Tuesday, August 11, 2015

RECIPE: Quick Coconut and Shrimp Soup

School starts in less than two weeks here in Maryland and I can't believe how fast the summer has flown. Seems like it was only yesterday I was promising myself I was going to write/blog more but considering my last post was back on July 3rd you see how well that's going!

But with school approaching that means getting back into the swing of things, re-embracing getting up earlier, and even trying to have dinner ready at a reasonable hour so my daughter doesn't look like a zombie because dinner prep took two hours, not the 29 minutes stated in the recipe.

While I usually eschew soups in the summer, the site of some fresh local squash at the grocery store – coupled with a pound of shrimp in the freezer – got me in the mood for a cheap weeknight dinner of a coconut soup with some shrimp.

I used this recipe as my jumping off point, though I made some revisions:
  • 1 can organic lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken bullion
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsps. ground, prepared ginger
  • 2 tsps. fresh lime juice 
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves, rough chopped
  • 1 lb. extra large shrimp (21-25 count), shelled
  • 1 large yellow squash, 1 large green squash cut into noodles
  • Sriracha to taste
Combine the coconut milk, bullion (you can use chicken stock but I didn't have any handy), water, ginger and basil in a medium pot over medium high heat until boiling. Reduce to a simmer and add lime juice and fish sauce. Stir, add shrimp and simmer about five minutes until shrimp are pink and firm. Add a mix of "noodles" to the bottoms of the bowls and ladle soup and shrimp atop noodles. Add Sriracha to taste.

I originally intended to add the Sriracha to the soup while it simmered but completely spaced at the end (I'll blame the Anchor Steam Summer Wheat) so we just added a splash to each bowl "to taste". My new spiral slicer did exactly what I wanted with the squash, but I would probably add them to the soup about halfway through the shrimp cooking time so they were a touch less raw and my wife suggested more basil next time.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Battling Barbecue: A Hungry THG Tackles Some Chain 'Que

Happy Fourth of July to all our American readers and I hope you're getting ready to enjoy a long holiday weekend filled with doing patriotic stuff like grilling, wearing too much red, white & blue and overindulging the way we Americans do. Just don't blow any fingers off with illegal fireworks. My guess is this column will get lost in the holiday shuffle but it has been rattling around in my head in one form or another for months now, so I felt like it was time to do a brain dump. Enjoy!

I've often found that food – no matter the preparation or pedigree – almost always tastes best at the end of a long day when your hunger is gnawing at your gut something fierce.

For example, my Mom made a wicked simple tuna and macaroni salad and nothing, I mean NOTHING satisfied my hunger more after a night at Philly punk clubs like The Khyber Pass or Dobbs than a heaping bowl or three of that mass of elbows, tuna and mayo.

So I must admit that we were a little surprised by the polar opposite reactions we had to a couple of barbecue chains during our recent travels.

Readers of this blog are well aware of my fondness for Andy Nelson's, a Baltimore County-based barbecue restaurant just up the road from us. Pulled pork, smoked wings, slabs of ribs, creamy slaw, piquant redskin potato salad... it doesn't matter, Andy Nelson's has delivered the goods as long as we've been going there.

So when they started building a Famous Dave's across from the local State Fairgrounds I looked upon the rising edifice with a mix of guilt and optimism like I was some sort of adulterer. I'd never actually been to a Famous Dave's, but it had received grudging recommendations from friends and I'm always up for giving a new place a try.

Even a chain.

While I'm not sure how the topic of visiting Famous Dave's came up, I'm not surprised since we were in the midst of driving the 8 hours from Maryland to Virginia and back to pick up a new car and, well, we like to talk about food.

The wild card of the trip was that our daughter, then age 7, was in that "pukey car ride phase" that I guess curses a lot of kids. Car trips to and from Florida were met with quick shoulder pullovers and equally quick recoveries as she shook it off and smiled away, next destination on the horizon, puke-filled grocery bag left by the roadside. Sorry, Florida highway workers!

