October 27, 2015

Caramel Popcorn Balls

It looks innocent, but those kernels will mess you up man
The Halloween times are upon us again. Which means it's time to misappropriate a harvest festival as an excuse to drink and party! And that also means drunk people will be angrily trying to defend their costume choice. Or the assertion that their costume is a costume at all. And finally, that means it's time for the annual fear-a-palooza that news stations run each year about people putting crap in candy to harm trick or treaters. Which has almost never happened in history. But that doesn't stop us from freaking the hell out and watching the news, which lets them sell more advertising! But don't worry about fictional poisoned candy this year, because this year you're going to be that super creepy guy in the neighborhood giving out creepy homemade treats. Why? Because they're awesome.


9 Cups of popped Popcorn
1.5 Cups Brown Sugar
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Standard-Issue Sugar
1 Cup Light Corn Syrup (No, this isn't the same as high-fructose corn syrup, and yes, you should actually use it. Unless you like grainy caramel and sadness.)
2 and 1/4 tsp of White Vinegar
3/4 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup of Butter
More butter
All of the butter

The first thing you're gonna need to do is take your popcorn, and dump it into a large pot or bowl. Wasn't that easy? Don't get used to it. Now combine your Brown Sugar, Regular Sugar, Corn Syrup, Water, Vinegar, and Salt in a sauce pan and get ready to not leave the kitchen for a while. Crank the heat up to around a medium-high, and, without stirring, move the pan around to combine the ingredients. And bring it to a boil. Oh, it's boiling? Good, now you get to freak out. Because it really really looks like you should be stirring it. But too much, or in some cases any stirring, will lead to crystallization, which leads to crappy foodstuffs, which leads to a life of depression and alcohol abuse, which leads to mixed dancing. So freak out, and maybe stir or maybe don't, but always feel guilty about it. For how long? Until your fledgling caramel reaches the "Hard Ball" stage. What the crap does that mean? It means that your mixture is between 250 and 265 degrees. Which is super useful if you have a candy/frying thermometer like me, and actually remember to use it....unlike me. For those of us without the financial or mental capacity to make our lives easier, we're gonna rely on the more archaic method. Drop a little bit of your mixture into some cold water. If it's at the "Hard Ball" stage, it'll form thick threads of sugary goodness, which you can pick up and form into a ball that maintains its shape when you set it down. Also, Keanu Reeves will be there for some reason.

Orr'Vill the Terrible, accepting tribute from his subjects
Once your caramel is playing hardball, turn the heat down to low, and add in your Butter. Stir it until it's fully incorporated, and then stir it a couple more times to make up for all of the pent up stirring you didn't get to express earlier on. Turn off the heat, and pour the goop on to the popcorn. Try not to spill any on yourself. Seriously. What's worse than burning yourself? Burning yourself with something sticky, that stays stuck to you and keeps burning you because it loves the way you taste, but wants you a little more well done. Once you've finished treating your burns and weeping softly in the corner, stir the caramel and the popcorn together and then let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Take some Butter, and lube up a cookie sheet, plate, or some other containment vessel. Also butter up your hands. Because this stuff is sticky. Form the popcorn goop into balls, and place it on your plate/cookie sheet/whatever. Re-butter your hands as necessary. And there you have it! Homemade treats that will creep out your neighbors, until they taste it, at which point they'll beg you for more. Assuming it hasn't pulled out all of their teeth. Maybe even then.

October 20, 2015

Hot Toddy

A rare look at the hot-tubbing habits of common ingredients
It has come to my attention that not everybody knows what a Hot Toddy is, and apparently these belligerent dissidents aren't willing to do their own googling. So here's what a Hot Toddy is: Awesome. It's a warm drink, traditionally made with some combination of Whiskey, Hot Water, Honey, and Spices. It's typically consumed on a cold day or rainy day, at night before bed, or whenever you feel like it because this is America, dammit. Even if you're reading this from some other country, the inherent America-ness of my willingness to drink an awesome drink whenever is, even now, permeating your computer and infecting you. That's the awesome power of the awesome power of the internet


1 Cup Standard Issue Water
2 tsp Honey
1 Slice of Lemon
1 Slice of Lemon Peel
3 Whole Cloves
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Shot of Whiskey (That's 1.5 ounces for those of you sad sad people who don't drink regularly enough to know the standard conversions for alcoholic measurements)
1 average-sized human's pinch of Nutmeg

