Why Hello There! And welcome to another edition of Kitchen Catastrophes, the ongoing struggles of one man against a culinary calvacade of misadventures. I’m your Quixote of the Kitchen, Jon O’Guin. Sorry, we’re late, Monday contained no less than 3 different power outages for my house, lasting a combined total of 12ish hours. Today, we’re going to talk about one of my culinary icons, his latest cookbooks, and pray to the depths of our souls that if he ever reads the site, he believes that imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery, as we steal his style as well as his recipes for Chilaquiles and Roasted Chile Salsa.
The Right Alt
I’m not going to make some broad statement of the human condition, claiming that every chef or cook is trying to be another chef or cook that inspired them, or trying to match the expectations given to them by previous chefs and cooks. I don’t have to, because Jean Paul Sartre claimed it was a common state of human existence: that, when forced into positions by external forces, we revert to a form of ‘play-acting’, merely mimicking the actions of what we presume would be ideal, rather than expressing our true internal understandings and embracing our freedom to act.
You could say he didn't see "eye-to-eye" with most people, but then you'd be a dick.
That was a very complicated paragraph to get to this point: If you were to call this site a rip-off of Good Eats, Alton Brown’s old show, I’d be rather complimented. I’d deny it, and point out several differences (Alton is far less frequently the villain in his pieces than I am in mine, and also I whine a lot more), but…yeah. It IS safe to say that Mr Brown was a big influence on my understanding and passion for cooking. When I write, I am, in some regards, “acting” as Mr Brown.
Now, it’s quite late as I write this (it was 1:45 Monday morning. I was trying to undo the lost productivity of the first power outage, and get this out on time) and the more compromised my intellectual faculties become, whether from drink, exhaustion, or bouts of emotionality, the more emotionally genuine I become, in a way that definitely troubles my intellectual faculties. Or, to stop sounding like a jackass: “The harder it is for me to think, the more likely I am to be uncomfortably honest, which is worrying.” And right now It’s pretty hard to think, so let’s have some brutal self-honesty! My apologies if/when things get weird.
But when has Jon O'Guin ever been weird?
I don’t like doing things I don’t comprehend, or at least understand. That’s not the weird part. That is, in my basic estimation, basic human psychology: we prefer to know (or at least be able to assume) the results of our actions before we take them. To take us TO the weird place, this is a primary reason I don’t date: women are wonderful, and the human psyche is beautifully complex, and what one person takes as an insult, another would bear as a compliment, and vice versa.
Which means I can’t be certain I’m not about to say something upsetting until I’m already close with a person. At which point, a fun second fact of human psychology comes up: People don’t like it when those close to them start acting differently. Meaning that I have two options: be pursuing the possibility of a romantic relationship from day 1, and potentially accidentally alienate wonderful people, or approach everyone as a potential friend, and hope I find someone comfortable with escalating the relationship later. I choose, almost universally, the latter, to little success. Granted, the few times I tried the first option I also failed, so maybe I’m just bad with women.
What does any of this have to do with cooking? Nothing, but I’ll be DAMNED if there was ever an episode of GOOD EATS when Alton was as genuine with his own emotional shortcomings as I just was! WHO YOU CALLING A RIP-OFF, GEORGIA BOY?? I’LL FIGHT YOU.
To return to the long-since abandoned topic: Alton’s show explained cooking in a simple, semi-scientific way that really resonated with me. It helped me understand cooking, and made me no longer afraid to try cooking things. It’s the reason there’s so much INFORMATION in most of these posts: by understanding a thing, and joking about it, you take away the mystique, its power, its ability to harm.
So when I learned Alton Brown had a cookbook come out last year, about the foods he personally cooks at home, I wanted it, intensely. It topped my Christmas wish-list, and lo and behold, I got it!
Bell, Book, and Candle
It’s now 2 AM. Title Jon is trying his best to make puns, but they’re more fragmentary eidetic connections than anything. But yeah, Alton’s cookbook (Actually, at this point, I was unable to write anymore, and passed out, to wake up to a house without power. It came back at 10:48, and I ran down, powered up my computer, hopped back in and started to write.)
How convenient that Alton too was just getting out of bed.
I of course heartily recommend it. The ONLY qualm that comes with my recommendation is there are a couple passages that don’t read very well if you’re unfamiliar with Alton’s style. He tosses out the phrase “Interwebs” once or twice, and at one point, write in the concept of a mic drop, but with a spoon, that took me three reads of the line to get the bit. But other than those nit-picks, it’s a fun book. It starts by introducing you to all the tools he likes, the ingredients you may be unfamiliar with that he likes to use, even the alcohols he likes to drink. Then it takes you, meal by meal, into stuff he likes to make at home. From simple roast chickens or date energy shakes, to a 16 step recipe for Roast Turkey, despite the ingredient list being: turkey, salt, water and oil.
Because that’s one of the reasons I like him: Alton is very good at parsing his recipes and thoughts, dividing them in appropriate ways. The turkey has 16 steps because you have to move it, and flip it, in precise ways. The smoothie is “Put most of the ingredients in a blender. Blend for 1 minute. Add the others, blend for another 30 seconds, serve.” That’s all one step, because, yeah. You’re going to be right there, there’s no need for a second step if you don’t personally have to really move anywhere.
