Thursday, November 13, 2008
Ladies, gentlemen, start your engines.
But only after you've loaded them up with sausages, chicken, crabs, Cajun shrimp and plenty of vegetables.
Car engine cooking will change the way you take road trips.
So, how do you find the best places on your car engine to place your chicken, your veggies or your succulent piece of rainbow trout? Well, it all comes down to...your finger.
Get your car up to operating speed, or better yet take it for a drive around the block for five minutes, and then bring it back to the garage and lift the hood. Now, finger at the ready, you start quickly touching various parts of the engine (nothing plastic...that will never get hot enough to cook anything). And by quickly touching, it's the kind of swift stab that means your finger feels the heat but you don't give yourself a third degree burn. (If you're feeling really fussy, try an infrared thermometer). Usually, the hottest part of the engine will be the exhaust manifold. On older cars, the top of the engine block will be a good, sizzling place.
You're not just looking for the hottest parts of the engine. Like any kind of cooking, different foods require different temperatures. A very hot part of the engine will be great for thick meat, a cooler part good for veggies or fish. Or, if you're traveling many hundreds of miles, you may want to use the cooler part to slow-cook your meat. Mmmm. As always, this is trial and error.
Car engine cooking no-nos...
1 - Give the accelerator linkage a WIDE berth. It connects the gas pedal to carburetor or fuel-injection system and regulates the flow of fuel to the cylinders. Jam this and either your car won't start, or worse, it won't stop!
2 - Don't block the airflow. You'll suffocate the engine.
3 - Avoid yanking wires. Or pulling wires. Or forcing a food-package to fit. Basic rule of thumb...if you have to force it, you shouldn't put it in.
4 - Place food with the engine OFF. Seems like an obvious rule, but if you don't want a nasty injury, follow this advice.
5 - Avoid foods with lots of liquid. Foil-wrapping a meal with lots of liquid could results in unwanted goop all over your engine. And that's not good for it.
The FOIL CONE test
This is done to give you a good idea of how much room you have in your new 'oven', and cannot be skipped. Simply make a cone of aluminum foil about 5 inches high, place it on the injector housing, then shut the hood. Now, when you open it, how much of that cone has been crushed? If it's a lot, your car engine will only be good for cooking slimmer meals, like fish and strip steak. If it hasn't been touched, you'll need extra foil to stop your packages from moving around.
Preparing your meal
Foil is about to become your new best friend. Grab a sheet of foil large enough to comfortably cover the food/ingredients. You don't want to be cheap on foil here, more is better. Wrap the foil around, creating a package, and crimp the foil tightly. You want a seal all around the food. And then do it again. And then again. Triple-wrapping in foil is the only way to ensure a tight, sealed, safe package.
Cruise-Control Pork Tenderloin - Cooking distance: 250 miles
I like this one because it's soft and tender, and is a great treat for the end of a long journey (hey, I'm a Brit...250 miles is along way to me).
1 large pork tenderloin, butterflied
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp dry white wine
1/2 cup red onion, minced
2 tsp rosemary (fresh), crushed
Salt & pepper
Blend together all of the ingredients (except the pork) and spread across the inside of the pork tenderloin. Close up the pork, triple-wrap in foil and place on a medium-hot part of the engine. Turn once (125 miles) during cooking.
Any-city Chicken Wings (sweet) - Cooking distance: 140-200 miles
Is there a better snack food than buffalo chicken wings? I can't think of one, personally. So imagine my delight when I discovered a car-engine recipe. Feel free to swap out ingredients according to how hot/spicy/tangy you like your wings. This is my take on the recipe (the optional ingredients).
18 chicken wings
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tbsp molasses (optional)
1 cup red wine vinegar
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
4-6 minced jalapenos
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp honey (optional)
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
Pinch of salt
Fresh black pepper (optional)
Splash of Tabasco Chipotle sauce (optional)
Splash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Blend together all of the ingredients (except wings) and pour over chicken wings. Cover tightly in the fridge for at least 24 hours. Drain wings (save the marinade) and divide into three foil packages. Brush with marinade, then triple-wrap each package tightly and place on medium-hot part of the engine. I like my chicken well done so I do the 200 miles, or around 3 1/2 hours.
Good & simple Cajun Shrimp/Crayfish - Cooking distance: 35 miles
I love shrimp, and this is a quick journey. For most, it's an average morning's commute. What a way to start the day...Cajun Shrimp for breakfast.
1 pound large shrimp or crayfish tails, in shells.
6 small green hot peppers
2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Butter or spread
Salt & pepper
Remove seeds from peppers (ouch, they are hot) and mince with the onion and garlic. Butter your foil, add the shrimp and cover with your spicy mixture. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper, then triple-wrap and place in a medium part of the engine. Delicious, seasoned, spicy shrimp or crayfish await.
Eggs On Cheese Pie - Cooking distance: 55 miles
Another good breakfast food, or anytime food. Legend has it that the recipe (minus the cooking method) originated in medieval monasteries. A holy treat.
Breadcrumbs (Italian or fresh homemade)
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, cubed
6 eggs (free range folks....be good)
Diced Canadian bacon (optional)
6 empty tuna-fish cans for cooking
Pinch of cayenne and paprika (optional)
Butter or spread.
Salt & pepper.
Wash 6 empty tuna cans and butter the insides. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs into each can and shake to cover the base evenly. Dump out excess. Now cover with mozzarella (and bacon if desired) then crack an egg on top of each, add seasonings and spices on top, then cover with mozzarella. Wrap cans tightly in foil, place on a hot part of the engine with good contact for the base of each can, and after 55 miles they should be good. If not, keep driving till the cheese has melted.
Provolone Porsche Potatoes - Cooking distance: 55 miles
Good for vegetarians and a great side dish, this is simple, tasty car engine cooking.
1/2 pound new potatoes
1 cup milk
1 cup water
2 ounces grated aged provolone (or my favorite, aged cheddar)
Salt & pepper
Peel and slice potatoes to 1.4 inch thick. Place in a saucepan with the milk and water and simmer 10 mins. Drain, then spread onto heavily buttered foil. Sprinkle with your cheese (or cheeses, experiment with flavors) and seasonings. Sprinkle with butter, triple-wrap and place around medium-hot parts of the engine. Delicious.
And finally, practice makes perfect.
You aren't going to get all of this right first time. Experiment with different ingredients, different parts of the engine and different cooking time.