Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ramos Gin Fizz

(It masquerades as a glass of milk, but it's the frothy, citrus infused Ramos Gin Fizz)
If someone would have told me that a Ramos Gin Fizz tasted like a key lime pie, I would have tried this drink sooner. However, since this drink calls for an egg white, I allowed my unreasonable fear of salmonella to keep me from this cocktail.

Then last week I had an idea. I'm not a smart man, so ideas never come to me at a boil. It's always a slow simmer for me. This was the case with my idea to use dehydrated egg whites for this cocktail. Now I can sip on a Ramos Gin Fizz safe from salmonella.

In A.J. Rathbun's book Good Spirits, he makes the following comment about the Ramos Gin Fizz:

"This is not one to construct if you don't believe in your shaking ability, or if you're going to arm wrestle later in the evening and need to save your strength."

After I prepared the Ramos Gin Fizz, I realized he wasn't exaggerating. This cocktail takes time and energy, and there will be moments during the shaking when you'll feel like calling it quits. Don't. Keep striving and you'll be rewarded. This drink is an act of love, so make it for someone you love.

Ramos Gin Fizz
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces simple syrup
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 1 egg white or 2 teaspoon dehydrated egg whites
  • a bit of orange zest
  • splash of chilled club soda

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice. Add everything but the splash of club soda.
  2. Shake for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Pour, sip, and delight in the froth tickling your tongue.

I few readers wanted prom pictures, and since I aim to please, below are a couple of pictures:

take care,


Friday, April 24, 2009

Idle Thoughts

Before the Friday afternoon cocktails take hold, I thought I'd share a quick post.

First, I'd like to thank my readers who suggested recipes for my idle squash. I've opted for the squash and black bean burrito shared by Marianne Wille. Marianne, thanks! I plan on preparing it tomorrow for lunch tomorrow.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the Kansas Sampler Foundation's recent announcement. They announced the 24 finalists for The 8 Wonders Of Kansas Cuisine. I'm still digesting all of this, and I hope to comment later.

I've visited 9 of the 24 finalists, and I'm eager to try more of the restaurants.

Get out there, dine at these restaurants, and cast your vote.

Tomorrow, I'll be back in the saddle. I'll post about my cocktail, the Ramos Gin Fizz, barbecuing, and the squash and black bean burrito.

Queue up the Sinatra and dance cheek to cheek tonight,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Best Laid Plans Are Often Squashed

There's so much I want to do in the kitchen, but sometimes I'm overwhelmed by my intentions, which leads to procrastination.

Exhibit A:

I found this great recipe for a winter squash salad over Fritter.

Since the recipe sounded appetizing and I strive to incorporate new ingredients into my cooking, I purchased a butternut squash on January 20th.

It's now the end of the April, and the squash reclines in my fruit bowl, mingling with mangoes, bananas, apples, and other fruits that come and go.

The squash has made itself quite at home, but now it's time to put the squash to work. However, I'm at a loss what to do with it, so I'm asking you for help.

Even though it's spring, do I proceed with the winter squash salad?


Should a make a savory butternut squash tart, even though I've never made a tart before?


Do you have a tastier alternative or an option that's suitable for the grill?

How should I prepare the butternut squash?

May all your plans materialize,

PS. . . The weather should be in the high 70's and sunny the rest of this week in Lawrence, KS. This info. might determine the recipe you suggest.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Sandwich I Would Marry: Bánh Mì

Kansans are odd folk. It's a hushed oddness -- but an oddness nonetheless. Being a lifelong Kansan, I'm qualified and within my bounds to make this comment. However, I suggest you visit Kansas and form your own opinion.

If you want a front-row seat to observe some of these quiet eccentricities, invite a few native Kansans over for dinner. I don't recommend going into this blindly. You need to know that Kansans don't like to have their taste buds assaulted. To ensure that you don't overwhelm their palates, keep the following in mind:

  1. Don't serve dinner after 6:30 p.m. According to my grandfather, dinner around 5:30 is ideal. I don't know the logic behind this reasoning, but I do know that Kansans (myself included) get testy if dinner is served after 7:00.

