You should be watching Archer

If you made your way here via my Twitter feed you already know Archer is probably my favorite thing on TV. It’s brilliant, profane, offensive and the funniest thing on television, and it’s not close.

I was late to Archer. I didn’t start watching on a week to week basis until season three when the first two hit Netflix. I think I watched every episode in two days.

Anyway, I bring this up for two reasons:

1 – A new episode of Archer is on right now, I can’t watch it until later, and my Twitter timeline is blowing up. I closed it to write this post.

2 – Youtube suggested I’d like a video, “Archer – The Best of Pam Pt. 1”. Some national hero went through the first three seasons of Archer and made compilation videos for the best of Pam and Cheryl, two of the show’s best characters (they’re all amazing).

Here’s the 2nd of the three videos. I chose it instead of the 1st because by this time Pam’s become a fully fleshed out character. There’s some spoilerish stuff but it doesn’t matter because all you’ll remember is that Archer is hilarious and you need to watch it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCG6xGGMEwc&w=560&h=315]

Get yourself an immersion blender.

1 – I was really, really late to guacamole because I’ve always been lukewarm on the avocado. I’m a texture guy and it wasn’t until I started making my own guac with a consistency I liked that I really became obsessed.

It actually started last summer. I was watching a food network episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and Michael Symon professed his love for a version of guacamole that had sage, blue cheese and bacon. Blue cheese and bacon? SOLD. I found a copy-cat recipe online, whipped up a double-batch and brought it to a birthday party. It was gone in under an hour and I had a new go-to for ball games and other get togethers. Traditionalists scoffed. I pushed back. How could adding bacon and blue cheese to anything be bad?

That said, there were problems. I often play fast and loose with my ingredients. A dash of this, a pinch of that. That looks like a [tablespoon/cup/ounce]. When playing around with something that had about 15 ingredients, the final outcome never tasted consistent.

The second problem was I finally tried a version that didn’t have all those extra ingredients and it blew me the hell away.

2 – I’ve mentioned a few of my favorite kitchen items in the past, but never the one that I’ve found the most useful in the past year. Immersion blenders are awesome. They’re powerful, versatile, efficient, easy to clean and store. The good ones will replace your regular blender and food processor. You’ll use them when you want to puree sauces or smooth out your soups. For example, when I’m making tortilla soups I like to use whole tomatoes instead of crushed. They go in the pot to cook and I use the immersion blender to smooth everything out.

I bring this up because it also helps make hella good guac.

Like I said, I’m very big on texture and consistency in my food. Sliced or chunky avocado is a non-starter for me. If it’s smooth and creamy? Now I’m on board. It’s with that in mind I give you my method of making quick and easy traditional guac that you’ll end up making all the goddamn time. I sure as shit do.

Ingredients:
2 avocados
1/4 red onion, roughly chopped
1/2 jalapeno
juice of one lime
1 tbsp cilantro
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

I generally buy double what I need, make a batch on Sunday, saving the onion and jalapeno, and make another in the middle of the week. I go through a lot of this stuff.

1 – Put everything in a bowl:

guac1

2 – And use your awesome immersion blender to mix it until you get the consistency you like:

guac2

I don’t know enough about guac to say whether or not this is normal, but I think this stuff is best the next day (or even the day after that) provided you kept it in an air-tight container. The ingredients have had time to work together and the jalapeno has opened up. It just seems more flavorful.

But yea, I’ll go through two of these batches a week, putting it on sandwiches as a spread, or used as a garnishment for soups. Of course I’ll wolf down a bowl with pretzels. Hell I’ll eat it with a spoon. I brought some to a movie night with friends a couple weeks ago. It went from sitting on the counter to sitting in a friend’s lap as they ate it all. It’s so freaking delicious.

3 – If an immersion blender seems like something you’d find useful, this is the one I have. It comes with a variety of attachments and bowls, including the one above I used to make the guac. I can’t imagine you’ll be disapointed in it.

The best bacon you’ve ever made

I had my dual burner non-stick grill pan for six years, and I’ve used it more than any other tool in the kitchen. I think so much of it I bought ’em for friends and family. It’s quick and easy to clean, it doesn’t warp and it cooks incredibly well. But what I love most about it? It’s a bacon-cooking machine.

