Superbowl chili?

I could care less about the Superbowl. Actually I hate all the drama and the enforced parties and get-togethers. But to be honest I’ve watched the second half of most of the past few Superbowls, and last night’s game was one of the most exciting sporting events I’ve ever seen. But I digress.

I decided to make chili yesterday because a friend is visiting town who appreciates this kind of food. I wasn’t thinking that everybody in the country was making it on the same day, of course… the supermarket was sold out of every ingredient. Fortunately I was well-stocked.

I didn’t veer too far from my recent chilis: chuck cut into 1/4″ dice, some ground beef for thickener, rendered beef fat with a bit of olive oil for the fat, my own mix of dried, ground anchos, pasillas, guajillos, pequins and african birdseye for chiles. Plus one fresh jalapeno and one fresh scotch bonnet. Mexican oregano and some roasted, ground cumin seed. Salt, and boiling water for the liquid. Onions and garlic cooked in the beef fat, plus, juice of one lime, and 6+ hours coooking.

Here you see all the ingredients, browned and sauteed, just before I’ve added the water:

One hour later:

Four hours later, after I spooned off about 2 cups of fat.

The fixings plate (not for toppings, but to have on the side… the stuff they give you at Kreuz was the inspiration. Plus Arnold Brick Oven white bread, since you can’t seem to buy Wonder Bread around here – did they stop making it?)

And the chili as it looked today, after a night in the fridge:

It’s getting another 2-3 hours tonight at very low heat. We’ll see how it fares tomorrow.

Postscript: ooohhhhh shit! Chili cooked DOWN. We’re talking molten. After a second night in the fridge to lock in the flavors, shit is gonna be sick:

Yes yes yes….

Coconut prawns and okra yogurt

OK, I may have gone crazy with this okra thing, but it’s actually a fantastic vegetable. Wholly underrated, Americans have learned to hate it because when cooked with water it loses all its texture and deflates into mush. Indians never allow water to touch okra.

Above is actually a leftovers plate from a dinner I made a couple weeks ago before the Mission Of Burma show in Williamsburg (which was great, if deafening). Both dishes are, again, from Kerala, and feature the ubiquitous kari leaves (or curry leaves – not that there is anything curry-ish about them as we understand that word). The prawns in coconut milk use a substance called kadampoli to add a sour tincture. I was unable to find it; you can substitute lemon juice, but I used tamarind instead. (Kadampoli is also known as fish tamarind, but in fact is unrelated to tamarind, all incredibly confusing.) The other dish is okra that is stir-fried in spices in oil and then folded into yogurt; meanwhile you fry some more spices in the okra-flavored oil and then fold that into the okra-yogurt mixture. It’s more-ish.

Green chile chicken and okra with two mustards

A couple of Madhur Jaffrey classics last night. The green chili chicken is a southern Indian dish from Kerala state, specifically from the Jewish community in Cochin. It was the dish served at Friday night supper, for the Sabbath. Despite the name it is not particularly spicy – the chiles lend it some bitterness. The other key ingredients are the typically Keralan kari leaves and, for sourness, tamarind that has been soaked and strained to form a paste. The chicken is braised, bone-in.

Okra with two mustards is a Bengalese dish, wonderfully piquant and tart. The two mustards are ground brown and yellow mustard seeds, which are used to form a sauce with turmeric, red chili powder, water and a couple of whole green chiles. The okra is stir-fried first in oil infused with nigella seed (kalonji), and then simmered in the sauce for ten minutes – it is crisp and intact this way. Here is the spice mixture for the okra:

I served these dishes with basmati rice, and for cooling purposes and textural contrast, cold onion and cucumber relishes.

Keang gai faa and galloping horse

Another day, another attempt at making Thai food. Su-mei Yu is a serious taskmistress. I’ve now got the approved stone mortar and pestle (9 inches in diameter) and am pounding my pastes and chilis. Note: pounding, not grinding. You must do a simple up-and-down motion, constantly scraping the sides of the mortar, for 30 minutes, in order to achieve a smooth Big Four Paste. I have to say it is much smoother than I can achieve in my food processor. I can’t imagine what my downstairs neighbors make of the rhythmic beat, however.

