Friday, February 27, 2009
Has anyone else noticed this insanity at our local P-Chops? Around any given holiday you start seeing these containers of "Buttercreme" frosting in shockingly bright hues (red for valentines, green for St. Patties, etc...) displayed in the yogurt isle. I included the picture above lest you think that I was conjuring this all up in my wee twisted mind. What seems weird to me is that the frosting is sold unrefrigerated in plastic containers which you might otherwise put a salad in, that is to say, not especially airtight or anything. You would figure that the stuff would go nice and rancid. Here is the label to include pricing.
That is 3.99$ American for 31 Ounces of apparently shelf stable frosting!!! Who on god's green earth needs nearly two pounds of vibrant green or yellow butter-creme frosting for St. Patrick's day? Are there people out there in the Capital Region baking and frosting life sized cake Leprechauns? For some reason I am picturing a lonely woman bellied up to a tub of this stuff with a spoon and a glass of milk, which kind of makes me shudder a little. Anyways, just wanted to bring everyone a little Friday night randomness. I trust everyone will have a splendid weekend.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
So the other day I got an email in my firstname.lastname@example.org box from a friendly representative of the Dr. Oetker brand Ristorante frozen pizza line. Apparently, the frozen pizzas were about to be launched at our local Price Choppers and Hannafords and the kind lady was wondering if I would like to receive a couple of samples (mailed on dry ice, very fancy). Of course I answered in the enthusiastic affirmative and soon after the two lovely boxes pictured above and below arrived on the promised dry ice.
Apparently the Dr. Oetker's Ristorante Pizzas are German-made but are the number one selling frozen pizza in Italy. I figure the Italians must know what they are talking about in regards to pizza so I was looking forward to an excellent product.
The pizzas come in mozzarella, spinaci, funghi, and vegatale and I chose the first two to try out. I began with the mozzarella.
Upon taking it out of the box I was immediately struck by the discs of mozzarella on the top. This was on top of a generous smattering of shredded mozzarella. As I am a believer in the more cheese the better this was impressive in comparison to the meager amounts of cheese that I have seen on some other frozen brands. As far as other toppings there was a scattering of diced tomatoes and some green flecked globules that I took to be some sort of basil mixture. At first I thought they were comprised of ricotta but I did not see it on the listed ingredients (although there was Edam, I guess if you are in Germany you go with what you got!).
Next I de-boxed the spinaci pizza.
Again I noticed the abundance of topping material. This pizza was covered in greenery, not the anemic sprinkling of veg that I have seen on some other gourmet vegetable type pizzas. The spinach even looked relatively fresh for being frozen. Again there was a pattern of globules of a cheesy substance on the surface that kind of looked like a soft cheese/ricotta kind of thing.
I followed the cooking instructions on the box to the word so I could be sure they came out as the manufacture intended. I threw them in the oven at 425 for 11 minutes (it said 10-12 so I split the difference). This is resulted in the nicely browned pizzas you see below.
When I opened the oven I could definitely smell an assertive amount of garlic which I like. Frankly, both of the pizzas looked surprisingly good. I am not a huge frozen pizza fan and rarely if ever buy it for home consumption, but my immediate thoughts were that if the pizza tasted as good as it looked I might actually consider buying these.
The Dr. Oetker's pizzas are of the thin crust variety, but not over crisp and cracker like as are some other pizzas of this type. Something that I noticed was that the flavors of the ingredients actually come through in both of the pizzas. In the mozzarella I actually tasted mozzarella, tomato, basil, etc... In the spinach I actually tasted spinach. It was not that bland, generic, frozen pizza, tastelessness that I am used to from so many of the American brands (Ellio's, Tombstone, Mama Celeste, etc...ad nauseum).
