Archive | November, 2009

Nov. 30, 2009

30 Nov

12 pm

1 turkey sandwich on wheat with cranberry mayo

mashed potatoes

cornbread stuffing

1 can diet Coke

5 pm

1 banana

6:30 pm

2 turkey mole enchiladas

1 can diet Coke

Finally! All my Thanksgiving turkey leftovers are gone. I made it a personal goal to get rid of it before December, and damned if I didn’t succeed. It’s important to set goals for oneself. It gives meaning to life. God, unemployment sucks.

BTW, there was a 0% chance for me to make my own mole sauce. Just because I’m from the same hometown as Rick Bayless doesn’t mean I can inherently blend 23 ingredients into an intricate sauce. I used store-bought Dosa Maria mole paste diluted with chicken stock. It saved me about 82 steps and 36 hours.

11 pm

Happy Endings

2 slices of pepperoni pizza

a lot of popcorn

God damn alcohol! You’ve foiled the cleverest of plans and the best of intentions one too many times. Don’t eat greasy food late at night, don’t text your ex-girlfriend, don’t do coke off a stripper’s chest like Miguel Ferrer in Robocop… but how can I remain angry at you. You’ve been my best friend in times of need. And, you helped me lose my virginity many years back. Homer Simpson said it best; alcohol is the cause of, and solution, to all your problems. As you can tell by the picture above, alcohol only contributed to bad late-night eating on Monday. Thank God I didn’t wake up next to a coke whore.

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Thanksgiving

29 Nov

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everyone gorged themselves this past weekend. It’s the one day where it’s perfectly acceptable to consume 4,000 calories in one meal and have it be completely reasonable. Even homeless people get to eat a lot on Thanksgiving. It’s the one day of the year where people are eager to feed them. They’re screwed on most other days but on Thanksgiving, free turkey and gravy for all. You know who’s the only who don’t get to eat to their hearts content? Vegetarians. But they made their bed. They can lie in it. I feel no sympathy.

Last year, I didn’t enjoy my Thanksgiving meal. You see, my family doesn’t like turkey. They’re indifferent to the taste and hate going through the hassle of cooking it. So last year, we ate ham. Now I like the pig as much as anyone, but on Thanksgiving, I WANT A TURKEY. After our joyful, shitty, Thanksgiving dinner last year, my mom was encouraged by the idea and broached the subject of another turkey-less meal:

Mom: Let’s get another ham this year.

Me: That’s totally fucked, you know that?

No, I didn’t say that. I love my mom and I would never use such horrible words in front of her. Our conversation actually went like this, give or take a few words I paraphrased:

Mom: Let’s get another ham this year.

Me: I was actually thinking we should eat turkey instead.

Mom: But you’re the only one that likes turkey.

Me: I know. But we’ve always eaten turkey before. Beside, you don’t hate it.

Mom: I’ll eat it if it’s there. But we don’t have a turkey and I don’t have anything to cook it with.

Me: Don’t worry, I already bought one. And I got all the equipment already.

Mom: You what?

Me: I bought them on Monday. Don’t worry, I’ll cook it and bring it Thursday.

I had to proactively squash the idea of a turkey-less Thanksgiving before it became a tradition. So for 2009, my family had a proper, traditional meal. Our bird was a 13-pounder from Trader Joe’s. It was never frozen, free-range, and most importantly, pre-brined. It’s been oft-repeated and it’s true; brining makes dry, white breast meat taste better. Hey, it works for Jennifer Aniston (zing!). I usually brine a whole turkey for a couple of days, but it requires me to clear out half my refrigerator to find room for a giant tub filled with raw poultry juice. That’s a lot of beer to clear out and way too much of a hassle. Pre-brined bird? Score.

