The Mad Chef

One man's search for sanity through the creation of tasty vittles

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Worthy Cause

Just wanted to share this, I'm pretty impressed. My huge soft spot for animals surely plays a part, but I think this young girl is making a better case for the human race right now than most of those who have been elected to lead it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

We Would Like to Issue a Correction

In my last post, I stated that glimpsing Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse on tv together was like a peek into the 9th Circle of Hell. That made me realize that I have in fact never read Dante's Inferno, so who am I to say which circle it indeed resembled? I'm sure it was one of them, but I don't really know. A brief googling brought me to the SparkNotes version, which helped correct me.
The Ninth Circle is actually the frozen lake, and that's not really what it looked like. The Third Circle might more closely resemble the experience of watching the show, and that is the destination of the Gluttonous. They are made to "lie in mud and endure a rain of filth and excrement." That sounds about right for watching Flay and Lagasse play the dueling egos for an hour. But that still doesn't adequately describe the two of them enteracting.
The Fourth Circle involves people charging at each other with giant boulders, which seems like we're getting warmer. But it's still a little bland. Maybe that's because I'm reading the summary, but that's what I've got right now.
The Fifth Circle is the river Styx, described as "a swampy, fetid cesspool in which the Wrathful spend eternity struggling with one another; the Sullen lie bound beneath the Styx’s waters, choking on the mud." Now, see, once again we're describing the viewing experience, not what is actually being viewed.
Moving on. . .to the Sixth Circle, which they don't really describe other than to say that it houses the heretics. Not saying that couldn't apply here, but I really need more info to make a decision.
Now it starts getting complicated.
The Seventh Circle has multiple Rings within it, all reserved for different types of violence, differentiated by who/what the violence was directed towards. We've got souls boiling in rivers of blood, souls spending eternity as trees (which sounds oddly out of place, but that is for the suicides), and spending eternity walking across a desert of burning sand. Once again, this isn't quite what I'm looking for. Now we get to the Eighth Circle, which is made up of ten different "pouches." I never really thought of Hell in terms of pouches, unless you count fannypacks, but I'm not going to argue here.
In order, the punishments of the Ten Pouches of Nastiness are: 1) lashings from whips, 2) lying in a river of human feces, 3) hanging upside down in Baptismal fonts while their feet "burn with fire," 4) walking with their heads on backwards, 5) steeping in pitch while being torn apart by demons, 6) walking in circles for eternity while wearing robes made of lead, 7) being trapped in a pit of vipers, turning into a viper when bitten, and having to bite someone else to become human again. . .until someone else bites you, 8) they don't specify, but that's where Ulysses is, 9) walking in a circle while constantly afflicted by wounds that "open and close repeatedly." Sounds kind of like Flay or Lagasse's mouth while they're trying to think of something intelligent to say. And 10) Horrible plagues and diseases. When in doubt, hard to go wrong with plagues and diseases.
#4 has definitely got something going for it here, but when it all comes down, I think I have to pick #7. It's an endless cycle of self-serving evil and suffering, which is what the respective careers of Flay and Lagasse are all about.
So next time I'm faced with the need to describe viewing such an unholy pairing on my television, I can simply tell people that it was as though I had peered directly into the Seventh Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell. There, I feel much better now that I've cleared that up. Carry on.

Words Cannot Describe the Terror

I was sitting down to watch a DVRed episode of Iron Chef America, and apparently it caught the end of Emeril Live! which aired right before it. It started recording just in time to capture Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay together on the same set, doing a show together. It was like peering into the 9th Circle of Hell for that split second it took my finger to move to the fast-forward button. I'm just thankful that I was spared having to watch their "witty banter."

