Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ragu Does NOT Come From a Jar

It's the sauce, man. The sauce. In the words of the large italian guy, it's like dressing a salad, not pouring soup over noodles.

I forgot to take the first prep shot...sorry. J was coming at 8:30 and he only gets a short dinner break. C was coming too, but she parks on the futon while I finish the cooking. In any case, you won't get the pretty vegetables all washed and ready to be sliced, the can of diced tomatoes waiting patiently, the fresh herbs, the knife, and the board. It's not going to happen. Instead, you get this:

That my friends is tasty. Trust me, it got in my belly.

At that point (and because I remembered I needed to take pictures of all this) I took my one prep shot. It's significant. I'm not a fan of the shrooms. But I specifically bought them for this recipe. Food Network inspired. It was similar to one of RR's dishes when she cooked with the large italian guy. Battle Cranberry, dontcha know?

Then I decided this S#$% tasted gooooooood, and looked good too. So I took this as J was walking in:

After that, we put in on plates. Really, you could put this in bowls. C asked for a spoon mid-meal. The better with which to shovel. Here's what she shoveled:

And, since I didn't get this recipe from any magazine or book, I'm going to share with you what went from my head to my plate. It was damn tasty. Red thought so. J and C were happy with it.

Orichette with Spicy Sausage and Mushroom Ragu

I refuse to tell you how to cook pasta. Read the bag/box. Really, they know what they're talking about. Please salt the water. It's important...

The Ragu

  • 1 pound hot italian sausage
  • 1 red onion, medium dice
  • 2 large carrots, small dice
  • 4 celery stalks, small dice
  • 1 carton mushrooms (you pick, go wild if you like, I didn't)
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 T dried basil (or fresh, like I said, go wild)
  • 2 t crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Brown the sausage. I removed it from the casings and crumbled it. Go for about 5 minutes on medium heat here.
  2. Add in the onions for 3 minutes (salt here to sweat not to season), then the carrots, celery, and garlic(a touch more salt to sweat). Let it saute for 5-6 minutes until the carrots really start to soften.
  3. Add the mushrooms for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the sauce, stir through for a minute.
  5. Add the broth, basil, and crushed pepper and bring to a simmer.
  6. Put the sauce on the noodles and eat it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Click/Whiz. Thanks Jebus

I will be replacing


sometime in the month of December. It will be a good thing.

Research Projects are for Chumps...and Bloggers

Speaking of reading (see the previous post)...What food stuff do you read online?

Seriously, I'm working on something (might take a couple weeks), and knowing what food you read online AND offline would help.

Drop me an e-mail. redneckmuppet at gmail dot com.

"Sticks of Sweet and Salty Meat Candy"

Got your attention, didn't I?

Until I know that everyone who reads this also reads everything else I read, I will continue to point out little bits of the web that catch my eye. But you all really should at least read one newspaper food section, and the New York Times Dining & Food Section is as good a place to start as any.

Stories about bacon ALWAYS catch my eye.

C over at cookeatFRET also has some bacon-y goodness this morning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Will Never Understand This

The following ad appeared above my Inbox in Gmail a few minutes ago. Proof positive that adsense is not the be-all, end-all of integrated micro-targetting.

Keep Pork off Your Fork - - Check out our list of the Top 10 reasons not to eat pigs.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Let It Go, Let Yourself Flow, Slow And Low, That Is The Tempo

Long week of travels to Manchester and Annapolis/DC plus three new tires (fourth was just replaced when my car got sideswiped) means lots of cooking at home this week. Plus I have to save money for this. So a trip here got me everything I needed on the cheap for several meals of clean out...

And so I cook. Luckily for me I had a brisket. Brisket, by the way, is ancient Texan for 'damn tasty.'

It starts with all this.

Brown the brisket like this.

Then carmelize the onions with some salt, pepper, sugar, and thyme (I'm a Splenda guy).

Throw in the carrots, celery, and garlic for a few minutes. Then put the brisket on top...of old smoooooooky, all covered with, well, beef...and wine...and stock...and tomato this.

Cover it. Put it in the oven at 325 for 2 hours.

After about 1 3/4 hours, put this in the oven for 45 minutes and crank it up to 350.

After that, pull out the brisket and let it rest (it's been cooking ALLLLLLL evening), and crank the oven up to 400 to crisp the taters.

I am sure that some thug-life gangsta, or some disgusting 12-year-old boy (I was one once, I know they're disgusting), has some nasty definition of 'crisping the taters.' I don't want to know what it is until it's the Word of the Day.

Here's the brisket, post oven.

Here's the plated brisket and crisped taters (damnit, I just like the sound of that).

Served it with the same cheap, yet emminently drinkable Zin I cooked it in. C and J came over. It was too good. I hadn't seen those cats in way too long.

J texted C after he got back to work. Text read: "Googled it. Printed it."

The text was about the recipe.

'Nuff said.

Credit where credit is due. Now you won't even have to Google it.

What Will Chez and I Watch?

THIS is NOT good. Link takes you to story about Emeril Legasse and contract negotiations with Food Network for continued production of Emeril Live. While the update clarifies that he is not 'done' at the network, and that Essence of Emeril and special appearances are still green light, that misses a serious point in my mind.

Emeril Live IS Emeril's presence on the Food Network. It's the 'BAM' that gets you there. It's the invitation of PS #Whatever's cooking class in to go over techniques recipes. It's having other Food Network chef's in the kitchen with him. I still remember the Batali/Legasse Emerial Live.

