Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Fun, Aug. 31, 2007 - Texas Cookin'

The video features Guy Clark and Jimmie Dale Gilmore performing Clark's wonderful "Texas Cookin'," a song that will put 10 pounds on you just by listening to it.

Clark is a fantastic singer/songwriter who's served as an inspiration to many others, including Lyle Lovett. In fact, one of the best live shows the Remarkable Marcy and I have seen in recent years was an acoustic evening with Clark, Lovett, Joe Ely and John Hiatt. Great evening!

Gilmore, who has a distinguished solo career, is also part of a legendary Texas trio called The Flatlanders, along with Ely and Butch Hancock. Gilmore, who's a mainstay on the stage at Austin's Threadgill's, sounds a little like he's got beans stuck in his nose when he sings, but his attitude and enthusiasm bleed through and invite you into each song.

Here's a bonus video for you, The Flatlanders recorded at another Austin landmark, The Continental Club, singing "Dallas."

Have a great weekend!

Blog Spotlight - Pork and Whiskey

"A fridge full of beer and a good hotsauce. One of the many reasons a second refrigerator is a necessity."

That line rode beneath a photo of an open fridge, and indeed it was loaded with nothing more than a variety of beers and hot sauces. I was hooked. The post was labeled "heaven?".

Thus I became a fan of Pork and Whiskey.

It's hard not to like the name of the blog, and the nom de post of the blogger - Rev. BigDumbChimp. But the Rev.'s interests extend beyond pork and whiskey. He speaks with authority on beers and barbecue and offers reviews of several restaurants in his Charleston, SC area.

The blog launched back in February 2006 and you can see from the early posts that the Rev. was struggling - like all of us - to figure out where he was going and how to find his voice. He went dark for several months between September 2006 and June of this year. After 'fessing up that he "sucked" (his description) as a "blog daddy", he promised to re-engergize his efforts. And he has.

Good, visual and instructive posts about Spicy Fennel Sausage, Maple Cured Hickory Smoked Bacon and Tasso Ham on the pork front; while in the other realm he introduces us to Noah's Mill Bourbon and Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey.

I hope the Rev. continues the momentum he seems to have regained. Maybe if he finds an audience he'll do so. Give him a look and let him know what you think. We can't let a blog called Pork and Whiskey go to waste!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tomato Sauce Rules!

At least per the results of the poll. An overnight visitor registered the deciding vote, pushing tomato ahead of vinegar and mustard.

A mere 10 votes total, but it's my first poll and it gives me some insight into your tastes.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

Chess Pie

Yep, that's an outhouse. What an appetizing way to start a post about food!

This particular structure stood out behind my grandmother's house in the little town of Beech Grove, Kentucky (pop. 150 at its peak).

My grandmother, Lemma Mitchell, lived in a house that sat in the center of town, right at the intersection of the two routes into Beech Grove. The prominent location was due to my grandfather being the town's doctor for several years early in the last century. Elmore Flavius Mitchell (nice name, yes?) was a true country doctor. When people weren't coming into town to visit him in his office in the house, he was out making house calls on horseback. In 1920, when my mother was three years old, Elmore's appendix ruptured, he developed peritonitis and died. I suppose it was one of the serious drawbacks of being the only doctor in the county in that if you got sick you were on your own.

Aside from brief substitute teaching stints, Lemma never worked other than raising my mother and serving as a surrogate mother to a cousin. That left her with quite a bit of time on her hands in a town in which there wasn't a whole lot to do. But grandmother came up with a few interesting, and often amusing, ways to spend her time. Mostly they involved screwing with other people. Among her favorite hobbies was eavesdropping on her neighbors' party-line telephone conversations. And she liked to mess with the local teens who used to hang out at the gas station across from her house. The town phone booth was located in the station's parking lot and when the kids became loud and rowdy, she would call the pay phone, wait for one of the kids to answer, then ask, "Is the sheriff there yet?" The result was an effective scattering of troublemakers.

But most of all, she liked to putter around the kitchen. And she could cook. I remember Sundays at her house where the table was crowded with fried chicken, pot roast, green beans, mashed potatoes and more. Then there were the desserts - German Chocolate Cake, cookies, something she called "Old Fashioned Cake", and the Southern specialty, Chess Pie.

Grandmother died at the age of 96 on May 8, 1983. It's easy for me to remember the date precisely because it was both Mother's Day and the day following my wedding, which meant our honeymoon was spent attending the funeral. I guess it was her parting screw job.

When she died, she took her recipes to the grave. However, instructions for making Chess Pie abound. Most feature sugar, eggs, butter, a little flour and vary with additions of vinegar, vanilla, lemon juice, chocolate and other flavorings. The Remarkable Marcy found the following recipe a few years ago in the Columbus Dispatch. It is very similar to the pie I so fondly remember.

Chess Pie

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. cornmeal
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. vinegar
1 unbaked pie shell

Combine sugars, flour and cornmeal. Beat eggs and add to sugar-flour mixture. Add other ingredients, mix, and pour into pie shell. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

And now, in memory of my grandmother, here's a video of Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys singing "Blue Moon of Kentucky."


