Friday, September 28, 2007

STILL lovin' the dove

I was recently accosted by a PETA freak for "promoting" dove-hunting here at A Man's Gotta Eat. Creeder Reader Kim was so offended by said PETA freak's, well, accosting, she suggested the following recipe for fresh-cleaned dove breasts:

Baked Dove in Wine Sauce


1 cup flour
10 dove breasts
1 stick butter or margarine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white wine


Preheat oven to 350°.

In skillet, melt butter or margarine. Add garlic and simmer 1 minute to release the flavor of the garlic.

Dredge dove breasts in flour and brown in skillet.

Place breasts in baking dish (do not overcrowd). Cover with water and wine. Bake 1 hour.

Serve with rice or egg noodles.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Joltin' Django cooks: Cornish hen

As many times as I've fried turkeys for Thanksgiving over the years, I'd never once considered frying a Cornish hen ... until I saw Ms. Lucy frying hens on her Cajun cooking show (RFD-TV -- available in Nashville on DirecTV and Dish Network only).

Tonight, I broke out my Presto deep fryer and cooked up some Cornish hens for me and mine. Here's how I done it ...

Joltin' Django's Cajun Cornish Hens


2 tablespoons Zatarain's Cajun Seasoning
1 tablespoon Zatarain's-brand cayenne pepper
4 (1 1/4 lb) Cornish hens
Vegetable oil


Combine Cajun seasoning and pepper; rub liberally over inside and outside of hens.

Pour oil until it fills exactly half of a 4-quart deep fryer; heat to 350°F.

Carefully lower hens into hot oil, using tongs.

Fry 15-18 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 180°.

Remove hens from oil and drain on paper towels.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oh, I'm "Comforted" ...!

It's my understanding that Southern Comfort was Janis Joplin's drink of choice. It's also my understanding that Ms. Joplin consumed Southern Comfort in copious quantities. I think I now know why she developed such a taste for the stuff.

A buddy gave me a big bottle of 100-proof Southern Comfort about a month ago as a way of thanking me for watching his house and collecting his mail while he was out of town. The bottle sat on my bar unmolested until tonight.

After my Italian stir-fry dinner (expect a review one of these days), I poured a half-ounce of Southern Comfort over ice and retired to my easy chair. I placed Death Proof, disc one, into my DVD player, and I raised my highball glass to my lips ...

After the initial 100-proof burn made its way over my tongue and into my belly, I had a revelation: Southern Comfort is one tasty al-kee-holic beverage! It is very - and I mean very - sweet with a complex undertone of whiskey and spices. It tastes very much like a beverage I'd expect to be drinking whilst sitting on a balcony in New Orleans' French Quarter.

I'm not crazy about 100-proof beverages, but the sweetness of Southern Comfort's extra-alcohol beverage sorta lessens, if you will, the high octane burn. That said, I'll probably buy me a bottle of "regular" Southern Comfort before I get anywhere near finishing the bottle I now have. Let's just hope I don't start buying Southern Comfort in Janis Joplin-style, ahem, copious quantities!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Picnic Pizza rules!

My best bud, Bruce, and I were both in the mood for pizza this evening. It took us all of 5 seconds to come to the mutual decision that a trip to Picnic Pizza was not only in order, but absolutely necessary as well. In what might become an everytime-I-go tradition on A Man's Gotta Eat, here's a review of Picnic Pizza from a few weeks back:

I never get tired of talking about Picnic Pizza, aka Angelo's Picnic Pizza & Italian Restaurant. Picnic Pizza has been in business in Nashville for almost 25 years, and I've been raving about their pizza almost since day one.

What's so great about Picnic Pizza's pies? Well, each pizza starts with homemade dough, hand-rolled by Angelo himself; a zesty tomato sauce, perfectly spread, is added; then comes fresh-grated mozzarella cheese; and the whole shebang's topped with the best pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms and peppers I've ever eaten. Picnic Pizza' pies are sliced into big NYC-style slices (Angelo e la sua famiglia hail from Brooklyn) and are served piping hot.

