Thursday, December 29, 2011

CB Cooks: Mole ("moe-lay")

Makin' mole! (with my new homemade hand-carved mole stirrer)
When anybody mentions "mole" (the sauce, not the animal) a lot of things often come up.

"Oh yeah, the Mexican chocolate sauce," "It's super hard to make!" "It has so many ingredients in it" "It's too sweet for me" "I've had the premade kind and I don't like it one bit" "It was invented by nuns who had to feed some important guy and only had chiles and nuts and stale bread in their kitchen" "It takes three days to make" "How the hell do you pronounce it?"

As far as the last question, I'm pretty sure it's "moe-LAY" for us gringos, with the accent on the last syllable. Not sure why there isn't actually an accent there, perhaps because the word comes from a pre-columbian language. (In fact, I'm pretty sure "moe-LAY" just means a mixture of stuff or a sauce; the word "guacamole" just means "mixture/sauce of avocados". Pretty sure, not completely sure, so don't quote me on that. My spanish degree only covered spanish, not native mexican languages.)

I'm a huge fan of mexican food, and many say the concoction known as mole is the greatest accomplishment of the entire cuisine. In a lot of ways it is very complicated- many ingredients, many flavors, and the complexity only gets more complex when you serve it with other food like turkey (as is traditional for many moles). (Remember- "moe-LAYS" not "moles")

As I understand it, often mole is prepared on special occasions, because there are many ingredients; also, it's often paired with slow-cooked meat, which of course takes a while to cook. For these reasons (and probably many others) mole is one of those dishes (like tamales) that seems difficult and beyond reach for us lowly gringos. Especially on any day that isn't sunday!

Well I've got news for you! I'm definitely no expert in mexican cooking- but I think I have at least a handle on making "moe-LAY." In fact, I made some last night (on a wednesday night!). It took about an hour, and it will be even tastier today. I've made it a bunch of times, and I think I've come up with some rough guidelines (i.e. not an exact recipe) for making mole. In almost every mole recipe I've ever seen (in english OR spanish) there are certain types of ingredients that are always present. Based on that "research," I've come up with a list of ingredients- basically, you need at least one thing from each category to prepare your mole. Just to reiterate, I'm no mexican cooking expert, and this is most likely complete blasphemy... But it tastes just like mole in restaurants. If I had a mexican aunt, maybe this is what her mole would taste like.

Below I've listed the 6 categories, and some common ingredients that go in those categories. My idea is this: if you take at least one thing from each category, you will have something that is pretty much a mole.


- like dried chiles (absolutely necessary), raisins, bananas, plantains, etc

- peanuts (or peanut butter!), walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, pecans, etc

- cinnamon (or mexican canela), anise, cloves, cumin, oregano, avocado leaves, allspice, coffee, and yes maybe even chocolate (but it's not entirely necessary!) - and SUGAR

- onions, garlic, tomatoes or tomato sauce, etc

- broth, stock, water, chile soaking liquid, beer, anything!?

- masa (like prepackaged tamale mix i.e. Maseca, or fresh from the tortillería), stale tortillas, toasted stale bread, animal crackers (I've heard this is a common old mexican lady addition)


Most recipes call for a very involved individual frying of each set of ingredients before everything is combined and blended together. I don't doubt this makes a thicker, richer, more voluptuous sauce... But this also exponentially lengthens the time needed to make this dish. When I make this, generally, I just throw everything into a blender and blend away! (If I fry anything, I'll get some onion and garlic looking toasty in a pan with some oil before adding it to the blender). Basically, here's the process:

L-R: Cloves, allspice, ancho chiles, piloncillo (sugar), tortillas,
oregano, pepper, onion, cumin, garlic, peanut butter,
tahini, walnuts NOT PICTURED: oil, guajillo chiles
1) ASSEMBLE your ingredients (at least one from each category, and you pretty much must use some kind of chiles)

