Fried Green Tomatoes

ARKANSAS VS. ALABAMA

A dollop of ketchup is all you need. Really.

A dollop of ketchup is all you need. Really.

One of my favorite ways to celebrate cool weather is to make fried green tomatoes, especially when you need a little pick-me-up because your beloved football team is going to get walloped this week. It’s okay; We just have to hope they don’t lose the bye week. Win the bye week!

It’s really easy to fry tomatoes, and this is the perfect time to try, because green tomatoes are plentiful and few of them will ripen before frost.

Go out to the garden and pick some big green tomatoes. Rinse them well and slice them about a half-inch thick. Heat about an inch of frying oil in a cast-iron skillet for the ultimate flavor, or use a professional fryer for a prettier product. Either way, they turn out great.

You want to heat that oil on high or to about 375 F. Here’s the recipe for the tomato fry:

Tomato Fry Mix

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • salt and pepper to taste (about a teaspoon each)
  • Generous amount of Cajun seasoning (about a tablespoon)

Blend that all together with a fork. Now, dip the tomato slices in milk and dredge them through the fry mix several times and then shake of the excess. Fry the tomatoes in the hot oil until they are completely golden and  parts of them are starting to brown. When you go to pick them up with the strainer they should be kind of stiff. They should not droop on the fork too much.

Dry the fried tomatoes on paper towels, then generously sprinkle more Cajun seasoning over them. When they are cooled down to the “warm” stage, serve with ketchup.

Yes, ketchup. We have tried remoulade and every kind of sauce we can think of. Ketchup is perfect, just like it is. Enjoy. It doesn’t get any simpler. Why complicate it?  Go Hogs!

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The Chocolate Bacon Bark of Awesomeness

ARKANSAS VS. SOUTH CAROLINA

DSCN1470Sometimes, you gotta make your own bye week. So, I took a game off last week just because. This week, for the South Carolina game I am coming back strong with a BACON DESSERT. It was a tough choice as to which of several bacon sweets I would make, but this one was so beautiful to photograph I couldn’t pass it up. Plus, bacon equals pork equals Razorback equals smiley face.

We are talking about a homemade candy bark made of chocolate, caramel, marshmallow, bourbon and bacon bark. I just made my closing statement.  This recipe comes to us, nearly word for word,  from www.thekitchenprepblog.com, where you can find even nicer photos than the ones I took. Let me just say that when I made this, my kids went WILD.

The Chocolate Bacon Bark of AwesomenessDSCN1473

1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups mini-marshmallows
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon whiskey
Approximately 25 caramels, unwrapped
2-3 strips of crisp bacon, preferably Petit Jean Bacon, unless you just wanna make me mad

Prepare an 8×8 inch pan by lining with parchment or foil sprayed thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray. (Create flaps that hang over edges for easy removal.)  Set aside.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat semi-sweet chocolate chips in 30 second intervals until melted and smooth. (Be careful not to scorch, even when it looks like it’s not fully melted it will continue to melt as you stir, so err on the side of caution.)

Pour about half of melted chocolate into prepared pan and smooth evenly with a silicone or offset spatula. Place in freezer to harden, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place marshmallows, butter, and whiskey in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for about 45 seconds. (Keep an eye on it: marshmallows will swell and try to escape the bowl. Stir and return to microwave for about another 45 seconds. Stir until smooth and elastic.DSCN1469

Pour onto set chocolate layer and, working quickly, smooth evenly. (If you’re not using a silicone spatula, you may want to spray whatever you are using with cooking spray so that you don’t have a sticky mess to deal with.}

Return to freezer and freeze for another 15 minutes.

Clean marshmallow bowl (or don’t,) and place unwrapped caramels into it. Heat for about 45 seconds, then stir, and continue heating in 30 second intervals until melted and smooth.

Pour over marshmallow layer and spread evenly. (And quickly! It will cool fast.)

Return to freezer for 15 more minutes.

Reheat remaining chocolate until warm and smooth and pour over caramel layer. Smooth evenly and, while still wet, sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Pat bacon crumbles down lightly so that they stick to chocolate.

Freeze for a final 15-30 minutes or until completely set. When ready to cut, remove bark by gently pulling on foil flaps, then carefully peel foil from hardened chocolate. Cut into pieces with a sharp knife. Now let it settle in the fridge for awhile, or the caramel inside will be too hard and sticky to chew.

