Monday, March 31, 2008

J'aime porc frais

When I was a small child, I remember watching for the first time as my grandfather salt-cured hunks of fresh pork in a shed behind my grandparents' house. I remember looking into the box in which he "prepared" the meat and being amazed 'cause I'd never seen that much salt in one place before.

Now, I can't prove it, but I suspect that the first meat I ever consumed was pork. It would certainly make sense. My grandfather started raising hogs in the 1940s; he always processed a hog or two each year for his immediate family's consumption; and I remember having fresh pork -- sausage, pork chops, pork roast, pork ribs, pork shoulder, etc. -- in the freezer up until, and a little while after, my grandfather died in 1997. Can anyone really wonder why I love pork meat so much ...?!

Every once in a while, the Tennessean does something to make me think that it's useful for something besides lining a garbage can or a birdcage. Like printing this story. A sample:

As one of the only restaurants in the state to order whole hogs from local farmers, [City House's Tandy] Wilson brings to Nashville a new culinary movement dedicated to an old way of operating. By committing to use every part of the pig — from snout to tail — he makes no careless waste as he breaks it down into chops, hams, sausages and other products. Just as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver recently slaughtered a chicken on live television to promote awareness of humane treatment of livestock, chefs are becoming increasingly interested not just in serving local fare but in knowing how it was raised and treating it with respect. While it would be quicker, easier and cheaper to purchase pig parts individually, Wilson says his way is the right way, and his wholesome animal will pay off on the plate in quality and freshness of meat as well as creative use of parts.

"'People might say, Ooh, gross, but how can you hold it with the reverence that it needs?' he asked. It's important for people to know where their food comes from, because I don't know how you respect it if you don't.'"

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hot Dog!

Today's Wall Street Journal has a story 'bout hot dog stands. 'Tis pretty interesting:

"In the present, there are essentially two alternate hot dog universes. There are the uncountable millions of indistinguishable hot dogs sold from carts or at nondescript stands and lunch counters and in supermarkets. And then there is the handful of what I'd like to call Top Dog purveyors. These are the special emporia where loyal customers line up for a fix."

I was disappointed that the author, Raymond Sokolov, didn't mention Coney Island's famous Nathan's stand. I was disappointed, but I certainly understand why he wouldn't mention something so widely known and appreciated.

I guess everybody knows how absolutely incredible a hot dog from the original Nathan's tastes - just like most folks know the Old Homestead in Manhattan serves steaks that will make your toes - and talking about it would simply be re-stating the obvious.

I have eaten hot dogs in many places all over the good ol' US of A (including at the famous Pink's in Los Angeles, which is mentioned in the WSJ article). I can honestly say, however, that the best damn hot dogs I've ever eaten in my life came from the original Nathan's in Brooklyn.

The first time I ever had a Nathan's hot dot was in 2001. I took the train from Manhattan to Brooklyn to see a Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball game. Before the baseball game started, I went over to the Nathan's stand and ordered two dogs, one with 'kraut and one with grilled onions. With each bite I became more excited. I told my traveling companion, "Those were the best ****in' hot dogs I've ever had in my life!"

When the game was over, I went back to Nathan's and ordered another dog, topped with just a little mustard. To say that I'd become a certified Fan O' Nathan's is indeed an understatement.

I've been back to NYC twice since my 2001 visit. During each visit I set aside time to go out to Brooklyn for hot dogs at Nathan's. Since that first visit, I also procured two black and white photos depicting happenings at Nathan's back in the day - in the 1940s, I think - and I hung 'em in my kitchen, where they're still hanging today.

There're a lot of hot dog stands in America, but there ain't a stand that serves a dog as good as the one you'll get at Nathan's in Brooklyn. Sorry, Raymond Sokolov ...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Why did I leave that last porkchop?

Sometimes you get to eatin'
Lord, and you just can't stop
Make me wonder to myself
Why, oh, why
Did I leave that last porkchop

-- Hank Williams, Jr., "Last Pork Chop"

Once upon a time, butchers bedecked in blood-stained smocks were as ubiquitous in grocery stores as large displays of on-sale canned vegetables. With more and more grocery stores relying on pre-packaged meat, it's getting harder and harder to find supermarkets in which a large staff of expert butchers are employed.

