Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fondue, the food you don't eat with the skinny fork

Greetings from Atlanta, where I participated in another Top Secret meeting of the Royal Fondue Society. About 20 members from all over the world gathered with our fearless leaders (The Sovereign & His Viceroy who shall remain anonyous) and settled in at "Dante's Down the Hatch" for an evening of fun and fondue. While the famous jazz band was not in attendance it didn't stop us from singing "I'll Have to Say I love You in a Song" along with the solo acoustic guitar dude.

There was a medieval-length table packed with our compadres... those who are fond of the skinny forks and small bowls of food. There were many choices for sampling - the international cheese fondue was incredible, dipping breads, apples, and vegetables. A few of us had the mandarin meats, marinated in an asian way, perfect for stick-ing in oil and eating (but not right away!) and dipping sauces. The cardinal sin of fondue feasting is that you do NOT eat the food with the long cooking forks, you put it on the plate and eat like a normal person. As much as we want to really be like sophisticated pirates, we aren't. I ate mine that way anyhow, I couldn't help it.

Having been a little rusty on my fondue cooking instructions, I was reminded about timing on the simmering duration of the meats, fish, chicken, and pork. My internal clock is great, but you have to account for the temperature of the oil itself, 160 degrees and you start killing the bacteria, and whether shrimp is supposed to be grey or do you leave it in a while. Dante the proprietor himself came over and gave us the "real story" behind salmonella, how you get it and some great "transmission tales" of bacteria. Needless to say, within 30 seconds I was washing my hands.

Who needs tapas when you have fondue? A great meal to share, fun banter when your sticks get mixed up (hint - place 2 different items on to identify your stick, like a mushroom and chicken), and you leave the restaurant smelling like something oily - like a diner but without the smoky bacon reek.

The Sovereign of the Royal Fondue Society and his First Lady of the Fork had given my husband and I a fondue set for our wedding. It's like friendship, fun, and 'the way it oughta be' all boxed up with a silver bow - a real treasure for years to come.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

$200 Krispy Kreme ReHeater

This entry focuses on the microwave. IMO, the only one thing that the microwave does well is reheat Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Eight seconds and they're restored to their magical state. You know what I'm talking about... you have to keep looking at the doughnut to make sure it's not raw. They're the raw cookie dough of the breakfast family. I digress. Point is, this is the only use of the microwave that can't be done better elsewhere.

Ok... I hear you. 90% of you have just said, "What about popcorn?". The truth is, if you think the microwave makes good popcorn, it's only because you eat microwave popcorn all the time, and don't realize what popcorn is supposed to taste like. If you don't believe me, spend $20 and get a Whirly Pop (http://www.whirleypop.com/). You'll remember what popcorn used to taste like... before the microwave, before Jiffy Pop, and before the movies overloaded popcorn with too much salt and gobs of butter. Just a Whirly Pop, 1/2 cup of popping corn, a couple teaspoons of oil, some salt and melted butter (and my personal favorite: yeast) and you'll know what I'm talking about.

At the risk of dismantling my entire argument, I'd like to add the fact that I pretty much wouldn't survive w/o my microwave. As a father of three kids, I definitely give my microwave plenty of use. I'm just not proud of it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pork Roll, the other cookout meat

All Hail Pork Roll! For those of you not familiar with this glorious "meat", allow me to introduce you to the alternate to the hot dog or hamburger at the next picnic (that's what we call 'em in NJ). Why do I wave the pork roll flag high in the air? It's the famous food from Trenton NJ, my official birthplace. The fact that I'm a carnivore, and this treat was born the same place as yours truly is no cosmic surprise.

Pork Roll is one of those comfort foods that while growing up as a finicky kid was on the same culinary playing field as minute steaks and macaroni and cheese (the frozen kind you bake in the pie tin vs. Kraft). It comes in this canvas-like roll that is sliced off and fried up, put on a kaiser roll, often with cheese and mustard (spicy is best). Most popular optional use of pork roll is with an egg for breakfast. The best I can describe the taste is... a spicy spam-like ham variant - it's got a similar tasty zippy kick like a hot dog, but it's a ham foundation.

High school summers were spent working the grill at my neighborhood WaWa market/convenience store, with one location near the Congoleum plant (they made porcelain thrones and more). I'm whipping up Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese (on a Kaiser Bun) for the guys coming out of 3rd shift who are eating dinner at 7am. NOTE - Ween made a song titled as such, you can see the video on you tube.

On my seasonal trips to NJ, I still pick up a couple 4 or 6 slice packs. I've only been allowed to cook and eat Pork Roll sandwiches when alone because the smell, taste, and name offend any citizen from outside the NJ/NY/PA area, including my poor husband. To this day, I have been unsuccessful in recruiting any newbie adult age pork roll fans. Try interviewing anyone to see if they've ever eaten pork roll AND like it, and you'll find a native of that tri-state area. I think you have to be raised on it to enjoy it, there's tons of businesses who specialize in mail order pork roll. Feel free to share your pork roll stories here, you'll find a shoulder to lean on with me - especially those of you who have to resort to the internet to order it.

For those interested, Wikipedia gives an impressive lowdown of the culture and history of Pork Roll.