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Archive for April, 2010

Trust Me I’ve Done the Eggwork: Fridge Cleaning 101

April 26, 2010 2 comments

I’ve been sprinkling my ideas here and there on the internet for a pretty long time, but until I started using “tag clouds” I never realized that the single biggest subject I wrote about was food. So while I’ve been a huge fan of this here blog that’s unfolding, I was mildly disappointed by the lack of posts about, you know, frying stuff in butter. My mistake was mentioning this to Snarky’s Machine, who of course decided that I was just the person to correct this discrepancy.

Keeping with Snarky’s suggestion, I thought I’d start with eggs, which I do in fact rather frequently fry in butter. I don’t eat meat, so along with legumes and dairy, eggs provide a significant part of my protein intake. I like them because they’re cheap — even organics are just two bits a pop — versatile, and widely available, at least before 11 AM.

I do enjoy going out to breakfast, and I plan on writing about that soon. But right now I want to talk about cooking, particularly that kind of cooking I learned when I was first on my own — the kind I resort to when I haven’t done much shopping lately, and the state of the refrigerator is hovering somewhere between raidable and Fight Club.

  • As a kid, I spent a lot more time watching my mom cook than out in my dad’s garage. So while I didn’t know how to drive or check my oil until I was 24, I knew at an early age that eggs make a great refrigerator cleaner. Not in the Arm-and-Hammer sense, but as a way to tie together small quanitites of accumulated leftovers. One of my favorites of these has always been potatoes and eggs, consisting of eggs, salt, a little romano or parmigiana cheese, and whatever potatoes have been hanging around. Anything works: I’ve used baked, boiled, post-Thanksgiving roasted potatoes, tater tots, even McDonald’s french fries — and trust me (I’ve done the eggwork) they always turn out great. I heat the spuds (in butter of course) in a frypan at medium heat and then add in a few eggs scrambled with the cheese and salt, flipping once when it starts to brown at the bottom. When I can’t keep it together (which is most of the time), I find scrambling the heck out of it doesn’t affect the taste at all.
  • Once I mastered the basic technique I found that pretty much anything else could be added after the potatoes and before the eggs: onions, cubes of cheese, broccoli (though I usually save larger quantities of it for quiche), red or green peppers, green beans, peas (though if you have kids be careful as I find the addition of peas often makes anything I cook inedible) and sausage or bacon or really any kind of meat if you’re so inclined.
  • A little less versatile but still useful is my spaghetti omelette, which is the only way I’ve found to dispose of leftover spaghetti that doesn’t involve wiping sauce off the sides of the garbage pail or the kitchen floor. It’s the same idea as potatoes and eggs, except that I mix the pasta, cheese and eggs together in a bowl before pouring it all into the buttered pan. The long strands of spaghetti work like a polymer resulting in the only kind of omelette I’ve ever consistently been able to flip. Something I’ve figured out only recently is that this also works as a casserole, baking the whole thing at 375° until it’s solid in the middle.
  • Keeping with the “mix something starchy with eggs and fry it in butter” motif, another favorite nothing-in-the-fridge dish is fried matzo which, growing up in an Italian/Jewish section of Brooklyn, I was exposed to at an early age. The main difference from the other dishes is that the matzo needs to soak in the eggs ahead of time. Some recipes I’ve seen call for dunking it in water first, but I prefer just using eggs, even if it takes a bit longer and cooks up a bit drier. I also like to add a little onion — onion powder works great when the cupboard is bare of anything fresh — and some ground pepper.

One of the wonderful things is that all these recipes scale from one person to a whole family, making them one of the few pieces of information from my college years that I still use on a more or less daily basis.

This was originally posted at I Fry Mine In Butter.

Categories: Essays, Recipes Tags: , , , ,

Cheap Candy Everybody Wants

April 6, 2010 3 comments

Cheap Candy Day is a very special day for me. One of the coolest things about it is that it comes more than once a year. Each has its own special attraction — February 15 is best for buying boxes of assorted chocolates, November 1 wins for bags of fun-size Snickers — but my favorite is the day after Easter.