Keang gai faa is an older Thai dish. Similar to howling tiger – the emphasisis is on ground white peppercorn and cilantro rather than fiery green chilis or curry. Su-mei Yu translates it as “heavenly chicken stew” and this is more or less accurate.

Galloping horse, however, was the highlight of the meal (pictured above). It consists of ground pork fried with garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar and ground peanuts (I substituted ground cashews), which is then stuffed inside of fruit. Su-mei Yu recommend tangelos which, astonishingly, I was able to locate at the supermarket, but you can use figs, pineapple or persimmons. Tangelo segments are actually not easy to stuff with ground pork – Nils helped me – but getting the sweet-salty meat in the same bite as the citrusy fruit is all that matters. Each combination is topped with a cilantro leaf and a sliver of serrano chile. Unbelievable, and incredibly simple to make.

Howling tiger (Seur rong hai)

My first Thai dish. The cookbook is Su-mei Yu’s ‘Cracking The Coconut,’ recommended by Nils Bernstein. This is chicken with a ton of chilis. Actually this was crying tiger (7 birdseye chilis), as opposed to gently weeping tiger (3-4) or howling tiger (15-20 plus). It packed an intense punch, not just in spiciness… the roasted, ground coriander seed, roasted ground white pepper, roasted ground green pepper, cups of minced cilantro root, fish sauce, sugar and as much garlic as you could possibly imagine took care of that. However, since we’re gluttons for intensity, we also used some of the evocatively named prik dong (marinated Thai chilis in salted vinegar), which I’d been preparing over the past week, to kick it up (see picture below). Plates were cleaned – I’ll be making this one again.

Bhopali rice pilau with assorted pickles and relishes

This is the tastiest meal I’ve made since I started food blogging, even though it sounds the least exciting. The rice pilau dish from Bhopal is a Madhur Jaffrey recipe. It’s basmati rice with carrots and peas, and is astonishingly complicated to make despite that simple description. However it’s also incredibly fun, stretching over 2 hours of cooking including a lot of vigorous stir-frying. The flavors are subtle and aromatic, the result of a lot of whole spices fried in ghee, including black cardamom, cloves, black cumin seed, cinnamon stick and whole mace.

It was so more-ish that I didn’t use most of the intense pickles in the pictures (as much as I love Indian pickles). The main accompaniment was an apple yogurt relish. This uses toasted black cumin seeds, which delivers one of the more intoxicating smells known to mankind, plus grated granny smith apple, ginger, cayenne and salt in a high-quality yogurt. High-quality yogurt should look something like the picture below.

Bisteces rancheros sonorenses

It sounds like botanical latin but actually it’s a Mexican recipe for steak baked with poblano chiles, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic and red potatoes. It was supposed to be made with Anaheim chiles but I couldn’t find them. I had it with a bottle of Galician red and frozen peas. The recipe was from the doyenne of Mexican cooking who improbably enough is named Diana Kennedy. Thanks to Nils for the Mexican tipz.

Pork chop vinegar pep

Pork chops with vinegar peppers is a classic Tri-State Area Italian-American dish (maybe they have it in the rest of America – I don’t know). The key is to use the hot little cherry peppers they make in New Jersey (referenced in an earlier food post), and, according to a recipe found on Google, to cook the chops in a half-cup of the pickling liquid from the cherry pepper jar. And I think it’s right.

If you do this at home, it’s almost always gonna be better than what you get at a restaurant, where they always cook pork chops to dryness to avoid health scare type problems. Pork chops are difficult, at least modern, lean varieties: they go from undercooked and raw to overcooked and dry in about 30 seconds, and you have to identify that precise moment to take them out. That said, if you follow the recipe linked above, you’ll definitely end up with raw chops unless you have unusually thin ones (like a half-inch). Mine were an inch and required 4-5 minutes a side and then 4-5 minutes with the pepper pickling liquid and the top on. I grabbed them at more or less the right time, and they were delicious. Served with white rice (for the sauce) and brussel sprouts.

Full respect to Chris Lombardi, who gave me the idea to cook this tonight.

