Thursday, July 31, 2008

A $.99 trip to Vietnam

I freakin' love phở soup. What's phở soup, you ask? Let's ask Wikipedia:

"Phở (pronounced 'fuh') is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup dish. ...

"Phở is served as a bowl of white rice noodles in clear beef broth, with thin cuts of beef."

It's no secret that my toes absolutely curl when I partake of the King Market's phở ... here's why:

● One fine clear, beef-infused broth
● A good helping of slivered onions
● A fist-full of perfectly cooked rice noodles
● At least 8 ounces of sliced flank beef
● 2-3 quartered meatballs
● Enough basil and green onions to make a person appreciate the hell out of basil and green onions
● A very large plate of extra basil, red chilies, and bean sprouts (with which a feller can garnish his soup)

Sounds good, don't it?

This past Monday, several co-workers and I visited a local "international" market during our lunch hour. I was walking down the "prepared noodles" aisle when I seen a package of "Vietnamese Noodle Soup." I took a chance and bought me one 'cause, well, it was selling for the princely sum of $.99.

When I began eating, er, slurping my Vietnamese soup the following day, my toes curled and my head began swimming. "This broth tastes just like the broth in the King Market's phở!" I says to myself. Yeah, I was that impressed.

Tuesday, I went back to my local international market and I purchased eight more 99-cent phở soups. 'Tis all I've had for lunch this week, and 'tis what I'll be having for lunch tomorrow. To wit:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Taste this, "Toast of ..."

As much as I hate making - and hate those who make - sweeping generalizations, I simply must say this: The individuals who participated in the Tennessean's "Toast of Music City," uh, contest are ****in' idiots. No, wait ... they are ****in' idiots who don't know the first ****in' thing about good eatin'.

I don't remembering it happening, but the Tennessean purportedly polled its readers asking them to vote for the best restaurants, best entertainment venues, best dry goods stores, best doctors, best car dealerships, etc. The final results were published in a 56-page tabloid-style insert in this past Sunday's paper. My right eyebrow almost cocked over my skull when I saw Best Buy as the third-best "Best Record Store" (what about Phonoluxe?); but that was nothing. I almost choked on the RC Cola I was drinking when I got to the "Best Food and Drink" entries.

According to the Tennessean's readers, the best BBQ restaurant is Bar-B-Cutie. Not only that, but Bar-B-Cutie was voted the "best restaurant" in Nashville as well. A little pissant purveyor or sub-par smoked pork was chosen as the best BBQ joint AND the best restaurant in town. No wonder I'm slowly becoming an aspirin junkie. (For the record, there are only three quality BBQ joints in Nashville -- Neely's, Pop's, Mary's, and Dee's -- none of which found a place in the "Taste of Nashville.")

With that said, let me tell you what "Toast of Music City" entry almost sent me into an apoplectic-foodie fit: the "Best Hot Chicken" winners were - in 1, 2, 3 order - Bojangles', Popeyes, and Otter's.

If you're new to Nashville, or if you've never visited Music City, you probably need to be schooled a bit 'bout "hot chicken." It ain't chicken that's just been retrieved from a pan, or an oven, or a slow-cooker. Hot Chicken is a unique style of fried chicken that gets dusted with a cayenne-paprika spice mix before being served. And - and this is important - it's traditionally served with white bread and dill pickles.

You can't find Nashville-style hot chicken at Bojangles' or Popeyes or Otter's. The fact that great numbers of Tennessean readers chose chain-store fried chicken restaurants as the best hot chicken joints in town ... well, what was it I said 'bout Tennessean-readers being idiots?!

Who wants to join me at Prince's Hot Chicken Shack tomorrow? I'll be there 'bout 11:50 a.m.

Monday, July 28, 2008

On the road with Joltin' Django (part two)

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.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the road with Joltin' Django (part one)

Yesterday, I traveled to Humphreys County, Tennessee, for the Irish Picnic and Homecoming. The Irish Picnic, which has taken place for over 150 years, serves as a fundraiser for the Saint Patrick School in McEwen. Hundreds of pounds of pork and chicken are smoked for the Picnic, and not one ounce of smoked meat is left by the time it's over.

The Irish Picnic takes place each year on the last Friday and Saturday in July. Over the last dozen years, I think I've missed the Picnic one time. "Why would anyone want to drive to McEwen, of all places, year after year for some festival BBQ?" you may be asking. Well ...

