January 26, 2013

Bitter Feast

Welcome back to a very special edition of Food And Such Things. For the first time on this blog, I am doing a movie review! Hooray!! Yay. Whoot....uh...yeah. OK, it's not the biggest deal in the world. But,  for all you food bloggers out there, this one will be a bit more intriguing than your average movie.

First off, reviewing movies is not my specialty. So, to get this out of the way, let me say that the movie was ok. Not bad, not great, but worth a watch. That's my overall review. The real key to this film isn't whether or not the movie is good, but what the movie is really about: Chefs and Food Critics. And in this case, Food Bloggers.

The set up of the movie is pretty simple: A pompous chef kidnaps and tortures a food blogger for a bad review and possibly ruining his career. That's about as straight forward as you can get.

When I first read the info about this movie, I was like "HEY! I'm a chef AND a food blogger! They made this movie just for me!" I had to watch it!

As I was watching the movie, something started to happen. A war of epic proportions was being fought in my incredibly brilliant brain! The chef side of my brain was enjoying watching the blogger getting beaten. The blogger side of my brain was getting pissed off and thought the chef in the movie was a real dick. If you could hear what was going on in my head, it would go something like this...

Chef Brain: YES! YES! FUCK YES! Kick that punk mutha fuckas ass! No good, no food knowledge having, hiding behind his computer COCK SUCKER!

Blogger Brain: You gotta be fucking kidding me! This guy loses it over 1 bad review?!?! FUCK YOU! Grow a pair and learn to take some criticism you thin skinned pussy!

Chef Brain:Why should he have to accept criticism from some bitch-ass hack who knows nothing about food and couldn't write his way out of a wet paper bag??

Blogger Brain: You don't need a PHD to know something tastes like shit! This guy put himself in a position to be critiqued. Did he think he would only hear good things?

Chef Brain: The blogger in the movie was a real douche! He got off on giving bad reviews. He had it coming.

Blogger Brain: Well, that chef was an arrogant prick. He needed to be taken down a peg or two. Sounds like someone I know...

Chef Brain: You got something you want to say to me, asshole??

Blogger Brain: No..Nothing to say. coughSHOEMAKERcough!

Chef Brain: SHOE MAKER?!?! Fuck you! "OoOOOoOhh! I'm one of a GAZILLION food bloggers! I'm special!" HACK!

Blogger Brain: Fuck you!

Chef Brain: Fuck you!

Blogger Brain: NO, FUCK YOU!

Chef Brain: NO, FUCK YOU!

And it went on like this for about a half hour before I silenced the voices with alcohol. Yeah, I got some issues I'm working through. Don't worry, in the end, alcohol always seems to do the trick!

Oh yeah, in the food biz, calling a chef a "shoe maker" is an insult. It means they are lazy, cut corners at every chance, and generally put out shitty food.

That's it for this one. I caught this movie on The Movie Channel. If you see it, give it a look.

I'm out.

J. Miller

January 20, 2013

Chicken & Waffles

Welcome back for another wonderful edition to this quaint little blog. Before we get started, I do have a question for you: Do you like the top picture? I ask because it's the first time that I'm using a picture that I sort of photo-shopped. I got an app on my phone and I'm testing the waters here. I don't have Instagram, but I do like the ability to enhance photos, as long as you don't stray too far from what it really looks like. So, let me know what you think.

Now, lets get to the food. Unless you have been living under a boulder, I'm pretty sure you know about fried chicken and waffles. If you haven't actually eaten the two together, I'm gonna guess you know about them individually. So a history lesson really isn't needed here. Like in most cases, the key lies in the preparation.

When it comes to frying chicken, it seems like everyone has their own special tricks to get the job done. Me? No special tricks here! In fact, I don't really like to fry my foods that much.

Yes, it's true. I'm a black man that doesn't care to fry foods at every opportunity. Now, that doesn't mean I don't like fried foods. I think a lot of fried foods are delicious, at least when done right. What I don't like is the mess of it all. The oil splattering everywhere. The oily paper towels. The disposing of all the oil. All that stuff sucks balls! But, the taste of perfectly fried chicken cannot be matched. The crispness of twice fried french fries can't be duplicated. It's that crispness that tends to be a distinct signature of a good deep fry.

