Monday, September 12, 2011

"Hoagies and Grinders, Hoagies and Grinders..."

Cravings are born of what's close to your heart....and unfortunately for my fat-wrapped human engine, mayonnaise is fairly close to the top of my list. I love the stuff....not by itself, it has to have a vehicle to propel it into my mouth, but there are so many viable options I could not list them here without the police issuing me a "cease and desist" email threatening to cut me off if I don't stop blogging about Best Foods. I blame my mother, mostly because that is our national past-time, but because shoot mi madre knows her condiments.

As part of a 5 kid family with only one income, we were subjected to many unsavory things in the interest of stretching a dollar (or in some cases, a nickel) I've eaten a LOT of weird things that were called a "sandwich" simply because they were encapsulated in between two pieces of bread, but that would cause many a peer to blanch, quail, and recoil with horror when a lunchroom trade was suggested. They had their bologna and peanut butter and jelly, crusts cut neatly off on wonder bread that was softer than a puffy white cloud, nestled neatly in their Mod Squad lunchbox with a thermos of chicken noodle soup, a Twinkie, and a piece of fruit so perfect it was a shame that they tossed it in the trash without even thinking of eating it. be a "normal" kid.

We occasionally had lunchboxes, but with slovenly habits and the grace of a charging buffalo in the fine china department of Macy's, they were generally discarded early in the school year due to a broken thermos and a science experiment in how nasty an enclosed metal device can get if you forget to clean it out in favor of the disposable paper sack. The scene in "Uncle Buck" when Miles opens his full-size grocery sack and starts to unload the lunch his Uncle most likely cleaned out the fridge to attain always takes me back to the lunch room....the milk in a jar with a plastic bag rubber banded to the top was CLASSIC. (OK, it might not have been a bag on top, but that is what WE got.

PBJ was always an option, but I was never a fan....something about a warm peanut butter sandwich reminds me of stuff under the couch cushions. (NO....I was NOT the one who put them there....) Tuna mixed with mayo and sweet relish was a staple, bologna, salami with the whole peppercorns in it, so it was always fun to peel the bread off before eating and pick 'em out so you didn't spend the afternoon gagging and tearing up after biting down on one. Olive loaf, head cheese (it's really like square bologna with tiny cheese cubes in it), and cheddar or jack cheese - all were some of the more normal selections.

One that I loved, but not many others would touch with a ten foot pole was Braunschweiger.....yup, liver sausage. It looked like meat playdoh, tasted vaguely of liver and had the consistency of...well...hmm....nevermind, it's grossing me out trying to describe it. And none of this makes any sense because I despise liver with a white hot passion, but would still eat this every single day with mayo on white bread if it wasn't filled to bursting with even more delightful fat I don't want to buy bigger undies because of. And of course, every single one was liberally lubricated with that devil-in-a-jar. Delicious.

I suppose you have to grow up eventually - my big sister shared this recipe with me and we love it; I made it a lot when Handsome Stranger was doing can eat all the mayo you want, just not on bread. To which I said "Why bother livin' if you ain't gonna enjoy yourself once in a while?", to which he replied through a mouthful of bacon "Mmmm....bacon..." And I'm just gonna say it: you Adkins Addicts all have the worst breath on the planet. I don't care if you're burning ketones, you stink - eat some fruit and use some shout on your butter, bacon grease and mayonnaise stained shirts. And try this on some bread...your intestines could use a break from that giant meat log working it's way through your lower 40.


4 C. diced cooked chicken

I like to use a whole rotisserie chicken from the store, and rip the whole thing asunder and chop up both dark and white meat...dark meat has all the flavor, you know. BUT, sometimes I don't want to stop at the store, so I pull frozen breasts outta the freezer, put them in a pot and cover with water and a skosh of salt and pepper, then cook at a slow boil for 30 minutes, remove from heat and cover and let stand another 30. Cool until you can handle and chop up. Or you could over roast, or even grill for a nice smoky flavor....'sup to you.

