Saturday, September 28, 2013

Football, Baseball and Mucho Nacho’s

Take me out to the ball game
I’m generally not what you consider a sports junkie, unlike some other members of my family who are perfectly content watching baseball, basketball, hockey or football throughout their individual seasons. If no sports are on TV, like that ever happens, you can always watch Dancing with the Stars. Throw in the occasional game of golf or tennis and you have the fantasy zombie league. My children are sports nuts. They wear team jerseys and cheer for their team whenever and wherever they can. Don’t get me wrong I actually like watching sports once and awhile, but not all of the time, week after week, season after season. It’s a lot like watching corn grow.
If you can't go to the game bring the TV outside
I grew up in a time when TV was really in its early development. The only sport on TV was baseball. Instead of watching it on TV we went out and played baseball or football. Taking on the kids from the next street over with a good old-fashioned water balloon fight was how we settled territorial disputes. Later in the evening we would play tag, or hide and seek. Being “it” was something you wanted and hearing the words “Ollie Ollie oxen free” meant you survived to play another game. When we got thirsty we didn’t run to the gas station for a bottle of pop. We got a drink of unfiltered water from the garden hose. A couple of kids on the block, future entrepreneurs, set up a Kool-Aid stand and sold Kool-Aid in paper cups for 5₵. At the end of the day we were tired from playing all day. Dinner was at 6:00 pm sharp. After dinner and after doing the dishes, we went out to play again: more hide and seek, or catching fireflies.
Please drink responsibly
Can you smell the brats and burgers?
Crock pot chili
If I must watch a football game then I must have plenty of football-type snacks and ice cold beer on hand. You just can’t drink wine and watch sports. In the Midwest it often gets cold during football season. When it comes to the ultimate football season snack foods we’re talking hot snacks. Wrapping my hand around a grilled bratwurst (brats) smothered in grilled onions dressed with grainy mustard, or the belly warming comfort of a steaming bowl of chili with chopped onions and shredded cheddar cheese on a cold winter's day is enough to begin an endorphin rush to my brain telling me all’s right in the universe, at least for this moment in time.
One of the best ways to take the frost off a cold winter’s day is to whip up a plate or a platter of warm
tortilla chips. Generally, you have to go to a sports bar or restaurant to get a good platter of tortilla and spend a considerable amount of cash for it. The more toppings it comes with, the more that you will spend.  The good news is that you can make a Nacho platter better and cheaper at home.
The easy way out
You can take the easy way out and just get a bag of tortillas, some salsa con queso and some chunky salsa. But if you're having a party and want it to be over the top, why not go all out and put out a Nacho platter worthy of you culinary prowess.
Brown ground sirloin or chuck
To make a layered nacho platter you’re going to need a few things: 

Corn tortilla chips
1 pound ground chuck
Refried beans, mixed into the browned chuck (optional)
Drain off fat
Add your favorite taco seasoning

Add water as per package instructions
Real cheese freshly grated blend, or layers of Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Jack, Queso Chihuahua, and topped off with Queso Fresco, crumbled.
Your choice of cheese

Shred lots of Jack cheese
Tomatoes, fresh, diced
Pico de Gallo, homemade
Green chiles, chopped
Green onions, sliced thin
Jalapeno peppers, slices, pickled, or fresh, seeded and sliced,
Chopped tomatoes
Peppers and green onions
Black olives, sliced
Sour cream
Guacamole, fresh
Fresh homemade guacamole
Beer, ice coldPlenty of napkins
Cook the meat until well browned. Drain off the rendered fat, add the seasoning packet, and water. Cook according tho the package directions. You may also add refried beans to the meat if you like.  Set meat to the side until needed.
Build your nacho platter in layers on an ovenable plate or platter. Heat the first layer of chips for about five minutes in a 350°F oven. Sprinkle the hot chips with grated cheese. Place the plate in a very hot oven to quickly melt the cheese on the first layer. Then take it out of the oven and sprinkle with chopped tomatoes, green onions and jalapenos, followed by a layer of the meat mixture.
If you are using pico de gallo, either homemade or store bought, work that into your layering process.
Add another layer of chips, more cheese and repeat the layering process. Throw in some sliced black olives to the mix. No need to use the best ingredients here, but do use good quality ingredients. You will want to supply ample sides of sour cream, salsa and guacamole.
Put the plate or platter back into the
350°F oven for about 8-10 minutes or until the chips are hot, and crunchy and the cheese is melted. The chips should be sizzling hot. Serve immediately. Nobody wants soggy cold chips.

© TMelle 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Growing up in Chicago during the 1950's and 60's we didn't go out to eat often. When we did go out it was for hot dogs, hamburgers, or chicken. I'm going to pass over the famous Chicago-style hot dog for now and jump right to the subject of hamburgers. Not your run of the mill fast-food hamburgers mind you. I'm talking about old fashioned mom and pop style hamburgers or cheeseburgers here.
2 ounce portions 80/20 ground chuck
When I was a much younger man I worked as a short order cook in the snack shop of a large retail store. At lunch we served a lot of hamburgers to shoppers and employees who only had about 30 minutes to eat. I would throw 30 burgers on the grill, cook them to rare, and then place them in a hot tub of beef and onion broth that was sitting on the slightly cooler side of the grill. When customers ordered a burger we simply took one from the broth and threw it on the charbroiler to finish cooking them with those fancy grill marks. They not only looked good, they tasted good. The true meat taste was lost in the hot tub. 
Roll out burger
Old-fashioned burgers are not perfect circles, they are hand crafted
Ideally to make old-fashioned burgers you need a flat top grill. Since most people don't have one of those in their home, a scorching hot, flat top cast iron griddle will do. If the griddle is hot enough, you should hear the sizzle when the meat comes in contact with the griddle. The more meat that comes in contact with the griddle the more crust you will develop. Crust = texture and flavor. You're going to need some good buns.When it comes to hamburger buns, almost every fast food restaurant, lunch counter, or diner where I lived used S. Rosen's, Mary Ann buns. These buns are available at local grocery stores,
S. Rosen's Mary Ann 4 Inch Plain Hamburger Buns
INGREDIENTS (Yield: 4 double burgers)
1 lb. ground chuck 80/20
to taste salt and pepper
8 slices of cheese (your choice)
1 medium onion, diced or rings (optional)

Measure out the meat into 2 ounce portions. You should get eight 2 ounce thin patties from one pound of meat. Meat can get mushy if formed with your hands, so place each portion in-between two pieces of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the meat until circular in shape and about 1/8 inch thick. You can also press down on the meat with a plate to get a uniform thickness. Once all of your burgers are formed keep them cold. Don't overwork the meat.
Scorching hot griddle
Heat the griddle until scorching hot. When dropping the hamburgers on the griddle you should hear the sizzle as soon as the meat comes in contact with the heated griddle. This will begin to develop the crust on side 1 of the hamburger. I always keep some chopped or grilled onions on hand when making burgers.   
Adding onions to the griddle adds moisture and flavor to the hamburgers. Add them to the place on the griddle where you will be flipping the burger to cook side 2. 

When you place the burger on top of the onions, the steam from the onions and the heat of the griddle will help cook side 2 of the burger.    

Time to flip the burger
Add white cheddar cheese
Gooey melted cheese on burgers
A good old-fashioned cheeseburger
A genuine old-fashioned cheeseburger or hamburger should be served on a butter toasted bun with onions, mustard, ketchup, and dill pickle slices. Serve with French fries or tater tots. 
Why not tell me about your favorite old-fashioned hamburger or cheeseburger. 

TMelle 2013