Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rockin Chinese Egg Rolls

Almond Pressed Duck and Egg Roll
In my immediate family I am outnumbered when it comes to Chinese food. I love it and they hate it. Are we dysfunctional? You might ask. When it comes to food, most of the time the answer is is yes. My family just loves salads. I think that they were all gerbils in a past life. Don't get me wrong I enjoy a good salad once and awhile, but not every night. If we are having hot dogs they will want a salad to go with it. Cole slaw, baked beans, and fries okay. Not a salad. It's a lot like Dirty Harry's thoughts about ketchup on a hot dog. Never!
Egg Roll Hot Mustard and Sweet & Sour Sauce
When I was a much younger man I worked down the street from a Chinese restaurant. They had a fantastic lunch menu featuring an assortment of lunch entrees. The meal consisted of and egg roll, won ton soup, fried rice, and hot tea. At least once a week we would go there for lunch. The owner, was also the waiter, cashier, and occasionally the cook. When I or any of my co-workers walked in together he knew exactly what we would order. He would stop to formerly ask if we wanted the same thing and then proceed to serve us a bowl of soup, an egg roll appetizer, followed by our entree, and of course hot green tea. If you didn't finish the tea or drink it, he would use it to clean the table. It really works on a Formica table.
Sesame Chicken, Shrimp Egg Foo Young and Chicken Chow Mein
All of the food was good, but there was something about the egg roll, served with homemade sweet and sour sauce, and hot mustard. Why some restaurants use the single serve packets of hot sauce and sweet and sour sauce is beyond my comprehension. It wasn't just that I liked it, I'm talking an addiction.
Every now and then he would take me into the kitchen and show me how he cooked something, or give me a cooking tip. I had one question about the egg rolls and that taste. "What is that?" I asked. With a smile he replied "peanut butter." "What about the sweet & sour sauce? I continued. Again he smiled and said "apricot sauce." He told me that he gets it in China town in Chicago. He never actually gave me recipes, but did let me watch.
(Rockin Chinese Egg Roll)
1 bunch Napa celery cabbage, washed, dried, shredded
to taste bean sprouts, fresh, blanched
1 pound ground pork, browned
1/2 cup chicken, shrimp or pork, cooked, diced
2-3 stalks green onion, sliced fine
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 whole egg, beaten
2 teaspoon peanut butter, or more
1 package egg roll wrappers 
as needed peanut oil, for frying
NOTE: This is not for people with peanut or shellfish allergies.  
This is a "to your own taste kind of recipe." Take one bunch of the celery cabbage and wash thoroughly.Drain and pat dry with a paper towel, or if you have a salad spinner use that. Finely shred the cabbage and place in a bowl. Finely slice the green onions and set to the side. Blanch some fresh bean sprouts (not many) in boiling water and then shock them in ice water to stop the cooking process., Drain and set to the side. Beat 1 egg together with a couple of drops of water. Set this to the side.
Shredded Napa (Chinese) Cabbage
Brown the ground pork and drain. Chop small chunks of cooked chicken, pork or shrimp, or any combination of these and mix with the ground pork. Slowly mix in the sesame oil and the peanut butter, which acts as a binder, and as the secret ingredient for these egg rolls. Add the cabbage, onions and bean sprouts to the mix. This is an equal mix of most ingredients.
Bean Sprouts Drained
Set about 2 tablespoons of the filling on one side of the egg roll wrapper. Roll into a cylinder, tucking in the sides as you roll. Seal the egg rolls using the beaten egg mixture. In a deep fryer or deep sided pot bring peanut oil to 350ºF and slowly lower egg rolls into hot oil. Be careful that it does not splash. Cook both sides until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve with hot mustard and sweet and sour sauce.You're on your own for the sauces.

