Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Greasy Five: Daydreaming about Ordering from Shopsin's Menu

Monday I wrote an entry about Shopsin's General Store in NYC. That night I attended a lecture by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Michael Chabon. I brought along a copy of the menu from Shopsin's General Store, so I could browse it and entertain myself while I sat patiently waiting for the lecture to begin. If I don't do this, my mind wanders, and soon I'm contemplating some fringe activity like growing a pencil-thin moustache or raising bison. You see, I'm subject to whimsy; it's my tragic flaw - or one of them, anyway.

Let's get back to the menu, a legendary tome allegedly containing 900 items. I didn't count, but the menu contained a list of dishes packed elbow to elbow, jostling for my stomach's attention. If they handed out Pulitzers for restaurant menus, Shopsin's menu would need to be considered for the award. The menu boosted my spirits, inspired me, and of course, stirred my appetite. In my twisted little mind, I've made the 1230.64 mile trip to Shopsin's several times and here is what I ordered:
  1. State Fair Breakfast Plate: corn dog, s'mores cakes, chicken fried eggs
  2. Krakatoa Breakfast Plate: eggs, sausage stuffing potato volcano
  3. El Paso Shepherd's Pie: bbq pork or bbq brisket, corn, veggies, corn meal crust
  4. Reubifoo Sandwich: corned beef chili, bok choy, fried scallions, swiss
  5. Blue Plate Special #10: bbq oxtails, ranch nachos, cheese stuffed fried peppers.
Browse the menu, and tell me what you would order.

Check, please!

PS. . . The lecture titled "Conquering the Wilderness: Imaginative Imperialism and the Invasion of Legoland" was outstanding. At first I thought it would be overly intellectual for this boy from Pomona, but the down-to-earth lecture explored the challenge of raising children to be creative and imaginative in today's world.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Apple Bread

You won't find this bread gracing the cover of Bon Appetit. Its gnarled, warped appearance might make some grimace.

I like to think it possesses a rustic appearance. I like the bread. Tucked within are a few surprises.

Can you see them? Autumn's great bounty -- apples!

I introduced Mr. Apple Bread to Mr. Toaster.

They hit it off, and I think, they'll be lifelong friends.

Apple Bread

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 large apples peeled, cored and diced. If you want to use 3 apples, go for it.
  • 3/8 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • cinnamon sugar for dusting
  1. Combine yeast and water in the mixing bowl.
  2. Stir in the butter, vanilla, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the flour. Then mix to make a soft, shaggy mass.
  3. Knead with the dough hook on the lowest speed of the mixer for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough won't really come together. However, in the next step it will become a soft, elastic dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the top with flour. Now form it into a ball. The dough is of the softest I've worked with, and when I feel it, it reminds me of a running my fingers over a velvet portrait of Elvis. Place the dough in a greased bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 30-45 minutes, or until almost doubled.
  5. Gently deflate the dough. Spray the top with cooking spray. Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  6. While the dough is resting, make the filling. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and cinnamon.
  7. Now here's the difficult part, a step I haven't quite mastered: You need to evenly distribute the apples in the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 10-inch circle. Press half the apple mixture into the dough. Now fold the dough over to completely cover the apples. Some of the apples might pop out, which is fine; just press them back into the dough. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin to distribute the apples. Press the remaining filling into the top of the dough. Fold the dough over again and pinch the edges to seal. Some apples may puncture the loaf. Don't fret; this is fine. Shape the dough into a fat oblong log, so that it fits into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. If you want to go with a little larger pan, that's fine, but I wouldn't go smaller.
  8. Spray the pan with cooking spray, and then place the bread into the pan. Spray the top of the loaf with cooking spray and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Let the bread rise for 30 to 50 minutes, or until puffy.
  9. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Bake with 35 to 45 minutes, or until well browned. Allow the bread to cook in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes before unmolding.
  10. Enjoy!
take care,

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Greasy Five: I Refuse to Serve:

A few weeks ago, a loyal reader alerted me to a macaroni and cheese pancake recipe in the New York Times Magazine food edition. Even though I dislike pancakes, this had me out the door to purchase the New York Times Sunday Edition. The magazine featured a story on Shopsin's General Store, a 20-seat NYC restaurant. Shopsin's menu consists of 900 items, but owner Kenny Shopsin's irascible personality might be the restaurant's real story. Shopsin only cooks for people who he likes, and anyone violating a list of unwritten rules is kicked out of the restaurant.

