Archive | January, 2011

Busted A** Chicken

28 Jan

I’m cold. I don’t know about you, but I’m damn cold. This winter has been—well, let’s tell it like it is: it’s been hell and that ridiculous groundhog hasn’t even shown up yet. I’m desperate for some heat and you know what they say about desperate times. So in my desperation I’m resorting to warming up my mind, if nothing else, with a hot recipe. Something to get me thinking about sweat, sun, and cold beer. Anyway, where I’m going with this is lighting a cyberfire on a Weber, and cooking up a busted a** chicken. There are other, maybe more politically correct names for it such as “beer can chicken” or “beer up the butt chicken,” but I think my terminology best encompasses the overall experience, both in preparing and eating the bird.

This is my own, award-winning, recipe of busted a** chicken. Yes, I did win an award: third place in the chicken category of the 2002 Jamaican Jerk-Style/Southern Barbecue Cook-Off in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I’m surprised you never read about it. The prize was cash money and, for any doubters, a hand-carved wooden map of the island of Jamaica (see photo below). At the festival, the judge was a Southerner named Rocky and one of my fellow winners was the legendary (in the barbecue world) Big Bob Gibson himself. But enough self promotion and name dropping. Here is the recipe:

My 3rd place trophy


1 good-sized chicken (around 4 pounds)

1- 12 ounce can of beer (cheap beer preferred: Schaefer, Miller High Life, or Pabst)

For the rub:

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons paprika

Mix up the dry rub ingredients. Clean out the chicken, removing any spare giblets or body parts that might be in the cavity. Wash and pat dry with paper towels. Massage the rub into the bird’s flesh and inside the cavity, under the wings and legs making sure it’s properly coated. Let the chicken sit for a half hour or so while you prepare the grill.

Fill up a starter chimney with hardwood charcoal and light it up. If your charcoal is fresh and dry it should take no more than twenty minutes to be glowing hot. While the charcoal is firing up, go get the beer. Make that two beers: one for the chicken the other for you. For the beer you’re going to use for the chicken, open it up and take a few sips until you’ve drunk about an inch of it. If you’ve got an old school can opener make a few extra incisions into the top of the can. If you don’t, you can poke a few holes in the top with a screwdriver or a nail. Whatever it takes to create more openings.

The beer of choice.

When the charcoal is ready, pull off the grate to the grill and pour in the hot coals. Using a garden trowel or barbecue tongs, stack the coals to one side of the grill. Put the grate back on.

Now it’s time to do the deed. Holding the chicken upright, cavity facing down, slowly impale the chicken on the beer can about two-thirds down onto the can. Place the now busted a** chicken on the grill on the side opposite the hot coals; what they call the “indirect” method. Put the top on the grill keeping the air vents open slightly.

While the chicken cooks, open up the other beer, find a very comfortable seat, and put on some music. Right now, I’m thinking maybe Jack McDuff’s The Honeydripper or Soul Summit with McDuff and the two Boss tenors, Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. You’d think country would work too, but I’m a city boy. No country for me with the possible exception of the late Charlie Rich and a few others, also now deceased. After about an hour or maybe a beer or two, check on the chicken. Really there’s not much to do there unless the coals are dying down. If they are, you’ll need to add about ten or twelve hot coals to the grill. The whole process shouldn’t take more than two or two and a half hours.

Music to cook busted a** chicken by.

The bird should have a nice dark brown tan by now. Using sturdy tongs, carefully remove it from the grill. Much of the beer in the can should have evaporated; the vapors from those hops and barley seeping into the flesh of the chicken keeping it moist and adding a hint of malt flavor. Still there might be some hot beer left in the can and you don’t want to drop it and have that spill onto you. That would definitely dampen a very relaxing few hours. Let the chicken stand about 15 minutes before carving. If you’re industrious you might want to make up some cole slaw or a pot of greens to go with the chicken. Enjoy.

Red Stripe: Yes. Lite: Never. And you’re asking a lot of the chicken with a tall boy. Needless to say, this one was not a winner.

