Monday, November 30, 2009

House Band: The Avett Brothers

Today I'm offering readers further evidence that I view the world through kaleidoscope eyes. I'm an off-kilter, bedazzled, jingly soul who uses music as an essential ingredient in the kitchen, so today I'm announcing The Greasy Skillet's first Unofficial House Band, The Avett Brothers. The blogsophere is a virtual world, so having an unofficial house band makes perfect sense to me.

At The Greasy Skillet we believe in a world that is devoid of airbrushed photos and artificial ingredients, and since there's something sincere and homegrown about The Avett Brothers, they are our first house band. In future posts we'll couple the music of the Avett Brothers with ruminations about food and perhaps, some recipes.

Until then, enjoy the video.

The following is from the band's myspace page and encapsulates what their music is about:

If you put your ear to the street, you can hear the rumble of the world in motion; people going to and from work, to school, to the grocery store. You may even hear the whisper of their living rooms, their conversation, their complaints, and if you're lucky, their laughter. If you're almost anywhere in America , you'll hear something different, something special, something you recognize but haven't heard in a long time. It is the sound of a real celebration It is not New Year's, and it is not a political convention. It is neither a prime time game-show, nor a music video countdown, bloated with fame and sponsorship. What you are hearing is the love for a music. It is the unbridled outcry of support for a song that sings to the heart, that dances with the soul. The jubilation is in the theaters, the bars, the music clubs, the festivals. The love is for a band. The songs are honest: just chords with real voices singing real melodies. But, the heart and the energy with which they are sung, is really why people are talking, and why so many sing along. They are a reality in a world of entertainment built with smoke and mirrors, and when they play, the common man can break the mirrors and blow the smoke away, so that all that's left behind is the unwavering beauty of the songs. That's the commotion, that's the celebration, and wherever The Avett Brothers are tonight, that's what you'll find.

feeling like cinnamon,

Thursday, November 26, 2009


In my early elementary days I dreaded walking through the doors of school. I was an introvert and school was difficult for me. I was placed in a low-achieving reading group, and even at that age I felt a little shame about being separated from the brighter kids. I also had a slight speech impediment, which made it difficult to pronounce my th’s, my S’s, and I couldn’t say the word yellow, which is a real detriment in the second grade because we frequently read the Curious George books, and that damn man in the yellow hat gave me fits. Why couldn’t the bastard have name like Ray, Earl, or Jim Bob? I missed a lot of recesses because I had to work with a speech therapist.

I didn't really feel comfortable with school until my 4th-grade year when a teacher named Mrs. Brust changed my life. I had great teachers prior to that year, but none were quite like Mrs. Brust. My memory cheats me since it's been 30 years since I was last in her classroom, but I do remember the following:

  • I remember her being tall and gangly.
  • I remember her being a bit like Julia Childs
  • I remember that she always wore a big smile.
  • I remember that she laughed a lot.
  • I remember her being a bit of a scattered brain.
  • I remember that she loved telling stories.
  • I remember she loved hearing stories.
  • I remember she loved books.
The following are the most important things I remember about her class:

  • I remember feeling like the most important person in the world when I talked to her..
  • I remember searching our classroom library for my next book to read. Mrs. Brust would approach and say, "I know just the book for you." Then she would guide me to the book, pull it off the shelf, and hand it me. I would hold it like a gift as she told me all about the book, the one that was perfect for me.
  • I remember she parked a love of reading in me.
  • I remember she made me feel more confident.
  • I remember she embraced mistakes and imperfections and turned them into things of beauty.

On this Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for all those who knew what was best for me and who steered me in the right direction. What are you thankful for on this holiday?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Greasy Five: Turkey Music

If you're craving some music to accompany your Thanksgiving meal, head on over to NPR, where they'll be streaming Songs for Stuffing: A Thanksgiving Mix.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I compile songs about food and eating. I'm always looking for "foodie" songs to add to my Ipod, and with NPR's list, I discovered some new songs that had me scouring the web to listen to snippets. The following are five songs I plan on downloading in the near future:
  1. "Making Pies" by Patty Griffin
  2. "Slow Food" by Greg Brown
  3. "Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries" by Willie Bobo
  4. "Bread and Gravy" by Ethel Waters
  5. "Frim Fram Sauce" by Nat King Cole
What's your favorite song about food?

happy eatin'

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Once upon a time, the evening news was reality TV, and the closest thing we had to food blogs were recipe cards passed along to family and friends. During this fabled age, my culinary view of the world was limited to potluck dinners, where something like cabbage rolls, Jello salads, and three-bean salads were examples of extreme cuisine.