"Order off the menu? Out. Cellphone call? Beat it. Sometimes people don't even make it into a seat, as in the case of of infamous no-parties-bigger-than-four rule. Or maybe Shopsin simply doesn't like you."
If I ran a restaurant, I'd refuse to serve any of the following customers:
  1. Anyone speaking on a cellphone in my restaurant. Here's a novel idea: Have a conversation with people near you.
  2. Anyone who orders chicken strips or chicken nuggets. I realize that this rule will bar my daughter from dining at my restaurant, but I need to take a stand against processed, boneless chicken.
  3. Anyone wearing an offensive t-shirt.
  4. Anyone using profanity. Unless you can curse with the Shakespearean eloquence of the characters on HBO's Deadwood, profanity will earn you a one-way ticket out the door.
  5. Any customer who doesn't wash his/her hands after using the restroom.
For more on Kenny Shopsin, checkout his book Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. If you visit, you can read Calvin Trillin's introduction to the book. I've reserved a copy at my local library, and I'll let you know what I think in a future segment of The Greasy Bookshelf. Also, there's a documentary about Shopsin titled I Like Killing Flies. I haven't watched it, but it's currently on my Netflix queue.

Take care,

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pioneer Women Don't Get the Blues

Our kitchen refrigerator has been out of commission for six days. Fortunately, we have another refrigerator in the basement, but when I want to cook, I have to make multiple trips up and down stairs. On a few occasions I've found myself whining about this temporary inconvenience, and at times I convinced myself that this was a hardship. When I find myself whining about anything, I always reach out for touchstones to help me put things in perspective. This week a reached for my bookshelf, and cracked open Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton.

The cover says it all. At least I don't have to gather buffalo chips in a wheelbarrow to fuel my cook stove and heat my house. I live a life of luxury.

After reading excerpts, I reached this conclusion: Without the independent, strong-willed, determined spirit of pioneer women, today the Great Plains would still be unsettled frontier.

Kansas women are self-sufficient, independent souls who take care of business. Amelia Earhart, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Cary Nation, and Lynette Woodard are just a few. All Kansans can list several women who possess a pioneer spirit. I see it in my 92-year-old grandmother who still tends a garden and who can still kill a snake with a hoe with ninja-like nimbleness and precision.

I see it in my mother who after quitting high school when was pregnant with me, earned her GED and 30 years later earned a college degree. I see it in my four-year-old daughter when she insists she's capable of dressing herself or pour her own Orange juice. If she follows her mother's lead, she will also be a pioneer woman.

I take this moment to salute the pioneer women, and for those those who crave a little taste of the book, the following is an excerpt:

On festive occasions, the meager corn and wheat supplies were often baked into special breads, cakes, and biscuits. Bessie Wilson recalled one such occasion. "When it was known that Mr. J. B. Jackson was to be married at Ellsworth on September 6, 1875, some of the neighbors planned a surprise for him and his bride on their return. Mother was asked to bake a cake for the affair. In consequence., we ate our bread without butter for several days in order that father might have enough to take to the store and exchange for the amount of sugar necessary to make a cake. This he did, covering the sixteen miles horseback. Mother's was the only cake at this important gathering, and despite the fact that she had no recipe to go by, and that she used sour milk and soda in the making, it was pronounced by those who partook as being all a bride's cake should be."

Bessie Wilson's mother must been once heck of a cook.

Praise the pioneer spirit,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Apple Crisp

Fall is here.

I'm slowly making my way through my fall to-do list.
  1. Stew a chicken
  2. Read some Robert Frost
  3. Visit the pumpkin patch
  4. Carve a Jack-O-Lantern
  5. Roast pumpkin seeds
  6. Listen to Willie Nelson's album The Red-Headed Stranger from start to finish in one sitting.
  7. Grow a beard
  8. Spend the afternoon creatively loafing in downtown Lawrence.
  9. Take a Sunday drive to view the fall foliage
  10. Bake a ham
  11. Reread The River Why.
  12. Organize my sweaters
  13. Enjoy the Maple Leaf Festival
  14. Make ham and bean soup
  15. Jump in a pile of leaves
  16. Make an apple crisp
Yesterday I prepared an apple crisp. It's a slapdash affair, perfect for a guy like me who doesn't possess a delicate, artful touch. A little whole wheat in the crisp gives this apple crisp a nutty flavor.

