Monday, November 12, 2012

Grandma Carol - deer hunting Thanksgiving.


  So here we are, just a week or so away from Thanksgiving Day.  If there is a day when culture meets food in the U.S. it's Thanksgiving.  Even here locally the traditions that have developed vary from family to family.  When I was young, it was another day of hunting in the morning with my dad, grandparents and sometimes uncles or friends.  Yes, I said grandparents, my grandmother was  probably one of the most persistent and dedicated hunters you would ever meet

     Many of my Thanksgiving tradition memories revolve around my grandmother.  I don't know if I appreciated it at the time as much as I should have, but she always managed to put an amazing meal on the table, and still be out in the woods.  The running joke for a while was that she started hunting so that she wouldn't have to be stuck at home by herself, getting a meal ready for when the hunters stumbled in at noon.  Now, to be fair my mom was always around to help and in later years my wife was there also, although she also had the job of keeping track of my then very young sons.  Even so, grandma always seemed to be able to run the show and get the meal out on time.

     The meal in those days did vary, some of it depended upon how the different hunts had gone that fall.  I remember wild goose, duck, wild turkey, domestic turkey, rabbit and even squirrel one year.  Mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole,  dinner rolls and cranberry sauce would usually round out the main meal.   Then came the pies, pumpkin, apple and, my favorite, custard. 

     The day would usually continue with watching football, often Packers and Lions it seemed.  Maybe back to the woods for some end of the day hunting, or maybe falling asleep in a chair, waking up to have some leftovers, to find that grandma was already preparing something for us to take into the woods the next day.

     These memories are awesome and, this time of year more than any other, bring back thoughts of the great times, and traditions of my grandparents.  Even though it has been many years since the last time we had Thanksgiving in that little Wisconsin town of Marquette, the memories remain very fresh and maybe a little bigger and better than things really were.  I could say that I really miss those times, and in a way I do.  But, I have realized that culture and tradition have to evolve.  No one can take away the memories that I have of those wonderful times, and they will always be with me.

     We can't, however, live in the  past.  Our memories of our traditions should move us forward to create our own.  Over the last several years I have had Thanksgiving meal at my home, with one exception when we spent a great time at my sisters in Ohio.  I have come to love this, sometimes my mom is here, my sons (although they are starting to go their own way now), my wife, and a good friend or two.  My tradition has become trying something new along with having some of the old standbys that my grandmother made.

   So what are we having this year?  I haven't decided yet.  I'm sure it will be turkey, but I'm not sure the preparation method yet.  I am  getting ahead of myself, that is what my post later this week will be about.

     What I do know is that I am looking forward to it, and I hope you are to.  If you love to cook, this is the one chance to create a great feast and show your creativity in the kitchen, so go for it!  Try something new,  if nothing else you can look back in a few years and say "wow! remember when I tried to cook ________ for Thanksgiving?"
    It will create a memory.  And that is far more powerful than anything that you will put on the table.  I know that is the case when I think back to Grandma Carol and deer hunting Thanksgiving.

Next time, back to some cooking

Stay hungry my friends




Monday, November 5, 2012

Here we go again!!!

Wow, has it really been that long?  Rule one of blogging if you expect people to actually read often.  OK, well I guess we'll try that again.

   So here I sit on the eve of the U.S. Presidential election thinking, for the first time in my voting life, I don't like either of these guys.  But it is against everything I believe in to sit home and not vote.  So for a number of reasons I'm casting my vote for the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.  Maybe with a stronger 3rd party we can have a more honest debate.  What does this have to do with a food blog?  Absolutely nothing, I just felt like saying it.

     So where do I go from here with this blog?  Back to food, it's what I know and it's what I like to do.  I enjoy cooking, eating and writing about it  Theme wise I think I will continue to look at traditions of food, focusing on regions and celebrations.  The obvious one for us here in the States is that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so that is were I will focus over the next few weeks.  This starts the most wonderful time of year for the foodie, with Thanksgiving and then Christmas just a few weeks away.

     I've done a fair amount of research and study in the past few months about how food and culture go together, and how one influences the other.  So that is were I hope to write as I move forward.

     To those that read this when I was more active with it, I apologize for my delinquency in writing.  To those who sent me notes wondering when I was going to write some more.  Thank you for the prodding.

     I also plan to update my TV cook, gadgets and book reviews.  And I hope to do some posts on restaurants. And I'll through in a few posts on feeding your dog.   So stay tuned for that.

    I'm working on getting out a full post with actual cooking on it later this week.

So, Stay hungry my friends........


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nebraska and the Dakotas #6 and last in a series.

