Cleaning Out My Cabinets: Oven Cooked Beef Jerky

Beef jerky and me go way back.  Surprising, I know, that a salt obsessed portly carnivore has had a lifelong affinity for jerky.  As a kid, I spent my summers hanging around Ravine Lake and throwing in a buck or two every day for snacks like giant Jolly Ranchers, blow pops, and Munchos.  Weren’t Munchos the best?  In the rotation was the occasional day where we picked through the questionable jerky selection at the Copper Kettle and every kid sat around snacking on dried meats.  I was basically the same then as I am now; acting like an expert and aficionado of my Jacks Links kippered beefsteaks while the cretins around me consumed their Slim Jims.  Mine was the real beef jerky, the authentic one, and I made sure I let everyone know about it.  I was probably 8 so, again, nothing has changed.

In college, housemate Davey’s father came to visit and brought with him a large bag of elk jerky he made after a recent hunting trip.  It was delicious and he pretty much blew my mind when he explained to me that he had made it in his oven using a little liquid smoke.  Whatever that meant.  Even if I didn’t understand that liquid smoke was a real thing that didn’t just exist in Mr. Johnston’s pantry and the Flaming Homer on the Simpsons, I was very intrigued with making it myself.  And a brief 11 years later, I decided to do just that.

I got started with the cheapest thick cut steak I could find at the grocery store.  Making jerky is right up my alley since it takes something inexpensive and turns it into something tasty.

I'm not sure whose family these family-sized packs are for but I sure hope they like gristle!

I’m not sure whose family these family-sized packs are for but I sure hope they like gristle!  The steaks looked much nicer in the grocery store, but slid to one end and got mushed around when I re-purposed my backpack as a reusable grocery bag for the commute home

I went with chuck steaks since they were on sale.  Since then I have also used round steaks (since they were on sale that time) and you could probably slice whatever cheap roast is available.  Since the end product is supposed to be chewy, no need to be picky.  You do want to avoid an cut where you can’t easily trim off the fat since fat doesn’t dry and makes the end product not last as long.

The meat sat in the freezer for a little under an hour to make it firm and easy to slice.  With chuck in particular the fat makes the meat less dense and difficult to slice thinly with a knife.  The freezer time helps it stay together a bit better, though I still struggled to cut slices 1/8th of an inch thick.

The slices went into a freezer bag with a marinade of soy sauce, brown sugar, worcestershire, liquid smoke, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper.  All excess air in the bag was pressed out before sealing.

"Pressed" is a BS.  In college I watched a friend pack toiletries in freezer bags and then suck the air out of the bag to save space in her suitcase.  She explained it by saying, "I used to date a drug dealer".  Ok then, valuable lessen for me in how to remove air from a marinating bag, though

“Pressed out” is BS.  In college I watched a friend pack toiletries in freezer bags and then suck the air out of the bag with her mouth to save space in her suitcase.  She explained it by saying, “I used to date a drug dealer”.  OK then.  Valuable lesson for me in how to remove air from a marinating bag, though

The meat sat in the marinade for 12 hours to hopefully soak up as much of the flavor as possible.  Over the course of that twelve hours I took time to open the fridge, awkwardly massage the marinade around, stare at the meat for a few minutes, then eventually put the bag back in the fridge.

After 12 hours, the slices came out of the marinade and I laid them out on a few separate plates lines with paper towels to drain off the excess liquid.  Since jerky is just dehydrated/dried beef, any extra liquid left on the meat just makes the dehydration process take longer.  So, it’s good to give some paper towel time.

Window shots!  I always thought jerky darkens to the near black color you expect through the smoking/drying process, but I learned it's mostly the marinating

Window shots!  I always thought jerky darkens to the near black color you expect through the smoking/drying process, but I learned it’s mostly the marinade

While the meat drained, I preheated my oven to 185F (it didn’t take long) and moved my oven racks to the highest and lowest placements.  I put two baking sheets on the lower rack to make sure the entire bottom oven was blocked from drips coming down.  I already have enough issues with my oven smoking due to browning meat inches from the broiler, I didn’t need burnt jerk stank adding to the potpourri.

Once that was all set, I took a handful of bamboo skewers out and started hanging each piece of beef from one end, spaced about a half inch apart on the skewer.  Each skewer could hold about 6-8 slices of beef. The idea is that the skewers would lie perpendicular to the wire racks in the oven with each slice of meat hanging down between the wire racks.  Visuals help.

