2014's fast food atrocities
Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.
If you are an even occasional vegetable cook, you’re probably already friends with zucchini and his cousin summer squash, but the hard winter squashes have always been a bit more … distant. Butternut, acorn, delicata and all the rest of them: They sit there, unrefrigerated, unmoved by your entreaties, hiding themselves behind their thick skins. But don’t mistake their shyness for aloofness, because deep inside, they’re sweet and tender. OK, I’m going to stop with this stupid vegetable psychology.
The point is this: Winter squashes, once you get past the intimidation factor, are fantastic vegetables, no harder to cook than a potato, and they have a unique combination of texture and flavor. The different varieties will vary, but most share a clean, clear sweetness, a scent like flowers and wet earth, and a texture, properly cooked, like a juicy sweet potato.
To amplify their autumnal goodness, lots of recipes call for brown sugar or maple syrup, which I approve of, but lately I’ve been enamored of a more – how shall we say? – aggressive approach: roasting them in sausage fat. Something about that lardy goodness makes the squash — butternut, in particular — smoother in texture, its flavor rounder and more intriguing, both more fruity and mineral. Does that make sense? OK, well, whatever. I’m telling you to roast a perfectly good, perfectly healthy vegetable in the fat that melts out of sausage. Most people don’t need much of a “why” after that.
But I’ll give you a “why” anyway. Different fats have different effects on food. There is the question of the actual flavor of the fat, of course — who can deny that butter tastes different from corn oil? But there is also something a little more obscure, a little more alchemic at play, too. Extra-virgin olive oil ingratiates itself with fresh tuna unlike any other oil — it actually slides its way in between tuna’s fibers, making it exceptionally luscious. Butter and olive oil bring out sautéed garlic’s flavor in totally different ways; rounder and softer in the butter and brighter in the oil.
And so I think there’s some of that kind of magic going on when you roast squash in sausage (or bacon, or pork, or chicken, or duck) fat that’s utterly unlike cooking it in olive oil, which is what I’d always done before. (I’d bet butter or shortening, for our vegetarian and vegan friends, would be delicious as well, but they wouldn’t have the same savoriness.) The texture goes from moist and pleasant to silky, and the flavor deepens, dropping about an octave, which allows its high, vegetal sweetness to sing a little more.
Sausage-fat roasted butternut squash
Note: Some people can’t imagine roasting hard squash without some maple, brown sugar, cinnamon or some such. I’m not going to stop you, but I’d suggest adding those things when you check on them in the oven. I also wouldn’t stop you from tucking in some chile flakes, orange peel, onions or hearty fresh herbs, like rosemary or sage. But that’s up to you.
Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.
KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.
Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.
Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.
Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.