Posted: July 29, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

I have a friend who has an annual rib party, touting his famous ribs. The first time I went, I watched him remove the babybacks from the cellophane, put them straight onto the grill, and paint them with bottled barbecue sauce. And like Peggy Lee, I wondered, Is that all there is?

Contrast that with a restaurant in which I used to work, the late and lamented Maudes in Ann Arbor, famous for its barbecue ribs, and justly so. Chef had an all day operation going on. He spread the racks all over the kitchen, and ingeniously coated them with a secret marinade from a spray bottle faster, more even, and cleaner.

Then they sloooow baked for hours until they fell off the proverbial bone. They were excellent alone like that, but even better when the customer ordered them. Thats when they were finished under the broiler with a delicious red sauce, and presented proudly to the hungry customer.

After many successful years, Maudes incongruously changed its rib recipe, installing an outside smoker. They were not bad, but like New Coke, not the best idea for a loyal customer base. Maudes closed shortly afterwards.

A close second was the barbecue prepared by the equally late and lamented Jesse Campbell, a.k.a. Mr. Rib. His restaurant was housed in too many locations to count, as it seemed he was always trying to stay one step ahead of the IRS, which hounded him mercilessly. But what a sauce. Lord knows what was under it, but that sweet river of lava was something to die for.

My butcher, Bob Sparrow, is of the slow bake school. Its not glamorous, and it doesnt have the same manly cachet of standing over the smoker in a goofy outfit, tongs in one hand and beer in the other. But it works.

To wit: 200 for four hours. Put them on the top rack, meaty side up, preferably with a shallow pan of water and/or apple cider on the lower rack to provide moist heat.

Cover them with foil for the last hour. If you want to finish them on the grill, bump that oven up to a balmy 225 and cut the cooking time down an hour.

Prior to the slow bake, a dry rub, marinade, or combination of the two is recommended. I recently cooked a few racks by rubbing them with a combination of canola oil mixed with a touch of cider vinegar, then a sweet peppery rub (recipe below). I finished them under the broiler (as I was out of propane) with a traditional Kansas City-style sauce, just enough to give them a light crust. They were delicious and so were the leftovers. For days, and days, and days.

Blue Smoke Black Pepper Rub
by Ken Callaghan
2 Tbs coarsely ground pepper
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 tsp Spanish paprika
     (sweet or hot; I used sweet)

After coating the ribs with a mixture of canola oil, cider vinegar, and a touch of fresh ground garlic, mix and rub this spice mixture all over both sides of the ribs.

Cook in a low heat oven as above.

This red sauce is best made in advance to let the flavors get to know each other better.

Sweet and Sticky Barbecue Sauce
Recipe adapted from Adam Perry Lang.
1/2 cup canola oil
6 chopped garlic cloves
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
1/4 cup dark rum
     (I used leftovers in the liquor cabinet,
       some weird gift from the Islands)
3 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne, Aleppo pepper,
     or mixture of both
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups water
2 cups ketchup or chili sauce
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup tamarind paste
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup Franks Red Hot Sauce

1.Heat oil in large saucepan. Add garlic, onion, green pepper, and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until softened, 5-10 minutes. Add liquor and cook 2 minutes more. Add chili powder, peppers, allspice, and cloves, and cook 3 minutes. Add brown sugar, water, ketchup, molasses, tamarind paste, molasses, mustard, vinegar, and Franks and simmer, stirring often, for 30 minutes.

2.Transfer to a food processor, puree, season with salt to taste. Refrigerate for up to two weeks or until ready to use.

Vegetarians can put this sauce on a slab o tofu. Its really good that way, too. Honest.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: July 23, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

My cooking heroes were Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and Jeff The Frugal Gourmet Smith (before he was busted as a pederast). I hadnt heard of Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher until a few years ago. Then I bought The Art of Eating, praised by Child, Alice Waters, Maya Angelou, and James Beard, among others, and I was transformed.

More than a cook, more than a writer, MFK recognized the connections we all share:

It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it... and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied... and it is all one. The Art of Eating

Born in Albion in 1908, steeped in the Art during an extended period living in Dijon, France in the 30s, MFK wrote more than twenty books, with names such as Consider the Oyster and How to Cook A Wolf. A few of these books, and several articles, are compiled into The Art of Eating.

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art. Serve It Forth

MFKs irreverence and wit cannot be described. I devoured every delicious quote and highlighted it in my dog eared copy.

