I recently asked readers for their strangest, slightly-shameful, secret food habits. It turns out that you people are dirt bag geniuses, and were able to open my eyes to new and exciting ways to eat mac and cheese, instant noodles, and spam.
Photos by Claire Lower
Reading your brilliant, grossly enticing recipes wasn't enough; I needed to tasted them with my own mouth, so I picked a few of my favourites to test out. Here are the results.
Dorothy's Sour Cream Macaroni and Cheese
Dorothy is actually not the first of you to bring this hack to my attention. Given my deep and true love for sour cream, I knew it was something I had to try.
I, too, adore sour cream in a way that’s not quite normal. Like you, Claire, I don’t feel quite right when there’s none in the fridge. I have two sour cream confessions:
I sub sour cream for the milk and butter in Kraft Max& Cheese. I use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup. The tartness of the sour cream makes the cheese taste more intense. And I grind a boatload of pepper onto it. I can easily eat the whole box. And while I’ll happily eat homemade mac & cheese I’ve never had any, in a restaurant or made by a home cook, that I prefer to the blue box made wit sour cream.
Ok, this one is tough to confess but Carl confessed so I must, too. When I was a young cook, back at the dawn of time, Campbell’s had an ad that featured a recipe they called Souped-Up Minute Rice. You bring a can of Campbell’s cream-of-anything soup and a can of water to a boil, stir about 2 cups of Minute Rice into it, return it to a boil, slap the lid on and take it off the heat. You let it sit for 10 minutes, et voila! Your side dish to go with meatloaf or porkchops or whatever. Well, I added my own touches to this dish and now it’s my go-to comfort food: i use cream of chicken soup. I add cut up leftover meat, usually steak or chicken, along with the rice. I add a few tablespoons each of parsley and freeze dried chives, as well as plenty of ground pepper. When it’s ready to serve, I stir in a big spoonful of sour cream.
So, there you have my food shame. Don’t judge me too harshly!
I prepared it almost exactly Dorothy described in her comment, except I was somehow out of pepper. (Honestly, I think the title of my memoir is going to be Always Out of Some Staple: The Claire Lower Story.)
ANYWAY. It turns out that sour cream mac is pretty good. For one, it's even easier to make than the "traditional" prep method, because you have one less ingredient, and it has that fantastic tang that does indeed intensify the cheese flavour. It's also super creamy and utterly addicting, just like sour cream itself. I give this four out of five frying pans.
Ben A.'s Melted Cheese on a Plate With Hot Sauce
I've been enjoying melted cheese on a plate since I was seven years of age -- I distinctly remember eating it while watching the series premiere of Power Rangers after school -- and it has held up. I had never put hot sauce on it though, so I appreciate Ben's ingenuity.
Family tradition: shredded cheese on a plate, melted in the microwave, smothered in hot sauce. Goddamn, I love it.
Some people may think they are above eating melted cheese off a plate, but they're not. No one is. If you've ever eaten a slice of cheese on its own and didn't feel weird about that, there's no reason you should feel weird about eating cheese that is melted on a plate. As for the hot sauce? No one should ever feel weird about eating hot sauce ever. Basically, this is a delicious treat, and it gets 3.88 out of five frying pans.
Dayglo Fascist's Doritos PB&J
People who put chips on sandwiches are good at food, but dayglo fascist takes it up a notch with this dreamwich:
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever put on ramen? Canned tuna. I regretted it.
Have you ever put Doritos on a tuna sandwich? No but I’ve always put doritos on my PB&Js
Which condiment do you overuse to the point of impropriety? I’ve fallen deeply in love with hoisin sauce recently.
Do you have a deep love for a much-hated food? Liver. Chicken livers or beef. I adore liver. My favorite way to have it is sauteed with onions and deglazed with a little fresh squeezed orange juice and some whiskey. Also a huge fan of pate. If I see you eating (and enjoying) the pate I inevitably lay out at every gathering you will become my best friend
Who is your secret fast food love? I recently took a trip to Guatemala and experienced the awesome that is Pollo Campero. Best friend chicken I’ve ever had. I even swiped a bottle of their green hot sauce and brought it back into the states. I also have a deep and abiding love for egg mcmuffins. I try to only eat them when I’m travelling or on the road or desperately hungover.
Like all peanut butter and jam sandwiches, this was very easy to make, which I appreciate. If a traditional PB&J lacks anything, it's texture, but the Doritos take care of that. Flavour-wise, it's all there. You have your sweet jam. You have the savoury, cheesy, umami goodness. You have your rich and creamy peanut butter.
