Deep-fried candy, but in a good way.
There are times I want to say that I am so talented and prolific, all I need is a pen and paper and I can create art that is moving, entertaining and insightful. Then I remember that the name of my particular muse is χαζή τύχηm, which is Greek for “dumb luck”, and my delusions of grandeur just fly right out the window. Case in point: this is another recipe idea I got from my inability to type. While chatting online with a friend while we were talking about Chinese food, I meant to type “eggrolls” but instead typed “eggrolos”.
And thus, a new creation was born.
For those of you who don’t know about Rolos (meaning that your childhood was a loveless pit of despair and lamentation), they are a simple candy of milk-chocolate coated caramels. They were sweet, every so chewy, and came wrapped in gold-colored foil, encased in a paper tube.
Deep-fried Rolos are not a new invention (as people who attended the 2011 Arkansas State Fair can attest to), but to put it in the form of an eggroll helps to subtract the American tradition of frying every food beyond recognition, and add a little international flare to the dish. And because a mentor of mine once said, “Nic, the ONE time you DON’T half-ass a job is when you’re just fucking around”, I couldn’t simply take Rolos, wrap them in eggroll wrappers, and then cook the suckers. No, I had to make the caramel and the chocolate myself, and then get to frying.
This dish was daunting and intimidating once all the ingredients were laid out before me. But because you can never learn to fly without jumping off of a cliff, there’s no other option but to dive in head first and hope you sprout wings before you fall to your death.
- 14 ½ oz. Sugar
- ½ cup of Water
- ½ cup Light Corn Syrup
- ¼ tsp. of Cream of Tartar
- 1 ¾ cups of Heavy Cream (room temperature)
- 2 tsp. of Soy Sauce
- 10 tbsp. of Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
- 1 tsp. Sea Salt
- 8 oz. of Milk Chocolate Morsels
- Vegetable Oil
- Eggroll Wrappers (So I didn’t make everything from scratch; I’m an artist, not Chef Chu from Eat Drink Man Woman.)
- Confectioners Sugar
This recipe scared me half to death. Melting sugar is always very scary to me as it is the culinary version of napalm, and things can go from okay to horrible in a matter of moments. As a cook, I’m a guy who flies by the seat of his pants most of the time, not knowing what the final dish is going to be until I put it on my plate and eat it. Candy is more of an exact science: keep the mixture at 233° for 32.12289984 minutes, and then turn the heat up to 450° for 4 seconds, and then add salt, then take it out, then add hard water, then document the results and publish them in an accredited scientific journal. All of these strict guidelines can be frightening to a new candy-cooker, but there is also comfort in them as you don’t have to think about anything. Just follow the directions to the letter, and you’ll be okay.
- The recipe I used for the caramels was Alton Brown’s (my cooking idol), and can be found here. I’m not going to go through the exacts of the recipe because I didn’t get it quite right the few times I’ve tried it. The first time I attempted it, the candy came out more like brittle, which would not be a pleasant experience when biting into a hot fried tube of sugar. The second time, I ended up with something that was the consistency of the caramel that is swirled into the ice cream cartons that you buy at the grocery store, which works better with the EggRolo recipe, but isn’t what the recipes says it should be. I’ll keep trying to perfect it in the future but I started to get diabetes from eating all the failed efforts, so I just went with the swirly-saucy caramel.
- Make a ganache for the chocolate portion. Ganache is an icing or glaze that is made with chocolate and cream. Heat ¾ cup of heavy cream. Put your chocolate in a bowl. When the cream is ready, pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for two minutes. Stir the chocolate and cream until fully mixed, and then add 2 tbsp. of butter. Mix until fully incorporated and then set aside to cool.
- I used dark chocolate to make my ganache because I prefer it, but a milk chocolate ganache would be truer to the Rolo concept, as well as taste more like it. Also, you run the risk of the dark chocolate overpowering the caramel.
- Prepare a eggrolo-rolling station, which should include your caramel, your chocolate ganache, eggroll wrappers, and a small bowl of cold water to dip you fingers in.
