So I’m a failure…

Photo 59… but I’m not gonna let it get me down.

I have discovered, after over two months with just a single post, that I do not have the energy level or maniacal drive necessary to work 60-hour weeks and complete two posts a week.  Hell, I’ve hardly been cooking at all; my wife, Juliana, has been honing her chops in the kitchen because I have generally been out working till, oh, 11pm or so.

I was finally able to scrounge together the will to come check the site, and I find that there are two hundred pages worth of comment spam.  So… yeah, sorry about that.  I’m cleaning it up.  If you notice that a comment you made and feel strongly about got deleted, let me know and I’ll search it out.  I like comments.  I really, really want real people to let me know what they think.  But two thousand ‘wow great article well researched food for thought try nike gold shoes not malware!’-type stuff gets in the way of that.  I know the bots aren’t reading this.  I’m just grousing.

But this is not the end of Feral Cuisine!  What little time I find in the kitchen is, by necessity, spent slinging together ultra-fast, stupidly simple foods that I can use for days as packed lunches and suppers.  Remember, I don’t have a car to drive home for meals, and I am working 8am-10/11pm most nights, so I generally have to pack TWO meals a day that are light and portable enough to pack in my backpack for biking to work, calorically dense enough to actually SUPPORT me for 14-hour days spent on my feet (plus, again, the bike ride), and tasty enough that I will want to eat them and not cheat and pull out my debit card at the Wendy’s down the street.

Juliana has been brilliant in the kitchen.  She is taking my random, scattered notes and experiments, and turning them into straightforward, step-by-step, freakin’ DELICIOUS recipes.  She took the Chicken Tikka Masala that I had been tweaking for a long time, trying to get it just right, and made it PERFECT: rich, savory, slightly sweet and spicy, and dead easy.  I can’t wait to share that recipe with you guys.  (I was gonna post it a long time ago, but then I had tikka at a restaurant, realized my version was nothing like the popular conception of the dish, and had to go back to the drawing board.)  She’s also figured out an awesome stroganoff, a kickin’ meatloaf, some curried chicken salad that is way better than the stuff I posted a couple months ago… In short, she’s awesome, and her culinary prowess is about to propel this blog into overdrive.

I’ve come up with a few things myself in my meager free time: oven-barbecued pork burnt ends that can be used for just about anything, and a stew that, quite accidentally, came out with a decidedly East-Asian flavor profile that was unexpectedly delicious.  I am also beginning work on a tutorial product for folks just starting out in the kitchen to start cooking restaurant-quality meals in the Feral style: healthy, high-protein, fast, easy, and delicious.

SO.  There is much more to come.  Just as soon as I whittle my work schedule a bit.  : )

-Josh

Pig Party Part Deux: Ham and Bacon are Done!

DSCN6659So it’s been a while.  Working 8am to 11pm will do that.  : P

The bacon and ham finished curing.  I am not prepared to call it a success.  I have very mixed feelings about the results.  But I’ll get to that.

So a couple of weeks ago, I took a pork belly from the Asian market, a pork sirloin roast from CostCo, and my pink salt, rubbed the belly, brined the roast, and put it all in the fridge to cure for ten days. Continue reading

Kielbasa Hobo Packs: (Almost) Fastest Dinner Ever

Hobo (9)Sometimes we over-think food.  Poring over cookbooks or blogs bursting with ‘the perfect seasonal frittata’ or ‘hearty bolognese-bechamel paleo lasagna’ 1, we often forget that food is just… food. Sometimes you don’t even want a ‘dish’, you just want to throw a bunch of s*** together and call it a meal.  And more often than not, it ends up tasting pretty damn good.

You’ve had hobo packs before.  You might not have called them that, because maybe you’re afraid of offending somebody.  But I shelved a whole stack of books about ‘Hobo Quilts’ at work, and if a minor publisher is able to get away with it, I’m sure a food blog with thirteen subscribers will be able to pass unscathed.  Hobo packs are just veggies and meat tossed onto a square of foil, closed up, and cooked till done/tender/tasty.  There’s some fancy version of the technique that uses parchment paper and is called ‘en papillote’, which I think is French for ‘in pretension’.  Meanwhile, my wife is chopping veggies and kielbasa for some tasty hobo packs in good ol’ American ALUMINUM FOIL (made in China), and she’s happy ’cause it’s easy, and I’m happy ’cause it tastes awesome, and everybody’s happy together. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Dang, I was making up stuff to mock but I really want to try that now…

Pig Party! Home-Curing Bacon and Ham

DSCN6640This week, the planets aligned and I got an unprecedented two days in a row off of both jobs.  Two whole days, no responsibilities.  Nowhere I have to go, nothing I have to do.  Complete freedom.  What to do?  Binge-watch Game of Thrones on Project Free TV?  Read the kickass novel that my coworker authored and loaned to me? 1  Drink a whole bottle of wine? Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Well, I am gonna do that anyway.

A Fancy Dinner Party for Poor People

DSCN6634So now that I am working crazy hours, I thought it would be really fun to start having folks over for supper once a week.  Friends that I haven’t been able to see lately, family, work folks I haven’t ever connected with outside of the store…  I want to start to have a social life.  I figured weekly supper is the best way to do that within the confines of work hour insanity and the one-car situation.

