On the sixth and foodiest episode of the Reducer Podcast; the guys make themselves and everyone within earshot painfully hungry when they break down the best bar foods of the 68 schools in the NCAA basketball tournament.
In addition to the news and a new Feast or Famine segment, topics include beef tongue being trendy; Jack in the Box’s new food truck; Pepsi’s new bottle; Cliff Huxtable’s bacon burger dog; Joe defends Texas (again); Halal Bacon; BBQ plans and fantasies for the summer; and the announcement of the Reducer Picnic challenge (better name pending).
As mentioned in episode five of the Reducer Podcast; Mrs. Headchef and I recently attended the Sip & Savor tasting event at the W Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. The Twin Cities iteration of the W opened up the three bar/restaurants on the premises of the Art Deco Foshay Tower for what amounted to an upscale pub crawl.
We’ve stayed at the W once before for our anniversary, had a cocktail at the Prohibition Bar on the top floor, and spent many a birthday at Manny’s Steakhouse before this event, so in the interest of full disclosure, we admit we were already fans of the place.
The attendees were split into three “shifts”; with each group of about 30-50 people alternating between the three venues for roughly half-hour periods. Our shift began at Manny’s, a place we were already intimately familiar with (Best Damn Steakhouse in Minnesota).
The offerings from Manny’s were simple and delicious. Two wines (a Pinot Grigio and a Merlot) which were both perfectly serviceable, and a selection of their more esteemed menu items. These included Mac & Cheese and lardon-style bacon pieces (neither of which I tried, but Mrs. Headchef swore by) sauteed mushrooms (delicious) and “Bludgeon Bites”; generous pieces of Manny’s signature Ribeye steak “The Bludgeon of Beef”. Ribeye is easily my favorite cut of beef; but there are ribeyes and then there’s the bludgeon; which is less a piece of meat than a tribute to the steak that busted Fred Flintstone’s car.
It was tough not filling up on perfectly cooked and seasoned steak, but before long we were ushered into the Living Room, where we had never been before the event.
The first thing you realize about The Living Room is that the emphasis is much more on cocktails than food. The food provided was tasty, to be sure, but relatively low-key with a cheese platter, slightly upscale pigs in a blanket (both of which I skipped, but Wifey dug the sausages) and what were called Kobe beef sliders, but were really just hot beef sandwiches on little buns. They tasted great, but on a serious note, the name “slider” means a White Castle or Krystal style hamburger- as in a ground meat patty- not pulled brisket, potato sticks or fish heads.
Anyway… Like I said; the drinks are the main atraction at The Living Room
$295 for a bottle of Grey Goose? Does it lay golden eggs?
Don’t let the ridiculously marked-up hotel prices on the bottles sway you either. Ignore the bottle service altogether and go for the cocktails, which during Living Room’s happy hour are actually a great value for downtown. The two signature cocktails we tried during the Sip ‘N Sample were the Bluphoria and the Epiphany.
The Bluphoria featured Stoli Blueberry, St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur, lime juice and fresh blueberries. It was tasty, drinkable and highly girlie. If I had drank more than one; I might have grown an ovary.
The Epiphany, on the other hand was a much more sophisticated affair.
The St. Germaine took center stage for this drink; along with Grey Goose pear vodka, champagne and an edible orchid bud. This was a drink for the grown and sexy, and the first one where I went back for another round.
Before we knew it we were herded upstairs to the top floor of the Foshay tower where the Prohibition Bar is located.
Here’s where things got a little sketchy. First off; the only two food items available at this stop were sushi (which they quickly ran out of) and Thai-style shrimp (which would kill me if I ate them. Lousy anaphylaxis.). Maybe they had more at some point; but by the time our group got there they were pretty much out of food.
Further compounding this problem was that the better of the two drinks they offered, a Prarie Vodka and citrus based cocktail called The Perfect Pair, disappeared without my getting a second one or Mrs. Headchef getting a first. I hate to complain, but the sudden evaporation of good food and drink was even more pronounced due to the fact that the following monstrosity was the only thing they had left…
Right city, wrong borough.
This is the “Local Manhattan”; although its flavor profile and liquor content has more in common with a Long Island Ice Tea. The major crime this cocktail is guilty of is being made with RASPBERRY BOURBON. That’s berry-flavored whiskey; a crime so heinous it caused me to send out an angry tweet.
Out of protest; I drank three of them.
Despite the missteps of The Prohibition Bar; all in all it was a fun experience. We ate a decent amount of good food, met some neat people and sipped some tasty cocktails (And one awful one. Seriously. Raspberry bourbon?). We must have liked it, because after the official event was over; we went back down to the Living Room to knock back a few Perfect Pairs, some champagne and, of course, tequila shots.
