Taco Cat and Other News

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                   Recent texts with friends and the spying of a certain CityPages article today has made me aware of what seems to be quite the exploding topic at the moment. Articles, press comments, and many a hipster are doing what seems to be their very best attempt to bog down the company from being able to actually perform their “soft opening” which they so wished for tomorrow. Though considering this particular business to be… two years in the making (? they trademarked the particular kitty logo in 2012), one can’t blame a bit of excitement among those aware of this upcoming venture for quite a while. Taco Cat is Here.

http://www.tacocatmn.com/

                   Their slogan, much like their website and view on life (life meaning tacos), is simple: Call Number, Get Tacos. By bike, in the uptown area, no going to a café or shop to get them (they don’t want company). You are to wait for their delivery persons to bike over to where you are and deliver the crunchy, awesome packages of handheld tortilla goodness. I would have said “Mexican goodness,” though they only seem to have two Mexican tacos… the others use things like Bulgogi Steak, Mock Duck for a Bahn mi enspired creation, and a Pork with Caribbean Mojo sauce.

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/04/taco_cat_call_n.php

                   Again, as I’m probably one of the later news-bringers for this particular business, everything’s already been said via other greedy, non-lazy publications and bloggers (blegh). So my attempts at making really bad, cheesy, snappy comments have already been null and void by those who have already gotten there before me. Oh, and they probably have more information on the company or whatnot…. so feel free to leave me forever and get all your hot, sweaty news needs fulfilled by other better-endowed keyboard typers. Besides, this may not be my last word on them… I’m debating getting myself to the uptown area and hitting up their number for an interesting Quasi-Review experience. Not a food truck, but they are quite mobile aren’t they?

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                  I definitely suggest going to the website, just to read their hilarious QnA section.

                  In Other News, our awesome MNFoodTruckAssociation has updated and changed the format of their website! It looks very pretty, much easier to navigate, and actually makes you believe they’re a proper organization (not like I didn’t before…. though it’s nice to see they’re still doing stuff). Best of all, though, is an actual event schedule page! Which not only reveals the date of the next, very long awaited Spring Truck Festival (I tought they were doing something in the winter… maybe I was wrong… coulda been someone else), but the dates of every Festival and any other event they do the whole year. Thus making it official, each Harriet Festival is a seasonal thing (little different than what they first advertised for it, but at least it’ll keep happening), every one filled with the awesome music, beer, and crowd of trucks that we’re already used to. I know I already can’t wait and hope to be able to go to the next one on Saturday, May 10th. Will see you there after my Tortilla Kitty!

Butcher Salt

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http://www.butchersalt.com/

https://www.facebook.com/butchersalttruck

Main Location: Minneapolis, Breweries, Etc

              It’s been a long, long winter in this juncture between 2013 and 2014, and I’ve had my share of boring days having to wait for the trucks to come back, and frustration in missed opportunities and futile searches. But finally, the days are warming up, the sun is back, the snow is receding, and the trucks have come back to Minneapolis!

              And just my luck, I had the chance to head down not only on the very first official day back of the year, but to the very first New mobile business of 2014! Butcher Salt has been on my radar for a while after seeing their startup posts, not to mention their signatory concept for unifying their menu items.

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              With a veritable selection of different meat-based, American handheld favorites like Hot Dogs, Sliders and a roast beef sandwich called the Ranger, which are then placed next to Hashbrowns and (ugh) a Salad. With not much of a theme between items besides the fact that they might all be found in a stereotypical (though very delicious) Diner, Butcher ramps up each gloriously prepared piece of meat and vegetable with a little seasoning they name, as one would expect, “Butcher Salt.”

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               Simply a good quality sea salt infused alongside rosemary, thyme, and other herbs, this large-grained rock is sprinkled liberally over their foods to provide proper seasoning and in-depth dimensions. Or something like that. They even let the grains fall over desserts, like their Salted Caramel and the oddly-placed Crème Brulee.