Something else exciting to report: me and the wife have been saving our pennies and have finally signed up for our CostCo membership!  : D  Which means that we were able to get two whole chickens and a 4-pack of pork roasts, plus all of our regular Aldi/PriceChopper groceries, for $76.  That’s $4 under our weekly budget, with enough meat to last us TWO weeks.  Maybe soon we’ll be able to afford BEEF.  : D

So back to the main subject here.  I’m poor, and I don’t have much time.  I’m busy with homework, or all of my meager free time is spent writing a blog (: P).  But I’ve promised my friends supper, and they’ll be over here in an hour and a half, and I don’t want to serve them cereal, because that just really doesn’t go well with beer, and I like beer.  What am I gonna do? Continue reading

Chicken Salad Sticks

DSCN6630Things have been quiet here the last couple of weeks.  That’s because I picked up an extra job, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to fit cooking, eating, socializing, working out, sleeping, and general living into my now-even-more-compressed free time.  The benefit to YOU is that I am now going to be forced to figure out ever-more-efficient recipes and methods for my own survival.  I am going to do my darndest to have something ready to post twice a week, Mondays and Fridays at 5:30 pm.

This full-time-plus situation is not permanent.  The wife and I are hoping that with the extra income, we’ll be able to pay off the credit card, pay off the car, and get me a car; we’ve been doing with one car for the last six months.  I’ve got a bicycle to get myself to work, but rainy days and a crappy Kansas City winter have me extremely excited to be driving my own vehicle again.  Once all that stuff is paid off, our monthly expenses should be lower than they are right now, thanks to the elimination of credit card and car payments. Continue reading

The Feralist Manifesto

DSCN6631I want you to cook.

I want you to cook healthy, delicious meals for yourself, your family, and your friends.  I want you to know what foods to focus on to make you and those you know fit and strong and beautiful.

I want you to believe that, because we all eat every day, food is of vital import.  It builds us.  Like music and art, it defines our culture.  It provides opportunity for togetherness and celebration.

I want you to know that being working poor / starving artist / overworked / underpaid is not an impediment, that it is possible and necessary for us to embrace home cooking as our main source of sustenance.  The middle class may be in decline.  We may be part of the rising bohemian class, growing up in the relative luxury of the American bourgeoisie and accustomed to its luxuries but maturing into a world where the dream jobs of yesteryear are in short supply.  We may work long days for low pay.  But stress unites.  Shared problems strip away differences and bind us together as a people. Continue reading

Book Review: Michael Symon’s 5 in 5

DSCN6615First of all, I had no clue who Michael Symon was before I read this book.  I have never watched ‘The Chew’ or any of the other television programs that Mr. Symon has appeared on.  My knowledge of celebrity chefs and popular food personalities is entirely gleaned from the covers of cookbooks that I shelve at my job, and consists of exactly two nuggets of information: 1) Jamie Oliver’s current haircut makes him look like a cockatoo, and 2) I really don’t want to get into a fight with Anthony Bourdain.

I actually discovered this book by searching for ‘quick recipes’ on the website of my local library. Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 popped up as one of the results, so I used the handy dandy ‘Reserve’ feature to get the book sent to my nearest branch and held at the counter there for me. 1  I have looked over a lot of similar cookbooks, and frankly, I was prepared for disappointment.  Most ‘fast cooking’ cookbooks either have no concept of what ‘fast’ actually is, or vastly overestimate the skill and speed of the cook. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. The Johnson County library is pretty rad.

The Most Important Tool In Our Kitchen

DSCN6613There is a single tool that transformed me from an occasional okay cook to a daily kitchen monster. 1

It’s not a cast iron pan.  I’ve had one of those for years, at least since I got out of college.  It’s not a good knife, I got one of those when I moved to Kansas City six years ago.  It’s not a big cutting board, or a dutch oven, or a food processor.  I could have kept acquiring stuff like this all my life, and it might have all been useful, but without that one thing, all of these tools were essentially useless in my hands. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. I use the term ‘monster’ to indicate that I cook a lot, not that it always necessarily turns out incredible.  Everyone has their mediocre dishes, even their failures.  But, being a monster, I don’t let that stop me.

Paleo Tuna Melt Protein Bombs

DSCN6598

EDIT 07/02/14:  It has been noted in the comments that this recipe contains cheese (albeit on top, and easily dispensed with), and is therefore not technically ‘Paleo’.  I guess I should have called them ‘Primal’.  That said, if you do not want a sad life, you should amend your dietary definition to include cheese, at least sometimes.  Cheese, like beer, is one of those little things that shows God exists and wants us to be happy. 1

ORIGINAL POST:  Once again, I face my nemesis.  Canned fish.  I’ve discussed my aversion before.  No need to rehash it here.  But still, my mini-quest to make from canned fish culinary creations that are, shall we say, nummy, continues.  This time I take on my constant childhood foe, tuna.

Yes, that beloved staple of busy mothers and ravenous younglings across these United States, that paragon of convenience and 50′s-era sanitation, was for me a personal DEMON, bedeviling me every time my mother pulled one of those iconic silver pucks from the pantry.  She would relate her own past loathing of tuna, then reveal that her own mother once added apples to the mixture, and that the added sweetness and crunch turned her attitude towards the stuff right around.  ‘I’ll put more apples in it this time, then you’ll like it,’ she would say, spreading a few spoonfuls on the bread and setting it before me. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. I don’t really want to get into the technicalities of different diets.  That kind of discussion obscures the fact that there are a lot of healthy people eating all kinds of things, and paints a public image of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ as some kind of unbending de rigueur, rather than a set of general guidelines that allow us to live happier, fuller lives.