On a pork-related note, pics are coming. Some technical difficulties with the camera are slowing things down, but I should have them up soon. I took lots.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Pork Will be Televised

I've borrowed the digital camera from our office, and I'll post pics of the pork in progress tomorrow and Monday. Also making salsa tonight, so I'll see if it yields any good pics. I'm putting the pork in the marinade tonight, and it looks like (if I can get by the mercado) tamarind, lime, soy, molasses, garlic, chiles, cumin, and probably beer. I'm skipping the dark beer because I've already got a lot of flavors going on there, plus I'm on a budget. I'm thinking about using High Life instead. 40oz for $1.69, it's pretty hard to beat.
"The Champagne of Pork," I like that.

Yarrr. . .

OK, my lovely and talented wife rocks. After some discussion last night, I believe I may get my pirate flag. I'll probably have to rotate a few flags, but that's alright with me. Her major issue with it was not the concept of me flying a pirate flag, but rather that she was just trying to figure out why the hell I wanted one. I fear that this has been an ongoing struggle for her with many things that I do, but she's a really good sport. REALLY good sport.
I've also done a little more digging, and I believe that the flag of Stede Bonnet might be more appropriate. After reading his story, I think I'm a lot closer to Stede Bonnet than I'll ever be to Blackbeard. Now I just need to find one that's 3'x5', as opposed to the little 10"x16" deals. I did find a Stede Bonnet sticker on Ebay, so that's another option (not mutually exclusive). Make my truck into a pirate sloop, yarrr. . .

I should also clarify that my indentifying with Stede Bonnet has nothing to do with the "nagging wife" theory, if anything I could probably use a little more nagging.
Just thought I should put in that disclaimer in case she ever reads my blog. Back to work, and realizing that everything I've just written sums up why I need the flag in the first place. . .

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Pirate Looks at 27

I think I may be suffering from a 1/4 to 1/3 third life crisis (trying not to be pessimistic, but not to get carried away here either). I'm not wanting to buy a sports car, I'm perfectly happy with my truck, but there is an irrational purchase I want to make. My lovely and talented wife played along until she realized that I was serious, now she's getting concerned. I'm sure I can't be the only person out there who wants one of these, but I think it's the fact that I want to display it in front of our house that's truly bothering her.
I want a pirate flag, and I want to fly it off our front porch.
Is that so bad? There are lots of people in our neighborhood with those stupid garden flags with hummingbirds, sunflowers, asymmetrical pastel designs, even one from a certain university that shall not be named, but suffice to say that they painted their entire house the school's color.
I just want a pirate flag.
I don't know if this is in response to the fact that all but 2 of my one-time 18 body piercings have been removed, that I haven't had any work done on my tattoos since 1999, that I work a desk job, wear collared shirts every day, go to church every Sunday, make small talk, haven't seen a keg outside of a bar in 2 years, pee in a toilet every time I go (EVERY time!), go to bed by 10, wake up before 6, haven't acted on stage since December of 1999, haven't been in a fight since 2000, haven't gotten on stage in a bar and sung a few rounds of old country songs with the band, that my "Prick Body Piercing" shirt has been hanging unworn for almost a year now, that I finally got rid of most of my Hawaiian shirts because I really never wear them anymore, either. . .the list goes on.
Whatever the reason, I really want a pirate flag, and that idea has stuck with me for a while now. Not the first time I've had a "silly" thought like this, but this one has been hanging around for over a month now.
I thought about a good old "Jolly Roger," but that's a little cliche. Maybe a Richard Worley? The "Calico" Jack Rackham is nice, too, but I really feel like I should honor the history of my state and go with an Edward Teach since we all learned the legend of Blackbeard in elementary school. I don't know what the Homeowners' Association would say, but part of the damn problem is the fact that I now have to answer to a friggin' Homeowners' Association in the first place! Damn them to Hell, and they can walk the plank for all I care! I'll fly my Edward Teach flag, stick sparklers through the spacers in my ears, and storm their next board meeting if they want to challenge my flag! I've got a beheading sword, I'm not afraid of them! I'd have to get it back from Erik first, but I could! And while I'm there, I'll tell them to do something about my neighbor's dog that keeps digging in my garden, 'cause they don't want no pirate justice coming down on them for it! Don't Fuck With my Garlic, Bitches!!!

