The Perfect Pork Chop: Sous Vide


For years I have been reading about this fancypants sous vide cooking and the hyperbole about the resulting end product.
Phrases such as “The juiciest steak ever”, “The meat falls of the bone in a stiff breeze”, and “The closest thing to a sexual experience involving a knife and fork”.
The last quote was spoken by me to Sweetpea after taking a bite of perfectly cooked pork chop. I love a medium-rare pork chop though I’ve never been able to get but a medium-rare nugget in the center of the chop through any cooking method I’ve employed. With sous vide, the entire chop is medium-rare, side to side, top to bottom.

Sous vide means “under vaccum”. I have a vaccum sealer but chose not to use it in favor of Ziploc freezer bags and expelling the air by hand. The food is cooked at a very precise low temperature and takes many times longer than any cooking method I’ve yet tried. If you want a steak cooked rare, let it go for 2 hours at 131 degrees F. Want some amazng short ribs? 141 F for 2-3 days. Sounds wrong but it is safe and tastes so right.

Yesterday morning I got up and surfed around to see what I would make for dinner. I stumbled on an intro to sous vide cooking. Upon seeing the equipment I realized that I already had all the necessary equipment and was ready to go. I really lucked out as I had a laboratory immersion circulating heater from my days in bio-lab work. I also had a digital thermocouple thermometer and stainless probe. And finally, I had a 6-pack beer cooler. I added a lab ring stand base to clamp and hang the heater at the perfect position in the cooler. A test run showed that I could keep the temperature within 0.1F of my desired temperature! It was the perfect storm, from zero to a sous vide system in less than 30 minutes.

I was fortunate to have brought the circulating heater home from the lab many years ago. It turns out it is the method preferred by fancypants chefs and is the most accurate way of maintaining the correct temperatures. They’ll put you out $800 – $1,500 for a new one, $200 – $600 for a used one (eBay, LabX). Mine was being tossed by a research group that was moving to another university. Thank you wasteful scientists!

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For a basic primer on sous vide cooking see this.

Want to hack your own system using just a cooler and a combo of hot and boiling water? See this. It’s a great way to experience sous vide and decide if you want to take the plunge into the deep end of the gourmet pool and never come up.

If you’re a handy bugger you can make your own circulating heated bath for about $75 by following these instructions.

Enough with the tech, let’s move on to the food.

I started with boiling two eggs. I had read that the best boiled eggs in the world are only 60 minutes away and this was absolutely correct. I put the eggs in a Ziploc bag with about a cup of water and squeezed the air out.

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I then dropped the bag into the water bath at 148 degF and let them go for around 70 minutes.

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The eggs came out spectacular. I gently thumped them and poured them into a dish. Just like a poached egg but better. They weren’t raw, as a matter of fact they are fully pasteurized by this cooking method. The yolks were unbelievable; a silky, custard texture with the mouthfeel of, well, I’ve never had something so sexy in my mouth and been allowed to swallow it before. Yeah, that good. I don’t know any other way to cook an egg like this. It was perfect.

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The picture ain’t great but the egg sure as hell was.

After such a stellar success I decided it was time to grab my meat and get busy. I had a pork loin chop that was making dining room eyes at me all week. I decided to brine it in a salt & sugar brine for an hour. I put 2 Tbsp of salt and 1 Tbsp sugar in 2 cups of water and called it good. I suppose you could brine it overnight but my results were so good that I doubt I’ll try it.

I took the chop from the brine and patted it dry with some doubled paper towels. I then sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, that’s all. Into the Ziploc freezer bag it went. I dropped it in the bath at 141 degrees and let it go for 2 hours.

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After 2 hours it looked like this:

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Not very appetizing, is it? That’s why a quick pan searing or grilling is necessary. I heated my cast iron skillet to 5,000 degrees (actually, whatever the temp is on a medium electric burner) until I could smell the metal, slopped a spoonful of peanut oil into it, and slapped the chop down for 1 minute per side. This gives the outside that smoky and browned crust that we all adore.

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When I cut it open I was greeted by a happy light pink color, the color that I’ve always wanted a chop to be, and it had that color through and through (except for a few millimeters on the sides I seared).
The chop was bursting with juices, the moistest chop ever! The texture was quite unlike anything I’ve ever had. It’s like eating a pork chop with the texture of a filet mignon or prime rib. I cannot adequately describe it.

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Go ahead, make your own beer cooler / hot water sous vide cooker and try this out. You will not regret it.

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Cooking with Foxfur: Cucumber Hummus Wraps


We had a blast of summer weather recently and it put me in the mood to fix up some seasonal vittles. I learned this one from my wino-twin Anne. Sweetpea will buy a bottle of wine now and then and send me over to spend the night at her place. Kill a couple bottles, grill up some T-bone steaks, watch some movies. I lucked out to catch me a wife who’ll let me do that.

I nearly fell off my horse when Anne told me about this sammich. It has no meat! While this is unusual for me, it is completely outrageous coming from her. About as fucked up as a football bat as my old sarge would have said. Anne and I are always cracking jokes about vegetarians & vegans. I carried a ziplock full of bacon to an Occupy rally and magnificently offended their sensibilities although a few self identified vegans did partake…

Here’s whatcha came for:

Cucumber Hummus Wraps

  • Whole wheat or spinach tortillas, any size
  • 1 Cucumber
  • Hummus
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Sunflower or sesame seeds

Peel the cuke and slice it in half lengthwise. If you like, and I like, scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Now slice the half in half lengthwise then slice the quarter in half length lengthwise. You can do it again if you want a l’il challenge or want to add fingertips to your wrap…

Slap a tortilla on top of the bag. Spread a tablespoon or three of hummus on the first third of it. I use roasted garlic or pine nut hummus with a teaspoon of Tabasco sauce mixed into the original container.