On the latest and largely food-related episode of the Reducer Podcast; the guys sample three kinds of sugar water imported from the exotic foreign land of Detroit.
Somewhere on their journey through the liquid rock candy mountain; Jawn, Brian and Joe discuss Guy Fieri’s stolen Lambo; Drinking soy sauce; Midwestern prejudice towards fried chicken and waffles; Grape Malt liquor; a wine tasting at the W Hotel, Brian’s Red-Vines self abuse; Elderflower liqueur; Cake vs. Pie; Family Meal; eating baby food and a lengthy examination of the mother sauces.
Just because you never worked at an overrated Cuban restaurant for a couple of years doesn’t mean you can’t be taught how to make Cuban food yourself. The fact that you don’t have to unlearn many of the dirty shortcuts you would have been taught means you have a slight advantage over me.
In the years since I worked at redacted, I’ve had to research the more traditional techniques and flavors that Cuban cooking requires. It’s not that it’s particularly difficult or challenging; it’s just my restaurant experience left me with the false impression that Cuban cuisine could come entirely off the back of a Sysco truck and still be considered tasty and authentic.
Most of South Minneapolis still suffers from this misconception. (burn)
Real Cuban food, made with fresh ingredients and attention to detail, is delicious, filling and usually cheaper to prepare for large groups of people than a lot of other cuisines. One of the cornerstones of Cuban food is pork roasted in garlic and lime juice.
Since I’m a reasonably observant Jew, I don’t eat pork anymore, but I still use the same technique for turkey and chicken that I would for pork. The result is equally delicious, moist and versatile as the original, without all that nasty swine.
If you dare question the authenticity of cooking poultry in this style, please note that Jews have been in Cuba since at least 1493, and have been cooking chicken and turkey in this manner for almost as long.
So below I have your chicken recipe; plus some notes on the required sides to this dish (black beans, rice, mojo criollo, fried yuca) and more.
You’re going to need the following:
For the Poultry:
Either: 3 Chicken Breasts (split into 6) or 2 large Turkey Breasts (split into 4). Both must have skin & ribs intact.
1 head of Garlic, peeled and chopped
2 cups Lime Juice (preferably fresh, but if not, use the bottled Key Lime juice)
1 1/2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon dried Oregano
2 Bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
For the Mojo Criollo:
8 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped.
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sour orange juice or 1/4 cup sweet orange juice and 1/4 cup lime juice.
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (preferably Spanish)
1 teaspoon salt.
Preheat your oven to 375°
Rinse and pat dry your chicken breasts. Arrange them in a deep roasting pan so that they aren’t overlapping too much.
Sprinkle with salt and cumin.
Pour your lime juice into the pan. Then sprinkle the garlic, oregano and bay leaf evenly over the surface of the chicken.
Carefully pour the olive oil all over the chicken making sure the garlic/herb mixture gets a decent coat of it. Tightly cover the pan with foil and roast in the 375° oven for 1 & 1/2 hours.
You’ve pretty much got the hardest part out of the way; so consider some sides…
Make one package of dry black beans according to instructions. When fully cooked; do the following:
Saute 1 medium onion, 1 green pepper (preferably a Cubanelle) and 6 cloves of garlic in 1/2 cup olive oil.
When fully sweated add 1/2 teaspoon of oregano and 1 crushed bay leaf
Stir that around a bit more, then add the mixture to your cooked beans with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon bouillon seasoning*.
Heat the seasoned beans back up slowly, and they’re ready to serve.
Serve with medium grain white rice.
*The bouillon is optional if you have a complex about MSG, but at this point in history it’s pretty authentic.
Okay; if it’s been an hour and a half; check on your chicken. Pull the foil off that bad boy and baste the surface of the chicken with some of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat up to 400°. Put it back in the oven for another 45 minutes to an hour.
You should let all your mojo ingredients sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Right before you’re ready to serve; heat the 1/2 cup of olive oil on medium-high in a medium sauce pan. When it gets very hot (but not smoking) throw in the other mojo ingredients and stir quickly with a wooden spoon (watch out for splattering).
That’s it. You’ve made mojo. Now when you serve your Cuban food you can dump that stuff on all your sides. As a challenge to you the reader; I’m only going to list them until you DEMAND FROM ME THE RECIPES! The meal just won’t be complete without:
Boiled or Fried Yuca (cassava)
Twice-fried Plantains (tostones)
A simple salad of Avocado, Grapefruit and Red Onion
All of these should get a healthy dose of mojo, but if you take the cowards way out and opt not to make them, you can always dump that mojo on your chicken…. Which should be ready by now.
