Friday, October 31, 2008

Let's talk about hot fish ...

Eastside Fish is the subject of a clever piece, penned by Jim Ridley, in this week's Nashville Scene. Here're the high points:

If it's fish you're wanting — not guppies you nibble with pinkie extended, not something you watch in a dentist's office, but sail-finned, steel-tailed monsters of the deep — take a ride to the East Side, where Bo Boatright wrestles the Deadliest Catch every day between two straining slices of Colonial Bread. Let us not mince words: You don't go to Bo's to find Nemo. At Eastside Fish, a.k.a. "The Crunkest Fish in Town," Bo offers what is bar none the biggest, baddest, best fish in Nashville. ...

"[T]o get a culinary sensation that lets you know you're nowhere but the Big Nasty, you need the hot fish sandwich: an indigenous behemoth of piled-high whiting or catfish planks, fried up crunchy brown with a cornmeal crust, then doused with pickle, yellow mustard and hot sauce until it cries for mama. And Eastside Fish has the champ, on any playing field you'd care to pick.

Toothpicks? Hell, you need railroad spikes to hold Bo's fish together. Serving size? The bad boys Bo serves are still laughing about the time they ate Robert Shaw. Flavor? That cornmeal breading is the taste of Sunday go-to-meetin's, of all-day fish fries at the fire hall, of whiskery old cats dancing on the end of a line. Tartar sauce is an insult. Lemon just makes it mad. True, you can't get a brew at Eastside — but beer just takes up valuable fish space in the Davy Jones' Locker of your gut.

And the price? Five bucks gets you the loaves and fishes that fed the multitudes. Eight bucks gets you a sandwich your grandkids will eat as a dowry. You can even frame the grease-stained paper sack on the wall—all the proof you'll ever need of the one that didn't get away.

I went to Eastside Fish about six weeks ago. I didn't blog about my experience because (a) my digital camera acted up, and (b) because I didn't quite like Eastside's fish as I like the fish served up at Ed's Fish House. That's not to say that Eastside is bad -- it definitely is not. It just ain't as good as Ed's.

Here's what I said about Ed's back in August (I hope Jim Ridley's reading):

Nashville, TN, is famous for many things: Country music, churches on every other corner, education (Vandy, Belmont, TSU, David Lipscomb, etc.), and numerous printing and publishing companies.

More importantly, however, Nashville is famous 'cause restaurateurs within its city limits created "hot chicken," which will be the subject of a future
A Man's Gotta Eat post, and "hot fish" sandwiches, which'll be discussed, well, here:

What's a hot fish sandwich, you ask? It's cornmeal-breaded whiting fillets on white bread, with mustard, slices of white onion, pickles, and hot sauce. Sounds like an odd combo, I know, but a hot fish sandwich is just what the doctor ordered when a feller's hungry, indeed.

My favorite hot fish joint is Ed's Fish House in Priest Lake. Ed's does business out of a trailer in the Compton's Foodland parking lot (Smith Springs Road, 'bout a mile and a half south of Bell Road). Ed has been selling fried fish out of his little trailer for over 25 years. That says a lot about the quality of his food. ...

Ed's fish sandwiches are truly two-hand sandwiches. That is, you'll be using both hands from bite one until all you have left are crumbs. (I guess you could cut the sandwich half, or into quarters, but that's not really a manly thing to do.) The spicy cornmeal Ed uses gives the fish a terrific crunch, and he tops the fish with just enough "stuff" on top to enhance, rather than overpower, the crispy fish underneath.

If you've never had a hot fish sandwich, you can't go wrong by heading to Ed's Fish House for your first.

Ed's Fish House
2808 Smith Springs Road
Nashville, TN 37217

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The best store-bought hot dogs, period

Just so you know, the best store-bought hot dogs on the planet are Nathan's Kosher Beef Franks. 'Tis what I had for dinner. Regardez:

No artificial colors or flavors. No by-products. Just all-beef goodness.

You can find Nathan's hot dogs at various grocery stores in and 'round Nashville: Wal-Mart, Publix, Kroger, Food Lion. However, if you want the Kosher franks you'll have to visit the Kroger on Harding Road, in Belle Meade, or the Kroger on Hwy 70 in Belleview.

Zut alors!

Bad news for European oenophiles:

[I]t turns out wine doesn't solve every health problem from A to Z. Researchers in England have found that red and white wines from most European nations carry potentially dangerous levels of at least seven different heavy metals.

To put the danger in context, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a measure called THQ (Target Hazard Quotients) that establishes safe levels of frequent, long-term exposure to various chemicals. A THQ over 1 indicates a health risk, and in the recent news, seafood THQs between 1 and 5 have raised serious concerns.
The wines studied from Europe, the Middle East, and South America, have THQs ranging from 50 to 200 per glass, with some going as high as 300.

The top offenders were Hungary, Slovakia, France, Austria, Spain, Germany, Portugal, and Greece. Safe wines came from Argentina, Brazil, and Italy. But don't lead the cry for "buy American" just yet: U.S. wines weren't studied because there's no source for data on heavy metals in U.S. wines.