  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 6 cups (about 2 1/2 pounds) chopped peeled apples (I used Winesap Apples grown by Beisecker Farms in Baldwin City, Kansas).
Note: I sometimes add a little nutmeg to the crisp topping. Sometimes I also add a little lemon juice and lemon zest to the apple mixture. Tonight I didn't have a lemon.

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.

  2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

  3. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and apples in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with oat mixture. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until apples are tender.



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Broccoli Cheese Soup

My afternoons lounging in my hammock are coming to an end. Now falling leaves are taking my place, but you don't need me to tell you that fall is here. What you need is a nice soup to complement the fall weather. My friend, what you need is a simple, quick soup, so you can use the time saved to enjoy the evening: Snuggle up with a quilt and your favorite book. Spend the evening watching a favorite movie. Or with the time you're saving, bake an apple crisp for dessert.

I offer you a broccoli cheese soup. This isn't a fancy soup. Some might frown on a soup that involves dumping a few cans in a pot and dicing up a brick of Velveeta, but something can be said for convenience. This recipe from my Aunt Linda is the first soup I ever learned to make.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

  • 4 tablespoons of butter.
  • 3-4 carrots shredded
  • 3-4 ribs of celery diced
  • a 16 oz. bag of frozen chopped broccoli. I've also used a 10 and 12 oz. bag, depending what I find in the store.
  • 1 cup of diced onion
  • 3 cans of chicken broth
  • 3 cans of cream of potato soup
  • 1 lb. of Velveeta diced
  • 8 ounces of sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot. Saute the celery, carrots, onion, and broccoli for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Pour in the chicken broth and cream of potato soup.
  3. Allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the Velveeta and stir until it's melted.
  5. Right before serving add the sour cream and stir until it's blended with the soup.
  6. Serve the soup with some nice crusty bread or this flat bread picture.

Take care,

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Baldwin City Maple Leaf Festival

I traveled to the Baldwin City Maple Leaf Festival with one goal -- I simply wanted to get my hands on one of these donuts:

Normally, I bypass cake donuts for their fluffier, yeasted cousins, but these cinnamon sugar dusted delights can't be denied. Each year I stand near the counter and watch with wide-eyed wonderment as a ontraption churns out donut after donut.
I think of Willy Wonka. As the donuts bobble in a bath of hot oil, I'm giddy with anticipation. As these delightful donuts ride the conveyer, I'm overwhelmed with emotion. As I watch the donuts receive a heavy dusting of cinammon sugar, I think that Edison's electric light might pale in comparison to this machine.

How can I convince my wife that I NEED one of these machines? Hail the Masonic Lodge Donuts at the Maple Leaf Festival!

Do I have sugar on my chin?

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Man from La Unmacho

Victoria's Secret

The one on the far right is easier to take,

her eyes half-closed
as if she were listening to a medley
of lullabies playing faintly on a music box.
Soon she will drop off to sleep,
her head nestled in the soft crook of her arm,
and later she will wake up in her
Spandex slip dress with the high side slit,
deep scoop neckline, elastic shirring,
and concealed back zip and vent.

But opposite her,
stretched out catlike on a couch
in the warm glow of a paneled library,
is one who wears a distinctly challenging expression,
her face tipped up, exposing
her long neck, her perfectly flared nostrils.
Go ahead, her expression tells me,
take off my satin charmeuse gown
with a sheer, jacquard bodice
decorated with a touch of shimmering Lurex.
go ahead, fling it into the fireplace.
What do I care, her eyes say, we're all going to hell anyway.

***Excerpted from "Victoria's Secret" by Billy Collins
The Victoria's Secret catalogue no longer thrills me. I know this confession will probably lead to my expulsion from the Good Ol' Boys' Club, but I'm pretty sure I was never a member in good standing anyway.

Now it's The King Arthur Flour Company's Baker's Catalogue that stirs my fantasies. I dream of dipping my hands in bags of velvety flour. The thought of melting 5 pound blocks of luxurious, bronze caramel over a slow, low heat quickens my pulse. Even the $9,950 price on the Italian, hand-crafted, wood-fired oven, doesn't deter from flirting with the idea of standing in my backyard baking pizzas that possess the seductive powers of Sophia Loren. I am not a well man.

