The 2010 short series Best Food Ever certainly falls into the category of decadence divorced from reality, if the first episode, "Sensational Sandwiches" is any indication. The fact that such an indulgence appears on a network known as "The Learning Channel" is an indication of just how low the bar on educational television has been lowered.
But watching has no calories, and some local sense-of-place geography comes through in programs like this, so we enjoyed the first episode as it jumped from diner to restaurant to sandwich stand around the United States, Top Ten Countdown style. We could not imagine eating most of the sandwiches: those that looked delicious were incredibly high in fat, and most provided enough food for a family.
We were very intrigued, however, by The Mighty Cone from Austin. At first glance, this seems like the KFC Famous Bowl that I ridicule so heartily in my Dignity Desert post. In this case, however, the convenience food is the result of a specific request to scale down the price of one of the most popular dishes at a high-end Austin restaurant, in order to bring quality food to a public festival. We could not argue with that premise!
The film -- available above on Netflix -- describes both the original recipe and the modification. Below I describe the modification of that modification, to suit my own cooking style and the ingredients we already had on hand.
First, I skipped the aoli sauce altogether, deciding to take this one sauce at a time.
Second, I improvised an ancho sauce. I could not find one in the store and the recipes I found online seemed like quite a lot of work for a couple tablespoons of sauce. So I whisked one tablespoon of Asian pepper sauce (some times called "rooster" sauce) into 1/4 cup of light mayonnaise.
We had two boneless, organic chicken breasts on hand (NOT from the chickens I transported over the weekend, incidentally), which I sliced into 1-inch strips.
Meanwhile, I crushed together in one bowl:
- 1/2 cup Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, in place of corn flakes
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 ounce sesame seeds (since this is all we had)
- generous helping of red-pepper flakes
In another bowl, I whisked together about 1/4 cup each of olive oil (blood orange infused), serrano-honey vinegar, and Amaretto liqueur (to compliment the almonds).
I heated equal parts of the blood-orange olive oil and Canola oil in our indispensable cast-iron skillet, and once it was hot, I dredged the chicken strips in the dry mixture and tossed each into the pan, Once seared, I lowered to medium-high heat and turned each strip until cooked through.
We each put a small, softened tortilla (I wrap them in waxed paper and microwave for 30 seconds) on a plate and added a few of the hot, sweet chicken strips. The coating did not adhere nearly as nicely as it does in the original version, so we scooped some of the sticky mess on top. At the table, we topped with store-deli Cole slaw and a bit of the chilled pepper sauce.
We paired this with some general purpose Merlot, to good effect. The result was VERY hot, VERY sweet, and possibly habit-forming.