This is about what your chicken should look like when it’s done. There are two schools of thought on what to do next; and either one will work depending on your immediate purposes:
Let the chicken cool for just a few minutes then shred it with a pair of meat forks until it’s all a big mess of shredded chicken and saucy goodness. You can pick out the bigger bones; but expect that your diners will do some of that work themselves. This is the technique you want to employ if you’re serving it up on a platter with rice and beans. OR…
Let the chicken cool for an hour; then pull it apart by hand (wear some rubber gloves for this part, please) taking extra special care to remove all the little rib bones. This technique is perfect if you’re going to use the chicken in tamales, empanadas or sandwiches.
With all that rice, beans and chicken; you’ll probably be full for a couple of days. But unless you’re feeding a squad of partisan guerrillas, you’ll probably have some chicken left over.
In addition to begging me for the secrets of yuca and plantain (one’s easy, the other is potentially toxic if you make it wrong) if you want to make the best use of your leftover chicken; you’re just going to have to come back to Reducer and learn how to make one of these bad boys:
In Episode 4 of the new & improved Reducer Podcast; the guys hit their sophomore slump at full speed with a load of new segments, news, cooking stories and dry, painful-sounding coughs.
The Hack of the Week segment returns, and Jawn challenges Joe and Brian to each develop a recipe off the top of their heads. Topics include McDonald’s regional cuisine, SF food truck controversy, female sushi chefs, Brian’s Red Vines experiment, flavored whiskey, cocktails with a toast back, the glory of the turbo-wok and much, much more.
NOTE: This was recorded three days before the tragedy in Japan, in case you’re wondering why we’re talking about sushi for ten minutes without bringing up earthquakes or tsunamis.
Warning: Explicit Language. Not suitable for adults.
If when you hear the word “Menudo”, all you can think of is the Puerto Rican boyband where Ricky Martin got his start, I feel deeply sorry for you. In reality; Menudo is a rich Mexican soup of beef tripe and hominy that doubles as both a common wedding recipe and hangover cure (typically for the morning after the wedding party).
Growing up in the Southwest and visiting Mexico frequently with my parents; I had my share of menudo and pozole (another hominy stew) without ever realizing what it was I was eating. It wasn’t until my late teens, when I was hired to videotape a shotgun wedding for some distant relatives, that I had a menudo experience that made an impression on me.
The wedding was between the daughter of WASP’s from suburban Minnesota and the son of Mexican migrant workers. Beyond the hilarious contrast of a wedding party split between uptight white people in their Sunday best and the shabbily-dressed but otherwise clean and well-coiffed lettuce pickers; there was the contrast in the kitchen between cheese-drenched enchiladas, packet-seasoned ground beef, taco pie and, well, actual Mexican food.
I smartly avoided the shredded cheese nightmare of the gringos and ended up spending most of the day nursing bowl after bowl of homemade menudo. It was tangy and red; full of pieces of tripe, hominy and pork that seemed to have been simmering since before the bride and groom had been engaged. With a squeeze of lime and a liberal handful of cilantro floating around in the soup; the contrast of spicy, fatty, meaty, gamey, tangy and astringent was so complex and delicious, that to me it tasted like Mexico in a bowl (Northern Mexico anyway).
Years later when I was living in San Diego; Menudo was readily and cheaply available at all the best taco stands. As I was typically hung over almost every day I lived there; I can vouch for the fact that its restorative properties are equal to (and often exceed) that of the typical tomato juice based cocktails of which I am so fond of for abetting my detoxification.
In the last three years since I’ve stopped eating swine I’ve eaten plenty of tripe, but have avoided ordering menudo because it almost always is made with pigs feet as a base for the stock.
Luckily for me; cows have feet too.
If you’re squeamish about tripe; don’t be such a wuss. It’s a delicious and underutilized part of the cow with a texture similar to fun noodles, that stands up very well to strong flavors and spices.
You’re going to need the following:
2 lbs Beef Tripe, thoroughly rinsed and chopped into 3″ squares
2 lbs Beef Feet, thoroughly cleaned and split lengthwise (ask you butcher to split them if they don’t come that way)
2 oz. Tequila (reposado or añejo) and a couple more for the cook.
3 oz. Dried Ancho Chiles
1 Head of Garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
2 Teaspoons ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Whole Peppercorns
30 oz. can White Hominy, drained
16 oz. can Yellow Hominy, drained (If you’re making this for Texans; sub the white hominy for another 30 oz. of yellow)
2 Bay leaves
Mexican Oregano (Absolutely no substitutes for this)
Put your cleaned tripe and beef feet into a large stock pot and put in enough cold water to just cover them. Add your tequila and bay leaves and bring the pot to a boil, uncovered.