               Of course it’s not the only thing they rely on; pepperjack and spicy cheese sauce, sautéed peppers, and the required bacon festoon multiple items, like the “Stuffed” Hash Browns (really it’s just layered, but looks like a tasty breakfast item).

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               Oh, and they have some of the coolest toys! Look at all of the fun things they got; a special wooden stand for the tablet to do your card-swiping, customized phone case, and the cutest little wooden tip Truck! Reminds me of my own childhood one. These set on top of a display case of various shirts and other memorabilia for us to purchase; seems to be a trend nowadays no?

               So, after multiple months of waiting, it’s time to get back to a full rating review! I just can’t wait for the self-centered indulgence!

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Food:9

                Despite only being able to purchase two of their menu items, the owners/employees were generous enough to give me a small piece of their Roast Beef to sample the flavor! And damn, it was good; tender, beefy, really moist with that au jus or whatever they keep it in. Craveably salty, but I’d imagine it’d calm down nicely in the whole sandwich.

                Overall I’d probably use that word to describe the whole menu, “Craveable.” Everything I had was just warm and comforting, umami-focused with that poignant sense that properly, fully seasoned food can do which just makes you want it more.

                I felt it a lot with those Sliders. Buns may be toasted, but that crunch is destroyed as soon as you bite into those thick little patties, their juices spreading all over the sturdy bread and your fingers; and you don’t care. The meat is just… oh, these are the closest sliders I’ve ever seen come to those good-quality, thick juicy burgers. It just has that wet, sorta chewy but fully tender texture that slicks around your mouth as you eat it. Just heaven.

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                And that’s just the meat. You top this with gooey cheese and grilled onions that are sorta cooked, sorta raw, and with the other toppings taste sorta pickled too, the best expressions of all three. The pickles themselves, which I’m pretty sure are just the simpler, store-bought style, I doubt they made them, but that firm crunch and sharp salt+acid flavor is somehow just perfect with everything else, cutting through and increasing the seasoning aspect ever further. I think I can safely say that these are the best Food Truck Sliders in Minnesota (at least for now).

                As for the Hash Browns, they tasted good, had that nice gooey cheesiness and hash browny flavor; probably wouldn’t mind getting the “stuffed” version if I needed a morning fix one day. However it was all one soft texture, I wish they had been able to actually get the potatoes somewhat crispy/crunchy; really lowered the experience to something I could get at most places.

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Holdability: 8

                Basket-based, with multiple items requiring at least one hand to hold part of the food while the other eats, via multiple sliders or needing a fork. Those that could be one-handed, like the beefy Ranger, are quite the juicy messy affair, not that that’s a bad thing; the best burgers and sliders leave half their flavor on the fingers! And aren’t they just nice enough to wrap the baskets completely in foil for those buying multiple items and/or needing to transport it some distance before eating.

                The Crème Brulee stands a bit out of place; I’ve never really considered it street food in any real sense. Placed inside a throwaway foil ramekin, though, it does make it possible to eat while walking, like a caramelized pudding cup!

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Price: 8

                 There are two main price points; all sandwiches/main entrée-sized items stand at $8, which seems reasonable based off what I was given (and can imagine for the Roast Beef Sandwich), though I couldn’t see paying that much for the Caprese, basically just cheese and tomatoes. Besides these, Hot Dogs and Side items stand at $5, also reasonable(ish maybe) except for, in my opinion, the Hashbrowns. Just seems too small and simple for anything over even $3, I mean it’s just soft potatoes (not even fried) and cheese (well, and bacon, but sadly they ran out on my visit…). Finally, $4 for the Brulee, not sure if the salted caramel is the same or less, hoping for the latter. Overall it’s great individually though buying multiple items can grey the lines.

Speed: 7.5

                 Average cooking speeds, giving you ample time to have a fun chat and ogle over all the fun doodads!

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The TOE: 9.5

                  From the front, I wasn’t really sure I’d get that much of an overall feeling of “place” that I search for, especially due to the generic-ness of using only hot dogs, small burgers, and roast beef for the menu focus. Once you eat it, though, you sorta get it… I think there’s a centered-ness to them, a great personality that rings through the deliciously prepared food. The little doodads help too.

