Honestly? I never thought my soda bread was anything special, but people kept telling me it was the greatest they ever had, hence my now embarrassing declaration that it was the world’s best. Don’t believe the malarkey.
The truth is that mine is not even the best in the region, as proven at the soda bread baking contest held March 9 at Albany’s Irish American Heritage Museum.
I was counting on there being few entries for such an obscure event, but couldn’t have been more wrong. In excess of 50 loaves were presented for judging — 39 of those in my category, the “not strictly traditional” class. Let me explain. It seems real soda bread, according to the rules, is very simple stuff:
White flour, buttermilk or sour milk, bread soda, and salt are the authentic ingredients used. NOTE: baking powder, sugar, eggs etc. may NOT be used.
If your “soda bread” has raisins, it’s not “soda bread! It’s called “Spotted Dog” or “Railway Cake”! If it contains raisins, eggs, baking powder, sugar or shortening, it’s called “cake”, not “bread.” All are tasty, but not traditional Irish Soda Bread!
So anyway, at least three of the non-traditional entries were superior to mine and I walked off empty handed, but the competition was certainly a good time, with many friendly people and more soda bread, spotted dog, and railway cake than you could possibly eat in one afternoon.
And in case anyone’s interested in my recipe, you can find it here. It’s not the world’s best, but not bad. I’ll post the winner’s recipes when those become available.
Is your calamari really calamari? That was the question on public radio show This American Life recently, when they investigated whether meat producers were packaging pork bung as “imitation calamari.”
The highlight of the story was a side-by-side taste test of real fried squid with pork bung prepared in the same manner. The conclusion? People couldn’t tell if they were eating delicious crispy calamari or delicious crispy pig ass.
Naturally, this got me hungry for some calamari.
There are a million calamari recipes on the internet, so you don’t need another one from me — especially if all I’m going to do what so many food bloggers do, copy a recipe and call it my own. Just use this procedure from Emeril Lagasse — and you can skip the “Emeril’s Essence,” which to me sounds as creepy as the phrase pork bung. BAM!
I prefer draining fried foods on a rack, rather than on paper towels.
This is easy to do this at home if you don’t mind dealing with a big vat of hot oil. A cast iron pot will work better for deep frying because it holds the heat. Also, if you like your calamari with marinara sauce that’s fine, but you can really get creative with dipping sauces like homemade mayo with garlic, Thai peanut sauce, or even just some sriracha.
Buy extra. I’ve never had any left over.
Anyway, back to the original point: pork bung. Are hog entrails really that much grosser than eating a squid. You ever look at a squid?
Our feelings about food, especially protein, are ruled by our culture and emotions. One man’s delicacy is another’s revolting nightmare. But dipped in a little garlic mayo, is anything really that bad?
I remember the afternoon that my freshman football coach, Mr. Redden, yelled at me, “Madeo! Do you want to be a lawyer?” This was after I tried to explain why I’d done something stupid like missing a block or forgetting a play.
To Tom Redden, high school gym teacher and officer in the Marine Reserves, a man who could climb the gym ropes upside down with his feet pointing at the ceiling, this was what lawyers did, stood there and tried to explain doing something stupid. And he didn’t really want to hear it.
But what he said struck a nerve. I stopped by my guidance counsellor’s office and borrowed his copy of the LSAT study guide. For a month or two I browsed through the thick book, trying to work through its complicated logic and reasoning questions. Eventually I kind of forgot about it.
The truth is, I never got much in the way of career advice, and that’s how I ended up working in TV. Fast forward to 2013.
Broccoli in garlic sauce is my go-to meal when it comes to Chinese takeout. I figure the healthful benefits of broccoli balance the oily goodness of the brown sauce and we come out even. Like most people, I shrug off what I find in fortune cookies, but this one took me aback. Suddenly, I was standing in the huddle at practice and Mr. Redden’s voice was echoing in my head. “Madeo! Do you want to be a lawyer?” Holy crap, did I miss something?
You can’t expect teenagers to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and maybe trying to talk to them about careers is a waste of time. But now it seems the only solid career counseling I ever had was from Mr. Redden and a fortune cookie. Better than nothing, I guess. Pass the soy sauce.
That’s what I thought at 7am when I saw the guy behind me at Price Chopper with a huge frozen turkey. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was sort of screwed, and the turkey sitting in his cart should probably already have been thawing for two days.