Now sprinkle some sunflower seeds or sesame seeds on the hummus. Pine nuts, almonds, and crushed pistachios are dandy too.

Take 3 or 4 cucumber spears and press ’em into the hummus. Add a dash of salt and pepper if’n you so desire.

Now top with alfalfalfalfa sprouts (love that word!).

Roll it up, cut it in half, and throw it on a plate. Order up!

That right there is some fine summer vittles! Sometimes I’ll add roast beef and honey mustard or a couple slices of crispy bacon.

Serve with lemonade, limeaid, wine, etc.

Wheee!

Cooking With Foxfur: Hoisin Ginger Prawns


If this recipe doesn’t make you mess your pants it’ll certainly mess up your shirt if you don’t know how to drive a pair of chopsticks…

Seriously (I use that word loosely here), it’s so good that I went out and bought a new camera and cooked it up again just so I could take photos of it and share the magic. Why a new camera? First, I realized that my pictures were looking like a sun faded menu taped up in a south facing window of a Korean restaurant. Second? I lost my camera a couple of weeks ago when friends took me out and got me all shitty for my birthday. Good excuse to step up from that Nikon “My First Digital Camera” I had…

OK! So last Sunday night I was thinking and it got all messy. I started out with “I want a monster truck!” and progressed to “How do they make colored concrete pavers?” then “Why do I have to use periods at all?” and “When am I supposed to take my meds?”. Somewhere around the point when the voices and I were singing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island I suddenly realized that my blood sugar level was getting lower than my box of wine and that I should probably put something in my belly. I had lotsa tasty veggies, plenty of oink, moo, and cluck, and hoisin sauce in fuck you quantities. Always wanting what I don’t have and seeking to make life more complicated than it has to be (lack of stimulation), I decided that what I really wanted was shrimp or prawns. I loaded up the Conestoga and the trusty, er rusty, shotgun, put on my body armor and Hello Kitty finger puppets, and rolled into town. I ended up getting some kickass 31/40 frozen prawns. They called ’em shrimp but saying prawns makes me feel all fancy like so that’s what we’re going with here.

31/40 prawns ain’t some oddball rifle cartridge, it refers to how many critters you get per pound. It’s about a medium size morsel of the size that you’d get in a prawn dish at a restaurant. This dish, if they served it, would set you back twenty bucks and you’d be lucky if there were more than 14 critters in the whole dish. These things only cost $6 a pound. They take a little time to shell but if you’re reading this drivel then you obviously have plenty of time on your hands…

Here’s a list of ingredients with approximate measurements:

Foxfur’s Hoisin Ginger Prawns

  • 1 Pound frozen medium prawns (shrimp)
  • 1 Pound sugar snap pea pods
  • 1 Red bell pepper
  • 1 Can baby corn, drained
  • 1 Giant hunk (3 to 4 Tbsp) ginger cut into matchsticks
  • 6 Cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 Cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (peanut, olive, or vegetable oil is just fine)
  • 1tsp sesame oil (see above)

AND, think about serving it atop a bed of coconut rice (easy!):

  • 2 Cups rice (almost any kind will do)
  • 1 Can coconut milk
  • 1 Cup water

There’s nothing too difficult about this dish. Don’t let the shrimp, umm, prawns, scare you. They’re dead.

One item that I highly recommend for any kitchen is a small rice cooker:

This one set me back ten bucks or 400 rounds of .22LR and will make 6 cups of rice at a time.

Dump 2 cups of rice in and add the liquids. The can of coconut milk will be 14 ounces or so meaning you’ll have to add about 1 1/4 cups of water to make 3 cups total liquid. I use light coconut milk having less fat but all the flavor. We’ll make up for the fat deficit by using coconut oil to cook the prawns with. My cooker seems to have a hitch in its giddyup when it comes to making this kind of rice. I plug it in, depress the cook lever, and it pops up in less than 5 minutes. I think it has something to do with the heat absorptive, refractive, thermoclinic or other fancy scientific termed properties of the coconut milk. I just take the rice pot out of the cooker base and set it aside for 10 – 15 minutes and unplug the cooker. I plug it back in after my prep routine is done and it comes out fine. For those not having a cooker, combine the rice and liquids in a 2 quart saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Set a timer or suffer burned rice. That’s why I bought the cooker. Something shiny always seems to distract me and I end up feeding the stuff to the cows and birds.

Next, dump the frozen shrimp in a suitable container and fill with cold water. Let it sit in the sink while you prepare the other ingredients and run some more cold water through it letting it overflow for a minute or so.

Get yer pea pods and rinse ’em all good like. Trim the ends off like so:

I don’t like the tough little ends and neither should you. The string along the edge is bad enough. The open ends allow yummy juices to infiltrate and infuse the innards with flavor. Now set them aside and move on to the bell pepper.

I learned a nifty way to prep peppers for slicing from a chef who looks like a serial killer that really knows his knives:

Pretty scary, no?

Slice or dice the peppers however you like ’em and toss atop the pea pod pile.

Now, the ginger:When you’re done with that, grab the ginger root. I like my ginger in matchsticks. It’s easier than chopping and dicing but still retains the promise of appendage amputation when done just wrong. The picture below shows the absurd amount of ginger I use.