    I have discovered that there isn't a lot of things written about the cuisine of Nebraska and the Dakotas.  Which is not to say that there is no information, or that the food there is not worth writing about.  Indeed,  on these plains where the buffalo roamed, the earliest settlers encountered Indians living on wild game, fruits, and vegetables plus whatever they cultivated in the way of corn, beans, and squash.  Like the Indians on the East Coast, the Plains Indians preserved their meat in the form of pemmican and the first pioneers followed suit.
     About forty years after Meriweather Lewis and William Clark reported back from the Nebraska territory in 1804, pioneers began heading west along the Platte River.  Many of them gave up their dreams of panning for gold, and settled in Nebraska.
     Until the housewife had established her kitchen garden and the family had acquired some cows, meals might consist of a simple and hearty cornmeal mush three times a day, plus whatever wild game when it was available.  Perhaps an even bigger challenge was the fact that the barren plains offered little wood for fuel, and the pioneer had to make do with cow chips and corn cobs in her stove.  (yum, mush cooked over cow poo!!)
     In 1863, the first land claim was made in Nebraska under the auspices of the Homestead Act. The offer of free land attracted thousands of settlers, many of them coming from Germany, Scandinavia and Bohemia (Czechoslovakia).  Bringing with them the foods of home, these European pioneers slowly refined the rugged fare of those who came before them.
    What I found while researching this area, is that the cuisine is heavily influenced by central Europe and Scandinavia.  I'm not sure why this surprised me, perhaps my impression of the people that settled the Great Plains was that they where all displaced Easterners, not immigrants direct from Europe.  So, much like other areas of the Midwest the food here is another twist on some old favorites.  I did notice that a vast majority of deserts in cookbooks I found, include rhubarb.  While not finding a direct comment or explanation, my assumption is that rhubarb flourishes on the Plains.  The early Pioneers would have been starved for fruits and the rhubarb was available and since it appears in early spring it was a wonderful break from the dried meat and preserved foods from all winter.
    So what to cook?  Well, pork was the meat most available to the plains homesteaders.  It appeared on the table with unfailing regularity, as well as in the household's soap and shortening ( in the form of lard).  One Nebraska cook even made her fruitcake with chopped pork!  Probably in attempt to create something new with the same tiresome ingredients.  Not to worry, no pork fruit cake recipe today.  Instead we'll go with a Pork Roast with Apples and Mushrooms, reflecting the central European influence and the ingredients available.

2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 3 to 4 pound boneless pork loin roast
1/3 cup apple cider
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons butter
3 small cooking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (get a little creative here, use white button if you have to but try some of      the other more exotic varieties.  You will be amazed at the different level of flavors you can get.)

Combine thyme, salt, and pepper; rub pork roast with thyme mixture.  Place roast on a rack in a shollow roasting pan.  Insert meat thermometer.  Roast in a 325° F oven for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours or till meat thermometer registers 160°. Transfer meat to a platter; keep warm.
     For sauce, skim fat from pan juices. Place roasting pan over medium heat; add apple cider, stirring, to scrape up any tasty browned bits. Pour into a large saucepan. Stir in whipping cream, chicken broth, and dry sherry. Bring to boiling. cook over medium-high heat about 20 minutes or till reduced to 1 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally.
     Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt the butter; add apple wedges and cook and stir till golden. Remove apple wedges from skillet with slotted spoon, reserving drippings; keep warm.
     In the same skillet, add mushrooms to reserved drippings and cook till tender. Stir into thickened cream mixture.
     To serve, place slices of pork roast and apples wedges on individual plate. Spoon sauce over meat.
Try this with some sauerkraut and a nice dark bread. A glass of good lager wouldn't hurt either.

     I wasn't going to do a Rhubarb recipe, but then decided that given all of recipes I found with it, I should use one.  Something a little different this time.

This is a non-alcohol recipe but apparently the Swedes make a rhubarb liqueur,   sounds interesting you can find it here.

6 cups fresh rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces ( you can use 6 cups of frozen unsweetened rhubarb)
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 6 ounce can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1-liter bottle of lemon lime soda, chilled
fresh mint leaves and/or lemon slices (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine the rhubarb and water.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.  Strain rhubarb mixture, pressing to remove all juices.  Discared pulp.  Add suar, lemonade concentrate, and lemon juice to rhubarb juice, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Cover and chill
     To serve, combine rhubarb mixture with chilled lemon-lime bevarage in a punch bowl or large pitcher.  Seve with crushed ice.  If desired, garnish with fresh mint and lemon slices.


I hope you have enjoyed this little trip through the Midwest of the United States.  Next series we will head a little south and west.   I haven't forgotten you Oklahoma, I've decided to include in a post about cowboy cooking in the next series.

Stay hungry friends!!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kansas and Missouri #5 in a series


      You could probably make the argument that Kansas and Missouri aren't really in the Midwest.  In fact many would consider them in the South, as do many that live there.  Go back about 150 years and you'll see that Missouri was part of the Confederate States during the Civil War.  But given this I'm still putting them in the Midwest for culinary purposes.   Why would I keep them out of the South?  Barbecue.  Yep that's right barbecue.  To a real southerner, Kansas City barbecue is not authentic southern food and real barbecue is found in the Carolinas and Memphis. (some time I'll do a post just on regional bbq)  On the other hand, those that were born in the Kansas City area don't see any reason what so ever to travel to get barbecue.  They would insist that the smokey, thickly sauced version is the best,  I'm not sure I would disagree.
      What does a typical Kansas City barbecue look like?  I found this description in the book Bar.B.Q. Kansas City Style  by Rich Davis and Shifra Stein.  "Take fresh, thin slices of slowly smoked barbecued beef brisket, pile high on a cushion of plain, white bread and slather with thick, brick-red Kansas City barbecue sauce.  Top with another slice of bread and hickory-smoked ham, and crown with more spice sauce, dill pickles and another slice of bread.... At least four inches high, the triple delight is a party for you mouth."  Sounds good to me!!

