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Feminist Chef

9 Oct

WELL HOWDY, MOTHERFUCKERS! I’ve been gone for so long! I got a promotion in April, from sous chef to head chef, which means I haven’t written a thing in the past year that wasn’t menu specs or some flowery verbiage on an item’s description. My new job is both deeply challenging and profoundly empowering, but my other creative pursuits have all but fallen off the face of the earth.

You know how there’s about 940 examples of people writing about their jobs on the internet and then their boss finds out and said writer gets fired? Well, I have to remind myself of that. Its not that I want to shit talk or even criticize my place of employment, in fact I’m remarkably proud of the restaurant that I’ve come to feel is my restaurant. I love it there. But being an impassioned feminist means that I find unintentional, massive, structural flaws in all sorts of establishments, and mine is no different. If anything, I believe that the restaurant industry has a lot to overcome before I’d consider it a socially equitable industry. I would love to have a creative outlet where I could share my viewpoints on what its like being a feminist chef… but I don’t think I can do it here. Unfortunately in my small town, everyone knows everyone and what I’d call (imperative) constructive criticism others would call slander. That, or I’m a damn coward. Not sure which. So while I try to get back into the hang of writing I’m going to play it safe. I’m going to write about food. And stuff that’s related to food that I think is insane. And maybe some garbage food I find of Pinterest.

…and maybe, if I’m feeling saucy, I will write about the assholes. Because the industry knows no shortage of assholes!

For now, let’s talk about some fucking mushrooms!

Last weekend I was supposed to go chanterelle picking with my two buddies, which I found VERY EXCITING because NO ONE WILL EVER TAKE ME MUSHROOM HUNTING. Dude, people who pick mushrooms are so territorial about their little hidey holes of mushroomery that its damn near impossible to figure out how and where to safely hunt for mushrooms. I know plenty of people have taught themselves from books and internet resources, but since I’m fairly averse to the idea of the paralytic, diarrheal ocean that is toxic mushroom poisoning, I’m only interested in ingesting things I find in moldy old stumps if someone smarter than me tells me its ok.

Go figure I forgot I had to work that day, so while I sprinted around in the florescent lights of the kitchen, Steve and Danielle combed the Mount Baker wilderness in the dappled sunlight like a couple of goddamn enchanted forest gypsies. And it paid off! After three hours they arrived back in town with 12 pounds of beautiful golden chanterelles. They dried them on their counter tops and the next day Danielle handed me a full grocery sack to do what I wanted with.

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Over the next 48 hours I made gruyere and chanterelle biscuits, a rich, simple chanterelle cream pasta, chanterelle bisque, and this sexy little thang, the chanterelle and gruyere quiche. It’s not hard, I’ll tell you how!

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Firstly you need to make some dough, which is actually a lot more open to interpretation than most people think. I put two cups of flour and a tablespoon of salt into the food processor. I cut up half a stick of cold butter into little pieces, and while the processor was on I dropped them in piece by piece until the flour looked sandy. Then I grabbed 3/4 cup of ice water and drizzled it in until it clumped together into a ball. Took the ball out, rolled it onto a floured surface, put it in a buttered pie pan and VOILA YOU MADE A CRUST, LOOK AT YOU GO, YOU BEAST! The crust needs to be par baked so it doesn’t so out when you add the filling, so throw it in the oven at 350 for like, 12 minutes or until its firmed up and showing a little color. The bottom of it will be puffing up in a little air bubble, so stab it with a fork a few times and now that problem is solved!

Oh yeah, you have to saute the mushrooms! Put them in a pan with nothing else and let them sauté  until they release all their water and the water evaporates. Then, AND ONLY THEN do you toss with butter and salt and pepper. If you do add butter at the beginning the shrooms stay soggy. And if you add salt at the beginning they just sweat it all out anyway.

Ok, add the sautéed, not soggy/not wet shrooms into a bowl with 5 eggs, a fistful of grated gruyere, and whatever else you have lying around. I added half a bunch of nearly dead rainbow chard and some scallions. I seasoned it with about what you’d expect, plenty of salt and pepper, some red pepper flakes, and a bit of rosemary. Stir all that around, put into par-baked shell, and bake the whole mess for about 40 minutes, until the eggs are firm and a toothpick comes out free of any egg-goo.

There you have it folks. Also, you can put literally anything into a quiche so do whatever the fuck you want! As long as you don’t add butter to mushrooms before they’ve released their liquid you’re good. If you DO add butter at the beginning of a mushroom saute then fuck you because you’re the reason people think mushrooms have a gross texture. Do a favor to all the mushroom haters out there and please stop doing that immediately. K Bye!