When Picnic Pizza moved to its current location in 2000, Angelo added a lunch buffet. For the past seven years, Priest Lake/Antioch residents have had a place in which they can gorge themselves on the best Italian food Nashville has to offer: pizza, of course, stromboli, spaghetti and marinara, sausage and peppers, fried eggplant, baked penne with vegetables, and a well-stocked salad bar, which features a damn fine vinegar 'n' oil dressing.

Nashville has a lot of Italian restaurants that claim to have the best pizza in the city. I've eaten at most of 'em and I've come to this conclusion: There ain't a pizza joint in town that can hold a candle to Picnic Pizza. Indeed.

Angelo's Picnic Pizza
2713 Murfreesboro Road
Antioch, TN 37013-2003

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fifth Quarter, RIP

When I was growing up, the Fifth Quarter was my family's restaurant of choice for celebrating special occasions. Indeed, I fondly remember dining there on my 18th birthday, alongside my parents and a girlfriend who was a cheerleader at David Lipscomb University. Mem-O-ries!

The Fifth Quarter was one of the first restaurants in Nashville to feature a salad bar. In fact, it was a salad bar that a man could appreciate. In addition to lettuce and chopped vegetables, the Fifth Quarter's salad bar had anchovies, bits of pan-fried bacon, pitted olives, chopped garlic, whole jalapeno peppers, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, among other things. (Ruby Tuesday's salad bar was a bitch next to the Fifth Quarter's salad bar!)

It saddened me when I heard that the Fifth Quarter was closing. I was saddened, but I wasn't shocked. You see, The Fifth Quarter was located in an area of Nashville that, during the past ten years or so, has quickly become a Little Mexico City. In fact, I'm amazed that the Fifth Quarter stayed in business as long as it did, considering ...

The Murfreesboro Road/Thompson Lane area of Nashville was once home to a host American chain restaurants: Red Lobster, Chili's, Bennigan's, Shoney's, Captain D's, Steak and Ale, Dunkin' Donuts, just to name a few. These restaurants are long gone, and check-cashing businesses, pawn shops, and discount tobacco stores are now doing business in and around the former all-American eating places.

Furthermore, the area in question once featured the famous Peddler steak house/night club. I was a Peddler-patron just once 'round 1997; but I remember having a man-size cut of quality prime rib there, served with a half-cup-sized bowl of fresh-grated horseradish. The Peddler closed 'bout 2001 and became a Hispanic night club. Said night club didn't last very long, and now the "Peddler building" is - gasp! - a discount tobacco store.

Lest anyone think I'm being unfair or xenophobic, I'm going to post a couple of reviews soon featuring ethnic restaurants on or near Thompson Lane. A handful of quality ethnic restaurants, however, doesn't change the fact that a large area of Nashville now exists that I hardly recognize. The Fifth Quarter's closing only exemplifies this fact.

Stay tuned ...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Charlie Trotter's at 20

I've been to Chicago one time in my life. One of the highlights of that trip - in 2001, if I remember correctly - was when I sat down for a 3-hour dinner at Charlie Trotter's Restaurant.

I was familiar with Charlie Trotter's work prior to my visit to his restaurant that brisk November night a half-decade ago. (I'd been a big fan of his cooking shows for a long while, and I owned a couple of his cookbooks.) My exposure from afar, if you will, did not fully prepare me for the experience of consuming food prepared by the master himself. I know Mr. Trotter prepared the foods himself that night because he made a couple of forays through the dining room, freshly stained apron wrapped tightly around his waist, to chat up some of the diners, including yours truly.

Charlie Trotter's Restaurant features a fixed multicourse menu of meats and seasonal vegetables. At the time of my visit, the a roasted duck breast was one of the menu offerings. Said duck breast was so tender and savory, it literally - and I mean literally - melted in my mouth. I've had duck breast many times during the past couple of years, but I'm still waiting to eat duck breast that was as good, as what I ate at Charlie Trotter's.