In today's information age, we now have a panoramic view of the culinary landscape. Today the flavors of the world are at our fingertips, and that's what led to my first attempt at rugelach, a traditional Jewish pastry.

The first bite of the buttery, flaky rugelach reminded me of the scraps of pie dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar that my mother would sometimes bake as an impromptu afternoon snack. By the second bite, I realized that rugelach might be the perfect companion for a little conversation and coffee.

The following recipe is from Carole Walter's outstanding book Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins, & More:



  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

  • 1 cup mini-chocolate chips

  • 3/4 cup medium chopped walnuts or pecans (optional. My rugelach are nutless because Little Miss Pickyeater doesn't like nuts, unless they're good cashews)


  1. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. Combine the sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl. In another small bowl, combine the preserves with the zest. Set aside.

  3. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator, and divide it in half. Reshape each half into a small rectangle. Working with one piece at time, place the dough on a lightly floured pastry board or other flat surface and roll into an 8 x 10-inch rectangle. Arrange the dough so the 10-inch side is parallel to the edge of the board or countertop.

  4. Using a spatula, spread the rectangle with 2 tablespoons of preserves, leaving a 3/4-inch margin on the far side of the sough. Sprinkle with two tablespoons of the sugar/cocoa mixture, followed by 1/4 cup of chocolate chips and nuts, if using.

  5. Brush the far edge and the side of the dough with the egg wash, then roll into a log, gently stretching the dough on either end as you roll. When the log measure approximately 12- inches long, use a dough scraper or sharp knife to cut into twelve 1-inch pieces. Place on the prepared pan and chill while shaping the remaining dough.

  6. Dip the top of each piece into the egg wash, then into the reserved nuts. Return to the pan and press the nuts gently into the top to adhere, flattening the cookie slightly.

  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the rugelach are golden brown. To ensure even baking, toward the end of baking time, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Remove from the oven and let cool on pans for about 10 minute. Loosen rugelach from cookie sheet and place on cooling racks. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Throwin' High and Wide with Confidence: The Steve Sax Syndrome & Pastry Dough Revised

In the past, I've written about my ineptness when it comes to baking pastries. I'm fine with yeast, flour, water, and a little salt, but when I invite butter and sugar to the party, I end up looking like a fool. And we all know that it's not cool to be a fool.

My wife and I plan on running a bed and breakfast when we retire, and since running a B & B without pastries would like be running a bar with beer, I need to become somewhat skilled in the butter and sugar department. Fortunately, there are a lot of great resources out there to help me hone my skills. Last year Marilyn over at Simmer Till Done introduced me to Carole Walter, who wrote the amazing book Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins, & More.
This book should be part of every cook's library. It's the first book that made me comfortable working with pastry dough. I used 1/2 of the dough to make the Apple-Almond Braid posted over at Simmer Till Done. Then later I pulled the remaining dough from the freezer for my first attempt at rugelach. Tomorrow, I'll post that experience and recipe.

A Simple, Buttery Pastry Dough

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, spoon in and leveled, plus additional for kneading and rolling the dough
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  1. I large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar,s alt and baking powder. Set aside.

  2. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the paddle attachment, mix on medium-low speed until smooth. Blend int he butter in four additions, mixing until smooth.

  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and sour cream, and then blend into the butter mixture. The mixture will look separated. Scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.

  4. With he mixer off, add about one-third of the flour mixture. On low speed, mix until blended. Add the remaining flour in two more additions. Be sure to not overmix.

  5. Remove the bowl from the machine and empty the dough onto a lightly flour pastry board. With floured hands, knead until smooth. Divide the dough in half, dust with flour, and shape each half into a 3 1/2 x 5-inch rectangle. Cover each piece tight in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a t least 4 hour or up to 3 days. You may also free this dough up to three months.
take care,