I used to suck when it came to frying bacon. It didn’t cook evenly, curled and I would end up with burns from grease spattering. Then, a couple years ago, I started making bacon in the oven on my grill pan, and all it did was easily make the best bacon I’d ever tasted.

After some trial and error I decided this was best method:

(note: oven temps vary. You may have to use a little trial and error too.)

1 – Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2 – Line your sheet with bacon, either across the grill marks or with them. It doesn’t seem to matter.

bacon1

3 – When the oven is up to temperature (my oven takes about seven minutes), pop it in the oven.

4 – Set your timer to 18 minutes. This is probably the max if you want firm, crispy bacon. I like mine just a shade under this and I’ll generally take the bacon out of the oven with a minute to go.

When you do so it looks like this:

bacon2

5 – Transfer the bacon to paper towels…

bacon3

6 – …and transfer the grease to a mason jar for storage in your fridge.

bacon4

7 – INJEST BACON.

bacon5

When you’re done, wait until the pan is okay to touch and give it a quick cleaning. Since the surface is non-stick the clean-up is a brease.

Pick yourself up one of these awesome little bacon machines here.

Thoughtful writing regarding Newtown

Everyone has weighed in on what happened last Friday in Newtown, and I don’t have any kind of unique perspective or insight. Even if I did, it’s probably been written elsewhere and done-so more eloquently. Here is some excellent reading if you’re so inclined.

• A food blogger across the pond weighs in on her native country.

• Actually, yes, now is the time to talk politics.

• “The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children.

• Drew Magary says Down with Big Gun.

All of these should be read, the New Yorker piece in particular. They say all that I want to in a much better way.

Some last minute Thanksgiving advice

Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday of the year. Next to the NFL draft, it may just be my favorite day, period. As someone whose two favorite things are cooking and sports, of course it is. Many of my favorite meals and memories have come on this day. From the good (virtually every dinner my late grandpa made), to the disastrous (my mom’s first introduction to a convection oven – R.I.P. good turkey that day) to the horrifying (you made duck, aunt Cindy? REALLY?).

But last year’s Thanksgiving was exceptional, a revelation, a masterpiece. It couldn’t have gone any better and left all of us wondering why we hadn’t thought of it earlier and it was because of two words:

Thanksgiving lunch.

As much as I try and help on Thanksgiving, I’m usually pretty useless; my grandpa used to own the kitchen when he cooked and now my mom’s got it handled. I ask what I can do, I get a shrug and and a shoo. Last year was no different with one exception: my mom had enough of daytime cooking and missing all the good football. She got up at the crack of dawn to put the turkey in. She made sides the night before. She started a loaf of bread in the morning and finished the potatoes when the turkey came out. At 11:30 am. Thanksgiving dinner turned into Thanksgiving all-day buffet. And it was AWESOME.

Guys, I know it’s last minute, but if you have the ability to do so I implore you to give it a shot. You’re going to love grabbing that first plate of turkey and stuffing and settling in to watch Houston vs Detroit at 12:30pm ET. THAT’S STILL MORNING FOR MOST OF YOU GUYS.

And then? Have a nap! Have a drink or two!! Before you know it the Patriots will be playing the Jets and it’ll be time for SECONDS (or thirds, ya’ll).

Anyway, it’s been a great year. I’ve got hella amounts to be thankful for. So, with a deep breath (seriously, this is a big deal), I’m gonna share a recipe that’s been the centerpiece of every (good) Thanksgiving I’ve ever been apart of: my grandpa’s dressing.

It’s always the first thing people go for when the meal starts, particularly the stuffing that comes out of the dead bird’s ass. It’s so good. My family may disagree with me, but I like to think my grandpa would want this recipe shared with others. It’s too good to keep in the family.

Dressing – (20 lb turkey)

3 qts bread crumbs
5 cups chopped celery
3 cups diced onion
1 1/2 tbsp sage
3/4 tbsp salt
3/4 tsp white pepper
1.5 cups butter
2.5 cups chicken broth (3 cubes)

Directions:
Melt better & sauté onions and celery in it.
Add spices.
Add to bread crumbs & pour the broth over the top. Mix.

