Geek Eats: Junk Food Edition

Saturday is the first day of 2011, which means Friday is the last day we can eat badly without being scolded about it. Whether you set a resolution or not, you will soon be inundated with diet tips, and even if you’re like me and ignore them all, it takes some of the fun out of eating terrible-for-you foods. This week is our last chance to get some guilt-free foods in under the radar, and these are my top six picks for geek-inspired junk food. Enjoy in good health.


“Today a child is born unto us, and his name will be bacon.” Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

Scott Pilgrim has a thing or two to learn about life, and by “life,” I mean “nutrition.” Breakfast consists of a whole plate of bacon, and he hasn’t yet grasped the correlation between carbohydrates and, well, weight. It seems only appropriate that he would enjoy this sandwich, a combination of two of his favorite things. Yes, the bread is not garlic bread. If you’re really upset about the omission, try a garlicky aioli instead of mayonnaise. Otherwise, you know, deal with it.

I know this recipe seems so simple as to not be a recipe at all, but hear me out. This is my favorite sandwich. I tell people, and they say things like, “Ew,” and “That sounds awful,” and “Bread makes you fat.” Ignore the Ramonas in your life and give this sandwich a chance. It may not keep you totally svelte, but it’s worth every calorie.

  • 1/2 package (5-6 slices) thick-cut bacon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • good-quality white, country, or sourdough bread, sliced thick (adjust thickness to your sandwich-eating preference)
  • butter

Fry the bacon, preferably in a cast-iron skillet, to your bacon-eating preference. Set aside on a paper-towel covered plate.

Allow the skillet to cool for a minute, then wipe out the bacon grease. Do not burn yourself on hot grease; this sandwich is good, but it’s not worth being burned over.

Butter bread on both sides, toast lightly in skillet until golden brown.

Slather bread with mayonnaise. Fill with bacon. Sandwich it up, and enjoy.


“That’s the kind of bold flavor they enjoy in … Albuquerque!” The Simpsons, “Hungry Hungry Homer”

One of the few times we ever saw Homer Simpson not eating was his hunger strike against the Springfield Isotopes management. Accepting this hot dog from Duffman would have been the ultimate betrayal of all his principles, and his hunger strike would have been for naught. Luckily, the regional flavors of this ballpark treat served to prove his claims, and Homer was validated — and fed — by a thankful stadium of Isotopes fans.

Sure, the hot dog was the embodiment of lies and deceit. For an animated hot dog, though, it looked pretty tasty. A little busy, perhaps, with the mesquite-grilled onions, jalapeño relish, and mango-lime salsa, but an exciting departure from ketchup, mustard, and delicious but common pickle relish. If you live somewhere gripped by the icy fist of winter, this should bring a little sunshine to your belly.

  • Your favorite brand hot dog (I guess you can use turkey or tofu dogs, if you really want to)
  • hot dog buns
  • butter
  • 1 small mango, cut into small cubes
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 white onion, sliced (keep whole if you’re cooking on an outdoor grill)
  • 1- 2 small jalapeño peppers, carefully seeded and chopped
  • 1 small lime
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • small bunch cilantro

If you’re grilling, wrap the white onion in tinfoil and stick it on the grill. If you’re indoors, toss your sliced onions in a skillet with a little butter and cook slowly, until brown and caramelized.

Cook hot dogs on the grill (outdoors) or griddle (indoors). Lightly butter hot dogs buns, and toast them similarly.
Toss mango, red onion, jalapeño to taste, and cilantro (also to taste; I find cilantro a little overwhelming, so I tend to cut back) in a bowl. Juice the lime, and add the juice and salt; toss gently.

If outdoor grilling, carefully retrieve your onion and slice it even more carefully.

Assemble your Isotope Dog Supreme: Bun, hot dog, onions, salsa. Feel free to sprinkle additional jalapeño on top, if you can handle it. You won’t be saying “me so hung-y” anytime soon.

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“Before we go any further, who the hell orders pizza under the name of ‘Torchwood?'” Torchwood, “Everything Changes”

Torchwood may operate under all sorts of weird conditions, but it’s really just your average workplace. Jubilee Pizza is their pizzeria of choice, and for all Jubilee knows, Torchwood is just that tourist shop over by Cardiff Bay. Sure, that one pizza delivery girl went missing, but that was a fluke. Right?

Jubilee tends to show up at important moments; it’s the catalyst for Gwen’s introduction to Torchwood, and she has an emotional moment in Season 1 (“Combat”) with a pizza as her only pal. It may have a deeper meaning, about humanity and comfort or something, but it usually just makes me want pizza. This recipe is actually for a lamb pizza, to honor the celebrated Welsh sheep. If you want to get really Welsh with things, substitute leeks for onions — just make sure to clean them really well, or they’ll be gritty and sandy, and no one likes a sandy pizza.

Most local pizzerias will actually sell you a ball of pizza dough. I tell you this because, while I love to cook, making pizza dough is not high up on my list of “fun things to do.” This recipe calls for a half-pound ball of pizza dough, but they’ll probably sell you a whole pound. Oh, noes, two pizzas! Whatever will you do?

