Virginia Beach “Mexican” White Sauce and Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwiches

Lately, the barre bro’s been more of a blob bro – skipping barre classes to eat McDonald’s and cook really unhealthy food. And, well, none of that changed this past weekend.

I grew up in Virginia Beach which, if you’re unfamiliar, is a sprawling suburban place with an economy supported mostly by tourism and the Navy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Mexican restaurants in the area there serve a peculiar but delicious white sauce that I didn’t realize was unusual for Mexican restaurants, and recently this story about that white sauce has been all over my Facebook.

White sauce

So, remembering how delicious it was, I decided to try making it and see if it was actually delicious like I remembered, or if it was one of those childhood nostalgia things that you realize as a grown-up is actually kind of mediocre (I’m looking at you Famous Dave’s).

Now the article featured this handwritten recipe from the 1970s and I have to admit I was a bit suspicious. I’m generally wary of old-ass recipes that have been “handed-down” for generations. If there’s one thing that the internet has done, it’s providing tons of information to people who test things to make constant improvements. So I also looked up a few blogs, and found that the two recipes I found here and here both seemed to stick pretty closely to the original recipe. Also, one of the bloggers was from Virginia, which helped my confidence in the recipe.

Now the recipe itself… the first thing that caught my eye was.. 32 oz. of Miracle Whip?? Holy fuck, I’ve never even bought Miracle Whip before, much less used 4 cups of it in a single recipe. Who the hell is making this stuff in those quantities at home? But whatever, I decided to try out this version of the recipe and off to the grocery store I went.

I definitely raised my eyebrow when I saw pimento-stuffed olives on the recipe list. The heck is that? Would I be able to find it? I guess I always ignored the jarred olive section of the grocery store, because it turns out there is an ENTIRE WALL of stuff I can only categorize as “weird shit stuffed into olives.” All different kinds of cheeses, garlic, gummy bears, who knows what else they’re stuffing into olives. I don’t even like olives. But yes, it turns out finding pimento stuffed olives is very easy – the hardest thing was figuring out which type of olive I wanted stuffed with pimento cheese. So I just grabbed one. I also picked up some backup hot pico in case the recipe failed and I ended up with a giant quantity of useless fatty white stuff, not unlike the current contents of the White House.

Easiest recipe ever – just throw everything in a food processor and spin until smooth. I don’t have a Cuisinart, but I do have a Ninja blender – I guess the name appealed to my Asian heritage.

Now it’s sitting in my fridge where I’m supposed to let it sit for two days. So I can’t even tell you yet if it was good or not…

On to the main event – fried chicken sandwich Sundays! Again, how awesome is the internet? Two decades ago you had to hope Alton Brown just happened to air the episode you wanted to experiment with – now you can look up multiple Serious Eats articles on fried chicken sandwiches. I found two versions – an easy five-ingredient one, and a much more intricate chik-fil-a copy cat one. I also looked up a few spicy fried chicken recipes, because I much prefer spicy fried chicken sandwiches to plain ones. And I ended up somewhere in the middle of all the recipes I found.

I decided to experiment with thighs brined in pickle juice and breasts brined in Kenji’s copycat recipe, about four hours each. I doubt the thighs even needed it, because chicken thighs are the food loophole of the fucking century – cheap, delicious, forgiving to cook, delicious reheated, and most importantly, keto-friendly! But these giant steroid-enhanced breasts we have these days would definitely be helped with a brining.

Seriously, those two breasts on the right are actually half a breast each. And even then, I totally underestimated how huge they would be once battered and fried. I seasoned all the chicken, then sprinkled additional cayenne powder on the chicken. I also threw a tablespoon of cayenne each into the buttermilk wash and the flour. Also, the flour is actually 1.5 cups flour and 1.5 cups corn starch, because corn starch in the truth if you want really crispy batter.

This was my first time deep-frying with an electric range, and I was pretty concerned with how I was going to control the temperature. Also, those fucking breasts were huge, even after I pounded them flat a bit. So I actually had the oil up to about 420 degrees before I dropped the first breast.

Now I’m definitely not an experienced deep fryer, so the oil temp didn’t drop nearly as much as I expected (32 oz. of peanut oil). I kept waiting for it to get closer to 350, but it held around 400-410 the whole time – way too hot.

