Archive | July, 2012

Stalking Corn on Dyckman Street

31 Jul

Cachapas y Mas
107 Dyckman Street

There was a small booth on Dyckman street where corn along with other farm fresh goods were being sold. Across the street a vendor was selling roasted corn and batata (sweet potato) cooked on a gas grill. Further down the block another vendor had homemade empanadas hanging on hooks inside his makeshift cart. This was the scene I encountered on Dyckman Street on a humid summer evening on the way to Cachapas y Mas, the Veneuzuelan fast food place Zio had chosen for our group.

Roasted corn for sale on Dyckman Street.

Besides the abundance of corn, Dyckman Street, in the Inwood section of upper Manhattan was bustling; teeming with urban humanity—the street congested and loud with honking livery drivers. On the sidewalks, microscopic shorts for women hugged tightly over curvy female mannequins, while for men there were flamboyant, colorful dress shirts on racks. Wedged between the retail stores were an assortment of fast food fried chicken places, Dominican bakeries, and a number of Latin-style steakhouses; in other words, my kind of street.

Cachapas y Mas was clean, with a row of wooden picnic tables along with a few smaller, plastic-topped tables and chairs. A slick, flat screen television broadcast soccer from a Spanish language station. The menu was displayed on a digital screen above the cashier that electronically would shift from a picture of “cachapas,” to one of “patacones,” to one of “arepas,” and finally to “yoyos;”

Yoyos, patacones and empanadas.

I did scant research once Zio announced his pick, but enough to learn that the food was Venezuelan and that the specialty were meats sandwiched between either griddle toasted corn cakes (arepas and cachapas) or fried green plantains, also known as tostones (patacones) or yellow plantain, i.e. maduros (yoyos).

Our group of five, soon to be six once Rick arrived, grabbed one of the picnic tables and added two of the plastic chairs at either end to accommodate all of us. From where I sat, my eyes were just not up to the task of reading anything from the digital screen so I got up for a closer look.

The “man in charge,” either the owner or manager, noticed my curiosity—and my trusty camera—and offered advice. He suggested a drink called papelon to start. Over the din and through his accented English, he explained that the drink was made from lime with brown sugar—two of my favorite ingredients. How could I resist?

The papelon was a bit too sweet for me, but I found it refreshing. A little less sugar and maybe a shot or two of rum would have transformed the drink into a very exceptional cocktail.

Papelon: The Venezuelan cocktail, sans rum.

I brought the drink back to the table. A line to order was beginning to form. Though proper etiquette would have us wait until our party of six arrived; we were still waiting for Rick, but Mike from Yonkers and Zio, especially when noticing the line, would never let etiquette stand in the way of their gluttony, immediately got on the line.

Eugene, Gerry and I shook our heads at the rude behavior of our comrades.

“No class,” Gerry said, glancing at the time. “It’s not like Rick is more than a few minutes late.”

“I know. It’s pitiful. Sad, really.” I added while shaking my head at their disgraceful behavior.

Eugene said nothing; instead he rose and joined the line.

I sipped my papelon, squinted at the digital menu again, peered out onto Dyckman Street and not seeing Rick, took my place on the line behind Eugene.

As the line moved slowly forward, I turned around. Rick had arrived and was already on the line, a few spots behind me.

Yoyos or patacones? Those were the two finalists. But stuffed with what? They all pretty much had the same choices; cheese, ham and cheese, chicken, shredded beef, roast pork, steak, chorizo, grilled chicken or, if you had a thing against meat, and if you did, why were you here, then there was the avocado salad arepa offering.

I decided on a shredded beef patacone along with a pastelito; an empanada like snack the owner recommended that was stuffed with meat and cheese. What harm would a little more grease do?

All of us returned to the table to wait for our names to be called with our orders. Of course, Mike from Yonkers and Zio were first. Both ordering cachapas; Zio’s stuffed with chorizo, Mike from Yonkers with shredded beef.

