Stupid Congresscritters, messing with Daylight Savings Time. It’s the beginning of freaking March. Not cool, dudes. (I know this changed years ago now. Don’t care. I’ll rant about it till the day I die. Also after.) DST always messes me up especially because of the lost hour; as a natural night owl, this just doesn’t work for me. Though I do like the extra sunshine in the evening, when we have any.
This weekend was rather productive for me on the cooking front. I think I narrowed down the secret of my favorite sub, made bacon-wrapped chicken again, prepared some mozzarella cheese sticks to freeze so I could cook them at a later date, and tried my hand at breakfast sausage for the first time. However I’m back in Bad Idea Mode for the time being, which means I’m seriously considering another run at buttermilk pancakes building on what I learned from the last attempt.
First things first: Cheese sticks. I miss being able to buy Giorgio cheese sticks in the freezer section. You can’t find them anywhere anymore, not even on Amazon. Either the company massively scaled back their retail distribution (they do seem to still exist). or there was some weird collaboration among every chain to stop carrying them. Either way I’m pissed about it, and it means someday I’m going to sic not only the Ministry of Resurrected Products on somebody, but also the Ministry of Compliance. Meanwhile I can’t find a good frozen cheese stick brand to save my life.
The other day I tried making my own cheese sticks for the first time. I cut a bunch of string cheese in half, rolled in flour and corn starch, dipped in beaten egg with a little water, and rolled in seasoned bread crumbs. Although you can fry these and they probably come out best that way, I opted to bake (for convenience). Those cheese sticks only rested in the freezer a very short time before they went into a 375° oven for 8 minutes, per a recipe I found online. They bled out and the breading was underdone. So this time I made up twice as many cheese sticks (two dozen) with the same method, and they’re all in the freezer waiting to be cooked. Starting from truly frozen should, I hope, give them ample time to cook on the outside if I let them go a little longer. I may need to spray on some oil or butter to get the best result. If you make these yourself, don’t settle for mere Italian-seasoned bread crumbs. Start there, add more Italian seasoning, and then add a little pepper and salt; be sure to taste it. When I cook these I’ll share how it went.
Now as for the mystery of the sub shop, this has been bugging me for years. My favorite place to get a sub used to be Froggers, a shop in the Syracuse area that may or may not still exist in some form. (I’m not sure.) I basically just go for plain ham subs, and they would load it with a crapton of ham which happened to have a strange sort of tart flavor that quickly grew on me. Deciding that the missing flavor must be either vinegar or a hint of pickle, I loaded up a Misto with a bit of pickle juice and sprayed some on my ham. I am pleased to say that I’m on the right track. The type of pickle seems wrong, and the ham is definitely wrong (I ended up with a kind that was much smokier than I wanted), and the pickle juice needed to be diluted, but all in all I can declare this mystery solved.
Finally I thought I’d give pork breakfast sausage a go. I’ve never been satisfied with store brands, which usually overseason and often include red pepper. The best breakfast sausage I ever had was made by my uncle, a master of the art as was his father before him, and contained nothing but salt, pepper, and sage. I took a pound of ground pork, a teaspoon of rubbed sage, a teaspoon of pickling salt, and half a teaspoon of pepper. After letting the mixed meat sit in the fridge a short while, I made patties about ½ inch thick and cooked them on medium heat. Supposedly they should cook 5-7 minutes to a side, but I found I needed to increase the time to get them up to temperature. After cooking, I froze most of them.
Things I learned from this sausage experiment:
- Cooking a nice simple sage breakfast sausage smells awesome.
- I don’t know if maybe ground sage would have worked better, but I definitely want to use more sage (at least another half teaspoon) and more salt (maybe as much as another full teaspoon). And maybe even less pepper.
- Patties shrink up, except vertically. Make them wider across, but thinner. They might cook faster if they’re thinner anyway.
So all things considered, not a bad weekend when it comes to food. I can’t claim any experiment as an unmitigated success, but neither were any of them failures. (At worst, one of them simply isn’t complete yet.) I still have ham and sausage to eat, and I have cheese sticks to cook when the mood strikes.
Oh, and Thursday night I finally found cherry vanilla ice cream, which I searched in vain for all last summer. Not black cherry with vanilla—actual cherry vanilla, with maraschino cherries. This was the Tops brand. I’m finding it a tad light on the cherry-to-vanilla ratio, but any port in a storm. This was a very welcome discovery.
Hopefully obsessing over food I can cook indoors will help me deal with the DST shift, and I can stave off the spring madness just a little longer. I can’t help that my thoughts are already turning to the grill. The grill.