My very favorite grocery store in Nashville is Compton's Foodland (Compton's does b'iness in the Priest Lake 'burb). The main reason why I like Compton's so much is because of the quality of the meat sold there.

Step to the back of Compton's Foodland and its like stepping back into your childhood. Compton's still has a big glass window in the meat department, and you can peer at butchers as they cut and package steaks, chops, country ham, pork and beef roasts, and ground beef.

Not only do I like the fact that Compton's still prepares its own meat, I like the quality and value of the meat sold there, too. I have never - and I mean never - had a complaint with any meat I've purchased there.

Furthermore, I have never been refused a special request at Compton's. A few years back, they took pinwheel steaks out of their meat display. When I complained, I was told that they would make some pinwheels for me -- all I had to do was call and tell 'em ahead of time. ("What's a pinwheel steak?" you ask. Well, it's a foot, foot and a half strip of inch and a half wide steak that's wound and held together with toothpicks. The reason I like pinwheels so much is that they are great served with a red wine sauce. The sauce permeates into the cracks of the steak, if you will, and you get a taste of sauce with every bite of meat.)

All that said, I invited a friend over for dinner tonight. I stopped at Compton's on my way home to pick up something to grill. I couldn't remember the last time I had just a simple grilled pork chop, so I bought me a package of pork chops, some corn on the cob, and some fresh green beans. Got home and started cookin' ...

Now, I want you to take a look at the picture below, and while you're doing that keep in mind that the pork chops you see set me back a whopping $3.70.

Those ain't fatty pork chops, believe me. If'n they had been, I wouldn't have bought 'em -- no matter how inexpensive. They were juicy, flavorful, and ... damn, I wish I hadn't left the last one to sit in the refrigerator overnight. I should've et the thing and enjoyed the pleasure of doing so.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Búfalo is a tasty way to go

For years I've been telling anyone who'd listen that Herdez Salsa Casera is the best freakin' salsa on the planet. It's so good, in fact, that I rarely eat it with chips or as a condiment.

What makes Herdez's salsa so good? Well, it is the only store-bought salsa I've ever eaten that actually tastes homemade. Hell, it practically is homemade -- the only ingredients are tomatoes, onions, serrano peppers, cilantro and salt. It sure don't taste like the ketchupy crap you see in large displays at the end of your local supermarket's chips 'n' dip aisle.

When I'm eating Herdez salsa (and all of my co-workers can testify to this), all I do is open the jar and eat it with a spoon. I don't want nothin' interfering with the taste of what is, again, the best freakin' salsa on the planet.

All that said, I received as a gift today a bottle of Búfalo Jalapeño Hot Sauce. I'd seen this particular brand of hot sauce in various grocery stores around town, but I'd never once thought about giving it a whirl, er, taste.

Upon examining the label, I discovered that this particular hot sauce is manufactured by Herdez. If'n I'd known that -- that is, if'n I'd ever taken the time to look at the label to discover that -- I would've tried Búfalo-brand sauce a long damn time ago.

The first thing I noticed about Búfalo Hot Sauce is its incredibly tangy flavor. I think that's probably because the jalapeños that go into it are allowed to fully ripen before they're mushed and bottled. If that is indeed the case, it makes me admire the hell out of the folks who produce the stuff.

Búfalo Jalapeño Hot Sauce is not the hottest hot sauce I've ever eaten; and it's unlikely Búfalo Jalapeño Hot Sauce will ever top Tabasco or Trappey's on my list of favorite hot sauces. It is pretty tasty, however, and I'm pretty sure that I'll be keeping a bottle of it on hand for those times when I want the tangiest hot sauce I've yet consumed.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Dinner

Easter doesn't hold a candle to Thanksgiving and Christmas as a food-based holiday. Easter does, however, have an eating tradition all its own -- and that eating tradition usually involves big baked hams. (And I like that!)

When I got home from church yesterday, I went to work in my kitchen. I put a big bone-in ham in the oven, which was wrapped in a tight foil tent along with a can of Coca-Cola. (If you allow a ham to steam in Coke, it will be less salty ... guaranteed.)

When the ham was about an hour away from being done (I cooked it for 3 hours at 350 degrees), I put some Allens green beans on the stove (recipe here). Thirty minutes later, I put a casserole dish full of my semi-famous macaroni and cheese in the oven.

