Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Tag: foodporn (page 1 of 3)

Food Porn

In Which I Arrive At An Overly Complicated Applesauce Recipe That I Adore

It’s Thanksgiving week. Which is the culmination of autumn. And for me, the power of autumn lies not in the bullshit power of pumpkin (let’s be honest, half-a-dozen other squashes will kick pumpkin right in the gourds — uhh, hello? Butternut? Acorn? Kabocha? Motherfucking delicata?), but rather, in the power of apples.

My son, he loves applesauce. He would stab me to get to the applesauce that I made — foolishly, of course, since I’m the dude actually making that applesauce. He kills me? No more applesauce, kid. But he loves applesauce so much it’s like he’s on bath salts. It clouds his brain. Ruins his judgment. Makes him run around willy-nilly in a sociopathic nightmare video game world of his own making where instead of eating dots and running from ghosts he’s running from cops and eating people’s faces.

Needless to say, we make sure he gets his applesauce fix.

I’ve been trying to circumnavigate a strong applesauce recipe for a long time — the proper spices, liquids, apples. Since we have a VitaMix blender, I can just take raw apple, chuck it in there, and arrive at a capable applesauce in like, 30 seconds. No cooking required.

As a sidenote, for those who do not possess a VitaMix and who are hesitant about paying the admittedly-exorbitant advice –? It’s worth it. I use that thing as often as I use our oven, which is to say, with great frequency. It’s like paying to have a grizzly bear hang out in your kitchen, a robotic grizzly bear who will gnash up in his mouth anything you require… uh, gnashed. The blender will chop up whatever you so desire. You can chuck a boombox in there and it’ll turn it into a black slurry. If you throw a single molecule of uranium into the spinning blades, you will create nuclear fusion. Or fission.

Or maybe just uranium pudding, I dunno, shut up.

Back to this goddamn applesauce.

So, like I said, I’ve been working on various applesauce recipes over the course of the many moons, and I think I’ve arrived at one. This recipe is needlessly complicated. And when I say needlessly, I mean it — I suspect these steps (which drift toward the alchemical) are somehow irrelevant. I could probably do this much easier. Each component is almost certainly extraneous, but hey, whatever. This is the only way I’ve been able to arrive at an applesauce I properly adore. B-Dub loves it, too, because I tried one day to take this applesauce away from him, and he bit off my index finger with all his new teeth. And fresh baby teeth are sharp. They’re like new knives. They are at maximum ouchieness.


Here’s what you do to get the applesauce inside your body:


Four apples.

Strike that. Four honeycrisp apples. I have tried this with other apples — *angry buzzer sound* — nope, just ain’t the same. Your mileage may of course vary in that you prefer other apples. Fine. Whatever. Philistine.

Take two apples and peel them.

Then roughly cut ’em up. Couple-inch pieces. You don’t need to dice ’em. Get a cleaver and — whack whack whack — make it happen.

Then take the other two apples and dice them up. Little cubes the size of the tip of your pinky finger. Maximum surface area. That’s what you want. Which is also the name of my Die Hard-esque action movie where I battle terrorists not in a giant skyscraper but rather in an empty asphalt lot. My catchphrase is, “You Want Valet Parking, Motherfucker?” THEN BOOM.

Now: bisect your apple supply. Little cubes over there. Big rough hunks over there.

The diced bits are going to be roasted.

The bigger chunks cooked on a stovetop.

For the roasting:

Take your HELL CHAMBER (‘oven’) and launch that badboy into the area of 425F. When roasty-toasty, take your apples and spread them on a non-stick cookie sheet. You will now become the Brown Sugar Fairy and sprinkle brown sugar over them. Also: a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

Then into the oven they go. Fifteen minutes or until they are totally soft and show a little color.

For the stovetoppery:

Chuck (HAH I’M A VERB MOTHERFUCKERS) those apple chunks into a saucepan. Cover them roughly with — no, no, not water, put that goddamn water down. Don’t be an asshole. Water is worthless here. And so boring! Water is the thief of taste. No, here it’s — well, you know how in some recipes you cover beef in beef broth, or chicken in chicken broth? We’re going to cover the apples in drum roll please, apple broth.

By which I mean, apple cider. Not hard apple cider, unless you’re a liquor pig.

Use the apple cider of your choice. I like unfiltered.

Another sprinkling of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger.

Also: a half-a-TB of vanilla sugar.