I took it out after the recommended 5 minutes and yep – oil was way too hot. Also, again, totally underestimated how fucking thick these things were, which made me concerned about the internal temperature.

Yep – fuck no, way undercooked, back in the fryer you go for another 2.5 minutes at least. This one was definitely a waste – once cooked through, I was about to make four dogs really really happy.

Round 2 was much better – I let the oil chill down to about 360, dropped the chicken, and it held just under 350 – exactly what you want!

Fuck yeah! That’ what I’m talking about! Internal temp was 165 on the dot at the thickest point. The result? The brining made a huge difference in texture – outside was crispy, inside was juicy. One failure point – not spicy at all! So I ended up dousing it in Cholula. I still have no idea how to make these things spicy – maybe it’s because my cayenne powder was probably like two years old at this point? Or maybe I didn’t use enough? Maybe I’ll brine these things in jalapeno juice next time? Will need to keep investigating…

Seriously these things are huge. The potato roll barely had a chance.

This one’s heart-shaped, because I love you Callie! Happy anniversary! (Sorry, I keep forgetting you don’t eat meat – here are some carrots).

top left – the first failure that I had to re-fry. The others are chicken thighs.

The thigh meat ones were even better – I had one this morning. 2 minutes in the air fryer before sandwiching completely undid the damage of being refrigerated overnight. Also, I love pickles now. Growing up is appreciating pickles on your sandwiches instead of picking them out like a child.

I actually wrapped them in foil and threw in the toaster oven for three minutes, to replicate the slight steaming effect that those chik-fil-a foil bags have on their sandwiches – I doubt that was by design, but it’s something I’ve grown fond of.

Next week, maybe I’ll (re)start my keto diet!

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The Barre Bro Goes Low Carb

I’ve been able to keep my yearly weight gain under 2 lbs. a year for most of my twenties and early thirties, but man, something changed in 2018 and I gained over 20 lbs. So, now that it is 2019, I decided that this is the year that I would start experimenting with putting more than mental effort into losing weight. And everyone knows that the best way to lose weight is to eat all of the protein and fat you want, as long as you don’t eat any carbs! Let’s do this!

But first, one last farewell to beloved noodles, in the form of bun bo hue. And if you’re at a Viet joint, you can’t start without some summer rolls –

Then the main course! If you’re not familiar, bun bo hue is a spicier, north Vietnamese noodle soup. It’s like pho with an Infinity gauntlet. Most places in America, you’ll get it “American-style” with normal cuts of meat, which is fine by me. More authentic places will add blood cubes, which I am NOT into. And the super authentic places (where you can’t even read the menu, if there is one) will add ox penis, which I’m definitely not into.

Mmm fiery broth of deliciousness….

Add mung bean sprouts and red cabbage (there should be more red cabbage – shame on this restaurant)

Flip the noodles and meat over the fresh veggies to let it cook a bit. Alright, now that my farewell to carbs is done, let’s get to work!

I’m a big fan of Chipotle, where you can do a pretty delicious low carb bowl. But since they seem to get a lot of people sick, I decided to start doing chipotle bowls at home. After testing out a bunch of the top-rated chipotle copycat chicken recipes, I’ve found a “recipe” that crushes it in the effort-to-end-result ratio department. Let’s face it, the barre bro doesn’t exactly have the most discriminating palette, I’m the guy that will choose quantity over quality every single time, so it just has to be good enough to eat, and I’m happy. I take a can of this Embasa chipotle peppers, dump it in a food processor with most of a red onion, garlic powder, and two big ass spoonfuls of this ancho chili pepper powder, pulse it into oblivion, and you’re done. Season the chicken separately, obviously. Then you have a nice marinade – add a little water, mix it all up, and marinade chicken thighs in it.

Mmm… chipotle-flavored e-coli. Let’s drakarys these bitches. But first…

Never start grilling without starting with hot dogs, because hot dogs are the best.

Hmm not quite there yet…

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Dice up the chicken, throw in containers with some store bought pico and some buttered up green beans, top it all with cheese and I have lunches for the week!

But wait, the barre bro got a new toy to support his low carb habit over the weekend…

Let’s convolute some shit with this spiralizer!