Then again, maybe my lovely and talented wife will let me fly it off the back porch. Compromise is good, right? I wish I knew how to type a sigh like the one I just made.
I think I've got to go work on my TPS reports now. . .

Monday, March 14, 2005

Too Much Pork For Just One Fork

I had to make a call, and the call was self-indulgent gluttony. My lovely and talented wife is heading out of town this weekend to go to the beach with some friends from work. I decided (with some helpful inspiration from Paul here, and here) that it was time to thaw out the 8lb Boston Butt that has been sitting in the bottom of the deep freeze for some time and cook it up while she was gone. Being a rather large chunk of meat, I figured I'd invite some friends to join me, ice down a bunch of beer, and serve up piles of slow-cooked pork for everyone. Unfortunately, it appears that "everyone" will also be gone this weekend. There's no way I can justify cooking 8lbs of pork when I'll be the only one there to eat it, can I?
Hell yes I can.
If I cook it, they will come. I don't know exactly who they will be, but someone is eating some pork this weekend, even if it's just me. I've been itching to try a different approach to my pork, and what better time to do it? I usually brine my pork all week, then rub it down with some kind of slather the morning of the cooking. I put it in the oven at 500º for 20-30 minutes to sear it all up and make it crispy, then I drop the heat down to 200-250º and let it go all day until it's done.
This time, it will be different. I'm planning to marinate it overnight, then pour the marinade into the bottom of the roasting pan. I'll put a spice rub on the meat, put it on the rack in the pan, then seal the whole thing up with foil and put it in a 200º oven to cook all day long. When it's just about done, I'll take off the foil and put it under the broiler to crisp up the fat on top. While it's resting, I'll probably put the pan on the cooktop and reduce the marinade into a sauce. I'm currently thinking a soy-molasses-lime-chile-garlic-dark beer base for the marinade, but I'm not sure what it will turn into by Friday night. I've got some blackstrap molasses left over from the porter I made, and that may be just what the doctor ordered. Maybe I'll swing by the mercado and pick up some tamarind, that might be a nice little touch to it all. Only time will tell. . .
That's going to be the highlight of the week, although I'm also excited about revisiting the grilled ratatouille and trying a modification to the Professor's butterflied chicken recipe. If nothing else, it will be fun just to dismantle the bird like that. Trying to go to the gym today and do a little PT in the pool, so tonight will probably just be something quick and simple. If it's anything good, look for it here tomorrow.
Until next.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

R.I.P. Big Worm

It is with great sorrow that I must announce the passing of an old friend. I was checking on my Baird's rat snake, Big Worm, last night when I realized that he had passed on. Big Worm had been with me since the late 90's, and has always been a good pet. He has been through 5 moves with me, and rode shotgun in the truck for each one. He had been sluggish lately, and I believe he had become ill. I only wish that I had reacted before it was too late. He will be laid to rest tonight underneath the holly tree in our back yard, and will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Dangerously Out of Control

Now that I have a real garden of my own, I hate seeing it empty all year save for the Summer and early Fall when my chiles and tomatoes are in full swing. I started out planning to just try some English peas, but that just opened the floodgates.

I found a new seed site a week or two ago that has some pretty interesting and different varieties. They're slow during Spring and Fall, I still haven't received my order that I placed on 02/23/05, but at least they give you fair warning about that. Their prices are great, and so is their selection, I'd recommend taking a look there if you're trying to find anything in particular. I'd especially recommend it if you just want to browse and be inspired, that's what they did for me. I stumbled upon it while looking for one item, then ended up placing a tag-team order with my boss that included a huge Italian zucchini (if only Derek Smalls had known. . .), San Marzano tomatoes, black beans, tomatillos, Chinese yard-long beans, juane canari melons, a (supposedly) wonderful strain of Italian parsley, and epazote. Then I started hunting for Spring garden seeds. . .
This past Sunday, I sowed seed for the peas, cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, dill, radicchio, arugula, a mesclun mix pack, an Italian heirloom broccoli, broccoli raab, radishes, spinach, and 5 kinds of lettuce. I figure that if I plant enough seeds, I'll grow something successfully. Even if it is just the radishes. I've also started some new plants of thyme and sage (can always use more), and I've got some little baby chervil and mitsuba going, too. Trying my hand at garlic for the first time as well, plus some heirloom nesting onions from my grandparents that I think may actually be these, but I can't prove it yet. I'll have to keep an eye on them this year and see how they grow, but I hope I'm right.
I've already got my chile babies started and living in my mini-greenhouse, and I'll start the tomatoes later this month. Planning to try beans and corn for the first time this year, plus the old favorites of pattypan squash, black beauty zucchini, and eggplant. I've also got the giant zucchini, so I get to build a new trellis for that too.
I love to slice the squash, oil it, season it with just a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder and then toss it on the grill. Great stuff, also takes well to whatever seasonings you're grilling your meat with. Grilled zucchini with worcestershire is a house favorite, or sauteed with onions and cremini mushrooms.
Eggplant gets a many different treatments, and I have a hard time picking. I like to make "pasta" with it, as inspired by the Professor's recipe. Also a big fan of slicing it thinly (I use the mandoline), marinating it in soy, canola oil, garlic, sliced chiles, and a little sherry and then slapping the slices on the grill. You have to work fast, you literally lay them all out on the grill, then immediately go back to the beginning and flip them, the go right back and take them off, but you get this wonderful carmelized crispiness to them and they make a great appetizer to hold folks over while you grill the rest of the meal.
Or, we take lots of veggies from the garden and make the grilled ratatouille.
I love having all of these available during the Summer, there's something very satisfying about knowing that you don't need to go to the store to eat, it's all in your back yard. Not that I'm going to become a survivalist or start raising my own swine and cattle, but this is about as close as I'm going to get.

I am hoping to have a dinner party sometime this Summer where I only serve things that I've grown, or where every dish is based on something from my garden. I won't be able to resist throwing in some meat, but I'd like to try to use it as a complimentary item, not the focus. I just think it would be an interesting challenge, plus I get to sit there with that smug look on my face and say things like, "Oh, I'm so glad you like it. Did I mention that I grew it myself? I did? Silly me, sorry about that." That, or maybe I'll just think it. Either way, the smug grin will probably be involved. That's all for now, or I'll just keep babbling about the garden. I don't have a single seed germinated yet for the Spring crops, so I'm getting a little ahead of myself as it is. But you best believe that I'll be here crowing about it as soon as I do. . .
Until next.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Cooking For The Dentally Unstable

It's been an interesting cycle of food over the past 13 days, and I'd like to tell you a little bit about it. Wouldn't that be neat?
We begin on Day 1, with the highly-recommended chuck-eye steak. For ~$4/lb, this is a darn tasty cut of meat. Marinate the hell out of it, probably start it the night before you'll cook it, but it's some good eatin'. Grilled to medium-rare over a high flame, and it's probably the best bang-for-your-buck steak I've had in a long time. Maybe it was the moment, knowing that I wouldn't really be able to chew for a few days, that made it so good, but I plan to double-check it in the near future. I actually just put it in the marinade that morning, and I think I would benefit from overnight, but it was still mighty fine. A little sweet, a little salty, a good bit spicy, and with just a nice little bit of char on the outside to set it all off. Good times! The broccolini, however, let's just say that the flavor gets a little strong on the grill. I don't think I'll be repeating that preparation.
Days 2&3 were all pudding, Frosties, and prescription painkillers, plus a little soup. Not too much to say, but plenty of drooling.
Day 4, I started getting sick, so I decided to make some soup. I chunked a frozen quart of my chicken-mushroom stock into a pot with some soy, rice wine vinegar, a few kaffir lime leaves, 4 or 5 sliced chiles from the freezer, and some of an Asian spice rub that someone gave me, then brought the whole thing to a light boil/strong simmer. I beat 3 eggs, scooped out the kaffir leaves, then streamed the egg into the bubbling soup pot while stirring it all together. Don't know if I was anywhere near real egg drop soup, but it tasted pretty good.
Day 5, I thought I was dying. A friend of my lovely and talented wife came over, and I made chicken salad. Then I plunked into my chair and tried not to snore while they were talking. I couldn't really eat much, but it had lemon, parsley, green onions, paprika, garlic, salt, pepper and Duke's Mayo, plus some other random herbal/spice ingredients. Wasn't really sure what I was putting into it.
Day 6, I was definitely dying. Canned soup, then crawled back into bed. Dinner was Stovetop Stuffing, and that's it.
Day 7, I made it into work for a few hours, I think I ate lunch. For dinner, I had some sashimi grade tuna in the fridge that had to be cooked. I oiled, salted, and peppered the pieces, then seared them up. I sliced them and drizzled them with light soy and a little rice wine vinegar and broiled some asparagus to go on the side. That was pretty good, and it made me feel a little less useless. Then I passed out at about 7:30pm.
Day 8, more canned soup, then some Chinese leftovers for dinner. Finally starting to feel a little better, so I crashed early again.
Day 9, we had a social obligation and I was finally making a comeback. Finger foods and semi-imported beer, here I come!!
Day 10, it's payday, I don't feel like total crap anymore, and we're going for sushi! I discovered a new favorite, the "South of the Border Roll!" It's tuna, avocado, jalapeño, and a little mayo. Good stuff. On a side note, rice is a little tricky when you have sockets where 4 teeth used to be. Try to find a delicate way to extract those grains, and tell me if you do.
Day 11, my lovely and talented wife helped me do some garden prep for the Spring crops (another post), and we rewarded ourselves by eating take-out. Aside from a little congestion which may or may not have been related to the liter of peat moss I accidentally snorted, feeling pretty good. Then I joined my boss and his wife for a dinner of chili, which it turned out was only the 2nd time they'd ever made it. I tried to conceal my horror at this fact, but the chili was still pretty good. I have much to teach him, though.
Day 12, more work in the garden (actually planting the seeds this time), followed by a dinner of black beans with bacon, onion, and garlic plus corn bread and chow chow. Topped off with a little (read: metric assload) of fatalli-powered hot sauce, and it was a forehead-mopping good time. My sinuses are officially clear. I finally got a good dutch oven, and my beans are so much better now. It's like cooking pasta, you really want a lot more cooking liquid than you think you need. Beans cooked in just enough liquid to cover turn into mush, while beans cooked in a big pot with lots of room are still beans at the end. Very important, unless you like bean mush. If you do, then, well, to each his own. Bean mush-liker.
Day 13, leftover beans for lunch, and I'm planning on penne with a creole-inspired shrimp sauce for dinner. Don't know exactly how it will turn out, but I know it will involve green bell pepper and sweet onion, probably in a light cream sauce. I'll have to report on that later.

Well, I better get back to work, I'm still trying to catch up. Just wanted to get all of that out there. This is what I get for taking all that time off, I guess. Back to the grind, and I'll be back with the shrimp penne and some excitement over things I'm trying to grow (then cook) this Spring.
Until next.

Pudding and Percocet

Wow, that was a fun little stretch there. The extraction went fairly well, and the little bastards plague me no more. Unfortunately, they didn't use enough local anesthetic (I have a strange resistance to the stuff, takes about twice the normal dose to numb me) so I was in a world of hurtin' from when the sedation wore off until I could get home and get some painkillers in me. Some small complications during recovery, but no big deal. The next day I actually felt pretty good, largely due to the titular combination, and was expecting a full and speedy recovery. Then I woke up sick Saturday morning, and that was pretty much it for the next week. Turned out my weakened immune system decided that bronchitis was the way to go, and I didn't really start to recover at all until Thursday. Fun stuff, but I think I'm finally back on track. Well, aside from the dry socket, but I'll just spare you the details on that one. Some good food was made since I last blogged, so I'll jabber on about those in a new post, just had to get in this update. On to the food!