That’s The Way the Potato Chip Crumbles

A few months ago, I participated in the Lays Do Us a Flavor contest where people submit new flavors for Lays potato chips (if you live in the UK, you probably know them best as Walkers) and was excited that I might come up with that one flavor that could net me $50,000 (runner-up prize) or $1,000,000 (grand prize).

Sadly, this just didn’t happen for me (even though my mother thought I submitted Wasabi Ginger. I didn’t, though that does seem like something I would devise). While I am upset that people will never know such potato chip flavors as General Tso’s Chicken (I really thought this would be a winner. Next time, I’ll go with Chow Mein Fun, since my sister is crazy for that), Bruschetta, Caprese Salad, Avocado and Cream (this one was a joke), Figs ‘n Feta, Gyro, Pepperoni Philly Cheesesteak, and Salted Chocolate Caramel, I do applaud this year’s entries for being likelier candidates to win than last year’s Cheesy Garlic Bread, which I thought was unimaginative. The fact that it won was what drove me to enter this year’s contest. Besides, I was rooting for Chicken and Waffles (or, at the very least, Sriracha, even though the sriracha fad was starting to fade).

This year’s finalist can be found on the main website: https://www.dousaflavor.com/#!/. The cappucino-flavored one seems like it will be this year’s Chicken and Waffles, as it’s a bizarre choice that everyone will predict is the winner, but will only get runner-up. So far, my favorite one is the Mango Salsa (another flavor I should have come up with, as I made mango salsa in Chef Luis’ Garde Manger class and that goes great with chips — mostly tortilla, but potato works just as well), but if I had to predict a winner, it would probably be Bacon Mac and Cheese, as that has a very Middle American appeal to it and caters to the bacon obsession that seems to be everywhere these days (mostly online).

So what can be said about all of this? Nothing much. There’s no recipe to learn, no interesting food history bits. Not today (maybe tomorrow). I just want to congratulate the people who were picked and hope they win the million.

Thanks, and happy eating.

UPDATE: The winner of the Lays Do Us A Flavor contest for this year is the woman (a nurse from New Jersey) who came up with Wasabi Ginger. I am surprised that that was such a hit with people. Bacon Mac and Cheese seemed a sure thing, the cappucino one was too gimmicky and didn’t taste good, and mango salsa was good, but I can see that being a “Limited Time Only” special flavor (which it kind of was). And, in the words of Colin Jost from Saturday Night Live, “[Wasabi Ginger] sounds less like a potato chip flavor, and more like something Joe Biden would accidentally call the Chinese ambassador.”

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TV Dinners #1: A Cooking Lesson from Cartoon Network

“And then, the Three Little Bacon Steaks WERE PUT IN THE OVEN and baked at 350, SMOTHERED IN CHOCOLATE! The end.”

The Red Guy, Cow and Chicken

This was an actual line from the late 1990s animated show, Cow and Chicken, Cartoon Network’s answer to Nickelodeon’s Ren and Stimpy (only it wasn’t that over-the-top with gross-out humor, but it did make fun of gender identity and transsexuality a lot — not in the same way as South Park and Family Guy have done, but a lot of the jokes would be considered a little near-the-knuckle for more prudish audiences) and part of Cartoon Network’s original programming series, Cartoon Cartoons, which also includes popular series like Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Codename: Kids Next Door, and Johnny Bravo, along with lesser-known shows, like Sheep in the Big City, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Whatever Happened to Robot Jones, and a favorite I watched in high school, Time Squad*.

This quote was from the season three episode, “Going My Way?”, in which The Red Guy is a drifter who gets adopted by Cow and Chicken’s insane parents and treat him better than their own offspring. One of the ways The Red Guy impresses Mom and Dad (that was their names) is by reading a “fairy tale” from a cookbook.

In this era of food blogs, people emulating food dishes that appear on their favorite show has become common, from people trying to recreate Skittlebrau (Homer’s beer and Skittles concoction from the season nine Simpsons episode, “Bart Star”) to someone setting up a  Tumblr blog centered on making real-world versions of the Burger of the Day specials seen in the background of the FOX animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers (including an especially dubious one from the first episode called “The Child Molester – Served With Candy”).  I’m jumping on the bandwagon as well, but my twist is I’m going to find out if any of the dishes in my favorite TV shows can be recreated in real life.