Central heating, French Rubber goods, and cookbooks are three amazing proofs of mans ingenuity in transforming necessity into art, and, of these, cookbooks are perhaps most lastingly delightful. Serve It Forth

She comments on the eating cycle of a boy to old age, the typical American society cookbook, roast pigs and sentimentality, bad English desserts, and secret eating obsessions. She regales us with anecdotes about French kings and their chefs. She defends the potato as a complement to a main meal, noting that to be complementary is in itself a compliment. It is a subtle pleasure. This principle she illustrates with the story of a chef who prepared an elegant dish of sole, whose dinner was complimented thusly: The Chateau Yquem was excellent. The chef beamed with pride, explaining to his staff that the wine would not have tasted good unless the main dish were perfect.

(Note well; lawyers you are only as good as your support staff.)

She makes simple eating pleasures sound magical, such as eating tangerines: Peel them gently; do not bruise them ... separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for [your loved one].

Ms. Fisher was not restricted to men and women, once writing How to Be Content with a Vegetable Love, quoting the English poet W.S. Gilbert. She notes, Almost all vegetables are good, although there is some doubt still about parsnips (which I share)."After rhapsodizing over the sublime taste of the pink skinned tiny new potato, she exuded, There are many ways to love a vegetable!

How to Cook a Wolf was first published in 1942, at the height of wartime shortages and rationing. It referred not to the literal, but the concept of making the most of out of everything. For example, she explained how to stretch eggs, either with breadcrumbs, or in a souffl, add one cup of puffed cereal to the three separated eggs, and you will have food for four people [... at least three of whom, I feel impelled to add, you dislike intensely and hope never to see again.].

An MFK Fisher recipe is more like a story, like the oyster stew made without either cream or milk, obtained from three gentle sisters, who spoke sadly at first, and then with that kind of quiet inner mirth that rises always in members of a family who have lived together for several decades, when they begin unexpectedly to remember things.

She describes an oyster stew from a nonchalant cook at the Doylestown (PA) Inn, who worked three separate copper pots one with fresh shelled oysters, another with hot frothing butter, and a third with steaming milk all eventually blended together with a dash of salt and red pepper. She concluded, It was as good as he had said, the best in the world, and as all the other people had told me ... mildly potent, quietly sustaining, warm as love. Consider the Oyster

Mary Frances Kay Fisher died in 1992. She has been regarded by some as the first real food writer. She knew it wasnt just about the food, but about the hunger. If I can convey that concept in even the smallest way, then please join me, my friend, for some fresh oysters and spot of Muscatel.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.

Posted: July 15, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Im dreaming of making the perfect lobster roll for a summer lunch.

Years ago, my wifes late aunt lived on Marthas Vineyard and every summer wed feast on fresh boiled lobster. I also remember going to Edgartown for lobster rolls at the Wharf Pub Restaurant in Edgartown, where I would regale everyone with my Teddy Kennedy impression.

I cant even remember the last time Ive had real Maine lobster, not counting the $4 frozen mystery tails at Meijers. I can tell you the last time that my family sang the Dead Lobster song in four part harmony, on a trip back from Massachusetts a long time ago. If you dont know that song, it goes like this: one person repeats the phrase

The lobster is dead, over and over. Another repeats the word lobster, and a third repeats the word dead. Over this tight rhythm section, the lead singer croons a heartfelt DEAAAAAAD is the lobster! in sort of a free form riff.

Maybe you had to be there, in that non-air-conditioned Dodge Omni on a broiling hot summers day, to have fully appreciated our musical genius. On to the recipes.

Concerning lobster rolls, there is one constant. They must be served on a buttered, grilled hot dog bun. Preferably a good one, like a brioche roll from a hoity-toity bakery, but Aunt Millie will do in a pinch.

After that, there are two schools of thought that diverge like Robert Frosts two roads in the New England woods. One is pretty much the naked lobster on that grilled hot dog bun, perhaps in a little melted butter or just a dab of mayo. The other school of thought, more innovative to some but heresy to others, is to gussy up that puppy with herbs, spices, lemon, celery, and onion. One recipe, in of all places askmen.com, called the one with lots of extras as having Devils spittle.

If it were me, Id simply toss that fresh lobster with a lemon-dill-mayonnaise and some finely diced celery. But then I saw this version in the July Food and Wine magazine that put potato chips right on the sandwich. And I thought Whoa potato chips.

So I will take the road less traveled. I will choose the lobster roll recipe that puts potato chips right on the sandwich. And I sing to you, Dead is the lobster with Devils spittle.

Deluxe Lobster and Potato Chip Rolls

Ingredients:
1 cup mayonnaise*
   (Hellmans or homemade, see note)
1 celery rib, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco** (see note)
2 tablespoons snipped chives,
   plus more for garnish
Kosher salt
Three 1 1/4-pound live lobsters or
   1 1/4 pounds cooked lobster meat
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 brioche hot dog buns
One 4-ounce bag potato chips

Directions:

1. In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, celery, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco and the 2 tablespoons of chives; season with salt. Refrigerate until chilled.