Pasta with shrimp and scallions

I saw Lidia Bastianich prepare this on TV and have made it a few times since. I love how she calls this a “5-minute” recipe. Sure, there may be only 5 minutes of actual cooking, but cleaning, peeling and deveining a pound of shrimp, chopping a half-cup of garlic, a bunch of scallions and a third-cup of parsley take some time. Still it’s pretty straightforward and really delicious. I used wild Florida shrimp from Grand Central Market for this one. For the pepperoncini I used hot cherry peppers from New Jersey, the kind they have at Pat’s King of Steaks. I don’t think it’s health city… half-cup of olive oil, 4 tablespoons of butter, but probably better for me than the hamburger. bleachy feeling GOOD tonight! bleachy feeling REAL GOOD!

Hamburger

This hamburger is about to be eaten. It took me two minutes to do so. It’s based on a recipe by James Beard. The ground beef is mixed thoroughly with half a grated onion, about 2-3 tbs heavy cream, and freshly ground pepper. It’s then cooked in butter and oil over high heat in a cast iron pan for about 5 minutes a side, so that it’s totally seared on the outside and very rare in the inside. As you can see, it’s served on a buttered English muffin. No condiments are needed – just salt and maybe a slice of onion. It’s buttery, onion-y, fatty and heavy. I ate it with a side of boiled, buttered green beans. I think now I’ll have a Tahiti cookie for dessert.

Chili

Above is the third chili that I’ve made over the holidays. I’m following the über-purist teachings of John Thorne, who devotes a chapter to Texas Red in his book ‘Serious Pig.’ No beans, no tomatoes, no toppings. The basic ingredients are fat, fire and meat. To make the fire, I ground up various combinations of dried chilis. This edition uses about two-thirds anchos and pasillas, and about a third guajillos, pequins and a little bit of African birdseye. Breaking with the purism a bit, I also added three fresh scotch bonnets, an onion, garlic, salt, some cumin and some Mexican oregano. The meat is cubed chuck with a little bit of ground beef as a thickener, and the fat was cut off a piece of top sirloin and then rendered (I would have preferred suet, but it’s hard to find in my neighborhood.)

When this picture was taken, the chili had another 3 hours to go.

Drop The Chalupa (And Don’t Pick It Back Up)

Slate's Mark Dery, author of "The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink", considers the pros and cons of the ptomaine hotbed venerable fast food chain Taco Bell while coming to terms with "the whiter, more monocultural society we were, versus the hyphenated nation we've become."

Taco Bell made Mexican food safe for postwar white America by turning down the tongue-searing heat, translating alien ingredients into the gabacho idiom, and automating food prep: The queso fresco sprinkled onto Mexican tostadas became cheddar cheese; the fragrant, meltingly delicious tortillas made by hand in Tijuana taco stands became prefab taco shells, uniform as widgets.

Most important, Glen Bell recontextualized the experience of eating Mexican food. In the gothic fantasies of white America, taquerias indifferent to the existence of dirt and grease served meat of uncertain origin and colon-scarring spiciness, calculated to exact Montezuma's revenge from whimpering, backfiring whites. Bell moved Mexican food to the right side of the tracks: Brightly lit and spotless as operating rooms, early Taco Bells were staffed and patronized exclusively by Anglos, at least in my experience. (Times have changed, apparently: SoCal-based Mexican-Americans interviewed for this story claimed that the sight of Latinos working and eating at Taco Bell is not at all uncommon.)

"At the time, Mexican restaurants were considered dirty," said the culinary historian Andrew F. Smith, in an e-mail interview. Raised in L.A. in the '60s, he recalled that "in racist Southern California, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, then popularly known as greasers, were also considered dirty. Few suburban Anglo kids ate Mexican food until Taco Bell arrived. It sanitized 'Mexican' food (and in many ways, it also cleaned up the image of Mexican-Americans)."

But what's Taco Bell's reason for living in an America where public schools are adding mariachi to the music curriculum and huitlacoche is the new porcini? In the United States of 2007, Hispanics are now the nation's largest minority — at 44.3 million, they make up 15 percent of the population — and 64 percent of them are of Mexican origin. Who needs partial-birth cuisine like the Meximelt or the Crunchwrap Supreme when the real thing, in more and more American cities, is just a barrio away?