Strangely enough; boiling cow stomach makes your whole house smell like cow burps. There’s really no avoiding it, but here are a couple of tips for dealing with it:
Make it outside (That’s how it’s typically done in Texas)
Open your windows for first four hours of cooking.
Invest in some incense or scented candles.
Get used to it.
Once boiling; skim the scum from the top and reduce™ the heat to medium-high so that the liquid is just between a simmer and a boil. Partially cover with a lid so steam can get out; and let the tripe simmer for at least 4 to 6 hours.
In the meantime; soak your dried chilies in enough hot water to cover them for about 25 minutes or until they get soft.
Drain the soaked chilies (reserving the liquid) and remove the seeds and skins from them using a knife. If you are an incredible bad-ass who lives dangerously; do this without rubber gloves. Otherwise- you better don some protection there, J.P. Prewitt.
Once you’ve thoroughly seeded the chillies; throw them into a food processor with your salt, peppercorns, garlic cloves and cumin.
Adding a little bit of chili water at a time; puree the mixture until it forms a beautiful red paste like this:
After about 3 hours of simmering; your soup should be ready for the addition of the chili mixture. Go ahead and stir that in; then let it simmer for another couple of hours.
There’s a little bit of gray area here. 6 hours should be a minimum guideline for cooking your menudo; but I don’t like to serve it until the feet come apart and the soup is filled with rich pieces of collagen and tender bits of meat. If you plan on serving it for breakfast (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) then pull it off the heat after 6 hours the night before; add the drained hominy in the morning and bring it back up to a high simmer for another two hours.
Either way; around the seven hour mark your soup should look like this; with the tripe tender enough to chew and the feet at least beginning to fall apart.
Again; the more patient you are with this menudo the better it will turn out.
Whatever time frame you settle on; when you’re at least two hours from serving the menudo you can stir in the drained hominy and let it get back up to a simmer.
Some of the recipes I’ve looked at warn against adding it too soon, but even after making a batch with hominy one day and reheating it the next, I never had a problem with it plumping up and over-thickening the soup. I suspect the presence of natural gelatin from the beef feet might have had an effect on this, but that’s only a hypothesis.
Your finished product should look something like this (note the foot bones completely devoid of meat or collagen). You can add the Mexican oregano at this point; or your diners can add it at their discretion (just make sure it’s in there- the flavor component it adds is key to the whole soup).
Serve the menudo in large bowls with plenty of chopped onion, cilantro and lime juice.
Be sure to have lots of fresh tortillas and bolilllo rolls to soak up the unctuous goodness that is your homemade menudo.
Drink lots of cold beer or soda (Mexican Coke is especially good with this) and revel in the sophisticated joy that a simple thing like honeycomb tripe can provide.
The secret to any good BBQ is that there are no secrets. There’s no element or method that isn’t exchangeable for another element or method. It encourages a bit of experimentation, and good-old fashioned creativity. Two solid rules will keep you on the path to success: Stay clean and organized all through the preperation, and cook your meat as slowly as possible, using high heat only to sear the meat, if you wish. That being said, let’s assemble our ingrediants for one of my favorite dishes.
one onion, diced small
hot sauce of your preference
1 can, or 2 whole fresh tomatoes (For the sake of the juices, I sort of like a nice canned tomato, but we at reducer won’t judge you for being an elitist bastard.)
Cola of you’re choice, but I recommend the kind I use in the picture above….
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 Tablespoons chilli powder
1 Tablespoon powdered ginger
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of coffee (Whole beans work best, so a coffee grinder is a great investment for any kitchen, as it works well for spices too! A darker roast coffee is preferred, and feel free to use decaf, though being a caffeine junky, I do not.)
Grind your beans, if it isn’t allready ground. I like a course grind, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
In a pot, strain to juice from your tomatoes and bring to a nice rolling boil.
Add your cola slowly, or you’ll have a hot sugar-mess from the foaming that will be a total pain in the balls to clean later.
Whisk in the hotsauce and liquid smoke. Bring back to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir often, while you move on to the meat.
On a large plate, pour your coffee, with a bit of salt and pepper. rub the meat gently into the mixture on both sides until well-coated.
Add your tomatoes to the sauce and reduce to low-med heat once again, and get a large skillet with canola or vegetable oil very hot.
Gently place your beef in the hot skillet and sear on one side.
