Food Frakker

Food Frakker

Cock Ale Recipe — Homebrew with chicken

Way back in the day, when I first started doing homebrew, I made a batch of “Cock Ale.” This was a recipe I found in the back of an ancient and dog-eared public library book on homebrewing, which purported to be a traditional beer made with a boiled chicken. The theory being that the protein and nutrients from the chicken would bring up the alcohol level. The kicker to the recipe was the claim that the chicken completely dissolved into the beer.

People loved that first batch of beer. Unfortunately the original recipe went AWOL, so I had to re-create it from several sources.


Step 1:

Make a broth of chicken, about one gallon.

  • 14oz of chicken, diced
  • Cloves, 6 whole,
  • Mace, 1/2 tsp
  • Nutmeg ,1 tsp

After the broth has stewed, refrigerate it overnight, gunky bits and all. Skim the fat the next day. Bring broth to a boil and add to the sterilized carboy hot, to wait for the wort.

Step 2:

Make an ordinary stout but with dried fruit.

  • Fuggles hops, 3/4 60min, 1/4 5min
  • 9 lb pale ale (BE)
  • 2 lb maris otter pale
  • .75 lb chocolate
  • .5 flaked barley
  • .5 carapils
  • 2 pounds of raisins
  • .5 pounds of dates

Calculated ABV came out to nearly 10%. I left it in the carboys almost three weeks. I’ve only had a few tastes so far, but even after a week in the bottle it’s pretty carbonated and tastes pretty smooth. The spices are the most apparent flavors, but there’s definitely a slight odor of chicken broth.

And although I can’t say for sure, because there was a lot of sludge at the bottom of the first carboy stage which I didn’t search through, but it seemed like nearly all of the chicken had dissolved.

A spooky Halloween beer recipe for you!

Rolling the tamale
Food Frakker

Homemade Tamales

The great thing about tamales is that they’re the gift that keeps on giving. With a couple of dollars worth of low-grade pork, and pennies worth of spices, cornmeal and corn husks, you can make a pile of tamales which will keep in the freezer forever.

Mixing the corn mush

Mixing the corn mush

The trick to making a really good tamale, is you don’t throw away any of the fat. You start with some low-grade stew meat, or if you’re a traditionalist, the entire head of some unsuspecting livestock, and you crock pot it until the meat, fat, and bone, all go in their separate directions.

The fat can be skimmed off and added to the masa, the corn meal. You can make the masa from scratch or from a mix, but in non-drought times you can usually find this in the store, pre-mixed with lye and all the other tasty additives for a very reasonable price. I got a two-pound bag for a buck.

adding the gravy

Adding the Gravy

Then you can add the usual chili powders and salt to the meat. The broth left in the crock pot should be turned into a gravy and added to the meat.
Mixing up the pork

Mixing up the pork

Then it’s just a matter of rolling up the tamales in corn husks and steaming them. Even without really trying you will probably end up with way more than you bargained for. That two-pound bag of masa will swell in the steam.
A pile of pork and mush

A pile of pork and mush

Leftovers should either be frozen or given away to friends, family, and coworkers.
The steamed tamales

The steamed tamales

Food Frakker

Gizzards of Austin’s East Side


It had been a little while since I had visited the lunch counter at the back of the convenience store on Cedar Avenue and 14th Street. The ownership had changed, so they now offered more soul food and barbecue than they had before, but they still had gizzards. The proprietress fried me up a pile, and they were everything that gizzards ought to be, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and greasy through and through.

prickly pear sorbet
Food Frakker

How to Make Prickly Pear Sorbet

prickly pear sorbet
About mid-summer here in Austin, the prickly pear get ripe. They bloat purple in the punishing sun, sprouting with tantalizing juiciness from the middle of daunting thickets of thorns. I pass by a lot of these prickly pear groves on my daily bike commute, the nopalito cactus flourishes in the poor soil and neglect of Austin’s interstitial spaces.

So with the help of gardening gloves and my cargo bicycle bucket, I picked about a gallon of the suckers. Unfortunately, my gardening gloves are only about 90% effective in warding the thorns of the mother cactus, or even the hair-like spines of the prickly pear itself. For weeks afterward I was plagued with the raspy feeling of raspy thorn heads buried just beneath my skin.