I watch occasional Essence of Emeril episodes because I love his recipes/flare on Live and am willing to lose the flair to learn the techniques, but it's not my bag. The specials? Similar feel. It's less meaningful to me to see him in a Food Network special if I'm not watching him on Food Network. He'll just be that guy in the special. (I know, that's not true, but I'm pissed that Emeril Live 'might' be done...)


Looks like it's just Emeril not having an exclusive agreement with Food Network anymore.

My previous feelings stand.

Turkey Daze, pt. 2

There will be a part four. Not because I'm trying to string this out, but because I am waiting to receive two recipes. I am waiting because my family loves to find holiday orphans and take care of them for turkey day and hay-soos day. This year it was S's colleague P. And she brought two of the three recipes I need to pass on to you. I can fake the other one, since mom told me where she got it.

First, the photo spread. I know, I could have taken more prep shots. But I was with family, and that doesn't happen too often, so I only took the bear minimum.

You should, however, still pat me on the back for the bird carving. Note the whole breasts, sliced think and off the bird. Note the fine work to keep the thigh whole after separating thigh and drumstick at the joint with ease (well, you would note if I had a better camera. Phooey).

Yes, that is stuffing in the bird. Mom hasn't killed anyone yet. It was cornbread stuffing. It was de-friggin'-licious!.

That's right, one thigh whole, one chopped for the dark meat lovers. P (of the two recipes I still need to get) took the whole thigh because she's a dark meat fan. Kept complimenting me on not skimping while I was serving the bird (which was part of my job at that end of the table).

The salad was a mom classic, the refreshing Bibb with orange and classic vinaigrette. She added toasted pecans this year. I oughta know, I toasted them.

The mashed taters are in the covered dish behind the turkey. I done good. Turkey stock, half-n-half, butter, salt, pepper, hand mashed. Simple, creamy, and tasty.

The pink bit behind them is the cranberry recipe I'm waiting on. Let's just say there's an extra kick you're all going to love.

S brought the pie. She also brought a chocolate goodness that was not brought up from the car. Jessie the girl dog got to it. Apparently, she is not as allergic to chocolate as some pups. D would not allow it to be brought up and presented even if S had carved out the dog-bite portions. I must say, I expect he was perfectly fine with salvaging it in the privacy of his own home later that looked GOOOOOOOD.

That's homemade whipped cream. And by homemade, I mean mom and I took turned whipping it with a whisk. Small city kitchens mean mixers are appliances that are off the 'essential' list.

The gloppy stuff is one of the recipes I'm waiting on. You'll have to wait too. Suffice it to say that licking of plates was contemplated, and licking of silverware likely occurred.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Daze, pt. 3

I skipped. I know. It's late. I'm tired. I'll tell y'all about "Turkey Day, The Main Event" tomorrow or over the weekend. It was really good. There was horseradish in the cranberries, a stick of butter in the mashed potatoes, and bacon in the green beans. Life was good, ya' know?

But tonight, I'll give you the post-game press conference.

8:32:00pm, Slack-jawwed food reporter: "Coach, that was an amazing call at the end of the game".

8:32:45pm, West Virginia Food-Coma Coach Fats McGurk: "Boys, you know we always finish what we started. When I looked at my team of Right Hand, Mouth, Teeth, Gut, and Late-Nite Appetite, I knew we had a championship all sewn up."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey Daze, pt. 1

Here are the important facts from Thanksgiving week turkey dinner number one:

  1. That is a bottle of Chateauneuf-de-Pape;
  2. It was not alone;
  3. We all agreed the creamed onions were crunchy;
  4. It really didn't matter;
  5. Only one person touched the gelatinous-cranberry-sweetness bowl;
  6. It wasn't me;
  7. My wishlist camera choice was a topic of conversation;
  8. You might not have to put up with cell-phone pics much longer.

So, Political Capital of the East, huh?

Meet the best cure for a hangover in Manchester, NH. Or at least the best one I found within walking distance of the downtown Radisson.

Steak tips, medium rare. Hash browns with onions and melted cheese on top. Two poached eggs (well, you can see where they 'were'). Rye Toast.

Sorry, I needed the food more than I needed the picture of the food before I ate it.

Lot's of pols and other random famous people eat here. I sat at an appropriate former visitor's spot, don't you think?

He featured it on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in the 'House Specials' Episode. My guess would be (since I can't remember watching that episode) that he featured their Pork Pie.

Stop. Don't run away. Think about it...

Ground pork (sausage, people, sausage) in a pie crust, covered in gravy.

Dear, sweet, ever-loving, porcine god of food, thank you for letting me be in the presence of this pie.

Side Note to Induce Snickering

We were stuffed after eating. We were also still wobbly. K wanted to try their signature brownie cream pie, so he bought a slice. Tragically, we had received the e-mail that check-out was not at noon, as we had assumed, but was instead at 11. So we trot back to the room and pack up to get ready for the last meeting before heading home.

Who forgot their slice of pie-liciousness in the room?

Yup, that guy.

I'm almost glad I didn't get a piece of pie to forget too.

Red Arrow Diner on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 16, 2007

Manchester Road Trip (by plane)

So I'm in NH for a conference this weekend. Of course I forgot to bring the cell phone cable to shoot food in Manchester. I'll try to jot stuff down and do a restaurant recap when I get, when I get to DC.

Wait, wait!!!! I can e-mail the photos to myself. Oh, joy!! You'll get to see NH bacon sometime tomorrow.

Since C, STK, and I are New Year's Resolutioning it, I intend to enjoy the last month of tastiness.