If you have no vanilla sugar (which is easy to make: you bury a used-up vanilla bean in your sugar like you’re a cat burying his, erm, “tootsie rolls” in the sandbox, then you wait like, a day and all your sugar smells like vanilla), maybe try just a splash of vanilla extract and the same amount of sugar. I don’t know. I don’t care. You do what you like, I’m not your mother.


*dun dun dun*

Boil, then reduce heat to a simmah.

So: cook until the apples are fork-tender. Shouldn’t be more than ten minutes.

When done, you take:

The roasted apples.

And the stovetop apples.

And you throw them in a blender. Or a food processor. Or under a potato masher. Or in a bowl with a fork. Or under the feet of some dancing homeless person. I don’t really care how you smoosh this stuff up.

Oh! But wait there’s more.

Into the mix, pre-blend, put one-third a cup of the cider in there.

(The rest of the cider: Uhh, drinky-drunky-dranky that shit, hoss. It’s warm and delicious. Especially with whiskey! Then again, aren’t all things better with whiskey? THEY ARE IT’S SCIENCE.)

I blend on low for a short time to get a chunky sauce.

You may like a smoother sauce because you are a coward.

That’s okay. Blend it to an airy froth if you like. I’m not the boss of you.


*dun dun dun*


One last thing:

You think, “Oh, I can just start eating this applesauce right fucking now.”

But you would be mistaken.

Stop. Put it in a glass dish. Cover it up.

Then put it in your refrigerator (aka THE COLD-BOT). Overnight. Overnight. Do not test my patience. Do not ruin your own taste sensation. This applesauce needs time to cool down. For all the flavors to marry together in an autumnal orgy of sweet arctic fruit-sex.

Only then will you eat it.

And only then will you thank me for my needlessly complicated applesauce recipe.

I accept donations in the form of bottles of whiskey.

*waits for whiskey*

This Risotto Gonna Fuck You Up, Son

My risotto brings all the boys to the yard.

I don’t know what they do when they get there. I guess they probably beat me up and take my risotto. Which is a really sad and violent end to this whole affair, but that’s just how my risotto is. It’s that good. How can you not love food that invites tragedy?


It’s autumn, which for me is the Time of Risotto. I don’t know why. Risotto is comforting. I like to make a pillow out of it and just rest my head upon it, quietly napping in fifteen minute intervals, then waking up to take a few bites before I lay my head down upon the gummy ricey goodness once more. Sure, sometimes I’ll have sex with it. That’s okay. Nothing wrong with that. Don’t judge me.

You eat this risotto, you’ll understand.

The risotto we are going to make today is:



“Mushnut Squapple” is also the alias I use when checking into hotels. Because otherwise I’m mobbed by fans. Mobbed by them! They tear at my hair. They punch me. They make me eat dirt. Those are “fans,” right?


Moving on.

Your oven — aka, your Culinary Hell Chamber — well, turn that sumbitch on to 425F.

Onto a cookie sheet, you’re going to want to lay out: one cubed apple, one cubed butternut squash half, and two diced shallots. By “cubed,” I don’t mean “giant Rubik’s Cube chunks of food.” Don’t be an asshole. I mean little cubes. Dicey cubes. Cubes the size of a six-sided die or smaller.

Make sure those are shellacked with olive oil, salt, pepper, a little garlic, and the dreams of seven sleeping panda bears. (These are easy to procure if you have an Asian market nearby.)

Lay out on the cookie sheet. Punish them in the Hell Chamber.

Such punishment should take about 20 minutes. So they get soft and the teeniest-bit brown.

In the meantime, mushrooms.

No, we’re not fucking around with the risotto, yet. That needs your full attention. The risotto is like a needy child. You don’t watch the risotto, the risotto will turn on you. It’ll draw on the walls in crayon. Poop in the flower box. Kill and eat the cat.

The mushrooms I use for this are either maitake or shitake mushrooms. Maitake mushrooms are “hen-of-the-woods.” Shitake mushrooms are “shit-hats in the woods.” I think I have that right?

Ooh, couple quick random facts to interrupt the recipe:

First, there exists a mushroom called “chicken-of-the-woods,” which is different from “hen-of-the-woods.” Chicken-of-the-woods, when diced and cooked, actually looks like cooked chicken. And, even weirder, it tastes like cooked chicken if that chicken were spritzed with lemon. It is the trippiest thing.

