Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chimichangas


You’ll notice that I have capitalized the word Chimichanga out of reverence to its awesomeness among the choices available on the menu at most Mexican restaurants.  Indeed, it may even be the name of a place in Mexico, or a person from Mexico.  If you have not yet noted this feature of the article, please go back and do so now.  I’ll wait.

For this dinner I will be using chicken to fill the Chimichangas.  The chicken itself is not special, but the way I cook it is.  For your own protection, do not attempt to tell a chicken it is not special.  Have you ever tried to deal with a chicken with low self-esteem?

I prefer to cook the chicken in a Crock Pot at low temperature for three to four hours.  When it comes out of the Crock Pot it shreds apart easily with a fork, and anyone who has been to a Mexican restaurant will attest, the key to the illusion that you are experiencing authentic Mexican cuisine is that the chicken is tender and shredded, not necessarily that it was made by someone named Juan.

I mix the chicken with some good chunky salsa and scoop it onto the steamed tortilla.  Along with the chicken I add some shredded cheddar cheese.  Again, the use of the shredded cheese is an indicator of a theme that speaks to the authenticity of the Mexican dish.  For example, one might ask: How is the Mexican economy?  And one might answer: Shredded.

As a side note, there is a trick to making the tortillas soft, warm and tender, and that is to steam them.  It’s a pretty simple process.  All you do is fill a pan with water and put it on a burner.  Put a rack over the pan, big enough for the tortillas, cover the tortillas and let them steam.

Now, some people might think that this innovation is so revolutionary that it requires a patent.  Other people might think that it is so common-sense that any moron with a pan an a rack can achieve excellent results.  But I digress.

The best part about the Chimichanga is the deep fried flour tortilla.  For the security of the Chimichanga, as well as burritos and any awesomely delicious item wrapped in a steamed, tender flour tortilla, it is important to employ the double-fold.
 
This seems to be a key element in burrito technology that Taco Bell was missing until recently.  As anyone who has ordered a burrito from Taco Bell in the last twenty years or so can tell you, a Taco Bell burrito was open at one end and secured at the other end by only a single-fold.  The result of this design meant that a good portion of the contents of your burrito wound up in your lap.

Recently, however, Taco Bell has upgraded their burrito design to include the double-fold, which provides an added measure of strength and support to keep the contents on the inside of the burrito.

I confess that I am not the originator of the double-fold technology, and it is likely that this burrito design element dates back to the origins of the burrito itself.  However, my discovery of the double-fold construction took place at a local restaurant called Taco del Mar, where I witnessed this burrito construction first hand, safely behind the glass counter, which shielded me from any possible eruptions or refried bean splatter damage.

So, with this new, high-tech design concept available to me, I decided to employ the knowledge to the construction of the Chimichangas.  Please note the arrow in the photograph.

The Chimichangas were a big hit in our household, and currently rank near the top of the list of favorite dinners.  For another big hit, take a look at this video of Master Bart Ryan recently teaching a lesson at The Dungeon.



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spaghetti and Italian Sausage


One of the beautiful qualities of spaghetti, and in fact about a lot of Italian cooking is that there is little requirement for an exact measurement of ingredients to make an excellent sauce.  For this reason, spaghetti is one of the best dishes for the Kung Fu Cooking Guy to make.  Those of you who have been following the previous articles may have noticed that I don’t spend a lot of time going over measurements for ingredients.  A little here, a little there and you’re good.  Am I a dangerous risk taker?  Maybe.  Am I just plain lazy?  Definitely.

So you might be asking yourself, Jack, you dangerous, crazy, risk-taking but mostly lazy cooking guy, what is it that goes into your spaghetti sauce?  An excellent question.  To start with, I use spaghetti sauce.  Bear with me because I know it sounds complicated and redundant, but this is America and no one is going to get too upset if I open a jar of Prego.  There are some who will, but they won’t get too upset and I think I can deal with it.

But it’s not just about the jar or three of Prego that goes into the pot, it’s also about what goes into the Prego.  Although their sauce is pretty good right out of the jar, I mean honestly, it’s just not finished.  Sure, they put Italian seasoning in the sauce, but more seasoning just makes it more better, right?  Of course it does.  And with Italian cooking the most important more that the sauce needs more of is garlic.

I’m not sure if it’s true that garlic keeps vampires away but when I’m done making my spaghetti sauce I don’t see too many vampires hanging around.  The garlic I use is minced garlic in olive oil.  I like to throw in a couple of heaping spoonfuls, at least.  To some this might seem a bit strong, but again, no vampires hanging around.

Another useful ingredient in spaghetti sauce is sugar.  This is nothing special, just an old traditional way to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, so don’t think I’m really crazy or anything like that, I mean, just because I am.  Remember, dangerous risk-taker.

Other than that, a little dash of paprika and a dash of chili powder to add a touch of flavor.  My family will think it’s great and I don’t have to give away my secrets, although I’ve just done that and now they can make great spaghetti sauce without me.  Oh well.  There’s nothing like making my self obsolete.

This is going to be a meat sauce, not a marinara sauce, which has nothing to do with Ed Marinaro, who played a cop on Hill Street Blues and set 16 NCAA records as a running back at Cornell.  Ok, what does that have to do with anything?

The meat I will be using for my meat sauce will not be ground beef, so those of you who were taking notes and thought you’d get ahead of me please go back and cross that off.  To make a more tasty, or is it tastier, sauce is to add ground Italian sausage.  The one I use comes in a tube and is made by Bob Evans because 1. There is something weird about meat that comes in a tube and 2. Nobody makes pork sausage products better than Bob Evans.

But hold on.  There will be not just ground Italian sausage but also regular Italian sausage cut up into meatball-sized hunks.  The Italian sausage I like to use is Johnsonville because 1. Big hunks of sausage in your spaghetti is like finding a tiny treasure in every bite and 2. Nobody makes pork sausage products better than Johnsonville ... Wait a minute ...

With a package of noodles it all comes together in a beautiful cacophony of sauce and meat and, well, noodles.  Slap some on a plate with some garlic bread and a little bit of parmesan cheese and it’s ready to go.

 
Go to the Scrivens Academy website or check out Howard’scorkscrew layout on YouTube.  And if you haven’t done it yet, go to Henry Ford Community College and sign up for my class Intro To Kung Fu and Self Defense.  I want to see you in the class and I want you to learn what I have to teach.