Chorizo cachapas

Zio generously offered me a taste. The corn cake was slightly sweet and dense, but rich with the flavor of fresh corn. It complemented the salty chorizo perfectly. While they ate, I dug through the pastelito. It reminded me somewhat of a meat and cheese calzone, but with a Latin flair.

I heard the Spanish sing song of my name and shot up from my seat returning moments later with the patacone. Using the plastic fork and knife provided, I tried to saw through the fried green plantain. Both utensils were not up to the task, bending to the tough tostone exterior. Giving up, I ate it how it probably should have been eaten; like a sandwich. And though I was able to maneuver some of the juicy shredded beef into my mouth, much of it dropped onto my plastic tray.

Patacone with shredded beef

Zio easily finished the chorizo cachapas, but despite its gargantuan size, it just was  not enough for his prodigious appetite. “I need more,” he mumbled and got up and ordered a beef empanada. The ground beef, onions and spices stuffed into a cornmeal pastry.

After taking a few bites, Zio put the empanada down. “It has a distinctly Alpo-like flavor,” he commented.

Nothing Alpo-like about this empanada.

He offered the remains of meat pie to me. I took a bite. “Hmmm, maybe, but it’s the best Alpo-like empanada I’ve ever had,” I said approvingly. The cornmeal pastry was crunchy with bits of coarse ground cornmeal and the meat was pungent, even aromatic, I was guessing from the amalgam of spices.

We make quick work of the cachapas, patacones, and empanadas and soon the dirty paper plates and napkins were piled high on our trays. With the exception of not experiencing a yoyo, I was more than satisfied with Cachapas y Mas.

The mess left behind.

As I made my way to my car, I could feel the patacone and all the other bites I had at Cachapas y Mas laying heavily in my belly.  The buzz on Dyckman Street had subsided somewhat.  I noticed that though the men’s flowered dress shirts had been removed from the street, the microscopic shorts on the female mannequins were still on display.  Dyckman Street, I realized, was a place for those with better self control than I.  I would be back.  But it wouldn’t be soon.

Recession Special

27 Jul

Is “recession”  a new Zagat  food category? Can anyone chime in on their number one recession eatery? Why do I feel like I’m missing out on something?

The Chinatown Congee Wars: Part Two

24 Jul

Great N.Y. Noodletown vs. Congee Village

With my trusty congee taster, Luigi, away on a fresh air fund break, I needed an aide to help me finalize the war I started a couple of weeks ago. I knew no other worthy accomplice than Zio. And he was more than ready for the task.

Great N.Y. Noodletown
28 ½ Bowery


On an overcast morning, I found him loitering next to Great N.Y. Noodletown on the Bowery in Chinatown. One of the elderly women that Luigi had observed were so prevalent in Chinatown (The Chinatown Congee Wars: Part One) was sitting next to where Zio was standing, selling umbrellas, a handkerchief covering her mouth. Was she ahead of the whooping cough curve, or was the precaution a leftover from the bird flu epidemic? Zio didn’t seem to mind the close proximity and as soon as I arrived, we went into the restaurant.

Neither Zio nor I were strangers to Great N.Y. Noodletown though when I visited it was not usually for congee.  I do recall ordering the comforting porridge at least once, but my memory of it is dim. It must have made enough of an impression, however, for me to include it in this very serious challenge.

Using all our resolve, Zio and I tried not to peek at the salt baked shrimp, the roast pig on rice, the squid with flowering chives, the triple delight noodles and all the other Noodletown greatest hits found on the menu. Instead we focused on congee only.

Knowing how good the shrimp usually is at Noodletown, I ordered a bowl of shrimp congee. Zio, also sticking to seafood, went with the sliced fish.

Of course, I needed to also compare Noodletown’s “cruller” with Big Wong’s and Congee’s.

The Noodletown cruller

“What the…?” Zio gasped when the cruller appeared on our table.

“It goes with the congee,” I explained.

But he was skeptical. He broke off a piece and ate it. “It’s like a grease sponge,” he said, demonstrating by squeezing the cruller and showing me the oil slick on his finger.

“Yeah, that’s why it’s a perfect accompaniment to congee. The grease works as a foil to the starch of the congee,” was the justification I offered, though not with much conviction.