Second, in this household we refer to piles of poop — like, say, ones left by the dog — as “Elmo Hats.” This will surely backfire as one day our toddler tries to place an Elmo Hat on top of Elmo’s head. But for now, we like the image it provides. We have a good time here. Even at the cost of poor Elmo’s reputation.

Back to the recipe.

Cut your mushrooms into strips. Then, into a hot pan with butter. (MMM BUTTER.) The mushrooms are greedy motherfuckers and will soak up all that butter so you’re free to add more if it all disappears. A little salt, a little pepper. Five minutes in, splash a quarter-cup of sherry in there. And, if you’re a fan of dairy, two tablespoons of heavy cream on top of that.

No, that’s not what I mean by “heavy cream.” Pants on, El Freak-o.

Another three to five minutes and your mushrooms should be soul-jizzingly delicious.

Now, you could stop here. You could take the roasted veggies, pair them with the mushrooms, and just… shove that stuff in your mouth. You would be happy. But we’re not aiming for “happy.” We’re aiming for “motherfucking ebullient, motherfucker.” AKA, “MEM.”

Hashtag: #mem

Getting to #mem means we need to level up this meal.

And that means it’s risotto time, you bastards.

Here is how I roll with risotto:

Fuck white wine. White wine isn’t where it’s at. White wine doesn’t have the teeth for it.

I use Irish Whisky.

Okay, not really.

I use dry white vermouth.

So, you want that out and ready to roll. You also want… mm, three cups of Your Favorite Stock (I like chicken, but your mileage may vary with turkey or veggie stock). And this stock should not be cold. It should be warmed up a little bit, like, say, in your microwave (aka your Nuclear Food Cube). You want all that out.

Now, rice selection, duh, it’s “arborio” rice.

Get a pot. Over medium-high heat. A pad of butter goes in. Melts. Foams up. Foams down. Time to add one cup of rice into the not-so-foamy — and, oh, unsalted — butter.

Stir. Get it buttery. You don’t want the rice browned, just slathered in butter.

Now, time to get that rice drunk, son.

One cup of vermouth into the mix. Sploosh.

Here is, of course, the trick to risotto: stirring like a crazy person for the next twenty minutes. Get a good long spoon — wooden if you have it — because you’re going to be hovering over your risotto like flies over garbage. … okay, that’s not a really attractive image, is it? What else hovers? IT HOVERS LIKE GOD JUDGING ALL OF US MEALY-MOUTHED SINNERS. Better, I guess.


Stirring the risotto is what makes it sticky and creamy (“Sticky N’ Creamy” was what they called me back in my boy band days). It releases, I dunno, atoms of starch or something. What am I, a scientist? Shut up. Imagine that it’s like one big marathon masturbation session — you just gotta go to down on this thing.

Mmkay? Mmkay.

So, vermouth into the pot. It’ll boil up. Reduce heat to med-low.

And, uhh, stir.

Don’t let it get stuck to the bottom of the pot.

You do that, you’ll ruin everything. And then your dinner guests will hate you. One of them will stab you with the broken stem of a wine glass. That someone will be me.

So, stir, stir, stir, until the wine is absorbed.

And then, from that point on, just keep adding stock a little at a time — just enough to cover the rice.

Then, stir, stir, blah blah blah, stir, until the stock is absorbed.

Like I said, this’ll take about three cups of stock. Ish.

Somewhere after the first cup and a half, I like to add another splash of vermouth. INTO MY MOUTH. And then also into the pot, fine, whatever, I CAN QUIT ANYTIME. Goddamn, you people. So judgey.

This will go on for about 20 minutes.

Toward that time, start tasting the risotto.

It should have a bit of a bite to it — you don’t want it so soft it’s gluey. But you also don’t want to be crunching down on a plate full of uncooked rice, delicious as that sounds.

Right at the end, mix in your roasted vegetables and mushrooms. Don’t add cheese. Don’t add cream or milk or anything. It’s creamy-as-is. Or, should be, unless you fucked it up like you fucked up all your relationships and career choices. (Don’t think I don’t know.)

Now: eat.

Bring a weapon, because you will have to defend yourselves from all the boys who will enter your yard to steal your yummy-ass risotto.

Put My Meat Sauce Inside Your Mouth

See, that post title is exactly why I shouldn’t be allowed to talk on the Internet.