But with one Pukey McGee incident already "in the bag" on the ride to VA we decided that a stop along the way home from the car dealership might be a bad idea. Especially since she was riding with her mother. In the new car.

After arriving home and debating our options we ended up at Famous Dave's, outrageously hungry and somewhat optimistic that we'd made a decent – if not perfect – choice to satisfy our barbecue-loving bellies.

Barbecued Nachos at Famous Dave's
I had a feeling things were going to be a bit rocky when the platter of something called Barbecue Nachos arrived at the table (see picture). A wholly unsatisfying mix of lettuce (?!), nacho chips, chili and other "stuff" (I think there was some sort of meat buried under there), it looked like two servers carrying separate platters had crashed into one another and the resulting monstrosity landed on our table. Granted, I'm not above enjoying an abominable looking appetizer every now and then but this looked and tasted all sorts of wrong, setting a rather disappointing tone for the start of the meal.

I'm still not sure what that sauce on top was supposed to be.

And, please take into consideration that we'd eaten nothing more than a breakfast bar and bottled water in the car dealership waiting room since the wee hours of that morning. Famous Dave should have been able to slather cheese and chili on a slab of wet cardboard in order to satisfy us.

Unfortunately, we hadn't set the bar quite low enough.

I prayed the entrees would be met with a better reception, downed another beer (I recall the selection being equally forgettable as the rest of the meal... spoiler alert!) and hoped for the best. Especially since a friend, knowing my affection for chicken and familiar with my above average homemade ribs had suggested I lean toward the poultry when making my selection.

Alas, it was not to be. Chicken was fortunately forgettable but the ribs were a nightmare that will linger on my palette for years to come. (Come on, I was at a barbecue place. I had to get the rib and chicken combo.) Caked? Coated? Lacquered? I'm not even sure what the right word is to describe the application of the super sweet, cloying sauce that instantly masked any flavor the ribs may have actually had. Even my wife and daughter – card carrying lovers of sweetness – were equally turned off by what they found as our platters were picked at and pushed to the side with a collective wrinkle of the nose.

The Chicken & Rib Platter at Famous Dave's
But, as Ryan said, "at least the cornbread was good". And I'm going to trust her on that because I've blocked out most of the finer details to the point that I almost feel like I should pop in one day for lunch just to make sure it wasn't better than I remember. And judging from the almost always empty parking lot I don't think I'd have trouble grabbing a table.

Fast forward a few months and we're on our way to Florida for one of our whirlwind Sunshine State excursions. Along with everyone in Maryland, Virginia and North and South Carolina who had the same damn idea, resulting in hour upon hour of bumper-to-bumper roadways.

But we're road warriors and we're determined to make it to Georgia so that our second day of travel can be a little easier, meaning that we continue to forge ahead in the face of a sea of brake lights, hoping that each easing of the traffic pattern will mean clear sailing ahead.

It didn't.

Upon arriving at a Brunswick, GA hotel that had decent looking accommodations (and, uh, available rooms) we quickly surveyed the dining options that didn't require anybody getting behind the wheel of the car. Winn Dixie? CVS? Scary Looking Chinese Place?

Or we could literally walk through the parking lot and end up at Sonny's BBQ.

Ignoring the feral cat and its glowing red eyes we made our way to a booth, ordered some ice cold Yuengling Lager (the closest Sonny's comes to craft beer it appears), forsook appetizers due to our raging hunger and dove into plates of ribs and chicken.

"Holy crap," I thought. "This is actually pretty good."

Quick glances at the appreciative looks from my wife and daughter confirmed that despite its chain roots and slightly trashy ambience, Sonny's was a hit with our family. Ribs had a slight give when pulled from the bone, mac & cheese received a thumbs up from Ryan, and even the waitress charmed us by asking to see some ID. (I hope I left a big tip.)

And with that we retreated to our hotel rooms, slipped on some comfy pants and drifted off to sleep under the power of Sonny's BBQ, another day on the road awaiting us.