Stand it up on end and peel it by slicing down the sides. Next, cut it into thin slices. Hold it between your fingers so that it stays together as you slice it.

Rotate it 90 degrees and slice it into matchsticks. You’ll end up with some that you won’t be able to cut into sticks. You can either mince these bits or smash with the side of the knife until you feel calm again.

Now comes the easy part that most folks think is the hard part but just takes a few minutes. Get out a bowl to put the peeled shrimp in, a bowl to put the shells in, and a straw for your glass of wine. I don’t like picking up my glass with prawn juice on my hands…

I bought deveined easy peel prawns. They’re sliced down the back when the crustacean wranglers devein them. If you buy undeveined ones you’ll have to figure how to accomplish the following steps. I’m lazy.

Grab the edge of the shell at the top where the head used to be and run your finger around to the other side of the neck. Gently peel the shell down towards the tail and grab any leg bits as you go. The shell is gonna come off above the tail, but, if you do it right, when the shell is down to the last segment or two you can grasp the bugger by the tail and pull it right off. The pic below shows one with the tail meat bit still intact and one without. Don’t worry if that bitlet gets away, you’re not missing too much.

M’kay. We’re done with prep and ready to move on.

Drop a teaspoon (or a tablespoon) of coconut oil (or whatever) into your wok or pan. Let it get all hot and melty like and dump in most of the ginger and garlic. Stir it up, keep it moving, and go for about 30 seconds. You’re infusing the oil, damn fine oil if you’re using coconut oil, with the flavors of the roots of the gods so that they will in turn infuse the critters of the gods with said flavors. Throw the shrimp in the pan and don’t let them sit. Cook for 2 minutes and set aside.

Heat up another teaspoon of oil and the rest of the ginger and garlic then throw the pea pods, peppers, and bebeh corns in there. Toss immediately to coat them evenly with oil and cook for 3 minutes or until the peas begin to turn a bright green color.

Dump the shrimp back in and go for another 2 minutes.

Pour the hoisin sauce over the whole mess and stir it in really well. Turn and toss to get the sauce all over and into everything. Cook for a minute or so. Pour it out on a platter or into a bowl or use your best Tupperware.

Mound up some coconut rice on a plate and carpet bomb it with obscene amounts of your hard earned prawny goodness.

Rather than prattle on about inane crap like I usually do, I’m gonna get me some leftover prawns, feed my foodhole, and go pass out…

Cooking with Foxfur: Junk Fried Rice


Fried rice, the garbage disposal dish. Got leftovers? Make fried rice. You can put anything in it and it will be a damn fine dish. Got a half chicken gathering flies? How about that pork chop you’re thinking of trashing? Your hubby and the rugrats didn’t finish their ham at breakfast? So much the better if they didn’t finish their scrambled eggs. Did the folks sitting next to you at the restaurant not finish their plates? Go scrape their plates! Their loss is your gain. Been there, done that more than once when I was a bachelor… I really like to make mine from scratch but when I have bits of vittles like left over stir-fry, that half can of Spam hiding in the corner of the fridge, or diced up whatever that I forgot to use for another recipe, I’ll dump it in the wok and recycle it into a new dish.

The biggest hurdle you might face is the rice. You pretty much have to use cold, not necessarily refrigerated, rice. 4 to 6 cups of cooked rice will do just fine. I toss 2 cups of rice and 3 cups of water in the rice cooker and let ‘er go. When done I’ll unplug it and let it sit for an hour or three. If you’re in a hurry, dump it on a cookie sheet and spread it out to cool. Don’t worry about the type either. Long grain is what I like but I’ve used short grain, medium grain, sushi, jasmine, and brown rice. Hell, try wild rice, black rice, or Rice Crispies. Hmm, fried Rice Crispies… Some R&D is called for…

Remember: Cooking with Foxfur is primarily aimed at people who think they can’t cook. The other demographic is folks who worry too much about measurements. I’ll put an ingredient list below, BUT, please don’t follow it! Make additions, substitutions, deletions, and excuses as needed. You’re making dinner not rocket fuel. Just like tossing hand grenades, close is good enough.

So here’s what I started with:

A bewildering array epicurean detritus...

Foxfur’s Junk Fried Rice

  • A pound or so of meat
  • 4 – 6 Cups of cold rice
  • A can of corn, drained
  • A can of peas, drained
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 1 Green onion thinly sliced
  • Other tasty scraps

If you’re using fresh uncooked meat, why not marinate it? I used dark soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil. You don’t have to drown the meat. Use a tablespoon of soy sauce, whatever type you like, a tablespoon of mirin (sweetened rice wine) although sake, wine, beer, or fruit juice will do just as well, and a splash of sesame oil. Use whatever oil you have. Cut the meat up into fine pieces. I go with 1/4 inch cubes, but do what you want. This is where you get to stick it to the restaurant and get even for all the unsatisfying fried rice you’ve ever had. Were their meaty bits too teensy? Use gobbing hunks in yours. Too little meat? Add three pounds to yours. Whatever you want is what you should have. Throw the meat in a bowl with the marinade. Do this before doing anything else. I like my meat to soak for half an hour before I start playing with it.

Git yer veggies. Put a good teaspoon or two of oil in the pan and heat it up pretty hot. Throw the veggies in and stir ’em around real good like. You want them all to get a bit of oil on them. Cook ’em until they’re a bit past what most folks would consider done. Not burned but not too moist. That’s how I like mine, anyway. Peas are a good indicator vegetable. They should be a bit shriveled but not all pruney. Don’t worry if you get some burned or black spots on them, it’s all part of the goodness. The picture below shows how mine look when they’re where I like ’em.

