Monday, March 31, 2008

Rustic Country Bread

I mentioned in previous posts that I recently attended a class taught by the experts at King Arthur Flour on the craft of baking artisan breads. What is an artisan bread? This is a question people often ask me when I tell them about the class, so allow me to field this question.

  1. An artisan bread possesses a very crisp, thick, and hearty crust that is achieved through high heat (500 degrees) and steam.
  2. Artisan breads aren't baked in a pan - generally they're shaped in a variety of shapes like a boule, batard, torpedo, or epi.
  3. Artisan breads achieve their flavors through a series of 3-4 slow rises, so baking artisan bread is very time consuming.
  4. Through a series of slow rises and a high water content, artisan breads produce a crumb that is airy, very porous, and full of lovely holes.
  5. A lot of soul and love goes into a loaf of artisan bread.
I fell in love with artisan breads the first time I visited Wheatfield's Bakery in Lawrence. The crunch of the crust and the chewy, tender crumb of their bread shifted the way I viewed bread. It was an ephipany. Prior to Wheatfield's bread was a supporting character in a dinner production. After Wheatfield's I saw that bread could stand alone in the spotlight. Bread could be the meal.

I set out to learn to bake such bread, and while I've made great progess, I'm still learning.

I first learned to bake a ciabatta, and it took me almost two years to somewhat master it. Now I feel more comfortable as I approach other breads. However, I'm still learning, and I don't always nail a bread on my first attempt. For example, it took me two attempts to feel good about the bread below.

Breads like this aren't for the convenience food or drive-thru window crowd. This bread takes time, energy, and patience. However, the energy put into this bread is well worth it. This bread will make grown men swoon.

Now no one ever told me the secret to artisan bread baking, but ol' muddywaters is going to share that secret with you. Are you ready? Here's the secret to a good artisan bread.

  • Artisan breads should have a high water content. The dough will be wet and difficult to work with at first. Fight the urge to add too much flour. Also, handle your dough with care. Be patient and don't over handle to dough.

If you do these two things, you'll be well on your way to becoming an artisan bread baker.

Rustic Country Bread
A King Arthur Flour Recipe


1 cup cool water

2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose flour

A pinch of active dry or instant yeast


All of the polish

1 cup cool water

1 ½ teaspoons active dry or instant yeast

1 ½ teaspoons salt

3 to 3 ½ cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Combine the polish ingredients and mix until well blended. At this point, it will look like this:

Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight.The polish should be spongy, bubbly, and quite wet.It might look something like this:

At this point, you can begin making the bread or you can place the poolish in the fridge and make the bread 2-3 days later.

In a large bowl, combine the risen polish, water, salt, yeast, and enough flour to make a cohesive soft dough. Knead the dough using your mixer’s dough hook for 7-8 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for a few minutes, covered. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 45 minutes in a warm place, until almost doubled in bulk.

The dough is now ready to fold. To fold dough, lightly dust the dough and work surface with flour. Using a dough scraper, invert the dough onto the work surface. Gently stretch and pat the dough to deflate it, then fold the dough in thirds, like a letter. Turn dough 90 degrees and fold like a letter again. Pick up the folded package of dough, invert it, and gently place it back into the bowl. The dough will be noticeably tighter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes.

Fold the dough again, cover, and let it rise another 45 minutes.

Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a bench knife, divide the dough in half and gently pre-shape in into rounds by drawing the cut edges together so that the smooth outer surface becomes the top of the dough ball, and the other side, with the edges drawn together, becomes the bottom. Cover and let rest on a lightly floured for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven (and baking stone, if you’re suing one) to 500 degrees F. Shape the dough as desired and set on . Cover and let rise in a warm place until dough is not quite doubled in bulk, 40 to 45 minutes.

Just before baking, gently slash the loaves. Slide them onto the baking stone.

***Fill the oven with steam and close the door.

Bake for 5 minutes, reduce the temperature to 475 degrees and bake until done, about 25 minutes (internal temperature should be 205 degrees F.)

Remove the bread and cool on a rack.

***Steam allows dough to rise to its full potential and helps to create a crunch crust. To create a steamy oven at home, try this: Place an empty cast iron skillet in the bottom of your oven to preheat with your baking stone. Just before it’s time to bake, pour ½ cup of water in the skillet.

Above is a bread shape called an epi or a sheaf of wheat. It's an impressive decorative design that is really quite easy to do. I was the kid in elementary school who always used too much glue or wh0 couldn't color inside the lines, but I easily mastered cutting an epi the first time. For directions, visit the following site:

Happy baking,

Carolina BBQ

I've never been bitter about Roy Williams leaving Kansas to go home to North Carolina. I still respect Coach Williams, and I appreciate his contributions to the University of Kansas basketball legacy.

To celebrate the KU-NC Final Four game, I plan on preparing pulled pork BBQ, Carolina style with coleslaw. More on that later.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk,

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mahnomin Porridge

At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

"This porridge is too hot!" she exclaimed.

So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.

"This porridge is too cold," she said

So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.

"Ahhh, this porridge is just right," she said happily and she ate it all up.

***From "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"

I always found this story disturbing, especially the part about her sleeping in their beds. That's downright creepy. I bet she rifled through their underwear drawers also. However, her greatest atrocity came when she ate their breakfast. Eating another man's (or bear's) breakfast just ain't civil.

