Thursday Night Smackdown: Now With 100% Less Pork!

Get ready for a whole lotta beige.

I’m having a very love hate relationship with pork right now. On one hand, pork is unbelieveably delicious, and bacon is one of my major food groups. On the other, exposure to 18+ hours of smoking pig has left every one of my pores, hairs, lungs, bath towels, dogs and pieces of upholstered furniture embedded with immense amounts of microscopic pork particulate. Which is not as much fun as it sounds, trust me.

The week has been pretty meat-free since Memorial Day to give my kidneys some time to recover from protein overload, so it was as good a week as any to bust out The New Moosewood Classics for some tofu mac and cheese and a simple green salad and vinaigrette. Because if I’m going to eschew pork, there should at least be cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.

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Thursday Night Smackdown: Everything's Better With Butter

Nothing on this plate is not coated in butter. Nothing!

Every time I endure a Smackdown that stretches the boundaries either of food or my patience, I have to do a 180 the next week to recover. That’s why this week we turned to a chef who, although she has an entire chapter on meat-based aspics, would never ask me to eat pureed, extruded, poached, fried fish: Julia Child. Or, as I like to call her, La Grande Dame du Beurre. Join me on this buttery journey as we begin to Master the Art of French Cooking* with sauteed Mediterranean-herbed chicken with wine-butter-egg yolk sauce, baked cucumbers, and sauteed new potatoes, won’t you?

I could make this all sound much fancier by giving you the long, Frenchified names, but to do that I’d have to get off the couch and go upstairs to get the book. Although there is some Amaretto ice cream upstairs… nope, I’m not moving. Deal.

*$4 well-spent at a used book sale.

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GIVEAWAY! Guess how many pounds of pork are in my refrigerator right now.

pork.jpgNo really, guess. Closest without going over, Price is Right-style*, wins a copy of Mastering Barbecue by Steven Stines. Leave your answer in the comments anytime up until midnight this Sunday, May 25th.

The reason my fridge is laden with pork is that it’s almost time for our Second Annual Memorial Day Pork SmokeStravaganza, when we fill the apartment to bursting with people who in turn fill their gullets to bursting with pork (We do accommodate our veggie and kosher friends, we’re not heartless…but we use a separate grill so their vegetables don’t contaminate our pork).

I’ll be regaling you with tales and recipes from SmokeGate ’08 all next week and answering your most pressing questions, such as: “Will someone top last year’s pulled pork five-sandwich record?,” “How many sleeping drunks can fit in a hammock?” and “How many hungover partygoers does it take to pay for the hammock they broke while drunk on baby back ribs and homebrew?” Until then, if you’d like to plan your own Porktoberfest, here’s a round-up of pulled pork from around the foodblogosphere

  • Everyone’s got something to say about authentic Carolina pulled pork with vinegar-based sauce, including Serious Eats, The Paupered Chef, and Gild the Voodoolilly. I’ll pay each of them a dollar if they’ll wrestle in a pit of barbecue sauce to determine whose pork is the best.
  • For a light version, Recipe Girl uses pork loin. I’m pretty sure that “lite pulled pork” is some kind of anathema, but I present it here in the interest of variety.
  • Sunday Nite Dinner has an outstanding looking Vietnamese-style pulled pork with lemongrass-caramel sauce that I need to be eating RIGHT NOW, PLEASE.
  • Closet Cooking takes us “South of the Border” for some “carnitas” made with “braised” pork.
  • Meathenge takes pulled pork and makes it EVEN LESS KOSHER with a pork roast braised in milk. It makes Abraham cry!

*My cousin Pam won an RV and a trip to China in the Showcase Showdown in the mid-80s. Also, don’t forget to spay and neuter your pets, or the disembodied head of Bob Barker will haunt your dreams. Or so I’ve heard; I’m not leaving that one to chance.

(Cute piggy pic from Lenndevours.)

Quick Bites: Ibby's Falafel

I didn’t eat any of the vegetables, and I don’t feel guilty at all.