You know, the French are well known for thinking that everything 'bout their food and drink is perfect. I don't think they'll cotton to hearing that their wines are "tainted," indeed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Don't diss Carl's 'que (just don't ... !)

Metromix Nashville scribbler Will Ayers went to Carl's Perfect Pig in White Bluff and said their smoked pork is nothing to write home about (no pun intended).

Don't you let no "foodie" who writes for a two-bit tabloid dissuade you from travelling to Dickson County to sample some of the best pulled-pork in Middle Tennessee. All you need to know about Carl's 'que is right here in this somethin'-somethin' I penned back in July:

I remember the first time I ate at Carl's Perfect Pig Bar-B-Que in White Bluff, TN. I was in college, and I was dating a girl whose parents lived just around the corner from the restaurant.

My girlfriend and I stopped at her parents' house one weekend whilst on our way to my Aunt's cabin on Kentucky Lake. We hadn't planned on staying in White Bluff for very long. When we got to her parents' house, however, her dad insisted that we go to Carl's Perfect Pig. The old man kept going on and on about Carl's "fantastic barbeque," so off to Carl's we went.

To make a long story short, I left that restaurant admiring the hell out of the barbeque served therein. I left the relationship with my little girlfriend - she was 5'1" and weighed maybe 100 lbs - wishing that I could keep hanging out with Daddy What's-His-Name every Saturday afternoon at Carl's. (Didn't happen, of course.) In the intervening twelve years, I went back to Carl's two times, the last time being in 2000. And each time I exited the restaurant, I said a silent "thank you" to the guy who took me to the place when, in truth, I didn't really want to go.

I was making 70 mph on Saturday when I passed Carl's Perfect Pig Bar-B-Que on my way back from McEwen. Don't really know what provoked me to do so, given that I was up to my eyeballs in Irish Picnic 'que and fixins, but I turned around and headed back to Carl's. I think it was 'cause "fantastic barbeque" kept rattling 'round my brain for two miles after I passed the place.

All of Carl's parking spots were filled when I turned into their lot. (What a great testament, n'est-ce pas?!) I parked in some nearby grass whilst trying to decide what my stuffed-to-the-gills self would order. I quickly said to myself, "I'll get a pound, sample some when I get home, and eat the rest for lunch tomorrow." I did get a pound of 'que, but I didn't just sample the stuff when I got home. Oh, no, I opened the tub and dug right in.

First thing I noticed when I opened my tub o' Carl's was the fact that it was pulled pork. ("Hoo-ray!" I says to myself.) When I order barbeque, I don't want the chopped-to-smithereens crap you get at places like Whitt's. Just pull it off the shoulder with your fingers and then serve it to me. That's all I ask; and 'tis just what the folks at Carl's did to the pork they served me. [Sidebar: Tony Neely, proprietor of Neely's BBQ in Nashville, once told me that folks in Memphis prefer chopped pork, and folks in Nashville prefer pulled pork. Neither he nor I could come up with an explanation for such.]

Second thing I noticed 'bout Carl's 'que was the visible chunks of pork skin peppered throughout the pound I'd purchased. You don't find that at many barbeque restaurants these days. Indeed, most joints pick over their meat like a monkey and discard anything that even hints of texture and/or flavor. I'd eaten, maybe, two bites of pulled 'que before my teeth met a crunchy bit of pork skin. What an unexpected treat. It was almost as if I'd been treated to a bit of fried pork skin right there midst my very few bites of smoked meat. Oh, my!

So how did Carl's pulled smoked pork shoulder taste? Good. No, groin-grabbingly good. And you can quote me on that. I always judge smoked pork by how well it tastes sans garnishment. That is, is it just as flavorful without sauce as it would be with (or "wit," as they say in Philadelphia)? In the case of Carl's 'que, it is. It's smoky, and spicy, and juicy, and it needs no garnishment to make your taste buds sing.

And sing my taste buds did when I ate me some Carls' at 10 p.m. Saturday. I was really too full to be eating again after my two-pound-plate lunch, but I simply had to eat me some Carl's 'que before it went into the refrigerator. I sliced me a tomato, put some Carl's on a plate, and put just a tad of Irish Picnic sauce on the whole shebang. This's how it looked:

Damn, damn, DAMN it was good (apologies to Florida Evans). And damned if it wasn't the first thing on my mind when I awoke Sunday! Lunch did finally roll around, 'bout 10 a.m. Yes, I ate barbeque for "lunch" on Sunday at 10 a.m. Enjoyed every minute of it, too. If you'd been here, you would've enjoyed every minute of it, too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Potage de boeuf

I thawed some ground beef today fully intending to make a big pot of chili when I got home from work. Since I had some carrots that needed to be consumed, I decided to make a pot of soup instead.

After browning my ground beef, well, I just winged it from there. I was going to use tomato sauce, but I couldn't find any in my pantry. I'm glad I didn't have tomato sauce because tomato soup gave my concoction a sweet flavor that contrasted nicely with the spiciness of the Creole seasoning and cayenne.

