Recipe: Fuck You, It’s Chili

May 07

Because of actually stewing the tomatoes like some kind of hippy, this recipe takes too much effort to be an actual “Fuck It” recipe*. However, since its key ingredients are two things that purists — or as everyone else calls them, joyless dicks — insist should never be in chili, namely beans and tomatoes, I’m calling this Fuck You, It’s Chili, because fuck you, it’s chili.

Fuck You, It’s Chili

Ingredients:
5ish fresh tomatoes. If you have some in the fridge that are about to go weird, this is a good way to use em up.
Spices for stewing the tomatoes. I don’t know, oregano or some shit? I use Penzeys Frozen Pizza blend and maybe some Cajun seasoning.
1 15-ounce can black beans. Or whatever that is in metric.
1 15-ounce can chili. That’s right, we’re putting chili in chili. Because I cook for vegetarians I use Trader Joe’s vegetarian chili. Use whatever floats your boat. Hell, throw in a can of Dinty Moore beef stew if you want to. Because fuck you, it’s chili.
Chili spices. Whatever chili spices you have lying around. I recommend Penzey’s Chili 9000 because if you don’t like that you fail at taste buds.

Directions:

1. Boil water in a big ol’ pot. While you’re waiting for it to heat up, cuz that shit takes forever, prepare a bowl of ice water. This is a good way to use up that weird clumpy ice that always clogs up the ice machine. Why does that happen anyway?

2. Once the water is boiling, throw the tomatoes in for one minute. Just one minute. Let em roll around a bit.

3. Fish the tomatoes out (not with your hands!) and throw them into the bowl of ice water.

4. Peel those tomatoes! It should be easy now, because of that boiling-icewater voodoo trick. How does it even work. Throw away those peels, they’re gross.

5. Chop those tomatoes! You’re not going for precision here, Iron Chef. Just make em into chunks. Throw out the gross stemmy bits.

6. Put the chopped tomatoes back in the pot (you did empty the water out first right? Do it. Clean your drain.) on medium heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Simmer means it’s vaguely bubbling. Come back and stir it whenever you remember there’s a pot on the stove.

Okay that’s the hard part done! Now for the easy part:

7. Throw in the canned beans, canned chili, and spices. Do it.

8. Heat, stirring a bit, till everything’s nice and hot.

9. Eat that fuckin’ chili! Maybe with some “garlic powder and hot dog buns” garlic bread or something.

There you go, a nice warm main course that’s halfway between actual grown-up cooking and college student lazyness. I’m typing this up during step 6, incidentally.

* Recipes of mine that take mad shortcuts or require minimal effort fall into the category of “Fuck It” recipes. Such as my renowned “Fuck It, It’s Nacho Night”. As noted, taking the effort to peel and stew tomatoes is not Fucking It. But let’s face it, canned tomatoes are nasty.

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What I’m Drinking: Cold Brew

Sep 05

One of the downsides to brewing your own hot coffee in the morning is that it requires measuring, filling, and operating equipment before you’ve had your coffee. This leads to all kinds of bleary-eyed brewing mishaps, like forgetting to put the espresso in the machine before brewing a shot (guilty), forgetting to put water in the machine (guilty), forgetting to put something under the spout to catch the coffee (oh so guilty) … it’s a recipe for disaster.

Well, have no fear because there is a delicious solution to this problem, and it’s called cold brew.

The deliciousness just radiates through your screen. Stainless steel press optional.

The deliciousness just radiates through your screen. Cat bed on the table is optional. (photo courtesy of my wife)

Now, this is not the same thing as iced coffee, which is generally brewed hot like regular coffee and then cooled down. Cold-brewed coffee doesn’t involve heat at all! And in fact, in some ways it’s easier to make than traditional coffee.

Here’s the basics: you mix ground coffee and room-temperature or cold water, you let it sit overnight in your fridge (or on your counter, depending on the temperature), and in the morning you just need to filter out the coffee grounds and your coffee is ready to drink! It’s the sun tea of the coffee world. It comes out just as strong, and even a little less bitter because the interaction between the coffee and the ground beans is different when no heat is involved.

If you Google up some instructions on cold brewing, you’ll find there’s a bunch of different ways to get the ground coffee out of your cold brew. But to me, this is a no-brainer. There’s already a piece of equipment perfectly suited for brewing and filtering coffee: a French press!

Here’s how I brew my coffee every day now. It’s adapted from this recipe on The Cooking of Joy — Joy deserves the credit for all the inspirational deliciousness.

