foodie pen pals

Foodie Pen Pal: September Guest Post

This month, I’m handing over the Foodie Pen Pal post to Barbara, from Kentucky, who was my pen pal for September.  Barbara isn’t a blogger (which is one of the nice things about the pen pal match ups), so I told her that she could do a guest spot this month.  Before I hand it over to her, I’d like to thank Shelby, from Virginia, who sent me my lovely box of pen pal goodies.  I can’t wait to get into the Piri piri sauce she sent amongst the coffee, hot cereal, peanut butter and granola bar.
And now, take it away Barbara!

Hi everyone at Edible Obsession. I am Barb from Kentucky and this is my fourth month participating in the Foodie Pen Pal exchange.  I was so excited to receive this month’s box of goodness from Shannon.

I love local products and Shannon hooked me up with all local exciting goodies. Some of my fondest memories as a child growing up were ones of my grandmother and mother canning and pickling fresh garden veggies. So when I opened my box and saw the home canned “Dilly Beans” it brought back so many thoughts of great times.

Then I found the locally produced strawberry (my favorite) preserves. The next item was homemade ketchup. And then finishing off the box was maple/sea salt popcorn. I love a little sweet and a little salt. This box really hit the spot and I love all of these exciting food finds that brought a some tastes of the Northeast to my neck of the woods in Central Kentucky. I am blessed here to have so many local producers of high quality tasty products and really appreciate Shannon’s local selections to send to me this month. If you are not participating in the  Foodie Pen Pal program you are missing out. Thanks again for a great box!!!

The Lean Green Bean
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beer braised sausages, currywurst, fire the replacement referees, grilling sausages, NFL season

How to Survive This NFL Season

No. This is going to be a LONG SEASON.  For those who don’t follow football, feel free to scroll down to the recipe on the bottom. For those that do follow, commiserate with me for a moment. The replacement referees have got to f’ing go. I know it’s as easy to make that observation as it is to say the sky is blue, but come on. How much longer do the fans, players, owners and coaches have to sit by while amateur hour plays out on the field? 
I’m more than acclimated to being pissed off and disappointed by the end of the third week of the season. I’m a Bears fan for God’s sake, it’s in my nature to have dreams dashed and watch disappointingly while my team throws a lead. But, this season is painful. PAINFUL.  We’re stuck with third tier refs throwing flags for, what seems to be, every single play. And when they do, they’re lucky if they even identify the correct players involved.  They’re also miscalling plays so blatantly, so detrimentally against teams, that I almost wish they had delayed the season until the lockout with the officials was finished. I don’t care if it meant a short season or no season.  ANYTHING is better than this. Last night, I watched the Green Bay Packers lose a hard fought comeback because of two disastrous calls by officials. And I felt embarrassed for them, even though they’re the Bears arch-nemesis and their loss benefits my team. 
It just has to end. Fans have already shaken off the embarrassment of the bounty scandal from this past summer, and now we’re left wishing we could unleash the New Orleans Saints defense on these refs. It’s ruining the game and some of us would like to just watch our teams ruin their season on their own terms. 
*exhale*
While the games may give me agita,  at least the food I’ve been cooking up the first few weeks hasn’t. This week’s Monday Night Football game will be remembered for being one of the worst cases of officiating in history of the game, but at least the food was great.  Not willing to give up on grilling yet, and making it nearly a full six months since I broke out the grill, I decided to make up a batch of grilled sausages.  But, one problem that I always have with grilling sausages is that they tend to split open and lose their juices, making them a bit mealy and dry.  But, have no fear, Serious Eats came to my rescue to help me out with a fail-safe method for cooking up some perfectly juicy links on the grill. The method?  Braise first, grill for a moment and enjoy. 
As we’re just getting into Oktoberfest season, I picked up some Currywurst sausages from Whole Foods.  I then combined them with some sauerkraut, O Mission Lager (from the ‘other’ Portland), mustard and thyme on the grill.

Grilled Currywurst with Beer, Mustard and Sauerkraut

  • 2 cups lager-style beer
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1 pound sauerkraut, with juices
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 2 pounds currywurst sausages
  • Buns for serving

  1. Heat gas grill on high for 10 minutes. Clean and oil grate. Reduce heat on one side of grill (two burners) down to low.
  2. Combine beer, mustard, and sauerkraut in a 10-inch square disposable aluminum pan. Alternatively, construct a tray out of a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil, 10 inches square, with sides about 2 inches high. Stir until mustard is broken up and mixture is homogenous. Add thyme sprigs. Nestle sausages into sauerkraut.
  3. Place tray on hot side of grill and cook until simmering, about 4 minutes. Slide to cooler side of grill. Cover grill with vents over the sausages. Cook with all vents open until sausages register 140° to 145°F on an instant read thermometer, about 20 minutes, turning once in the middle.
  4. Remove lid. Using tongs, remove sausages from sauerkraut and place directly on cooking grates over hot side of grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until well browned and crisp, about 3 minutes total. Return to sauerkraut. Toast buns over hot side of grill if desired. Serve sausages with buns, mustard, and sauerkraut

The end result was perfect juicy, well flavored wurst. Served with some latkes (also picked up from Whole Foods), the whole dish made me wish I were a beer drinker. It was hefty and satisfying and nearly, NEARLY, made all of the bad feelings from the game go away. I have a feeling that I will be comforting myself a lot with food this season.

