Milwaukee – Oscar’s

So what does one do after they’ve hiked seven miles, were already tired to begin with, and just want a good meal and few beers before an early bed? Well, you plan ahead and plot a stop between hiking and the hotel at a place that is consistently on every top ten burger list for all of Wisconsin.

And you get Oscar’s

1712 West Pierce Street Milwaukee, WI 53204

http://www.oscarsonpierce.com/

They have awesome burgers. They have dozens of draft beers. They have a great atmosphere. I got in there late afternoon. There was one white-collar office party, one blue-collar office party, a reception for elderly veterans, and a bunch of random folks like me. All were smiling and having fun. Oscar was helping the employees everywhere. Everybody was enjoying themselves.

I got The Big O, because if you’re in a place so highly recommended, you get the flagship menu option. It did not disappoint. This is a really great burger. And it’s a superb place. Parking is available in their own lot. And you should go.

three mushroom pappardelle

When you throw three different kinds of mushroom into a dish, the only question that comes to my mind afterwards is why didn’t I use four?

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three mushroom pappardelle

2 cups chicken stock

dried porcini mushroom pack

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 pound hot Italian sausage, diced

4 shallots, minced

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 Tbsp brown sugar

12 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced

6 oz shitake mushrooms, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

pinch nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, salt & pepper

1/2 cup dry sherry

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, chopped

1 Tbsp pickled jalapeno liquid

1 spinach bag

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 pound pappardelle pasta

parmesan reggiano, grated

in a pot, warm the chicken stock, add the dried porcini & soak for 20 minutes, strain & chop porcini, reserve the stock

in a stainless steel pan warm 1 Tbsp olive oil over high heat, add the sausage & brown, use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage, set aside

stir in shallots & onion, saute until softened, then add brown sugar & caramelize onions over low heat

increase heat to medium, add the baby bella, shitake, garlic, and the spices to your taste and cook until they begin to stick to the pan, then add dry sherry, scrape pan and reduce until all brown bits are absorbed and most moisture is gone

add reserved chicken stock and reduce until all liquid is gone

add lemon juice, jalapenos, and jalapeno liquid, cook for a few minutes, then stir in the spinach and wilt it

add chopped porcini and heavy cream and simmer until a thick sauce is created, return sausage

separately cook pasta, in a large serving bowl add pasta, then add sauce, mix until combined but don’t aggressively stir

serve in bowls with grated parmesan reggiano

 

Let’s begin!

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Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the chicken broth, then strain and chop them after about 20 minutes of hanging out.  Keep the chicken broth, we’ll use it’s mushroom infused tastiness later.

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Sausage improves any dish.  I shall duel anybody who claims otherwise.  But honestly, this is just extra credit.  The dish will do just fine without the sausage if you want to go the meatless route.

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Whoever discovered the concept of slowly caramelizing onions should have been appointed Emperor of All Humanity for at least one day.

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After you’ve added the other mushrooms, garlic, and the spices, you really want them to get a nice golden brown look throughout.  As they start to stick to the pan, this will help give it a nice deeper flavor.

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Then we use the dry sherry to deglaze the pan and start the sauce.  You can use white wine instead of sherry if you want, but really you should go with sherry if you can get it.  It gives the dish a unique flavor.  And if you take the trouble to buy it, try and get the better sherry that is like $20 a bottle.  It’s remarkably better than the $10 bottle.

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While you’re cooking the pasta, slowly reduce the cream until you’ve got a nice, deep sauce.  The recipe calls for pappardelle, but any long pasta of your choice will work great.

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You can eat this by itself or serve with a side salad.  Either way works, but most people would like to have the salad with it too, as the dish can be a bit heavy for some folks.

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Most of my recipes come straight from my silly brain.  But where I am inspired to steal the ideas of others, I shall always try and give credit where credit is due.

In it’s original form, years ago, it was based on this decent Giada De Laurentiis recipe.

But it evolved after I had the Pappardelle con Funghi e Capesante at Vigiluccis in Coronado.  Work made me go there with the bosses, the food made up for the otherwise weird evening.  It was one of those moments where you eat something, and you’re like, “I wonder if I could do that?”  So I did.  But theirs is much, much better than mine.

spiced crab cakes with lime cream

We break several cultural rules by melding a variety of the planet’s tastiest spices into your usual crab cake.  The crab thus becomes happy.  Which will make you happy.  Which will make everybody happy.

