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Mikey’s food resolutions for 2013

Happy New Year foodie friends! My first resolution is to post more regularly here. Beyond that, here are some of my food resolutions for 2013, and feel free to add yours in the comments or by e-mail to mikeyskitchen@gmail.com.

1. Create two new original recipes per month. Any of you that are creative types know that getting started is the most difficult part. But once you figure out your medium (meat/veggies/sauce/herbs/spices), the possibilities are endless.

2. Try four new foods I’ve never tried before. This one is tricky as I am not the kind of person who wants anything to do with foods like snails or even squid. But one new food item every three months? I think I can do that without having to try anything too far out of my comfort zone.

3. Make better use of a local specialty. In Wisconsin, that would be cheese. I have had some of the best cheddars of my life here in Madison, and yet there are so many other varieties. Maybe this will also go hand in hand with both #1 and #2.

4. Eat less junk and eat more healthy but tasty food. That means less packaged chips and crackers and more homemade beef jerky or celery with spicy hummus. It can be done.

5. Create a new column or two. The first idea I have is to re-create vintage food items that I can’t find or that no longer exist. The first of these–Buitoni’s toaster pizzas. I think I have written about these before, and I miss them dearly. But I think with some experimentation, even without an elaborate test kitchen, I can work on coming close to re-creation. Intrigued? So am I.

6. Figure out a better way to organize recipes. We have mountains of magazines and cookbooks, and it’s getting scary. I try and clip recipes, and toss magazines when I can, but it’s hard to keep up. But hey, it’s winter time in Madison, and that means it’s freaking cold outside and time for indoor projects. No excuses.

7. Watch more food TV. Not necessarily Food Network, but any of the other food related shows that are popping up on various channels. Or maybe just watch all of the episodes of Sandwich King and Best Thing I Ever Made or The Minimalist on DVR for a change.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Any more, and I won’t even try to keep said resolutions. Now let’s get cooking….

An interview with folk musician Charlie Parr

In my other life, I am a music publicist. And one of my clients is Duluth based folk musician Charlie Parr, who is a global icon in Americana/folk circles. For good reason, too. The publicist in me says you should all listen to Charlie Parr (he re-released fan favorite albums 1922 and Glory in the Meeting House yesterday on House of Mercy Recordings and has a new studio album due in early 2013), but Charlie has an interesting method of cooking while on tour in his van — he cooks meals on top of his exhaust manifold. Well, being a foodie and music publicist, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to discuss this cooking method with Charlie and share it with all of you…..

Mikey’s Kitchen: When did you start cooking on your manifold and what was the first dish you made?

Charlie Parr: Year’s ago, at least 20 or so. I started with real simple re-heating stuff and made brats, warmed up corn-bread, heated up sandwiches.

MK: How long does it take to heat up any given dish?

CP: There are many variables, such as the weather. If it’s raining it won’t work, if it’s cold out, you may need to construct a simple air-dam to trap some heat, if it’s real hot you can’t go too far. Generally, all things being equal, I can get sufficient heat to warm something through in 20 miles or thereabouts. Cooking things like beans or veggies, or meats will usually go to about 50-75 miles depending on the dish. A nice melt-sandwich can be had in 30 miles depending on the weather. This is all freeway, by the way, traveling in traffic changes everything and is harder since if you cook in hot weather and your commute is 30 minutes in traffic, you’ll end up burning your breakfast burrito. It needs checking at about 15 minutes or less if you’re idling to see how it’s going. If you have a Dodge Van from about 1965 or so you can open the doghouse at the top while you’re driving and check it that way. But I don’t have one of those.

MK: What dish works the best with this method?

CP: I like making mixed veggies or black beans and rice. You start with three layers of tin foil with the folds at the top, make it easy to open and close since you’ll be checking and stirring once, add a bit of water for steam, and plenty of spice (I like Sriracha). If you’re using rice, the instant kind works best unless you’re cooking them separate (need a V8 for this). Make sure everything is mixed well and let her go for 30 miles–then stop and check and stir, re-wrap and maybe grab a new hot spot and go another 30-40 miles and it should be ready to eat.

MK: What limitations do you have cooking this way?