The turkey cooked OK. Whatever meat thermometer I used was off and registered too hot, probably because I didn’t stick it in deeply enough (insert innuendo here). I also didn’t brown the skin properly because I didn’t uncover the tin foil in time since the bird cooked too quickly. I will say though that the white meat cooked perfectly. I had to cook the dark meat for another 45 minutes after carving the breasts off, but it worked out at as none of the white meat dried out and the dark meat ended up being cooked perfectly at the end. I wish the brine had more flavor besides just salt, but it was still flavorful. My mom, despite being an avowed turkey-hater, enjoyed it greatly. She had thirds. As did I.

I also made mashed potatoes. Every year, my mom tells me not to use so much butter because it’s obscenely unhealthy, and every year I slowly up the amount. Subsequently, she always remarks, “this is the best mashed potato yet.” This year, I got about 35-40% butter, I think. My goal is to eventually get up to 90% like Joel Robuchon’s pommes puree. That’s the secret to mashed potatoes. You gotta do to it like what Marlon Brando did to Maria Schneider in “Last Tango In Paris.”

I also made brussel sprouts and bacon. Brussel sprouts are one of the few vegetables in season right now (green beans are not and an insiduous plot from Campbell’s). They’re also bitter and not that palatable unless it’s cooked with bacon fat. But then, anything is good in bacon fat. I’ll have to test this theory with Play-doh. I made this same dish two years ago for Thanksgiving, and my mom now cooks every vegetable with rendered bacon. Asparagus, green beans, kimchi, it all gets bacon. And you know what? It’s ingenious. It has yet to not taste good. Parents, if your kids won’t eat vegetables, throw bacon in there. Just make sure you limit their servings so they don’t end up like Precious. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of parenting to do with their low self-esteem and teen pregnancy, and that’s a pain in the ass.

Finally, I made yam souffle at the last second with no marshmallows (I HATE marshmallows on yams. It’s a side dish, not a dessert) and a very basic cranberry sauce because I left my spices at home and was too cheap to buy new ones for one-time use. I never make gravy because separating fat and making roux is a thankless task that blows. And I bought stuffing because, well, I was lazy. And my mom and my brother got their ham, a 6-pounder. So it all worked out at the end and another family crisis was averted. I hope everyone enjoyed their turkeys and had quality family time as well.

Nov. 25, 2009

25 Nov

10 am

1 bowl of Rice Crispix

12:30 pm

Jersey Mike’s

1 regular roast beef and provolone sandwich on wheat

1 bag of sour cream n’ chive baked lays

1 diet pepsi

I only went here because my friend Ryan mentioned Jersey Mike’s 20 minutes before. He didn’t mention it in a flattering way. It was expensive for what it is, is how I’d paraphrase him. Doesn’t matter. I tend to have compulsive cravings for the last food item I’ve heard or seen. Like hamsters.

7 pm

Pork mandoos

My mom made these dumplings last weekend and I took a couple of servings home. Mandoos are similar to steamed Chinese dumplings, except instead of being light and delicate, they’re heavy and about as subtle as a punch to the pancreas. They’re like raviolis, except Asian, with pork and a heavier, thicker dough made out of rice flour. So I guess they taste nothing like raviolis and I just got lazy with the analogy. Whatever, I’m keeping my post short today because there’s a Thanksgiving turkey to get ready for. Sweet!

10:20 pm

1 bottle of Stockyard Oatmeal Stout

I’m pretty sure I “accidentally” took my roommate’s last beer. Hey, he didn’t drink it for a month. That’s an even greater disservice to this fine beer.

Nov. 24, 2009

24 Nov

8:45 am

101 Coffee Shop

Rush Hour Special (2 eggs, 2 strips of bacon, 3 silver dollar pancakes)

1 cup of coffee refilled 3 times

Here’s another meal I ate a lot when I didn’t work two years ago: the $5 rush hour special from 101 Coffee Shop that’s only available from 7-10 am on weekdays. Two eggs, two bacons and either three pancakes or one French toast, all indifferently prepared. Coffee is over $2, and that’s how those bastards get you back for a cheap breakfast.