For my wednesday night mole, I used:
dried ancho and guajillo chiles (fruits), peanut butter, walnuts, and tahini (ground sesame paste) (nuts), cloves, cumin, oregano, allspice, and some mexican piloncillo sugar (spices), onions and garlic (vegetables), chile soaking liquid (liquid), and stale corn tortillas (thickeners)

2) If your dried chiles are hard and old, and you can't run out and get some more, you might want to rehydrate them. Put them in a bowl, cover with hot water, and let them sit for 30 minutes or so. Mine were old, so I did this yesterday. Rick Bayless says if the soaking water is bitter, throw the water away.. If not, use it in the recipe! Mine last night was sweet tasting, so I used it. Many people will toast their dry chiles in a dry skillet before soaking, but I didn't do that. If you do it, make sure not to BURN the chiles.

soaking chiles (smells a whole lot like raisins)
3) BLEND - Add everything to the blender, and blend the &*#$ out of it. It might be better to add things in steps, to make sure everything gets blended.

4) STRAIN everything! This is key. The idea is to get a homogenous, velvety sauce with no lumps whatsoever. I have a strainer I pretty much only use for mole, I call it my mole strainer. 

Strain! Check out that gorgeous color. All that red/orange is from the chiles,
no tomato products here
5) Take the strained liquid and put it in a pan. If it's really really thick, add more liquid.

6) SIMMER - Add salt, pepper, whatever, to taste, and simmer. If it's too bitter, add some sweet stuff like sugar, honey, etc. Chiles are relatively bitter, you'll probably need to sweeten the mole at least a little bit.

7) That's it! You can simmer it for a long time, or not... Definitely gets better the next day.

I really like it over bean enchiladas, or grilled chicken, or pretty much anything. You can even put it on eggs! It's a really versatile sauce, and since there can be so many flavors in it, it goes with almost everything.

Using those 6 categories, the combinations are endless! By varying the type of chiles used, or the amount of sweetness, or the amount of other fruits or nuts, this base recipe could create an infinite variety of moles. This isn't entirely authentic, but the flavor is pretty close. If you follow these simple steps, in a matter of minutes you can be on your way to creating your own custom mole!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pine, sharpies and nail polish

December bass! Homemade lure!
(It looks like blood, but it isn't- it's just sharpie and nail polish)
Went out yesterday, figured it might be my last chance at some open water, and I really should test some of my lures before I start making a bunch more. Headed over to the good old retention pond, 1/2 mile from my house; the idea was to try out the lures for about 15 minutes then head home.

It was cold! I hadn't been fishing in a while, and although it's been unseasonably warm, it's still a lot colder than when I usually fish. The wind was fierce. The pond looked icy, almost. There wasn't any ice just yet.

My mother-in-law hooked me up with a ton of wine corks, so I've been putting those to good use. I also have been using my new coping saw and "craft blade" (xacto knife) to make these creations.

I quickly busted out my brand new giant tacklebox (thanks, wife) and snapped on a lure and cast it out. It was nice to be fishing! I tried a few of my lures- some of them worked exactly as expected. Others, like my jointed cork lure, failed miserably.

This was great! Just like a jitterbug
This one, not so great
Something I didn't expect was my diving cork lure turning upside down! I guess it makes sense, the way the weight was distributed. It kept trying to dive up, so I could tell it was a good design. Earlier today I added some weights to the lower half, which corrected the problem.

Awesome! ...but upside down in the water
This one was just terrible, floating completely on one side
(then again, maybe it looks wounded...)
And then, there was this one:

I got some pine dowels at the store ($.89 per foot, I bought 6 inches) and made two new lures- this guy was the first one I finished. I sloped the head down as I wittled; I wanted to see if I could make it dive without the use of a metal or plastic bill.

I painted it white with nail polish, then using a trick from this awesome book my awesome wife got me for Christmas I spray painted some olive color through some cooking-sponge mesh. Then I took a brown sharpie and added dots; some more nail polish for the gills, some metallic-looking grey nail polish on top, then the craft eyes, then finally a coat of "hard as nails" clear coat nail polish. Looked pretty awesome, I think! Very strange, not like a store-bought lure, but I really liked it a lot. I was going for a baby largemouth type effect, but it turned out more like a trout.