Now, I love me some chocolate bunny, especially when I can get a solid one at hollow prices. And pastel-speckled malted milk eggs taste exactly the same as the regular malted milk balls but cost a lot less. But that’s not what gets my lazy ass down to the CVS every sugar-coma Monday — I go for the half-priced Russell Stover Cream Eggs.

First of all, if you follow the link in the picture above, you can see that they’re sold out (unless you’re reading this around some post-2010 Easter). Right there that tells you these babies are special. Unlike Peeps which are now marketed year round and so can be had on the other Cheap Candy Days. And look: the label says cream, setting Russell’s eggs a notch above less prestigious products such as Hershey’s Cookies and Creme, Dove Chocolate Cremes and Creme Savers — whose unfortunate name sounds more like hand lotion than confection.

Cheap Candy Day often hangs around for several days, gradually shrinking in shelf space until the remaining stock fits into one of those wire bins like the one they use for the remaindered videos at Best Buy that all seem to be House Party 3. But I like to get there on the first day so I can be sure to find my favorite — the strawberry cream. In a milk chocolate shell, which I know is like the Colt 45 of chocolate but I see no reason to put on airs when it comes to defending my addiction. Anyway, I do like dark chocolate, but only when mixed with either raspberry (as in the Raspberry Whip eggs, or my all-time favorite candy, Joyva Jell Rings) or coconut.

But this is not just about inexpensive esurience. Reading the wrapper started me on a home-school chemistry lesson, starting with the invertase that they use to break down the sucrose into glucose and the sweeter fructose which also has the quality of being less prone to crystallize, giving these candies their smooth and creamy texture. From there I started reading about the different versions of High Fructose Corn Syrup but before I could finish I started nodding off.

No matter, chocolate goes great with coffee.

Categories: Essays Tags: ,

Failow Your Bliss

April 4, 2010 10 comments

I didn’t think I needed Twitter.

Facebook was doing a good job keeping me up to date on my friend’s lives. But ever since keeping my Facebook feeds clear of quiz results, horoscopes and zombies became more strenuous than weeding my Farmville* plot, I started turning to Twitter for the no-frills approach to finding out what’s moving and shaking the people whose opinions I really care about.

But it wasn’t until the whole Jesse James and Sandra Bullock situation that I realized the value of twitter as a forensic tool. When did Michelle “Bombshell” McGee start following Jesse James (whose Twitter, frankyluckman, has been deactivated, probably on the sage advice of the lawyer who suggested he check into racism rehab, and told the media that the Nazi paraphernalia was a gift from his Jewish godfather) and vice versa?

I admit it, I found myself rubbernecking past the public posts of people who I decidedly would never friend on Facebook. It’s just a matter of time before I decide to follow one of them. But I think I’d feel better about it if Twitter offered a new category. I think they should call it failow, a term I (according to Google and, more importantly, Urban Dictionary) just coined:

failow v. to follow (for example, on Twitter) someone you disdain in order to witness their contemptible behavior.

What do you think? And more importantly who would (or do) you failow?

* just kidding, I don’t do Farmville, I don’t even know if you have to do weeding there.

Categories: Nonsense Tags:

Fast Fish

April 2, 2010 8 comments

The only way I’ll ever become a real vegetarian will be if I get sick from eating bad shrimp. More than once. Like, maybe a half-dozen times. Unlike the God of Deuteronomy, I really like shrimp.

I’m no snob about my crustaceans: I like everything from oxymoronic and redundant jumbo shrimp scampi, smothered in garlic and oil, to those tiny ones in the can that are only good for tossing with mayo and chopped celery. Fried shrimp are a comfort food that hearken back to the Christmas eves of my youth — if shrimp can be said to hearken; I know that lobsters kinda scream when you throw them in boiling water but I believe shrimp to be silent on the subject of their demise.

