Sauteed Gnocchi with Basil Pesto


Imagine that you are a bird. You are flying in the air, free as can be, when you spot a delicious morsel of bread sitting on a table inside a building, just waiting for you to snatch it up. You veer to the left and begin your smooth descent towards that bread. And just when it is two feet away, WHAM! You smash into an invisible wall and die a horrible death.

Anyways, that was an accurate metaphor for my first experience trying to learning Italian cuisine. I keep hearing Italian chefs talk about focusing on “simplicity” and “keeping things simple”. But as soon as you try out that “simple” recipe with the 5 ingredients it kicks you right in the balls and your own creation turns out nothing like it’s supposed to be. Both gnocchi and pesto are simple recipes with a short list of ingredients, yet if you wish to make them well, the procedures are thoroughly nuanced and difficult to master.

Ingredients

Most people try to spend as little time as possible cooking as much as possible. I spend as much time as possible cooking as little as possible, then microwave up a frozen pizza later to make up for the deficit. Something is wrong here.

Most people try to spend as little time as possible cooking as much as possible. I spend as much time as possible cooking as little as possible, then microwave up a frozen pizza later to make up for the deficit. Something is wrong here.

Prep + Wait time: 2-3 hours

Gnocchi recipe by Thomas Keller. Basil recipe from here.

Basil Pesto:

1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, loosely packed
~1 cup olive oil

Gnocchi:

2 lb russet potatoes (roughly 3.5 medium potatoes)*
1 tbsp salt
1 + 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks

*Russets are recommended by most recipes. They are the cheapest brown potatoes in American supermarkets. Yukon gold is an acceptable substitute.

A dough scraper is highly recommended for making gnocchi.

Cooking

Pre-heat your oven to 350F (175C). Pop your potatoes in for 1-2 hours, depending on size (2 hours for large, 1 hour for medium). Flip them every half-hour until thoroughly cooked. Crack 3 eggs and separate out the yolks. Leave the yolks outside to warm at room temperature. Meanwhile, make basil pesto.

We're in for some chop.

We’re in for some chop.

We are going to hand chop the basil pesto. Apparently it’s supposed to turn out with a better texture or whatever, but here is my personal reasoning about the process. Ideally, a sharp knife is sharper than a food processor’s blade, and will bruise the herb leaves less as it slices through the basil. Italians have a special moon-shaped knife called the [url=http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20121231130904/wowwiki/images/d/d9/Illidan.png]mezzaluna[/url] that allows you to easily slice through herbs with minimal bruisage. While you can replicate this process with a regular knife by rocking the knife through the herbs instead of chopping straight down, the process becomes extremely time consuming. Ultimately, bruising will occur and the basil itself will not be hugely improved from what comes out of a food processor.

This is, coincidentally, also how the Amish make pesto.

This is, coincidentally, also how the Amish make pesto.

In any case, ri0nse and pat dry your basil, and pick the leaves from the stems. Pile your ingredients into neat piles where you can access them easily. Start by chopping a third of your basil along with your garlic. When this is a fine mince, add a third of your pine nuts and continue chopping. Then, at approximate three minute intervals, add a third of your shaved parmesan, a third of the basil, another third of the pine nuts, then cheese, then basil, then the last of your pine nuts, and the last of the parmesan. Chop until you have a very fine mince on the last batch of pine nuts and parmesan cheese.

If you add urine it becomes pissto, a unique beverage favored by Bear Grylls.

If you add urine it becomes pissto, a unique beverage favored by Bear Grylls.

Add olive oil and mix. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Go play outside until the potatoes are done. When the potatoes are cooked, take them out of the oven. While hot, cut them in half and scoop out the insides onto a clean work surface. Ideally you want at least 4 square feet of work surface, or about 0.66 square meters. Mash the potatoes until they are lumpless, using a potato ricer if available. Make a ring with the hot potatoes and a well in the middle. Sprinkle half a cup of flour into the well. Dump onto the flour (NOT onto the hot potatoes! they will cook the yolks instantly) the three yolks, then the second half cup of flour on top of the yolks. Now, working as fast as possible, mix everything together into a homogenous mass. If you do it fast enough the dough will not be too sticky to work with, If it is very sticky, sprinkle flour around.