So, since it was a Christmas present, I wanted to make something from it. And luckily, an opportunity arose. My family has a habit of buying things without definite plans for them, secure in the knowledge that we can MAKE plans for them. Recently, my mother saw some flank steak on sale, and snatched it up, knowing that I know 6 different recipes for Flank Steak. When I informed her that, yes, that’s true, but they’re all recipes for Flank steak Tacos, we decided “eh, sounds fine.” I plan to post that recipe soon, since we’ve NEVER COVERED THEM BEFORE ON THE SITE, DON’T LISTEN TO ALAN’S LIES. (At 11:19, the power went out again. This marked the end of the progress for Monday. From this point on, Tuesday Jon is writing.)
A Brand New Day For Breakfast
Jesus, I write a lot when I’m losing my mind.
Luckily, since we’re already quite deep in this post, both of the actual recipes are quite simple: see, ‘chilaquiles’ is a loanword to Spanish from Nahautl, where it translates as “Chile-water Corn” (Well, technically, “Chile-water-Edible-plant”) And really? That name explains it all. Chilaquiles consists of lightly frying some torn tortillas, simmering them in salsa, and adding the protein of your choice. It all takes place in one small fry pan, over the course of 10-15 minutes.
Shockingly, this is not a picture of failure. Things are going perfectly fine here.
Mine took closer to an hour, because I ALSO made Alton’s Roasted Chile Salsa. The recipe for this one is quite complicated, are you ready? Ahem: Roast some peppers, garlic, onion, chiles, and tomatoes. Throw in a blender, with some unroasted veggies. Blend. Thin as needed with reserved tomato water. Let flavors meld, and eat.
Or use it to keep your motor running efficiently!
As you might notice, it’s a thicker salsa, almost a sort of pepper-paste, and yet the lack of chunks makes it quite adaptable. The roasted anchoes give it an intensely smoky flavor, and the heat is just there, reminding you that its main ingredients are peppers, without searing your tongue.
I made 4 servings of Chilaquiles, and ate 3 of them one at a time, over the course of the meal. “I’ll just have one,” I told myself. “Okay, seconds wouldn’t hurt,” I said, 6 minutes later. “Heck, a single serving would store better”, I lied to myself as I snagged the third. The texture was like scrambled eggs, but with the rich egg yolks coating the spiced masa-mixture. Both recipes were delicious, and I definitely recommend you try them, as well as the book they come from, Everydaycook by Alton Brown!
Thanks for reading, and of course, if you can, the best way to support the site is by backing us on Patreon, but we also love when you like, share, or subscribe to the site! We’ll see you Thursday, when Jon wraps up his list of Foods based on people’s names with some real humdingers!
Roasted Chile Salsa
6 Roma Tomatoes, halved
5 jalapeno peppers, also halved and seeded
2 dried Ancho chiles, seeded and soaked in warm water for 10 minutes (Seeding an ancho is easy: cut or tear out the stem, and just shake the thing till it stops rattling. Flick it a couple times to be sure)
1 Red Bell Pepper, quartered and seeded
½ an onion (preferably red), roughly chopped
2 large garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lime (~4 tsp)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp chili powder
Chopped fresh herbs to top
1. Move a rack to your oven’s top position, and preheat the broiler.
2. Remove the seeds and liquid from your tomatoes into a bowl or measuring cup. Set aside 1 jalapeno and 2 tomatos. Toss the remaining tomatoes and jalapenos, the garlic, onion, anchos, and bell pepper in the olive oil, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes for even browning (I stirred, then rotated the pan and stirred, and then stirred one last time)
3. Toss all that in a blender, with all the other ingredients except the fresh herbs, and blend until salsa consistency. Add the reserved tomato water when necessary if mixture too thick.
4. Refrigerate for several hours to let flavors meld. Top with herbs when serving.
2 tbsps vegetable oil
6 medium corn tortillas, torn into chunks (about 5 pieces per tortilla)
1 - 1.5 cups of Roasted Chile Salsa (see step 4)
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup cotija or queso fresco cheese
1. Lower the rack to the SECOND shelf of the oven, and heat your broiler.
2. Heat oil over medium heat in 12” cast iron or non-stick oven-safe skillet until oil starts to shimmer. Add tortilla pieces a couple at a time, until they’re all it. It’ll be overlapping with layers and crowding. Just flip them and move them around to keep them frying evenly.
3. Once the edges are lightly browned, add the salsa and half the salt. (1 cup makes crunchy chilaquiles, 1.5 makes soft ones) Reduce heat and let salsa simmer for around 5 minutes, absorbing into the chips
4. Make divots in each corner of the skillet, and pour one egg into each divot. Sprinkle with remaining salt.
5. Put skillet in oven, and broil for 3-5 minutes, until egg whites are set but yolks are stil liquid.
6. Remove from oven, top with cheese and cilantro, and serve.