However, I have a wonderful wife who keeps my insanity from running amuck. This is why I always consult my wife before making
a purchase of $50.00 or more – yet another reason to have my Good Ol' Boys' Club membership renounced. My wife and I have always consulted each other before major purchases; it's just the way things are done in our household. This consulation has halted numerous impulsive purchases on my part - a sausage grinder/stuffer contraption for our KitchenAid mixer, a yogurt cheese maker, and some fringed, buckskin boots. I've found that a good marriage operates on a system of checks and balances -- something our federal government once utilized. Last week I consulted my wife before making a King Arthur Flour Company purchase. Here's how it went down:

Me: Hey, King Arthur has $3.00 shipping, and I'm thinking about placing an order.

My Beautiful, loving wife: What are you ordering?

Me: Some plastic storage tubs that will hold 25 pounds of flour.

My beautiful, loving wife: Do we own that much flour?

Me: No, but I'm planning on purchasing a couple of 25 pound bags of flour.

At this point, my wife looked at my like I had just informed her that I intended to purchase weapons-grade plutonium.

My beautiful, loving wife: Does flour expire? You can't possibly use that much flour.

Me: I'm planning on doing a lot of baking. Also, it's less expensive purchasing flour in bulk. These trying economic times call for frugality. I heard on NPR that the price of food staples like flour will steadily increase over the next few months.

At this point, my wife grimaced because she hates it when I begin a sentence with, "I heard on NPR . . ." Then the grimace disappeared and she embraced her fate. Then she gave me a look that said, "You know that you're lucky to have a wife who tolerates your quirky behavior."

My beautiful, loving wife:
That sounds like a good purchase.

Even though I probably won't be able to hang with those back-slappin' Good Ol' Boys, I'm content. I'll just stay at home, hang with my family, bake a lot of bread, and keep fighting those windmills.

But this is already too much.
Who has the time to linger on these delicate
lures, these once unmentionable things?
Life is rushing by like a mad, swollen river.
One minute roses are opening in the garden
and the next, snow is flying past my window.
Plus the phone is ringing.
The dog is whining at the door.
Rain is beating on the roof.
And as always there is a list of things I have to do
before the night descends, black and silky,
and the dark hours begin to hurtle by,
before the little doors of the body swing shut
and I ride to sleep, my closed eyes
still burning from all the glossy lights of day.

***"Victoria's Secret" by Billy Collins from the book Flying Around the Room Alone.

Have a great weekend and make time to do something fun,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicken Gumbo or The Tao of Roux

My wife washes away the stress of the day with a bubble bath. Some turn to yoga or exercise to relieve stress. Others prefer the ease of a stiff drink or two. I turn to my stove and my cast iron dutch oven. With two simple ingredients - flour and butter - and a wooden spoon, I stir my troubles into a roux.

As the roux deepens from the color of peanut butter color to a rich mahogany, the weight of the day evaporates, and I'm prepared to acknowledge all that really matters in this life: a hearty meal and quality time with my family.

Some would say there are better ways to spend 30 minutes than stirring a pot. For those critics, I offer you the wise words of Henry David Thoreau:

"Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with is companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

For those skeptical souls who need concrete evidence, I offer you a chicken gumbo recipe. Although it's a non-traditional gumbo - minus the okra, you'll be converted to believe in the Tao of the Roux.

Chicken Gumbo

Adapted from A Cowboy in the Kitchen by Grady Spears and Robb Walsh
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup diced green pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • meat from one whole cooked chicken, diced or pulled off the bone (You can use one of those roteissere chickens, but I recommend stewing your own chicken, which yields a rich, flavorful broth)
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Use a large, heavy dutch oven. Melt the butter in the dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Stir in the flour, and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes or longer. The roux needs to become a rich brown color. Continually stir it with a wood spoon, so that the roux does not burn. Daydream of magnolia trees, lounging on a front porch, and sippin' your favorite beverage. Or just think peaceful thoughts. Or think nothing at all.
  3. When the roux reaches the desired color, add the peppers, onion, and celery, sauteing until the vegetables are wilted, about 10 minutes. Savor this step: Place your nose directly above the dutch oven. Close your eyes and inhale deeply. Greet this mingling of scents with an exuberant, "Hallelujah!" Blare The Pine Leaf Boys' Cajun version of "Wild Side of Life" from your stereo, and dance around the kitchen; celebrate this marriage of flavors.
  4. Add the tomatoes, Worcestershire, Tabasco, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, cayenne, and white pepper. Stir to blend the ingredients.
  5. Whisk in the chicken stock, and cook the gumbo over medium heat for 30 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken and continue cooking for another 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. The gumbo should be fairly thick at serving time.
  7. Continue cooking to reduce if necessary.
  8. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes. Because I'm a Kansan, I choose potatoes 99 percent of the time.