                I still think that having Crème Brulee as the main dessert option is really weird though, sorta off-centers the whole thing a bit. Opposite that, though, the Butcher Salted Caramel sounds AMAZING; I can’t wait to come back and grab it in the Summer (when it’s served). I’d say they’ve reached Official Toe Ring status.

                       Tally: 42/50

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Final Thoughts

              Probably one of the better street stops when one has that “Meat” craving, with some good, safe bets centered on the Butcher Salt Sliders and Ranger as the main items to get. Secondarily, if in the mood for breakfast with neither of the main morning trucks on the street, their Stuffed Hash Browns may just be the item to choose among the crowd. And a third highlight, with a great snack or food-truck-day stop for those Caramels. A veritable rolling triple threat.

              Definitely a great business to start off 2014!

A Reluctant Saturday Night Review, aka La Belle Crepe at Harriet

               I’ve been antsy lately, and last Saturday night didn’t help. It’s been… what, 3 months since I was last able to review a new Truck? And that was just temporary winter pop up version of something already existing. And now, with the snow melting and weather warming, teasing me with urges to go outside with visions of Truck rallies to come, only to be roped away with work and the realities that it’s still winter (well, not technically, but for MN…).

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                Thought I would have had this fixed a couple weeks ago with a great chance off to go to Harriet with a friend when the new Butcher Salt was out… and then work screwed me over. Again a clear ray of hope showed this past week; yet another new truck at Harriet, “La Belle Crepe,” and a friend available to join in a fun night of music, drinking and food.

                Well, there was a $5 cover, I didn’t find out until after I got there that the friend had a double shift, and the “truck” was just a catering table in the back corner. Can’t quite say which part I was most disappointed with, but how ‘bout we just focus on the food aspect?

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                That just really, really sucked… you don’t know how excited I was when I thought La Belle Crepe had started their own mobile operation. I’ve been to their café in downtown Minneapolis (you should too; it’s this tiny little closet-shop, like you’d find in France, just before 9th on Nicolette Ave), and they’re pretty good. We’ve been needing a GOOD, proper Crepe Truck for a long time, something with tasty components and a fun attitude.

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                Let me tell you why they would have fit the bill. Firstly, as one would expect, the crepes are awesome; good thickness, SOFT, really reminiscent of what the proper French pancake should feel and taste like. Add that to a copious variety of homemade fillings in the style of sweets, savories, and breakfast, and we have a delicious bundle of joy perfect for mobile eating. They aren’t all classic fillings either; one can get Caramel Apple, Orange dream, Spicy Chicken and Crab, Gyros, dill & Lox, Benedict, etc.

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                But wait, there’s more. Not only do they offer crepes, Belle also makes other French classic comforts like Gelato and Croque-Monsieur/Madame. Oh, and Vietnamese food, tasty tasty Vietnamese food like Pho and Bahn Mi. Reminded me of the Korean-Crepe truck my friend had found in Texas, only not quite so Fusion; Vietnamese cuisine HAS had a lot of French influence, so it makes sense with the concept.

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                Well, I had already paid the $5 entrance fee, so as much as I didn’t want to spend extra money it would have been a waste to just leave the place as-is. Thus I was able to actually sample one of their sandwiches, the Hoisin Pulled Pork. Oh boy was that good, each side completely slathered in the Hoisin Mayo, all those dressed and pickled veggies just shoved and stuffed in there (you should see them pile it on and push it in with the spatula), and the pork wasn’t too bad either.

                A little bit of sirachi on half with the tart veggies, it went really well with Harriet’s version of Sahti, a Sour Ale brewed with juniper berries and cedar chips instead of hops (tasted a bit like lambic, so I was already in a bit of a happy place).

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                The bread wasn’t the best sadly, being served without feeling the loving embrace of a searing hot grill or oven, but to be fair that was due to the setup. They DO toast it at the café, and I would assume if able to go mobile they would ensure a proper heat source to do it for orders as well. Also, the Cilantro (which there was a ton of, thank you! So good), served in whole bunches, was a bit… sagging. But again, I had ordered a sandwich about 5 hours (at least) after they got there with no proper refrigeration unit besides a cooler.