First, to eat a heaping plate of juicy and perfectly-smoked BBQ, green beans, slaw, homemade pickles, tater salad, and white bread. This is all washed down, of course, with tea so sweet it could count as dessert. It ain't dessert, though. You can have scratch-made chocolate cake, chess and/or pecan pie, or homemade cookies.

This was my plate:

At this point I think I should tell you that this meal, which in actuality was two meals 'cause there was enough left over for dinner, cost the princely sum of $6.

My second reason for making an annual pilgrimage to the Irish Picnic is so's I can purchase a big-ass jug of the famous Irish Picnic BBQ sauce which is only available during Picnic Weekend, if you will. (I've been told that the super-secret recipe for the sauce is kept in a lockbox in a Dickson,TN, bank, though I've not been able to find a Picnic official who can confirm such.) This, my friends, is one of the finest BBQ sauces I've ever put in my mouth:

I'm already looking forward to next year's Irish Picnic. Wanna go?!

A couple more pics from the Picnic ...

The pit bosses start stoking the hickory charcoal on Thursday. Man, it is freaking hot 'round these pits:

Barbeque and bluegrass. Tain't a better combination in the world!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's Tomato Time in Tennessee! (update)

My tomatoes are ripening almost faster than I can pick 'em. This is what I picked this afternoon:

For dinner tonight, I used an entire tomato to make a mater sammich (on white bread with Duke's, of course). Then I sliced another tomato and ate it with some salt and pepper.

When I start to get my late evening sinking spell tonight, I'll probably eat me another sliced tomato. I'm already lookin' forward to it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Homemade sausage. Me likey the sound of that!

As much as I distrust folks with hyphenated surnames (my ami Mordecai once stated, quite correctly, that it's difficult to take anyone with a hyphenated name seriously), I think I'm gonna follow Mr. Matthew Amster-Burton's lead and make me some sausage. Check this out:

I often make my own sausage, and if you love sausage, you should do the same. You can control exactly what goes into it. You can make a variety of sausages unavailable in your local market. You can begin with the best local meat. You can use tons of homegrown fresh herbs.

You can make fresh sausage so flavorful that a little goes a long way, and thereby encourage yourself to use meat as a flavoring rather than the main event, just like Mark Bittman told you to.

Wait, where are you going? Look what I’m not going to ask you to do:

Stuff casings. I’ve done it once. That was plenty. Now I make bulk sausage, which is extremely versatile.

Smoke or dry sausages. Not in my apartment. (In fact, as much as I like you, readers, I’d rather you didn’t do any of your sausage-making in my apartment.)

Work with pork fatback. I do buy and use pork fat regularly, but it’s not necessary for good homemade sausage if you start with the right cuts of meat: shoulder cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, and leg and thigh meat of duck, chicken, and turkey.

Now that you’ve calmed down instead of fleeing in terror, let’s begin.

You’ll need two pieces of equipment to make sausage: a stand mixer and its food-grinder attachment. Grinders are available for KitchenAid, Viking, and Cuisinart stand mixers. The stand mixer attachments work better than inexpensive standalone electric meat grinders; they’re also easier to clean and store.

Some people grind meat in the food processor. I have never mastered this and wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re already doing it successfully. For your first forays into home sausage making, you’ll want a foolproof setup.

A third, optional piece of equipment is a spice grinder, as freshly ground spices really shine in sausage. Get one of those cheap little propeller-bladed coffee grinders (your local Goodwill will probably have one, if you’re über-cheap) and use it for spices, not coffee.

No matter what kind of sausage you’re making, here’s the procedure:

Cut the meat into 1-inch chunks.

Season with herbs, spices, aromatics, and salt. (Not to mention dried or fresh fruit, roasted peppers, and any member of the onion and garlic family.)

Grind through the fine plate (the one with the smaller holes).

Stir in a bit of flavorful liquid (wine, vinegar, beer, cider) to help bind the sausage together.

At this point, you can cook a small patty of sausage, taste it for seasonings, and stir in whatever else it needs.

Like cookie recipes, most sausage formulas yield enough to feed a crowd. But I’d suggest making a pound at a time until you find a sausage you really love. Then you can make more and freeze it. I’ve had great luck freezing sausage with my vacuum sealer, the Reynolds Handi-Vac that I paid $9 for when I was experimenting with cilantro preservation.