Let's get one thing straight. The Hot Toddy has a couple different stories concerning its spelling and origin. I don't pretend to know which one is correct, but this one has a certain "truthiness" to me: There was an Irish doctor named Robert Bentley Todd who became famous for prescribing his patients a hot drink of Brandy, Cinnamon, Sugar-syrup, and Water. That's not in dispute. It really did happen. Whether that's the 100% indisputable origin of this drink and it's name, we may never know (it totally is). Now then, this recipe, like all of my favorite recipes, combines 2 important elements:

1)An awesome result that's not too hard to achieve
2)Giving drunk people the chance to accidentally hurt themselves with knives and fire. And if they're super drunk, with cinnamon sticks and cloves.

I'm pretty sure that just looking at this picture cured my
cold and got me over my last 3 breakups. 
The first thing you're gonna need to do is fill a small pot with your Water, Honey, Slice of Lemon (The actual lemon, not the extra slice of peel), Cloves, Nutmeg, and 1 Stick of Cinnamon. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, and let it cook together for about a minute. Turn the heat off, and let it sit uncovered for another 30 seconds or so to cool slightly. While your water is cooling, add the rest of your ingredients to a mug, or a teacup, or whatever it is you want to drink out of. Typically it's something with a handle because it's a hot drink, but if you've got the heart of a lion (gross), use whatever cup or bowl you'd like. Strain your water mixture by thrusting your hand into it, grasping the cinnamon, lemon, and cloves in your samurai fist, and removing them all within the blink of an eye. Or use a slotted spoon, like a communist. Either way, add the liquid in to your Whiskey-cup, and stir it with your second Cinnamon Stick. And enjoy! People say that these are a really awesome way to treat a cold. I don't know if there's medical science to back that up, but if you drink enough of them, you probably won't care about your cold anymore. You're welcome.

October 13, 2015

Scallion Pancakes

Note: Actual recipe may included no blueberries or cardboard
If you're anything like me, you hate paying too much for restaurant food that you can make better yourself. Also, you once carved "I messed with Texas" into a table at a rest stop...in Texas. The point is, sometimes, restaurant disappointment can be kind of like inspiration. You may have been served cardboard with a ketchup and sadness emulsion, but you ordered that crap because it was supposed to be awesome. Which brings me back to scallion pancakes, because they can be great. But more often than not, when I have them in restaurants, I end up more disappointed than 1990s Nicolas Cage having a vision of his future. So I'm taking what I wanted them to be, figuring it out, and making them myself. And that my friend, is the true meaning of Christmas.


1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup of Hot Water
8 Green Onions/Scallions/Spring Onions/etc. (Apparently, green onions have a stupid number of regional names, and no region wants to give theirs up so we can all call them the same damn thing. Probably because of Onion Politics,  with it's lobbying efforts, corruption, and stubborn stupidity. You know, like regular politics, just more delicious)
1 TBSP Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 tsp Salt
More flour
More Salt

More Ingredients! For a dipping Sauce, which is kind of superfluous, and therefore optional!

2 TBSP Rice Wine Vinegar
2 TBSP Soy Sauce
1 TBSP Sriracha (The concept of a dipping sauce with these is really an American development, so using an American hot sauce that's designed to taste eastern-ish felt...appropriate)
1 TBSP Sugar
2 Green Onions
2 tsp Crushed Ginger
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed

Woo! Sooooo many ingredients. But most of them are for the sauce, which takes like 25 seconds to make, so we'll ignore them for now. Take your flour and sift it in a bowl along with your Salt, using a sifter, a fork, knives, a whisk, or fear itself. You just want to break up the clumps, and aerate it a little bit. Then slowly add in your water, stirring as you go. You may not end up using all of your flour. You want the dough to just barely come together, but there shouldn't be any leftover flour sitting around, looking for a dance partner, striking out, and bringing the whole party down. Cover the whole thing with a moist towel, and let it sit for about 45 minutes. You can use this time to chop your Green Onions into itty bits! You're on your own for the other 44 minutes. Once the time has passed, cover a cutting board, counter, or other flat surface with flour, knowing deep in your heart that you'll never truly be able to get it clean again. Plop half of your dough onto your floured surface, sprinkle the top of it with flour, and knead the crap out of it for 5-10 minutes. If it still feels sticky, knead in more flour. Once you've done all the kneading that your dough needed (Puns!), roll it out as thinly as you can. Take half of your Toasted Sesame Oil, and smear it on the dough, and then evenly throw on half of your chopped Scallions.