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sauce Poll Down to the Wire

It figures. Ten hours left on the sauce poll and it's dead even. Not an overwhelming voter turnout, but you'd figure with nine votes we might find a winner. But I guess that points out that everybody has a favorite.

Still looking for strong voices of support for one type of sauce or the other. Would love to host a debate right here on this blog.

Bull Cook

I start today's post with a disclaimer. Wednesday is usually hot sauce day on this blog and today it doesn't get any hotter than Worcestershire Sauce. It's a deliberate stretch because it gives me the opportunity to showcase my favorite cookbook, Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices.

I love Bull Cook more for sentimental than practical reasons. The book was presented as a gift to my dad in 1962, shortly before he died. It's been passed from my mother to my brother and finally to me.

It has to be one of the strangest cookbooks I've ever read. Written in 1960 by George Leonard Herter and Berthe E. Herter the book contains curious recipes and arcane information of all sorts. Want the recipe for a peanut butter sandwich? It's in there. Need to know how to make an "Authentic Martini Drink?" It's in Bull Cook. Want to make your own gin for the Martini? That's here, too. So is helpful information on staying healthy in the wilderness, tips for removing hair from squirrell carcasses and the Indian method of quitting smoking. What a book!

I was actually able to find a few used copies of Bull Cook on Amazon. I strongly recommend it as a buy for you or as a gift for cooks you know.

Here's the Bull Cook's recipe for Worcestershire Sauce. Keep in mind when you see references to prices and easily fooled housewives that this book went to press in 1960. And pay heed to the cautionary note about tamarinds!

Original Worcestershire Sauce by John Crafton

"This famous sauce was originated in Worcester, England by John L. Crafton, a chemist and is an adaptation of early French sauces. He wanted desperately to make his every day food taste better and he certainly succeeded. The sauce was first called Worcester sauce then changed to Worcestershire sauce by commercial companies that tried to vaguely copy the original sauce.

"The original recipe is nothing at all like the present day commercial recipes. Commercial recipes for the most part are a black looking watery mixture of water, soy sauce, pepper and vinegar. They might be alright on chow mein or chop suey but hardly on anything else.

"Real Worcestershire sauce is a light reddish brown in color, is not at all watery but quite a heavy bodied liquid. It contains very little water, has no soy sauce flavor at all although it does contain a limited amount of soy sauce.

"Made by the original recipe it costs only about 75 cents a gallon to make. People really like it and your family will use a lot more of it than catsup if you have it available for them. Make up some for your church suppers also and put it on the table in old peanut butter jars with a spoon in it. It will create a real sensation whenever you serve it.

"Worcestershire sauce is not at all difficult to make. "Take an old gallon vinegar jug or one gallon jar and put in the following: Take one 15 ounce can of red kidney beans, (costs about 10 cents) drain and pass through a food mill. Commercial makers list tamarinds as a part of their recipe so that housewives will think that they cannot make their own as tamarinds are hard to find. Actually tamarinds are nothing but the pod from a tree in India that is nothing but poor cattle food and if eaten in any quantity is a severe laxative. One 6 ounce bottle of soy sauce.

"1 level teaspoon of garlic powder, two State of Maine American sardines packed in soy bean oil. They come packed in six sardines to a can and cost about 10 cents a can. Remove two sardines, put them into a small bowl of vinegar and wash them off. Remove and mash up with a fork and add. Commercial recipes say that they use anchovies to confuse housewives. Anchovies are actually nothing but a salt cured sardine.

"Take about six or seven quarts of apples, either green or ripe. Peel them and slice them up and place them in about a six or eight quart cooking pot. Cover them just to the top with brown vinegar. Add one onion sliced up about three inches in diameter. Add the following to the sliced apples: Three level tablespoons of ground cloves, two level tablespoons of ground turmeric, two level tablespoons of ground nutmeg, three level tablespoons of ground all spice, three level tablespoons of powdered coffee or three cups of boiled down black coffee. Bring to a boil and slowly boil for two hours. As the water in the vinegar evaporates add half water and half vinegar to replace it. Stir frequently as apples burn easily, and also tend to stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove and run through a food mill and add eight cups of the puree to the jub or jar.

"Now add: two level teaspoons of red ground pepper, four level tablespoons of corn syrup, six level tablespoons of salt, three level tablespoons of mustard, one level tablespoon of sugar.

"Now fill the balance of the jug or jar up with vinegar. Shake up well and leave stand for 24 hours and then it is ready for use."

That was simple, wasn't it?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

BBTuesday - Barbecued Tofu

Congratulations to those of you who weren't scared off by the title of this post. Your reward for sticking around is a surprisingly tasty recipe.

Way back in the 1980s, when your blogger still had a full head of hair and before we had our three kids (maybe one has something to do with the other), the Remarkable Marcy and I had lots of time to experiment with a wide range of recipes. During one particular stretch of clean living, we were both hard-core vegetarians and tofu was a staple of our diet.