And as long as I’m not giving up shrimp, I figure I may as well continue to enjoy other kinds of seafood. But other than grilling the occasional salmon or indulging in the guiltiest of guilty pleasures — Gorton’s fish sticks — I rarely cook fish at home. Which is why I found myself cruising the boulevard a few nights ago in search of the elusive fast fish. I was so wonderfully surprised to have satisfied my Davy Jones with Taco Bell that I was moved to rate their offering against some of the other underwater fare I’ve sampled.

Long John Silver’s

In my opinion this is the gold standard of fast fish. Super salty, crunchy and never dried-out. I’m not a big fan of their fries which tend to be soggy, nor their cole slaw though I do give points to any fast food place that by default offers an uncooked vegetable with their entrees. I do miss the days when the fish would come on a bed of the little bits of fried batter that got away, but at least there are still hushpuppies — I usually get an extra order because, hey, you can never have enough hushpuppies. If I really want to splurge, I get the fish and shrimp platter — did I mention that I liked shrimp? My only complaint is there isn’t one within an hour’s drive of where I live.

Burger King Big Fish

Even when they offered the more modestly proportioned and thoroughly misnamed Whaler, I’d always preferred BK’s fish sandwich to Mickey D’s. BK’s generous patty is thick and juicy, only lightly tartared and mercifully cheeseless. I usually add tomato and pickle to make this into a seafood equivalent of a whopper but it’s quite satisfying even at its default settings.

McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish Sandwich

Occasionally I find myself forced to eat at Mickey D’s, which offers no veggie burger, leaving me with the options of either their fish sandwich or a salad. I’m never happy about the choice — salads just don’t satisfy my fast food craving. But the filet-o (abbreviating “of” just screams cheap, like those big bags of Malt-O-Meal cereals) patty is thin and chewy, and feels like it’s made from a piece of dried fish that was reconstituted before its final swim in the fryer. To make matters worse, they attempt to camouflage their patty’s pathetic fail with a layer of gelatinous orange cheese-food product and a fistful of tartar sauce, which I’m forced to scrape off when I’m in too big a rush to remember to customize my sandwich.

Arby’s Fish Sandwich

A worthy contender, my main gripe is that this tends to sporadically appear and disappear from Arby’s menu. Why my local Arby’s didn’t even have it during Lent is beyond comprehension. Anyway, the patty is a little bigger than BK’s plus I can get it with Arby’s yummy curly fries.

Taco Bell Shrimp Tacos

I’d never heard of these before but when Arby’s failed me and I was too hungry to drive to the other end of the Boulevard, I stopped into Taco Bell thinking I’d get my standard ration of hippie-chow, aka seven-layer burrito. But I was intrigued by the concept of fast food shrimp, so throwing caution to the winds I ordered two of these petite and (relatively) expensive concoctions. I’m glad I hadn’t read any of the reviews first because I found them to be delightful, somewhere between a declasse fajita and an upscale taco. The only issue I have with them is that, at only 180 calories each, I’d need to eat six of them to get the bellyful satisfaction of a single Big Fish and fries.

IHOP Shrimp Basket

On my last visit to IHOP I was very sad to learn that not only have they discontinued their never-skimpy shrimp basket — they don’t even have a fish sandwich anymore! It’s a shame because I’m a big IHOP fan but sometimes I tire of my usual fare of pancakes, eggs and hash browns and am in the mood for some hot steaming prawn.

Friendly’s Fishamajig

Silly name? Check. Taste successfully hidden under layers of greasy tartar sauce and cheese-related substance? Check. But wait, Friendly’s goes Mickey D’s one better by replacing the bun and instead surrounding their hapless patty with greasy toasted white bread. As far as I can tell, the main effect of this is to move the Fishamajig firmly into the “slow food” category.

Categories: Essays Tags: