The High Cost of Cheap Food

As any real food dork will tell you, one of the best things that can happen is when people will tell you what they WANT to eat. Not “oh, anything is fine, really” or “I don’t know, Chinese or Italian” or “Whatever is easiest, really.” That’s a pet peeve of mine. If I go to the trouble of asking, it means I want an honest answer. The more complex or obscure, the better. My ideal dinner conversation would go something like this:

Me: “What would you like for dinner?”
You: “One time I visited Latvia, and I ate at this buffet, and they had this kind of meatball thing and it had some kind of meat, and then also a flavor that was like rye bread. And then there was this cake that had apples, but was orange and had a layer of like, pie crust or something. I want those.”
Because then? I get to research, and make something that will be appreciated, loved, and maybe even teach me something. Plus I get to look like a culinary wizard, and I’m a fan of that.
So the other day, when Chris idly picked up my King Arthur Flour catalog, pointed to the pork slider on the front, and said “THAT LOOKS SO GOOD,” I stored it away in my little nuggety brain to surprise him with the next day.
That is the nature of marriage. Tiny little surprises and paying attention to whims. Also, not snoring and then acting all affronted and saying “but I wasn’t even ASLEEP” when your wife, who has been ACTUALLY awake, calls you out and lovingly tells you to STFU or she’ll put one of the socks you left on the stairs in your mouth.
I’m not going to bore you with a recipe for pulled pork. First, because it’s so simple that Emmett could do it (spice rub, bottle of beer, braise in heavy pot for 3 hours, or until tender, cool a bit, and shred). Second, because some of you are vegetarians and deserve love every now and again. And third, because I have a really good story about the side dish. But for fun, I’ll show you a couple of pictures of the smoking gun in action (hitting it with a shot of applewood smoke after being coated in Rudy’s BBQ “Sause.”)



I don’t think sliders are complete without some kind of slaw. The variations are endless, and can be whatever you’ve got on hand, or whatever tickles your fancy. In this case, I decided to go with a version of slaw that is beautiful, incredibly nutritious, and every bit as delicious as a mango salsa, only with better texture.
I should have just said “screw it” and gone with frozen green beans or something. After Vitamin Cottage did not have jalapenos, and could not explain to me why they didn’t, I was at a loss. I was on the other side of town from any of the reputable grocery stores, and the only store on the way home was Wal-Mart. I HATE Wal-Mart. But all I needed was jalapeno, and in a totally not-racist way, I will admit that if I need popular hispanic items, Wal-Mart is a sure thing.
I grudgingly drove over, locked my door and went inside. I never lock my door. I can’t imagine someone wanting to break into my car and steal my half-wet swimsuit, a pack of diapers, and 62 empty cans of Red Bull/Monster/protein shake. But Wal-Mart is a special place, so I elected to protect my aluminum investment. My two jalapenos cost me $0.14. I can’t even get a single dried lentil at Whole Foods for $0.14. I paid with a whole dollar, which made me feel both wealthy and stupid, and walked back to the car with my pesticide-riddled jalapenos in hand. Whatever. Sometimes, a jalapeno is just a jalapeno.
I unlocked my car, strapped in the baby, and turned the key in the ignition…
My car alarm lost the plot entirely. I couldn’t get it to silence for love or money. Every two minutes, it would stop beeping. I would try to unlock it again, then turn the key in the ignition and…
I was furious. It went on for 10 minutes. I tried to get out of the car…
At this point, the car was upwards of 90 degrees inside, and I had a crying 9 month old in the backseat. I called the Subaru dealership for help.
“Did you try pressing the unlock button?”
“I will kill you in your sleep.”
I tried everything he suggested, at which point he said that I should get it towed to the dealership for trouble-shooting.
I was near tears myself, and the baby was starting to be alarmingly sweaty. It was time to call a tow truck, and then sit inside a Wal-Mart until help arrived, with my car seat, diaper bag, a pissed off infant, and my FOURTEEN GODFORSAKEN PENNIES WORTH of jalapenos.
I punched my steering wheel, while singing calming songs to the baby, then put the key in the ignition one last time, out of habit.
You’ve got to be shitting me.
We drove home, unloaded our jalapenos, and made some slaw, while I angrily ate a brownie that I had slated for Chris’s dessert. Emmett ate the frosting, because he was pissed off, too.
Here’s your slaw recipe.
Spicy Mango Slaw
-1/2 head red cabbage, finely sliced
-1/2 C red onion, diced and deflamed (by soaking in cold water and a little vinegar for 10 min)
-1 ripe mango, sliced
-1 jalapeno, finely diced and seeds left in, if you’re man enough to handle some heat
-1.5 T honey
-1.5 t salt
-2 T red wine vinegar
Stir it all together and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour to marry the flavors. Taste and adjust sweetness, salt, and tang to your preference.
It’s pretty, isn’t it? And a great way to eat your colors without resorting to the half-empty bag of skittles collecting lint in the bottom of your purse. Now slap some on a pulled pork slider like so