      Barbecue experts consider Kansas City's barbecue the most diverse style, with a wide variety of meats, sauces and ribs.  I think we will go with pork ribs.  Now I know not all of use have a smoker to make proper smoked barbecue,  but we can come pretty close on the grill.

Barbecued ribs

1 cup water
1 cup catsup
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce (or more if you like)
4 pounds pork loin back ribs

    For sauce, in a saucepan combine water, catsup, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, celery seed and hot sauce.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

A quick word on grilling, use a real charcoal grill!!!   I know that there are gas lovers out there, but in my opinion they just don't cut it.  You can't come close to same flavor using gas.  While I'm at it, use lump charcoal from real wood!!  It's just better, and it looks cool.

Indirect grilling:  in a covered grill arrange medium-hot coals on one side of the grill.  Place ribs fat side up on the grill but not over the coals.  Lower grill hood.  Grill ribs for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or till well done rotate the ribs if necessary during the cooking, do not flip!   Brush with the sauce liberally during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Get out the cole slaw, corn on the cob and napkins.   Good Stuff!!

Next time.........Nebraska and the Dakotas

Stay Hungry friends

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Playing with Fire

I'm going to take a break from the series on the Midwest. I've been asked to comment on using technology in the kitchen.  I have used computers in the kitchen for quite sometime, and have found them to be a bit clumsy and they take up precious counter space.  I have, within the last year, been using a Kindle Fire,  and I think it's amazing in the kitchen.  (yes, this will be an unapologetic add for the Fire).   If you use a different tablet, keep reading, the apps I have on here are available on most other tablets.

Did I originally purchase the Fire to use in the kitchen?  Yes and no.  While I did envision using it for cookbooks and such, I primarily got it to use for reading magazines and books in color.  I already owned a Kindle Keyboard and loved it.  The only drawback to it is that everything is black and white (electronic ink is by far the easiest on your eyes for extended reading) and the browser is pretty basic, but it does work well if you just looking for a cook book reader.

Kindle versus Ipad size
 First, let's cover what the Fire isn't.  It is not an Ipad!!!  I don't know what some people expect.  Almost every negative review I've read about the fire are from people that expect the Fire to do everything an Ipad can.  I have one word for these folks.......STUPID.  Seriously, the Fire is $200 and the Ipad is upwards of $600 I don't know how anyone can expect it to do the same thing.  If you understand what you are buying, what it's limitations are and what it does well, the Fire is an outstanding product.   So let's look at how I use the Fire in the Kitchen.

The key to getting the most out of your fire in the kitchen is finding and using good apps.  So in this post I'll go over a couple of my favorites.  Just one thing first.  If you are a subscriber to Bon Apppetit magazine, it is absolutely amazing on the Fire.  It's easy to navigate and great for finding recipes that you want to try.  One thing to note about the Fire's magazine apps.  the app itself is free however, you still need to pay for a subscription to the magazine  about $1.99 a month.  For me that's well worth it.

Now on to the apps.  My two favorite are Pepper Plate and What's for Dinner?.  Let's look at Pepper Plate first.

This is a great free app.  If you like to search the web's most popular cooking sites for recipe's this is a great tool.  By using the Pepper plate web site you can sync recipes to your Fire.  From there it is easy to make shopping lists and menu plans.  It even will set an internal timer when you start to cook the dish.  It doesn't have any recipes itself, but it is a great tool when you find those recipes on a website that you just have to try.

The other app that I use most is What's for dinner?.  This is a great app if you don't feel like scanning websites for recipe ideas.  The search function is fantastic,  just input what you are looking for and it will search all the most popular cooking websites for you.  From there you can save, plan a weeks worth of menu's, and create a shopping list.  There is a free and a paid version of this app.  I use the paid version.  All that really allows you to do is manage the labels and tags of each saved recipe.  This works great if you like to organize recipes.

The other thing that makes the Fire very useful with these apps is that it fits easily into cargo pockets on my pants.  Big deal you say?  I take it to the store with me to use the shopping list function and, some grocery stores have free Wi-Fi in the stores (Festival is one).  This is great if you need to find a substitution on the fly, or to look at the store adds if you want to.
Here are a couple more apps that have varying degrees of usefulness, but are fun to try.   If any of these interest you click on the link and get it from Amazon.  Even better, if you want a Fire  please buy it by clicking on the Fire add!!!!

Do you have a favorite cooking app?  I'd love to hear about it.

Just one more suggestion, if you're planning to use your Fire in the kitchen you should consider a case or skin to protect it.  Amazon has tons of styles, just pick one that fits your style and needs.

