Book Review: Taco Night (Kate McMillen)

taco night

When I hear that something came from Williams-Sonoma, my initial suspicion is usually that it’s either A. overpriced, B. unnecessary, or C. all of the above. Their cookbooks, however, tend to be pretty decent in my experience. (At the MSRP they do run dangerously close to falling into category A, but fortunately it’s not hard to find them for cheaper at any number of retailers or online.) And that takes us to the entry at hand.

You see, while perusing a shelf full of books some time ago, the intrepid Gastrognome suddenly grabbed my sleeve and pointed. “Look!” she commanded urgently. “It’s called Taco Night—we have to get it!”

I considered that a pretty strong argument, so we bought it. And I have to say, we are pretty darn happy with this purchase.

Basically, if you like tacos (and unless you were born with neither taste buds nor a soul, you should like tacos), you might want to consider getting this book. The recipes cover a wide range, from the traditional (tacos al pastor, chicken tinga, beer-battered fish), to the more exotic (sweet potato and gree chilis, fried avocados) to the ever-trendy asian-fusion style (korean short ribs, tuna with wasabi crema). The book also arms you with recipes for various sides including beans, rice, and jicama salad, as well as condiments like salsas and guacamole. There is a lot of fun and deliciousness to be found in these pages.

Aside from that, the recipes are presented well (often accompanied by beautiful photos) and are easy to follow. The degree of difficulty is pretty low across the board, which in turn means that modifications, substitutions and alterations are also easy to pull off without having to worry. (The corn-avocado salsa from the ancho chili chicken tacos, for example, could be swapped into any number of other recipes in place of a more standard tomato salsa for a super easy way to have a whole new dish.) There is also certainly enough variety to keep people interested even if you just stick to things as they are; after our purchase, the Gastrognome and I went on a taco bender during which we made 8 different taco recipes over the course of nine days. (My personal favorite: grilled chicken, mango and green onion tacos. Minimum ingredients, maximum, well, really the only word for it is… )

So yeah, I like it. I bet you will too. Now, I am off to plan my next taco. The pan-seared scallops with lemon-cilantro aioli are calling my name.

Overall Grade: A

Now THIS is art!

It is, admittedly horrifying on more levels than I care to process in a single sitting, but hey, it’s like that saying about train wrecks and not being able to stop looking.

Double Down Hot Dog

It even features chick ‘n cheese, what ever the damn hell that is!

And in case you prefer your unnecessary, deep-fried additions to otherwise normal food items to be beer-based instead of chicken-based, there’s this guy.

WORST. KITCHEN GADGET. EVER.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Gift-giving time. Perhaps you, dear reader, are tempted to find an interesting kitchen gadget to give as a gift to someone you know. Or perhaps someone you know may gift one to you. This can be great, and fun. But it can also be a colossal disappointment. For there is one gadget that thou shouldst not gift. And which thou shouldst regard with disdain, yea, even loathing, shouldst it be gifted to thee. I speak of the garlic press.

IGNORE ME!

IGNORE ME!

Here are three reasons why this is the worst kitchen gadget ever.

1. It only does one thing.
Gadgets that only do one thing are generally surplus to requirements, especially if you’re trying to reduce clutter in the kitchen or generally simplify your life. Or if you hate wastefulness. Or if you don’t do much of that one thing.
Granted, some single-purpose gadgets can still be kept around if you do indeed do the thing that they do and they either do it especially well, or fulfill a niche that nothing else does. The paella pan is an example. It’s unlikely that you have any other cookware with a sufficiently large surface area that can comfortably sit over an open fire. So the paella pan has a pretty unique and useful role… if you’re going to cook paella.
The garlic press, on the other hand, also only does one thing: crush garlic. A fancy one may also slice garlic. Personally, I don’t consider this different enough to actually consider a second task. Besides, there’s the fact that:

2. Everything it does can be accomplished with other things you already have.
So. A garlic press crushes and possibly slices garlic. But you probably already have a knife. And you can most definitely slice garlic using the cutting edge of the blade. You can also crush garlic using the flat of the blade. So a knife does everything that a garlic press does (plus a whole lot more). On top of that, crushing garlic isn’t exactly a task that requires specialized instruments. In fact, you can use any number of objects to accomplish this task: a spatula, a mallet, your hand, a pan, the faces of a pair of assassins dispatched by your arch-nemesis to attack you in your kitchen but who quickly found themselves outmatched by your superior unarmed combat skills and are now being taught a lesson as you repeatedly smash their heads onto the surface of your kitchen counter. See? The list is pretty much endless! Furthermore, pretty much any other thing in your kitchen doesn’t suffer the garlic press’s most offensive flaw:

3. This thing is a tremendous pain in the ass to clean.
A garlic press functions by mashing a clove of garlic through a small grate. Now there are bits of garlic stuck in the holes of the grate because they did not mash all the way through. Better grab an old toothbrush and scrub that sucker out now, because if you don’t, the garlic juices extruded via the mashing process will become sticky and then dry, naturally gluing the mush into the grate and completely gunking up the entire contraption. Now, I know that last sentence contained a lot of technical terms, but what it boils down to is this: you will never want to use this thing again after the first time.

So if you are thinking about giving one of these things to a non-mortal enemy, please, for the love of humanity, reconsider! And should you suffer the misfortune of receiving one yourself, I suggest rejecting it disdainfully and then showering the giver with scorn for the rest of the night. Seriously–you’ll be doing them a favor. They need to know that they did something wrong, so that they’ll never do it again.

