Category Archives: pickles

In Which I Give the McRib a Fair Shake

It’s fair to say that the McRib is almost universally reviled, isn’t it?

And there’s still a part of me that longs to fit in with the cool kids, so I am reluctant to admit this and presumably face public scorn (much like T said he would never volunteer to do the Volkswagen Shoot-Out at Madison Square Garden because he wouldn’t want to be booed by an arena full of Rangers fans). But, as I discovered on Consumerist, the Web makes people braver and/or meaner, so I suppose I can cower behind my laptop as I say this: I used to really like the McRib.

And whenever McDonald’s brings it back, jokes abound and I hold fast to my secret shame and pray no one asks, “Have you ever tried it?”

But it’s been YEARS…and I was admittedly curious whether my tastes had changed or if – horror of horrors – I still secretly liked the McRib.

And I wasn’t actually going to even *do* it until I came home from work the day after mentioning this fleeting thought and T said, “I have a surprise for you!”

So…I’ll say this – there are definitely worse things out there, even on the McDonald’s menu itself. (Namely, anything with American cheese and/or eggs. Like, say, an Egg McMuffin. Shudder.)

And, call me Snooki, but…I really liked the pickles – it could have been my imagination, but I think they were more substantial than the usual McD pickles.

I think the slab of meat is a little weird – especially for something that is supposed to emulate its namesake. And that hunk of faux rib meat may be what gets everyone in a tizzy. But, at the same time, I don’t think it’s all that much different – read: grosser — than the hamburger patties that everyone gobbles up – it’s just a slightly different shape. The texture’s comparable, folks.

And I don’t know if I agree with McDonald’s claim that it is “tangy temptation” – I don’t think it was particularly tangy…or even overly BBQy. It was almost – dare I say it — somewhat bland.

And it would have been a lot better if the onions had been, say, caramelized instead of served raw.

In short? I think the McRib gets an overly bad rap. It’s not the best sandwich on the menu…and it’s certainly not as good as, say, the Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger…but, for those of us on the eastern half of the country, it may be as close as we get for now.

Image via DrPizza/Flickr

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Filed under cheese, eggs, pickles, Red Hook

Mad Classics…and Tips for Feeding Trashy, Homesick Interlopers.

(Thanks, LehighValleyLive.com! I found this by Googling "Jersey Shore food.")

In honor of last week’s Mad Men premiere and the much anticipated launch of Jersey Shore’s second season, I thought I’d take a moment to ponder which particular foodstuffs would go best with each show.

I’ll start with the much-lauded Mad Men.

I was lucky that the Next Food Network Star included modern twists on ’60s favorites the week *before* last, making it very easy for me to (eww…gross!) regurgitate them this week.

I’m not actually very good at cooking without a recipe (It’s the baker in me?) — Reason #2 I will probably never be on the show. Instead, I found some recently updated versions of these classics, thanks to Epicurious and the Food Network (mostly).

Tuna Casserole

  • Tuna Noodle Casserole — I actually made this recipe once when I was hankering for comfort food. It seemed the most interesting spin with the mushrooms and the sherry and whatnot. It was good…but I haven’t made it since (and I’ve had half a bag of egg noodles in my cupboard, patiently waiting for the day I feel nostalgic enough to try it again…).
  • In general, I am wary of Rachael Ray recipes — I feel like they’re too bland for the required effort and if you really want something “easy,” you might as well really go hog wild and just microwave something (or order in). But…her Retro-Metro Fancy Tuna Casserole sounds okay. And I wonder what using actual tuna steaks would do to a tired-out casserole recipe. Jazz it up? Or would the steaks be lost in the faux-mushroom-soup sauce? That’s basically what Brianna did in that particular episode…but, then again, — spoiler alert — she got the ol’ heave-ho.
  • I feel basically the same way about Martha’s recipes, but her Mediterranean Tuna Casserole sounds like it has potential. I don’t know what makes it Mediterranean though — seems like you’d need to add capers and/or olives or something.

Pigs in a Blanket

First off, I am astounded by the variety of names in the Wikipedia entry. Who knew?