While I'd rather support an independent place like Right on Q, at least we know Sonny's delivers when weary travelers beckon. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor (aka The Hungover Gourmet) is a barbecue aficionado and the editor/publisher of The Hungover Gourmet. You can follow his exploits and eats here at the blog as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Back issues of the award-winning THG zine are available from the webstore.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

On Your Marks, Get Set... Summer!

Summer may have "officially" started on Sunday, but here at THG HQ we got a jump on things a day early by bringing life in what feels like one of many full circles my wife and I will be facing over the years.

Despite school being out and summer vacation in full swing we were rudely awakened by the sound of a 6 am alarm clock and the site of bleary-eyed parents and one excited child getting ready for those dreaded words: swim meet.

I have not attended a swim meet since I was 17 years old and coming to the end of a once moderately illustrious but by then pretty run of the mill swimming career. Unlike most of my pals who got better with age and practice, I peaked as a swimmer around the age of 9, setting a short-lived state record and winning a couple medals in championship meets. (That's me at right in my 1978 swim team photo, age 11.)

By the age of 10 I had already tired of the morning practices and teammates who thought they were bound for the Olympics, but were pretty much no better than the second or third best swimmer in our county.

I'd also discovered tennis but quickly realized that early morning swim team practices had an unexpected benefit... my buddy Ed and I had first crack at the court reservation forms that were posted in the club's guard shack. And so, swim team became an ends to a means, plus it had the added benefit of getting me out of the house early for the first six weeks or so of the summer.

In retrospect I probably should have sucked it up that one last year when I was 18 and maxed out my eligibility. But when my folks finally gave me the choice of whether or not to swim I picked "not" and chose a job in a warehouse over morning swim meets, a coach I hated and teammates I largely couldn't stand.

Good times, good times.

So you can probably understand why I wasn't jumping for joy when we drove past the swim club one night on our way to dance class (or was it a lacrosse game?) and my daughter asked, "Dad, why are those people going in to the pool?"

"Oh, tonight's sign up night for the swim and dive team," I said, unenthusiastically.

"Are they going to have another sign up night?," she piped up from the back seat.

Fear gripped my spine as I registered the enthusiasm in her voice. "Um, no... but you can sign up till the start of the season. Why? Did you, uh", insert shudder, "want to join?"

I had already figured that swim team was off the table. We'd had some discussions about it as a family over dinner prep during the previous months and I figured that my lack of enthusiasm and ramblings about "time commitment" and "a lot of hard work" had put the kibosh on the subject.

Fast forward a few weeks and you can see that I was wrong. Not only was Ry enthusiastically chowing down on a pre-race breakfast but she had already endured a week of cold and rainy after school practices that probably would have broken a weaker swimming novice. Instead, she tackled it all with the same sunny disposition and smiling face that accompanied pretty much every endeavor she faced.

It's moments like this where I wonder where the hell she gets it from.

And so, there we were, packing up snacks and drinks, reading material and work for the trek to our opening meet, forty-five minutes from home.

Did I mention I'd spent the last two days dealing with a stomach bug that sent everything I ate or drank through me in about fifteen minutes?

So there I was on a overcast Saturday morning, tentatively – and I do mean "tentatively" – sipping coffee, hoping I wouldn't need to make more pit stops than a NASCAR driver as we headed to a battle with The Stingrays.

Five hours and many glances to the heavens later – that's where I envisioned my dear, departed, long-suffering swim team parents looking down with a mix of pride and laughter – the meet was over and though the team had lost Ry won her first heat ever and completed both events without being disqualified.

Clutching her "Heat Winner" ribbon like an Olympic medal, she crashed out in the back seat as we drove home. Despite my original lack of enthusiasm at the prospect of trading in my Lax Dad hat for a Swim Taxi bumper sticker, I couldn't hide my pride in our little swimmer.

