Vagabond Cookbook

The best you ate on vacation? Make it at home tonight.

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Mexican Chorizo Hash

Reading The Postman Always Rings Twice a couple of years back, one thing really stood out. James M. Cain hated corned beef hash. In a hundred-odd pages, his characters bitch and moan about the hash house more than once. “That road, it don’t lead anywhere but to the hash house,” whines Cora. She and her illicit beau actually hatch murder plans just to keep her from slinging hash the rest of her days. Jiminy! Now, I can’t imagine working in a Depression-era diner was a swingin’ good time. Still, it unfairly gives hash a bad rap. Few dishes offer such rib-sticking satisfaction for such little effort. When you think about it, hash is just a chopped and sautéed salad. (The name does come from the French hacher, “to chop”.) At its simplest, it’s a bunch of vegetables and/or meat cut into small pieces and tossed in a pan. (By that […]

fresh tortilla topped with chipotle chicken and avocado

You’d be surprised how easy it is to make fresh tortillas from scratch

Some things just ain’t worth your time. Remakes of horror movies. Hooking up with your ex. Growing your own celery. They seem like fun at first, but each one is a weapons-grade headache in the making. Take my advice: Leave that stuff to the professionals. It’s a pattern throughout everything in life. There are costs and there are rewards. The trick lies in managing that balance — getting the most value for the least effort. Call it “return on investment” if you’re a business jerk, “bang for your buck” if you’re your dad. I prefer the line from my favourite mid-2000s teen sex comedy, The Girl Next Door: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” Sometimes, it just isn’t. On top of the stuff I already mentioned, there are lots of things I don’t think are worth the hassle. Cleaning bony little fish. Vacuuming. Reading Victorian literature. Voting. A lot of […]

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What’s cooking… without cooking?

Riddle me this! What’s cooking… without cooking? The dream of single mothers everywhere? Probably. But, let’s try a little harder. Need a hint? How ‘bout this li’l ditty? Bright and fresh with ocean brine I go great with crisp white wine Especially on the Latin coast (Mexico, sure, but Peru the most). Tart and tangy, soft and sweet, I am cooked, but without heat. Acid turns me firm and white, Without any fire in sight. What am I? Give up? Clearly you’re not the Riddler-loving, brain-teasing dork I am. That’s OK, though. Ceviche doesn’t discriminate. Ceviche (say it with me now, “suh-VEE-chay”) rules the school of raw-ish fish preparations that now dominate restaurant menus and cooking TV shows (sorry, pesca crudo). At its simplest, it’s just sea critters and lime juice (although tomatoes, cucumbers, and chilies often find their way into the mix). The lime juice denatures the proteins in […]

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Don’t listen to your family, smoking is great!

Every family’s got one. A jackass uncle. A quippy sister-in-law. A snot-nosed little boy playing with himself at the kid’s table. Every time you’re gathered together for a hearty feast, one of them is going to crack wise about the host’s cooking skills. “When’s dinner ready? WHEN THE SMOKE ALARM GOES OFF! HAR-HAR-HAR!” Hilarity ensues. Hacky jokes aside, there’s a fundamental flaw in that line of thinking. Everyone thinks if you set off the smoke alarm, you’ve done something wrong. I’m here to set you straight: If you’ve set off the smoke alarm while cooking, chances are you’ve done something very, very right. Not always, of course. When thick black clouds billow out of your cake-filled oven, there’s a problem afoot. When the fire department joins your Sunday morning bacon party, it’s time to turn down the heat. But if you’re roasting chicken? Charring poblanos? Stirfrying some pad Thai? Smoke […]

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Autobots, roll out (and cook)!

Predaking was always my favourite Transformer. To an eight-year-old boy, nothing’s more badass than robots and vicious animals except robots that turn into vicious animals. Cooler still? Vicious animal robots that join together to form a GIANT ROBOT. There we have it. Predaking: The crowning achievement of late ‘80s toy engineering. I… am not your boss. I am your KING! Really, cooking and Transformers are one and the same. Take some killer stuff, twist it around, smash it together, and BAM! A dish (or robot) better than the sum of its parts. (All due respect to Mr. Lagasse.) Foods that turn into multiple forms? Even better. Look at chili. It’s great on its own, but look what it can do! Nachos, chili dogs, sloppy joes, and that weird Mexican poutine they sell at New York Fries all start with the classic cowboy stew. Everyone’s got a favourite chili recipe though. […]