I never realized before trying to take pictures of this process that my oven light is actually a gigantic floodlight pointed directly at my eyes

I never realized before trying to take pictures of this process that my oven light is actually a gigantic floodlight pointed directly at my eyes

The hanging beef went into the oven at 185F with an oven mitt wedged in the door so it would stay slightly ajar.  I hadn’t thought of this before seeing a comment about it on the internets, but in order to make jerky you need to let the moisture vent out of the oven or the meat will never dry.  The door being open allows air flow so that can happen.  Look at me going all Bill Nye on y’all!!!

Aside from the oven mitt, there isn’t much you need to do while beef jerky cooks.  Eventually, somewhere between 8 and 12 hours of drying you have this.

Everything shrivelled up far more than I expected.  It looked like each piece was about 2/3s the size of when it went into the oven.  It also smelled amazing

Everything shrivelled up far more than I expected. It looked like each piece was about 2/3s the size of when it went into the oven.  It also smelled amazing

This is about the point that I pulled the meat out of the oven for good, I think it had been just under 10 hours.  I knew the meat was ready because the exterior felt solid and had only the slightest amount of give when squeezed.  I also tried a piece and it had reached the right point where there was still a little moisture to the meat, but drying it any further would make it leather.  I removed the skewers and piled the meat up to cool.

Don't get me started on warm jerky.  If you were hoping to make jerky once and then move on forver, warm jerky will derail that plan.  All the flavor and none of the jaw exhaustion

Don’t get me started on warm jerky.  If you were hoping to make jerky once and then move on forever, warm jerky will derail that plan.  All the flavor and none of the jaw exhaustion of regular jerky

Before the jerky cools completely, you have to remove the skewers to make sure they don’t get stuck and leave behind wood slivers in the meat.  Jerky splinters would be bad.  For reference, skewer removal is the part of the process where you end up eating about half the jerky.

Once you’re done with that, the jerky needs to cool completely before it can be transferred to a storage container and the refrigerator.

Lots of window shots in this post, likely because it was the only meal I've made during the day in awhile

Lots of window shots in this post, likely because it was the only meal I’ve made during the day in awhile

Making sure the jerky is completely cool before it goes in the fridge is important because it avoids condensation forming in the bag.  Condensation would lead to your jerky rehydrating.  As long as you avoid that, the jerky can keep in your fridge for 3-4 weeks supposedly, but I’ve never had the restraint to let mine last long enough to find out.

I won’t try to compare this to store-bought jerky because it is very different beast.  The outside of the meat is hard and crunchy, almost like biting down on a stick, but the meat gives almost immediately in your mouth.  It ends up being much easier to chew than your initial expectations.  Also, there’s none of that weird greasy exterior that happens with bagged jerky, nor the paper thin pieces that feel like you are chewing on a latex glove.  Lastly, the flavor is much better; it tastes like real beef and real ingredient.  You can make it as sweet or spicy as you want (I recommend siracha in the marinade) and it is fun to experiment a bit.

Good way to spend a football Sunday.  I’m just sayin’…

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Cleanin’ Out My Cabinets: Miso Pulled Pork & The Perfect Reuben

During these past few odd weeks in Boston I have passed the time making some very salty taste treats while experimenting with the miso paste from Super 88.  I’ve also been casting lots of nervous glances at the corned beef brisket in my fridge that was rapidly approaching its expiration date.  Figured I would cover two of the most notable salty meals from these ingredients in one post, kind of like my love letter to salt.  It wouldn’t be the first one I’ve written to that foul temptress.

First up is a miso glazed pulled pork.  I got the idea from a food truck that regularly parks near my office and the rave reviews from coworkers of their miso pork.  That and I was addicted to the miso+meat combo after a couple successful rounds of chicken salad with homemade miso mayo.  Mmmmmmmm, salt.

The ingredients for the glaze:

Miso is an extremely dangerous thing to add to my repetoire.  It's vegetable anchovies, or basically fancy flavored salt.  I have put this stuff on pretty much everything and it always makes it better

Miso is an extremely dangerous thing to add to my repetoire.  It’s basically vegetable anchovies.  I have put this stuff on pretty much everything and it consistently makes whatever it is better

A spoonful of miso, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, a little soy sauce, and some maple syrup to caramelize the outside and give some contrasting sweetness.  With a little whisking this ended up about the thickness of Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce.  The goal was to lacquer it on early and often to get that borderline spoofy Marge Simpson’s ham-like glaze.

