Thursday, July 13, 2017

I'm Still Here.... Just Not HERE

My few faithful followers have noticed that I don't post as much as I initially did, and even my food Instagram account has fewer postings these days. Let me explain why....

Obviously my Number One priority is Life --- The Boss and my family, my house, my career.

My hobbies are reading and cooking.

So with that in mind, as my career is "pivoting" (to use the industry term) and I am taking classes towards an additional degree, I'm able to utilize one of my hobbies as a practice arena for the skills I'm learning.

And guess what, folks, cooking isn't that hobby.

I still love to cook, and I still cook regularly, and will continue to do so. I just won't be blogging about it. I'll still pics to my Instagram account, I'll still scribble notes in my favorite cookbooks and into my own personal cooking log, but this blog is going on a temporary hiatus.

My other blog (http://classicsandcheese.blogspot.com) will focus more on books and less on movies in order to document, reflect, and highlight how I'm using these newly acquired skills in regards to books and reading, specifically data surrounding them, trends, sales, and other odds and ends.

So if you're really curious what I am personally up to, that is the place to go or you can visit me on Twitter (MichaelPeeples1). If you came here for the food, well, sorry, that's going to be a long wait. I will post from time to time - I have every intent of keeping this blog online for future re-activation, but at the moment it takes last place on my list of priorities.

Hope to see you around.

Until Next Time...
Busily Yours,
Michael

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Southwest White (Chicken) Chili


For someone who claims to be a pizza guy, I sure write a lot about chili, don't I?  This time it's Chicken Chili, and this time, I learned a lot.

The Boss was craving a good bowl of white chicken chili. I had seen it before, tried canned versions once or twice, but wasn't particularly fond of it because, as I recall, there seemed to have a sweetness about it I think doesn't belong in chili. But I was willing to give it a go anyway for two reasons.

  1. First, The Boss requested it, and the goal of any cook is to make foods their family and friends like and want to eat. 
  2. Second, with all my talk and exploration of chili recipes, this was logically something I needed to attempt.

I combed my cookbooks, looked online, and eventually found the consensus ingredients that most recipes had, then used that as my groundwork.  and worked from there. One ingredient that surprised me in the numbers of times it was mentioned and included was jalapenos. Some recipes said to buy and mince one or two per pound of chicken, others said to just slice them but remove the seeds, and a handful said to drain the ones found in a jar. I decided to use fresh peppers in line with the old adage that fresh ingredients are always best.

Yes, yes, I know most chili is supposed to have heat, but I didn't think white chili traditionally does, and in this case, I should have modified the jalapenos suggestion. The Boss loved the overall flavor, including the flavor the jalapenos added, but the heat over-powered the chili. This was despite the fact that I had removed all the seeds. The only thing that occurs to me is that I didn't remove the inside rind of the peppers which is where at least half (some say more) of the heat comes from. And while I may love heat,many only want a moderate level, so in the future, I know to go easy on the jalapenos (if at all), and have each person add their own hot sauce as desired.

Needless to say, this version of the chili offered up the excuse to drink plenty of beer, and like always, I am determined (some would say stubborn) enough to give this another go soon.

And just now I'm hit with a bit of stray inspiration - chili dogs. Has anyone ever tried white chili dogs?

Now that sounds like a challenge.

Until Next Time....
Heatedly Yours,
Michael    

Monday, March 6, 2017

Crispy Salt and Pepper Shrimp - An Experiment

There are two Chinese buffet joints near my office downtown. One is only a couple of blocks away and is relatively cheap. The other is nearly three times as many blocks away and runs about five dollars more per plate. The price reflects the quality of the food at both places. Needless to say, a majority of times, my lunch friends and I go to the cheap place.

Unfortunately though, the cheap place doesn't have one of my favorite Chinese fares  - Crispy Salt and Pepper Shrimp.


The first time I tried it, I was a little taken aback, but instantly relished how wonderful it was. Crispy shell-on shrimp, bit of salt, pepper, and a tad bit of heat from the jalapenos.

I didn't know how they did it, but I knew that I wanted to learn how. And I knew I wanted other Chinese restaurants to offer it as well.  And again unfortunately, scant few do.

A jack-pot moment came when American's Test Kitchen featured Crispy Salt and Pepper Shrimp on the show with an actual Chinese chef immigrant who couldn't understand why we Americans didn't eat shrimp this way all the time. Apparently, in Asian countries, the idea of peeling shrimp seems more than a little odd, and she said it took her a while to get used to seeing these "little pink curly things" we call peeled shrimp. To traditional Chinese chefs, peeling shrimp is the equivalent of putting ketchup on a hot dog.

With an excitement I could barely contain, I gathered the ingredients and followed the recipe (it's available free online from ATK). Once they were finished I happily dug in and thoroughly enjoyed this new weapon in my repertoire.

There are a couple lessons from this:
1. Cook them in small batches, don't do an entire pound all at once. This way you can keep a better eye on them and make sure they get done evenly
2. The shrimp shell can sometimes get caught in your teeth like when you're eating popcorn;
3. It's best to eat them all in one setting, if you put them in the fridge overnight, they pick up moisture and lose their crispness.