Apple Pie… Not!

16 Oct

I tried so hard to share with you all my glorious apple pie that I made yesterday… but then my card reader was all, FUUUUUCK YOOOOU and I was like, “Really!?”

So instead I will tell you– it was the best pie I’ve ever made. Flaky crust, tall mounds of tender apples, totally un-runny… and I thoroughly enjoyed rolling the dough. Those little chunks of butter beneath my rolling pin, I swear to god, inspired hope in my life. But since I have no photos to share, I’ll just show you some photos I took of previous foods I’ve been known to adore.

 

Bloody mary shrimp cocktail shooter? YES PLEASE, ALL THE TIME.

 

 

Mussels? Well yes, they do wonderful things to my otherwise depressive state of mind.

 

Sugar-coated cranberries are beckoning to me for cocktails, or pies, tarts, or a sweet addition to a cheese and cracker plate. And the act of coating them in sugar is cathartic.

 

Hi, bananas! You are too sweet and spotted, warm and too tender by default. And I love you. Let me make you into banana bread? Fried bananas maybe? I’m gonna take yer tender little body and turn it into an adult. IN A NON-SEXUAL WAY, DUH.

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here, piggy piggy

2 Nov

Ugh, this new wordpress formatting is driving me bonkers. But hey, I’ve made something you might like!  BEHOLD,  HALLOWEEN MASTERPIECE! (And I guess Hailey looks pretty cute, too)

 

I felt like a total creep looking up photos of pork cuts and translating them onto my drawing of a human… but it had to be done. FOR SCIENCE. And for the love of god, the PUFFY PAINT! ALL CAPS EXCITEMENT ENSUES.

 

I may have been the only butchered pig on the block, but I definitely wasn’t the only bacon. AWESOME. Please note my awesome photoshop skills I employed to block out their eyes, since I don’t know if these folks wanted to be on my blog and I don’t wanna get yelled at. That’s called friendship. I had a lot of fun making this costume, so even if I’ve been a complete slacker being productive in all aspects of my life lately, at least I now know what on the human body would be deemed a “shoulder butt.” Plus I was toasty warm on the jaunts between bars… in far better condition than the throngs of tottering hot nurses and the like. Kay, so maybe no one thought I was buy-you-a-drink-worthy, but that’s what my BOYFRIEND IS FOR. Take that, universe.

 

Pork and Tomatillo Stew!

7 Oct

As promised I made Ruth Reichl’s pork and tomatillo stew last night, and as predicted, it pretty much cured all ills. Well, besides my lingering hell-cough, but it DID improve my mood.

 

AN ASIDE: Please notice my classy new IKEA runner in the background. It is intended for Christmastime, but I DON”T CARE. And I finally got rid of all my mismatched crazy grandma inspired (but not in a good way) plates and bought plain white ones. What. A. Relief. All that paisley and stone-print was making me feel less than stellar about my life. I’m serious. 

Moving on!

I am far too lazy to write the recipe, but it involved plenty of dark beer, orange juice, and far more cilantro than you’d imagine. After you’ve added a ton of white onion, browned pork cubes, jalapenos, black beans and softened tomatillos… and I am a happy soup eater.

When it rains it pours.

5 Oct

Today I received a phone call from my boss informing me that the sprinklers had gone off this morning and I should probably just stay home since the kitchen was a mess. I was happy to do so, since I’m fairly certain I have bronchitis and no one had been able to cover my shifts for the past two days so it seemed appropriate for me to stay home and rest today. After a couple hours of wasting time (i.e. googling furry tattoos and making barf noises to my roommate, watching 30 rock, etc.) I decided to head to the store for stew supplies. I’ve been reading Ruth Reichl’s book Tender at the Bone (which is excellent) and wanted to follow her recipe for pork and tomatillo stew. After stocking up on all the necessities I thought it might be a good idea to swing by work since it’s on my way home.

