Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Next Gig.

This whole "art of doing" thing is really going to be challenged soon.  With a move back to the Midwest happening in a matter of weeks, I have no choice but to "do".

For the past 10 years or so, I've been in the revolving door of the Outdoor Industry--primarily retail (see www.iworkretailandihateveryone.blogspot.com) .  But after this transition of locations, I need a transition of occupations.  I dearly want to tell my resume to go fuck itself and start a new chapter in making a living.  I owe it to plenty.  My wife, who has to live with me bitching and moaning about having to sell crap to assholes everyday; My potential future employer of the next outdoor company I would work for, who would witness me burn-out after a month or so and spiral viciously into a flaming pile of misery; Myself, whom I owe it to the most.  I need to branch out, stop being a salesman, and be proud of an honest day's work.

So, in addition to just "doing" shit, I'm going to have to figure out a way to make money.  I historically haven't been too successful with that formula.  But when you're all growsed up and about to make a career leap, you really don't have a choice.  I'm not staying on the pot, I'm shitting.  But it's got to be a golden shit.  A really good one that I'm proud of.

Taco Stand?  Maybe, we'll see.  I need to make sure that the idea isn't way better than the potential reality. 

Writer?  I already am...just not very good.  Not sure who would want to pay me to do what I'm already doing for free.  If you know of anyone, let me know.

Farmer?  I really like farming--at least the small amount I've been exposed to.  All I need now is a farm...

What do you think?  I could use the suggestions, the encouragement.  If anyone reads this at all, why don't you go ahead and throw some ideas down there in that 'comment' section?  Might as well...don't cost nothin'.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Taco Time Continued.

Alright, time to finish up the last of the tacos.

Right now I'm working on my Bacon Jalapeno Taco. I've got Cliff helping me out by making sure any scrap of food dropped gets engulfed immediately. And I've got Pandora rocking my Cheeseburger station. Yeah, that's the name of the band--good garage punk band. You've probably heard them during the credits of "Step Brothers", one of my favorite movies.

I've got my queso done and the bacon just got crispy. I like my tacos extra-healthy, that's why I make them out of bacon, batter-fried jalapenos, queso, and cream cheese. Just so you know, the cream cheese is 1/3 Less Fat, so I don't have to go to the gym today.

The bacon is from the farm in Nebraska and it's some of the best. The queso dip recipe was handed down to me from generations of Todds before me. It is the following:

1 can of Rotel
Several chunks of Velveeta

Name one person that doesn't like that queso recipe! If you don't, you're either lying or you're a communist.

The batter for the jalapenos is simple: Flour, salt, cornmeal, cayenne, and beer (in this instance, Oskar Blues G'Knight--an Imperial Red and freakin' good). I'm not going to fuck with a dredging station--just a simple, spicy batter. Oil hits around 350 or so (just test it by plopping a drip of batter in it), then dump the jalapenos in. Only takes a minute or so. Take 'em out and drain on a paper towel.
Spread on the cream cheese, add peppers, cover with fancy queso, stack on a little bacon, and you're good to go. I pulled the bacon apart into bite-sized pieces--one, because it's easier to eat and the full strip of bacon you put in there doesn't come out in one big piece...and two, because I just had a crown installed and I needed my bacon a little more manageable. Don't want another trip to the dentist....although her name is Dr. Brandi Bottoms, and she's hot and wears leather boots. No shit.

Sorry the last two pics suck. My expensive camera decided to not focus at all and my camera-phone is on it's last leg.

How was the taco, you ask? Unbelievable. If had my own taco stand/truck/cart/restaurant, I would definitely include this on the board. I'm actually going to have another one. One second, please..........
Here's a little bit better picture. Dumbass camera decided to focus on one pic, but that's it. Click the picture, zoom in and see what we're working with here. Nothing but goodness. How many meals can you make out of bacon, deep fried jalapenos, beer, cream cheese, and Rotel dip? Not many, my friend. Not many.