Crispy Salt and Pepper Shrimp is just one of many examples of Americanized versions of Chinese dishes. Of course, a ten-minute Google dive will reveal a lot more. Most Americans with an IQ above that of a kitchen chair are probably already aware that "Chinese" food is Americanized, but what they may not realize is that nearly all of the dishes were invented in America.

Until Next Time...
Here's an amateur video from the son of two Chinese immigrants who refused to allow him to eat at the Americanized restaurant they owned. Why? Because it wasn't authentic Chinese.

Shrimply Yours,
Michael

Thursday, February 16, 2017

War Among the Foods

We've all been there - at a party, social gathering, friendly backyard BBQ, and somebody brings up the topic. Maybe just a casual mention, maybe even a shared secret, but soon all hell erupts.

No, I'm not talking about politics or religion. I'm talking about food.

Someone will mention sauerkraut, or anchovies, or pork rinds, or Miracle Whip, or god-forbid SPAM. Maybe an adult will put ketchup on their own hot dog, instead of just the kids'. 

And before you know it, chaos in the form of a mob as sides are chosen and the shouting begins. 

"My Gawd, you actually eat that stuff?" or "Why do you care what I put on my hot dog? I like what I like, you damn food elitist." or "If you'd just TRY it the right way, you'd find you like it better than your way."

I must confess, I'm guilty of that, from both sides of the debate. Sometimes The Boss teases me when I use mayo instead of mustard on certain sandwiches, and I'll grumble that she should just let me eat what I want. Moments later though, I'll try to publicly humiliate someone who puts ketchup on their hotdog. (But honestly, who over the age of 12 puts KETCHUP on a hot dog??!!)     

The point is, like politics or religion, sometimes food is something that shouldn't be discussed in public. That's kind of a hard topic to avoid though at a patio party. Certain foods are a divider of people, and like other topics, the sides have been drawn up and everyone has a preference.
  
Sauerkraut - love it or hate it.
SPAM - love it or hate it.
The list goes on...

Which reminds me of one final question: This summer, will you be "BBQ'ing" or "grilling"?

Until Next Time...
Here's a video put together by a hot dog expert asking the people of Chicago their opinion of ketchup on hotdogs.

Divisively Yours,
Michael

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

McRib Marketing - BUSINESS

Ever wonder why McDonald's only offers the McRib during the Christmas shopping season?

Well, I wonder why they chose the Christmas season, but I don't wonder about their tactics.

Some say it's meat availability. An informal 2011 study called "A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage" claims it has to do with the price of pork in the months prior to McDonald's offering of the sandwich. I won't dispute that. I can't say I've ever paid any attention to the market prices of hogs, so it could be true.

But in all honestly, we all know it's one reason --- scarcity creates demand.

A mythology and cult following have sprung up around the McRib. Many moons ago the McRib was just another sandwich among the numerous offerings on the McDonald's menu. In an effort to cut costs, the restaurant chain eliminated many sandwiches, the McRib being one of them. There was a mild public outcry, but McDonald's didn't bend. Instead, they waited...

Years later, they reintroduced it on a limited basic, gambling that its fans would flock to the restaurants to order it. They were correct. The demand sky-rocketed, so when the time period expired, they pulled it off the market again until the next year.

What McDonald's learned was that if the sandwich was on the menu all the time, it lost its allure. But if they created a "limited-time" identity, a culture of McRib-addicts would flood their establishments. -- By the way, this is the same strategy Disney uses for selling its classic movies, except they use the terminology "returning it to the vault" which allows them to charge twice as much for the same movie as they normally would.

Of course, the official McDonald's statement on this is slightly more "politically correct." :  "We like to change up our menu throughout the year by offering some limited time only items, like our Shamrock Shake in the Spring."

But does it really matter? In the end, every Christmas season I treat myself to a few McRibs with large fries (of course). It's become a bit of a tradition. People try to discourage me - not clear why they care - but I go and enjoy myself just the same.

Your local McDonald's may still have it on the menu and if you haven't had one yet, better hurry, you're running out of time, 11 months is a long time to wait for this hunk of fast food deliciousness.

Until Next Time...
If everyone tries to tell you how fake the McRib is, here's a short video to dispute that claim.

Ribly Yours,
Michael

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

True Innovation vs. Gimmick Hamburgers

Those of you who watch food or travel channels may have come across this show, or other shows like it, but recently I caught an airing of The Travel Channel's "Greatest Hamburgers of America."

I find these shows intriguing, entertaining, but mostly irrelevant. And they always leave me wondering who came up with the list, what their biases were, and how much research they actually did.

As I watched this particular Travel Channel show, though, I noticed something about many of these hamburger joints. Many of them weren't making "great" hamburgers, they were making ridiculous ones. Let's be honest, slapping an incredible amount of toppings on a patty of hamburger doesn't make it a great hamburger, it only makes it a pile of food with a piece of bun on top and bottom. Throw on the spaghetti noodles, popcorn shrimp, pulled pork, vienna sausages, etc. etc., doesn't matter, I'm not impressed. And if it's impossible to pick up or to take a bite of, then it's even less a hamburger, i.e., it's a marketing gimmick and nothing else. No culinary genius involved.

