Friday, November 21, 2008

Shakey

I eat some weird shit. I eat lots of weird shit, in fact. Especially after a long night of drinking. You should see my plate when I go to a buffet. Every time Dave and I go to Shakey’s for hangover pizza, I do my best to gross him out with my strange food arrangement from the lunch bar.


How am I not supposed to put together an awesome plate? Chicken noodle soup, mojo potatoes, mystery meat smothered in BBQ sauce, and eggrolls. COME ON.

I like to pair ambrosia salad with fried chicken, spaghetti with mashed potatoes and gravy, tacos and potato salad, etc. It’s awesome. Though I do enjoy some weird food combinations, I don’t actually mix the mashed potatoes and spaghetti together. They’re just on the same plate and it looks funny. I don’t give a fuck though, I love food and I really like tasting everything I see (I can make my own fat jokes, thanks) so buffets are the greatest thing to me. There’s a sushi buffet near our house that makes me all tingly when I drive by (They have hard boiled quail eggs and itty bitty, teeny weeny desserts. I don’t know why, but miniature food is so delightful). And when I go to Vegas I’m in heaven. HEAVEN. There aren’t enough buffets that offer Thai, Mexican, Italian, French, and Southern cuisine served up next to some prime rib and a slice of ham you wouldn’t believe for less then eight bucks a plate. One of the weirder things I really wanted to eat was this crazy burrito pizza concoction from Shakey’s. It was kind of like one of my weirdo buffet plates already arranged into a compact meal and priced reasonably for my convenience. From Shakey’s website: The California Pizzarito consists of special tomato and refried beans sauce, with a blend of cheeses, spiced ground beef, shredded lettuce, diced fresh tomato, real sour cream, cheddar cheese topped with tortilla chips and real California avocado. Real California avocado! Woohoo! I never got around to eating it when they had it at our Shakey’s and now they don’t make it any more. In fact, I can't even find an image of it anywhere online. I was going to invite a bunch of friends to witness me devouring this foul creation… and then I would hopefully fart or poop or something, because how could that thing not make your ass a complete war zone? But I missed my chance. And so did all of my friends. Dommage.

FUN FACT: Did you know that Shakey’s Pizza is the number one restaurant in the Philippines? USA! USA! USA!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why We Got Married: Free Stuff


Our Big Sur wedding picture, "A Midsummer Night's Dream." (Click for larger.)

One of the main reasons we got married was so we would get free stuff from our friends. Tania, for instance, has wanted a fondue set for years, but she’s steadfastly refused to buy one because she is physically unable to purchase one. In her mind, the only way to get a fondue set is to register for it and receive it as a wedding gift. I am of the same belief. And, guess what, we did indeed receive a fondue set for our wedding. (Thank you Reeds.) In addition to the fondue set, we got a new food processor, a rice cooker, a wine fridge, a stand-up mixer, a blender, a crock pot, a panini press, a crystal martini set, a vacuum sealer, an awesome roasting pan, an amazing saucier, a chinois, All Clad pans, and lots of funny money for Sur La Table and BedBathandBeyond for gadgets. Thank you, again, to everyone who participated in the “Outfit the Carnie Kitchen Sweepstakes.” We made out like bandits! That is if you don’t account for the thousands of dollars I still owe the credit card companies. It’s a weird way to go shopping, I know. Spend tens of thousands of dollars on a lavish wedding in the middle of nowhere just so you can get a $100 blender. Genius.

But we’ve used everything we got. Except for the fondue set, interestingly. That hasn’t come out of the box. But last Sunday, we got busy with our new tools. The blender came out, the stand-up mixer (with the meat grinder attachment) was out, and, for the first time, we used the vacuum sealer. First, the blender.

I made a roasted tomatillo salsa. Salsa verde. Tania hates green salsa. “It tastes like pennies,” she says. But when we were at the grocery store earlier that day she was surprisingly supportive of me making it. I was as equally as surprised that I wanted to make it because I had just got done telling our friend Josh a few days before that making salsa is stupid. “How do you make your tomatillo salsa?” he asked. Apparently he’s very proud of his salsa. “I go to the store and I buy a fuckin’ jar of it,” I replied. While homemade, fresh salsa is obviously better, I don’t have any problem buying it at the store. Especially when there are so many great varieties to choose from. Plus when I make salsa, I always end up wiping my eyes with a pepper-coated paw. I’m stupid like that.


