DYMY Favorite: Bubbly!

You cannot brood over a prosecco.

— Eric Asimov, A Sip, a Smile, a Cheery Fizz, New York Times.

For most of my drinking life, I was a beer man. Oh, I usually had red wine with dinner ( I’ve never been into white wine unless it was truly good), but my go-to drink was beer. I enjoyed a good hopped up pilsner (Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Pils) or a mellower ale like Fuller’s ESB.

Alas, real life intervened to change my drinking habits. It started when I had to do something about my growing belly. Damn, there’s a lot of carbs in beer. I backed off a bit. Then I began to have stomach issues. I haven’t completely given up beer. I still enjoy it once in a while (Sweetwater Tavern’s Pale Ale continues to delight my tastebuds), but too often, after just one, I feel uncomfortably full. What am I going to do? I ain’t givin’ up drinkin’.

Veuve Clicquot

The Good Stuff

My wife and I have a tradition of shelling out some bucks for a good bottle of champagne when the occasion calls for it. As I’m sure you know, it’s easy to pay a lot of money for a bottle. While I have tried bottles in the $100+ range (Dom Pérignon most recently) and have found them to be quite good, they’re just not THAT good. I have found that the $40 range is where you’ll find the intersection of quality with value. There are many good choices: Moët & Chandon White Star, Perrier-Jouët Brut, but we find ourselves returning again and again to Veuve Clicquot. It hits our spot on the dry/sweet continuum and the flavor plays out well on the tongue. At that price, though, I cannot afford to drink it regularly.

Jaume Serra Cristalino

Every Day Bubbly

My drinking habits changed when my wife bought me a bottle of Cristalino Cava Brut (now called Jaume Serra Cristalino). At first, I admit, I was leery. It’s $7.95 a bottle, how good can that be? Very, actually. And I’ve discovered it at Whole Foods for $6/bottle. It’s a little sweeter than the good stuff (don’t get the extra dry, it’s sweeter than the brut). Cava is now my go-to drink. I still have choices, too. Rondel is another bargain Cava Brut and 1 + 1 = 3 if I want something a little more fancy. You’re far more likely to find a glass of one of these in my hands these days than beer.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Italian Bubbly

There’s a subset of bubbly that’s far sweeter than I usually like, but goes real well with dessert. Prosecco and Moscato d’Asti are excellent with a slice of cake, scoop of ice cream or even some cheese and fruit. They are among my favorite wines, but they’re specialists, not something I’d pour a glass of at the end of a long day.

So, come on over. We’ll pop a bottle and I’ll pour you a glass. The bubbles will take your bad moods away.

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Published in: on April 30, 2011 at 9:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Paternal Legacy Expressed in a Can of Breakfast Meat

Everything I know about breakfast I learned from my father. It was he who fed me those early school mornings, at least when he was in town. I took care of myself when he was not because my mother was not exactly a morning person. The fare was simple: Either scrambled eggs liberally dosed with sauteed jalapeños or fried eggs, sunny-side up on toast. But the best was sunday brunch: omelets, pancakes or my all time favorite: corned-beef hash.

This is not as bad as it looks

This is not as bad as it looks

Yes, that’s right! I’m talking about breakfast in a can. I still enjoy it to this day. Open up the can and plop it right into the frying pan. Sure, it looks like dog food (may even taste like it, for all I know), but when it’s done right — the perfect balance between the crispy outside and warm, soft inside — it starts my day off very well, thank you. I’m not claiming this is better than home-made, which it’s not. Just that the ratio of work to joy is quite favorable.

A very tasty breakfast made quickly

A very tasty breakfast made quickly

Doing It Yourself

If you have the time, though, and the circumstances are right, I recommend making your own. It’s simple to do:

  1. You need some left over meat.

    Leftover prime rib from Christmas dinner

    Leftover prime rib from Christmas dinner

    I only make hash when I have some leftovers. The meat needs to be cooked before you start, so it doesn’t make sense, to me at least, to set out to make this from scratch.

    Any meat will do. For me, it’s usually a left over roast beef of some sort, which is ironic since I don’t like the canned roast beef hash, but have never made my own corned beef hash. I’ve used turkey after Thanksgiving and with ham after Easter, both worthwhile.

  2. Chop the meat up fine.

    It's like watching laws being made, not for the squeamish

    It's like watching laws being made, not for the squeamish

    I run it through my meat grinder once with the large die. You could just use a knife. I wouldn’t recommend the food processor because it will turn the meat into a paste that isn’t very tasty.

  3. Dice up a potato.

    You need the starch in there. Well I do, anyways. It ain’t breakfast without it. Don’t limit yourself to the potato, though. If you have any other leftovers in the fridge that look like they might work, chop them up and toss them in there, too. You can’t go wrong with onion, peppers of any sort, garlic. Just make sure you dice them up small.

  4. Toss all of the into a frying pan at medium heat with some butter or oil.

  5. Add a liquid.

    You might – might – be able to skip this step if your meat is particularly fatty, but even then, I wouldn’t recommend it. Last thing you want is a dry, crumbly hash. You don’t need much, a quarter cup or so should be enough. I’ve used my pig shots (2 ounces of pork broth), milk (yes!) or even gravy for my post Thanksgiving hash.

  6. Keep cooking until you get a crust, but not so long that it dries out.

  7. Throw a fried egg or two on top.

It's more work than canned, but certainly worth it

It's more work than canned, but certainly worth it

Is It Worth Ordering when Eating Out?