First thing I ever spiralize is a zucchini, because I’m already missing noodles. I never knew zucchini had two c’s – thanks spellcheck. Man, remember losing points on homework for misspelling stuff? And then the first few years when spellcheck was available, teachers tried to police its use? Glad that ridiculousness is a thing of the past. Yet somehow TI calculators are still going strong…

I’m already missing noodles in a delicious spicy broth – I wonder if this would work with instant ramen?

This brand has overtaken Shin Ramen Black as my current favorite spicy ramen.

Mmm get that fiery broth going…

I’m starting to get nervous that these veggie noodles will suck. What if they do? What will I eat? So I find some leftover frozen dumplings in the freezer and throw those in, because dumpling soup is also awesome.

Also, I’ve had a few glasses of wine and I know myself, and I know that if the veggie noodles suck, I’ll try again with real noodles, so I gotta throw them away. And then throw away something else nasty that’s been sitting in my refrigerator on top of it, so that I can’t salvage the dry ramen noodles from the trash either. “Know yourself, know your enemy, and you will win 100 out of 100 battles” – Sun Tzu, bitches. Battle against carbs won.

End result – not perfect, but actually very promising! I definitely overcooked the zoodles a bit, but I think a minute or two less and I’ll have a serious low-carb ramen solution.

Next day at work – microwave a low carb bowl and I’m fucking cruising baby! Except I’m a little hungry…

Goddamnit. Free pizza at work. So what do I say to going low carb? Not today.

The Joy of Julia: Gentle Barre??

Callie was gone this past weekend, which means the dogs and I ate whatever we wanted all weekend long. Really from Thursday to Sunday. It was finally nice enough to grill so I grilled cheeseburgers for myself and the pups.

Mmm.. melty American cheese, double cheese for Bodie and Bunny because they’re big dogs.

And can’t forget the veggies!

Meanwhile, I was over at Kate P’s house Saturday night for UFC, where copious amounts of cheesy pizza, Korean fried chicken, and whiskey was consumed.

Then, it was Sunday. I had hardly moved a muscle since Callie left. I had eaten like a pig. And because fitness/weight loss works just like cramming for a college astronomy final, it was time to cram – hence, me forcing myself to do a Sunday University City tuck double – Julia’s barre at 11:30am, followed by Corey’s yoga at 12:45pm – all approximately four hours before Callie was to land. Despite still smelling like fried chicken and whiskey, I chugged two (diet) big gulps, fueled with one last McD’s sausage egg and cheese biscuit, and forced myself to go to Julia’s class.

This is (a blurry picture of) Julia. She’s a graduate of that very special first class of barre teachers from tuck’s first-ever group teacher training – the same class that produced Ann, Cass, and many of our other most popular barre teachers.

I had heard for a while that Julia was special – from her very first mock class, Callie was raving about how unique and different Julia’s style was. Callie’s teacher trainings tend to produce type-A, sadistic, drill-instructor-style teachers, but somehow Callie said that Julia taught barre the way a great gentle yoga teacher teaches, well, gentle yoga.

And you know what? Callie was right. Julia somehow teaches and cues exercises the way Snow White converses with the dwarfs.

Which is a very jarring juxtaposition, because the class is still absolutely brutal.

First problem – Julia teaches tuck’s only 60-minute barre class, and on a Sunday no less! Isn’t this the day of rest? Second problem – Julia does barre the way Kevin Durant plays basketball – she’s long, graceful, she does every exercise with perfect form, and she makes everything look completely effortless. Which is great for her, but when she demonstrates something, you get the mistaken impression that every exercise is easy. And, well, none of them are. So you end up starting each sequence with optimism, only to have your expectations unexpectedly slaughtered like your favorite Game of Thrones character.

This was the worst exercise we did all day – something called jet-skiing? It made the top of your legs (quads?) burn, but in a way different manner than, say, squats. Squats are a deep burn, but these things almost felt like a sunburn on the surface of your quads. They were the worst.

But, Callie was 100% right about Julia having the gentlest, kindest personality while she teaches a brutal barre class. At one point during the worst part of this exercise, she literally said, “If this is really painful, I’m so sorry!” And she meant it! This wasn’t like a blatant Ann lie, I really believed Julia when she said she was sorry! Of course, she wasn’t sorry enough to end the sequence early.