Or on a barbecue portobello, if you’re a vegetarian. Beware, though, it’s got heat. I’m a fan of less bread, more filling, so mine looked like this

I will usually be the first one to tell you if a dish is good, pretty good, or amazing. I don’t post the truly terrible stuff usually. So please believe me when I tell you this was outstanding. I sat there the whole time we were eating, wondering who I could take the leftovers the next day. Who would appreciate how fantastic these were. Some of our friends live in another town, or are out of state, or don’t eat spicy food, so they were all out of the question. But it’s the kind of thing that NEEDS to be shared. Evangelical pork n’ slaw.

Mango and pork are the Brangelina of foods, running around, being beautiful together, stealing other peoples’ babies.
Plus, if I managed to enjoy each bite of this, instead of silently resenting it for almost making me live in a Wal-Mart with my baby (as is probably pretty normal in the South, if Lifetime movies are telling me the truth)…then it’s pretty magical indeed.

I relish the thought

With congressmen sending so many pictures of their penises to unsuspecting internet servers, it can safely be assumed that 2011 shall forever be known as The Summer of the Sausage. And we’re learning more and more that said sausages can be impressive and juicy, even when they’re not currently being served alone in between two buns. So I move that we celebrate, by gilding our lovely sausages with a condiment fit for king and congressman alike.
This recipe originated when I was challenged by one of my little brother’s friends to find a vegetable that he would be willing to eat. He originally said “I’m not a picky eater. I just can’t have anything spicy or with spices. Or vegetables.” After looking at him in shock, then fear, then confusion, and finally pity, I asked him what his mother had served him growing up, and he said “mostly hot dogs.” He’s now a US marine, serving our country in Afghanistan as we speak. That means he’s surviving on a nutritious diet of MREs and sand, so I bet my vegetables would be looking pretty good to him at this point.
I figured that given the general nature of my brother and his friends, that the best way to help the guy learn to love vegetables would be to serve them with something he loved. So my choice was between boobies and beer. I had both on hand, so that was convenient, but decided that beer was the way to go. And that’s how beer and onion jam was born. The original version had peppers, also, and was spread into a quesadilla with shaved buffalo prime rib. Amazing.
But he immediately detected the vegetables and engaged in an elaborate fall, clutching his throat, tears forming in his eyes. Just kidding. He was quite polite. But seriously. Even the faintest hint of vegetation in his food was enough to make him look forlornly at his plate like it had betrayed him. I failed in my attempt to inoculate him against scurvy.
Everyone else agreed, though, that this relish made the dish. So I’m sharing it with you. May no wiener go naked, ever again! Unless, you know, you want it to. Only you can be the boss of your tubed meats.
Beer and onion relish
-2 large onions, diced (i used a vidalia and a yellow because that’s what I had)
-2 T butter
-1 bottle of flavorful beer
-salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar

*A note on beer– you can use whatever you want for this. Ideally, it’ll be a flavorful, slightly darker ale. German or Belgian would be good choices, obviously. I used 1554 this time, because there are only two beers I can keep in the house without Chris drinking them. If I get anything else, he’ll end up drinking it at some point, and then when I need it for a recipe, I’ll be SOL. 1554 is pretty intensely dark, and lends a pretty delicious bitterness to the otherwise quite sweet and salty jam.
–Melt your butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.
–Toss in your onions and allow to rest in one spot until they start to brown, then toss here and there to start a good caramelization and color on them.
–Sprinkle with kosher salt and a bit of sugar
–When they’re getting a good golden color, pour in your beer and allow it to reduce down to a jammy consistency, stirring periodically to prevent burning. You can add a little water if the liquid seems to reduce too quickly and the resulting jam isn’t a dark, rich brown, with very tender onions.

–Spoon onto whatever, and refrigerate the rest

Could that be easier? No, it could not. It’s easier than sending a tweet of your Lil’ General.

Use this as a topping for sausages, steaks, grilled pizza, whatever. Or stir it into some German potato salad as a side dish. Or dish some into a baked potato. Honestly, you can’t go wrong. Doubling the recipe is probably a smart thing to do.
I’m not here to make judgements, so I feel like I can safely say that if you serve a German sausage without a big crock of beer and onion relish, then you are crazy.

Happy Summer!