- The size of your eggrolos depends on your personal preference. I tried both traditional eggroll wrappers and then smaller potsticker wrappers as well. The eggroll wrappers will create a normal looking eggroll, which would be good for a dessert in a coursed-meal. The smaller wrappers created tiny eggrolos about an inch in length, which would be ideal for snack food for kids or in a big bowl at a party.
- The key to filling eggrolls (or any stuffed pastry/pasta) is to use a lot less than you feel you should. Start by putting down a small, thin layer of ganache –
- - and then a thicker portion of caramel –
- Then you flip the corner over once then fold in the sides. At this point, you want to wet your fingers and rub the edges of the wrappers. This will make sure that you get a full seal on your eggrolos so that nothing seeps out when you start frying. Gently press out all air pockets, and finish rolling the eggrolo, making sure to seal every edge. Set on a plate.
- Once you’ve prepped the amount of eggrolos you want (I only did four big eggrolos and four little rolos, but I think this recipe could yield 64 eggrolos, easily), refrigerate the eggrolos for at least an hour.
- The point of chilling the rolos for so long before cooking is to make sure that the intense heat of frying melts the inner ingredients rather than burning them.
- Fill a pot with the oil and start to heat to 350° (get yourself one of them fancy candy thermometers).
- Once your eggrolos are chilled and your oil is ready, put two to four eggrolos in the oil (depending on the size of your pot and the size of your eggrolos). Since we don’t need to worry about the contents of the eggrolos cooking, once they turn a golden brown, take the eggrolos out and set them to drain.
- You will want to serve these pretty quickly, so that the outside is really crispy and the inside all melty and gooey. If you wait too long, the crunch will be gone and the effect ruined.
- Dust with confectioners sugar, and then serve.
The final product came out pretty much like I expected, but the reality of it had much more impact than I had imagined; hot, crispy and crunchy lightness on the outside; warm, gooey and sweet decadence on the inside. Serve with some small scoops of vanilla ice cream, or if you are brave, try dipping them into soy sauce which will add some saltiness to the party, making the flavors more complex. Either way, your diners are in for a pleasant surprise.
Sweet. Messy. Totally fun.
It’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday today! To celebrate, I have created a drink to honor his memory. Happy Birthday Abe!
Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. Tequila doesn’t really symbolize our 16th president. But it does symbolize Mexico (to an extent), and Linocln was a friend of Mexico: Abe opposed the Mexican-American War, and in return Mexican president Juárez refused aid to the confederates (and actually jailed rebel soldiers that went to him to ask for help). So this drink more symbolizes our continuing friendship with our neighbor to the south.
Okay, I’m pulling that out of my butt, too. This drink doesn’t have anything to do with friendship, unless you’re talking about my relationship with liquor, in which case, it’s not friendship, but eternal love. However, today is Lincoln’s birthday, so DRINK UP!
La Bomba Del Amanecer
- Cerveza (Mexican Beer)
- Orange Juice
The real reason I made this drink is because I wanted to create a ‘bomb’ drink, which is a drink in which you drop a shot of liquor into a beer, and I wanted it to involve tequila. Now there is already a Mexican Car Bomb out there (it’s a shot of tequila dropped into a cerveza), so I needed to bump it up a notch.
- Fill a glass ½ – ¾ way with a cerveza of your choosing.
- Fill one shot glass with tequila.
- Fill another shot glass ¾ with orange juice, and then pour grenadine slowly down the side so it pools on the bottom of the glass.
- At the same time, drop each shot glass into the cerveza, with the tequila going in first.
- Swirl the glass once.
- Chug. Chug it! Don’t be a wuss; this is a bomb, not a fine wine! CHUG-A LUG IT!
This is essentially a mash-up of a Mexican Car Bomb and a Tequila Sunrise, hence the name, which my Spanish speaking friends assure me means Sunrise Bomb (although I don’t really know; I can barely speak English). I wasn’t quite sure how this mix would turn out, but I am glad to say that it surpassed all of my hopes. Instead of mixing all together, the drink tastes more like it was layered. If I can get poetic here for a moment (and like you can do anything to stop me), it’s like watching an actual sunrise: the night of Cerveza first, then the agave flavor of the tequila starts to shine, which then is coupled with the cresting sun of orange juice, and then the pure sweetness of the grenadine of the full sun at the very end. It’s incredibly tasty, a lot of fun, and can get you pretty drunk if you’re not careful. In other words, it’s the perfect drink for a hot summer day.
