Gas Station Gourmet Valentine's Day
My girlfriend has been complaining about my spending money on top quality ingredients when I cook for her. Copper River Salmon, Kobe Beef, Heritage Turkey, Bordeaux wines, D'Artagnan foie gras, and I could go on about the exotic produce, spices, and my recent molecular gastronomy kick.
So, for this Valentines Day, I want to let her know that I got the message and still love her. (She has a great sense of humor!)
I want to create a dinner experience using the cliche bottom of the barrel ingredients, but prepared in a very gourmet style with a surprisingly great taste. I want to source as many ingredients from either the 99 cent store or the gas station. Here's a rough sketch of some ideas I have so far...
Menu scrawled in crayon on the back of a fake Arrest Report
Andre sparkling wine chilled in a mini metal trash can with strawberry Pop-Rocks in the plastic champagne glasses for added flavor and fizz.
Wine from a box served in mason jars.
"Fwaw Graw O Torch-On de Spam" (in the shape of hearts)
Something using Top Ramen that I haven't figured out yet
Rum Soaked Twinkie Flambee with a Hershey's Dark Chocolate Syrup and Orange Tang Sauce
I'll be wearing ripped jeans, white tank top (wife beater), a loud tie, baseball cap, and a dinner jacket. The music selection will start with "Dueling Banjos" and move on to "Let's Get It On" by Jack Black.
Obviously, I need help brainstorming this if I'm going to pull it off. Would like to have more courses. Could use suggestions on menu planning, recipes, decor, and music. It's all in the name of love. ;-)
Let loose the hounds!
I think it's time to pull out those Victory Cookbooks...from WWII, when food was rationed (no butter!) and go with the less-is-more theme. Or maybe a food pantry theme? My local paper just ran an article about a food pantry which included a list of items each recipient gets on a weekly basis. I was actually trying to think of meal ideas but came up empty:
Not to make fun, but to think of creative ways to cook with items that many people live on day-to-day.
Sorry it took me so long to get back and write a report.
Here’s how it went down......
I kinda cheated a little bit here and there on my theme with the food. I could have gotten hot dogs from the 99 cent store but my intentions were to make her giggle, not kill her. ;-)
I wore old ripped jeans, a white tank top, the loudest and tackiest cheap necktie I could find tucked under the shirt, a baseball cap on backwards and 99 cent store flip flop sandals. For three days, I went without shaving. I looked like a dressed up version of the criminals on the police tv show “Cops”. I wanted to get an obnoxiously tasteless tablecloth but couldn’t find one. My second choice was setting down valentines day newspaper ads in red with hearts all over. Couldn’t find those either. I turned a few Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans into rather attractive votive candle holders and had a taper candle in a brown beer bottle. I tried to find sporks (the plastic combination of a fork and spoon in one) but couldn’t find those either. Napkins of course were tacky printed paper towels. I also offered a bib made from a 99 cent store plastic bag. The TV is connected to the computer, so I put on a fireplace screensaver. Other candles were lit around the house.
On the table, I had a tin bucket with USC’s logo printed on the side (her school) and filled with ice. The bubbly selection was Andre California Champagne ($3) with a screw-cork and sporting a USC beer cozy. Surprisingly, the Andre wasn’t completely bad but certainly not Schramsburg. I also had a Tinkerbell gift bag (Her favorite Disney character). In the bag, I had a pair of hideous pink leopard print flip-flop shoes and a plastic tiara with a heart on it that lit up so she could dress the part. Since I haven’t given her a ring yet, I got her a candy ring pop. (commitment lasts about 200 licks) I also included a pair of “Love Cuffs”, red plastic fuzzy handcuffs. It’s amazing what you can find at the 99 cent store. We never used the “Love Cuffs” but discovered that they make a great cat toy. ;-)
When she arrived, I had “Dueling Banjos” playing on iTunes followed by the sappiest love songs I could find. Later, the playlist moved into better tunes and a bit of barbershop quartet.
I scribbled the menu on the back of a fake arrest report and decorated it with hearts. Of course, the title was “Hold On To My Beer... I’m Gonna Try Somethin”. On the inside, it said “Men-You”.
Here are the courses...
Andre’s Broken Heart Cocktail – Plastic Champagne glasses filled with Pop-Rocks (for extra fizz) and crushed heart candies (the kind with little love notes printed on them) topped with Andre sparkling wine. Surprisingly tasty.