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spiced crab cakes with lime cream

crab cakes

1 pound crab

1/4 cup roasted red pepper, small diced

1 celery rib, small diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2 Tbsp harissa

1/2 lime, juiced

salt & pepper

1 Tbsp Old Bay

1 Tsp cumin

1 Tsp cardamom

1 egg

lime cream

1/2 cup sour cream

zest of 1 lime

1/2 lime, juiced

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp Old Bay

cooking

1 Tbsp olive oil

bread or buns

1 tomato, sliced

greens

Combine all the crab cake ingredients in a large bowl. Form eight patties, place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Combine all the lime cream ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator with the crab cakes.

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the patties for about four to five minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Or, grease a baking pan, and bake the crab cakes in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until light brown.

Serve on toasted bread or buns, with tomato, greens, and the lime cream.

dsc00627Let’s begin!

dsc00629Throw all the crab cake ingredients into the bowl and mix with a spoon.  Don’t stir too hard or too much.  You want the mixture to stay a little loose.  Too much moisture is not your friend here.  It using canned crab like I do, make sure you drain out the excess liquid.

We use the necessary awesome Old Bay, but also add harissa, cumin, and cardamom for an extra special taste.  Harissa is a Moroccan chili paste that you can make yourself very easily.  But more and more I see it in the grocery store which is a win for all humanity.  Crab cake enthusiasts or Moroccan traditionalists probably might not agree with this combination of spice.  But to me, breaking the rules is fun.

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Make eight balls with your hands.  Don’t pack them too tight, you want to leave some of the air inside the cake.  If the balls are too wet, you can add more bread crumbs.  If they won’t stay together you could add a second egg and remix it.  Put them into the fridge for at least an hour so they can set.  You can use plastic wrap to cover or (blasphemy) since it’s only an hour you can just leave the plate as is like I do.

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The lime cream ingredients are just put into a bowl and stirred using a fork until it’s all combined.  It’ll be loose at first, but after an hour in the fridge it’ll make a nice and easy spread.

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A little olive oil and a nonstick skillet is all you need for less than ten minutes of cooking.  Use a spoon and spatula when turning over the cakes to keep them together as they should be a little loose.

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A slightly healthier and easier way is to just bake them for a half hour.  You’ll get a lighter brown color, but it’s less work and the cake will stay together easier.  I use both methods, but usually prefer the skillet.  Try both, and see what works best for you.

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You can eat the cakes with the cream on their own.  But I usually toast some bread and add tomato and some greens.

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Enjoy life!

apparently, even bread and potatoes can kill you now

Oh no, it’s happening again. Everything’s trying to kill me. The rain’s trying to drive my car off the road into a watery grave. I caught my dogs trying to practice their knife fighting skills last night. The elves that inhabit my dreams are telling me to burn things. And, oh no, my bread is poisoning me, and, wait, what? What?

Oh yes, my friends. They’re at it again. Science has determined that bread, or potatoes, or other starches are a carcinogen that can kill you. Truly.

Humans have been consuming bread and potatoes for like 10,000 years. If these things cause cancer, then the very air you breathe must do so as well. But this supposed breathtaking science news was given front billing on the BBC. So everybody’s going to read this and wonder what’s going on. As a brief aside, I’ve noticed that the BBC believes the world is composed entirely of vicious death traps. If I claimed that cutting your grass led to lymphoma, I’d get published in the BBC overnight.

Well, we at TAP are here to help. We’ll leaf through this insanity because we’re insane, and bored, and don’t want junk science giving our tasty food choices an undeserved bad name.

The idea is that acrylamide, a naturally occurring chemical, is a supposed carcinogen. When you fry or heat starches such as bread or potatoes above certain temperatures, acrylamide naturally appears in that food. It also naturally appears in other stuff such as coffee.

So the scientists have decided the solution to reduce your risk of cancer is to heat starches in manner that reduces the risk that acrylamide will appear. In other words, don’t always fry potatoes, boil them. Toast your bread, but not too much. Uh, okay.

First off, six sentences into the BBC report, this juicy line appears:

“However, Cancer Research UK said the link was not proven in humans.”

Oh, you, you mean nobody’s actually proved it’s a carcinogen. Oh.

Plus, may I remind you that acrylamide is naturally occurring. Humans didn’t invent it, it’s just there. So when the servants toasted the Pharaoh’s bread in 7,634 BC, he ingested acrylamide. If only they’d known to lightly toast the bread, but oh that goofy Pharaoh, he beheaded the last servant who tried that. Also, at some point thereafter, that Pharaoh died. So is it reasonable to conclude that Pharaoh died of acrylamide poisoning? Hey, why not?!