Okay, now for the Clam Po' Boy. I've never made a remoulade sauce, but it looks fairly similar to the Action Sauce that I make for my fish tacos. Just subtract the citrusy stuff and add deep, spicy flavors.
Here's what I came up with:

1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup Fage
1 tspn Dijon
1 tspn pickle juice
1/2 tspn jalapeno juice
1/2 tspn Worcestershire
1 1/2 tspn horseradish
1 tspn garlic salt

It's pretty f-ing good, if I do say so myself. I'd drink this through a straw. Here goes the Clam Po' Boy attempt.

I'm not going to lie...aside from the tasty remoulade sauce, this taco kind of sucked. It certainly didn't win any style points, hence my reasoning for not posting any pics of it. Visualize this: a tortilla with several chunks of fried clam meat and sauce poured over it. Nothing fancy, mainly because I wanted to get the gist of the taco without overloading it with condiments. Although a little shredded lettuce and some thin-sliced tomato would have helped, I not sure it would have saved it.

Possibly using oysters instead of clams would have helped a little, but I'm thinking it just wasn't meant to be. I'm sure I'm pretty fried-out right now, too, after eating all those jalapenos and bacon.

At any rate, we succeeded with most of our recipes. And it was a fun experiment. If I ever decide to open a taco wagon, I've got a good start on my menu.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Action Taco Tuesday

Couldn't decide which blog to put this on. Art o' Doing wins.

Today, I am cooking and testing recipes. Taco recipes. Yeah, tacos.

Not to bore you too much with elaboration, but for quite a while I've been enamored with cooking--one profession I've never had. Local eat 'em joints showcased on the Food and Travel Channels have had my brain stirring for a number of years now. Seems like a healthy portion of these restaurant owners have never been in the industry--just decided one day to start cooking. Whether they bought an old, existing place to keep the heritage alive, or just thought it'd be a cool idea to start a restaurant.

And then I had an epiphany the other day. Tacos. I dig tacos. I dig making them, I dig eating them. So without taking myself too seriously, I started making tacos to see if I could perfect a few recipes. They were good. And today I'm cooking more.

I have never been one to follow recipes, but today I am documenting my ingredients. Helps to perfect them and to stay consistent.

So, here goes.

I'm attempting six different taco recipes today--all from my own imagination. A Philly Taco, a Coney Taco, a BBQ Pulled Pork Taco, a Fried Clam Po'Boy Taco, a Crab Cake Taco, and Bacon & Jalapeno Taco.


I first made a fire in my charcoal/wood smoker. I rubbed my 2.5 lb pork loin roast (for the BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos) generously with Long's Peak Pork Chop Spice-14,255 ft from Savory Spice Shop. Then I made a pitcher of sun tea. No, I didn't make a cocktail--mainly because when I get a cool buzz while cooking, I tend to go a little overboard with the spices/portions/smoke/ingredients/temp. So it's tea...for now.
Next, I julienned some green, red, and yellow bell peppers for the Philly. After that, I made some Carolina-type coleslaw for my Pulled Pork Tacos. It consisted of this...

About a half bag of premade slaw mix. Yeah, I know. But I already had it in the fridge--plus, it totally cuts down on prep time & work, as well as cost. I'll make my own next time.
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 vegetable oil
1/2 tspn salt
cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 tspn dried mustard
1/2 apple cider vinegar
1/2 tspn celery salt
1/2 tspn paprika
dash of chili powder

Combine all ingredients, sans veggies, in a medium saucepan on medium/high heat. Bring to boil while whisking. Once spices are completely stirred in, dump in on top of slaw mix in a bowl. Toss and refrigerate. We'll see if it's worth a shit.

My next recipe was chili for the Coney Tacos. It's a very simple, but tasty recipe.

1/2 lb ground chuck 80/20
1/4 cup white onion, minced
1/4 cup refried beans
2 oz tomato sauce
2 tspn chili powder
1 tspn cumin
1/2 tspn garlic salt
touch of veg oil

I generally like getting carried away making chili--lots of great fresh ingredients, slow cooked all day while watching football. But this is good, easy, and goes well on coney dogs. So lay off.

Chili is simmering, and my pork fire is ready. Pork fire.... Lay out the coals, plop the pork on to get a nice sear, then throw on a mix of wet and dry hickory chunks. Wet to increase and smoke and dry to increase the heat.

