boiled peanuts, boozy beverages, foodie pen pals, nips in the mail, slimpickinskitchen

June Foodie Pen Pals: Nips and Nibbles

I was going to write a long post about this months Foodie Pen Pals, but then I started reading the enclosed letter from Amber, of Slim Pickin’s Kitchen, and I realized that I really, really needed to share the letter with everyone because this girl is funny.  I read it more than once because she made me laugh so much. 
In fact, let me restate that in a manner that truly conveys my feelings about her sense of humor..
*clearing throat*
This girl is OMGWTFBBQ funny.

See, caps make all the difference.

So, I give you the enclosed 4 page (not double sided) letter from the funniest woman I know from South Carolina.  

See, she’s funny and did a much better, and wittier, job describing everything in the box than I could.

Amber asked what my favorite thing was and, honestly, I haven’t broken into the nips yet or even opened the bag of pretzels (though the Bloody Mary mix is making a trip to Boston this weekend).  But, just going on pure weird, it has to be the Irn Bru and boiled peanuts in a can. I like weird, what more can I say?

And, if you’re curious as to what boiled peanut hummus may be like, here’s her recipe.

Anyone who gets Amber in the coming Food Pen Pals better treat her well. And send her coconut water. Lord knows that girl needs to hydrate with all of those adult beverages she enjoys. 
And, if you want to see what I sent my pen pal, visit Emily, Ms. Style Nerd

The Lean Green Bean
food network descends, food trucks, food trucks in Portland Maine, nonna's kitchenette, seoul sausage kitchen

Food Network Food Trucks Hit Portland

Jersey Girls and LA Boys turned the Old Port into a Carnival of shouting and fried foods.  The Food Network must be back in town. Professor A., who NEVER texts, blew up my phone last night about the food trucks. “Meh..” I thought. I had just grilled up a Branzino and wasn’t so hungry and, I haven’t watched a microsecond of any of the past episodes of The Great Food Truck Race.  But, really… I would have been stupid to know about this and not go down and show some semblance of support for food trucks, even if they weren’t our own. 
As you may have already read, Nonna’s Kitchenette all girl team, slinging homemade Italian food, arrived first–having won the advantage of a 3 hour lead. Apparently, not only does the team travel in their trusty trucks, but they also get a customized car. Clearly Seoul Sausage Company, the all male Korean BBQ team, wins in the better ride category. I’m definitely more drawn to the “Make Sausage, Not War” motto on the side of their truck than I am to the cartoon grandmother of Nonna’s (that makes me think of the Fairy Godmother from Shrek).

The Girls from Nonna’s definitely made this to be an “East Coast/West Coast” thing while playing to the crowd early on. Thankfully they learned a lesson from the 90’s rap wars and kept it non-violent.  They played up their Jersey connection and, I swear to you, after an hour of standing there the crowd got a bit more tanned, the nails a bit longer and the accents a bit thicker.  I may have seen Teresa from ‘Real Housewives of New Jersey.’ I shit you not.

Groups of people crammed by on the sidewalk, confused as to why this pint sized girl with a thick accent was yelling at them and why a man with a camera was in their face. Three Bachelorette parties strolled by. Even a wedding party stopped and ordered some food.  The couple had been married a full hour. They had met at Fore Play. It all seemed so fitting.

Sure, The Missus, who received random texts from me calling her to the Old Port, and I ordered some food but nothing more than the Fried Ravioli, which were pretty good, really appealed. I’m sure the other offerings were lovely but their menu just didn’t do it for us. We were honestly down there to see what Seoul Sausage Company had to offer.

Two hours of chatting with friends and watching the spectacle that was, Seoul Sausage pulled into town with GFTR host, Tyler Florence, in tow.

By 8:11, after the Health Inspection once over, they were good to go. Only now, they had an hour to make up in sales what the ladies had three hours to do. Poor Bastards. But, they hustled it and definitely had that appeal to the inebriated people floating from one bar to another. People didn’t just order one burger, they ordered three.

You know that magical thing that Chef Miyake does with Kewpie Mayo that turns a fine Tuna Roll into a ‘Holy shit, I want to kiss him,” dish?  They have Kewpie (at least I think it is) topped over damn near everything.

We ordered ‘Tata’s’ which were Tater Tots, covered in cheese with kimchi infused browned pork.  First bite and The Missus and I just looked at each other and said it was, “The ultimate stoner food.”

Now, the burger didn’t look like much, but I’d put it up there with Harmon’s as far as pure and utter enjoyment.. Nice and spicy and cooked perfectly.  We were kind of sad that we only bought one.  So, well… we went back and ordered another burger and a Kimichi fried rice ball.  Then, sadly, the beauty of it all was over as they had to shut down because of time–or lack of food, I wasn’t quite sure.