Stop when they look like this.

When you cook a little longer you’ll concentrate the flavors. The corn will be a bit denser, the peas a bit firmer, and the flavor a bit better. Toss the veggies aside. I usually use the bowl I’m going to serve with or the container I’ll put the leftover product in the refrigerator with.

Now grab yer meat. Heat up the pan with another teaspoon or two of oil. Throw in a bunch of ginger, either minced or cut into matchsticks. Drop a few cloves of garlic in as well. I like using the chopped stuff in a jar. I’d rather be outside in the yard setting stuff on fire than inside peeling and chopping garlic. Stir ’em around for 20 – 30 seconds and dump the meat in. If it clucked or snorted, cook the piss out of it. There ain’t no such thing as a medium rare chicken breast or a bloody rare pork steak that’s going to be good for you. Even if it’s beef, I’ll cook it til it’s well glazed and just a bit dry. Again, the flavor is concentrated and I love the firm texture.

Cook the pork (or other raw meat) with the marinade if using one.

Cook the meat until glazed with marinade.

Stuff your meat into the same container that your veggies went into.

The scrambled eggs are optional. I feel they’re mandatory. While I say to use two, I use three. There’s never enough eggs in the fried rice in any restaurant! It’s enough to make you want to bring a pocket full of eggs and sneak a handful in your bowl. When you beat your eggs, be sure to add salt, pepper, onion powder, milk, sugar, and whatever else you’d put in them for normal scrambled eggs. Drizzle a bit of oil in the pan, heat it up real good, and scramble the hell out of the eggs. It doesn’t matter if they’re not completely done as they’ll finish up when you mix them into the rice a bit later.

Now comes the part that stumps lots of people. An oft heard question is “How do I know when the rice is fried enough?” When you like it is my standard answer. It depends if you like your fried rice clumpy or grainy. I like mine with separated grains. I use 4 to 5 tablespoons of peanut oil for 4 to 6 cups of rice. Heat up the oil and add the rice. Stir and toss it around to get the oil worked through it. Break up clumps with your spatula or spoon. If it is clumping pretty bad or keeps reclumping, add more oil! Add a teaspoon or so, stir, bust up the rice clods and add more as needed. Keep stirring and flipping the rice for 5 to 10 minutes. I like mine pretty well done so I go for about 8 minutes. You don’t want the rice to be crispy or hard. Keep it between the lines…

Add 583,000 grains of rice.

Grab your bottle of soy sauce and shake some over it after 5 minutes or so. You might like a lighter soy flavor, I like a heartier, saltier flavor. Add a bit and taste it. Remember to keep tasting your food as you cook. Nothing makes me crazier than to see people cooking and not tasting! It’s like painting with your eyes closed. It’s the number one way to ruin your food as well as your reputation as a cook.

The perfect shade of brown.

You’ll notice above that not every grain of rice is brown. This isn’t a commercial or test kitchen. This isn’t a cookbook. This is Real Life! If I was going for a polished look the first thing I’d do is upgrade my shitty little point and shoot digital camera to something that actually renders colors appropriately. I’d rather spend my money on wine, ammunition, and fireworks.

If you really must have absolute uniformity, spread the rice out on a cookie sheet, fill up a Windex bottle with soy sauce, and mist the rice until all is right with the world. Be aware that it’s anally retentive people like you that make the rest of us look bad.

It’s time to bring it all together now. Grab your meatbucket and rain the meaty goodness down upon the rice. The veggies too! Be sure to add the scrambled eggs and green onions. Mix it all up good and thoroughly.

Add leftover fried rice to the next batch of fried rice.

There you have it, junk fried rice. For an even heartier flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon of MSG. Don’t listen to the pussies that would have you believe the stuff will kill you or it’s manufactured in Satan’s pants. The stuff is seriously good and no matter what the elitist foodies say, it’s a great way to boost the flavor of foods. It is no more cheating than adding salt or water to food. As a matter of fact, it’s much healthier than salt as the sodium content of MSG is far lower than table salt. Soy sauce, bullion, gravy, bacon, roasted meats, blue and parmesan cheese all have naturally occurring amounts of glutamate. It’s the reason savory foods taste the way they do. For you smart ones, you know the fifth taste: Umami, “pleasant savory taste”.

Whether you use it or not, fried rice made by your own hands will meet, and more likely than not, beat that which you find in a restaurant. Maybe not the first time but hey, you sucked pretty bad the first time you rode a bike, no?

Cooking with Foxfur: Eggs Bastardict


I couldn’t sleep the other night. Not as in “I didn’t sleep well”. I didn’t sleep a wink. I think it was due to having another class in the morning at pyrotechnician school with a live fireworks shoot. I ended up quitting my efforts to sleep and got out of bed at 3:00 AM. What to do… I settled on installing a new drive coupler in my friend’s washing machine (where I’m house sitting). 30 minutes later I was bored again. After a brief Facebook discussion about government cheese and bemoaning the fact that it’s no longer available, I was inspired to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I thought grilled cheese with Spam sounded like a fine idea.

