This Labor Day weekend, as you well know and have indicated on all of your calendars, both paper and e-, marks the first anniversary of Foodspin—and, while this is not the precise reason why many of you will receive an extra day off from work tomorrow, it is the reason why you have clung to life long enough to enjoy it. If you are thinking of baking a cake for adorable little Foodspin's first birthday, you should know that Foodspin likes chocolate, has a mild allergy to certain chemical preservatives, and is not actually a living thing at all but the name of a series of food articles on the internet, for chrissakes how could you not have figured that out already.
Over the past year, the various Foodspins and Feedbags sparked many lively and intelligent conversations about food and food preparation, among some of the internet's most engaged and opinionated users. This is a polite way of describing the legions of culinary Comic Book Store Guys who wore out their keyboards lecturing us on how, like, this is a buncha fancy New York hipster bullcrap, man, that's not even how the ancient Timucua Amerindians defined barbecue, douche. All of those gentlemen may proceed directly to hell. On the other hand, during that same time, many of you very generously hopped into the discussion to share your own interesting, tasty-seeming recipes and useful, thoughtful cooking tips. You are heroes. Here's a small collection of some of your best stuff.
How To Make Barbecue Sauce
Try this for your BBQ sauce. My Filipino gf introduced me to their chicken skewers, and people go apeshit when we make this at BBQs.
1 1/2 cups cane vinegar, or 1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 bay leaves, torn or crushed
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper
12 oz. 7-Up or Sierra Mist
In a large container that can hold the chicken pieces, combine all ingredients except chicken. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Marinate chicken in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours.
This will work for about 5 lbs of chicken thighs.
Trust me on the 7UP. Fresh ginger works really well in there too.
How To Make Chicken Salad
Recipe for the best chicken salad you'll ever eat:
Brine 1 whole chicken 12-24 hours in a solution of 1 gallon distilled water/1 c. Kosher salt/1 c. sugar.
Prepare smoker, using mesquite CHARCOAL (note: not wood, but lump charcoal). Smoke that bird at 200°-225°F until the "juices run clear," about 4-4.5 hours.
Serve the dark meat with whatever sides you want (cole slaw and King Hawaiian rolls are always a winner). DO NOT eat the breast meat.
Before the breast meat cools completely, debone it and refrigerate it overnight.
Cube up the smoked white meat you refrigerated. Add chopped celery and onion. I prefer sweet onion because the yellows can sometimes overpower it. Add mayo and black pepper and mix it up. Let it sit and meld for a few hours before eating.
How To Make, Um, Whatever You Want To Call This
My "yellow death" recipe:
Preheat oven to 350.
Cook two packs of yellow death as per box, but add 20% more milk and a big fistful of you favorite grated cheese(s).
In a skillet, heat a little oil and lightly brow a clove or two of chopped garlic. Throw in 2-3 fistfuls of ground beef or 1/3 veal - 2/3 beef mix. Sprinkle with flour. Brown. Add a little red wine or stock if its looking dry. Or stout, whatever.
Add a packet of Sazon Goya con azafran (for the MSG of course). Simmer for a few minutes then add a hand of frozen peas and/or corn.
Cover and let simmer for 5min or so.
Grab a casserole dish, spread the ground beef/pea mix in first, then top with the yellow death mix.
Top with more grated cheese and a layer of Panko breadcrumbs.
Bake for 15 or so min, keeping an eye on it. I like to finish it with a couple of minutes under the broiler to crisp the topping.
Take out and rest for a couple before serving.
How To Cook Kebabs
Try pineapple. It's fantastic. Cut it into chunks just like you do the meat and alternate on the skewer.
I did kebabs for a football game one time and what I did was set up a station with various meats and vegetables so that people could put together a personalized stick just how they wanted it. For the folks like myself that want vegetables and meat together, I blanched the veggies briefly in salted water so that they would cook at the same time. It was a big hit, I need to do it again.
If you live somewhere with a decent view of one or more fireworks shows in the area (or know someone who does), bust out a little mini-grill, lay out the mise-en-place and the sharp sticks, and let your partygoers grill together the way Ye Olde Turks used to do around the fire after the hard day's work of slaughtering Christian Crusaders was done.
Kebabs are tasty any way you cut it, but kebabs done communally whilst shit blows up in the distance are special.
One easy way to avoid having to skewer the meat and the veggies separately is to sweat the veggies with olive oil, chopped garlic, fresh rosemary, dry thyme and fresh oregano. Put the squash/zucchini, bell peppers, red onion and yellow onion in a saucier with your olive oil herb mixture and toss to coat, turn the heat to medium-low and wait till you smell the aromatics of the veggies. Pull them at the first inclination that they have softened and allow them to cool at room temperature for fifteen minutes or so. Skewer them in a repeating pattern interrupted by meat and hide basil leaves on either side of the meat hunks. The veggies will allow appropriate convection on either side of the meat and soften in the time it takes to cook the meat through. The only real trick is to make sure your veggies aren't so big that the meat isn't making contact with your cooking surface. Use the still raw mushrooms and tomatoes to cap each side of the skewer to prevent sliding.