Stay Hungry friends


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Minnesota and Iowa #4 in a series

Lake Winona, Minnesota

  I have mentioned the influences on Minnesota cuisine in another post, but to review;  Minnesota attracted a large population of Scandinavian immegrants, particularly Finns.  Because of this influence, Cookbooks from Minnesota read like a smorgasbord, with herring salad, Swedish meatballs, rye bread and many other Scandinavian specialties.  Of all the Scandinavians to settle in the United States the Norwegians were the first to come in large numbers.  Beginning in the 1840's they reached a population of three-quarters of a million people by World War I the vast majority of them settled in Minnesota.  Cold Fruit Soup is a delightful Scandinavian specialty found on many Minnesota restaurant menus.


What you need:
1 8 oz package of mixed dried fruit
3 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
4 teaspoons of tapioca pudding
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 16oz can pitted light sweet cherries
1/4 cup orange liqueur or cream sherry

Pit prunes {from the fruit mix) and cut the fruit into bite size pieces.  In a large saucepan stir together the water, brown sugar, quick-cooking tapioca, and nutmeg.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir in the dried fruit.  Bring to boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 8 - 10 minutes.  or till fruit is tender.  Mixture should be slightly thickened and tapioca should be clear.  Stir in undrained cherries and orange liqueur.

Chill and serve.

     The Amana Colonies were founded along the Iowa River in 1859 by a group of German Lutherans who sought religious freedom.  They built sixteen communal kitchens to serve seven communities!  They enjoyed huge meals that consisted largely of potatoes, sauerkraut, homegrown vegetables, hearty breads and pies.  In Amana Recipes the recipe titles are all in German and include titles like Karofel Suppe (potato soup), Herring Salat, and Lebkuchen (honey cookies).  You can still visit the Amana Colonies today and sample some of their locally prepared smoked pork and homemade breads.
     A small dairy located about an hour from Des Moines and owned by the family that developed the Maytag washing machine, has been producing a quality product from its herd of prize holsteins.  So in recognition of that wonderful cheese, I give you, CHICKEN WITH MAYTAG BLUE CHEESE.

What you need.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped green onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoon white wine Worcestershire sauce
1 beaten egg yolk
1/4 cup Maytag blue cheese (yes, this will work with any blue cheese, but why?)
In a large skillet cook chicken in hot oil over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or till chicken is tender and no pink remains, turn often to brown evenly.
     Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan cook green onion and garlic in butter till tender.  Stir in flour and pepper.  Add  chicken broth, whipping cream and white wine Worcestershire sauce all at once.  Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly.  Gradually stir about half of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolk.  Transfer the entire egg mixture to saucepan.  Bring to a gentle boill  Cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Stir in blue cheese.  Serve over Chicken................yum. 
Stay Hungry!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Indiana and Illinois (3rd in series)

Living in Wisconsin brings with it the apparent responsibility to dislike all thing Illinois.  But the only thing I can bring myself to dislike about my friends to the south is the Bears, and even that is a more of a joke distaste more than anything else.  Actually there are a few things about Illinois that I really like.  Chicago, the Black Hawks, and Great America to mention a few.  But, this is about food.  When I think of Illinois food, specifically Chicago, I think deep dish pizza.  Now normally I would post a recipe for deep dish, but the bottom line is I cant find or invent a recipe that compares to real thing.  So indulge me in a little culinary dissertation on Chicago.
     Chicago, much like New York offers an extraordinary variety of ethnic cuisine.  But by a twist of circumstances, more than any other town in America, Chicago is identified with it's deep dish pizza.  Now for us New York city types that remember going to the corner for a slice, Chicago deep dish is a very peculiar thing.  There was a time that the mere mention of this stuff offended my pizza senses.
     "This isn't pizza!"  I would exclaim.  "This stuff is more like a calzone on steroids, than it is a pizza!"
      I have come around to appreciate this dish, and realize that it may be different, but it is very, very good, and Chicago takes it pizza very seriously.  Pizza in Chicago, probably more than any where else is a communal experience.  If you don't eat deep dish with a group of friends, I think that you are missing a great part of what makes it special.
      Now a little history.    The man who started the special ethos of the Chicago-deep-dish pizza was a Texan named Ike Sewell, who arrived in the windy city, after the Depression, at age twenty with nineteen dollars in his pocket.  Before long, he ran into an Italian restaurateur named Ric Riccardo and the two decided to join forces and open a pizza parlor-- quite a revolutionary idea for World War II America.
     Sewell wasn't convinced that such a restaurant could succeed since this newfangled thing called pizza wasn't substantial enough to make into a meal.  That's where the toppings came in, and in 1943 Pizzeria Uno opened, featuring a deep-dish pizza that virtually overflowed with sausage, cheese, peppers, and onions.  The public was so wary at first that they had to give away small portions at the bar, but soon journalists wrote about this new phenomenon and soldiers returning from the war in Italy made Pizzeria Uno a great success.
     In 1980 Pizzeria Uno was franchised, and you may even have one near you.  But just as New Yorkers think that the only real bagels can be found in the Big Apple, Chicagoans contend that you have to go to the original Uno to truly get authentic deep-dish.  They might be right.  So, if you can't get to Chicago to have the original, look for a Pizzaria Uno near you and enjoy.