  2. When seasoning food, just stick with salt and pepper. Don't try to sneak in ginger, fennel, rosemary, or anything a Kansan might consider exotic.

  3. Don't serve anything with a funny sounding name. Kansans' taste buds get skittish around things like hummus, jicama, and tabbouleh.

  4. If you serve cheese as an appetizer, make sure it's yellow. If you stick with one of Kraft's Cracker Barrel selections, guests will be impressed.

  5. If you prepare a salad, don't mix greens. Stick simply with an iceberg lettuce. Don't add nuts to salads or feta cheese. Serve a variety of dressings on the side, but be sure you have Ott's Original Dressing on hand. (Revision: It's Dorothy Lynch Dressing I'm thinking of, not Ott's. Thank you Nella from Peckerwood Gravy Company for remind me.)

  6. Be prepared to talk about the weather. Even if you don't own a rain gauge, be prepared to announce daily precipitation amounts received over the past decade. I'm not exaggerating.

  7. Serve potatoes with the meal, preferably mashed with gravy or scalloped. We also like our tators fried.

  8. Kansans like casserolse. Any casserole with a cream of mushroom base will satisfy most Kansans.
Of course, Kansans will eat whatever you serve because we're also polite folk, but we'll talk about how odd the meal was on our drive home, and you wouldn't want that. Would you?

Now if you're an individual who likes to shake things up and you don't mind guests talking on the drive home about the strange meal you served them, I'm going to share a recipe that breaks many of the above rules. It's a little Vietnamese sandwich called the Bánh Mì, and it's one of the best things I've eaten this year.

Allow me to say this again: It's one of the best things I've eaten this year.

This sandwich will satisfy every corner of your palate. I challenge all of my readers to make it this weekend and report back to me. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Visit the White on Rice Couple's companion website The Battle of the Bánh Mì and get the complete lowdown on this sandwich.

  1. Follow their recipe for the marinade and preparing the meat, and don't be afraid of the fish sauce.

  1. Buy or bake some good bread. They suggest a nice, crusty French loaf. I prepared my sandwich with day-old loaves from Jimmy John's. An 18-inch loaf can be purchased for 45 cents. I'm in the process of finding a recipe to replicate Jimmy John's bread or the French loaves you see used for Po-Boys down in N'Awlins.

  1. Prepare the following to dress the sandwich:

  • sprigs of cilantro

  • thinly slice red onions

  • thinly sliced cucumbers

  • pickled carrots and daikon radish: Be a native Kansan, I was apprehensive about this ingredient, but this makes the sandwich. Like the fish sauce, it's a bit stinky, but roll with it.

  • mayo

  • Sriracha: This spicy Asian ketchup is essential for the sandwich.
Over the past few weeks, I've prepared this sandwich about six times. Once I even used chicken in place of the pork, and it yielded great results. When I'm not preparing the sandwich, I'm thinking about it. This is the power a good sandwich holds over me. The voodoo of a good sandwich.

Anyway, get out there and get you Bánh Mì on this weekend.


P.S. I survived prom decorating, and tonight I'll take my five-year-old daughter to prom. Her enthusiasm will glide me through the evening.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down: Feta Cheese Puffs

Greetings! Mr. Crankypants is in the house. Today muddy delegated the post to me because he claims he's too busy. I guess he hasn't considered the possibility that I'm also busy, and I have better things to do than post for his little food blog. If you ask me, he needs a new hobby. All this writing and taking pictures of food seems a bit asinine. If he decides to Twitter or create a Facebook profile, I'll dissolve our partnership. I don't tolerate such nonsense.

Anyway, I am busy too. I'm teaching with no planning period. I'm one of the prom sponsors this year. Prom is this weekend. It should be noted that I hate proms. My daughter has developed a love for all thing High School Musical, so these damn kiddie pop songs have been trampling my cerebellum for two weeks straight. I'm not well, and I'm really in no mood to post. I'd rather be outside lounging in the hammock. It is spring after all.

While I'm here in front of the keyboard, I guess I should post a recipe. This recipe goes out to Zeke, the character in High School Musical who has a passion for baking. Stuff a few of these tasty bites in your pie hole. They'll make you happy. Promise.