I used to grab an LA Times and inhabit a booth at the 101 for an hour or two, literally reading every single article and plowing through 5-6 refills of coffee. Remember newspapers? It was just like a website, except it’s printed on paper and you couldn’t flame people in the reader comment section with racial insults. For nostalgia’s sake, I wanted to read the paper and made a point to grab two quarters for the vending machine. But the LA Times is now 75 cents. It seems that they raised their prices way back in January and since I haven’t bought or read a physical newspaper in over a year, I had no idea. I remember back in 1995, the LA Times doubled their cover price from a quarter and the city almost rioted again. Now, the price 300% more expensive from only 3 years ago and no one cares. Why should they, if anyone can get the same information online instantly. And this is why my journalism degree led to a blog on wordpress that generates zero revenue.

Anyways, because I was a quarter short, I read my morning newspapers on my iphone and got syrup all over it. Newspapers do absorb syrup better than phones, and I miss that.

12:45 pm

tuna melt

8-10 pita chips

1 can of Diet Pepsi

2:00 pm

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

1 small mocha latte

8:00 pm

Oak’s Gourmet

1 spare rib French Dip sandwich

1 bottle of Harp’s Lager

1 cup of Dreyer’s cookies n’ cream ice cream

Ah, larders. A concept seemingly invented for Stuff White People Like. If one is in your neighborhood, you’re probably living among rich and uppity folks. If you tend to buy salts and cheese with proper nouns like Maldon and St. Andre, then you’re probably a snob who shops at one of these establishments. And if you call a gourmet food store with an attached kitchen a larder, then you’re probably a douche. Mozza2Go, Tavern, Bottega Louie, Oaks Gourmet and the Mercantile, those are some of the new ones in LA that opened this past year. And Cube is expanding to a second store downtown in 2010. If it’s going to be a trend, I might as well jump on board and douche it out.

I live in Beachwood Canyon, so it’s inevitable for a place like the Oaks Gourmet to open here last month and for it to be constantly busy with customers. This is probably the most schizophrenic food shop in LA. They have a cheese shop, a wine store, a bakery, a coffee shop with eight grinders filled with exotic-sounding whole beans, some top-shelf booze, a meticulous beer selection that’s probably the best I’ve seen in LA, a couple of random shelves with oils, vinegars and random snacks, unknown brands of sodas, cutlery, and some space-age water pool that chills wine in 3-5 minutes. They even write out their choice of energy drinks on a chalk board, which is spectacularly douche-y. Yes, they try too hard sometimes, but I grew to appreciate this place. My beer-drinking habits has certainly gotten classier. There is a kitchen that turns out sandwiches, salads, pizzas and breakfast until closing. The sandwiches I’ve tried are just OK, my French dip was a bit dry. I know, it comes with a side of jus, but I don’t like to drench my sandwich. Previously, I had the lobster club, which would’ve been great if it didn’t have too much tarragon. The pizzas are much better and the duck confit version is especially good. I have yet to try breakfast, which is next on my list to try, and salads, which isn’t because it’s a fucking salad.

The best thing about living so close to this place? I can buy whatever Thanksgiving sides I don’t plan on cooking this year. It’ll be chestnut and sage stuffing for my family.

Nov. 23, 2009

23 Nov

8:45 am

1 Korean red bean pastry

1 bottle of water

12:20 pm

India Sweets & Spices

#2 combination (2 vegetable curries, 1 side of raita, 1 side salad, 1 chapati, 1 papadum, 1 veggie samosa)

16 oz. Diet Pepsi

Ah, my first day of unemployment. Do you know what my lunch options are since I’m no longer limited to an hour? ANYTHING I WANT. As long as it’s not too expensive. I have a ton of extra cash sitting in my bank account from paid out sick days and severance. It is really tempting to buy a $45 lunch at Fogo de Chao right now. Or even the lunch buffet at a strip club. Usually, strip club lunch buffets consists of boxes of Domino’s Pizza that patrons can help themselves to. It’s about $20/person, excluding lap dances. Right now, I can afford to splurge.