This story first introduced me to porridge. I had no idea what it was, but I thought it was similar to oatmeal. It turns out I was right. According to wikipedia, porridge is a simple dish made by boiling oats and sometimes a mixture of other grains in milk or water. I also learned the following interesting facts about porridge
  1. In parts of Asia porridge is fed to horses and donkeys (This fact just makes me smile. "Honey, I'm going out to the barn to feed the donkeys their porridge.").
  2. Gruel is a form of porridge, but it's usually a thinner consistency, so that people can drink it (I might make some gruel for my daughter because I think it would be fun to scream, "Drink your gruel, or you'll get no dessert!).
  3. Every October Scotland hosts the World Porridge Making Championships, where contestants battle for the Golden Spurtle Trophy. A spurtle is a special spoon used to stir porridge. For you curious souls, here's a picture of spurtle (I won't comment on the phallic nature of it. I'd be embarrassed to whip this out of my kitchen drawer):
  4. Many cultures use porridge to nurse the sick back to health.
When I read on about the Mahnomin Porridge served at Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis, I thought it sounded interesting, but something I'd never try. For the record, I've never craved porridge. I've never been fan of hot breakfast cereals like oatmeal, mush, or grits. However, I think some of it has to do with its unappealing name. I think the name porridge turns most people off to the dish. In fact, very few people ordered it when it first appeared on Hell's Kitchen's menu. Then they started giving it away, but people still balked at trying it. Eventually, people tried the dish, realized it was heavenly, and now it's a popular menu item.

Last week I had the privilege of eating at Hell's Kitchen, and I was still reluctant to try it. However, the snowy weather and my lumberjack attitude prompted me to give the porridge a try, and when I tried the first bite I was a porridge convert. At that moment I wanted to be porridge's new PR man, spreading the gospel of this great dish. So here I am blogging about it.

Like most restaurant dishes that bring a glint to my eye, I'm always inspired to replicate the dish at home. This drives my wife nuts. She doesn't understand why I would go to all the trouble. She doesn't understand why I just can't enjoy the dish at the restaurant, where it's something special, a treat. Now my wife is partially right. For some reason she's always right and I'm wrong. This is the gospel truth. However, believing that I'm right, I usually respond with a two-pronged response:

  1. I could make this dish for a fraction of what they're charging me at the restaurant.
  2. What if someday we live somewhere like Moscow, Kansas, where there's not a wide range of restaurants.? Wouldn't it be nice to have a husband, who can prepare a huge repertoire of dishes?
In which she responds:

  1. We'll never live in Moscow, Kansas.
  2. We can afford to occasionally eat a meal at a restaurant. There's nothing wrong with occasionally treating ourselves.
She's probably right, but I still insist on replicating recipes I encounter on restaurant menus.

This morning I made the Mahnomin Porridge.

Mahnomin Porridge

(Photo from


4 cups cooked wild rice

¼ cup pure maple syrup

¼ cup dried blueberries

¼ cup craisins

½ cup roasted, cracked hazelnuts

1 cup heavy cream


  1. In a heavy non-stick sautee pan, add the cooked wild rice, heavy cream, and maple syrup, and warm through.
  2. Add the blueberries, craisins, and hazelnuts, and stir to mix well.
  3. Serve in a bowl with sides of warm heavy cream and maple syrup.
Now my attempt at Mahnomin Porridge wasn't quite as good as Hell's Kitchen, but it still was pretty darn good. I think, there are three things I could do to improve the porridge:

  1. I used half and half, and using heavy cream would improve my porridge.
  2. I could toast my hazlenuts in a skillet. I stepped this step, so I could stuff my face. Toasting or roasting nuts would definitely give the nuts a more pronounced flavor.
  3. I could use a better quality maple syrup. I don't really know anything about maple syrup, so I just grabbed the cheapest bottle, a $3.50 bottle of Maple Grove Farms: U.S. grade A Dark Amber. I've been cooking long enough to know that sometimes the quality of ingredients does matter, so I'll research maple syrups and find a better one to use with this recipe. This might be the most important thing I could do to improve the recipe.
I also think you could experiment with the ingredients a bit. Pecans would work in place of hazlenuts. If you don't have wild rice, you could probably use a white rice. Also, you could add a little cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla to change the flavor of this recipe. Overall, I'm happy with my results, and I look forward to enjoying this porridge on a cold, snowy, day.

Happy eating,

Friday, March 28, 2008

Rock Chalk Jayhawk

It's another beautiful day in the Jayhawk Nation today. I've been thinking about the KU-Villanova basketball game all day. I'm just sitting, nervously waiting for the game. With my tummy cartwheeling to Queasy Town, this is one of the few times this year I'm not thinking about food. This is quite an anomaly.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Texas Stir-Fry

I intended to post this recipe last night, but I didn't end up preparing it. I recently baked some bread and noticed some leftover Easter ham in the fridge, so grilled ham and cheese sandwiches were on our dinner menu.

In Tuesday's entry, I shared my recipe for perfect rice. Today I'm going to share a recipe that uses that rice. The recipe is adapted from RiceSelect, a company based in Alvin, Texas, which happens to be Nolan Ryan's hometown. RiceSelect grows some outstanding rices, so if you spot any of their products on grocery store shelves, I recommend purchasing something.

Feel free to deviate from this recipe. I always stick with the cilantro, beans, rice, and lime juice as my base recipe, but I've been known to substitute the other ingredients. Chicken, pork, or tofu can be substituted for beef. If I'm really craving the taste of beef, I don't season the meat with anything but salt and pepper. Sometimes corn or red peppers go into the stir-fry. Sometimes I leave the tomatoes out. Sometimes I use another variety of onion. You probably get the point. I'm sure you'll find a combination to fit your family's tastes.

Texas Stir-Fry

  • 3 cups cooked Texmati® Rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 can (16 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 to 4 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. of sirloin steak or sirloin tip cut against the grain into strips.
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil
  1. Season the strips of steak with the chili powder, salt, garlic powder, and pepper mixture.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok and stir-fry the steak until browned. Then remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add onions and garlic to drippings; stir-fry 30 seconds.
  4. Add remaining ingredients except rice; stir-fry 2-3 minutes. Stir in steak; heat through.
  5. Serve over hot Texmati rice.

Note: When I prepared this dish tonight, I added the rice during step 4. Following the above directions, might give the dish a nicer presentation. Next time I prepare this dish, I'll prepare it this way and post pictures.

Happy eating,

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rice, Rice, Baby!

