November 24, 2015

Pumpkin Pie

Alice's Restaurant is one of many traditional
Thanksgiving songs passed down from the
pilgrims to Arlo Guthrie, and then to us.
Well, we finally made it to the week of Thanksgiving. We made it through endless buzzfeed-style lists about things like "the best 450 ways to cook a Thanksgiving turkey," and "700 Thanksgiving Entrees that aren't turkey." And we've made it through the Christmas decorations in the stores which, by law, is blasphemy. I'm pretty sure you can be prosecuted for treason in the US for putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, but here these corporate jerks are, bold as brass, just flouting it in our faces like some sort of delicious pie. Not in my America. In my America, delicious pie is made out of actual pie, not out of department stores selling you things. It's made out of pumpkin, and spices, and it's so good that it makes all of the "pumpkin spice" everything that you've been guzzling down since the beginning of October taste hollow and meaningless. It's the flavor you finish off Thanksgiving with, and some things you just don't mess with. Don't even get me started about Black Friday.


1 Can of Pumpkin (You technically can replace this with an actual pumpkin. It's kind of hard to work with, it doesn't taste much better, and it's a huge pain to get the texture right, but if you're the type of insecure person who needs to lord over everybody else how your pumpkin pie is more pumpkinny than theirs, go for it.)
2 Eggs
Approximately 3/4 Cup Soy Milk (Why soy milk? Because my pie is dairy free. Got a problem with that? Then use regular milk. What do I care?)
1/2 Cup of standard issue Sugar
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
An average human sized pinch of Ground Nutmeg
1 Pie Crust (If you want to go traditional, just use regular pie crust. You can buy it in the store, or make your own. If you want to get funky, make a gingersnap crust. How? Take the graham cracker crust from my cheesecake recipe, and replace the graham crackers with crushed gingersnaps. You're welcome.)

The first thing you're gonna need to do is punch Christmas in the throat. It's started stretching all the way through November, and it frankly needs to learn to wait its turn. That's the lesson here. If you're a holiday, and you don't wait your turn, you get punched in the throat (I'm looking at you Valentine's Day). Once your holidays are straightened out, and have stopped acting like jerks, pour your Pumpkin, Eggs, Salt, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, and Nutmeg into a bowl and stir them together to combine. Did you catch that? That's all of the ingredients, except for the Soy Milk and the Pie Crust. And when I say "stir to combine" I don't mean "gently twirl a spoon into the pumpkin mixture with your dainty fingers." I mean stir. Until you can't point out any specific ingredients in the mix, and the whole thing looks homogenous. Then slowly stir in your Soy Milk, until your mixture is just liquidy enough to start making you nervous about whether it's still gonna turn into pie.

You ate twice your bodyweight in turkey and stuffing, and
you swore you'd never eat anything again. Then pie happened.
Now it's time to be terrified that something will go horribly wrong! Will it? Who knows? Because now it's time to pour your filling into your crust, throw the whole thing into a 350 degree oven, and let it sit for an hour. Without opening the oven and checking on it. Seriously, opening the oven will lower the heat which will change the cooking. So leave the oven shut and try not to think about all of the things that could be happening in there. After an hour, open your oven and check on it. It should be firmed up all around the edges, and just a tiny bit jiggly in the center. If it's not, it could be for a number of reasons, including the fact that you didn't listen and you opened your oven early to check on it. If despite your best efforts, you've got a puddle instead of "slightly jiggly," put it back in for another 15 minutes. Then let the pie cool for 2 hours, and then refrigerate it for another 2 hours. Because as awesome as it smells right now, it'll taste so much better once it's properly cooled. Trust me, your patience will be rewarded. Then slice it, top it with some whipped cream, and serve it. To yourself, and the other loyalists who haven't abandoned you in the name of shopping. Everybody else can put terrible nonsense pie into their mouths. The good stuff is reserved for the real Americans.

November 17, 2015


It's like an Escher of stuffing ingredients
As a child, we never really stuffed the turkey on Thanksgiving. Shoving bread goop up inside that bird's gross butt always seemed like a silly idea compared to concepts like stuffing aromatic herbs and vegetables up that bird's gross butt. You know, to actually produce some flavor. So when I'm talking about stuffing, I'm talking about what some people out there mistakenly refer to as "dressing." It's pretty traditional thanksgiving fare, and is often corrupted and mangled beyond recognition with nuts, berries, cornbread, and other heathen traps for the unwary. But in my mind, real stuffing is relatively simple. It's pretty much an intensely good herb and bread casserole, and since mine doesn't roast inside the grossest part of a turkey, even the vegetarians at your table will love it. Which is a nice change of pace from what they'll be feeling while eating their disgusting soy-turkey-substitute.


1 lb loaf of Challah Bread 
3 Cups of Vegetable Stock
3 Eggs
1 Standard Issue Onion
5 stalks of Celery
1 TBSP Olive Oil
3 tsp of ground Thyme
1 tsp of rubbed Sage
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
An unspecified amount of Salt

The origins of this recipe are definitely my mother's. Years ago I asked her how she made stuffing, and she told me. Every year since then I've forgotten some parts and filled in the blanks myself instead of asking her again, because I can't be bothered to make multiple phone calls for the same recipe in one short lifetime. What am I, made of phone calls? I don't know exactly how close I am to the original, but I do know that what I've ended up with after all of this time tastes like my childhood memories of thanksgiving (Savory, delicious, kind of wistful, and possibly completely idealized. Who knows what it was really like?and that's good enough for me. And now it's good enough for you. 