     O.K.  Confession time.  I really don't think of Indiana often, well, hardly ever.....pretty much never.  I've never spent any time there other than to drive through it to get some place else.  I'm going to have to try to fix that.  No offense Indiana, but it's just the way it has been for me.  For years my only impression of the state was driving through Gary......not good.  So as I sat trying to figure out what to write about Indiana, at dawned on me that the one random fact I know about it is that Johnny Appleseed is buried in Fort Wayne.   So, here we go.
    Although born in Boston, John Chapman became a legend in the Midwest during the first half of the nineteenth century.  A disciple of the Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, Chapman spent forty years walking barefoot, preaching the Gospel, and planting apple seeds in the wilderness of Ohio and Indiana.  He tended the young saplings on return visits, and the prolific fruits they eventually bore turn up on many regional dishes in the form of apple pie, dried apples, and apple butter.  So, for Indiana and in salute to Johnny Appleseed,  Apple Strudel from Indiana.

According to the Settlement Cookbook of 1903, a proper strudel dough must be worked "until it is as large the table and as thin as paper."...........I would rather use frozen phyllo dough.

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
3 cups thinly sliced, peeled tart apples (you can also make this with pears)
1/3 cup raisins
10 to 12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/3 cup  melted butter  + another 2 tablespoons separate
2 tablespoons finely crushed vanilla wafers
2 cups of whipped cream

For filling, in a bowl stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel.  Add apples (or pears) and raisins, then gently toss till coated.  Set aside.  Lightly grease a 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan.
     Cover a large surface with a cloth; flour the cloth.  Stack 2 sheets of phyllo on the floured cloth (do not brush butter on the dough yet!)  Arrange another stack of 2 sheets on the cloth, overlapping the stacks 2 inches.  Add 3 or 4 more stacks, forming a rectangle about 20x40 inches (stagger stacks so all seams are not down the middle).  Trim down to the 40x20 rectangle.  Brush with the 1/3 cup of butter.
     Beginning 4 inches from a short side of dough, spoon the filling in a 4 inch wide band across dough.  Using the cloth underneath as a guide, gently lift the 4 inch piece of dough and filling, jelly-roll style, into a tight roll.  If necessary, cut excess dough from ends to within 1 inch of filling. Fold ends under to seal.

     Carefully transfer strudel roll to the prepared baking pan.  Curve ends together to form an 8 inch ring.  Brush top of strudel with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with vanilla wafer.  Bake in a 350 F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or till golden brown.  Carefully remove from pan and cool.
     Serve with whipped cream.  Makes 12 - 16 serving.   Toss out the diet book, this is about 270 calories for  a 3g  serving.   Got to love it!!!

Stay hungry friends,

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ohio and Michigan (2nd in a series)

Let's take a quick look at Ohio and Michigan.

     Ohio is the most eastern state of what we call the Midwest.  As such it has varied influences in it's cuisine, in a previous post we discussed the oddity that is Cincinnati chili and the more I think about it, Ohio is state with a bit of a cuisine multiple personality disorder.  Don't get me wrong I think that can be a good thing.  Ohio just isn't quite sure which area of the country it belongs to.  The South? East? Midwest?  An argument could be made for any of those.  Well, I'm not really sure either, but today I declare it to be in the Midwest.  So there.    O.K. what to cook from Ohio?  Not many people know that just before the Civil War, Ohio was the pork center of the country.  They actually used to have massive pig drives!  Drovers would take hundreds of hogs at a time and drive them to East Coast markets, sometimes hundreds of miles!  This was incredibly slow going averaging only five miles a day.  It's a good thing they brought there own bacon with them.  So, pork it is

Hard to imagine they are so tasty.

3/4 pound pork tenderloin
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 beaten egg
1 tablespoon milk
3/4 cup of fine bread crumbs (like panko)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
4 kaiser rolls

     Cut pork crosswise into 4 pieces.  With a meat mallet, pound each slice between plastic wrap to about 1/4 inch thick.
      In a shallow bowl combine flour, onion powder and a grinding of pepper.  In another shallow bowl combine egg and milk.  In a third bowl place the bread crumbs.  Dip each pork slice into the flour mixture, coating well, then into the egg mixture and then into the bread crumbs.
     In a large skillet, (cast iron works best) cook pork slices in hot oil over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes or till pork is no longer pink, turning once.  Remove from the skillet; keep warm.  Repeat with the other slices.
     Place on buns, and serve with mustard, pickles, onions and any other condiment you like.

I just found this to be a disturbingly funny photo. Thanks to Maggie Smith
                                             Image: Maggie Smith /


Now on to Michigan.
      When the first explorers came to what is now Michigan, they found an area incredibly rich in fish and game.  Ducks, geese, partridge and turkey to name a few, along with larger game such as elk, deer, and even moose roamed the woods.  Early French trappers and hunters developed a technique of mixing tough meat with vegetables and simmering over a slow fire.  They called it "booyaw", using the French-Canadian dialect word for "bouillon".
     This stew recipe could be attributed to many different areas, but I think that it is representative of the type of stew that the early settlers of Michigan would have made.  In fact the first recipe in the "Settlement Cookbook" from 1903 is for a rustic stew very similar to this one.  What makes this stew different from many you've probably tried is coffee.  Don't let that scare you away it really adds a depth of flavor that is truly remarkable.

