April 29, 2013

The Cantina Bowl and McWrap

I have to admit something to you today that I'm not exactly proud of. Maybe you can relate to this yourself, and you take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. If you can't relate to what I am about to tell you, then I ask that you don't judge me too harshly. And that 'something' that I am admitting to is this: Sometimes....I....give in to advertising! WHEW! I can't believe I finally said it out loud! A few of those bricks I've been carrying around can finally be lifted!

OK, maybe that was a tad dramatic. The truth is, there have been numerous fast food items that I've tried simply because I was beaten over the head with all the advertising for it! Sure, I'm not putting all the blame on a marketing campaign. There is thing called Self Control that I could have easily put into play. But, after seeing commercials for Taco Bell's Cantina Menu every single fucking commercial break, I lost it. I thought to myself one night "FUCK IT! I'LL TRY THIS FUCKING SHIT FROM TACO BELL AND MAYBE I WON'T HATE THESE GODDAMN COMMERCIALS SO FUCKING MUCH!"

So, after a shift from work, I stopped by TB and tried the Cantina Bowl. When I sat down with it, I honestly thought I was getting a salad. All I saw was lettuce and veggies. When I dug my fork in and started to mix everything around, I saw beans, rice and chicken. It kind of freaked me out, and I thought "What kind of fucking salad is this?!?!" Then I remembered that it's not a salad, it's a bowl. Once I pulled my head out of my ass, it was time to eat.

I can honestly say that I liked it. It didn't have that normal Taco Bell taste to it. The corn and beans stood out well on their own. The guacamole was a lot better than what they had previously been using. While it didn't create one harmonious flavor, all the individual elements shined bright. Not a bad meal at all.

Next up, we have the McWrap.

Now, I wasn't bludgeoned to death with advertising on this one, but the deal they pitched wasn't bad.

When McDonald's first introduced the McWrap, they were selling it for $2 each for the first week. A buddy at work had said that they were a good size and worth it for two bucks. So, why not give it a try?

They have three different flavors, but I only got two. I ordered the chicken & ranch and chicken & bacon. I was hungry, alright!

I took a bite, and in my opinion, it tasted like any other chicken sandwich from McDonald's. Except that it's in a tortilla. It didn't taste bad, but it just felt like more of the same.

For $2, I can't complain too much. I don't think that I'm willing to pay much for this wrap.

That's about it for this one. Well, not quite. Here is a picture of a note I found in my tool box at work.

Yeah, that put a smile on my face! Especially since I'm the farthest thing from a gangster and my lips aren't that big. But, it made me smile, and, I smiled the whole time I wrote this part. :) I know who wrote it, but I'm not gonna put her on blast. Thank you, who I won't name on here!

I'm out!

April 23, 2013

Fried Oysters and Onion Rings

In my opinion, there are some foods that you can find almost anywhere, yet are rarely done well. Those foods for me are Onion Rings, Nachos and Chili Cheese Fries. Sure, you can probably walk down the block and find a place that serves one of those items. More often than not, it will be a half-assed rendition of that dish. You would think that something as simple as onion rings wouldn't be that big of a deal. But, in some areas, finding that properly made dish can become more difficult than finding a father on the Maury Show.

So, what do you do when you can't find a properly prepared comfort food you crave? Well, you don't crawl into a ball and cry about it! You make it yourself! Then, you take a piece down the street to your local greasy spoon and yell "THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE, DICKHEAD! GET IT RIGHT!"

A few weeks ago, I got a craving for onion rings that couldn't be appeased with anything else. I've tried onion rings from various restaurants in my area and haven't been thrilled with any of them. As much as I don't like deep frying at home, I knew I was going to have to handle this craving on my own.

To my knowledge, there are two ways of battering onion rings: wet and dry. While the big, fluffy beer battered rings are cool, I prefer the rings made with a dry coating. Don't ask me why, it just is.

In most of the recipes I came across, the directions were all pretty similar. Cut the onions thick, drop in milk, then drop in a flour and cornmeal mixture. The temperature for the oil varied between 360 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Easy enough, right?

The recipe I used was about 65/35 flour to cornmeal. I added salt, pepper, garlic powder, and an ass-load of smoked paprika. Seriously, as I was stirring the dry ingredients together, the smell from the smoked paprika was incredibly strong! I was scared that I added too much!

As I was getting all the ingredients together, I started to wonder what else was in the house that I could fry. I had a couple potatoes, but I didn't want to mess around fries that day.  I remembered that I had some frozen oysters tucked away in the depths of my freezer. So, I started to thaw out the oysters and took a much needed beer break.