The best salsa verde ever, or a bowl of pennies.

But there I was Sunday night making my very own roasted salsa verde. We pretty much knew how to make it, but we checked our memories against a Rick Bayless recipe just the same. A note on Rick Bayless: we hate him. How did some white dude from fucking Chicago become the Mayor of Mexican town? As I’ve always said, the further from the source, the worse the food. He sucks. And he’s almost as annoying as his hog-bitch, drama-nerd daughter. Have you seen their show on PBS? “Mexico: One Plate At a Time.” Oh my god it’s a train wreck. I can’t stop watching it. As a result, I can do a pretty good Rick Bayless impersonation.


Pinche culo.

But we realized that night that we don’t have a single Mexican cookbook. Hence the need to find some sort of “authority” on the subject. (?) His recipe more or less paralleled our thoughts, so we began.

Half dozen tomatillos, halved
1 jalapeno
1 habanero
half an onion, quartered
half dozen garlic cloves
half a lemon

I fired up the grill with some gourmet, organic, free-range charcoal that was harvested in South America. Only charcoal; the only gas at our house comes out of my butt. I threw all the ingredients on a grill pan (so they wouldn’t fall through the grill cracks) and put it over the fire for about 15 minutes, until everything was nice and charred. After it cooled down, we peeled off the char and chucked it all in the blender. (Thank you to Dimitry for the blender.) As it blended, I slowly added a little of the roasted lemon juice (roasted lemon is all the rage right now, have you noticed?), and a little water ‘til the mixture was the desired consistency. (Tania suggested chicken stock might be interesting to use in place of water.) And that was it: roasted salsa verde. It’s good, too. I’m quite proud of it. It’s hot, but not so much that you can’t taste the flavors. Tania called it, “a creeper,” because the heat kind of sneaks up on you. I want to experiment some more with it, but I need to finish this tub first.


Lamb in a tub. Lambasted lamb bath!

Next up was the meat extraganza. (That is not a typo, that spelling is funnier.) Lamb first. For some reason we wanted a Mediterranean style meal. We bought some lamb shoulders, cut the meat off the bone, and grinded it up in the meat grinder (love that thing Thank you Tremaines).


Lamb grinder.

I added fresh mint, cilantro, parsley, salt and pepper to the grind. I formed little poops out of the ground lamb, stuck skewers up their butts, and threw them on the grill.


Lamb poops.

Meanwhile Tania made an herb-infused tzaziki and toasted some pita bread. We served it all with butter lettuce and tomatoes. It was simple, yet awesome. Can’t wait to make that again.

While at the store selecting the lamb, Tania suggested we get a big hunk of beef and grind that up as well. “As long as the meat grinder is out,” she said. I held up a couple of small packages of sirloin and chuck, but Tania frowned at them. They actually cost more than a package of ground beef. So then I ventured into the section where the mean old Armenian ladies fight over the meat. I had never been there before. The slabs of meat are gigantic in that region of the land of meat. The trays the meat rest on are large enough to double as a high school desktop. I didn’t know what I was looking for, so grabbed the biggest tray of cow I could find. Tania gasped. I wish I could say I wrestled it out of Mrs. Abudadadjian’s hands while delivering an elbow to Mrs. Keshishian’s gob, but the meat warriors were nowhere to be found that afternoon. It was a Sunday, so perhaps they were fighting in church?


Armenians fighting with Greek Orthodox in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Godless people.


Wholly cow!

When I threw the side of cow on the cutting board, we were amazed by its vastness. Six pounds of chuck. “Take a picture of it,” Tania said, “no one is going to believe this.” Had to use a wide-angle lens to get it all in the frame. I then spent a good portion of the night carving it up and forcing it down the grinder. But when all was said and done, we had a large pile of ground beef, which we separated into one-cup portions. Vacuum seal! (This vacuum sealer was brought to us by Jason and Jessica. Thank you Jason and Jessica.) So now we have a freezer full of bags of neatly proportioned ground beef. We even vacuum sealed some sausage while we were at it.


Have you heard that Damned song, "MEAT! MEAT! MEAT!"? (It's probably good that I only do a little writing for The Skateboard Mag because my jokes are old and corny now.)

