Welcome to the Feedbag, where all the dumb questions about food, drink, cooking, eating, and accidental finger removal you've been embarrassed to ask can finally receive the berating they goddamn deserve. Also: answers. Send all your even-vaguely-food-related questions to email@example.com with the subject "Feedbag." All of them.
I got a query and it can't wait until the next feedbag.
Showed you, didn't I?
I'm bbq'ing for a group of friends, and because I am an arrogant lifer I decided to impress the pleebs with the menu. I am (was) doing shrimp grilled in a banana leaf pouch.
Ooh, that sounds delicious.
I was going to finish it with coconut curry
but apparently the girl whose party it is hates curry.
[meekly reapplies shirt]
So I switched it to mojo marinated shrimp.
[pulls arms out of sleeves]
What do you suggest?
I suppose it's probably impractical for me to advise that your host grow the fuck up and get an adult set of fucking tastebuds, huh? (Too spicy?! Since when the fuck does mojo—the typical primary ingredients of which are cumin, garlic, citrus juice, and cilantro—have to be especially spicy?) Or that she magically become the sort of person who appreciates that someone is putting care and thought into preparing food for her to eat and decide to take a fucking flyer on something new as an act of good faith toward an invited guest whose cooking abilities and taste she does not intend to insult?
OK, then. It sounds to me like you've got your heart set on grilling shrimp for this finicky ungrateful weenie of an asshole and her presumably charming but also blinkered friends and guests. You're just going to have to scale back your ambitions a bit (to account for your host being a choad). Melt a couple of sticks of good butter over low-medium heat in a small pot with some lemon zest and juice, a wee sprinkling of crushed red pepper (assuming your chicken-livered dingbat host can handle just a widdle bitty widdle bit of piquancy), a crushed garlic clove, and a bay leaf. Let that stuff hang out at a low temperature for a little while, then skim the foamy milk solids off the top with a spoon. Brush your shrimp with some of the wonderful-smelling and -tasting result, and grill 'em for, oh, a minute per side. Then, toss 'em with the rest of the butter-saucelike concoction and another squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and serve them over a bed of puréed carrots because that's what fucking babies eat because your host is a fucking baby.
Sorry. Lost control there for a second. Serve the shrimp over some plain white rice and see to it that one of the other guests whips up the brightest, tartest, most pungent salad your fussy dictatorial butthead of a host will deign to allow. Park the shrimp and rice next to the salad on the plate. Voyolay.
Yes, this is an incredibly simple and not powerfully flavored thing to serve. It's also going to taste very good, and the party guests will enjoy the hell out of it, while also admiring that you have delicately and pleasingly accented the shrimp instead of obscuring it or turning it into a raft for other, stronger shit.
The final step is hosting a party of your own at which you serve goat eyeballs marinated in literally every goddamn thing in the world.
I am unsure how to make a proper lasagna, and the question is preparing the pasta. Should you put dry pasta sheets in the oven with all the sauce, cheese, etc, and have the baked-goodness cook the pasta for you, or should you boil the pasta first? Most recipes call for boiling noodles first, BUT I worked in a camp kitchen for 8 years and they always made lasagna the dry-noodle method. Who is correct? Does it matter?
Let's make sure we're talking about the same thing, here, Lori. Nowadays in your local grocery store, there are two kinds of boxed lasagna: the regular dried stuff which you're meant to boil before using, and the kind labeled "no-boil" or "oven-ready." The latter of these has been parboiled and dehydrated prior to packaging, and can be added dry to your dish, where it will rehydrate itself in the oven by drawing in the liquid from the tomato sauce.
So, which kind do you have? If you have the stuff labeled "no-boil" or "oven-ready," go ahead and use the dry pasta in your lasagna preparation; you may need to make a slightly wetter tomato sauce to ensure there's enough liquid present to rehydrate the pasta as it cooks. If you've got the regular dried stuff, boil it first, and err on the side of dryness with your tomato sauce so that you don't end up with a (nonetheless delicious) cheese-and-tomato swamp which must be served in soup bowls with a goddamn ladle.
But wait! I hear you shrieking, which seems maybe a bit needless but whatever—I've heard that you can use the regular dried stuff without boiling it first mew m'pew pew! Yes, it is true that you have heard that ("mew m'pew pew"?). Some people do indeed use regular, non-oven-ready lasagna noodles in their lasagna preparations without boiling them first. These people are stupid and also Raëlians (probably). As I can attest from bitter experience, attempting to use regular dried pasta without boiling it first yields a gummy, weird, unpleasant result, no matter how much liquid you put in your tomato sauce. Regular dried pasta is meant to be boiled first. Sorry.
The good news is, however squintily you might suspect this no-boil bunkum of being some kinda newfangled Johnny-come-lately techno-claptrap for the daggum kids and their daggum "Intendies," either variety, handled properly, will make a wonderful lasagna. Because lasagna is the goddamn best.
Over this past weekend, I used your pulled pork instructions. From the fact that the serving plate was swarmed by my guests like some ravenous horde of zombies and 7 lbs of it was finished off in minutes, I'm gonna say it was a success. However, I'm wondering what to do with all that leftover stock or soup or whatever you call the stuff left in the pot. Any tips for additional dishes that can be made from this? Also, I just used Yuengling Lager as my beer, but would you recommend using a beer with a more pronounced flavor or even adding in a bit of some liquor like a whiskey to kick the flavor up a notch next time?
Let's deal with your second question first, Ben. Fancy up your beer if you want to (you're the one who'll be serving/eating it, after all); add some whiskey; serve the pulled pork on sliced fougasse with Gruyère and arugula and flecks of gold leaf and dress in white linen and stand through the open sunroof of a white stretch Hummer waving your pulled pork sandwich in one hand and making infuriating raise-the-roof motions with the other as you cruise through Miami blasting Macklemore at decibel levels high enough to kill birds. It's your food. Do what you want with it. Just know that, if the best you can do is to waddle into your local convenience store, extract a few sweaty, wrinkled, wadded-up dollar bills from the pocket of your rattiest sweatpants, plunk them down for a stupid case of stupid canned domestic mule-piss, and use that instead, your pulled pork will still taste every bit as good as any reasonable person could ever expect.
As for what to do with all that greasy, beery, porky leftover liquid at the end: make stew! Many of the best stews include beer anyway; this shit is composed almost entirely of the stuff. Brown some cubed meat (pork or beef) and drop it into that liquid, along with some root vegetables, some potatoes, and maybe some barley or something (along with maybe a string-tied bundle of herbs to be extracted later), simmer it for a long time, and then eat it with bread and butter like a goddamn Viking marauder.
Let's assume I can make delicious fried foods, but that I can't stop a grease fire from getting soot and smoke all over the walls. Any ideas how to get soot stains off the walls/ceiling? I'm starting to think that burning the place down may have saved time.
I looked up how to remove soot stains from things, Katie, and between the complicated and expensive-seeming instructions here and the tedious, complicated, and expensive-seeming instructions here, my general sense is that the way to go is to lay down a tarp, put on protective eyewear, assemble your dry-cleaning sponge, and abandon your home for a life of itinerant rail-riding. Probably you should ask a clean person.
Oh and also! Maybe you should stop deep-frying coal, you fucking psycho.
Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home. You can find lots more Foodspin at foodspin.deadspin.com.
Image by Jim Cooke.