Another signature of the deep fry is simply being unhealthy. I don't care how you try and slice it, fried foods aren't good for you. I'm certainly not the healthiest person in the world, but even I don't eat fried foods all the time, and neither should you. While the dish did come out well, it's not something to have all the time. This is the sort of thing to indulge in every now and then.

Now lets get to the food.

What you see in the pics is actually fried chicken and cornbread. I just made a cornbread mix and put it in the waffle maker. Slick, huh? No? Well fuck you then! I thought it was slick! Jeez!

Anyway, I started with some boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I had them marinating over-night in a mix of milk, lemon juice and sriracha. The milk and lemon juice makes a faux buttermilk. If you have buttermilk, use that.

I dropped the chicken in a flour mix and got off as much of the excess flour as I could. From there, I let the chicken rest for about 30 minutes.

In that time, the chicken will absorb a lot of the flour, and it will look like you didn't do anything to it. So, right before you drop them in the hot oil, give the chicken another dip in the flour. This will give them a solid layer of coating and added crunch in the end. I actually got this technique from watching the Voltaggio brothers do this on Food Network.

Now, only do that second dredge moments before they get in the oil. That's why only half in the picture have the second coat.

When the oil is hot enough, get frying!

I think it took around 9 or 10 minutes to finish. I was going more by color, not time.

When your chicken is done, place it in the oven at the lowest temperature, somewhere around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This will keep it warm and ensure a crisp texture.

Guess what? CHICKEN BUTT!!! Ha Haaaa! Got you!!! For real, it's cornbread waffle time! This is what you have to start with:

Get your waffle maker ready and have your lube handy. The last thing you need is this stuff getting stuck in your waffle maker.

To be honest, I had never tried this before with the cornbread mix. It seemed reasonable enough, so I gave it a shot. Here is what I was looking at:

Success!!!! It didn't take long at all, and it tasted just like it should have. Giggity Giggity Goo!

I had a good amount of cornbread mix left over, so I decided to try something that is usually found in a liege waffle. For those of you that don't know, liege waffles are not batter based. They are made using a yeast dough. They have a bit denser, chewy texture to them. With the addition of a coarse sugar added to them, they come out the waffle iron with a crispy, caramelized outside. They are truly a delight for the taste buds.

I personally don't know of too many restaurants that make these, I do know that they are pretty popular in the food truck scene. If you live in a city with an established or growing food truck population, look into it.

Getting back to my experiment, I wanted to try and get a crisp texture with the cornbread. I mixed in some raw sugar right before it went in, and it turned out....a little sweeter. No real difference besides a slight crunch from the granules.

I figured that my machine might not get as hot as some of the professional models. I decided to take a more direct approach to the sugar aspect.

After a generous shot of lube, I put enough sugar on the iron directly to make an even coating. I poured in the batter and let it do its thing a little longer than normal. In the end, it only got a little crisp in just a couple spots. The bad part was the mess it left in the iron. It was a real bitch trying to clean this thing afterwards.

Long story short, it didn't work. Oh well, I'll have to come up with something better.

Once the waffles are done, it's plate up time. I put a bit of butter on the cornbread to start things off. Once the chicken got on the waffle, I drizzled maple syrup on top and put the sriracha on the side. I like to control the amount of hot sauce per bite.

And now for the round plate.

I wasn't sure which one I liked better. I asked my good friend Aimee what she thought, and she liked the rectangle plate a little better. I was headed in that direction myself. But, the round ain't bad either.

This tasted great. The sweet and spicy of this dish really works well. The chicken was super juicy with a little bit of heat on it's own. The cornbread was on point and held up well against the chicken. I had this with an ice cold Red Stripe and I was one very happy negro.

I hope you got some enjoyment from this one. No recipes this time around, but maybe you can still get something out of the journey. I know I did.

I'm out.

J. Miller

January 10, 2013

Korean Grub

I've been living in Garden Grove, Ca for sometime now. To be perfectly honest, I'm kinda diggin' it. I know with that lead in, you might have expected me to say "It sucks" or something like that. The fact is, Garden Grove is a diverse little city. A real mixed bag. Little did I know, just a few miles from my home, is some of the best Korean food in Southern California.

Before I started this blog, I decided to check out some other blogs that are based in Orange County. After skimming through countless pages, I noticed that many of the blogs based around Asian food would review numerous restaurants located in Garden Grove.

When I did a search for Korean BBQ, all signs pointed to Garden Grove or Downtown Los Angeles. Could I really be this lucky? In a word: Yes.

There have been so many times I'll be watching a show like No Reservations and say to myself "Damn! I wish I lived close to that city so I could get that good eatin'!" Now, I do. I didn't know about this for years. All the times that I could have been dining on food that so many wish they could have access to. I felt like I had missed out when I first discovered this wonderful gem of information. Then, I quickly realized that these places aren't going anywhere, and neither was I.

So, with that said, lets get down to business!

On a recent day off from work, I laid out a simple game plan: Get up reasonably early, go get coffee and play sudoku (I love sudoku, by the way), and try a Korean dish called Bibimbap. Simple, right?

The first two parts of that plan went perfectly. The third part didn't quite go the same route.

Honestly, I had no idea where to begin in Korea town. I went on Yelp and searched for Bibimbap. A few places came up and I decided to try one that had a fairly good rating and decent reviews.

I found myself at the Gae Sung Restaurant on Garden Grove Blvd. I had never been here before, but it seemed like a good place to start.

As I walked in, I was greeted with a smile and told to sit wherever I like. I sat down and picked up the menu. Within a few seconds, I saw the dish that I came there to try. Then I noticed that they covered it up with a piece of tape. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?! I manage to find the one fucking place on this street that DOESN'T serve bibimbap?!?! MOTHERFUCKINGCOCKSUCKINGSHEEPSHAGGINGPIECEOFFUCKINGSHIT!!!!!!!!! FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!! 

Let's just say I was slightly perturbed upon learning that they didn't have what I set out to get. But, I was already there and was more than willing to try something new.

Some of the reviews said they had a dish called Gam Ja Tang, a pork and potato stew, which seemed to be one of their top sellers. It was on their lunch specials, so I went with that.

Here is what I got:

I wasn't expecting all the little side dishes with it. I don't even know what a few of them were! But, fuck it, I didn't think they were going to give me something nasty. So, the only thing left to do was dig in!

First off, it was served in an earthen ware pot, which was really fucking cool! I wanted to walk out with that thing! Because that pot was so heavy, it kept the stew hot the entire meal. Very nice!

Before I get too deep into this stew, I'm going to talk about the sides real quick.

The green goop is wasabi. No brainer there. The bottom is kimchi. The stuff on the right is...I don't know. It had pine nuts, and wasn't really spicy. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. The top is a mayo based potato salad.

The potato salad caught me off-guard. I wasn't expecting them to serve that, plus it had an ingredient that worked incredibly well in it: Apples. I've never put apples in my potato salad, but I may have to start doing it. It was delicious! It gave a slight crunch, yet soft enough to mix with everything else. The subtle sweetness was so pleasant against the richness of the mayo and onion and potato. My only wish is that they would have given a bit more. As it was, it worked great as an accompaniment.

Now for the stew.

It had a deep, red broth, which had me a little worried I might get burned twice by this stuff. But, there wasn't any heat to it. I guess that's what the wasabi is for. Heat or no heat, the broth was very good. You could taste the flavor from the pork, but there was also tons of other flavors from spices and herbs I couldn't pin point.

The pork was on the bone, and about as tender as I have ever seen. It took little to no effort to pull the meat from the bone. I probably could have yelled at the meat and it would have fallen off the bone. It was that tender.

For meat to be that tender calls for fat. While I had no problem with the fatty pork, it might be a bit much for others. If you prefer leaner cuts, this might not be for you.

Overall, this was an incredibly delicious, comforting stew that is perfect for those cold weather days. But, there was one big issue that could have been a problem if I was in a rush or wanted to eat quickly: Them bones!

I mentioned earlier that the meat was on the bone. Here is your proof. There were TONS of bones in this dish! TONS! At the time I took this pic, I thought I had gotten all of them. WRONG! WRONG! It seemed like every time I thought I had found the last of them, I found more! I had to be really gentle when biting down so I wouldn't bite hard into a bone. I didn't get all of them out until the very last few bites. No joke.

With all those bones, you really cannot rush eating this dish. If you are coming here on a work lunch break, this is not the meal to get.

Like I said, overall, it's a great dish if you have the time. Plus, it only cost $8. That's it! And I was stuffed after this one. I had to get more coffee to keep this one from putting me to sleep.

That's it for this one. Stay tuned to Food And Such Things in 2013. I have a lot of great things planned! Everything from movie reviews, product reviews, twists on those beloved classics, AND I complete a dish on my culinary bucket list!