While you wait for me to get my blogger-ass in gear, feast on THIS.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Because Pirates Are Cool

Using the posting space just to tell you about someone else's web-coolness this morning. There might be food tonight. Might whip up some chili goodness. This one is for C, and she knows why.

This was a pic from Bent Objects that Serious Eats felt like sharing. I understand why. It's food + pirate. And the world needs more of that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Afghan Grill Called Me

The Afghan Grill in DC is one of my fvorite restaurants ever. It's just good. And their business slacked off a bit in 2002 because even people in the capitol of beacon-of-freedom-land can be xenophobic. It's packed of late, and I am grateful of that fact.

In any event, it was here that I really learned about Afghan and Persian flavors. The blend of cardamom, rice, and simply grilled meats. Leek popovers and coriander wafting through the air. A mashed pumpkin dish with garlic-yoghurt sauce. Cooked raisins and braised carrots that fit with their surroundings. Hearty food for austere places. It was delicious.

And then I raided my pantry today, steeled in my resolve to spend no money (except iTunes of course), and to not leave the apartment (except to run to the car to raid the meter change drawer for purposes of laundering).

Here's what I found and did...

  • 1 1/2 cup brown lentils
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 1 bag frozen lima beans, about 2 cups
  • 1 can peeled, diced tomatoes
  • 1 can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 T tumeric
  • 1 T coriander
  • 1 T cardamom
  • salt
  • pepper

  1. Rice, broth, and turmeric go into the rice cooker. If you don't have one, just make rice, use 1+ cup of rice and 1 3/4 or so cups of broth. All the tumeric.
  2. While that's going, throw the cocunut milk and a can full of water in a heavy saucepan. Add the coriander and cardomom and stir through on medium heat.
  3. Add the lentils, tomatoes, and chickpeas (drained and rinsed, of course) to the pot and bring it to a gentle boil for 20 minutes or so. Taste the lentils after 15, they're the key tender check you need to be looking at. Salt and pepper go here.
  4. When the lentils are tender (I added a couple cups of water along the way to keep it a bit on the soupy side), add the limas and heat through on low heat.
  5. Serve the lentil goop over the turmeric rice.


If I had a grill and some lamb, oh the places this dish would have gone.

Yes, I would have sauteed onions in a perfect world. Remember, not leaving the apartment today.

I'll Be Cookin' in the Morning, All Over This Land

T sent me a message the other day after reading one of the posts. It consisted of the following:

I like food. Food tastes good. -The Descendents

That got me started thinking about food and music. There are several ways to do this, and I'm sure I'm starting with the least creative. Bear with me, there will likely be more of this type of post. There's a lot of music.

My guess is there will be a sappy Christmas post about Aunt Ida's cookies (and I have the whole blessed recipe booklet Aunt M put together) and Christmas Carols, trips to R to see Aunt M, Uncle P, and the cousins on Christmas Eve, etc. My sister will probably like that one. It will also be a detailed eye-opener to her about the evolution of my ability to withstand, and even thrive on, the sounds of Christmas tunes.

But for now, since my initial searching led me to this, I'll start by pulling some of my favorite food songs and trying to connect them to food and life somehow. Might work.

And don't worry, the biting sarcasm comes back with the recipes, and I'm anticipating a 'clean out the pantry' session tonight that should be entertaining.

Squeeze - Black Coffee in Bed

What a fantastic food. It is a food. I know, I've survived on it for mornings on end because I am 1) often too lazy to go to the store after work to ensure there is liquid dairy product available for my morning ritual, and 2) I have lived in black coffee as my only sustenance for the hours 2 am through 12 pm on so many days that it simply must be sustaining of human life.

The Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar

This is all about cake. Pineapple Upsidedown Cake to be specific. It is my favorite cake. There's melted brown sugar on the bottom/top. C'mon folks, see it in your head...brown sugar and butter goo!!! I am religious about whoring for a friend or family member to make one sometime near the end of January to celebrate my entrance into the world of solid food. Some memorable ones include the vegan pineapple upsidedown cake W made while I was in grad school (the link is the google search, i couldn't find one with apple sauce as the 'moist-making agent' like she used); and 2) B's for my 20-something-th birthday with no maraschinos (for dad and me) and walnuts instead.

This is close to what I made for H's birthday last month. I was at the bar and found out his birthday was coming up. I give people food for presents. So I asked him what he wanted me to cook for him.

"I don't know. Whatever you want."

"Well, when you were too old for the big party with all your friends, but your mom still made your special birthday dinner and asked what you wanted, what did you tell her?"

"Pineapple upside down cake!"

"You got it." week later...

"How is it?"

"I love this like a fat kid love cupcakes!!!"

And I said I couldn't bake. I did forget to put the walnuts in the pan before I poured in the batter (after asking 20 people if they were allergic to nuts). So when I plated the cake, I took a stick of butter, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1 cup if rough-chopped walnuts and made a quick candied walnut topping.

James Brown - Grits

I love grits. Strangely, I discovered grits at Norm's Diner in Groton, CT. I know, I know. That's not real grits. This is real grits (Not the recipe, which uses...gasp...8 cups of water. But the Adams Milling Company. Use that phone number. Order those grits). The Old Post Office on Edisto Island, SC uses them and is real low-country grit cooking. I know, I'm still working off the butter and cream they put in my grits.

  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup grits
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 T salt

  1. Combine the milk, water, and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the grits, bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until thick, stirring occaisionally.
  4. Add the cream and salt and cook for 10 to 20 minutes until the desired consistency is reached.

