Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Re: Minute-steak, cube-steak, chicken-fried steak ... whatever

T'aint nothing I like better for dinner than fried cube-steaks (My Granny Ruby called 'em "minute-steaks"; Hank Hill calls 'em "chicken-fried steaks.") I made me some this evening, and I served 'em with homemade gravy, turnip greens and sliced tomatoes. Here's how I did it:

Joltin' Django's Minute-Steaks


1 1/2 lbs cube steak
2 cups Kentucky Kernel seasoned flour
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
Vegetable oil


Pour enough oil into a cast iron skillet to ensure that your steaks will float whilst cooking. (I pour enough oil in the pan to just reach the first joint of my first finger when I stick it in the skillet.) Heat skillet on medium-heat for at least ten minutes.

In a shallow bowl, lightly beat eggs and milk. Pour seasoned flour into another shallow bowl. Meanwhile, cut steaks into two-inch by three-inch portions.

When the oil is sufficiently hot - a small pinch of flour will sizzle when it's ready - dredge two or three steaks in the seasoned flour; dip the steaks in the egg/milk-mixture; and then roll the steaks in the seasoned flour, making sure they're well-coated on each side.

Fry steaks in batches, never over-crowding the skillet, three minutes per side. Remove to drain on paper towels.

If you want gravy:

When the last steak is finished, immediately pour off the oil, reserving about a quarter-cup. Lower heat to medium-low.

Add a quarter-cup of seasoned flour to the skillet and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. When the oil/flour mixture thickens to a paste, slowly pour in two cups of milk. Stir vigorously to make sure there are no lumps.

Slowly raise heat to medium, and when gravy begins to bubble, immediately remove from heat and add a quarter cup of milk, and lots of black pepper. Stir and let rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fe, fi, fo, phở (un)

It's no secret that I'm ****in' crazy about the phở soup served at King Market. Indeed, type "King Market" into this blog's search engine and you'll see what I mean.

I got me an unsigned e-mail from a feller or gal last week -- "Prepstar550," is that a feller or gal?! -- with this, ahem, message: "You need to get out of Antioch if you want to eat PHO" (emphasis Prepstar550's).

Well. Even though I've had phở soup in lots of Asian restaurants, and even though I'm pretty sure that King Market serves the finest phở in Antioch/Nashville, ol' Prep's inspired me: I'm gonna fan out into my ville on a quest to find the very best phở in Music City. When I'm done, I'm pretty sure that King Market will still be one for me; however, I will not hesitate to admit to say "I was wrong" if I find something better.

The quest in, well, question is gonna take a while ... so don't expect a "the results are in" post before, say, January. That said, here's my gid-E-up post:

P.S. Noodle Pot hasn't been doin' business for too very long; I think they've been open for about a year. I pass P.S. every time I go to Publix -- that is, at least once a week -- but I'd never really thought about stopping there until I was challenged by Prepstar550.

P.S. Noodle Pot is a quaint little eating spot with an extra-friendly staff. Fox News blares on several TVs -- a definite plus in my book. P.S.'s menu features a couple-dozen standard Asian dishes, like Pad Thai, and they serve all the standard Asian beers: Tsingtao, Beer Lao, Singha, etc.

Now, I didn't go to P.S. Noodle Pot to eat Pad Thai or drink beer. I went there to try just one thing: phở. (If you're unfamiliar with phở soup, you can read about it here.) Here's the verdict:

P.S. Noodle Pot's basic phở is a little pricier than King Market's. That's to be expected, however, because a small bowl of P.S.'s phở has seafood in it -- shrimp and scallops, as you can see in this picture:

The broth was very flavorful, and it glistened with little droplets of "flavor" 'cause of the half-dozen large slivers of beef in it. Oh, and it came chock full o' white and green onions and lots of cilantro.

My only beef - no pun intended - with P.S. Noodle Pot's phở is the noodles they use. It's a broad, flat noodle that provides crunch where no crunch is needed. Unfortunately, P.S.'s noodles remind me of some God-awful broad, flat instant noodles I once purchased at the Nashville Farmer's Market.

All that said, P.S. Noodle Pot's phở is pretty good. But it ain't as good as King Market's phở. So there, Prepstar550.