Joltin' Django's Beef Soup


2 lbs ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 potatoes, cubed
1 11.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 10.75-ounce can condensed tomato soup
1 11-ounce can corn niblets, drained
1 11.5-ounce can green peas, drained
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste


Brown ground beef in a heavy-bottomed pot, drain. Return ground beef to pot and add garlic, onions, carrots and potatoes. Stir until onions become clear and carrots and potatoes begin to soften. Add remaining ingredients and water. Simmer for 35-45 minutes. Add additional Creole seasoning if needed.

Recommended hot sauce: Trappey's Bull® or Texas Pete.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

You got some nerve callin' yourself "Gentleman"

I ain't one for bourbon whiskey. I prefer Tennessee whiskey, specifically George Dickel. Not only do the folks at the Dickel distillery turn out one über-smooth spirit, they use the traditional Scottish spelling of "whisky" on their bottles. The Scots-Irish half of me likes that a great deal.

That said, I had a couple of buds over tonight to watch us some college football. One of my buds brought an unopened bottle of Kentucky Gentleman bourbon, which'd been left at his house after a recent party.

None of us had ever had Kentucky Gentleman before. Upon cracking the seal, I poured about two ounces into three highball glasses. Then it was bottoms up. Five seconds later we all came to the collective conclusion that KG is the worst bourbon whiskey to ever grace God's green earth.

Wanna know what it's like to drink whiskey that tastes like it's been laced with chalk? Then round up $7.99 and get yourself a 750 ML bottle of Kentucky Gentleman at your local liquor store. You won't be glad you did.

Deeeeeeep ...

I ran across a cool foodie blog, What Geeks Eat, which is edited by a young lady named Vanessa. One of her more intriguing posts features a recipe for homemade deep dish pizza, which she makes with my favorite kitchen tool: a cast-iron skillet. Here's what she says 'bout it:

Today I happily bring you a favorite of Chicagoans everywhere. I suggest you bake one up for your election night dinner ... it is easy, absolutely delicious, and satisfying ... that way even if your candidate loses you’ll still find some satisfaction in a good meal. I blogged about this recipe earlier this year when I was guest blogging at Accidental Hedonist and because I’ve improved the recipe and because it is such an easy meal to make I thought I would show it off again. I’ve had authentic Chicago pizza at Pizzeria Uno and Gino’s and I think my pizza has better flavor and texture. I recommend using a instant read thermometer to take a reading on the crust; it should be at 210° and there is more than enough space to jab the probe into the side crust to get a reading ... I’ve never been disappointed using this technique.

Here's her recipe:

Chicago style deep-dish pizza


3/4 cup of water
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon of honey
1/4 cup of cornmeal
1 cup of white whole wheat flour
1 + cups of all-purpose white flour

Toppings and sauce

1/2 pound of bulk Italian sausage
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 lb. grated mozzarella
Italian seasoning, minced garlic, salt, pepper


Put the first 7 dough ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Reduce the speed and gradually add the 1+ cups of all purpose flour until the dough clears the side of the bowl. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook. Mix with the dough hook for 5 minutes or so, gradually adding flour until the dough comes to a consistency where it barely sticks to your fingers for just a moment and then it releases.

Put the dough in bowl greased with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight, or even for 3 or 4 days (my longer storage method involves a plastic bag rather than a bowl).

Pull the dough from the refrigerator and smoosh it out into a thick round circle. Drape it over a well oiled cast iron skillet and nudge it about until it rests on the bottom and against the sides with no gaps or tightness. The edges will need a trim so roll a rolling pin across the top of the pan to sever the dough exactly at the top. Let it rise while you prepare the sausage, cheese, and sauce. Preheat the oven to 375°.

Shape the Italian sausage into loose, little nuggets about 1″ in diameter, and brown them in a skillet over medium heat. Season the crushed tomatoes with a pinch of Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and minced garlic.

The first layer of the pizza is the grated mozzarella, followed by the sausage, followed by the sauce. I usually cover the crust with a foil tent to keep it from becoming burnt. Bake in a preheated 375°it for 25-30 minutes or until the side crust reaches a temperature of 210°.

Let it cool a bit, slice into wedges and eat.

Ms. Vanessa talks about early-voting in her post. Let's just hope she voted the "right" way ...!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sushi Nazis

Today's Wall Street Journal has a lengthy article about a new breed of sushi chefs: Sushi Nazis. Sushi Nazis dictate who eats what, refuse simple requests, and often throw people who don't order or eat right out of their restaurants. Sound familiar?

If you're seated at the sushi bar at Sasabune in New York, Sushi Nozawa in Los Angeles, or Sawa Sushi in Sunnyvale, Calif., a few words of advice: Don't try to order -- the chef will decide what you eat. Use extra soy sauce at your own risk. And don't ask for a California roll. You might get kicked out.

You have entered the domain of the sushi bullies -- top sushi chefs who serve only what they want, how they want it and to whom they want. Their rules are often posted on signs throughout their restaurants. Some chefs are notorious for ejecting patrons who annoy them.

Geri-Ayn Gaul had her first encounter with a raw-fish autocrat in August at Ino, in San Francisco. First, she tried to add some soy sauce to her seaweed salad. Big mistake. Chef Noboru Inoue scolded her, she says, telling her, "No, no, no. No soy sauce!" Then, she had the temerity to scrape some wasabi off a piece of sushi, because she doesn't like spicy food. The chef's response, she says: "'No. It needs the wasabi.'" She obeyed, and choked down the fish.