As I began to forage the kitchen for proper ingredients I was suddenly inspired to go above and beyond what I had planned. As good and wholesome as it is, the humble grilled cheese was going to have to wait. I decided to rummage through the fridge and cabinets and come up with something blogworthy. I loves me some multi-ingredient cuisine…

I wanted a version of Eggs Benedict that didn’t involve the complexity of hollandaise. One should never attempt hollandaise while sleep deprived. Besides, I didn’t have any lemon juice for the sauce. I didn’t have any Canadian bacon but I did have Spam. I didn’t have English muffins but there were hoagie rolls, you know, the double wide buns that a polish dog is served in. What better to replace hollandaise sauce with than chili? Ready? Here we go…

Eggs Bastardict

  • A hoagie roll (or whatever)
  • 4 Slices of Spam (or bacon, lunch meat, sausage, hotdogs…)
  • 2 Eggs
  • Half a can of no beans chili
  • Seasonings to sex up the chili

The rolls wouldn’t fit in a toaster, not that I had one, so I used what I had. Toast the rolls over a low gas flame. Move them around so as not to blacken them, unless you’re into that kind of thing. I couldn’t get mine all golden brown like a newfangled piece of proper toast but they came out just fine.

If you don’t have a gas stove, use a propane torch. Don’t laugh, it works. Electric burners will work as well.

Cut your Spam in 1/4 inch thick slices and fry until brown.

I'm pretty sure this is the manna that the bible talks about

When done, place Spam on the toasted rolls.

Spam. It's what's for dinner.I almost called it quits at this point…

Next up, eggs! Scoop a bit of fat out of the top of the can and toss it into your pan.

Spamfat is the new butter...A few tips on frying eggs. Whether you use a non-stick pan or a traditional one, always use a fat or oil of some kind. It serves not only to prevent the food from sticking to the pan, which happens no matter which type of pan you use, but also as a heat transfer agent. It forms a conductive film that transfers heat to the food. If you’re concerned about fat intake, in which case you shouldn’t be looking at this recipe, use olive oil. Another tip for perfect fried eggs is to use a cover on the pan. Using one allows the heat and steam to be trapped and cook the tops of the eggs. You’ll have to test out how long to let them go until they’re done to your taste. Over medium heat I let mine go for about 3 minutes.

When the eggs are done enough for you, pile them atop the lovely Spam.

Looks like an owlNext up is the “sauce”. I use many canned foods but never allow them down my gullet without a bit of sexing up. I don’t think I’ve ever met a canned food (or any other food not prepared by me for that matter), that couldn’t use some seasoning. Prepared foods are made to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Don’t be afraid to add unconventional seasonings, just add something. I used Tabasco’s Sweet n Spicy sauce, onion powder, a teaspoon of chopped garlic, and some fresh minced ginger. The chili I found at Grocery Outlet. It’s like a garage sale for food. You never know what you’ll find there. They used to have Spam with Japanese kanji script on the cans…

Never eat something out of a can without modificationsI used half the can. Put it in a small dish or bowl, season it, and microwave it for 90 seconds. Taste and add more crap as needed. Pour the chili over the eggs, top with cheese, onions, fresh parsley, whatever, and grab a fork.

Shazzam!Oh hell yes! That’s a real breakfast. Try finding this at a restaurant…

A friend’s question about cholesterol reminded me that I’d tallied the nutrition information for this light and healthy recipe…

  • Calories: 1030, 550 from fat
  • Fat: 62.5g
  • Cholesterol: 585mg
  • Protein: 55g
  • Sodium: 3050mg

An interesting fact about the cholesterol content of this waistline whittling meal. The eggs: 430mg. The Spam: 80mg.

Spam is healthy. Case closed.

Cooking With Foxfur: Sweet & Sour Blue Chicken


Today I’m going to be showing y’all how to whip up a Snooseville variant of sweet and sour chicken. I was going to call it “What The Fuck Chicken” but that could easily refer to nearly any of my chicken recipes including my famous chicken fried Spam… This recipe came to me last night as I was searching for a duplicate of authentic Americanized Chinese restaurant sweet & sour sauce. I’ve made many different types of sweet and sour sauce but, being the simpleton that I am, I loves me some of that clear and simple sauce. I stumbled upon the easiest sauce you could ever hope for and one that you can make from what you have on hand. All it takes is water, sugar, vinegar, cornstarch, and red food dye. After mulling it over for a while, I rejected the idea of red, too conformist, and thought of green or blue as a way of sticking it to the man. Seeing as how I was fresh out of green, I decided on blue. Feel free to substitute green, yellow, or black. Anything but red. Red is far too unoriginal for us, right? Right! So, without further adieu (which I have plenty of), here goes nothing.

Sweet & Sour Blue Chicken

1 32 ounce bag of General Tso’s chicken or battered chicken

1 large onion

2 Sexy carrots

2 Bell peppers

2 Teaspoons minced ginger

1 Teaspoon minced garlic

Sauce:

1 Cup water

1 Cup sugar

¾ Cup white vinegar

3 Tablespoons cornstarch mixed in 3 Tablespoons of water

Peel the onion and cut into wedges. Peel the carrots and cut diagonally in thin slices. Seed peppers and cut into ½ x ¾ inch pieces. OR, get fancy and use a really small star shaped cookie cutter. I’m not joking. People love stuff like this. You can get a job cooking at the White House with this trick.

Mince ginger and garlic and place in a little dish.

Combine water, sugar, and vinegar and stir until dissolved. Look at these fucking peppers!

I’m using a West Bend electric wok so I’ll be referring to my cooking vessel as a wok. You can use a wok, frying pan, maybe even a hubcap or gold pan. Whatever. I don’t care. You’re gonna do it no matter what I say.

Drizzle a teaspoon of oil into your heated wok. Dump in ¾ of the ginger and garlic. Stir it around for 5 – 10 seconds. Launch your carrots in and slap them around like my, err, a mouthy boyfriend for 60 – 90 seconds. Next, dump the peppers and onions in and go go go for another 3 minutes or so. Stop when the veggies are as crisp or as mushy as you like. Flip them into a bowl and set aside for now.