Usually during barre class, you can get kind of angry at what the teacher is making you do, and use that anger as energy, but it’s impossible to get angry at Julia. If she were a Jedi, there would be zero chance she ever turns to the dark side of the force.

She’s also strong AF – we did a crazy long back/arm sequence that ended up being about 8x longer than I expected, and Julia didn’t take a single break. Once we finally hit the mat, I understood why – she’s absolutely shredded in her arms/upper back.

I spent the last 10 minutes in “give up” mode – I just closed my eyes as Julia led the rest of the class through some weird stuff with stretchy rubber ribbons.

The Barre Bro Gets (Slightly) Serious Talkin ‘Bout Cultural Appropriation

Callie is away this weekend, which makes the barre bro sad. But, no Callie means there’s no one to stop me from cooking/eating whatever I want! Especially because last weekend, I did the tuck University City double (barre followed by barre bounce), and I have yet to “spend” the calories I burned that day on any extra meals this week. Doing back to backs isn’t normally a barre bro thing, but I did my best (ended up quitting with 10 minutes left in the barre class).

It was a fun pair of classes with lots of regulars, and this jerk of a teacher showing off for the camera.

On the other side of me was Nadia, from whom I learned a very important barre lesson. I was, as usual, grunting and grimacing my way through all the terrible muscle-burning barre exercises as usual, but when I looked over at Nadia, I noticed she had one of those calm, perfectly serene barre faces that some of our clients have. And then, just for a second, I softened my own face… and realized, holy crap! Grimacing takes energy too! I should redirect that energy to the legs/working muscles that need it! And for the rest of class, I did my best to not make effort faces, and instead send that energy to the muscle doing the work. And it actually helped!

Up to a point. By the end, we were all like this, defeated, on our knees, praying the crazy possessed woman leading the class would finally pass out or something.

Later that weekend, I started meal prepping some Mexican-style chicken thighs. We were having some friends over for dinner so I got a little busier in the kitchen and forgot to take pictures, but I’ll update with photo evidence next time I make them.

Which brings me to the topic on my mind today – cultural appropriation, especially in the food context.

In case you haven’t heard, a white woman in NYC recently opened a Chinese restaurant and advertised it as “clean” Chinese food, and it set off a firestorm of controversy about cultural appropriation, sensitivity, and all of that other noise. No one asked for it, but here’s my personal opinion as someone who loves food.

First, a little context. I completely understand why the Chinese-American community was outraged. There’s an ugly history of stereotypes here that Westerners may not be aware of. I’m a Korean that was born in Korea, and as a child I distinctly remember my parents teaching me about a “hierarchy” of cleanliness among the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. The Japanese were at the top of the hierarchy, generally believed to be the “cleanest” of the three nationalities in both food and hygiene. The Chinese were at the bottom, considered the “dirtiest” and the Koreans were somewhere in the middle. This would have been in the mid-1980s. My parents told me that, when financially feasible, it was best to buy Japanese brands at the grocery store because they had the highest standards for quality and cleanliness. Also, Chinese products were to be a last resort. Korean products were fine, but certainly not as good as Japanese brands. I suspect these were commonly held beliefs at the time – even a decade later when we were in America, I remember we went to the Korean grocery store that had recently started stocking a lot of new brands of rice. When my mom asked the grocer what brand was best, the grocer (a Korean lady) replied, “Well, the Japanese brands of rice are still the highest quality.” In the car driving home, my mom mentioned how sad it was that proud Korean grocers still had to admit, truthfully, that Japanese products were still better than “ours.” Are these fair stereotypes? Of course not, to the extent that stereotypes are ever fair, but were they based in reality? Well, the Japanese were certainly the richest nation of the three at the time, which makes things like good hygiene available to more people. China also has a particularly troublesome history of tainted products (which they certainly take seriously – I think they executed a CEO in charge of a company that produced bad baby formula). Meanwhile, the Japanese are so fixated on good hygiene that their toilet culture is world-famous. 

All of this to say, when a white woman opens a Chinese restaurant and claims that what makes it special is that it’s “clean” Chinese food – yeah, Chinese people aren’t going to take very kindly to that. Now I doubt the woman knew all of this history, and to be fair, there’s been a recent food trend called “clean” eating, to which I’m pretty certain she was referring. It doesn’t make the pain caused to the Chinese community any less justified, but I tend to believe this was mostly an honest mistake.