"I was so nervous, I spilled my miso soup," says Ms. Gaul, whose meal for two, with no alcohol, cost $75 -- before tip.

Read the rest here.

Lemme tell you something: If I'm ever in the middle of a $75 meal and I get "scolded" for eating what I'm eating, or how I want to eat it, somebody's gonna get as ass-whipping. And it ain't gonna be me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ancient Donelsonian secret

My favorite side dish has always been, and I imagine always will be, green beans -- especially well-seasoned green beans. My grandmother made the best green beans, which she seasoned with salt pork and onions, and holy hell I miss eatin' 'em. In fact, my stomach starts rumblin' just thinkin' about Granny Ruby's green beans.

Whenever I would go to my grandparents' house to eat, I'd start picking at the green beans before they'd even been ladled into a serving bowl. And woe unto anyone who didn't scoop some green beans onto his or her plate when we sat down to eat. Once I'd started into 'em, it didn't take long before they were all gone.

It takes time to cook good green beans. If my grandmother was using fresh beans, she'd put 'em in a pressure cooker and cook the you-know-what out of 'em for a couple of hours. Canned green beans didn't take quite as long, but they weren't just poured into a pan and heated through. She would let them simmer until most of the water was cooked away -- which is the secret to making really good green beans. Indeed, if you're not patient enough to let 'em simmer, simmer, simmer (as Justin Wilson was wont to say), then you might as well just eat 'em out of the can.

All that said, one of my mother's friends recently showed me how to cook tasty green beans without having to wait two hours for said beans to soak up the flavor of a big hunk of pork.

Here's what you'll need:

That is a box of Goya Sabor A Jamón de Cocinar (ham-flavored concentrate), which you can find at Wal-Mart, Kroger, Publix and Food Lion. There are 8 packages of concentrate per box, each of which equals the flavor of 1/4 lb of smoked ham.

Now, here's what you do for "quick" green beans:

Drain the canning water from a 1.5 lb can of Allen's green beans. Put the beans in a pan with just enough water to cover. Pour in one package of Goya ham seasoning and several twists of fresh black pepper. Cover pan and bring just to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cock lid so steam can escape. Cook 25 minutes, or until most of the water is gone. Remove from heat and stir. Re-cover and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, pork chops, steak, country ham ...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


MillerCoors LLC announced Monday that it will discontinue the clear malt beverage Zima ... because of "challenging malternative segment sales and declining consumer interest." -- St. Louis Business Journal

Remember the clear beverage craze of the early and mid-90s? From that craze emerged an alcoholic beverage named Zima.

Zima never appealed to anyone who didn't have a vagina or who'd never donned a jock whist engaging in a sanctioned sporting endeavor. Indeed, Zima was not a beverage for a man needin' to eat. It was sweet and clear and it tasted like a Sprite that'd had a cheep beer poured into it.

Buh-bye, Zima. You will not be missed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Takin' care of business

Joltin' Django is out of town. A Man's Gotta Eat will return Wednesday, October 22.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Beef stew: Good for me, and good for you!

Beef stew is fast becoming one of my specialties. Here's how I made a batch ce soir:

Joltin' Django's Beef Stew


2 lbs beef stew meat
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium white onion, large-diced
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 4-ounce jar Green Giant mushrooms (sliced or whole)
2 tablespoons Cavender's Greek Seasoning
1 teaspoon Zatarain's cayenne pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper


Cut stew meat into 1/4-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy pot to medium. Brown meat in olive oil, in two batches, and allow to drain on paper towels. Add flour to oil and juices and stir for 8-10 minutes to make a dark roux.

Add garlic, onion, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, Greek seasoning and cayenne to pot. Stir well. Return meat to pot and just cover all ingredients with water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a slow, slow simmer. Cook for 90 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper, if needed, before serving.

Recommended hot sauce for this dish: Regular or green Tabasco®.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Man, that is a lot of barbeque!

Today was my church's annual Fall Festival. I was there just long enough to get a BBQ plate and a chess pie. The 'que was pretty darn good (a fellow church member owns a catering biz took care of the meat), and the chess pie, which was baked by a lady named Opal, was real good. Indeed, I don't any little old lady named Opal could bake a pie that was anything but good.

What you see in the pic above is a big pile of smoked pork, some baked beans and slaw. I got it for five bucks. For ten bucks, total, I got enough for tonight's dinner and lunch tomorrow, plus four or five chess pie snacks over the next couple of days. Not too bad, huh?!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Beatin' the World's Biggest Burger

Brad Sciullo is my new hero ...

From Slashfood:

"The Beer Barrel Belly Bruiser is so big that it looks like it might eat Brad Sciullo. Nonetheless the 21-year-old chef from Uniontown, Pa., took down the 15-pound burger along with 5 pounds of toppings in four hours and 39 minutes. For his efforts the 5-foot-11, 180-pound received $400, three T-shirts, a certificate and what the owner of Denny's Beer Barrel Pub calls 'a burger hangover.'

"Sciullo is the first person to ever successfully eat this outlandishly huge burger within the 5-hour time limit. The colossal cheeseburger was dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, mild banana peppers and a cup each of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and relish."