Welcome to “TV Dinners.” Today’s Special: Bacon Steaks Smothered in Chocolate.

Savory Chocolate Sauce

It may seem like a pregnant lady’s or 20-something stoner’s favorite dish (I mean, really? Who mixes chocolate with anything that isn’t cookies, cake, or candy?), but that’s because chocolate has been pigeon-holed as the stuff of desserts, pastries, frozen delights, breaking dietary taboos, warm winter drinks, sweet summer treats, and, if you really want to let your mind wander into the red-light district, sex. Seriously, who among you hasn’t had prurient thoughts of drizzling someone’s naked flesh in hot fudge and licking it off in sensual voracity? Adult toy stores online and in the real world cater to those who believe chocolate is an aphrodisiac, whether it’s in the form of body paint or performance enhancing bonbons, but that’s another blog entry for another day.

Savory chocolate dishes aren’t rare, but, outside of ambitious young cooks and eaters with an open mind, no one really thinks to try them, which is a shame, as savory chocolate dishes aren’t as nasty as you’d think. In savory chocolate dishes, dark chocolate is commonly used, but some dishes, like this take on baba ghannoush (or ghannouj), uses white chocolate to bring out the creaminess of the mashed eggplant.

Even if you don’t want to dive in headfirst into a savory chocolate dish, you can try a savory chocolate sauce. The one most people would be familiar with is mole (pronounced “mo-lay,” not “mohl,” like the underground animal, a treacherous double agent, or the benign skin tumor that can either be a beauty mark, a sign you may have cancer, or, in some ancient civilizations, a sign you were into witchcraft if you stuck it with a needle and it didn’t bleed), which is served on chicken. Mole sauce is actually the generic name for the dishes served with that kind of sauce, with mole poblano as the most common type outside of Mexico.

Much like a lot of stories of how popular dishes are made, mole was made purely by accident and with limited ingredients. A visitor had stopped at a Mexican convent and two nuns were scrambling for whatever they could provide for him. The nuns had little in the way of food and used a molcajete (a stone mortar and pestle used in traditional Mexican cuisine) to grind every ingredient they could find and simmered it in liquid until it thickened.

Traditionally, mole is made with guajillo chiles (roasted, stemmed, seeded, and chopped), stewed tomatoes, cinnamon, unsalted peanuts, and cocoa powder (though you could substitute that for Mexican chocolate or a bar of dark chocolate that’s been melted in a double boiler). Speaking from personal experience, mole sauce tastes like barbecue sauce without the sweetness and with a little more heat and it goes great with grilled chicken.

However, if you just want a barbecue sauce with a dark chocolate edge, you can prepare this. It’s the homemade barbecue sauce I first made when I decided to take culinary arts at Job Corps, with some minor adjustments.

Dark Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
• 2 tbsps unsalted butter
• 1 oz semisweet chocolate (chopped)
• 1/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
• 2 tbsps cider vinegar
• 2 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder (I recommend Hershey’s Special Dark baking cocoa)
• 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tsps dry mustard
• 2 tsps chili powder
• 2 tsps kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp ground coriander
• 1/4 tsp cayenne
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 cup stewed tomatoes
• 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
• 2 tablespoons minced garlic
• 2 tablespoons liquid smoke (optional)
• 1 tablespoon paprika
• 2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 2 teaspoons dried thyme
• 1 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation:
Melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients (vinegar last), reduce heat and simmer over low for 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Optionally, you can puree this sauce to make a smoother barbecue sauce.

Bacon Steaks

A bacon steak (also known as a bacon chop, but not a pork chop, because a bacon steak is from the part of the pig where we get bacon – the belly if you want the streaky, fatty strip bacon that you can enjoy from breakfast to dinner; if you want Canadian bacon, you have to take it from Porky’s back) is just bacon cut thick enough to pass for a steak, hence the name. It can also be regular beef steak with bacon wrapped around it if you want to get fancy, but, for the sake of this blog post, a bacon steak is a thickly-cut slab of bacon that looks like a steak.