I’m sure both teams have hustled and cooked their hearts out to get to this part of the competition. While the ladies of Jersey were sweet, it’s the LA boys that definitely won over our hearts and wallets.

america eats, chicken fried steak, cookbook, country gravy, o-rama, southern cooking, summer-o-rama, texas eats

Book-O-Rama: Summer Reading

This month’s ‘O-Rama,’ a second collaboration with Rabelais Books in Biddeford, takes us into the realm of summer reading. Out of a long list of titles offered by Rabelais, I chose one that was pretty far outside of my own cookbook collection: “Texas Eats” by Robb Walsh. The grill has been in use since March, so I thought this would offer up a slew of recipes I could try out. But, upon first glance, I realized that this book was so much more than that.

Author Walsh sets the bar pretty high, and completely eliminates the assumption that this is just a book of cowboy cookin’, in the introduction when he offers his collection of recipes as an extension to the Depression Era, “America Eats” work. The Federal Writers Project hired writers–many soon to be famous or not so–to spread out across America to record the history and stories behind our food traditions. Sadly, WWII ended the project and the books were never finished. They do, however, live on in the book, “The Food of a Younger Land,” which I recommend to anyone who loves a great historical food novel.

But, let’s talk Texas.

Walsh represents the diverse food culture of Texas and this book ventures far beyond BBQ and deep fried fair treats (which you can thank Texas for things like Deep Fried Butter). He breaks the book up first geographically and then by popular cuisine.

He starts in East Texas and the Gulf with delicious seafood recipes and traipses across the state and ends with a nod to the diverse contributions from Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cultures to the Texas food scene. He contributes even more space to the influence of Czech and German immigrants of Central Texas. Every chapter is dotted with anecdotes and first hand stories about the dishes, some by the people who created them.

With over 200 recipes, it was a bit daunting to choose just one to highlight, but in the end I chose one that, to me, was the most ‘Southern’: Chicken Fried Steak (CFS).

According to the author, CFS, is a bit of a throwback dish and one that has fallen out of favor in cities like Houston, Austin and Dallas.  So, he took it upon himself to venture out into the country to try several different recipes, all in hopes of finding the ‘perfect’ one.  He also gets into the debate of the best cut of meat to use (he says eye-of-round is the best for the home cook). I followed his advice and went with an eye-of-round cube steak (already tenderized) from Whole Foods.  But, whatever cut you choose, don’t be afraid to ask the butcher to run it through the tenderizer to get the perfect thickness for frying.

And, because no CFS is complete without a Country Gravy, I used the authors recipe for Black Pepper Gravy to top off the steak and a side of mashed potatoes.

Southern Style Country Fried Steak
(serves 2)  
(scaled down from book)

Peanut Oil, for frying
2 tenderized eye-of-round steaks (about 1#)
2 cups seasoned flour (see below)
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Black Pepper Gravy (see below)

Pour the oil to a depth of 1″ in a deep cast iron skillet and heat to 370.

While the oil is heating, put the flour in a large, shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Dredge each steak into the flour, shaking off excess; dip it into the buttermilk mixture; allowing the excess to drip off; then dredge again in the flour, evenly coating the batter so it is dry on the outside.

Slide 1 or 2 steaks into the hot oil, being careful not to crowd them. The temperature of the oil will fall the moment the meat is added, so you will need to adjust the heat. As the steaks cook, try to keep the oil at around 350. If it gets too hot, the steaks will burn before they are cooked through. If it is not hot enough, the batter will be soggy. Cook the steaks for 3-5 minutes, until the batter is crisp and brown and the meat is cooked through. Using a wire skimmer, transfer steaks to paper towels to drain and keep in a warm oven until all the steaks are cooked.

Serve the steaks with the gravy.

Seasoned Flour

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder

In a bowl, stir together all of the ingredients, mixing well. You will have more seasoned flour than you need for most recipes. Set aside the balance for making gravy, or store in tightly capped jar in cupboard for another time. Discard any flour in which you have dipped raw meat.

Black Pepper Gravy
(scaled down from book)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons AP flour
1 1/4 cups of milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk the flour into the butter and continue to whisk for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is ivory-colored and smooth. Slowly add the milk while stirring constantly, then continue to stir until free of lumps. Add the salt and pepper and simmer, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the gravy has thickened and reduced. Serve hot.

Now, I don’t really have a point of reference for CFS outside of a menu of an IHOP or Denny’s, but based on this recipe, I’ll be damned sure to make this again. The coating was better than most fried chicken ones I’ve had and the gravy was thick and peppery and would make a great base for some sausage and biscuits. While the food of Texas may not be on your radar, a book like Robb Walsh’s may just put it there.