But wait, the scientists say! Acrylamide is actually a poison. If you ingest too much of it at once it’s toxic, you die. Governments regulate industries that leach out natural acrylamide and use it in industrial processes. So since it’s a poison, it makes sense that it’s a carcinogen, right?

Well, no, I’m afraid. I don’t quite agree. For you see, any substance, on the entire planet, can kill you if you ingest it with excess. Even water, yes freaking water, is toxic if you drink too much of it at once. So making the scientific assumption that just because a massive amount of acrylamide will kill you, thus indicates that even a little acrylamide will ultimately kill you, is worthy of third grade chemistry.

If you want to know why people don’t trust science, and why folks believe vaccines don’t work, or that climate change isn’t happening, I give you example A as to why folks distrust science.

Even if acrylamide is actually a carcinogen, I’m pretty sure it’s like a 0.000085% increase. If you have to devolve the cancer warnings to the point that folks have to divest bread and potatoes, you might as well post a warning asking folks never to leave their front doors each day. Hey it’s dangerous out there folks! Life kills!

Man, all this typing sure does make me hungry. Think I’ll go get a grilled cheese sandwich, with extra toasted bread. [gives cancer the finger] Thanks science, you’re swell. You’ve inspired me to add some enjoyment to my life before I some day become a bleached skeleton. Cheers!

red risotto with chard

This degenerate blog is just a little over three years old and slowly approaching 400 posts laced by the ramblings of an insane man.  But we’ve never done a recipe before despite the role food plays as one of the delightful pillars of my life.  Don’t know why it took this long, probably cowardice, but now it’s done.  There are others.  They’ll eventually make it up here too.  Good times.

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Recipe:

 

red risotto with chard

4 cups chicken stock

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 pound sausage, sliced

1 red onion, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp sugar

1 cup arborio rice

1 cup red wine

2 tbsp tomato paste

salt & pepper

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 15 oz can diced tomato

1 bunch chard

1/2 cup parmesan, grated

in a pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil and then let simmer

in a separate medium pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add the sausage and cook until brown, remove the sausage and set aside

reduce the heat to medium, add the red onion and garlic, and cook until the onion begins to wilt, add the sugar and continue to cook the onion until it’s very brown

add the rice and stir so that all the grains are coated, cook for one minute

add the red wine and stir, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pot, add the tomato paste, salt & pepper to your taste, and all the spices

when most of the liquid has absorbed, add 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and stir frequently until the rice is just starting to stick to the pot again, repeat 1/2 cup at a time with the remaining stock

while the rice is cooking, roughly chop the chard leaves and dice the stems

when all the stock has been used, add the chard leaves, chard stems, and diced tomato, cook for about five minutes until the dish has a creamy texture

return the sausage, remove from the heat, add the parmesan, stir, and serve immediately

 

Lunatic Breakdown:

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Let’s begin!

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The recipe works best with any kind of Italian sausage.  Pick your favorite and run with it.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a plate after it’s browned.  You can skim off some of the remaining fat before you add the onion if you want, you know, if you’re crazy.

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We’re using the onion, garlic, and sugar to get a nice brown and rich mixture.  You can turn the heat down and really let this process play out if you want for as long as a half hour.  Until the onion has a brown sheen that blinds you with it’s deliciousness.  But that’s not required, you can get it done in ten minutes, just keep cooking the onion until you get the browning you like.  If it starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, run with it, we’ll get that stuff off later.

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When you add the rice it always strikes me how little all that looks.  But then that rice will grow into tasty fun.  Make sure you coat every grain with oil, let it cook there for just one short minute.

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Get the red wine in there and start scraping the awesome stuck bits off the bottom of the pot.  Stir once every few minutes to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot anymore.  Use whatever red wine you like.  Whatever you do, don’t drink the rest of the box or bottle with your friends and family.

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My little cooking buddy.  She likes to wrap herself around my feet while I’m at it.  She enjoys being close, and it’s prime real estate for mistakes that result in food falling on the floor.

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Ladle 1/2 cup of the stock in at a time, keep stirring so nothing sticks, and just slowly let the rice do it’s thing.  Risotto is actually really easy to make, it’s just that you can’t leave it alone for more than a few minutes.  You can’t stir it and walk away for twenty minutes to chase the dogs or kiddies, do your taxes, contemplate the concept of dark matter, or binge watch the latest drama where everybody dies.