I managed to re-stick myself with more thorns as I prepared the prickly pear for consumption. If you soak the fruit in cold water and then briskly rub the skin, scraping off the patches of sharpness that spot the rind like measles, you can remove most of the near-invisible thorns.

But not all.

With a lemon juicer, I turned the pile of mostly de-fanged fruit into a bowl of viscous, purple juice, and another pile of pulp and seeds. A lot of seeds made it into the juice, but I don’t consider the prickly pear seeds a bad thing. They add texture and no doubt have significant nutritional value in their own right.

The juice retained a little of that slimey consistency that you might know from nopalito tacos. In a sorbet this is a good thing, it makes the finished product smoother and softer than what you would get from a simple fruit puree.

Getting the juice was the hard part. To that, I just added some sugar, lime juice, and rum to taste, and popped the slurry in the ice cream maker. The final result was not only eye-poppingly purple, but tasty as well.

I’ve been saving some seeds and cactus pads from particularly well-producing examples of the prickly pear fruit. Now all I need is some unkempt interstitial space to grow them in.

Food Frakker

Chicharron Preparados

I haven’t stopped exploring the menus of the fruit cup stands down on Riverside. One of the standard options on the non-fruit side of their menus is chicharrones preparados. Reading the name, I initially thought that this food would be a pile of fried pork skins topped with beans, cream, and other delicious garnishes. But it turned out to be the other meaning of chicharrones, the general sort of crispy thing usage. In this case the chicharrones preparados was a sheet of crispy-fried flour, not unlike duros, the fried crispy wheels. And on top of that sheet of chicharrones was piled all the beans, lettuce and cream that I was expecting.

The surprise addition to this meal was the pickled pork skins. My old housemate had bought me a jar of pickled pork skins several years ago, but this was the first time I’d seen them implemented in the wild.
bionico fruit cup
The other recent experiment with the fruit cup stand was the bionico. This was a pile of fruit, strawberries, bananas, and apples, served in a mash of yogurt, honey, and granola. When you order it in the 32-oz size, it comes in a heaping trough. On a hot Texas day it’s surprisingly refreshing.

pig skin with tattoo
Food Frakker

Pig Skins at Home

pile of raw pig skins

There I was at the Fiesta Mexican food market, standing at the meat counter and I thought, “There’s really nothing keeping me from buying a pound of pig skin.”

The pig skin was cut into perfect pink squares. There was some dimpling, apparently from someone having hit it with a tenderizing hammer at some point. When looked at closely, you could see that the pig skins had tiny blonde hairs sticking out of the pores that glistened in the light. Some of the squares of skin actually had purple tattoos on them.
pig skin with tattoo
When I noticed that, the thought crossed my mind, “There’s no way to tell the difference between this pig skin and the skin of some white guy. A white guy with some very bad tattoos.”

But that didn’t stop me from eating the skin.

I started by slicing the skin into chicharron-sized strips. It was surprisingly hard to slice through the skin with the butcher knife. If I’m ever attacked by a pig, I’ll have to remember to stab it instead of slashing.
frying pieces of pig skin
The fried bits were tasty, but they were a bit greasier than I would have wanted. I was hoping that they would puff up like pork rinds, but they ended up with the slightly chewy texture of pork cracklins.

If the distinction doesn’t seem clear to you, it’s probably because you haven’t spent that much time eating out of gas stations.
home fried pig skin strips

Country Kitchen hotdog and biscuits
Food Frakker

Food Frakking at the Country Kitchen

Country Kitchen hotdog and biscuits

The last time I was in the Twin Cities, my grandparents took me out to eat at the Country Kitchen. If there is any all-you-can eat buffet that stands head and shoulders above the others, it would be Country Kitchen. I feel that the selections don’t have the sad fried-intensiveness of the buffets below the Mason Dixon line.

When I am at a buffet like this, I feel that I am an artist, and that every plate is my canvas and the steam trays of food are my paints.

For the first masterpiece I assemble, I go for a general theme of meatiness, but work to draw out the conflicting elements. A piece of processed fishstick lies down in peace beside a sauce-drowned crabcake (not real thankfully, no allergic reaction) and a lone hotdog, it’s unadorned flesh temporarily elevating it to the status of “sausage.” A puck-shaped chicken-fried steak, nearly a Salisbury steak in this context presides over the affair, with hot calzone slices backing it up.