Lobster Thermidor

I confess I didn’t actually know what lobster thermidor was before that fateful Food Network Star episode. I mean, I’d heard of it…but I didn’t know anything about what actually went into it. And…now that I do, I gotta say it sounds pretty gross — egg yolks and cognac?? — and I’m not sure why Tom picked it.

  • I’m also not sure if it’s a recipe that has stood the test of time. Gourmet only has one recipe for it…and it’s from 1940.
  • Emeril has his own version — and it got really good reviews…(although I had to Google “bouquet garni,” so I feel like perhaps I am too ignorant to make it).
  • And…believe it or not, Oprah has a recipe, too…although it’s only because she, too, jumped on the Julia Child bandwagon last year. (Although I guess I have to give her props for not reprinting the Boeuf Bourguignon recipe that was absolutely everywhere…)

Deviled Eggs

I won’t spend too much time here as I have made no secret about my hatred for eggs…and I would never in a million years devil them.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I actually remember eating this as a kid — I think my grandmother made it. Which makes sense. I don’t think there’s much modern or new about these recipes though — just plain cake. Which is maybe as it should be?

Okay…got that out of your system? Ready for pickles and Ron-Ron Juice?

I am officially thrilled that Snooki discovered fried pickles while driving through Savannah, Georgia en route to Miami in Episode 1. (I’m a little sad that they let one guy represent all of Georgia and dismissed him as a giant hick, but…that’s a post for another day.)

You may recall I once wrote a heavily edited story about fried pickles that made me sound like a complete ditz. I won’t link to it here as I was completely aghast by what the editor did in trying to assume my voice, but…let’s leave it at this: fried pickles are kind of amazing. (Snooki said it was a life-changing experience that put pickles on a whole other level! She’s not far off.)

Other than their family dinner nights, I imagine the cast of Jersey Shore has better things to do than find good food. (Didn’t J-Woww buy ham at a late-night grocery store and eat it in the confessional room to avoid cheating on her boyfriend once?) So…it’s kind of a short list. And then there’s the whole issue that only one of them is actually from Jersey anyway…so it really should be a post about New York and Rhode Island food?

But…my new ball and chain is from Jersey…so, in his honor, I’ll share all that I know about Jersey food — most of which I have learned from him — should Sami want to seek solace in empty calories or something as she embraces singlehood in MIA.

1. Diners. Jersey is famous for diners. So…typical diner food.

2. Taylor ham. I tried to call this “pork roll” and was corrected. He also thinks it’s fascinating that, like Kleenex, Taylor is a brand name that has come to represent the product itself. And you have to eat it in some sort of sandwich form?

3. Gravy fries. (There’s a bar near me that calls them “Disco fries.” I think this is a substantially more fun name.)

4. Clams? Or is that just my warped memory of Sam Sifton’s piece?

And…there you have it.

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Filed under Brooklyn, eggs, entrees, fish, Food Network, hot dogs, Martha, pickles, pork, Uncategorized

St. Patrick’s Day with Mike Meyers, Judy Garland, Hal, Mal, Jill, Lance Romance, a Whole Lot of Tammies and One Single Barbie.

(…even though I’m not sure any of them are/were Irish…)

I feel like I’ve been in such a rut lately…and, like Austin Powers, my mojo is gone. But…to carry the analogy a bit further, I’ve been unable to find my Dr. Evil and somehow learn a powerful Dorothy-esque lesson that I never really lost it at all.

I still haven’t been baking much…even though a friend recently took me to Costco and I got 72 ounces of chocolate chips and could theoretically bake cookies for every last one of the 2,556,598 people who live in Brooklyn. And, sure, *that* would be one heck of a post…but…let’s be realistic.

Today is March 14…or 3.14…or Pi…which I suppose means I should be making pies. But I’m not. Cat-sitting, yes. Old-bill-shredding, yes. Laundry-doing, yes. Book-draft-tweaking, yes. Golden-Girls-watching, yes. But…pie-baking, no.

