Thursday, January 31, 2008

Against The Grain

Of all the things that Tamalehawk will eat directly from the pan, cold, while standing with his jacket on, and there are a lot of them, cornbread is his favorite. Brownies rank high. Coleslaw. Maybe some kind of orzo salad. But cornbread - cornbread confidently creeps to the top of that list.

Sweet and savory, prisoner to no one culinary genre, and comforting, it feels wrong to label it as just a side item. It feels right to cut it into adorable squares so you can easily eat six in one stand, prying them free with a knife, and not feeling at all guilty about pinching all the crumbs together into a beautiful bonus bite. OK, so maybe corn muffins are better. Have you had the corncakes at Wishbone? It may seem like an unorthodox choice and you may feel trepidation, waging a silent mental war as to whether you want them or the crabcakes, because you've confirmed that you definitely want something caked. Believe Tamalehawk, he's been there. Spread your wings for once and do the corncakes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Deep Cover

Informal poll: How do you prefer your French Toast? Cinnamon-laced and sprinkled with powdered sugar, or maybe enrobed in an edible armor of corn flakes? Tamalehawk approves of places that offer the trio of triangles on the side of his eggs instead of pancakes. It's just a little touch that says, "Hey, customers, we appreciate your varied palettes. Breakfast is a highly subjective meal. More coffee? I am a waitress from the 1950's." Maybe Tamalehawk is too into breakfast, but from the great heights he soars, it's hard not to view every meal through maple-colored glasses.

Ladyhawk insists on a savory variation -- an eggy bath with no trace of sweet, coated in a sheen of salt and butter until they look like a snowy Chicago sidewalk. An experience Tamalehawk first found baffling but before long came to appreciate. He's not a purist and encourages customization. Also, a brief related shout-out to the Monte Cristo: breakfast and lunch started a business together selling deliciousness.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Living Fast

Tamalehawk never set out to take glamour shots of Taco Bell chalupas, but it just goes to show that you never know where the tradewinds will carry a journeying bird. Nothing about the clandestine clamoring for Dr. Moreau's Mexican monstrosities is something to be proud of; the subsequent sorrow of such sad shambles south of the Border always outweighs whatever fleeting glee the varied Value Menu brings. Still, Tamalehawk is just a predatory bird with impulses, and sometimes, in the face of the awaiting regret, Taco Bell just sounds like such a perfect idea.

So, OK, what do you get? The beef and potato burrito on the Value Menu is a solid option, pleasantly filling, as potatoes wrapped in flour are wont to be. The above chalupa marks the first time Tamalehawk ever splurged and ordered steak instead of the standard seasoned beef simulacrumbles. It rocketed to the top of his favorite bagged-meat shame-treats, in a league with KFC, Burger King's chicken sandwich, and the one time he and some fearless friends faced the chest-grabbing Wendy's triple stack. Even journaling these exploits gives him heartburn.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Fundamentals

Let Tamalehawk break down some basic nacho regulations. As you know, nachos are a year-round snack, with a peak season that runs from April to August, when outdoor dining is a more viable option. While there is no official governing body to enforce and review these rules, Tamalehawk likes to think that after serious soul-searching you can determine whether you are the Nachosen One.

First, there shall be no nacho-eating in a movie theater. The distracting crunch is a major infraction, punishable by chorus of shh-shing and barely-suppressed mutters of irritation. Movie-theater munching may be allowable in certain circumstances, such as when you're the only person in the theater, you own the theater, or it is an ironic showing of a Christopher Lambert movie. Next, sporting event nachos are permitted, as are pool-side nachos unless you are a lifeguard in which case gross. In all cases, the provided provisions must be observed: no ostentatious finger-licking, no cheese-to-seat contact, and no open-mouth chewing. When in Mexico, local nacho-chomping ordinances must be respected and upheld.

Friday, January 25, 2008

On The Mend

A small Tamalehawk has vivid memories of deli counters filled with stacks of cutlets, scallopinis, and chops, breaded and ready to be hastily heated and eaten. Now, since he's still recovering from chicken burnout, which is a real disease, the cutlet is among the formats which Tamalehawk is always down for. With a little practice, he'll even learn to make them without cross-contaminating every surface in his nest.