I like me a big ol' hamburger. I love me a big ol' hamburger with luttuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, mayo, mustard, cheese and ketchup. I would've very much enjoyed helping Mr. Sciullo eat his 15-lb burger. But he didn't need my help, did he?

Again, the skinny sombitch known as Brad Sciullo is my new hero!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ron's, BFD (Back From the Dead)

Melissa writes:

Okay since I found your blog because of Ron’s and you share the same love for it, I had to share this with you. I googled trying to find Ron’s last name to contact him and found a website for the old Ron’s. I emailed them in hopes the site was still active and it was. Tangla emailed me back and said that their lease was expiring and the landlord raised the rent so they went looking. They just signed a lease for a place at 5359 Mt. View Road in the Kroger shopping center (I think this is the old Chinese buffet location probably). They couldn’t advertise the details until the deal was sealed but they hope to be open in a couple of weeks. They will have more room, a private dining area and I think what she’s most excited about, a REAL kitchen separate from the rest of the restaurant. She will send me more information as soon as they have the grand opening date set.

Melissa knows exactly what she's talking 'bout. I drove through the Hickory Hollow Kroger's parking lot today and I can confirm that Ron is preparin' a store in which his patented quality soul food will soon be served.

I'll have pics and things to say as soon as Ron opens back up. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

'Tis one super smoke

Somehow - I don't remember how - an Avo No 1 Lonsdale cigar made its way into my humidor. I smoked the sombitch today, and all I can say is: What a wonderful cigar!

First thing I noticed about my Avo No 1 was its construction. Indeed, a 1-inch ash formed before I had "tap" my cigar.

Second thing I noticed about my Avo was the fact that it was an incredibly mild smoke. It had subtle hints of pepper and cinnamon, and as soon as I had to discard the "stub," I was already pining for another one.

Like cigars? Get you an Avo. You'll be glad you did, indeed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Joltin' Django rubs you the right way (pun firmly intended)

Yesterday, I told you about my scalloped potatoes. Today, I'm gonna tell you about the pork loin I cooked alongside my taters.

I clipped a recipe for a BBQ rub from the local paper several weeks back. I didn't use it right away because I thought it had too much sugar in it. So I tweaked it a bit and tried it for the first time last night. Here 'tis:

Joltin' Django's Spicy BBQ Rub

1 cup sweet paprika
1 cup hot paprika
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 cup onion powder
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

I mixed all those ingredients up really well, and then I liberally coated all sides of my 2.5-pound pork loin. I let the pork loin rest in the refrigerator for about 2 hours before shoving it into a 350-degree oven. It cooked for about 50 minutes, and rested another 10 minutes, before I cut into it. Damn, son, that was one of the juiciest and most flavorful hunks of pork I've ever eaten in my life. And, as my grandfather used to say, that ain't no ****, either.

One thing you need to know about that rub: If you put it in an airtight container, it will keep for about six months. So if you have some left over, and you will, you can use it again (and again).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pommes de terre crantées

I recently spied Edna Lewis' The Taste of Country cookbook in a used bookstore. The quote on the cover -- "She evokes the tantalizing aromas of a farm kitchen. She brings back the fresh, natural tastes of the wonderful cooking she was raised on in Virginia. She shares old family recipes in menus that make the most of each season's bounty" -- piqued my interest; the recipes and asides in the book itself ('bout country ham and fresh berries and Christmas meals) made me say, "Damn, I'm buyin' this book!"

I tried my first recipe from The Taste of Country Cooking tonight: Scalloped Potatoes. Man, they were good! Here's the recipe, straight from the book:

Edna Lewis' Scalloped Potatoes (serves 8)


2 lbs white potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1 pint whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper


Peel and slice raw potatoes thin. Layer them in the [2-quart casserole, buttered]. Sprinkle each layer with pepper and salt, and dot over with butter. Repeat the process until casserole is filled. Arrange the top layer in a circle or rectangle design according to the design of the dish. Pour in enough milk to reach just under the top layer of potatoes. Dot the top liberally with butter and set in center of an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for 60 minutes. When finished, the top should have a nice crusty top.

Note: The casserole may be rubbed with garlic if desired. Also, the layers of potatoes may be sprinkled with finely chopped garlic.

Just so you know ... I added onions and rubbed my pan with garlic. You knew that already, though, didn't you?!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Peaux de porc!