When the oysters were close to being thawed, I got my onions all sliced up.

Next, it was time to set up the dredging station.

I did the dry-wet-dry dip with the onion rings, but I didn't do that with the oysters. For the oysters, I just added a tablespoon or two to the plain flour and left it at that. I didn't want all the seasoning taking anything away from the oysters.

When the oil reached the right temp, I dropped in the onion rings a few at a time. I flipped them over when needed, and they only took about 3 or 4 minutes to cook.

Here are the finished rings.

The oysters cooked pretty fast. I'd say about 2 minutes. No more than 3 minutes.

As I was frying the oysters, I realized that I had no clue on how I was going to present this. I didn't want to just dump a bunch of fried shit on a plate with a dipping sauce. The fried oysters immediately made me think of Po' Boys, so I would just do a simple sandwich. And when I say "simple" I mean extremely fucking simple!

I took a couple of slices of white bread and cut the crusts off. I spread a little butter on one side and set it to toast in a pan on low heat.

While the bread was getting toasty, I mixed a couple tablespoons of mayo with sriracha. When the bread was done, it was time to plate up.

Here's another shot of the final product:

I can easily say that these were some of the most flavorful onion rings I've ever had. I was worried that the smoked paprika would be too much, but it gave the onions a great taste. The coating was nice and crispy, while the onion was tender and didn't just pull out of the coating.

The down side of the rings was that they had an extremely short shelf life. Most fried foods don't hold up that well over time, but these seemed go quicker than normal. The easy solution to that is just eat the fucking things before it happens.

The oyster sandwich, though, was...almost sinful. I took a bite, and as soon as the oysters hit my tongue, it seemed like time stopped for a moment. The buttery bread, the bit of heat from the mayo and the crispy oysters created a symphony of decadence that was so unexpected. I was just planning on getting my onion ring fix, but this sandwich clearly stole the show. I'm glad I was sitting down when I had it.

The only thing it was missing was a few drops of lemon juice. Other than that, it was just ridiculous. This was something that I will most certainly do again.

There you have it. Another little food adventure that took an unexpected turn for the better. Hope you enjoyed it enough to come back soon for another wild ride.

Take Care!

April 16, 2013

Mi Casa Mexicana

Being in SoCal, you get spoiled to finding good Mexican food at every turn. But, every now and then, you come across a place that seems to shine just a bit brighter than the others. You may notice just the slightest difference in the simplest of things, but it will be enough to make you stop for a minute and take a closer look. That was the case for me when it came to this restaurant, Mi Casa Mexicana.

While this was my first visit to this restaurant, it wasn't my first time eating their food. The previous week, a friend had stopped by and brought some food from this place. I had a carnitas burrito and it was a good size burrito.

I took a bite and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was! I wasn't expecting it to taste like shit, but it was certainly better than the run-of-mill burritos I've come across. The pork was tender and juicy. But what really took me back was how flavorful the rice and beans were! So many places tend to neglect these two common side dishes. When I see a place take the time to make sure that even the rice and beans are going to be worth every bite, I know it's going to be a place I'm going to come back to.

After the meal, I knew I was going to have to check this place out on my own.

After a shift at work, I decided to try this place out. I drove up, pulled into the parking lot, and noticed something very apparent: There isn't anything around here! Now, this restaurant is located just a few miles from Disneyland, so there's lots of stuff in the area. But, in the immediate vicinity of this restaurant, it's almost on an island. There's a laundry mat next door, and that's it. The street that it's on is almost a side street.

Sure, the location probably isn't the best, but lets not worry about that too much. Let's talk about the food.

As I sat down and looked around, I noticed that they had a good variety of beers located near the front register. Lots of beer is always a good sign to me.

A lady came by my table and brought me a menu and asked if I would like something to drink. I wasn't really in the mood for beer, so I just went with an iced tea.

The menu looked good and the prices were very reasonable. Five dollar burritos, and most of the plate meals were between $6.99 and $10.99, with seafood usually being on the higher end of that spectrum.

When the nice lady came back to get my order, I asked to get the tamale plate. I don't get tamales very often, so it was a nice change.

As the nice lady walked away, my jaw almost hit the ground when I noticed how big her booty was! For her size, she had quite the derrière, with a nice bit of wobble to it, too. MmmMmmmMmmm. I didn't know what desserts they had, but I was hoping those cakes were on the menu!