© TMelle 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


I guess the age-old adage “you can't teach an old dog new tricks” is absolutely false. Recently, while checking my e-mail I got diverted by some click bait article about hot dogs. Not just any article mind you, it was about a spiral dog. I clicked on the story and of course was taken to the story and a video to observe how to make a spiral dog. What will they think of next? If you would like to see that video you can follow the following spiral sliced hot dog link which will take you to the story.
Spiral cut hot dog
I was hooked. What could I do? That story opened a whole new hot dog world to me. You have to understand that hot dogs, as gross as some people find them, have been a part of my life since I was a child. I ate a lot of traditional Chicago style hot dogs in my time.
A Chicago Style Hot Dog
Could it be true? Has somebody made a better mousetrap? I decided to test this process out on my own. You only need a few things to make a spiral hot dog. You need a hot dog, a wooden skewer, a knife, and a grill. The concept is simple. Place a wooden skewer through the middle of a hot dog from one end to the other. That's not as easy as it sounds. If you go out a side of the dog just pull back and try again.
You probably want fries with that!
Once the skewer is in the hot dog lay a sharp knife at one end on an angle and roll away from you while pressing with the knife, keeping the same angle while cutting into the hot dog. You can only cut up to the wooden skewer which will stop you from cutting completely through. As you turn the hot dog away from you the knife follows the angle from one end to the other. When you're finished cutting the angle, remove the skewer from the hot dog and you will have a spiral sliced hot dog that stretches like a slinky from one end to the other. Just throw them on the griddle or grill and turn them so that they don't burn. They will expand in size as they cook.
You're going to need some steamed buns
You will either grill your buns or steam them. The choice is really up to you. I just love steamed hot dog buns. It's the way they serve them in Chicago. Tradition!
As you grill them they start to open up.
I sent a link for the spiral dogs to a friend. His immediate reaction or thought was another Chicago favorite, the Francheezie. "Why not?" I thought. So my wife whipped up some crispy bacon and heated a jar of Tostitos Salsa Con Queso.
In case you forgot what a traditional fast food Francheezie looks like.
To build a spiral Francheezie some changes needed to be made. No longer would I have to stuff my hot dog with cheese and then wrap it in bacon before heading off for the broiler, or deep fryer. No way! I was making a deconstructed Francheezie. I started with a steamed bun, added a strip of crispy bacon and then added one fully cooked and caramelized spiral sliced hot dog. I was 2/3 of the way there.
What's missing from this picture? I know Cheeeeze!
It was at this moment that my wife came forth with hot melted cheese. You can use any cheese really, even Cheese Whiz. 
Salsa Con Queso
How much cheese you ask. Say when. When pouring on the cheese, it filled in the caramelized spiral cuts of the hot dog like water seeking its own level. By Joe I think we've got it. Who would have thought that with just one click on the Internet a whole new world of hot dogs opened up to me.
You want a bite? Look at that!
Next time I will try adding some jalapenos.
How about chili cheese dogs? You can top these Francheezie's any way you like, except No Ketchup!How do you like your hot dogs. Leave a comment below.
© TMelle 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Beer Can Chicken, or Chicken on the Throne

No matter what you call it, beer can chicken is amazing. My brother called me one day and asked if I’ve ever had “Beer can up the butt chicken?” You can make this without a beer and chicken holder, however it would be much safer to have one. They are about $3.00 each, unless you get an expensive one. Get two and cook two chickens at the same time.
Chicken rub, BBQ sauce, beer can holders and beer
GRILL: Set up your grill for the indirect cooking method with an aluminum drip pan under the chickens to catch the drippings.