Tofu, by itself, looks and tastes a lot like a sponge. That's because it is sort of like a sponge in that it absorbs the flavors of whatever you cook with it. To this day, one of our favorite recipes from that era was a Barbecued Tofu concoction that came in "The PETA Guide to Compassionate Living," a publication we received when we were card-carrying members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The PETA publication plucked the recipe from Louise Hagler's '80s classic, Tofu Cookery.

There were two parts to the recipe: a marinade and a sauce, each delicious enough on its own to have been used alone. But together, the end result was out of this world!

First, make sure you get the right sort of tofu. You need to get the firm tofu that comes packed in water in the plastic tubs you can usually find in your grocer's produce section. Don't get the squishy kind that comes in a box. And make sure to get the unflavored variety. You'll have to squeeze the water out of the block of tofu. Remember, you're basically dealing with a sponge. The easiest way to do this is to lay the block on a saucer, then put a plate, upside down, over the block and set a heavy book on top of the plate. Give it about 30 minutes, then drain off the water that's been pressed out.

Here's the recipe, in its two parts.

Barbecued Tofu

2 lbs. firm tofu. Freeze, thaw, squeeze out the water and cut into 1" x 3" strips.

Mix together:

3 tbsp. peanut butter (do yourself a favor and use a natural, smooth variety)
1/3 cup oil
1 tbsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. salt

Whip mixture until smooth. Pour over tofu strips and squeeze in as evenly as possible. Marinate 1 hour. While it is marinating prepare Barbecue Sauce.

Barbecue Sauce

1/2 cup oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Saute together until onions are transparent. Stir in:

2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. molasses
1/2 cup salad mustard
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice
1 tbsp. crushed red pepper or 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley or 1 tbsp. fresh parsley

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour.

Add the following ingredients and simmer 10-15 minutes more:

1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp. soy sauce

Now put it all together. Lay the marinated tofu (no sauce yet!) out on a cookie sheet which has been spread with 1/4 cup oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the bottoms are browned. Then turn the pieces and bake about 25 more minutes, or until the other sides are browned. Pour Barbecue Sauce over all the pieces and bake 15 more minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Aug. 27, 2007 - In the News

School starts today (finally), which means our three will each get up, each want a different breakfast and a different lunch. I invited them all to let me know what he or she wanted to eat on the first day back. You'd think that would be a good thing, but I know better. No matter what I make, I can be sure that they all will complain that another's meal is better than theirs.

Here are this week's finds:

The BBQ Blog: This is the blog of The BBQ Guy, aka Brian Pearcy, a competitive barbecuer and prolific writer about the art of barbecuing. It's a robust, full-service site for recipes, grilling techniques, advice on how and where to shop for supplies. If you want a peek inside the world of bbq contests, this is a good place to get it. My biggest "aha!" moment was this post, which suggests that even cooking contests haven't escaped the taint of cheating.

Tummy Treasure
: I thought you'd enjoy a break from the hot stuff for a change. Tummy Treasure came to my attention while looking for some good comfort-food recipes. Not only did I find them in abundance here, but there are also several back-to-school ideas that I liked. The blogger is Erika Seymour, a 251-year-old (that's what it said in her profile until I pointed it out and she changed it!) stay-at-home mom in Wisconsin. Erika's site is dedicated to food and family, which matches up very well with my own philosophy. Recent posts involve finding uses for the summer harvest of pears. The true treasures are found in her Recipe Trove. I'm a sucker for pies, and she has several mouth-watering options, my favorite being the Cranberry Pecan Pie.

And now, the news...

Here's a new use for barbecue sauce I bet you hadn't thought of. This article in The Christian Science Monitor suggests it just might save that photo shoot.

Maybe we should call it the anti-hot sauce. As a public service to you readers, here's a suggestion on how to use soy sauce as a burn remedy.

Unusual recipe of the week: The Osama Bin Laden cocktail. It calls for a little Tabasco, dashed into a shot of absinthe, which is only slightly easier to find than Osama himself.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Food for the Soul, Aug. 26, 2007

Last Monday The Chef From Hell posted this Food For Thought item on his Food Blog. Rather than steal Chef JP's thunder, I strongly recommend you check out his post, which points to a slide show on Time Magazine's site with photos from Peter Menzel's book, "Hungry Planet", illustrating what families from around the world eat in a week.

The Chef also encourages us to check in on the U.S. Food Policy blog to gain a greater understanding of issues surrounding food production.

All this underscores that most of us are truly blessed in this country to have enough food to fill our bellies and, in some cases, to maintain our part-time passions. Try to take a moment each day to give thanks for our abundance and for those who are responsible for producing the food we eat. And pray for those families and individuals in other parts of the world, our nation and our communities who are less fortunate.

Waste not.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mailbag, Aug. 25, 2007

A good week for the mailbag.

A couple of comments came in this week on my family recipe for Kentucky BBQ Dip.