During the 1988 presidential campaign, Vice President George H.W. Bush admitted in an interview that he loved to snack on fried pork skins.  He immediately received criticism from two distinct groups of hand-wringers: those who said the patrician Bush was simply trying to appeal to rural and suburban rubes by pretending to like pork skins, and those who said a sitting Vice President shouldn't be encouraging anyone - rubes included - to eat anything as unhealthy as pork skins.
Since the mini-imbroglio over George H.W. Bush's eating habits is old, old news, I ain't gonna dwell on it.  All I'll say is this:  
Bush made his fortune in Texas' oilfields, so it's not inconceivable that he acquired a taste for something that's sold in practically every market in the south, not to mention in a lot of BBQ joints (more about that in a second).  And, Bush didn't tell anyone to eat pork skins, he just said he liked 'em.  Indeed, I don't recall any mass runs on pork skins after the Vice President of the U.S. supposedly inferred that everyone should go out and get some.
That said, I, too, like pork skins.  Even though I was a young pup - young rube? - when Bush 41 stated his affinity for the tasty little things, I remember thinking, "This is my kind of guy!" 
I'll be the first to admit that pork skins don't have a lot of nutritional value; but if you're not eating bags of 'em each day, while sitting on the couch, there ain't nothing wrong with enjoying the little salty, fatty buggers from time to time.   I know it's hard concept for a lot of people to grasp, but if über-moderation is your guiding principle vis-à-vis putting things in your body, you can pretty much eat or drink anything.  
[Sidebar: I'm reminded of a little episode from my high school days.  I had a part-time job as a gopher at a truck, tractor and trailer dealership when I was in 11th and 12th grade.  I worked my ass off in that job. One day, I delivered and fetched parts all over town, and I didn't stop for lunch.  I stopped at a convenience store and picked up a bag of pork skins and a bottle of Gatorade.  I was sitting in the break room enjoying my "lunch" when a co-worker came in, cigarette in hand.  She bought a candy bar and a Coke or Pepsi or something.  When she saw what I was eating, she exclaimed, "Ew!  Those things are bad for you!"  True story.]
You get the best pork skins in barbeque joints that fry their own.  In fact, there are few treats in this world better than a freshly fried pork skin that still has some meat on it.  (In Nashville, you can get some mighty fine pork skins at Neely's BBQ near MetroCenter.) As far as bagged pork skins are concerned, Papa Brim's are the best.

Now, I've never been too keen on the puffed-air pork skins that every potato chip manufacturer under the sun turns out, and which you can find at practically any grocery store in the U.S.A. Every time I've ever seen them things in a market or grocery store I've said under my breath, "Those aren't pork skins! They're just puffed pieced of pork-flavored who-knows-what!"

Today, however, I decided to take a chance on a package of Golden Flake's puffed-up pork skins because, well, the packaging featured a bottle of Bruce Food's Louisiana hot sauce. The texture didn't do much for me (they more air than skin), but damn did those pork skins taste good ... good and hot! They almost - almost - made me forget about how much I like honest-to-God pork skins. And I ain't just blowin' smoke by saying that, neither.

One of these times when I'm looking for a hot snack, I will be gettin' me another bag of Golden Flake pork skins. Try some sometime. You'll be glad you did!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Culinary cartoon of the day

From today's Wall Street Journal (a little bit apropos in Joltin' Django's case, n'est-ce pas?):

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Soup is good food

Earlier this year, I posted my personal recipe for chicken soup. I decided to make a batch tonight. I was about three-quarters finished when I discovered that I didn't have any egg noodles. Suddenly, an idea popped into my head: Put some spaghetti noodles in it and it'll be just like Campbell's chicken noodle soup, only homemade and ten times better. And that's just what I did!

Here's my recipe if you missed it the first time:

Joltin' Django's Chicken Soup


2 whole chickens
7 carrots
1 package of celery (with plenty of leaves)
2 large white onions
5 cloves of garlic
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Dried thyme
Egg Noodles


Peel three carrots and cut 'em in half
Pick out three stalks of celery that have a lot of leaves on 'em
Quarter one onion
Peel garlic cloves
Rinse chickens in cold water and pat dry

Throw chickens, carrots, celery, onion and garlic in a large stock pot and cover with water
Dump in, oh, a tablespoon of salt and an equal amount of black pepper

Bring chickens and stock vegetables to a boil
Lower heat to slow simmer and cook for 2 hours
(Note: My large stock pot didn't cost very much. Thus, it has a very thin bottom. Since I don't have a heat-diffuser, I slowly bring my chickens and vegetables up to a boil - while constantly stirring - so's nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.)

Remove chickens to a platter or shallow baking dish
Strain stock into smaller stock pot
(Note: Now, some limp-wristed chefs will tell you to skim off the little droplets of fat that rise to the surface of chicken stock. Hell, I've even heard some TV chefs say that stock should be put in the refrigerator for several hours so all of the fat can congeal at the top and be removed. As Anthony Bourdain once said, most of the flavor in a stock is concentrated in those little droplets of fat; and only a fool would remove such from a homemade stock.)

Discard boiled vegetables
Remove skin from chickens and debone; hand-pull into large chunks
Dice remaining carrots and remaining onion
Dice three large stalks of celery
Place chicken and vegetables in stock
Throw in a tablespoon of thyme and more salt if needed
Bring soup to medium simmer and cook for 10 minutes
Remove soup from burner and throw in 2 cups of egg noodles
Cover and let stand for 10 minutes, or until egg noodles are soft

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Zee-tee (good for you, and good for me!)

In response to my Godfather-Italian cookin' post, Geneva R sends us this recipe for stovetop ziti (I can't wait to try it) ...

Geneva's Stovetop Ziti


1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt & fresh ground pepper
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
12 ounces ziti pasta (3 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup fresh basil leaf, minced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded


Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475.

Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet and saute over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. (If your skillet is not ovensafe, transfer the pasta mixture into a shallow 2-quart casserole dish before sprinkling with the cheese and baking).