Add your minced onions around the meat. I like to do this so that the meat gets some onion flavor and the onions get some of that sweet sweet blood in them.
Remove the meat from the skillet, leaving the onions to cook a little more. Put the beef in the pot with the tomatoes and sauce, and immediately turn the heat to very low. Cover the pot and allow the meat to cook over no less than 2 hours, stirring from time to time.
Now that the beef is slowly cooking, back to the onions. keep stirring the over high heat until they get kind of an opaque look to them.
When they are soft and translucent, add them to the pot.
After about an hour or so, your pot should start to look like this.
Let it ride for another 45-60 minutes. remove the beef and put it on a cutting board.
Find the grain of the meat. cut across the small lines that go in either direction on the surface. cutting meat against the grain like this will always make your meat even more tender, not just for this particular dish.
When your slicing is done, and the beef is on the plate, spoon some of that sauce and tomato/onion mixture over the top.
A buttered slice of cornbread and beans of any variey would be a tasty addition to this dish, along with as much ice-cold mexican beer you can lay your hands on.
I mentioned in the most recent Reducer Podcast that I had thrown together a recipe for the ubiquitous Jerusalem Mixed Grill- which isn’t grilled and hardly seems unique to Israeli cuisine.
I was a little reluctant to put this one up right away, as I’ve been deliberately avoiding posts about Jewish food until I’ve finished creating our semi-kosher page here on Reducer (you can expect to see that appear around the beginning of April). In addition to that- my general rule for Jewish cooking at home, holidays notwithstanding, is to make Ashkenazi (Eastern European) food during the winter and Shephardi and Mizrahi (Mediterranean, North African and South Asian) during the warmer times of year. The available ingredients dictate this as much as the cold weather, but it just seems more obvious to eat borscht in the dead of winter than mid July.
Occasionally I break down and want a steaming bowl of matzoh ball soup in August, or as in the current case, throw a bunch of hummus and meat on a pita and try to forget that it’s 15 below outside.
You’re going to need the following:
1 lb each: Fresh Chicken Livers, Gizzards and Hearts, rinsed and sliced into large pieces
Greens (spinach, lettuce, mâche, cabbage), all optional, but a good idea.
Oh man, this one is so easy. You don’t even need a grill, man…
In a Dutch oven or large heavy frying pan; heat up the olive oil over medium-high. When oil gets fragrant; add onions and saute them until they begin to brown.
Add the gizzards and hearts; continuing to saute until the gizzards brown on the edges
Add your liver and stir it into the pan gently.
When the liver begins to brown over slightly; add the garlic, cumin and a sprinkle of salt.
The livers should produce plenty of juice; but if you find it getting too dry before the liquid comes to a full simmer; go ahead and add some of the beer or wine you’re drinking. You are drinking, right?
When they do come to a full simmer; reduce™ the heat to medium and keep stirring them (Gently now!) until the liquid is completely evaporated and absorbed- about 25 minutes.
If you start to get any scorching, add more liquid, but if you tend it well you’ll get something looking like this:
Oh yeah. Throw some parsley in at the end, yo.
The gizzards should be chewy but not too tough and the livers should be tender.
Then you’re ready to dress that sucker up. Slather some hummus right on one side of your pita (as much as you personally would put mustard on a hot dog). Throw pickles, veggies and hotsauce on it. Make it yours. Revel in it.
The World Is Yours
*All politics and regional chauvinism aside; not all hummus is created equal. There’s an endless variety of brands available at your grocery store, and if you’re lucky there are people nearby where you live that are making it fresh.
For the rest of us, and for this sandwich in particular, I recommend getting an Israeli-style hummus like Sabra or Sonny & Joe’s. They’re both much lighter and silkier than the Lebanese-style hummus brands that most Americans think of when they think of hummus. The Israeli style isn’t better, just different, and more appropriate for this recipe.
If you’ve never tried it before, and you’re a hummus fan, then it’s totally worth it. Even when hippies throw red paint on you at the store for buying it.
In the 3rd episode of the gradually improving Reducer Podcast; Brian, Jawn and Joe share a pack of Tourney Menthol 120 Slims and manage to talk about food and cooking for almost two thirds of the episode. Topics include Rum; liquor infusions; Domino’s Pizza and Subway being terrible; the beauty of Niki Minaj’s amazing backside; breast milk ice cream; hushpuppies; Lady Gaga; the Obama girls eating cheese fries and Andrew Zimmern’s homeless past. Joe and Brian attempt to talk about their Hack of the Week; until Brian channels Orson Welles and finds himself stammering drunk off Paul Masson Brandy.