A coworker had taken an hour and half off my closing shift yesterday by stepping in for me so I could head home early (again: not feeling well!) and I thought I would drop off a nice 22 of IPA to say thank you. When I arrived I tried to dodge the line and head straight to prep and scoot outta there before anyone noticed me, but OH MY GOD BACKFIRE CENTRAL. My boss wasn’t pleased to see me there… even moreso after what happened next. I handed the IPA to my coworker, which he slipped into his apron pocket… which happened to have a gaping hole in the bottom. The glass shattered everywhere, beer poured all over the floor, and another boss of mine came flying around the corner exclaiming (without much sympathy) IS THAT BEER!? Understandably it didn’t look good, so I tried to explain that I’d brought it by as a thank you gift while I hurried down the hallway to grab a mop. While he swept up the glass I pushed the mop and tried to quickly rid the kitchen of the beer smell when my boss (Original Boss… I know, it’s confusing… I am underling to many!) came back and asked what in the hell I was doing. By now I was completely embarrassed to even be there and blurted, “I tried to help but I just made it worse.” She advised me to GET. OUT. and I did so, leaving all the fire sprinkler residue, beer smell, and chaos behind me. So now I’m here at home, with an intense feeling of failure and a persistent rattling in my chest, watching the rain and vowing that I MUST MAKE PORK SOUP. If anything can fix today, it is pork, my failsafe cure-all.

Oh, and P.S… I had another article published today in Cascadia Weekly! I’m happy with the article, and online the photo looks decent. Unfortunately the photo looked pretty crazy in print, possibly a printing error? Either way I’m happy that it made it in and I can make a few bucks here and there with food reviews.

P.P.S I think the universe is trying to smote me. While attempting to upload another photo to this blog the whole computer went haywire and I had to force quit everything. Luckily it saved the blog draft…but I better just publish this before I get struck by lightning or something. Also, my cell phone is possessed, but that’s another story. Onwards…. TO PORK!

Jealous of my own creation

16 Sep

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but seriously. This cake… whoa. This cake has built an empire in my imagination because I didn’t eat ANY OF IT. So I can only imagine how lovely it was. And as long as we’re forced to imagine it’s greatness, I might as well assume it was the best. Thing. Ever.

My pal at work asked me to bake a cake for our friend’s lowkey surprise birthday gathering, so even though I had plans to galavant around San Juan Island, I agreed to make it anyhow. I almost got really lazy and thought, “I’m not even going to be there…and no one will even notice if I buy the mix!” But honestly THAT’S NEVER TRUE and I wasn’t doing much that day besides watching Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares on netflix, so… it’s not like I was swamped or anything. As usual I turned to Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, because it is my bible and I trust every word it says. Some serious pan flouring, egg white whipping, and chocolate melting later, here we were.

 

The only problem was that I had to drop off the cake in the morning since I was leaving for the island in the afternoon, and by 10 am the strawberries were all I’M TIRRRRRED and plopping off the cake left and right. Refrigerating it seemed to make it worse, but luckily C thought of toothpicks (toothpicks? Really, I couldn’t have thought of that? STUPID.) to hold the berries in place until the evening. Everywhere the strawberries fell they left a trail of gooey chocolatey slime, which actually tasted amazing but was hell to look at… nothing some paper towel couldn’t take care of. Realistically this cake was probably “good!” but I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone’s reaction upon taking the first bites of my cake were, “HOLY BALLS I NEVER TASTED ANYTHING SO MAGICAL IN MY LIIIIIIFE!” Here’s hopin’.

on the express train to slackertown

10 Sep

Dear blog,

I’m sorry, but all I can offer is this photo of donuts. DONUTS!

I am monumentally failing at blogging this month/summer in general, but whatever. I’m busy. And currently procrastinating when I’m supposed to be writing about donuts for the Weekly. While I’m stoked to be getting freelance work, it’s bizarre to have to sit down and be like NOW I’M WRITING! It’s like I’m in college! And let’s be real, that was TWO WHOLE YEARS AGO and now I’ve forgotten everything I knew about structure, timelines, and the the vast majority of my math and science classes. Luckily I haven’t encountered a moment in my post-collegiate life when I’ve actually needed the latter two. Score! But for now, I’ll pour a whiskey coke, strap on my headphones and bust this article out because I NEED MONEY. Oh, and legit portfolio (and to become fabulously wealthy off my wit– HA.) Working on that…now.

sweet salads… actually a good idea.

22 Aug

oh hello, blog! The past weeks of August have been filled with a lot of distractions, namely re-painting my toenails, eating out a lot, and pretending to be gainfully employed. Obviously this cah-RAZY summer has not afforded me much time to commit to my writing… since… I have so much… going on (???).  I did write another article for the weekly, which will hopefully be published next week, and I took the so simple it’s probably illegal route which was to write about the Copper Hog. The same Copper Hog that I’ve probably already written about on here like, 6 times. What? There are very few places in this town that serve both hard liquor and food that doesn’t make you feel like you just took a bath in old dirty fry grease.

I liked one item on the menu so much that I decided to blatantly copy it at home… and share it with you similarly minded cheapskates.

