Roast Beast Sandwich

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Leftovers make a lovely lunch.

I could make a hundred excuses of why I haven’t been posting to OMNIVOROUS lately and nearly half of those would be true, but the real truth is that I’ve been busy, busy, busy. What with two kids and a hectic work schedule (and an incurable addiction to Instagram) I’ve hardly had time to write a word. But recently I’ve been urged by a number of people to take up the quill again and resume my blogging. Apparently a few of you kind readers had missed my musings. Thank you for the encouragement; I’ll try to get back on the horse and ride it.*

Today’s brief post is about using leftovers to good effect. The night before I made this killer sandwich I’d cooked a large prime shell roast. If you’re not familiar with the term a shell roast is basically a huge New York strip steak roasted in the oven. This one was eight pounds, the equivalent of about ten big thick delicious New Yorks stuck together. I’d seasoned it simply and rubbed it with olive oil. I roasted it at 325ºF for about an hour. I pulled it out when I got a temp reading of 120ºF on my instant-read thermometer. This is considered rare but I knew it would continue cooking outside the oven for a little while. The shell roast was a huge success and mostly devoured; I’m glad a little was leftover because there are few things I love more than really great cold roast beef. Especially when it’s a superior hunk of roast.

So I shaved a little of the beef into thin slices and knocked out this delicious sandwich. I lightly toasted an onion roll and slathered homemade mayo on the bottom half. On the top half I smeared a bit of incendiary spicy mustard from Phillipe’s (the LA landmark restaurant which introduced the world to the French Dip sandwich). Two big slices of brandywine tomatoes went on the bottom bread and over that a mound of that shaved beef. I added a slice of Jarlsberg cheese and topped the cheese with a clutch of leftover salad (iceberg, arugula, radicchio, shaved fennel, and crumbled goat cheese). I put the top bread on the and closed up the sandwich, which I promptly ate without ceremony. And the sando was AMAZEBALLS, as they say.

Not pictured is the bottle of Asahi Black Lager that I drank with the sandwich.

* and maybe eat the horse afterwards. Hey, I’m OMNIVOROUS!

Frito Pie, Y’all!

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Would you believe that Frito pie is actually good for you? Well, it ain’t.

Frito Pie has been on my mind of late. The warm weather has me conjuring up thoughts of State Fairs and picnics and baseball games and other specifically American outdoor events that suggest foods eaten out of hand and foods that defy all conventional “healthy-eating” sensibilities. Frito Pie is one food that fits both criteria — it’s portable and well, disposable, and it’s virtually devoid of any redeeming nutritional value. However, it is super-yummy in all its gleefully white-trashy, grease-bomby way. I like it! It reminds me of my youth and my Southern ties, of hot weather and festival foods.

Now there’s a school of Frito Pie theory that suggests a baked casserole sort of construction, like some kind of bastardized Tex-Mex lasagna or ghetto-style enchiladas. Sure, you bake a bunch of Fritos (and no other corn chip is acceptable) with chili or ground beef with cheese and salsa and you know that’s going to be tasty treat. But to me that’s not really Frito Pie even if it kind of resembles a pie; to me Frito Pie is the so-called “walking taco” whereby you cut open a snack-sized bag of Fritos (the one and only) and you dump into it some hot chili (preferably beanless), some grated cheese, some sour cream and then maybe some other garnishes like jalapenos, hot sauce, chopped scallions, guacamole, etc. You scarf that down with a plastic fork (or spork, if you should be so lucky) and wash that down with an ice-cold PBR or Dixie (or Shiner Bock, if you should be so lucky) and that’s good eatin’, y’all!

For an afternoon snack today I made a totally delish Frito Pie. Because I had only a large bag of Fritos, I put it into a plastic deli cup and I ate it with a plastic fork. This presentation approximated the portability of eating out of a greasy plastic bag but was way neater. It went a little something like this….

  • 1 cup of Fritos dumped into a 16-ounce plastic container
  • 3/4 cup of basic meaty beanless chili put on top of that
  • 1/2 cup of grated “Mexican-style” cheese (jack & cheddar) scattered over the hot chili
  • 1/4 cup sour cream dumped into the container slightly off to the side
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh avocado, dumped into the container slightly off to the side
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro put on top
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion, on top
  • 1 teaspoon (or more!) hot sauce. I used Cholula, which is awesome.
  • stick a plastic fork in it
  • eat!