My cousin Jackie in Louisville said she was happy to see that I'd dragged out the recipe, which has roots, like her husband Bill, in Owensboro. You bbq aficionados may recognize Owensboro as one of the bbq capitals of the world. It's home to the famous Moonlight Bar-B-Q Inn and one of the few places where mutton is always on the menu. I'll eventually get around to posting on both those topics.

The Barbecue Bachelor was also glad to see I'd finally gotten off my duff and posted a recipe of my own. I continue to offer the excuse that I'm a novice in a universe of experts when it comes to recipes. But I do have a few family secrets locked in a chest. I promise to be a little more forthcoming with them from now on.

Another post that generated feedback was about former baseball player Boog Powell. Chef JP, aka "The Chef From Hell", wondered if any other ballplayers had recipes for bbq or hot sauces. He said that former Yankee Ron Guidry had a "Louisiana Lightning" sauce and that Rusty Staub, who owned a Cajun-style restaurant in New York, made his own bbq sauce. The Chef asked if I could think of any other ballplayers-turned-sauce-maker. The only other two I could come up with are here in my Baltimore back yard and both are football players. Andy Nelson's, owned and operated by the former defensive back (1957-1963) for the Baltimore Colts, offers wonderful Memphis-style bbq in an authentic setting - a bit of a rambling shack with lots of little rooms, many of which offer simultaneous tribute to the Colts and Elvis Presley. Andy's place is north of the city, in suburban Cockeysville. Our other local footballer in the bbq biz is the Ravens' Ray Lewis, who owns the struggling Ray Lewis' Full Moon Bar-B-Que in Baltimore's Canton neighborhood. I haven't eaten there yet (maybe why it's struggling), but Ray is merely lending his name and money to the operation, which offers Alabama-style beef, pork and chicken. If you know of any other athletes who have their own eateries or recipes, let me know.

And finally, my friend Alan Silberberg, had a comment on my profile photo. Alan and I shared an office 20+ years ago at a television studio in Columbus, Ohio. He's since gone on to become a successful author, cartoonist and animator. He said he liked the "doodle" of myself. As I said to him, it ain't a doodle. That's what years of eating hot sauce has made me look like.

Hope your next week is a good one!

Friday, August 24, 2007

More Fun

If you've never visited James Lileks' very amusing site, do yourself a favor and go there. And when you do, make sure you check out the Gallery of Regrettable Food, a collection of cookbook illustrations and recipes from the 1950s. Of particular interest to this blogger and its readers would be The Hungry Man's Outdoor Grill Cookbook and Bar-B-Tricks, which promises to make you a "Cookout Champion."


Dave's New Look

One of my favorite online resources for drink recipes is Dave's Drinks. I've discovered that if his site doesn't have what I'm looking for (and that's rare), links off his homepage will get me to the right spot.

Dave debuted a new look for the site yesterday (Aug. 23). It's best viewed in Firefox. He's looking for feedback on it, so take a look and let him know what you think.

Friday Fun, Aug. 24, 2007 - Kentucky Drinking Game

My colleague and fellow native Kentuckian, John McIntyre, told me a couple of days ago about the "Kentucky Drinking Game." Here are the rules:
- two Kentuckians, each with a bottle of whisky, go into a room
- they stay in the room until both bottles of whisky have been consumed
- one Kentuckian leaves the room
- the other must guess which one left the room.

In addition to being a funny guy, McIntyre is the Assistant Managing Editor for our copy desk at The Baltimore Sun. He publishes one of the wittiest and most informative blogs about the English language I've ever read. The blog, called "You Don't Say", should be required reading for every college English and journalism class in the nation. It's well worth a look.

By the way, McIntyre recommends the game be played with Woodford Reserve.

Blog Spotlight - Homesick Texan

Homesick Texan describes herself as an ex-patriot Texan who has spent the past 12 years living in New York City. Her blog offers "musings on life, love and the pursuit of good refried beans."

I'm a sucker for a good-lookin' layout and this one is very clean and illustrated by some of the best photography I've encountered on a food site. Our Texan seems to know what she's doing with a camera.

And she's good in the recipe department, too. The two most recent posts, one for Habanero peach salsa and another for Mexican corn on the cob could give you a couple of nice, spicy sides for this weekend's grilling adventure.

Spend a little time with Homesick Texan and make sure you tell her where you heard about her.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Boog's Hot Sauce

"Boog, Mo. Mo, Boog."

It was the most fun I'd ever had making an introduction.

The scene took place at Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 2006. It was before a game and I was walking down the outfield promenade with my youngest, Mo, when we saw Boog Powell, the hulking former Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians first baseman. He was sitting outside his bbq joint, a popular ballpark eatery.

Boog is frequently on site at his place, signing autographs for all who ask. And he did so, graciously, for Mo, who was delighted. Afterward, she begged for my cell phone, called home and announced to the rest of the family, "I got Boot's autograph!"

