Monday, January 30, 2012

Amazing Pork Chops

I have all these things I want to say (unrelated to my food), but I can't find the words to say them, so I'll keep this short and simple: I just made some of the best pork chops that I've ever had in my life and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Pork Chops!

2 thick cut Pork Chops

1 tbsp Honey
1 tbsp Orange Marmalade
2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
2-3 large pinches Cracked Red Pepper

Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Pour a tad of Olive Oil into a cast iron skillet. Toss on the Pork Chops and Salt and Pepper a little. While this is cooking, mix the Honey, Marmalade, Soy Sauce, and Cracked Pepper. Spoon the sauce on top, then flip the Chops and Salt and Pepper the new side a little. Spoon more sauce on top and finish cooking. Do not overcook the Pork Chops. Leave it a little pink on the inside. Seriously. Everyone overcooks Pork and it's a damn shame! Mine tastes delightful and it's not going to kill me. Serve with Pearl Couscous and Salad.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brats and Salad

Yesterday I drove with my friend and his wife to visit our other friend... and his wife. The guys and I (I, who is quite obviously a guy despite my currently silky smooth face) had our regularly scheduled "Man Day." We played video games all day. I completely and totally dominated at Hero Academy, available for the iPhone and iPad. It's like chess, but better. I'm so addicted.

I often become introspective and thoughtful when I've been around my friends all day, it's dark outside, and I've been drinking- not that I'd had a ton... just a 32 oz. Miller Lite (because sometimes is just hits the spot) and a Sam Adams over the course of an entire day... but the point being, I was feeling restless and frustrated and the ride home took over an hour.

At one point my friend made a wrong turn onto the wrong highway. He may have made multiple wrong turns, I don't know. I couldn't tell. Every couple miles I felt like it was deja vu; there was a Lowe's or Home Depot, some combination of McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC, Little Caesar's, Chipotle, Sonic, an AT&T store, maybe a Ross or TJ Max, some combinations of grocery stores, and a Walmart... it was just the same. One after the other. Nothing changes.

Last year I was eating lunch in the teacher work room (not a "lounge," seriously) with my coworkers when we got on the topic of Fuzzy's Tacos and how they're springing up everywhere. I said that I used to like them when I only knew about their Arlington location, but didn't think they were anything special anymore now that they're everywhere. She told me that I was a "food snob," and at the time I had to agree. The more I think about it, though, it's not that I'm a food snob per say (beer, yeah, probably), it's just that I don't want to see the same things everywhere I look. Quite honestly I like the way the food tastes at Fuzzy's, McDonald's, KFC, and stopped for a Cherry Limeade at every Sonic I saw on my first bike trip to keep me moving.

There's a fine line to walk, to be sure, and I definitely don't want to begrudge successful companies and franchises their success, but how do you balance the desire for something comforting and familiar with the desire to have things local and unique? Look around. Really, is this how?

At the bottom of this is a world- or at least a country- of vanilla. The same things everywhere. Even the local bar that I go to every Tuesday is one of two. They opened a second Pepe's Pizza when I was a senior. My favorite beer bar, the Flying Saucer, is one of fifteen scattered across six states, and my favorite Chicago pizzaria has two locations. It's a losing battle, and one that I'm clearly on the wrong side of, but there are already people who never go to a place that isn't one of many. How long until we're all those people?

My meal today was a Brat and Salad. It was good.

5 Brats
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Medium Onion
Garlic Powder


I didn't add any oil. I just sliced all the Onion and Green Bell, let it sizzle for a minute, and then plopped on my Brats until they finished cooking. Serve on a Wheat Bolillo Roll with a Pickle Wedge, Mustard, and Cheese. My salad had Cherry Tomatoes and a Hard Boiled Egg. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Maple Pecan Bacon Cupcakes

Happy Birthday Gourmet Apartment!!! I made it to one year. One year and over four thousand hits!!! This is the longest relationship I've ever had. And some people say I have a fear of commitment. Ha!

My second post ever? During the State of the Union address. What happened tonight? The State of the Mother Friggin' Union. Eh oh!

So what's changed in the past year? Not much. I'm still in the dead end job of preparing our youth for the challenges of the 21st century. I still enjoy beer more than is healthy. And I'm single, as usual. Whatevs. This year is going to be different. How do I know? I just made Maple Pecan Bacon Cupcakes (and Cake). Who said I can't bake?

The inspiration for concoction was a maple bacon doughnut I enjoyed on my bike trip last summer that I bought at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon.

It was pretty stellar.

I'd been struggling to find an appropriate way to celebrate both the Gourmet Apartment's birthday and America and I thought "birthdays have cakes... American's love bacon... cake... bacon... cake. bacon. MAPLE PECAN BACON CAKE!" With the help of the interweb I found the following website:

To make it worthy of the Gourmet Apartment I made the following tweaks:

Use only 1 cup of Maple Syrup. Cut the 1/2 c. Water to 1/4 c. Water and 1/4 c. Disaronno Amaretto. Ax the walnuts and use 1/2 c. Pecans in its stead. And most importantly, crumble in 8 long thick-cut slices of Bacon that have been cooked to a crisp.

Happy birthday Gourmet Apartment!!!! You've earned it!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chuka Idako

What's that I see? Baby octopus that shimmer ruby red? Red, red, ready to pop in my mouth like little legged candies of the sea? Mmmm...