The blog author, muddywaters, circa 1984. Am I wearing a Garanimals polo?)
(Picture Courtesy of Pomona High School yearbook)

Let's travel back to the winter of 1984 to Pomona High School. I'm practicing with the freshmen basketball team in some ball-handling drill. I'm gracelessly and sluggishly handling the basketball like it was a watermelon, but I'm doing it with the enthusiasm of kid who has dreams of being the next Dr. J. When the head coach pulls me out of a drill to have a man-to-man talk with me, my pulse quickens. The varsity coach wanted to talk to me - Naively, I thought this was good sign. He asked me how things were going. Still under the delusion that I was going to be promoted to varsity ranks, I enthusiastically said, "Great!"

Then he dropped a bombshell suggestion, "Maybe you should quit the team and take stats for us."

At that moment, I understood the for the first time the meaning of the word crestfallen, but I still agreed to his proposition and finished my high school career as the stat man for my high school basketball team. To this day, I'm still grateful for my coach's honesty.

Now you're probably wondering what this has to do with food. Well, my friends, today I'm here to talk about fundamentals, the basics that form the foundation of an art like cooking. As a youngster I never mastered basic basketball skills like dribbling, passing, or shooting the ball. It's difficult to bring your "A" game when the fundamentals are absent.

Since I strive to always bring my "A" game to the kitchen, I periodically set out on a quest to perfect a simple cooking process or skill, so that it's automatic and done well. In the kitchen I constantly strive to master the little things. Last year I'm embarked on a journey to perfectly cook rice. Prior to my quest, my rice turned out lumpy, mushy, and possessing the flavor of wallpaper paste. My rice would be right at home on a hospital cafeteria tray alongside the turkey loaf.

I wanted to cook rice that possessed a fluffy, airy quality while maintaining its shape and good consistency. This business of cooking rice was foreign to me. As a child we never ate a lot of rice, unless it was Spanish rice or some other boxed Rice-O-Roni dish. In our Kansas household the potato was the King of the Starches. No meal was complete without potatoes.

I credit much of my rice education to Cooks Illustrated. In fact, this is usually the first source I'll turn to when strive to master a process.

To perfectly cook rice, you'll need the following:
  • 2 teaspoons of oil
  • 1 cup of Basmiti Rice (You could simply use a white, long-grained rice, but I like the texture, flavor, and aroma of Basmiti Rice. Typically, this rice is grown in India, but a similar variety called Texmiti is grown by RiceSelect. I prefer the Texas-grown variety because I believe it's superior in taste and aroma.)
  • 1 1/2 cups of water (I sometimes use just 1 1/4 cups of water if I want a nuttier texture.)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  1. Begin by heating the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Once the oil is heated, stir in the rice. Occasionally stir until the rice develops a pleasant, popcorn-like aroma.
  3. Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil.
  4. Turn the burner to low, cover the rice, and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the burner and allow the rice to sit with the lid on for another 15 minutes.
  6. Remove lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
Now you should have perfectly cooked rice. You can serve it as is, or you can use this in a variety of other rice dishes. Over the next few days, I'll share a few of my favorite rice recipes along with a few new ones. Stay tuned.

Tomorrow - Texas Stir Fry
Thursday - Rice Pilaf/Cilantro-Lime Rice
Friday - No blog. I get the night off to watch the Jayhawks in the NCAA Tournament
Saturday - Mahnomin Porridge

P.S. This is by no means the definitive way to cook rice. This is just the method that I prefer. I'm no expert. I'm just a smalltown Kansas boy, who can't play basketball, but who loves to cook.

Some cooks advocate rinsing the rice with water before cooking it. I don't normally do this, but feel free to do so.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fabulous Yellow Roman Candles

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”

***From On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Two weeks ago I trekked to Topeka to attend the King Arthur Flour Baking Class on baking artisan breads. I had lofty expectations going into the class, and the class exceeded those expectations. A little over three hundred people attended the class, and I felt a kinship with all who attended. It’s reaffirming to be surrounded by individuals who shared my passion. There are times when I feel like a bit of a freak because I spend entirely too much time thinking about food. I’m sure when non-foodies listen to me ramble on about food they feel much the way Forrest Gump felt when Bubba listed the various ways his family prepared shrimp. I think incessantly about food, but fortunately, I refrain from talking ad nauseam about my culinary obsession. This blog is providing a healthy outlet to indulge my passion and obsession.

It was comforting to be in a room where everyone “Oohed and aahed” as a poolish transformed from a glob to beautiful strands of gluten. I felt at home with an audience who stared in awe and amazements as the presenter gracefully kneaded a wet dough that would leave most of us covered in a “gloppy” mess. I feel good knowing that there are people at there who feel compelled to spend a day making a single loaf of bread. In a world where convenience foods and drive-thru windows dot the culinary landscape, it felt good knowing that there are over three hundred people out there who feel passionate about spending an entire day creating a loaf of bread. I appreciate individuals who go against the grain, and who embrace the simple things in life that most people overlook. The class extolled the virtues of patience, slowing down, sharpening the senses, and simplifying things. This whole Artisan bread baking is a metaphor for how to live life. I’m sure a lot of people don’t understand why I would dedicate so much time, energy, and attention to a loaf of bread.

What I learned:

I learned that I probably use too much flour in most breads because I don’t measure my flour properly. I’ve always just scooped my measuring cup into the flour and packed it full of the amount called for in a recipe. When it comes to artisan breads, less flour is better. To develop those lovely, artistic holes in the crumb, a baker needs a wet dough to fully develop this gluten.

When I shared this revelation about measuring flour with my wife who is a fine baker of decadent desserts, she responded, “Duh! I could have told you this. Brown sugar’s about the only thing that you pack firmly to measure.” I guess, wisdom sleeps in the bed next to me every night. I guess, this is a little parable that stresses the importance of communication in a marriage. Simply talking to my wife would have given me access to this little nugget of wisdom.

In a previous post on my beer bread, I shared my tale of woe revolving around my inability to effectively slash a loaf of bread. I learned that to slash my bread I need a lame, which is basically a razor blade on a stick. Our instructor informed us that most kitchen knives aren’t sharp enough to effectively slash bread, so I will purchase a lame or some razor blades.