Well, she's a little young to know much about Boog as either a ballplayer or a bbq maven. But I remember him as a player - a power hitter and All-Star on some great Orioles teams of the '60s and '70s. Late in his career, he was traded to the Indians at an unfortunate time in the game's history when ugly polyester uniforms were in vogue. After seeing him clad in the Tribe's all-maroon uniforms in 1975, someone referred to him as "the world's largest blood clot."

After his playing days he returned to Baltimore and now he's a permanent fixture at Camden Yards. During game telecasts, you can see smoke rising from Boog's Barbecue, just beyond the right field bleachers. To be accurate, Boog's bbq is really pit beef, Maryland's version of smoked meat. It's brisket - or turkey or ham - that usually has some sort of rub and that's about it. Sauce, if used at all, is squirted on after meat hits bun. Just as often, Marylanders opt instead for a horseradish sauce. I'll have more about pit beef in an upcoming post.

Away from the ballpark, Boog grows an impressive assortment of peppers. A few years ago my Baltimore Sun colleague Rob Kasper wrote a story about Boog's pepper garden and the story included the big guy's recipe for hot sauce. Here it is:

Boog's Hot Sauce

1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup water
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups cayenne peppers, stemmed and chopped

Put all ingredients into a pot used solely for cooking peppers. Bring to boil, then cut back heat to just below boil and let mixture cook until peppers soften, about 30-45 minutes.

Drain cooked peppers and liquefy in blender, running at high speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Strain, pour into bottles.

Thanks, Boog!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cholula and Threadgill's

Cholula and Threadgill's. Sounds like it could be a band or a mixed drink, but it's neither. What it is is a near-perfect marriage of hot sauce and comfort food. Settle in while I explain in one of my rambling stories.

You can find Cholula in stores throughout the country these days. It's worth buying Cholula for the bottle alone. There's a distinctive wooden ball on top of the bottle. And the label is a work of art - a softly smiling Mexican woman standing in a kitchen over a counter full of peppers, garlic and tomatoes. She's shooting you a look that says, "I'm gonna whip up some hot sauce, Bubba."

In a recent exchange with my pal the Barbecue Bachelor, I was inventorying the hot sauces we had in the house. The bottle of Cholula was sitting in the back of the pantry, not having been used for awhile. Which is too bad, because it's a really terrific complement to lots of foods.

Cholula's not so much hot as it is flavorful. The sauce is imported from Mexico and on the front of the bottle it reads, "El sabor autentico de la salsa Mexicana." According to an online translation tool, that means, "The flavor I authenticate of the Mexican sauce." Okay. I guess that means it's the real deal. It has a thicker consistency than Tabasco, and is savory and a little smoky, without overpowering you with the burn.

I first encountered it when we lived in Austin in the late '90s. It was great atop burritos or rice, but my favorite uses were on fried eggs and especially on Garlic Cheese Grits, something everyone should eat at least once, but the stuff will cause you to expand and explode if you eat too much.

And that's where Threadgill's comes in. Threadgill's is at once the seminal location of the Austin music scene and the Southern comfort-food center of the universe. The full history of the place is a must read, but a little long for this blog. In a nutshell, it was a gas station-turned-music venue-turned-restaurant. Threadgill's launched or furthered the careers of Janis Joplin and many other Austin-area musicians, and its two current locations remain popular stages today.

But it's also a real belt-loosener as a restaurant. It's one of the best places to get chicken-fried steak and other so-good-but-oh-so-bad-for-you comfort foods, like the aforementioned Garlic Cheese Grits. I had gotten a taste of the grits before arriving in Austin thanks to my wife, the Remarkable Marcy, who had given me "Threadgill's: The Cookbook" as a gift before we moved down from Chicago. From that book, here's the grits recipe:

Garlic Cheese Grits

6 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups hominy grits
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon yellow onion, minced
8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Bring water to a boil. Add grits and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add all other ingredients, and put into oiled casserole pan. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes, stirring midway. Makes 10 big servings.

And then, of course, douse heavily with Cholula.

The book is loaded with other great comfort-food recipes, among them Chicken-Fried Steak, Meatloaf, Smothered Pork Chops, Banana Pudding and Double Chocolate Ice Box Pie. And while you're waiting for the food to cook, you can read about how Kenneth Threadgill and the enterprising Eddie Wilson turned the place into an Austin institution. It's definitely worth adding to your cookbook collection.

For a taste of the music fare that Threadgill's offers, here's a video of Ruthie Foster singing "People Grinnin' in Your Face" in May 2007.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

BBTuesday - Kentucky Dip

I thought I'd share the secret family recipe for the bbq dip that my dad made to use when he hovered over his bbq pit when I was a kid. It's high-powered stuff that can be liberally mopped over ribs, brisket, mutton, chicken and anything else that might find its way onto your grill. It also works for removing tar stains from cars and killing termites.