Cool stuffing for at least 3 hours before using to stuff turkey.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

Rachel Maddow is the best

Video pretty much speaks for itself.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVwXA7sHUlE&w=420&h=315]

She’s 100% right, of course. We need Republicans and conservatives to wake up and accept simple things, such as math and science. The country only progresses forward with solutions to serious problems when that happens.

GOP, you’re on the clock.

Election thoughts

I’m in a weird spot with this one and I’ve had a lot of random thoughts on the election since the results were in. I’m not going to try and tie it all together, I’m just going to puke out my thoughts and get it over with.

I’m surprised. I thought Obama would win, I thought he would win big. I didn’t think that we would see the results we did in Congress, however. Tuesday was an incredible day for progressives and if there was a reason for optimism that was it. The Tea Party was hammered and Republicans suffered the consequences and have already made moves towards the center.

Good for Nate Silver. I’m not gonna lie, I only found out about Nate Silver about a week before the election. I found out he’s the person who invented PECOTA and now he was using a similar method to predict elections. I fully understood why he made the predictions he did, and I understood the blowback too. Stat-heads get the same kind of criticism in sports, the field Silver started in. What the controversy did do is put a face to mathematics, science and logic. Look for the mid-terms to be more data driven, less pundit bullshit. It also ruined the career of Karl Rove, so hey, bonus amirite?

The worst from the far right was on full display. It’s difficult for me not to judge conservatives when I turn on Fox News and see morons like Rove and O’Reilly make racist and ignorant statements regarding why they lost the election. When they bemoan the fact that the white male is now the minority in Congress as if that’s a bad thing.

It’s tough to discount the possibility that Republicans are anti-intellectual when they say higher education is to blame for their loss.

Or that their party is largely sexist.

It’s even more difficult to not consider Republican conservatives racist when you see these disgusting tweets.

Look…I know smart, rational conservatives that are neither racist or sexist or anti-intellectual. I don’t know many, but I know they exist. However, the few will always suffer from that perception until the Republican leadership begins to condemn those that destroy their party’s image. Intelligence, compassion and thoughtfulness are not negatives. Science is something to be studied, not shunned. Equal rights for all should be a mandate, not fought. When Boehner, Gingrich and the leadership publicly call out the Fox News morons, racist assholes on Twitter and Michelle Bachmann’s of the world the rest of their party will earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’m not bullish on Obama’s second term. I want to believe that we’ll now see the liberal we thought we elected four years ago. I want to believe that he won’t be pushed around or compromise the way he was in his first term. I want to believe that because he won’t have to worry about running again he can legislate with a sense of urgency and abandon.

But the truth is it doesn’t matter without help from Congress. They filibustered every last piece of legislation brought about them in Obama’s first term. It wasn’t about doing right for their constituants; it had everything to do with making Obama a one term president. Since that’s no longer an issue my hope is we get some congressional help in fixing the economy, unemployment and the environment.

Oh, yea, the environment. I don’t think this planet has 100 years left. It absolutely terrifies me.

What if scientists are correct and our planet may essentially be unlivable by 2050? What if it was universally accepted and there was nothing we could do about it? Would you childless couples still have kids, knowing the kind of world you’d bring them into? How would it effect your current day to day living, knowing that when you should be anticipating retirement you’ll instead be looking at a world no longer habitable?

We have problems with the economy and unemployment and equal rights. I wish we could solve those problems now. But my single biggest hope is Obama and congress work together to make clean energy the number one goal. They need to make it not only the US’s priority, but to gather support from around the globe. We need both sides of the isle to let the dangers of climate change known to the public. Doubters need to be shamed and silenced and called out for their stupidity.

This is bigger than anything the world has ever faced and action needs to start now.

Cream of Wild Rice Chicken Soup

Enjoy this one in the fall.

Cream of Wild Rice Chicken Soup

1/2 c. uncooked wild rice (cooked two cups)
1 large onion chopped
1 1/2 celery stalks chopped
2 pkgs fresh sliced mushrooms
1/2 c. butter
1 c. flour
8 c. hot chicken stock
1 c. Half & Half
2 tbsp dry whitewine
4 chicken breasts cooked and cubed

Saute onion, celery and mushrooms in butter. Sprinkle in flour while stirring and slowly add broth until blended. Add rice, chicken, salt and pepper to taste. Heat thoroughly then stir in 1/2 and 1/2 and wine. DO NOT BOIL!