I preheated the oven to 250F and prepped the 5 lb Boston butt for cooking by applying a thick layer of glaze.

The now common window-side natural light shot has been a wonderful addition to this blog in my opinion.  And my opinion is really the key one when it comes to opinions on my posts

The now common window-side natural light shot has been a wonderful addition to this blog in my opinion.  And my opinion is really the key one when it comes to opinions on my blog

The pork went into the oven on a roasting rack with the plan to cook it for 6 hours or so, glazing every hour.  I also flipped it a couple times during cooking to make sure that no sides were deprived of a thick coating of glaze.

The only problem was that I was feeling a little impatient and the pork got stuck at around 170F for what felt like an eternity, while the glaze was making the transitioned from caramelized to burnt.  While pork is fully cooked at that temperature, the most tender and easiest to pull pork is usually in the range of 200F.  So, I basically had a panic attack trying to figure out how to get the temperature up without the whole thing becoming burned to a crisp, leading me to pulling this out at 180F and giving up.

I think it was actually about thirty minutes after this because it was definitely more burned than this.  You are completely out of touch with this blog if you don't think the brunt to a crisp pieces were my favorite part

I think it was actually about thirty minutes after this shot because the crust was definitely more burned than this.  You are completely out of touch with this blog if you don’t think the burnt to a crisp pieces were my favorite part

After letting the pork rest for a half hour, the temperature had climbed to 185F.  I had quietly hoped it would magically climb 20 degrees while resting but it fell a little short.  The shredding and pulling was a little bit tougher due to the lower internal temp and a bit of fat and connective tissue (that would have cooked off at 200F) needed to be cut out as I went.  I still had a decent pile of meat with no other destination than a couple sandwiches and a week of “Pete’s meat bowl” lunches.

I am convinced my coworkers think I am completely insane.  Instead of answering normally with "pulled pork" or "chicken soup" when they say, "that smells good, what is it?", I respond excitedly with "PETE'S MEAT BOWL!!!!" or "SOUPER SUNDAYS Y'ALLL!!!".  I like lunchtime to be an adventure, an adventure in obnoxious behavior

I am convinced my coworkers think I am completely insane.  Instead of answering normally with “pulled pork” or “chicken soup” when they say, “that smells good, what is it?”, I respond excitedly with “PETE’S MEAT BOWL!!!!” or “SOUPER SUNDAYS Y’ALLL!!!”.  I like lunchtime to be an adventure, an adventure in obnoxious behavior

It smelled pretty solid and the samples I took along the way were awesome, but the problem with a pulled pork like this one is I had no idea what to serve it with.  The flavor was definitely asian, but a terriyaki sauce or a BBQ/soy combo would completely overpower the meat.  So, I went simple and just put a bunch of pieces in a bun with a piece of iceberg.  After viewing the following photo, you will agree that this should henceforth be known as “McDonalds-style”.

Definitely on of the worst unveiling shots in a long line of awful ones on this blog.  Looks unappetizing and anonymous

Definitely on of the worst unveiling shots in a long line of awful ones on this blog.  Looks unappetizing and anonymous

The pork came out pretty tasty despite not being as tender as I had hoped it would be.  I feel like I have made this mistake on multiple occasions and yet I will continue to think I can pull the pork before 200F just because I am horribly impatient and hungry.  Anyhoo, although the exterior crust was a little salty, when mixed in with the rest of the meat it was pretty balanced and the glaze was relatively mild.  The miso added a truffle-like umami flavor that matched well with the shoulder meat.  It’s a couple weeks later and I still haven’t figured out what I would serve this on if I made it again, but the leader in the clubhouse is a flour tortilla with a vinegar slaw and a smear of duck sauce.  So now you know.

On to the “perfect” reuben.