What I mean to say is, it’s recipe time, you sons-a-bitches. Which further means, you’d better get under that Gallagher tarp, because it’s about to get sloppy all up in this muh-fuhuh.

It’s time to talk about meat sauce.

Which was, coincidentally, my nickname back in the Royal Air Force. “Oy, Meat Sauce!” a fellow pilot would call. “Get the dog’s bollocks with a fanny cracker, you chip-twiddler!” And we’d all laugh.

Whatever. That was then, this is now. And now is the time for meat sauce.

I make this from time to time and the recipe swerves drunkenly about like Lindsay Lohan in a Lexus, bringing in new ingredients and discarding others. But this is the most current iteration of my meat sauce.

And it requires a bit of multitasking. Not the kind where you juggle chainsaws with one hand and manually masturbate a sea lion with another — by the way, who let that sea lion in here? This is a kitchen and he smells like herring. Ugh. Whatever. What it will require of you is to: a) put something in the oven and b) put something on the stove all at the same time. Gasp! Crash of thunder! Tense violin music!

First, the oven.

Set your fire-box (insert Lindsay Lohan vagina joke here) to 425. That’s Fahrenheit, because that’s how we roll in America. Then, once it gets all roasty-toasty, it’s time to throw in the vegetables.

In a roasting pan, deposit the following: one sweet onion, chopped into maybe eight pieces. One small carrot, skinned like a rare African monkey, chopped into four or five rough pieces. Two bell peppers — one red and one yellow if you like the color. Sometimes, though, I use smaller sweet peppers if they’re available. (And when they’re not available, I throw a tantrum in the store, whipping nearby shoppers with a cat-of-nine-tails made of cilantro and asparagus.)

Then, finally, the tomatoes.

Listen, I don’t care what kind of tomatoes you use. That’s your business, not mine. I’ve done cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, fat heirloom tomatoes that have funky names like Green-Breasted Sioux Daddy or Farniker’s Morbidly Obese. One’s choice in tomatoes is like one’s choice in a God; it’s between you and your pantheon of divinities. I shall respect your decision, whatever it may be.

I use a pound of chosen tomatoes.

Chopped and seeded and de-snotted. Because that’s what’s in tomatoes. Seeds floating in a sea of tomato snot. So appetizing. That stuff is naaaaasty. What is wrong with the guy who invented tomatoes? I mean, cripes, after I’m done de-snotting a pound of tomatoes, it looks like a llama sneezed into my garbage bowl. (And if you’re not using a garbage bowl to collect all your vegetable garbage, then there’s your pro-tip of the day. Use a garbage bowl. Then compost your garbage. Then use the composted earth to grow new tomatoes with new tomato snot. THEN THE PROCESS BEGINS AGAIN OH MY GOD I’M TRAPPED IN SOME KIND OF RECIPE HELL THE SNAKE BITES HIS OWN TAIL AND)

Whew, sorry. Feeling better now.

Garlic. You want garlic. A bulb’s worth of cloves, skinned and tossed in there.

Upon your roasted vegetables, you want to grease them up with liberal use of olive oil. Like, imagine you’re about to have sex with them? Use that much culinary lube. Then: salt, pepper, and a heavy sprinkling of some kind of Italian herbaceousness. You know, the oregano and marjoram and — hey, is marjoram even a real herb? I bet it’s something someone just made up. Anyway. My secret weapon is Herbs de Provence, which features lavender, and I don’t know why, but I think it kicks the sauce up a notch in terms of its olfactory power. So, use Herbs de Provence or I’ll break your femur with a mad karate kick.

Finally, you want to select a good Italian sausage. I like a mix of sweet and hot. You get the best Italian sausage in New Jersey (and this is not a reference to truck stop male prostitution no matter what the gossip blogs say about me), but I live in Pennsylvania so I get whatever I can get. Lube up the sausage. Pop it on top of the soon-to-be-roasted vegetables. Then, into the oven the whole thing goes.

One hour. No less. Maybe more. Till your veggies start to scream and burn.

“Caramelized” is the name of the game.

Now, while that’s cooking:


Get some heat under that fat-assed pot and then it’s time to put some shit — not literal shit, mind you, because ew what’s wrong with you — into the steel receptacle. First up?

Big motherfucking can of tomatoes. I know, canned tomatoes? Aren’t we roasting real tomatoes? We are. And we’re also putting canned tomatoes in there. Make peace with this now.