I let the ham and mac and cheese cook together for about 20 minutes, and then I took the ham out of the oven. The mac and cheese cooked in an oven on "broil" for about 4 minutes, until the top cheese, if you will, was brown and crispy. The ham rested for about 20 minutes until it was unwrapped. At that point, it was time to eat.

Here's my plate:

You wish you'd been at Chez Django yesterday afternoon, don't you? (Be honest!)

Re: Saturday post

I had some major problems with over the weekend ...

I went to Stroud's Barbeque in LaVergne, TN on Saturday. I typed up a 400-word review immediately after eating Stroud's 'que, but the sombitch would not post. When what I'd written did finally post, the only thing men who've gotta eat could see was gibberish ... gibberish in all-caps.

What really sucks is the fact that I lost what I'd written 'bout Stroud's Barbeque. I certainly remembered pretty much everything I'd said about Stroud's; however, it was late and I really didn't fancy typing and editing it again. I simply said a few curse words and went to bed.

Now, it might not happen tomorrow, but I will tell you about my visit to Stroud's later this week. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Les hommes et les femmes

I knew this without having to ask anybody:

"[A] telephone survey of 14,000 Americans ... confirmed conventional wisdom that most men eat more meat than women, and women eat more fruits and vegetables."

I've neither the degrees nor the desire to try to expertly dissect why men prefer grilled animal flesh and women prefer garden vegetables. So, I'll just tell you this:

Men who gotta eat do not eat yogurt and raw alfalfa sprouts.

So there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Candy bar quiz

I don't eat a lot of sweets. When I do get a hankering for something sweet, I usually grab a candy bar. While I'm partial to Mr. Goodbar and Heath, I can't think of a single candy bar that I just really do not like. I guess that's why I only missed one candy bar in this candy bar-identification quiz:

Candy Bar Quiz

The only one I failed to identify was a 5th Avenue bar. See how well you can do!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Joltin' Django ♥ grinders

Last night, I met up with Mr. Jimmy and Chris at Rudino's Pizzas & Grinders for dinner and drinks. (Actually, I was the only one who was drinkin'. I had me a Blue Moon draft.)

Right here's where we all went:

Mes amis headed to Rudino's at my suggestion. When I sent 'em over there, I didn't do so 'cause I had a special affinity for Rudno's. I said "let's go" 'cause I had coupons. (Now, who among us will dismiss the prospect of discounted food?)

I'd been to Rudino's prior to last night's visit ... some four years ago. I remembered that Rudino's served up some pretty good grub, but I really didn't remember anything about what I'd eaten during my last visit.

Knowing that I couldn't go wrong with a steak sub -- I like subs, and I like steak -- that's what I ordered. I was not disappointed when I started eating.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the quality of a grinder/hogie/sub is almost wholly dependent on quality bread. The bread at Rudino's is is very quality, and then some.

Now, thick and doughy Rudino's bread is not. Instead, it is thin enough to be crispy on the outside, with a firm middle that don't become mushy when pressed against meat and condiments; and it is just thick enough to hold a half-pound of meat, vegetables and cheese without falling apart in a feller's hands.

As for my steak sandwich, it began with Rudino's signature crispy bread ... turned out, if you will. The overturned top-half of the bread was served with a big-assed portion of browned Swiss cheese. On the bottom bread, if you will, there was a pile of grilled beef, sautéed onions and green peppers, and fresh mushrooms.

I smashed the sandwich together, after adding a goodly portion of provided hot sauce, and I chowed down. This is my verdict:

The meat, cheese and vegetables I et on my Rudino's sub, er, grinder, last night did not set the world on fire. However, the bread was so very crispy - and the Swiss cheese was so expertly melted - I kept telling myself:

"This is a damn-fine sandwich ... and I can't wait to eat another one."

I can't wait to go back to Rudino's. Not only did I enjoy the grub served therein, I have me some buy-one-get-one-free coupons to make sure I enjoy the place even more.

Wanna go with me when I visit the place again? (I've coupons, you know!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to be a real iron chef

Two of my most favorite cooking tools, if you will, are my iron skillet and iron Dutch oven. I use the skillet to make fried chicken, fried pork chops, and sausage gravy; I use the Dutch oven to make all kinds o' stew (beef, crawfish, etc.) and gumbo.