That being said, the point I want to make, or rather the personal belief I’d like to offer, is that cultural appropriation in the context of food should be one of the very last things we’re concerned with at the moment. We now live in a globalized, interconnected world. Diversity makes almost everything better, and if you truly believe that, why wouldn’t you want a more diverse group of people cooking Chinese food, or playing classical music, or break-dancing? Yo-Yo Ma mastered European classical music to a degree never before achieved by anyone. Koreans fell in love with break-dancing and regularly dominate international break dancing competitions. Eminem may be the best rapper ever, and Jimi Hendrix is the undisputed god of guitar. And the greatest Karate practitioner of all time? A white man of German descent by the name of Dwight K. Schrute.

Diversity doesn’t just mean accepting all cultures, it’s the idea that anyone and everyone should be able to choose and adopt whatever identity they think fits them best. I love authentic Korean food, but I was absolutely ecstatic when I found out that Bing Bing Dim Sum, a “Chinese” dim sum restaurant opened by two white guys from Philly, was experimenting and augmenting dukbokki, one of my all-time favorite Korean dishes, and the one dish closest to my heart. The Bing Bing guys get it right on their website – they’re not claiming or trying to be authentic, they’re just cooking what they like.

The idea that any one nation or ethnicity can “own” a cuisine to the exclusion of other people participating is, I believe, fundamentally flawed. Of course there’s value in authenticity – if something has been done the same way for hundreds of years, maybe they got something right. But people have done some very stupid things the same way for centuries as well.

All that being said… don’t ever get the pizza at 7-11. Italy should be allowed to kick its country-sized boot right up 7-11’s ass for this failure.

 

 

How to Feed a Barre Teacher Who Wants Bibimbap Three Times a Week, aka, The Barre Bro’s Sunday Meal Prep

Callie’s as good at cooking as the barre bro is at dieting. So, she sucks at it. But, she needs to eat! A lot. And since I can cook a little bit, we’ve started playing this game called “Married Life” where Callie says, “I’m hungry!” whenever she’s hungry. And I’m supposed to respond with, “What do you want?” And then Callie just… orders something, whatever comes to her mind, as if I know how to cook all 874 items on The Cheesecake Factory’s menu.

The Barre Bro’s wife doesn’t eat quite as many calories as Michael Phelps does, but she’s not far behind. With multiple days a week where she teaches doubles (and sometimes even triples), it’s important for the barre bro to keep his wife fed. Mostly because she doesn’t really know how to feed herself.

Unlike the barre bro, who is always thinking at least three meals in advance, Callie lives in the present and doesn’t even think a single meal ahead. If she suddenly gets a hunger pang while in the car, she’ll grab the nearest edible item, and suddenly she’s having an entire pack of tic tac breath mints for lunch. Or, if that hunger pang happens to occur in a candy store, she’ll stuff her face with 2 lbs. of rolos. None of which is conducive to fueling her athlete-level energy expenditure. So, I started meal prepping for her on Sundays! And this past Sunday, I took some pictures to document the process. Warning: this post will have, like, fifty pictures.

Continue reading “How to Feed a Barre Teacher Who Wants Bibimbap Three Times a Week, aka, The Barre Bro’s Sunday Meal Prep”

The Dark S[l]ide of Barre

If there was a tuck hall of fame, Elise would be the first inductee. Back when we first opened tuck in March 2017, we had a shortage of barre teachers and Callie was teaching 7-8 classes per week while working as a first-year associate at her law firm – not sustainable. Meanwhile, Elise was one of our first members and was happily taking Callie’s class 7-8 times a week, while also doing Crossfit. Neither of those two things is normal.

I guess game recognizes game, because Callie soon offered to train Elise to teach barre, making her tuck’s first-ever homegrown barre teacher. What Callie-wan Kenobi did not recognize then was that Elise had a dark side, and once Elise found her groove, she fully embraced the dark side of the barre.

Enter these fucking things. Those black discs that Elise is making Mickey Mouse ears out of are called sliders. Which, if you think about it, is really fucked up, because real sliders are awesome. Continue reading “The Dark S[l]ide of Barre”