Add crushed tomatoes, water, ziti and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15-18 minutes.

Stir in cream, Parmesan, and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Serve.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Cazuela de pollo Mexicana

Some ten years ago, my Mom received from a friend a recipe for Mexican Chicken Casserole. She passed the recipe along to me, and it quickly became one of my favorite casseroles of all time.

The first thing you'll notice about Mexican Chicken Casserole is ... there ain't nothing Mexican about it. I've been to Mexico a couple of times, and I don't recall ever eating anything there that featured a can of condensed soup as a major ingredient. (I don't recall eating any cheese-clogged dishes south of the border either, but that's a story for another day.) But so what? The dish could've been christened "Gristle Chicken Casserole" by its concocter, if you will, and it would still taste damn good to me.

It takes about 15 minutes to put the following casserole together, and it goes from notion to noshing in about an hour and a half. I've made this for friends, family and co-workers, and I've NEVER had to dispose of left-overs. That's a pretty good testimonial, if you ask me.

Mexican Chicken Casserole


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 can RO*TEL® tomatoes (I prefer extra hot)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
4-6 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 cups crushed Doritos Nacho Cheese® chips, crushed
Kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in shallow, aluminum foil-lined baking dish Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Remove chicken from baking dish. Shred and set aside. Discard aluminum foil.

Mix soups and RO*TEL® in a small bowl. Place shredded chicken and onions in baking dish. Cover with soup/RO*TEL® mixture. Top with cheese and chips, and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with green peas or green beans (and a lot of Tabasco®.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Number One bread-making machine

A former lady friend gave me a big, fancy rice cooker for Christmas a few years back. It's such a pain in the ass to use, I've only made use of it two times.

I've seriously considered turning my rice cooker over to ma mère so's she or a neighbor can get rid of it in a yard sale. I ain't gonna get rid of my cooker, however, until I've tried this (HT: Slashfood):

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Food and drinking are prolific throughout the movie ..."

Yesterday, I made an appearance at a mercifully short wedding before I made a quick-change and headed downtown for the Vanderbilt-Auburn game (Yeah, Vandy!). After the wedding, I was talking to the brother of the bridegroom about weddings in general when the opening scene from The Godfather (a wedding scene) entered the conversation.

The bridegroom's bro spent the next 15 minutes trading "Remember when ...?" Godfather riffs. As soon as I mentioned the scene in which Al Pacino's character gets schooled 'bout how to cook for "twenty guys," he informed me - rather authoritatively, in fact - that there were 40 scenes in the Godfather in which people were either eating or discussing food.

Intrigued by the bridegroom's bro's assertion, I did some research today. Seems he was off by about 20 scenes. There were 40 eating/drinking scenes alright ... plus twenty more. According to the Internet Movie Data Base:

"Food and drinking are prolific throughout the movie. There are approximately 61 scenes or shots with people eating, drinking, or with food featured.

So there!

Now, while I'm on the subject of the Godfather, and while we're discussing food, I want to tell you about my favorite scene from said movie ...

The Corleone family has gone to the mattresses after an attempt on the Godfather's (Marlon Brando) life. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is still a civilian at this point, and he enters the family kitchen to take a phone call from his girlfriend. When he hangs up, he gets schooled on how to cook tomato sauce, er, gravy by Clemenza, one of his family's hoods. Here're Clemenza's instructions:

"[Y]ou start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some [canned whole]tomatoes, tomato paste. You fry it and you make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil and you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs. Add a little bit o' wine. And a little bit o' sugar, and that's my trick."

Try that sometime and you'll have one fine tomato gravy. I know, 'cause I've tried it. That said, here's why that scene is my favorite scene from the movie ...

If you listen to Francis Ford Coppola's commentary on the Godfather DVD, during the making-tomato-gravy scene he admits that the original script called for Clemenza to say, "Then you brown some garlic." Mario Puzo, who penned the novel upon which the movie was based, stepped in and said, "Gangsters don't 'brown.'" So, the script was changed to be more gangster -- and for the better if you ask me.

All of a sudden, I'm in the mood for some penne, sausages, and homemade tomato gravy!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sunday dinner for Italians

According to Pat DiNizio -- who's perhaps my favorite singer-songwriter of all time -- this is how Sunday dinner went down (no pun intended) in an Italian household:

Italians have a $40,000.00 kitchen, but use the $259 stove from Sears in the basement to cook.

There is always some sort of religious statue in the hallway, living room, bedroom, front porch and backyard.

The living room is filled with old wedding favors with poofy net bows and stale almonds (they are too pretty to open).

A portrait of the Pope and Frank Sinatra in the dining room.

God forbid if anyone EVER attempted to eat Chef Boyardee, Franco American, Ragu, Prego or anything else in a jar or can (tomato paste is the exception).

Meatballs are made with Pork, Veal, and Beef. We are Italians, we don't care about cholesterol.

Turkey is served on Thanksgiving, AFTER the manicotti, gnocchi, lasagna and soup.

If anyone EVER says ES-CAROLE, slap 'em in the face -- it's SHCAROLE.

If they ever say ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP, let the idiot know that there is no wedding, nor is there an Italian in the soup. Also, the tiny meatballs must be made by hand.