Franzia Red “Chillable” Box of Wine – This was served in mason jars. She always makes fun of box wine but neither of us can remember actually trying it. This turned out to validate our suspicions. It tasted like a mix of Kool-Aid and fruit juice that had been left in the summer sun for a few weeks. Needs more “inner tube” aroma. Interesting that it notes on the box “Table Wine with Natural Flavors”. Not sure what that means.
Jerk Tarts con Whiz – I wanted to rehydrate beef jerky and wrap it around pieces of apple. The beef jerky I got wasn’t long enough so I had to improvise. I put pieces of apple between pieces of jerky and filled the edges with Bacon Flavored Cheese Whiz (spray can cheese) then I heated it up on a mini cast iron skillet. Shockingly yummy.
Fwah Graw O-Torch-On de Spam Avek Bull-Burst Sauce – I treated canned Spam kinda like foie gras au torchon. I rinsed it to get rid of as much salt as I could and then poached it in butter. Next, I sculpted it into heart shapes and seared it. The sauce recipe I borrowed from Mario Batali who stole it from another chef. Melt a package and a half of original Starburst fruit chew candy with one can of Red Bull (carbonated energy drink). Again, surprisingly good. We will definitely make the sauce again.
Napoleon Duh Weenie – My goal was to deconstruct a hot dog and reconstruct it in a gourmet fashion. I seared a hot dog on my cast iron skillet and sliced it into thin disks. Using a tin can from Campbell’s Tomato Soup, I cut circles of Wonder Bread. I mixed ketchup and mustard separately with powdered methylcellulose to create a hot firm gel and cut it into circles with the can. I cut a sweet white onion in a circle as well. Next, I layered all of the circles, including the slices of hot dog, into a tower (napoleon). On top I made a heart with Cheese Whiz and filled it with ketchup spheres or “caviar” made with sodium alginate, sodium citrate, and calcium chloride. I placed a swoosh of a relish gel on the plate made by pureeing sweet pickle relish, straining it, adding agar agar, heating it, letting it set, and then pureeing once again. This had a touch of irony. I cheated and got decent hot dogs made from good organic meat with no chemicals... and then used a bunch of molecular gastronomy chemicals. Many giggles.
Lemon, Lime, and Basil Slurpee – We needed a palette cleanser. My girlfriend gave me a toy Slurpee machine for Christmas a year ago. I love Slurpees from 7-11. It’s basically a slushy beverage made with a soft drink or juice. I made one using Sprite soda infused with fresh basil. Oddly, it worked quite well and revitalized our taste buds for the next courses to come.
Padded Thighs and Ramen with Flamin Hot Cheeto Love Nuggets – This was a spin on Pad Thai. I made it with a package of Hot & Spicy Top Ramen noodles (20 cents!), julienned green onions, carrots, red bell peppers, chopped peanuts (airline size package), bean sprouts, and cilantro. The sauce was made from peanut butter, a bit of dark chocolate, and some other stuff already in the kitchen (hoisin, honey, red wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, Sour Sriracha, oyster sauce, etc.) I added sliced up microwave chicken nuggets and plated it on a bed of blanched arugala. I topped it with powdered Flaming Hot Cheetos and had a lime wedge on the side. It was served with pink bendy straws instead of chopsticks. We giggled a bit before running to get a fork. The dish was a success.
Convenience Luv On Fire With Chocolate Tang Sauce – This was more about the flambee spectacle than anything else. I soaked Twinkies in dark rum. My thought to set it on fire came from bananas foster. I sauteed butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Just before plating, I added more rum and lit it on fire. It burned for a short bit but the flames were too blue to photograph. Strangely, the Twinkie was not charred at all. This goes back to the theory that Twinkies are made of asbestos. I served this with a surprisingly good chocolate sauce using Hershey’s and Orange Tang powdered drink mix.
Truck Stop Truffles – Finely powdered Oreos blended with cream cheese and then dipped in chocolate. These were surprisingly easy and tasty. So to further complicate things, I finished them off 8 different ways.
Rolled in Cocoa Powder – Kinda standard truffle.
Drizzled White Chocolate – Again, kinda normal but good.
Rolled in Nutella Powder – I made the powder by mixing Nutella with Tapioca Maltodextrin. Very good!