Our bowls arrived. The steam from them formed a cumulus-like cloud around Zio’s rotund face. “You can’t eat this for about ten minutes,” he said. “You’ll fry the inside of your mouth.”

“That’s what the cruller is for,” I said. “Dip it in, like a doughnut.”

Zio scoffed at the idea.

Less than ten minutes later we were sipping the brutally hot gruel. The thin, rice porridge was infused with the flavor of the shrimp. And the pieces of shrimp—I counted six in my bowl—were bigger than golf balls.

Golf ball-sized shrimp.

Zio soon had his head buried in his congee. Using his spoon like a skilled surgeon, he methodically brought the hot soup and pieces of sliced fish to his open mouth, taking it in masterfully.

I watched his performance for a moment and then said, “You might not want to finish it.”

He picked his head up. “Huh?”

“We’ve got another place to try after this,” I reminded him. “Save room. If you eat too much here, you won’t be able to give the other contestant a fair shake.”

He thought for a moment. “You’re right,” he said and put down his spoon.

Reluctantly, we had the bowls wrapped up; our waiter sliding on plastic gloves in front of us, and then pouring each bowl into a take out container.

Congee Village
207 Bowery

Though the congee at N.Y. Noodletown was light, I could feel the density of the two enormous shrimps I ate while walking up the Bowery to our next destination. I hoped the exercise would offer relief and lesson the load there. There was still more work to do.

For sticklers, Congee Village might not be considered a Chinatown restaurant. Located a few blocks north of Delancey Street, you could say the restaurant was technically in the Lower East Side. But Chinese-run restaurant supply and lighting stores populated the street northward, along with an abundance of signage in Chinese; enough to figure Congee Village within Chinatown’s expanding sprawl.

A full bar and a trickling waterfall greeted us as we entered the very ornate Congee Village. This was a complete departure from the grungy, yet refreshingly familiar confines just experienced at N.Y Noodletown.

Congee Village waterfall

A lovely waterfall greets you upon entrance to Congee Village.

We were given a table in the dark, burnished wood laden dining room complete with large, family-sized booths and a flat screen television tuned, at this hour, to NY1 news. There were tablecloths and wine glasses on the tables yet the napkins were of the thin, paper variety.

“What a tourist trap,” Zio muttered.

I looked around. The few tables that were occupied were with groups of Chinese couples and families, and unless they were out of town Chinese, I had to disagree.

“Looks like a local favorite to me,” I said.

The menu, tourist trap or not, was impressive. Despite the name of the restaurant, we had to flip through a number of colorful pages to find the congee. When we did, the prices, waterfall and full bar notwithstanding, were actually lower than N.Y. Noodletown’s.

Sticking to the seafood theme of the day, I ordered the “crab porridge,” while Zio this time choose squid. If there were crullers, I just didn’t have the courage to order them.

The bowls arrived and looked like what Luigi and I had at Congee; pots with long handles. Smaller bowls were given out making it easier to share.

Crab porridge

A whole, blue crab was in my bowl, chopped into a few pieces. Like the shrimp infused the congee at Noodletown, the crab definitely added flavor to the bowl here at Congee Village. The melding of the shellfish broth with the rice congee was a revelatory match. To eat the crab, however, I had to fish out the pieces and pick the shells apart with my fingers. It was messy work and the thin napkins weren’t helping. But the congee was so good, even Zio’s crude, distasteful remark about what my fingers looked like coated in crab shells and overcooked rice gruel didn’t deter from my enjoyment of it.

Zio fished a piece of squid out of his congee. It was scored with numerous criss cross patterns. He examined it. “Why do they get fancy with the squid,” he complained.

“Does it taste good?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s fantastic,” Zio said.

“Then who cares.”

I sampled a piece and though it was tougher than I like, it too worked amazingly with the bland congee.

There would be no leftovers here. We could finish the congee and not worry about having to sample another. The crab remains were scattered across my small plate.

The remains of the crab.

“So what do you think?” I asked Zio.