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                At the end of the day, they offer a fun concept with delicious, portable offerings, and I sorely hope they might get on the streets soon to properly replace a certain Other Truck. As for me, I still sit here, antsy and stuck, ever waiting for my first proper shot at a new truck this year.

               -sigh- At least it’s getting warmer.

Finnegan’s Reverse Food (Drive) Truck

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In 11 days, the non-profit local beer company “Finnegans” is launching a great new idea in Food Drives with their “Reverse” Food Truck, which The Current recently wrote a great article about after sitting down with CEO Jacquie Bergland. Read and listen to it Here: http://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2014/02/27/interview-with-finnegans-jacquie-berglund-reverse-food-truck

It may not exactly fit the mold of something I can review, but still I hope for the chance to be able to make it out to one of their stops in the upcoming months. Definitely am wishing them all good luck in this venture, and happy hunting for all those others looking to help!

Empire’s “Why Food Trucks Fail.”

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This is a cool little article Brett Lindenberg at Food Truck Empire put together after asking 32 different people in the Food Truck Industry (myself included, response 3rd up from the bottom for those who wanna look) the simple question “Why do Food Trucks Fail.” I personally loved seeing the different viewpoints, opinions, insights, etc. It’s a fun little read, should take the time to pop through it if you have it!

http://foodtruckempire.com/interviews/fail/

SFC: The Ripe Pastry

And yet more leftover overripe bananas festoon our freezer. I got a bit tired of just turning it to bread, so I queried at350Degrees (again, thank you for the help) on some ratio advice and set about to making a major fusion Cookie project: “Brown Butter Banana Chocolate Chip.”

Been wanting to make a Banana cookie for a while, and a recent post on a brown butter chocolate chip was just too endearing to not want to combine the two. Though I’ll admit the final result wasn’t what my mind desired, I know EXACTLY what adjustments need to be made to capitalize on these delicious flavors.

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Brown Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookie (after adjustments)
1 Cup (2 Sticks) Butter
½ Cup Sugar
¾ Cup Brown Butter
1-2 Eggs
1 Tb Vanilla
¼-3/8 Cup Mashed Super-Duper-Over-Ripened Banana (1 SMALL fruit)
¾ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
2-2¼ Cup Flour
1 ½ Cup Smaller/Mini Chocolate Chips

Brown Butter is an amazing thing. If you have yet to experience this rich, toasty, nutty version of its original form, then I suggest you make some, right now. No I don’t care if you’re planning on cooking anything else or not, you just need to make the butter. Cook it, eat a spoonful of it and reserve the rest for other things later on.

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And really simple too, start by turning your relevant saucepan (for the sake of the Cookies, it should be large enough to take in all ingredients later on) to Med/Med-Low and start melting that milk-fatty goodness. Now just let it go…

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The plan for now is waiting, watching, and prepping your other ingredients as it goes along, making sure one stirs and swirls the pot every now and then (we want to thoroughly brown the butter, not let the bottom burn). At first it’ll start foaming and “simmering,” the water content in the butter slowly cooking out of the hot fat. As it goes along, the proteins and other “milk solids” start to unravel and tighten under the attacking heat, separating from the emulsion of the butter stick, and soon you’ll be able to stare clear through the fat to the bottom of the pan as if it was colored water, watching as the white solid flakes settle and move around the bottom.

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The butter will stop simmering around this point, which would be the signal point of completion if one had set about to make Clarified Butter. Just strain out through a fine cloth/strainer and use for all your butter needs. Or, of course, we can keep going on until it gets all tinted and nutty… which will start quickly but take a while to get to the desired point.