 

You need:

  • a 32-ish ounce French press
  • 3/4 cup coarse-ground coffee beans (get decent stuff, and if someone else is grinding it for you tell them it’s for a French press)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 3 cups water

Instructions:

  1. Put the coffee beans, brown sugar and cinnamon (if you’re adding them) in your French press and stir to combine.
  2. Add 3 cups water and stir well.
  3. Give it a minute or two — a lot of the coffee will float to the surface — then stir well again.
  4. If the shelves on your fridge are tall enough, place the lid on the French press with the plunger juuuust resting against the top of the coffee. Otherwise, cover the press with plastic wrap or something.
  5. Put it in the fridge and leave it overnight. 8 hours minimum, 12 may be better, try not to let it go 24.
  6. In the morning take the press out, put the lid on if you haven’t already, and slowly push the plunger down as far as it will go.
  7. Pour your coffee, add ice and/or some kind of cream if you want, and drink! Makes enough for 2 or 3 glasses.

Not only is this straight-up delicious, but the bulk of the work is done the night before, when you’re not groggy and caffeine-deprived. All you have to do to get your fix in the morning is push the plunger and pour!

If it’s too much for you to drink in one morning, no worries — you can keep the brewed coffee in your fridge for a couple of days. Just make sure to pour it out of the French press so the brewing process stops. And for heaven’s sake empty the grounds out of your press and rinse it right away. Coffee grounds grow mold like whoa if you let them.

So go ahead and give this a try. If you’re anything like me, it’ll soon become a daily part of your morning routine.

 

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Learn to drink coffee! Part 1

Aug 29

Believe it or not, this is something that’s come up many times over the past decade and a half. “I want to drink coffee, but I just can’t stand the taste!” “I need caffeine, but coffee tastes gross!” “I don’t like the taste of coffee, what can I drink?”

I’ll let y’all in on a little secret: I didn’t used to like coffee either. Couldn’t stand the taste. My early caffeine fixes were all from soda, because I didn’t like tea either.

What happened? Well for one thing, I got a job at Starbucks. That training gave me a ton of knowledge about coffee roasting, brewing, and drink recipes, and the time to experiment with different combinations.

The first thing I realized was that I’d been doing coffee all wrong. I figured that since I didn’t like coffee, the solution was just to load as much sugar and cream as I could into whatever cheap coffee was handy. Needless to say, the result was less than tasty and didn’t particularly incline me to drink more. If you don’t like something, then buying the cheapest version of it and trying to choke it down is not necessarily going to be productive.

Over the years I’ve developed a method for “teaching” people to drink coffee. I can’t guarantee it will work for everyone, but I’ve had good success with it on friends and family (because I share my addiction far and wide when I can). Here’s what to do:

Start with the most sugary froufrou drink you can stand. These will often be more expensive than less sugary drinks, but if you don’t like the taste of coffee then you’ll need to tone it down with something and sugar is the easiest way.

My usual recommendation is the White Chocolate Mocha. This is one of the sweetest drinks on the menu, hands down. If even this is too coffee-like for you, go even more to the sugary side with a single venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha. That’s a single shot of espresso in 20 ounces of sugar and milk.

Don’t like sweet things all that much? Try the Mocha. It’s chocolatey but not super sweet. If you need to tone the coffee down further, ask the barista for two or three pumps of a flavor syrup — hazelnut or vanilla would be good.

Want something cold? The above drinks can be ordered iced, or you can try the Java Chip Frappuccino. Basically a chocolate milkshake with some coffee in it.

Need to watch your sugar intake? Try a Skinny Mocha or a Sugar-free Vanilla Latte. Lactose intolerant? Order your drink made with soy. If you’re getting a mocha or white chocolate mocha, ask the barista whether the syrup has milk in it.

Once you’ve found your drink, then what? Tune in next week for part 2 of Learn to Drink Coffee!
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How to order coffee at Starbucks

Jun 15

Here’s a question I get a lot: “How do I order coffee at Starbucks?

There’s something about the ubiquitous green-aproned store that seems to intimidate people who’ve never been in one before. They get the impression that there’s some kind of complex lingo they’ll never be able to understand. There’s so many jokes about how the size names are bizarre and the drinks are complicated that people think it’s too difficult.

Well folks, have no fear, I’m here to sort you out. Here is the super-complex, amazing, mysterious way to order coffee at Starbucks. Wait in line, and when you get to the cash register and the person in the green apron asks you what you want, utter the following code phrase:

“I’d like a medium coffee, please.”

That’s it. If you’d like a small or a large, use those words instead. They’ll take your money and pour you a coffee. It’ll run you somewhere between one and two dollars in most American stores.

Starbucks does have weird drink size names (and the story behind those names is here). But the people behind the counter are human beings and they know what small, medium, and large mean. You can use them. It’s okay. They don’t look down on you for it, and if they snottily correct you — as I have seen many people insist happened to them, but I have never personally witnessed — then they are giving you bad customer service. They may repeat your drink with the official Starbucks size name, but they are not supposed to correct you.

