How to Salvage a Week

It is 9.01.  I just got home from work.

Not a banner day.  I woke up with a headache. I erred grievously in the discharge of my work responsibilities and my boss shot me one of those “I had such high hopes for you, Jeff,” looks that I am all-to used-to. I spilled lunch on my good shirt, was late leaving, and the bus driver made fun of me on the way home.  And most critically, it’s already late-evening, Which means I have about three hours before I have to strap on a breathe-rite strip, set my alarm, crawl into bed and start this disco party all over again.

Which means that if I do not choose dinner VERY carefully, the entire week is jacked up.

So. Radish batons are out. Nor do not want a salad with baby greens. I do not want dolmas.  I do not want millet porridge with green-tea infused semifreddo. I do not  want something prepared “en papillote,” or a big bowl of strawberries or anything that is remotely complicated or difficult or fussy.

I want a Croque Señior.

This sandwich is basically a play on the French “Croque Monsieur,” which is a grilled ham and cheese.  Here, we change the cheese, replace the ham with Mexican Chorizo, and add salsa.

This, my friends, is a life-changing sandwich.  The bread manages to hold on to the strong flavors without overly weakening their impact, the crunch of the crust perfectly balances the richness of the interior, and the comfort level has a brightness to it that seems to remind you that tomorrow is going to be okay.

How to make one:

Two slices of bread. If you are me, it will be homemade- with a crispy crust, tender crumb, with what honey snobs would call a “suggestion of basswood,” and just enough whole wheat flour to give it some tooth.

Chorizo. Three ounces. Mexican. Preferably Local, from one of the many Mexican Markets your city is lucky to have.  Removed from the casing, broken up into blueberry-sized pieces, and cooked in a cast-iron skillet until just done. Save the rendered fat.

Salsa. You don’t need much.

White cheese. Monterrey Jack is good, Queso Chihuahua is better.  The Mexican cheese blend at IGA is fine if you are in the mood to start a fight with your bagger but lack the animal protein necessary to effectuate any real aggression.

Butter, 2T.  One T should be softened:

(Tip about butter. If you need to quickly soften butter, use your bench scraper to flatten, scrape, and reflatten your butter a few times.  You’re basically introducing air into it, which helps it spread)

(Bonus Tip: You should totally have a bench scraper. They’re like 2 bucks at IKEA and are great for pressing garlic, gathering slack bread dough, cutting shortening into small chunks for a pie crust, or just picking up veggies from a cutting board.  Not to mention the butter thing)

Honor System: I know that you all know how to make a grilled cheese, but let me point out a couple of things:

1. Use plenty of fat in the pan.  You basically want to fry the bottom surface of the sandwich.  If done correctly, frying, in and of itself, is NOT a high-fat cooking method.  I refuse to get all Mister Wizard about grilled cheese, but the key to frying involves minimizing the temperature drop once food is introduced to the pan, if the temp drops too much, your food will get greasy.

2. Smashing is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged.  Remember, you’re trying to melt the cheese before burning the crust.

3. Remember whose blog this is.  Add the melted chorizo fat to the other tablespoon of butter in your cooking pan, and mix thoroughly before introducing the bread.

It isn’t easy being me.  But at least there are good sandwiches.  I’m going to bed now.

A Man, A Plan, A Paella Pan

I’m still weak in the knees.

This isn’t sated, or full, or even satisfied or happy – this is one of those moments where you’ve spent hours with your eyes glued to the back of your skull and your jaw slack from what you’ve just felt – and all of your favorite smells and tastes have just shouted to you in a mysterious language you only at this moment understand.   And you realize, right then, when you’re done sitting in the dark corner licking the unctuous charred bits from the edge of your plate or trying to fish those last grains of rice from the tines of your fork even though you’ve already finished dessert – that THIS this is the meal against which all future versions will be Judged and Found Wanting.

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Chorizo: Walk Like a Man

I am married to bacon.

Goetta is my friend, ham is sort of the Meat Next Door, BBQ and I go too far back for there to be passion,  pork tenderloin and I exchange long glances when we pass each other by the water cooler, the Pork Belly Mac and Cheese at Mayberry is on my Laminated Celebrity Card, and pork hocks and I have an understanding.

Chorizo is what calls me at 2 in the morning.

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There is Nothing Either Funny or Erotic about Chorizo Hand Pies

I’m willing to write off one out of every, say, twenty dishes I cook as a complete and unmitigated disaster.  And usually, afterward, I understand why it happens.  Botched technique,   too much heat, (either in the “caliente” or the “picante” sense of the word) too little attention, or drastically misunderstanding the changes the food will undergo while cooking.   We make a mental note, we salvage what we can, we do the dishes, and, if necessary, order up some Indian takeout.

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