Here goes:

Kentucky BBQ Dip

1 quart distilled white vinegar
2 10-ounce cans of tomato puree
1 5-ounce bottle of Worcestershire sauce (preferably Lea & Perrins)
1 stick butter
1/8 cup salt
2 Tbl black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper
1 Tbl allspice
1 Tbl paprika
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 lemons (juice squeezed into dip - toss the rinds in while it's cooking)

Mix the dry ingredients. Add enough vinegar to form a paste. Then add the rest of the vinegar, the Worcestershire sauce and tomato puree. Heat and add the butter and lemon rinds. DO NOT BOIL!!! Don't know why not, but I listened to my daddy. Mix well and let cook for an hour.

This stuff will last a good while in the refrigerator. It's also good for mixing with pulled pork or chicken.

Debate teaser #1: I've always had a preference for this dip kind of bbq sauce as opposed to the ketchupy or mustard sauces. I supposed it's a regional bias. I don't dislike the others, though. However, in my Web travels, I've started to notice strong feelings out there that sometimes run high in favor of one type of sauce over another and what appears to be outright disgust toward others. If you like one type over another, leave a comment and let me know why. Or if you can't stand a particular type, that might even be more fun to hear. We'll keep the debate rolling every Tuesday as long as we have input from you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Aug. 20, 2007 - In the News...

Since starting this blog and scouting through the news feeds for interesting information about bbq and hot sauce, a couple of things have become blatantly obvious. First, if your organization wants to raise money, host a charity barbecue. Second, if you're a politician looking for votes, show up at a charity barbecue.

Here are this week's finds:

The Chef From Hell - I'm window shopping in the blogosphere trying to find a homemade hot sauce recipe to share with the Barbecue Bachelor, when I discover The Chef From Hell's recipe blog. He's got a post about his Hell Sauce. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but was just too good to pass up. The inclusion of the coffee was what hooked me. Hell Chef's real name is J.P. Gelinas and he's the real deal. A New Englander by birth who's been all over the place and now is a restaurateur in New York.

Majik Zombi's Barbecue Voodoo - This was a site I first came across early last week. Run by an Oregonian who's a self-described "practitioner of Barbecue Voodoo... An alchemist's list of recipes. A shaman with seasoning. The sorcerer of sauces. It's the voodoo that I do when I barbecue." Probably should have pointed to it earlier, but a recent recipe posting for his Voodoo Chili, complete with a little Jim Beam, made me realize my responsibility to share it with you.

And now, the news...

If you eat barbecue that comes out of a can, you probably deserve this. Castleberry's, a food processor in Georgia, has issued a product recall on several of its products, including canned pork in barbecue sauce and hot dog chili sauce. Seems traces of botulism have showed up in some of the cans.

Is there anything hot sauce can't do? Here's a post from a blog called First Impressions that talks about using hot sauce or peppers for organic pest control.

Unusual recipe of the week: Bar-B-Q'd Armadillo. This comes courtesy of the Backwoods Bound site. I lived in Texas for five years and never saw a live armadillo. But I must have seen thousands of dead ones. Texans like to place bottles of Lone Star Beer next to the road-kill 'dillos. Never figured out why. If you know, leave a comment.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Food for the Soul, Aug. 19, 2007

"Do you wanna tallpony?"

When I asked the girl behind the fast-food counter what the heck a tallpony was, she pointed at the milkshake she had just handed me and repeated the question, slowly and deliberately, "Do you want a top on it?"

Oh. That. No, thanks.

I grew up in Kentucky, and we talked a little differently down there. That meandering drawl would every once in awhile lead to some interesting and amusing misinterpretations.

Here's an example, although most surely a tall tale. It was included in a collection of work by Joe Creason, the late, great columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

"Once upon a time, white flannel trousers were the 'in' thing with all the dudes. Morrison Hicks, Louisville, tells about a wealthy guy who had gotten tar on his favorite pair of white flannels and who had instructed his servant to get it out - the tar that is. 'Did you try ammonia?' he asked after all else failed. 'No sir,' the hired hand replied, eyeing the pants enviously, 'but I know they'd fit me.'"

When I read that joke, the humor hit me immediately and I started laughing out loud. My wife, who grew up in Cleveland, asked me what was so funny, and I showed her the story. She read it, but then gave me that "you're weird" look she has a patent on. It was then that I realized that you have to hear the drawl in your head when you read it or it makes no sense at all.

Another writer I like, Bill Bryson, a Midwesterner by birth who later moved to England, wrote about his encounters with the Southern drawl in "The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America." Bryson was driving through the South and stopped one morning at a restaurant (why do these things seem to happen so often at food places?). Here's how he described his encounter with a waitress in Columbus, Mississippi:

"I could live here, I thought. But then the waitress came over and said, 'Yew honestly a breast menu, honey?' and I realized that it was out of the question. I couldn't understand a word these people said to me. She might as well have addressed me in Dutch. It took many moments and much gesturing with a knife and fork to establish that what she had said to me was 'Do you want to see a breakfast menu, honey?'"