Charlie Trotter's Restaurant will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next month. Today's Wall Street Journal has a brief profile of Charlie Trotter, in which he discusses what his namesake restaurant is doing to celebrate its milestone birthday. A sample:

"Charlie Trotter is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his restaurant. The official fete will be a dinner for 80 prepared by six chefs of international enown Oct. 6. But Chef Trotter himself is also taking stock of those two decades. He's charting the way he has gradually changed how he cooks the same basic dishes or sets of ingredients. ...

"In Chicago, Chef Trotter is the dean of a scene that surpasses New York's as a thrilling place to eat. Alinea, Tru, Blackbird, Nomi and others sprung out of a restaurant culture started by Charlie Trotter's. The restaurant is as dignified as a blue suit, but relaxed, not flashy with two smallish dining rooms. The menu is a set, classic multicourse degustation meal costing $150 with astute wine pairings, but the kitchen is ready to react on a dime to a diner's request. Mr. Trotter likes to compare himself to Miles Davis, who 'never played My Funny Valentine the same way twice.'

Read the rest here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A world without Twinkies?

Thanks to "sancti-mommies and a few sancti-daddies," there might soon come a day when there're no more Twinkies:

"Next time anyone chows down on a $5 organic apple at Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ: WFMI) or counts carbs on the Atkins and South Beach diets, they should think about the consequences of their actions on the struggling maker of Twinkies.

"ABC News is reporting that Interstate Bakeries Corp., which has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since 2004, is threatening to shut down unless the company's unionized workforce makes some major concessions by September 30. The Kansas City-based baker, which has already announced plans to exit the bread business in Southern California and lay off 1,300 workers, also makes other wholesome fare such as Wonder Bread.

"Though the story argues that if Interstate Bakeries is liquidated, some buyer will be happy to take over the Twinkie business, I am not so certain.

"Sancti-mommies and a few sancti-daddies now rule the world. Kids today think that carrot sticks are snacks to be washed down with organic juice made from fruit hand-picked by colonies of aging hippies living on a collective farm. They have driven out sugary sodas from the schools and are cracking down on childhood obesity through non-competitive cardio activities that do not include ducking from balls of any sort.

"Twinkies need to continue for another generation because they also provide a valuable introduction to children to the world of investing. When I was a kid, the spongy, cream-filled snacks were like gold in the trading market in my elementary school lunchroom that could be traded for anything. Times probably haven't changed much, and I imagine kids trying to swap celery sticks continue to get a chilly reception from their peers."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

One fine-looking egg roll!

Oh, how I wish a feller could get a cheesesteak egg roll in Nashville!

"I left the city limits of Philadelphia (something I hardly ever do) today to hit the Chester County Restaurant Festival with some friends. The city closes the bulk of their walkable central business district for the event and people pile out into the streets for eats, entertainment and rows of craft vendors. It was wall-to-wall people, which made it hard to check out all the available food options before making a selection. We chose the items we ate based strictly on how long the line was and how easily we'd be able to get in said line.

"Despite the haphazard selection process, I think I wound up with a winner. A unique mashup of local Philly cuisine with classic American-Chinese food, I present you with the Cheesesteak Egg Roll (served with a side of Whiz). At first I disdained the side of Whiz, thinking that the inner cheese should be sufficient, but after the first taste, I was a convert (cheesesteaks are the only food item on which I eat Cheese Whiz without shame). Horrible for your arteries but wonderful to the taste buds, I think I'll be ready for another ... in about a year."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hey, Macanudo!

I smoked a Macanudo Robust cigar on my way home this afternoon. It was the second time that I've smoked this particular cigar in the past week. Here's the verdict:

The Macanudo Robust has a very complex flavor with plenty of cedar, tobacco and light coffee character. Furthermore, Macanudo cigars are very well constructed. I mean, just look at that ash!