So, if you’re hankering for something that isn’t remotely healthy, try some Frito Pie. You can’t live on vegan kale salad alone, ya know!

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But it sho is yummy!

I’ve included a basic chili recipe. This is simple chili not meant to be eaten as a main course but to go on top of hot dogs, burgers, and things like Frito Pie.

Basic Chili:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red or green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

To make the chili melt the butter with the oil in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed pot set over medium heat. Turn heat up to high and add the ground beef. Season beef with salt and pepper to taste and brown well. Add the onions and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until softened. Add tomato paste and cook that, stirring around, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the beef and onion mixture and stir well. Add beer and cook until the alcohol smell has dissipated. Add all remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I like to cook it gently for at least an hour until everything breaks down nicely and the excess water has evaporated. Keep in mind that this chili is better the next day, so plan ahead if you can.

Stir-fried Pork and Asparagus with Garlic Black Bean Sauce

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A quick and tasty stir-fry!

What with my wife Regina being of Chinese descent and me being half Vietnamese it’s hardly surprising that we cook a lot of Asian (and Asian-inspired) food at home. I whipped up this little stir-fry a few days ago. It was very quick, very easy to make, and absolutely delicious over a bowl of steamed rice with a dose of spicy sambal oeleck, that awesome chili paste of Indonesian origin popularized by Huy Fong Foods here in the U.S. With a little planning you can have this dish made in about 20 minutes (of actual work).

If you want to try this dish at home you’ll need (approximately):

  • 3/4 pound of pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger, divided
  • 2 tablespoons xao xing (Chinese cooking wine, although sherry is a fair substitute), divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, plus more later
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more later
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 5 medium-thick asparagus spears
  • 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms (or dried mushrooms reconstituted in warm water)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons garlic black bean sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand, if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped scallions

Now do this:

Cut the pork into rough cubes about 3/4 of inch on a side (don’t take this measurement too seriously). Put the pork into a non-reactive bowl and add 1 tablespoon of ginger, 1 tablespoon xao xing, minced garlic, corn starch, vegetable oil, white pepper, kosher salt, and soy sauce. Mix all the ingredients until the pork is very well coated in the marinade. Marinate the pork a minimum of 30 minutes; I get better results if I marinate it a couple of hours.

While the pork is marinating, prep your veggies. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and discard. Cut the asparagus at an angle into pieces oh, let’s say an inch-and-a-half in length. Stem the mushrooms and cut into quarters.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a wok (or a very large skillet) over high heat. When the wok just starts smoking swirl 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil into the bottom and add the pork. Stir-fry pork about three minutes until lightly browned all over. Remove cooked pork to a bowl and pour off (and discard) any excess oil. Wipe wok clean with paper towels and place over high heat again. When the wok starts smoking again add the remaining peanut oil. Add the asparagus and stir-fry about one minute. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry another 30 seconds. Add remaining ginger and stir it into the veggies. Add the cooked pork back into your wok. Get the wok super-hot again and add the remaining cooking wine. Stir-fry another 10 seconds and then add the black bean sauce and the chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chopped scallions and turn off the heat.

Remove the stir-fry from the wok and place into a serving bowl. Serve with steamed rice and maybe some slices of fresh cucumber. Top with hot sauce of your choice (sambal oeleck is my preference for this dish) and soy sauce.

Enjoy!

Tapas Partay!

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A little blurry, but oh, what a spread!

Last week Regina and I had a couple of great friends over for an early dinner. Well, all dinners are early when you have an infant, but luckily our friends are obliging and understanding. Of course when I put out a spread like this of course they are obliging! Mitch supplied the wine and Stef made a excellent blueberry pie to finish the meal with.

