Friday, July 31

Birthday Breakfast at Shea's

Welp, I've moved. I'm back to being a Jersey boy, and if it's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that the best way to get to know new territory is to eat your way through it. Admittedly, South Jersey is no Brooklyn - there's a Carraba's, there's a Bonefish Grill. There's an Olive Garden and a Chili's. But for every chain, if you look hard enough, there's a little mom and pop joint lurking in the strip mall, itching to get a jump on your tastebuds.

Shea's is one of those places - a classic family restaurant, only open for breakfast and lunch, with a nice, simple menu to work from. Limitless coffee, tacky carpet, big honkin' muffins behind the register... the ordinary stops there. They take some of the simplest food out there - sandwiches, pancakes, eggs benedict - and knock 'em out of the park.

It was Courtney's birthday yesterday, and, like all good things in life, we celebrated with food. I, for one, ordered the Orleans Benedict: a pair of toasted English muffins topped with poached eggs, then covered in lump crabmeat, shrimp, and chopped tomatoes and scallions.

Look at that egg. It's perfectly poached. And don't get me started on their homemade Hollandaise. You know how you usually get some sort of gloppy, sad-looking yellow gunk with the consistency of Cracker Barrel sausage-semen gravy. Here, it's at perfect nappe - not nauseatingly thick, but certainly not runny. And buttery and rich without tasting like chazz. For those of you that don't know what chazz is, well. Count yourself lucky.

Of course, since it was Courtney's birthday, the Orleans Benedict wasn't quite decadent enough. Instead, she got the "Five Star Benedict", which is described as the Orleans Benedict with...

Oh yeah. That's a round of filet mignon under that poached egg. There's another one in there, too, buried underneath that heaping pile of delicious seafood.

Now, you'd think that after those two plates, especially with that stack of deliciously spicy homefries, we'd pack it up and call it a day. But birthdays only come around once a year, so we went with Lou (the owner)'s suggestion for dessert:

The cannoli pancake. Chocolate chips in, chocolate chips out, cannoli filling in little splorks around the center, and, of course, fresh whipped cream. Now, I was almost blind from the amount of seafood and egg yolk in my belly, but even with the sheer stuffedness of the two of us..

...that poor pancake didn't stand a chance.

Keep in mind that this meal was immediately followed by three hours on the couch, groaning softly to ourselves, followed by an hour and a half nap. And it was totally worth it.

Home made spaghetti, part 2 of 3

In our last episode, we made a pasta drying rack. Those who own a pasta drying rack must dry pasta, and those who must dry pasta must make pasta. I picked up the $70 food grinder/pasta maker combo for my Kitchenaid stand mixer. Totally worth it. It's like 7 tools in one, more if you get some of the attachments. So I slapped on the thick spaghetti plate, made some pasta according to the instruction booklet, and fired up the pasta goodness.

First off -- if your recipe doesn't call for salt, add some. I used Mighty Mario Batali's recipe, and it came out... bland. Yeah, I salted the hell out of the water, but it didn't save it. I don't know why.

Follow your instruction booklet. It's there for a reason. I swear I had one of these when I was a kid, except you can't eat Playdough. Well, you can, but you wouldn't want to.

Now that snarl of pasta that comes out at first is just that -- a snarl. If you've ever gone fishing and snarled your line, you really just wanna cut it off. Same with pasta: use your kitchen shears to trim off the bottom so you get a nice even to work with when you go to separate the noodles later. The neat thing is that you can throw that bit back into the pasta maker and reuse it.

You may find it a good idea to hold the noodle mass up and steady as they extrude. This is to alleviate the weight of the rest of the noodles to not stretch them.

Snip again, shut off your mixer and lay the noodles out. If you did this right, you should have something that looks like pull-apart licorice, except it's made of pasta. Pull it apart, and hang it on the racks you just lovingly made, and let dry for 15-60 minutes.

Almost there ladies and gentlemen. Up next, the sauce.

Thursday, July 30

Home made spaghetti, part 1 of 3

I'm given to believe that Raoul is in the midst of settling in after moving, and since I've been pretty busy I better step up and say something. It's time for a little arts and crafts here at Watch Us Eat! Today we'll be building a pasta drying rack. Now, you can buy these from Bed Bath and Beyond for $13-$20, but you can build one for under $5 if you have the right tools and a little know-how. Let's get started!

You will need: one 3/16" dowel 3' long, half a 5/8" dowel 3' long (just cut it in half and make a second rack), a block of floral foam about 4"x4"x3", a saw of some kind, a power drill, and sandpaper or a power sander. Trust me, eating splinters sucks.

Start by cutting the 5/8" dowel in half, to 18". Then drill two holes in it, one about 1 1/2" from the top, turn the down 90 degrees, then drill the second hole about 3" down from there. The holes will be perpendicular to each other.

Now rotate the dowel 45 degrees away from you and drill a third hole between the first two. Rotate the dowel 90 degrees in the opposite direction (towards you) and drill the fourth hole 1 1/2" below the bottom most hole. The effect you're looking for is a spiral of holes down the dowel.

Use a saw to cut the 3/16" dowel into four 9" pieces. (Note: I cheated. There's a box saw visible in the shot, but the jigsaw I used isn't.)