Squeeze - Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)

Paris in winter is beautiful, in large part because if you are there visiting, you are one of the few. Also in large part due to the season for Moules et frite. Mussels, scads of them, at every bistro. With pommes frite. Think of it, a menu with nothing by mussels with 30 different sauces. Garlic, white wine, and butter; Provencal with tomatoes, herbs de provance, and white wine; Florentine with butter, white wine and spinach. All of that comes in a bucket with a bowl for the shells and a plate with perfectly crispy pommes fritte. They're a coastal thing from Belgium and Normandy that the Parisians go nuts for two months out of the year.

I was lucky enough to have this bite of tasty in Soulac-sur-Mer on the Normandy coast one summer too. I still remember slurping the sauce with my spoon after all the mollusks were de-shelled and the fries were a mere bit of crispy crumbs on the side plate.

Dizzy Gillespie - Salt Peanuts

I discovered boiled peanuts about two years ago as I drove across northern Florida between Gainseville and Jacksonville by way of St. Augustine. You need green peanuts, so don't try this with Planter's.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's Like They're Inside My Head

I have to share, and I'll have recipes later tonight or tomorrow. There's a side to die for coming your way soon, and maybe some other goodies.

But at this moment, I need you to spend a bit of focus on the post at 101cookbooks that I have now re-read three times in the past two days. There are so many things right about what Heidi Swanson, Michael Ruhlman, and Daniel Patterson have to say, and it strikes me that this is one of the many reasons I am so food obsessed.

Patterson hit the nail on the head here:

"But the journey is what a recipe is all about. Cookbooks should teach us how to cook, not just follow instructions. By paying attention, a cook should be able to internalize the process, rendering the written recipes obsolete. The point of a recipe should be to help us find our own way."

Engineers can see buildings in their mind. Artists can create entire worlds in their mind before they are ever set to canvass or stage. I can't do either of those things. But I can cook in my mind.

The joke in the about me section? "I read cookbooks like you read novels." True. And I cook that food every second I'm reading that book.

I can feel the chef's knife slicing through a fresh head of cabbage; I can hear the marinara just come to a simmer; I can smell saute of the sweet vidalia; I can see the parmesean brown in the oven; and I can taste the pungent curry rub on the filet. Magic man, absolute magic.

Maybe that's why I'm even okay with such a crazy schedule that my long weekend of cooking has turned into a 6 hour work-trip yesterday and another 5 or so coming up today?

Don't worry, I'll just cook while I'm driving.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sweet Jeebus!!!

Now I know why Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer wrote "It's Raining Men".


Why roast a turkey not wrapped in bacon when you can roast a turkey...wrapped in bacon?
Apparently, it is raining bacon today.

Why Hasn't This Been Marketed to Me Before?

No M, that's not Turkey Bacon. But either way, thanks much to SP for sending along this tidbit.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Go here. Read this.

You want to go read everything on this page. You don't want to do it unless you are about to have lunch soon, or have the iron-willed ability to wait infinity-plus-one to eat your next meal.

Vegetarian readers...I hope you can at least enjoy the aesthetic.

We Are Family

Or at least community. Don't have a foodie story at the moment, but a foodie suggestion. If you can do something locally for the holidays, do that.

Maybe you can do that and this. Since we're done with Halloween and have started holiday shopping (yes, that was the sound of me gagging over your fiber-optic line), check out Community Coffee for the gift-giving season.

I am a coffee junkie, and will post more on that later I'm sure. But to get the ball rolling, go get some of this coffee. My roommate L turned me on to these guys in 2003. I'd never had true New Orleans-style chicory coffee.

Let's just point out the first review right now of this chicory/coffee goodness at Community Coffee reads:

This is the best coffee in the world. If you have't tried it, you should. I buy it by the case.

Trust me here. If you have an addictive personality, and don't think family or friends could handle yet another food vice...stay away from this post.

Whether you're clicking through or not, lemme ax you somethin'. If you're inclined to comment (or e-mail me), please let me know where you food shop on the inter-web tubes.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I Don't Know How You Know

Start of Story, Gettin' to Food

I friggin' love my cast iron skillet. It is my favorite pot/pan/other. Mom & S gave it to me for Christmas 2 years ago. I was finally settled in Charly-West after the campaign in 2004, the couch surfing after the campaign in 2004, and the move in May of 2005. And they were bemused by my interest in cooking. I think Mom is still bemused. Every once in a while I think she wishes I'd talk about something else once in a while.

That cast iron skillet that I love...has been at WC's house since October 11. I haven't been able to cornbread it, fry it, frittata it, or potatoes o'brien it in the highest quality pan for close to a month.

Why, intrepid foodie-reader, do you ask?

Well, WC played ball (I don't know how you know). His team was pretty good back in the day. The boys were all coming in to town for the 20th reunion. The school was doing a big tribute to their 1987 NAIA national championship runner-up team.

He wanted me to cook some southern goodness for the boys. Because WC is real big, and a great friend, I of course agreed. Here's what I needed to make:
  1. Cornbread
  2. Macaroni and Cheese
  3. Collard Greens
  4. Black-Eyed Peas

Now he needed this cooked on a Thursday night. Two problems, one related to Thursdays, one specific to this Thursday. Thursday is dart league, so I had to throw. Fortunately, the match was in SC, so it was close to WC's place. I could cook and get it ready for the boys at about 7:30, then come back after the dart match.

There was also a HUGE work event on Saturday, and I wasn't sure I'd be cleared out enough at the office with prep by Thursday. Turned out okay. Didn't know that until Wednesday.

