One Burner Bitch

One Burner Bitch is the theoretical name I came up with for my imaginary blog about the week I’ve had without a stove. This little guy in the picture above has been my only heat source, and I tell you what: It has made me bitchy.

So first, the situation as it stands now:

I would show the ‘before’ picture but it made me cry, so I don’t want to have it hanging around the blog. Long story short? I dropped my KitchenAid mixer onto the glass top stove. It was ugly. I had bread in the oven and let that finish baking, but once we removed the broken glass, we unplugged the whole thing to avoid electrical hazards. And no, we don’t own a microwave. So the little hot pot burner was all we’ve had to cook on for the last week. And the grill–which has been nice.

What can I say? I know in a lot of parts of the world they’re not fortunate enough to have ovens and four burner stoves but I do most of my cooking on the stove and I missed it!

Want pasta? Have to boil the water, cook the pasta, then make the sauce, while the pasta gets cold. That doesn’t fly with me, so I’ve been doing a lot of one pot meals. Or just eating cold food.

No, it wasn’t the end of the world, but it was challenging. Now that I’ve gotten over the shock and have calmed down about the cost of a replacement glass top, I can look at it as a learning experience.

As a lover of not only food, but also the art of cooking, In a way I relished the twist, like a little Top Chef game. Cool dishes, new ideas and me eating a lot of salad all came out of it. Perhaps I can look on the bright side after all. I’ll be the One Burner semi-bitch.


Carlos eats the Quadstrocity

Last night I met Carlos. He was a very cool guy and had recently (six hours prior) completed a task both ridiculous and amazing.

–Side note: Guys, this is gross. Grandma, stop reading. I’ll get you a nice post on a Guatemalan restaurant soon–

He ate a doubled up double down. What is that? You may have read about the Double Down–a sandwich where the bread is replaced by fried chicken, enveloping bacon and cheese. So Carlos, my new buddy over here put two together, called it the Quadstrocity and ate it.

Isn’t the buzz about this stupid sandwich over? You might wonder. Probably. So why am I posting this? I think this video actually demonstrates just how awful KFC and the like can be for you. As B said, after watching this “Really, that is kind of how all fast food makes you feel”

“My kidneys really hurt” was his biggest complaint when we asked him how he felt afterwards. Of course, by the time we saw him, he seemed to have recovered nicely and moving on to higher quality beer than the PBR he consumes in the video. If you don’t fee like watching, you can see below where I outline some highlights. In actuality it took him about 17 minutes to eat the sandwich, luckily the video is only around ten minutes, because I’m not sure it’s healthy to watch much longer than that.


-Early on he gets some chicken in his beard. I like that his fiance waits until 7:12 to inform him that it’s there
-00:52 His fiance can be heard in the background talking about looking for a bucket for him to throw up in
-Carlos quote “I think at least 3 of the 11 spices are salt!”
-2:52 Hiccups begin. These will plague him well into the 7th minute, making everything much more difficult
-3:45 Less than 4 minutes of eating it and he begins to shiver
-At the 5 minute mark he starts to pull the sandwich apart, ostensibly to show you the inside. I think it was a stalling technique. He looks to be in pain
-5:46 He declares that bacon is now a PROBLEM when he runs into it. This is an overturning of all food philosophy. I think it is because the ‘bacon’ in question has no semblance to actual salted pork product.
-6:05 His burps begin to seem scarily like there is food coming up with the air
-7:48 Starts to look more likely he’ll throw up
-8:00 His fiance points out “You don’t technically have to consume it” His articulate response: “eraugh” in a pained voice
-9:40 Carlos quote”I think I have some in my lungs”

He also mentioned at one point his jaw popped out of place.

You can find Carlos on the interwebs via his Twitter account to congratulate, chastise or just generally harass him. Thanks to Carlos for agreeing to let me repost his video!

Why Bad Food Can Be Good For You

To eat truly terrible food every once in a great while can actually be a blessing in disguise. As I unloaded my treats and treasures carried from New Orleans this weekend into my fridge last night, I gave thanks for all the great food I eat.

I very rarely eat really awful food anymore. I’m not talking McDonald’s French fries, to which I’m morally opposed, and which are terrible for you, but let’s be honest folks, taste amazing. I’m talking food that tastes, looks and if we’re on such levels, acts in such a way that you expect it to come from a child’s diaper.

People eat bad food for whatever reason: They’re too lazy, they don’t know any better, they failed to plan or there were unpredictable circumstances that force them into it. That last one was my excuse. Having just eaten my way through New Orleans, my belly had completed a whirlwind tour of no less than 14 meals, at least five of which involved bread pudding in 4 days, I was now stuck in the Ramada North Houston at 11pm at night with little food recourse. Our flight out of NOLA had been delayed, we’d missed our connection and now the empty Texas suburb enveloped us in its strip-mall glow.

I’m not saying it was healthy or enjoyable to eat food this bad. I just debated adding quotes around the word food in that sentence. In fact if you had suggested that any good would come out of the meal, I would have aggressively pointed at the misshapen, supposed dumplings and said, “Really? That?”

“Do you have the number for Domino’s?” C, with whom I was stuck, asked. The front desk didn’t think that they still delivered pizza at that hour, but rather handed us the menu to Chef ***’s Hunan Cuisine, which delivered until 1am. Briefly I allowed my mind to flit back to the beautiful Hunanese food that we ate in Beijing: Spicy donkey meat, unidentifiable wild vegetables and rich, simple duck soup. I shook myself back to reality and we giggled with glee at the prospect of some good old Americanized Chinese food.