1-2 C. add ins

Go wild, use what YOU like - my pref is cranberries and either pecans or toasted are a few suggestions:

Dried cranberries
Chopped apple
Diced peaches
Dried cherries
Green onion
Diced roasted red pepper
Chopped marinated artichoke hearts
Chopped black or kalamata olives
Capers (BLECK!)
Chopped green olives
Minced sun dried tomatoes
Toasted chopped almonds or hazelnuts
Chopped pecans or walnuts
Pan toasted pine nuts
Asiago cheese
Diced pickled jalepeno
Mini marshmallows (haha, kidding...but then again....)

OK, it's getting ridiculous....I never meant for you to use ALL of them, but 2 or 3 that will complement each other. So for instance jalepeno, artichoke and asiago would make it much like that delicious dip you get in restaurants to dip crackers or bread into. Peaches, almonds and green onion would be a delightful sweet/savory taste. I like the idea of apple/celery/walnuts for a Waldorf-ey experience too. My original recipe had green olives, roasted red pepper and almonds I think....but I have never made one that wasn't delicious!


Super simple so the flavors of your add ins come through....

2 T. seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 to 1 C. Best Foods (Hellman's East of the Rockies) Mayo
Salt and FRESH GROUND PEPPER to taste

Mix the chicken with the add ins, then sprinkle the vinegar over all, add mayo to YOUR liking, then season as needed w/salt and pepper. Mayo has a lot of salt in it, as does vinegar....always add that last so you don't over salt it.

You can serve this so many's especially good on croissants, but bread, tortillas, crackers, pita, or on leaves of whatever lettuce turns your crank....romaine, butter, endive (I've never had that, BTW), or even in a celery stick if you chopped it fine enough will make an excellent vehicle for deliciousness. It would also be delightful spread on a baguette with some cheese on top and broiled, or rolled up in crescent roll dough and baked into a yummy strudel-ey thingy...I have always dreamed of putting it in puff pastries hot out of the oven and eating them off tiny doilies on a silver tray. But last night I dreamed that Son #2 was wearing purple suede pumps so I'm not sure I want anyone attempting to follow through on my nocturnal imaginings.
Sorry for that last image - it disturbed me greatly, but mostly because they were too big for me to borrow..."MEATLOAF SANDWICH".

Monday, September 5, 2011

"I'm older and have more insurance."

Ah...a classic, that one. Fried Green Tomatoes was SUCH a good movie, full of girl power and irony...kind of like me after working all summer cutting down trees, splitting firewood, and in general acting like I had a pair and knew what to do with em only to have to schedule visits with the chiropractor and physical therapist until the end of time. Haha, not really....just until I've had enough back-crackery and decide that I just have to stop acting like some musclebound freak just kicked sand in my face and start acting more like a girl. But not one should ever make the mistake assuming I am a helpless female lest I snap them in half to more neatly shove the two pieces into their own...never mind, you get the gist. But I appreciate you opening doors for me, and will turn your spine ice cold with such a look if you don't - didn't your momma teach you any manners?

My daughter has lived "down south" for the last 11 years, and is finally coming home to Oregon in less than 2 weeks. I am wildly excited, and have been keeping it low key because I was afraid I would jinx it and she might move instead to some other back-water state too far away. (And before you make some huffy comment about Georgia being where you were born and raised and how DARE I call it back water, I live in a town where there is a mannequin and a washing machine with mangle on the "cupola"(translation: roof) of the local tavern) But the moving van is on the way, she will be shortly after turning her keys over the a realtor, and now we just have to wait for her to drive from Georgia to Oregon via North Carolina and Chicago where she'll stop to visit hardly seems real. We are working on some changes to our home so they can nest when they get here - I might actually get bathroom #2 (LOL....get it??) because of this! What WILL I DO with myself??

My little girl left home for the Army the January after she graduated from high school, and has been away ever since save for a few visits back....there were big milestones like marriage, child-bearing, and home ownership in that span of time, not to mention the last 9+ years of direct grandmothering I've missed out on. If I didn't see them now and then, I think my grandson would probably think that Gramma was the mailman, and Gramps was the UPS guy....a LOT of stuff has traveled North to South in the last 10 years. So if you see UPS stock take a dive, or see a sudden rate hike at USPS in mid-September, it's probably their fault. Do I care?? NOPE....I am just tickled that ALL my kids will be home again...WHEEE!