A lot of folks are reluctant to try cast iron cookware because they're intimidated by the prospect of having to properly season it. Tain't hard to do, as the folks at Slashfood remind us:

"If you haven't discovered the joys of cast iron, now's the time to start. It's cheap, distributes heat evenly and, if properly seasoned, is nonstick. Seasoning the pan involves filling in the invisible cracks and pores in the pan's surface by sealing on a layer of grease. Here's a quick method for seasoning a new pan:

"Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Rub pan with a thin layer of lard or vegetable shortening. Place pan upside down in oven with rack positioned beneath it to catch extra drippings. Cook for 2 hours.

"Repeating this seasoning method several times helps create a better nonstick surface. Also, try to wash out the pan while it's still warm and dry with a paper towel to preserve the seasoning."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The extra "X" means X-tra good ('n' hot)

Several months ago, I said this 'bout Melinda's Extra Hot Habanero Sauce:

How does Melinda's taste? [I]t has a wonderfully fruity taste, but it's not as hot as I'd like from a sauce made from habanero peppers. Indeed, the heat-level of Melinda's is on par with regular Tabasco sauce.

Thus, my Melinda's verdict is:

Tastes great, tain't hot enough.

This afternoon - per the encouragement of my culinary ami Mr. Jimmy - I purchased a bottle of XXXXtra Reserve Melinda's at my local food jobber.

Oh, my.

Black label Melinda's is not only as fruitily tasty, if you will, as its white label cousin, it gives one's tounge a stinging 'bout, oh, five times more than the sting one gets from regular Tabasco sauce.

Now that I've found black label Melinda's, I'll never say that "[Melinda's] ain't hot enough," again.

Mr. Jimmy'll back me up, I'm sure ...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sometimes, just loving beer isn't enough ...

As much as I like beer, there'll probably never be a point in my life when I like it as much as Mr. John Milkovisch did. Check this out:

"For many of us, beer is its own reward.

"But one man looked into the bottom of his can and found a home, or at least plenty of decorations for his Houston house -- and he's being celebrated for it.

"John Milkovisch, who died in the 1980s, really loved his hops. We mean really. His son says he never had less than eight or ten cases stacked up in the garage, and that he would frequently clean out the local grocery store's suds. Over 20 years, he emptied more than 50,000 cans of brew, thousands of which he flattened and turned into patterns for his family's home.

"The 'Beer Can House' has now been christened a public folk-art monument.

"'Most people who take the lead in doing something truly innovative are considered a little bit crazy,' Houston Mayor Bill White is quoted as saying at a dedication ceremony. White also praised Milkovisch's 'hard work of generating all those beer cans.'

"Renovations to the house to turn it into a museum cost $400,000 and took seven years."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Je suis malade encore

This has been a bad cold, flu, and crud season for Joltin' Django. Just three short weeks ago I was dealing with some sort of stomach virus. I'm now laid up - and have been since Friday evening - with the creeping crud that's been running rampant through my office.

Wanna know how you can tell when I'm really, really sick? Here 'tis: I didn't do any reading yesterday. No books. No magazines. No newspapers. No political Web sites. Nothin'.

All I'm doin' is resting this weekend; thus, the A Man's Gotta Eat should return tomorrow.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Burger Time!

It was sleeting like crazy when I arrived home from work this evening. Sleet, however, didn't stop me from grilling up some hamburgers for dinner.

Now, I ask you: Is this a fine-lookin' burger, or what?

If you're interested in making Django-style hamburgers, here's what I do ...


Start with 1 lb of quality ground meat -- ground chuck or ground sirloin
Portion-out the meat into thirds
Ball each portion, and then flatten 'em until you have three half-inch thick/three-inch diameter patties
Season each burger with Worcestershire sauce and hot paprika
Place burgers in refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to cooking -- it'll help 'em hold their shape


Grill - preferably on a charcoal grill (apologies to Hank Hill) - or fry until the juices just start running clear
Place a slice of cheese on each burger (I prefer Swiss cheese)
Place burgers in a shallow pan and cover with foil for 5-10 minutes


Place burgers on buns -- the cheaper the bun, the better it'll taste ... trust me
Garnish with tomatoes, onions, and dill pickles
Add copious quantities of French's® mustard, Duke's mayo, and - if you're a Communist - ketchup


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The "best," my ass

I recently started receving e-mails from some outfit called I usually delete the damn things ... with extreme prejudice.