I just sort of accepted that maybe I’m not going to have anything to write about for awhile. And…I’ve been pitching stories — a girl’s gotta eat — and I was trying to think of some good ideas for St. Patrick’s Day and *that* got me thinking about the Sweet Potato Queens of Jackson, Mississippi and their yearly parade (or, rather, the yearly parade they march in…) and I realized the timing is perfect and I *do* actually have something to write about now.

For the uninitiated, the Sweet Potato Queens are a group of women in Jackson who dress up in spangly green outfits with pink fur and fringe and big red wigs with sparkly crowns and accentuated body parts. They march in Hal and Mal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade every year and are led by Jill Conner Browne, who calls herself the “Boss Queen,” and has written numerous books on being a Queen that are both amusing and empowering…even though I sort of feel like if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. She’s a good writer — and has definitely found her niche — but I think (and I mean this in the nicest way possible as I really do think it’s a good example of someone who found a way to make a living doing something she loves…) it’s the same brand of fiery Southernisms packaged under different themes, like Love or Money or Divorce or Getting Older. Nothing wrong with it. Just…like I said, if you’ve read one, you pretty much know the gist. (Although…to be fair, I don’t think I’ve read anything after the Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner).

And yet…despite the repetition or whatever, I really like those ladies and part of me wishes I was en route to Jackson for next weekend’s parade.

I went to the parade one year while I was living there…but I only vaguely remember the very end in which Tiny Tim — the Grand Marshal that year — passed by on the back of a convertible with his ukulele. And…it sort of begs the question how I could possibly miss and/or not remember a brassy gang of Southern women in sequined outfits and giant boobs who go by “Tammy” while Lance Romance tickles the ivory and they dance on a float…but I have absolutely no recollection of them. It’s kind of sad. I guess I had different priorities circa 1994…

A few things I *do* remember about the Magnolia State:

  • The boiled (pronounced “bald”) peanuts sold on the side of the road by an old guy with a crusty nose. When my mother first saw his sign, she said, “P-Nuts? What’s that? Pine nuts?” and our real estate agent furrowed her brow and said, “No. Peanuts.”
  • The prisoners wore pants with big green and white stripes and served lunch at a barbecue festival called Red Hot in July…which was a little weird. I’ve never had a felon serve me food before. (I don’t think.)
  • I had my first pulled pork sandwich at Red Hot and Blue (which my parents tried to find again when passing through Jackson last year but it maybe doesn’t exist anymore?).
  • My dad’s coworkers called him, “Mr. Brian,” because they wanted to be respectful, but also friendly…
  • I was on the yearbook staff with the mayor’s son and I played basketball with the Secretary of Agriculture’s daughter…and we had a dress code that said we could only wear t-shirts from the school itself or from colleges…and every time someone walked into the gym in a Yale shirt, my basketball coach would scream and when that person looked around, confused, he’d say, “Well it said, ‘Yale,'” but he pronounced “yell,” and “Yale,” just about exactly the same…or if anyone walked in with a shirt from say, Brown, that wasn’t Brown, he LOVED saying, “That ain’t brown, that’s blue!” (or gray or white or whatever). He was born in California, but only lived there for a few months when he was an infant…and yet still felt we had some sort of bond because of it. “My mama said you could get green beans real cheap there,” he’d say. He was the first person I ever met who actually chewed tobacco and he would spit it into the back of his truck. And, for whatever reason, I can remember him talking about getting fire ants in the innards of his truck and watching them spit out at him when he turned on the AC.
  • Mississippi also introduced me to king cake and beignets (I’m not a big fan of either)…fried pickles (which I like better), a grocery store chain called Jitney Jungle…and the sweetest little four-year-old boy named Connor who used to live next door to me and who I used to babysit every Saturday night. He saw Free Willy and fell in love with orcas…and, 15 years later, I still have a drawing on my refrigerator that he made for me with the Ross Barnett Reservoir and his house and some boats and the warning, “No Killing Orcas.” It’s really scary to think that he’s 19 now…and the same age as Levi Johnston. He was just such a sweet little boy…and — spoiler alert — I’ve often thought that if I ever have a son, the name Connor will be at the top of my list.