A box of 25 will set you back about 100 bucks, but they're worth every penny. If you're not willing to spend $100 on a box of cigars you've never smoked before, try's Macanudo Robust sampler pack: $35 for five cigars. You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Priest Lake's finest meat-and-three (update)

A friend called me early this morning and asked if I'd like to join him for dinner. He told me he wanted to go to a restaurant for a meal that would "stick to [his] ribs." I suggested Ron's BBQ & Fish ... and off we went.

I posted a short review of Ron's last month, which I'm posting again below. The only thing different about my most recent trip to Ron's is this:

I've been hankerin' for some good fried chicken for, oh, the past two weeks; thus, I had Mr. Ron's famous fried chicken tonight instead of his world-class meatloaf. Here's my "take":

Ron's fried chicken is first-class fried chicken, indeed. In fact, I'd crawl over my mother to pay for Ron's BBQ & Fish's chicken before I'd accept free chicken from the KFC that sits not two hundred yards from Ron's entrance. Ron's fried chicken is expertly seasoned and crispy (I'm pretty sure that it's double-breaded) on the outside, and it's très juicy on the inside. Plus - and this is very important - it's cooked in an iron skillet instead of some stainless steel/industrial/flash-frying contraption. Mmm, mmm, good!

Now, my original Ron's post:

For years I'd tell anyone who'd listen that the Priest Lake/Antioch area of Nashville needed a good meat-and-three/soul food restaurant. Imagine my surprise two years ago when a couple of meat-and-threes opened within a few months of each other. First came Ron's Barbeque and Home Cooked Meals (now Ron's BBQ & Fish), followed by H & T's Home Cooking.

Since it's too hot to cook, I decided that I'd hit both Ron's and H & T's over the weekend. I've always been partial to Ron's, so I figured I'd go there first.

Ron's features some of the best fried fish that I've ever eaten -- whiting fish, mostly, but ol' Ron does fry catfish from time to time. I set out for Ron's this evening fully expecting to arrive home with a big plate of fish. When I saw the massive meatloaf steaming gently under glass, however, my hankering for fish suddenly disappeared.

While it's not as good as my late Granny Ruby's meatloaf, Ron's meatloaf gets real close. It is expertly seasoned and filled with chopped onions. Some restaurants go overboard slathering their meatloaf in tomato sauce or ketchup, but not Ron's. Ron puts just enough tomato sauce atop his meatloaf to serve as a slightly spicy garnishment; and for that he is to be commended.

Alongside my meatloaf I had green beans, macaroni and cheese, and a thick hunk of cornbread. The green beans were seasoned with just enough salty ham; the macaroni was rich and creamy, with bits of oven-singed cheese on top; and the cornbread - which was light, fluffy, and full of cornmeal goodness - was a perfect sop for the spicy meatloaf juices left on my plate.

I waited a long time for a good meat-and-three to come to the southeast corner of Davidson County. Ron's was indeed worth the wait!

Rons BBQ & Fish
2689 Murfreesboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37217

Monday, September 17, 2007

Joltin' Django cooks, bistro-style

The following recipe was featured in Saturday's Wall Street Journal. I decided to give it a whirl this evening, and boy was it good. (I used a whole fryer, cut up.)

Bistro-Style Chicken With Tomato and Tarragon


3 tablespoons olive oil
2 chicken breasts and 2 leg/thighs, on the bone with skin (or a 31/2-pound chicken cut up)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, lightly crushed with your hands, juice reserved
1/4 cup tarragon or white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oil in a large, heavy, nonreactive skillet over medium-high heat. When it just begins to smoke, add only enough chicken pieces to fit into the skillet without touching and cook until well browned on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter and set aside while you sauté the remaining pieces in batches, if necessary.

When all the chicken has been removed from the skillet, add the garlic to the drippings and sauté over medium heat until fragrant but not browned, about 15 seconds.