You’ve probably heard that it’s vital to keep everything cold while making sausage. This is true up to a point. You’ll want to start with refrigerated (or even lightly frozen) meat, and it can’t hurt to put the grinder attachment in the freezer while you’re prepping ingredients. But it takes about one minute to grind a pound of sausage, not enough time for the materials to heat up. So you don’t need to bother using an ice-water bath as long as you get the sausage right into the fridge when you’re done.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

They call 'em Tater Pancakes

Let's face it, mashed potatoes are best eaten very soon after they've come off the stove. Leftover mashed taters are dry and bland, and whilst eatin' 'em you can't help but say to yourself, "Man, these ain't as good as they were last night!"

Next time you find yourself with a bowl of leftover smashed taters, don't throw 'em in a microwave and eat 'em alongside another equally bland leftover dish. Instead, try this:

Pour a half-inch of oil into a skillet
Heat skillet to medium

Put the mashed potatoes in a mixing bowl
Throw in about a half-cup of flour
Add a half-cup of milk
Mix well

Put a heaping spoonful of the potato batter into the oil, flatten until 1/4-inch thick
Repeat until skillet is full, with no flattened taters touching each other
Fry until golden brown on one side, 'bout four minutes,
Flip and repeat on opposite side
Drain on paper towels

Serve with butter, sour cream, ketchup, hot sauce ... or whatever you like on a fried tater

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mon mauvais weekend

Friday night, I ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in South Nashville. I've never been too crazy about the restaurant in question -- I'll call it Pas Llama's -- and I didn't want to go there on Friday. Since I wasn't paying, I didn't say anything. I rode to Pas Llama's with my mouth shut.

Pas Llama's is pretty popular 'mongst Nashvillians. I know this 'cause there're eight locations in and just outside of the city, and each and every one of 'em has a crowd for lunch each weekday and a crowd for dinner every Friday and Saturday night. But just because a lot of folks in Nashville like a place don't mean it's good. I mean, Whitt's BBQ has a dozen restaurants across Music City and has won awards and caters hundreds of 100-plus-people events each year. Whitt's also serves the stringiest, driest smoked pork shoulder I've ever eaten.

Like I said, I've never been a big Pas Llama's fan, mainly 'cause of this: three-quarters of the items on the Pas Llama's menu come slathered in cheap cheese and out-of-the-can red sauce. (A few menu items come slathered in out-of-the-can green sauce, and they're equally as bland as their red cousins.) With that said, I think you have a pretty good idea of why I didn't want to go to Pas Llama's on Friday.

When it came time to order Friday, I went with something I'd never had at Pas Llama's: a grilled chicken breast topped with grilled tomatoes, onions, and peppers. The chicken was a tad overcooked, and it tweren't topped with enough grilled tomatoes for my taste.

I ate my free dinner without uttering a disparaging word, and I dutifully, i.e., with a smile on my face, asked for a box for my left-overs (I reckon I ate a little over half of what I'd been served).

When I got home, I put my left-overs in the refrigerator. I got undressed, stretched out in my recliner and read for about three hours. I went to bed - oh, 'bout 11:30 - and I quickly dozed off. And then the unpleasantness began ...

I awoke about 4 a.m. Saturday morning with, well, let's just say I had a sour stomach. I drank some Pepto-Bismol®, I drank me some Sprite, and then I went back to bed. It took me a while to do, but I eventually went back to sleep. I awoke again at 6 a.m., and my sour stomach had advanced from the "sour" stage to the "four alarm fire" stage.

From 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., I reckon I visited my bathroom a dozen times. I also burped the tomatoes, onions and peppers I'd eaten twelve hours previously 'bout three dozen times. Each time I did so, I dropped an F-bomb whilst cursing anyone employed by, or associated with, Pas Llama's Mexican Restaurant.

I had important work to do at my office on Saturday, so I got dressed and soldiered on in. Two hours was all I could stand. I returned home and commandeered the couch. And that's pretty much where I stayed for the remainder of the weekend. I didn't get to see the new Batman movie, as planned, and I missed out on DirecTV's free MLB Extra Inning weekend, 'cause I was all hopped-up on medicine and I was sleeping. As Yoda might say, f***ed up my weekend was. Indeed.

I won't ever -- won't ever, never -- go back to Pas Llama's. If you're smart, you'll follow my lead.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Oh, how I love Nathan's. Oh, how I love Na-than's!