Big can means 28 oz, probably. I go with crushed tomatoes. No spices or salt or anything because uhh, we can handle that, thanks, can of tomatoes. I got this. Don’t be pushy. Stupid can.

Then, two little cans of tomato paste. That’s all they seem to sell of tomato paste are little cans. But I guess that’s fine because tomato paste is like, the potent uranium of tomato sauce. You only need a little to go a long way. Whatever. Both those cans go into the bubbling brew.

Then: two cups of chicken stock. Homemade if you can. If not: store-bought, low-sodium. If not that, then veggie stock. If not that, then water, I guess. What are you, poor? How do you have the Internet?

Then: one cup of red wine. Your choice here is your own. I like a simple “cab-sauv,” which is what we call Cabernet Sauvignon in the wine world. Pinot Grigio we call “pee-gree.” Merlot we call “Merbugluh.”

As a sidenote, Wine World is definitely a planet I want to call home.

Then, into the mix: one squirt of ketchup, one tablespoon splash of Worcestershire sauce (aka Shire Sauce, or Hobbit Sauce, or It’s Actually Fish Sauce But Nobody Really Realizes That), one splash of cider vinegar, a dash of pepper, a sprinkling of salt, sprinkling of white sugar, a flurry of Italian seasoning, one bay leaf, and then the milk squozen from two lemur bladders.


No lemur parts. Too acidic.

One more thing goes into the pot:


In this case: pepperoni.

Get a whole “dick” (AKA one stick) of pepperoni, then chop it into little quartered bits.

Those go into the bubbling red mire.

Cover and simmer while the veggies roast.

While all that’s happening, kill time with whatever time-killing task that makes your grapefruit squirt. Tetris, gardening, whale-taming, donkey-shaming, engaging in copious alcoholism, practicing rampant masturbation, hunting the Most Dangerous Game (which contrary to rumors is not “man” but rather, “robot orangutans armed with bazookas and garotte wire”). Your call.

When your roasted veggies are done, uhh, roasting, take ’em out. I pop ’em in the blender or into a food processor (or, if you have one, the mouth of a Labrador Retriever) and coarsely blend ’em up.

Then they go into the pot.

[EDIT: The sausage? Oh, you wanna know what to do with that. Fine. Fine. Slice it when it’s cooled down, then plop it into the sauce with the rest of the deliciousness. Do not blend.]

Then, you wait another, mmm, ohh, two hours.

And that’s it, really. It’ll give you a metric orificeload of meat sauce.

Rescue the bay leaf because, y’know, yuck.

If you cook pasta, remember to cook the pasta in water just prior to “al dente status,” then finish the cooking of said pasta in the meat sauce itself. Because that’s just how you do it, shut up.

Prior to eating, I’ll chiffonade (which is French for “cut into hoity-toity little ribbons”) some basil and put in there. And I like to grate some Parmesan cheese upon the dish just before consumption.

Now eat.

And praise my meat sauce.


Recipe: Faux Pho

This isn’t a recipe for pho.

I mean, it is? But it isn’t.

Shut up.

Pho, as you may know, is a very popular Vietnamese noodle soup. It’s popular because it’s fucking awesome and will blow your face open with comfort and deliciousness. True, one would not normally associate “face blown open” with “comfort,” but hey, life is some complex shit.

You’re just going to have to make peace with your gods on this one.

Pho is generally not pronounced as you suspect — “FOE” — but rather like you gave up in the middle of this already short word — “FUH.” (It comes originally from the French, “pot-au-feu,” which translated means “face-exploding-fire-soup-comfort.”) Though, I guess regional variants in Vietnam have it pronounced differently. For our mileage, you can call it whatever the hell you want. Foe. Fuh. Foo. Puh-hoe. Dave.

I don’t care.

Because this isn’t really authentic pho. This is the “I don’t have a lot of goddamn time to buy beef knuckle and make my own beef broth nor do I feel like roasting and grinding my own spice mixture because I have kids and a dog and two jobs and who else is going to make all this meth and oh god the kids have killed and eaten another mailman” version. Right? Right.

We’re just trying to get you into the realm of a passable faux-pho.

Here’s what you’re going to do. Put your oven on, mmm, really high. Like, 450. You could even use your broiler or the grill for this if you’re so inclined. You’re going to roast some vegetables. No, you’re not going to put them up on stage and make crass jokes about them. Different kind of roast. This is the “char on high heat” roast because roasting brings out flavor blah blah bloo bloo.