Now go back and sand everything. Everything. Twice if you have to. Then use a completely dry paintbrush to remove the dust.

Chances are, you don't have a 5/8" drill bit to make your hole in the floral foam. That's cool, you can just shove the dowel through the block. You'll want to push it half way through from one side, then half way through from the other to make sure it doesn't tear when the dowel punches out of the foam. If you need to, use a little geometry to mark the center of the block before you start punching.

Carefully slide the smaller dowels into the holes in the larger one, then wash the entire thing. Do it in the other order, and you'll find the wood will swell and make your fits waaaaay too tight.

Voila! Not only do you have a functioning pasta rack and saved yourself about $8-$12, but you'll have that warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. Stay tuned, in part 2 we'll use this thing. Amongst other things.

Wednesday, July 22


I'm gonna go ahead and say no new posts on my end until next week or so. I's got things to do!

Cheers, guys! See you soon!

Thursday, July 9

The Batter-And-Deep-Fry Party

Well, as I mentioned in my last post, Diko and I were up to some pretty revolting culinary shenanigans this weekend. Now, admittedly, they weren't as gross as some of the things you'll find on sites like This Is Why You're Fat., but kids, you probably shouldn't try this at home. Well, on a regular basis, anyway.

As the title implies, the party was based entirely on battering and deep-frying anything and everything we could get our hands on. Corn dogs were a tasty staple, as were tufts of cauliflower. Here are some highlights.

Corn dogs were too easy. How about a corn burger?

Strangely enough, a little dry. The burger quality wasn't all that great to start with, so I'll chalk it up to that. Nice and crunchy, though.

Now, admittedly, this one wasn't battered before it went into the fryer, but I had to give it a shot. Behold, the octodog!

Hee. Cute. I can see putting these on blocks of mac 'n' cheese for fun presentation.

One of the most labor-intensive ventures was the deep-fried pizza. Since it was a whole freakin' pizza, dipping it in beer batter was somewhat out of the question. So instead, Bay just spooned the batter to coat...

Then, giggling like schoolgirls, we lowered it into the oil.

I cannot tell you how tricky this thing was to flip in 350 degree oil. But flip it I did. For science.

The end product was pretty much exactly what you'd expect.

I think when frying pizza, the influx of crust demands a thin crust on the pizza itself to start with. It came out suitably tasty, but a bit too bready for my tastes.

And then, there was my pride and joy.

That, my dear friends, is corn-battered and deep-fried bacon. This was actually really tasty. Like I might do this again sometime soon tasty. I just have to remember that trying to eat more than one or two of these might actually kill me on the spot.

Oh, what's that? That little thing off to the side in that picture? Oh, that's just a deep-fried White Castle cheeseburger. Wanna see it cut open?

Mmm. Yeah, that was a little rich even for me. I opted out after the first bite, but Courtney assures me it was delicious.

So those were just the highlights. We tried our hand at frying Pocky, a few candy bars got in there with moderate success. And yeah, there were fried pierogies a little later, and more than one bacon kiev (bacon wrapped around a pat of butter, then battered and deep-fried) was made. And at the end of the night, a good time was had by all. Followed by nightmares, followed by massive indigestion in the morning.

Worth it? Hell yeah.

Tuesday, July 7

Night of Bacon: Eat 'n' Park's Midnight Buffet

From the instant my plane touched down in Pittsburgh, I knew my digestive tract was in for a hell of a ride. Met Diko and Kate at the airport, did the prerequisite hug-an'-how-are-ya thing, then... "You hungry?"

Hell yes.

The opening volley is not chronicled here, since anyone within spitting distance of a Chick-Fil-A can understand what I say when I say I had a #1 with an extra sandwich. With root beer, please. However, later that night, I was in for some gratuitous indulgings.

After an evening of shooting zombies/robots/terrorists at Dave and Buster's, my brother and I, along with a small cadre of his compatriots, made our way to the Eat 'n' Park for a Night of Bacon.

What is a Night of Bacon? Well, it's a breakfast buffet. And it has bacon. And the goal is to eat as much bacon as your tender heart desires. Because you can.

I was in the sandwiching mood, so I opted to have my first bacon intake be in the form of a bacon biscuit.

Now, that's a fair amount of bacon. But sometimes, you just have to mix it up a little, right? So Bayani, my dear brother and partner in crime on this webstain, split a waffle and stuffed it with bacon and sausage.

I could not let such a challenge go unanswered! I doubled the bacon, doubled the sausage, and threw in some pineapple to balance it all out. This combination, by the way, is highly recommended.

Mmm. Sweet and porky.

But my brother is not one to be outdone. We've been going at this all wrong, it seems. Biscuits, waffles, bready things of any kind... they just slow us down. We needed to get to the heart of the matter.

That's right. The sausagewich. Atkins would be proud.

Stay tuned, kids! If you think what we did Friday night was gross...

Thursday, July 2


I'm prepping for Bayani's deepfrying madness this weekend, so I was just fishing through a few pics that never made it into being full-on posts when I found this little gem.

After soaking this cube steak in hot sauce and buttermilk for a few days, I dropped it into the deepfryer. No big surprise there, really.

But you can't just have a chicken-fried steak by itself, right? So why not make a sandwich out of it, using cheddar-bacon mashed potatoes as a spread?

Why not, indeed.