Truth is, you can cook a frozen turkey, at least according to the Iowa State University Extension. The problem with this is that dark meat always takes longer than the breast meat — and being frozen will make things worse — so there’s absolutely no way each will be edible. Which do you want to be cooked? It’s sort of like a Thanksgiving version of Sophie’s Choice — but I would probably not describe it that way to my guests while we’re sitting down to eat.
I was not there to buy a turkey, though, I was there for sweet potatoes — because it’s time to make my Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. We’re not hosting Thanksgiving this year, but we’re bringing this to my sister’s. I’m also dropping off a tray of it at a local shelter so some less fortunate folks will enjoy it on Thanksgiving.
This recipe, whose roots are in the deep South, is one of the most decadent things you can get away with serving as a main dish. It’s creamy, fluffy, and sweet — and you should be prepared to fight over the leftovers.
Three notes: don’t ever, ever, ever use canned sweet potatoes. Also, I favor baking the sweet potatoes rather than boiling. Where I’m sitting right now I can smell them in my oven. And of course, double the recipe.
Finally, if you’re frying a turkey please try not to burn your fu**ing house down. Happy Thanksgiving.
Where do you keep your nuts? In the attic, of course. Everyone I met in Romania would put up food like these walnuts for the winter: apples, potatoes, and jars of canned produce were in everyone’s house. And then there was the homemade hootch, of course.
But the most interesting food item we saw was a bag full of chicken feet. They were sitting on a shelf in the cool cellar and, frankly, they took us by surprise. After touring the basement we went upstairs and dug into a terrific lunch prepared by my wife’s cousin — a lunch that started with a bowl of steaming chicken soup. We don’t commonly do it here, but in much of the world you don’t throw away something that makes a delicious stock. Like chicken feet.
These fine wursts came from Rolf’s Pork Store in Albany and were served up during our Oktoberfest/Welcome Home from Afghanistan, Alex Celebration.
Personally, I think it works very well to heat them gently like this and then finish them on the grill — that way you can avoid overdoing it when browning them. What you don’t want is for them to split and lose all their wursty wonderfulness, so an easy hand is a big plus. Ein prosit!
Authorities in Oregon are investigating the death of a farmer who was — please put down your bacon for a moment — eaten by his hogs.
Coos County District Attorney R. Paul Frasier says that they are not sure how Terry Vance Garner, 69, died, but according to the Los Angeles Times, they do know what happened next:
Frasier said a family member discovered Garner’s body after he went out to feed the hogs and was not seen for several hours. Garner’s dentures were found in the pen. “Further searching of the enclosure revealed that Mr. Garner’s body was in several pieces, with a great majority of the body having been consumed by the hogs,” Frasier said.
Come to think of it, they do look hungry, don’t they?
Aside from assorted roadkill, the things I see most often along the road while running are banana peels.
The banana is a great snack for drivers: a piece of fruit encased in a disposable wrapper with a built in handle. It’s not a great idea to let a banana peel fester in your car, even for a few hours, so many of them go out the car window.
I think motorists who throw garbage out their car window are dirtbags, but something biodegradable? That’s not so bad — but folks, can we please try and pitch them off the pavement?
There are two reasons for this: the first and most obvious is the hazard they present to pedestrians, because everyone knows that people slip on banana peels. The other is that I suspect things like apple cores and banana peels may be attractive to critters. Could this be related to the roadkill? Very possibly.
No matter how committed you are to eating right, sometimes you just need to cut loose. I visited the New York State Fair over the weekend, and while it would have been very easy to make healthy choices, that would have been a complete drag — not just for me but for everyone around me.
Having resolved to eat my way from one end of the sprawling fairgrounds to the other, I set off.
The highlight? Deep fried pickles from a stand called Tiki Turtle. These came to us hot and crispy with a creamy dipping sauce. They were perfect — and I dare say somewhat healthy. After all, that’s a vegetable under the coating, right?
The worst thing I ate was a Philly cheesesteak from Santillos’s Sausage. There are two lessons to be learned: first, if “sausage” is in the vendor’s name, just order the sausage. Second, don’t get something called “Philly” in Syracuse. It was a soggy and bland mess, so awful that I could barely eat the whole thing. Continue reading “Stayed Too Long at the Fair” »