So I snapped it onto my line, cast it out, and was very pleased with the action in the water. It seemed to have a wide action to it, and most certainly did dive! The shiny grey glitter on the top shone through the water, and I occasionally caught glimpses of the white belly- like a flashlight.

And then, on my third cast, as I retrieved and watched the lure dive into the dark water, I felt some resistance- I must have snagged some dead plants or something. But wait, no! I caught a glimpse of something very familiar, but unexpected- a largemouth bass on the end of my line! The hit was extremely light, as if it were an afterthought.

He just couldn't resist my weirdly-decorated lure! The rear treble hook got him in the lip, which always makes me happy. I'd hate to mismatch the size of the hook to the size of the fish, and gut-hook a big fish or skewer some little guy. This combination seemed just right.

Freezing cold bass!
I hoisted him out of the water; when I grabbed his lip, I was taken aback by how cold he was. Well of course it's cold, the water is almost freezing, I told myself. I'll admit it, just like many times earlier in the year, I giggled like a school girl. This was awesome! A bass, in a pond, on a hand-carved lure, in December?? And a largemouth!? I started to think about the largemouth preferred water temperature, I seemed to think somewhere around 72°F, and how crazy it was he would have attacked my lure. I was retrieving it pretty quickly, it's not like he had a lot of time to think about it.

I snapped about 500 pictures - very quickly - and carefully returned the beautiful fish to the water. The water definitely has an effect on the fish, it was clearly dazed when it got back in the water. After a few seconds, he snapped back and swam away in a flurry of fins.

Later I was thinking, and I'm pretty sure that was my first crankbait bass ever! I haven't fished with crankbaits too much, mostly because they cost a lot and I almost always loose them. I caught a big chicago river bluegill a while back on a small crank, and almost immediately got it stuck on some wood. I should do more of these lures....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vote for CB Fishes!

Do you like CB Fishes?

I just noticed the Outdoor Blogger Network (an awesome site, great way to find awesome blogs) is going to feature 3 blogs in a few weeks.

They are selecting the 3 blogs based on voting!

If you enjoy what you read and see here, please consider voting!

Just go here, find "Cb Fishes" and click "Like"

Thanks for reading!


here's the link again, just in case:

More hand carved crankbaits

The Christmas collection
I don't have any fancy stories or accounts of cutting off my fingers, but I do have a bunch of pictures of lures I've been making.

A few months ago I read some posts on about some anglers who were making their own hand-carved wooden crankbaits. I remember thinking "Oh man, that would be awesome but I could never do that. Way too complicated, not to mention I have no idea how to carve wood. Or use tools." A few weeks later I started making some inline spinners, which in some ways are pretty simple to make. And they caught fish!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently got some flannel shirts which somehow directly led to a sudden interest in wood carving and pyrography. I've been carving up a storm! Turns out it's not as difficult as I thought...

I think it looks pretty nice
I think I've figured out how to use which blades (although I still keep breaking them every so often); it seems like each lure I carve is better than the last. My recent coping saw purchase has been incredibly helpful- now I can cut the blocks of wood to a more lure-like size, so I don't have to whittle off a pound of wood to get the size I want. I've been using sharpies and nail polish to "paint" the lures, and I'm pretty happy with how they are turning out.

I sure hope they can catch some fish....

I think the glitter nail polish really pushes this one over the top
My favorite one so far
You can see the music-making equipment in the background
(what a strange man-cave)
This one has metal beads inside that rattle a little bit
A lure in the colors of my alma mater,
Powers Catholic High School - Flint, Michigan

Bedroom producing

Slightly cramped...
I've recorded a whole lot of stuff in our townhouse guest bedroom (aka "the studio")- most of the Christmas album, some of the upcoming electronic album, and lots of other random stuff. I guess you could call our second bedroom my "man cave," although maybe it's not your typical cave... I've got some keyboards stacked up on one end, my dual-monitor computer setup against one wall, midi controllers and audio interfaces stacked on the desk...