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collard greens with smoked pork, fried chicken, mitzi's fried chicken recipe, slap ya' mama, soul food, spicy collard green

Fried Chicken Fingers and Collard Greens

Over the summer, I joined a cooking collective that started out with a friends challenge to us: Help her use up two gallons of “Slap Ya Mama” seasoning and post some recipes in the process.  The group is called 37 Cooks and, much like the ‘O-Ramas,’ have monthly challenges.  We’ve been fortunate enough to get hooked up with Marx Foods and Teets Grocery for our next few challenges. But, before I go and start cross posting any of those recipes, I’m going to share with you the one I shared for the first challenge.

The recipe for the chicken is from Saveur and has taken over as my default recipe for all wonderful fried chickeny things.

FOR THE CHICKEN FINGERS:
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3″-long-by-1″-wide strips
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. Slap Ya Mama mild spice blend
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. mustard
1 cup flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
Canola oil, for frying

  • In a medium bowl, toss together chicken, sugar, SYM, garlic and mustard; set aside. 
  • Place flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs in 3 separate shallow dishes; set aside. Pour oil to a depth of 2″ into a 6-qt. Dutch oven or other deep, large sauce pan.  Heat oil over medium-high heat until deep-fry/candy thermometer reads 325°. 
  • Working in batches, coat chicken in flour, shaking off excess, and dip in eggs; coat in breadcrumbs. Fry chicken until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining chicken.

FOR THE COLLARD GREENS
1 large bunch collard greens, rinsed
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. Slap Ya’ Mama hot spice blend
1 good sized hunk of smoked pork (either pork butt or one hock) left whole

  • Remove collards from stalks and roughly chop; set aside.
  • In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat; add onion and saute until just translucent. Add SYM blend and saute for 2 more minutes.
  • Add reserved collards to pan and top with enough water to cover greens. 
  • Add pork, cover pot and reduce heat. 
  • Cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5-6 hours. The longer, the better.
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a single pebble restaurant, farmhouse tap and grill, food in burlington vt, o-rama, stairway cafe, the skinny pancake, Vermont cheese, Vermont cheesemakers festival

Away-O-Rama

This installation of O-Rama to be about dining outside of Portland. I believe the geographical boundaries set by Professor A. were to end at the Maine border.  But, let’s be honest here, The Missus and I don’t travel much for a meal. We lack any semblance of coordinated schedules to make getting out of town for a weekday meal very feasible.  In fact this summer brought very little trips outside of the peninsula–once in the beginning of July for the Lithuanian Dance Festival in Boston (and, no..we did not participate) and the other fell at the end of July for the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival.

While I did try for this O-Rama, my last minute planned adventure across the bridge to South Portland and a bowl of Pho at Pho Hanoi was nixed by the fact that they’re apparently closed.  Who knew?  So, still having an obligation to fill, The Missus suggested we hit up Thai Taste while we were over the bridge. Bad, bad idea. The highlight was the Crab Rangoon and even those elicited no more than a ‘Meh’ from either one of us. Actually it was unpleasant enough to make me not want to speak of it again, which is why I’m pushing the boundaries given for this review and taking us to the Green Mount State and happier times away from Portland. I’m also a month overdue in writing this piece, so it’s a twofer.

Our weekend in Vermont was part for work (mine) and part to just eat a lot of damn food. We accomplished all tasks easily. The glutton tour started at a stop in North Conway, NH, where we stumbled upon The Stairway Cafe.

It’s tucked in high off the main strip in North Conway and would have been completely bypassed had we not pulled off the road just to get out of the summer traffic for a little bit. We were sold on the place when we spied the game meat sausages offered (The Missus had elk in her omelet with smoked gouda and spinach) and funky interior. The waitresses were great, the coffee was strong and the biscuits were fluffy. Oh, and the food was pretty great, too.  Outside of having to fight off a food nap half way into the trip, it was more than enough to sustain us as we ventured the scenic route west across New Hampshire and Vermont to Burlington.