Alright now. I feel better already just getting that out. They’re saying we might get an inch or two of snow tomorrow. Enjoy the weekend and I’ll return on Tuesday with another Adventures in Chow City.

The Lamb in Sheepshead (Bay)

25 Jan

What made our journey to Bay Shish Kebab, the restaurant I’ve reported on below, so memorable was not so much the food, which I recall was very good, but the effort it took to get there. This was Gerry’s pick and his research did not figure in how difficult it would be to get to Sheepshead Bay, where Bay Shish Kebab was located, from our respective locations in Manhattan and Westchester. The first attempt to get to Bay Shish Kebab was thwarted because of bumper to bumper traffic on the West Side Highway. To get to Sheepshead Bay at anywhere near the appointed time was next to impossible. Communicating through cellphones, we diverted to a mediocre, thus, unmemorable restaurant in Chinatown. Gerry tried again a month later, but on the day we were to go there were several cancellations; enough to cancel the outing altogether. Maybe it wasn’t to be; maybe Gerry just had to pick another destination? But no, he was determined and a month later, we set out again for Sheepshead Bay.

Bay Shish Kebab

Gerry was insistent. He wouldn’t let the hour and a half drive to Sheepshead Bay be a deterrent in his pursuit of Bay Shish Kebab. Despite repeated protestations by his fellow food hounds and even after two failed tries, he would not give up his obsessive quest. This was becoming an Iraq-like fiasco with no end in sight. We had no choice but to gas up our vehicles and be prepared to sit in rush hour traffic in the middle of two of New York’s worst thoroughfares; the BQE for Gerry and Eugene and the West Side Highway for myself and Zio. But enduring the horrific drive would be the only way to free Gerry from the demons that were driving him to lead us all into the outer fringes of Brooklyn for what he had us believe would be the exotic cuisine of Uzbekistan.



There were no miracles; the trip did take an hour and a half with a foreboding sky-darkening downpour accompanying us throughout the journey. Even more foreboding was the fact that we were eating at a Muslim-run establishment on the beginning of the Jewish New Year. But, after numerous griping calls to Gerry as we sat in traffic, we finally made it to Sheepshead Bay and the elusive Bay Shish Kebab.

The restaurant, nestled prominently in the middle of a strip mall, was bright, and practically empty, yet the owners were waiting anxiously for “Gerry’s party.” Of course we were ravenous and thankfully pide, or freshly-baked Turkish bread, was brought to the table. The bread was Turkish, as were most of the items on the menu. There were a few Uzbek dishes, but the owner proclaimed that Bay Shish Kebab was a Turkish restaurant, not a Uzbek restaurant.



As soon a Rick arrived; his drive from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn a mere 25 minutes, we began to order; cold mixed appetizers, mantu dumplings, and Turkish pies, similar to pizza, but minus the tomato sauce and heavy on the lamb. The mixed appetizers were mostly familiar; babagannus (as it was spelled on the menu), humus (also how it was spelled on the menu), stuffed grape leaves, tabuleh, but also a few surprises including a Turkish specialty called soslu patlican, eggplant with tomatoes, peppers, onions in a peppery red sauce. The pide was perfect to soak up the dips. Then the Turkish pies arrived along with the mantu dumplings, tiny ravioli-like dumplings stuffed with ground meat and swimming in Turkish yogurt.



Of course, the appetizers alone could have sustained us, but we were here for the famed kebabs. With the exception of chicken, the kebabs were all variations of lamb—hand-chopped, cubed, diced, and sliced. We ordered an assortment and one Uzbek specialty, palav, also known as pilaf, or rice with chunks of lamb, onions, carrots, and chick peas. The platters were gargantuan with the variations of lamb and chicken served either over rice or soaked in yogurt that was absorbed by cubes of bread and accompanied with hollowed-out, slightly hot peppers. The table suddenly became quiet as we began to work through the mounds of food, Zio, as usual, deft with his fork, leading the way. Gerry’s folly, and the long journey had been temporarily forgotten.