Now, get a firm grip on your chicken. I’m using frozen battered chicken because it’s what I have to work with and I’m lazy. If you want to cut up chicken breasts and dredge them in flour, be my guest. You obviously have a large amount of time on your hands so why not knit a sweater while you’re at it, smartass?

My chicken came with a packet of General Tso’s sauce. This sealed packet of communist aggression didn’t give up easily and had to be forced to surrender at gunpoint, pinko bastard! I banished the packet of dissent to the hinterlands of the freezer in a multicultural tryst with a package of frozen burritos. Adios, bitches!

Pour ¼ cup (2 ounces) of oil into your pan. I use peanut oil because it is domestically produced and does not support terrorism (unlike them fancy ass foreign oils…). For a real treat, replace ½ ounce (2 drachms) of the oil with sesame oil. Heat and toss in the remaining ginger and garlic. Dump the chicken in and stir constantly for 15 – 20 minutes. So long as it’s not pink and raw in the center you’re good. I like mine a bit crispy and brown so I’ll go for the full 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a container that DOES NOT contain the veggies. DO NOT let the chicken touch the veggies!

Pour the sauce mixture into the wok. Heat to a low simmering boil and stir until everything is fine and dandy. Now is where the blue (or color X) comes in. I only had ¾ of a tube of blue food coloring gel and used it all. I didn’t end up with nearly the depth of color that I wanted. I was going for something to gross out kindergarteners but ended up with something that Alice Waters would probably be cool with instead. Next time I’ll use liquid food coloring and have shitloads on hand. When in doubt, add more. With a recipe like this, which is totally asinine, go completely nuts and err on the side of recklessness. Who the hell is going to tell you screwed it’s up, huh? Of course it’s screwed up! You’re cooking with Foxfur!

Put on a pair of safety goggles and begin adding the cornstarch / water mixture. Be very careful!!! Many inexperienced cooks have suffered catastrophic facial burns requiring hundreds of hours of reconstructive surgery only to end up looking like Sharpei puppies hesitantly emerging from a food dehydrator. Don’t let this happen to YOU! The sauce will begin to thicken upon stirring the CS water into the sauce. Bear in mind that the sauce is hot and will appear thinner now than it will be when it is cool. If you add enough CS water, you’ll end up with something approximating brick mortar when it cools off. Or toothpaste like mine did. I didn’t care. It fit into my foodhole and stayed down. I win again! You can easily test the cooled thickness of the sauce by spooning a few drops on a cool plate or piece of aluminum foil. Let it cool for a few seconds and lick at it. Undignified? Yes. Most chefs are. Look at me.

Now grab your chicken and plunge it into the sauce. Mix it around in the sauce on low heat for a few minutes so that the sauce can work in and get all flavory like with it. Add in the veggies then fold, spindle, and mutilate. Pour the mess into a serving bowl or plate and prepare to disgust your guests.

Serve it on a bed of rice which may or may not have been dyed to a horribly contrasting color. Saffron rice, yellow, would be a good choice. The blue of the sauce should mix with the rice’s yellow and result in a sick-ass green streaked mess to grace the plate of your “friends” that you’ve invited to “dinner”, wink, wink.

Some final comments:

Cooking is not a science except in the case of cooking meth. You don’t want to fuck up on that. Recipes are mere guidelines. They’re the beginning of an adventure that only you will be going on and that only you can judge the success of. You wouldn’t pack a suitcase with only what a list told you to, would you? If you want to add pineapple to this recipe, fine. If you think your kids would like gummi bears in it, who am I to disagree? That actually sounds pretty awesome and will end up in a future recipe to be featured here. The only recipes where following the ingredient list and cooking methodologies are absolutely critical is when baking cakes and cookies. Nearly everything else is fungible. Get creative and use your imagination. The best recipes are the ones you’ll never find in a cookbook. They’re the ones passed around on 3×5’s by little old ladies in the back row of bingo parlors.

It’s just like life: Nothing exciting ever comes from following all of the rules all of the time.

Update: The General Tso sauce kicks ass on my Spam and Corn Fritters

Cooking With Foxfur: Stir-Fry


Cooking! Foxfur loves it. Nothing is more satisfying to me than taking a bunch of cool parts and building something functional and beautiful from them. Of the many neat things I build, only cooking gives me the opportunity to eat what I have made. Sometimes I can combine my creations with food for tasty results. See my post on cooking Spam with a flamethrower for a tasty example ( https://foxfuramused.com/2011/09/25/flamethrower-spam-at-burning-man-2011 ).

Today I will remove the mystery of my favorite method of cooking: the stir-fry.

Stir-fry combines three main ingredients: Vegetables, meat (or alternate protein source), and a sauce. Some folks may prefer to omit the protein and sauce. Why? I have no idea. Do whatever you like but for the very best result include the sauce.

Stir-fry theory is relatively simple. Cook the vegetables, remove from wok or pan. Cook the meat, add the sauce, and throw the veggies back in. Eat.

First the vegetables are cooked. A bit of oil is heated, perhaps a teaspoon or so, garlic and / or ginger added to the oil and stirred for 5 – 10 seconds and then the vegetables are added. These are tossed around and constantly turned in order to avoid burning. Vegetables that require a longer cooking time are added first and cooked for a little bit before the more tender ones are added. Carrots, broccoli, etc. are added first. I usually cook the broccoli separately. When the veggies have been cooked for a few minutes, add a few tablespoons of water and cover. This allows them to steam a bit. I typically allow 60 – 90 seconds of steaming depending on the texture I like. If you want uber crisp veggies, omit the steaming.

