Category Archives: Food

I like to eat. And cook.

In-N-Out Redux: Next Time, Maybe Lead With That

Back in 2010 I tried In-N-Out, and did not like it. There was nothing setting the burger and fries apart from those served at other fast food restaurants, except that it somehow felt greasier.

I ordered the fries “animal style” because I was told to. As it happens, that’s an awesome suggestion for people who want a fried potato casserole, but it’s less awesome for people who like to eat french fries. Today I figured out that it’s almost certainly not what the In-N-Out apologists in my various feeds wanted me to try.

Today I asked for “animal style” on a burger. Specifically, I said “double double animal style,” and attempted to adopt a tone that suggested I was an old hand at this, rather than someone who had not ordered food here in six years.

What arrived was kind of amazing, with a flavor I hadn’t had before, and I can totally see myself getting that burger again. I don’t know what “mustard fried patty” actually means, but I can taste the scorched mustard under the other sauces, and their combination with the extra pickles and the grilled onions was quite nice. It stuck to the paper it was wrapped in, but rather than hold that against them I chalked it up to ordering cheese-infused food from a place that wraps its food in paper.

But I’m now led to ask this question: why isn’t In-N-Out leading with that sandwich? Despite being made of essentially the same stuff you’d find in any burger joint, the animal style sandwich sets itself apart from other fast food offerings by tasting different. It’s the sort of thing that foodies at fancy restaurants might call a signature dish. It’s a menu item that will bring people back to your specific restaurant, assuming they like the dish, and want to put it into themselves a second time.

It’s not quite good enough to send me code-diving on a voyage of exploration deep into the In-N-Out menu, but I can now see why folks might do that, and how this pursuit would lead them to acquire the taste necessary to zealously insist that In-N-Out is the best. I don’t agree, but the double-double animal style is a tasty sandwich I’ll be having again.

Eggs non-Benedict, maybe Genoa?

Eggs Genoa
I’m not a food photographer. It tasted waaaay better than it looks here.

I woke up this morning having dreamed a recipe, and it turned out pretty good. Basted eggs over a bed of fettuccine with pesto and fresh basil. Ready?

  • 1 or 2 eggs.
  • Fresh (refrigerator-section) fettuccine
  • good bottled pesto
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • fresh basil, 1 or 2 leaves.
  • salt
  1. Start a pot of water boiling for the fettuccine.
  2. Break the eggs into a bowl so they’re ready to go.
  3. Chop up the basil leaves.
  4. Cut the fettuccine into 3rds or 4ths. Shorter noodles will work better here, but not SUPER short.
  5. Start boiling the fettuccine. Add olive oil. Now, be fast…
  6. baste the eggs in a non-stick pan using olive oil.
    1. it’s like fried eggs, exactly, except you don’t flip them.
    2. You cover them after they go into the pan, and let the steam cook the tops.
  7. Drain the pasta (the eggs are almost done. Hurry!) and fold in the pesto and the fresh basil. Toss it, and slap it onto a plate . No time for art!  The eggs. THE EGGS!
  8. Pull the eggs from the heat, and (assuming you’ve got good non-stick cookware and mad egg-basting skills) slide them straight from the pan onto the bed of pasta. Dead center, first try. Oh, yeah, you’ve got mad skills, this is going to be delicious.
  9. Salt the top of the eggs. Probably. I did.

Assuming your fridge is stocked the way mine is, and you have all the tools at hand, this meal takes about 5 minutes to prepare. This is important, because you don’t want either the pasta or the eggs sitting for more than a minute before serving. The pasta might go sticky and gummy, and the eggs might go cold.

Hot Cocoa Almond Deluxe

During the early part of this year I posted “Hot Cocoa, My Way.”

Here’s the concoction I came up with this morning. It’s more complex, but the basic principle is the same: start with cocoa powder, and go dark.

  • 1/2 c Hershey’s cocoa
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp Agave
  • 1 tsp Terva siirappi
  • 2 tbsp tar syrup liqueur.
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tiny sprinkle cayenne
  • 1 dash nutmeg
  • 1 dash salt
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 dash allspice
  • 3 cups Silk brand “light” vanilla almond milk.