The first thing you're gonna need to do is to chop up your Celery and Onion, sauté them in your oil along with an AHSPS (Average human sized pinch of salt), your Black Pepper, and 1 tsp of your Thyme. Cook that hot mess over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes. You want the onions and celery to be somewhat softened, but not cooked all of the way through. If you aren't sure about this, taste them, either by taking a spoon, removing a little bit, and blowing on a it until it's cool enough for your delicate mouth to handle, or by reaching into your hot pan with your hands and stuffing some onion and celery directly into your mouth and dealing with it. You know, like a man (I say things like this a lot, but in this case I totally did this).

All the delicious awesomeness of stuffing, none of the
turkey rectums
Once your vegetation is done, tear your Bread into roughly 1 inch chunks. If you've forgotten your culinary ruler and protractor, again, use your best judgement. And see me after class. Then take your Eggs, and lightly beat them until they submit to your authority by having their yolks and whites mingle together. In fear. Put your bread chunks into a bowl, and add the rest of your ingredients along with another AHSPS. Mix it all together gently. Sure, you want it mixed and you want your bread to absorb the moisture. But you don't want to squish it down too much or you'll end up with super dense stuffing. You know who eats super dense stuffing? Communists. That's why they don't have thanksgiving. Who would be thankful for that nonsense? Nobody, that's who. Take your bread gunk, shove it up in a baking dish if some kind, and then throw it in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Then take it out and eat it in front of your guests, offering bites only to those who brought suitable tribute (Alcohol). If anybody argues, challenge them to a contest to prove true ownership of the stuffing, using the traditional holiday weapons (Guilt. And alcohol). And if anybody tries to leave your meal early to line up for Black Friday shopping, hit them with the turkey carcass and disown them. Seriously.

November 10, 2015

Cranberry Sauce

Always spring for the fresh-premium cranberries. The
fresh-kinda-ok cranberries just look...wrong.
It's the holiday season, defined by Hallmark and Walmart as "the period between 1 AM on November the first, and 1 AM on January second when holiday music is played non-stop in all stores, festive decorations are placed strategically by sale items, and employees are forced to wear silly hats." The actual holiday season, at least to me and all other Americans who haven't yet submitted out wills to the enemy, starts the week of Thanksgiving. But who am I to say that we shouldn't be posting recipes for stuffing and turkey this early? I love Thanksgiving, so I won't complain too hard. Especially not after consuming all of that festive eggnog I bought on sale. Which reminds me, I need to go shopping. 


12 oz Whole Cranberries
6 oz Whole Blackberries 
3/4 cup of Brown Sugar
1/4 cup of White Sugar
1/4 cup Orange Juice
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Lemon Juice
1 smallish sized human's pinch of Salt
1 smallish sized human's pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Here's the problem with cranberry sauce. Despite being highly awesome, and surprisingly easy to make, it suffers from everybody having grown up with the canned glop (which is pretty much just gelatinous sugar goop), and not knowing that real cranberry sauce tastes exactly like holiday cheer and winning the big cash prize on your local radio station's phone-in contest. It's true. Look it up. For some people this means that they refuse to try legit cranberry sauce under any circumstances. For others it means they make weird fusion dishes like mango curry cranberry chutney. Either way these people should be banned from your holiday table. 

Once you've shunned the nonbelievers, throw all of your ingredients into a pot and crank the heat all the way up to...low. Cook the pot of goodness, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes at which point the sugar should be dissolved, the cranberries should just be starting to soften, and you should be wondering how this stupid pot full of very solid berries is ever going to turn into cranberry sauce. Then turn the heat up to medium, and let it cook down, stirring occasionally, for another 15 minutes when the cranberries start to burst. It's less dramatic than it sounds. At this point, it should look and smell like the holidays. And happiness. And cranberry sauce. Pretty much, it will look and smell like everything that 10 year old Harry Potter probably daydreamed of while he was living in a cupboard and eating spiders for extra protein, which I assume he did

Nothing says "holidays" like semi-gelatinous goop that makes
everything it touches taste incredible. Dickens said that.
Once you've got your sauce looking fictional-orphan-tantalizingly good, take the back of your spoon and lightly smash the remaining whole berries until most of them are crushed and your sauce has started to thicken. If it's still kind of thin, don't worry. It thickens up a lot as it cools down. There's very little chance of your sauce staying super thin and ruining your meal for everybody. The next part is gonna be the hardest. Wait. Without eating it. For what seems like forever, until your sauce is room temperature. Then put it in the fridge and wait some more. For no less than half an hour. It's gonna suck, but your patience will be rewarded. Take it out of the fridge, gather or make some friends (or bribe strangers, who will be friends after they taste this, assuming they're not crazy people who end up harvesting your organs), and throw together an awesome holiday meal. Bonus points if you really get in the holiday spirit by rubbing it in the faces of those people you were shunning earlier. Which means you'll have to Un-shun them for a minute or two, rub their faces in it, and then re-shun then before they know what hit them. Nobody said holiday bonus points came easy. 