When she came back with the food, I said "Thank you", eye-humped her as she walked away, then took a picture of my food. Here it is:

These tamales were pretty good. These happened to be chicken tamales, and had a decent amount of chicken in them. The chicken was tender and tasted good. The green sauce had just a little heat to it, but not enough to frighten anyone away. The rice and beans were on point and the small bit of guacamole at the top was a nice treat. Definitely a dish to try if you go there.

Since I had just gotten off of work, I was a bit famished and took this plate down in about 6 or 7 minutes. Not a whole lot of savoring going down this time around. Maybe next time....

When the nice lady came back and asked if I would like a dessert, tons of dirty thoughts and crude remarks came to mind. But, I chose to go the respectful route and say "No thanks. I'm stuffed!". I was telling the truth, too. I also wanted to stuff her, but like I said, I try and be respectful.

There you have it. A reasonably priced eatery not too far from the Happiest Place On Earth. So, if you are looking for a good meal that will save you a few bucks on your vacation, give this place a look.

Mi Casa Mexicana
630 W. Orangewood Ave. Anaheim, CA 92802

I'm out.

April 10, 2013

Unique Eats & Sweets

I've said before and I'll say it again: I watch a lot of Food TV. If I have the TV on, it's probably on Food Network or The Cooking Channel. Maybe the Travel Channel from time to time, just to see Adam Richman gorge himself. Most of the time, I don't pay too much attention to the shows. I mostly listen out to hear something different than the normal "My spin on a classic" or the ever popular "Quick and Easy" recipe. But, there are some shows that even I can't tolerate to be on the screen for more than a minute or two. When they come on, I frantically search for the remote to change the channel before I have to hear any nonsense that will spew from the mouths from the jack-asses on these shows.

So, without further ado, lets talk about these two wastes of time called Unique Eats and Unique Sweets.

Before I start into these two pieces of shit, let me give you a little understanding about where I am coming from.

When I heard there was going to be a second cooking station, I was excited. I was hoping that this station would give food network some competition and make FN step their game up. Then I found out it was being run by FN. Bummer.

Not too long after The Cooking Channel started, Unique Eats came about. It's a show about some of the hip, trendy and rising stars of the culinary community. And because the culinary world can be just as trendy as the fashion world, I figured I would give the show a watch or two.

It didn't take me long to really start disliking this show. One of the main reasons at first was simple: Everything they did was in New York! The first two seasons, they should have just named the show "New York Eats".

Even after they decided to venture out of the Rotten Apple, the whole façade was really wearing thin. Each episode, you would have these uppity bloggers and hyped up chefs fawning over a dish like it was God's gift to humanity. Each person just going on and on about how they would kill their first born child to have one more bite of a dish! Enough already!!!

The tipping point for me came when they were at some bakery in Portland, OR(one of their favorite spots). All these talking monkeys were jizzing themselves over a maple donut. A FUCKING MAPLE DONUT!!! I was beside myself with anger over all the wasted time they spent on a GOD DAMN MAPLE FUCKING DONUT!! At this point, I knew I was done with this bullshit. Well, almost....

This little fuckwad pictured above is named Eddie Huang. He's got a restaurant in New York, and of course, thinks his shit don't stink because he's got a restaurant in New York. He's been under the wing of Anthony Bourdain for some time now, so he feels it necessary to be a total fucking asshole and dick head at every turn. He even took shots at Marcus Samuelsson, a well known accomplished chef who he couldn't hold a candle to. So I say...Fuck you Huang! You Mars Blackmon lookin' bitch ass motha fucka! Don't know who Mars Blackmon is? Take a look for yourself...

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was almost done with this horrible show when they decided to make a version of it all about pastries and desserts! Being a pastry chef, it was almost a duty to give it a watch.

Unfortunately, they didn't really change much with this version of the show. More chefs and bloggers going gaga over the simplest things. These two ladies above are on pretty much every episode. They aren't so bad, and I would bang the redhead like a guy fresh out of prison(like the movie American Me). But, there is something that really grinds my gears about this show: The representation of male pastry chefs.

Every single male pastry chef they have on this show is gay!!!! What the fuck?!?!?! Before you get your panties in a bunch, I'm not a homophobe. But DAMN! This guy pictured above is sweeter than any dessert they have ever shown! At least have one straight pastry chef on there! Working in desserts does not mean you like to bite pillows! Ugh!!

Well, that's it for this rant. What do you think? Have you seen the shows and enjoy them? If so, what do you like about them? I'm always happy to hear the other side of an argument.

I'm out. And I don't mean 'out the closet' either. :-)

April 8, 2013

A Little Trashy, A Little Classy

I'm glad you could make it back for another post. This time around, I'm going to have to ask you for a small favor: I need you to be open minded for a minute. What I'm about to pitch to you may sound crazy. It may sound a little scary to some of you, and a few of you might be downright appalled. All I want is for you to walk down this road with me a little bit before you make your final decision. Can you do that for a brotha?