Overall I was impressed, and not just because I received these gratis. Believe you me had they been sub par, I would have skewered them mercilessly. I was even kind of looking forward to using my rapier wit, but alas I have to give these pizzas my recommendation. If you have to buy frozen pizza these are an excellent solution. Also, they are already available at P-Chops, the wife and I saw them on Friday at the Guilderland location. I apologize but I did not notice the price. Anyways, if there is anyone else out there who wants to send me frozen goodies let me know. I eagerly wait to devour your product.
If you remember, I got hold of some Red Feather Brand canned butter and cheese the other week. I finally decided it was time to test whether or not the quality was worth me stocking up on some for my "In case of apocalypse, break glass" store room. I devised three essential tests for the butter and cheese. The tests were buttered bread, a grilled cheese sandwich, and some mac and cheese. I began by cracking open the cans with my trusty opener. First was the butter.
I don't know what I was expecting, but when I opened the can I was fairly surprised. The contents of the can looked a lot like what I think room temperature butter should look like. It was creamy and had a deep yellow color that looked pretty enticing. I spread a piece of whole wheat sandwich bread thickly.
This actually tasted pretty good, a lot less salty then I expected. I thought that shelf stable canned butter would have to have a lot of salt as a preservative, but I guess fat is inherently kind of shelf stable on its own. There was a hearty, dare I say, fresh butter flavor with only a hint of can taste. All in all I give a thumbs up on this test.
Next I cracked open the cheese.
Again, I was surprised by the appearance. I had expected the cheese to have the fake bright orange color of Velveeta or Kraft singles. But no, it was an pale off white color. I picked off a small piece and popped it in my mouth. It had a sharp character that I would not expect of a processed cheese product. Imagine sharp white cheddar flavored Velveeta. Not too bad at all. I constructed a grilled cheese sandwich using the butter and cheese. I went with the buttered 4 sides grilled cheese method.
I fried the sandwich up in a skillet and ate it while standing in my kitchen. The butter was the star of the sandwich. It gave a wonderful, greasy, sodden-ness to the bread. The cheese melted sort of strangely, it did not begin to flow, instead maintaining its form but going soft. Again, two thumbs up here.
Next I began the slightly more complicated test of a mac and cheese. I used the standard Velveeta recipe. This requires melting some butter, throwing in flour, pouring in milk, adding the cheese, pouring over elbows, and throwing in oven. Simple. Classic.
We begin by melting the butter.
After making the bechamel, in went the cheese en mass.
This made a very thick sauce. The strange melting properties of the cheese were again apparent. It did not want to melt as handily as good old Velveeta would have. The cheese stubbornly held its form despite me chopping it up into little pieces which was sort of weird. Eventually most of it melted and I poured it over some whole wheat elbows and threw it in the oven. It came out looking a little dry but nicely browned.
This third crucial test was a little less successful than the other two. The flavor was there, good and cheesy, but the texture was definitely off. The cheese simply did not want to melt into a delicious sauce. However, if I was holed up in a cabin in the Adirondacks with a loaded shot gun, tired after a day of vigorous zombie slaying. I think this just might hit the spot. So I am not going to ding the quality of the butter or cheese here. For dairy products that come out of a can, both of these Red Feather products are aces in my book. So, any of you survival nuts out there can go ahead and order a case of each and put it somewhere that will annoy your wife (Mrs. Dave will appreciate the ode to all of my survival supply nooks and crannies).
Friday, February 20, 2009
The Foodie Blogroll is a nice little food blog compiler/forum that I stumbled upon early in my blogging career. It is run by the wonderful Jenn of The Leftover Queen blog. The Foodie Blogroll has a nice sense of community about it and they do fun stuff like monthly contests based on specific ingredients (The Royal Foodie Joust, see here for my ill-fated entry ). I highly encourage any fellow food bloggers out there to check it out and maybe throw the neat Foodie Blogroll widget onto your site. It is a good way to direct some traffic towards your blog and meet some like minded writers.