P.S. Noodle Pot
1307 Bell Road
Antioch, TN 37013

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Damn them squirrels! (redux)

As is my usual yearly routine, I planted a half-dozen tomato plants back in the spring. Yesterday, I noticed that I had two big tomatoes that were starting to turn -- that is, they were turning red and were about a week away from achieving true vine-ripened status. Oh ... I can't tell you how excited I was when I seen 'em.

This morning, I went out to mow the yard 'bout 7 a.m. Before I started to mow, however, I decided to give my mater plants a drink. Man, my heart sank when I seen my two big, almost-ripe maters. They'd been mauled by some kind o' critter ... most likely one of the squirrels I've been seeing 'round my bird feeder as of late. Oh, I was mad.

Now that I think about it, one of the very first AMGE posts dealt with squirrels and tomatoes. Please to enjoy this true AMGE classic:

There are few things in this world I like more than homegrown tomatoes. I like 'em so much that I've been putting out a dozen tomato plants for the past, oh, ten years or so.

This year, for the first time since I started growing my own tomatoes, I've had a problem with squirrels eating the fruits of my labor, literally. When I first noticed that I had a lower yield, if you will, than in years past, I thought it might have something to do with the drought we've been experiencing. Thus, I started a very systematic watering program lest late summer come and, bam, no tomatoes.

One morning as I was leaving for work, I spied a squirrel on top of my storage shed munching on what looked like a grape. As I opened the gate to enter my back yard, the squirrel took off and what he'd been eating rolled off the roof of my shed. It was one of my damned tomatoes!

My tomato plants are tied to metal stakes. A little over a month ago, I started spraying the stakes with Pam (and I trimmed the low-hanging vines off my plants). The amount of half-eaten tomatoes in my yard declined precipitously, so I assumed that I'd taken care of my squirrel problem. Of course, trying to stop a squirrel from eating something that he's hell-bent on eating is akin to trying to stop water from running downhill (just ask anyone who has bird-feeders). This morning, I learned that my squirrel problem is far from solved.

As I was getting into my car this morning, I happened to glance up at the security light in my backyard ... and this is what I saw:

That's a big tomato. Sitting on top of a light pole. 25 feet in the air.

Damn them squirrels!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The brest, er, best bratwurst ...

Wanna know how to make great bratwurst? Here's what you need to do ...

Heat some oil in a skillet over medium-heat and brown your brats, 'bout four minutes on two sides. Remove.

Throw a good handful of sliced onions into the skillet and cook until they're almost clear. Return brats to skillet.

Pour one cup of white wine into your skillet and turn the heat to very low. Cover your brats and let 'em cook (steam) for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, get a high-heat on your grill. When it's hot, char your brats - on each side - for 3-5 minutes.

Serve in a bun with the cooked onions (homemade potato salad makes a good side-dish) ...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Amo gaspacho!

First time I ever had gazpacho was at a party at my 10th-grade Spanish teacher's house. I think I was the only one amongst my classmates who expressed an affinity for Señora Lindsay's "cold tomato soup." Fast forward about nine years ...

I was dining in a French (!) restaurant on NYC's Restaurant Row when I put spoon to mouth from the best damned bowl of gazpacho I'd ever - I've ever - had. (I was in NYC last year, and the French restaurant in question ain't doin' business no more.)

I've tried my hand makin' gazpacho many times, but it never tastes as good as stuff I had once upon a time in NYC. Here's a new recipe I'm gonna make (I'll let you know how it turns out):

Smoky Gazpacho

By grilling the tomatoes and vegetables in this version of classic gazpacho, it becomes a delicious chilled summer soup. Top it with fresh mozzarella, Manchego cheese or even fresh crab and avocado. It is best when chilled overnight.


3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut in half
1 medium sweet onion such as a Vidalia, peeled and cut in half
1 red bell pepper, cut in half and seeded
1 small Serrano pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped, peeled and seeded cucumber
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
¼ cup loosely packed cilantro
2 ½ cups organic tomato juice
Hot sauce to taste
Olive oil for drizzling


Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Place tomatoes, onion and peppers on a baking sheet and brush with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Grill vegetables until lightly charred, about 10-15 minutes depending on the vegetable.