1 1/2 pound beef stew meat cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/2 cups strong coffee
2 tablespoons molasses
1 clove garlic minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 carrots, cut in 1/2 inch slices
4 small onions quartered
3 medium potatoes peeled and cut up
3 more tablespoons all purpose flour

    Coat the beef cubes with a mixture of 3 tablespoons of flour and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  In a Dutch oven brown half of the meat at a time in hot oil.  Return all the meat to the pan.  Stir in the coffee, molasses, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, red pepper, and a little more salt.  Cover; simmer 1 1/2 hours or till meat is nearly tender.
     Add the carrots, onion, potatoes, and 1 1/2 cups of water.  Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes or till vegetables are tender.  Combine the 3 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of water and stir into the stew.  Cook and stir until stew has thickened an bubbly, about 3-4 minutes.
     Get a big hunk of rustic bread and dig in.

     Next time, Illinois and Indiana.

Again, I can't say it enough.  Cook with cast iron!  It's not that expensive, it's a snap to clean and your food will just be better.

Stay Hungry,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Great Midwest....aka fly over country. Part 1

If you just "fly over" you're missing more than you can imagine!

  The Midwest of the U.S. is were I live.  As much as I may joke about it being a bit bland for food, history and geography make this area of the country one of the most diverse culinary regions.  Were else could you find wild rice, Cornish pasties and Swiss cheese all on the same plate?
     First I suppose we should define the area.  For my purposes the Midwest includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.  Yes, that is a huge section of the country and you can't really define a cuisine for that large an area.  The general theme of cooking here is practical and no-nonsense, a requirement of hard work on the farm that defined the early days of these states.  It is robust cooking without the pretension and fuss of exotic seasonings and techniques.  It is the kind of cooking that has made church suppers and American institution.
     It is no wonder that the early pioneers stopped their westward travels when they saw this area.  The forests and waters of the western Great Lakes and the endless plains beyond held a natural bounty that was impossible to pass.  The Great Lake states have an abundance of herring, perch, trout and whitefish in the waters.  This same area's forests are rich in ducks, geese, and turkey along with a large white tail deer population.  Also found are a wide variety of mushrooms and berries that are amazing when in season.
     Well, that's a little of the geography. Now a little bit on the immigrants that settled the area.   Cornish miners arrived in the mid-nineteenth century to Michigan and Wisconsin and brought with them the pasty.  Think Hot-Pocket, but with actual flavor and substance, not some microwaved abomination that contains God knows what.   Also in this area were many Scandinavian settlers, particularly Finns.  Before long Finnish bakeries were specializing in pasties, which they called there own.
     Because of the Scandinavian influence in Minnesota and Wisconsin local cookbooks are full of Swedish meatballs, herring salads, rye bread, cardamom scented cakes and Danish pastries.  But the largest group to settle the Midwest were the Germans, no place more obvious than Milwaukee.  There you will find menus that include sauerbraten, rouladen, and schnitzel.  No where else in the U.S. is sausage making brought to a fine art reflecting the combination of German, Polish and other eastern European immigrants.  Southeast Wisconsin saw butcher shops open all over, each becoming known for their individual specialties.  Bratwurst, bologna, cervelat, kielbasa, wiener, and bockwurst.   Time for a break I'm hungry.  Oh, and of course the thing that made Milwaukee!

     Since I'm going on about my home state of Wisconsin, I have to mention cheese.  We are after all America's Dairyland.  Started primarily by Swiss farmers, the Badger state has broadened it cheese making tradition far beyond Swiss, and now boasts award winning cheddar, limburger, mozzerella, Muenster and blue.

     But when it comes to blue cheese, I must admit that there is stiff competition from our neighbor Iowa.  Maytag blue cheese, unlike European blue, was created by design and not accident.  The rich milk of the Holstein cow combined with know how of the Iowa State dairy scientists created a blue cheese that many say rivals the best Stiltons, Roqueforts and Gorgonzolas.  The first batch was made in 1941 and now Iowa produces more than three hundred thousand pounds of Maytag annually.

Ok, this post is getting a bit long.  So I think I am going to break the Midwest up into several parts.  So for the first recipes lets go with Cornish beef Pasties from Michigan and Sausage with Kraut from Wisconsin.  Don't worry Iowa  and Minnesota I'll get to you.

The favorite of Cornish iron and copper miners, the pasty was carried into the mines, usually in a cotton pouch called a crib bag.

you need:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup shortening
7 to 8 tablespoons of cold water
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled potatoes
1 pound beef round steak cut into 1/4 inch cubes
3/4 cup peeled turnips cut into small cubes
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup catsup (optional)

Combine flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.  Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  Gradually add the water ONE TEASPOON AT A TIME, tossing with a fork until all is moistened.  Form into a ball, cover and chill for 1 hour.
     Meanwhile, for filling.  Combine potato, beef, turnip, onion, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper and set aside.  Divide the dough into six equal pieces and roll each piece into a 9 inch circle.  Place about 1 cup of the filling on half of each circle and fold the other half over the filling.  Seal the edge and cut slits in the top to let the steam escape.  Place on an ungreased  baking pan, brush the top with milk.  Bake in a 400 F oven for about 45 minutes or until golden.  If desired mix catsup  with 1/4 cup of water and heat through, serve on the side.
It's really fairly easy and a great taste of history.