Every Friday, Jenn chooses 5 blogs of note for her "Finest Foodies Friday" list. It looks like little ol' Mr. Dave made the cut this week and made the list (see here, as well as The Foodie Blogroll front page)! I always get a kick out of when someone notices my humble little Upstate New York food blog, so thanks Jenn and The Foodie Blogroll community!
I got a big kick out of her description (see below), I like being un-categorizable.
"Mr. Dave writes a wonderful blog. I am having difficulty coming up with a way to describe it. There are the out of the ordinary products he procures, taste tests and writes about - canned meats, interesting beers, restaurants with regional cooking and also recipe experiments. All I can say is I have thoroughly enjoyed all the posts I have read. It is entertaining and informative."
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Now that you are cursing me for getting a They Might Be Giants song stuck in your head, I thought I would share this Goudse Kaasworstjes recipe that I came across. As any New York Capital Region resident will probably know, New York (née, New Netherland) has a rich Dutch history. The Dutch were some of the earliest settlers of the Hudson River Valley and their culture held sway for a couple of hundred years. If you have read the You Know You Are From Albany If... list, the "You probably know someone who's last name starts with Van" quote rings true, especially as I grew up in Guilderland. In any event, I thought that this good ol' Dutch recipe for cheese sausages would be a good nod to the history of our beloved region. I am sure you are all thanking me for the random Sunday morning history lesson (I think I already hear snores).
I started off with a goodly hunk of aged Gouda, I will be using about 8 ounces.
I finely grated the cheese in my food processor. Next step was to make some fresh bread crumbs out of a nice hunk of French bread. You need about an equal bread to cheese ratio. I also pulsed a couple hand fulls of parsley and a couple green onions in the processor with the bread crumbs to add a little color and flavor.
Mix the bread crumb/herb mixture with the gouda and throw in plenty of fresh cracked pepper and coarse salt.
Then mix in two eggs and two tablespoons of milk to moisten well. I formed the mixture into eight chubby little sausage shapes. These need to go into the fridge for about an hour to firm up a little.
When the sausages were good and chilled, I dipped them in an egg wash and rolled in some store bought bread crumbs. I forgot to reserve some of the fresh bread crumbs so I had to resort to the cheesy store bought kind, but I think they actually worked out well. Here the lil' sausages are all breaded up. They kind of look like mozzarella sticks.
I sauteed them in two batches in a heavy skillet with some heated vegetable oil until very well browned and crispy.
I let them drain and cool for a minute on a piece of paper towel. I thought they looked pretty damn good if I don't say so myself.
After a little while I snatched one up and took a bite. I was really hoping that they would be good and I was not disappointed. The gouda flavor really came through and the spring onion/parsley added a nice savory freshness to the gooey little guys. The contrast between the crisp outside and the moist, unctuous center was delicious.
One of these would be excellent served over a nice spinach or frise salad. If you reduced the size of the sausages, or even made little ball shapes, these would make an excellent appetizer. Plus it is fun to say Goudse Kaasworstjes, it just rolls off the tongue. You could probably substitute any cheese/herb combination that you had on hand, so this is also a good method of utilizing any stale bread you have lying around.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
So I keep seeing the commercials for Pizza Hut's "Tuscani" (I am sure that any Tuscan Gentleman would vomit at this use of their region's name) Pasta Bacon Mac and Cheese. I am kind of a mac and cheese purest. I don't like anything futzing around with the delicious harmony of béchamel, cheese, salt, pepper, and pasta so I was kind of suspicious of the concept. I figured that this might be the one exception to the "bacon improves all" doctrine. Of course, I had to formulate my own recipe which turned out OK. As often happens, some of the ideas I had I will glean from this experiment, but I was slightly disappointed with the results.
I started with a package worth of well done, very crispy bacon (cured and smoked).
Now, I wanted to infuse as much bacon flavor into the mix as I could. I went with a three stage bacon attack. First, I made a bacon/sourdough bread crumb topping for the mac and cheese by pulsing a handful of bacon and some fresh bread in my food processor.