You know how when school started and all your pencils were sharpened, your binder was neatly in order, your folders were brand new, and you actually enjoyed the smell of fresh, lined paper? Yeah, that’s how we felt on Sunday night. Hopefully we’ll feel the same way when we finally defrost a tube of meat. Thank you again to everyone.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chicken Manifesto, Chapter 2: Drawn and Quartered



So you got your bird. Name it. (I don't have any bird names for you, but at the end of this post you'll find a list of cat names I came up with recently in the spirit of John Hodgman's "700 Hobo Names.") You can brine it and roast it (as we did last night), or do a beer can chicken (if you haven’t tried this technique yet, do it—it’s really good), or you can quarter it and spread the parts out over a couple meals. To quarter a bird you’ll need:

A good, sharp butcher’s knife
A large cutting surface
Ziploc bags
A mixing bowl

1. Remove the naughty bits from inside the bird and place them into Ziploc bag “A.” (Bag A will be the stock bag. Some chefs say to not use the kidneys for stock, but again I don’t give a fuck. Mostly because I can’t tell which ones are the kidneys. My grandma always used to say, “Nothing wrong with a little chicken piss.” My grandma never said that.)

2. Wash and thoroughly dry the bird.

3. Place the bird on a sturdy cutting board breast side up. Cut off the leg and thigh. I make a small incision in the skin and then pop that bone out of the socket, get a knife in that socket and separate it from the body.

4. Remove the wings. The socket is in under the breast, so you have to, again, get a knife deep in there, find the joint, and then just lop it off. You should have four pieces—wings and leg/thigh—separated from the bird. They all go into Ziploc bag “B.” (Tip (no pun intended): cut the tips off the wings and place them in the stock bag. Nothing to eat there.)

4. Run your knife down each side of the breastbone and cut off the breasts. This is about as easy to explain as “how to ollie.” “Learn by doing!” was my college’s stupid motto. With practice, you’ll get it. Place the breasts in a bowl.


We didn't film our own chicken quartering because we roasted it whole last night, but I found this lady on youtube. It's not exactly how I do it, but it's better than the NINE FUCKING MINUTE VIDEO SOME STUPID CANADIAN ASSHOLE made. The only difference is I cut down the breast bone and separate the breasts from the ribs. And I don't halve the breasts. Who wants half a tit?

5. Put the entire carcass into the stock bag. (Another tip: add old veggies to this bag when it’s in the freezer: broccoli stalks, old celery, carrots, etc.)

After you’ve washed your hands and the knife and everywhere else you got chicken gunk on, you should have two breasts in one bowl, a bag with two wings, two legs and two thighs, plus another bag with the carcass and the naughty bits. Throw the carcass bag into the freezer until you’re ready to make stock. (More on that in a minute.) Throw the wing/leg/thigh bag into the refrigerator for meal #2. Keep the breasts out for meal #1.

Optional: brine the wing/leg/thigh parts in the bag overnight. We brine just about everything these days. It makes pork and poultry especially juicier and more flavorful. Take four cups of water and dissolve a ¼ cup of Kosher salt in it. Pour over chicken in bag. You can add whatever else you want, peppercorns, garlic, lemon, rosemary, thyme, brown sugar, etc.. You can even throw a quick brine on the breasts before you cook them.

Way to go. Quartering a chicken was the hardest, grossest part. And while you didn’t slaughter the bird yourself, you’re at least a little closer to the meat you’re about to eat. With practice, you’ll be able to do it in a matter of minutes. Hey! You’re awesome! And we’re proud of you.

Next up, “Tits for Dinner!”


Yo, yo, yo, Gary's 'bout to quarter Beckett, dawg. (Lens distortion. They're really about the same size. If anything, Gary is bigger. Click on it for a better view.)

And now, bring on the cats:

Catchup and Mustard, Purrrl Onions, Kitty Litter Carl, Billy Part Goat, Hit Paws, Nel the Fartin’ Starfish, Great Cat Less Filling, Bounty the Dog Hunter, Sleep Flat Barbequat, Pay Palico, Always Barfing Barney, Never Not Barfing Nancy, Puke Skywalker, Same But Different The Every Cat, Meowissey, Meowdonna the Material Cat, Stuck Up Shit Bitch, Tongue Bath Terry, Adolf Kitler, KITTYKITTYKITTYKITTY, Catatonic Tony the Tonic Cat, Floor Mop Phillip V, Al Lergic, Independent Claws, Come to Mommy Edamame, Pasadena Pete the Bum Cat, Big Pussy the Big Pussy, Mittens the Elder, Burnaby the Brawler with No Collar, Fish Breath Frank, Goblin’ Giblets Gilbert, Hyperion Always in Heat, Little Larry Litter Coat, Princess Shit Butt, Colonel Catnip, DJ Cuttin’ n’ Scratchin’, Purrrfect Pukin’ Pete Not Very Purrrfect, Mr. Fuck Off, Grandpa Switchblades, Apostrophe the Catastrophe, Never Neutered Newman’s Son, Hackin’ Hairball Harry aka The Triple H Ranch, St. Cat Rick, Catriotic Pat… that’s all I got so far. I know it’s not 700, but it’s far too many, that’s for sure.