After all the meat, dessert was out of the question for me, but Gerry and Zio had much more in their reserves than I and ordered the Turkish rice pudding. They will have to elaborate on what made the rice pudding distinctly Turkish, as opposed to the familiar Greek variety.  Others thought coffee might help digest the enormous quantity of lamb we had just ingested, but the look on Eugene’s face when he took his first sip of his Turkish coffee was not promising. It brought back memories of the famed Filipino dessert with kidney beans and the Russian soft drink, Kavas; two of Eugene’s less than favorite exotic global eating experiences.

We were all quite content with Bay Shish Kebab and proclaimed it a winner until we received the check and Eugene added up the damage. We were way above our $20 budget for this one, but knowing how bizarrely meaningful this pick was to Gerry, let him slide. Next time, however, he will be held accountable.



Like Staten Island, where there are potentially many places that would fit our criteria, getting to Sheepshead Bay during the week at the height of rush hour, makes it next to impossible to venture. Maybe someday soon we will rise to the challenge. As for Bay Shish Kebab, my research has shown that it closed in mid-2010 for “renovations.” In other words:  R.I.P. Bay Shish Kebab.

And the answer is….

24 Jan

You’ll find this


here at


That’s right: Patsy’s Pizzeria in East Harlem (, where, since 1933, that oven has been fired and turning out arguably the city’s best pizza.  But I’ll save that argument for another day.

Many of you got this one without any trouble. I promise much more of a challenge the next time we play: Name That Place.



Name That Place

21 Jan

Let’s play, Name That Place again.  If you can identify not only what it is in the picture that I’ve posted below and at what food establishment you will find it, you’ll win a free subscription to the blog Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries.  I’m confident that all savvy and well-traveled New York foodies will have no problem figuring this one out.

You want a hint? Okay, I’ll give one:  What you see above is almost 80 years old and never takes a break.

That’s two hints. Now I’ve gone and made it too easy. Next time no hints!

Leave your answers in the comments section below. The answers will be revealed here on Monday.

Southern (Bronx) BBQ

18 Jan

Before our venture to the South Bronx and Uncle Sal’s, our group had a date at an African restaurant in Harlem called La Marmite. As I vaguely recall, only two or three of us showed up for whatever reason and I never summarized our experience there. We made up for it when we all were in attendance at Uncle Sal’s Ribs and Brew. It was early summer and our dinner there became memorable for many reasons, but probably most of all because it was the only one , in the over two years we had been doing this, where we got to dine “al fresco.”

Uncle Sal’s: circa 2004

Uncle Sal’s Ribs and Brew

After our previous debacle, when only the devoted few got to experience the delectable offerings served at the Senegalese restaurant, La Marmite, the group was now more than ready to reconvene en masse. Even Charlie, who will be relocating to the hinterlands of Emmaus, Pennsylvania with his wife, and soon to be born first child, was present as we made our way to East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx for a taste of Uncle Sal’s Ribs and Brew (formerly known as Uncle Sal’s Ribs and Bibs). We were enticed to this barren stretch of the Bronx just off the Cross Bronx Expressway with the promise of barbecue ribs created by a Sicilian immigrant and his Puerto Rican in-laws. Who could imagine what the end result of that amalgamation of ethnicities would result in? But the possibilities were very promising and incentive enough to make the journey.

Eugene and Gerry, the first to arrive, were a bit concerned when they entered the storefront and only noticed a few small tables. Their worries quickly dissipated when the boisterous Uncle Sal greeted them and directed them to a “backyard” where there were two large picnic tables surrounded by assorted junk; boxes, rusting industrial equipment, and a badly damaged fig tree. Still, on this warm June evening, what could be better than dining “al fresco” on East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx, the sounds of firecrackers in the air, and security cameras reassuringly eying the premises.

We were all present except Rick, who called Uncle Sal to say he was running very late. We did our best to accommodate our comrade by ordering an assortment of selected appetizers while we waited for him to arrive. Uncle Sal recommended the mozzarella sticks, fried ravioli, and chicken wings. None of these fast food offerings really excited us, but we couldn’t disappoint Uncle Sal.