Onto a cookie sheet goes: one sliced sweet onion, one sliced knob (heh, “knob”) of ginger, and one chopped carrot. Put them in the 450 oven for… ~20 minutes, make sure it’s starting to get dark and delicious.

Now, into a pot goes: four cups of veggie stock. Homemade if you prefer, or just buy the low-sodium stuff from the store. Best you care to procure, I’d say. You could also use beef stock for this if that makes your nipples stand at attention. Hell, use whatever liquid you want. This is a very customizable recipe, so — dirty mop water? Bear urine? Yak stock? Dead mailman gall? Whatever you want. Go nuts.

Put some spices all up in there. What spices, you ask? Coriander seed. Star anise. Clove. Cinnamon. You can put them in whole if you so choose (and if you have them whole, you could go against what I said earlier and just roast ’em to bring out their flavor YOU TRAITOR), but let’s assume you’re not some cocky gourmet and you have the “I bought this in a jar and it’s all powdery and snortable” version. (Sidenote: do not snort or try to eat teaspoon of cinnamon. Yes, ha ha ha, what a YouTube video that will make when your lungs are on fire and you’re dying in an emergency room, dum-dum.)

You won’t need a lot of these, because these spices go a long way.

So, my thoroughly unscientific measurements:

One generous pinch of each. Into the broth, not your nose. Weirdo.

Oh, and if you really wanna short-cut this: just use a tablespoon of Chinese five-spice.

Also: add a single bay leaf to the stock. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.

Finally, throw into the pot a tablespoon of fish sauce. Fish sauce is totally grody on its own — it smells like corpse-feet. We once accidentally broke a bottle of fish-sauce on the front stoop of our rented condo the day we were moving out? I bet it still smells like someone died there. But! Once it merges with a dish, fish sauce becomes umami-licious.

Now: into the pot go your charred onion, ginger, and carrot. Set to a boil, then simmer for one half-hour. But don’t just stand there and stare into its turbid depths. THAT WAY MADNESS LIES. Next thing you know you’ll be clad in only a pair of stainy tighty-whities on the side of a highway, one Jack Russell terrier under each arm, your nostrils crusted with coriander dust.

Sidenote: I sometimes like to add chopped mushroom in there, too.

Here, then, is a point of some contention — you would usually soak some rice noodles at the same time, later adding them to the soup. In my experience you can just soak them right in the soup. Drop the dry noodles right in there. They’ll absorb deliciousness. “Absorb deliciousness” sounds like the mandate of an insane kitchen robot. “ABSORB DELICIOUSNESS,” the Dalek Sous Chef screams!

I dunno. Stop looking at me.

It’s time to talk meat.

Once again, you have some customization options here.

You could use stew beef (which is the fake name I travel under — go to any hotel and ask them if “Stewart Beef” is staying there, and then I’ll pop out of a nearby potted plant and tranq you in the face). But for me, stew beef is too tough and going to need time to really break down.

You could use ground beef — sirloin or chuck — and in a pinch, this actually works fine. IF YOU’RE A LOSER. (No, seriously, it actually does work regardless of your losery status. I’ve done it.)

You could use short ribs, which will take a lot of preparation before hand to braise those short ribs so they’re not leathery bricks of sad-making dead cow.

You could freeze a steak (flank, sirloin, or any preferred cut) for 10 minutes then bring it out and very thinly slice it against the grain. I’m fond of this, but your mileage may vary.

You could also consider: mailman meat. POSTAL WORKER FATBACK. Mmmm.

You could use a combination of all of these. Whatever tickles your taint.

You want to cook the meat in the broth for as long as it takes for the meat to become delicious. The raw steak should be added just before serving (or those at the table could add it themselves).

Now comes the thing that really helps to seal the faux pho deal.

The condiments.

You will want some combination of the following available: mint leaves, cilantro leaves, basil leaves, parsley leaves, sliced green onion, bean sprouts, garlic, sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce, lime slices.

You want to know what I do? Of course you do. Just nod and stop trying to bite through the gag.

I take the following:

Buncha cilantro. Buncha basil. Bit of raw garlic.

I put them into a blender or food processor with:

A half-cup of olive oil. And the juice of one lime.

Then I blend it into a chimichurri-esque slurry.