Just keep at it, I adjust the temperature a little lower to ensure it doesn’t go over on me (if making Clarified butter, I might suggest a lower temp to start with, mine was already a bit brown at the finishing state). It’ll start smelling like peanut skins, but as it goes that faint hint will deepen and bloom, giving toast and bread and spices, with a raw chestnutty color. For everyday uses, we take this off and carefully, slowly strain through cheesecloth or other fine apparatus.

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For the cookies, we keep it there and just dump in the Sugars. No straining or nothing, just keep all those milk solids in to better flavor our impending cookies. Though it’s not as simple as it sounds, we’ll be going through a little “process” with this sugar addition.

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Whisking the sugar mixture in vigorously, turning the butter into a smooth consistency. Take it off the heat to cool for about 9 minutes, going back every 3 minutes to stir vigorously once more. Besides helping to actually cool down faster, I believe this action is mainly to ensure the sugar and butter don’t separate too much, as it is very prone to do when hot (believe me). This’ll better ensure they emulsify easier when cool and we start adding in other ingredients, as opposed to the sludge-like state while still hot. I myself actually let it sit an extra couple minutes and whisked one more time just to ensure the success.

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Add your Egg and Vanilla to the now somewhat warm mixture and prepare to incorporate the Banana.

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So, here’s what should have been happening to your banana by now. Not only is this not a “fresh” fruit, this also isn’t one that’s been sitting “a few days and has a little line of brown spots.” This banana, now, THIS banana has been on your counter for a week, MINIMUM, perhaps 2. It’s skin has looked the same mud-brown mottled for some days, with no motion to continue its threat to cover the whole fruit. It’s sugars have ripened just about as much as they can on their own…

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And then you throw it in the freezer for a couple days, for both “storage” purposes and to push the fruit one final step, concentrating the sugars and flavors even further. As it thaws on the counter, which only takes about an hour, the fruit is left as a softened jelly of pure sweet banana flavor, just barely holding together. Do not be afraid of its blackened demeanor, there is no such thing as going too far with this fruit when cooking is concerned.

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With that gotten out of my system, we can start adding the banana, mashed, alongside the Dry Mix; I start with a bit of the latter to firm it up before mixing in the wet fruit. After, add in the rest of the flour, and more if needed, to reach what looks to be a proper cookie dough consistency (remembering it’ll firm up more once FULLY cooled).

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Leave to cool on the counter even further, folding in your Chips or other Mix-ins when ready (I split it in half and did a Regular and White Chocolate batch!). I’ve found I prefer the Minis when going for this new fusion, as the larger chunks just created these concentrated pockets of gooey chocolate which, though awesome, can override the other flavors I’m trying to shine very easily.

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Move to the fridge to chill down at least 2 hours or overnight; apparently the originator of the Brown Butter Cookie follows a technique of storing it a minimum 48 hours before cooking. I’m not sure what exactly is happening to it at that time, but there’s probably some logical reason for it.

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For ease of storage and portioning later, wrap dough completely in plastic, patting or rolling out to an even thickness that you’d like for your cookies (I go about an inch at least). Squeeze and adjust the sides ‘till it’s rectangular and store.

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When close to ready, transfer to your freezer for at least 30-45 minutes beforehand; this step really helps the cookie keep its height and softness when baking so it doesn’t turn into a thin puddle, though if that’s what you’re looking for (it does make a nice crispy cookie), then go ahead and bake for room temperature. Turn oven to 375F, slice the desired amount and size from your dough block with a handy-dandy pizza cutter (this can be done ahead of time before freezing), and space cookies out on a Parchment or Sprayed baking pan, and cook 10-13 minutes, turning the sheet around halfway in.

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Remove, transfer to a plate while it’s still soft and hot, and enjoy with a large glass of ice cold milk. Or on its own, it’s a pretty damn good cookie. A soft, more subtle note of the banana paired with soft, gooey rich chocolates, both bolstered by the gentle nutty, almost spicy aspect the brown butter imparts. All of this held in a baked dough that feels halfway between a cookie and actual banana bread. It’s a fun little taste factory.

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Hopefully your first attempt at this turns out more ideally focused than mine, though I’m sure the final result won’t be too complaint worthy either way. Good Luck in all your own upcoming culinary inventions and Good Eating them!