Doggo shape wants in.
It's a very satisfying sandwich. I give it 4.25 out of five frying pans.
RookDarkly's Butter-Fried Noodles
Just when you think you've seen all the instant noodle tricks, a hero comes along and changes your quality of life for the better.
I have many things to say on this topic
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever put on ramen? it’s not very strange, but a room mate once made ramen, drained all the water, then proceeded to fry it up with butter. It was the most delicious ramen ever. I’ve only ever replicated this once due to the extreme shame of it all.
Have you ever put Doritos on a tuna sandwich? probably, I used to put chips on nearly all my sandwiches and hot dogs for a while (if you put them on the bun and under the dog it’s less messy).
Which condiment do you overuse to the point of impropriety? closest answer to this would be chik fil a sauce. I use it on the waffle fries and would keep packets to use on chicken I cooked at home and mix it with my rice. I had a problem.
What’s your stance on expired foods? I treat expiration dates like the magical day the food goes from edible to deadly.
Do you have a deep love for a much-hated food? Brussel’s sprouts. I love baking them with sweet potatoes and cinnamon, or just the cinnamon if I don’t have sweet potatoes (oil and salt goes in there too obvs)
Who is your secret fast food love? Pizza, I will always be down for pizza. $5 hot-n-ready? yes please.
1. I discovered Ketchup chips in Canada and they became my favorite thing ever. When I got back to the states I was saddened by the lack of Ketchup chips, so I settled for dipping plain potato chips in ketchup. You’d be surprised how many people found this strange and disgusting. I guess they didn’t know what french fries are made of.
2. I used to have tuna and saltines as a snack. One time I ran out of saltines and the nearest thing to me was a banana. I shrugged and gave it a try and found it to be delicious and this became a regular snack for me. I don’t tell a lot of people about it due to obvious reasons, but seriously try dipping a banana in tuna sometime.
3. Speaking of bananas, I grew up eating bananas with my soup. I guess it’s a Colombian thing? you just cut up a banana and put it in your soup, I suppose there’s a pattern here with bananas taking over the job of crackers.
4. Speaking of weird Colombian snacks, this is the one I’ve managed to horrify people the most with: cheese in chocolate milk. My mom’s side of the family’s go-to breakfast was chocolate milk with saltines (unsalted) and queso fresco. You drop chunks of the cheese in the chocolate milk while it’s still hot so it gets all melty and wonderful. If you’re feeling bold, you dump a stack of saltines on top of it then crush them with your spoon and let them soak up the milk. Spoonfuls of heaven I tell you.
I wasn't sure if the flavour packet was supposed to be involved or not, so I first just tried some plain ramen noodles fried in butter, and that was pretty good.
But the salty siren call of the flavour packet could not be ignored, so I dumped it in the pan, along with more butter.
I fried that up until it was nice and crispy in spots -- so there was a nice contrast of soft and crisp noodles -- and shoveled it into my (honestly kind of hungover) face. It was good. If I have one criticism -- and really, this is my bad, as RookDarkly made no mention of the seasoning packet -- it's that it was just a touch too salty, and I'll only be using half of the packet in the future. Four and a half out of five frying pans.
Ennui is Boring's Spam Sandwich
Here's a fact for you: Spam is good. It's salty. It's fatty. It fries up like a dream. Here's another fact for you: This sandwich is extremely good.
I love spam prepared the correct way (sliced 1/4 inch thick, browned until crispy outside, then either turned into musubi or on soft white bread with american cheese and yellow mustard). I grew up in the land of spam. There are a lot of things you can do to it that are great.
A Big Mac is one of the tastiest sandwiches ever. It’s the combo of the taste and texture of the bun with the pickle and the weird meat and the sauce. I haven’t had one in probably two years, but I can still shut my eyes and taste them and smile.
I have no problem using expired yogurt or fermented stuff, but will not touch meat past the exp date.
I made all of these dishes in a single morning, which was perfectly timed considering I had spent the previous evening smoking clove cigarettes and drinking vermouth like an angsty teen, but as a result I was not able to finish everything.
I came the closest with this sandwich, though. The hot, fried Spam melted the Kraft single on contact, with the yellow mustard providing a much needed hit of acid to keep the palate from getting over saturated with fat and salt. I don't have a single bad thing to say about it. Five out of five skillets.
In summation, I want to thank you all for sharing your brilliant, strange recipes with me and the rest of the world. You guys are the real culinary heroes.