Mount Kilimanacho

This is the most badass mountain of nachos I’ve ever had; well…at least since the first time I did it in 2004.

Photos courtesy of Chrystal Cienfuegos

If you didn’t know, I love football.  I love sports in general but football is all I have time for anymore.  Although my team will likely never win it all, my friends and family create great memories every season rooting for our perennial loosers.   With football having a much shorter schedule than other sports, it allows fans to continually make “an event” out of most Sundays that would otherwise be delegated to house work…shmouse work.

Like most football fans, our fall and winter Sundays revolve around food and drinks.  Sometimes the food is easy and sometimes it’s a lot of work, but it’s always delicious and usually centers around a grill.  This years Superbowl party was no exception.

Since I didn’t do much cooking during the regular season we tried to go all out this year and get everyone involved.  And everyone DID get involved, it was beautiful.  We weren’t rewriting the book on anything, but when you attempt to do things properly and there’s a bunch of hungry people, there’s just a lot to do.

We had fried chicken bites with dipping sauces and grilled carne asada nachos.  Fried chicken is fried chicken, no real need to discuss that one other then stating how ridiculous perfect fried chicken is, ohm nom nom.

The event was around the nachos since 90% of the party had never been witness to such a thing.  Granted we’ve all had nachos before, but never like this.  I think we may have even missed the picture of just before the lid goes on which showed how tall the pile was.  We were actually gonna do two batches but just decided to go big on one.

What pictures cannot show is the depth of flavor achieved from the charcoal.  The BBQ smoke flavor permeates and the bottom gets all cheese fried crusty.  We of course fried our own chips, grilled the meat, made the beans and made the salsa.  The second batch was going to have some nacho cheese swirled in but we never got there.  I think this was all done during halftime.  How we pulled ourselves away from another mind blowing Super Bowl halftime show…I’ll never know :-|

Fresh chips
Tortillas into fresh chips
A solid foundation
Cheesy goodness
Smokey grilled carne asada
Red and green taco shop hot sauce
Sour cream is always a nice touch
Beans to start another layer
More of everything
Boom!
Vultures
Although we put a hit on it…I was eating nachoes for a couple days.
10 pounds of nacho joy

Chrystal is a Local photographer and does an amazing job for any event.  http://chrystalcienfuegos.com — I highly recommend her boudoir shots for any woman wanting to give their husbands whiplash.  My wife took some and I’m still cleaning drool off the keyboard.

Beef Carnitas

Mmmmm beef fat…

Not suet…which is clean, easy melting fat that’s obtained from  just outside the kidney of a bovine. but beef fat trimmings.  Not only is rendering fat kinda cool, but it’s a deeper flavor that reaches juuuust outside our norm.  Easily obtained from a serious butcher shop, suet and fat is inexpensive, easy to render and gives you a clean, savory cooking oil.   On new years eve I set out to make traditional carnitas.  Slow cooking pork butt in pork fat until tender, then raising the temp to fry and crisp.  Cooking meat in its own fat compounds the flavor and rings in that authentic bell.  Unfortunate to those classic carnitas plans, my sister in law was coming over and like always, I forgot she doesn’t dig on the swine.  So I switched it up a bit and decided to try the same thing with beef; after all, I had a few pounds of chuck in the freezer.

Went to the local butcher and asked ’em about getting some suet.  They didn’t have it and I didn’t want to drive across town to get it, so I asked them if they had any fat trimmings.  They didn’t right then, but would later in the afternoon.  Cool. I went back later and got 10 pounds, came home and chopped it up into fist size chunks.

All it takes to render fat is a heavy bottom pan and a heat source on low.  It took about 3 hours to render and I didn’t really do it to perfection.  Towards the end my impatience got the best of me and I got it a little hot.  It didn’t damage the oil to detriment, but it took away the clean purity of perfectly melted fat.  I put it through a strainer to remove the fried pieces of crispy fat and any particulate matter. In went the lime soaked beef to a long slow bubble, bubble, bubble.

Towards the end of cooking and several cape cods later I over-cooked the beef a bit.  The result was extremely delicious buuuuuut, a bit chewy.  Not to jerky standards but still jaw wearing.  You’d think I’d have learned my lesson at the family reunion (referenced here). Oh well.

Earlier that day when I got the fat, I realized I was gonna have a fry station ready to rock for midnight munchies, so i picked up some yukon gold potatoes and flour tortillas. Around 11pm I fried the potatoes and they were salty and luscious…and needed at that point. But what came next was an experience no one saw coming, and no one will forget. Well…it was New Years, so a couple people might forget :-|

The magic came when I used the flour tortillas to make bunuelos, which is a fried flour tortilla dusted with cinnamon sugar. Bunuelos are always a wonderful treat, but these were out of this f-u-c-k-i-n-g world. The addition of some sea salt sprinkled into the cinnamon sugar, with the savory goodness of the beef fat…it was just mouth wateringly sublime. So remember, you don’t always need to get your cooking fats from a bottle or rectangle, mix it up. And don’t stress too much about dinner, it might be the forgotten munchie that wins the night.

Mud Bug Chug

“Did you suck the head?  Did you get any juice when you sucked it?” –Most common question of the day and a great all-around, out of context quote.  Gigitty.