Put the cocoa, sugar, agave, tar syrup, tar liqueur, and vanilla in a pot with 1 cup of the almond milk. Bring to a slow boil while whisking and stirring with one of these flat sauce-whisk thingies. Start slow so you don’t throw powdered cocoa everywhere. Once everything’s wet, go crazy. Foam is fine. You want it SMOOOTH.

Add the spices, and simmer until the alcohol in the liqueur and the vanilla has boiled off. Ten minutes? Dunno. With the exception of the cinnamon sticks and some foam, the stuff should be very, very smooth. If you have a silicone spatula, you’ll probably want to scrape the sides and whisk that stuff back in.

Mix in the rest of the almond milk, and gently whisk everything together. Let it stand so the cinnamon sticks can steep for a bit. The longer it stands, the cinnamonnier it gets. You can get some real bite to it if you’ve got half a day to kill.

When it’s done, it may be cold. Bummer. You can heat it back up on the stove, or just microwave it a cup at a time.

This stuff is *strong.* You may want to cut it with more almond milk, or even just water if you’re a real light-weight.

If you don’t have tar syrup or tar liqueur, you have my sympathy. I’m almost out of both, and I haven’t yet found anybody importing it (besides my friends from Helsinki.) You might be able to get by with a drop of liquid smoke, and more maple syrup. I know that’s what I might be reduced to in a few short weeks.

Arborianzo Fruit Salad

(I originally called this recipe “Arborio and Bean Fruit Salad,” but that sounded boring. So I did some word-melding, and tried “Garbanzarborio Fruit Salad,” but that sounded dangerous, and silly.)

Arborianzo Fruit Salad

I’m going vegan for a few weeks, and one of the things I need when I’m on any diet is the ability to reach into the cupboard or the fridge and quickly come away with an on-program meal. This usually requires some culinary hedge-wizardry, especially early on, because I don’t have the patience to live out of recipe books and advance planning for long.

My goal with this recipe was to arrive at a delicious fruit salad that had a source of protein, and to do so without chopping or cooking anything. I wanted the entire prep process to be “dump containers into Tupperware and stir.”

I missed that last mark, because I could tell I had too much fruit juice, and I didn’t want to lose it. Here’s the recipe, in “hedge wizard” format, which means you’ll need to come up with the ratios and specifics on your own:

Ingredients

  • Canned fruit in “natural juices” rather than syrup of any kind.  We’re avoiding added sugar, and it’ll screw things up later anyway. I used one can each of mandarin oranges, sliced pears, and chopped pineapple.
  • Canned beans. I suspect garbanzo beans will be best. They’re what I used. One can.
  • Fennel seed.
  • Cilantro. Fresh is always always always best, but I used dried, from a jar.
  • Arborio rice, dry. Probably about a cup. See below.

Prep:

  • Empty the canned fruits into a mixing bowl.
  • Drain and rinse the canned beans. Dump those into the mixing bowl.
  • Sprinkle fennel and cilantro into the mixing bowl. Both are pretty powerful, but over-doing the fennel is a bigger mistake than over-doing the cilantro.
  • Stir.
  • Strain the mixing bowl into a measuring cup.
  • Put half as much arborio rice into a pot as you have strained fruit juices. Put the juices in, too.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer on low, covered, for 18 minutes.
  • Dump the pot into the mixing bowl. Stir.
  • Refrigerate.

Results

All the nutrition from those cans (less the bean-water, which would be nasty here) ended up in final product. The juice from the cooked, canned fruit got cooked again, and absorbed by the rice, which is practically a dessert unto itself (but you know this, because when you took the lid off that pot you sampled some, and said “hey… that gives me an idea.”) The garbanzo beans have a mild enough flavor that what you’ll really taste in the fruit salad is the fruit, and the aromatic battle between the fennel, the cilantro, and the citrus. It’s a balancing act, because I think that if any of them actually win, you lose. They should fight in the bowl, and in your mouth, and your brain should argue about what it is tasting.

I don’t have specific amounts because I’ve done this exactly one (1) times, and the fennel seems a bit heavy. Also, I’m going to break the “all from cans” rule and chop cilantro next time. Fresh cilantro can hold its own against bottled fennel seeds. If I want to bring the citrus more fully into the fray I’ll need to actually zest an orange or a lime into this mess, and since I’m in a hurry that would definitely be going too far.