Since I was making a lot of food, and would be gone when it needed to be 'ate, I did the black-eyed peas and the collard greens the night before. They'd warm up just fine.

This is the part of the blog where I tell you that WC called his mother when he tasted my collard greens.

It Is What It Is

So I roll up to WC's at 5:30 on Thursday with my pre-cooked peas and greens, food for the mac 'n cheese and the cornbread, and my cast iron skillet.

I got the cornbread knocked out first. There was a bit of a hitch when I realized Big-Game Wayne was not Big-Game in possession of any measuring cups. No worries. After thinking "what to use" for a second, I just poured into my hand and eyeballed it. I've made that stuff enough now.

So they're in the oven and I start on the mac 'n cheese. Perfect (except for the Coleman's Mustard container opening in transit. I saved most of it, but damn, that's not cheap mustard.

On to the mac. It's standard, roux, milk, cheeses, pour over mac, add more cheese on top, bake at 375. I use tasty cheeses like Gruyere and add crazy stuff like mustard powder and nutmeg (not a lot, it's not mac 'n cheese strudel).

I put the mac in the oven and bolted down to SC for darts. 12 games later, I was back up the hill ready to see this reunion that put the dreamy 'all my boyz are comin' back' look in WC's eyes for two months.

It Was Pretty, and I Looked Pretty Doin' It

Looooooooooooooong story a bit longer, I came back from throwing darts to a house full of large (let me remind you these are all former star athletes) black men in eerily pasty-white Charleston up on the hill. Before you rant, rave, and get crazy, stop. I'm observing, not insinuating. The only thing that didn't fit was this crazy cook's goofy trepidation walking into the house. Turns out we had plenty to talk about.

WC introduced me to several of the guys and they were a bit curious as to why I was there. Then he said "That's my chef." Whole place changed. I spent the next 45 minutes talking with Z, who's now a chef (the real kind) in Bal'mer (so I'll have to catch back up with him again) and hearing all the boys tell stories about traveling to this game, and what prank got played on that guy, and who was coaching what league these days. Even Ice was complimentary, and I think his rivalry with WC started when I was, oh, seven years old.

Good times for sure. Those cats headed down to the bar after the house. I headed home and passed out. Feeding 25 people with split cook times and your friend's reputation on the line, that's a workout.

End of Story, Start of Food

Jalapeno Bacon Cheddar Cornbread

  • 1 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 T sugar (not required, I don't usually add)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients in large measuring cup.
  4. Finely dice jalapeno (remove some/all seeds for less heat).
  5. Cook bacon in cast iron skillet. Remove, cool, and chop into small pieces, reserve 2T grease in pan with heat on low to keep grease liquid.
  6. Add wet ingredients to dry. Add cheese, diced jalapeno, and chopped bacon.
  7. Stir until just mixed, adding extra 1/4 cup of milk if needed.
  8. Pour batter into skillet and place in oven for 25 minutes.
  9. Cornbread is done when knife inserted into bread comes out clean.

Twisted Black-Eyed Peas

  • 1 lb dried black-eyed peas
  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • 2 sweet onions (Vidalia, Wala-Wala, etc.)
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Low-sodium chicken broth (to cover, usually 2 boxes)
  1. Rinse and sort peas and remove any stones. No need to pre-soak.
  2. Dice onions and saute for 5 minutes in olive oil. Add salt to sweat.
  3. After onions are translucent, add ham hocks and thyme. Stir through and continue to saute for 3 minutes.
  4. Add peas to pan and cover with broth.
  5. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 1 hour and 45 minutes at a low simmer.
  6. Remove ham hocks from pot, remove meat from bones, shred, return to pot.
  7. Re-season with salt if needed, season with pepper.

Collard Greens

  • 3 large bunches collard greens.
  • Everything from the Black-Eyed Pea recipe, same amounts.
  1. Rinse greens well (I soak and drain in the sink several time).
  2. Remove the center stalk from each leaf (yes it will take that long), and then chiffonade the leaves. I love that I get to use that technique word for this recipe. You take the leaves and stack them, then roll them up like a cigar, then slice across the cigar so you get shredded greens.
  3. Dice onions and saute for 5 minutes in olive oil. Add salt to sweat.
  4. After onions are translucent, add ham hocks and thyme. Stir through and continue to saute for 3 minutes.
  5. Add greens to pan and add with broth. It might not cover right off the bat. Don't worry, it will. Check the pot for the first 10 minutes or so and push the greens down as they start to wilt. You may need to add some extra broth.
  6. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 1 hour and 45 minutes at a low simmer.
  7. Remove ham hocks from pot, remove meat from bones, shred, return to pot.
  8. Re-season with salt if needed, season with pepper.