I Do Not Even Know What To Say About This
Mix sriracha, peanut butter, garlic, and a bit of oil together. Put that shit on pasta. It's fucking delicious.
[Editor's note: I told Sam that I would try this. I haven't yet. I swear I'm gonna someday.]
How To Cook Fish
An alternate quick fish-prep: Heat up your oven to 400 degrees while simultaneously heating up a nonstick pan (with a metal handle) to medium-high. Put together some kind of marinade to make yourself feel special. Once your better half is about 12 minutes out, put the fish in with the marinade - 60 seconds per side.
The second the second side has been on for 60 seconds, pull it off the stove and immediately into the oven for 7 minutes. During that seven minutes, get out said glass of wine/G&T/Flaming Moe and throw together some kind of bullshit salad (use carrots, carrots are nice!).
Once the 7 minutes are up, take it out and let it rest on a new plate for 2-3 minutes, during which you can finish putting together the salad or other side. Pour a bit of the marinade over the fish if you feel like it - dinner is served and you're the most amazing stay at home husband/bartender/demonstration cook around!
How To Cook Eggs
Here in Chile we have something called "huevo a la copa" or "huevo pasado por agua" which is similar and super yummy:
1. Get furiously boiling water
2. Find an egg and a spoon
3. Put whole egg on spoon, and use spoon to lower it into the boiling water. DON'T CRACK IT, be gentle.
4. Leave egg there for three minutes. COUNT, because otherwise you'll get boiled eggs, which we're not making.
5. Remove egg from pot, run through cold water
6. Find a cup. Crack the egg open; the yolk will come out in a gorgeous liquid state. Now hold the egg in your palm and use a spoon to scrap the whites from the shell. They'll be somewhat solid.
7. Add small pieces of fresh bread, a pinch of salt & pepper, and give it a whisk.
8. Enjoy. It's fucking awesome.
How To Pan-Fry Soft-Shell Crabs
Take live soft shells (the frozen are ok if you have no other choice, but do have the benefit of coming pre cleaned). Use a sharp paring knife and cut off the "face", which includes the eyes, antennae, mouthparts. With the knife, slit the crab linearly between the back swimming legs and lift up the shell/carapace. Remove the gills (the devils fingers) and internal organs. Rinse the crab inside and out, then put the shell back down in place. Set it on a paper towel to dry. On a plate, mix flour, a little salt, pepper, and some Old Bay or other seasoning of your choice. In a skillet, butters stick of butter...enough so that you not only cover the bottom of the skillet but that it come slightly up the side of the crabs when they are cooking. Dredge your crabs one by one in the flour mixture. Pat it into the crab so that all the surfaces are dusted but its not caked on there heavily. Fry the crab in the butter, turning once so that the legs and shell get crispy. The crab should be red with a light coating of golden seasoned flour that's thin enough that you can see the red through. Voila, eat your crabs.
How To Cook Eggplant
Easy garlicky thing to do with eggplant: make pseudo-baba ghanoush whatever.
1) Leave the eggplant whole. Make knife-stabs in the eggplant at various points. (takes about 30 seconds to do this)
2) Peel and slice some garlic into little slivers. This shouldn't take a long time but always takes me until basically next year for some reason, so leave yourself maybe 5 minutes to do this.
3) Jam the garlic slivers into the eggplant like [Burneko please insert a humorous simile here, I'm bad at them, thanks!].
4) Grill the garlic on high for like 15 minutes, turning every couple of minutes. It's cool if the whole skin gets black and charr-y.
5) Peel some of the skin off with a fork (so your fingers don't melt), cut the eggplant into a couple of big chunks, remove the stem end, and throw the rest in a food processor with lemon juice, something green (parsley or cilantro or mint maybe), and tahini if you can get it. Process the bejesus out of it, let it cool, then dip things in it and enjoy.
If you like eggplant (and I do) and those fucking lettuce wrap deals at PF Changs (and I do) you can easily make them out of eggplant and mushrooms.
Dice your eggplant, put it in a strainer and pour a fuckload of salt on it and let it sit in a sink or a big bowl while you're doing the rest of the prep. It'll remove some of the bitterness, which is a good thing. Dice an onion (or use green onions if you're feeling fancy) and a pepper and some garlic, dice up your mushrooms (I like crimini, but use whatever's fresh, not canned), and get hoisin sauce, peanut sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and sriracha sauce. Start by sweating your onions and peppers, then throw in the garlic. While the O&P are sweating, rinse all that fucking salt off your eggplant. Drop in your mushrooms, and once you can start to smell them, add the eggplant. Cook it down for a little bit and add a mix of those delicious sauces (keep tasting to get it where you like it). Once it's good, let it go for another minute or so to thicken up.