I left the class feeling more passionate about baking, and I plan on applying my lessons learned in the class to my baking. I look forward to sharing these lessons with you.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Home Sweet Home

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

***T.S. Eliot

The Greasy Skillet is back in Lawrence, Kansas. On my recent trip to Minnesota, the "Skillet" was placed on the back burner. I spent most of time with family, and posting on my family's blog. However, Minnesota inspired several ideas for future blog entries. Tomorrow I hope to start posting on a regular basis.

I knew it was time to come home when I entered a Brainerd bar this past Thursday. The patrons stared at televisions throughout the bar and were whooping and hollering, sounds I associate with the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. However, these Minnesotans weren't inflicted with March Madness; instead, they were fanatically watching ice hockey. No one in the bar seemed to care that the NCAA Tournament was taking place. At that moment I was homesick. I needed to get home to Lawrence, Kansas, where glassy-eyed fans camped out in front of televisions for four straight days as the first two rounds of the tournament transpired. It was nice to get home to the Jayhawk Nation and see the Hawks make the Sweet 16.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hell's Kitchen

A light blanket of snow fell on the Twin Cities last night. This called for a hearty breakfast, so this morning we drove to downtown Minneapolis to dine at Hell’s Kitchen. I’m not going to beat around the bush with this review. The food at Hell’s Kitchen was heavenly; With each bite I think I heard angels sing. Stop reading this blog, hop in your car, drive to Minneapolis, and order everything on the menu. You won’t be disappointed.

For those of you familiar with Lawrence, KS., Hell’s Kitchen reminded me of the now defunct Paradise Café. The artwork of Ralph Steadman, who illustrated Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, decorated the restaurant, which earned points from me. The restaurant earned immediate points for my daughter when our server brought her a small toolbox full of toys to keep her entertained. After our earlier “spicy taco’ incident that sent our family into a tailspin, I’ve been on edge each time we dine at a restaurant. This kid-friendly touch helped put me at ease. The menu also contained several options for kids that were healthy and inexpensive. My daughter opted for the waffles with a side of fruit that contained a nice fresh mix of blueberries, blackberries and strawberries for under $5.00.

My wife, who is the pancake queen, ordered lemon ricotta pancakes that were fluffy and bursting with so much flavor that syrup wasn’t needed. The snow that morning inspired me to eat a breakfast fit for a lumberjack, so I ordered a breakfast sandwich, consisting of bacon, eggs, mayo, and tomatoes between two slices of grilled sourdough bread. However, I didn’t stop there. I also ordered the Mahnomin Porridge, which is made from Minnesota wild rice, blueberries, cranberries, and hazlenuts all moistened with a mix of warm maple syrup and cream. I know porridge doesn’t appeal to most people, but this dish was a revelation to me. It’s one of the most original breakfast dishes I’ve ever tasted. In fact, it might be the best thing I’ve eaten all year. I can see myself embarking on a quest to replicate the recipe at home.

If you’re ever in the Twin Cities, do yourself a favor and eat at Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a meal that I will reminisce about when I’m on my deathbed.

Happy eating,


P.S. The following is a recipe for Mahnomin Porridge I found on the web. When I make the recipe, I’ll blog about it.

Mahnomin Porridge


4 cups cooked wild rice

¼ cup pure maple syrup

¼ cup dried blueberries

¼ cup craisins

½ cup roasted, cracked hazelnuts

1 cup heavy cream


  1. In a heavy non-stick sautee pan, add the cooked wild rice, heavy cream, and maple syrup, and warm through.
  2. Add the blueberries, craisins, and hazelnuts, and stir to mix well.
  3. Serve in a bowl with sides of warm heavy cream and maple syrup.

Courtesy of: Hell's Kitchen

D'Amico and Sons

Greetings! The Greasy Skillet is coming to you from the Twin Cities. I struggle to write and travel because I lack the discipline, so be patient with me. Normally my ideas for The Greasy Skillet stew for a few days, and then I patiently hammer out the writing. Today’s blog is a bit more organic.

Last night I snapped and lost my cool. Some of you know that traveling with a 4-year-old isn’t always a joy, especially when it comes to dining. After my daughter fussed about her taco being too spicy, I threatened her with meals of lunchmeat sandwiches and carrots served within the confines of our hotel room for the rest of the vacation. In later blog entries I’ll write more about my daughter’s finicky eating habits.

However, today I’m pleased to say that my little come-to-Jesus meeting with my daughter reaped positive results today. Dining with her has been a joy today, especially this evening’s meal at D’Amico and Sons in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina.

Before I write about the meal, let me just say that in The Greasy Skillet I will generally write about positive dining experiences. There are numerous restaurants that I dislike, but I want my blog to emanate a positive energy. I’ll share my passions, and I’ll save my gripes for a time when I’ve had one too many drinks. Gradually, you’ll see where I’m coming from when it comes to food, but I want to share a little background on the criteria I use to evaluate a dining experience. I’m not a food snob. My favorite foods are simple affairs, but I do demand two things from a restaurant. First, I want to feel good about the dining experience. I should feel good paying my hard-earned money to eat a meal away from home, a place where the meals are usually very good. If I eat at a bad or average restaurant, I start computing how many quality meals I could prepare for the money I flopped down on so-so food. Second, I want the restaurant I’m dining at to be proud and passionate about their food. They should be providing more than a product. Later I’ll work out this criteria, and I’ll try to write a complete blog conveying it.

D’Amico and Sons met the above criteria. The restaurant is an informal Italian eatery where you order at the counter. However, ordering at the counter isn’t a chaotic, stressful experience like most places because the staff is calm, helpful, and passionate about the food. At the counter there’s a deli case displaying their various salads and sandwiches. I opted for one of their signature wood-fired pizzas, the Smoked Mozzarella Prosciutto and Pepperoncini pizza. My wife chose to have the penne pasta and Italian sausage, and my finicky daughter selected a “sauceless” pizza with only cheese. When our food was brought to the table, we were immediately satisfied with our choices. Now I’m not going to spend a lot of time describing the taste of everything because I’m feeling a bit rushed to post this. I’ll improve with experience. Let me just say that dining at this restaurant provided the perfect end to our perfect day. Good food has the power to provide the exclamation point to a fantastic day.