Unlike some people in the world, I don’t automatically categorize inauthentic as bad. One of the best cooking tricks my mother ever taught me was a stir-fry sauce made up of only ketchup and soy sauce–and if you ever need to cook in a college dorm or hostel kitchen, trust me this dish will make you friends and save you money. Americanized Chinese food falls into that same category. I’m not saying I’ll pick General Tso’s over Dan Dan Mien any day, but I’d rather have good General Tso’s than any Domino’s. Though I will make a side note to admit that while in high school I was acutely aware of the fact that it took three orders of the breadsticks to make minimum delivery and that if you didn’t ask for Garlic Butter dipping sauce 3 times, they’d forget it. What? Chinese food? Right.

An hour later Chef ***’s arrived at our door. We unbundled the food and supplies–the lack of chopsticks included should have been our first sign of disaster to come. We ordered a variety of things, starting with dumplings on the basis that even a terrible fried dumpling couldn’t be too bad (Open mouth, insert words). I cannot express in words just how bad these dumplings were. When showing people how to fold dumplings I always say that it doesn’t really matter, they all taste the same, but these were so poorly folded by someone who clearly cared so little, that it contributed to the awfulness. It was like frozen square wrappers were simply folded over, then squeezed, so instead of a meat filled part with dough border, it was a pouch of meat at the bottom with a large rooster comb of dough on top. But rooster comb’s are prettier.

By visuals alone, I was already noting how much better most of my meals are. I love bright oranges of citrus, beautiful greens and purples of vegetables, spicy reds from peppers, the rainbow on my plate. Before we even began to eat, I was already reviewing how lucky I am at most of my meals.

We tried the Orange chicken, thinking perhaps they excelled only at super-American dishes, we tried Hunan beef, thinking we needed to try more authentic. While I saw a pepper in there (and not just the one next to the dish on the menu) I couldn’t actually taste, well, anything. Cornstarch has no flavor, you know. The rice was dry and old and the fried rice seemed to have lacked the “frying” step and to be simply rice with soy sauce and stuff in it. With little left to say, we opened our fortune cookies, squinting to shield our eyes from the strange yellow glow coming from them.

Now, looking back at the meal I’m glad I ate it. To remind myself how much I enjoy the great meals. To show how low the standard can fall. So that I leave no nuance of deliciousness undescribed when I write on this blog. With my batteries drained to low, I’m now recharged, ready to go out, and build back up to the most delicious foods I can find.

P.S. The final irony? When we got to the room, we realized the number for Domino’s Pizza was on the advertisement on our key cards.

Know Your Limits

There is a reticence I feel when writing about screwing up a dish. Nobody wants to read about bad food, why would they read articles by someone who makes the same mistakes they could? So after a failure this weekend, I was hesitant to write this morning. Never-mind that I successfully made ice cream twice this weekend, my first two times (caramel and sea salt and honey-rosemary). That is not what I think about as I sit down to inform my readers out there in internet land. I can think only of my screw ups this weekend.

I’ve long known that baking is not for me. I don’t like measuring and I hate recipes, baking is an exact science, these are necessities. With cooking I can toss and taste and fix and play, but with baking everything must be done as told. Last fall I posted about a messed up pumpkin pie. Today it was meringues. I had 10 leftover egg whites from making ice cream with the yolk and, of course, plenty of baker’s sugar. So the thing that came to mind was meringues. They didn’t work. An hour and a half, three tired pairs of arms and one wussy one armed mixer later, we gave up. It only went on this long because I have great friends who helped and tried to encourage me to keep trying, helping to whip while I prepared the salmon for dinner. But in the end, it was a failure.

So what comes out of this? I think the lesson is that I’ve learned my limits. I just won’t follow a recipe, so why should I try? Yes, it would make me a more well rounded cook, but it is just painful when it happens, and let’s be honest, I don’t really like sweet stuff anyways (except caramel and sea salt ice cream!). So I will continue to perfect my ability to cook delicious savory items and if you ever come to dinner, expect your only dessert to be ice cream!

Gourd-Tastic, Part 2: A failed pumpkin pie

Okay, I know I should pretend I am fantastic at everything and all, but I admit it–I failed at pumpkin pie. Not directly through any fault of my own, of course. Not really.

Basically I have never made a pie before and at B’s suggestion, decided to try my hand at it. Using the beginner’s bible (aka Mark Bittman’s How to Make Everything) I followed a pretty simple recipe for flaky pre baked pie crust. Problem 1: I didn’t have unsalted butter. Okay, no problem, I like salt, I omitted the salt from the recipe and used salted butter. Then I started making the filling. Problem 2: We had about half the cream we needed and none of the ginger. I was prepared to use whipped cream cheese instead, but B would have none of it. We went to the store and got more cream. We came back. I put the cream on the counter and opened the ginger. I went along my merry way, following instructions, happily baking as B carved the pumpkin. I put the pie in the oven a let out a sigh of relief. My very first pie. After about 10 of the 30 minutes it was supposed to cook, I began to clean up, and to my horror, uncovered the unopened container of cream. In our rush to find the right ingredient, I had ended up including none of it. No cream, no cream cheese.

So, alas, my first pie was a failure. It then got knocked off the cooling rack by my roommate so by the time I got a picture of it the inside had come detached from the crust anyways. It tastes alright, pretty much like a pie that doesn’t have any cream in it (Making it a good illustration of why low-fat food tastes so bad).