If you balk at the idea of using so many yolks, some recipes recommend using whole eggs. Try one and a half eggs as a substitute. Some people just can't take a yolk.

If you balk at the idea of using so many yolks, some recipes recommend using whole eggs. Try one and a half eggs as a substitute. Some people just can’t take a yolk.

Divide your dough into fourths. Sprinkle flour onto your work surface and prepare a sheet pan, either dusted with flour or lined with parchment paper. Roll a fourth of dough out into a long roll close to an inch thick, or about 2 cm. Use your dough scraper to divide the roll into sections of dough about 3/4 of an inch or 2 cm in length.

I'll show you a real tunnel snake.

I’ll show you a real tunnel snake.

Now to shape the gnocchi. I didn’t quite understand how to shape them while I made these gnocchi, but here is the proper way to shape them with a fork: Press the section of dough gently into the fork to flatten the gnocchi while creating an indentation on the reverse side, then roll the gnocchi into a roll shape with the indentation on the outside. They should look like tiny rolls with ridges on the outside.

Yeah thanks Youtube you were a real fucking help. I've been doing it wrong all this time. I AM A FAILURE!!! *Runs off a cliff*

Yeah thanks Youtube you were a real fucking help. I’ve been doing it wrong all this time. I AM A FAILURE!!! *Runs off a cliff*

Anyways, you are ready to cook! Bring a big pot of water to a boil, generously adding a large amount of salt and oil (1/3 of a cup of each per gallon of water or so). Place 2 tablespoons of butter into a non-stick pan, but do not turn on the heat yet. When the water comes to a boil, add the gnocchi to the water and turn on the heat to your pan at the same time. The gnocchi will take about 2 minutes to cook. When they float to the surface, wait 20 seconds and they are done. The butter in your pan should be nice and hot by then. Scoop the gnocchi out of the pot of water and into your pan. Saute, letting the gnocchi get nice and brown.

You can just serve after boiling, but this is just because Italians really aren't getting enough grease in their diet.

You can just serve after boiling, but this is just because Italians really aren’t getting enough grease in their diet.

When the gnocchi is nicely browned spoon some pesto onto them and mix together. Serve immediately.

The Result

Yeah motherfucker. Someone eating this might think you spent a summer vacationing in Italy or learning from an Italian grandmother, but only YOU know the truth. You sat on your ass and read this blog, like an unsung hero would.

Yeah motherfucker. Someone eating this might think you spent a summer vacationing in Italy or learning from an Italian grandmother, but only YOU know the truth. You sat on your ass and read this blog, like an unsung hero would.

People have described gnocchi as “light, fluffy pillows”, but that’s really too flattering. They’re kind of like… potato-y dumplings. Still, when fried up they are quite nice. Crispy on the outside, with a fluffy potato texture on the inside. The pesto adds a nice touch of aromatic flavor that brings it all together. Not the best dish ever, but certainly something nice to have tried and said that you have tried. Veni, vidi, vici.

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Mac N’ Cheese


Good old macaroni and cheese. From my personal experience, it was a staple elementary school cafeteria dish, usually served as a mess of congealed macaronis stewing in a puddle of melted processed cheese. When I moved on to middle and high school, I tried to recaptured that nostalgia with 25 cent packs of Easy Mac, which somehow managed to taste even crappier with its faux cheddar tang (that tasted nothing like cheddar) and unnatural orange coloring. The venerable mac n’ cheese is one of the most iconic and yet most bastardized of American comfort foods.

Here is a basic recipe for real macaroni and cheese. Nothing fancy, nothing difficult. From this recipe endless modifications can be made, to spawn as many variations of baked pasta as you would like (but not lasagna, which is something different). If, like me, it has been a while since you have had macaroni and cheese, this is a good dish to try.

Ingredients

Such lucious breasts you missed out on.

What? Real cheese? Preposterous. But the dish is called "macaroni and cheese", not "macaroni and processed cheese product (now with real milk!)".

Cooking time: ~1 hour

8 oz dried macaroni*
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
milk**
bread crumbs***
2 cups cheddar****
salt
pepper
nutmeg

You will also need: A pan, a pot for pasta, and an oven-safe vessel which will be the ultimate resting ground for your finished dish.