That's enough prep for now. I've got a lot more coming up, but the major stuff is out of the way. Time to make taco number one!


I've got thinly sliced skillet steak. It's U.S.D.A Choice Beef that's a round eye cut. It came pre-sliced. I've got deli slices of smoked provolone (opted not to do the Cheez Whiz--always kind of weirded me out), julienned onions and our peppers from earlier. Here we go.

The Philly turned out pretty good--especially considering this is probably only my third or forth attempt at a Philly anything. The meat was okay. I think I'll try marinading it in some olive oil and spices next time to give it a little more taste. Salt and pepper normally do the trick, but with this cheaper meat I may need to improvise. Veggies were tasty, as was the cheese. I may try the Cheez Whiz next time, just to compare. Freakin' $6 for a thing of Cheez Whiz though!

The pork is done! About two hours at 250-300 degrees and lots of smoke. I carved off an end and sampled...de-freakin-lious.

Next up is the Coney Taco. My chili is already made, and I've got some diced onions and sharp cheddar. I'm a little disappointed...I don't have any yellow mustard in the fridge. How does that happen?? Oh well, I'll get the gist of how it tastes. Here goes.


I split a jumbo turkey dog down the middle and grilled it. Then I got fancy. Grilled two tortillas, put shredded cheddar on one, then stuck 'em together. Thought I might need two tortillas, seeing as how this is a big, heavy taco. Dog goes in tortilla, chili goes on dog, cheddar goes on chili, onions go on cheddar. Pretty cut and dry.
Chili is a tough dish to make to try and please everyone. It's either too hot, not hot enough, too chunky, too saucey, too sweet, or whatever. With this simple recipe, I was trying to play it safe. It was good, but it was much, much better after I threw a little Cholula and sour cream on it. By itself wasn't bad--I actually let out a "damn! that's good" when I took my first bite. I think I'll upgrade my jumbo frank from a nasty Bar-S to a Nathan's. And believe it or not, I'm going to ditch the double tortilla. It was such a cool idea, but next time I'm going to stick to just one. I don't make my own tortillas, so I don't want people to taste a prepackaged tortilla, I want them to taste the yummy innards. Plus, when it's grilled it strengthens it. You don't need two to hold it together.

I'm kind of tired and kind of full. Lots o' prep, lots o' cooking, lots o' snacking. Onward, though.

I'm going to bust out a Crab Cake Taco next. I used to make a pretty mean crab...er, Crappie Cake. Dad and I would catch crappie at the lake, bring them home and fillet them. Then they'd go in the fryer. One day I decided to make a crab cake out of the crappie fillets. It ruled. I'm sticking to the crab meat today, though.

Cake Taco
Sonofabitch! We have a winner, and that winner is Crab Cake Taco. I'm even tired and full, and it still ruled. For documentation's sake, here's the recipe. Keep in mind, these are tiny portions.

3/4 cup lump crab meat
1/4 mayo
1 tbspn sour cream (actually, I use Fage Greek Yogurt in place of sour cream, yogurt, whatnot)
2 tspn Dijon
1/2 tspn dry mustard
1 tspn Worcestershire
2 tbspn peppers and onions, diced (left over from Philly Tacos)
1 tspn garlic salt
1 tbspn pickled jalapenos, minced
1/4 Italian bread crumbs

Stir everything together except bread crumbs. Once congealed, add bread crumbs until it's a pasty consistency (about 1/4 cup). Pat together with yo' hands a semi-circle, oval, or someshit that fits well on a round tortilla. Oil the griddle and fry. Take a peek underneath to make sure it's golden brown.

Here's the getter...Super Sauce (not to be confused with Action Sauce I make for fish and shrimp tacos--another recipe).

1/4 cup mayo
2 tspn honey
2 tbspn cayenne

Whisk it all together, and shazam! Spread that on your freshly grilled tortilla, lob that Crabby Cake on it, and that's all you need.

This is fun. Well, I've got a smoked pork roast just sitting there...and some vinegary slaw in the fridge. Probably better make a Pulled Pork taco.