After arriving in Burlington and relaxing for a bit in our hotel, we met up with some friends at The Farmhouse Tap and Grill. I loved the food the first time I was there and was excited to share it with my hop lovin’ friends and my Missus. The food and the company were just as good as the first time and I basically recreated the meal that I had back in October. I did have my first sip of Collaboration Time #1, which is a Black IPA, from Maine Beer Company/Lawson’s Finest Liquids of Vermont. It was alright for a beer and even better for a dark one (my arch nemesis of beers). It tasted like flat root beer and, for any beer for me, that’s a compliment. Our friends were happy, the city was buzzing with Vermont Brewers Fest goers and all was right in Burlington. If we could only have one vacation, I’m glad it was this one.

While our first day seemed like a blur, as it happens to be with our lovely friends, the second seemed to go on forever. We arrived at the Cheesemakers fest early (YAY for one of the perks of my job!) and got to mill about and enjoy the offerings before the gates opened and the buildings at Shelburne Farms became overcrowded. 

We ate

 and ate

and ate

and ate 
 
and ate

and ate

  

until we couldn’t sample any more and nearly passed out on the lawn. So, we called it a day and decided to seek refuge in the air conditioned hotel room for a bit before we went back into town.

Then we ate some more.

Apparently 3 1/2 hours of eating nothing but cheese just wasn’t enough for me because I felt compelled to order a ham and cheese crepe from The Skinny Pancake, a hip little creperie near the water. It was named ‘The Lumberjack’ and really should have tipped me off to how massive this was going to be. It was good, but it was so heavy that I got physically tired just trying to mow through it.

The Missus ordered up a ‘Localvore’s Dream,’ filled with chicken, blue cheese, cranberries and arugula. She enjoyed hers greatly, but the sheer size of both crepes made them hard to finish.

Then we spent a couple of hours touring through the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, marveling at inbred sturgeon, looking at human dissections, mouth breathing turtles and hunting for Champ.  We never did see that damn lake monster.

We spent our last few hours on Church Street, picking up some Grapefruit White Balsamic Vinegar from the Saratoga Olive Oil Company and sipping some of our last coffee at Uncommon Grounds–both little reminders back home in NY.  Then, after the last of the Chai was gone, it was off to our final meal at A Single Pebble.

This was the gem in our fat kid crown.

I don’t understand people who go on vacation only to eat the same food they could get back at home. Like people that travel to Europe and seek out the local McDonalds. If you’re that person, you cause me rage. For me, I want to eat as much food as I can that’s vastly different from what I can have here. With the glaring void of good Chinese restaurants in the area, it was a bit of an obvious choice to visit A Single Pebble for our last meal in town.

I had done a bit of reading up on it before we made reservations and already had my mind up on having the Chef’s Tasting Menu, regardless of cost.  But, that wasn’t a factor because our waitress, Misa, told it was a mere $36 and the chef would choose the dishes and send them out until you confessed to being full.  We made it through 8 dishes before tapping out and, while some were less than stellar (the dumplings were, surprisingly, the only disappointing dish for me) the flavors were above and beyond anything here in town.

There were:
Ribs with black bean sauce

Sichuan cucumbers (Showered with a garlic, chili & rice vinegar dressing).
These followed a braised short rib dish with an earthy black bean sauce. The acidity and sweetness were a nice contrast to the previous dish.

Miso soup and watercress salad (Fresh watercress tossed with soy sauce and sesame oil)
The watercress seemed a bit pointless. We would have liked a larger portion of the salty miso and tofu soup instead.

Trio of dumplings

“Three Cup” chicken (A traditional Taiwanese dish. Crispy pieces of chicken, flash-braised in a wine and soy sauce with ginger, garlic, basil and sesame oil.)
I’m not going to say that it was a few chili peppers short of being General Tso’s, but it was pretty damn close. The most familiar of all of the dishes, I have to say I was a sucker for the garlicky chicken. 

Cherry and apple wood smoked Beef Chow Fun
My favorite dish. The smoke was rich and sweet and penetrated every bite. This particular dish was a special to the menu and I’m glad it was one of the dishes the chef chose to send out.

‘Buddahkan’ Beef Chow Fun
Barbeque hanging pork (Marinated pork thinly sliced with vegetables, bean cake & traditional Cantonese five spice sauce)

Vanilla cheesecake with caramel and blueberries

We probably should have stopped at the 6th plate, but we couldn’t. We were just so happy to be eating really good Chinese food. The Missus says that we were food drunk during the meal and I don’t disagree. We even brought leftovers back to Portland with us, just to prolong our happiness.

We then rolled ourselves down to the waterfront, sat down on a few left over chairs from the Brewers Fest and watched the sunset over Lake Champlain.  And so ended our extended meal outside of Portland.

A Single Pebble on Urbanspoon
The Skinny Pancake on Urbanspoon
Stair Way Cafe on Urbanspoon

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