These are just random memories from Mississippi…and don’t likely paint a very good picture. I haven’t been back since…1996? 1997? I imagine a lot has changed. But it’s what I remember. (And I say this even after catching a little bit of Wanda Sykes last night in which she interviewed Constance McMillen and said that Mississippi always has a knack for being on the wrong side of history…and…gotta admit she sorta had a point…)

Back to the Queens: I’m not really sure how Jill Conner Browne became the Boss Queen…but I’m glad she did. She’s definitely on the list of people I admire (…and whose career paths I wouldn’t mind following…) From what I’ve gathered in her books, it sounds like things haven’t always been easy for her — she’s divorced and was a single mother and it took her a long time to find the Cutest Boy in the World…so, I mean, I guess I see her as another example of how important it is to be tenacious and that things work out when they’re meant to be…even if it doesn’t always make sense when you’re in the thick of it. (Amen? [Seemed the appropriate way to end that paragraph…])

And, heck, I think this whole thing got started when she decided to declare herself a queen one day. Which sort of begs the question why I don’t just call myself the Queen of Something and get the ball rolling. But I can’t really think of anything that I’d like to be the Queen of — Artichokes? Endives? Soybeans? — nor do I really have a place to march…or anyone to play the piano for me as I do it. Although — one thing’s for sure: I’m pretty sure the Sweet Potato Queens got the boob thing right. I have a friend who went as Doralee from 9 to 5 for Halloween…and she told me that she learned that men do not care what your boobs are made of as long as they are huge. So…perhaps the lesson here is that I should get a boob job if I want a successful media career?

Or…I could always marry a pop star from the 70s?

Frank Bruni wrote a story recently about Katie Lee (formerly Joel)…and, gotta say, I envy this chick’s life. Basically everything I want to do (with the exception of my own cooking show and marrying Billy Joel), she’s either done or has in the works: the Chelsea-Handler-esque collection of short stories; the monthly entertaining column in Cosmo; the Good Morning America appearances…if I had accomplished any one of those things, I might be happy to rest on my laurels for all eternity. (It also sort of reminds me of those bumper stickers that say, “I want to be just like Barbie — that bitch has everything!” Except my bumper sticker would say, “I want to be just like Katie Lee…”? No. That can’t be right either…)

Or, you know, maybe I can just print my resume on a shirt…?

I’m not sure how we ended up here. It’s a long way from existential crises to Happy St. Patrick’s Day…but, believe it or not, that was my point. So. I’ll slam the brakes and throw this post in reverse and wrap things up with, “Don’t forget to wear green on Wednesday! And have a happy St. Patty’s Day…!”

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Filed under books, Brooklyn, chocolate, cookies, feminism, Halloween, holidays, Mississippi, pickles, pie, St. Patrick's Day

July’s Most Memorable Food…

Well, here we are: August and I haven’t posted nothin’ in a real long time.

I have another good excuse though!

I mean, partially it’s because I feel no one in the universe reads this except for my mother (which is a scene right out of Julie & Julia! Except that in the Nora Ephron/Julie Powell version, people actually *do* start reading eventually)…

But it’s also because I’ve been on the road. With my mother. In a giant trailer. (You know, like you do…)

And I certainly can’t sum up the whole trip in a measly blog post…but I can hit some highlights.

First? Nick’s Bar-B-Q & Catfish in Carlisle, Arkansas. Whoa. SO good. I felt like I was back at Penn’s in Brandon, Miss. A welcome change from all the McDonald’s (remember, kiddos, we were 52 feet long and needed big parking lots that were easy-on, easy-off…), but also one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. Everything was fried though — fried catfish, fried pickles, fried okra and fried pies. Well worth the splurge…though it’s probably a good thing I don’t actually live there. It was so memorable, in fact, that I brought my catsitter a bottle of Nick’s barbecue sauce. (Even though I didn’t try the barbecue…)

Next? Chocolate-covered bacon at the Wisconsin State Fair. They also had TONS of fried goodies…from s’mores to cheese to green beans. In fact, I tried my first fried Snickers bar at this fair (which my mother kept calling “frickers” and “frandy bars”)…and I had part of the traditional cream puff. I was really excited about the chocolate-covered bacon though — totally intrigued. It seemed like one of those things I had to try so I could report back to everyone who was sending me links to news stories about it…but, alas, the chocolate-covered bacon stand did not immediately make itself known to us…and after a long day at the fair, most people in my party were ready to head home. And since, like Nick’s, I’d probably already consumed well over my standard daily caloric intake, I opted to head home without complaint, too. Maybe next year.