Feta Cheese Puffs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 pound feta cheese or blue cheese, crumbled
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease two baking sheets.
  2. In a saucepan, bring water and 4 tablespoons of butter to a boil.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition.
  5. Stir in the cheese.
  6. Let the batter sit for 15 minutes, and then drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 2 dozen puffs. Bake until golden, 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Serve.

Mr. Crankypants

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Confession of a Heartless Bastard

Recently I attended an open house at my daughter's daycare center, and one parent informed the group that he used a file cabinet to catalog all of his child's artwork.

When I heard this, guilt overwhelmed me and I shamefully stared at the floor. You see, I don't archive my daughter's artwork. In fact, sometimes when I find artwork in her cubbie, I'll toss it in the garbage before we leave the daycare center, so it never even makes it home. I know -- I'm a terrible parent. I'm convinced that someday my daughter will write a memoir, and there will be a scene where her drunken father picks her up at daycare, and in front of her friends, he'll shred a Crayon portrait of the family, declare that it's crap, and promptly toss it in the trash.

I'm not totally heartless and unnurturing. Remember, I'm the guy who cries while watching Little House on the Prairie and Hallmark Card commercials. I do keep some of her artwork. Last week the theme of the week was food, so students designed placemats depicting favorite meals. Here's my daughter's placemat:

I know it isn't pretty, and I'll probably need to translate for you. What we have are some chicken nuggets at the top of the plate, French fries, a big piece of cake topped with cherries, blueberries, and a single strawberry. She washed the meal down with a glass of chocolate milk.

I won't express my disgust at her decision to include chicken nuggets and French fries on her placemat. She already knows how I feel about processed foods. Instead I want to focus on the cake. Here's a closeup.
Not only is it the biggest item on the menu, but it's in the center of the meal. Everything else revolves around dessert. This is the way my daughter views the world, a place where dessert is the center of the universe, which is probably the way things should be.

Treat yourself to dessert,

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cranberry-Apple Slump

When I travel by car, I often alter my route, so I can visit towns with interesting names. Salt Lick, Kentucky. Nimrod, Texas. Blue Eye, Arkansas. Ten Sleep, Wyoming. Slapout, Oklahoma. All are towns I visited simply because I was drawn in by their names.

I'm the same way about recipes. Tabboleuh. Cheesecake Truffle Bombs. Sex in a Pan. Kuchen. All are recipes I tried because I liked their names. Today I bring you a Cranberry-Apple Slump, the cobbler's twice-removed cousin.

It won't win a beauty contest, but it's functional. It's a dessert that can be prepared on your stovetop, so on those summer days when the temperature reaches triple digits, you won't have to turn on the oven. Topped with a little ice cream, it's a great summer dessert.

Cranberry-Apple Slump



  • 1 cup chopped peeled tart apple
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (You could also use any combination of fruit)
  • Optional: a teaspoon or two of orange zest
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  1. In a large skillet, combine the fruit, water and sugar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk; stir just until moistened. Drop into 3-4 mounds onto simmering fruit. Now at this point, you'll be a bit worried because the topping will simply pool on top of the filling, and you'll think: This will never work. However, after you cover and simmer, you'll have a puffy, moist dumpling, and who doesn't enjoy a puffy, moist dumpling?
  3. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a dumpling comes out clean. Serve warm with ice cream.

My first true love is still any fruit crisp, the comfy quilt of desserts, but on days I feel like kicking off the covers, I'll settle for a slump.

Do something fun this weekend,

P.S. Check out the link to History and Legends of Cobbler, Crisps, Crumble, Brown Betty, Buckle, Grunts, Slumps, Bird's Nest Pudding, Sonker, & Pandowdy

It looks like I need to tackle the Grunt and Sonker, and even though I've heard of a Pandowdy, I've never made one.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rerun: The Greasy Five: North Carolina BBQ Bucket List

Today I'd like to congratulate Coach Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tarheels on their National Championship. While many Kansans harbor resentment towards Coach Williams for leaving the University of Kansas, I still respect him and his contributions to KU basketball. In fact, I dream of someday eating North Carolina BBQ with him. Today's post is a rerun from April 4th, 2008.