Pussy on cock! I know, I know, that's a hen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chicken Manifesto, Chapter 1: Introduction


I'll be having an art show in Portland in early March next year. It will include mostly new work, but a couple oldies that haven't been shown before, like this one—"Minutewar 6: Easter, or, Let's Hear It For The Chickens"—will also be hanging. We'll keep you posted on the details. In the meantime, I thought this was a perfect image to start The Chicken Manifesto.

This piece was originally written for our friends Chip and Lorene, owners of Beckett’s boyfriend, Jimmy (short for Jimmichanga… yeah he’s a little fat Chihuahua that Beckett adores.) I don’t remember what the impetus was for this, but in return for taking care of Beckett one weekend, I offered to make them dinner, while showing them the possibilities of a whole chicken. I remember we made the dinner, and I showed them how to quarter the thing and make a dish with the breasts, a dish with the legs and thighs and how to make stock, but I never finished “The Chicken Manifesto” that I promised. I think I was going to make this into a zine? Maybe I still will. Because I think everyone needs to know how much easier, tastier, versatile and inexpensive a chicken is—a whole chicken.

THE CHICKEN MANIFESTO, CHAPTER ONE: AN INTRODUCTION

Buy a whole young chicken from the grocery store. About 2.5-3lbs. I prefer the smaller ones, especially if it’s just for Tania and I.

I really don’t give a fuck if it’s organic or not. Frankly, I don’t really notice much difference. Except in the price. Sure, organic, free range, kosher, homosexual chickens are better quality, and I encourage you to go that route, but if you drink and smoke like we do, a fucking free range chicken isn’t going to make you feel any better about yourself. So fuck it, embrace your growth hormones and chemicals and just buy a Foster Farm chicken at your grocery store. At our Ralph’s they’re usually on sale about once a week for around $3-$4. That is cheap as cluck.

When you buy a chicken whole, it’s much, much, much cheaper than buying it in parts. When you buy a package of parts you’re paying a “butcher” to do something so simple a retard can do it. Do you pay someone to pump your gas? No. And you shouldn’t pay someone to cut up a bird for you. For one, there’s so much you can do with all the different parts of the bird. There’s a variety of meals that can be created from one chicken. Also—and I'm pretty sure Tania will disagree with me on this point—I’ve noticed that when you buy chicken parts separately, they’re tougher than the ones you get off of a whole bird. Packaging and freezing? Not sure why, but that’s my observation.

In conclusion, unless you need more than two breasts, or two thighs, etc., buy a whole chicken from the grocery store. A package of Foster Farms chicken breasts at Ralphs is usually around $10, while I can get whole chicken for under $3. You can get two, simple, quality dinners for three bucks, and have the makings of a beautiful stock. That’s clucked up. (I used that joke already didn’t I?)

Next chapter: Drawn and Quartered.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kitchen Bed


"KYSUM? Plaze?"

Tania decided to throw out some pillows. One wasn’t bad enough to throw out, although it was unacceptable for our use. It was on the “pillow fence.” If there is such a thing? If you can’t use it, shouldn’t you throw it out? Instead, Tania decided to make a “kitchen bed” out of it for Beckett.

We gave up trying to train Beckett a long time ago. “I DO WHAT I WANT!” he says in Cartman voice. There’s a glimmer of hope in the “sit” and “stay” categories, but that’s about the limit of his obedience. He knows how to eat, and he knows how to beg. He’s also really good at barking. He also enjoys pooping behind the couch. Although we can’t take credit for the training involved in those behaviors. He’s a smart dog—sort of—but he uses his powers for evil. So I’m not sure why Tania is consumed with the idea of training him to sit in his kitchen bed.

I think she got the idea of the kitchen bed because since we renovated the kitchen, Beckett has taken to snuggling on the mat below the sink. Beckett is a creature of comfort and one thing he does not like is cold, hard floors. But we don’t like a dog under foot when working at the sink. So the old pillow is on the floor between the sink and the oven. Beckett, naturally, prefers the dirty mat under our feet.