*Many varieties of pasta can be used, really. I’ve even seen linguini cut into small pieces to make this.
**You need at least 1 1/2 cups, so make sure your milk carton/bag/jug isn’t almost empty.
***You can buy them or make your own. Method for making own bread crumbs is shown below.
****Fancier recipes call for a mixture of cheddar and gruyere, and possibly some goat cheese. I decided to forgo gruyere since it is quite expensive in the US.

Cooking

First, let’s start with the breadcrumbs. If you have store-bought breadcrumbs you can skip this part. Some weeks ago when I first conceptualized this blog I intended to make baguettes ahead of time to make breadcrumbs, but that didn’t happen for various reasons.

All you need is a baking sheet, aluminum foil if you need it, and a few slices of bread. White bread is preferred so you can make white breadcrumbs, which are useful mainly due to their ability to turn various shades of golden and brown to indicate doneness (or burnt-ness). I only had store-bought wheat bread, which makes it much more difficult to tell doneness, but whatever. Place a single layer of bread slices onto your sheet and toast in the oven at 250F (120C) for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until bread is completely crisp and dry. You may need to turn the bread a few times through the process.

Oh look! The same photo from the cheesecake entry! Just kidding it's wheat breadcrumbs. Or is it?

Once the bread is toasted, toss either into a food processor or a zip-loc bag and crush until into tiny bits (but not powder, which is too fine). If you are going the zip-loc route I highly advise actually using a zip-loc type bag, which are quite sturdy. I’ve tried doing the crushing in various other ghetto plastic bag, including the bread bag that the original loaf came in, but all of those bags tend to tear rather easily. So don’t do that.

To the finished breadcrumbs you can add a variety of herbs and spices which are purely optional. I added some black pepper, basil, parsley, and garlic powder. Onto the main dish.

Prep work comes first. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the macaroni. Meanwhile, shred either with a grater or a knife about 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese.

Picture of shredded cheese for the uninitiated, and people from Kazakhstan.

Melt your butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Sprinkle all of your flour over the melted butter and mix around for a few minutes. Try not to let the concoction brown. If it is starting to turn brown, turn down the heat and move on to the next step, which is…

"I'M MELTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGGGGGG!!!!! AHHHHH!!!" "SO AM IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!" Was what the butter squares said to each other.

…adding milk to your roux. Some recipes recommend adding room-temperature milk to avoid lumps or some shit like that, but cold milk is just fine if you add it slowly while whisking until each bit of milk you pour into the pan is absorbed by the roux. You’ll end up with a nice thick shiny sauce.

AKA Bechamel sauce, which was invented by the French so they had something white to surrender with at all times, even when cooking.

Now is a good time to season your sauce. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste, but keep in mind that cheddar also has salt content. At this point your water is probably near or at boiling. Pre-heat your oven to 350F (176C, or probably 180 on your oven dial).

Add macaroni to your boiling salted water. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until they are just short of al-dente. Turn the heat off for your milk sauce. Add all but 1/2 cup of cheese to your sauce and stir incorporate. Save this 1/2 cup of your cheddar for later.

Sorry, I just can't help but make fun of France whenever it comes up. They're kind of like Canada in that way. Except when you make fun of Canada fewer people get offended.

Drain your cooked macaroni and fold it into your sauce. It probably looks like a lot of sauce at first (about 1:1 volume ratio between sauce and pasta), but it’s perfectly fine. Deposit all of this sauce/macaroni amalgamation into your oven-safe vessel. Sprinkle your remaining cheddar cheese on top and top off with a layer of breadcrumbs. Stick this into the oven for 30 minutes.

This would look a lot less brown if the breadcrumbs were white and not wheat. In other words, it's not burnt.

After 30 minutes have elapsed remove your pan from the oven. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

The Result

If you were French, you could eat the top part and surrender with the bottom part. LAWL.

4.6 / 5 These ratings are just getting more and more arbitrary. It tastes good. Crispy topping, gooey cheese, pasta with creamy sauce. If you’re not someone who likes cooking you might take a look at this and think, “who could even bother to make this souped up version of mac n’ cheese? It’s ridiculous”. But in reality once you’ve made mac n’ cheese this way, you’ll realize that this is how mac n’ cheese is meant to be. It’s not souped up at all, and anything less is just some bullshit that is only fit to be fed to young children in shitty American elementary school cafeterias.