Phil and Rosco are in the car. They are drunk, but somehow driving safely.
PHIL: Is there any bar in this town that we’re not banned from? This is a bustling city; there should be new ones popping up all over the place.
ROSCO: I know. We have to wait until the school year ends.
ROSCO: Think about it – a bunch of college kids, just graduated, think they’re all the shit and looking to start their own bar because they know how to run it better.
PHIL: (chuckles) Because they’re tired of paying high prices for watered drinks on club night. Idiots.
ROSCO: Exactly. Fools don’t know that Tuesday is the day to go drinking.
PHIL: Why do I feel like we’re in a Quentin Tarantino film?
ROSCO: (pointing) Ooooo! Let’s get Little Ceasar’s!
FIVE MINUTES LATER
Phil and Rosco are now eating a pizza and breadsticks. Rosco is dipping breadsticks in a tiny plastic cup of marinara sauce and having difficulty because the car is bumping around.
ROSCO: I still don’t get it.
PHIL: Two guys in a car talking about food. Straight out of Pulp Fiction.
Rosco spills marinara on his shirt.
ROSCO: Dammit, they need to get rid of these little plastic cups. They need to give us some professional shit.
ROSCO: You know, those little ceramic dishes that you always see on the Food Network filled with onion soup or something.
PHIL: You mean bowls?
ROSCO: No, not bowls. They have a more -
PHIL: Not bowls?
ROSCO: No! Not bowls. They have a more exact name, a more specific name.
PHIL: A scientific name for a bowl?
ROSCO: Why are you dumber than me when you’re drunk?
PHIL: Shhhhh! Don’t say that while I’m driving, you’ll jinx us.
ROSCO: Oh please, like a cop is going to pull us over in this part of town.
A police car flashes its lights and whoops its siren. Phil pulls the car over, and looks at Rosco.
PHIL: You son of a bitch.
One hour later. Phil and Rosco are in jail, being kept in separate cells. Each of their arms are hanging out of the bars. Pause.
Rosco’s clenches one of his hands in a triumphant fist.
Sweet. Tart. Insane.
Most of my culinary ideas come upon me while telling bad jokes during conversations with my friends and family. In this case, I was chatting online with my friend Joe when this happened:
ME: . . . which is why I mentioned the wodka concoction . . . whoops, I meant vodka. What is wodka? . . . wait -
JOE: It’s the Russian pronunciation.
ME: – is wodka vodka made by Willy Wonka? GASP! I have to make that a drink now.
You see, I don’t sort out my ideas into “Feasible” and “Daydream” categories when they pop into my head; instead I take it as a challenge, a sort of double-dog dare to myself to figure out how to make it a reality. That’s almost the point of this whole blog – to bring to life the crazy, inane shit that passes through my brain while I’m talking to friends, or drinking, or riding my bike, or reading a book, or all of the above. With a few more hits of inspiration while discussing the topic with others, I came up with the following, uber-Wonka-themed cocktail.
So take a deep breath, click this link, and let’s get this wacky, slightly terrifying boat ride under way.
Snozzberry Wodka Martini with Veruca Salt
- Vermouth (White)
- Cranberry Juice (100% Juice, No Sugar)
- Nerds (no particular flavor needed)
- Sweet Tarts
- Kosher Salt
- Pour the Nerds candy into the vodka. Depending on the size of your bottle of vodka, you may have to pour more in, but you will need far less than what you would imagine. Nerds are pretty strong and it doesn’t take much to flavor the vodka. You can also use more or less depending on how sweet you like your cocktails. For me and the little bottle of vodka I had (which looks to be just under two cups), about 4-5 tablespoons was just right.