It's easy to have fun with the way Southerners talk. Having been one for a large portion of my life, and having spoken with such a syrupy drawl that even everyone down there made fun of the way I talked, I realize it's an easy target for abuse. But it's important to note that you shouldn't equate a drawl with being stupid. Take a moment and treat yourself to a brief sound bite on this page from Mississippian Shelby Foote, a historian and author who first came to my attention in Ken Burns' documentary, "The Civil War." Listening to Foote's soft, slow, intelligent delivery is like comfort food for the ears.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Barbecue Bachelor's Humus

The guy can do meats - just look at the photos on his blog and you'll have no doubts about that. But what continues to impress me is his range. Here's a link to his Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Humus recipe.

Mailbag, Aug. 18, 2007

After just one week of blogging, I've had three comments either posted or e-mailed to me, which is three more than I thought I'd have at this stage. This has been a classic soft launch, and I've only announced the blog's existence to a select few friends and other bloggers whose sites I've discovered and liked.

Thanks to BBQ Bachelor, fellow blogger mentioned in Friday's Spotlight. He was kind enough to post a supportive comment and give me a shout out on his blog.

Also checking in was MKR, my good friend to whom I referred in one of the first posts.

And my big brother came to take a look. He was complimentary, but asked a legitimate question: "Why do people read those things?"

If you're reading this, you probably know the answer to that, whether you realize it or not. We read these things because we have an interest in the subject covered by the blog, or in the person doing the blogging. It's about community building, the sharing of like interests and in creating a dialog with like-minded individuals. Or even engaging in civil discussions with people who may think a little differently than we do.

So, if you like bbq, hot sauce, great tunes and other good stuff, come on in and see what I have to share and tell me what you know in return. If for some reason you land on the blog and you don't like what we're about, let me know why. It's all about listening and learning and maybe we can all be a little smarter as a result.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Blog Spotlight - Barbecue Bachelor

I just found a kindred spirit out there who runs the Barbecue Bachelor blog. Absolutely worth some time out of your day to check it out. Several good cooking tips, including some tasty posts about smoking your own pastrami, making tandoori chicken and grilling apricots and peaches for an a la mode dessert. Not all the posts include recipes, but even those that don't include the Bachelor's photos of his latest projects that leave your mouth watering.

A good place to go when you're looking for something just a little different to cook on your grill.

Friday Fun, Aug. 17, 2007 - Barbecue Lef Tovers

Here's a conversation I actually heard several years ago, between two little boys staring at a menu at a food joint in Kentucky:
Little boy: What's a BLT?
Big boy: I think it's "Barbecue Lef Tovers."

If you're looking for a good weekend project, here's an easy one that gives you something to do with your summer harvest of peppers. Hot sauce is a pretty easy thing to make on your own. This link takes you to a page with a simple recipe for a Tabasco-like sauce that's nothing more than peppers, vinegar and salt. There are also recipes for salsa and other sauces. The information is from an out-of-print book, "The Hot Sauce Bible," by Dave DeWitt and Chuck Evans. DeWitt is author of other cookbooks, publisher of Fiery Foods Magazine and owner of the site, a thorough resource for bbq and hot stuff.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Los Pinkys, Salsa and Cerveza

Los Pinkys is a Conjunto band I ran across while living in Austin, Texas. I have to admit that the clip above doesn't show them at their best, but it gives you a flavor for the sound. I have one CD, "Esta Pasion," which has some songs that range from full-tilt conjunto to a bluesy, rockin' version of Sugar Bee that's the equal of anything Los Lobos has done.

My taste for Conjunto music flourished when we lived in Texas. It's a style of music that bears similarities to polka and western swing and it's no accident. Texas was settled by lots of Germans, Czechs and Bohemians who brought their accordions and music with them.

Whenever I hear Conjunto, it makes me want to dip a chip into some salsa, take a sip of a Margarita or any Mexican beer and dig into some hearty Tex-Mex food.

Here is a link to a great recipe for salsa verde, a green salsa that's both fiery and refreshing. If you're going to opt for a Margarita, do yourself a favor and stay away from the bottled mixers. The drink's not that hard to make on your own and you'll be glad you did. Here's a simple Margarita recipe from the "Dave's Drinks" blog. If you prefer beer, the Rate It All site has a good list of Mexican brews. The cervezas are ranked by whomever has been there before, but remember that any rating system is subjective, so pick something you think you might like and go for it. I tend to go for Pacifico, Sol or Dos Equis, but as long as it's cold and helps put out the fire on my tongue, anything will work.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Gal Is Red Hot

MoJo loooooves hot sauce. Moira Joy is our youngest and the only one of our three children who has developed a taste for spicy food. She's really an all-round adventurous eater, but I'm particularly impressed by the way she'll dash on hot sauce over lots of what's on her plate.

Although she's tried Tabasco and some other hot hot sauces, Mo's most fond of Frank's. But even that's impressive for a 9 year old. She doesn't skimp with it, either, liberally dousing it over eggs, tuna fish and a variety of other foods.