Macaroni & Cheese

  • 1 lb large elbow macaroni
  • 1 lb shredded mild cheddar
  • 1 lb shredded Gruyere
  • 1 lb shredded Parmesan
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 6 T unsalted butter
  • 6 T AP flour
  • 1 T dry mustard powder
  • 1 t ground nutmeg
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook noodles according to package, removing from heat just before they're al dente.
  3. Add butter to sauce pan over medium heat and melt, stir in flour.
  4. Add mustard and nutmeg and stir quickly.
  5. Add milk and stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken.
  6. Add 2/3 cheddar, all the Gruyere, and 1/2 the Parmesan in batches until it's all melted in.
  7. Eyeball it, you may want more milk the thin it out. Remember, more liquid will be absorbed by the macaroni in the oven.
  8. Pour the sauce over the noodles in a 9x13 baking dish (I use Pyrex). Mix it well.
  9. Spread remaining cheddar and Parmesan over the top of the casserole and put in the oven for 30-45 minutes. I know that's a wide range. But here's my tip on this...Open the oven and look. When the mac is bubbly and the cheese is how you want it on top, it's done.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The "O" Face

So you may have surmised that I cook. Mostly I cook to relax (and eat good food). On Tuesdays, I try to cook for the folks at Sam's. It started out one night when I decided to make a pot roast and was so blown away that I could pull it off that I brought some down to G at the bar. Well, G liked it, so did D and T, and CS, and Chez, and Red, and damn near everyone who got some. So I started doing it every Tuesday I could. It works out. Those guys are the people at the place that keeps me from going crazy. They don't get as many home-cooked meals as they could. I love to cook. It's a lot easier to cook for a bunch than it is to cook for one (at least without getting bored by leftovers and wasting food).

One of the first recipes I tried that was post-country cookin' was this one. Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant and Spicy Sausage. It's a Tyler Florence riff from Tyler's Ultimate.

I've seen others that don't put the whole recipe if it's from someone's cookbook. I agree. Go buy the book if you really love it. I love it. I bought the book. You might also note that, the people at Food Network have some kinda deal going with Tyler, and don't have my concern. Hence the link for the recipe's title above. K, Sarah, Sarah...

It's a combo of sausage, eggplant, rigatoni, and a classic marinara. You add cheese. You bake it. It's damn tasty.

I use Demus Sausage when I can. Here's what they say about themselves.

It starts out simply, with sausage in a pan. Stainless for me. I would LOVE to have cast iron large enough to handle this. I'd also love to have my cast iron skillet back from Wayne's (why it's still there is another post...and a good one).

After you brown and remove the sausage, you cook up the eggplant.

Then you combine all the other stuff (excepting the eggplant which you've already sauteed, right?) into a marinara.

And really, that cheese, not part of the Marinara. It comes later. Just trying to make the picture as snazzy as I can with a camera phone.

Sweat the onions, add the garlic, then the whole tomatoes (hand crush them, play with your food), then the fresh basil. The idea is a quick sauce. You don't want this to cook forever. It's a fresh bite with the creamy cheese, the earthy eggplant, and the spicy sausage.

Get your water ready early for the pasta. You need to start cooking it when the marinara starts. Package directions folks, package directions. You might pull it a few minutes early since it'll be in the oven in some marinara for about 40 minutes, but there's not much liquid in the marinara, and that's not really that long in the oven for the pasta to cook. So just get it al dente and move on with your life.

Once you have it all together, you mix it up in the baking dish and throw it in the oven so the sausage cooks through and the cheese 1) melts, and 2) gets that delicious brown flavor (That's right, I said 'brown flavor.' It is a flavor, and you know it).

Here's what brown flavor looks like.

And here's what happens when you plate it.


I was disappointed the first time I made it because it seemed un-saucy. I have come to realize after 1) re-reading the recipe, 2) looking at the picture in the recipe, and 3) actually stopping to taste the amazing flavors in the dish; that there is no need to drown this dish in sauce. If you want to make the classic baked rigatoni with red sauce, do that. This isn't that.

It can get oily. When you pull the eggplant out of the pan, give a little shake to release some of the delish fryin lipin you've been using. I don't worry too much about it, since the flavor's so damn good and it carries all that spicy sausage goodness throughout the dish, but you might be worrying about things like that in today's crazy, healthy world.


Here's something about me, which is kind of about food, because I cook and write, and got this nickname because of it.

VF has a big shindig at the lake for the 4th of July. His son JVF was bringing his band up from VA, The Chicken was going to play, and The Weathered Road was bringin' some bluegrass tunes as well. They all set up outside at the bottom of the back lawn, with the lake right behind them. Burgers and dogs, sausages, potato salads, pasta salads, etc. Tasty stuff, great tunes late into the night. All the neighbors came out on their boats to listen. Little sleep.

Two Small Asides

1. I LOVE that I have reached a point in my life where I can hop in the car and drive to the lake for a weekend. Beaches are grand, old-school uber-camping trips are dirty and fun. But to me, heading out on a Friday to the lake, the boating, the grilling, the coolers, and in this case the tunes? Fantastic.

2. Tent city was across the road from the front of the house and back into the woods. I got there late enough that my tent was set up fairly far back in the woods. I was up late on Saturday night. I could not find my tent.

Walked around for 10 minutes holding up a lighter (of course I didn't have a flashlight, silly) thinking (actually saying so all my friends could hear but I forgot that part) "Damnit. S&%$!! I can't find it. S$#%, I can't find it." After 10 minutes of that, I ended up back at the house asleep on the couch in the living room.

And yes, D and T heard my snoring from their slumber spot inside the RV, out in the driveway. Nope, no windows were open at the house. Just the awesome fury of my likely apnea.

Back to the Food Part of the Story

After the party, there were a few folks left at the house on Sunday. It was called 'family day.' I was pretty honored to be given an invite to stay.

G and JVF were going to cook for a few folks that stayed over on Sunday. I got added to that mix.

After another day of boating and swimming, the three of us headed back in to town (about 45 minutes) and hit the local uber-mart. We spent the ride talking through what we'd cook. Grilled corn was the easy part, shrimp cocktail was another quick pick.

G was on a steak kick (shocking).

I said I'd make real Maryland Crabcakes. And if you're not in Maryland and don't cook them like they do on the Bay, really...don't call them Maryland Crabcakes on your menu.

