Welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes! I’m the ever-present author and master of meals, Jon O’Guin. Today’s recipe takes us back to Jon’s favorite vegetable to mess with, Cauliflower, served today with a sauce that demanded attention, “Bang Bang Sauce”. Why is it named that? What the heck is it? These questions and more may be answered. But first, let’s talk about memes.
Catch a Falling Star and Put it in your Pocket
Today’s recipe is something of a trip BACK IN TIME, dear readers. As I’ve alluded to many times in various posts, I don’t often end up planning too far ahead. Most recipes you see I personally cooked within a few days of the post. There are a couple reasons for this, the main one being that, frankly, I’m just bad at organizing that kind of thing. It’s not something I particularly enjoy doing, a fact that was compounded once I started living alone as a full-grown adult, because I did so in a building built directly behind a supermarket.
Turns out when you’re 5 minutes from fresh resources, culinary improvisation is pretty damn easy. Why would I plan out a week’s meals when I can snatch up sales with 3 minutes of walking? I have other reasons for this procrastination of course, since I strive to rarely do things for only one reason in order to better hide my motives. One of them is quality control: I best remember details about the cooking process and the food results when I write relatively soon afterward, and I don’t like writing posts too far ahead of time, in order to bring you the most timely snapshot of my humor and references. It’s a position that sounds noble, but is undercut somewhat by the number of references I make to, say, late 1950’s Pop songs, or late 80’s/early 90’s cartoons
In my defense, where else will we find our daily dose of Space Kraken?
Speaking of dated jokes, while this meal comes from the very first days of September, as summer languorously wrapped up, and Diner Month sprang into action, it’s also at least partly based on a joke that erupted between me and my brothers over the summer, so I wanted to take a minute and talk a bit about memes, in-jokes, and family recipes.
I’ve touched on this principle before, in my Food and Romance post, and other venues, but let me just quickly re-iterate it: in-jokes, memes, and shared experiences represent a palpable part of your personal language. The quirks and niches of your personal version of your language that are shared with few people mean something, connect to you in some way. As a trivial example, I have an “effort” sound: whenever I decide I should start doing some task I’ve been planning or avoiding, or if I make simple burst of effort like standing up, lifting a box, or stepping up into a tall car, I go “hup”, you know, the sound at the start of military counts, or the sound for jumping?
A bunch of elephants say it like, 25 times in that song from the Jungle Orphan?
What? C'mon, that clearly should have been it's name. There isn't a book in the whole movie!
I don’t do it every time, mostly I do it when I’m already tired, and it’s like a very tiny pep talk, or when I think I’m getting distracted and want to focus. As such, I can end up saying it five to six times in as little as an hour, if it’s been a long day. The other important part of it is it’s internally focused: I’m saying it to myself. And I’ve met people who never got it. Who, despite knowing me for years, react EVERY time the sound is made, as if I had made an actual statement, “What?” they inquire, despite the fact that the sound takes like, a quarter of a second to make, so it’s clear I couldn’t have been TRYING to convey anything important.
So, a few weeks ago, my brother Stephen, who many believe to be fictional, was in town with his girlfriend Anna, a statement that will NOT raise the odds of people believing in him, if they know Nathan and me and our respective troubles with women. And we were playing a simple Pictionary style game from our phones, where I got the clue “Anchorman.” Rather than do the rational thing and, you know, DRAW AN ANCHOR, I decided to draw a news anchor. Then I panicked, and wrote out, “Ron Burgundy”. Badly.
(Bad) Artist's (Bad) Recreation shown here.
That image destroyed the room. Everyone lost their shit, with several people wondering, gasping between tears, who the hell “Ban Ban Gundy” was. It became a joke between my brothers, Anna and me. A silly little name that broke us all. A few weeks after that, I found a recipe for Cauliflower with Bang Bang sauce, or, as Nate insisted on calling it, “Ban Ban Gundy” sauce. So what is this sauce, and why is it being drizzled on Cauliflower? Let’s find out.
Bang Bang into the Room, You know You Want It
Mixing up my dated references with only 3 year old pop songs, nice.
If you’re confused why I spent several hundred words mansplaining the very concept of inside jokes, it’s because this post is actually a dual-layered one. See, while Nate and I have the Ban Ban Gundy joke, Alan and I have the Cauliflower joke.
For no real reason that we can discern, for MONTHS our traffic data showed that the two most visited pages on the site were Cauliflower Steaks and Flank Steak Tacos. Week in, week out, anywhere from a quarter to a third of our traffic went there. So, of course, it’s been a joke for us. “If we ever have a disastrous month, just finish with Cauliflower or Flank Steak and we can pull in a win.”