Pork Taco

Well, it was good and it was not that good. The pork was solid, as in really good. The slaw, a little too sweet and overpowering for my taste. My liquid to veggie ratio when making the slaw was a little liquid-heavy. When taking a tongful to drop on my pork taco, it dripped and dripped and dripped. A little drippage is fine, but this shit was swimming. That may be why it was so powerful tasting. Instead of fully complementing the smoked pork, it fought for headliner.

I didn't make my own BBQ sauce, I used some from Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City (I know, the locations in the name and restaurants don't make sense...) which is some of the best. It was the sloppiest taco yet, mainly due to my liquidy slaw. Still though, it was good. Don't get me wrong, it may not have been my favorite, but I guarantee a lot of folks would dig it the most. Not to toot my own horn...

Okay, I'm saving the messiest tacos for last. The ones that have deep fried ingredients. I'm gonna go ahead and move my kitchen back inside, then I'll hit up the Bacon Jalapeno Taco. Be back in a sec.


I've been at this for over six hours and I've built exactly four tacos. Of course, this is just a test kitchen--making small quantities with numerous ingredients. Takes a lot of on-the-fly prep. If I were the proud proprietor of a funky taco stand, I've definitely have all of my sauces and prep work hammered out before taco cooking time. That's a no-brainer. That way, it's one taco after the other--crank 'em out.

I'm going to hang it up for tonight. I've cleaned up about 18 messes in my indoor and outdoor kitchens today and I don't have it in me to clean up a half dozen more. Especially when having a dredging station, hot oil, bacon grease, and queso. Mmmm, sounds good though. I'll finish up the last two in the next couple days.

I'll keep you updated. Thanks for checking this out.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I'm Not Bitching...

For the past several weeks, I've been held captive by my job and the industry that surrounds it. Five weeks and five trade shows, accompanied by a half dozen sales meetings, and seemingly endless road travel to follow in two days. It's overwhelming. It's exhausting. But I'm not bitching. I've been instructed not to bitch anymore. It's cool. (It's not cool.)

I have seen the same faces--some I know, some I don't, none do I care about. I've shaken enough hands to get carpal tunnel, and my painted-on smile is starting to fade. Sore face...not bitching.

At these Outdoor Industry shindigs, you can tell the big shots from a mile away. They all look the same--dark, fitted jeans...expensive, dark button-up shirt...dark-rimmed glassed...and a smug, "I'm extremely rich and important" look in their beady eyes. Then there's the contrast of the snowboarders, climbers, and other dirtbags. It's like they all called each other to see what everyone was wearing. Funny thing is, they all think they're original.

Please note: I'm not bitching, I'm observing and relaying.

I have literally had everything that encompasses my industry and profession crammed down my throat lately. The warm fuzzy that you get when spending your time outside climbing or hiking or skiing is absent from this frenzy--in fact it couldn't be farther away. To me, it actually takes away from the outdoor things I love because it's forced on me every waking moment. It's not a gripe, it's fact. And it's what I signed up for, I'm afraid.

How does this coincide with "The Art of Doing"?

Because although I'm right in the thick of it again today (currently at the makeshift food court at the Snowsports Industry Association show in Denver), last night I was able to escape it.

I snuck out of the show early yesterday evening, and April and I drove up to the mountains to see a remarkable concert. It was at Mishawaka, an absolute perfect mountain venue for an intimate, mid-winter acoustic set by Robert Ellis and followed by Hayes Carll. Fantastic music, cold beer, a crackling fire, (this show was NOT at the amphitheater outdoors...thank God). There was no mention of Outdoor Industry business. There were no company big shots in their dark, fitted garb and rimmed glasses. No lineup of identical looking snowboarders. Just a 'come as you are' vibe with everyone from tight-shirt-pectoral-man to creepy mountain family. But it was all cool.

My escape was a much needed pitstop. It refueled me. I actually woke up this morning in a good, stress-free mood. That, in itself, really puts things in perspective for me. I won't get into that, though. It's a whole other post.

Moral of the story: We all have to do shit that makes us a little unhappy. Let's just try and keep that to a minimum and fill in the gaps with shit that makes us happy. Sounds like a pretty simple formula.