Archive for the ‘ Fast Food to Slow Food ’ Category

TAQUITOS

Cinco de Mayo is around the corner, and there are few hors d’œuvre in the Mexican repertoire better suited for munching on with a nice cold cerveza or margarita in hand than a crunchy, rolled taquito.  If the only kind of taquito you’re familiar with comes in a box from the frozen food aisle, then you’re in for a serious treat.  These are the real deal.  No microwaves, no ovens and no mystery meat here;  just the ear shattering crunch and savory interior of a freshly fried, homemade beef taquito.

Truth be told, I happily ate my healthy share of frozen taquitos for years. In fact, growing up I didn’t know many households that didn’t have a case buried somewhere in their freezer for snack emergencies. Throw them on plate, pop them in the microwave for a minute or so and go to town.  Let’s face it: they’re quick, convenient and the perfect vessel for your favorite condiment.  As a kid, I’d go as far as to dip mine in ketchup! It wasn’t until I decided to try a homemade version that I realized what this Mexican fingerfood could be. Where the frozen lack any serious depth of flavor and always end up being somewhere between chewy and soggy on the texture scale, the homemade is a knockout crispy treat.

These taquitos are the perfect way to use up leftover barbacoa.  In fact, I’ll even make an entire batch for the sole purpose of rolling up a few dozen of these bad boys.  If you really like them (which you will), go ahead and make a double batch and stash them in your freezer for the ultimate late night snack.  Like the kind from the box, but oh-so-much better.

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HAM & CHEESE BREAKFAST SANDWICH

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich

With a surplus of homemade English muffins lying around just waiting to go stale, I started to wonder if there was another use for them that I’d yet to consider.  Enter the breakfast sandwich.  Like spicy fried chicken sandwiches, I ate my fair-share of these hand-held wonders growing up.  Today, sadly, I don’t make it down to the old Micky-D’s as often as I once did.  Not as keen on eating battery-farmed eggs and sub-par pork products, I’ve been at a loss in my search for a breakfast sandwich made with good, quality ingredients.  Believe me, I’ve checked.  So, armed with a fresh package of organic American cheese slices, a carton of pasture-raised, organic eggs and some preservative-free Canadian bacon, I set out to recreate a more wholesome version of the iconic breakfast sandwich of my youth.

I’m not much of a sweets guy when it comes to breakfast.  In fact, I’ll pass on the french toast, Belgium waffles and pancakes just about any day of the week.  Instead, this is what I crave.  A warm, lightly toasted English muffin slathered with butter, topped with gooey cheese, salty meat and a perfectly seasoned egg.  It might not be brain-food, but with one of these in your belly, I guarantee you’ll be well-equipped to deal with any of the day’s challenges.  So, if you’re like me and love a great breakfast sandwich but are less than inclined to patronize the local fast-food mega-chain, do what I did and make one for yourself.  I think it goes without saying that they were OUTSTANDING.  I’d like to think of them as another perfect example of a fast-food favorite cooked with slow food sensibilities.

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SPICY FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH

Spicy Chicken Sandwich Vibrant

When it comes to fast food guilty pleasures, for me, a good spicy chicken sandwich ranks near the top.  Having eaten my fair share from just about every fast food chain out there while I was in high school, I consider myself to be a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to the crispy, neon-orange chicken pucks of the world.  I know, I know, that crap is not only horrible for you, but also made from ingredients we’d all rather not know about.  That’s precisely why I set out to recreate this drive-thru favorite at home.  Think of it as a slow food take on a fast food classic.

Made with organic, boneless-skinless breasts, a spicy buttermilk marinade and fiery Cajun seasoning blend, the flavor of this scratch-made rendition easily outranks that of its greasy, artificial cousin.  When combined with ripe tomato slices, crisp lettuce and creamy mayonnaise on a homemade sesame seed bun, you have a fried chicken sandwich good enough to get excited about without the guilt of processed, chain food.

It might not be the healthiest sandwich out there, but like mozzarella sticks, you’ll feel better knowing its homemade.

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MOZZARELLA STICKS WITH BUTTERMILK DIP

Mozzarella Sticks with Buttermilk Dip

When I told my friends I was planning on making homemade mozzarella sticks for a guy’s weekend out of town the idea was met with a profound lack of enthusiasm.  Everybody knows that I like to experiment in the kitchen, but somehow the idea of making a bar food staple like mozzarella sticks from scratch seemed like a complete waste of time to the group.  After being lectured about the innumerable brands available in the freezer section at the grocery store and a heated debate about whether marinara or ranch is the better dipping accompaniment, I decided to risk further heckling and see if I couldn’t one-up T.G.I. Friday’s in my own kitchen.

It might have been the alcohol, but the first batch was gone within a matter of seconds.  Simultaneously crispy and gooey, these mozzarella sticks seem to defy the laws of physics and flavor.  After the second batch had been demolished, a few halfhearted concessions came my way; they had to admit,  homemade outranked frozen by a long shot.

With the right breadcrumbs, fragrant Italian spices and an organized assembly line for the essential double-dredging technique, perfect, scratch-made mozzarella sticks can be made at home in no time and with little effort.

With the question about whether or not it’s a waste of time to make mozzarella sticks at home answered, the question of the perfect dip remained.  We decided to go with a buttermilk dip that was tangy, cooling and delicious.  But I wouldn’t mind trying these with a marinara sauce, too.

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