Comfort Holiday Food or CHF For Short

Wow, I never thought a title could be so stupid until I actually saw it typed. And yes, it is amazingly bad so I will leave it. Then again, it does cut to the point of this pointless blog and today I am writing about an easy concoction that any dude can follow. Seriously, if you can’t make this I…I just feel for you. Turn your kitchen into an indoor pool or something because you are obviously like Ozzy Osbourne trying to make breakfast. So let’s get started on this holiday-cold weather-need a sweater-don’t care about calorie CHF for the season: Will-Bill’s take on Shepard’s Pie.

Have you ever had truly authentic Irish food? Not what you were thinking, was it? No, these folks are great at whiskey but when it comes to food in Ireland, I can say from experience, you need an unassuming tongue. But what do I know? I hail from the land of Cheeseburgers. And that being said I have turned Shepard’s Pie into just that…a mashed-up cheeseburger.

First on the list of list is to brown the meat. I always go with the 80/20 because I saw Alton Brown cooking with it on TV and if it’s on TV it has to be right. With the meat I usually add a table-spoon of salt and pepper but thanks to the good people at McCormick, they have their own version that I add to almost everything now.

McCormick’s Grill Mates have a Montreal Steak seasoning that is good on almost everything. If you are worried about your sodium level, they boast to have 20% less salt but lets face it, it’s still a shit load of salt. THIS IS COMFORT FOOD! Read about seaweed and poached kale diets on some other blog. Douse this seasoning liberally to your meat and continue to brown.

Ah, nature’s flavor sponges. I take a package of mushrooms and quarter them. Why do quarter them and not slice, you ask? I really think they are better this way. Don’t worry, mushrooms absorb everything so they shrink. They’ll still fit.

No dinner that I cook is void of these three ingredients: jalapeno, garlic and onion. I chop the jalapeno into halves and add them to the meat right away. (Don’t forget the seeds!) Next I slap-chop the garlic and onion to oblivion. God I love the SlapChop. The only thing I hate though is removing the damn skins from the garlic. But there is no way around it so I guess I will always have to do the whole smash, cuss and peel method. See below.

Alright, the meat is drained (often), and the garlic, pepper, onion and ‘shooms are added. I reduce the heat, cover  and let the mix…mix. Now go to the fridge and get a second beer. GO TO THE FRIDGE AND GET A SECOND BEER!!!

While you are giving the mushrooms time to simmer and soak in the jalapeno and garlic, it’s time to bring out the second phase. I call it “Phase Two”. We are adding one and a half cans of cream of mushroom soup (fat-full kind) and one can of drained whole corn. Usually peas are added too but a certain someone who will be eating this hates peas. I can’t think of a substitute so corn is going solo.

When you feel that the mushrooms have taken in all flavor they can we add the soup and corn, cover and let simmer for about five minutes or so on low heat. By now the smell of garlic should be chasing all vampires out of you attic. I assume that your beer is almost done so head over to the fridge and get another. If I have to say it one more time….IF I HAVE TO SAY IT ONE MORE TIME!!!!!!

We are almost there so next comes the third phase or as I like to call it, “Alpha one”. You need to bring four cups of water to a boil in a medium size pot. Once you have achieved a boil, remove the pot from the heat and pour in two bags of Idahoan instant potatoes and whip with a fork until firm. Why instant and not real? Because I’m not a real cook. These potatoes take less time than Kraft Mac&Cheeze so be ready for them. And by read I mean you need to pour the meat’n-stuff into a cooking pan like so…

God, that looks like the worst brownie in the world, doesn’t it? I looks like you invited an old Eastern Euro-Bloc guy to a holiday office party an assigned him deserts to bring. He would say, “I vill bring brownies for holiday party and you vill like!”. I imagine he would look like this.

I forgot what we were doing. How’s your beer?

Now we pour the potatoes over the Bosnia Brownie (I served 3 consecutive years over there. Let me have that joke!) and spread them over the top much as you would ice a cake.