Rolled in Walnut Powder – Pureed walnuts also mixed with Tapioca Maltodextrin.
Rolled in Malted Milk Powder – Like an inside out malted milk ball.
Rolled in Flaming Hot Cheeto Dust – Great red color but... Well it sounded good on paper at 1am.
Rolled in Orange Tang Powder – Good enough for the astronauts. This was awesome!
Topped with Honey Granules – Looked great and added a sugary crunch.
I topped the pile o truffles with 2 pink Marshmallow “Peeps” birds kissing. Bonus points for being extra sappy.
Well, the dinner was a success. She laughed the whole night. Almost everything tasted great and was a bit of a surprise to us both. I think it was proven that it’s possible to great meal without foie gras, kobe beef, and truffles. However, we had to throw out the box wine.
After all that, the kitchen was a disastrophe! I wish I had a biohazard suit.
Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions!
Thanks so much for the report. I was beginning to worry it had all gone terribly wrong and that was why you hadn't reported back. Glad to hear it was such a grand success. If you publish the recipe for Truck Stop Truffles in a few public places, I'll bet it would become a new recipe rage! Brilliant!
Not sure if this is what you are going for, but we had a challenge last year where the rules were that we have a fridge, a microwave, a coffee pot and everything in a convenience store. Here was my submission:
Blue slurpee mixed with vodka (mini bar of hotel) and garnished with chocolate shavings (scrape off mini Hershey bar)
White Fast Russian-
Cream (free creamers) mixed with strong coffee (chilled Starbucks or hotel coffee) and vodka (mini bar of hotel)
Ham & cheese crepes-
Cut ham and cheese from either a sandwich, or a Lunchables meal. Heat coffee maker so that bottom implement is hot and coffee pot is on the side. Mix pancake mix and creamer packets with one egg. Melt butter on heating implement and spoon on batter. Flip crepe when edges are dry and cook on other side. Fill with ham and cheese.
V8 juice with chopped cucumber and green peppers (taken from a salad) and jalapenos, salt & pepper (free, taken from the fixings bar). Chill and serve.
Thinly slice beef jerky and place in bowl with ketchup (from fixings bar) and water. Microwave until hot and let jerky sit until reconstituted. Heat coffee maker so that bottom implement is hot and coffee pot is on the side. Mix the finely crumbled coating from a corn dog with pancake mix, creamer packets and one egg. Melt butter on heating implement and spoon on batter. Set tortillas aside. Mix reconstituted beef with green peppers (from salad), onions and jalapenos (from fixings bar). Fill tortillas and serve.
Spicy Sausage Pannini-
On a roll, layer sliced sausage, jalapenos and nacho cheese. Spread butter on outside of roll and press with clothes iron. Press sandwich on each side until toasted.
Spam Frittata Primavera-
In a microwaveable bowl, nuke eggs, chopped Spam and chopped veggies of your choice (and availability). Top with diced cheese.
Strawberry chocolate trifle-
In a soup bowl, layer sliced Twinkies, strawberry jam (free packets), and vanilla pudding (from pre-made packets). Top with whipped cream (can), chocolate shavings (scrape off mini Hershey bar) and a few chocolate covered cherries.
Banana/apple dulce de leche shortcake-
A packaged honey bun cut in half width-wise w/vanilla ice cream sandwiched in between halves. Microwave caramels and sliced bananas/apples until caramels are just melted. Pour over honey bun. Top with whipped cream and crushed peanuts.
Chocolate pecan bread pudding
Take sandwich rolls (from ham and cheese sandwich) and leave out over night to dry. Cut into pieces and place in microwaveable bowl. In separate bowl, mix vanilla creamer packets and lots of dark chocolate shavings. Microwave until chocolate is melted. Let cool and mix in 1 beaten egg. Pour over rolls and microwave until just puffed. Topped with drizzled chocolate, whipped cream and crushed candied pecans.
How about a cheese plate with a plastic Jesus figurine (you know, from Cool Hand Luke-'Plastic Jesus on My Dashboard') anchored in a Mount Sinai of Philly cream cheese with some cheese strings running down the side? Then you just call the entire dish "What a Friend We Have in Cheeses"
(And before you call the PC police, allow me to reassure you I am actually a member of the clergy, a minister, a pastor and this dish was actually served as described at a graduation dinner at my seminary to great applause. And then we said "Grace' and you should, too, because you are lucky and blessed to have each other!)
