Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'm Not Eating That!

My wife is convinced that I begin each day with an allotment of words, and once I've exhausted those, I'm done talking for the day.  There's much truth to this.  After a day of working with students, I don't always have a lot of words for my family.  At dinner I usually just sit and listen to my girls visit about the day.  Occasionally, I'll chime in and share bits of my day or I'll ask a few questions, but overall, I just listen.

Last night my wife had a meeting to attend, so it was just me and Little Miss Pickyeater at the dinner table.   When it's just the two of us sharing dinner, I make an effort to be more talkative.  While a have a mental list of topics I want to discuss, I never have to consult the list because my daughter uses our dinner to host her own talk show with me as a guest.   She has a knack for coaxing conversation out of her reticent father. Last night she wanted to talk about my childhood eating habits, specifically foods I refused to eat as a kid.

Today I'm resurrecting The Greasy Five by listing five foods of my childhood that I somewhat detested.

The Greasy Five

1.  Fried cornmeal mush
2.  Pancakes (Currently I'm learning to love pancakes.  I attribute my dislike to the artificial syrup that often drowned the pancakes of my youth.  Maple syrup or a fruit compote are preferable pancake toppings.)
3.  Meat loaf  (Today I'm pleased to announce that I love meat loaf.)
4.  Tuna noodle casserole
5.  Potato boats (They served this at the school cafeteria in my hometown.  This consisted of a slice of bologna that functioned as a base for a scoop of instant mashed potatoes and American cheese.  This meal still feels like some absurd dream, but I swear it was quite real.)

take care,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Coffee Ice Cream

My Cuisinart ice cream maker has been the equivalent of a car on blocks that sits in the front yard season after season. When I purchased the ice cream maker ten years ago, I had good intentions, but I rarely used it because I was unsatisfied with the texture of the ice cream it produced. I wanted an ice cream like I would find at my favorite ice cream shops. I wanted an ice cream that could be easily scooped but didn't melt into soup a minute later. I wanted an ice cream with a creamy, velvety texture, not grainy  ice crystals. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to get quality ice cream elsewhere.

Last November Jeni Britton Bauer's book Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home inspired me to dust off the ice cream machine, and after ten years of attempting to make great homemade ice cream, I succeeded. In fact, I was so successful that I made about 12 quarts of ice cream over a one-month span.  Flavor after flavor rocked my world.  This cookbook needs to be in every kitchen in American, so do yourself a favor, and purchase a copy.  This book helped this small-brained fella understand the science behind a great scoop of ice cream.

Now I just need to convince my boss to let me go on sabbatical, so I can take the "cow to cone" ice cream short course at Penn State University.

Jeni's Coffee Ice Cream
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup dark-roast coffee beans coarsely ground
  1. In a small bowl whisk the cornstarch with two tablespoons of milk, until you create a slurry.
  2. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  3. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart or larger sauce pan.  Bring this to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook for 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the coffee and let steep for five minutes.
  4. Strain the milk/cream mixture through a sieve lined with a layer of cheesecloth.  Squeeze the coffee in the cheesecloth to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the grounds.
  5. Return the cream mixture to the saucepan and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.  Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.
  6. Whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.  Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath.  Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
  7. Cut one of the bottom corners off the freezer bag, and pour the ice cream base in the frozen canister. Spin until thick and creamy.  Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze for four hours

screaming for ice cream,

Friday, January 13, 2012

Oklahoma Joe's Red Beans & Rice

After reading James Carlos Blake's Wildwood Boys and learning that folks from Missouri were referred to as Pukes, I started hurling this insult at my neighbors to the East.  Sometimes it's playful ribbing, but at other times there's venom attached to my words.  When someone burns my town to the ground, I'm going to always harbor some resentment.  Puke Bastards!

If Missouri ever closed its borders to this Jayhawker, I would miss the Ozarks and of course, Kansas City BBQ.  I wouldn't mourn long though because I'd just pack the family in the mini-van and head to Oklahoma Joe's BBQ, which proudly sits on the Kansas side of KC.  I usually order the Z-Man sandwich at Oklahoma Joe's, but sometimes a stray oustside the typical BBQ offerings and sample some of the restaurants unique offerings.  One of the best non-BBQ items on their menu is the red beans and rice.

Oklahoma Joe's Red Beans and Rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch dice (Bruce Aidells makes a good andouille that is available in most supermarkets.  If you're in the Kansas City, Kansas, area, Krizman's House of Sausage makes a good andouille.  If you're in a bind and can't find a good sausage, improvise.)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cans red beans, rinsed
  • 3 to 4 cups waters (as needed)
  • 1 tablespoon base or 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 cups cooked white rice 

  1. Combine the spices and seasonings, including the salt.  Set aside until they're ready for their closeup.
  2. Saute the sausage in a dutch oven over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Don't use any oil for this step. 
  3. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and bay leaves and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add the seasonings while cooking the vegetables and combine thoroughly.  Savor this step: Place your nose directly above the dutch oven. Close your eyes and inhale deeply. Greet this mingling of scents with an exuberant, "Hallelujah!" Blare The Pine Leaf Boys' Cajun version of "Wild Side of Life" from your stereo, and dance around the kitchen; celebrate this marriage of flavors.
  5. After the vegetables have been cooked, added the red beans and just enough water to cover the beans.
  6. Add the chicken base, bbq sauce, and hot sauce.  Stir to combine, then raise the heat and bring the liquid to a boil.
  7. turn the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Stir every 20 to 30 minutes and add water if the beans get too thick.
  8. The red beans are ready to eat when they have thickened slightly and made their own gravy, which is a wonderful, beautiful thing.  It's akin to alchemy.  
  9. Remove the bay leaves.  Serve over the cooked rice.
don't let the bastards get you down,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Caramel Popcorn: Big Bowl of Love

Once upon a time, I owned the Evel Knievel stunt cycle and an RV that converted into a ramp. During this fabled time, I took breaks from performing death-defying stunts to snack on popcorn balls and grape Kool-Aid, which were a ubiquitous snacks in the 1970's.  Since then popcorn balls have fallen out of favor.  I attribute this fall and the general decline of our civilization to the fact that most people don't pop popcorn on the stove.  Many of the world problems could be solved by standing around a kitchen stove, popping popcorn, talking, and laughing.

Even though the world won't join me around the stove, I'll be there listening to the pitter-patter, pop-pop of popcorn.  I'll be there making a caramel corn, a deconstructed version of the popcorn ball.

  • 5 quarts of popped popcorn
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
I have a bowl bigger than my head, and I have a big head!
  1. Place the popcorn in a large ovenproof bowl. Place in 350 degree oven.
  2. Combine the sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup,, water, and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir while cooking to 300 degrees. 
  3. Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in the baking soda and salt. Mix well. 
  4. Remove the popcorn from the oven. Pour the caramel over the popcorn while stirring with a wood spoon. Continue to mix until the caramel begins to stiffen too much to stir. 
  5. Return the bowl to the oven for 10 minutes, remove, and stir the mixture again. Repeat until the popcorn is well coated with caramel. 
  6. Add the remaining butter, stir gently to allow it to melt and to distribute it. Pour the caramel corn onto a clean counter top and separate the individual kernels before the harden.
  7. Store in an airtight container at room temperature

may all your love be covered in caramel,