Looks like the Summer of 2015 is off to a good start. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor (aka The Hungover Gourmet) is a proud parent, pop culture junkie and food/drink lover. You can follow his exploits and eats here at the blog as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Back issues of the award-winning THG zine are available from the webstore.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stick 13 Black Pins in the Cork and Other Hangover Cures for St. Patrick's Day

Oh no, it's the dread mid-week St. Patrick's Day! You know damn well you should practice moderation and common sense since work / school / responsibilities beckon early tomorrow morning. 

But, well, we all know that's never been your style. 

Since you know damn well you're going to drink too much tonight – and probably again this weekend at some combination St. Patrick's Day / Bracket Buster NCAA gathering – we have collected some of the best hangover cures from the weird to the classic for our faithful readers. 

Have a cure of your own that you'd like to submit? Feel free to submit it in the comments below.

My Own Cure
The Hungover Gourmet has, unfortunately, had plenty of experience with hangover cures through the years. I can attest to the fact that things like Alka-Seltzer make me throw up, so I steer clear of them. However, after much experimentation I've found this reliable regimen: before going to bed drink a large glass of water and take four extra strength ibuprofen. Don't take acetaminophen as this has been known to cause health problems over the long term. When you get up, repeat the process and then eat breakfast. I like eggs, sausage or pork roll, and an English muffin. Keep your caffeine consumption down as it will only rob your body of hydration. Have some juice. Relax. 

PS: I've also discovered something else that also works... don't drink so much!

This May Not Work with Beer Cans
If you're up for a funkier, flashier approach, Haitian voodoo practitioners recommend sticking 13 black pins into the cork of the bottle.

Hair of the Dog
We've all heard this one and sometimes it just seems like a desperate excuse to get the party revved up again. But there is some actual science at work here. The ethanol in the booze makes your head stop hurting, which is caused by the methanol in the booze. So, it's really just a vicious circle.

The Only Exercise You Ever Get is the Shakes
Know what causes Delirium Tremors? Insufficient Vitamin B1 or Thiamine. Beans, rice, grains, cereals, peas and other fiber-filled goodies are loaded with B1 and will help settle down the shakes. This might be the perfect time to try our Hangover Chili. You can also go out an pick up some B1 tablets and while you're there grab some B2 (for your bloodshot eyes) and B12 (which'll get the blood rushing through your veins again).

Get Juiced Up
"Getting juiced" the morning after takes on a whole new connotation. Juices contain water which helps rehydrate your body and citrus juices like orange, pineapple, grapefruit, etc. are loaded with natural sugars that help your body break down any alcohol that might be in there.

You Say Tomato...
Tomatoes are another great hangover helper, and it comes in many convenient forms. Have a Bloody Mary or a Bullshot (Campbell's Condensed Beef Consome Soup, tomato juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco, salt, pepper, lemon). Also, juices like V8 or plain ol' tomato juice are loaded with the vitamins and nutrients your body is sorely lacking after a night of well, you know.

A Ride in the Saddle
Sex, or any physical exertion, will get the blood pumping and help your body sweat out the alcohol, which is poisoning your system. Plus, it will help you rest afterwards until it's time to get up and do it all again!!

OTC Cures
We polled members of our crack staff and they suggested such readily available all-in-one over-the-counter cures as Dramamine, Pedialite popsicles (rehydrate without the ghastly taste of actual Pedialite), and Excedrin Migraine (complete with caffeine, a pain reliever and an anti-nausea med).

Listen to those Old Wives
I know we've all heard it a million times: "Before before liquore, never felt sicker." Well, this one happens to be true. The carbonation in beer – or champagne for that matter – speeds up the body's ability to absorb alcohol. This isn't exactly a cure, but more of a prevent defense to keep in mind. If you start with beer or champagne, stick with beer or champagne. You'll thank me later. But be mindful of that ABV, especially if (like me) you enjoy a craft beer or seven.