For the final phase or Phase “I don’t know, Margo” we will add an entire bag of cheese. Generally I use cheddar but when I see the word “new” on a bag I buy it immediately. Now, I forgot to tell you to preheat the oven to 375 but I assume you aren’t reading this in realtime as you cook. If you are, then I love you. But sorry, you need to preheat the oven to 375. Time for another beer or SO HELP ME! Cover the whole…casserole(?) with aluminum foil and bake this masterpiece for 25 minutes.

After all that work you should be looking at something similar to this. Wait till it cools before digging in. I feel like I have to say that for some reason. This is an easy dinner that most anyone will like unless they hate beef, mushrooms, garlic, cheese, potatoes, onions, jalapenos or life. In that case there are TV dinners.

ANNOUNCEMENT! The Practical Cook and I are challenging each other to a video review where we assign one another to holiday items to, well, review. Later today I take on that challenge and it will be posted right here. Rock on and be merry, Harry!

How to Make “Hate Pizza”

I can’t really put my finger on when I started to be a fan of spicy food but as far as I can remember, it started in my early adult years. Actually, the more I think about it, my contempt for bland food began in the Army which led me to dowse everything with Tabasco. Since then I have ventured far up the Scoville unit scale , turning Tabasco from what used to be a heated nasal enema to mere sprinkles on a sunday.  My stomach can probably break down a twelve gauge shotgun shell with little more than a hiccup and taps to the chest.  But with this found glory of dastardly concoctions comes a lonely road where no one wants to eat everything I cook for fear of  reenacting a Bean-O commercial. I get it. Then there is Halloween with parties and I see a chance to disguise my love as a gimmicky party-food novelty. Oh I have sights for them to see. Let me teach you how to make the Devil’s pizza or how it has come to be known: Hate Pizza.

Okay. First off you need pre-made pizza crust (preferably thin) and coat it in extra virgin olive oil. I, myself, am very particular about the kind of EVOO but in reality it doesn’t matter for this particular pizza. Also, I didn’t make my own crust because when people are eating this they aren’t going to comment about how amazing the crust is but rather wonder if hitting their mouths with a hammer would reduce the burn.

You will also notice those attractive orange peppers known as habaneros. Yes, they are powerful and each one can ruin a night depending on your palate. I add eight of these lovelies and before we mince, I take off the stems because…people eat will eat this you know.

I load up all eight into the ol’ SlapChop and pound the bajeebus out of them until they are finely minced. Also, I add six garlic…things. You know, the whole pieces off the clove? You know what I mean.

That looks pretty inviting, don’t you think? Actually, right after I took this picture the mixture of the over ripe garlic and habaneros combined to almost knock me over. My eyes and nasal passages took a time out and I had to go outside and blindly pace the yard, hoping insult to injury wouldn’t result in dog poop on the shoes.

The sauce. Any good chef knows the magic of a good pie rests in the sauce. I prefer Don Pepino to Ragu sauce. Actually I prefer motor oil to Ragu but that is letting my snippy side out. You will notice that only about 1/4 of the can is used. “But Will”, you ask, “how will only 1/4 of a can of pizza sauce be enough to cover the whole pizza crust?” Good question!

Because I am adding a whole blammin’ jar of super hot Sriracha Hoy Fu Kong sauce! And it is amazing! If you have never been to a Vietnamese restaurant and had Pho or any other dish you are missing out. This is where I fell in love with Sriracha and have been looking for a good cross-dish. And sista’, I have found my medium.

While applying the sauce to the pre-made crust I thought making a devil face would be appropriate. All it ended up looking like was a frog. But it’s an EVIL frog!

We are almost there. At this point the oven is preheating to 475. A whole medium size bag of shredded mozzarella is evenly spread over the pie and the habaneros and garlic follow.  But we aren’t quite done yet.

It’s said Lucifer comes as an attractive and friendly character. Slicing one jalapeno, make a smiley face. It’s as if it is saying, “It’s okay. If you don’t like hot foods, you can take off my eyes. Everything will be alright.”