As for whether or not you can bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius, or 4 on the gas mark if you’re using a gas oven), you…actually can. Depending on your oven (I’m going by the electric oven I have in my house currently), bacon steaks/chops take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes to cook in the oven, turning ever so often so it cooks on both sides. Compare with pork chops, which can take 35 minutes to cook (maybe a little longer, depending on your oven). And yes, you can smother the bacon steaks in chocolate (or rather, the savory chocolate sauce) in chocolate as it cooks. The end result will taste salty, smoky, incredibly rich, and (depending on whether or not you puréed the sauce) very smooth.

And that’s how you make bacon steaks smothered in chocolate.

Thanks, and happy eating

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*There are some Cartoon Network-made shows that have aired on the channel, but aren’t Cartoon Cartoons: Samurai Jack, Class of 3000, Megas XLR, anything made during Cartoon Network’s failed attempt at airing live-action shows (Out of Jimmy’s Head, Dude What Would Happen, Destroy Build Destroy, Incredible Crew, Tower Prep, and Hole in the Wall [even though that was a short-lived game show that aired on the FOX Network]), and the post-Golden Age Cartoon Network shows, like Adventure Time, The Looney Tunes Show (not the installment show of classic shorts, the sitcom), Regular Show, Steven Universe, Uncle Grandpa, MAD, Robotomy, and The Amazing World of Gumball.

Happy Birthday, TBTK

 

It may not seem like much, but it has been a year since I first started Take Back the Kitchen, a food blog that not only encourages people to go the “from scratch” route, but also teaches them food history and gives them insight on how we as a society treat food.

I know I haven’t been consistent with the blog, since I’m also trying to look for employment. Currently, I have at least three AmeriCorps programs interested in me and I’ve been phone interviewed by two of them. I’ve also entered a screenwriting contest because, hey, I have to do something with that Writing for Film and TV degree I earned back in 2007 and am collecting as many top-shelf Hollywood talent agency phone numbers as I can so I can pick one and start pitching. I’ve been trying to find time for the blog, but I take my time in planning and drafting what I write. And don’t get me started on offline obligations (i.e. housework and errands) and the occasional day where I just feel that I’m not the good writer I think I am. Those are dark days, as dark as the chocolate on that cake in the picture (or at least what the non-frosted inside is. I like to imagine that cake as a devil’s food instead of an angel’s food).

Through it all, I have been going over the months I have blogged (even if it was for a day), looked back on my work, and…it’s pretty good. I may not have had a lot of readers, but if I keep at it, I’ll get more. And, even if I don’t, these blog posts will make excellent portfolio work for a food writing job, and my career counselor, Ms. Emily Rappaport of San Francisco, California, told me she was a fan of Take Back the Kitchen for its informative and witty writing (the wit is inherent; the information is from experience), so that counts for something. I think my best work from the year I worked on this is the multi-part piece on Thanksgiving, because I’ve always wanted to pick apart the food history of that holiday and separate the B.S. I learned in school (public and private/religious) that was probably only 40% accurate with what most scholars and historians have found in recent years. On top of that, I had a cranberry sauce/relish recipe that needed to be shared.

Since I’m trying to be more organized in launching my writing career (be it writing screenplays or for food), I’m currently laying out a schedule I can stick to for how frequent I’ll be writing on this blog. Details as of now are fuzzy, but I’m hoping to at least post twice a week.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank all of my readers for checking out my blog and commenting whenever necessary. I’m sorry if I didn’t approach this as frequently as possible and I hope to change that, and here’s hoping I continue to inform and entertain you guys.

 

–Canais “phillyfoodie85” Young

Friday Update: Where In The Blogosphere is PhillyFoodie85 (or When The Chips Are Down)?

It’s been sixteen days since my last post, which, yes, goes against my promise for more frequent posts, but I don’t like to rush my work.

It’s been a pretty interesting week for me. After being put off for a week, I started my city’s COOK Master’s program (http://audreyclairecook.com/cook-masters-program), which is now catering to food writers looking for work along with chefs and cooks doing the same. I met more food bloggers looking to hit the big time than actual cooks, so, for the first time since my creative writing class in high school, I felt at ease at where I was.

The food writing lesson was good, in that it inspired me to always look for new ways to approach my food essays so it doesn’t feel like I’m in a grind (and not a good one, like for coffee and pepper) and to always edit, revise, build vocabulary, never stop learning, and even go out on a limb and make the news as well as report it (meaning that, if I stage at a restaurant or work at a farmer’s market, then I can report on it here). The speakers (Rick Nichols and Drew Lazor of Foobooz) didn’t exactly touch on where I can submit my work, but, hey, that’s why the Internet was made.