CP: Things that need to be checked a lot. Seafood is hard unless it’s precooked. Potatoes take a while and often need to be given more water about halfway through. Meat is hard unless it’s ground or in a sausage form, then it’s very easy. Things that need direct contact with heat (steaks, etc) are out since you’re really steaming everything and can’t apply direct heat (the food would get dirty/oily). Tin foil is the only thing I’ve found that conducts heat well enough to cook – I’ve tried little pans, foil pans, tin cans and those work sometimes, but tin foil works all the time and rarely leaks if you wrap it carefully.

MK: What you have you not tried yet that you would like to?

CP: I’ve started doing a few bread-style things and want to do more. I also have been meaning to do Toad-in-the-hole for some time, and I also got a vegetarian cookbook that I’m going to dig into and try some things. Emily’s (Charlie’s wife) not into this, though, so I can only really cook when I’m touring on my own.

For more information, please visit www.charlieparr.com

Wing Sauce Wednesday–gazpacho revisited


note: this photo is not mine, but it looks a lot like my gazpacho

I posted a recipe a couple years back called Guy Gazpacho on Bullz-Eye’s Grub for Guys section, and I re-posted it here last May. And I thought that now is a good time to re-visit that one, because it’s getting brutally hot outside everywhere, and because tomatoes are coming into season, as are cucumbers and peppers. Plus, hey, it’s Wednesday, and that means it’s a great time to have another Wing Sauce Wednesday column. That’s because wing sauce is one of the secret ingredients of my gazpacho.

If you, like me, love Buffalo wing sauce and feel like you’d be really happy just doing shots of it, this is the soup for you. It has 2 tablespoons of wing sauce, but I have started adding more like 3-4 per batch. The other secret ingredient for me? Avocado. It gives the soup a nice smooth texture and taste. I also do not use onions or raw garlic as many chefs would, because my stomach is not a fan of that stuff in its raw state. But you could certainly add some of either or both. There are no rules, but if you do make this gazpacho on Wing Sauce Wednesday, you should definitely add the sauce. Trust me, it’s worth it on Wednesday or any day.

Low carb doesn’t have to suck

I am in need of having to shed a few pounds again, this time more than ever…oops.

So I’m eating low-carb again for a bit….and started this morning with this creation I came up with on the fly–an overeasy ham omelet. Here is how you do it….

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Put two thin slices of ham in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, flipping every 30 seconds until crispy. Then crack an egg over each ham slice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and let cook for about 2-4 minutes, or until whites are almost all opaque. Then gently flip the ham slices over each egg yolk as if it were an omelet. Cook for another 30 seconds and serve.

My yolk was still runny, exactly what I wanted to achieve with this. And with the crispy ham, it was perfect and made me feel like I wasn’t even eating what you might call “diet food.” Give this one a try, especially if you’re doing South Beach or something similar.

Pimento Cheese Grilled Cheese

I think I first had pimento cheese on a burger when I lived in Nashville. It was like crack on a bun, and I usually order it when I see it on a menu, no matter what form that it’s in. Well, you all know my favorite grocery store is Trader Joe’s, and last week I found two things to help celebrate Grilled Cheese Month–pimento cheese and these kickass ciabatta rolls. The rolls are those half baked ones that you finish in the oven, giving you the impression that you just baked them from scratch. Pimento cheese, if you haven’t had it before, is more of a spread–it’s usually make with a combination of cream cheese, cheddar, pimentos, and other spices and flavorings. And best of all, it melts into oozy goodness.

Today I tried to create some mini grilled cheese sandwiches using these items. I baked two rolls, cut them in half, and sprayed the outsides of them with olive oil spray. I then spread pimento cheese on the insides of both rolls, and added some salami slices to one of them. I cooked them in a skillet as if I was making a grilled cheese. This also meant I had to flatten them slightly with a spatula and cover the pan for a minute or so in order for the cheese to melt. It only took a minute or minute and a half on each side, but the result was amazing for both sandwiches. If you can find pimento cheese, grab it and try some version of this sandwich–you will thank me later!

Spring Ahead Sandwich

I’m not sure what prompted me to call this sandwich “Spring Ahead Sandwich,” but I think it has something to do with the fact that it has a hard boiled egg on it–something that may often be associated with Easter or Passover. Anyway, I intended to make this a vegetarian sandwich, until I fed my son some slices of delicious-looking salami for lunch.