“We really gotta pick a winner?” he whined.

I thought for a moment. I didn’t want to either. Each of the four congee joints had their merits. At Congee, I would stick with the pork and preserved egg while at Big Wong, how could I resist the roast pork congee? There was no denying that Noodletown’s shrimp congee was a one of a kind. And here, at Congee Village, I’ll forever swear by their crab porridge.

Yes, I know I’ve copped out. I couldn’t crown a champion. I’m just no good at these things—these numbered lists where you have to rank your favorites, whatever they may be. Congee preference is subjective. No matter how expert my opinion, I really can’t change someone else’s taste inclination. And in this case, one man’s congee just might be another man’s gruel.

A Lime Cut Three Ways: The Third Cut

20 Jul

Rum Punch

I’ve saved probably my oldest, most reliable “lime” drink for the last cut. Looking back on the three cuts, besides the presence of lime, I’ve noticed that all three use spirits derived from sugar cane.

In the first cut, The Caipirinha, I used cachaca from Brazil. In the second cut, The Mojito , I used a white, neutral Puerto Rican rum, and now here, for the third cut, I am using one of my favorites, a full bodied, dark West Indian rum.

The recipe for a good rum punch, this one put together from many trips to the Caribbean, is a universal one. And here it is in my best patois:


1 part sour

2 parts sweet

3 parts strong

4 parts weak


The sour, sweet, strong, and the weak. (plus a dash of bitter).

The differences between the rum punches come in what forms those parts take. The first part, however, is standard. The sour must be lime juice, freshly squeezed. I’ve seen recipes that call for lemon juice, but it’s just not the same—and not as good in my opinion.

The two parts sweet offers many variations. Some use grenadine syrup. Others fruit-flavored syrups that are sold in Caribbean markets. I use, as I have in the other two lime drinks in this series, simple brown demerara sugar syrup.

The strong is, of course, the alcohol, and in the Caribbean it is always rum. Mixologists might tweak the cocktail by adding a sweet, colorful liqueur or another type of spirit other than rum. I never get that fancy.

The only variation I’ve included is the addition of overproof rum (or rum with a 60 plus alc/vol) to one of the three “strong” parts. In the past few years, I’ve pretty much ceased that practice. Imbibing a rum punch spiked with overproof rum can be fun, liven a party and provide “memorable” moments. At my age, however, the consequences faced the next day are no longer very pretty to justify adding it to the punch.

So now I just stick to three parts of dark rum; something from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, or one of the other islands once colonized by Great Britain. Don’t go for an “aged” rum or one that comes slickly packaged and advertised as “super premium.” An expensive “sipping” rum will just be wasted amongst all those other ingredients.

The weak in the recipe calls for the most variation. That’s where personal preference really comes into play. I like adding tropical juices; preferably mango and guava. Others add pineapple or orange juice to the punch. You can add whatever type of fruit juice you like.

Adding nectar to the rum.

And for me, four parts of fruit juice, makes the punch just too sweet so for one of the four parts of sweet, I just add ice or water. Don’t worry, your punch will not be watered down and if it seems that way, just balance it out with a little more rum or fruit juice.

Now as far as the parts go, they can be tablespoons, half cups, or more. I just go with each part being a full cup. You’ll end up with a nice jug of punch that will quickly be consumed at a party or, if it’s just for you, store it in your refrigerator. With all that alcohol, it will last for weeks and only get better with age. Just make sure to shake it up before serving.

Store the rum punch in the refrigerator…right next to the milk.

Here are the ingredients and quantities I use in making my version of the rum punch:

1 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice

2 cups of simple sugar syrup

3 cups of dark, West Indian rum

4 cups combined of mango and guava nectar, or 3 cups of juice/nectar, plus one cup of water (or a handful of ice).

Angostura Bitters

Combine the first four ingredients in a punch bowl or jug. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

To serve, pour into ice-filled glasses and top with a splash of Angostura Bitters. If you have fresh nutmeg, grate a little into the glass.

Stir and sip.