The restaurant also serves several unique and quality salads and sandwiches, making it a perfect lunch stop. If I ever return, I’m going to order the salad sampler that allows the customer to select any three salads to sample. While we dined a steady flow of traffic entered the restaurant to pickup carryout for home. The restaurant had a neighbor vibe of place where families come in on a regular basis. I’d love to return in the summer and pickup food for a family picnic in one of the Twin Cities fine parks. There are several D’Amico and Sons across the Twin Cities Metro and one in Naples, Florida. If you’re ever in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, I recommend making a stop at D’Amico and Sons.

Take care,

P.S. This was my first experience snapping photos of food in a restaurant. I felt a bit awkward, but I think I'll grow accustomed to it. Next time I'll try to get more pictures of the restaurant. I few good pictures of the menu board and deli case would have spiced up this review.

Friday, March 14, 2008

On the Road

And that's the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind. ~Dave Barry

I still need to report on my experiences at the King Arthur Flour Baking Class, but I'll save it for a later time. I've been busy getting The Greasy Skillet ready for a road trip. Tomorrow we hit the road for the 2nd Family Spring Break Road Trip. Last year we headed south to San Antonio. This year we're taking an unconventional approach and heading north to Minnesota, a state I've never had the priviledge of visiting. When I tell people this, they seem very perplexed and concerned by our travel plans. I understand the concern and confusion. With Lawrence, Kansas, basking in glorious Spring weather, it seems foolish to head somewhere that will definetely be colder than our hometown. I don't really have a good rationale other than that I love to travel. I'm grateful for any opportunity to travel. I don't need some glamarous or chic destination. As long as I hear the hum of the wheels on the highway, I'm happy. I am one of the few who actually savors driving I-70 across western Kansas and eastern Colorado. Yes, I am a freak. Luckily, I married a woman who feels the same way, and I think, our daughter shares our love of the open road. My daughter's quite the road warrior for a 4-year old; last year we traveled to San Antonio and back home without once using a newly purchased portable DVD player to entertain her.

Sure, we appreciate the convenience of hopping on a plane and quickly arriving at a destination, but the best way to experience America is via the ol' blacktop. How did I develop this love of the open road. Perhaps, the following will give you a little background:

My love of the open road doesn’t have a storied beginning. I wasn’t born on a greyhound bus, nor were my parents hippies who roamed American during the sixties. My story begins with a childhood in a small Kansas town. Specifically, my story begins with a puzzle of the United States that my grandparents had at their house. I guess, initially, I was intrigued with how the pieces went together because I would spend hours taking it apart and putting it back together. Once I grew a little older I became cognizant of where Kansas was on the map, and I started to ponder my relationship to the rest of the United States. It started with simple childhood questions: I wonder what the weather is like in Wyoming? What do the trees look like there? What are the people like? How long would it take to get there?

My curiosity grew as I would spend entire winter afternoons tucked away at my grandma and grandpa Ecord’s house flipping through old issues of National Geographic. I studied maps the way some boys studied the back of their baseball cards. These maps fed my desire to see what existed beyond the city limits of Pomona, Kansas. I took any opportunity to hit the road and travel. My Vagabond Spirit was fueled by my grandfather, who drove a milk route for a short time. I always relished having the opportunity to ride along with him as a traversed the gravel roads of Kansas making stops along his route. When I travel some of the same road today, I can still see me sitting high in the cab of his truck, viewing the landscape of rural Kansas through a cracked windshield, as we rambled and chugged down roads I’d never been down. I loved the feeling of going down a road I had never traveled before. I still love it. Recently I’ve developed the habit of using an old Rand-McNally atlas to highlight all the roads I’ve traveled in my lifetime.

Traveling with my grandfather was the extent of my travels as a child. I never traveled as a child because we never took family trips. I guess, this stemmed from the fact that my parents started a family when they were extremely young, so money for a vacation wasn’t in the family coffers. However, we occasionally took Sunday drives, a ritual that held deep significance for me.

Upon graduating from college, I had only been in three states. The farthest west I had been was Abilene, Kansas, while Branson, Missouri was the farthest east I had been. The deepest I had ever trekked to the south was Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the furthest north I traveled was Highland, Kansas. I graduated from college seeing only approximately a 720 square mile section of the United States. Had I truly obtained an education? There was much lacking. I vowed that I would someday be a tap into my vagabond spirit and see the country.

However, this didn’t happen immediately. During the summer after my first year of teaching, I decided to get a job. Somehow supplementing my income seemed much more practical than following my spirited whims. I denied my dreams and who I wanted to become for the sake of being practical.

However, I would eventually reach an epiphany. I very rarely reach epiphanies on my accord. Usually others help me in my revelations. I guess, I’ve been blessed to meet the right people in my life. So instead of staying in central Kansas for the summer, I rented an apartment in Lawrence, Kansas and began to work for the city. The city of Lawrence initially assigned me to work with the street department, so my summers would be spent shoveling hot asphalt into potholes. Fortunately I was rescued from this chore before I even hit street. My first morning on the job I was reassigned to the traffic light division. I had no idea what this meant, but I knew I was in for an interesting experience when a pony-tailed, ex-hippie named John Craver came to take me to the traffic light division, which was on the other side of town. John quickly became a quick friend and influence on my life. I listened intently as he told stories of his travels, misadventures during the sixties, and his current interests, which involved music, barbequing, music, history, and of course, traveling. At one point during a conversation, John said to me, “Man, if I had my summers off like you, I’d hit the road.” Somehow in the daily grind of life I had forgotten to follow my dreams. Later that summer I quit working early and headed to New Mexico with a buddy.