Happy chewing, and please share your own bacon desserts with the blog. Go Hogs!

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Roast-Beef-Gravy-and-French-Fry Po Boys

ARKANSAS VS. TEXAS A&M

DSCN1442

Drown your sorrows in gravy. That’s the best way to forget the Rutgers meltdown and get yourself ramped up for a respectable showing against the Aggies.

Just absolutely bury your food in gravy. But, start off that gravy with a first-class roux, enrich it with beef stock, soak some leftover roast in it, then pour that concoction over authentic po-boy bread with a thick layer of french fries under the gravy-meat. Melt some sharp cheese over the top and serve that bad boy with the gravy dripping down your arms.

This is the dawning of the roast-beef-gravy-and-french-fry po boy.  If you’re a big fan of Emeril you will notice his signature here. The inspiration for this sandwich was the “Poor Man’s Poor Boy” he made on the air for Rachel Ray’s cooking show. It’s basically a French-fry po boy with beefy gravy poured over the fries and melted cheese on top.

DSCN1441

You can do this easy or you can do it fancy; we did it somewhere in between. We had no roast just laying around, so we bought a small portion of precooked, refrigerated roast at the store. We made a roux-based gravy, and I left a bread-starter in the fridge overnight so could cook up some authentic po-boy loaves the next day. We fried our own fries from potatoes we cut. And, we bought some beautiful horseradish white cheddar cheese from Kroger to top it all off.

DSCN1436But you can take this more downmarket and get great results. Buy a real baguette at a great bakery, such as Boulevard in Little Rock. Bake some Ore-Ida fries real crispy. Use whatever cheese you like. Just, for the love of all that is holy, don’t use canned gravy.

You must make the roux, because everything begins with that.photo (6)

First and Ten: Bad-Ass Beef GravyDSCN1432

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3-1/2 cups beef stock or low-sodium beef broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped leftover roast beef

Melt the butter in a saucepan over  medium-high heat and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring continuously, until a milk-chocolate-colored  roux is formed, about 4-6 minutes. Add onion and garlic  and cook until soft, about 2-4 minutes. Whisk in the beef stock little by little and bring sauce to a boil. Stir in the pepper, reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the sauce reduces to gravy consistency, 15-20 minutes. Stir in the roast beef and season with salt to taste. The gravy will keep up to one week refrigerated. Okay, that is the Emeril gravy almost word-for-word.

DSCN1437

Bake your bread, or if you buy it, sprinkle water over the bread and put the loaves in the oven at 350-400 for about five minutes. This will crisp the crust to that shattering quality you want in a po boy.

Fry your potatoes, or bake the pre-fried ones at high temp and get them crispy. Keep the oven on and get a baking sheet. put both sides of the break on the cooking sheet, and pile fries on one side of the bread. then pour the mean-gravy over the top, drenching it.

DSCN1428 Lay a slice of cheese on the other piece of bread (we really liked the horseradish cheddar, but Emeril suggests Swiss.) Bake until the cheese is melting, then put the sandwich together and serve a small container of gravy to dip the sandwich in.

Emeril and my wife both suggest putting mayo on both sides of the bread, in addition to the gravy. I can not abide, and I am a mayo lover. I say, just go with the pure beefiness and let gravy be your condiment.

DSCN1440

If you want to see the recipe for the po-boy bread, let me know. I didn’t want to complicate the food gawking with an actual recipe this week. Go Hogs! Beat Aggies!

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Sweet-Tea Fried Chicken with Orange-Poppy-Seed Cole Slaw

Sweet-tea fried chicken is like scupernongs on a summer night, ya'll.

Sweet-tea fried chicken is like scupernongs on a summer night, ya’ll.

For older articles, visit http://www.razorgumbo.blogspot.com

Rutgers vs. Arkansas

Yep, you read that right: sweet-tea chicken. Tender chicken brined and marinated in a solution of brown-sugar-sweetened tea. Can you think of anything more southern?

Here is what I am thinking: Let’s beat the crap out of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, now that seven of those players who whipped us in Fayetteville have been drafted by the NFL. Seven!

