Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Watervliet Wonder Bakery Thriftshop. Wonderous Breaderous.

I love this picture. The Wonder brand sign against the backdrop of a cemetery, it is somehow fitting. As if the sign is lording over its victims. Multitudes of people, arteries clogged with Twinkie filling, are shaking their bony fists from their graves at the sign's primary colored cheeriness. I can hear their ghostly muttering.

This particular Watervliet Wonder Bakery Thriftshop is located on the Troy Schenectady Road. Me and the wife were tooling around when we passed the establishment and we had to make a stop and sightsee.

I spied Captain Cupcake and Twinkie the Kid through the plate glass.

The store is frankly, surreal.

It is colors, oh so many colors. I can taste them.

In Soviet Watervliet, Wonder Bread eats you! I don't really know what to say about this place. Me and the wife and child wandered around this wonderland of artificial flavors, corn syrup, and processed wheat with bemused horror. I almost felt the need to pick up me wee 'un and hold her close. I have spoken about my survivalist tendencies before, but for some reason, that tickle at the base of my spine which urges me to grab the guns, ammunition, and knowledge of old timey methods of food preservation and head for the hills kicked in in this place. The wrongness of what we have done to ourselves by industrializing food production made the blood throb in my temples. Images of wavering fields of genetically modified corn and wheat under clear blue skies shot through my head. Miserable herds of zombie cows in Texas danced across my brain.

I don't often wax political or waste much effort on food activism, but one thing kept occurring to me. The stuff peddled at this location is seriously, shockingly cheap. If my nose was against the grindstone and I had hungry children to feed, would I be able to resist shopping here? If I was not brought up in a pseudo-foody household with hundreds of cookbooks would I even have the knowledge or inclination not to accept Wonder/Hostess products as normal? Fresh meat and produce is expensive, and preparation is time consuming and requires knowledge and equipment. I am not bringing up any new concepts here, but it is not often that the high fallutin' food philosophy that my economic status allows me to maintain is shaken to its core. So much for a nice Sunday drive through the river towns, I was left thoroughly depressed after leaving this joint.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Brat Tub. Mr. Dave at His Wurst.

So, I have been seeing recipes for Brat Tubs, or Brat Hot Tubs, for quite a while. Basically, it seems that these recipes started as a way to kind of keep the Bratwursts in a "holding tank" of poaching liquid on the grill. When someone was ready for a brat you would fish one out and finish it off over the charcoal. At its simplest the Brat Tub recipe calls for beer and onions, that is pretty much it. The beer and onions are discarded after use which seems to me to be kind of a waste of some flavorful liquid. I came across a recipe that involved reducing the beer with some other additions into a gloopy onion based condiment.

I started with six superbly high quality bratwursts from Rolf's Pork Store on Lexington in Albany (please click link to read about how I adore this porky oasis in the ghetto).

Here is further Wurst porn.

These guys are going to get poached in some beer. In the champagne of beers.

That is right folks, Miller High Life. The good stuff. Two should do. I am starting this recipe off on my stove top, not on the grill, as I was going to be bringing it over to a friends house and did not want to be messing about too much there.

My tip for poaching fresh wurst is to put them into the liquid when it is cold and slowly bring them up to temperature, never boiling. The barest possible simmer is best, more of a bath than a boil. If you were to throw them straight into a rolling boil you would have a mess of burst skins. About 20 minutes should do in 190 degree water, you want the brats to be around 150-160 internally.

When the brats are done take them out and reserve. Throw 3-4 onions cut into rings into the beers. Also, throw in a wad of butter, 1/2 cup of your favorite ketchup, 1/4 cup mustard of choice, and as much of your favorite hot sauce as you like. I used about a tablespoon of my favorite, the indomitable Tiger Sauce. This is a sweet/hot sauce with a tamarind flavor to it.

Reduce everything for about 30-40 minutes. It should be thick and gloopy and be kind of gross looking. Don't worry, it tastes awesome.

As always, I got distracted at the actual barbecue and forgot to take any pictures of the grilling process. You pretty much just want to grill the poached bratwursts until good and brown and then dunk them back in the simmering sauce for a while. Serve each brat on a crusty roll with plenty of the onions and sauce. I also grilled up a few Anaheim peppers for a little extra spice and flavor. I did manage to get a shot of a half eaten end product.

People seemed to enjoy this concoction, I think I could jazz it up a little bit next time and end up with something a little more refined. The onions needed a little something, I think an acid of some type would have been good in there. A little vinegar or some pickled jalapenos might have been the way to go. But I really like the whole concept of the Brat Tub, it is kind of fun. Plus, those Rolf's Bratwursts are so good I like any excuse to go get a few.

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Mr. Dave Is No Longer a Big Mac Virgin

It occurred to me the other day that I have never in my life eaten a McDonald's Big Mac. I just found it sort of strange that something as iconic as the Big Mac has escaped my ravenous jaws. I guess as a child (unfortuneatly, this is when the lion's share of my fast food consumption occurred) I had problems with pickles, lettuce, and anything even vaguely resembling mayonnaise. These finicky child's phobias kept me on a pretty standard regimen of McNuggets. So yesterday I called up goodwife Mrs. Dave and said, "Honey, grab me up a Big Mac on your way home." Saying this made me feel a little dirty. A short while later my prize arrived.

I ain't gonna' lie. It looked kind of good. I was surprised at the height of the thing and a tart aroma of pickles and beef assaulted my nostrils. Upon picking up the Mac, I was surprised at how weightless it felt. The visual size seemed to imply a weightier burger. I took an absolutely giant bite, chewed, and ruminated. The first thing that struck me was how salty it was. I am afraid to look at the nutritional information on the Big Mac, but I am sure there is some ungodly amount of sodium in the thing. The other dominate flavor I tasted was the pickles, which is good, I like pickles. I only got a hint of the Thousand Island dressing-esque flavor of the Big Mac sauce. The beef was almost a non factor in my estimation. It was kind of like eating a giant, bready, pickle, cheese and lettuce sandwich.

For all the fuss our American culture makes about the storied Big Mac, I had expected some sort of near religious experience (not really, I kind of figured it would suck). But really, I would take a standard MacDonald's cheeseburger over the Mac. I find their classic cheeseburger to be well balanced, with a perfect meat to bun to pickles to onions to ketchup to mustard (included in my neck of the woods) ratio. It is kind of like meat candy, a treat to be savored on occasion. I am happy that now I don't have to be curious anymore and am fairly confident that I won't suffer from any future Big Mac attacks.

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