Then I add that to each bowl of soup with a generous splurch of sriracha sauce. (Or, you could try what for me has begun to replace sriracha: gochujiang sauce. Which I love so much I wanna slather it on my body.)

Then I eat.

And my face explodes with comfort and delight.

I Will Defeat You, Dreaded Pancakes

No, “Dreaded Pancakes” is not the nickname of my nemesis.

Here’s the deal.

I bought a waffle iron (cue readers saying, “Buh buh buh but he said pancakes) and have been enjoying the unholy fuck out of it. It’s a Presto something-or-other. Pretty standard Belgian waffle-maker. Gets hot. Cooks the waffles in three minutes. Bam. Boom. Deliciousness. (I am at present using a recipe, aptly called The Best Ever Waffles, supplied to me by the wise @xiehicks on the Twitters.)

(Cue readers saying, “Uhh, he’s still talking about waffles. Does this dim-bulb know the difference between a waffle and a pancake? Honey, I think this guy’s a real dum-dum. So sad.”)

The point: I’m getting to it.

The reason I wanted to procure a waffle-maker is that my pancakes never turn out right.

I’ve made pancakes for years. Years. I’ve tried dozens of recipes — and, let’s be frank, it’s not like you have that many varieties of pancake recipe out there. It’s not like you find that one special recipe where you’re suddenly all, “OH MY GOD, this recipe uses seal blubber and oregano! That’s the secret! Holy shit!” And after that it’s just an endless reiteration of perfect motherfucking pancakes, right? Right.

My pancakes, to clarify, are not bad, per se. They’re edible. They’re sometimes even good. This is where you’re likely asking, “So what’s the problem, moron? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

To which I say, “Yes, good point.” Except — when I go to a diner, or frankly any establishment that makes pancakes, I get these big pancakes that are light and fluffy and porous and heavy too at the same time and really, they’re just great. They are restaurant-quality flapjacks.

I cannot achieve this at home no matter how I try.

Mine are always these little puffy urinal pucks (though one presumes better-tasting).

A little thick, a little cakey.

So, I demand to know your secrets.

Someone out there is making kick-ass pancakes, and it ain’t me. Are you making diner-quality pancakes? What’s your trick? Is it a batter thing? A heat component? A matter of cooking surface?


This Butternut Squash Soup Will Kick You In Your Butternuts

Recipe time.

Take one butternut squash.

They’re ugly, I know. They look like the decapitated — and also featureless — head of Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy. Did I need to say that first part? “Charlie Brown’s dog?” You already know who Snoopy is, don’t you? You presumably haven’t been living under a lichen-encrusted rock somewhere. Have you?

Oh, fair warning: I’ve been drinking.

Talisker, if you care to know. As everybody calls it, “the “salted caramel of Scotches.”

(Nobody calls it that.)

Where were we?

Ah. Right.

Take one butternut squash.

Peel it. I used a peeler but you might want to use a pearl-handled straight razor or some other serial killer implement. Peeling a butternut squash is a serious dick-pain because the skin is tough and the curves are awkward — it’s like you’re trying to make love to some kind of goblin creature. (It’s nothing like that. Settle down.) Just peel the goddamn squash, already.

Chop it in half. Bisect Snoopy’s head.

Scoop out the Snoopy brains seeds and assorted tangled tentacle-bits.

Do what you like with those. Roast the seeds. Use the mangled innards as a vegetarian merkin.

Then —

Take your two halves of the squash-flesh (“Squashflesh” was my nickname in Sunday School), and then chop them into cubes that are roughly equivalent to one another. Perfection has little value here. Just get close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades and call it a day.

Oh, right, the oven.

Set your Food Furnace to a toasty 375 degrees.

You’ve chopped the squash, now it’s time to do the same to a medium-sized onion. Sweet onion if you can manage. You want to avoid any of the unpleasant varietals of onion. No butt onions, doom onions, Hitler onions, mucus onions — all of those are no-no onions. Leave those at the store where they belong. Only sweet onions may apply. Which is coincidentally what the hand-painted sign above my bed says! If you know what I mean! Right? Right? Yeah? Yeah!

*funky sex-jazz ensues*

The onion doesn’t need a lot of delicate attention. Just — you know, fucking chop that sonofabitch.

Both onion and squash will — nay, must! — go into a roasting pan.