Sauerkraut is so popular in the Midwest that I have a regional cookbook that has a recipe for a sauerkraut sandwich in it!

4 fully cooked smoked bratwurs, knockwurst, polish sausage or just about any other wurst you can think of.
6 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup of water
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 slices torn Swiss cheese
    Make slits in the sausage at about 1 inch intervals being sure not to cut all the way through. Set aside.
    In a 12 inch skillet combine cabbage, water, onion, carrot, caraway seed, pepper and salt.  Arrange sausage atop cabbage mixture.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until cabbage is tender and sausage is heated through.
     Remove sausage from skillet; keep warm.  Drain cabbage mixture.  Add Swiss cheese to cabbage.  Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.  Serve it up with some dark rye bread and a good pilsner.

We will continue the trip to the Midwest soon, I'm looking forward to it.  In the meantime, might I suggest that you cook with cast iron as much as possible?  You will find it to be amazingly consistent with heat distribution.  Things just seem to cook better and taste better coming from well seasoned cast iron cookware.  And, cast is the original non-stick,  properly cared for and seasoned you have to try to get things to stick on it.  It is also the absolute best at going from stove top to in the oven.  Here is a look at some of the cast I cook with.  It's really not that expensive, especially when you consider that it will last forever!

Stay Hungry friends!!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Let's wrap the chili!

Hello again friends,  it's time to wrap up the chili posts.  But before I do, do you like to run?  Me neither.  Brings back to many memories of long military runs.  Anyway,  if you like to run or even if you don't, you should check out my friend Brandon's new site.  It's a good read,  dude is going to run 50 miles this weekend...........

I'd rather eat chili so,  let's look at a few more expansions on the basic recipe. (see a couple posts earlier)
First,  another recipe that comes from Chicago.
      Make the basic chili recipe and then add 1 can of beer, a tablespoon of good paprika, a chopped jalapeno pepper (more if you want)  several dashes of Tabasco (again to taste), red pepper flakes, and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar.  Let it cook for awhile.  Yes, it's a little hot but it is awesome!

     This next one is probably my favorite chili, and easily the one I make the most.  It comes from the New York city fire department, more specifically a firehouse in Brooklyn.

2 pounds ground round
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
4 cups beef stock
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 can (10 oz) green chiles
1 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoons salt
back pepper to taste
1 can (6oz) tomato paste
1 can red kidney beans

Brown the meat and sausage, remove and add the stock to the same pot and bring to a boil.  Remove the pot from the heat and crumble the saffron into the stock.  In a separate skillet, heat the olive oil then cook the shallots and garlic  for about 5 minutes, reduce heat.  To this add the chilies, oregano, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Stir this all together then add to the stock and add the tomato paste.  Mix thoroughly, add the meat and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 1 1/2 hours.  Add the beans about 10 minutes before it's done.
You will love this chili!  In the words of the late pioneer of tv chefs  Justin Wilson, " I guarantee!!!"

Well, that's about it for my chili recipes.  I do have a couple more when cooking for large groups, like 25 people or more.  I think I will do  a post on cooking for groups in the future that I will add these to.  I'm also trying to track down a recipe that my Grandma used to make at Christmas,  it involves using pickling spices, I was very young the last time I had it, but I do remember the smell of that chili.  It's a little odd that chili reminds me of Christmas.  Hopefully more on that to come.

So cook some chili!  And share it with friends and family.

Stay hungry!!
What's next?  How about we shake up the old Midwestern staples a bit.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


5 way

For a fairly short time in my life I lived in Ohio,  to be honest I didn't really care for it.  I'm sure that had more to do with me being 8 years old and not wanting to leave Massachusetts than it did the actual state.  But I hold no  ill will for Ohio, except that it made me into a bit of a Bengals fan.  Anyway, we are now going to delve into that oddity called Cincinnati Chili. Now, this is an unusual dish, and every time that I have had it I couldn't decide if I like it or not, and by then end of the meal I decide that it's pretty good.  That lasts until the first bite of the next time I have it.  There is something about it that's just not right, but you have to eat it anyway.  Maybe it is the sweet spices that it calls for,  cinnamon, allspice, cocoa and some recipes add nutmeg.
     It is also served in an unusual way.  If you just order chili that's what you'll get a bowl of meat and spices.  When you order it "two way"  you will get the chili on top of a pile of spaghetti, yup that's right--spaghetti.  Order "three way" and you'll get the spaghetti and chili topped with a bunch of grated cheddar cheese.  A "four way" adds onions and a "five way" adds chili beans.
     Don't be afraid to try this, it is actually really good.....I think.   I like mine "five way" thanks.  Maybe you could come up with "six" or even " seven" way!  You're the cook, do what you want!