Sara layin' it down
On the other end of the desk is my other workspace, where I make fishing lures and wooden stuff; my carving knives, coping saw, wood burning tool, nail polish (for fishing lures of course), sand paper, and a variety of pliers are strewn about everywhere. Sometimes the music stuff gets intertwined due to the limited space, so there are wood shavings in my midi controller keyboard, or saxophone reeds among my half-carved fishing lure bodies. I kind of like the combination- it's a physical version of my two main obsessions.

Last night my good friend Ed and my new friend Sara came over to record a demo- in the bedroom studio! This was actually the first time I'd recorded other people at home, and I think it went really well. The musicianship was at a very high level, which is of course the most important part of the whole process.

Ed played guitar and keys (my own Nord Electro 2, far enough away from the fishing gear that there's no danger of accidentally playing a chord and getting stuck in the hand with a treble hook); Sara sang. Somehow we managed to get all three of us in the tiny room at the same time. Ed plugged direct into the computer, but then I sent his signal to the bathroom a few feet down the hall, where I had my Fender Champ Amp (tube amp) miked with an SM57 and my favorite Røde NT1-A. The bathroom has a great sound! I haven't miked a lot of amps, but I spent some time positioning the two mics and am very happy with the sound. I put the 57 on the edge of the speaker, and it has a lot of thick and delicious low end; the NT1 was about a foot away, and provides some high end sparkle and some of the nice reflective sounds of the bathroom. Combined with the direct signal, I think it will turn out pretty swell.

Didn't sound poopy at all!
Ed and his many guitar chops
Sara sang into an AKG-414C (a $1000 mic which I incorrectly told them was a $4000 mic) - an amazing reference-quality mic - which was then routed directly into a $20 tube mic preamp. I suppose it's a little blasphemous to do such a thing, as the 414 is incredibly accurate and transparent-sounding; by running it into a crappy cheap preamp, to some extent I cancel out how nice a mic it is. That said, I really like how the combination sounds! When Sara gets louder, you can hear some tube distortion kick in, which I think is just what their demo calls for.

Due to the lack of space, Ed sat at the computer so he could reach the Nord keyboard, and I sat on my cajón at my wood carving station. Since I couldn't reach the computer without leaning over Ed, I set up my laptop with screen-sharing, so I could control the main computer from a foot away. It looked pretty fancy, all those glowing screens in the tiny room.

We recorded almost two and half hours of music, which once I whittle it down will be 4 songs for their demo. I've been given explicit permission to "to do my thing," so it's very likely there will be some remixes (I'm thinking a cumbia and a dub remix at least).

It was great to get some real musicians in the "studio" (remember, it's actually the second bedroom), and it was a great time tracking them. I've got a lot of Christmas-related stuff to do today, so I may not get down to mixing until after Christmas... But I can't wait to dive in and get to work on this fantastic demo.

It was really great to be the engineer/producer; it's really a different thing than recording my own stuff. I really enjoyed tracking, and can't wait to fully produce their stuff. I'd like to do more of recording other people's stuff, although I might need to figure out a better way to fit more people in the "studio..."

Even Walter got in on the action

Sunday, December 18, 2011

CB carves some wooden lures

Carved, sanded, ready for the details
(Sitting on top of a wood block just like the one it used to be)
I recently bought a bunch of flannel shirts, which for some reason gave me the urge to get some wood and carve things. I've been experimenting with pyrography (the fancy word for the controlled burning of wood to make designs on it), as well as wood carving. Having made some lures a few months ago- lures that managed to interest some fish- I have the confidence now to make more, knowing there's a good chance they can catch some fish.

Today I've been drinking coffee, listening to Q-tip (if you haven't heard his brand of hip hop, I highly recommend it), and making wooden fishing lures. A great combination I think. Hip hop and fishing go great together, I think... Perhaps the Fonetiks should make a comeback...