What is a mud bug chug? A crawfish boil.

I’ve got a buddy named Doug. Doug (who is on loan from Louisiana) just threw his 2nd Annual: San Diego Mud Bug Chug. The big difference in a classic boil and this party is that Doug is a home brewer of scrumptious and original beer. Yes, pairing beer and crawfish is nothing new. But Doug does it really well, and in copious quantities. Again: home brewer. 

Hoppy SD

As hop heavy beers gain in popularity, it still isn’t the standard for American beer drinkers…unless you live here :-)With San Diego’s growth in the craft beer world, the city has not only made a name for itself that is synonymous with quality, craftsmanship and originality, but it’s also known for it’s distinct style of hop heavy profiles; and in many circles, double IPA’s are referenced as “San Diego style Pale Ale”. This movement has made even casual San Diego beer enthusiasts familiar with quality, bitter, full flavored brews. I say this because (and correct me if I’m wrong), I question how many people have had the opportunity Doug gives us.

To reiterate

The experience of a crawfish boil with 3 outstanding home brews (out of a tap), all of which gave their own story to the day. So…thanks Doug.He brewed his flagship IPA coined, Matrimony Ale, which (me thinks), was made the first time as a wedding beer for a mutual friend. Matrimony Ale is classic, balanced, refreshing, and smooth; and whenever it’s around, is my favorite of the day. The other two beers of the day were a spiced ale and a smoked lager. The spiced ale was spiked with Kochu, a distinct Korean chile pepper that gave a perfect amount of heat on the back end; and when I say back end, I mean on the finish, lulz. The other brew was a smoked lager that tasted exactly like it was intended to taste. Nice and smooth with a bite of smoke that begged for a bug.

The flavor keeps coming

That begging is what blew me away. The perfect food pairing of the crawfish with the spiced ale or the smoked lager, both on their own or even together. Yes together…if you’ve never combined quality beers before I highly recommend it. If someone scoffs at the idea just let it go. Later on in the party their curiosity will get the better of them, and they will be forced to apologize and give you props. ***Disclaimer–This only works with tapped, high quality beer and a little forethought toward the end product. Meaning…no suicides. Crawfish are boiled in a powerful chile and spice broth that can go with any beer really. But these two beers, whether separate or combined, connected the dots to a perfect food and beverage pairing.

Pairing

To the uninitiated, a food and alcohol pairing is successful when both food and drink are elevated as the flavors intermingle. This unlocks hidden flavors or pulls known flavors to the forefront.It was a gorgeous San Diego day with lots of friendly, happy people gettin’ down and dirty on a table full of authentic cultural cuisine. I relish communal eating experiences and I get fired up even more when I know someone took the time to prepare something artisanal; something that can’t be re-created by myself, or procured anywhere else. It lets your guests know that you care about quality and their happiness.Here’s some pics until next year, woot woot!

Chuckle heads prepping
The Business

The Spices

The Boilz

 

You want me to do what now?
It looks like he’s singing patience. But I don’t know, this was after the beer was gone.
Ohm nom nom

Nutritious Little Yums

Superfoods! 
Lol. This word has been overused but I still like it.
Cape Gooseberries
I consider a superfood to be something you can live off of. Something that is so nutritionally dense with antioxidants, vitamins, nutrients and a measurable amount of complete protein, that it becomes a staple food for the inhabitants of whatever region it grows in. You don’t need a “Superfood” to get antioxidants, but antioxidant density is usually the focal point for bringing some of these foods to market. It’s what makes them super!
Some of the known and popular foods that fall under this category are goji’s, acai, kiwi, quinoa and cape gooseberries. Wait a minute; cape what? Fresh cape gooseberries have finally become available at Whole Foods over the past few years. They’ve been sold there and at other health stores for years, but typically dried, as Incan Berries…which are seriously great. Totally mellow yet complex sweetness kinda like raisin and pineapple. The fresh ones taste like kiwi. Cape Gooseberries are a member of the nightshade family and closely resemble tomatillos; other then their yellow color and diminutive size. They’re a little pricey but not because they’re hard to grow, there just isn’t enough market demand for them yet…yet :-) I just rinse ’em and eat ’em, but you can always throw them in a salad or slice in half and place on some goat cheese that’s spread over a crostini.   Btw, you need to rinse off their sticky bitter film just like you would with a tomatillo.

So, if your looking for something new in your diet, aaaaand feel like fixing a bunch of your free radicals, try these tasty little berries.

What is a Free Radical? Free radicals are atoms (usually an oxygen atom) floating around the body that have lost an electron through oxidation. These unstable atoms float through your body looking for another atom that has an outer shell that isn’t complete. The free radical then attaches to those atoms or molecules where it doesn’t belong; and when enough of them build up, you’ve started a tumor. Some free radicals don’t cause tumors, however; they will attack healthy cells and cause other ailments. Fighting free radicals is an easy answer—antioxidants.An unstable atom, by its very nature, wants to become stable. It will seek another atom to attach to so that the outer layer of electrons is complete. Luckily, antioxidants carry around an extra electron that the free radical can *weaz off of. Antioxidants will actually seek out a place to “lose” that extra electron; which is just really nice of them…very generous. We should have them over for dinner.

*Weasle