This weekend the University of Kansas Jayhawks face the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four. Today’s Greasy Five is inspired by this monumental event.

You won’t ever catch me making any disparaging remarks about the great state of North Carolina in this blog because I don’t want to be barred from the state. You see, someday I hope to dine on their great BBQ. I know the BBQ universe extends well beyond Kansas City, and while I’ve enjoyed great Texas and Memphis BBQ, I’ve never had the privilege to feast on Carolina Q. Before I die I will visit the great state of North Carolina and partake in their glorious BBQ tradition.

How is the Tar Heel state’s BBQ different than Kansas City Q?

1. The pig is King in the Tar Heel state. It sounds like you’d have to search long and hard to find beef brisket on any menu.

2. In the eastern portion of the state they BBQ the whole hog and serve it with a vinegar-pepper sauce.

3. In the western half the state, pork shoulders are BBQ’ed and served with a tomato-based sauce.

4. Hush puppies or something called corn sticks are served with their BBQ.

5. You probably won’t find fries on the menu. However, you might find boiled potatoes served with your meal.

This month's Greasy Five consists of the five North Carolina BBQ restaurants I hope to visit before I die. To help compile this list, I pulled from my cookbook shelf North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time by Bob Garner, and John T. Edge’s outstanding book Southern Belly.

The Greasy Five

North Carolina BBQ Bucket List

Note: Each restaurant on my list still uses wood in the cooking process. Call me a BBQ snob, but I refuse to eat at a restaurant that cooks any other way.

  • B’s BBQ in Greenville: In Bob Garner’s book on North Carolina BBQ, there’s a picture of B’s Barbecue where smoke lingers above the restaurant and the parking lot overflows with cars – two sure signs that this BBQ joint knows their business. B’s also doesn’t have a telephone. I like the thought of good BBQ being disconnected from mainstream culture. They’re out there doing their own thing, oblivious to the trends, fads, and whims the rest of the world follows.
  • Parker’s in Wilson: They raise their own hogs for their BBQ. This is the type of dedication and commitment I expect from a great restaurant. They also serve fried chicken, and supposedly do it very well, selling as much chicken as BBQ.
  • Skylight Inn BBQ in Ayden: Their motto is the following: “If it’s not cooked with wood, it’s not BBQ.” National Geographic declared this restaurant the BBQ Capital of the World in 1984.
  • Lexington #1 BBQ in Lexington: The owner of this restaurant, Wayne Monk, is considered one of the godfathers of Carolina Q. I’d love to dine at this establishment because you can order what they call a “brown” tray, which consists of chopped meat from the flavorful, smoky, outside portion of the pork shoulder.
  • Wilber’s BBQ in Goldsboro: A BBQ restaurant that serves fried gizzards and oysters along with BBQ sounds like my kind of place.

My list could easily be longer because North Carolina is a BBQ Mecca. Someday maybe I can talk my wife into letting me spend two weeks rambling around North Carolina.

Additional Links:

North Carolina BBQ Trail Map from the NC Barbecue Society

Kent’s North Carolina BBQ Page

Shinola North Carolina BBQ Page

North Carolina BBQ Quest

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Greasy Five: Current Obsessions

Obsession. The Greasy Skillet is more about obsession than it is about food. In today's edition of The Greasy Five, we'll highlight five of my current obsessions:

  • Neko Case's latest album Middle Cyclone: If I was a silly school boy, I'd have a crush on Neko Case, but I'm much too old for such nonsense. Instead I'm content to be in love with her lilting voice and poetic lyrics.

  • Bánh : This is a tasty Vietnamese sandwich I tried for the first time two weeks ago. Since then I've made this sandwich three times, and I'm seeking new variations. Later this week the Bánh will get its own post.

  • Sriracha: Since I drizzled this on my Banh Mi, I've been contemplating new ways to incorporate this sweet and spicy condiment into my cooking. If I correctly recall, last year a contestant on Top Chef created a Sriracha ice cream. Maybe I'll head in this direction.

  • Mark Bittman's The Minimalist Cooks at the New York Times: I used to be a rigid cook who never strayed form a recipe. Now I'm taking Mark Bittman's approach and using recipes as a base and cooking variations that incorporate seasonal ingredients or whatever is in my pantry.

