The Dogs of Shebnation: Meet Champ!

This is Champ, a serious little puggle whose main jobs are to protect his people and eat. I was menaced viciously by this little sausage just yesterday, because he didn’t know me. Fortunately, his running speed was hampered by his rotund shape, so it was easy to notice that he was coming for me and to move out of the way.

Champ uses his bulk to his advantage; one time he dragged a 50 pound bag of dog food out of a closet and ate more kibble than he should have, maybe even most of it. His chow is now kept in a special tub with a screw cap. He also knows how to open the refrigerator. So of course, a bungee cord is needed there.

Champ will tell you that the most danger lurks at night. This is why he awakens two or three times every night to bark loudly and slam his stout little body against the front door.

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All The Lunch Feelz.

I work in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago. Even though some of Chicago’s greatest restaurants are within walking distance of me, the area remains particularly distressing and expensive when it comes to lunch.  Also, I cannot just close up the shop and take a 2 hour tasting menu at Blackbird on workdays, much as I would like.

What about chicken?

I am always puzzled when people tell me how lucky I am to work next to a Harold’s Chicken Shack, because I don’t think that feeling bad, bloated and odious after eating your lunch is a particularly lucky state of being.

What about the Whole Foods salad bar then?

My response is that it’s bland, expensive and  unreliable in terms of freshness. You know where I am heading with this, right? Yup, time for a lesson in Shebnation salad making! This is nothing new, these mason jar salads have been around for awhile, but unlike cauliflower pizza crusts, they actually work.

Remember how I told you about making vinaigrette? I am positive that all of you whipped up a batch and have it ready for your work salad making tutorial.

Here is what you will need:

6 Tbsps of your Vinaigrette

3 one quart mason jars with lids (twee & irritating- yes! but environmentally friendly and perfect for this job)

2 cups frozen cauliflower, steamed and cooled, then rough chopped.

I bell pepper chopped (I chose yellow this week)

2 Persian Cucumbers chopped (they are small and crunchy and don’t have large watery seeds. No-one likes a large, watery seed.)

9 ounces (255 grams) chopped chicken tenders (cooked and cooled beforehand, use this genius technique but use the tenders and season them nicely). I used a piri piri spice blend plus salt and pepper when I did these.

3 ounces (84 grams) feta cheese. Use a pungent sheep/goat blend that is real and stored in its own milky brine.

21 oil cured olives

6 cups of lettuce, but please leave it alone for now.

Saladmise

Everything is ready to go here. I have put 2 Tbsps of vinaigrette at the bottom, and divided the cauliflower into each jar. Now that bland little vegetable will sit next to the tart vinaigrette and soak up all its power.

 

Next add the cucumbers and peppers. Please take a moment to season this layer with salt and pepper- see all the little flecks in the picture?

Finishedsalad

Add the chicken, olives and feta, again all divided into 3. Do NOT season this layer. Remember, your chicken should already be seasoned and the olives and feta are salty!

Close up the jars and put them in your fridge for up to five days. The space at the top of the jar is for lettuce, add about 2 cups of chopped, clean lettuce. You can stuff it in there a little. But do it the DAY OF THE SALAD EATING, otherwise nasty wilted lettuce happens, ruining all your hard work.

At work, obtain  a bowl and dump the salad in there. The vinaigrette at the bottom will dress the salad with a few tosses and voila! You’ve done something nice for yourself that won’t make you feel odious in the workplace.

Don’t like feta or olives?- use nuts or dried fruit, even chopped apples. Put the firmest of your salad choices at the bottom to soak in the vinaigrette because the acids will begin to break down more tender vegetables. You can also use leftover roasted vegetables, any  kind of meat you might have, or hard boiled eggs. Spinach, kale, arugula or any green you like can take the place of lettuce. If briny things like feta or olives are not involved, remember to please salt and pepper your greens layer the morning you add it to the jar.

 

FUN FACTS:
$4.79/jar cost.
Calories: Around 516
Fat: 38 grams
Protein: 21 grams

 

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Vinaigrette

This sauce may be one of France’s greatest gifts to us, we should all have one in our arsenal.