Pass the hot sauce,

P.S. It's worthwhile to visit the Southern Foodways Alliance documentary project The Southern Gumbo Trail.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Got My Mojo Workin'

Last week my blog received a big boost courtesy of a small media blitz. As a result, last week may have been the most rewarding since I've started blogging.

First, I was privileged to be interviewed by Marilyn for the "Tell Simmer" segment over at Simmer Till Done. If you haven't visited Simmer Till Done, do yourself a favor - grab a comfortable chair, pull it up to the computer, and browse her site. Relish her words; savor her pictures. Then get yourself straight to the kitchen and try some of her great recipes. I'm still counting down the days until I can get my hands on some fresh peaches to make her Peach-Pecan Cobbler again. Perhaps, I can adapt this recipe for the great apples that are currently gracing the produce aisle.

Anyway, Simmer Till Done is one of the few sites that I don't merely browse - I read and soak up every word because her writing is like great butter.

My second source of media attention came my high school paper, which kicked off a new feature giving students a look at teachers' lives outside of the classroom. Jenna Phillips interviewed me and wrote a great story about my passion for cooking and blogging. This article resulted in two great experiences.

First, a lady named Esther brought me the following:

Now I've lived long enough to know the following: When a lady named Esther brings me an old Cool Whip container with my name on it, it's a good day. Inside were some great collard greens:

Anytime anyone unexpectedly brings me great food, I'm a happy man.

Then during the passing period between classes, a student approached me and asked, "Have you ever made a risotto?" I was taken aback. Usually when students approach me in the hall, I'm confronted with one of two questions:
  1. Are we doing anything important in class today? - which makes me want to respond, "No, I thought we'd just sit around eating Bon-Bons and watching reruns of Gossip Girl all hour."
  2. May I use the bathroom? - which usually leaves me grumbling something about having a 7-minute passing period.
"Have you ever made a risotto?" This was a first. The student told me that he read the newspaper article and learned that I like to cook. Then he informed that he's currently enrolled in a culinary class that's part of the Vo-Tech program. We were late to our next class because we chatted for about ten minutes about the fine art of making risotto. I now have a stack of cookbooks I'm going to let him borrow. Because of the article and my passion for food, I was able to connect with a student who I'd never really had a conversation with before.

While it's been fun to be in the spotlight, connecting with kindred spirits has been the greatest gift I've been given this past week. I thank everyone who made this happen.

Keep your skillet good and greasy,

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Baked Snickers and Apples

I have a bit more to report on The Sound of Music movie extravaganza my wife hosted, but I've decided to give everyone a break. Every single day can't be filled with liters of beer, hearty helpings of goulash, scenic views from the Alps, and frolicking Van Trapps. It's time to return to reality.

I shouldn't post today's entry for two reasons: First, my photo of this recipe resembles something you'd find in a kitty litter box. Second, the recipe betrays the slow food philosophy I strive to adhere to in the kitchen.

Despite all of this, I'm a realist. Sometimes I need to reach for a recipe that is quick, satisfies my craving, and allows me to get back to the 2nd half of the college football game I'm currently watching.

I present to you Baked Snickers and Apples:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel, core, and slice a couple of apples.
  3. Layer the apples in a small baking dish.
  4. Chop a Snickers bar.
  5. Sprinkle the Snickers bar over the apples.
  6. Bake until the chocolate and caramel is melted

I feel dirty. This weekend I'll reclaim my culinary credibility by making the Apple-Almond Braid over at Simmer Till Done.

Keep your skillet good and greasy,

PS . . . I'd like to thank Hollyce for the recipe.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


In addition to claiming Julie Andrews as the 5th member of her family, my wife consumed a fair amount of goulash in her formative years. Early in our relationship my wife tried to serve me goulash about 2-3 times a month, but this didn't fly with me because as a I child I developed an aversion to this dish. Marriage - as you well know - is a challenging endeavor, when something as simple as pondering a dinner menu becomes complicated.

Despite my vocal protest and a turned up nose, my wife insisted on serving this comfort food from her childhood. After three years I embraced goulash. Now on the occasional autumn evening when falling temperatures hint at winter, I find myself craving a hearty, steaming bowl of goulash.