JVF was all about some stuffed mushrooms and a seared-scallop bruschetta.

G found some nice looking filets, I found the crab meat, and JVF headed for the "I will make three appetizers" aisles. All set.

JVF stuffed the shrooms with crab/cream cheese and covered them with shaved parmesean. Then he baked them. Then we put 'em in our mouths...

Next was bruschetta topped with seared scallops and accompanied with roasted corn/red pepper relish (Yes, yes, I stole my relish for the rib eye bruschettas in Iron Chef from this. But I added the heat).

G wrapped the fillets in bacon. Pay attention to that part. It's important later.

I made the real deal crabcakes (85/15 crab to other, mostly lump, some backfin, old bay, some sauteed celery/onion, some minced raw celery, breadcrumbs and egg to bind, no breadcrumbs on the outside, fried not broiled).

The steaks were pan-roasted, the crabcakes were done. I was coming in to the kitchen after checking on the grilled corn. We were three minutes from plating. And I said let's make the red pepper, mushroom, cream sauce.

So we did.

G threw the shrooms in a saute pan, JVF started prepping the peppers and getting the cream and butter out. I got an onion and a knife.

"D, how fast can you chop me an onion?"

"Rough or fine diced?"

"Fine diced."

"Here it is."

Bear in mind, y'all, that I brought a gallon jug of Carlo Rossi Paisano with me. It had survived Saturday night. It did not survive three large men in a kitchen. We were having a lovely time of it by this point.

All sauteed, into the blender.


No strainer, chunky sauce it is. Texture is a good thing.

Bacon-wrapped fillet down. Crabcake over that. Red Pepper-Mushroom-Cream sauce over all of it.

Rave reviews. Still talked about.

Most importantly, we were eating and talking about cooking and DT, who has heard me say this many times before when I've cooked for the bar staff, let's folks know that I have three favorite words in the English language...

Wrapped. In. Bacon.


JVF comes up to town about every two weeks. About a month ago he walks in and says, "Hey WIB, what's up?"


"WIB. Your new nickname. Stands for wrapped in bacon."

'Nuff said.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Joe Esposito Sang it Best

You're the best around,
Nothing's gonna ever keep you down.....

So my bandana was the classic red truck-stop bandana, and Dave handed me my trophy, not Greco. And no he didn't sweep the leg. Really I'm just looking to add a little more cheese to this life, and YouTubing a Karate Kid montage for the analogy was just priceless.

The final score was 263-258, and each of us had a perfect score on one dish.

post mortem

I'll get Greco's recipes and post them too.

Chez's mom was the rockstar who provided the trophies. One for the winner and one for the winner of second.

1st Prize was this with a hook.
2nd Prize was this magnet-style for the fridge.

I am this kid

I mean really:

I blog for over a week about a cooking competition I was in.

I was in a cooking competition.

4 (One, Two, Three, and Four)cooking magazines come to my apartment each month.

I still want another one (Oh Cook's Illustrated, how I looooove you).

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Nutcracker, or, Saucing with the Stars

Last of my dishes. Best of my dishes. Two reduction sauces, a twist on potatoes that open a big 'ol can of whup ass, rib eye steak? Oh, did I mention the Big K Grape Soda?

I decided I wanted to do one savory entree (Florentine) and one sweet entree (this one). Randy wanted to do a raspberry/cabernet reduction. Who am I to deny him?

Since we had cherries too, right off the bat I said I would do a black cherry/balsamic reduction to double up on the sauces. It was simple. Bag of frozen cherries, 2-3 cups of balsamic vinegar, 4T light brown sugar, 2T sugar. Put it in a saucepan and cook it. A little bubbling is good, stirring frequently is critical.

Interlude d'pop

Dave and Trish and I had been talking about pop earlier in the day. Mark frequently has Big K Grape soda at the house because he likes it, Bubby LOVES it, and it's a tasty treat in general.

Greco kept announcing "First use of..." and Dave would dutifully report it to the crowd. So Dave came into the kitchen and reported Greco's most recent feat, and then asked me when I was going to have a first. I reached into the cupboard (fairly mock-angry), pulled out the Big K Grape pop can, poured some into the reduction, and harrumphed "There. First use of Big K Grape soda."

It worked well because it was a grape and cherry combo and a little corn syrup never hurts in a sweet sauce.

And now, back to our show...

The steak was simply grilled again.

I saw Greco had used baby bok choy, and I felt I needed to as well. So I halved them and charred them on the grill for garnish and veg.

The potatoes, dear readers, were, in the parlance of our times, da bomb. Potato puree, simple, creamy, tasty, elegant on which to present the steaks.

Randy had peeled and boiled these earlier on so they were ready for my simple treatment of heavy cream, a stick of butter, and the blade of justice in the food processor. It was 1 pound of yellow new and 1 pound of red-skinned new.

(Yes, I should have used Yukon Gold. Yes we had them. Damn me.)

So I grabbed the pan of potatoes, the cream, the butter, and the cleaned out processor and got set.

And then I saw the bag of . Into the processor they went, and Walnut Potato Puree was born.

I grabbed Randy for a taste. It was awesome, but it was still missing "something." I looked at him, looked at the processor, and jumped.

"Salt and Chicken Broth," says Mori-Dano.

"Jackpot (or some similar phrase of agreement like "That's it"), replies the trusty sous chef.

It was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.