Conclusion

Have you ever felt that feeling where you’re writing a rather long piece, and somewhere in the middle you realize that you’re slowly running out of steam? Your writing turns to crap and you lose the inspiration to keep churning out interesting sentences. That’s what happened with this conclusion.

Anyways I apologize for not writing these blogs as often as I’d like. Oftentimes ideas come up but I didn’t have ingredients, or sometimes I try to alter a recipe to use cheaper, different ingredients only to have the result come up sub-par. I do usually have at least 3-4 ideas floating around at all times, so each blog is a combination of luck with ingredients, time constraints, and my own limited skill. Happy cooking.

Pan Fried Noodles


Welcome one and all to the 16th installment of Food in Mind! That’s right, sweet sixteen, the age at which teens start causing road accidents in the United States and three more installments than the number of times Square-Enix has misunderstood what the “Final” part of “Final Fantasy” actually means. We’ve almost reached the point where the Food in Mind blog will catch up with The Ghetto Cook in terms of entries.

This installment is not to be confused with the fourteenth entry, spicy fried noodles. Unlike spicy fried noodles, this is a dish where the noodles and the vegetables and meats are cooked separately from one another. Following these instructions, you should end up with a colorful stir fry nested in a bed of crispy noodles. Let’s move on to the cooking!

Ingredients

Ingredients

There are six ninjas in this picture. They are not ingredients in this dish.

Ingredients listed are for a single serving. Multiply amounts as you need.

Some Noodles*
Salt
Pepper
Sugar
Thai Peanut Satay Sauce**
Cooking Oil
1/2 green bell pepper
1/3 large onion
2 oz bamboo shoots
2 sprigs green onion
2 oz carrots, thinly sliced***
3 oz pork, cut into bite-sized strips

*READ THIS: Use a “soft noodle”, as in not an Italian pasta. Most noodles in an Asian market would work. I used angel hair pasta more as a proof of concept. It works, but is not ideal. You can even use instant ramen noodles. Instant ramen noodles have already been fried once, so this will be like twice-fried noodles. It has a nice rich crunch to it, almost like butter cookies.
**Any type of flavorful sauce would do, but this is nice. You can also use oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, a bunch of other sauces.
***Again, the varieties of vegetables can be changed depending on what you have on hand. Try to use crispy things.

Build Order

At least two hours before cooking, slice your meat into strips and marinate in Thai Satay Peanut Sauce, or whichever sauce you have on hand.

Marination in progress.

Granted, you could fish out something that looks like this from your nearest sewer grate, but it wouldn't taste nearly as good.

Fill a pot with water and a dash of salt, then bring the water to a boil. Cook noodles until al dente and drain.

In a separate sauce pan, pour out about three tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Salt noodles lightly and place them into the pan with oil. Let noodles sit.

Back when I was your age we had to walk barefoot knee deep in snow six miles up a steep hill carrying the baby brother on one shoulder and backpack on the other shoulder just to get to school, and we ate our noodles plain, like this.

These noodles will need to cook for at least ten minutes. If you have a ghetto assed stove like mine where the heating coil isn’t even level, you might need to rotate the pan every now and then to get even heat and oil coverage. Otherwise, do not touch or stir the noodles. They will start to get golden brown and crispy on the bottom (we’re only going to crisp up one side).

Meanwhile, slice and dice your vegetables into bite-sized pieces.

I'm guessing colorful vegetables only matter if you're not colorblind, or blind. You could technically use green beans, green onion, green bell pepper, asparagus, and snap peas and achieve a similar effect.

When the noodles are nice and crispy and golden brown on the bottom, remove and place somewhere where it can rest and be drained of oil. I used a plastic colander, but you can use anything, such as a cooling rack with something below it or a bed of paper towels (although the towels might stick to the noodles). There should still be oil left in the pan. This oil will be used for the stir fry.

Crank the heat up to as high as it can go. Stir fry carrots, onions, and bamboo shoots first for about five minutes. Add pork, salt, pepper, and sugar (about one tablespoon) to taste, and stir fry for about four more minutes. Finally, add green pepper and green onion. Stir fry for about one more minute, then remove from heat.