Add the wine and chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the skillet along with any accumulated juices and boil the liquid until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the skillet along with about half the juice in the can, the vinegar, and the butter. Return to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through (it should register 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer) and the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes; turn the chicken pieces once or twice during the cooking time and break up the tomatoes with a spoon. The sauce should hold together but still be chunky. (If the breasts are very thick and are not cooked through after 30 minutes, remove the legs from the skillet, cover with a lid and continue to simmer until done.)

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the fresh tarragon and season with salt and pepper. Serve the chicken in the skillet or transfer to a platter, topping it with the sauce.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

BBQ in Birmingham

Knoxville News-Sentinel blogger Michael Silence sends this restaurant review:

"So on the way back from the Florida panhandle we were dying for BBQ. Melissa used her Blackberry to search for Alabama BBQ joints and found Tin Roof BBQ just south of Birmingham, barely a mile off of Interstate 65.

"Despite the name, Tin Roof BBQ is in a new brick shopping mall. They made the inside grungy, I guess to suit people's expectations for a BBQ joint.

"We had the pork and beef brisket. The BBQ is good. Not incredible or sublime, but good. You won't be disappointed. Sauces are a Carolina vinegar, a Carolina mustard, and a spicy tomato BBQ. If they had a sweet, Memphis-style BBQ sauce it wasn't on our table.

"What was really impressive were the sides. They had both creamy cole slaw and vinegar cole slaw. I ordered the vinegar cole slaw, which had just enough sugar to balance out the sour flavor. Their corn on the cob is fried, which I usually hate, but I liked theirs.

"The turnip greens were porky and delicious - everything you could ask for from greens. Melissa had the fried green tomatoes and liked them. Other sides are french fries, potato salad, baked sweet potatoes, fried okra, and baked beans. Good stuff."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Heard about the $75 hamburger?

In Las Vegas, Nevada, the great American hamburger gets the gor-may treatment at two restaurants owned by celebrity chef Hubert Keller:

At Mandalay Bay's Burger Bar you can try the $25 surf and turf burger. It's a Black Angus burger that is topped with grilled lobster and green asparagus. (Asaparagus? What the hell happened to onion, tomato, and pickles?!)

At Fleur de Lys, which's also located in the Mandalay Bay complex, you can order the $75 Kobe beef FleurBurger Rossini [pictured above]. The Rossini is an impressive hunk of revered Kobe beef, topped with foie gras and black truffles. Yes, foie gras and truffles ... on a hamburger.

If I ever find myself in Las Vegas - or in any other American city, for that matter - with a hankering for a hamburger, I'll find me a pool room or a dive bar that serves food. Pool rooms and bars always have the best hamburgers. (And if I have $75 that is absolutely burning a hole in my pocket, I'll eat cheap and spend the rest on beer!)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mary B's dumplings are mighty fine

One of my all time favorite meals is chicken and dumplings. And by dumplings I mean strip dumplings cooked in chicken broth, like my Granny Ruby used to make, not Bisquick biscuits cooked in cream of mushroom soup.

I used to make dumplings from scratch (they ain't too hard to make). About two years ago, however, I discovered Mary B's Open Kettle Dumplings in a small grocery store in Camden, Tennessee. I haven't made dumplings from scratch since. Yes, Mary B's dumplings are just as good scratch-made dumplings.

I know for a fact that you can find Mary B's dumplings (and Mary B's frozen biscuits) at Wal-Mart and Food Lion. I'm sure other grocery stores in the Middle Tennessee area have them as well.

Try Mary B's dumplings sometime. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Blizzard of Heath!

Yours truly does not have sweet tooth. Except for the 2-3 Coca-Colas I drink each day, I rarely consume anything in which sugar is the main, or a major, ingredient.

If and when I do have a hankerin' for something sweet, I usually head to my local Dairy Queen for a Blizzard -- a Blizzard with Heath Bar bits/chunks/shavings. When it's hot outside, there's nothing, and I mean nothing, that tastes better than a DQ Heath Bar Blizzard!