When I see her go for the bottle of Frank's, I often think of the Robert Gordon song, "Red Hot." It's a great, jumpin' piece of music. The link here is to his "Are You Gonna Be The One" release from 2002 that contains a live recording of the song. Gordon is a great rockabilly revivalist and "Red Hot" knocked me out the first time I heard it, back in the late '70s or early '80s - that period is generally a fog to me when it comes to nailing a specific date, but it was a favorite high-energy dance tune at Crazy Mama's punk club in Columbus, Ohio. I recently picked up a copy of Gordon's newest, "It's Now Or Never," recorded with guitarist Chris Spedding and the Jordanaires. The disc contains 15 spot-on covers of Elvis tunes. Well worth the listen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Technorati Wants Me

I've just signed up with Technorati to give a little pop to the blog. Now it should pop up when people are looking for bbq, hot sauce and other blogs about living a comfortable life.

Here's the link to Technorati -
Technorati Profile

BBTuesday - BBQ Pit

We had a bbq pit in our backyard when I was growing up. That's not ours above, but ours was similar to it. The pit above was built by the guy who runs the site.

My dad built our pit. One side was a fireplace, where he'd burn hickory to make the coals. Above the flames was a metal shelf where he'd heat up the sauce.

The other side of the pit was the grill. I seem to recall that it was about 4'x6', with trays of red hot hickory coals smoking slabs of ribs and whole chickens.

I was only five when daddy died. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve him standing over the grill, mopping sauce over the meat. I still remember seeing little beads of sweat hanging off his nose as he cooked.

We moved out of the house when I was 16. A few years ago, whoever was living in the house tore down the pit and put up a storage shed. A shed isn't exactly the sort of thing that inspires special memories.

Building a pit requires some effort, but for those who are interested, here's a link to some instructions by Murray Anderson on the site.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Aug. 13, 2007 - In the News...

I don't profess to being an expert in much of anything. But part of my mission is to find the experts and deliver enough information about them and other relevant events to make us all a little smarter along the way.

Sources of information about bbq, hot sauce, drink and music aren't hard to come by. But some are better than lots of others and I want to share them with you. Here are a couple of my first picks:

Hot Sauce Blog
- the blog is incredibly robust, with lots of links to sauces and reviews. One thing I particularly like is that it is updated frequently. The posts are a little long, but I guess that means they're thorough. Lots of photos give it a nice visual flavor, too.

BBQ Forum Blog - the featured focus of this blog is bbq people. The home page features profiles of bbq aficionados from all over the place. The site also has links to correspondents who report on topics like cooking equipment, restaurants, and even computer stuff. There are also podcast interviews with lots of bbq people.

And now, the news...

My good friend Candy Thomson reports (story and video) on the Chesapeake Bay BBQ Cookoff.

They should have known better than to mix politics with their bbq.

India's "ghost chili" - twice the punch of habanero.

Unusual recipe of the week: Grilled figs with bacon and blue cheese.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Food for the Soul, Aug. 12, 2007

I grew up in Madisonville, Kentucky, a town in the western part of the state that's 45 miles due south of Evansville, Indiana and 100 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee. I heard a lot of country music growing up and absolutely hated it when I was a kid. But I moved away during my teens and over the years have nurtured fond memories of both the town and the sounds associated with it.

Just down the street from where I lived was a church where the Happy Goodman Family ran their ministry. The Goodmans were then and still are a well-known gospel group. I never went to their church but still run across their music, like this clip on

When I was growing up there, Madisonville had an economy built on coal mining and tobacco farming, two industries that aren't exactly booming these days. Today, there's a respected regional medical center there that has attracted many talented health professionals to the town, including, ironically, a very good friend I went to college with in Ohio. I still have lots of childhood friends who live there. I don't get back nearly as often as I'd like to, but I did discover another YouTube video that someone had shot while driving up Main Street in Madisonville.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Clearer Still

Thanks to anyone who happens to stop by while this baby's still birthin'. What you're likely to see are some experiments with various types of content. I'm hoping that Saturdays will ultimately be a day where I share the best of reader comments and e-mails. Sundays will provide a little food for the soul. Mondays you'll find some news items, ranging from helpful (like this one) to the unusual (careful now). BBTuesdays will be devoted solely to bbq. Wednesdays will be hot sauce day. Thursdays and Fridays will be fun - ideas for weekend menus, beverages, music, etc.

While I do want to give you some solid expectations about what you'll find here and when, I also want to offer you surprises. So don't be shocked if I break format from time to time. It's for your own good.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Birth of a Notion

Slowly coming into focus now. This space will ultimately be dedicated to the good things in life - bbq, hot sauce, comfort foods in general, good drink, cool music and some thoughts about livin' life the right way. I'm no expert on anything, but I know what I like and I do appreciate hearing from people who feel like they know a thing or two about the categories listed above. By the time I get my blog legs, I hope to post at least once a day. And I hope you'll check back regularly and let me know what you think. If it works out like I'd like it to, it'll put a smile on everyone's faces and we'll all end up learning a few things.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I'm trying to come up with a focus for this blog. Ideas? Let me know.