It took me working with John another summer before his words sank in completely. The next summer I set out to see an ex-girlfriend who lived in Washington D.C. On that trip I camped along the way as I traveled through Arkansas, Tennessee, and up through Virginia. My romantic notion of life on the road quickly vanished as I endured evening thunderstorms, wet sleeping bags, and loneliness. In Virginia I decided that I had enough of the monotonous hum of the interstate, so I exited it and traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once on the parkway, I rolled down my window, let the car coast along at 35 mph, and I took my time. In the beautiful vistas of the Shenandoah Valley, the conversations with other travelers, and reflections in my journal, I found my Vagabond Spirit.

The next summer I set off for Yellowstone National Park. Once again, I struggled with finding my Vagabond Spirit, but three days into the trip I found it as I stood on a ferry that crossed the Snake River, and I had a conversation with a man in his 80’s who reminisced to me about his boyhood in Montana and his experiences on a similar ferry that was used to cross the Missouri.

Now that I’m married, I realize that those trips were sacred. I will never have the opportunity to travel like that again. While I occasionally wax nostalgically about those days, I still embrace the present, and the new opportunities of being a father and husband. I’m eager to share my passion for traveling with my family.

I’m still much too conservative and grounded for my own good at times. While this is a quality that makes me loyal, dependable, and reliable, it has also limited my opportunities. Many of my greatest moments in my life were a result of me throwing caution the wind, abandoning a plan, and acting on pure impulse and intuition. This approach has led me to several defining experiences, been a source of great stories, led me to my current vocation, and ultimately it led me to my wife. I’m grateful for these privileges life has bestowed upon me, and I’m glad that I’ve been given the opportunity to become myself in this lifetime.

Occasionally, I lose touch with my vagabond spirit. I think, this is natural. To quote Springsteen, “We lose ourselves in work to do and bills to pay. . .” I try to keep in touch with the Vagabond Spirit. I have my touchstones: Walt Whitman, Jack Kerouac, John Craver, Charles Kuralt, William Least Heat-Moon, Robert Pirsig, Todd Vincent, Tom J0ad, Woody Guthrie, and Douglas Brinkley. I admire the spirits of these individuals.

My formulation of a life philosophy is a work in progress. I imagine and hope that it will always be this way, a comfortable rambling where day by day I discover what truly makes me happy.

I look forward to sharing Minnesota with you,

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Giddy School Boy

Tonight I'm traveling to Topeka to attend the King Arthur Flour Company National Baking Class. The class is on Crusty Artisan Breads, and the class description reads as follows:

Understand the basics of traditional breads. Gain insight into starters, sponges and pre-ferments. Learn shaping techniques for boules, baguettes, epis and decorative presentation breads. Discover the secret to a crisp crust and chewy interior. Learn about baking stones, bannetons, couches and slashing techniques.

I know this isn't a sporting event, a night drinking with the guys, or any traditional testosterone-laced activity, but by God, I'm psyched. I'm approaching this class with great gusto because at the core I'm a giddy school boy who loves an opportunity to learn. When I was a towheaded lad getting ready to begin kindergarten, I fell in love with the possibilities learning had to offer. I loved the feeling that filled my soul as I clutched a Big Chief Tablet or as I opened my box of Crayola Crayons. I loved the sense of anticipation that tickled me as I opened my school supply box, which was armed with a plethora of writing, art, and creative utensils. I still love having the tools of creation at my disposal, and I still love school and the prospect of learning something new.

Today I continue to be a lifelong learner, and with each passing day, I realize that there are so many things that I don't know. I see my ignorance as opportunity. In the words of Jack London, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” This drive and passion led me to the following experiences during the past few years: Devouring a muffuletta at Central Grocery in the French Quarter, canoeing an eighteen mile stretch of the Mississippi River, immersing myself in the art and history of barbequing, studying Southern cuisine, enjoying a cup of coffee in Vienna, and learning about the history of the America West. Life is a huge buffet table with a wide array of tasty dishes, and I have every intention of bellying up to the table and gorging myself on the experiences that exist in this big ol' universe.

Tonight I'll be in the front row armed with questions and soaking up any knowledge that comes my way.

Keepin' it real,

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Black Bean and Corn Salad

With temperatures in Lawrence, Kansas, inching towards the seventies, I'm itching to crack open my summer cookbook. I realize this is premature, so I'm trying to pull back the reins a bit. However, I couldn't resist fixing one of my favorite summer recipes to accompany some grilling I did tonight. This simple, fresh, and healthy salad is the perfect companion to most summer meals. It can be served as a salad or used as a dip for tortilla chips. It's also great because it keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days.

I also chose to make this dish to redeem myself for my poor photograph in yesterday's entry. What was that mystery meat? It certainly didn't look like a skirt steak. With this colorful salad, I thought it would be easy to snap an appealing photograph. I did O.K.

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  • 2 garlic cloves minced

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 large ears)

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes

  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper

  • 3/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (I usually use 1 tsp of dried oregano)

  • 1 (19-ounce) can black beans rinsed and drained


  1. Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add corn; sauté 8 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan; cool completely.
  2. Combine juice and next 4 ingredients (lime juice through salt), stirring with a whisk. Combine corn mixture, tomatoes, and remaining ingredients. Drizzle juice mixture over corn mixture, and toss gently to coat.
  3. Serve cold or at room temperature


Monday, March 10, 2008


The Arctic air has pounded my morale into submission, but yesterday's 50 degree weather rejuvenated my soul. The beautiful weather in Lawrence, Kansas, was a much-needed gift. Much of my day was spent outdoors, and with the extended daylight, I completed my perfect day by grilling fajitas. The primal duo of fire and eating meat provided the perfect closure to my day.

When it comes to grilling and barbecuing, simplicity is my general philosophy. Back in when I was on a the Southern Foodways Alliance tour of Texas BBQ joints, I asked Roy Perez, the pitmaster at Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, what the secret was to his brisket. He told me it was just salt, pepper, and time.