2. Bring a very large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the lobsters to the boiling water, head first. Cover and cook until theyre bright red, about 8 minutes. Transfer the lobsters to the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the lobsters.

3. Twist off the lobster claws, knuckles and tails. Crack the claws and knuckles and remove the meat. Using kitchen scissors, cut along the underside of the tail shells and remove the meat. Discard the dark intestinal vein running lengthwise down each tail. Chop the lobster meat into 1/2-inch pieces and fold them into the dressing. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

4. Meanwhile, melt the butter on a large griddle or in a large skillet. Add the closed buns and toast the outsides over high heat, turning frequently, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the buns to a platter, split the tops and fill with the lobster salad. Tuck the potato chips into the rolls, garnish with chives and serve.

* Note: its easy to make homemade mayonnaise.
2 large eggs.
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard.
2 teaspoons lemon juice.
1 teaspoon sea salt, pinch cayenne.
2 cups canola or other neutral oil.

Add the eggs, mustard, lemon, salt, and cayenne to a food processor. Process for 30 seconds. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil slowly at first, then add in a thin, steady stream until all the oil is added and the mixture is smooth. Stop the motor and taste. Keeps for up to a week.

** Note: personally I think Tabasco is the Devils spittle, so I would substitute Franks.
And so you have your perfect summers lunch. Add a crisp, dry white wine or ros, and maybe a snappy cole slaw, and its even more perfect. Oh, wait, maybe some pie. Shoot, I keep adding things.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.

Posted: July 8, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

For many would be vegetarians, it is bacon that gives them pause. For me, its chicken wings. My mother and I once made a five pound bag for the family. By the time they came home for dinner, there were about six wings left.

Nutritionally, theyre pretty much in the bottom rubble of the food pyramid. But when youre chowing down on a heaping plate and washing them down with a few cold ones, you dont much care.

Whats good about chicken wings is their versatility. Theyre pretty easy, low maintenance, and a vehicle for all sorts of flavors. Theyre also perfect for a crowd, and can be enjoyed piping hot or, if theyre not immediately scarfed up, not bad cold.

Baking them puts some lipstick on the nutritional pig. In other words, it cuts down on the calories. A single serving is probably around 200 calories. Of course, thats if you consider a single serving to be three wings. I consider that a single mouthful. (Its like a bag of potato chips that claims to include seven servings. What am I, a family of dwarves?)

Ive tried baking wings myriad ways. Marinated; slow baked; baked then grilled; all messy and complicated, but delicious. I tend to prefer the fiery kind. The first time I had Buffalo style wings, I was hooked. Franks Red Hot Sauce and bleu cheese dip? Brilliant. Also gotta love the completely superfluous celery and carrot sticks, which I think are there mainly for color, because really when you reach into the plate, what are you going to pick up a chicken wing, or a carrot stick?

I have a recipe for slow baked Greek wings that Ill share sometime. I make them with the Holy Troika of olive oil, garlic, and lemon, some Greek herbs and spices, and the traditional Franks Red Hot Sauce, which many of you may not know is made by old ladies in babushkas on a remote Greek island.

But for today, Im going to give you perhaps the easiest version of baked Buffalo wings youll ever want to try. Im making them for an office party this weekend. This is from Food and Wine Magazine, by Grace Parisi, and theyre foolproof. The only drawback is the 500 oven in a non-air-conditioned house.
Classic Hot Wings

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds chicken wingettes and drumettes (Note: wingettes and drumettes are the result of splitting a chicken wing at the joint. They are often sold separately. The drumettesare always the first to be eaten, so my advice is to skip the wingettes.)
2 1/2 tablespoons Franks Red Hot Sauce. (If you dont have Franks, order a pizza.)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 500. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with vegetable oil. In a bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Spread the chicken on the baking sheet in a single layer and spray with vegetable oil. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes, turning once or twice, until browned and crispy.

2. In a bowl, toss the chicken wings with the hot sauce and butter.

Whats great about this recipe is that you can toss the wings in just about anything. Food and Wine offers many other alternatives to the Franks and butter a honey/chile; maple/chipotle; mango/curry note the sweet sour theme. Peruse the web, or use your imagination. I also tossed a few in my daughters homemade pesto.

Delicious!

By the way, this recipe serves just one, so plan on more if youre having a party. Joke! But these are addictive. They are also messy, so have tuxedoed butlers working the crowd with hot, steaming towels held out on tongs. Or if youre on a budget, just put out a little thing of moist towelettes, or let your guests use the shower.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.