To celebrate our New Jersey revenge in advance, I’m fryin’ some chicken. And, I’m sending a shout-out to all the Arkansas fans who are actually making the long journey to see the game in New Jersey. Spotlight on one of my favorite couples, Kelley Bass and Ashli Ahrens, who will, no doubt, be leading most of the cheers in the Arkansas section. Go Hogs!

Kelley Bass and Ashli Ahrens, two of the great Arkansas fans making the trip to Rutgers!

Kelley Bass and Ashli Ahrens, two of the great Arkansas fans making the trip to Rutgers!

Wish I could take credit for the sweet-tea idea, but I picked it up off a Twitter post from http://www.myrecipes.com, and there’s not much to say about it, except that it’s incredible. The tannins in the tea help tenderize the chicken, and especially the fried skin on the bird takes on an incredible sweet-and-salty flavor you’ve probably never experienced before. The dark-meat pieces will taste the best, since the marinade will soak all the way into the meat.

Pairing the chicken with this easy sesame-orange slaw makes it perfection. I suggest finishing it off with some homemade lemonade, and say goodbye to summer weather with style.

Warning: You will need to brine the chicken overnight in the solution and let it sit for up to a day. So, plan to do this the Friday before game day.

First and Ten: Sweet-Tea Fried Chicken

  • 2 family-size tea bags
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • 1 whole cut-up chicken
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup self-rising white cornmeal mix
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon gound red pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 3-qt. heavy saucepan; add tea bags. Remove from heat; cover and steep 10 minutes.

Discard tea bags. Stir in brown sugar and next 5 ingredients, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cool completely (about 45 minutes); stir in ice (mixture should be cold before adding the chicken.)

tea brinePlace tea mixture and all chicken pieces in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Place bag in a shallow baking dishand chill 24 hours.

Remove chicken from marinade, discaring marinade. Drain chicken well.

Whisk together flour and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Spoon 1 cup flour mixture into a brown paper bag or large zip-top freezer bag. Place one piece of chicken in bag. seal and shake to coat. Remove chicken and transfer to a wire rack. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken, adding more flour mix to bag as needed. Let chicken stand 30 minutes to form a crust.

dusted chicken

Pour oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches into a cast-iron Dutch oven; heat over medium heat to 325. Fry chicken, in batches, 15 to 22 minutes or until browned and done, turning occasionally. Drain on a wire rack over paper towels.

DSCN1406

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Sideline Route: Orange Poppy-Seed Cole Slaw

  • Bagged, shredded cole slaw
  • 1 cup of Kroger-brand orange poppy-seed dressing.

Combine, chill a bit , and eat.

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Chili Rellenos with Mango-Basil Margaritas

The perfect bite of our homemade Chili Rellenos

The perfect bite of our homemade Chili Rellenos

ARKANSAS VS. SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI

I’d like to say the Razorback blessing before delving into this scrumptious meal. For Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams, Bret Bielema, Kiero Small and some sundry tight ends, we are thankful. For a fourth quarter of domination after worries that we’d be crushed by a Division 2 team, glory be. Now, considering the last 14 games played by Southern Miss, and all we have been through here, let’s just go whip some ass this week, okay? And let’s do it in Razorgumbo style.

What you are about to experience here will make for a perfect Razorback watch party at the house, but this one is not going to work at an outdoor tailgate.  So this one is for all the people who can’t make the trip to Fayetteville this week — or at some future time.

Also, I’m gleefully divulging that this entire article is an homage to the American master of Mexican cuisine, Rick Bayless. The recipe for rellenos was pulled from his masterful book “Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From the Heart of Mexico,” which is the book to read if you want to master the fundamentals of authentic Mexican cooking. The incredible master-class margarita is from his book “Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks.” I will probably come back to these books before the season is done. Please buy his books.

Finally, check out the Razorback dishes we now proudly own at Razorgumbo! Pigs on the plates make the food taste better.

First and Ten: Cheese-Stuffed Chili Rellenos

Let’s start with the sauce:

Brothy Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chile Sauce

  • 28-ounce can of good-quality tomatoes, drained (yes, fresh is better, but we are doing a lot of work to make this meal and this one shortcut is acceptable)
  • Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 3 to 5 serranos or 2 to 3  jalapenos), stemmed
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 cups beef or pork broth
  • Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon

Seed the chilies for a mild sauce, since this is going over another pepper and we want to be cautious on your heat exposure. Chop the chilies into small bits and add to a food processor or blender, along with the onion, garlic and drained tomatoes. Puree, but retain a little texture.