Tain't no secret that I love Nathan's hot dogs (see here and here). Today, I broke down and bought a Nathan's hot dog from the vending machine in my workplace's break room :

First thing I did after purchasing my Nathan's hot dog was separate dog and bun. I put the dog on a plate and put it in the microwave, then I cooked it on medium for one minute. The dog came out the microwave, to be replaced by the bun. I put the microwave on high and cooked the bun for 30 seconds.

I put me some Heinz Piccalilli on my dog; I grabbed me a brought-from-home Coca-Cola from the fridge; and then it was time to eat:

I was not prepared to like a Nathan's hot dog from a vending machine. Indeed, prior to taking the first bite, I was expecting to be incredibly disappointed. Didn't happen.

My hot dog bun wasn't the greatest -- I mean, can a refrigerated bun really be all that great? But the dog - whoa, the dog - was damn good. It not only had the patented Nathan's taste, it had a casing on it (yeah, a casing!). When you bite into a hot dog and it snaps, you know you're eating something special.

So, the verdict on my vending machine-bought Nathan's hot dog is: bun, okay; dog, great.

Oh, and I'll be telling you 'bout that Heinz Piccalilli Pickle real soon!

You can't beat Pete's heat

The Belmont Bi-Rite's plate-lunch counter serves up some of the best food in Nashville. If you're a regular AMGE reader, you know that already.

What I didn't know, until my ami Mr. Jimmy told me this evening, is that the Belmont Bi-Rite now offers little packets of Texas Pete at its plate-lunch counter, gratis:

Boy howdy, I do love me some Texas Pete hot sauce. And I respect the hell out of the Belmont Bi-Rite - as if I needed any additional reasons to admire the hell out of the place - for making Texas Pete available to its patrons.

If a day ever comes when I lose all sense of my liberty-lovin' faculties (that is, if I ever become another B. Hussein Obama), I'll urge my local lawmakers to pass legislation requiring restaurateurs to carry bottles or packets of hot sauce. That day ain't gonna come anytime soon, so I'll just keep heapin' praise on those eatin' places in which hot sauce(s) are offered alongside mustard and ketchup ... or is it catsup?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Granny Ruby's cornbread

Seems like I promised to tell my loyal readers how I make cornbread. I learned how to make cornbread from my Granny Ruby. Here's what she taught me:

Granny Ruby's Cornbread


1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (or buttermilk)


Preheat oven to 350. Pour oil into an iron skillet. Heat skillet in oven, 8-10 minutes.

In a medium bowl mix the cornmeal, eggs, and milk. Remove the skillet from the oven and pour the hot oil into the cornmeal batter. Stir. Increase oven temperature to 400.

Pour the cornmeal batter into the hot skillet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top of the cornbread is golden and crispy.

Serve alongside beans or fried chicken or meatloaf or boiled cabbage. Or, simply serve piping hot with a big glass of milk and lots of real butter.

Monday, July 14, 2008

You oughta see my baby at the hot dog stand ...

Well, my baby works in a hot dog stand
A-making them hot dogs as fast as she can
Up steps a cat and yells don't be slow
And get me two hot dogs ready to go

-- Buck Owens

Just like Benjamin J. Matlock, I like me a good hot dog. A few months ago, I discovered some incredible-tasting, and incredibly cheap, hot dogs about 100 yards from my place of business. Lemme tell you about 'em ...

There's a Kangaroo mini-mart right next to my office. I'd been in that place at least fifty times over the years to buy chewing tobacco and various snacks. I'd never once considered walking to the back of the store to check out the hot dogs sold therein.

'Bout two months ago, I was standing in the checkout line behind a feller who was holding a hot dog in a little clear sleeve. It didn't look like your typical red hot dog; instead, it looked like a skinny kielbasa. I stepped out of the line and went back to the hot dog, er, display. I cocked my head and raised my eyebrows when I saw this sign: "Hillshire Farms Sausage Dogs: 2 for $2." I looked at the dogs and said to myself, "I'm gettin' me one of those tomorrow!"

Get one I did. I ate it with a little mustard, and a lot of sliced peppers, and I just enjoyed the hell out of it. I enjoyed it so much that I went back to the Kangaroo 'bout ten more times to get me a one-dollar sausage dog topped with mustard and 10-12 jalapeño slices. Today, I made trip number eleven:

Looks good, don't it?!

