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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!

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