Taste the rainbow

Plate your noodles and heap the stir fry on top. Serve hot.

The Result

FRIED ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE

Much thanks to r.Evo from teamliquid.net for the re-touched photo!

4.5 / 5 First off, pasta really sucks in pan fried noodles. They dehydrate too much and become a bit too hard. Use Asian noodles. Hell, you can even use instant ramen, which works surprisingly well in this role. Second, the flavor is pretty good though: nice, rich, and oily. The noodles go great along with a flavorful stir fry.

Conclusion

This is a pretty easy dish to make. Pan fried noodles take very little work and stir fries are very easy to make. If there’s any dish that is easy to make yet still decently healthy, this is it. I highly recommend trying this dish if you are interested in Asian cuisine.

My First Avocado (Macaroni Salad)


Sup doods. Welcome to the fifteenth installment of Food in Mind, where you will (so far as the current installments go) learn how to make ghetto variations of non-ghetto dishes! This installment is dedicated the avocado: or more specifically, the first avocado I’ve ever purchased.

Now you may ask, “but Newbistic, why would any ghetto cook ever buy avocados? They’re upper middle class fruits if I’ve ever seen one, much like pomegranates, grapples, and berries”.

The thing is, when you grow up in a conservative Chinese family, avocados are basically the devil fruit. They’re universally panned as shitty fruits that just taste bad. I’ve eaten avocados here and there as parts of California rolls and guacamole, but never actually sat down with the fruit by itself to contemplate its flavor. As an aspiring cook, I wish to cast aside my Asian misconceptions and learn about the taste and applications of the avocado. So I bought one.

This is not the avocado I bought, but it looks helluva lot better than any picture my camera can take

It turns out that avocados basically taste like plant flavored butter. This is slightly confusing, since avocados aren’t used like butter in that they aren’t spread on toast, or melted in a pan to fry things. What the hell kind of dish actually requires the use of something soft, buttery, and plant-flavored?

I present to you the dish for this installment of Food in Mind: Macaroni Salad

Ingredients

Didn't do a spread but needed a picture here, so... The camera man was all like "okay, now look at the salad like it's giving you an orgasm. Yeahhhh just like that."

4 tbsp Mayonnaise
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
Salt
Pepper
2 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Parsley (fresh preferred, dried is fine)
8 oz Elbow Macaroni (dried)
Diced 1/4 large onion (or 1/2 small)
Diced carrot
Diced 1/2 green bell pepper
Diced 2 celery stalks*
Diced tomato
1 large Avocado

*You really don’t need specifically all of these vegetables. Feel free to omit or substitute at will. Chunks of ham, bacon, or cubed boiled eggs can also be added. I do recommend at least retaining the celery, since its aroma is one of the key factors in a good macaroni salad.

Build Order

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the macaroni. Cook macaroni until al dente and set aside.

Meanwhile, begin with the avocado. I’ve never worked with avocados in my life, but I’ve watched enough food network to know how to dismantle one like a master. You will only need your avocado, a knife, and a cutting board. Begin by cutting in a circle around the avocado’s pit, lengthwise:

Is the avocado a tropical fruit? I don't want to sound gay, but George Carlin once said "show me a tropical fruit and I'll show you a cocksucker from Guatemala"

Twist both halves to dislodge the pit from one half. Then, hold the half with the pit in one hand and give the pit a good thwack with your knife. This should lodge the blade into the pit. Twist the pit to dislodge it from the second half.

Avocado

Sorry, that last caption was completely insensitive towards gay people. Here's another one: what is a gay horse's favorite food? Haaaaaaaaaaaaaay. That's not insensitive, right?

At this point, you can scoop out the avocado with a spoon if you were making something such as guacamole. Or, if the avocado is ripe enough, you can probably push the entire segment out by applying pressure to the bottom of the segment and peeling the skin aside.

But since we are interested in a diced result, here’s what you do: Score the avocado half horizontally and vertically with your knife, taking care not to pierce the skin of the fruit, like this:

Cubed avocado is a metaphor for the current American middle class, working in tiny clustered cubicles, soft, pliable, and full of fat. Not really though, just made that up.