For the decor, I wonder if you could get your hands on those signs that they all have, i.e. You have to be 18 to purchase cigarettes, We card minors, No beer consumed on premise, you get my drift. Also I would suggest that you have a few pieces of trash on the floor, or some crumpled empty cans. If you could also find some of those posters that feature church festivals or fundraisers that people put in conv. stores that would be a hoot. And don't forget the Missing pets posters!
not purple, veggo, shocking pink (i think the exxon station eggs are dyed with more than beets!)
[Please report back as to your final menu and the outcome!!!]
do they sell jiffy cornbread mix there? you could do a cornbread napoleon, cutting out heart shapes from a baked batch (consider baking in a larger pan to make a thinner/shorter/flatter loaf.
as appetizers, club crackers w/ cheez wiz and a canned olive slice or green chiles on top.
for a cocktail, kool-aid wine koolers... kool aid mixed with white wine out of a box.
red neck sushi... a fish stick drizzled w/ tartar sauce and wrapped in a slice of cheese
One can of (Original) style Spam
One brick of Velveeta Cheese (Regular) Style
Coleman two burner camp stove
One empty Folgers coffee can
Two wire coat hangers
Place Velveeta in coffee can and melt slowly.
Straighten coat hangers and cut each in half to make four skewers.
Cube Spam into half inch squares.
Turn Coleman stove to low.
Gather around the Coleman.
Skewer individual chunks of Spam and dip in melted Velveeta.
Serves four or more... depending.
Goes nicely with Budweiser.
1 1/2 lb. bologna
2 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
Get 1 1/2 pounds bologna sliced 1/2-inch thick. Take 1 piece of bologna and cover with a layer of cream cheese, lay another piece of bologna on top of first piece. Then cover second piece with cream cheese, continue to do this until all 1 1/2 pounds are layered in the form of a cake. Then take remaining cream cheese and cover top and sides, just like you were icing a cake. Chill, slice and serve with crackers or chips.
You can substitute sliced ham for the bologna.
6 to 8 slices bologna
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
Long, thin dill pickle sticks
Spread bologna slices with cream cheese. Put pickle near one end and roll bologna around the pickle. Use toothpicks, if needed, to keep it rolled. Slice a half-inch thick and serve. I love these!
Disa's Flying Saucers
Place bologna on cookie sheet and put in oven until bologna makes cup. Take out, fill with mashed potatoes and top with cheese. Return to oven until cheese melts.
TATER TOT CASSEROLE
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 bag tater tots
1 lb of ground hamburger meat
serves: 6 or 7
Brown hamburger meat. Add cream of mushroom soup and stir together continuously.
Let simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
Place mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish. Lay tater tots neatly on top of the mixture.
Place in oven on 350' and let the tater tots brown.
Sprinkle with cheese; melt it in the oven and ENJOY
my gram used to do the cream cheese roll up thang for a surprise company app-- she would beat the cream cheese with some horseradish and roll up in hormel dried beef slices. i broke the recipe out for a bbq party one year almost as a joke, but also because they are so cheap to make. a bunch of guys, including a few chefs, cleaned the platter in less than 15 mins. now dh requests them for every party. i've tried making them hoity toity with different flavor additions to the cream cheese filling but the horseradish original is the most popular. people always think the dried beef is prosciutto or another high-end charcuterie product, not humble dried beef. a trailer trash classic.
Thank you all for helping me through this event. Chowhound and the hounds that support this site ROCK!
I want to use the lowest, cliche ingredients and elevate them to the highest level. I think it's fair if I use a couple of cracked out tricks.
What do you think about a hot dog napoleon? Alternating layers of thinly sliced hot dog and wonder bread on top of a gelee of pureed relish and topped with spherical ketchup and mustard caviar.
Dude, I got skills and enough equipment to be dangerous. Need more ideas and proofreading so I don't go too far.
Thank you all so much!