Remove charred skins from tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Discard skins and place vegetables in food processor with cucumbers. Pulse to combine, add vinegar, Worcestershire and cilantro, and process until almost smooth.

Pour vegetable mixture into a large bowl, add tomato juice and season with salt, pepper and hot sauce. Chill in refrigerator at least four hours or overnight. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and drizzle with olive oil.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Amo chill-ee Colorado

Meatloaf is often the yardstick I use to measure the quality of a meat-and-three. If an eatin' place can turn out a juicy, well-seasoned hunk o' meatloaf, 9 times out of 10 it can turn out quality fried chicken, mashed taters, green beans, etc.

When it comes to Hispanic restaurants, chile colorado is my yardstick. For those who don't know, chile colorado features chunks of beef in a spicy red sauce. When chile colorado's done right, the beef is juicy and the sauce is equal parts fresh tomato and spice; when it's done wrong, the beef is chewy and the sauce tastes like it came from a can.

I was in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint in Atlanta some 15 years ago when I had my first plate of chile colorado. The menu said it featured "spicy beef," and that was description enough for me to give it a try. I liked it so much I've ordered it in practically every south-of-the-border restaurant I've visted since. That's no lie.

Now, there's a little restaurant in South Nashville called Las Americas. It's an El Salvadorean restaurant that's well-regarded for the quality of its pupusas. [Note: some folks swear that Las Americas is Nashville's pupusería. That's a subject I'll broach in a future AMGE post.] It should also be, well, regarded for the qualitly of its chile colorado as well.

Simply put, Las Americas has the best chile colorado in Nashville ... period. The chunks o' beef - with visible grill marks - are so very tender, and the spicy sauce in which said chunks o' beef is served is "home-made" thick with onions, tomato, cilantro, and spices. To wit:

... that's more than plenty o' chile colorado, rice, beans, slaw, and a corn tortilla you see there. And I wish I was eatin' it now!

Las Americas Market Internacional
4715 Nolensville Pike
Nashville, TN 37211

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

God Save Colman's Shepherd's Pie Mix!

Folks, if you like shepherd's pie, you need visit your local Publix's British food aisle and pick up a package of Colman's Shepherd's Pie mix.

I've made shepherd's pie from scratch many times over the years; however, none of my scratch-made pies, if you will, were as good as the pie I made with my Colman's mix ce soir.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Purple peas, good for your heart ...

After blackeyed peas and crowder peas, purple peas (as my Granny called 'em) are my favorite peas.

Blackeyed peas and crowder peas aren't actually peas, of course (they're beans), but there's just something 'bout saying that you're down with a pea (apologies to The Rentals).

That said, here's a great story about purple peas:

Don't bother entering the World Cup Purple Hull Pea Shelling Competition this year.

That's because organizers say Doeleta Weaver, who's outshelled her competitors three years running, is planning to defend her crown at the Emerson, Ark., event this Saturday. Weaver is essentially unbeatable, having displaced the informal brigade of older women who for years took turns finishing first.

"She is absolutely phenomenal," says Bill Dailey, spokesperson for the Purple Hull Pea Festival. "She's got a natural knack for it."

More than a dozen ambitious shellers are expected to challenge Weaver this year, but Dailey predicted few of the younger aspirants would have much of a shot: "Adults always, almost inevitably, do the best," he says.

No matter how nimble their fingers, purple hull pea (a lanky cow pea that looks like a black-eyed pea, but – according to loyal Emersonites – tastes better) eaters who grew up in the mechanized shelling era are at a competitive disadvantage. While hulling peas and stringing beans remains a beloved Southern tradition, younger shellers' poor showing in the contest suggests the practice may prevail mostly in country songs and old folks' memories.

"If you grew up in our area, you grew up shelling peas," Dailey says. "There's something very moving about sitting on the front porch on a summer evening, shelling peas."

Today, even Weaver doesn't spend too much time shelling: "She told me, 'I don't shell one pea before the festival, and I don't shell one pea after the festival,'" Dailey reports.