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I love chard because of it’s bitter notes and the color.  If you don’t like the bitter, you can just dump in a bag of spinach from the store, it’s all good.  Just get something green in there.  I dice up the chard stems and then add them too.  This gives the risotto a little crunch, and also is of the mindset to never throw out any part of the ingredient you can use somehow.  But, if you don’t want to go down this road, it’s perfectly okay to just use the chard leaves and cut off / around the stems.

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Toss in all those leaves, stems, and the tomato can contents.  Stir quickly and thoroughly until it’s all combined.  Be careful, at this stage the rice can really stick fast if you don’t get that chard’s liquid sweated out, so keep on stirring as required.

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Cook for about five to ten minutes or until the rice is starting to stick no matter how much you stir.  Get the tasty sausage back in and remove it from the heat.  Add the parmesan and stir it all up.  I used bagged parmesan here.  The best is probably to grate it off the block if you can but the bag works just fine.

Serve the risotto immediately while it’s nice and hot and before it starts to seize up.  For leftovers, you might need to add a little water back into the risotto before you reheat or microwave it.

You can eat this as a main dish, or as a side dish alongside other Italian type cuisine.

Enjoy life.

the rarest of foods and the future non-rareness of Star Wars

South of my remote office that works has me travel to is a quaint town that deserves the title of village.  It’s like something out of a time warp where restaurants, antique shops, Andy’s office, a small town non-evil lawyer, town hall, Skip’s Hammer & Nails, and the local fire station all surround an open park that families play in with their children.  I’ve not seen this kind of thing much in all my travels.  I’m not sure this idyllic existence was ever that common to the human race.  It sure seems pretty sweet though.  Everybody in this village is very friendly, if they do still possess a little bit of arrogance.  But hell if I lived like that I’d probably think I was awesome too.

Anyways, one of the restaurants around this park I’d been to before.  I got their tasty Asian themed burger last time.  It was great.  So naturally they no longer offer that.  Instead, the chef seems inclined to go high end.  And so a whole bunch of fancy and/or rare foods were on the menu.  I normally don’t go down the road.  I likes what I likes.  But the menu was short (which is fine) and so I decided to try things I’d not had before.  I cook all the time, but for the most part it’s just basic stuff.  I don’t usually buy or use too many fancy ingredients.  So all of this was new to me, in particular: black truffles, duck eggs, and bone marrow.

The result: I basically shrugged.  People I greatly respect in the food world talk up this bone marrow thing like it’s the nectar from the Sinai.  It was different, it was good, but it wasn’t something I’d have again over say, a good steak.  Maybe this village joint just didn’t do it right?  I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I didn’t understand the hype on any of this.  It was rather unfulfilling.  The night after I went to another town and a place I’d been before and went the burger route.  That worked out well.  I was satisfied.

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I will say, mine didn’t look like this.  So maybe they did indeed not do it right.

But the thought arrived in my crude brain, is rarity a delight in its own right?  Why yes, I think it is.  Sort of.  Let’s take these few belligerent examples.  To understand where I’m going, pretend for a moment that you’re a pretentious asshole.  As in, imagine you work for Goldman Sachs (offers finger to gilded palace level):

1) You are offered an omelet made of endangered condor eggs

2) You are presented beer brewed with water from The Moon

3) All the forces of science were used to cheat nature by recreating the dodo, just so they could kill it and you could eat it

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Coming soon to a plate near you.  Seriously, in your lifetime, somebody will attempt to do this.

We don’t have to necessarily go down this weird road though.  How about:

a) You drink a microbrewery’s beer.  It’s fairly decent, but nothing exceptional.  But you come back a month later and they’re out of business.  You will never be able to drink that beer again.  Was it that more special?

b) In your travels you experiment with a dish that cooks pork in a unique way you’ve never seen before or will again.  It’s nothing crazy, it’s just freaking pork, but it’s different, it’s good.  Will you miss this rareness a decade down the road?

To me, rareness or uniqueness is more along the lines of (a) and (b).  This kind of thing appeals to me.  (1) through (3) or bone marrow, eh, not really.  Not sure what that says about me, but that’s my take.

So then, the thought also crosses my feeble mind of what occurs when rareness disappears.  Even if you think bone marrow is liquid life, what happens to you if you have it every single darn week?  I suspect it loses the edge.