Corned beef and cabbage was a relatively common meal in the Ryan household growing up.  We ate enough of it that I was obsessed with eating the white pieces of fat when I was young, and unlike my continued obsession with baking sheet crispies, I now recognize how disgusting that was.  Moving on, we always had leftovers since Mommy Ryan would buy an extra large corned beef brisket with the intention of serving reubens the following day.  Her reubens were pretty incredible, and made the reuben a top 3 sandwich for me.  Unfortunately, over the years I’ve learned that 90% of reubens served in restaurants are crap due to presliced/precooked deli corned beef.  It has to start with thick sliced tender corned beef brisket, no exceptions.  So with Kristi gone for the weekend, that’s where I started.

The deli slicer is the kitchen appliance I most often insert insert into love songs when babbling/singing to myself in the kitchen.  The initial courtship was too fast, our relationship is up and down, and eventually I will lose a limb because of her, but dammit, my deli slicer deserves to be immortalized in a love song

The deli slicer is the kitchen appliance I most often insert into love songs when babbling/singing to myself in the kitchen.  The initial courtship was too fast, our relationship is up and down, and eventually I will lose a limb because of her, but dammit, my deli slicer deserves to be immortalized in a love song

The corned beef brisket loses about a third of its weight during the boiling process and takes about 3.5 hours to become fork tender.  Because the slicer is at its best when the meat is cold and firm, I boiled the brisket on a Friday night with the intention of using it Saturday.  After letting the meat cool in the cooking liquid for 30 minutes, I transferred it to the fridge to spend the night.  The shot above is from the following morning.

In the universe of sandwiches, I think reubens are relatively unique in that every one uses the exact same combination of ingredients yet the taste and quality varies widely.  I could order a turkey, cheddar, lettuce, and mayo on a sub (#2 on my sammiches list) at pretty much any deli in America and it would come out delicious almost every time.  The same number of ingredients for a reuben ends up an abomination in the hands of most restaurants.  It’s really not complicated to get right, but I’ll run through it for any aspiring delicatessens.

It all starts with rye bread (seedless for me):

One of the best things (/worst for me) about having Janet around is that we have real softened butter available in the house due to our constant attempts to fatten her up.  It's certainly fattened me up

One of the best things (slash worst for me) about having Janet around is that we have real softened butter available in the house due to our constant attempts to fatten her up.  It’s certainly fattened me up

The bottom slice of rye is given a good slathering of thousand island dressing and the top slice is spread with butter for griddling.  I know it looks like a lot of butter, but that’s how Mommy Ryan taught me, so blame her.

Time to get the corned beef involved.

The container of corned beef had an extremely unfortunate aroma when opened but it went away shortly after opening.  No idea why it happened, but it wasn't a smell I like associated with my food.  I guess that's what happens when you pickle beef

The container of corned beef had an extremely unfortunate aroma when opened but it went away shortly after opening.  No idea why it happened, but it wasn’t a smell I like associated with my food.  I guess that’s what happens when you pickle beef

I sliced the brisket a little over 1/8th of an inch thick and that stack represents three thick slices of meat.  I can’t state strongly enough that it is not worth it to make this sandwich if you plan to use sliced corned beef from the deli counter unless you are near an awesome Jewish delicatessen that makes their own meats.  I never speak poorly of Boars Head, but I think the meat they use for their corned beef is a roast cut, not brisket, which ruins the texture and flavor.  That’s right, you’re not even allowed to use Boars Head.

The order of the next couple ingredients is up to the maker, but I of course have a strong opinion.  So bring on the sauerkraut!

I had some sauerkraut in my fridge in a tupperware that I tasted before buying some for this.  Tasted fine, so I used it on all reubens made in the following days.  I recently realized it was leftover from an Oktoberfest party last fall.  Sooo, yeah, turns out that stuff doesn't go bad quickly

I had some sauerkraut in my fridge in a tupperware that tasted fine.  I used it on all reubens made in the following days before realizing it was leftover from an Oktoberfest party last fall.  Sooo, yeah, turns out that stuff doesn’t go bad quickly.  It’s still in my fridge

I will not debate this point (nor does anyone else care enough to do so), but the cheese has to be melted over the sauerkraut to prevent the bread from becoming a soggy mess.  The cheese has to serve as a barrier.  DO NOT DEBATE THIS WITH ME!

Now a few slices of deli Swiss cheese to make that barrier.