This marinade is more complex than salt and pepper, but it's still quick, easy, and simple. You'll find most of these ingredients already in your pantry:

Fajita Marinade

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large clove garlic, pressed

  • 3 teaspoons vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Dash onion powder

I usually marinate one chicken breast and a skirt steak, which is about 1 1/2 pounds of meat. I only marinate the meat for a few hours, which imparts a good, strong flavor. There's really no need to marinate overnight with this marinade.

Of course, you'll need to slice some onions and green peppers to go with your meat. I simply place the peppers and onions on some foil, drizzle with a little Olive oil, season with salt & pepper, wrap them up, and place the foil packet on the grill. I place the onions and peppers on the grill at the same time I start the chicken.

The chicken breast will take about 30 minutes to grill, and the skirt steak will take about 3 minutes per side. If you want it well done it might take about five minutes per side. Just cook to your liking.

NOTE: Be sure to slice the skirt steak against the grain.

Happy eating,

Friday, March 7, 2008

Kitchen Songs

Today I’m debuting The Greasy Five, a new monthly feature on my blog. It’s my homage to one of my favorite books, Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. In that book the protagonist and his friends pass time by compiling and sharing Top-Five lists. This is my spin on this form of creative loafing.

The Greasy Five
Songs for the Kitchen
  • “Ho Cake” by Mofro – When the swamp-groove funk of Mofro swaggers from my speakers, I always feel compelled to dance, cook, or eat. Sometimes I simultaneously do all three. This song, an ode to Southern food, rocks my shorts and skillets. Each time I hear the following verse, I chuckle:

    I love this food Lord I can't get enough
    Stick ya hands near my plate, you'll draw back a nub
    I 'member it happened back in 1978
    Daddy caught me tryin' to steal a pork chop off his plate
    He snatched it back and I gave him a little sass
    He quick whupped off the belt 'n started whuppin' on my ass
    I learned a lesson 'bout what this food can do
    It can talk yo ass in to turning black-and-blue
    So all you kids keep yo hands to yo on supper
    Cuz if you let that food do the talkin' yo tail might suffer

  • “Love Never Means Having to Say You’re Hungry” by Charlie Robison – Music, especially the blues, has a long tradition of songs about food that contain sexual innuendos. Songs like Bo Carter’s “Banana in Your Fruitbasket”, Memphis Minnie’s “My Butcher Man”, and Van Halen’s “Ice Cream Man.” This song is ripe with sexual innuendo, and I often wonder what Charlie’s wife, Emily of The Dixie Chicks, thinks when she hears this song. However, the innuendo is in the ears and mind of the listener, so maybe this song is about a guy who just really likes his wife’s cooking.

    NOTE: Charlie’s a guy who likes food. After catching his show in Kansas City a couple of years ago, I visited with him a little bit, and he gave me a Texas BBQ recommendation, Opie’s BBQ near Spicewood, Texas. When he started talking BBQ, he lit up and delivered a passionate ode to Opie’s beef ribs, something you don’t find on most BBQ restaurant menus. I told him that he should try the beef ribs at Jackstack BBQ in Kansas City.

  • “Jambalaya” by Hank Williams - As a kid I thought Hank Williams was singing in another language on this song. Even though I couldn’t decipher the lyrics, I knew that I loved the raw, earthy sound of the fiddle and the buoyancy in Hank’s normally lonesome voice. After a few years of listening to this song as a kid, I figured out that he was singing about a party, and even though I didn’t know any of the foods – jambalaya, crawfish pie, and file gumbo – served at that party, I knew that I wanted to eat with those good people on the bayou.

  • “Homegrown Tomatoes” by Guy Clark – I know that Southerners honor and praise their tomatoes, but as a child of the Great Plains, I can attest to our ardent love and passion for homegrown tomatoes. I love this song because it celebrates one of life’s simple pleasures – tomatoes.
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes

  • “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash – I could argue that this is the greatest song ever written, but I’ll save that for a time when I’m in a state of drunken exuberance. Let’s just talk about why it earns top honors on this edition of The Greasy Five. The song isn’t strictly about food, but the second verse uses food to deliver an emotional wallop:
I'd smoked my brain the night before On cigarettes and songs I'd been pickin'.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid,Cussin' at a can that he was kicking.
Then I crossed the empty street,'n caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken.
And it took me back to somethin',That I'd lost somehow, somewhere along the way
This verse conveys an essential truth about food. Food is more than food. It’s more than sustenance. In the song, food transports the narrator to a particular time and place. The smell of frying chicken reminds him of values he’s abandoned in his life. Food is more than food. When I cook and eat, I want it to be about more than simply stuffing my face. When I share a bowl of popcorn with my daughter, it’s not simply about eating the popcorn; it’s about sharing an experience.

I know that I’m not articulating myself very well, so let me just suggest that you listen to the song – it speaks for itself.

Take care,

P.S. I can't believe I didn't include any songs by Tom T. Hall or Louis Jordan. Also, I'm currently in love with the B-52's song "Rock Lobster".

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


While The Greasy Skillet is primarily a way to share my passion for food, I also want it to be a way to preserve family memories that I cherish. These writings will be of little interest to most outsiders, but I still feel compelled to record them in my blog. I feel a sense of urgency in recording these stories because I know that memories fade, and while I’m only 38-years-old and I approach life with a youthful exuberance, I know that my days are numbered. I’m passionate about recording these stories because they’re a tribute to my family, and I hope my great-grandchildren will someday read these words.

I worry and stress about perfectly preserving these memories. Since these are snapshots of individuals I love and respect, I want the words to do them justice. Using words to express love and respect is challenging, and this has kept me from putting pen to paper for a long time. I’ve decided to quit worrying about this. Even though I might come up short, I’ll continue to write because I know that it’s an act of love. Later on down the road, I’ll look back at these words and be thankful that I took the time to write them down.

I was blessed to have all of my grandparents play major roles in my life. Each left indelible marks on my identity, and I’m grateful for every moment they spent with me. This past January my grandfather passed away, so I thought I’d take some time to reflect on some of my favorite food memories involving my grandfather.