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Proper CBS Spotlight

Obviously I’ve proven pretty slow in the uptake and reaction for many things that go down, and now that I’m working nights I happen to miss many of my preferred shows by a bit of time, so I may pile on my online catching up of a few episodes all at once. For example today I just remembered to look over the recently missed couple weeks of “The Taste.” And can I now just please please say, even delayed, how much I loved their Street Food episode!

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Oh, they had almost all the good points there, starting with Chef Marcus and Anthony’s “team demonstrations;” bringing one to a truck to discuss the epitome of what bahn mi and sandwiches really are, the other philosophizing around the soul in a meatball wrap. Then bringing in the Godfather of the Food Truck movement, Roy Choy himself, for the initial judging and team assistance. Being able to actually just sit back and listen to him wax about street food, its connections to family and soul, what it means… just beautiful. It’s the sort of moment that makes me depressed in my inability to express those similar feelings myself, but excited simply knowing that so many can hear what it is I feel about this truly global culture. Then of course he made an Enchilada with awesome Marinated Short-Ribs, who doesn’t love that?

And last but not least, two gold stars (basically winning the individual challenge) for our own Hometown Chef Sarah Master of Barbette! So happy and proud! Not to mention the irony of doing it with the dish that simply destroyed Nigella’s team, the whole Hot Mess of the entire episode… which I really shouldn’t get into, so much.

Though let me say, I did find it hilariously sad that during the team challenge “elimination decision”, where Nigella’s constantly talking about how her team wasn’t listening and didn’t cook things well enough (which IS true enough, plenty of that there), she completely glossed over the fact that the only actual Criticisms Roy Choy gave on the dish was the problem with “construction” (he had to pick up a fried fish and chip together with bare hands, no wrapping or toothpick) and the fact that the pairing went oddly together. Both of which is an issue with the fact that it’s Fish and Chips, not how well they were cooked. Put simply, the main reason he hated the dish is because it was Fish and Chips, which is what Nigella Made her team cook; but do you even hear her admit responsibility on it for even a brief second? Of course not.

Well, that aside, I still loved the episode, and think we need more cooking shows highlighting the subject LIKE THIS (some just do it “alright”). Let’s see what’s cookin’ in tv land in the coming months.

Announcing: One Craving at a Time

The preparations are done, setup organized, and the first of many works complete, allowing me to finally unveil my new project! Let me hear and now officially Announce my Second Blogging Venture: One Craving at a Time.

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                With the winter season slow and various other things keeping me from going out to explore like I used to, I’ve had some more “free” time on my hands. As such, I thought it’d be fun to fill the time between posts with some other projects that, sadly, I’m unable to relate towards Street Food on a regular basis.

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                Starting off with a drive to recreate a long list of classic French recipes, One Craving at a Time will play host to all the various little “lists” and “projects” that I naturally create for myself, scratching off each item with detailed recounting for others to read (or ignore). From Distillery Visits to tackling Classic Desserts, trying out recipes from a certain Michelin Star Chef to Drink Pairing Ideas, this will be the start of my journey of discovery and experimentation.

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                I of course shall NOT be ending my work with Reviews on Wheels; it’s my baby, and I still have many more Trucks that need visiting and reviewing. Plus, if anything, it’s likely I may be able to create some new post ideas off of unique jumping points in Craving, or at least link to the articles. But at the end of the day, RoW will ALWAYS take first priority, like any spoiled first child should, haha.

I do hope that those readers who are into recipe-related blogs and such do surely choose to hop over and take a look. As for the others, hopefully you’ll be able to find some other aspect of it, either now or in future projects, which you can enjoy. For myself, I’ll just stick to where I am, plugging along with various long, rambling posts, the focus of which has now widened to whatever the heck I want it to be.

Good Luck and Good Eating to all, I myself will need all I can get from here on.