November 3, 2015


Artist's rendition: Me getting terrible restaurant nachos
Nachos are a sore spot for me. Because they're so so very awesome. But nobody ever makes them right, and it pisses me off. I don't know. I grew up with relatively easy access to awesome nachos, and while I know that not everybody shared that experience, they should at least be familiar enough with the concept to not microwave cheese on top of a bag of chips and try to sell it to me for $8.95. This has been more angry ranting and less fun banter with the voices in my head than usual, so let's all watch this to even out again. We all good? Cool. Back to nachos. The point of nachos, at least to me, is to be able to get a little bit of everything in each tiny bite. Not to have a giant disk of chips held together with congealed cheese that you have to rip apart, getting beans everywhere and grossing out everybody at your niece's Bat Mitzva, or Quinceanera, or whatever. The point is, your clothes are stained, your family is ashamed of you, your date left an hour ago, and it's the fault of sub-par nachos.


2 15 oz cans of Pinto Beans
1 Standard Issue Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
8 oz Cheddar Cheese
3 Jalapeños 
3 Cups Milk
1/3 Cup Vegetable Stock
3 TBSP Butter
3 TBSP Sour Cream
3 TBSP Flour (You need 3 of a lot of things in this recipe. Try not to let it worry you. It's in no way a hint to some sort of greater conspiracy affecting your life. Almost definitely)
1 TBSP Chili Powder
1 TBSP Olive Oil
2 tsp Ground Cumin
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
An unspecified amount of salt
Tortilla Chips. All the Tortilla Chips (You can use your favorite store bought chips if you like. Or, if you have the will of the warrior, slice up some corn tortillas, fry them in oil, and then toss a little salt on them. Because it's super easy, crazy awesome, and your therapist said you need to try new things)

The first thing you're gonna need to do is make some refried beans. Because Nachos without beans, while technically pretty authentic, are just little edible plates of sadness. So chop up your onion, and throw it in a pan with your Olive Oil and an ASHP (average sized human's pinch) of Salt over medium heat. Saute` the onion for about 5 minutes, until it starts to get soft and golden. Add in your Garlic, Cumin, Chili Powder, and Cayenne, and Saute` another minute. Add in your Pinto Beans along with one more ASHP of Salt, and let it cook for another couple minutes before adding in your Vegetable Stock. Bring the whole mess to a boil, and let it go for another 5 minutes. Now it's time to get an authentic rustic texture, by taking the back of a spoon, and individually crushing your pinto beans for approximately 3 lifetimes (Bonus points if you use this as an opportunity to express some of the anger you've felt over the years at disappointing nachos, which led to a disappointing life). You want a thick and creamy consistency, but you still want whole beans floating around in there, letting people know what it is they're eating, and generally taunting you about the amount of time you've spend smashing beans compared to the amount of unsmashed beans looking up at you with their stupid bean faces.

Next you're gonna make a cheese sauce. Because of course the cheese should be in sauce form. Any other thought you might have had is blasphemy. Do you want to go to Nacho hell? No? Then stop asking questions about the cheese sauce. It's pretty simple. Essentially, you're gonna take the Flour, Butter, and Milk, and another AHSP of salt to make a thick Bechamel sauce. Too lazy to read that link, but somehow not too lazy to read this? Here's a brief overview: melt the butter in a pot, whisk in the flour slowly, and let it cook for a minute. Then add in the Milk slowly, whisking like crazy until your arm wants to fall off, but can't because of your dumb skin. Got it? Good. Chop up 2 of your Jalapeños, and throw them in the sauce. Then melt in your cheese, in a couple batches so that it actually incorporates and doesn't just end up in a cheesy mess on the bottom of your pot. Keep it cooking over low heat until it threatens to boil but isn't actually boiling yet, and then turn off the heat. Jalapeño Cheese Sauce!

Normally I say something like "they taste even better than
they look. Which is clearly impossible here. I'm gonna
go with "as good." They taste as good as they look. 
Now it's time for the assembly. It's important (To me. And now, because I'm forcing you, to you!) to be able to get a little bit of everything with each bite. So lay down a thick layer of Tortilla Chips on whatever you're gonna be eating these things off of/out of. Then drizzle a layer of your Jalapeño Cheese Sauce (!) over it, followed by a loose layer of your beans. Then add on another layer of chips, followed by another layer of beans, and another layer of cheese sauce. Why does the order of the beans and sauce reverse here? Because it's better that way. What's with all the questions? Do you want to go to Nacho purgatory? Then don't question the order of operations. Throw your Sour Cream down in the middle of your pile of awesomeness, chop up your final Jalapeño, and sprinkle it over everything. And that's all there is to some incredible nachos. And the best part is, you can make enough to share with your friends for the price of an individual portion from a restaurant. Just kidding! The best part is that they're awesome. Eat them all yourself until you get sick.