I anticipated eating me a Kangaroo sausage dog before I even left for work this morning. Thus, I toted my jar of Heinz Piccalilli Pickle to work with me. I'll have more to say about Heinz's piccalilli in the very near future. Stay tuned ...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's Tomato Time in Tennessee!

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes

-- Guy Clark

If you live to be 100, you will never hear-tell of an individual who's more hot-natured than yours truly. Because I'm so hot-natured, I am absolutely miserable during the months of July and August. About the only thing that brings me great pleasure each long, hot summer is homegrown tomatoes.

Back in the spring, I planted six tomato plants. I watered 'em, fertilized 'em, staked 'em, and then prayed that they wouldn't get blossom rot (which happened to half of my tomatoes last summer). Beginning last week, I started getting me some red tomatoes on my plants. I've had a few that were afflicted with blossom rot, but by and large my tomatoes are coming in quite nicely.

On Friday, I picked me a tomato that was just about fully ripe. I looked at it today and I said to myself, "That mater's ready to be eaten!" So I sliced my fine-lookin' mater; I put a couple of slices on some wheat bread; and I added several squirts of Duke's mayonnaise. Mmmm, mmmm good! Here's a pic:

(I snapped that picture after only one squirt of The Best Mayo In The USA. I wanted folks to see how good my tomato looked before it was fully covered with Duke's.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Joltin' Django's Meatballs 'n' Gravy

Here's what me and mine ate ce soir ...

Joltin' Django's Meatballs 'n' Gravy



1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
3/4 cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper

Tomato Gravy

1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cans whole Italian tomatoes


1 lb spaghetti noodles (preferably Barilla)



Crumble pork and ground beef into a large bowl
Add egg, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning
Mix and form into one-inch balls
Set aside and let sit for 20 minutes

Tomato Gravy

Strain tomatoes, saving juice
Hand-crush and set aside

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot
Add onion and green pepper and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes
Add garlic and quick-stir for one minute
Add tomatoes and juice
Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes
Add meatballs and simmer for an additional 15 minutes
Turn off heat and allow gravy and meatballs to sit on stove for an additional 15-20 minutes


Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil
Add noodles and lower heat to medium-high
Cook 8-12 minutes (or until noodles are al dente)

Serving Instructions

Put s'ghetti on a plate, or in a bowl, and top with gravy and meatballs
Cover with olive oil, cheese, red pepper flakes, or hot sauce
Garnish with imported pepperoncini

Problèmes de signalisation

For whatever reason, I couldn't post nothin' the past two days. What I wrote during that 48-hour span will be published sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Roselli's rules!

Regular readers know that my favorite place in Nashville to get a pizza pie is Picnic Pizza. Sometimes, however, I get an urge to make my own pizza pie; and when I do, I always - and I mean always - use Roselli's Pizza Sauce.

What's so great about Roselli's-brand pizza sauce? For starters, it's all natural. The only ingredients on the label are tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, and parsley.

Second, Roselli's is so thick and rich, a little will go a very long way. You can easily make three large pizzas with one 15 oz. jar of sauce.

Finally - and this is important - Roselli's does not taste like store-bought sauce. Indeed, it tastes like something you'd get at a premium pizza joint.

As far as I know, Publix is the only grocery store in Nashville to stock Roselli's products (my local Publix has Rosselli's pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce). If you're heading to Publix any time soon, I urge you to give Roselli's a try. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Me likey lima beans

I can count on one hand the number of friends and family members I know who like lima beans. Too bad for them 'cause I can cook up a pot of lima beans that'll make a guy or gal wanna slap his or her pappy.

I let a pound of lima beans soak in cold water while I worked today. As soon as I got home, I started cooking 'em. Like this:

Joltin' Django's Lima Beans


1 pound dried lima beans, soaked 6-8 hours
1/2 cup bacon drippings
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Cool, clean Water


Drain and rinse beans
Heat bacon drippings over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot
Soften onions in heated drippings
Add lima beans to pot and just cover with water
Season with salt, pepper and garlic
Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a slow-simmer
Cook 40-50 minutes, or until beans are soft and simmering in a thick potage
Serve with skillet-baked cornbread

If you follow my recipe, you'll come up with something like this:

That might not look like much at a first glance; however, it was, by God, damn tasty ... especially since I cooked a skillet of cornbread to eat with it. So there.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Mmm ... pie

"Promises and pie-crust are made to be broken."