We sat outside in the Bronx evening, sipping beers and listening to a boom box set up on a wobbly table outside waiting what seemed like an interminable time for the appetizers to arrive. When they finally did arrive, we quickly devoured the tasteless deep fried mozzarella, zucchini, and ravioli, and then estimating how long it took for the appetizers to arrive, decided we better get Sal going on main courses. The ribs, of course, were why we came here and we ordered a rack of both the “special cut” and the baby back ribs. The difference, explained Sal, was really just the size; the baby back being the smaller ribs. Besides the ribs, the menu here was vast including pizza, pasta, tacos, and Spanish food. Sal was pushing the shrimp scampi that was “not on the menu,” so we obliged him his Italian heritage and ordered it along with a philly cheesesteak sandwich, and, as a nod to his Latino in-laws, an order of fried pork chops with yellow rice and beans.



It was dark now and one bright bulb lit up the backyard. Sal had switched the radio station appropriately from hip hop to blues. Rick ambled in just in time to salvage a few remaining, now cold zucchini sticks. As the fried food sat heavily in our stomachs, the main courses arrived and despite the density of the appetizers, we had no problems picking apart Sal’s very good ribs, slathered in a not too sweet, subtly tangy sauce. The cheesesteak, cut into six pieces, was also a winner but the scampi, Sal’s praises notwithstanding, tasted like the kind of shrimp scampi you might get at a barbecue joint. Finally, we divvied up the pork chops, sampling some of the rice and beans and the “sides” like corn, cole slaw, and corn bread.

Once we finished, Sal came out, a cigar in his mouth, a rum and coke in his hand, and a satisfied smile on his face, to sit and regale us with stories about his life in Sicily—how he came to America when he was 16, and about his adventures in operating the restaurant. Eugene and Zio were a rapt audience, especially when it came to the stories concerning the health department and health code violations. Sal, unfortunately, does not deliver his ribs to Manhattan, but knowing they are attainable just off the Cross Bronx Expressway might make for a pleasant way to sit out a traffic jam on that cursed thoroughfare.

What’s left of Uncle Sal today.

I never did make it back to Uncle Sal’s before he closed. I recently drove to the still restaurant-remote area of East Tremont in the Bronx to see what had replaced Uncle Sal’s. In its place was a restaurant called Manny’s, specializing in Latin American “cuisine.” I went inside to see what else had changed. Instead of the deli-like interior, there was a full bar. I asked the bartender what happened to Uncle Sal’s. “He left a long time ago,” she said. “But he still own the building.” On the awning next to Manny’s, I noticed the Protective Security Service, Inc, and on the side of the awning “Uncle Sal’s Ribs and Brew, Inc.” I guess security services have much more appeal in the East Tremont section of the Bronx than do Uncle Sal’s ribs.

Recession Special II

14 Jan


Recession Special II


I find it very reassuring that chicken is recession proof.

Have a great weekend. Adventures in Chow City will return on Tuesday.

Spanish Grease

11 Jan

After my second son was born in early 2004, the rest of that year seemed like a blur. I do, however, remember the trip to Brooklyn to El Viejo Yayo #2. And after re-reading what I wrote below, my exhaustion was evident and probably colored my less than enthusiastic response to our experience there.

El Viejo Yayo #2
317 9th Street



It was tough; only the group of gluttonous gourmands could get me out for my first nocturnal venture since the birth of my second son, but out I staggered, on very little sleep, to Brooklyn, destination: El Viejo Yayo #2 (bonus points for anyone who knows what a “yayo” is).  This was Rick’s choice and, based on our Tandoori Hut experience, we were hoping history would repeat itself and that an inside tip, in this case a Latin restaurant recommendation from one of his Hispanic co-workers, would lead to a restaurant scoop.