I've scoured the web for recipes not willing to shell out $16.99/lb to the tidal forces of the Asian grocery store. All I've found are varied spellings for the dish and a person here or there paining to find a recipe. My Bible for all foodstuffs Japanese, "Japanese Cooking," doesn't mention it. Some Bible, eh? If it were the only Japanese cookbook you owned, you'd consider it your Bible for all foodstuffs Japanese, too. I found one recipe at:

But I can't help but feel like this person is way off on his/her quantities and ratios. Here's my take:

Chuka Idako [sic][???]

2 lb. Baby Octopus (bought prepackaged and frozen at the Asian grocery store)
0.4 c. Teriyaki
2 tsp. Bean Paste
1/4 c. Soy Sauce
2 large splashes Rice Wine
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
2 cloves Garlic
Large pinch Ground Ginger
1 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
Baby's handful Sesame Seeds which have lazily NOT been toasted
3 Green Onions
1 tbsp Chili Sauce

Mix all the stuff well as if you were making Korean Pork Belly. I know I'm on a bit of an Asian kick at the moment, but I feel like I've finally discovered the secret to cooking authentic(ish?) Asian food: marinate the heck out of it! And now I just want to make everything I've ever enjoyed and even some things I've never had before--- like Chuka Idako. Also, isn't it amazing how similar the words Idako and Idaho are, and yet... actually, I should stop here since Google translate doesn't even recognize the word Idako or Iidako. I have no idea what it is I'm trying to make, I just know it had better taste good.

That was a rather long tangent. Once you've marinated this thing for 3 or 4 hours, heat the remaining liquid- add a little water if necessary, and then steam/simmer (braise?) the Octopus for just a couple minutes until the tentacles curl like those of an anime monster around their body of their prey/love. Enjoy.

Or don't enjoy. These weren't that great. I think I overcooked them. They're not terrible, but it will be a slight bit of a chore finishing them...

***On a personal note, I'd like to pay my respect to Etta James. I've enjoyed her music for years, but only recently got back into her when Flo Rider remixed her Something's Got a Hold on Me into Good Feeling. That song either brought a smile to her face or sent her to her grave a few years too soon. Either way Etta James, I like your music.

***AND THE BUGLE'S BACK!!! I guess it didn't really go anywhere, but it's not gone! I still hold out a giant middle finger for Rupert Murdoch, but thank you John, Andy, and Chris for doing this for your fans!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Korean Pork Belly with Green Beans

Resolved: New Year's resolutions are not for me. Within a week of vowing to cook simpler meals, here I am making Korean Pork Belly with Green Beans, but before I get to that why don't I do a little recap of the year 2011 and my life:

2011 was a mixed year. I had a number of highlights, some clearly more important than others, but it all started with New Years in Colorado with my college friends. Afterwards I started this blog and online dating. I bought a racing bike and trained for the MS 150 and then rode my bike down the West Coast over the summer. I worked two beer festivals, helped brew at a professional brewery, and really began to master my technique. I attended Mardi Gras and Wurstfest. I saw my three living grandparents and all but one of my aunts and uncles, as well as the vast majority of my cousins. I was in my friend's wedding party, at his housewarming party, and at my other friend's housewarming party. My students dominated their state test and I applied to grad school. Okay, technically I didn't finish applying until five days into 2012, but I definitely got the ball rolling in 2011. I beat Batman Arkham Asylum and started following a half dozen of DC's New 52 comics. And... I brought Daxos into my life.

It wasn't a bad year to be sure, but I'm ready for 2012!

Korean Pork Belly and Green Beans

For the Green Beans:

1 lb. Green Beans
4 cloves Garlic
0.5 inch cube of Ginger
2 splashes of Soy Sauce
A small child's handful of Peanuts
Cracked Pepper Flakes to Taste
Sesame Oil

Cut off the ends of the Green Beans and steam them for just a minute or two. They should be bright green, but not soft. Chop the Garlic, Ginger, and Peanuts fairly small. Fry them in a small amount of Sesame Oil along with your desired quantity of Pepper Flakes. Add the steamed Green Beans along with the Soy Sauce. Stir Fry them to your desired consistency. I like it a little crunchy.

For the Pork:

***I only slightly altered the excellent recipe found here:

1 lb. Thinly Sliced Pork Belly

1 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Chardonnay
Pinch of Pepper

1.5 tbsp Ground Fresh Chili Paste (Sambal Oelek brand)
1 tsp Soy Bean Paste (Koon Chun Sauce Factory brand... I think)
4 tbsp Soy Sauce
4 tbsp Chardonnay
5 cloves Garlic
1 cubic cm Ginger
Pinch of Pepper
1 Onion
3 Jalapenos
Sesame Oil

Slice the Pork Belly into small pieces. Put in a container and sprinkle Sugar, Chardonnay, and Pepper top, mixing it well.

While this sits, splatter the Chili Paste, Soy Bean Paste, Soy Sauce, Chardonnay, minced Ginger and Garlic, and Pepper into a Tupperware container or something similar. Shake it like a Polaroid picture.* Slice the Onion into long slivers and the Jalapenos into thin round slices. Toss it along with the Meat mixture into the Tupperware and shake it again to mix everything. Let it marinate for a good three to four hours.

Then, stir-fry it in a little Sesame Oil until the Pork is fully cooked. This shouldn't take too long and the marinade will have tamed the Onion already. Serve over a bed of Rice with the Green Beans. If you like Asian food, you'll like this. I've always had trouble making Asian dishes, but this is spot on and delicious.

*Chef's note: this is my method of choice for mixing sauces or egg for an egg batter or scrambled eggs. My wrist doesn't need the exercise from mixing it with a fork or whisk, ladies, so this is much better.