The middle America goulash my wife craves as comfort food consists of a mixture of ground beef, canned tomatoes, onions, macaroni, and a hodge-podge of spices. On our trip to Prague, we were able to sample the Eastern European version of goulash, which bore no resemblance to the American version. The Czech goulash we ate consisted of tender chunks of beef bathed in thick, rich paprika and onion broth. It should also be noted that Czech goulash was always served with a dense dumpling to sop up the piquant broth. Washed down with a liter of beer, this dish induces a food coma.

(In the above picture, I strain to loft my beer. Note: It's as big as my head, and I have a ginormous head. I've decided that Czechs eat hearty foods like goulash, so that I have the energy to lift their liters of beer. The average Czech consumes 156.9 liters of beer per year, which leads the world. The U.S. is ranked 13th, with the average American consuming 81.6 liters.)

Once I returned home, I had to replicate this recipe. After reading several recipes, I settled on the following Wolfgang Puck recipe posted on the FoodTV website:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika (Use a good paprika; I really like Pride of Szego)
  • 1 teaspoon spicy paprika (I didn't have any spicy paprika on hand the first few times I made it, so I just substituted sweet paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Even though this dish possesses a rich flavor, it's a simple dish to prepare. I was surprised that it didn't call for the beef to be browned. Also the goulash is great reheated. As with most stews and chili, the flavor intensifies with time.
  1. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and sugar until caramelized
  2. Add the garlic and caraway seed. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the sweet and spicy paprika, marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf. Saute another minute, until fragrant.
  4. Add the tomato paste. Deglaze with the vinegar and the stock and add the pieces of beef shank, salt, and pepper.
  5. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until very tender, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
  7. Serve with dumplings***(See note below).
***Typically when I make this, I just whip up the dumpling recipe on the back of the Bisquick box, and drop the pillows of dough into my goulash pot. However for our dinner and a movie, I made Knedliky, a tradition Czech dumpling. I'll share that recipe at a later time.

Take care,

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Great Plains are Alive with the Sound of Music

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

This morning we’re preparing for our dinner and a movie, which will be our way of reliving last year’s trip to Austria. Yesterday I shared our dinner menu. Today, I’ll share some background on our movie choice, The Sound of Music.

The Confidence Fountain in Salzburg:

I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me

While I grew up listening to Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Tom. T. Hall, my wife cut her musical teeth on a steady diet of showtunes. This is just one of the differences that make our marriage interesting.

Prior to meeting my wife, I had never viewed The Sound of Music in its entirety. In her world Julie Andrews was like a member of the family, so I was quickly indoctrinated to the sanctity of The Sound of Music. Today you’ll even find the soundtrack on my Ipod right there with Mr. Cash and Mr. Haggard. Now I’ve found that having Julie Andrews on a road trip is essential. When I annoy my wife by suggesting we stop at every roadside stand or historic site, playing a little “Do-Re-Mi” is perfect antidote to smooth out all of the rough edges.

(Picture the Von Trapp kids prancing around the edge of this fountain)

On our trip to Austria, Salzburg was one of the highlights for my wife because it served as the backdrop for much of The Sound of Music. We stayed at the Sheraton, which is right next to Mirabell Gardens, the site of the “Do-Re-Mi” musical montage of Julie Andrews prancing around with the Von Trapp children.

What does all of this have to do with food? Well, I shared this background to setup my next story . . .

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dinner and a Movie: The Sound of Music

Last year at this time, I was enjoying my first trip to Europe. I wrote about my adventures to Grinzing in an earlier post, but there's much more to report. For example:

I roamed the streets of Vienna, enjoyed robust coffee, and savored delicate pastries that were works of art. If you enlarge the below picture, you'll see the world famous Cafe Demel in the background.

I posed in front of a statue of Goethe. Later in Salzburg, I ate at Europe's oldest restaurant, which happens to be the alleged meeting site of Faust and Mephistopheles.
I tasted various flavors of German Schnapps, which are quite different from the syrupy stuff we get her in the states, with my mother-in-law.

I took a cruise along the Danube through the Wachau Valley

We toured the beautiful town Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Czech Republic.

It was a trip of a lifetime, and tomorrow we'll relive it with a dinner and a movie hosted by my lovely wife.. Our meal will consist of the following menu:

  • Various European cheeses
  • A Czech style chicken noodle soup
  • Goulash
  • Knedliky
  • Bohemian Sauerkraust
  • Czech Cucumber Salad
  • Sacher Cake
  • Viennese Coffe
  • Austrian Wine: Grüner Veltliner
Our movie will be The Sound of Music - more on that later.

Take care,