Serve with lettuce (any round one, romaine doesn't work well for the wrapping), chopped walnuts (toast em if you want to feel classy), sprouts, chopped green onion and whatever else you want. This also reheats really well, so if you're like me, you can eat it for lunch for like three days afterward.
Re the eggplant, baingan bharta for the win. Much easier than it sounds.
If you're having a barbeque, prick an eggplant with a fork a few times and throw it on until it's soft, and stick it in the fridge for the next day. Otherwise roast it before cooking.
Heat some oil, throw in some cumin seeds. When they smell after a few seconds, throw in a chopped onion. When the onions are golden, put in two inches of grated or finely chopped ginger, some chopped garlic, and some chopped chilies. You can skip the chiles and use chile sauce later. After another couple of minutes, add some chopped tomatoes and let them cook down, until they're dark and oil floats out. Take the skin off the eggplant and throw the flesh in, cook for another five minutes or so until it's all mixed in together. Put cilantro on it (if you like it), eat half of it out of the pan directly, and serve the rest.
If you have garam masala around use that too, but if you do you will already be making this anyway. The point is the eggplant, ginger, and garlic do wonderful things together, and it's dirt simple to make.
How To Make "Moroccan" Chicken
"Moroccan chicken" is pretty easy (you can even get fancy and call it a tagine, even though you're not using an absurdly overpriced ceramic cone - also it's not really Moroccan):
1) sautee onions and garlic in olive oil
2) add chicken pieces, cinnamon+cumin (also bay leaves, allspice if you'd like) & brown,
3) pour on a few inches of cooking liquid (chicken stock/ white wine + a little OJ if you're feeling adventurous)
4) when it boils, throw on some cous cous, plus some dried fruit (ideally golden raisins, cranberries, apricots or cherries). reboil, then lower to the lowest temp and cover until the cous cous is cooked.
It's a good recipe for a few reasons:
simple cheap ingredients (even cheap chicken will be OK), not a lot of skill or girl-boner-killing fussiness needed (can you adjust the heat of a burner? Get out there!), makes you seem well-travelled and exotic, and you can prepare it well in advance if you'd like and leave it warming on the stove without ruining it. Oh, and one other thing: it will make your house smell so goddamn good your guests will spontaneously start rubbing up against you and purring. So it's great for date nights, but maybe not visits by Mom and Dad.
How To Cook Ribs
Rinse and pat dry the racks.
If you feel adventurous, remove the silverskin (sharp knife, pull at a corner, get your fingers underneath, start to pull)
Once you get frustrated with how easy the Food Network makes it look, give up and move on to seasoning.
- Lots of kosher salt and ground pepper, both sides
Now you are done. But I like a dry rub, because I like to make dry rubs.
Brown Sugar (a bunch of it), more salt, more pepper - then whatever smells good in your spice cabinet: I use some Chili Powder, smoked Paprika, dried ginger, oregano, rosemary, some curry is good, too much curry is too much curry, mix that up, and then rub it on both sides as well, if you didn't make enough, focus on meatier sides.
Preheat oven to 250, place ribs in aluminum tins, avoid stacking the racks if you can, cover with aluminum foil, place racks in middle of oven, cook for 4-5 hours.
Remove - you can eat them now.
Remove, fire up grill, open a beer, apply favorite bbq sauce, place on grill for 2-3 minutes each side, just to char/caramelize your sauce (and maybe some leftover residue from the brown sugar in the rub), eat whatever pieces have fallen off as you do this. They're yours.
You can eat them now. If you share them with your friends, they will really really like you.
Tell them they can thank you with a nice bourbon.
I cook mine in the oven—wrapped in foil with some dry rub—on 200 for 2 1/2 hours then finish them on the grill with some sauce. I don't have the time or the inclination to spend 8 fucking hours cooking ribs in the backyard on a smoker—Christ, I have a job and a family and TV to watch. They're delicious.
What if you can't use your oven because your girlfriend is cooking cornbread in it and you'd rather sit outside all day getting drunk and smoking them sombitches on your charcoal grill?
After you apply the dry rub, fire up your charcoal grill, put an aluminum pan (half the size of the grill) on the coal grate for dripping and another, filled with water, adjacent on the top rack. Make sure you have about three layers of charcoal on the grate next to the drip pan. Take some hardwood chunks and put them ontop of the charcoal. Close lid. Congrats, you now have a smoker.
Now is the easy part. Put the ribs on the grill and let them smoke for three hours, turning them over after an hour and a half. After three hours, lightly wrap them in tinfoil and put them back on for another hour (two hours if they're spareribs).
You should be shitfaced by now. Take off the tinfoil and throw them back on for another hour. It's gonna smell really good and you'll start wondering if they're done. Unfortunately, you don't own a thermometer because you're not a pussy, so just grab them in the middle with your tongs and lift. If the ends droop down easily, you're done.
Grab some sauce and slather it on them titties. Put them on the grill for 5 minutes with the lid closed then flip for another five. Slather and repeat. Do this a few times, then do it again. One more time.
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Image by Jim Cooke.