A final note of surrealism is struck by the blue-flavored slushee drink, looming in the background as a final condemnation of any pretention of naturalism.
Country kitchen fries and chili

For the second plate, the theme of carbohydrates dominates. A slop of beaned chili (this is how you know you are in the North) recklessly drapes itself over a pile of French fries. A “hot dish” casserole sits on the side, and a processed piece of fish makes a repeat appearance along with another slice of piping-hot calzone.

But these plates are simply the preliminary chords that build to the crescendo of dessert. First we build a palette of puddings and soft serve. The texture of smoothness is melded with the chewy experience of gummy bears.

Country Kitchen icecream and gummy bears

But wait, this sensual chorus is not yet over! Because this is an all-you-can buffet, there is one more trip, a taboo-shattering second visit to the dessert table. Here we find not just another bowl of soft-serve, but a liberal dosage of chocolate candies, whose crunchiness catapults the artist into the promised land of buffet Valhalla.
country kitchen icecream and M&Ms

Food Frakker

Frozen Coconut Banana Leaves Cake

Sometimes you have a serious sweet tooth late at night and you go to the freezer to find the makings of whatever dessert had previously been too much of a hassle for you to bother with previously.

My freezer just happened to have some frozen banana-slash-rice-pudding with a secret core of red beans and wrapped in coconut leaves tied like little sweet packages. These had been sitting in my freezer for as long as a year because I kept putting off the hassle of interpreting the Thai, or perhaps Chinese, packaging and determining if they would be better steamed or microwaved.

It didn’t satisfy my sweet cravings the same way as a Cadbury Egg, but not bad all the same.

There’s still two left. They’ll probably be in the freezer for another year.

Food Frakker

Making Alambre at Home

Julia, my food frakking deputy, and I are big fans of the alambre plate at Taqueria Jaliscienses. It’s essentially what the Pizza Hut meat lover’s pizza would have been if those cowards had just had the guts to remove everything that wasn’t meat. It’s normally a steaming pile of fajita meat with bacon and sausage mixed in.

So it was with sheer delight that we discovered that we had all of the ingredients on hand to make alambre, which is to say that we had a bunch of meat and I was perfectly happy to fry it all up in a pile and then eat it with tortillas. What went into the frying pan was some pork ribs (de-boned of course), pepperoni, peppers, onions, bacon (as vital an ingredient as anything), and to top it all off, to give it that truly over-the-top meaty taste which is the hallmark of alambre, I added slices from sliced bologna sandwich meat I had bought at Walmart for 59 cents.

Draining the finished product on a paper towel proved truly vital.

Food Frakker

Eating Mutton at Sam’s Barbecue

First of all, I would like to apologize for the quality of this picture. The light in Sam’s Barbecue (the old-style BBQ shop near 12th and Chicon) is low, which didn’t help things any, and I kinda got distracted by my half pound of mutton and forgot to take the picture until I had eaten nearly all of it.

Most of the BBQ places around Austin don’t serve mutton. I presume it’s because Texas barbecue has become a rather prissy and self-important affair. Most restaurant goers in Austin would rather be a few blocks away at Franklins eating a boneless and perfect piece of brisket. They would rather spend a couple of hours in line than spend a few minutes picking juicy and pungent mutton meat from the admittedly perplexing anatomical irregularities of a sheep.

I’ve had mutton several times now, always from an establishment that caters to either Mexican-Americans or African-Americans. And every time I get the mutton I discover some surprising, new, and inedible piece of animal. Sometimes it’s unexplained tubes. Sometimes it’s whole vertebrae. The piece of mutton I got from Sam’s this last time appeared to be a cross-section of ribcage, but there were also pieces of bone, or maybe hard cartilage, about the size and shape of golf pencils. They weren’t a part of any skeletal feature I’m aware of. There was also a sheet of membrane embedded in the meat. I’m thinking that it was part of some sort of sack that held the sheep’s innards, but that might be completely wrong.

Nevertheless, some of the juiciest and tenderest barbecue I’ve had. And it tasted a little bit like a sheep smells, the sort of thing that’s worth top dollar in cheese, so why not meat too?

I should also mention, in passing, the whole “shoplifted pants meat” scandal that had closed down Sam’s last year. I’m glad they’re re-opened, and I hope that being the target of a health department sting operation will only increase the credibility and prestige of the barbecue.