The workspace
(Just to the left is my music stuff - computer, keyboards,
monotron, nord electro- I like the juxtaposition)
Using some of the tools my buddy Mark let me borrow (especially the fly tying vice) I've been able to complete my first sturdy wooden lure. I recently received my second shipment from Jann's Netcraft (thanks to Rob for hipping me to them) and got some stuff I needed. Stuff like split rings, brass screw eyes, quick-change clevises, colorado and willow blades, and more.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a cheap wood carving kit, which came with a single handle that could accept a variety of different blades. I proceeded to break almost every blade in the kit due to my lack of experience (and the crappy quality of the blades). Most of the breaks happened when I used the blade in a way it wasn't intended! I've done some internet research, and I think I've learned the error of my ways.

Ordering some Christmas presents on Amazon, the site recommended a $2 wood carving kit to me, and I snatched it up! I got it a few days ago, and although it is very cheap, the tools seem very substantial. I haven't broken a single blade yet! These tools - I think- are specifically for doing relief carving, not whittling so much. I've put them to good use on some projects that I can't share just yet.

Sharpie-d, nail-polished, and ready for the hardware
I used on of the V-gauge tools (I think that's what they're called) to make little scale indentations on the lure. Will the fish care if there are fancy little scales on the lure? I don't know, but I think it looks pretty cool. I couldn't open my little canisters of paint, so I just used some sharpies to paint the lure, doing my best impression of a firetiger pattern.

Then, using some wood glue, craft-store eyes, my split ring pliers, and the fly tying vice, I assembled the rest of the lure. I'm extremely satisfied with how it looks, and I have no doubt that this will catch some fish. At least I hope so!

The finished lure. I'd eat that!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

CB Cooks: Granola

Walnut cranberry apple (sauce) granola
If I don't think about it, I'll drink an entire pot of coffee in the morning without eating a single thing. I love coffee, and often I feel like that's all I need to get my day started. I've heard it isn't the greatest idea to drink mass quantities of coffee on an empty stomach, so I've been on a mission to find something easy and quick I can eat with my coffee. Sometimes I feel like making some oatmeal (like this fine recipe) but lately it hasn't been doing it for me.

My solution? Granola! It's just baked oatmeal. This is easy and quick to make (I've been making it once a week for the past two weeks... so I guess that's only twice....) and it's a perfect accompaniment to my requisite coffee in the morning.

WHAT YOU NEED for the basic granola recipe
2 cups of oats - the old school kind, but not the steel cut kind
1 cup of syrup/honey/similar stuff in some combination
4-6 tablespoons smooth apple sauce - this is the secret ingredient in my recipe; it is a substitute for oil, and it makes the whole thing taste much nicer and enhances whatever fruit you add
-I bet other types of puréed fruit would be awesome here- even jelly or jam might work
Salt (to taste)

SEASONINGS: To taste, add whatever you want
Lots of cinnamon
A lot of vanilla extract
Ginger might be nice, if you're in to that
Unsweetened cocoa (might burn, so be careful)
Brown sugar (would definitely make things sweeter)
Ground coffee (I might try this next time...)
Ground chile powder (i.e. ancho powder- this would be for the daring- I haven't tried this, but dried chiles are really just spicy dried fruit, it could be amazing)

ADDITIONS: Then you can add stuff like
Hazelnuts (paired with cocoa it'd be like nutella granola)
Dried fruit (like raisins, cranberries, blueberries, pineapple, peaches, mango, etc)
Pepitas would be awesome
Dried coconut (this is really great with coffee)
Peanut butter (not sure if this would work, but it could be great)

1. Combine your syrup/liquid stuff, apple sauce, and seasonings- mix well

2. Pour your liquid mixture into 2 cups of oats, stir until extremely well combined
Plain old oats with light syrup ready for baking

3. Spread out the mixture on a baking sheet, bake for 15 minutes at ~300°F
- If you want toasty nuts, you can add them now
- You could also add any dried fruit now, but they might get kind of hard and chewy by the time your granola is done

4. After 15 minutes, pull the sheet out and stir the whole thing well
- If you want your nuts less toasty and your fruit softer, add that stuff now instead of step #3