But if it's a hamburger you can pick up, take a bite of, and enjoy a unique combination of flavors that work in conjunction together, then that is true innovation, and should be lauded. 

I've listed below the fifteen restaurants The Travel Channel show featured. Each one has it's own website if you'd like to check them out, and I've made a few notes along some of them that illustrates the point I made above - there is a difference between Innovative and Gimmicky

Greatest Hamburgers in America
15. The Brindle Room - New York, NY
14. The Cowfish - four locations along the Southern East Coast - serves Burguish, a combination of sushi and hamburger, the signature entree of the Cowfish
13. Casper-Runyon's Nook - St. Paul, MN
12. Rockit Burger - Chicago, IL
11. Butcher and The Burger - Chicago, IL - regionally famous for their bison burgers. I've had bison burgers before, so I'd be curious to try one of theirs to see what distinguishes it from bison burgers available in many other restaurants.
10. Shooting Star Saloon - Huntsville, UT - Utah's oldest operating saloon and grill, famous for it's  knockworst burger
9. The Oaks Gourmet - Los Angeles, CA
8. Old Homestead Steakhouse - New York, NY
7. Lindy's on 4th -  Tucson, AZ - 10-inch tall burger; one of those I mentioned above, just a pile of ingredients thrown on a hamburger patty with some bread buried in there somewhere.
6. Grease Burger Bar - West Palm Beach, FL
5. Mission Bowling Club - San Francisco, CA
4. Louis Lunch  - New Haven, CT - claims to have invented the hamburger sandwich. I have no reason to dispute their claims, but the first time I heard the story, it reminded me of the story of how Chop Suey was invented - stranger(s) walk in, ask for something the restaurant doesn't serve, but the owner aims to please and invents a new food. This place also prides itself on no ketchup and all burgers are served on bread, not buns.
3. Dyer's - Memphis, TN --- this place also finished #3 on Playboy's A-List of America's Top Ten Burger joints. Attributes its delicious burgers to the agelessness of its grease, which is strained and reused daily since 1912.
2. Outlaws Cafe - Van Nuys, CA - this place also prides itself on no ketchup. They also don't allow knives to be used to cut the burger. Their specialty burger involves blue cheese and bacon
1. Lunchbox Laboratory - Seattle, WA - this place is famous not only for their tasty burgers, but for their mind-blowing shakes as well.

Locally, I've not nearly come close to hitting all the hamburgers joints in the St. Louis metro area, so my current choice of best hamburger in the region may one day be revised, but after nearly twenty years here, the best hamburger in the area actually comes from a roadside pub called The Defiance Roadhouse located in Defiance, Missouri, along Hwy 94. They keep it basic, without the need to gimmick the meal up with crazy names or impractical ingredients. If you ever find yourself in Eastern Missouri wine country and are craving a hamburger, the Roadhouse is the place to stop.

Until Next Time...
Here's a short video where the current ownership of Louis Lunch tells their story of the invention of the hamburger. I've also include a Man v Food video where Adam Richman visits Louis Lunch to taste it for himself.
No-Gimmickly Yours,
Michael  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Money Grabbing lawyer sues Popeyes

You may have read my blog last week about the little old woman suing Kentucky Fried Chicken. If so, you'll be happy to know that the craziness is contagious.

A professional lawyer is now suing Popeyes because he choked on a piece of chicken.

Seriously, you just can't make up this stuff.


His stupid claim is that since Popeyes didn't supply him with a plastic knife in his take-out order, he was forced to eat his beans and rice with a spork and his chicken with his hands!! (insert gasp here)
 
This about as valid as the woman suing Jimmy Johns because they put mustard on her sandwich. (gasp again).

I'm guessing this lawyer isn't doing so well in his law business so he's seeking out an alternate form of income. Or else he was so embarassed over nearly choking himself to death, he decided to take his anger out on someone. 
 
The only other thing that I can think of is that the people I've mentioned have made a habit/trade/practice of suing anyone and everyone. Serial suing is something that enough people have done that it's become recognized as a condition. They've sued their friend, neighbors, employers, and complete strangers over the slightest of grievances and will continue to do so.

The comment by a former Popeyes employee best sums up my thoughts about the lawsuit. It's a little piece of advice that our mothers gave us growing up:
“If you choke on your chicken and you have to get the chicken removed from your throat, it’s not because Popeyes didn’t supply a knife in the box. Maybe you should slow down eating.

I can only hope that some sane judge will throw this case out before Popeyes throws up its hands and writes this guy a check just to get him to go away and find his next victim.

If you get food poisoning, or fall and break an arm or leg, that's one thing, file a suit. But if you're not properly chewing your food and choke - it's your own damn fault.

Until Next Time..
Here's a short video about a couple's first trip to Popeyes --- SPOILER ALERT: They eat with their hands and don't choke due to the lack of a plastic knife.
Disgustingly Yours,
Michael