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!