First Person To Ask “Where’s The Beef?” Has Their Entire Slash Records Collection Confiscated

From the AP's Larry Neumeister :


Violent Femmes Bassist Brian Ritchie sued lead vocalist Gordon Gano (above) on Wednesday, saying he was deprived of credit for some of the group's songs and a proper accounting of its earnings.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also accuses Gano of trashing the band's reputation by allowing its signature hit, "Blister in the Sun," to be used in a Wendy's commercial.

Gano, reached by telephone at his Manhattan home, called the lawsuit "a complete surprise" — especially since the band still regularly performs and just returned from a tour in South Africa.

"This action is the unfortunate culmination of an ongoing intra-band dispute between Ritchie and Gano over Gano's misappropriation and misadministration of Ritchie's interests in the jointly owned songs and assets of the band, misappropriation of assets solely owned by Ritchie, improper accounting and nonpayment of royalties," the lawsuit said.

The Wendy's deal was a buzz-kill for the band's fan base, the suit says, causing one fan to comment in an online blog that after hearing "Blister in the Sun" in a commercial, "My ears perked up. Then my jaw dropped. Then my heart sank."

If there's any consolation for Ritchie, he should know the earlier version of the Wendy's spot featuring the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia" has done nothing to besmirch that band's reputation. 

 

Frozen Dessert Roundup, Pt. I

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Shearwater sends summertime props to the paleta and to Loco Pops of Durham, NC (where, in this photo, JM is conspicuously two-fisting) -– yet another culinary import from down south that, to us, ranks up there with tomatillos, cilantro, Serrano peppers, and horchata.  These juice- or cream-based frozen treats kick any kool-aid-on-a-stick American popsicle'’s ass up one side of the street and down the other.  In Austin these critters are plentiful but they can be scarce on tour;– Loco Pops is a little oasis north of us and is just as good.  They have about a zillion hand-made flavors including blueberry buttermilk, pear, pistachio, mojito, and good old pineapple and coconut.  Touring bands may want to skip lunch.

Eating with work peoples and Mogwai Live

*I did take photos at the Mogwai gig, but for some reason, WordPress is being odd and not letting me post them. It may be for the best, because, in what is becoming a habit of mine, they were really rubbish photos.

Anyways, the entire Matador Europe staff (me, Mike & Lucy), ex-Matadorian and super-publicist Sarah, and super Beggars radio lady Ruth all went to see Mogwai on Friday at the Royal Albert Hall. Now, this made me nervous for a couple of reasons – namely that we’d be going straight after work, which means I’d have to go to dinner with my aforementioned colleagues. Not that I don’t want to eat with them or anything, it’s just that my palette (when it comes to food) is, um, limited. The last time I went out to dinner with work people was last Christmas with Mike, Sarah, Patrick and Try Harder Records* supremo Alan English, and it was pretty excruciating because it was a very expensive French restaurant and I didn’t want to make a foodie faux-pas, what with me really only liking chicken and chips. I wasn’t actually a Matador Records employee at this stage either, so I was sure any display of weakness or lack of etiquette would eradicate any chance of a job I might have. I thought my best option was to order the Steak Tartare, thinking ‘Ah, steak with tartare sauce. I can just scrape the tartare sauce off, and no-one will be any the wiser, ho ho’. Some of you will be surprised to learn that Steak Tartare is actually raw meat mashed up into a kind of pudding. Not nearly as surprised as me. I nearly cried when I saw it. Summoning up all the courage I could muster, I told myself ‘You’re just going to have to eat it, or you’ll look like a tool’. Luckily Mike, by intuition (or by the look of poisoned anguish on my face) noticed that Steak Tartare may not be my thing, and shared some of his…I can’t remember what it was, but anything other than raw mashed-up meat was good enough for me. But obviously, I work here now, so that story had a happy ending – they obviously found my fear of food endearing.

Where was I? Oh yeah, having to go out to dinner with work people. Thankfully, we went somewhere that didn’t intimidate me too much (I was able to get sausages – phew) and had a lively discussion about Christian mythology and R Kelly.