Starting from the bottom left and travelling a meandering path up the table in a vaguely clockwise direction the dishes are as follows: garlic aioli with a touch of saffron, garlicky sautéed mushrooms, paprika-dusted fried chicken wings, roasted purple cauliflower with shallots and a hit of sherry vinegar, marcona almonds, pickled peppadew peppers (say that five times fast!), lightly sweetened olive oil crackers (in the wax paper), assorted olives, patatas bravas (crispy fried potatoes), grilled lamb riblets, grilled ribeye with roasted garlic, lobster with saffron sofrito, grilled bread for pan con tomate, membrillo (Spanish quince paste), assorted cheese platter including cabrales, idiazabal, some kind of hard Basque cheese that I’ve forgotten the name of, and some nice Spanish chorizo (not to be confused with the Mexican stuff), clams with garlic and white wine and diced chorizo, and finally at the bottom right a plate of hand-shaved slices of one of the world’s great cured meats — Jamon Iberico “pata negra” — a dry-cured ham made from these cute little black pigs that feast on acorns.

Eating like this — with a wide assortment of small plates with complementing and contrasting flavors and textures and colors — is so enjoyable and delicious and fun and communal that I wish we could feast like this every night! I’d be 300 pounds, but I’d be happy as a clam cooked with white wine and chorizo.

Ad-hoc Asian Salad

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Today’s salad is a simple (yet miraculous) combination of leftover cold ramen noodles (the fresh kind, not the fry-dried variety), cold grilled skirt steak cut into thin strips, napa cabbage, iceberg lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, watercress, scallions, crispy garlic, crispy wontons, and a simple sesame-miso dressing (canola oil, shiro miso paste, sesame oil, rice vinegar, Chinese mustard, salt and pepper). It was yummy!

Not-So-Big Macs!

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Homemade “Not-So-Big” Macs are a helluva lot better for you than the real deal! And way cuter!

Many people are surprised that I’ll admit to eating fast food every once in a while. Considering my choice of career and the unlimited budget that I have for purchasing the finest food that money can buy and people can eat, sometimes my friends are frankly astonished that I have the occasional craving for Taco Bell or similar trash foods. I suppose every once in a while I need a casual antidote to all the fancy stuff like caviar, foie gras, matsutake mushrooms, pork belly, and lobster tails. At least that’s my excuse, but really I just kinda like the stuff despite the realization that it’ll probably shave some time off my life and contribute to our degrading environment. But in truth I rarely indulge; I eat Taco Bell once a year and McDonald’s with a similar frequency.

But sometimes I really crave a tasty burger, and usually I don’t mean some kind of fancy-schmancy hand-ground meat patty artfully layered with chef-designed, umami-laden, manufactured-in-house condiments. No parmesan crisp or ketchup leather or shiitake bullshit or aged Vermont cheddar or sun-dried tomato or a goddamn brioche bun. I want a thin patty of good beef on a soft, yielding (read cheap) bun with honest-to-goodness Kraft American cheese. Sometimes all I want is a crappy fast-food burger, something gooey, chewy, beefy, sloppy.

However, I want it with killer beef, ideally grass-fed, so that I won’t be burdened with as much (however fleeting) guilt when I bite down into that burger and the hot beef grease courses over my tastebuds. And I want organic tomatoes and lettuce, quality onions, and a good pickle.

Anyway, a few days ago I was in one of my “trashy burger moods”. It hit me as I strolled the aisles at Trader Joe’s; inspiration struck as I spotted a bag of slider buns dotted with sesame seeds, something I’d never seen before. Barely two inches in diameter the little rolls screamed BIG MAC and that ubiquitous commercial ditty ran through my mind like the sexy come-on of a low-rent hooker trolling the unfashionable, less-hospitable end of Sunset Blvd: “two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun”. A shiver ran down my spine and I knew exactly what I was going to eat for dinner that night.

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Inspiration came in a plastic bag.

Of course a few issues hampered the immediate execution of my “Not-So-Big Mac” or “Mini-Mac”. The Big Mac is constructed of a “triple-bun” with an additional round slab of bread starching up the middle of the burger. I had to create the extra bun slice by carefully trimming the the crust from the tops (or bottoms) of some of the slider buns. This was wasteful, to be sure, but authenticity demands a strenuous attention to detail and, quite possibly, some waste along the way.

Next is the so-called “special sauce” which is simply Russian dressing (1,000 Island being virtually identical). I used my own super-basic recipe of a half-cup of mayo, a quarter-cup of ketchup, two tablespoons of sweet pickle relish, and kosher salt and cracked peppercorn (to taste) all mixed up together. Also on the burger are sour pickle slices (look for dill hamburger chips), shredded iceberg lettuce, one slice of yellow American cheese, and some small pieces of sliced white onions. The sliced onions I soaked in cold water for about five minutes to get rid of the some of the acidity. I drained them well before putting them on the burger.