We’ve all had those days: you’re stuck at work later than you’d like, you’re tired, you’re not sure what you feel like eating, you don’t have the energy to conjure up that good ol’ pantry juju, and your kitchen still smells like pureed fish.

We all have go-to takeout for those days – pizza, pad Thai, General Tso’s chicken, bean and cheese burrito, whatever. Mine comes from Jersey City’s locally-famed Ibby’s Falafel: lamb shwarma, baba ganouj and a sweet, creamy namoura pastry to top it off.

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A Fuzzy Navel, please – baked, not stirred.

When I’m good, I’m good.

Long before I became fully immured in the foodblogosphere, I was addicted to the archives of Sugar High Friday over at The Domestic Goddess – we’re talking over 3 years worth of sugary, buttery, sticky smooth sweet silky goodness from around the world. Have an excess of figs? Check out #35. Love ginger? Try lucky #19. Wanna get fancy-pants about it? Sugar art, #26. Feeling po-mo? “Desserts in shades of white,” #31.* Dead dentists everywhere are creating elaborate underground tunnels from all the rolling they’re doing in their graves.

When I started the Smackdown, I knew that Sugar High Friday was one of the first events I wanted to participate in. Of course, the first two themes following my crash landing into foodblogland would be pies – which I’m not really into, except for the occasional key lime** – and cooking with candy, which. eh. Ergo, I was excited when Tartelette, the host for this round, announced the theme for #43: citrus.

So to mark this personal blogging milestone, I give you: Fuzzy Navel Upside-Down Cake.

*For the record, I reject food that is extremely po-mo; I prefer my meals to be firmly grounded in the mo.

**To clarify: not into making. But very into eating.

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Thursday Night Smackdown: Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

Really, abandon it. Now.

I will give you $10 if you can guess what is in this bowl of soup.

I can make that bet because I know you will not be able to guess, and if you did, you are obviously a cheater. What we have here is a bowl full of “noodles” made of pureed, extruded, poached, fried fish.

Pureed, extruded, poached, fried fish is UNHOLY. And not in the good way, the way candied bacon is unholy. It is a thing that should not be. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and your New Art of Japanese Cooking, you have failed me. I should have known better than to trust the Iron Chef most likely to make salmon cupcakes with veal cheek buttercream.

And I gotta tell you, I’m not even that excited to write about it. Never have so many worked so hard only to have to order a pizza at the end of the night.

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This post is either about blondies or bipolar disorder.

I took this bandanna off my head because I needed something for the picture and have no cute dishtowels. I’m not sorry if that squicks you out.

Modern science can be a wonderful thing: penicillin, the polio vaccine, tiny cameras that can be inserted into your veins all Innerspace-style, the iPhone. (Of course, I’m still waiting for a cure for AIDS and a rocket car, but I’m sure that modern science is working hard on them.) So I have to give modern science a hand for inventing depakote, a wonderful drug that helps keep me from being crazy. Because the food in psych wards really isn’t up to snuff, so I can’t really see myself going back there. That, and I like my shoelaces.*

An unfortunate side effect of being sane is that I can sometimes be a little tired and don’t always feel like jumping up to make a 7-layer cake for a party I’d promised to bring dessert to, especially when it’s a bucolic spring day and the empty hammock is swinging invitingly in the breeze under the ginkgo trees.** Luckily, that’s what one-bowl blondies are for. They’re dense and chewy and stuffed to the gills with chocolate-y, pecan-y, coconutty goodness, and they pull together in about 3 minutes.***

*I know people have different opinions and different experiences with drugs of the mental health variety, and I deny none of those. Depakote works for me in that it helps keep me from offing myself, which I take to be a plus. As always, if you want to start some kind of Tom Cruise-style argument in the comments? You know what I’m going to tell you: Just say no.

**I acknowledge that this might have less to do with depakote than it does with my excessive love of napping in hammocks.

***Sorry about all the asides lately.

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