It sounds like the both of you will have a lot of fun and I"m sure your girlfriend will appreciate all of the very creative effort you're putting into the night! As for decor, maybe you could go to a thrift store and get mix-matched plates, silverwear,etc. And for added flavor, get some old pictures (a velvet painting gets bonus points!) to hang on the wall. For appetizers, I liked Gio's suggestion of the Ritz crackers and cheese in a can. Maybe also try celery w/cheese spread, canned "potted" meat for your pate, vienna sausages in BBQ sauce..... for entree, how about Hamburger Helper, or pasta w/Ragu, or mac-n-cheese w/sliced hot dogs. My mom, who was from Kansas, used to make a stewed tomato side dish (canned stewed tomatoes, various spices and add white bread... heat over medium-low heat). For music, how about anything by David Hasselhoff? ZZ Top? Lynard Skynard?
Well you just gotta make something using Velveeta, Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima.
Canned corn beef sandwiches.
Squirty cheese and Ritz crackers.
1 Part cheap beer
1 Part chocolate milk
Fill your favorite frosty mug half full of your favorite bargain brand brew. Top it off with the chocolate milk. Savor the creamy head. Goes great with Bacon Meatballs.
bartles & jaymes, mad dog, or sutter home white zin would work too. and if using beer in anything [like gio's mudbog], it's gotta be PBR.
oh, and you could soften strips of jerky and use them to wrap slices of pear or apple for apps [sort of a "white trash" interpretation of prosciutto-wrapped melon slices, although i'm not quite sure how it would taste...]
Not sure if you can get the real thing in CA but if you can get your hands on some moonshine not only will it be in keeping with your theme but it's a sure thing to ignite. Second bet would be grain alcohol from the liqour store. Also good theme-wise, tasteless, and flame worthy.
To flambe the twinkie, put the liquor you are wanting to ignite in a small metal or glass measuring cup, get it lit, then spoon it over the twinkie. I do agree...try it first. I always read about heating the liquor first, but I've also lost too much of the alcohol that way. I've never had trouble lighting a room temp liquor.
Oh, for the entertainment part of the evening you can snuggle & watch this:
hold the cursor over the different figures - it is so corny that it transcends...
BTW, the ball cap will have the bill facing the back? The disposable orange handywipe sort of towel would make a lovely dinner napkin. Convenience stores usually have single roses sprayed with glitter around V-Day too.
Test the twinkie idea way ahead of time. I tried this as a going away gag for our French Pastry Chef at work - none of us could get the damn things to ignite! We tried every form of alcohol that kitchen had. We finally decided twinkies must be the safest material to build a fireproof bunker from!
I agree, the twinkies are probably made of asbestos. I figure I have 2 options....
1) Soak the twinkies in a rum that's over 100 proof. Although, using 151 Bermuda rum goes against the Ghetto theme and would probably get her tanked. ;-)
2) Soak the twinkies in regular rum and then make a preparation much like bananas foster. Heat butter, brown sugar, and rum in a pan (napalm). Toss in twinkies. Give the twinkies about a minute to get coated and up to temp. Ignite in the pan and then plate and deliver quickly.
This is all theoretical so I should try it first and remember where the extinguisher is. ;-)
Report back as to what ends up working. When we tried we were trying to do it quickly before service began. You never saw so many cooks trying to flambee something - that in itself probably ended up being funnier than the idea of the prank!
I love your whole concept - she is lucky having a SO who cooks & has such a great sense of humour. A happy Valentines for you both!
oh to have such complaints!!
kudos to you for putting so much thought into an event.....and i hope, as you say...that your girlfriend does in fact, have a great sense of humour.....and that Valentine's Day is the appropriate day for you to make fun.....(and that you're not making fun of HER).....then again, laughter is such a great aphrodesiac.
the Kraft website has a lot of KD casseroles if those are any good to you.
This tastes somewhat like Chinese Chicken Salad
Ramen Cabbage Salad
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (Marukan is best)
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 Tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 ramen chicken flavor packet
8 cups (1 head) cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 (3-oz) brick ramen noodles, broken into 1/4 inch pieces - uncooked
In a small saucepan, heat vinegar and sugar over medium heat until sugar
dissolves. Remove from heat. Stir in salt, pepper, contents of ramen
chicken flavor packet, cooking oil and sesame oil. Stir until everything
is well mixed. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine broken up
ramen noodles and shredded cabbage. Mix well. Pour cooled dressing over
the shredded cabbage mixture. Sprinkle toasted almonds and toasted sesame
seeds on top of the cabbage salad.