Next, cook the meat or protein. Again, add the oil, a teaspoon to a tablespoon depending on the amount of meat you’re cooking. Then the garlic / ginger. Add the meat. Cook the piss out of poultry, pig, or seafood. Trust me, you don’t even want to mess around with medium rare pork. Beef is negotiable. If you wish, cook it 2/3 to 3/4 done, it will continue cooking once the sauce has been added and heated.

Then the sauce. Some like to add the sauce directly to the cooked meat. I like to remove the meat and do the sauce separately. I like to use a mix of broth and soy sauce or other liquids. A good all-purpose sauce: 1 cup broth (chicken, beef, ham, giraffe, vegetable, etc.), 2-4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2-3 tablespoons of mirin or wine of your choice, sugar or fruit juice for a sweet sauce, vinegar for a tart sauce, fish sauce for a hearty sauce, Tabasco for a peppy sauce. Really, add anything. You can’t ruin a sauce. I guess you can if you throw in some really crappy stuff like angostura bitters or Liquid Plumr or the like. Taste the sauce and add junk as desired. If it’s awful, feed it to the sink and start over. I’ve added some bizarre stuff to mine: A1 sauce, Worcestershire, Heinz 57, orange marmalade, maple syrup, grenadine, whiskey, root beer, Pepsi, and Mad Dog 20/20. Get creative! Add the sauce to the wok or pan and heat thoroughly especially if adding reserved marinade (which I highly recommend!). If you like a thick sauce, add cornstarch dissolved in a small amount of water, stir the CS water in and stir the sauce until it’s thickened and cook for 30-60 seconds to cook the taste of starch out of it.

Finally, add the veggies (and meat if you did the sauce alone in the wok) and toss to coat. Depending on the texture, I’ll cook it a bit more to infuse the saucy goodness into the tasty bits.

Serve with rice or noodles and shovel it into your food hole.

Here’s an easy example that I make at least twice a week.

Foxfur’s Furry Tofu (contains no fur)

1lb firm or extra firm tofu dismembered into 1/2inch cubes
1 large onion hacked into wedges
1 large bell pepper (red, yellow, orange, green, or polka dotted) diced into 1/2 to 3/4inch squares or trapezoids
A couple handfuls of sliced mushrooms (white, brown, magic, whatever)
1Tbsp finely chopped ginger
1Tbsp chopped garlic
Oil (peanut, olive, vegetable, palm, motor)

Marinade:
1/4C Soy sauce
1TBSP sugar
2-3 glugs of sweet chili sauce (optional)
Other crap you like (to taste)

Sauce:
1C broth
3TBSP Soy sauce
3TBSP wine (I prefer mirin)
2Tbsp sugar

Mix the marinade ingredients well. Drop the tofu cubes into a bowl and drown with the marinade. I like to let it sit on the counter for an hour or so.

Mix the sauce ingredients together. Set aside.

Add a teaspoon of oil to the wok or pan. Get that stuff hot but not smoking hot. The only smoking hot thing here is you, dear reader, mreow! Dump in the ginger and garlic and agitate it with a stick until it’s not quite done, perhaps 7.42 seconds. You want to kidnap the flavors into the oil not deep fry the stuff. Launch the onions and peppers into the wok. Keep ’em moving, do not burn! Cook for 2 minutes and then toss the mushrooms in. Slap the stuff around for another minute or two. Add a couple tablespoons of water into the bottom of the wok and cover. Drop and give me 25 pushups. Faster! Get up, remove the cover, evacuate the veggies to a dish or other suitable detention vessel.

Drain the marinade from the tofu into something that will hold it and set that aside.

Add a bit more oil, heat, do the garlic-ginger thing and dump the tofu in. Don’t worry if there’s marinade left in the ‘fu. It will get cooked into the cubes and be oh so tastay! Stir the fu every 10-15 seconds. Ideally you want the fu to be browned on all sides but chances are you’ll never be able to do it. I can’t. Whatever. It’ll be cooked. Keep going until you achieve the nirvanaesque state of light to dark
browning, your choice. I like mine a bit on the dark and kinda dry side of the spectrum. Transfer to the container with the vegetables to reflect on their impending doom.

Add the sauce and marinade to the wok and heat until it achieves a slight boil. Taste it and add stuff you like to taste. If it’s too salty add some water. At this point you’ll thicken it up. We do this by dissolving 2Tbsp of cornstarch in 2Tbsp of COLD water. pour half of this into the simmering sauce. Stir quickly to incorporate completely. Still too thin? Add the rest of the starch water. Still too thin? make and add more. Too thick? Add some water. Simmer for a minute or so.

Finally. add the veggies and fu to the sauce. Stir everything until coated with sauce. Continue heating and stirring if you want to. If you don’t want to, you’re lazy and need a personal chef.

Serve your splendid creation with rice or alone. Drizzle with sesame oil and shake some sesame seeds over it for a real treat.

I recommend washing containers and utensils as you go so as not to be overwhelmed with a stack of crap. Done right, you will be able to gorge and pass out where you sit. On coming to you will be greeted with a clean sink and should immediately have seconds.