"What? You gots some foods? Plaze."

“Kitchen bed!” Tania says pointing to the pillow. “Kitchen bed!” She’s had some success, but for the most part he just sits next to it looking up at her confused. “Kitchen bed!… Kitchen bed!… ” She’s starting sound like the crazy Hungarian lady across the street that calls for her cats all night.

But it’s nice to have Beckett in the kitchen now while we’re cooking. Even though he is constantly under foot, incessantly trolling the floor in search of crumbs. Which, of course, is the greatest benefit of having a hungry dachshund in your kitchen: perfectly clean floors. “Kitchen bed!”

Monday, November 3, 2008

Battle French Dip


The beef French dip on some macaroni salad. It's smiling at you, "Eat meeee!"

Actually there is no battle. The winner is Philippe’s in Los Angeles. It’s where the French dip was born, afterall. It’s been there since 1908 and they’ve been making the French dipped sandwich ever since owner Philippe Mathieu accidentally dropped a French roll into a roasting pan full of meat juices. The cop, who he was making the sandwich for, said he’d take it anyway. Yeah, why throw it out? The next day the cop came back with some friends and they all ordered French dipped sandwiches. Philippe's has been serving them the same way ever since.

There’s been some argument that Cole’s, which is just down the street in downtown LA, was where the French dip was invented. But they don’t often win that argument as Philippe’s is generally regarded as the author of the sandwich. Plus Cole’s sucks. We took Nieratko there and he hated it. The meat was all fatty and gross. As far as a dive bar goes, it’s kind of cool, albeit a little too seedy at times. Although it was recently bought up by some hipster nightclub guy, so who knows? All I know is that no matter how much improvement they put into that place, I’m still going to Philippe’s for French dipped sandwiches.


A view from the line. You can hardly read the menu 'til you get to the front, but you really don't need to. All you need to know is, "Beef French Dip."

Part of what makes Philippe’s so good is the experience. They moved into the present location in 1951 and it feels like nothing has changed since then. There’s saw dust on the floor and the walls are covered with memorabilia. Lots of train stuff. You walk in and get in one of the ten lines that usually stretch from the counter to the back wall. I hate lines, but I’ve never felt like I was in one at Philippe’s. At the front of the line on the other side of the counter is a little old Mexican lady in a smart, crisp uniform that is straight out of the 50s. The windows below the counter contain all kinds of culinary dinosaurs like macaroni salad, pickles, pickled eggs, pickled beets, and pickled pig’s feet. A cup of coffee is still only a dime. The little Mexican lady takes your order and then goes about putting it together for you. She scoops out salads from the trays below her and dips your bun in the juice beside her. When she’s done, she tells you your total and puts an empty tray on the counter. After you deposit your money in the tray, she takes it back to the central cashier, makes your change, and brings it back on the tray. I’m fascinated by the money on the tray thing.


If these ladies weren't so nice, I'd think they were robots because every one of them looks exactly like this lady.

It’s communal dining, so you often find yourself pulling up a stool at a long table already full of people from all over the place eating French dips. It’s even interesting during the off hours, because while the place is virtually empty, there’s always pockets of old Chinese men huddled together, arguing over the newspaper, and sipping on cups of coffee. China town is right around the corner.

Once I sit down, I pull over a jar of their hot mustard and lightly slather it on my sandwich. It’s really hot mustard, so a little goes a long way. They sell it in jars at the front alongside the gum, the candy, and the cigarettes. And then I devour the thing. I don't know how just meat and bread and jus can be so good, but it is.


Gettin' crazy with the Philippe's menu: the lamb dip with blue cheese.

The beef dip sandwich is the hands down favorite at Philippe’s, but on this last visit, which was shortly after their 100th anniversary, I decided that the only thing that could possibly challenge a Philippe’s beef dip sandwich, would be some other Philippe’s dip sandwich. So I decided to get a beef dip and then the weirdest combination I could muster: lamb dip with blue cheese. It was actually surprisingly good, but let me assure you it comes nowhere near the beef dip which triumphs over all challengers.



Although there is one challenger that Philippe’s beef dip sandwich cannot beat: Tania’s tits. In the battle between Tania’s tits vs. Philippe’s French dipped sandwich, Tania’s tits win… Acutally I'm not sure what could ever beat Tania's tits?