-- Jonathan Swift

I don't think I've ever mentioned it before -- hell, I've never had a reason to mention it before -- but my name can be found on the membership-roll at Antioch United Methodist Church in, well, Antioch, Tennessee.

This morning, I attended a UMC church service in La Vergne, TN, to witness a good friend's infant son's Christening. Since I was a visitor, the church's welcoming committee gave me a homemade chocolate-chess pie. Yes, a whole chocolate-chess pie. It was pretty good, too.

Reckon what kind of pie I'd have gotten if I'd visited a Unitarian-Universalist church?

Weed? Dirt?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Whitt's still sucks!

If you live in Nashville and you want good barbeque -- i.e., slow-smoked pork shoulder -- you're pretty much SOL.

Now, don't get me wrong ... Nashville has some damn-fine BBQ joints (Mary's, Neely's, Hog Heaven, Pop's). But Nashville ain't a city in which you can find a quality BBQ restaurant on nearly every corner like, say, Memphis or Kansas City. You really have to work your way round Nashville to hit the best BBQ joints.

That said, if you're in Nashville and you're just dying for some barbeque, you don't have to go without. You can flat find one particular BBQ restaurant on a lot of corners in Music City. Unfortunately, the restaurant in question - Whitt's BBQ - happens to be one of the worst purveyors of pork on the Southern - nay, the American - barbeque scene.

A lot of folks in Nashville eat at Whitt's on a regular basis (I work with some of 'em). I know they do so because they don't have a lot of options when it comes to quality smoked pork. I can forgive 'em for that. However, I sometimes cross paths with a gal or guy who wants to tell me that Whitt's serves the "best" barbeque they've ever had; and I want to just strangle 'em. Such happened ce soir.

There is indeed no rest for the wicked. I not only had to work on Friday the Fourth, I had to work on the day after. Even though I was dead-ass tired when I arrived home this e'ning, I went to my next-door neighbor's Independence Day cookout.

My neighbor/good buddy was placing racks of pork ribs on his charcoal grill when I arrived. I dressed-up a hot dog and grabbed me a chair by the pool. Some of the folks who were lounging on pool-chairs nearby started talking about barbeque (provoked, I guess, by what my neighbor was cooking on his grill).

As I was taking a big bite out of a big hot dog, I overheard a young lass who was participating in the barbeque discussion say, and this is a di-rect quote, "I've never had BBQ better than Whitt's." I almost choked on that bite of hot dog.

Since I wasn't introduced to Ms. I Love Whitt's, and I since I wasn't involved in her conversation, I bit my tongue - after hard-swallowing my bite o' hot dog - and resisted the urge to give her a Good BBQ-schooling. Upon further reflection, I now wish that I'd told her to check out some of the anti-Whitt's musings I've posted here at AMGE. Like this'n from last October:

I was chagrined - nay, I was pissed - to learn that Whitt's Barbeque was chosen as Nashville's "best" BBQ restaurant [in the Nashville Scene's "Best of Nashville" contest] for the 18th straight year. I posted this last year when Whitt's won for the 17th time; and I just might post it every year until folks in Nashville wise up and recognize that a pile of pork from Whitt's ain't fit to feed to dogs (as my late Granddaddy Hobbs used to say):

"I have a newsflash for the folks who participated in the Nashville Scene's 'Best of Nashville' contest: Whitt's is NOT the best barbecue restaurant in Nashville. The fact that this sad excuse for a restaurant has been chosen as the best in its particular category for over fifteen freakin' years reveals much about the taste(s) of those who read the Scene.

"Whitt's is to barbecue what McDonald's is to hamburgers. That is, Whitt's is cheap and will fill you up in a pinch, but any serious BBQ-eater will tell you that the pork shoulder served there is too dry and mealy to be considered first-class. Furthermore, why is it that in all the years Whitt's has been doing business in Middle Tennessee, the folks there have yet to develop a passable BBQ sauce? Could it be that the owners and operators of Whitt's are reluctant to do away with their one and only condiment, which is 95 percent straight cider vinegar, because it's the only thing keeping customers from choking to death?

