Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ladolemono Chicken Parmesan

Tomato sauce (2 small cans)
Tomato paste (1 can)
Pasta (penne or cut ziti will work)
Chicken breast tenderloins
Feta cheese (crumbled)
Parmesan cheese (shredded)
Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Lemon juice

This recipe was inspired by a post on the excellent food blog Potter's Kitchen for a quick, traditional Chicken Parmesan. I'd wager that if you asked the average American what their favorite Italian food is, chicken parm would be in the top 5. Its deliciousness lies in simplicity of concept: pasta, sauce, breaded chicken, cheese. It's so simple a concept, in fact, that it's just begging for some variation and substitution. But what variation? Well, I'm Greek and it's Italian... plus, around 100 BC, those motherfuckers stole our gods. It's time to pay the fiddler, bitch.
Now, we could just dredge some chicken in olive oil and call it Greek, but we have more cajones than that. My second favorite traditional Greek sauce (after tzatziki) is a simple lemon and olive oil sauce called ladolemono. It's used as everything from a marinade, to a dressing, to a dip for chicken, lamb, and seafood and it's really fucking delicious. We can make a simple Greekish tomato sauce with oregano and basil, and we'll give feta cheese a headlining role beside the parmesan (or parmigiano-reggiano if you buy the real stuff).
Foodies like to bandy about the word "deconstruction", which usually means spreading the ingredients out on a plate and making you assemble it yourself. A deconstructed PB&J would be a half a loaf of Ethiopian rye bread, a glob of peanut butter mixed with almonds and avocado smeared "artfully" on a plate, and a small German shoe filled with apricot and owl vomit jelly. It's not so much deconstructed as it is unnecessarily fucked with, and not usually for the better. This is more of a logical reengineering.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Motherfucking Booze Time: Gin

I fucking love pretty much everything about drinking. I like the taste, the culture, the variety... the whole kit and caboodle. I'm a drinker, there is no doubt. However, we've seen a decline in recent years of knowledgeable drinkers. Too many dumb motherfuckers show up to a bar, plop down their money, and order a drink because they heard it on the TV machine. "Herp derp, gimme a jack an' coke!" "Derpy herp-herp... Jager bomb, please!" Fucking shoot me now. Half of these mongoloids couldn't tell you what "Jack" (an American whiskey) or "Jager" (a German digesteif) is, other than a liquid they drink to get fucked up and make bad decisions. It's essentially the booze equivalent of fast food.
This is why I'm starting a new series here on the Box called "It's Motherfucking Booze Time." I'm going to give you a quick primer on a selected booze, including production, taste, and history. I'll also include a selection of drinks made using said alcohol. It's like the Encyclopedia Brittanica, except not obsolete. The first entry in our series is gin.

What the Fuck is Gin?
To understand what gin is, you need to understand what neutral grain spirit is. Neutral grain spirit (also known as pure grain alcohol or pure grain spirit) is a spirit derived from mash distilled at so high an alcohol by volume that none of the flavor of the mash is left behind. Think of it like blank, flavorless alcohol. Some people do drink this shit, and usually brag about it later... which is kind of like bragging to a friend drinking a Dr. Pepper that you like to drink carbonated water. Yeah, congratulations asshole. NGS provides the basis for many alcohols, including gin.
Gin is really more a taste than a traditional variety of alcohol. That taste is derived primarily from juniper berries, which aren't berries at all... they're really cones with fleshy scales. Other botanicals, berries, and spices are added to give individual gins their desired flavor, but juniper berries are king.
Contrary to popular belief, most common alcohols (gin, whisk[e]y, rum, vodka, tequila) come in at around the same alcohol by volume... that is, about 40%. While you may find higher alcohol versions of many of these drinks, only whisk(e)y and gin will be at LEAST 40%. Alcohol by volume is just what it sounds like... what percent of what's in the bottle is ethanol. Sometimes the ABV is given as a proof. To determine the ABV, simply cut the proof in half... 80 proof is 40% ABV, 101 proof is 50.1 ABV, and so on.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Taco Pie

Refrigerated crescent rolls
Mexican tomato sauce
sour cream
Shredded cheese
Nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips DORITOS! THEY'RE FUCKING DORITOS!
Chili powder

Food is one of the biggest ways in which we define culture. Where you come from and what you ate growing up is a big factor in your personal culture. Scots eat haggis, Italians dig on pasta, and black people in the south chow on collard greens... we all know this. People (Americans at least) love food from other cultures, and I'm no exception. However, no one ever shares MY culture with others. I'm going to change that.