Before you liberate the avocado cubes from the skin, take out a plastic container (or a large mixing bowl or a pot) and pour out your mayonnaise and mustard, and sugar. Mix thoroughly. Now either using your hands or a spoon, deposit the avocado cubes directly into the dressing and coat the pieces. This step is necessary to prevent the avocado pieces from oxidizing.

Now begin dicing your other vegetables. Start with the onion first. Dice your onion and soak the pieces in a bowl of ice water. This dilutes the acid in the onion, which removes the sharp biting flavor of raw onion and gives it a sweeter, more refreshing taste.

Chop the onions, cry into the bowl, then soak onions in your tears. Removes acid and adds flavor.

Dice your celery, carrots, tomato, and green pepper. You can use almost any crispy vegetable, including other colored peppers, asparagus, cucumber, and so on.

If you mix all this together, cram it into your mouth, then spit it out really fast, it will look like you're puking a rainbow

Now the salad is ready for assembly! Separate your onions from the water. Mix everything you have cooked and diced up to this point in a large pot or mixing bowl. Add parsley, salt, and pepper to taste. Chill for at least two hours in the refrigerator before serving.

You've gained five pounds just looking at this picture.

The Result

Macaroni Salad

This is what you get for following the recipe. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? HUH?

4.4 / 5 Pretty good, very genuine. Two things to note: one is that the creaminess of avocado means you can use less mayonnaise. This is reflected in the recipe I listed but not in my own attempt. Second is to USE GOOD MAYONNAISE. Store brand products are often hit-and-miss. Fred Meyers mayonnaise have a distinct taste of cooked egg yolks which really distracts from an otherwise very tasty dish.

Conclusion

I’m trying (not very hard) to do less Asian themed recipes, since they’re what I grew up with and I’m trying to branch out. The next installment will probably be a Chinese dish though.

Spicy Fried Noodles


It’s good to eat spicy things during the cold winter months. Legend has it that before Mao Zedong (AKA Chairman Mao) crossed a series of snowy mountains with his ragtag band during the Long March, he made his troops each consume a bowl of hot chili pepper soup. The heat in your mouth distracts you from the cold outside, at least in theory. With this in mind, I bring you a simple and fast spicy Asian dish: fried noodles.

Fried noodles is a very simple dish with many variations and cooking methods. Some fried noodle dishes call for using a mixture of corn starch and water to create a thick sauce. For this particular dish, my vision is to create a light, dry fried noodle dish that concentrates all the flavors and aromas in the ingredients.

Ingredients

Which cuisine reigns supreme? THE HEAT WILL BE ON! (kudos if you get the reference ;0)

Listed ingredients are approximations for a single serving. Multiply as needed.

5-6 oz noodles*
1/2 tbsp Garlic chili sauce
1/2 tbsp Spicy black bean sauce
Garlic**
Cooking oil
Cooking wine
Salt
Pepper
Coriander***
2 oz ground pork
half an Onion, cut into strips
2 oz bamboo shoots****

Optional*****:
2 oz bean sprouts
green onions, cut into strips

*This wouldn’t be a TGC installment without impromptu substitutions. I use angel hair pasta. Italian pastas are fantastic in general because they are cheap, easy to find, and very sturdy (as in they do not tear/congeal easily). If you look in your nearest major Asian goods store you should be able to find a wide variety of noodles suitable for stir-frying. These noodles often come raw and have a nice bouncy texture. If in a pinch I think you can even use instant ramen noodles. I don’t recommend you use actual ramen noodles, however.

**I didn’t have any, but they are nice. Garlic powder is an acceptable ghetto substitute.

***Coriander is nice but it can be annoying to get the little seeds stuck in your teeth. If this is a problem for you, pour a teaspoon of coriander seeds onto your cutting board. Place the flat of your knife over the seeds and apply pressure with your hand to crack open the seeds. Soak in 1/4 cup of warm water at least half an hour beforehand. Strain the seeds out and use the coriander flavored water when necessary.

****Kind of optional, but they definitely fit my vision for this dish. Bamboo shoots are great vegetables because they maintain their crispy texture even after being cooked for a long time. You can try substituting artichoke hearts, asparagus, or just adding more onion.

*****These are ingredients I did not use, but feel free to experiment. Add them if you want your fried noodles to have a bit of light, refreshing counterbalance to the heavy spiciness.

Make sure your bamboo shoots are from the Porn Coconut Company. I'm certain this is somehow important to the outcome of your dish.

Cooking

About an hour before cooking, slightly marinate your ground meat by flavoring it with salt, pepper, and a dash of cooking wine. Refrigerate.

Start by preparing your pasta. Fill a large pot with water, add a dash of salt, and bring to a boil. Cook your pasta/noodles as per the directions on the box for al dente, minus one minute (cook for 1 minute less than instructed on the box). Drain the pasta, then dump it into a container. Toss the pasta with about a tablespoon of cooking oil to prevent it from sticking. Set aside.

Pouring oil all over your mother's body. I mean your mother's boobs. I mean the noodles. THE NOODLES.

While the pasta water is boiling, slice your half-onion and drain your bamboo shoots. On the off chance you’re using fresh bamboo shoots (yah right), slice them into slivers.

It's not the onions. I'm teary eyed because Thorzain isn't winning the IGN proleague SXSW votes. *sniff*

Now it’s time to really start cooking. I recommend using either a large non-stick pot or a wok. Crank the heat up to medium-high and add about a tablespoon of cooking oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add garlic (if you have it), onions, and ground meat. The key is to lightly brown your onions and ground meat. Do this by refraining from stirring too often. Stir the mixture a bit, let it sit for 30 seconds, then stir it again. This will let the pan-side of the onions and meat become slightly burnt (brown), resulting in a ton of flavor.

Here be onions and pork in a pot

Meat, onion. Onion, meat.

Once this mixture has been cooking for a few minutes, add your chili garlic sauce and spicy black bean sauce. Adjust to your taste. If you like very spicy, add more sauce, but also remember that the sauces add salt as much as they add spiciness. With the amount of sauce I added (1/2 tablespoon of each) I only needed a very small pinch of additional salt. Cook the mixture for about a minute while cranking the heat up to high.

Add your noodles and bamboo shoots at the same time. Stir vigorously. I recommend using chopsticks for this stage since it can be hard to toss noodles about with a spatula. Salt and pepper to taste at this stage.

The most important thing about frying the noodles is that they shouldn’t stick to the bottom of your wok. If they do, then either the heat isn’t high enough, you’re using the wrong type of pot/pan, or you aren’t stirring often enough.

The noodles should also be very dry. Once you’ve cooked the noodles for about a minute, it should be safe to add the coriander water. Continue to cook until all the liquid has dried. If you are also using green onions and/or bean sprouts, add them two minutes before the dish is done. Plate and serve hot.

Result

This is like, what would happen to the flying spaghetti monster if he ever gets caught in China

4.5 / 5 I’m fairly satisfied with this dish, although I do feel that something is missing. I’m not quite sure what, but I’ll be sure to re-explore this dish in the future. It’s quite good in its current form. The dryness of this dish allows the individual ingredients to stand out and speak for themselves, when otherwise the might be buried under a heavy sauce.

EDIT: I figured out what was missing! Five-spiced bean curd, sliced into strips. They are a type of aromatic soy product with a texture similar to extra-firm tofu. Not exactly the most obvious of ingredients to be “missing”, but they should complete the flavor of this dish. Here is a photo (courtesy of Google) of what it looks like:

Five spice bean curd

They can be found in your nearest Asian supermarket and come in blocks packaged with laminated plastic. These should be added to your dish at the same time as the bamboo shoots. Be careful while stirring though, since bean curd can easily fragment if handled roughly.

EZPZ Pasta


Welcome to the seventh copy-pasta transfer of “The Ghetto Cook” series! This installment will be a pretty simple one about making a pasta dish, something many people are probably already familiar with. As a bonus, I will also include how to make a very simple cole slaw that can easily go with any other dish you are making.