Here's a little thing: when I was a kid I called deli American "Holy Cheese" because it had tiny holes and it was delicious.  But I hated Swiss because the holes were too big.  I was a picky little sh*t

Here’s a little thing: when I was a kid I called deli American “Holy Cheese” because it had tiny holes that I loved and it was also generally delicious.  But, I hated Swiss because the holes were too big.  I was a picky little sh*t

With the Swiss cheese loaded, the buttered rye slice goes on top, butter side out.

Mommy Ryan always cooked these in a pan grilled cheese-style, and I have always had success doing the same.  But, a few years ago I used our panini press with the flat griddle plates to make a reuben and realized how much better life could be.  Perfectly even griddling and a little weight on the top half to keep the large pile of ingredients inside compacted.  I’ve never looked back (though I also hadn’t made reubens between then and this most recent run).

The press was preheated and a little butter was melted on the bottom griddle since the bottom slice of bread was dry on the outside.  Then I closed the press.

Side view of the panini press working its magic.  I bought this panini press for Kristi along with a paring knife for her second birthday while we were dating.  I am pretty sure she had no interest in either and recognized I was buying for myself with the eventual hope of merging our possessions.  Lucky to be married folks, lucky to be married

Side view of the panini press working its magic.  I bought this panini press for Kristi along with a paring knife for her second birthday while we were dating.  I am pretty sure she had no interest in either and recognized I was buying for myself with the eventual hope of merging our possessions. Lucky to be married folks, lucky to be married

At a medium heat setting, it takes about 8-10 minutes to get the bread golden brown and crispy.

Yep, hungry again.  The press is a pain to get out and use but never, ever disappoints.  I'm not really sure why the act of removing a small appliance from a cupboard for use seems so annoying but it really is

The press is a pain to get out and use but never, ever disappoints.  I’m not really sure why the act of removing a small appliance from a cupboard for use seems so annoying but it really is

Remove from the press and eat.  After pausing to take a picture by your window, ‘course.

I salute you reuben.  Hell of a sandwich

Yep, hungry again.  I salute you reuben.  Hell of a sandwich

No need to deconstruct the flavor of this reuben, just know it was the reuben of your dreams.  Crispy bread and the sweet dressing/salty beef/tangy sauerkraut combo, all smothered in melted swiss cheese.  Sigh.  Airplane seatbelts are elastic these days, right?

And that’s it.  Heading to DC and may fit in some food exploring this weekend.

Weird Crap I Cook: Jellyfish Salad

Two clarifications: 1) I didn’t really “cook” this exactly and 2) I get a good amount of random comments correcting me when I make internationally loved items and put the WCIC prefix on them.  I get that jellyfish, stomach tacos, and tuna head aren’t “weird crap” in some places, but if Kristi won’t stand in the same kitchen as an ingredient, it qualifies as weird for the purposes of this ‘lil blog.

Two weeks ago I finally made the trip to Super 88 market in Brighton with Janet and occasional blog character and game meat provider, Dupee.  I don’t have a great reason for why I’ve never been before, aside from I haven’t lived in Brighton for 6 years and my culinary fever was caught after moving away.  For those not familiar, Super 88 is a large pan-Asian supermarket with lots of hard to find ingredients and some very interesting cuts of meat.  After discovering recently that they also have a food court with an assortment of great food, I decided to make the trip.

Seeing this totally reassured me that this food court was legit.  I'm used to seeing that hanging in a store window in Chinatown, not in the middle of a mall-like food court

Seeing this totally reassured me that this food court was legit.  I’m used to seeing that hanging in a store window in Chinatown, not in the middle of a Bridgewater mall-like food court

The first major error of the day was assuming that the food court opened at the same time as the grocery store (9 AM).  It actually opened two hours later, and we unfortunately arrived at 9:30.  I did my best to kill time poking meats in the market and letting Janet push her stroller around, but even I couldn’t kill an hour and a half this way.  So, after collecting as many interesting items as I could justify, Dupee, Janet and I headed out to explore Brighton ave.

The area between Harvard ave and Packards corner has evolved into an ethnic restaurant melting pot over the past 10 years and I was amazed at how good everything looked.  After an hour in which Janet sampled baklava, Vietnamese scallion pastry, wind burn, and frostbite, the doors to the food court opened and we headed in.  I immediately ordered a quarter roast duck.

Traditional roast duck isn’t for everyone since it’s mostly skin and fat with lots of bones to navigate around.  Oh,  and it’s served lukewarm. Regardless, I was incredibly excited when my order came up until Janet got all up in my face and started stealing my food.