Yayo 2 was in Park Slope Brooklyn in the increasingly trendy locale of 5th Avenue. But this was no trendy place. With the exception of the adornment of well-fed fish in a large fish tank, Yayo 2 was a simple, clean, relatively spacious, Dominican slanted, Latin restaurant. We were all able to assemble for this one and there was plenty of room for us. The meringue music was playing continuously and there was baseball (albeit exhibition baseball) on the television. The ambitious menu boasted not only Dominican specialties such as chicharron de pollo and an assortment of steaks and stews; it also had an “Italian corner” and a “Mexican corner.” All of us wisely stayed away from those corners and stuck to the Dominican dishes.

Unlike my local Dominican restaurant, El Malecon, Yayo 2 offered a selection of mofongos; double-fried tostones, stuffed with garlic, onions and pork cracklings, shaped into a cup and mixed with an assortment of meats and seasonings. To start we ordered two; one with pork chunks and another with sausage. They came to the table almost immediately and whether it was the density of the food along with the Presidente beer or whether it was my exhaustion, I was practically done before getting started. But the Yayo steak I ordered was soon to come and I was curious to sample Zio’s “horse steak Yayo style” as well as Gerry’s kingfish, Rick’s barbecue ribs, and Charlie’s chicken stew. The way he was protectively hunched over his fish, I knew better than to think I would get a nibble of Eugene’s fried tilapia.


Mofongo: The beginning of the end.


Soon my Yayo steak appeared; a slab of flattened, charred beef covered with onions and accompanied with a monstrous portion of yellow rice and red beans. Looking at the bounty in front of me, I knew I was in trouble. With the mofongo now anchored heavy in my gut, I began to labor my way through the tough, dry steak and pile of rice and beans. It didn’t help that opposite me I had to watch Zio heartily devour his horse steak—don’t worry, no ponies were harmed in production of Zio’s dinner. The steak was identical to mine, but covered with two eggs—over easy. I did sample a bit of Gerry’s kingfish, and Charlie’s chicken stew, but I couldn’t get myself to touch one of Rick’s ordinary-looking, and in his opinion ordinary-tasting, ribs. I was done; and to the surprise of the others, with half the slab of meat still on my plate.

Well, at least I thought I was done. I just couldn’t resist a tropical dessert and opted for the coconut pudding. A good choice, but not as good as the excellent flan I sampled from Gerry’s order.



As we left the restaurant having just barely met our $20 minimum, my stomach was beginning to misbehave. I do not blame Yayo #2 for this; exhaustion can do strange things to your body. But with the exception of the mofongo, which I very much liked despite its plaque inducing ingredients, and the desserts, Yayo #2 was a disappointment and not in the league of El Malecon in quality or value. Insider tips can be tricky; the insider might have an acquired taste for flattened, charred slabs of beef. You just never know. Despite how I felt the rest of the night, within 24 hours of the Yayo #2 experience, I was, I’m proud to say, able to regain my usual voracious appetite.

My son, the one mentioned being born just a few weeks before we visited El Viejo Yayo #2, will turn seven in a little over a month. Why does it feel then, like I was just there? And he was just a baby. Okay, that’s as deep as you’ll get me to go here.  I’ve not returned to El Viejo Yayo but from what I’ve gathered on the internet, it has not changed much. There is still a number one (36 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn) and a number 2, the one we experienced. It now has a website ( and the menu, with a few minor deletions and additions, and, of course price increases due to inflation, has remained the same though El Viejo Yayo #1 seems a bit more stylish and doesn’t have the noted Italian or Mexican corners.

New Aroma

7 Jan

What was wrong with the old aroma?  Just asking.

Have a great weekend everyone and look for another installment of Adventures in Chow City on Tuesday.

Dining with Sikhs

4 Jan

The first eating adventure of 2004, and the start of our third year of food gatherings, was one of our most memorable. Eugene gets the credit for bringing Tandoori Hut to our attention; the meal was so good we still talk about it. If we compiled a top ten over the years, Tandoori Hut certainly would have made it into the top five. Below is what we experienced on a cold winter’s night seven years ago.