Now comes the complicated bit. Take an edge of your flattened onion dough, and start rolling it up on top of itself, until your have a tube of dough. It should look kind of like everything you ever made out of Play-Doh as a kid. Then take that dough tube, and wrap it in a spiral around itself. Then roll it out again, this time about 1/4 of an inch thick. Got that? Because I'm not sure I do. Seriously though, roll up your dough into a dough snake, then make a dough spiral our of your snake, and then roll it flat again. It's not as bad as it sounds. If you can't figure it out, just fold your dough in half a couple times and then roll it out again. It's won't be as layered and flaky, but at least you won't be standing terrified in your kitchen, afraid to move for fear that I'll jump out of your computer and mock you (Which has only happened once, that I know of). Throw your Vegetable Oil into a pan on medium heat, lay in your fledgling pancake, and fry it for about 3 minutes on each side, until it's brown, crispy, and awesome. Put it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain, and immediately sprinkle it with an average human sized pinch of Salt. Then repeat this entire stupid process again with the rest of your flour, Oil, Scallions, and whatnot, while trying not to weep.

Like all fried foods, it's best eaten as soon as possible,
in one sitting, while stubbornly refusing to share
Once you're done weeping, it's time to think about the sauce. This type of food is served as a street food in places like China, and doesn't have a sauce. And it tastes awesome on its own. But in American restaurants, a dipping sauce usually comes with. So, for thoroughness and awesomeness, we're making one too. And it's pretty complicated too. Are you ready? Chop your Green Onions. Crush your Ginger and Garlic. Add them into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Stir. Feel free to read this paragraph as many times as you need to to get that down. And there you have it! Delicious, flaky, crispy, delicious bits of reverse-engineered awesomeness that you can take back to that original restaurant that wronged you and rub their dumb faces in it. Not literally. Probably.

October 4, 2015

Baked Burgers

Sadly, no delicious-looking pictures this week, because of
 travel,  and nonsense, and forgetting to take them. 
So it's getting colder outside. The days are getting shorter, and more filled with cold, rain, and maybe even snow. Boo-hoo. Are you gonna let that stand between you and delicious burgers? Is that what our ancestors hunted the buffalo to near-extinction for? Not in my America. But for those of you who lack the will of the warrior, and can't contend with the cold, I've got some delicious burgers that you can make in the oven to hide your shame from friends and family!


1 lb. Ground Beef
1 Egg
1/2 cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Ketchup
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Whiskey 
1 average human sized pinch of Salt
An unspecified amount of Oil

The most important thing about burgers is to drink beer while you cook them. That's how George Washington did it, and it's a tradition I'm proud to keep alive today (be glad we don't follow Ben Franklin's burger traditions). Once you've got this going, it's time to meticulously build our meat mixture for our burgers but by bit, carefully considering each level of flavor. Or just throw all the ingredients in a bowl and squoosh them together with your hands. That works too. Don't overwork the meat, for the obvious reasons (Because I said so. Also, to keep the texture awesome. Also...labor laws), just gently bring it all together. Which is hard, I know, because it's fun to squoosh ground meat, but just contain yourself. 

Artist's rendition of me demanding more burgers
Once your ingredients are mixed, it's time to form your burger patties. Separate your meat mixture into segments that are, roughly, 1/3 of a pound, and flatten them down into disks. Or, be super neurotic about it and use a scale to measure each bit out. Either way. A lot of recipes will tell you to heat up your pan in the oven so that the burgers will sear and lock in the juices. Which is gypsy nonsense. But searing does make some awesome flavors, so if you feel like it, grease up your pan with a thin coating of oil and stick it into your 350 degree oven for a couple minutes before throwing your burgers in. Cook them for about 10 minutes, flip them, and cook them for another 10 minutes. And that's it! Delicious burgers in any weather. Just shove them on a bun with your favorite burger toppings and enjoy. Unless you're one of those people who puts mayo on burgers. In which case you can't enjoy this, or probably anything else in your sad, over-mayoed life.