Stay Clear of the Brown Stuff
Want to know what drinks (in excess) will provide the easiest hangover? Think clear my friends. A cocktail with plenty of ice (think vodka and soda or gin and tonic) will give you a nice buzz without delivering a crippling hangover the next morning. Beer (especially lite beer) will hurt you in the long run, but won't be as bad as long as you remember to rehydrate before passing out. Once you get into brown liquors and red wines, you're on your own. Scotch, brandy, rum, bourbon, red wine and port (a fortified wine which is as scary as it sounds) will all deliver a nasty hangover that'll ruin your day... or days in some cases. But, as the great Ron Swanson once said, "clear alcohols are for rich women on diets" so just don't let Ron or Duke Snider see you sipping that vodka gimlet.

What's the Deal with Hangover Preventers?
We've all seen the ads and checked out the sites. Some work by absorbing the elements in alcohol that cause hangovers while others provide your body with vitamins and nutrients that will allegedly ward off the effects of a hangover. And there are plenty of other tablets, pills and powders that taken during your night of debauchery will supposedly help you wake up feeling refreshed and happy. The only drawback I see with these items is that many of them require you to take them while you drink. Right. While drinking I've forgotten: my name, who I was dating, that hard liquor makes me speak in tongues, that I don't smoke, where I left my keys, where I live, who my friends are and many, many more things. (Oddly enough, liquor has also made me remember old girlfriends' phone numbers at 4 AM, but that's another story, another part of the brain.) I don't know about you, but the odds of me remembering to take some stupid pill or tablet with every drink is, um, unlikely.


Disclaimer: The Hungover Gourmet is not a doctor and has only watched people play them on TV. Please drink responsibly and whatever you do, don't drink and drive, people!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wilmington Blue Rocks Team with Krispy Kreme for Extreme Ballpark Grub

I'm not a huge baseball fan but I do enjoy taking in a half dozen games or so during the season.

The ballparks have become better, teams try and interact with the fans more, and the food has certainly been taken up a notch – or twenty – since the days of eating soggy hot dogs and stale popcorn at Vet Stadium.

And give credit to the minor league teams that take the ballpark grub to another level in their attempts to pry fans away from the MLB stadiums nearby.

The Wilmington Blue Rocks – an affiliate of World Series runners-up the Kansas City Royals – have teamed up with Krispy Kreme to offer a heart-stopping concoction sure to get your heart racing and make your fingers a sticky mess.

The as-yet-unnamed "hot dog" (sure, let's call it that) features a dog, bacon and raspberry jelly stuffed inside a glazed Krispy Kreme donut.

You can even help name the dog by entering a contest at the team's website. The winner will receive tickets to opening night, the opportunity to throw out the first pitch, a stadium gift card and bragging rights forever thanks to a plaque commemorating the naming.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Meet the Author of MINT JULEPS WITH TEDDY ROOSEVELT

A few weeks ago I mentioned the excellent book Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking by Mark Will-Weber. This Friday, March 6 @ 12 Noon in DC, the author will help the National Archives launch its new exhibit, “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History,” with an account of how alcohol figured in memorable moments of our country’s history. A book signing will follow the program.

And even if you can't make the event the Archives will be streaming the event live on their YouTube channel.

To technology, cheers!

Find more information on Friday's event here.

For more information on the upcoming Spirited Republic exhibit go here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy Uncle Jumbo Day!

Happy Presidents Day!

If you're looking for a fun, historical read about drinking, check out MINT JULEPS WITH TEDDY ROOSEVELT: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF PRESIDENTIAL DRINKING by Mark Will-Weber.

It's the perfect reading recommendation for the day, a fun, easily digestible look at the drinking history of the men who have been Commander in Chief (as well as some of the First Ladies).

I'm about halfway through but I think I'd have liked to hang with Grover Cleveland aka "Uncle Jumbo". He was a fan of chops, sausage, cheese, beer and cigars and once had a secret operation on a boat for fear of news of his health having an adverse affect on an already creaky economy.

Of him, Twain once wrote, "Cleveland drunk is a more valuable asset to this country than the whole batch of the rest of our public men sober... I wish we had another of this sort."

MINT JULEPS WITH TEDDY ROOSEVELT: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF PRESIDENTIAL DRINKING is available from Amazon.