5. Return to oven, cook for another
15 minutes: soft, chewy granola
20 minutes: darker, more roasty granola, might be crispy
25 minutes: watch out, you might burn it! It will certainly be crispy

6. It will crisp up a little as it cools

7. Store in something airtight, otherwise it will get stale fast (I use a big zip lock bag- this recipe fills about a third of a gallon bag, at least I think it's a gallon bag)

8. Enjoy!

Sprinkle your homemade granola on other stuff, like ice cream, yogurt, etc.
Form into bars, make your own chewy granola bars
Instead of baking in the oven, add more liquid to the mixture and then fry on a griddle- oat cakes!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Korg Monomania Monotron Contest!

It's been a while since I've posted about music, but I've been busy making a lot of it. Right on the heels of finishing up this year's Christmas album, I decided to stay on the music-making path and make some more. The music I've been coming up with has a very clear experimental electronic flavor, although I guess to some extent most of my stuff could be called "experimental."

Either way, so far I've got 11 tracks almost ready to go. I'm hoping to "release" (post to the internet) the album before the end of the year. Most of the tracks were created with "found" sounds I recorded (like the sound of a construction site jackhammer or the escalator at J.C. Penny. Most of the tracks are also pretty weird, even for me. I've been primarily working on these tracks while commuting to and from downtown, so in some ways this album won't be a "studio" album, it will be a Metra commuter train album.

A few weeks ago my lovely wife Claire told me about a Korg Monotron song contest. Yes, this is the same wife that regularly suggests I go fishing on weekends; i.e. a great wife. I thought it was cool, but didn't really think about entering.

Last night for some reason I went back to the contest site, read the rules, and listened to some of the winners from the Japanese competition. I expected to hear some completely amazing stuff, and although there was some very nice monotron playing there, it really didn't seem like many people were taking full advantage of all the sounds the monotron can make, especially when paired with a capable workstation like Ableton Live. I also checked out the prizes page, and when I saw the 24-karat gold-plated monotribe and silver-plated monotrons, I knew I had to enter.

Gold plated Monotribe
Reading the competition rules, I realized I already had a piece of music composed entirely of monotron, that also happened to be shorter than the 2 minute maximum entry length. Sweet! It was a track I made almost a year ago after I got my monotron for Christmas- I popped it into Live, did some quick remixing, and quickly posted it to YouTube.

Then I sat on the couch, opened my laptop, and began playing my monotron into Ableton Live. After a few short hours, I had a 2 minute piece of pure monotron music. Although it may sound otherwise, every single sound in the track was created using the monotron, through extensive editing, repitching, and some other secrets. It's amazing how voice-like the monotron can sound with some nice reverb (toward the end of the track). I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!

I will definitely add that to the track listing on the upcoming album. Although it would super amazing to win something for playing around with my monotron, I don't really know what my chances are, or even what the judges are looking for. I just did my thing, and they can take it or leave it. Either way it was a fun little evening project, and another addition to the new album.

Entries are due by January 1, and they'll announce the winners (1st, 2nd, and 3rd places I think) on January 6. If you happen to have a monotron, you should enter too! I know for a fact at least one person is getting a monotron for Christmas (I'm talking to you Dan Kramer), and a monotron piece would be worth major extra credit in my class... Just sayin'....

My favorite adventures of 2011

As we get closer to the end of the year, I've been thinking about all the great adventures I've had this year. This was the first year I've really seriously fished (i.e. been completely obsessed with fishing). I really appreciate the mentoring of my buddies Mark, Luke, and Rob who introduced me to the awesome world of fishing.

I've had a lot of firsts this year: my first kayak, my first river fishing, my first super big fish (the giant catfish), my first time wading... all kinds of great stuff I can't wait to do again once it gets warm. I might find myself on the ice at some point this winter, but until then....

Looking back, here are some of my favorite adventures from this year.

August: That time I caught the huge goby

Biggest goby I've ever seen

Salt Creek and Arlington Heights Road

I know, I look like a moron.. But I was so excited!

Right after this picture was taken, the catfish bit down on
my thumbs, HARD. This was the first fish to make
me bleed profusely

October: My first successful wading trip on the Fox River

What a beautiful fish
October: The time a bass ate my homemade lure... then I caught more fish on my own lures

Sunday, December 11, 2011

View posts by topic!

My first wood-burned fish
For a while every single post was about fishing (this is called CB Fishes after all), but during the cold months I probably won't be doing too much fishing. I've been spending a lot of time cooking and making music.

I realize a lot of my posts don't interest everybody (i.e. anglers may not care about my new synthesizers, and music people may not understand how awesome fishing is) so I'm trying something new to make it easier to see the posts you might actually find interesting.

I've added some tabs at the top of every page, called "Fishing," "Cooking," and "Music." Clicking any one of those tabs will take you to all the posts related to that particular topic. In other words, if you want to see all the posts about fishing (and only fishing) click "Fishing."

If I end up posting about a variety of different things (more than just fishing, cooking, and music) I'll add some more tabs to help you find what might actually interest you. One of those future topics might be wood carving or wood burning (pyrography) which I've recently become interested in.

Until next time, take care, and thanks for reading!

- Chris

CB Cooks: Extra crispy skillet potatoes

It's been a major life goal of mine to cook diner-style hashbrown/home fried potatoes at home. Not only is it incredibly satisfying and simple to make, but you can make them EXTRA crispy. 99% of the time, I make mine in my cast iron skillet, but you can make them in any skillet-type kitchen cooking vessel. I have been in love with my cast iron skillet for some time now... In most of my cooking I use only 3 things: the cast iron skillet, the (cast iron) dutch oven, and the crock pot. In the summer I use the grill too.

I rarely use a microwave in cooking, but in this recipe it really is the secret ingredient! When I cook raw potatoes in the skillet, when the outside is nice and crispy but the inside is still raw and starchy. My solution is to pre-cook the potatoes in the microwave, cut them, THEN throw'em in the pan. By the time the outside is super crispy and delicious, the inside is heavenly soft like mashed potatoes.

Anyway, here is my recipe:

- Potatoes - I've tried a bunch of different varieties, and they all pretty much work
- Oil - I've used olive, canola, and "vegetable;" they all work fine too
- Salt
- A skillet - I HIGHLY recommend a seasoned cast iron skillet! I think it's much easier to get the potatoes evenly crispy
- A microwave (I guess you could use an oven)

1) Prick some holes in the potatoes with a fork, wrap in paper towel, and throw in the microwave (If the 'taters are really big, you could just cut them in half)

2) Cook on high for 3-5 minutes, depending on size

3) When you hear the potatoes screaming in agony (you know, the high-pitched sound of the steam escaping) let them sit for a while

4) Heat up some oil (probably more than you think) in the skillet

5) Cut up the potatoes- the smaller you cut them, the more surface area there is to get nice and crispy

6) When a little piece of potato sizzles like crazy when you throw it in the skillet, dump the rest of the potatoes in

7) DON'T TOUCH! Let them sit there for 3-4 minutes; sprinkle some salt on top. You want the potatoes to develop a nice thick crust- if you move them now, the crust won't develop and the potatoes will soak up all the oil. Don't fill the pan too full either, or else the potatoes will steam instead of fry.

8) With a spatula, stir the potatoes, let sit again without touching for 3-4 minutes

9) Besides the microwave, this is the key to getting a nice crispy crust. Let them sit! If you stir fry them, it will never happen

10) Continue the stir-wait process for about 20 more minutes

11) Once they look evenly browned and crispy (like the picture), they're done! Add more salt to taste, and eat immediately!

- I sometimes throw sautéed onions and poblano peppers in once the potatoes are almost done. Don't put those in at the beginning, they will surely burn
- These potatoes are great on their own, but even better paired with some delicious scrambled eggs with chorizo, onions, and poblano pepper strips
- If you cook in an oven-friendly vessel, you could plop these in a heated oven to keep them warm while you prepare other stuff
- Then again, another great thing about cast iron skillets is they stay warm for a long time, so maybe that's not even neccesary