Tuesday the 21st’s Health and Nutrition class was canceled and rescheduled for February 25th after a heavy snowstorm plowed through the East Coast, a lesson learned when I arrived in Center City and was buffeted with snow for at least an hour until the program managers told me that there was no need for me to be here since the class was canceled. And it’s not like I was notified earlier about it and went blindly into the winter white. The program managers don’t get in until 11:15 am and, despite claims that they called me to inform me of this on my cell phone number, I didn’t get the message (it did, however, go to my home number). It was all a case of crossed wires and I can’t really blame anyone (except for myself, who should have taken the hint that there would be no class when the snow started to get heavy). This coming Monday and Tuesday, I have Butchery and Wine 101, and the weather isn’t going to be too bad, so I’m pumped and studying all I can.

The rest of the week was pretty much drafting and devising new ideas for this blog, as well as aimless Internet surfing, which brought me to this contest:

https://www.dousaflavor.com/#!/

Lays Potato Chips started this two years ago, where lucky contestants get to enter in what new potato chip flavor they want to see. The finalists last time were Sriracha (a spicy, Asian, ketchup-like sauce that seems to be all the rage with hipsters, geeks, and white kids who want to be Asian. I didn’t taste this nor did I see it at any of the markets where I live), Chicken and Waffles (I did see this, and taste it. The combination of maple syrup and potatoes made up for the fact that I couldn’t taste the chicken), and Cheesy Garlic Bread (I saw this one too and tasted it. I was disappointed that I couldn’t identify the garlic nor the cheese taste. And this one won, which was more disappointing, given how good the chicken and waffles chips were and the potential of sriracha-flavored chips).

Now, you’re probably wondering, “PhillyFoodie [or Canais], why didn’t you enter the contest? You must have a lot of flavor ideas and combos whirling in your head from your two years as a Job Corps culinary student and your time in California, where you pretty much ate from organic gardens, professional kitchens, community kitchens, and farmers’ markets, and one could net you $1 million and some minor fame.” I did think about entering when the contest was fresh and new, but I was too busy. Now that I’m not, I’ve been pouring through The Flavor Bible and devising ideas.

My best ones so far include: Caprese (Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella), Philly Cheesesteak, Chili Cheese Fries, Parmesan and Walnut, Apple Cheddar (with and without bacon), Mac and Cheese (as a promise to my sister), and, my original idea, General Tso’s Chicken. I’m sure I have more, but I forgot.

Next time, I’ll touch on how to reinvent your kitchen into something more professional.

Good night, and happy eating!

Making Bacon: Not Just Sexual Innuendo Anymore!

Hello readers. Only three more days until I go back to my regularly scheduled blogging.

In the meantime, enjoy this video from America’s Test Kitchen (probably the only cooking show out there that isn’t inane or considered “food porn”). I don’t know if this show comes on where I live, but, this is the 21st century, and there’s practically no TV show out there that isn’t available online in some capacity (except for maybe these late 1990s horror comedy cartoons I liked: one was called “Toonsylvania,” which Steven Spielberg made when he first started DreamWorks Studios and the other was called “Monster Farm” about a boy named Jack who inherits a farm filled with monster animals. The latter show came on ABC Family Channel back when it was called FOX Family. The former show aired on FOX back when that channel and other free-TV channels, except for NBC and PBS, aired Saturday morning cartoons).

Enjoy, have a happy and healthy new year, and I’ll see you with new material.

Happy Holidays To All My Readers

I think the title says it all. The next blog post won’t come until next week, since it’s going to be New Years’ and what better way to start the new year than with a new blog post?

I also got an early Christmas present on Monday when I got an acceptance email to Philadelphia’s COOK Masters program for cooks (and now food writers) who have the drive and culinary skills, but need more experience and professional connections. Here’s a look at what the program is like: http://vimeo.com/61282616

I start the program on January 13th.

In the mean time, enjoy these photos of the food I made when I was at Job Corps:

Breast Cancer Remission Celebration Cake with Coffee Frosting Foreclosed Gingerbread House 1 Foreclosed Gingerbread House 2 Shrimp and Lime Pate en Croute Sopa and Fried Plantain Platter Stuffed Mussels and Polenta

Happy holidays and happy 2014!