Heat the lard or oil in a medium-large skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot enough to make a drop of the puree really sizzle, add all of the puree to the pan and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, as the puree sears and cooks into a thicker, more orange-colored sauce. Add the stock and incorporate well, then add salt as needed afterward, based on whether the stock was salty or not. Set this sauce aside and keep warm on low temperature.

The Rellenos

These are the charred peppers after peeling

These are the charred peppers after peeling

  • 8 large, fresh chili poblanos
  • Oil to depth of 3/4 inch, for frying
  • About 1/4 cup flour, plus another tablespoon for the eggs
  • 4 cups grated melting cheese (Monterey Jack, or queso fresco if you want to be more authentic)
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Roast the chilies, either on a barbecue grill outside or in the oven, as close to the broiler element as possible, on the broil setting. Keep a close eye on them, turning a few times, because the idea is to roast them until they are black all over, then stop and let them cool. Get the entire pepper black. In order to peel them easily, they can’t be splotchy.

When cooled, pop them under water and then peel the black skin off them, being careful to keep the stems on. Then put a lengthwise slit in each pepper and carefully reach in to peel or scoop out the seeds.

The poblanos have now been stuffed with the little cheese torpedos.

The poblanos have now been stuffed with the little cheese torpedos.

Form the cheese into 8 ovals, then slip the ovals into the peppers and close the slit.

Spread about 1.4 cup flour onto a plate, then roll the chili in it and shake off the excess. Separate the eggs: the whites into a clean mixing bowl, yolks into a small dish. Add the salt to the egg whites, then beat them with a whisk or electric mixer set at medium until they are just stiff enough to hold a peak. Gently beat in the yolks one at a time, followed by the extra tablespoon of flour.  Stop beating when the flour is incorporated.

The batter for the rellonos

The batter for the rellonos

Bring the oil to 375F. Holding the chili by its stem, dip it completely into the egg batter, draw it out quickly, then lay it into the hot oil. Batter 2 or 3 more chilies and lay them in the oil. If a chili doesn’t have a stem, set it on a fork and dip into in the the batter, then roll it off into the oil.

When the chilies are brown underneath, gently roll them over and brown the other side. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a low oven. Batter and fry the remaining chilies, then drain with the others.

Now the peppers have been fried in the batter

Now the peppers have been fried in the batter

Ladle about 3/4 cup of the brothy sauce onto four plates, top the sauce with two chilies, then spoon a dribble of the sauce across the middle of each chili for decoration. Lay a spring of parsley between the chilies and serve.

The perfect complement to this dish is Mexican rice, but I won’t get into that here. If you want to make it, go for it! This blog entry is long enough as it stands.

The rellenos, nestled in our brothy sauce next to some Mexican rice

The rellenos, nestled in our brothy sauce next to some Mexican rice

Oh my God.

Oh my God.

Misdirection Play: Mango-Basil Margaritas

This baby was a lot of work but it sure was worth it.

This baby was a lot of work but it sure was worth it.

Admittedly, this recipe is involved. You have to make special salt, a special syrup and a mango puree. However, if you really want to impress guests, it is totally worth it! And heck, you can skip the special salt if need be to get this sucker done.

  • Basil Salt (see below) or coarse kosher salt
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 3 oz. 100 percent blue agave blanco tequila
  • 1-1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • 2 oz mango (or peach) puree (see notes below)
  • 1-1/2 oz basil syrup (see below)
  • 6-10 ice cubes

The Basil Sugar

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 7-8 basil leaves, roughly chopped

Measure the sugar and 1/2 cup water into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Add the basil and bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. cool and strain. Syrup keeps for several weeks in the fridge if tightly covered, and the leftovers can be drizzled over roasted fruit like peaches.