  • 1/2 lb pizza dough
  • olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 lb ground lamb
  • handful of pine nuts, toasted
  • handful of cornmeal
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500°F. Place a pizza stone or overturned baking sheet on your oven’s lowest rack and allow it to preheat with the oven.

Cook onions and garlic in a skillet with a little olive oil until soft and golden brown. Set aside and add ground lamb to the skillet. Brown thoroughly and drain.

Roll your dough into a 14-15 inch circle. Sprinkle cornmeal evenly over a clean countertop and place dough round on top.

Brush olive oil over dough, then add onion-garlic mixture, lamb, and feta. Salt and pepper to taste (keep in mind the feta itself if pretty salty). Top with toasted pine nuts and bake for 15 minutes.

Garnish with fresh arugula, parsley, or mint, if you’d like something green.


“He’s got a bucket of crotch-flavored popcorn.” Mystery Science Theater 3000, “Time Chasers”

I often felt bad for the human protagonists of MST3K, and it was because they never seemed to get any snacks. Joel and Mike get to snark at bad movies, constantly, in space, with robots. You’d think their lives couldn’t get any better. Without movie snacks, though, it’s like they’re just watching bad movies, at home, on their big, crappy television. Wait…

Popcorn is the classic, obviously, but mere popcorn just won’t cut it here. I know Tom Servo and Crow aren’t likely to enjoy a big, sticky ball of popcorn junking up their robot gears, but these puppies are the perfect projectile. If human viewers don’t need a nosh for the movie, these can be flung at the screen with abandon.

  • 1 bag microwave popcorn
  • 1 bag miniature marshmallows
  • 1 stick + 1 Tbs butter, softened
  • 1 drop vanilla

Melt marshmallows and butter in a pot over medium heat. While everything’s melting down, pop popcorn in the microwave.

When the popcorn’s done, transfer it to a large bowl. When everything in the pot is pretty much melted, add the vanilla and remove the pot from the heat. Allow the melted mixture to sit for a minute, then pour it over the popcorn and give it a stir. Butter your hands with the remaining 1 Tbs butter and grab yourself a handful of popcorn.

Form the popcorn into balls, and let them sit on a piece of parchment paper until they’re entirely cooled. Ideal for snacking or throwing at a movie screen, although I would never, ever advocate the latter.


“The reason we don’t eat people is because they taste lousy. ” Futurama, “The Problem With Popplers”

Is it bad that popplers still look delicious, even after I know they’re alive? There are so many things wrong with popplers. The first clue these suckers weren’t intended for consumption is that they looked like little fried snacks, despite being found in a hole in the ground on another planet. Fried appearance aside, we’re not even going to give these guys a little wash after we snatch them out of the ground? Nope, guess not.

Then we find out that not only are popplers living creatures, they are actually living. As in not dead, as in everyone is eating what amounts to a napping alien baby. Even this frankly horrifying bit of knowledge isn’t enough to make them appear distasteful. Just as Dimitri in Anastasia was a hot guy first, and a cartoon second, popplers look like a veritable taste sensation, animated or no.

Since Fishy Joe’s wound up being the poppler purveyor, I’ve decided to go with shrimp for this one.

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • lemon slices, for serving

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed skillet.
Season the shrimp with salt, pepper, and old bay. Mix the flour and paprika in one bowl, beat the eggs in another, and put the panko in a third.

Dip the shrimp in the flour, then the eggs, then the panko, and carefully set them in the oil. Fry in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, until the shrimp are golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Carefully remove from skillet and let drain for a moment on paper towels. Enjoy hot, but, you know, not right out of the oil, with some fresh lemon juice. Mmm.


“What a piece of junk!” Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope

The Millennium Falcon is essentially a space burger, and George Lucas has admitted as much. The word is the original design for the ship was much less round, and Lucas scrapped it in favor of the current design, modeled after a hamburger with an olive on the side. Look at it. Maybe a stretch, but if you look at the ship with your stomach in mind, the resemblance is difficult to ignore.

As I’m not big on burgers with a side of olives, I’ve adjusted the design to a burger garnished with olives, in the form of your favorite pre-made tapenade. Don’t care for olives? Leave it off. You can garnish this burger with nothing but the satisfaction of eating Lucas’s purported favorite food. It’ll still be delicious.

  • 6 oz. ground beef
  • kosher salt
  • 1 brioche or other soft bun
  • 2 Tbs. goat cheese
  • 1-2 Tbs. olive tapenade
  • sliced tomatoes

Form the beef into a patty, handling it as little as possible. Remember, the more you overwork a hamburger, the worse the finished result is going to be. Season your patty with salt and cook on a hot griddle or cast-iron skillet for about 5 minutes on each side (this will give you a medium-rare/medium burger).

I would toast my bun with some butter, but you may not be as close personal friends with butter as I am. Spread goat cheese on both sides of the bun, and add the burger. Top with a slice of tomato, the tapenade, and consume with a rakish, I-know-you-love-me air.

Well, I’m off to go for a run. Who’s with me?

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