Ingredients

As I was laying the stuff out for this pic, I realized that holy sh*t, this actually is a lot of ingredients

Cole Slaw

1 Carrot
1/8 Cabbage*
2 Tbsp Ranch/Mayo
1 tsp Peanut Butter
1 tsp White Granulated Sugar
Salt
Pepper

Pasta (Serves Two or Three)

1 lb package short, non-stringy pasta**
1/2 Large Onion, sliced thin
~2 Cups Frozen Peas
2 Tbsp Butter/Margarine
2 Tbsp Flour
3-4 oz Cheese***
1 can Tuna****
Bacon*****
Salt
Pepper
Garlic/Garlic Salt
Milk

*Can be green/red/mixture of both
**Ideally not spaghetti or linguini or long pastas like that. I used rotinis, feel free to use macaroni, ziti, or a bajillion other short, forkable pastas.
***A good melting cheese preferably. Mozzarella isn’t the greatest but it’s what I had on hand.
****The shitty cheap canned tuna I bought completely disintegrated and made the sauce texture kind of crappy. You may wish to buy higher quality canned tuna or use another source of fish. Pretty much any chunky protein is acceptable, including cubed/stripped chicken, ham, tofurkey, etc.
***** I didn’t have any on hand, but this is highly, highly recommended. Pre-cooked and broken into small pieces.

Procedure

Begin by making the cole slaw. Whisk together ranch/mayo, peanut butter, and sugar until smooth:

Use spoon if psychic, not Asian, or goes by Battle.Net handle Thorzain

Unlike lettuce salads, where it is best to hold off the dressing until just before serving, I prefer my cole slaw to be slightly wilted and the flavor of the dressing to penetrate the cabbage. Shred both carrots and cabbage, and toss them in the dressing. Salt and pepper to taste.

If you don’t have a shredder, you can use a knife. First, slice the carrot lengthwise. Then, slice both halves thinly along a diagonal:

I believe Thorzain would use a spoon for this step too.

For the cabbage, chop thinly along the latitude, like this:

GET TO DA CHOPPA NAOW

The final product:

A bright orange and purple dish, you'd think this was shredded poisonous amazonian tree frog or something similarly less than healthy

Once the salad is tossed (wink wink nudge nudge), set it aside to marinate. Begin on the pasta. Pour about a gallon of water into a large pot, add salt, and turn on the heat.

In another pot, melt two tablespoons of butter at medium heat. Long time readers of TGC may realize where this is going. We’re going to make a roux, just like what we did for broccoli and cheddar soup. Slowly whisk two tablespoons of flour into the melted butter, and push this mixture around the bottom of the pot for a couple of minutes. The mixture should look like yellow sand:

Visually identical to the bane of vaginas everywhere

Sometimes, cooks will cook this mixture until it is brownish and gives off a nutty scent. I won’t be doing this, however, because I am using a white cheese, and this is going to be a white sauce. After a few minutes, slowly whisk in enough milk so that you get a thick, velvety, sauce-like consistency:

The shine is from the butter. No sticky fingers here.

Continue cooking and stirring the mixture, adding in more milk if the sauce becomes too dry. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add in the onions, salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Garlic salt is cheap and keeps for a long time. Use fresh garlic if you have it. Overall, you want the sauce to be slightly on the salty side because it will be used to flavor the pasta, but keep in mind that cheese, canned tuna, and bacon all contain salt, so do not over-season at this point in time.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so.

By now the pasta water should be close to boiling. The timings for this dish are starting to converge. As soon as the water starts boiling, dump your pasta into the pot. Follow the instructions for how long the pasta needs to cook to reach al dente, but cook for 1 minute less than the shown time. Immediately also dump your frozen peas into your sauce. Cook this for another 5 minutes or so, turn the heat down to LOW, then dump the cheese, tuna, and bacon into the sauce:

The PZ part of EZPZ pasta. Yeah, I know you saw that one coming.

Taste the sauce. If it is too bland, now is the time to add salt and pepper before combining with the pasta. Cook the sauce until the pasta is 1 minute away from al dente. Remove pasta from water, and dump the sauce into the pasta. Fold sauce into the pasta and cook everything together for the last minute. Remove from heat, plate, and serve.

The Result

A meal fit for a pauper

4.5 / 5 Nothing spectacular, but still very nourishing and good. In hindsight, I think chicken would be even better suited for this dish, but oh well. Despite the large number of ingredients, overall the dish is quite fast to make, maybe 40 minutes total with plenty of time in between to work on several other dishes if you are multitasking.