The latest e-mail came tonight bearing the subject heading "Best Chicken Soup Ever." Intrigued, I opened it to find a recipe for "made-from-scratch" chicken noodle soup. I got through half of the ingredients - which included beef bouillon cubes, chicken noodle soup mix (!), and cans of chicken broth - before I said to myself, "This ain't made from scratch! How dare those sombitches call this the best anything ever!"

If the folks at want to see a bowl of made-from-scratch chicken soup, which may not be the best ever but comes damn close, here 'tis:

For those who're curious, those are Streit's Mediterranean matzos.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Re: Shoney's

Since I ate dinner at Shoney's tonight, I think what I said 'bout the place a few months back deserves re-posting. Here 'tis:

Before my grandmother entered a nursing home, my mother and I often took her to our local Shoney's after church on Sundays. I was never a big Shoney's fan, but my sainted Granny Ruby absolutely loved the Shoney's Breakfast Bar.

From 1997-2002, I reckon that I ate at Shoney's well over 200 times -- no kidding. During that period, the quality of most of the food served there declined precipitously. The dining room's floor was often dirty, and the bathroom floor was even more dirty. And if the entire staff of servers had been replaced by monkeys, customers probably would've enjoyed better service.

When my grandmother could no longer get out and about, I vowed that I would never, ever go back to Shoney's -- unless I was starving to death and that was the only place in which I could find nourishment.

Well, I broke my vow. Last month, my mother and I went to Shoney's after visiting the Nashville Flea Market. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries, and let's just say - I'm borrowing a line from Pulp Fiction here - it was a very tasty burger. The fries weren't bad, either. What impressed me the most, however, was the fact that the restaurant (the same one I used to visit with my grandmother) had been spiffed-up since the last time I'd dined there, and both the dining room and the bathrooms were clean. Upon leaving the restaurant I made a new vow:

Whenever I have a hankering for a quick, cheap, quality hamburger, I'm going to Shoney's.

Read the complete post here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Is that "ketchup," or "catsup" ...?

The boys at have compiled a list of "politically incorrect ads of yesteryear." Check it out here.

I'm kinda stumped. What's so politically incorrect about this?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Will it kill you to eat a yolk? Nope.

There's an episode of Seinfeld in which George asks Jerry, who's just ordered an egg white omelet, "Will it kill you to eat a yolk?" Short answer: Nope.

I used to work with a feller who would only eat egg white omelettes. He smoked like a chimney, and drank like a fish, but he thought he was doing himself a big favor by eschewing yolks.

"Why don't you eat yolks?" I asked him one time. "Because they're bad for you," he replied. Coming from him, I thought it was the silliest f'ing thing I'd ever heard.

If I was still in contact with my former co-worker, I would tell him this (from food blog I ran across this morning):

"No yolks in your omelettes? That's just utterly unnecessary. The yolk contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are crucial for eye health. Egg yolks are also an important source of phosphatidylcholine, a nutrient that boosts brain health. Worried about your cholesterol levels? Consider this: Half the fat in the yolk isn't saturated."

So eat them egg yolks, boys. They good fer you.

Salade de poulet

Since I had to work yesterday, I didn't have no definite plans for dinner last night. Don't know why, but I got me a wild hair for some quality chicken salad (probably because I didn't feel like cooking).

First, I took me two large cans of chicken breast. I squeezed every bit of water out of the chicken and shredded it really fine. I threw in a cup of finely diced white onion, a cup of finely diced green pepper, and one finely diced serrano pepper. Next came a cup of mayonnaise (Duke's, of course), a little salt, and a lot of black pepper. Threw it on some wheat bread and added some Tabasco.

Man, this was some good eatin':

Now, a lot of chicken salad recipes call for froo-froo ingredients like apples, grapes, and nuts. To hell with that. (For the record, I don't know a single human being with testicles who enjoys chicken salad made with such things.) Simplicity is the key to good chicken salad. Mayo ... some chopped vegetables ... salt and pepper ... good bread. That's all you need.

Homey don't need no grapes and apples 'round his chicken salad.