- Shake the bottle every 5-10 minutes. You’ll see the Nerds start to dissolve pretty quickly. If you’re smart, you’ll choose one color of Nerds so the resulting Wodka will be a nice opaque pink or purple or whatever. If you’re more like me, you’ll just pour in all different kinds so that the Wodka comes out looking like a bucket of water you’ve just used to wash your car.
That icky color will be dashed away once we add the juice, so don’t worry. After about an hour or so, most of the Nerds will be completely incorporated. There will always be little left over, but it’s nothing to fret over.
Not much to this; just juice and lime. It does matter that there is no sugar in the cranberry juice. The Wodka is incredibly sweet and the in-your-face tartness of the cranberry and lime is a perfect balance. You can wait until the drink is entirely made to squeeze in the lime, or you can do it beforehand.
Much like a margarita, I decided to rim the martini glass to help add another “Wonka” element to the drink. The mixture consists of crushed Sweet Tarts (because it is a Wonka candy), Kosher Salt or rock salt (because the character’s name is Veruca Salt), and finely ground black pepper because . . .
The blend should be about ⅝’s candy, ¼ salt and ⅛ pepper. You want mostly sweet, a little salty, and just a hint of pep.
- Tip: Don’t crush the candy into a powder; leave it a little chunky.
All righty, time for the mixing!
- Make a martini using Wodka and Vermouth. If you don’t know how to make a martini, then you have forgotten the face of your father and hence will be sent westward, shamed and dishonored. (You want to take two parts Wodka, a ½ part vermouth, put it into a mixer with ice and combine. And please, STIR IT, DON’T SHAKE IT. James Bond is wrong and a coward.)
- Take two small plates and fill one with water and the other with our Veruca Salt. Take a chilled glass and dip the rim in the water, and then in the Veruca Salt, making sure to swirl it around so the entire rim is covered.
- Fill a ⅓ of the martini glass with cranberry juice.
- Fill the rest of the glass with the Wodka martini.
- Take half a lime and squeeze the juice into the drink.
- Drop in an Everlasting Gobstopper and serve.
Just forewarning you, this drink is incredibly sweet. I’m alright with that since it’s based off of a madman who makes candy, but it can be overpowering if you’re not prepared. If you want to knock off some of the sweetness, forgo the gobstopper at the end. It’s a nice little touch, but it adds a lot of sugar. Otherwise, the drink tastes like something you’d get in a candy store. Sweet because of all the candy, very tart because of the juice and lime, and different because of all that Veruca Salt foolishness. It’ll make you feel like a kid again. I will say, however, that this is more of a novelty drink; you’ll make it once to try it out and have fun, but you wouldn’t want to drink it for an entire party. For that, screw the vermouth, the Veruca Salt and the extra candy and just go with the Wodka, juice and lime. It may not be as interesting as the martini, but it’s still a perfect balance of sweet and sour.
A new recipe embodying New Orleans for the new year.
NEW CAMERA OBTAINED! No more blurry, undefined blobs of color! No more apologizing, or insisting that, yes, that really is mac n’ cheese instead of a bowl of orange paint! Finally, the pictures of my recipes will match the quality of my writing (at least that’s what I tell myself). I wish I could say I was able to buy the new camera because of money I made via this blog, or an acting gig, or some other creative endeavor; in truth, I just strong-armed my grandmother in spending a couple of hundred dollars on one by saying I never get presents anymore.
But enough of my manipulation of family members; let’s get to the chow. Being creole (along with filipino, polish, austrian, german and native american – I might even be russian; once you reach four different ethnicities, the goal is to claim as many as you can ), gumbo always marked a special occasion in my household. For those of you who don’t know what gumbo is and are therefore leading sad, empty lives, it’s a kind of hefty, spicy soup from Louisiana that is served over rice. There is no one standard recipe, but it usually includes fried chicken, andouille sausage, okra and shrimp. When I started cooking for myself like a big boy, gumbo was on the top of my “Learn How To Make This” list, and now it’s all my family wants me to make.
But I don’t want to tell you how to make gumbo; you can get recipes all over the internet, and that’s just not hardcore enough. After some heavy pondering (and heavy drinking, let’s not deny it) I came up with this:
Not a hot dog. Not a chili-dog. Not a chili-cheese dog. A GUMBO dog. And not just any hot dog, but a hot link.