I line mine with the magical substance known as “non-stick foil,” which is like a gift sent by the gods. Quite literally, in fact. Zeus staple-gunned a box of this stuff to the back of a dead mermaid and left it at my door. That Zeus! Him and all his silly back-slappers. He should get a sitcom, that guy. I propose we call it “That Zeus!” — it is, in fact, critical that the exclamation point remain intact so that in the show’s logo we may instead draw the exclamation point as a jagged lightning bolt. It’s how Zeus would want it.

Where was I?

Oh, right.

Take one butternut squash.

Wait, we’ve already done that part?

Right! Roasting pan. Throw your vegges into a roasting pan, splash with a liberal dollop of olive oil, shake it around and rub it down and get all the vegetables properly lubed, as if they are about to be shoved into a very tight orifice (they are not, however, so please re-affix your pants to your undertorso).

On top of the now-glistening veggies will go:

A sprinkling of salt.

A dash of cayenne pepper.

A dash of cracked black pepper.

A naughty coating of herbes de provence, which is an herb blend of — I don’t know, a bunch of herbs. Including some herb named “savory,” which I’m pretty sure people just made up.

Into the oven! One hour. Or till it just starts to caramelize. You don’t want it to go too far into that process — just enough to bring the sugary goodness out. Stand vigil.

When they’re done, get out a stock pot. Pop into the stockpot some oil, some chopped carrots, some chopped celery. I did two of each — two ribs of celery, two… what’s a unit that measures carrots? If celery gets “ribs,” what do carrots get? Noses, I guess. I mean, that’s what you use for snowmen. But they also look phallic? Just the same, “two dicks of carrot” just sounds gross.

So, two ribs of celery, two noses of carrot.

Oh! And some fresh chopped garlic.

Start to cook that. Soften it up a little bit.

Dump your oven-roasted squash-and-onion blend into the pot.

Toss in:

Two cups of chicken broth.

Two tablespoons of apple cider (edited to add: vinegar).

Set that all to simmer, cook for… you know, not long? I don’t care. Five, ten minutes. Don’t get nuts with it. Just enough time to have a bottle of wine, read a magazine, kill a dude.

Time to get out your Blender-of-Choice.

Mine is, as of very recently, a Vitamix 5200. Refurb. We’d resisted the Vitamix for a long time because, well, they’re not cheap. It’s hard to justify that kind of money for a fucking blender. Thing is, I’ve hated all the blenders I’ve owned outside my immersion stick, and also we have a baby and I wanted to make baby food and blah blah blah. Long story beheaded and delimbed and made short: we bought a Vitamix.

Worth it.

Let me say that again in italics:

Worth it.

Let me say that again in all caps:


That crazy bastard will blend up anything.

Sure, it’s so loud it sounds like someone is mowing the lawn inside my brain, but hey, fuck it. It blends. It blends anything. It blends fast. Efficiently. I could probably use it to split the atom if I needed to. And because it’s so fast and so insane, you can use it to make hot soup or freeze ice cream or, I dunno, grind the bones of your foes into flour for a little recipe I call “Enemy Bread.”

Not “Enema Bread.”

That’s… different.

Point is: choose your blender, and blend the soup.

Until it’s smooth and creamy. Like my supple thighs.

Now, back into the stockpot. Simmer. Pour in: 1/2 cup of heavy cream, or enough heavy cream so that your taste-buds do a happy dance, but not so much heavy cream that your arteries harden into little brittle sesame sticks. The soup at this point should be velvety and sweet and delicious.

I did two more things to the soup (calm down, my pants were on), but you don’t need to.

First, I cooked up some country ground sausage and put it into play. I like to chew my soup. If my soup’s too liquidy, I feel like an old person — I figure I’ve got plenty of years where I’ll be drinking my food through a bendy straw, so why start now?

Second, I “melted” (not really melted) some leeks. I did this in duck-fat and red wine vinegar. Chop your leeks into little o-rings, wash the dirt and grime out of there, put into a pan and sweat the leaks in the duck fat and a splash of vinegar for 8-10 minutes until tender.

I plopped the leeks right on top of the soup in the middle.

Floating there. A little leeky island.

Anyway. There you you go. Butternut squash soup. With sausage and melted leeks.

Your mouth can thank me later.

…that sounds like I’m asking for oral favors, but that’s not at all what I mean. I mean your lips can form the words “thank you” and then your vocal chords can express your gratitude.

And then you can buy me a pony.

That Zeus!