Red Curry Chicken

When it comes to food in Eau Claire, I have good number of favorites. The cheeseburgers at the Court ‘n House, fish & chips and the blackened tuna steak sandwich at Mogie’s, cajun pasta at Cicone’s and the Ahi Tuna at Grizzly’s all rank high and I have to have them all fairly regularly.

But there’s one dish that’s so good that it actually influenced my decision when I decided to move last May. There’s a lot of awesome things about where I live right now. Farmer’s market, great bars, Charly’s Market, Cafe Tempo…all great, sure, whatever. But none compare to the awesomeness that is the red curry chicken at Pad Thai. It was the first thing I had to have on my move-in day downtown. If you haven’t tried it yet, YOU’RE DOING LIFE WRONG.

A couple years ago I’d heard what an awesome dish it was and I gave it a shot. Dudes, it’s borderline life-changing. It’s not too spicy, even at its hottest. It’s a big portion, enough for two. It’s even relatively healthy. There have been Sundays when I’ve been legitimately depressed because Pad Thai was closed. Now I try the red curry whenever I hit up a new Thai joint, and nothing ever compares.

So yea, it’s awesome and I doubt I ever get it again. Not after what I made last night.

Like I said, Pad Thai is closed on Sundays. This blows, because after the damage I typically do to my body on Friday and Saturday nights all I want is something light and healthy. But necessity is the mother of all invention and I wasn’t going to let something as simple as a closed restaurant keep me from what I craved.

Now, I’ve never made anything close to resembling Thai cuisine before. To be honest, I still probably haven’t. I didn’t necessarily try to copy Pad Thai, they were just the inspiration. I know there are some ingredients below that aren’t in traditional Thai, but I like ’em and I figured it’d go well with the dish.

I feel like this was a pretty good attempt, particularly when my method was basically “throw some shit into a pot and hope it tastes good”.

It did, SO LET’S ROLL.

Red Curry Chicken

Ingredients
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into strips (I suspect Pad Thai uses chicken thighs)
1 tsp hot chili oil
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1 14 oz can Lite Coconut Milk
1 red bell pepper, julienne
1 green bell pepper, julienne
1 red onion, julienne
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 whole shallot, diced
2 tbsp ginger, diced (about the size of your thumb)
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 15 oz can of baby corn, preferably chopped
1 8 oz can of bamboo shoots, sliced
1/2 tbsp dried cilantro
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp dried bay leaf
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp red curry paste (yea, I got the jarred stuff and didn’t make my own. Whatever.)

Directions

1 – GET YOUR SHIT READY. There’s actually very little cooking to do here and it all goes pretty quick. So do your chopping, slicing and measuring beforehand. This is basic and you should be doing it whenever you cook anything, but with 20+ ingredients here it’s important.

2 – In a 2 QT covered pan, heat your chili and olive oil over medium heat. When it’s hot, add your chicken and salt. Sauté the chicken until the meat is close to done, about four minutes.

3 – Add the finely diced ginger, garlic and shallots and continue cooking until the aroma of the garlic and ginger is strong, about three minutes.

4 – Add EVERYTHING ELSE. Oh, and a 1/2 cup of water.

Seriously, just dump all that awesome stuff in the pot.

First, the coconut milk and water. Then the peppers, onion, corn, bamboo shoots and herbs. Then the cream and (finally) the red curry paste*.

5 – Drop the heat to medium low and let it simmer for 30 minutes, or until you get the consistency you want. I like mine less soupy so I let it reduce for a while. I think you’ll know it’s done when your red curry chicken looks a very bright orange.

HELLA GOOD.

6 – Serve with rice. BOOM.

*IMPORTANT: I love me some heat. The above recipe isn’t all that hot in my opinion, but I tend to tolerate heat better than most of my friends. Most curry recipes I’ve seen call for significantly less red curry, but I find the flavor to more or less suck without at least one tablespoon. So I’d start with that and add more as it cooks. The flavor becomes stronger the longer you let it reduce.

Overall this is a pretty easy, pretty cheap (seriously), pretty healthy and hella flavorful meal. I ate a little when it was done (cooking anything makes me lose my appetite), vacuum-sealed and froze individual portions for down the road.

Give it a shot, let me know what you think.