Now, when I stumbled onto this recipe from a Facebook ad, it was called simply “Bang Bang Cauliflower”, which is, in all honesty, why I clicked the ad in the first place: I like cauliflower and explosions, so I was immediately invested. I swiftly learned that it was actually “Baked Breaded Cauliflower with Bang Bang sauce”, a statement I accepted at face value, and didn’t question until today. Sure, the sauce is named “bang bang”. That’s reasonable enough. I mean, when you have names like Mornay, nuoc cham, and tartar, you’re really not going to question what the name of a given sauce means or where it comes from. (Hell, until right now, did you ever really think that “oh, yeah, I guess Tartar must mean something”? (It’s a place and people in Eastern Russia, by the way. Tartar is the French way of saying their name. ) Xni Pec is a habanero salsa whose name means “Dog’s Nose”. Bang Bang is really nothing that impressive.
A bit of digging, however, tells me I’ve stumbled into something not unlike one of our drinks from last week, namely, that “Bang Bang sauce” is a copycat recipe: a recipe made to copy the taste, texture, and appearance of a commercially produced product. In this case, it’s the sauce for “Bang Bang Shrimp”, a dish served at a Florida-based chain called “Bonefish Grill”, which I had never heard of until today, but apparently there’s 2 locations within an hour or two of my house, so live and learn, I guess.
But do those locations have THESE...Baked Bits of Vegetable?
And while I will defend the honor of breaded cauliflower as a surprisingly great snack and side all day, I have to confess: the crux of this recipe is the sauce. The author of the original site I took it from liked it enough that she has 3 different recipes using the sauce. It falls into what I call “Boot Sauces”, after a common sauce compliment from the renowned culinary expert Guy Fieri: “That’s so good, you could serve it on a boot and I would eat it.”
The sauce is fairly simple: a mixture of hot sauce, sweet chili sauce, mayonnaise, and honey. Mayo and honey give mouthfeel and a nice consistency for dipping or drizzling over foods, and the hot sauce and sweet chili sauce give…well, I mean, exactly what you expect.
The Actual Execution
Of course, we are Kitchen Catastrophes, and it wouldn’t do for us to make a recipe without some kind of mix-up. Today’s mistake was, against all odds, NOT mine. See, I was out back, grilling the main course of Korean Short Ribs
This may be the worst picture ever taken of me.
It's certainly the most redneck.
When Nate stepped out and asked that most crucial and constant of kitchen questions:
“Hey, did you say Teaspoons or Tablespoons?”
"Eh, it'll be fine. I'm only measuring out the HOT SAUCE."
As we discovered, he had picked incorrectly. Luckily, since we were making a sauce, it was easy to scale, and we just made triple the standard amount of bang-bang sauce.
The cauliflower, cut into florets, breaded with panko, and baked crispy, received its drizzle of bang bang sauce with aplomb, sitting next to the Short Ribs, and a batch of Bibimbap we whipped up as a side dish, because we figured “Eh, if we’re going kind of Korean, why not?”
Seriously, in the two years I’ve been cooking for my parents, our recipe for Bibimbop and this Bang Bang sauce have produced the best responses. “Should we make more Bang Bang sauce?” or “Do we want Bibimbap” are nigh-weekly questions since we discovered them. Hopefully they’re as strong of hits in your homes as well, and they can enter your family’s culinary lexicon, breeding private jokes and bonding in your households. If not, well, there’s always a chance next week.
THURSDAY: STUCK BETWEEN HIS ACTUAL BIRTHDAY (WHEN HE DRANK) AND THE PARTY HE DECIDED TO THROW FOR IT (WHERE HE WILL DRINK), AND SURROUNDED BY ALCOHOL BOTTLES, JON DECIDES TO DISH WITH AN ALCOHOL BEGINNER’S GUIDE.
MONDAY: JON TAKES US TO SPAIN, WITH A SOUP FULL OF FLAVOR AND AN INGREDIENT THAT HAS CAUSED CONFUSION IN EVERY PERSON HE’S MENTIONED IT TO.
Baked Cauliflower with Bang Bang Sauce
½ head of cauliflower, cut down to bite-sized florets.
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Bang Bang Sauce
2-3 tsp Hot Sauce
2 tbsp Sweet Chili Sauce
1 tbsp honey
¼ c mayonnaise
1. Whisk the eggs, and pour into a dish. Pour the bread crumbs into a second dish. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Roll the cauliflower in the egg, and then the panko. Press the panko onto the egg wash firmly, and place breaded florets on lined baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, mix literally all the ingredients for the sauce together. That’s it. One step. Balance the flavors as you feel fit, and prep to drizzle on the cauliflower, or put in a bowl to dip cauliflower in. Done.