Now, Matador don’t handle Mogwai’s records in Europe, so I can gush all I want about their awesomeness without being accused of nepotism. To begin with, the Royal Albert Hall is MASSIVE. MASSIVE. I’d never been before and it’s just…MASSIVE. It usually plays host to operas and orchestral stuff. We got in about 10 minutes from the end of Kid606**’s opening set, and it sounded remarkably like Jesu***. Does his new album all sound like that? It was very good, and considering the last two times I saw him he did 40 minutes of scorching noise and 1 hour of gabba respectively, it was nice to hear him kick back a little bit. 20 minutes later, the lights went off and Stuart came on to pluck the opening chords of ‘Christmas Steps’, one of many moments tonight where I thought ‘They’re doing this? Wicked, I can’t wait til it gets to the noise bit’. As a set, it was a perfect summation of Mogwai’s music – they did quiet stuff, they did the loud stuff, they did old and new stuff in equal measure. Hearing ‘Tracy’ live for the first time in aaaages was lovely, even more so when it transformed into ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’. It’s kind of useless to repeat the same things that everyone says about Mogwai (live or recorded), but they are so visceral live it’s untrue. During the closing ‘My Father, My King’ (oh yes) it was noise heaped upon noise, and when you think it can’t get any louder, someone steps on another pedal and it feels like they’re taking a drill to your eardrums (in a good way). ‘My Father, My King’ was so good, that when it was over it felt as if I hadn’t breathed for the previous half hour. Really, when Mogwai are good there’s not much that’s better than them. When they’re bad, they still fucking rule.

Because WordPress is having an off-day and not letting me link to things, here’s some further reading:

* www.tryharderrecords.com
** www.tigerbeat6.com
*** www.avalancheinc.co.uk

Biff, Bamn!, Pow – Post Foodie On The “Crap-o-matic”

Though he couldn’t pack Chris Lombardi’s lunch when it comes to gourmet journalism, the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo (above) did a fine job yesterday of imposing a death sentence on Bamn!, St. Marks Place’s attempt at recalling the Automats of yesteryear.

If its mostly vile $1-$2 delicacies – from chicken nuggets to peanut-butter-and-jelly empanadas – were sold in a deli, they wouldn’t draw a fruit fly. They are possibly the worst foodstuffs ever offered for human consumption outside a famine zone.

But automats have a Freudian hold on New Yorkers’ imaginations, even among those too young to have ever seen one. Bamn!’s clever owners saw how popular automats are in Japan and some European cities. Let’s launch a 24/7 operation serving instant junk food to boozers from the ‘burbs! Let’s put the stuff behind a wavy pink wall of plastic windows! Let’s use an exclamation point!

Chicken “teriburgers,” devoid of teriyaki flavor, come slathered in pink, mayo-like goo; roast pork buns conceal ghastly pools of pig matter.

Beware above all peanut-butter-and-jelly empanadas. Bite into the leaden dough with utmost care, lest a tide of purple-brown matter spew forth like a backed-up toilet.

Bamn! has a “consulting chef” – poor Kevin Reilly, who once did a good job at SoHo’s Zoe, but whose most recent local gig was comically bad Silverleaf Tavern, which gave up and converted itself into a lounge.

Bamn! should convert, too – perhaps to a phone booth, which could take your quarters but not pay you back with acid reflux.

Freedom Isn’t Free…

….and neither is heavy advertising on Comedy Central.

From the AP :

Following the news early Thursday of a terrorist plot to blow up in-flight passenger airplanes, executives at Paramount Pictures considered scaling back advertising for the new Oliver Stone film, “World Trade Center,” which opened nationwide Wednesday.

Ultimately, with executives and other analysts unable to predict how moviegoers, unsettled by the news events, will be affected, the studio decided not to change its in-place marketing plans.

No decision was reached, however, to pull a unfunny-under-any-circumstances Sierra Mist spot from Comedy Central’s late night programming Thursday, that featured Michael Ian Black’s fruity fizzy drink being confiscated by thirsty airport security staff (played by Jim Gaffigan and Kathy Griffin).

Given the current sensitivity to the issue, we might not see that ad nearly as often in the days ahead. That said, PepsiCo has shown a willingness to have some fun with a serious moment in history, so perhaps we can look forward to a series of comedic vingettes about the long-term effects of heavy benzene consumption.