Bacon Attack #2: I decided that instead of wasting the luscious grease of the gods left in my bacon cooking pan, I would incorporate it into the béchamel sauce. I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in a couple of table spoons of bacon grease. This formed the basis for what I have named Bacon-chamel sauce.
I made a blond roux by throwing in an equal amount of flour into the grease. I let this go a little longer than I normally would to bring out some nutty undertones that I thought would accentuate the bacon flavors.
After adding the milk and allowing the sauce to thicken nicely I added the four cheeses that I selected. I used mozzarella (I love stringy goodness in me mac and cheese), good sharp New York aged cheddar (for New York patriotic reasons), Fontina (good mellow flavor should go good with bacon), and Velveeta (shut up in advance cheese snobs, Velveeta has a place in my heart).
This made a delicious, bubbling, cheesy sauce with a scent only slightly redolent of bacon.
It is always good to admit mistakes, so I think my major one here is the choice of pasta. I used largeish pasta shells. I thought that the shell shape would nicely scoop up a lot of cheese and sauce. I dumped the cheese sauce over the shells and at first it looked pretty damn good.
Bacon Attack #3: I mixed in the remaining bacon in bit form along with 1 egg plus 1 yolk.
I stirred the whole mess up nicely, topped with the bacon/bread crumb mixture, and threw it all into a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. It came out of the oven looking very good and browned.
I had a few friends over that evening and we dug into the mac and cheese and immediately discovered that the bacon mac and cheese was very, very, rich. I think the large pasta shells scooped up a little too much sauce and good ol' fashioned elbow mac would have been the proper choice. As far as the flavor goes, it was little too smoky for my tastes, this could easily be remedied by using some cured but un-smoked bacon, dare I say pancetta would have been a better choice (pancetta is still bacon, right?)? The highlight of the dish in my humble opinion was the delicious bacon/bread crumb topping. I think using this on top of an otherwise normal mac and cheese would add enough bacony goodness in and of its self and this is how I may proceed in my bacon mac and cheese future. As always I chalk this all up as a learning experience.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Steve Barnes over at the Times Union's Table Hopping Blog made me aware of a certain web service in his recent post entitled, "Add a Side of Bacon to Any Website." It was Bacolicio.us which is a site that allows you to baconify (if I may coin a phrase) any other website by simply typing in the full url after the site name. Pretty cool if you ask me, I think I saw this done to Reddit a while ago but didn't take the time to find out how it was done. So thanks Steve! I also went ahead and baconified Sarah Palin's Bio on her Governor of Alaska site, it seemed fitting for some reason. I just feel like she would hate having a big ol' piece of pork on her picture and this is strangely satisfying.
Incidentally, this is my 100th post! Oh how miserably fast the time goes, it really seems like only yesterday when I decided to copy my friend K8 over at Of Monkeys and Cupcakes and start a food oriented blog. I guess my blog has kind of evolved a little to include a few less recipes/reviews, and a little more of my stupid sense of humor and random gibberish. So, I decided to do a little fishing for ideas here. I think I have a pleasant little number of regular readers/commenters (I'm looking at you Albany Jane, Phairhead, metalchick666, marianne, GenkiDo, Elizabeth, llcwine, and any others I can't think of right now) and I just wanted to ask you what you think. Stop the whole bacon thing (it is kind of a tired internet meme now)? More Upstate New York recipes/restaurant/product reviews? Anything else you would like to see? I don't know why, but it kind of makes me happy to entertain people in some infinitesimal way with my blog and I wanted to consult the vox populi on how to make it better. It is a good way for me to bring some creativity and lightheartedness into my otherwise very serious life. I kind of feel sometimes like I stopped being the quirky art school dropout guy, and went through a Darth Vaderesque transformation into some kind of jackbooted, stick up the ass, servant of the dark side. This blog keeps me centered in a way. Anyways, enough babbling self analysis for the day, thank you for the thought you may or may not put into doing me this favor. I trust everyone will have a pleasant weekend!