Which chicken shape is the best? Finger? Wings? Drumstick? Nugget? Cast an imaginary ballot in your head. Tally them using your favorite method. Tender is a contender. Tucked tight beneath the oafish breast, the tender is exactly that; everything the breast longs to be but fails at. If you said wing, Tamalehawk will now hear your argument. Strictly Buffalo style? He once roasted a whole chicken upside-down by accident and that seem to work well, deploying a lot of the juice to the breast where it's needed, and flipping it over near the end to crisp the skin though. And the subcutaneous butter It seems like Tamalehawk might pull through after all. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Taken For Granted

There's not a lot to say about the potato that hasn't been thoroughly purported already. Diners worldwide seek refuge in the starch quarry, staking baked potatoes and hammering hash browns like eating is illegal.

Tamalehawk always eats 40% more fries than planned, even diving beneath the discarded napkin to mindlessly masticate...oh, you get it. Potatoes are like the friend you first meet when you get to a new junior high school. You're super excited to know anybody, but you haven't had time to scope out any other potentials. Then he starts walking with you to Civics class like he's your girlfriend and finally you want to just be like "For the love of god, Josh, back off for a minute! I'll see you at lunch!" and stalk away, leaving Josh there with a tenuous grip on that stupid Trapper-Keeper he hasn't realized is cripplingly nerdy. It isn't until senior year, when Josh has to suddenly move to Akron with his step-dad for mysterious reasons, that you realize he's been through some weird stuff and it wouldn't have killed you to be a little more patient with him. Ahem. Potatoes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Digging Deep

Parsnips are raising their public profile, people. No longer relegated to the bottom tier of the root vegetable family, frequent TV and magazine appearances are turning 08 into a banner year for Pastinaca sativa, if you know what Tamalehawk is saying. Is there something better Tamalehawk could be doing than indulging his penchant for parsing parsnip popularity? It's a fair question.

This recipe came from Bon Appetit - carrots and parsnips with honey and rosemary. Cut everything and start cooking it in a pan. Add everything else. Finish when everything feels tender, like your self-esteem right after you've been crying. It should be noted that Tamalehawk doesn't really see what carrots are bringing to the table in most applications. Color, sure. Some faint sweetness. OK. He's just not really impressed. A nest of limp shavings on his salad? No thanks. Piled high where meat should be in his Szechuan? He'll pass. But here, they do OK. Also in the carrot salad at Aroy Thai on Damen, which is strangely delicious because of some magic lime marinade that you just can't get with the lunch special for some reason, which unfortunately goes in the strike column of an otherwise reputable restaurant.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mystic Offering

Look, it's no big deal, but have you ever tried a blood orange? Beheld its shimmering sanguine glory? Really marveled at its resplendent hues that are not unlike the most beautiful sunrise the world has ever woken to? You should get on that.

Like a grapefruit without the acidic assault, it really takes the classic orange flavor and lovingly embarrasses it in public with its obvious beauty. It is in the same league as the pomegranate for sheer internal fruit majesty, edging it out because it has blood in the name, which inherent makes things more desirable save for sausages, where it sadly has the opposite effect. Tamalehawk believes that aliens planted this fruit on our planet to show us something; maybe an intergalactic treaty, maybe a crystal filter for a laser that can blast meteors, or as a featured element in a recipe for planet-destroying vinaigrette.

Bad Change

Raise your hand if you remember the Lucky Charms leprechaun being so patently demonic? No one? The face that once expressed glee at the idea of sharing his chalky marshmallow cereal with us now clearly wants to devour children in their pajamas, binding them with white hot rainbows and muffling their stunned shrieks with handfuls of synthetic oat shapes. It's primarily the teeth that are morphing Tamalehawk's childhood memories into a trembling, confused blob. The maniacal mandible is made much more malevolent by the missing mentum and the ceaseless searching of those unblinking eyes.