I encourage any and all Blizzard fans to visit the Blizzard Fan Club Web site. If'n you're willing to enter your e-mail address and your date of birth on said Web site, you'll receive a coupon for a free small Blizzard 'bout a week before your birthday.

You can't beat a deal like that!

Have a pint, mate!

Today's Wall Street Journal reports what is no doubt good news for beer-drinkers in the U.K. and Ireland (subscription required to read entire editorial):

"Brussels has learned what many an exasperated woman has known for some time: Don't get between a Brit or Irishman and his pint. We refer to yesterday's decision by the European Commission to allow the U.K. and Ireland to continue using imperial weights and measures.

"The EU had intended to force the Isles by 2010 to stop using miles on road signs, troy ounces for gold and other precious metals, and pints for milk cider and, yes, beer. The metric system favored on the Continent was deemed superior. Britain and Ireland had already agreed to require metric labeling alongside imperial measures on other goods, but you know what they say about giving an inch."

Monday, September 10, 2007

What's new? Bluegrass Brew!

There's a new brew bein' sold in Publix grocery stores across town: Bluegrass Brewing Company's American Pale Ale. I purchased two six-packs of American Pale Ale to share with the buds with whom I regularly pick guitars. Here's the verdict from tonight's pickin' session:

My friends and I were all of a mind that Bluegrass Brewery's American Pale Ale tastes a whole hell of a lot like Boston Beer Company's Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Indeed, American Pale Ale washes down like a weaker, cheaper cousin to Boston Lager. (A six-pack of APA is $5.99; a six-pack of Sam Adams is $7.99.)

I'll stick with Sam Adams, thank you!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Joltin' Django down by the Greek Festival

A bud and I took in the Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church today. Not only do I make an annual pilgrimage to the Greek Festival for the food (which includes world-class roast lamb, baked chicken, mousaka, and diples), I go to pick up several packages of Misko macaroni for for making pastitsio. This year, I walked away with the last 6 packs in the Greek Festival store!

If there's a grocery store in Nashville that sells Misko pasta, I ain't found it yet. (Thus, my stockin' up trip to Holy Trinity every September!) If anyone's seen this brand of pasta in their local grocery store, please drop me a line and tell me where it was seen:

Speaking of pastitsio, I have a great recipe for the stuff. If you can't find Greek-style pasta, you can substitute elbow macaroni. It'll be almost as good without authentic Greek noodles!



1 tablespoon butter
2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup white wine
1 lb. can tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
4 hot cups milk
1 cup grated Kefalotiri cheese
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks

1 lb. Greek macaroni
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated Kefalotiri (or parmesan) cheese


For the filling: Heat the butter in a large frying pan and saute the ground beef and onion until slightly browned. Add remaining ingredients and cook over a medium heat until heated through; allow to cool.

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the flour and cook stirring constanly for 1 minute. Add the milk all at once, and stir until the sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, eggs and egg yolks.

Cook the macaroni in salted boiling water until soft but firm. Drain and return to the pan. Add the butter.

Butter a baking pan and put in half the macaroni. Sprinkle with cheese and cover with the meat filling. Top with remaining macaroni. Sprinkle with cheese and cover with the sauce. Sprinkle top with the rest of the cheese and cook in a moderate oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Leave for 20 minutes then cut into square pieces and serve.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The benefits of beer

Thanks to Creeder Reader Brian for sending this:

"There have been a lot of stories lately about the benefits of alcohol, usually wine. But the good news is that many of those great benefits can also be had by drinking the occasional beer. That little bottle of goodness can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, raise your good cholesterol, and reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. There are even benefits for the elderly -- with research showing that beer can have positive effects on blood flow, sleep, and urination.

