Tempura Monte Cristo with Blackberry Chili Jam

I’m still not 100% sure if putting an entire sandwich through the tempura process was a stroke of genius or madness. See I have a very strong passion for hot ham and cheese sandwiches. I touched on it years ago with my croque madame recipe, but I needed more.

Part of the inspiration for this dish comes from the famous Disney parks monte cristo with blackberry preserves. The other half of the inspo comes from my love of Japanese techniques and flavors I tend to use more when I cook for myself vs. for the blog.

As soon as I took my first bite I was taken on a journey. This sandwich has crunchy, salty, sweet, fruity, spicy, and gooey all in one. It’s one of those things that’s perfect, but also its mere existence is terrifying at the same time.

Taco Flavored Fried Brussels Sprouts and Lemon-Lime Yogurt Dip

Every so often I write a recipe that completely changes the game for me. A recipe that makes me proclaim to the void and all the gods, old and new that this will be my legacy. And let me tell you, managing to make crispy but oh so tender brussels sprouts that taste like the classic ground beef tacos you had as a kid is that moment.

And the process is simple: just drop the bad boys in the fryer for a few minutes and absolutely coat them with a super easy and basic homemade taco seasoning blend and that’s that on the sprouts. Then to top it all off I find the lemon-lime dip so fun. When you hear lemon-lime it takes you back to thinking about Gatorade, candy, fruit snacks, etc. But in all actuality it packs plenty of zing and coolness from the yogurt to cut through the spicy and semi-charred flavor of the sprouts. Every time I make this I’ll take a sample sprout to see how I did, and then I just keep going and going.

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Sambal Arrabbiata

In all fairness I owe a lot of what’s written to my brother, Sean. He’s basically my 24/7 hotline for bouncing recipe ideas off of someone, and getting editing suggestions. Sometimes he’ll even blurt out, “you know what would be cool…,” and then hit me with some nifty idea that I try and work up. This was one of those times.

He threw the idea of putting sambal in arrabiata sauce. For those of you who don’t know arrabiata is a pasta sauce that consists of tomato, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. That’s it. I tried making this with just subbing out the chili for sambal and it was fine, there just wasn’t any magic.

Then I decided to add a couple of flavor friends, fish sauce for salty funk and ginger for extra pep in my step, and the flavor profile felt full and packed with umami.

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Togarashi Pretzel Dogs

Back when I was about 20 I worked at the Lush store in Old Orchard mall right outside of Chicago. For those of you who don’t know, not only is it the mall they hang out in Mean Girls (even if the set is NOTHING like the real thing), but it’s bougie as they come. So bougie in fact they don’t even have a food court, just random nice restaurants scattered randomly throughout.

Most of these restaurants were the type of situation where you pay $15 for a burger at lunch time, and the fries and drinks are a la carte on top of it. But the main beacon of hope for my broke ass was the Auntie Ann’s located around the corner from Lush. It was literally the only thing I could afford in the whole mall to eat, and because of it I developed a weird addiction, maybe even passion for pretzel wrapped hot dogs. To this day I still get pretzel dogs almost any time I go into a mall. It’s in my code at this point.

Since a big point of cooking at home is having stuff you can’t just get anywhere, I added togarashi into the pretzel dough, and on top as well. For dunking I recommend either sweet chili sauce or Chinese hot mustard. This recipe got me 10 hot dogs and a few little pretzel nuggets. Continue reading “Togarashi Pretzel Dogs”

Bird Dogs

Picture it: Belton 2001. One day when the Marshall Primary School menu for the next week was released everyone’s attention was immediately captured by something we never heard of, bird dogs. None of the other kids knew what it was, and to add insult to injury none of the adults did either. Not even the lunch ladies!

What we got was a total game changer. Bird dogs consist of chicken fingers, bacon, honey mustard, and cheddar tucked into a hot dog bun. When I explain it to people who never lived in Anderson county, South Carolina they never seemed to get it, but honestly it’s so perfect. Somehow the hotdog bun proportions are so much more satisfying than the normal chicken sandwich and I will die on that hill.

Clearly I’m not the only one to think so because these little buns of glory became a cultural icon in my hometown. They worked their way into mom and pop restaurants, sleepovers, and I even went to a banquet where they were served!

If you ever wanted a super obscure southern dish that you can’t even find on Google that doubles as stoner food then look no further! I mean come on, look at that!

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Beer-Battered Fries

I’m going to keep it real with y’all. I’ve been all about going healthier lately and finding healthy substitutions for carb and fat heavy dishes. But when it comes to fries I say screw it. My hot take is that there is no perfect fry substitute. Sweet potato fries? Close, but they’re always kind of flacid. Zucchini chips/wedges? I’d eat it, but don’t give it to me and tell me it’s supposed to fill my fry craving. Those breaded cauliflower sticks in the freezer section? Bro, no.

Eating healthy is great and awesome, but sometimes you just need some potatoes and a pot of grease. To up the anty we’re also going to dunk these babies in a spiced beer batter for optimum crunch and flavor. Everything in moderation, right?

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