What are your current obsessions?

take care,

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Every two years I reread my favorite book, Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. There are hundreds of passages in the book I eagerly anticipate. One moment occurs early in the book when McMurtry describes Augustus McCrae's breakfast routine:
The heart of his breakfast was a plenitude of sourdough biscuits, which he cooked in a Dutch oven out in the backyard. His pot dough had been perking along happily for over ten years, and the first thing he did upon rising was check it out. The rest of the breakfast was secondary, just a matter of whacking off a few slabs of bacon and frying a panful of pullet eggs. Bolivar could generally be trusted to deal with the coffee.

Augustus cooked his biscuits outside for three reasons. One was because the house was sure to heat up well enough anyway during the day, so there was no point in building any more of a fire than was necessary for bacon and eggs. Two was because biscuits cooked in a Dutch over tasted better than stove-cooked biscuits, and three was because he liked to be outside to catch the first light. A man that depended on an indoor cookstove would miss the sunrise, and if he missed sunrise in Lonesome Dove, he would have to wait out a long stretch of heat and dust before he got to see anything so pretty.
I love this passage. I aspire to bake biscuits in a Dutch oven over an open fire, just like Gus, but since I struggle to successfully bake biscuits indoors, I don't see myself baking biscuits as the sun rises over my shoulder any time soon. I tend to overwork the dough or I add too much flour. I've decided that the key to making great biscuits is experience, something I don't have. I need to bake a few hundred batches of biscuit to acquire the intuitive nature to know when all the variables are prime for perfect biscuits.

Recently I made a biscuit topping for a Guinness Beef Pot Pie, and I learned a few keys to making good biscuits:
  1. Using a little cake flour with all-purpose flour produces a lighter fluffier biscuit. Cake flour is ground finer and contains less protein, which results in a lighter texture. As you well know, Southerners tend to bake the best biscuits, and part of this is due to the flour they use. Southern flour, like White Lily, is milled from a softer variety of wheat and is similar to cake flour.
  2. Using a food processor helped me avoid overworking the dough. I know this is cheating, but I'm OK using this crutch until I gain more confidence.
  3. Somewhere I read that when cutting biscuits a baker shouldn't twist the cutter. Doing this will affect the rise of the biscuit. It's best to press straight down and stamp them out.
I know there are a lot of biscuit recipes out there, and I plan on trying more recipes until I find the perfect one for me. For now, I'll share the recipe that helped me take that first step to being the next Augustus McCrae of biscuit making:


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes.
  • 3/4 cup cold buttermilk, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons if needed
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Pulse all of the dry ingredients in a food processor until well mixed. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. This will take about 10 pulses.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowls and add the buttermilk. Stir with a fork until the dough gathers into moist clumps. If it doesn't clump add a bit of buttermilk, until it comes together.
  4. Transfer dough to a floured work surface and form into a rough ball. Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter and stamp out 8-12 rounds of dough.
  5. Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The United Plates of America

The May issue of Bon Appetit contains a feature titled The United Plates of America, a guide for foodies of what to eat, drink, and buy in each state. You can check it out here.

The following are the highlights from Kansas:

WHAT TO BUY: Lapin Links from The Rare Hare Barn 9976 SE Turkey Creek Rd., Leon; 316-259-4262

***I checked their website, and it sounds like the Lapin Links are bratwursts made from rabbit. This sounds interesting and might be worthy of a trip to Leon, which is south of El Dorado.

WHAT TO EAT: Grass-fed elk burger (meat from Rocky Hills Elk Ranch) at Local Burger, 714 Vermont St., Lawrence; 785-856-7827

***I''ve never eaten at Local Burger, but I like the concept of the restaurant. Since I'm married to a rancher's daughter, we tend to grill our hamburgers at home. I'll check out Local Burger and get back to you.

WHAT TO DRINK: Oatmeal Stout at Free State Brewing, 636 Massachusetts St., Lawrence; 785-843-4555

***If you're a regular reader of The Greasy Skillet, you know that I speak fondly of Free State's Oatmeal Stout.

What do you suggest visitors of your state eat and drink?

take care,