"Beer is fat free, cholesterol free, and definitely what many people consider a lot of fun to drink. Just make sure you don't go overboard, or all those "benefits" are right out the window -- with nasty stuff like liver damage and a beer gut stepping in instead."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Joltin' Django hearts Hamburger Helper

I have a confession: I love Hamburger Helper. No, I freakin' love Hamburger Helper. If'n I ever decide that I would look quite smashing as a 400 lb. tub, I will go on an all-Hamburger Helper diet -- Cheeseburger Macaroni or Double Cheeseburger Macaroni, of course.

All kidding aside, let me say this:

Whenever I want something fast and simple for dinner, I'll whip up a box of Helper, open a can of peas, and drench the whole shebang in Trappey's Louisiana Hot Sauce. Heaven in a single skillet, indeed!

Speaking of Hamburger Helper, the learned souls at UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families conducted a study and determined that "the difference in time to prepare dinner between a household that relied on convenience foods like boxed mixes [see Hamburger Helper] ... and a household that made everything from scratch, was not statistically significant."

Not statistically significant?!

Over the past, oh, dozen years, I reckon that I've prepared a couple hundred meals from scratch ... and probably an equal number of boxes of Hamburger Helper. I know for a fact that makin' Helper takes all of about 15 minutes:

First, you brown 1 lb of ground beef (6-8 minutes); then you add milk, mix and pasta (4 min.); and then you mix and cover (3 min.). I can't think of any scratch-made meal, other than a salad, that can be prepared as quickly.

Methinks the folks at the Center on Everyday Lives of Families are full of it. Full o' what, I don't know. Not Hamburger Helper, that's for sure.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A man's gotta love the dove!

Creeder Reader RC, who saw my recipe for baked dove breasts, sends this:

Smothered Dove Breasts


12 dove breasts (cleaned)
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup sherry wine
Salt and pepper to taste


Season doves with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a heavy skillet and brown doves. Remove to baking dish. Add flour to the butter in the skillet and stir to combine. Slowly add the chicken broth, sherry, salt and pepper. Mix well and pour over the quail.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 min. - 1 hour, or until the doves are done.

This is very good served over rice with some homemade biscuits.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Will work for beer

Merchant du Vin is the United States' leading importer of fine beers. Indeed, MdV distributes my all-time favorite beers: Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale, Samuel Smith's India Ale, and Rochefort Trappist 6 (red cap).

The most recent MdV newsletter has an interesting article comparing how many minutes it takes for a nation’s average worker to earn enough money to buy a beer. The range was from 9 minutes (Italy and South Africa) all the way up to several hours. In the United States, it took the average worker 10 minutes to earn enough money to buy a beer.

For those who want to know how the cost of a beer is divided up, MdV can tell you (this is a pretty good little tutorial on how prices are determined):

"Let’s take a look at the money you paid for that bottle of beer you bought at a store, or the draft beer the bartender just handed you.

"First, your beer went through the hands of a retailer, someone working a lot of evenings & weekends so they can serve you beer during your time off. All beer retailers must be licensed to sell alcohol, and all must train their staff to follow state and federal laws. Some states require that bartenders and servers attend a class and pass a test before they can sell beer. For many years, off-premise (that is, beer you buy to take home) US beer prices and margins have been kept low by extreme competition, by huge economies of scale from vast breweries, and by marketing via price promotions. (Next time you are looking at floor stacks of beer, note how almost every display is at a discounted price.) Retailers have leases, utilities, supplies, heavy staffing, and insurance to cover out of the cost of their beer – all these costs come out of the difference between their buying and selling price.

"Most beer arrives at a retail location on a beer wholesaler’s truck. In many states beer arrives on the same truck as wine; sometimes it arrives with spirits as well. But beer never arrives on the same truck as other groceries – which means that dollar-for-dollar, beer wholesalers have among the heaviest loads in the food business. The wholesaler’s fairly small margin pays the hardworking truck driver who wheels all the heavy beer into the tavern or store, the warehouse and operations workers, and the salespeople who are presenting new beers and asking for sales.