Here we go.
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 lb lean ground pork
1 lb hamburger (80/20)
4 yellow onions chopped
6 cloves garlic peeled and chopped fine
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
4 tablespoons hot chili powder
3 whole bay leaves
2 teaspoons each of cinnamon, allspice, and Tobasco
4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
4 tablespoons white vinegar
1 28 oz can pureed tomatoes
1 tablespoon oregano
2 lbs kidney beans cooked (or use canned, I didn't really notice the difference)
salt to taste

Heat a heavy 12 quart stock pot and add the oil.  Saute the pork, hamburger, onions, garlic, cumin seeds, chili powder, and bay leaves until the meat is barely browned and the onions are clear.  Drain the fat and discard
    Add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer.(if everyone is going to eat the beans add them now, other wise add them individual to bowls by stirring in the desired amount. if using canned beans add them about 15 minutes before you're done)  cook, covered, for 1 1/2  hours. you may have to add some water as it cooks if it looks way to thick.

Serve it up!  Remember to cook some spaghetti noodles and put some onions and cheddar cheese out to top.

Stay hungry!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

more chili

O.K.  let's look at some real easy variations to the basic chili recipe.  There is BLACK BEAN CHILI, simply use black beans in place of kidney beans, this one substitution completely changes the flavor of the chili.
     Then there is CHILI CON CARNE WITH GINGER,  this actually comes from a Chicago restaurant, just add 2 - 3 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger and add a cup of red wine.  This will definitely surprise your standard chili eaters.
     Here is one from Denver. LAMB CHILI.  Use 2 Lbs of lamb trimmed of fat and cut into  1/4 " pieces.  Why is lamb so stinking expensive in this country?

Let's switch gears for the next one CALIFORNIA CHILI.  Chili sauce from a jar?  Oh, why not?  It's California.
 1 lb kidney beans soaked, cooked and drained.
1 chicken cut up and browned
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
3 yellow onions
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 cups chili sauce (find it by the ketchup in the grocery store)
4 tomatoes chopped
2 green sweet bell peppers seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the beans and brown the chicken.  Heat a large frying pan and add the oil.  Saute the garlic, onions, cumin seeds, and jalapeno peppers until the onions are clear.  Add everything  to a heavy pot and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 1 hour.
     Throw together some guacamole and chips and dig in.

Next time.....More Regional Chili!
Stay Hungry

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chili - the great American dish.

First in a series
The great American Chili

I think I mentioned something about New Years and traditions......well maybe next year!
     When the weather turns cold one of the best dishes to turn to is Chili.  Now, depending on where you are this can mean different things.  It is truly a regional dish and different parts of the U.S. make it in their own distinctive way.
  First, let's address the origin of Chili.  Many think that it is a Mexican,  or possibly Spanish dish.  Nope, it is all American, in fact Mexican comments from the late 1800's call chili "A detestable food with a false Mexican name sold in the United States from Texas to New York City"  Yikes!!  So fair warning to international readers, chili is true American and may insult your culinary sensibilities. (not really, this stuff is good regardless of where you live.)
    Having established the origins of chili to the U.S. the question becomes, "but where in the U.S.?"  Even though many places throughout the country claim to have "invented" chili,  it is generally accepted that it was started in San Antonio Texas around 1840 and then spread through the States where it was given different regional flair.  I will admit that some of the most boring chili is from here in Wisconsin,  it tends to be watery and with a bunch of elbow noodles, it's more like goulash, or it is so artificially spiced it is barely edible.(I can't stand heat that does nothing for the dish, food is about flavor not trying to burn off your tongue.Don't get me wrong I like some good spicy food, just not so hot that you don't taste the dish.)
    Somethings stay consistent regardless of where you live,  brown your meat with the onions and spices (put your chili powder in while you brown the meat, it does make a difference.).  Then add your liquids, cook  a good while then add your beans if you are using them.
     Another standard is chili powder.  You can make your own, however commercial chili powder isn't bad.  Chili powder is a mixture of spices, if you want to make your own try this----
12 dried chiles( 10 pasialla and 2 ancho would nice.  Change the chili mixture based on how much heat you like)
3/4 Tablespoon of ground cumin
1     Tablespoon whole oregano leaves
1  teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon of salt
Place everything in a food processor and let it rip until you have a powder.  Even though commercial powder is fine, this will give you a fresher more vibrant taste that is customized to how you like it.

dried red chili
   If a recipe calls for plain chili powder, it is just ground chili, no spices mixed in. If you happen to see a recipe that calls for chili pods, that is the whole dried chili. Again use the chili you prefer.
     I think over the next few days I will post several chili recipes for you to try, and end with my favorite. Most of them are a variation on what we will call the "basic chili", so I will just reference that and then give the variation. Some on the other hand are completely different!!

So, The Basic Chili:
1 pound lean hamburger
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large yellow onion peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
3 tablespoons chili powder (commercial or your own)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large (28oz) can tomatoes, pureed in a blender
1 green bell pepper seeded and chopped
1 small bag of beans soaked and cooked per the bag instructions(usually kidney beans)  if you think beans are an abomination to chili, leave them out, it's your chili do what you want.
salt to taste

Brown the beef in the oil along with the onion, garlic, and chili powder.  Drain the fat and add remaining ingredients, including beans.  Simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours or until until beans are tender.(if you used caned beans put them in just before you serve or they will turn to mush)  This dish one of those dishes that gets better the next day.
basic chili

So there you have it basic chili, just this alone is pretty good, but I like to put a few dashes of Tabasco in it just to liven things up.

Stay hungry!