The Hero of Mott Street

17 Jul

Parisi Bakery
198 Mott Street
Little Italy (also known as NoLita)

They call it a bakery, but in reality the bakery is a few blocks away on Elizabeth Street. This Parisi’s outpost specializes in magnificently-crafted heroes.

Heroes on the walls.

Maybe the pictures of Babe Ruth and other New York Yankees provide heroic inspiration.

Parisi’s meatball hero.

But finding hero nirvana is never easy and at  Parisi’s there is the little problem of the line. The line begins to form just before noon and soon snakes out the door and onto Mott Street. I’ve many times preached my feelings about waiting on line for food. Unless times are very hard, don’t ever do it!

Even for this.

Parisi’s pepper and egg hero

There are ways to avoid the line quandary. It just takes a little planning. You’ll need to set your schedule around your visit to Parisi’s. Make that your priority for the day. Take a late breakfast or an early or very late lunch and you should be fine.

Tell me that’s not worth a schedule adjustment?

There is no seating at Parisi’s but who cares? You’ve got your hero.  Don’t ask for more.  Or maybe just a few loaves to take home.

The Chinatown Congee Wars: Part One

13 Jul

Congee vs. Big Wong

Some call it porridge. A more medieval term for it is gruel. In Chinatown it is known as congee; white rice boiled with water, lots of water, until it becomes a thick, hot cereal or soup, depending on what you do with it.

For many who live in Chinatown here in New York it is a breakfast staple. In the last few years, Congee’s popularity has burgeoned beyond Chinatown and now people like me travel to the congested, cramped, sometimes ripe streets of lower Manhattan to get their congee fix.

Congee lovers are often blindly loyal to their favorite places. Me, I keep an open mind. I have, however, narrowed down the crowded Chinatown field to four serious contenders to the congee crown and here, in two parts, using my vast background and experience in the art of overcooked rice, I will ultimately reveal the best congee in Chinatown.

This will not be like the murky college football system known as the BCS where the true champion is settled more by sports writers than by the deserving teams battling it out on the field. The results of the Chinatown Congee Wars will be unequivocal. There will be no talk radio controversy. No happy hour debates. That is unless you happen to disagree with my choice. In which case, you are entitled to your opinion, no matter how misguided it might be. And please, don’t hesitate to express yourself here. I welcome it.

For this first round, I was accompanied by one of my offspring;  the 12-year-old, Luigi. Though he is a mere novice when it comes to the glories of congee, despite his youth, Luigi is a very accomplished eater. What he lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in exuberance. I had complete confidence that he would remain unbiased and not be swayed by perks such as complimentary hot tea or a plastic-wrapped fortune cookie. I was sure he would take his task seriously.


98 Bowery

Our first destination was the appropriately-named Congee.

Located on the Bowery, Congee, I knew was worthy of its name. When we arrived, just before the lunch time bustle, there was only a Chinese family with very young children at one of the other tables. The baby was making a racket in the otherwise quiet restaurant and I noticed, doing its best to decorate its pink, fat cheeks with spoonfuls of gruel.

I told Luigi we had to have the congee. If he wanted something else to offset it, he could, but to be careful and pace himself; we had another congee place to judge.

There were a number of interesting congee offerings including snail and pig’s liver, abalone and frog, and dried scallop and gingko nut, but I wanted to keep it relatively simple. I needed to judge the congee on its own merits without too many exotic ingredients, so I went with the sliced pork and preserved egg variation.

Luigi scoffed at my suggestion of the “healthy vegetarian” congee, instead choosing the beef. Along with it, we had an order of “fried dough,” the usual, bland but deep fried, accompaniment to the porridge.

The congee came out steaming in pots with wooden handles. We stirred, trying to cool it down not wanting to scald our tongues and the roofs of our mouths thus immediately nullifying either of us as legitimate judges.

The inside of my mouth, however, after years of impatiently ingesting hot pizza, soup, and other blistering foods, has developed a tough, asbestos-like coating. That hard shell made it easier for me to begin the congee tasting sooner than Luigi. What I tasted I liked. The congee was not overly heavy; the balance of liquid to rice tipping slightly to the liquid. But the pork with preserved egg added a nice hearty supplement.

