Friday, June 22, 2012

Drunken Noodles

The origins of drunken noodles are no longer known. Some people believe that these noodles got their name because they are so spicy that they're impossible to eat without drinking a shitload of beer during the meal. Others contend that the combination of ingredients is so strange that the name came about because only a drunkard would have thrown these things all together. Either way, the combination of sweet, spicy, and salty is deliciously balanced in this classic!

As with the other Thai recipes, some of these ingredients (such as fish sauce, the rice noodles, and Thai peppers) seem pretty exotic, but can all be found at a good Asian grocer. Keycap manis is a type of sweetened, fermented soy sauce. Also, remember Thai and Italian basil are very different. Stick with Thai basil ONLY.

Prep time: 2 cocktails

1/2 of a 14-ounce package wide, flat rice noodles
3 TBSP fish sauce
½ cup keycap manis
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
3 TBSP vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
10 Thai chilies, chopped into 1/8‖ thick wheels
1 pound package extra firm tofu, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1-2 cups sliced, mixed vegetables (optional) (you can use tomatoes, carrots, bell pepper, cabbage, zucchini, broccoli, etc.)
½ cup Thai basil leaves, tear biggest ones in half
A handful of peanuts
1 cup bean sprouts
1-2 limes, cut into wedges

Put the noodles into boiling water. Cook until still fairly al dente. Remove, strain, then plunge into an ice bath. After a few minutes in the ice bath, you can re-strain and set aside.

While noodles are cooking, combine fish sauce, keycap manis, soy sauce, cornstarch, and sugar in small bowl. Whisk very well and set aside.

Heat oil in wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once wok is hot, add garlic and chilies. Stirring a couple times, sauté for about 45-60 seconds (but don‘t let garlic brown). Then add sauce mixture and tofu. Stir frequently for 3-4 minutes.

Add noodles and vegetables and cook another 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in Thai basil and peanuts and continue stirring frequently another minute or so. Remove from heat and serve hot with bean sprouts on top and squeeze a few lime wedges over the whole mess.


Shito (sometimes spelled shitor) is an essential condiment in Ghanaian cuisine. It's damn good with any type of Ghanaian food, but also as a rub for grilling, as an exotic dipping sauce for fish, or a spicy marinade for vegetables. You can also add a dollop to homemade mayonnaise to give it a great kick.

The shrimp powder or paste can be purchased at any Asian grocer; as can the dried anchovies. However, the dried anchovies are usually sold whole, so you‘ll need to turn them into a powder using an electric spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1 cup canola oil
2 small onions, chopped finely
3-inch piece ginger, finely minced
3-4 ounces tomato paste
2-4 TBSPS Siracha
2 tsp salt
2 TBSP powdered shrimp (you can substitute shrimp paste)
2 TBSP dried anchovy, powdered
12 drops liquid smoke

Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and ginger. Stirring frequently, sauté for 15 minutes or until onions turn a nice golden to golden brown.

Add tomato paste and stir very frequently 5-10 more minutes.

Add chili paste and sauté 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Add salt, shrimp, anchovy, and liquid smoke. Reduce heat to a low simmer and stir very frequently for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool at least 1 hour before serving.

This recipe stores well in a jar or other narrow container. The oil will separate a bit, but this buffer will keep it from going bad. It'll store indefinitely.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lime-Poppy Seed Dressing

This makes a good dressing for just about any fruit or vegetable salad. It’s great on a salad of spinach, pine nuts, and berries. And this dressing absolutely shines on a faux Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich.

1/4 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
1 tsp minced onion
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 Tbsp poppy seeds (or more to taste)

Combine the agave, lime juice, onion, mustard, and salt in blender and process until smooth. Stop and remove top. Now and add the oil in a very slow, steady stream while the machine is running and process until the dressing is nice and smooth. Add the poppy seeds and pulse once or twice.

Faux Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sandwiches

This sandwich is great hot or cold, in summer or winter and whether you’re looking to eat light or if you have the appetite of a linebacker. For a less exotic (but still pretty delicious) recipe, you can omit the fruit altogether and substitute a couple slices of jack cheese and use blue cheese dressing instead of lime-poppy seed dressing.

Prep time: 1 cocktail

4 TBSP olive or vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced into thin rings or half rings
1 bell pepper, sliced into thin strips (color doesn’t matter)
1 8-ounce package seitan, unflavored (broken up into bite-size chunks, if necessary)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup jerk paste (or to taste) (click here for recipe)
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp cayenne (or more to taste)
¼ cup plain, full-fat yogurt
Hoagie or Kaiser bread
1 mango, peeled and cut into silver-dollar-sized hunks or strips (or chunks of pineapple)
Lime-poppy seed dressing (click here for recipe)

Add oil to pan on medium high heat. When it warms up, add onion and bell pepper. Sauté until onion becomes translucent and pepper softens, about 7 minutes. Add seitan and garlic and sauté another 3 minutes. Add jerk, soy sauce, and cayenne. Sauté another couple minutes. Stir in yogurt and simmer another minute.

Salt seitan/veggie mixture to taste. If you’re having the sandwich hot, lightly toast the bun or bread. Make sandwiches with a heap of the veggie/seitan mixture, a few pieces of mango, and a healthy drizzle of lime poppy seed sauce.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cowboy Beer Beans

So on a recent road trip to Utah, Emily and I picked up a 12-pack of of delicious, delicious, Pabst Blue Ribbon (it's the blue-collar hipster beer of choice). Poor move. In Utah, all the beer is Mormon-ified and our delicious beer turned out to be only 3.2 ABV. Lame. To make matters worse, we ended up not arriving at our camping destination until much later than expected. So we were stranded in the desert with a half case of warm, watery disappointment. In the end, we threw the beer back into the car, broke out our emergency camping whiskey reserve and brought the insipid brew home.

At home, I decided to cook some beans with most of the remaining beer (what still remains will go to unwanted house guests). Note that all this beer makes the beans pretty beerish (duh), so you could certainly use less beer and more water if you don't want a that big flavor. But I quite like it.

Also note that those carnivorous folks would benefit from swapping out the liquid smoke for ham hocks or bacon. Trust me on this one.

Prep time: 1/2 warm PBR (but it takes the beans a few hours to cook fully)

1 pound dried pinto beans
8-10 shitty beers
1 large onion, chopped
1/3 cup molasses
2 tsp dried mustard powder
3/4 tsp pepper
10 drops liquid smoke
1.5 TBSP soy sauce

Rinse beans and soak overnight. After soaking, strain the beans and throw into a pot with all the other ingredients except the soy sauce and bring to a boil. Continue cooking (covered or uncovered) at a low boil until the beans get nice and soft, stirring every once in a while. If your liquid all boils off, add water as needed. Once the beans are soft and there's not much liquid in the pot, stir in the soy sauce and cook a few more minutes. Adjust the soy sauce and/or molasses to taste.

Yehaw, pardner. You just made cowboy beans!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chipotle Cesar Salad

Do you like spicy? Smoky? Generally awesome things in life? Then look no further, this salad kicks more ass than an abusive donkey owner. Yeah, it's that good. And it's better than good when you take the extra time to bust out a batch of homemade jalapeno-cheddar cornbread croutons.  

Note that this makes a helluva big salad, so cut the recipe in half or more if you're not feeding a lot of folks.

Prep time: 1 cocktail

3 eggs yolks
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Siracha sauce
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP lime juice
1 TBSP white vinegar
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 TBSP brown sugar
7 ounce can chipotle peppers in adodo sauce, such as La Costena (available in the Mexican section of any grocery store), finely chopped
¾ cup neutral oil, like canola or avocado (olive oil is not good in this dressing)
2 avocados, halved and pit removed
2 heads romaine lettuce, shredded

Combine first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well. Very, very gradually drizzle in the olive oil, continuing to whisk vigorously. You might not have to use more or less oil; check consistency and adjust as you go. Chill the finished dressing.

A few minutes before serving, grill the avocados, flat-side down, until a bit charred. Remove from grill, slice, and set aside. Serving them raw is also okay. 

 In large salad bowl, toss with lettuce and dressing. Top with croutons or chips and add avocado pieces before serving. 

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread (or croutons)

Back in the States and cooking awesome food again! Good old-fashioned cornbread is one of the first things I made after I got back! This is a super versatile dish that works great as a as an accompaniment to beans, salad, meaty things, or made into croutons for a little added kick to a Cesar Salad (crouton modification is at the end of this recipe).

Note that as with virtually any cornbread recipe, this requires you to have a cast-iron frying pan. If you don’t already own an 10-inch cast-iron pan, do yourself a favor and buy one… They are cheap (often nearly free at thrift stores, Craigslist, or garage sales), cook food better than any high-tech pan, last forever, and are a breeze to clean. 

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

4 TBSP (1/2 stick) butter (no butter substitutes allowed)
1 cup corn meal (don’t use corn four)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup white sugar
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup plain yogurt (full fat or lowfat—no fat free)
2 eggs
3 jalapenos, sliced into thin wheels
2 scallions chopped up into small wheels
1 cup frozen corn (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a 10 inch cast-iron frying pan, warm the butter over medium heat until it just begins to turn slightly golden-brown, but be careful not to burn it.

As the butter melts, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cheese in a large bowl and mix well with a hand or stand mixer. Set aside.

In a second medium mixing bowl, combine yogurt, egg. Mix a bit and then add the now-browned butter (setting the frying pan aside for the moment). Mix until everything is just blended.

Now add the yogurt mixture to the flour/cornmeal mixture and mix until there are no lumps. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, gently fold in the jalepeno and corn (if using).

Pour the batter into the still-warm frying pan and place it all in the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes (when you think you're two minutes away from doneness, sprinkle the scallions on top). Remove from oven and put the pan on a cooling rack. Allow to cool and set at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

To make croutons:
Turn heat down to 300 degrees.

 After the bread has sat for at least 15 minutes, cut into nice, big 1-inch (or even slightly larger) cubes. Discard any edges that are any more cooked than golden brown (delicious to munch on while you make the croutons). Melt an additional ½ stick butter in the microwave and add a couple TBSP olive oil. Gently toss the cubes with the butter and oil in a large mixing bowl. Arrange the cubes on a cookie sheet and put it into the oven. About every 5 minutes (or whenever the bottoms get nice and browned and toasty), you’ll need to remove the sheet and—using tongs—flip the croutons so that an untoasted side is facing down. Repeat until at least 3 or 4 sides are nicely toasted.

Remove from oven and transfer the cubes to cooling rack. These are best on a salad as soon as they’ve cooled to room temperature, or are just slightly warm.