Take Care!

J. Miller

January 3, 2013

Is Cooking The Life For Me?

I hope everyone out there had a safe and wonderful new year. I know I did! I also know that when the start of a new year comes along, many people want to make serious changes in their life. One of those changes might be taking a jump into the world of cooking. Whether you are just getting out of high school or are looking to get out of the current line of work you are in, use this post to help you in any way possible when deciding if culinary arts is for you.

Before we start this, let me put this out there: Please do NOT let Food Network be the main reason you want to be a chef. I don't want to piss on your parade, but the odds of you getting your own cooking show or becoming the next Iron Chef are slim to none. Sure, it's possible, but you are much more likely to be slaving away in a hotel kitchen, deep in the basement, where your screams of pain and agony will never be heard by a guest. I know that last part was a bit morbid, but bear with me.

When considering this line of work as your future, start with the most basic question: Why? Do you want to be a big name chef like Bobby Flay? Do you want to start your own restaurant? Whatever your reasoning is, be sure it's for you and you alone.

Here's some more questions you should ask yourself when deciding:

Do I like to cook?

Can I work at a fast pace?

Do I like to be creative?

Can I take the heat?

Do I have to go to culinary school?

That last question is the next topic.

Culinary School
While that logo above may or may not look familiar, it is one of many opportunities to get a quality education in, basically, all things food related.

There was a time in the food biz where the only way to get a job in the kitchen was to work your way up from a dishwasher. These days, more and more employers are looking for some form of formal training. While it is possible to work your way up without going to culinary school, having a degree or certificate will make things easier for you to get your foot in the door.

While this blog and opinions in it are all mine, this next part could be up for serious debate: Picking a school.

While there are a slew of things to consider when choosing a school, one of the biggest things to think about is money. Simply put, Big Name School = Big Money. There is no getting around this. While having a big name school on your resume' will look good, that cloud of debt over you will look equally as bleak. Be sure to do lots of research on whoever you consider.

In my opinion, a good way to go is through a Junior College. These days, many JC's will have a culinary program that will teach you many core fundamentals and advanced cooking techniques. All the while, the cost is A LOT lower. Just something to think about...

Fact & Fiction

There are tons and tons of truths and falsehoods about the food biz and just being a chef. I don't have time to go through all of them, so I'll just breakdown a few that really stand out to me.

1. The Angry Chef

No, not every executive chef is going to yell and curse at you like Gordon Ramsay does on his show. But, the kitchen can be down-right brutal sometimes.

Every so-often, you will come across a chef who likes to yell and breathe fire whenever possible. Sometimes they are simply jerks who like to yell. Sometimes they are simply misunderstood. I've worked with loud chefs before. You come to find out that they aren't mad all the time, they just want to be heard over all the other noises in the kitchen.

2. Tight Quarters

What you see above is what we in the field like to call "The Kitchen Dance". It's how you will work in a tight kitchen and manage to not bump into anyone all day! It's crazy, but it happens. You get comfortable with your line and you learn how they move and they learn how you move. You can almost sense when they are going to step back or have to maneuver from one side to another.

While this may not seem like a huge part of the game, it does bring to light an important lesson: That kitchen in school will usually dwarf the kitchen you land a job at. BE PREPARED!

3. Labor of Love

You will hear from most chefs that you have to love the job. In my opinion, it's true. There are lots of ways out there to make money, and many don't require the manual labor in being a chef.

You are going to work long hours on your feet in a somewhat harsh environment. Tight spaces, high temperatures and tough bosses can equal high stress and high blood pressure. But, the rewards can be priceless.

The perks of all the dirty work can be very fulfilling. Seeing someone take a bite of your food and have a look on their face like they are having an orgasm (a.k.a. the "O" face) will make you feel like a million bucks. The sense of comradery you get after pushing through an insanely busy Friday night will bring you and your kitchen mates closer. That sense of accomplishment feels even greater when you can share it with your crew.

While I could go on further, I'm going to end it here. I was a little hesitant on writing this because I don't want to be a cheerleader for cooking, nor do I want to scare anyone off of doing something they might truly enjoy.

If you have any questions about what I've written or anything else you might want to know about the industry I didn't mention, please leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Here is to a happy new year and great things to come for 2013.

Take Care,

J. Miller