Sunday, April 12, 2009

22.0 Out of Our Element

Starring Erin & Mike, Adam & Josh and Introducing Sarah
Filmed on Location near Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: “Diner” Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

“Definitely the smile of the week!”- Fenwick

“Fire! There’s a fire!” shouted Sarah in the crowded kitchen. “Ack!’ responded Erin, dashing to the pantry for the extinguisher. “How does this thing work?!?”

No worry, the fire went out, leaving nothing but an acrid stink smoking from the burned-out element of the stove. Granted, the stove is old (it has dials, for pete’s sake), but typically did not belch electric flames until this moment.

There’s a hole in the element. Cripes! No kitchen for the Sellwood Kitchen meal! No worry – we’ll head over to Sellwood Kitchen II, aka Adam & Josh’s. Considering the meal, their abode seems more fitting. Why? It’s diner food, so why not cook it at Adam’s? He is our King of Fifties Kitsch (and ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s as well).

I need only cock my head to the right and I’m bombarded (or “atom bomb”-barded or “Adam bomb”-barded) by anachronistic wall clocks, electric fans, brownie cameras, candy dishes and a Better Homes & Gardens Handyman’s Book (There’s the dad with his pipe and hat, and mom in her pink housedress!).

Certainly, the essence of diners need not be locked in the 50s (I’ve chowed at many trapped in the ‘70s), but they seemed to reach their zenith of iconography in that period. Have you seen “Diner”, Barry Levinson’s directorial debut? It’s only the best movie ever! By now, that movie’s in my DNA. My kid’s first words will be issued with Modell’s cadences. (I don’t hesitate to type out my inner monologues, do I?)

Hey, ITSKers! There’s a new kid in town! Eastern Oregon’s own Sarah M.F.B.! A Betty to Erin’s Veronica? Nah. A Paula Dean to her Rachel Ray? Closer. Sarah’s more of an Alton Brown with her scientific knowledge of various foods (and beers – she’s one of Oregon’s few female brewers!). Anyway, she cooks up a storm…although she did ruin the stove! Nah, it wasn’t her fault – the culprit was none other than Time (in our case, one might say “Time wounds all meals”).

What was the meal? Nothing less than God’s wedding band: the onion ring. (Yes, I know God would not get married, but if He did, for the sake of my metaphor, he’d flash one of these deep-fried babies to the archangels.) And the onion rings aren’t even the centerpiece! Can you believe it? No, the main dish, the blue plate special, if you will, is a Southwest Dip. It’s like a French Dip, but spicy. It’s the Rita Moreno of steak sandwiches (that’s for the fifty and over crowd!).

“Must-See TV” (do they even call it that anymore?) radiated from the old Dumont. I’m a professional couch-warmer, magazine-flipper, wisecracker, and tv-junkie. I ascribe to Ferris Bueller’s rule of leisure: Leisure rules. I’m only in the kitchen for photographs. I stay out of the kitchen at diners, too. The cook is an alchemist. Somehow she turns flour and water into gravy. I know I write a food column (I naysay the naysayers!), but I delight in the mystery. When I’m dipping my fries in the brown gravy, I don’t need to know how Florence made it happen.

Guy Fieri, of Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, was in town recently (he was filming a segment at Pine State Biscuits on Belmont). I was going to put in a call to the Food Network, to see if he’d stop by the Sellwood Kitchen for a bite. But I was really hungry, and I suspect he would’ve put a significant dent in the onion ring tower. Actually, I think he wears an onion ring. I kid – Fieri’s ok with me! And he would definitely dig tonight’s meal.

Erin noted that the onion ring tower, as designed by Adam, looked suspiciously like Alf’s nose (as in “Alien Life Form” television puppet that ate cats). Mmm. Then we ate Alf’s nose. It was sort of an appetizer and a side dish, which means I ate it twice. And the main dish? Well, I’ll let Erin tell you about it. Suffice to say, you can take the cook “out of” the Sellwood Kitchen, but you can’t take the Sellwood Kitchen out of the cook!

Southwest Dip

Erin’s Intro: Our friend Sarah contributed a lot of her food science knowledge for this recipe. Not to mention, her knowledge of beef, which, as you know is not a common ingredient in the Sellwood Kitchen. But sometimes you just gotta have the beef! And sorry Josh, but sometimes you gotta have some gluten too! To compensate for making a sandwich in the Sellwood Kitchen this month, we decided to make Gluten Free onion rings. And I didn’t hear any complaints. They are so delicious, you don’t miss the gluten. As for the Southwest Dip Sandwich, the only thing in this recipe not gluten-free is the bread and Au-Jus, so a corn tortilla can be used to make a wrap with the same ingredients. Its greasy 50’s diner inspired, with less grease, and less gluten. The last comfort meal of the season! See ya later winter, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

Onion Rings:
1 sweet onion sliced into rings
1 Cup gluten free four
1 Tbs baking powder
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Cup dry champagne
Extra GF flour for dredging
Oil for frying, 350 degrees

Mix dry ingredients together. Add champagne and mix. You can alter the amount of champagne based on how think you want your batter. Although, it will puff up in the fryer so it doesn’t need to be too think.
Dredge onion rings in flour before coating with batter. Gently lower the battered rings into the hot oil one by one. Do not crowd the pot. Fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until the crust is golden brown.

Southwest Dip Sandwich:
Tri-tip roast
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
Fresh crusty bread sliced on an angle
1 white onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
Pepper jack cheese slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Creamy horseradish if desired.
Au Jus dip

Liberally season the roast with sea salt and cracked pepper. Roast at 350 degrees until Medium or Medium-Well. Let rest. Mix Au Jus and add drippings from the Tri-tip roast pan. Set aside. Toss sliced onions and peppers with olive oil, salt and pepper. Sauté on grill pan until hot, but still crisp. Butter one side of each piece of bread. To build each sandwich, set butter side down on grill pan, stack with thinly sliced tri-tip, pepper and onion mixture, pepper jack cheese, and the other piece of bread. Press into grill pan using another skillet or whatever else you have laying around. Grill on each side for about 2 minutes, until golden with mouthwatering grill marks. Serve with Au Jus dipping sauce and onion rings.

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: