It's A Good Day For A Crossover Event
And the Action Cookbook entrance into The Sandwich Wars.
Welcome back to the Friday edition of the Action Cookbook Newsletter, where we clamber out from the workweek’s Seventh Circle of Hell and back into the heavenly light of the weekend, seven good things at a time.
This week? We’re talking crossovers.
7) Sport’s most audacious crossover
We don’t really get multi-sport professional athletes anymore, and that’s a shame. Certainly there are some that are capable of it from a skills standpoint — Kyler Murray signed a healthy contract to play baseball for the Oakland A’s before his senior season at Oklahoma. But then a Heisman Trophy-winning campaign steered him back to the NFL draft and an eventual #1 overall selection by the Arizona Cardinals. A handful of other recent athletes, including Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, have made similar choices.
Surely there’s logic behind the one-track focus. There’s a huge injury risk that no one team is going to want to take on, watching a star athlete who they’ve built their future around playing for another organization. Bo Jackson’s injury-shortened career in both football and baseball is a testament to that. If anyone *is* crossing over these days, it’s usually because they sucked enough at one sport they had to try another.
Let’s reflect for a moment, then, on how truly special and weird it was that Deion Sanders, probably the most successful multi-sport athlete of the modern era (thanks to Bo’s injuries, but still) elected to play in an NLCS game for the Atlanta Braves and a NFL game for the Falcons in back-to-back days.
Does it seem like a long time ago? Well, OJ Simpson’s on the broadcast in this video, so yes. On the other hand, Bob Costas is there being joyless and smug, so it could be today. Regardless, this was one of the last times we truly saw a professional athlete crossing now-almost-impassable boundaries between the major sports.
Let’s celebrate this by looking at some other genre-defying crossovers.
6) My Entry Into The Sandwich Wars
[extremely Ben Kingsley in Sneakers voice] There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets.
It’s about chicken sandwiches. Yes, the several-month-long cease-fire has ended, and Popeye’s insurgent campaign against Chick-Fil-A for sandwich supremacy has flared back up.
Barbs are being traded, battle lines are drawn, and who’s caught in the middle of it? You, the eating public. Now, you may have your arguments for each side. Perhaps you prefer CFA because their service is unfailingly precise, friendly and thorough. Perhaps you prefer Popeye’s because of CFA’s discriminatory political spending. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re like me — someone who knows the Popeye’s sandwich has got to be better, but also can’t stand waiting in a long line for anything.
There’s a void to be filled. And like any canny businessperson or shameless opportunist (note: same thing), I see potential in that void. I see glory. I see a chance to step in and make a mark of my own. But [record scratch] it’s not going to be chicken.
Have you ever been to Indiana? I have. Maybe you have, too. (It’s on the way to a lot of things.) Indiana’s not known for much culinarily, but there’s one thing they do exceptionally well. The state sandwich (also sometimes claimed by Iowa, Illinois and Michigan) is a pork tenderloin, pounded extremely wide and thin, breaded, deep-fried and served on a bun comically undersized for its purpose. Here’s a picture I took of one at the Grabill Country Fair in northern Indiana a few years ago.
It’s not a nuanced sandwich, but it’s an absolutely delicious one. It’s also fun to make at home, because it involves beating the crap out of a slice of pork with a meat mallet. (They’re like $5 and great kitchen therapy.)
I got to thinking — and again, the overarching theme of today’s newsletter is crossovers — how can this regional delicacy improve? How can it step into the ring with the sandwich big boys? What other region might have something to offer? I found myself at a crossroads.
That’s right, I’m turning my eyes to the south, and one of the buzziest food items around these days: Nashville Hot Chicken. It’s a delight, if you’re someone like me who enjoys sweating while eating, and deceptively simple: after frying, the chicken is brushed with a rub of spices and hot oil, giving it the jungle-frog-trying-to-warn-you bright coloring and crispy crunch.
It’s a technique that can be brought back to our sandwich.
Indiana Pork Tenderloin + Nashville Hot Chicken = The Kentuckiana Hot Loin? (We’re still workshopping the name.)
We’re going to make a pork tenderloin sandwich Indiana-style, then spice it up Nashville-style.
2-3lb pork tenderloin
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup milk
Slice the tenderloin into about 3” long chunks, butterfly those, and lay flat between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound with a meat tenderizer until about ¼” thick and considerably wider than it started. Dredge with flour, then a mixture of the milk and eggs, then the bread crumbs. Heat ¼” or so of oil in a heavy skillet (or a dutch oven, to minimize splatter), and fry on both sides until golden. Set on a wire rack in a baking sheet (ideally, but not necessary).
Next, we’re doing the rub:
½ cup of hot oil from the frying pan
¼ cup of cayenne pepper powder
1 T paprika
Garlic, salt and pepper as you prefer
Whisk these together in a shallow, non-heat-reactive vessel (I used a metal pie pan) until smooth, then brush over the hot pork. Want that Popeye’s spicy mayo experience? Whisk together mayo, hot sauce and paprika, then drizzle over it. Serve on a soft, cheap hamburger bun with pickles.
Boom. My entry in the sandwich wars. You’re on notice, Chick-Fil-A.
(Let the record show I am a signatory to a non-aggression pact with Popeyes, I do not want that smoke.)
5) Whew, that was exhausting. Let’s have a drink.
Now, I’m a little backwards in my seasonal appreciation of alcohol — where many people embrace the changing weather by switching from clear liquor to brown, I’m on the bourbon boat all year round. When the weather gets colder, though, I find myself turning to gin more. The floral, medicinal notes seem more festive to me, more appropriate for the coming holiday season.
Gin and tonics can get boring, though. So let’s keep this crossover spirit going, and delve back into The Official Favorite Cocktail Book of This Newsletter, Maggie Hoffman’s The One-Bottle Cocktail. She offers a wild spin on the G&T that brings in flavors normally seen in food but not in drink. This is the Gorilla Monsoon.
Bringing in sweetness and savoriness from ingredients traditionally associated with Indian cuisine, it’s a bright, fresh take on the G&T that can warm up a blustery fall night.
First, she has you make a garam masala syrup, by boiling a tablespoon of the spice blend in 1 cup of water until dissolved, then straining the mixture through a coffee filter, and mixing the liquid with 1-½ cups of sugar.
From there, it’s (per drink)
1-½ ounces gin (Yes! That is an Ohio-branded gin in the picture. No! It is not very good.)
¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice. (Always fresh. Limes are cheap. Never buy that bottled stuff.)
½ ounce garam masala syrup
1 teaspoon prepared mango chutney
Shake that all with ice, strain, and top with tonic water.
It’s a delightful blend of tart, sweet and spicy, bringing a little brightness into these increasingly gray days. (Yes, most of my glassware are Kentucky Derby glasses now.)
4) The Musician You Absolutely Have To Know About Right This Second
We’re defying genres today. Breaking down boundaries. Choosing what we like and mixing it together.
All of this is simply a thin pretense to implore you to listen to the music of Orville Peck.
Who is Orville Peck? No one knows.
Seriously — it’s a pseudonym taken on by a masked, publicly-anonymous singer, one who claims to be a veteran of several familiar punk bands. He’s taken on the mantle of classic country music and blown it apart with a spellbinding, label-defying debut album, Pony, where the self-described ‘queer cowboy’ blends the deep-voiced country of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison or Elvis with a dreamy, jangly ‘80s shoegaze vibe reminscent of early R.E.M. or the Stone Roses.
It’s been the only thing in months to break my Sturgill Simpson spell, and I cannot recommend you listen strongly enough:
3) A staid genre in the hands of a virtuoso
Zombie stories are pretty played out, right? There was a big surge of them in the last decade, especially driven by the television empire built around the dreary libertarian fantasy of The Walking Dead. Who needs to hear another dreary version of the undead end of the world?
Well, one you might have missed is Colson Whitehead’s exceptional 2011 novel Zone One, a foray into genre-horror by the virtuosic literary figure behind such works as The Underground Railroad, Sag Harbor, and The Intuitionist.
It’s still a zombie story, but it’s set in the rebuilding phase after the disaster has stabilized. The narrator is a “sweeper”, part of teams tasked with ridding dangerous areas (in his case, New York City) of remaining infected. Many of the elements are familiar to anyone who’s read or watched a zombie story, but in the hands of a writer as capable as Whitehead, Zone One stands above the pack.
Or, want a complete reinvention of the genre? Check out Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation, a zombie story set in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, where African-American girls are trained to kill zombies. It’s a wholly fresh flip on the idea.
2) Speaking of crossovers
Remember when TV shows used to do blatant, shameless, pointless crossovers? Like Steve Urkel showing up on Full House to make Stephanie feel better about getting glasses? Or Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor parachuting into Drew Carey’s backyard?
I miss those days.
Wait, no I don’t. Those days sucked. This was all that was on TV, and it was horrible.
You could say it was a product of the monoculture that existed at the time — we all watched the major network sitcoms, so it felt exciting and different to see the characters from one end up on another — but we’re returning to a strange sort of monoculture, now that seemingly all TV is Netflix.
So let’s suggest some crossovers:
The Great British Baking Show: Narcos (let’s see how well you can cook!)
Queer Eye: The Crown (Prince Phillip could use some style tips, amiright?)
House of Cards + Stranger Things (Kevin Spacey’s character is eaten by a monster and no one ever discusses it again, just like Barb in S1.)
GLOW + Marie Kondo C’mon, you know Marie could really clean up in the ring, amiright?
[everyone booing at the realization this was just buildup to a dad joke]
[I start panicking, reach for my emergency lever]
1) SORRY SORRY HERE’S SOME DOGS
This is normally the point where I feature a reader’s dog — but I got a lot of dogs submitted this week, so I’m going to treat us all. Two dogs! (I’ll get to the rest soon, but I’ve got to keep you coming back for more.)
First, reader Colin H. writes in to share his very good dog, Finley:
This is Finley. She lives in Raleigh but is NOT named after the Albert Finley who was a big donor to NC State, rather she’s named after a Chicago bar. People usually believe us after they see the FSU collar. She just passed her AKC Canine Good Citizen on Saturday which is more than Willie Taggert accomplished that day.
WHAT A GOOD GIRL.
Next up, reader Steve S. writes in to share extremely-comfortable-looking dog Kelso:
This is Kelso. He was rescued off the street in Valle de Bravo, Mexico and now lives a very comfortable life in Evanston, IL. He is our German Shepherd ambassador to the neighborhood as he loves kids, ear scratches and belly rubs.
He is a very good dog.
YES HE IS.
Thank you to Colin, Steve, and everyone else who submitted dogs this week — I promise I’ll get to the rest of them in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you’ve got a dog you’d like to share, just respond to this email (or email to actioncookbook at substack dot com), and I’ll be sure to share.
That’s all we’ve got for this week’s version of A Good Day In Hell. Thanks for reading, thanks for subscribing, and please — if you’re enjoying this newsletter, share it with someone!
Enjoy your weekend.
— Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)