So that was that. I picked up some nice long sub rolls, and sliced one open. I piled it with lettuce, salami, sliced hard boiled egg (Trader Joe’s sells them pre-peeled in a bag), sliced kalamata olives, sliced sweet/hot peppers (again, thank you Trader Joe’s for this amazing new treat!). I sprinkled some olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and dried oregano, and closed it up. And it tasted as good as it looked in this photo. Okay, so maybe I’m not the best food photog, but it still looks good for a Blackberry shot!

Anyway, give this one a shot or some variation of it. It was filling, but I did have to stop myself short of eating two of them. At least on that day I did.

5 Questions with Jennie Kelley from MasterChef/Polyphonic Spree

Chef JimAs someone who is passionate about both food and music, finding someone else who resides near that same intersection is always fun. But it’s even more fun when that someone is someone like Jennie Kelley, who was one of the last remaining contestants on Season 2 of Fox’s hit reality show, “Masterchef.” Jennie is also a choral member of the 21-person symphonic group Polyphonic Spree, who released a holiday song, “It’s Christmas,” on their own Good Records Recordings label. We had the opportunity to chat with Jennie about–what else? Food and music.

Mikey’s Kitchen: So how often do people make the connection between Jennie Kelley from the Spree and Jennie Kelley from “Masterchef,” and are you surprised either way?

Jennie Kelley: More often than not, if I am recognized it’s for “MasterChef.” Not so much with the Spree. There’s a lovely level of anonymity that comes from being in a 20-person ensemble! Oh and yes, I’m always a little surprised when it happens because it’s usually when the show is the last thing on my mind. But it’s always cool… people usually want to know how much drama was really going on and if we stay in touch. Which, by the way, we do. We all have this food boot camp connection and a bond that’s unbreakable.

MK: How has your life changed since the show, and what projects are you working on food-related?

JK: My life is totally different. Ya know, I actually went on the show as a way to segue out of a job that was creatively unfulfilling and to get my food critiqued by true chefs. After being gone for a couple of months for filming I realized there was no way I could ever go back to doing something that wasn’t inspiring. I’d had this notion for a while that I’d like to try to get into food styling. So when I got back I did just that. I assisted for free sometimes, just to learn, as it’s a very unique field. The fact that I did the show and got as far I did also helped. A lot of clients took a chance on me because they knew I must be pretty passionate about food to have gone through the wringer that is “MasterChef.”

MK: Your favorite thing to cook, and your favorite thing for someone else to cook for you?

JK: I am savory all the way. So I don’t really do a lot of sweets at home. My favorite thing to cook is always changing, but right now I’m really into homemade pastas and braised meat of any kind. My favorite thing for someone else to cook? Dessert, yep, definitely dessert.

MK: Are any of the other members of the Spree foodies and if so, in what capacity?

JK: For sure. Tim (DeLaughter) and Julie (Doyle) are definitely passionate about food and are great eaters/diners. They’re very open to trying what’s current and modern. Although, sometimes if Tim finds something he really loves, it’ll hinder him breaking out. We were in Sweden once and he got on a Swedish meatball kick. He couldn’t get enough of it and ordered it almost everywhere we went. Jenny Kirtland’s brother is a chef, so she’s pretty in-the-know and has a great palate. And they’ve all been incredibly encouraging of my culinary journey and more supportive than I can describe here.

MK: Have you been to any of the restaurants of the “Masterchef” judges?

JK: Yes, I’ve been to Osteria Mozza, Joe Bastianich’s place in Los Angeles. I’ve been there twice, actually, once when Joe was there. He’s an unbelievable host, has great front-of-house skills and you could tell he knew what was going on everywhere. The food there is killer. The other time the service wasn’t so great, but it was close to kitchen closing time. And even though there were some major service hiccups, the food was still stellar. I am also mad for Eataly in NYC. I was there for the first time last weekend and had two great dishes (lobster spaghetti and orecchiette with sausage and pesto). The entire space is a culinary dream.

MK: Lastly, if you have holiday recipe to share or link to one, that would rock…..