But I probably should be more prudent. Who knows if I’ll be blaming the economy for a lack of income in 6 months. Last time I was unemployed was two years ago, and I had a rotation of cheap eats around my neighborhood I depended on. Today’s entry is devoted to one of them: the steam tray lunch counter at India Sweets and Spices. $5 gets you a tray with two choices of whatever vegetable curries is on hand. Today, I had cauliflower and green beans, and paneer (Indian cheese with a tofu-like consistency) and peas. Also included is a salad topped with an extremely pungent pickle that I honestly have no idea what it’s made out of, a very tart side of raita, a heaping scoop of rice and a really rubbery piece of chapati (flatbread). Oh, and a fountain drink with free refills. Is it any good? Well, it’s $5. And it’s a LOT of food. But it’s also a lot better than what it should be for that price. An extra $1 gets you a horribly leaden samosa and a papadum (chickpea cracker) that’s like an over-sized Munchos chip. Another $1 on top of that gets you a pretty good lassi (a yogurt drink) and kheer (rice pudding). They have even better food that’s not in steam trays, especially the South Indian specialties. But, I usually just go there with only $5-$6 in cash at lunch. One day, I’ll have enough to buy a $7 dosa.

2 pm

1 cup of Dreyer’s cookies n’ cream ice cream

6:45 pm

Pork mandoo (Korean dumplings)

2 cans of Diet Squirt

10 pm

1 bowl of Boo Berry cereal with skim milk

Boo Berry! This was a sweet going-away gift from my former co-worker Robyn. Boo Berry used to be in every supermarket along with fellow dark breakfast minions Count Chocula and Frankenberry. Now they’re all really hard to find, which is probably for the best. I mean, Boo Berry is mostly sugar. And it’s purple. It is one of the tastier cereals with fake marshmallows though. Fuck Lucky Charms and it’s smug leprechaun. Your cereal sucks, just like Notre Dame football. I have one general rule about cereal with fake marshmallows; don’t eat it unless it has your name in it. So for me, Boo Berry is perfectly acceptable. Especially at 10 pm.

EAT WITH JOE IS BACK! (on Nov. 23)

14 Nov

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I got laid off from Comcast recently. Conversely, David Zucker is going to be a new employee there soon. How this makes any sense, I have no idea. But I’m sure it’ll work out as well as programming Jay Leno five nights a week at 10 pm.

Now this won’t be a bitter Hollywood-insider blog written by a recluse who lives among 23 cats. No, this is a food-related blog, and I’m proud to announce that starting on Monday, November 23, after a 13-month break, EAT WITH JOE will make it’s return.

I have no reason for my long disappearance other than the fact that I got lazy. But now that I’m unemployed, I have to give myself something to do to not end up like John Wetteleland. I also think this blog will help with my goal of cooking more. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover some direction to my aimless life while I figure out how to make a bitchin’ boeuf bourguignon. Nora Ephron might even make a movie about my blog. That would be delightful.

OR, I’ll just think about cooking while I actually live off $1 menus and $5 foot-long subs and write about said cheap food and resulting bowel movements (You take away my $1 double cheeseburger, Burger King franchisees, and there will be unholy regicide). On a related note, McDonald’s* is bringing back the McRib on Nov. 30 after a three-year absence. Now the McRib is pretty gross. It’s random strands of protein bind together by some sort bbq-like sauce. In the underfunded Chicago public grade school I attended, we were served a poor McRib substitute three times a week. I’m pretty sure the sodium substitute in that thing led to unnaturally swollen facial glands that prevented me from reaching second base until the 7th grade. Nevertheless, I’m excited for the McRib’s impending arrival because this meat product hopelessly warped my tastebuds as a child and for that matter, my sense of nostalgia. It’ll be sold right after I polish off my Thanksgiving leftover. I think there’s going to be a really good poop story posted here on Dec. 1 as a result.

*I actually know the guy who plays Ronald McDonald at public functions and press events. We don’t call him Ronald McDonald, which is his clown name. His real name is Laffy Pants. Go figure.

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