Now sit down and get ready for the stupidly awesome to fill your mouth.
Jumbo Gumbo Dog
- 1-2 lbs of Chicken Meat
- Corn Starch
- Powdered Garlic
- Cayenne Pepper
- Black Pepper
- Vegetable Oil
- 1 Cup of Onion (Chopped)
- 1 Cup of Green Pepper (Chopped)
- ¾ Cup of Celery (Chopped)
- 2-3 Jalapenos (Chopped or Sliced)
- Tsp Garlic (Minced)
- 1 lbs of Andouille Sausage (Cubed or Sliced)
- 7 Cups of Chicken Stock
- Rice (Jasmine, if possible)
- Hot Link (at least one)
- French Bread or Baguette
This recipe comes in two stages: 1) – Make Gumbo; and 2) Pour Gumbo Over Hotlink. For the first stage, I’m going to refer you to the recipe that I learned from – Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo – as it’s basically what I still use today. As far as the second stage, there’s not much to go into:
- Heat the hot link in the manner you see fit
- Place hot link in french bread/baguette
- Mix gumbo with cooked rice
- Pour gumbo and rice on hot link
- Sprinkle with some diced green onions
- Serve, along with a few choices of hot sauce
Look, I never said it was going to be the most complex recipe in the world (although if you think making gumbo is a walk in the park, you’re crazy), nor did I say it was 100% all my recipe. But I think I get a couple of points for being the first to come up with the idea, at least to my knowledge and what time I spent looking for it on the internet. I will talk about some things that I do differently from Chef Paul, however.
- You can skip all the product placement; any andouille sausage (yes, it MUST be andouille) will do. And while Chef Paul’s seasoning blends are okay, you can do just as well with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder when seasoning the chicken.
- For the fried chicken, I just used breast fillets cut into strips. It’s easier to cut up into the gumbo, and you don’t have as much to worry about as you do with chicken that still has the skin and bones. This does mean that the breading on the finished chicken is more chalky instead of crispy since it’s just flour, but because it’s going in a soup it doesn’t matter.
- I dredge the chicken twice; once in the flour mixture, and then I add some cornstarch to the mixture and dredge a second time right before I fry it. The cornstarch is finer than flour and can get into all the nooks and crannies that flour sometimes misses. And don’t worry; having cornstarch in there won’t hurt your roux.
- Speaking of roux – you don’t have to do it the way Chef Paul instructs. There are slower and safer methods to making roux that will ensure you get it just right without the risk of ruining it; just be prepared for those methods to take much longer. I would give y’all more details on those methods, but I’ve only ever done it Chef Paul’s way because I’m not a pussy.
- I added jalapenos to the chopped vegetables for some more heat. If you don’t want it too hot, you can always seed and core the peppers before adding them. If you want even less heat, you don’t have to add them at all. If you want a completely mild gumbo that isn’t hot at all, then you might as well just eat an american cheese, miracle whip and wonderbread sandwich for all the living that you’re doing.
- So the fuck what if I used a bag of microwaved rice?! I was drinking and didn’t want to worry about getting the timing of everything just right. Leave me alone.
- It’ll be hard to wait, but I would suggest cooking the gumbo at least a day ahead of actually making the gumbo dogs. Part of the magic of gumbo is that it’s fantastic when fresh, but mind-blowing when it has sat for a day or two. The longer all of the ingredients (chicken, sausage, soup, etc.) sit with each other, the deeper and richer the flavor becomes. Of course, if you have added shrimp, crab or other seafood to your gumbo, you may not want to let it sit around.
Shout out to my friend and fellow-blogger Zack Keller for being my co-chef and photographer while I held the gumbo dog. I have many more recipes of both food and drink planned, and each will come with HD pictures shot by my brand new camera! Hell, I may even go back and remake some of my old recipes just to get you guys better shots…after I finish cleaning up my kitchen since making gumbo is messy work. And then after I have a drink. And then another. You know, let’s just say it’d be a nice idea.
Dedicated to my grandparents Dorothy and Tony Frantela