JK: Yeah, I like to do a few appetizers… something for people to nibble on while the big meal is being made. You can prep them the night before and just pop them in the oven the next day. I’ve got a “devils on horseback” link here: (http://www.theperfectlastbite.com/2011/05/devils-on-horseback.html) or shortened here: (http://bit.ly/pVgpxB). The trick is the taleggio cheese-simply delicious. You can also use prosciutto instead of bacon to change it up a bit.

For more information about Polyphonic Spree, please visit here.
For more information about Jennie Kelley, please visit www.theperfectlastbite.com

Finally….

The weather outside in most of the country is chilly, and in Wisconsin it’s downright cold. I think I might make a giant pot of chili this weekend. We fired up the slow cooker this past week to make one of my favorite meals, beef burgundy. The one we made is from an old cookbook and includes beef, mushrooms, onion soup mix, cream of mushroom soup, cream of celery soup and red wine. That’s about it. But to help you out, check out this Google search for beef burgundy, which basically is a beef stew made with some sort of red wine.

So what about you? What do you like to make when the weather gets cold, football season is in full swing, fires are raging in your living room, and you’re out shoveling snow, cross country skiing or out Christmas shopping, and want something hot to eat. Man, I’m getting hungry.

Chef interview: Carl Redding of Redding’s

When Elijah Bass tried to chase his grandson, Carl, out of the family kitchen in Gordon, Alabama, to toughen him up by assigning him, his brothers and his cousins outdoor chores, little could he imagine that Carl would become a US Marine and a baker. Nor probably did his grandmother, Amy Ruth Moore Bass, imagine that her summer sous-chef, visiting from New York, would in 1999 become proprietor of a Harlem Institution named in her honor and now is proprietor of this Atlantic City restaurant, Redding’s. Redding’s has 250 seats and features moderately-priced traditional and updated Southern food ranging from Fried Chicken and Waffles to BBQ Pigs Feet to Fresh Fried or Steamed Fish to Grilled Steaks and myriad side dishes like his 5-Green Stew. As with Amy Ruth’s, Redding’s features appetizers and entrees named for Rev. Sharpton (chicken and waffles), Harry Carson, the football Hall of Fame member (grilled rib-eye steak and waffles), and local religious and civic leaders. We had the opportunity recently to ask Carl, who is also a lifelong New York Giants fan, a few questions about Redding’s and his own culinary expertise:

Mikey’s Kitchen: You are a prime example of someone who has a passion and pursues a dream. What advice would you give a young chef who had a similar ambition but was just starting out?

Carl Redding: The advice that I would give to my young contemporary would be to pursue your dream through education and through experience. I didn’t attend a college or university for culinary and arts. However, I did pursue it by way of the United States Marine Corps. I probably learned more in the military than by way of a college. As a young boy I garnered as much experience in the kitchen because my Granddad would always tell me that if I wanted to work in someone’s kitchen, I would have to have a certain level of experience. Experience plus the knowledge will give you most certain success in anyone’s kitchen.

MK: What prompted you to name the waffles after celebrities?

CR: I name dishes after people so that there is a connect with my restaurant and the community. I also do this to honor those folks who normally do not get an opportunity to be honored.

MK: I’m curious about a couple of menu items–in particular the chicken and catfish rolls, and also the soul-violi. Can you talk about what those actually are and how they are made?

CR: The fried chicken and catfish rolls are made similar to an egg roll. The filling inside each of them, of course, contains the fried chicken or the catfish. It also contains rice and vegetables. The soulvioli is a ravioli which is made out of sweet potato or collard green pasta. There are 3 fillings each for the sweet potato and the collard green pastas. (editor’s note: YUM!)

MK: If you could choose one meal to eat by one chef, who would it be and what would it be?

CR: The Chef that would prepare that special dish for me is Mario Batali and that dish would be the Dover sole with chestnuts, watercress, black truffles & trumpets. I love his preparation of this dish because of the simplicity in making it, and its beautiful, bold, and complex flavors and textures.

MK: What are some short term and long term aspirations you have with the new Redding’s?