"Importers & brewers do more than just buy grain, hops, labels and bottles. They invest a lot of time in reporting and registration, because beer is a heavily-regulated industry: labels get approved at federal and many state levels; employees must be registered with states; warehouses are registered and bonded; there are myriad reports filled out for barrelage produced, beer shipped, beer on hand, etc. For a brewery or importer of medium size or larger, 'legal compliance' is a full-time job. Breweries have other expenses that are proportionally higher than other industries, too: utilities, marketing, and shipping.

"Importers have to pay for ocean and inland freight, a major cost, as well as customs clearance and other federal requirements. If an American importer is buying beer with currency other than US dollars, they are subject to changes in the US dollar’s value to other countries. (It currently takes about $1.30 to buy one Euro.)

"When breweries buy grain, they don’t get it direct from a farmer – they buy it from a specialist, a malting company, which germinates, dries, and kilns barley and wheat. Grain and hops are often sold by co-operative agencies that allow farmers some economies of scale and a sales office that can negotiate with a malting company or brewery.

"After breweries have their malt and hops, they must make a number of labor-intensive steps and decisions when they brew and package. These steps and these decisions all come the hard way: by deep thought and planning, by trial and error, and by inspired creativity.

"Bartender – wholesaler truck driver – distributor sales rep – inland freight driver – sometimes an importer – brewery – malting company – hop co-operative – glass bottle provider . . . that beer you bought supports a multitude of hard-working folks that are frequently in the beer business because they really like beer, not because of the many dollars that can be squeezed out of each case or keg.

"One more note about the price of beer: the most expensive beer you can find might be $20 for a two-person bottle. Think of other high-end items, like cars, wines, Scotch, jewelry, shoes, clothing ... if you can’t afford a Ferrari or Manolo Blahnik shoes, might as well go out and buy the finest beer you can find."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Joltin' Django's field day in the dove field

At high noon on Saturday, yours truly was standing in a dove field in Henry County, Tennessee, with a half-dozen men -- including a former CMA Entertainer of the Year. The hunting was good that day, and we all left the field with an impressive "catch."

One of my gun-toting buds gave me this recipe for dove breasts. This's gonna be the anchor of Joltin' Django's Labor Day feast:

Baked Dove Breasts


12-15 cleaned dove breasts
1 medium white onion, diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup white wine
Pinch of oregano or Italian seasoning
Pinch of crushed rosemary
Pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pint sour cream


Place breasts meaty side down in 15x12 inch baking dish. Do not over-crowd.

Sauté onions in small amount of fat in skillet. Mix onion, sherry, herbs, salt, and pepper. Pour over bird breasts.

Cover baking dish lightly with foil. Bake in 325 degree F. oven for 1 hour, rotating dish occasionally.

Add sour cream. Stir, bake uncovered for 15 minutes longer. Serve.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Just say NO to salads!

Thanks to Creeder Reader Chris for sending this:

"Because not all salads are made the same, it takes some work by the consumer to figure out which restaurant salads are healthy choices. Let's compare the fat and calories in a few salads made by popular food outlets.

"● Taco Bell's Fiesta Salad® -- 840 calories and 45 grams of fat
● Macaroni Grill's Chicken Caesar Salad® -- 920 calories and 69 grams of fat
● Panera's Bistro Steak Salad® -- 630 calories and 58 grams of fat
● Applebee's Grilled Steak Caesar Salad® -- 1,190 calories and 75 grams of fat

"Compare the salads above to the infamous McDonald's Big Mac®, which has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat."

I have a question for men who gotta eat:

I'n you're gonna eat a high-calorie meal, what would you rater have: Something fried (chicken-fried steak, turkey, catfish, hand-cut onion rings), something with some zip to it (chicken wings), something off the grill (hamburger with lots o' cheese and mayo), ham hock-infused vegetables, fast food (Big Mac), or ... a salad from Applebee's?

I think we both know the answer to that!