White Trash Cuisine
I was born white trash... that is, extremely financially disadvantaged Caucasian most often (but not always) found in the American south. That's just the way it is. Some people might be offended to be called trash. Well, it's the common fucking nomenclature so you might as well put on your big boy pants stop being a little bitch about it. It is what it is, and honestly, all things considered, I'm pretty proud of it.
Don't confuse southern white trash with the other common cultural group in the South... rednecks. We aren't, as a general rule, rednecks. I didn't grow up listening to country music, going to the rodeo, wearing a big hat, or shooting guns. While some things will overlap (mobile homes, for instance) that's all primarily redneck culture. White trash culture is born from extreme poverty and city life. We're the welfare cases all of the fucking Republicans love to throw under the bus... the "getting knocked up before your Sweet 16" crowd. Everything in white trash culture stems from poverty. I'm talking about families that live on less than five grand a year in many cases.
I don't mean this to turn into a Sally Struthers commercial. It's just the way it is, and as it stands, I wouldn't change much about the situation in which I was raised. White trash can grow up and do all right... plenty of people have.  But the ability to feed a family of four with your last six dollars isn't a skill you lose. When you have to make do, you start getting inventive. This is where white trash food was born. We're talking Hamburger Helper, SOS (shit on a shingle), Spam, friend bologna, Bar S hot dogs, Kool-Aid... do you find yourself feeling kind of bad about this? Well fucking quit it. I genuinely love this food, and still make it despite not really needing to. I just ask that you approach it like you would any other culture... and you can start with Taco Pie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tomato Basil Pasta

Radiatori pasta (or any spiral pasta like rotini or cavatappi)
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil
Lemon juice
Parmesan cheese (shredded)
Feta cheese (crumbled)

There's snow on the ground here in east Arkansas and the temperatures are dropping well below freezing. I fucking love the cold, to the point that I like to walk outside when it's at it's coldest and just stand around. Nothing makes you feel more alive. The odd thing about this weather is that it makes me crave things that most people would eat during the summer... ice cream, fresh fruit, that kinda shit. This is a simple and exceedingly good pasta dish that most people would say belongs in the summertime. Fuck those people.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mango Curry Pork Chops

Boneless pork chops (4 or 5)
Mango nectar
Olive oil
Garlic powder

The holidays are over and it's time to get back in the thick of things. Right after Christmas, I sat down and said, "Man, it sure would be nice for some combination throat/nose sickness to drop by and fuck me in the face." Wouldn't you know it, that's just what I got. It's a goddamn Christmas miracle. My favorite part of being sick, aside from feeling like I swallowed broken glass and downing hot tea like an eighty-year-old British headmistress, is the inability to taste or smell anything. This called for a dish that had both a powerful flavor and a strong scent. Sounds like a job for curry powder.

Curry versus Curry Powder
What we're using here is curry powder, not curry. There is a huge difference in the two, which you should be aware of, lest you look like a fucking idiot in front of friends and family. The word curry basically means sauce in the Indian language Tamil (Slurpee Indian, not casino Indian). Many people think that curry has a specific taste... it doesn't. It's used much like we would use the word soup. Curries from different parts of the Indian subcontinent vary widely in taste. Curry powder has NOTHING to do with actual curry. Curry powder is a mix of vaguely Indian spices including coriander, tumeric, red pepper, and cumin. There's nothing inherently Indian about curry powder. Much like chutney, curry powder was invented by some (undoubtedly British) wiseass who took the name without really caring to understand what it was. So, once again, fuck you India.