I usually believe in mashing, not pureeing. I believe in skin on, not skin off. And Lord knows I believe in garlic. But this wasn't cooking for my belly, it was cooking for someone else's mouth and belly, and chunky, garlicky potatoes would NOT be a good idea here.

Judging Awesome

Worst part of the night was when I took this out to the judges and started explaining what it was. Trish doesn't do nuts. Not an allergy, just a digestive preference. Fortunately, Trish got to try the reductions, and she'd already had a good deal of grubbin', so she wasn't going to waste away (though she IS a trim little cutie these days). The other judges decided Dave would taste that part of the dish and score it.

In the end, this was the dish on which the judges awarded me a perfect score. People were going into the kitchen to stick their fingers in the potato dish.

And who was I to stop them.

Making it at Home

2 lbs peeled, boiled Yukon Gold or New potatoes
1 cup whole walnuts
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
8 T unsalted butter (yes, that's a stick, this is NOT a Cooking Light recipe)
salt to taste.

Put that stuff in a processor and pulse it.

I think the sweet works better with a puree, so I'll probably keep this smooth when I make it again.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I'm strong to the Finich, 'Cause I eats me spinach

Rib Eye Florentine

This one was simple to come up with, simple to execute, and I damn near flubbed it big time.

The steaks won't take much discussion. At the appropriate time in the competition, Randy applied salt and pepper to four approximately 6 oz. rib eye steaks. He put them on the grill until they were medium (God Bless him...).

The Florentine part was the trick. Florentine probably means something in particular to many people. On menus, it typically denotes 'with spinach,' as the people of Florence are known for such dishes. Greco's braggiolle could have been Braggiole Florentine if he'd wanted to call it that.

My 'Florentine' was a carmelized onion and spinach risotto. Harken back, dear readers, to the post on cooking, when I told you that, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I was going to make a risotto of some sort.

Right out of the gate, five minutes into the competition, I got started. While I had a sauce going on one burner I decided to go ahead and carmelize the onions and sautee the spinach for the risotto. One step down WAY early so I could concentrate on other things.

I carmelized a vidalia onion in butter, salted to sweat at first. Then I added in about a bag of fresh baby spinach to wilt/saute down a bit. Put it in a bowl and forgot about it.


Dutiful blog-ka-teers will no doubt recall that we decided to bump from 2 hours to 2 hours and fifteen minutes.

Well, at about the 1 hour 50 minute mark, I'm checking on the grill (Randy's okay) and see the steaks.

I see the steaks...

I don't have the risotto started!!!!

This was one of the three of four times during the Iron Chef that I ran, I ran so far away.

Into the kitchen. Curse. Find 4 quart sauce pan. Get a burner clear, get the onion/spinach into the pot, up to temp, add the rice, coat and heat, add the wine (1/2 cup, pinot grigio), stir, stir, stir. Crank that heat.

...Crap, now I have to get all the other dishes plated...

...Add a 1/2 cup of chicken stock, stir...

...Randy, watch that risotto while you polish off the raspberry reduction...

...Slice the roulade. Plate the roulade...

...Add more chicken stock, stir, stir, stir...

...Help Herb, grab the Gnocchi. No room on their side, find a spot on our counter...

...Watch out for the oven door, it's open and a counter space for Greco's ragu...

...Add 1/2 cup chicken stock. Stir, stir, stir...

...Taste. Still crunchy, 10 minutes to go. Crank the heat, add more stock. Stir, stir, stir...

...Greco needs the gnocchi drained, Herb has no hands, I got it covered guys. Herb, I need a hand, there's no strainer. Hold that knife edge to the pan lip so I can drain these enough...

...Add 1/2 cup stock. Stir, stir, stir...

...It's done????...

...Plate it, spread, apply steak to risotto, bit more on top. Is that enough color? Yeah, it's what we've got....

That's Florentine to me.

Anything you can do...I can at least rip off poorly

Greco grabbed an eggplant. I too had to grab an eggplant. It made sense.

Greco was doing a braggiole. I am not that guy. But I can do roulade. That's like the difference between grits and polenta. A southerner will go for their shotgun, and an Italian will simply start shaking and turning red, but they're both cornmeal.

Braggiole and roulade are both rolled up stuff. Though the braggiole was stuffed, and my roulade had the 'stuff', as it were, on the outside.

Slice eggplant thin lengthwise. Pour olive oil in hot pan. Apply eggplant to pan until softened on each side.

Slice and pound out rib eye to 1/4" think slices.

Roll the eggplant in the steak and fasten with toothpicks or twine.

Grill for 3-4 minutes over medium high heat, turning as the meat sears.

Let it rest then slice or leave it whole.

I had to leave it rest to slice since I had three roulades and four judges. I wanted to leave it whole, but the fourth roulade...well it was still three pieces of pounded steak that wouldn't wrap and a mass of slushy eggplant on the cutting board when all was said and done.

Apply tapenade to the dish. I put it on cold. Juxtaposing texture didn't work here, so I juxtaposed temperature. This was not Judge Chez's favorite thing I did. Then again, I knew going in she wasn't a big olive fan. Secret admission, neither do I. But the salty, tomato-y, sage-y flavors were the Mediterranean feel for which I was going (no dangle there Chez...).


Food goes:

1 cup kalamata olives
1 bunch scallions
1 container mushrooms, stemmed
1 can/box crushed tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
5 fresh sage leaves
Leaves from 2 stems of tarragon
Kosher Salt (easy here, those olives are salty)
Black pepper
Dash o' olive oil

Mix it up.

This would be a good party dip gizmo too. Bagel chips or pita. Yum.