Sliced pork and preserved egg congee.

Luigi struggled at first with the big pieces of beef; trying to cut through them with spoon and chopstick but to no avail. Using his sharpened incisors, he was able to gnaw the beef apart and enjoy, so he said, the rest of his congee, dipping the somewhat stale pieces of fried dough into the porridge and scooping it into his mouth.

The beef congee at Congee.

I wouldn’t have had any difficulty finishing off the bowl of congee, but we had another place to visit. Using about all the self control I could muster, I signaled for the waiter to bag up our leftovers, and we made our way to our next destination.

Big Wong King

67 Mott Street


I admit to being partial to Big Wong. It’s been one of my “go to” spots in Chinatown for a very long time. And whenever I go, it’s hard to resist the congee.

I noticed immediately that Big Wong, located in the heart of the tourist mecca of Chinatown on Mott Street, had higher prices for their congee. At Congee, the standard bowls we ordered were $3.95. At Big Wong, most were a dollar, maybe two higher. I knew I couldn’t let price influence my evaluation. The congee had to stand alone regardless of what it cost.

I ordered the roast pork while Luigi went with the chopped beef. Like at Congee, we also ordered the “fried dough.”

Big Wong’s fried dough or “crullers” ready to be dipped into congee.

“I’m worried that Chinatown will change soon,” Luigi professed to me.

“Why is that?” I asked him.

“There are a lot of old people here,” he said.

I nodded. There were. In fact, we were sharing a round table with three seniors.

“But there are young people too,” I said, gesturing to many who were also dining at Big Wong.

“I hope it doesn’t die,” he said. “I like Chinatown.”

Our bowls arrived. The steam was flowing from them. These were even hotter than what we got at Congee. My asbestos mouth would be no match for the boiling cauldron in front of me.

Hot congee at Big Wong.

The fried dough, a long, fresh cruller, kept us busy until the congee cooled down somewhat. When I could brave it, I took a spoonful. Mine was rich with roast, barbecued pork, the barbecue tinting the white of the soup turning it  a bronze-like color. Luigi’s had crumbled ground beef. Both were sprinkled with cilantro adding a pleasant garnish to them.

I liked the congee at Big Wong better than what I experienced at Congee. It was heartier; more rice to water and stuffed with meat. Luigi disagreed. “Congee is better,” he said definitively.

“I don’t know, I like Big Wong’s even though it is a few more dollars.”

We were at a standstill. He favored one, while I the other. How would we resolve this?

“Well, the fried dough is better here, isn’t it?” I said.

He agreed, but we weren’t on this mission to judge fried dough.

Congees and a cruller

They say a tie is like kissing your sister? I never had a sister, so I wouldn’t know. Maybe Part Two of the Chinatown Congee Wars will help clear up the muddled picture I’ve created.

Until then, feel free to chime in with your own opinions though I will not be swayed in mine.

How to Eat a Mango

10 Jul

I’ve often wondered,

how to eat this fruit.

It has an odd shape,

kind of like an egg with a loop.

It’s sweet and the flesh is juicy,

and  good for you too.

But how do you eat it

without getting quite messy?

If the fruit is soft and pliant to grope,

like what you might find in a ripe cantaloupe.

That means it is ripe and ready to eat.

The problem is, how to do it neat?

I hear there are over 1,000 varieties of mangoes around.

But where I live only a few types are to be found.

What I see in stores and on street carts,

come from places like Mexico, Salvador, Peru and Brazil.

Warm, tropical lands,

where there is no chill.

They  have names like “champagne,”

“Ataulfo,” “Tommy Atkins,” “Kent,” and more.

I’m sure there is a difference,

though this mango novice can’t tell for sure.

Ataulfo mangoes

On an island far away,

I once ate a Julie,

mango that is.

It was sweet and luscious.

I still can’t believe,

something so delicious,

could come from a tree.

Once peeled, the nectar quickly

flowed from within.