CR: I don’t have any short term aspirations for my restaurant. My long term aspirations are to position Redding’s as the #1 family-style Southern Cuisine restaurant in America. My aspiration is for people of all colors and ethnicities to bring their families and functions to Redding’s Restaurant.

MK: What went wrong with the Giants this year and what do you think needs to be changed for 2011?

CR: What went wrong this year for the Giants is that only two players on the team patronize Redding’s Restaurant. Those players are Aaron Ross and Ahmad Bradshaw. The change needed for the 2011 season is for the Giants to adopt Redding’s Restaurant as their restaurant of choice. I will guarantee you that they will win every home game after eating “Authentic Southern Cuisine” at Redding’s!!!

Carl was also kind enough to share a recipe with us from Redding’s that you can try at home:

Lasagna with Meat Sauce
Meat Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds ground beef chuck (not lean)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

For Ricotta filling:
2 (15-ounce) containers whole-milk ricotta
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup whole milk

For assembling lasagne:
12 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Equipment: a 13- by 9-inch baking pan (3 inches deep)

Preparation
Make Sauce:
Heat oil in a 12-to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden and softened, 12 to 15 minutes. Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist, about 1 hour.

Make ricotta filling:
Whisk together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Transfer 1 1/2 cups ricotta mixture to another bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup milk; set aside. Whisk spinach into remaining filling with remaining 1/2 cup milk.

Assemble and bake lasagne:
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Soak noodles in a bowl of very warm water until pliable but not softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Place on a kitchen towel (it’s not necessary to pat noodles dry). Spread 1 1/2 cups meat sauce in baking pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parmesan. Cover with 3 noodles, leaving space in between. Spread half of spinach filling on top, then 1 cup meat sauce, and top with 1 tablespoon parmesan and 3 noodles; repeat. Top with remaining meat sauce, 1 tablespoon parmesan, and remaining 3 noodles. Pour reserved ricotta mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan. Cover pan tightly with parchment paper and foil (or just buttered foil) and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.

For more information on Redding’s, please visit www.reddingsrestaurant.com and for information on Redding’s Super Bowl bash, please click here.

Re-post of an interview with Camille Ford from Food Wars

Last year we had the opportunity to speak to Camille Ford, host of Travel Channel’s “Food Wars.” Camille was just getting started with the show, and it’s been going strong now for almost a year. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is that they pit two restaurants against each other in a particular city for what that city is known for, such as New York Pizza or Philly cheesesteak. It’s awesome and looks like it would be fun to be there! Here is a re-post of the interview that ran on Bullz-Eye.com:

March 29, 2010

Travel Channel has recently dipped its collective toe into the food programming boom, and following the wild success of “Man Vs. Food,” which recently wrapped up its second season, they are back with an awesome new show, “Food Wars.” The premise is that there are specialty restaurants in most major cities—Buffalo’s Buffalo wings, Chicago’s Italian beef, Kansas City’s fried chicken. And host Camille Ford has the best job of all—to travel around the country hosting “Food Wars” and getting to sample the cuisine of each “war.” For you guys, Camille is also very easy on the eyes and she isn’t afraid of spicy food or large quantities of food that isn’t exactly good for you. We had the chance to talk to Camille between episodes of “Food Wars,” and she confirmed that she has one of the coolest gigs ever……

Bullz-Eye: Hey, Camille.

CF: Hey, Mike, how are you doing?

BE: Good, how are you?

CF: Good, thank you.

BE: So, I love the show, I’ve become a big fan. I’m a fan of “Man Vs. Food” and I think there are a lot of similarities between the two.

CF: There are, but hopefully it’s different enough that people will be inspired to watch.

BE: So how did you land the gig to host this show and how excited were you to move forward with it?

CF: Okay, I’m going to answer the latter first. Thrilled, like back flips, couldn’t believe how luck I am, and was, to be asked to travel around the United States meeting great people who have worked their whole lives to be passionate about one thing, food, that I get to eat for free. All really good things. And as far as how I got involved, I’ve been working in entertainment and the performing arts for years and years, since I was a kid. I moved to New York about eight years ago to kind of pursue the same thing. And I’d done some hosting things that somehow caught the eye of the Travel Channel and it just so happened that they were looking for someone to fill this position. And when I auditioned, it just kind of made sense.

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