2 whole chickens, roasters
2 small onions, golf ball size, peeled
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. chicken rub, your choice
2-12 oz. cans beer, pop-top, plus 1 extra hole
Serves: 4 (1/2 chicken each person) 
NOTE: You’re going to have to dispose of 1/2 of the beer in each can so that they are half full. It's a dirty job but somebody has to drink it. You can also use a soda can. Root beer or Dr. Pepper works. Pop the top and add a second hole with a good old fashioned beer can opener. You remember those? 
Prep them chickens

Set up grill for indirect cooking

DIRECTIONS Soak some apple of hickory wood chips in water for about 1 hour before grilling the chickens.
Remove the giblet packets from the chickens. Rinse out the chickens and pat dry with a paper towel on the outside. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the chicken rub into the cavity of each chicken.
Mount that chicken
Drink or throw out 1/ of the beer or soda in the can. Mount each chicken on the 1/2 empty beer or pop can in the holders. Put the peeled onion into the neck cavity of each chicken. Massage the chickens on all sides with the remaining rub. The onion will cry all over the chicken while roasting.
Hey you'd cry too if somebody put a beer can up your butt.
Add the onions to the neck cavity and press in
Once the grill is hot add the soaked wet wood chips to a smoker box, or aluminum foil packet punctured with vent holes and place it over the hot side of the grill. Place the beer can chicken stands over the center of the grill so that the coals will be on either side, but not directly under it. Put the grill top over the chickens with the vent hole in the center, allowing the smoke to be drawn over the chickens.
OMG! Can you smell that?
Check the charcoal and wood chips after 45 minutes and recover the grill. This should take a total of 1-1/2 to 2 hours to cook. The internal temperature of the chicken should read 180°F at the center of the thigh. Make sure the temperature probe is not on the bone or the beer can.
The BBQ sauce takes this chicken over the top
Once the proper internal temperature is achieved, remove the chickens from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before carving. If using BBQ sauce it should be added in the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
CAUTION: Be extremely careful when removing the chickens from the stands. The beer inside is extremely hot and the can is full again. It will burn! Use rubber gloves or pot holders to remove the stands. 
So there you have it, beer can up the butt chicken, or Chicken on the throne. If you have ever made this before please leave a comment on rubs that you use, or barbecue sauces you slather on yours. What do you do with the beer and chicken juices left in the can?
Finally if you have any recipes for retro  comfort foods, or ideas for future posts pass them along.

© TMelle 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Boston Baked Beans and Brown Bread

I can't let barbecue season pass without bringing up one of my all-time favorite summer barbecue side dishes, baked beans, but first a story. In the mid 80's I worked in Boston, the "Cradle of Liberty." I was very excited to try authentic Boston Baked Beans, a recipe that has been around since colonial days. Not wanting anything in a can, I was looking for the real deal. Little did I know that I was in for a really big disappointment?
You're going to go shopping
One morning by the Charles River, I began asking people where to find authentic beans. Nobody seemed to know—mixing them up with the candy with the same name. While doing my research, I came across some information in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, about the nickname "Beantown, which refers to the regional baked beans. But this nickname is almost exclusively used by non-Bostonians and is rarely used by natives." The Urban dictionary says “Beantown” is a "Horribly outdated nickname for Boston, Massachusetts that no self-respecting Bostonian or New Englander uses. It is only typically used by tourists, sportswriters, or television reporters new to the area. The name stems from the New England food staple of beans slow-baked in molasses." I also learned about the "Great Molasses Flood and the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy” on January 15, 1919, in the North End. Apparently a "large molasses storage tank burst, and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph, killing 21 and injuring 150." I also discovered the connection of molasses, rum and the slave trade.
Clean your beans and soak overnight
All the ingredients for a really good story about early American history. But that's not what I was after. I was looking for real, honest to goodness retro comfort food. As hard as I tried I couldn't find them anywhere. I also couldn't find authentic Boston Brown Bread, traditionally served with baked beans or Boston Cream Pie. Suddenly there was a huge crack in my culinary universe.
Score salt pork in a cross hatch style
Brown salt pork rind side down
While doing my research, I came across some information in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, about the nickname Beantown. "Beantown, 
which refers to the regional dish of baked beans. This nickname is almost exclusively used by non-Bostonians and is rarely used by natives."
Flip and cook all sides of salt pork until crispy
I also learned about the "Great Molasses Flood and the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy, occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts." Apparently a "large molasses storage tank burst, and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150."
Add to beans
I also discovered the connection of molasses, rum and the slave trade. All the ingredients for a really good story about early American history. But that's not what I was after. I was looking for real, honest to goodness retro comfort food.
Add molasses to beans
The Urban dictionary says Beantown is, "Horribly outdated nickname for Boston, Massachusetts that no self-respecting Bostonian or New Englander uses. Typically used only by tourists, sportswriters, or television reporters that are new to the area. Name stems from the New England food staple of beans slow-baked in molasses."
Cooking the salt pork
1 lb. Navy beans, dry
1/2 lb. salt pork, cut cross hatch, not through rind
1 med. Vidalia onion, diced, optional
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup molasses, unsulphured
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
NOTE: About 8-10 servings.1 cup dried beans = 2 to 2-1/2 cups cooked beans. Think next time I'll add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and substitute 1 tablespoon brown sugar with 1 tablespoon of pure grade B maple syrup.