So, why such a lead in like that? Because what you see pictured at the top of this page I can best describe by calling them hot dog fritters. Yes, those deep fried rounds are ground up hot dogs. And those yellow and red streaks on the plate are ketchup and mustard.

To some, that might not sound so bad. The thing is, when I first told a few friends and coworkers that I was going to make this for the blog, almost everyone looked at me like I had a 4th leg growing out of my forehead. Even my own mom had a look of puzzlement and disgust on her face when I told her about this. I almost considered just forgetting about it. Maybe it was just something better left as an idea.

Like I said, almost everyone thought I was crazy. One person thought that it could be something pretty cool. That one person is Aimee, my cool coworker who I always go to when it comes to my blog. She listened to the whole process and said "It sounds a little white-trash with the hot dogs, but the prep is classy. It's almost like pub food. Ya' know, a little trashy, a little classy."

After my conversation with Aimee, I knew I had to try it. Little did she know that she unknowingly named this post. Thanks a bunch Aimee!

This all came about because of two main reasons: I wanted to play around with the presentation of a hot dog and I was looking for something else to run through my meat grinder. Don't ask me why on the first part, it's probably because of drugs or something. But the meat grinder is simply fun! I could have easily just used a food processor to blend up the dogs, but I didn't want a paste. AND, it's not as fun to use as the meat grinder!

Enough foreplay! Let's get this freak show underway!

I started by grinding up two all beef hot dogs. I prefer Hebrew Nationals, but you can use any dog you like. Except the neighbors dog.

I know, it doesn't look too pretty there. Don't leave just yet! It's going to get better!

From here, I added relish, sautéed garlic, 1 egg yolk and some Italian bread crumbs.

After mixing until combined, I set the mix to the side and cubed up some smoked cheddar that I would put in the center of each fritter.

I used a small scoop to portion the fritters. When I had my portions set, I pushed the cheese in the center of each portion and rounded them out between my hands, making sure the cheese was completely covered.

At this point, I started to get my oil hot. I was aiming for 375 degrees Fahrenheit, but I guess 350 is just as good. I don't deep fry that much, so I'm not sure which temp is better.

Now it's time to bread these things. For this, I went with the standard flour-egg wash-panko bread crumb set up.

After the breading, it looked like this:

I don't have any pics of the actual deep frying, but it only took about 3 or 4 minutes at the most. Once they got a nice color to them, I took them out of the hot oil bath.

I know you are supposed to salt deep fried goodies right out of the oil, but hot dogs can be salty on their own. So, I put the tiniest bit of salt on the first batch. I left the second batch alone, just in case.

I set up my plate and took a bunch of pictures that I would end up deleting because most of them were shit. Here is the only other plate-up pic that made the cut:

Luckily, I had some friends over that I could use as test subjects. They knew I was cooking, but they didn't know what it was. Perfect!

I brought them out and everyone took a bite, and......

We all liked it! My friends Justin and Norma both said that they liked the stringy, cheesy center the best. But, I could see that they couldn't quite figure out what the rest of it was. When I told them that it was made using hot dogs, Justin yelled "I knew it tasted like hot dog! I didn't want to say it in case you used a good meat!" That made me laugh because if that was true that I used a good cut of beef, and someone said it tastes like hot dogs, I would be like "This isn't fucking hot dog! It's corned beef you dick!" But, we all know the not-so-pretty truth in this case.

Honestly, it was a tasty little treat. Nice crunch with the panko. The hot dog mix was kicked up with the relish and garlic mixed into it. But that cheesy center sealed the deal. Without that center, it wouldn't have been nearly as good.

The real kicker is that my mom tried it and said she liked it. I don't think she said that just to spare my feeling either!

There you have it. What do you think? Have I made a fun little appetizer, or have I committed a crime against the culinary world? Let me know what you think!

I'm out.

April 3, 2013

Build Your Own Burger

 That's right! It's B.Y.O.B time! But I'm not talking about just adding all kinds of bullshit toppings to an average patty. I'm talking about creating your own ground beef patty. All you need to accomplish this is a meat grinder, at least 2 different cuts of meat, and enough common sense to prevent you from sticking any body parts into the grinder. THAT'S IT!!!

I'm lucky enough to have a KitchenAid stand mixer. On a recent venture to Target, I saw that they had a sale on the meat grinder attachment. I had a few extra bucks on me from doing some "favors" for a few strangers, so I figured what the hell. My forearms weren't too sore to slice up some meat for the grinder.

