  • Fresno Chile, seeded, chopped, 1 each
  • White Bread, crusty piece, about 1/2 cup
  • Kosher Salt, as needed

Blend all ingredients at high speed until smooth. Season with salt to taste.

*Spanish Chorizo is very different than Mexican Chorizo. You’re looking for something more similar to a salami. If you can’t find Spanish chorizo, do not substitute Mexican.

**Finding a whole link of chorizo can prove to be difficult, I couldn’t find one in about 4 different stores in town. However, there were some pre-sliced snack packs available, so I made due with that.

***Spanish cider is very dry, more similar to white wine or brut champagne. Please don’t cook this with Woodchuck.

****Again, Spanish Mojo can be very different from Mexican or other Hispanic Mojos. This version is the style that’s served in the Canary Islands.

 

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