And…finally, there’s boeuf bourguignon, which I feel I have to make after seeing the aforementioned film. (Although I’m not totally a fair-weather Julia fan! I’ve read both of the books and liked them a lot!) I’m a little nervous about it — the first step, for instance, is to cut bacon into lardons. Yikes! And I’m not sure I have a 9- to 10-inch fireproof casserole dish that is 3 inches deep. But I think I can handle drying 3 pounds of lean stewing beef. And, you know, perhaps this act will help me commune with Julia and Julie and find some sort of meaning and purpose in my life, too. (For the record, I’m still searching. And, to that end, it’s been a little tough being back in NYC…)

(Ooh — I also really enjoyed it when we were at a restaurant in Norton, Virginia and the waiter described a salmon special with haricot vert…but I’d need sound effects to truly make you appreciate it…)

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Filed under Brooklyn, candy, cheese, chocolate, fish, food on a stick, frying, Mississippi, pickles, pie, weight loss, wine

Delicious Mayhem.

I make more to-do lists than I, well, know what to do with. It sort of makes me feel better to start off a day knowing what I *have* to do and what I *should* do so I can adjust accordingly to try to squeeze in as much stuff as humanly possible.

The last two weeks have been doozies. Don’t get me wrong — I’m really happy to be so busy…but filling in for publications in New York and London meant I was working some pretty zany hours. So…believe me when I say that blogging about preparations for National Pie Day (and the day itself!) was on my list allll week. Unfortunately, I just haven’t gotten to it until now.

So, without further ado…let’s pick up where I left off:

Day #3 of Pie Week.

This was officially Pickle Pie Day. I wanted to do the cobbler as well, but I didn’t take the peaches out of the freezer to defrost early enough…

After everything, I gotta say pickle pie looked a LOT like pumpkin pie. It was well-received by everyone who tried it (and I baked 14 pies for them…so it damn well should have been, or they really *would* have been some ungrateful bastids [me with a Boston accent]). It had sort of a gooey middle part…so I guess I didn’t cook it long enough…but the top sure looked done and I didn’t want to risk burning it. (In fact, several people asked what the middle layer *was* and I had to confess that it was all the same thing…) It would be interesting to try again, I suppose…though there weren’t a lot of recipes out there for this thing. Not a single one in any of my pie books…though I guess that isn’t all that surprising.

By Day #4, things were really getting serious. Only one more day until the *actual* Pie Day. I was up at 4:30 to write about European retail asset management…which was a good thing as I had a LOT of baking to do.

First thing? The cobbler that didn’t happen the night before. And I cranked that sucker out in no time.

I *finally* used the Sur La Table gift card Auntie Leslie gave me for Christmas 2007 to purchase a fluted pastry wheel (When I told Carmen I had to go to Sur La Table to buy a fluted pastry wheel, she got that look she gets when I am speaking Greek to her. Oh, how different we are…and yet I love that ridiculous broad.) as I kind of love lattice crusts…and the first lattice crust I attempted was this summer for a housewarming party but I just used a knife and I felt it was missing a certain je nais se quois. With the pastry wheel, however, the strips were almost perfect (Carmen would say, “Perfecto”) except that one was *slightly* thinner than the others. I decided that would be the strip that went in the center and I could pretend that it was some sort of purposeful artistic move.