  1. Grandpa always appreciated good food. My grandma mentioned that even when Grandpa’s health deteriorated, he never lost his appetite. Regardless of the meal my grandma would prepare, he’d look at my grandmother and say, “Mom, that sure was good meal.” My grandfather was one to always acknowledge a good meal.
  2. In the summer when I stayed with my grandparents, evenings weren’t complete until we polished off a bowl of ice cream or popcorn while listening to the Kansas City Royals on the radio.
  3. About once a year, I would get together with my grandparents and make donuts. The donuts were already rising by the time I arrived. My grandmother would fry the donuts, and I was responsible for glazing the donuts. My grandfather was known for creating devices to make jobs or tasks go more smoothly, created a stainless steel contraption to assist me in the glazing.
  4. My grandfather had quite a sweet tooth, so he always had a dish full of Brach’s Candy purchased from the grocery store in Overbrook.
  5. I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s place in the country, and in the summer it was common to have weenie roasts. This was quite the ritual, and I plan on writing about it in more detail later. My grandfather taught me how to choose a good weenie roastin’ stick. Later grandpa fabricated permanent roasting sticks out of some aluminum scrap metal.
  6. My grandpa could artfully spread more jam or jelly on a biscuit than anyone I’ve ever known and not appear gluttonous.

Some would say that with the passing of my grandfather, there’s a hole in my life. All I see are mountains.

Keep on the Sunny Side,


Bistec Empanizado (Cuban Breaded Steak)

Occasionally my family will have dinner & a movie night, when we'll plan a menu around one of our favorite films. Dinner and a movie night is always an anticipated event in our household because it allows us to be creative while doing something we love and there are always suprises involved in the event. Unfortunately, the daily grind of life keeps us from doing this as frequently as we'd like. My wife has reminded me on numerous occasions that it's been awhile since I've hosted a dinner and a movie, so I'm trying to generate ideas for a possible dinner and a movie this month.

To get me in a creative mindset, Thursday night I revisited one of the recipes I used in a dinner revolving around the movie Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. The movie, set in Miami, focuses on the relationship of two senior citizens played by Richard Harris and Robert Duvall. Since Cuban culture plays a role in the film, my menu showcased Cuban cuisine. My main dish was Bistec Empanizado, a simple Cuban Bread Steak, and since it received rave reviews and I was scratching my head for possible dinner ideas, I decided to make this for dinner.

I like the simplicity of the this recipe.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 cup sour orange juice (see Note)

  • 2 tablespoons vinegar

  • 1 cup finely chopped onion

  • 1-1/2 pounds tenderized round steak

  • 1 cup cracker meal (finely ground crackers - I used Club Crackers)

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 egg whites, beaten

  • Olive oil for sauteing

  • Fresh cilantro, chopped

  • Freshly ground pepper

  1. Mix olive oil, sour orange juice, vinegar and chopped onion to make a marinade. Add unpounded beef steaks, cover, and marinate for 20 minutes.

  2. Remove steaks from marinade and place them, one at a time, between two pieces of waxed paper. Using a meat mallet, pound steak to 1/4 thickness. Return steaks to marinade. (If you are in a hurry, proceed with the remaining steps. Otherwise, refrigerate and continue marinating for 1 to 4 hours.)

  3. In a medium bowl, combine cracker meal, garlic powder and salt. Dip wet beef in egg whites, then dip in cracker mixture, coating well on both sides. Fry to desired doneness in from pan and place on plate.

Note: Sour orange juice, naranha agria, is a popular in Cuban cooking.
You can find it by the can in some Latin supermarkets. Or make your own substitution by using 2 parts orange juice, 1 part lemon juice and one part lime juice.

Nutrition facts per serving: 496 calories, 21 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 81 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrates, 42 g protein, 436 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

I served this with some sauteed spinach and cilantro-lime rice. Later I'll post the recipes for each of these dishes. I'm still not feeling comfortable snapping photos of my food. It just seems unnatural, but I'll still plug away at perfecting my culinary presentation.

Monday, March 3, 2008

If Van Gogh Painted a Sandwich: Chicken-and Brie Sandwich

When this blog begins generating millions, I’m going to commission an artist to paint portraits of my favorite sandwiches. I’ve always felt that there needed to be more works of art celebrating the beauty of a great sandwich. Somewhere there’s an artists who can do for sandwiches what C.M. Coolidge did for dogs playing poker. I’m serious about this – I never joke when it comes to a good sammie.

For me a great sandwich is all about the perfect combination of ingredients that complement without overshadowing. It’s a delicate balance that isn’t easy to achieve, but a few sandwiches rise to the occasion. The Chicken and Brie Sandwich with Roasted Tomatoes from Cooking Light deserves to be in the Sandwich Hall of Fame. I can’t think of a more satisfying spring lunch.

Chicken-and-Brie Sandwich with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Picture from Cooking Light

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

  • 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes (about 1 pound)

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1 (16-ounce) loaf French bread, cut in half horizontally

  • 3 ounces Brie cheese, sliced

  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 1 pound)

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 cups fresh spinach


  1. Preheat oven to 300°.

  2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes; cook 4 minutes, stirring once. Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons vinegar. Sprinkle tomatoes with thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Wrap handle of pan with foil; bake at 300° for 15 minutes. Keep warm.

  3. Combine mayonnaise, mustard, and garlic in a small bowl. Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly over top half of bread loaf. Spoon tomatoes evenly over bottom half of loaf. Arrange Brie over tomatoes; top with chicken.

  4. Combine 2 teaspoons oil, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add spinach, tossing gently to coat.

  5. Top chicken with spinach mixture; replace top half of bread. Cut loaf into 6 pieces. Yield: 6 servings

CALORIES 440 (25% from fat); FAT 12.3g (sat 4.2g,mono 4.9g,poly 1.9g); PROTEIN 34.3g; CHOLESTEROL 78mg; CALCIUM 119mg; SODIUM 826mg; FIBER 3.9g; IRON 3.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 46.7g Cooking Light, JUNE 2001