Watermelon Salad a la Copper Hog

feeds 5 or 6 as a side (cut in half if you don’t have that many- this salad doesn’t keep well!)

-One mini seedless watermelon
-Half an English cucumber, cut into half moons
-About 5 Tbs chopped fresh mint (I think the more mint the merrier, but if this sounds like a mintsplosion to you, tone it down and it will be even MORE Copper-Hoggish)
-Three large lemons to turn into candied goodness (hold yer horses, I’ll explain later)

Since I am lazy I am going to go about this in a numbered list. DEALWITHIT.

  1. Cut the baby watermelon in half and cut the rind off it. Cube all the watermelon into about ¾ inch cubes.  If you don’t understand inches, just go for “bite size”.
  2. Put those watermelon cubes in a bowl with your half moon cucumbers and the mint. BRACE YOURSELF: The only remotely challenging part of the recipe is coming up! If you need to, pour yourself a cocktail.
  3. When I said remotely challenging, I meant “requires the use of the stove,” so don’t get too scared. Using a vegetable peeler, take off the lemon skins. Try to go as lightly as possible so you don’t get too much white skin on the underside of the zest.
  4. Once you have a bunch of zest chunks, scrape any obvious white parts off the skin with a paring knife.
  5. Cut the skins into long strips, as thin as possible.
  6. In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar to a boil (I made that ratio up… so if it goes berserk don’t be surprised! But, uh, it should be fine).
  7. Let that simmer for a minute until the sugar is all dissolved.
  8. Put the zest into the saucepan and let it simmer on med-low for about 30 minutes or until the zest becomes somewhat transparent.
  9. When it’s finished, remove the zest onto a plate to cool and pour the liquid (which is now lemon simple syrup) into something else to save for later.

At this point I called it good on the candied lemon, but there is one more thing you can do to make it extra amazing… ROLL IT IN SUGAR. Why not? People like sugar, and that way the lemon zest doesn’t stay gummy. Regardless of sugar rolling or not, chop up the lemon zest and add as much as you deem appropriate to the bowl with everything in it. I spooned a little of the simple syrup over the whole mess and tossed it together, but I would be very careful of doing this if you rolled the zest in sugar, since this already a sweet dessert-esque salad.

That’s it! Now I’m tired so I’m going to stop writing, but seriously you should make this and impress people. Like, your mom and dad. Or persnickety friends. Whatever!

PUBLISHED! YOWZA!

3 Aug

Oh wow, I’m officially published! There’s something really magical about seeing your writing in print and not just on your same old computer screen… I guess that’s the smug feeling of validation I’m feeling. Here’s the link to my article online, but it’s probably more fun to read it on here: MEAT YOUR HEART OUT! Also, there’s something to getting paid, too that kind of says, “Hey, maybe people BESIDES YOURSELF like your writing!” …and that feels like a million edible sunshines.

So here you are.

Someone told me recently that the food truck trend is over- and later that day I read that tiki bars are the new couture. Well… I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have more food trucks any day. Though it might be a little hasty to foray into the world of side notes, here it is anyway: I find the whole arena of “food trends” infuriating in itself, since I think that trends should probably stick to the unnecessary facets of life, like hoop earrings. Or, you know, types of lap dogs. The fact of the matter is that even if food trucks are passé, I can’t think of one person who would oppose more mobile food in this town. Apparently Portland has over 200 food carts to choose from which lends the question, “how come I can only think of six here in Bellingham?”

Food trucks, besides being trendy (or non-trendy, depending on who you talk to), are a customer’s best friend. Usually low-priced, they’re easy to find, require little wait, and more often than not are run by passionate foodie individuals who are pretty knowledgeable about the food they’re serving. As an added bonus, there is no awkward menu-scoping, so if you don’t see anything you feel like trying you won’t have to exit through a front door with bells jingling on the handle.

While Bellingham could certainly use some more variety in the food truck arena, there is at least one downtown eatery that you’ve probably passed dozens of times. Serving up authentic German fare during both lunch and early dinner hours, Ilse’s Schnitzel Haus has been up and running since September 2010. Vegetarians beware: Ilse Bublitz, owner and sole operator, serves a variety of mouthwatering and potentially diet-altering meats.  Trained to cook in her hometown of Pirmasens, Germany, she owned her own restaurant for 15 years and served a menu similar to the one available at the food truck.  Since I roll past the truck every day on my bike to work, I decided it was high time to swing in and sample some unusually heavy food for such an uncharacteristically warm (for Bellingham, anyway….) summer day. I settled on the fried schnitzel, since an eager to explain Ilse told me that it was probably the most traditional food of Germany.