Add water up to beans, place salt pork into the beans above water
First I needed a recipe. After searching the Internet I found a cookbook published in 1876 by Fannie Merritt Farmer, of the Boston Cooking School. This had to be a good source. Obviously they didn't have slow-cookers in 1876, so I thought I would give the beans a bit of an update. My recipe is adapted from Fannie Farmer's version.
Deglaze salt pork pot with water

Wash the beans and discarding any questionable ones. Dirt and pebbles from the field and dust from the silo and bits of rock hidden in with the beans. Cover the with fresh water and allow to soak for a couple of hours, or overnight. In morning, drain and cover the beans with more fresh water. Heat the beans slowly, but do not allow to come to a rolling boil. Cook the beans until their skins burst (about 2 minutes), just below boiling. Her recipe says "drain beans, throwing bean-water out of doors, not in sink." I didn't understand this until actually cooking the beans. Her recipe calls for scalding the salt pork in water. I opted to brown the salt pork like bacon instead.
Add deglazing liquid to bean pot
Since I was using a slow cooker, I put the beans into the pot and then pushed the lightly browned salt pork into the beans sticking out. I  poured enough fresh water to cover the beans, but not the salt pork.
Turn to high and check in 4 hours

Combine the salt, molasses, mustard and sugar with 1 cup of the cooking water from the beans. Bring to a boil and pour over beans and pork in pot. If necessary add enough more bean liquid to cover beans. Cover the slow cooker, set the thermostat to high and cook for 5 hours. Using a tongs, remove the salt pork from the beans and place rind side down in a small skillet. Place the salt pork skillet into a preheated 350°F oven and bake until the salt pork turns brown and crisp.
Remove salt pork and place in oven
Remove the salt pork from the oven when well browned. Return the browned salt pork to the bean pot. Stir the bean and add more water if necessary. Be careful not to add to little or to much water. Now would be a good time to taste the beans. If you like add more brown sugar or maple syrup to balance the molasses.   
Salt pork out of the oven
Turn the crock pot to low and cook the beans for about another 1-2 hours. The entire process should take about 6 hours. When you are finished cooking the beans, add more water if necessary. There should be a saucy consistency.
Now that's better
The aroma of the beans should be filling your kitchen by now. Your probably asking yourself what to serve with these homemade beans. Boston Brown Bread of course. Baked beans and brown bread is a traditional Saturday night supper.
Boston Brown Bread lightly toasted and served with soft butter
The brown bread is also flavored with molasses and compliments the baked beans perfectly. Fannie Farmer also has a recipe for
Boston Brown Bread in the same cookbook.
Saturday night supper, baked beans and brown bread
In closing, if you don't have the time to make homemade beans, some of the store bought varieties are good as well. What you add to your beans is a personal choice. Don't like salt pork? Add maple bacon. Do you like hot dogs? Add them too. Want it sweeter, add more sugar or maple syrup.
How do you like your beans? What store bought brands do you like? Leave your comments below.