That Julie made such a mess,

a beach towel was needed,

to clean up my chin.

Three Julies

The mangoes from Haiti

are long and light green.

This fruit’s flavor is special,

the taste, a mango fan’s dream.

But there are drawbacks, I’m afraid.

It costs a little more,

and eating it most certainly can be a chore.

The Haitian

You can peel the tough skin with a knife.

Pull it down and try to slice.

Be careful before you start chewing,

The juices might spurt.

Don’t be slow.

Stay alert.

Oh my, how the bright orange flesh stains so.

No doubt, your nice white shirt, will soon be aglow.

Put away the knife,

and give up on the slice.

Just suck through the flesh,

right to the big stone.

This chore is one, you need to handle alone.

The temptations are many.

You might want to bite.

You’ll soon learn, that won’t be right.

Like a thatch of thorns that have you entangled,

your teeth will be riddled with tough fibers at every angle.

To dislodge requires little cost.

All you’ll need is plenty of time,

and two packs of dental floss.

Some say the best way to eat a mango

is one where you cut into the flesh;

a criss cross pattern.

that looks like a mesh.

Turn the skin upside down,

with gentle firmness, you’ll press.

The pieces will fall into a bowl or dish.

Eat with a toothpick, fork or chopstick.

No fuss.

No mess.

The criss cross method.

Like the many varieties of mango,

the choices of how to eat one are plenty.

And while I waste my time,

with these ridiculous rhymes,

I’m sure the list will grow.

Suck, nibble, bite or chew?

Who am I to tell you what to do?

How to eat a mango.

really, is up to you.

A Recipe for the 4th of July: 2012

3 Jul

Last year at this time I posted a recipe for the 4th of July. It was for the simple grilled hot dog on a bun: A Recipe for the 4th of July.  This year I am adding a side dish that complements the tube steak like no other: Barbecued baked (that aren’t baked) beans.

Like I do in so much of my limited cooking, I choose the easy path to the hard. I like to cut corners. I admit to being lazy at times. But I try to do it without sacrificing too much flavor or quality.

As I’ve discussed in the previous posts I’ve called  The Fazool Trilogy, The quality of most beans from a can as compared to dried, is, in my estimation, minimal.  And that miniscule difference just does not justify the extra time and effort in soaking and then cooking the beans. So I cut that process out. Just make sure you drain and rinse the canned beans in cold water before using them.

I’m lazy, but not this lazy.

Some might say if you are going to be lazy, go all the way. Just buy a can of pre-made baked beans. And to be honest, there are one or two that aren’t too far off in taste. Nothing a little doctoring won’t shore up. But by doing it the way I’ve chosen, you can control the flavor; the sweetness, salt content, and even add a few tricks of your own into it.

For my version of barbecued baked beans you will need the following:

2 15 or 16 ounce cans of small white beans*

2 strips of bacon, diced

1 medium onion, chopped.

2 tbs molasses

2 tbs brown sugar

1 cup of ketchup

1 tbs of yellow mustard (the cheap, glow in the dark kind).

1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp of apple cider vinegar

2 cups of water

Dash or two of hot sauce.

Salt and pepper to taste

*The traditional bean of choice for baked beans is the Navy bean. Some recipes call for the “Great Northern” bean while others prefer the pinto bean. Any of the above, as long as they are about pebble size, will suffice and absorb the flavors of the barbecue sauce.

Rinse the beans in cold water and strain.

Rinsing the beans.

In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until the fat renders.

Add the onion and fry in the bacon fat for about five minutes or until softened.

Softening the onions in the bacon fat.

Pour in the water and deglaze the bottom of the pan.

Add the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar.

The liquid ingredients getting ready for the arrival of the beans.

Stir and bring to a boil and then simmer for about ten minutes.

Add the beans.

Cooking down the beans.

Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about a half hour or 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is cooked off and thickened to what resembles a barbecue sauce.

Drop in a few dashes of hot sauce.

Stir again and serve.

The baked beans not only are one of my favorite side dishes for a barbecue, they also make a delicious topping to a Fourth of  July hot dog.

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