Tandoori Hut
119-04 94th Avenue
Richmond Hill



It took almost two years of our gluttonous gatherings, but finally, due to ten inches of snow, we were forced to postpone. None of us, with the very notable exception of Zio who was still stuck in the frozen tundra of East Hartford, can go very long without our exotic food fix so we were able to convene the following night at our assigned (by Eugene) destination of Tandoori Hut in Richmond Hill, Queens. Driving down the stark stretch of Atlantic Avenue, we were immediately reminded of our last venture to this region when we feasted on jerk pork lo mein and curry goat at the Guyanese-Chinese hybrid, the festive Atlantic Bamboo Gardens.

Tandoori Hut was easy to find; it was just across the street from the Punjabi Palace. This was obviously curry central of Richmond Hill. Save for one other couple, Eugene was sitting all alone when we arrived at the very dimly-lit restaurant. I took a seat facing the television which was showing a succession of music videos called “Punjabi Gold;” a Bollywood version of MTV. There was music playing but I wasn’t sure it corresponded with the videos; thankfully there were subtitles making it easier to follow the intense drama of the videos.

Punjabi Gold

After ten minutes I had enough of Punjabi Gold and was more than ready for some tandoori. Our waitress attempted to get us to order, but when we asked for the usual help with the menu, embarrassed by her difficulties with English, or ours with Hindi, she turned to a man who seemed to be the owner. He was seemingly confident, accustomed to dealing with our type; non-Asian and looking for a taste of the exotic. We asked for his recommendations. Tandoori being their specialty, he led us to the mixed tandoori special along with a tandoori fish. When we prompted him to continue—to suggest more items on the menu, he seemed unprepared. Gerry asked about a vindaloo. “But vindaloo is very hot,” he said. Yes, we want hot, we replied. He seemed doubtful and then shrugged. “I’ll make you a fish vindaloo,” he said warily. And some saag paneer, dal, basmati rice, and more bread, we added. “I’ll make you a garlic nan,” he said. Eugene inquired if we had ordered enough. Our waiter shrugged, he was obviously unaware of our almost limitless capacity for food consumption.

The first thing to hit the table was a huge mound of sizzling tandoori meats. It didn’t look pretty, what we could see of it in the dark, but once it stopped sizzling and when we tasted it, especially the chicken, we knew we had found tandoori nirvana. Besides the chicken there were pieces of spicy lamb sausage and what we thought was lamb, but was actually dark meat chicken coated in a rich brown paste. The tandoori fish followed; pieces of salmon roasted in the restaurant’s tandoori oven and perfectly moist. The fish vindaloo also salmon was also incredibly tender. Gerry complained that it wasn’t hot enough; yet after a few bites there was that residual heat that is so much more effective than that first quick hit you sometimes get with spicy food. The garlic nan was more potent than any garlic knot or garlic bread I’ve ever experienced while the saag paneer was a very nice cooling alternative to all the heat on the table.

Our meal at Tandoori Hut was blessed.

While we were devouring the platters in front of us, the restaurant was slowly filling up with groups of Sikhs. An Indian restaurant that has a loyal following of Sikhs definitely has something going for it. After the ignominious Uncle George’s Greek Tavern experience, we were all very happy to have found our touch again. As is our practice, we finished everything on the platters and when our waiter asked if we wanted “something sweet,” all we could do was shake our heads. Something sweet might interfere with the pleasant party that was still going on in our mouths. Instead, we gathered our heavy winter garb, leaving their Sikhs to enjoy their meal, and headed out onto frigid Atlantic Avenue.

A year after dining at Tandoori Hut, Frank Bruni wrote glowingly about the restaurant in the New York Times, “Diner’s Journal.” Scooping the Times was satisfying for our group. It was one of our objectives; to find restaurants before they were truly discovered. As we all know, once the Times mentions a place, that place is changed forever and often not for the good, especially in the cheap eats universe we travel.  Despite how good Tandoori Hut was, I haven’t returned though desperately want to. I did, however, pass the restaurant and noticed it was in the same location and with a slightly more attractive sign. Otherwise, it looked like nothing had changed at all…despite Frank Bruni’s praise.

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