Stir-fry is not complicated, it just looks like it when I write the recipe. You know me and words…

Playing With Food


My folks moved west from Vermont to California in the 1960s. Mom found some artichokes at the market and was intrigued. She bought two and took them home to cook them for that night’s dinner. She put them in the oven and baked them for 30 minutes, seemed long enough. She cut them in half and served them up. They chewed and chewed and chewed. She thought to herself that these damned things must be an acquired taste. “I think I overcooked them.”

When I was in the sixth grade I got all A’s and a B+ on a report card (first and last time that ever happened). Mom took me out to the steakhouse for an “Atta Boy” dinner. I ordered some wide-cut fries with my steak. I grabbed the ketchup and shook it up. I didn’t realize the cap was off… The folks to the side and in back of us got some free ketchup that night…

20 years ago we had a power outage during a big winter storm. After a few hours we began to get pretty hungry. I wrapped some sweet potatoes in foil, put some rice and broth in a pot, and pulled a canned ham from the cabinet. I placed them all on top of the wood stove to cook while we were outside pulling each other around on skis with the truck. When we were thoroughly exhausted we went back inside. Food was all over the fucking living room! I forgot to remove the lid from the damned caned ham… We asked the neighbor if we could borrow his dog to help clean up. Best dog trick ever!

Big Love with an Old Flame


It seems like only yesterday, but I fell in love with her many years ago. Our relationship has been on and off over the years. It wasn’t her, it was me. You know how it is, sometimes life gets in the way. My priorities got confused and at times I even forgot her. When I first discovered her she was hot, real hot. As with many relationships it mellowed as I got used to her initially overpowering presence. I began to see her as more sweet than hot, not that she minded. She’s always had good taste but the nature of it changes, always for the better though. And I absolutely love her body! Silky, smooth, salty, fragrant, and with a reddish complexion that truly defines her.

I met another saucy individual in the last twelve months, Frank. Initially he appeared hot, I’m talking red hot. But you know the old saw about books and covers, eh? Yeah, I’m subject to falling for it, building something up and being disappointed by the end result. Frank appeared to be red hot, I mean he had it written all over him, really. My first experience with him was lukewarm at best. Not too hot. He just didn’t taste like I thought he would. He’s really sweet but I was expecting more character from him. It was my own fault. At least I didn’t have much invested in him. He was pretty cheap, all things considered, but his sweet and salty taste is appealing nevertheless. I still keep him on the side as he can provide me with pleasures that my old flame cannot. Their bodies are totally different. I cannot realistically expect him to deliver the satisfaction to me that she does and vice versa.

I am thankful that the person that I am is able to love blindly. I do not discriminate by appearances and if I fall in love it’s just that, love. Love allows one to challenge assumptions, to open their mind, to accept differences, and to follow their heart no matter what others opinions are. If someone disapproves of my idea of love or how I choose to express it, it’s on them, not me. My love is fluid. It doesn’t matter where it comes from as long as it’s hot. I know it turns some folks off completely, but hey, you don’t have to engage in my kind of love if it makes you uncomfortable. Some cannot believe the ease with which I practice my love. Others believe it takes great bravery. A few even see it as masochistic, exposing myself to pain unnecessarily. They just don’t get it. They could easily do it if they simply let go of prejudicial notions that they’ve grown up with.

Back to my old flame. I’ve been seeing her pretty regularly for the past few years. Quality is said to be better than quantity but I beg to differ. I really needed to see more of her. That has proved difficult. She is, how do I say this, rather expensive. Yeah, I pay for it. There’s no shame in it. Neither of us feel cheapened by it. It is a mutually consenting business transaction after all. I pay for her and she satisfies me and my needs. She is totally unique in the world. I’ve been around the country many times and have yet to find another so satisfying to me. If you want the best you’re going to have to pay for it.

Last week I told my wife that I had to see more of this old flame. She rolled her eyes and asked why I needed more of her than I already had. I told her that I need what I need and that it’s difficult for me to articulate those needs. Sweetpea doesn’t care for her but she doesn’t mind if I have her in the house. I also spend quite a bit of time with the old flame out in the travel trailer where things can get really hot without bringing tears to Sweetpea’s eyes. So I decided to head into town to see if I could get a bigger helping of her. I should state here that I’m a honorable man. Sometimes I’ll pick her up in a restaurant and use her but I always leave her there. Others love her and I don’t feel right in taking her home in situations like that. It’s just not right. But in this case I was going to find her in a new location and I was prepared to lay down good money to take her home. Again, with my wife’s understanding and support.

I drove to the big city and went to a district where I thought I might be able to locate her. My hunch turned out to be correct! I saw her, money changed hands, I brought her to my rig, got her comfortably settled in the back seat and headed for home. Several times I looked over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. No sir! She was as real as real gets. She was much bigger than I’d ever seen her but that’s a turn on and very appealing.

I finally arrived home and opened the truck’s rear door. I picked her up and carried her into the house. I set her down in the kitchen and just couldn’t help myself. I started in on her right there while my wife slept just yards away. After we had some sloppy fun I decided it was time to wake Sweetpea and show her my old flame. When she walked into the kitchen she gasped. Then she giggled. She was amazed at how big my old flame was. I still hadn’t gotten over that myself. Sweetpea asked if I was happy and I sighed and agreed that I was. I didn’t really think Sweetpea would mind but with these things you just never know. Even though she said it was ok beforehand, I was still nervous that she might be upset. It was mainly the money that I thought she’d mind. Once I told her how much it cost me she was totally cool with it! She told me it was better to pay the price I had rather than to pay for it in smaller amounts for briefer encounters that never seemed to last. She was excited for me that I would not have to pay for it for some time to come. She headed back to bed and told me to have fun.

My old flame...