Drink-by-Numbers

The folks at FiveThirtyEight (they of the numbers for everything) recently published some really interesting statistics on alcohol consumption by type (beer/wine/liquor) and per capita in almost 200 countries around the world. The data is compiled with the help of numbers from the World Health Organization and the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and provides a really interesting look not only at what’s popular around the globe now-a-days, but also what was popular over time in the US.

Some results are not terribly surprising: France does indeed drink more wine than any other nation. Here in the US, we drank more during the 80s and post-2008 recession than we did in the mid and late 90s.

Other results are definitely more startling: Namibia consumes more beer per capita than either the Czech Republic or Germany, for example.

And then there are downright shocking revelations: Australia doesn’t even break the top 10 in beer consumption? How is this possible?! All of my Monty Python-based cultural studies have been rendered irrelevant!

Anyhow, don’t believe me–check it out yourself!

The Haggis is So Raw, It’s Still Digesting!

Obligatory.

I forgot how good Gordon Ramsay’s “The F Word” is. Everyone needs to watch this.

EVERYONE.

It’s entertaining, and it shows true farm to table practices. And what we all need to be teaching the next generation. If you care about food origin stories, farm to table, or just….well, food…

http://www.hulu.com/gordon-ramsays-the-f-word

You got to get on dat.

早く(とファルクアン):勇敢なナス

I require and demand all my vegetables bravely face their inevitable end from this point forward.

DIY

I’ve been watching Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares tonight because, well, apparently I’m not scared enough by real life at this point. Maybe soon. But it brought out the author in me. Briefly.

I am just shocked how often these people whip shit out of the freezer and wonder why Gordy hates it. Seriously. Ask any goddamned cook or chef: as long as you cooked it, they’re going to love it. That’s all you need to do. No chef or cook is ever mad at someone who put together some good ingredients. Sure, maybe the sauce didn’t work, maybe the red pepper flake spilled into the pan.

It doesn’t matter. You cooked that for them. From scratch. It’s the saltiest thing they’ve ever tasted and they once ate a whole bowl of salt.

But you made it YOURSELF.

Stop panicking all you cooks out there, just make things. We’re all just happy someone else made the damn thing!

While drunk may be the best seasoning, the second best is, “I didn’t have to cook this!”

Everything’s Better with Peanuts on Top

Say title three times fast.

Rinse. Repeat.

Of course, variety is the spice of life, so if you prefer your peanuts on bottom, go for it!

Today, however, both sides won because the peanuts got totes sandwiched.

Ingredients:

Whhhhhhhheat Bread

 Whhhhhhhheat Bread

 

Au natural peanut butter

Au natural peanut butter

 

Almond just sayin' that there's two pieces of bread: why stop at peanut butter?

Almond just sayin’ that there’s two pieces of bread: why stop at peanut butter?

Now I have two pieces of bread well-lubricated with nut butters.

 

Yes. I went there.

Honey roasted almonds? Almond if I do!

Honey roasted almonds? Almond if I do!

 

The more nuts the better, right?

Really not a nut, but a legume.

Really not a nut, but a legume.

Let's get sticky.

Let’s get sticky.

Now let’s go bananas.

I dalek bananas so much!

I dalek bananas so much!

 

No bananas were harmed in the making of this sandwich.

Ethically-sourced, dolphin-safe.

Ethically-sourced, dolphin-safe.

But best of all? Bananas are a source of protein!

When you put it that way...

When you put it that way…

Now, we eat.

Soft, creamy, sticky, salty, sweet, crunchy.

It’s a party in my mouth, washed down with hot apple cider on a windy fall day.

You Heartless Monster!

Bacon

2013-08-18 11.47.45

pancakes,

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makin’ bacon pancakes!

Take some bacon and I’ll put it in a pancake.

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Bacon pancakes, that’s what it’s gonna make.

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Bacon panca-aaaaaa-ke!

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Inspired by Jake.

 

You Want a Pizza Me?

It has been rumored that pizzas are made of hate, but clearly Kanye West has cornered the hate-market.

Nevertheless, there are only so many salads one can make from CSA veggies that I swap at pick-up for the endless zucchini I find in my bag.  At some point, you just want some damn pizza!

  • Too cheap to order and put extra toppings on it.
  • Too tired to make the dough from scratch.
  • Too much carb-loading to buy a Boboli’s crust.

What’s that? How did I make pizza? Well, stop pestoing me and let me show you it:

Taste the rainbow of vitamins

Taste the rainbow of vitamin

First, I made HOMEMADE PESTO from scratch! It was amazingly simple and now I’m wondering why I haven’t been making this every damn week of my life. Used red and green basil, elephant garlic, and because I forgot to buy pine nuts and was out of walnuts – almonds! Process all that and puree with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Top a flour tortilla with the pesto, tons of feta cheese and sliced mushrooms, tomatoes still warm from the vine, and baby red bell peppers.  Pop in the oven.  (Ideally you would use a baking stone but mine is still packed away in some mystery box)

Pesto and Plates are the new green.

Pesto and Plates are the new green.

Tried to eat it with a fork, but gave up and used the tear and fold technique first developed during junior high lunches when eating  pizza (which we blotted first with napkins to soak up the grease, unless we were holding grease races, in which we would let it run down our forearms; first one to drip on the table was the winnerwinner chicken dinner).  Ah. Adolescence.

Mind. Blown. I – I made this!  It was highly aromatic and savory and I wish I had made more than one. Of course, now I have a large container of pesto with which to top pasta in the near future.

I just realized I forgot to put onion on it!  Well, there’s always next time. Like, maybe the next time I see an E-Ho!

@Falquan

@PrincessZyrtec