Then somehow the day got away from me. I had some deadlines, sure, but I don’t know what else happened because all of a sudden it was super-late. I was *supposed* to go to a taping of the Daily Show, but I had to be a jerk and write the guy and ask him if he’d hate me if I bailed out. He understood…but then I felt guilty, so I decided to add a banana cream pie to my list to make it up to him. (Which I ended up making around 2:00 am because I am crazy…and then I was up again at 5 [oops — overslept a little] to write about asset management again…and Thain had just been forced to resign, so every paper in America had something to say about it and it was a loooong one to summarize. [As Franimate would say: le sigh.])

Both the chocolate cream pie and the banana cream pie required making my own pudding. It’s safe to say I’ve never made so much pudding in my whole damn life. And — you know what? It’s good stuff. And it’s not even that hard. I don’t know why I don’t ever think to make it when I’m not making a pie. Eggs, cream, cream of tartar…maybe some vanilla? Cook on stove. Strain. Bada boom.

Even though I was making it to make it up to the guy (who then bailed on *me* on Pie Day because he had a headache…making me feel very much like a husband in a bygone era who just asked his wife if she was in the mood) and there really was no pressure in real life, I guess I felt some in my head…and the crust was an absolute disaster. I used way too many graham crackers and not enough bananas or butter…and so even though I tried to push the crust up the sides of the springform pan, it just sort of sunk into the middle and was really, really ugly. Obviously I was able to cover it up with pudding…but I knew that super-ugly crust was there underneath. (One of the first Pie Day revelers told me this pie looked like papier mache. And one of the guests who *followed* brought me half a springform pan that had been sitting in his office — dirty, mind you — for over a year…and was missing its bottom. “Hey!” I said. “Where’s the rest of it?” To which one of our *other* coworkers said, “I told you she’d notice.”)

I also squeezed in the American Pie Council’s January Pie o’ the Month on Day 4 — chocolate chip bourbon pecan. The recipe distinctly said to bake it for 30 minutes and that it would continue to bake after it was removed from the oven. However…I think I should have left it in longer because it was one goopy pie. I also needed but a tablespoon of bourbon…and now I basically have a whole damn bottle of Jim Beam left (and am sounding kind of like my grandma…aww…).

Day #5 — PIE DAY! — began just like the others: at 4:30ish with some asset management. Then, sweet potato. Which is super-easy. I already had half a crust left over from the night before. I rolled it out, zapped my sweet potatoes, scooped them out and into my Cuisinart along with the rest of the stuff. Baked. Voila.

Then I sort of got carried away with last-minute details…I had to make cards for each pie (as opposed to saying over and over and over again, “That one is…”) and I had to get *dressed* and all those other pesky things that I didn’t especially have time for during the week. So…the peanut butter pies were sort of an after thought. (Oops.) I’ve made this recipe about a thousand times (a lot of old coworkers are fans of this one…despite the recent scare that led one smartass friend to suggest the “fun” name for this pie — as I promised in my Top Ten list — should be “Salmonella Surprise”)…and I always remember it yielding enough for two pies, but this time the filling seemed kind of wimpy. Carmen was due over early with PBR to settle the ol’ nerves, but she left her green card application until the *very* last minute (ay, chica, when will you ever learn??) and so there was some panic about that as I changed my clothes and straightened my hair. I *also* wanted to decorate the peanut butter pies with peanuts (but was careful not to turn them into boobs…as I accidentally did for one of my coworkers once)…and Carmen and I were hungry, so I told her she could eat some nuts and she reached for the jar, but I thought she was going to take them directly off the pie…and so I was sort of horrified and she laughed and said she’s not *that* uncouth.

Then she called a car service…and it was off to the races. And as we sat in the car, surrounded by pies, I said, “You know what? I think this is the most outlandish thing I have ever done.”

And she agreed.

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Filed under bananas, chocolate, gadgets, holidays, peanut butter, pickles, pie, pudding

My Food-Writing Career Officially Takes Off Today…

…with the publication of How to Fry a Frickle — and Other Pickle Recipes.

I’m a little disappointed they didn’t publish my *original.*

But, look! It was picked up: NYC Fried Pickle Roundup.

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Filed under frying, pickles