This kid won't even eat pasta with cheese and butter yet she goes nuts for scrapple, lox, baklava, roast duck, and short ribs.  Wait.  I WON!!!  IN YOUR FACE KRISTI!!!  She eats like me!!!!

This kid won’t touch vegetables or bland pasta, yet she goes nuts for scrapple, lox, baklava, roast duck, and short ribs.  Wait a tick.  I WON!!!  IN YOUR FACE KRISTI!!!  She eats like her daddy!!!!

The roast duck was awesome, if a little tough to feed to a 1.75 year old that was constantly demanding a fresh piece.  Lots of little bones since the thigh and leg were cut into chopstick-sized pieces with a cleaver.  The meat was so moist and tasty, though, and the crispy fatty skin was as delicious as it sounds.

The next food item I got was a traditional display of Pete’s stupidity.  I know I don’t like most Chinese cross-cut short rib preparations; the meat never seems to cook long enough to be tender which leaves it chewy and tough to eat.  But, as usual I saw a picture on the menu and ordered them anyway.  Dupee and I were both very disappointed, especially with how hard it was to get the meat off the bones, but Janet enjoyed them.

Janet wads extremely jealous of the chopsticks we were using to eat, so she got her own pair and took a shot.  She poked in vain for about 30 seconds and then picked up the meat with her fingers and ate it.  Just like everyone else the first time they used chopsticks

Janet was extremely jealous of the chopsticks we were using to eat, so she got her own pair and took a shot.  She poked in vain for about 30 seconds and then picked up the meat with her fingers and ate it.  You know, just like everyone else the first time they use chopsticks

All in all the food court was decent and I’d like to try a few of the food stalls I didn’t hit this time around sometime soon.  But, the main goal of the trip was finding a bunch of stuff I hadn’t cooked before and making something at home.

The produce was either extremely fresh (the seafood and vegetables) or slightly dodgy looking (the meat).  For example, I could have had the seafood counter clean one of the live Tilapia or Carp for me (“Kristi! Got us some carp for dinner!  You know, carp!”) and yet the bulk of the meat was frozen solid.  I still came away with a decent haul for under $20.

Those dumplings and shumai were gone within 5 days, the enoki mushrooms and udon made a bawmb noodle dish, and the miso has some high expectations associated with it ever since I heard about miso-glazed pulled pork.  If you read the emotion "giddy elation" from the preceding sentence, you are an incredibly observant reader

Those dumplings and shumai were gone within 5 days, the enoki mushrooms and udon made a bawmb noodle dish, and the miso has some high expectations associated with it ever since I heard about miso-glazed pulled pork.  If you read the emotion “giddy elation” from the preceding sentence, you are an incredibly observant reader

The dumplings cost $2 and were enough food for three meals.  The seaweed salad made me realize I’ve been paying twice the cost of this package for a quarter of the seaweed salad from restaurants my entire life.  The Udon will likely be the item I buy in bulk on every future visit since it was easy and cam e out so delicious.  But, the jellyfish, now that stuff was the main event.

Looks like a bag of gummy jolly ranchers or something.  Nope, not quite

Looks like a bag of gummy Jolly Ranchers or something.  Nope, not quite.  Wish I knew what collection those characters represent so that I can see if it was limited edition or something

Purchasing jellyfish to make jellyfish salad was one of my goals for the trip.  The reasons were simple: I love jellyfish salad, haven’t had it in a while, definitely have never made it, and I needed some blog fodder.  When I first scanned the seafood department and produce, I didn’t see any jellyfish and got a little concerned.  Eventually, I noticed that I was surrounded by boxes (next to the open freezers but not exactly refrigerated) filled with packages that looked like the one above.  They were a variety of colors; red, green, yellow, blue, purple, etc. but all otherwise identical and covered with calligraphy and not much English.

I looked through about 20 of those little windows on various packages before finally admitting to myself that they all looked completely identical

I looked through about 20 of those little windows on various packages before finally admitting to myself that they all looked completely identical

After a few minutes of looking at the different colored packages and trying to figure out the difference, I noticed the small English language ingredients on the back.  I assumed these ingredients were the marinade the jellyfish would be sitting in, and after not finding a “plain” version, I went for the most innocuous combo I could find.  I was hoping that the sesame oil, msg, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce note on the package would rinse off easily so I could season.  Yet, when I opened the package at home, I found jellyfish and this.