"Local barbecue aficionados are well aware that Nashville's best barbecue joints, i.e., Neely's, Pop's, Mary's, and Hog Heaven, aren't chain restaurants, and they're not located in Hillsboro Village, Green Hills, SoBro, or the 'District.' (I hate to pass judgement, but I'd be willing to bet a dollar to anyone's dime that a majority of the individuals who took the time to partipate in the 'Best of Nashville' contest head to, well, Hillsboro Village, Green Hills, and downtown to eat out.)

"Nashville's sidestreets and backroads are filled with restaurants dishing out unique and well-crafted meals. Far too few of these restaurants made their way into the Scene's 'Best of ...' issue.

"Pretty sad, if you ask me."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Gentlemen, start your bellies

Philadelphia Magazine writer Jason Fagone spent a year profiling some of the more colorful personalities on the competative eating circuit. In his book Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competative Eating and the Big Fat American Dream, Fagone explains how all of the folks he covers have one shared goal: to win the International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan's on Coney Island.

You can ead an excerpt from Fagone's book on AOL Food.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How now, Howton Farm's ...?

I happened upon Howton Farm's barbeque sauce in my favorite grocery store some 2 months ago. A Howton Farm's representative was personally placing product on the shelf, and I asked him 'bout his stuff. He told me that Howton Farm's is the "best barbeque sauce in the South." When I told him that he'd made a "mighty bold" statement, he gave me a free bottle.

As I was leaving the grocery store, Mr. Howton Farm's was standing beside his van. We struck up another conversation about barbeque sauce and he told me that Howton's has a hot-as-hell sauce that he didn't put on the shelf in the store in which we'd met. I said "Gimme one," and he got me a bottle out of his van. I paid him for the sauce and I headed home.

As soon as I got home, I got me some sammich-style chicken out of the frig and poured some of Howton's regular sauce on a slice. "This is good!" I said aloud to myself. I then uncorked the bottle of extra-hot sauce and gave it a try. If I had to pass judgement on it with one word and one word only, I'd just say "Wow" ... exclamation point.

Howton's extra-hot barbeque sauce is tomato and vinegar-based, and it packs a lot - and I mean a lot - of heat. I dumped it on a couple of pieces of chicken, and then I started eating it with a spoon. Yeah, it was that good!

I've grilled chicken with my Howton's sauce, and I've oven-cooked country ribs and pork chops (see pic above) that were just covered in the stuff. I'm not convinced that an old shoe wouldn't taste good if it had enough Howton's on it.

Look for Howton's the next time you're out a-shoppin' for foodstuffs. If your local grocer doesn't have it, go straight to the manager's desk and tell 'em you expect to be able to purchase it there soon.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nathan's RULES!

Back in March, I talked about how much I enjoyed my dining experience(s) at Nathan's on Coney Island:

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.

I ain't the only one who just ****in' loves a hot dog straight from Nathan's well-seasoned grill. The guys at Slashfood are fans, too. Check this out:

"I've mentioned NYC Dirty Water Dogs, but there is another big dog on the block in NYC, Nathan's Famous. First seen on the boardwalk in Coney Island at the amusement park in 1916, they later started a small chain of Nathan's with arcades and more types of food than you can shake a dog at. They make some mean pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, but it's the hot dogs that they are known for. Just ask the thousands who come out every 4th of July for the International Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Competition.

"A Nathan's was just a mile or three up the road on Central Ave in Yonkers, NY; where I spent my teen years. I visited them by bus after school a few times to play some pinball, but it was when I was 16 and got my driver's license and started borrowing my folks car, that I started chowing down on Nathan's dogs on a regular basis. These are griddled dogs, fat, crisp and browned outside, and juicy. They set my standard for what a dog should be. I finally came to realize that the best part is the Nathan's mustard. Over time it has become my favorite mustard of all. I try many, my fridge is full of literally dozens of jars, but the only one I buy time and again is Nathan's.

"My favorite way to have Nathan's dogs is to grab two and a small fries. The fries are fat, crinkle cut wedges that are crispy outside, fluffy inside, and the perfect complement to the dogs. At Nathan's you have a condiment bar stocked with mustard, ketchup, relish, and sauerkraut so you can help yourself and design your own dog. The sauerkraut is fresh, crunchy, tart n' tangy. I load down the dogs with mustard and kraut, fill a few small paper cups with ketchup and mustard for the fries, and dig in. First a huge bite of frank, then dip a fry first in the Nathan's spicy mustard, then a dip in the Heinz ketchup as well. A great flavor combo where they balance each other out magnificently, with a root beer to wash it all down."