A Google image search earlier that day had elicited hundreds of photos of breaded and fried schnitzel, most served with little else but some lemon slices, and honestly I was skeptical about how good a plain old pork chop with lemon could be. In the spirit of authenticity, however, I agreed to give it a shot (and for $9.95 it is served with a heaping pile of simple but perfectly tangy and slightly warm potato salad). My boyfriend opted for the Bavarian plate; a sturdy paper plate loaded with Bratwurst, Polish sausage, bacon potato salad, grilled onions, a giant mound of sauerkraut, and a pretzel roll from Ralph’s Bavarian Bakery ($10.95 and seriously worth it, since two could easily split this). I typically veer away from sauerkraut, as most jarred varieties are too sharp and briny, and usually harbor a strange, too-crisp texture that screams, “I used to be cabbage, but then I got shoved into a jar of lactic acid bacteria and forgotten about!” Which is to say (for me, at least), ew, but Ilse’s? Her sauerkraut was miles away from those grocery store jars- it was perfectly soft, mellow, and light—a perfect pairing with those sausages and even with my schnitzel.

Though I did end up snagging occasional bites of the kraut and onions to pair with the schnitzel, with just the lemon juice accompaniment it was surprisingly satisfying with only the potato salad to keep it company. Though “schnitzel” can mean any number of things, this particular schnitzel was the traditional pork, pounded with a mallet until flat, then breaded and fried. It was tender, juicy, and filling. My boyfriend’s plate did call my name though, and I relented for a few bites of the insanely tasty bratwurst, which was blackened perfectly and (dare I say it again?) super juicy. Served with the bacon potato salad, which is the same as the regular potato salad but with substantial chunks of chewy smoked bacon, my only complaint is that I could have easily eaten about three times the amount of onions. If you close your eyes and eat a tiny bit of everything on that plate at once with a dollop of course mustard, you are instantly transported to a place in your imagination that looks remarkably like the Sound of Music (think the scene with the grassy hills and children in matching curtains).

The next day, just to prove my point to myself, I rode by again and ordered the dessert—an absolutely perfect apple strudel ($4.75). This strudel is a divine handmade pastry, stuffed with soft, not too sweet apples and raisins drenched in cinnamon sugar. Covered with powdered sugar, a dreamy vanilla sauce, and freshly grated cinnamon, this was so good that, sitting on a plastic chair devouring an enormous strudel by myself at 3:00 in the afternoon didn’t even seem remotely out of the ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way

25 Jul

In case you’ve been staring blankly at your U.S. map lately, stumped and scratching your head because TEXAS TOTALLY BAFFLES YOU… well, luckily for you the good old Dairy Delite back in Warren, PA has some insight.

 

Yes, Texas IS a meat sauce! I get that it’s redundant to say “Texas sauce is a meat sauce,” but I really couldn’t handle this sign… unfortunately the disgruntled elderly workers did not seem to share my enthusiasm for the wording. Against my better judgement I tried the Texas sauce (as ordered by C, slathered atop some floppy french fries and covered in a gluey melted provolone), and I was nonplussed.

Come to think of, actually I was pretty plussed (is that a thing people say?), since I don’t think ANYONE could try these things and not react strongly in one regard or another. Not to say I enjoyed it, but it did illicit my curiosity, if nothing else, as, upon further inspection, the meat sauce appeared to be a gelatinous pile of orange translucent… er…. stuff, with bits of ground beef no larger than grains of rice suspended inside the pile. It looked like an aspic gone psycho, and tasted like better-forgotten cafeteria fare of the early 90s. Despite all this, I definitely ate a solid 4 or 5 bites of the fry-cheese-gel (served appropriately in a paper boat, as there is no other vessel that would properly transport the creation without meat gel gravitating toward your lap). I’m honestly unsure why I kept eating it, but I suspect that it had something to do with a long-untapped childhood food memory of those coveted cafeteria lunches that my mom never let me buy in grade school (THANK YOU, MOM, I OWE YOU).

Anyhow, this is all just me procrastinating since I should be working on the food piece I’m writing for the Weekly about food trucks. I got the assignment today, and if I don’t totally blow it, will have my first food article EVER published in next week’s paper. Oh, and my photos, too. Score! I’ll post it once it’s done, assuming I don’t make a total ass out of myself and totally fuck up my tenses like you’ve probably noticed I already do on a VERY REGULAR BASIS. Also, no swearing. Also, no all caps, which is hard for me. How else will people know that I REALLY MEAN SOMETHING!? Oh, right, and probably no question mark/exclamation point combos. This is gonna be tricky.

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