Full Shilling update: This place first made an appearance in August, claimed by Tamalehawk to be Yakzie's cooler friend. It should be reported that on Thursdays, they have $1 domestic beers and $1 burgers. Tots are available, but you can't front on the crinkle cut fries. A near-insane offering that makes an otherwise OK bar worth the trip. Take with you a seasoned table scout; Tamalehawk fortunately had a blue heron nearby to make the necessary eye contact to secure suitable seating after a short wait.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Local Flavor

Tamalehawk has long squawked the praises of the breakfast sandwich. Homemade attempts at fabrication always, at least in part, seem a solemn solatium for the Sausage McMuffin with Egg, which, as is widely and correctly purported, is half a century of food science distilled into a perfect grenade of breakfast harmony. It can't be beaten, everyone. So please set down your skillet and hang up your apron.

A quick search of the tractate confirmed that Tamalehawk hasn't yet sung from the granite gargoyles of the looming urban vista the unparalleled praises of Los Nopales. A quick search of his soul confirmed that this was an unforgivable oversight. Based on a hot tip from an owl in the know, this Mexican food is the best he has found in his extensive quest. The tortilla soup must have been forged on high from the slow-churning spoon of an ancient Aztec deity. The skirt steak, in all forms, is a marvel of modern meat manipulation. Please frequent this popular place. Tamalehawk will hoist his Jarrito as a sign of approval.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Life, Again

In his youth, Tamalehawk could eat an entire frozen pizza in one sitting, during a commercial break, without even gesturing toward a beverage. He's mellowed out somewhat over time, and eating has become less corporal punishment and more something to be enjoyed and at least lightly regulated. As such, he finds himself with leftover slices.

What could be more delicious than rubbery, congealed frozen pizza slices the next day? The translucent peppers, the grainy sausage, a black thing you convince yourself is a mushroom. Faced with this sad reality, Tamalehawk employed one of his coveted culinary parlor tricks: force everything into quesadilla form and pan fry. It occurs to him that this is a practical re-imagining on the 7-Eleven P'Eatzza Sandwich, which is hilscarious, except his version inverts the pizza so the crust is on the outside. It sort of seemed like you wouldn't want sauce and cheese streaming down your wrists as you hurriedly eat it in near-complete secrecy. Nestled between the pieces is more cheese to act as a binding agent. Fry until crispy and flip over, repeatzza.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ceaseless Night

Tamalehawk wishes to inform you that he has no idea what this is. It is a sandwich made of mystery. Obvious tomato and likely cheese, but for the life of him, there's no deciphering the other elements. It is not long into this new year, this year that started off with so much promise, and he has found himself flying in low, lazy circles, looking at everything and nothing at once. His sandwiches have blurred together, mashed into unmemorable amalgams where once hope was delicately stacked and seared. Chickpeas? Chicken? Cauliflower? He glides through alleys and avenues for clues but the city is not kind to a lost hawk.

He considers himself lucky he bothered to pose the ghostly halves. What's next? Will he, so straying from standards, finally post the endless photos of fried eggs, whose refusal to look appetizing has rendered Tamalehawk's trash replete with deletes?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Blood

Part 2 of the two-part series Glaze Makes Life Worth a Damn, this specimen embodies the theme of the series more than Tamalehawk could have ever hoped for when he approved funding of the project. A chocolate-chip and brown sugar poundcake truly touches the sun when coated with a maple and espresso glaze. Forged by the brave wingtips of a determined Ladyhawk, it was as if somehow the concept of glaze itself wrote this recipe, an aria to its own ability to make you lick a spatula long after it's been sitting in the sink.

For Christmas, Tamalehawk welcomed a new addition to his arsenal - a nonstick pan that goes from stove to oven to broiler without flinching. Let's just say frittatas fear him. He knows it will be a sad moment when he retires his old nonstick pan to the trash. A loyal friend since sophomore year of bird college, he will quietly say a few words during the act, loud enough to be heard if you're very close by, but not so loud that you'd come from another room to investigate. He also got a new paring knife to replace the one he broke in half prying apart frozen hotdogs.