No matter how hard you know you were going to get smacked, you still came home from church after communion, you stuck half a loaf of bread in the sauce (GRAVY in my house) pot, snuck out a fried meatball and chowed down (you'll make up for it next week at confession).

Sunday dinner was at 2:00. The meal went like this ...

Table is set with everyday dishes ... doesn't matter if they don't match ... they're clean, what more do you want?

All the utensils go on the right side of the plate and the napkin goes on the left.

Put a clean kitchen towel at Nonna & Papa's plate because they won't use napkins.

Homemade wine and bottles of 7up are on the table.

First course, Antipasto ... change plates.

Next, Macaroni Nonna called all pasta Macaroni ... change plates.

After that, Roasted Meats, Roasted Potatoes, Over-cooked Vegetables ... change plates.

THEN and only then (NEVER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MEAL) would you eat the salad (HOMEMADE OIL & VINEGAR DRESSING ONLY) ... change plates.

Next, Fruit & Nuts - in the shell (on paper plates because you ran out of the other ones).

Coffee with Anisette (Espresso for Nonna, 'American' coffee for the rest) with hard Cookies to dip in the coffee.

The kids go play ... the men go to lie down.

They slept so soundly you could perform brain surgery on them without anesthesia ... the women clean
the kitchen.

Getting screamed at by Mom or Nonna - half the sentence was English, the other half Italian.

Italian mothers never threw a baseball in their life, but can nail you in the head with a shoe thrown from the kitchen while you're in the living room.

The true Italians will love this, those of you who are married to Italians will understand this, and those of you who are friends with Italians will remember and will forward it to their Italian friends.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"Ladies, fire up your brew pots ..."

The Los Angeles Times says home-brewing ain't just for the fellers any more:

"It's one of the many home brew competitions that take place around the country each year. There's the panel of certified judges, the international entrants in 28 categories of beer and mead -- and there's the hops-filled afternoon of sipping and scribbling until a winner is crowned.

"But photos on the website for the Queen of Beer's Women's Homebrew competition -- this year's judging takes place Oct. 25 -- hint at the special flavor of the contest held for the last 12 years in Placerville, east of Sacramento. Last year's grand-prize winner glams for the camera in a rhinestone tiara; a few scrolls below, Miss Queen of Beer 2005 models a pink faux-fur crown, a bottle of her winning Russian Imperial stout proudly in hand.

"Ladies, fire up your brew pots and polish those carboys. Your pint glasses are waiting."

Read the rest of it here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I like meat and I sure like the neck bone

I've said many times on this blog that my favorite meat is pork. Furthermore, I've published a couple-dozen pictures of pork dishes -- pork roast, pork steaks, pork chops, pork (and beef) meatballs, country-style pork ribs, etc. -- I've cooked, which you can find in the archive. Tonight, I decided to cook a pork something-something that I hadn't cooked in a long time: neck bones.

First, I got me about 5 lbs of neck bones at Compton's Foodland. Five lbs sounds like a lot, I know, but there's a lot of bone in a pork neck bone (in fact, a neck bone is mostly bone). I spread my neck bones out on wax paper and I salted and peppered them really good. Then they went into my Crock-Pot®.

I mixed a cup of Sauer's BBQ sauce, a cup of Howton Farms BBQ sauce, a half-cup of beer (Anchor Steam), and about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. I poured the mixture over the neck bones and put the Crock-Pot on low.

I didn't touch my neck bones for three hours. When three hours had passed, however, I got me a spoon and I swear I basted 'em for five minutes. I put the lid back on and let the Crock-Pot be for another hour.

At this point, I basted my neck bones again and turned the Crock-Pot to "warm." I let 'em rest for another 20 minutes before I finally scooped one out and put it on a plate.

I'm here to tell you that the meat literally fell off that neck bone. Not only that, but the meat was literally melting in my mouth as well. With eat meat-melting bite, I said to myself, "Neck bones are now near the top of the entrée rotation here at Chez Joltin' Django."

Lemme know when you want to come over and try 'em ...

Andrew Lee RIP

This sure gives Joltin' Django something to think about:

An amateur chef died the day after eating a "superhot" chilli in a bet with his friend over who could make the hottest dish, an inquest heard.

Andrew Lee, 33, suffered heart failure the morning after he ate the chilli.

Toxicology tests are now being carried out to see if the fork lift truck driver suffered a fatal reaction to the dish or whether anything else contributed to his death.

Mr Lee, of Edlington, Doncaster was apparently in perfect health and had just passed a medical at work, the opening of the Doncaster hearing was told.

Cooking was one of his main interests and he went to his girlfriend Samantha Bailey's house to make a chilli.

His father John Lee told the inquest: "He had a bet with Samantha's brother who could make the hottest chilli then went back to her house to stay."

Mother-of-four Miss Bailey called the emergency services to her home nine days ago.

Police officers were called to the house after receiving reports of a man suffering a cardiac arrest and Mr Lee was found lying on the floor.

Paramedics failed to revive him and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A full post-mortem examination is underway and further inquiries are being carried out.

Deputy Doncaster coroner Fred Curtis granted a burial order and adjourned the inquest for further evidence.