Living in the South introduced her to all kinds of southern delicacies, like Popeye's chicken, Waffle Houses, and Domino's pizza...yeah, pretty much the same crap we have here. Sure there are actual local spots, and a few joints that we don't have here in the Northwest, but if you have decided to go semi-vegan the South is generally not the place to explore those kind of food choices. The south is cooking with lard, bacon, back fat, butter, and enough peanut oil to deep fry a pterodactyl for the Annual Confederacy Pride Picnic - I think the wedge salads down there are battered, fried and served with a side of cornbread to wipe the grease off your face with. During one visit I went to Sconyer's BBQ joint off the Bobby Jones Highway, and ordered up a vat of local specialties to bring back to my daughter's for dinner. At times like those, I wish I wasn't such a good cook...or that maybe I need to open my own drive-thru if they can force people to wait in line for 30 minutes for that crap.

On our last visit, the one where we went to Savannah and I had to confess that I had wrongly judged Paula Deen after visiting her sons restaurant there, a few bright spots shone through the nasty cornbread, watery pulled pork, and horrible biscuits and gravy I've been subjected to in Southern restaurants over time. One was the fried green tomatoes with vidalia onion relish we ordered on a whim at The Lady & Sons that bakin' hot day in Savannah. I'm not eating fried foods anymore, so until yesterday I had not tried to duplicate it at home, but after a trip to my sister-in-law's produce stand and a chance sighting of some lovely green 'maters, I decided to make them as a Labor Day treat for the kids that were here this weekend. You can get the recipe off the internet too, but it doesn't come with a neat story or family dirt and cusses like mine do....but to each his own. These were so startlingly delicious that I had to put them on my cheeseburger, onion relish and all, and I blacked out while I was eating it due to extreme will be the first special on my flagship restaurant's grand opening menu....I shall call it the Iggy Burger. My lands.....

Fried Green Tomatoes

4 large green or even slightly orangey tomatoes
2 C. buttermilk
2 C. self-rising flour*
Fresh ground black pepper
Vegetable oil

Slice tomatoes 1/4" thick and salt on both sides; put in colander and let drain for 30 minutes. Heat oil in pan at least 1" deep to medium want it to almost be smoking, and keep it hot. Using a fork, put drained tomatoes in the buttermilk, then into flour and coat well; carefully lay them into the hot oil, grind some pepper over them and fry until browned on the first side. Gently turn so as not to dislodge the coating and brown on the other side. Remove to a paper towel lined platter, then to a cooling rack so the coating doesn't sweat off, or directly onto your serving dish and eat immediately with heaps of vidalia onion relish. Or on a cheeseburger if you got the guts.

*if your self-rising flour has a grey layer in the container that you suspect is the waste of some kind of bug infestation, you can make your own with untainted all purpose flour by adding 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp of salt per cup of flour and stirring it in.

Vidalia Onion Relish

2 Vidalia or sweet onions, peeled and diced
1/2 C. mayonnaise, plus another 1/4 C. later
1/2 C. seasoned rice vinegar
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. chives, chopped (I didn't have any, put in some parsley)

Mix all ingredients and let marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The vinegar and onion juice make this rather watery, so after it marinated, I dumped it in a strainer, removed most of the liquid, the re-introduced an additional 1/4 C. mayo into it with a dash of salt...voila!! Perfect creamy consistency, and I figured no added fat because I drained a lot of the original mayo out....and this sh** was so good I was eating it with a spoon....Handsome Stranger was horrified, but to me it tasted like candy. I also heaped a big spoonful on the one bite of a hot dog I could get down - I can think of nothing this would not be delicious on. A fudge brownie with peanut butter icing included. So yeah, anyway....serve in large spoonfuls on top of fried green tomatoes, and tell your pants they're lucky that green tomatoes are not available year round. Y'all come back now, y'hear??