This is tough to answer for someone else because it depends on your willingness to suspend your disbelief. I know that the hash I order is coming out of a can most times I order it. Usually it works out just fine. The Yorkshire Diner in Manassas does it well. I enjoy it with a short stack of pancakes in addition to the usual sunny-side up eggs.

This isn’t always the case, though. I’ve had hash served without any crispiness, could still see the shape of the can. In other cases, I’ve been served a uniformly consistent paste. Where they try to make their own? Doesn’t matter, it was a disaster either way. And this really pisses me off. This isn’t hard to do.

I’ll Never Give It Up

Despite the less than pleasant experiences, hash will always be on my menu. The warm fuzzy feelings it conjures, memories of my father, make it a tasty meal, even if it is from a can.

Published in: on January 11, 2011 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Curse of Boneless, Skinless, All White Meat Chicken

Coming from the south, I figured I knew fried chicken. Then I had my eyes opened on a visit to Asia. The whole eastern reaches of that continent knows chicken. From a high-end Chinese restaurant in Singapore to a local chain outside of Seoul, I was never disappointed.

I am heartened that this style is making it to the US. The Korean chain Cheogajip Chicken has a location in the Centreville, VA area. There is also BBQ Chicken and Beer, which widens the typically narrow Korean menu with more options. Even the local Grand Mart had an excellent spicy fried chicken.

Note that I used the past tense on that last sentence. Apparently, customers have been complaining about the bones, so the curse that is boneless, skinless, all-white meat (BSAWM) chicken has claimed another victim.

I don’t understand this. When you strip out the skin and bones, and limit yourself to only the breast meat, you’re stripping out all of the flavor. All a whole chicken really needs is salt and pepper. A sauce is never a bad thing, but you don’t need too much. I can no longer eat the spicy fried chicken at Grand Mart. The meat is rather dry and there is way too much sauce which, I assume, is to compensate for the lack of flavor normally supplied by the skin, bones and dark meat.

This is what’s wrong with BSAWM-ness:

  1. First of all, it lack’s flavor. Try eating a chicken breast prepared with nothing but salt and pepper. Sure, if you brine it first, it will be moist, but it will still be flavorless. Look at how this is prepared in most restaurants: This type of dish is usually swimming in sauce or served with a side dish that has an intense flavor.
  2. Because of point 1, it’s not as healthy. What do you think is in that sauce? I’ll bet half a paycheck that it’s loaded in sugar and salt.
  3. It encourages unhealthy eating habits. You eat boneless chicken much faster than a bird with bones. It’s better to eat slowly. Your body will feel full with less food in your belly. I find it interesting that the BSAWM version of Grand Mart’s spicy fried chicken had about twice the meat of the original dish.
  4. BSAWM encourages animal cruelty. A natural chicken does not have enough white meat to make for an economically viable business producing only BSAWM. The factory bird with large breasts cannot move, even if it was given a free range opportunity. It is a freak of the industrial process.

BSAWM is a lie perpetrated on a gullible public. I am angered and saddened that my yum has been yucked.

The Canonical Hamburger Revisited

This is a piece I wrote in the summer of 2003 after a series of burger catastrophes. My opinions have evolved since then and I have started to grind my own meat, which adds a whole new dimension to burger thought.

I’m open to a wide variety of options for hamburgers. And whatever you like, well, it’s your stomach, so that’s up to you. However, there are some immutable laws that apply to this paradise on a bun.

The juicier the better, so fat is good! Ground sirloin makes for an incredibly dry burger. You could get away with ground round, but I reccomend using ground chuck. If you’re worried about your weight, then you shouldn’t be eating hamburgers in the first place. Do it right or don’t do it at all!

Hear, hear! You still can’t go wrong with ground chuck. If you’re grinding your own meat, though, I would combine it with other cuts like brisket, short rib or even bacon. Yes, that’s right, grind the bacon right into that patty.

The bun counts. You’re looking for a careful balance. Not enough structual integrity makes for a disaster as the burger disintigrates. Too tough a bread, and everything goes squishing out the sides. You can use onion rolls, whole grain breads, or whatever suits your fancy as long as you pay attention to the architecture.

I have since tried a variety of other breads. Pita doesn’t work. I tried it with a lamb and feta burger. It was quite tasty, but absolutely fell apart once the bread was saturated. Use a tortilla or Afghan bread instead. A baguette is border-line: The fresher it is, the softer the bread, the better it works.

Give me pickle slices, not spears. I want the darn things in my burger. The vinigar and other flavors really add to the beef.

I remember when this first happened and it still occurs. WTF? I asked for pickles ON my burger!

Offer me onions. You may not want them, but I believe that a burger without the crunch and zing of a raw onion is a waste of time.

This only happens when I’m having a burger at someone’s house and that someone is an alliumphobe. I try not to associate with these types, but it’s hard to pick them out.

No mention of how the patty is cooked? What was I thinking? I prefer, when given the option, medium rare. However, I realize this is not always possible with certain restaurants. In those cases, I look for a patty with a salty, flavorful crust. The Shake Shack comes to mind.

There are two tests that discern burger greatness. First, is it good with nothing on it? If you’d willingly eat just the patty and the bun, then you have a very good burger. This is where 5 Guys utterly fails and should never be included on any list of great burgers. Second, is it good as a leftover? If it still tastes great the next day – cold – then you have a excellent burger.

I will document my eternal quest for burger perfection. I seek this bliss not just at home — where I experiment with different cuts (and types) of meat and toppings — but also on the road.

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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