Let’s bake this bitch! The oven is all preheated and I turn the temp from 475 to 425. The average bake time is between 10 to 13 minutes. Maybe different if you are baking this on Mt. Everest. While this bakes, decontaminate everything! The seeds from one habanero can cause the dog to create a family historical event like “The 2011 Ass-plosion Dog/Couch Event”. You need to wash your hands and scrub under the fingernails. Being a spicy food fanatic, there has been many forgetful pee breaks resulting in…milk. I’ll leave it at that.

Those few minutes pass fast and before you know it the house is filled with the aroma of pain. This looks pretty inviting, don’t you think? It’s funny to think this is a vegetarian friendly pie. In my mind, vegetarians always seem so sweet.  This must be angry lefty anarchist type of veggie friendly food.

Well, I wouldn’t recommend this for a just any occasion. It’s Halloween and parties need to have one or two novelty food items. This is fun for bets or to show off who can brave a bite of the hottest pizza around. Or, if you have no soul, this Hate Pizza an be used for revenge. Because revenge doesn’t always have to be a dish best served cold.

Happy Halloween.

EDIT!

Apparently people didn’t hate the “Hate Pizza”. A bunch of crazy assholes, says me!

You Eat It

Not so long ago I was cruising around the word of  Wordpess looking at all the different food blogs with personally posted recipes while Man vs Food on The Travel Channel created the perfect background noise. It was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday evening and tonight, I think I will share one of my own. A word of warning though, I am not the greatest cook. In fact, when I cook meatloaf it never loafs. So I just call it “meat’n stuff”. But I will say this dish I am sharing is pretty damn good.

So let’s begin. I just came back from the store and when I decide to cook this particular dish, I really look for the freshest stuff and even go as far as organic. Though, sometimes organic just means paying 2 bucks for an apple that tastes like it has been bobbed out of the toilet.

Here’s what to get:

  • 3lbs of Italian sausage (I get hot but sweet works as well)
  • 2lbs of broccoli
  • 1.5lbs of bowtie pasta
  • Small container of parmesan cheese
  • Two packages of sliced mushrooms
  • Whole garlic
  • 2tbs of salt
  • 2tbs of parsley
  • 1tbs of garlic powder

Here we are browning the hot sausage. Whoohoo! Look at it go. Actually this dish requires multitasking so I brown it on medium high heat with a tablespoon of garlic powder added and drain every few minutes.

While the sausage is browning I dice up a few garlic cloves and place them in a medium sauce pan with extra virgin olive oil (E.V.O.O as Mega-Mouth says) and let it sizzle for a few minutes on high. I love this part because it smells up the whole house and people who don’t know better believe I am a great chef.

After the garlic permeates the air…and clothes, it’s time to add the mushrooms and cover them with a thin layer on E.V.O.O.. I usually add a tablespoon of salt and parsley but that is just me. I’ve learned in life that people are particular with their mushrooms and I would hate to upset the balance of nature pushing people to salt them unneccesarily. So, up to you.

Now that we have two items cooking a way I take the time to prep the broccoli. I basically chop it into florets and ditch any stem that is longer than a half inch. And I do so sing this:

After the meat is browned and the ‘shooms are all marinated in the EVOO and garlic, it’s time to combine the two!

Make sure to drain the meat but not the mushrooms. We need that juice to mix with the parmesan cheese later. I usually let these two mix on low heat and let it stand uncovered. Now lets boil some water and watch it!

You’re going to need about a pound and a half of bowtie pasta so this is how I eyeball it. Still, to this day, the art of boiling many types of noodles to that perfect consistency eludes me. This particular noodle, however, I have mastered. It takes 13 minutes.

I couldn’t find the bottom of my steam pan so I needed to get a little creative. This is me steaming the broccoli over the boiling noodle water in a plastic drainer. Not ideal but when broccoli needs to be steamed, you do what you have to.

So here we are. Everything is cooked and ready to be combined. All I need is a bigger pot but I guess I can use two. It’s nice to have enough to drop off to a busy friend or neighbor.

The last thing to do is to add a lot of parmesan. Remember how we kept all the mushroom sauce? Yeah, the cheese acts as sort of a corn starch and it creates an amazing garlic-y sauce that sets this dish apart. Behold, the glory of cooking for yourself for around $20. And it lasts for a long time.

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