Weaver hasn't yet bested the world record she set in 2007, when she cleanly shelled 17-3/4 ounces of purple hulls in five minutes. She managed to shell just 12-3/4 ounces in last year's winning heat:

"I don't think the peas were as good," she told festival organizers. "The pea itself was real purple, but once you got on the inside, it was like they weren't filled out or something."

Weaver still claimed first prize, an electric water fountain, a device that – like the fancy machines which now pry peas from their shells – generations of farmers who hauled their own water probably never imagined.

To challenge Weaver -- or, for slightly less masochistic pea fans, to enter the purple hull cooking or tilling contests -- visit the site. Registration is open now.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Vive mon père!

My dad, who's recovering from open-heart surgery, had but one Father's Day request: He wanted me to make a pot o' my patented chicken noodle soup. That's just what I did.

I boiled a couple 'o chickens ...

I chopped up lots o' onions, carrots, and celery ...

Stewed the bunch of it; shredded the chicken; added lots o' noodles; and when it was done ...

... it was "very damn good" (di-rect quote from Pop).

Here's the recipe in its entirety.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Oh, so tasty ...

Folks, a co-worker gave me the bottle of hot sauce you see in the pic above last week. It took me all of four days to empty the damned thing.

Marie Sharp's Grapefruit Pulp Habanero Pepper Sauce is equal parts sweet, sour, and spicy ... and it just might be the most flavorful hot sauce I've ever consumed. It should be -- nay, it will be -- a perfect accompanying hot sauce for chicken, lean pork, turkey, or any other "white" meat.

Thanks, Nate!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ba-loo Plate ...!

As much as I dislike his tunes, I must say that Alan Jackson has fine taste when it comes to mayo. You see, Mr. Jackson was asked by Country Weekly magazine to pick his "favorite food," and he picked:

Blue Plate mayo ... that's good stuff!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

" ... the best pimiento cheese."

My grandmother was well-regarded for her homemade pimiento cheese. Not only that, she instituted a tradition that continues in my family to this day: fried chicken and pimiento cheese sandwiches.

When I was a kid, I don't ever remember my mother serving fried chicken what wasn't paired with pimiento cheese sandwiches. Hell, I was nearly 10-years-old -- when a Mrs. Winner's chicken shack opened near my house -- before I knew that it was possible to eat fried chicken without pimiento cheese sandwiches.

That said, today's Tennessean has a great article about pimiento cheese. Check it out here.

As much as I appreciate homemade pimiento cheese, there's a store-bought brand that I like more than any commericial stuff I've yet consumed. Read all about it.

For the record ...

From Slashfood.com:

[Chef Gordon] Ramsay apologized Wednesday for comparing Australian TV newscaster Tracy Grimshaw to a pig. He said he knew he'd gone too far when his mother phoned him in a huff.

"When your mum rings you, and it's a bollocking down the telephone, then of course you start to get the picture," he told Grimshaw's program "A Current Affair."

For the record, Gordon Ramsay would never talk to me like he so often talks to his kitchen bitches. Indeed, reckon how Ramsay's triple-wrinkled forhead would crinkle when he was confronted with my American-made 9mm whilst he embarked on one of his patented rantin' 'n' ravin' culinary tirades ...?!

That's a question for the ages, indeed.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Anthony Bourdain's 13 places to eat before you die

Anthony Bourdain, my culinary hero, has come up with 13 eatin' places at which he thinks you should dine before you kick the bucket. Check 'em out here.

My very own eatin'-out bucket list will be posted soon. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Re: Mr. Spriggs

Thanks to AMGE fan Kim for sending us this hilarious TV spot:

I think the truck driver is the most hee-larious character in the ad. So hee-larious, in fact, that I now want to visit Midwest City, OK, if only to dine at Mr. Spriggs BBQ.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Mary B's sounds so very good to me

From A Man's Gotta Eat, September 13, 2007:

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

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

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

I made some chicken 'n' dumplings with a package of Mary B's ce soir (see above pic). I simply boiled a chicken for about an hour, shredded it, placed it in the reserved broth, and dumped in the frozen dumplings. I added some salt and pepper, a pinch of dried thyme, and a quarter-cup of white wine.

Wish you'd been here ...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Takin' care of b'iness

Joltin' Django is doin' business in Connecticut this week. A Man's Gotta Eat will return Friday, June 5.