Well that was unexpected.  Four packets looking identical to ramen seasoning.  Mmmmmm ramen seasoning.  Would it be at all surprising to know Ryan's ate ramen drained of the liquid with butter and that seasoning packet?  Of course it wouldn't

Four packets and one looks like ramen seasoning.  Mmmmmm ramen seasoning.  Would it be at all surprising to know Ryan’s ate ramen drained of the liquid with butter and that seasoning packet?  Of course it wouldn’t

Welp, that was surprising.  After looking at this and the small package of jellyfish for a while, I recognized that this is almost like a (sadly defunct) Handi Snack or the famous Walking Taco.  Tear open the top, dump on your seasonings, then walk around eating your meal.  Of jellyfish!

I was intrigued enough that I tore open each package and tasted the contents.  Actually, after tasting the cheap soy sauce and vinegar, and what tasted like burned fryer oil, I elected against tearing into the packet of white sugar and MSG and safely disposed of it out of Janet’s reach.  Not due to MSG fears (Super 88 covers its walls with pro-MSG/anti-MSG fear info, which I enjoyed reading), but because I was kind of grossed out by the tastes in those packets.  Back to the jellyfish.

Wouldn't have been the most appealing package of "food" to be presented with, but now that you know it was approved to sit in lukewarm temperatures for up to one year, you gotta be a convert, right?!?!?!

Wouldn’t have been the most appealing package of “food” to be presented with, but now that you know it was approved to sit in lukewarm temperatures for up to one year, you gotta be a convert, right?!?!?!

There was nothing fishy about the smell or any unpleasant odors at all.  It really just looked like an odd-looking bag of noodles.  Regardless, I threw the jellyfish pieces into a colander for a good rinsing in cold water.

I had a love/hate relationship with the darker spotted pieces of jellyfish.  The love was that they made it clear it wasn't just a pile of cellophane or rubber bands, the hate was that they looked a little nasty

I had a love/hate relationship with the darker spotted pieces of jellyfish.  The love was that they made it clear it wasn’t just a pile of cellophane or rubber bands, the hate was that they looked a little nasty

After shaking and draining off all excess water, it looked slightly nicer.

Like noodles, right?!?!?  I wish I could make this see normal and not like the thing that stung me on Long Island when I was 8 and made me scared of the beach for a couple years

Like noodles kinda.  I wish I could make this seem normal and not like the thing that stung me on a Long Island beach when I was 8 and made me terrified of jellyfish as a kid.  Vengeance is mine, jellyfish

I seasoned the jellyfish with pretty much the same seasonings that I had just thrown away.  These ones tasted better and were less sketchy though.  Crushed red pepper, rice wine vinegar, tamari, toasted sesame oil, a pinch of grated ginger, and a little brown sugar were all tossed with the jellyfish in a glass bowl.  Then into the fridge for about an hour to let the flavors come together.  Which left me with this.

Pretty humble little pile, but I can't complain since I think the package cost $1.50.  I have no idea what anything costs at Super 88 but my first guess would be $1.50

Pretty humble little pile, but I can’t complain since I think the package cost $1.50. I have no idea what anything costs at Super 88 but my first guess for anything would be $1.50

I’d already eaten dinner at this point, but I wasn’t too concerned about the small portion of jellyfish salad overly filling me up.  I was just excited to have it again since I may have last consumed jellyfish salad two years ago in Philly.

Will someone show Janet this picture?  That kid needs to figure her sh*t out and stop embarrassing me with her lack of dexterity.  It's kind of BS

Will someone show Janet this picture so she understand how chopsticks work?  That kid needs to stop embarrassing me with her lack of dexterity.  It’s kind of BS

Not sure that I even need to write this part, but I finished the whole bowl and it was delicious.  Jellyfish salad is most similar to seaweed salad; it’s not gelatinous, slimy or mushy, it’s actually crunchy and most similar in texture to grilled octopus or calamari.  Your teeth go through easily, but there is still some crunch despite it being so soft.  There isn’t much flavor to the actual jellyfish, it’s mostly just a texture pairing with the seasonings you add. Combined with the sesame/soy/pepper/vinegar combo, it is always going to be a winner for me.

Off to Naples for the weekend which is always good for a post.