Everybody is once again on the cliff’s edge about Star Wars.  Yesterday, I saw a guy driving a Nissan Rogue where he had stenciled in cursive handwriting the word “One” after the Rogue lettering.  This means he’s even more of a loser than I.  A brief aside, how has Nissan gotten away without the evil corporate stigma that VW has?  Nissan has openly admitted to cheating fuel standards recently too, but nobody cares?  Whereas VW is the devil?  Eh, maybe folks just love to hate the Krauts?

Anyways, soon Stormtroopers and Darth Vader will be everywhere again.  You’ll stroll out toward your car in the dark of the morning and Boba Fett’s going to be standing by your mailbox smoking a cigarette.  And you’ll just shrug and start your engine because you expect it.  Here’s the thing though, I think it’s going to die down.

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These two dudes are going to show up to cut your grass.  You’ll shrug and give them the check.

Star Wars 1977 to 1983 was special.  Then George destroyed it.  So when Force Awakens appeared folks were just begging for some kind of victory.  They mostly got it, the world stopped for it.  Now everybody is looking for the ride to continue with Rogue One.  But, what happens when that rareness disappears?  Disney has 17 Star Wars films in development as we speak.  I suspect that rarity’s going to disappear.  You can only swallow so much bone marrow or Star Wars before you can only shrug.  It’s human.  In the best of our nature, we love to try things that are different.  We seek the adventure.  Things we eat or watch repeatedly can become less special, less unique.

Or maybe I’m just an idiot.  Maybe I’m wrong.  For example, I do love those burgers.  You can make a burger exactly 2,748 different ways.  I’ve only tried 73 of them.  I want to try the rest.  So maybe, just maybe Star Wars has 135 films left in it before everybody stops caring.  I assure you, Disney has it in them.  So we’ll find out, one way or the other, whether I’m right.

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Most if not all of these Red Shirts are going to die.  They told us so in the original movies.

how not to make a vinaigrette

As part of my continuing back to basics cooking push I’ve been doing a lot of simple salads lately.  You get those bags of green things, throw in some vegetables, make a quick dressing and you’re good.  It takes three minutes.  I’m getting hooked on this.  Salads are now more of a regular part of meals no matter what else I’m making.

So for this round it ended up being a half-spinach / half-arugula bag, a box of grape tomatoes (both generic store brand), a ball of mozzarella, and one avocado.  This will give you like four or five regular bowls of salad.  So I can make it once and eat it over two or three dinners.

The fun part is to make the random vinaigrette.  This takes about minute but invites you to customize.  I like red, white, or balsamic versions, it’s all good.

So here’s how this went down by exact brand picture, if you doubt my portion choices, just ascribe that to my own personal taste:

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1/4 cup

vinegar

1/8 cup

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2 Tbsp –  I love all kinds of mustard, I’ve tried like six different kinds in vinaigrettes lately

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Dust to taste

So far so good, right?

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Oh no.

High River Rogue.  So I love spicy food.  Some of my Indian dishes glow radioactively.  But I wasn’t going down that road here.  What I had in mind was to put a few drops into the jar to add a nice, even kick, and maybe some neat color.

I’ve used this hot sauce before on many things.  I know what it’s capable of.  I also know it has a completely open top.  There’s no dropper up there.  If you pour, it comes out quickly.

But as I grabbed the bottle to add those few drops into the jar, I think I tricked my own brain.  I think because I wanted to add just a few drops, I defaulted my brain into falsely remembering that there was a dropper on this bottle when there was not.

I turn that thing over and am shocked by the output.  I reflexed and stopped, but not before several tablespoons of this delicious fire liquid had made it’s way into the vinaigrette.  I knew this was not good.  I knew the power of this Rogue.

So my first thought, eh, dump it and make it again.  But I hate, hate to waste food.  And I’m going to be a bleached skeleton one day.  So whatever, I decided to run with it.  I closed the jar, shook it, and decided to roll as is.  The vinaigrette ended up as a light red.  This color greatly amused and pleased me.

Eating it was not as spicy as I thought.  It was relatively mild.  My lips tingled a bit, but it didn’t burn my mouth like this sauce usually does.  I figure that’s because all the vinegar and oil evened it out.  I thought I was good.  I was not.  What my mouth could handle my stomach could not.  You try sleeping with this level of heartburn.  It’s not fun.  Especially when the dogs think you’re fully awake at 1am and thus decide they can ram the bed and ask to go out.

So this did not go well.  This is not the way to make a proper vinaigrette.

So, why, why oh why do I want to try it again.  If only I dialed down the spice level, I’d still get that neat red color, without the partial poisoning.  I can make it work the next time, honest.

Eh, what’s wrong with me?