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My Mini-Macs were magnificent!

The burger patties themselves I made very thin, less than a half-inch in thickness, and about three-and-a-half inches in diameter. Whenever you make burgers remember that they shrink significantly; how much shrinkage occurs is determined by fat content — more fat means more shrinkage, generally. So for a burger that fits a two-inch bun you need a burger that’s a little larger than three inches. I seasoned the burger patties with just a little salt and pepper right before cooking in a skillet (or on a flat-top griddle).

I heated my skillet over high heat until it was just smoking and swirled in a little vegetable oil. Very quickly I lightly browned the cut sides of all three parts of the bun — the top, the bottom, and the middle piece (which needs to browned on both sides). I kept the toasted buns warm on a small sheet pan in a low oven (about 200ºF) while I cooked the burgers.

I added more vegetable oil to the pan — just enough to coat the bottom evenly. I added the  burger patties; remember two patties per Mini-Mac! I cooked the burgers on one side about two minutes until very browned and a little crisp. I flipped the burgers and added a small slice of American cheese on top of half the burgers*; remember only one slice of cheese for each Mini-Mac! After one more minute of cooking I removed the burgers from the pan and took the warm buns out of the oven.

I assembled the Mini-Macs in the following order, assembling from top to bottom:

  • the bottom of the bun
  • a half-teaspoon of special sauce
  • one pickle chip
  • a few pieces of sliced onion
  • a tiny clutch of lettuce
  • a burger patty with cheese*
  • the “middle bun”
  • a few pieces of sliced onion
  • another tiny clutch of lettuce
  • a “cheeseless” burger patty
  • another half-teaspoon of special sauce
  • another pickle slice
  • the top of the bun

After assembly my fam and I ate them immediately. Both wife and son were appropriately grateful and deemed the Mini-Macs excellent!

* Big Mac scientists for some reason place a slice of unmelted cheese on the burger “underneath” the bottom burger patty, probably to keep the hot cheese from wilting the lettuce too much. However, I prefer melting the cheese on the burger while it cooks (better cheese-gooiness). I’m on the fence about whether the cheese should face up or down when you assemble, although I’m leaning toward cheese-up. You decide.

Today’s Brekkie: Fried Egg, Fried Broken Rice, Peppered Bacon

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Yummy!

This is admittedly not much of a post, but since I’ve hardly had a free moment to post in the past two months (!), I figured I’d better start getting some content out there. Work, travel, and children have seriously cut into my writing time, but I’m back! I promise more posts this week, and hopefully I’ll be able to get OMNIVOROUS back into a nice groove.

I had some leftover “broken” rice, which is fractured grains of Jasmine rice common to Vietnamese cuisine. I love the stuff for its flavor and its very specific mouthfeel. For breakfast today I fried the rice with garlic, ginger, and green onions. First I heated a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a very hot wok and threw in about a teaspoon each of minced ginger and minced garlic. I quickly added about a tablespoon of thinly cut scallions (white part) and stirred it around. I added about a cup and half of the cooked broken rice and tossed it all together with a bamboo spatula. I added a generous pinch of kosher salt, a half-teaspoon of granulated sugar, and nice pinch of ground white pepper. I wokked the rice until it was super-fragrant, totally warmed through, and a bit crispy in some areas. I killed the heat and stirred in about a tablespoon of the sliced scallion greens and a little minced cilantro. As a final touch I sprinkled the rice with some furikake, that Japanese seasoning shake that can contain all kinds of things from dried seaweed to sesame seeds to tiny bits of dried egg yolk to minced dried Japanese chili. This particular furikake had black sesame seeds, bits of nori, ground dried shiso leaf, and minced bonito flakes (katsuobushi for those in the know).

I piled a little rice on the plate and added a couple of slices of this excellent peppered bacon smoked with hickory (sorry I forgot to note the brand). I fried the egg in a combination of bacon fat and butter and laid it atop the rice. The liquid yolk immediately burst out and ran into the rice and flooded the plate. Totally YUM!