Salad gets fucked up (in restaurants and at home) more than it should. Just last week I had two salads in two different, well-reputed restaurants that were not great. The lettuce was not cut properly, the greens were not seasoned before dressing them, but mostly the vinaigrettes were imbalanced and provided no pleasure or texture. When you eat a vinaigrette that lacks pleasure, it is a very bleak moment in your life. I was able to recover, but it required a lot of wine and the lifting of some barbells.

Here is what you will need:

Vinagrette

 

  1. The Shallot. Not advisable to substitute an onion or scallion, the shallot is the star here. They are impossible to find at Whole Foods and Mariano’s, or The Jewels as we like to say, but easy to find at “ethnic” markets, because apparently “ethnic”people are the only smarties that know the deliciousness a shallot provides. Pick a nice firm one with shiny skin and no squishy bits. No-one likes a squishy bit. In fact, while you have made this special trip just for the shallot, buy about  2 pounds. Then you can use a ceramic bowl and store them in your kitchen. They last a long time.
  2. The mustard. Maille  is a solid brand that is common in France (almost always found in the “ethnic” stores as well) but I have also made this with the ubiquitous Grey Poupon, which includes sugar and pectin. Maille has neither of these and I prefer it. (Note: Nadim, you were right…)
  3. Vinegar. I am just using a cheap Italian red wine vinegar here. It’s mainly to provide punch and cut through some of the unctuousness. No need to spend crazy money on vinegar.
  4. Oil. For this I use a decent quality but not super fancy extra-virgin that I also use for cooking. To make it seem more expensive, I store it in an old Raveneau Chablis bottle. The may be disappointing but with the amount of olive oil used in Shebnation it is a necessity.
  5. Salt & Pepper. I like Maldon salt and I like finely ground pepper. I very much dislike the feel of coarse, spicy pepper flecks in my mouth, especially near my teeth. I realize the specificity here and own it. If you enjoy this feeling use coarse ground pepper.

Chop one medium shallot up in tiny tiny dices. if you stink at handling knives, you could use a box grater. But this will also cause a lot of volatile liquidity to erupt from your shallot. So try the knife. Put the dice in a small mason jar that has a lid. Add 2 Tbsp. of vinegar, 1.5 tsp. of mustard and stir it all around. Get the shallots in there and let them soak in the acid for a minute or two. This will really take the edge off. Add salt and pepper (1/4 tsp. each). Add 5 Tbsp. of the Olive Oil, put the lid and shake it up, for a bit until everything is a smooth, cohesive unit. If you do this enough you might even not need the measuring spoons anymore.

VMixedvin

Taste it and you will probably want to add a bit more salt, I always do. Then, your masterpiece can be stored in your fridge for about 5 days, but you will use it all up by then. This will dress 2 or 3 big salads and 4 or 5 little ones.

20160218_131011

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Good American Chardonnay Does Exist.

While Burgundy may be the preferred Chardonnay of Shebnation, please know that things like this exist:

massicanhydeAnd that they are completely saturated with candied lemon rind,  green apples and taught pear skin. In a way that is completely new and unexpected. Just what you might want. Your mouth might tingle a little.

 

Also, if you choose to do a manbun, please make it big. Like this. And wear aviators.  Let’s relieve the world of these tiny buns. Thank you for your support.

manbun PM

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The Dogs of Shebnation: Meet “The Clem”

Clementine (or “the Clem”, as she is known) is a very special animal. Her activity levels range from psychotically busy to lifeless and sedentary.  Also, if she is lifeless and sedentary, please do not disturb her if you enjoy having unbitten hands. Most of us enjoy unbitten hands. However, she gets scared when she is in that hypnagogic state between asleep and fully awake. Who among us is not?

In terms of snacks, the Clem requires quite a bit of work. While many dogs merely have a cup of kibble poured into a bowl, foodstuffs for the Clem are a little more involved. Her breakfasts and dinners are composed of a complex mixture of coconut oil, pumpkin, probiotics and slow-cooked, grass-fed meats.

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