Honestly, I don't know a whole lot about grinding meats. I feel I've learned enough from watching enough food tv to not screw this up too much. Here are a few keys that I stuck with when I got started:

1. There has to be fat. No fat = dry burger.
2. Grind the meat when it's cold.
3. Burger meat should be put through the grinder twice.

As far as I know, the chuck roast is the most common cut used for ground beef. With that said, there was no fucking way I was going to use it! So, I shopped around a bit decided on the two cuts pictured above.

To get started, I weighed out equal portions of each meat. Yes, I weigh things out. I'm a baker damn it! Once weighed, I cut the meat into roughly 1" cubes. Once all the meat was cut, I placed it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. I wasn't trying to freeze it, just cool it enough to firm it up a bit.

Once cooled, it was time to get down to business. I turned on the mixer, and to be honest, it's a cool sight to behold. You can look down the chamber of the grinder and see the spiral thing that forces the meat to the front of the grinder. You can see the small blade spinning right behind the opening grates. I started to feel like a child using a brand new toy for the first time.

As I started to grind the meat, a couple things became apparent. The first thing was the sound. As the meat started to go through, it sounded like something you would hear in a horror movie. It's a little hard to describe, but think about a scene where you see someone getting sliced up. Or better yet, that sound of zombies eating flesh. That what this sounds like!

The second thing that came to light is that this can be a messy job. I was standing directly in front of the grinder as I was doing this. I looked down and saw spatters of blood and small bits of beef on my shirt. Luckily I was wearing a shirt only suited for the house, so I wasn't mad.

When I was done grinding, I also noticed spatter on the surrounding counter area as well. So be prepared to do a fair amount of cleaning.

Here is what the meat looked like when finished:

I covered the meat and placed it in the fridge. Now, it was time for the cleaning.

For the longest time, I had heard that cleaning meat grinders could be a real bitch to do. I also heard that if you didn't clean them properly, you could get really sick and damn near kill someone next grind. I think that is probably the reason I waited so long to get one.

When I started to take the grinder apart, this is what I saw:

I've used the grinder a few times since this, and haven't seen it that bad since. I'm guessing I didn't cool down the beef as much as I should have that first go.

I used a chopstick to pick out that stuff way in the back and to get out the bits stuck in the holes in the exit part of the grinder.

Once all the last bits were removed, I washed it as well as I could by hand. Then, I placed all the parts in soapy water and let it sit there for about 15 minutes. You have to be careful with this stuff, ya know?

With the cleaning done, it was time to cook. I scaled my patties to 6 or 7 ounces. I can't quite remember. I seasoned them with kosher salt and black pepper. No fancy rubs here, I want to let the meat speak for itself.

When it is was done, this is what I was looking at:

The opening picture was the final shot. I really wanted to keep it simple. No ketchup or mustard, no cheese, and just a little mayo. The meat was the star, and let me tell you, it shined as bright as ever!

The flavor of this burger was wonderful! It was like taking a car and adding a couple hundred more horse power to it. Each bite I wanted to slowly savor, all the while thinking "I have to do this again!".

By the time I finished the burger, I felt like I had eaten my last meal before my execution. I was ready to ride the lighting!

As soon as I came down from my burger high, I started thinking about what combinations of meat I could use. Then I remembered a restaurant I saw that has a burger that's half beef/half bacon. I still had rib eye and bottom round leftover, and there was bacon in the fridge. I had to try it.

I ended up using about 4 ounces of rib eye, 1 ounce of bottom round and 4 ounces of bacon.

After the grind, it looked like this:

Yeah, there's a lot of fat in this!

The restaurant I saw make this is a place called Slater's 50/50. When they were preparing the burger, they mentioned that because of the pork, you have to cook the burger all the way through. It makes sense to me, so that's what I did.

I prepped my burger the same way as the first, except I didn't add any salt on top. Just pepper. I figured the bacon would bring enough salt to the mix.

When I took a bite, I thought I was going to shoot a load in my pants. The flavor was...incredible. It was intense, rich, juicy, and....out of this fucking world! I might have even shed a tear with this one. It was that good! Sure, my heart was hurting a little and my left arm went numb for a minute, but it was so worth it! This is where food stops being a meal and becomes an experience.

Yeah, this was a long one, but oh so worth it. If you have ever thought about getting a grinder, look into it again. I know some of them can get pricey, so work within your budget. But, if you do choose to get one, I can assure you that you are going to enjoy it.

I'm out.