Now, if you want to know what to order other than regular coffee, that’s a subject for another post. Until then, you can always look at the menu or the website for ideas, or just ask the barista at the register. Be prepared to give a vague idea of what you’re in the mood for (hot/cold, sweet/not sweet, coffee/no coffee).

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How to make coffeeshop drinks: Putting it together

May 25

You’ve chugged through all those loooong posts on getting your equipment, your beans, your tea, your ingredients … finally you can put it all together and actually make your drink!

The first step is to have an idea of how your drink is made. My quick guide here will cover that. Most drinks will include some combination of brewed coffee, milk, and possibly flavors of some kind.

Hot espresso drinks: The first rule of hot espresso drinks is to always heat the milk first. The second rule is to always heat the milk first. Or the water, if you’re making an Americano. Espresso shots have a very short “shelf life” — once they brew you want to throw them into a drink right away. So if you’re using an espresso machine, start by steaming your milk. (For Americanos, you just need to heat up some water. Throw the shots in and you’re good.)

Steaming milk with a steam wand takes some practice. Check online for helpful videos. As a quick rundown, you need to make sure your machine is warmed up and set to whatever turns on the steam wand. Measure out your milk using the cup you’re going to drink from, but keep in mind steamed milk expands somewhat, and some space will be taken up by foam and espresso. When I make a latte, I only fill my cup halfway with milk. Transfer this milk to a good steaming pitcher, stick the steam wand into it, and turn on the steam. You’ll want to dip the pitcher a little to bring the wand close to the surface of the milk — this will make some foam and also cut down on the noise. Make sure you have a thermometer in the pitcher — aim for 130F for kids’ drinks, 140F if you don’t want it too hot, or 160F-170F for a regular hot drink.

As a rule, the thicker the milk the louder the noise. You can observe this by sitting in a Starbucks during the holiday season, because whenever an eggnog latte is being steamed the noise is incredibly loud. In pretty much every case, though, steaming milk is not something you want to do if there’s any light sleepers trying to get some shuteye nearby.

Once the milk is steamed, brew your espresso. This gives your milk a little time for the foam to separate from the milk, and also a little time to add any flavorings you want to the bottom of your cup. Chocolate for a mocha, vanilla syrup for a vanilla latte, whatever.

The art of brewing a good espresso shot depends heavily on your brewing apparatus, the grind and tamp of your beans, the heat of your water, even the humidity can be a factor if you have a touchy machine. I’ll cover that in detail in some other post, but for now the most important part is that you’re aiming for a full shot (about an ounce) of espresso to pull in about 20 seconds. You can adjust this by packing the ground beans in tighter or more loosely. This is another area where trial and error can be your friend.

As soon as your espresso finishes brewing, put the drink together! As a general rule, unless you’re making a macchiato where the shots go in last, you’ll want this order:

  1. Flavorings, if any (chocolate, vanilla, etc)
  2. Espresso (if your flavoring is thick, like mocha syrup, swirl the hot shots around to help it dissolve)
  3. Milk
  4. Foam, if desired
  5. Toppings, if any (whipped cream, nutmeg, sprinkles, etc)

Bam! There’s your drink. There’s a lot of flexibility in how this is done (I’ll cover that in yet another post) but basically, that’s how a lot of national chain coffeeshops do it. Doing pretty stuff like designs in the foam takes more effort and practice — you’re better off hitting YouTube if you want to master that kind of coffee artistry. Personally, I just aim for a drink I can stuff in my face to wake me up.

Iced espresso drinks: If this is what you’re aiming for, you’ve got it a lot simpler. Instead of all that milk steaming nonsense, here’s what you do:

  1. Put flavorings in the cup, if any
  2. Fill the cup with ice
  3. Brew shots and pour them over the ice
  4. Fill cup with milk (or water, for an Americano) and stir
  5. Top with toppings

And that’s it. Now, a lot of thicker flavor syrups and whatnot don’t dissolve as well in cold liquids as they do in hot liquids. You may have to stir quite a bit to get it to mix together properly. Another option is to put the shots in second, swirl the cup to mix everything, then add the ice and the milk.

Tea drinks: These vary more widely. If you’re making a tea latte, you’ll want to brew some tea, steam some milk, and put them together in a cup. What ratio really depends on your taste. If you get a tea latte at a coffeeshop that you like, ask them how they make it. There will probably be some sweeteners involved.

For chai lattes, it depends on where you’re getting your flavor from. There are premade chai mixes where you just mix the syrup with milk and you have your chai. Other mixes are made to be mixed with brewed tea. There are also some powdered chai mixes made to be mixed with hot or cold water. And if you want a chai without the latte, there’s tea/spice mixes designed for you to brew the spices together with the tea.

That’s the basics! Hopefully you’ve learned how to recreate your favorite drink at home. In the future I’ll write some posts covering some drinks in more detail. If there’s something you’d like me to cover, leave a comment or @reply me on Twitter!

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