SFC: Crackly Heaven

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               I’ve been having a few leftovers to play around with lately, first a Sole filet and now a chunk of Salt Pork (also from a “project” of sorts), which is basically just a thick slab of lard and pork skin. Options call to me, with a strong argument in the back of my head to render it out and make some more melted fat for cooking. At the end of the day, I can’t help but choose a venture I’ve been craving to try for a long, long time.

                Gonna go and make my own Pork Rinds! I’ve been wanting to do it for so long, but never really had some chunks of just pork skin or fat to work with (man I need to get some pig belly in for dinner sometime).

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                After going online to better reconfigure myself with the technique, the steps of which I’ve been aware of for a while but was still missing specifics, I got down to it. The first of many simple steps comes in slicing the skin from the lard, leaving as little amount of the fat on as one can, giving what should be about 1/8” thick slabs. At the same time I sliced the actual fat up in similarly thick pieces, and then moved to cut all of it into nicely sized squares. Not sure if these will actually fry up well like the skin will, but nothing wrong with testing it out.

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                Though I wish I could just fry them up here, there are a couple more things that need doing. Starting with boiling; just boiling, in a pot, for at least an hour. I think. Many recipes never stated how long, but one said 1 ½-2 hours; the main goal is to get the skin “tender and pliable,” or something like that. It shouldn’t have any resistance when you squeeze and bend it.

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                My assumption on the reason for this step is to break down various proteins and bonds, softening them up so that once fried the cell walls will expand with little resistance. It could also help to render out some fat and/or other things.

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                After scooping from the milky white water (which I saved and used for boiling potatoes, num) and letting cool, we move onto the next major phase: drying/dehydrating. One can do this in an oven set at 160-170F, on racks. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, in a food Dehydrator set at the Meat setting (which is around the same temp). This will need to be left for quite a number of hours, best done overnight or set in the morning and left for the day (it may even take longer depending). When done, the pork will have shrunken somewhat and firmed up again, but in a noticeably different fashion.

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                This step helps not only in evaporating any water that injected itself in during the boiling, but also in the creation and full solidification of air pockets within the skin layers. Also, though the bindings have softened and broken down somewhat, the actual skin is now firm again in a sense and will allow it hold structure once expanded. Or something like that, I’m sure; was too lazy to research THAT specific.

                Pat dry (there may be some fat leakage, haha) and get the friar ready, heating it up to 380-390F. Oh yeah, that’s pretty darn hot, but it’s supposedly the best range for optimal Rind frying; if anything, it almost felt like mine started at 10 or so degrees hotter still. The rest, as with everything before it, is simple: pop those pork pieces in and let them fry!

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                It’s so fun watching them expand and “pop” up into their new crispy forms while you sit there with your utensil of choice (for some reason I sorta liked using chopsticks) to keep turning them submerged and turning around. Which is needed, so that every part KEEPS frying, since they’ll want to float belly-up, or side-up, or whatever, not to mention curling in a tight ball and hiding certain sections.

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                The rinds should be ready after about 2-3 minutes of frying; you want to ensure the outside fully cooks crisp so it doesn’t soften after cooling. Transfer and dry on some paper, season with whatever spices you desire (since I used cured pork there was no need for salt, wooh), and see how many minutes you can last before eating them all. I counted… 2? Maybe.

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                Oh, and the chunks of fat… yeah, those don’t fry well. Was hoping they’d at least make some crunchy cracklings, which they sorta did… I actually really enjoyed their delicately thing, light crisp outside texture. But the rest is just fat, pure soft fat. Maybe if you sliced them REALLY thin it could make something enjoyable.

                As for the rinds, well what else can I say after them only lasting a couple minutes. Crispy, crunchy, with those perfect little air bubbles; they tasted just like ones I’ve had in store and at restaurants. Only mine still had some fat under the skin, which made this interesting little soft air pocket on its underbelly; ideally not what one wants, as you SHOULD scrape any leftover fat off after boiling. But I’d say it depends on preference, so don’t feel any pressure.

                Either way, I can’t wait to go to some of the markets I’ve been frequenting lately and see if I can just buy slabs of skin in the future. Gonna be making a lot more at some point!