The Basil Salt

  • 10 sprigs or about 70 leaves of basil
  • 3/4 cup coarse (kosher) salt

Pull the basil leaves from the stems to get 2 loosely packed cups of leaves. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the leaves out on it in a single layer. Heat your oven to its lowest setting, then slide in the basil and heat it  until the leaves are dry, about 30 minutes. Cool. Using a small food processor, an electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, coarsely pulverize the dried basil to make about 2 tablespoons, then stir into the coarse salt.

Mango (or peach) Puree

Take 2 small, ripe mangoes or 3-4 ripe peaches, peel, remove the flesh from the pits, then roughly chop into 1-inch pieces to make about 2 cups. Scoop the fruit into a food processor or blender, add about 2 tablespoons sugar, cover and process until completely smooth. You can put this in the fridge for up to three days if tightly covered.

Ok, now for the drink itself! Enough prep already!

Spread the basil salt on a small plate. Moisten the rim of a martini glass with the lime wedge and upend the glass onto the mixture to crust the rim. In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the basil leaves with a wooden spoon or cocktail muddler until roughly mashed. Add the tequila, lime juice, triple sec, puree, basil syrup and ice. Cover and shake vigorously until frothy and cold. Tiny ice crystals will appear in the drink after about 15 seconds of shaking. Strain into the salt-crusted martini glass and serve immediately.

This is a bartender recipe to make one large or two small drinks at a time. Rick has a pitcher recipe in his book, too. I entourage you to buy the book, “Fronterra,” as it is chock-full of fantastic treats.

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Grilled Pizza with Petit Jean Ham

ARKANSAS VS. SAMFORD

The finished pizza on the grill with Petit Jean ham, cheese and purple onions

The finished pizza on the grill with Petit Jean ham, cheese and purple onions

Well, this team is real, and you know it now. The O-line is bringing it, we have two running-back studs and the coaching staff not only knows how to get a team ready for action, but can actually make defensive adjustments on the fly. I see at least some kind of bowl game in our future, and is it too much to ask that it be in nearby Memphis?

Arkansas fullback Kiero Small pushes ...

(The photo above was taken by Michael Woods from NWA Online as Kiero Small powered his way into the end zone against Louisiana. Yeah!)

Meanwhile, it’s time to get focused on a complete team effort against Samford, giving us a chance to get some reps for our backup quarterback. And it is also time to make something cool for the amazing tailgate scene at War Memorial Stadium. I say, let’s grill some pizza.

I love every kind of pizza, but there’s something magical about a crisp, thin-crust pie that can stand up to meaty, substantial toppings. If you want your pizza thin and crispy, you need really hot temperatures. And what better to deliver the heat — and the bonus of smoky flavor — than the backyard grill? Grill it at home, or grill it at the game, but please try this recipe. Stay on your toes while the dough is cooking and you will be really pleased with your effort.

Grilled pizza is something you might think is too hard to pull off, but it is truly too good to pass over, especially when you smother it with the smoky and sweet toppings we are putting on our pizzas this week. And what else would you cook a pizza on while tailgating?

I have had a lifelong love affair with Petit Jean ham, made right here in Arkansas, and I am convinced that it is the finest ham in the U.S.  Smoky, salty and simply perfect, Petit Jean might be the best food product made in the state, with small apologies to Diamond Bear beer. Knowing that our pizza would have smoky flavors from the grill, I certainly wanted it to feature Petit Jean ham. A note to the Petit Jean people: Send me a t-shirt; I will wear it proudly.

From there, we created two different variations: the first, a classic Hawaiian with pineapple and ham, and the other a mix of the ham and purple onions. But for a twist, both pizzas would be held together by a creamy-tart blend of three cheeses: mozzarella, sharp cheddar and a little blue. In fact, we used the small amount of blue cheese left over from those amazing blue-cheese burgers of the Gods I developed a couple of blogs ago. Leave out the blue, if you like. A substitute might be parmesan reggiano or pecorino romano.

First and Ten: Grilled Pizza with Petit Jean Ham

  • Two cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup luke-warm water
  • Package of sliced Petit Jean ham
  • A small amount of pizza or spaghetti sauce (canned or homemade — no more than half of a jar — avoid Italian spices like oregano and basil for this pizza. I just whipped up a sauce with diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, pepper and olive oil because that is what we had)
  • 1/4 purple onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • A blend of shredded or crumbled cheeses. I used 2 parts mozzarella, 2 parts sharp cheddar, and 1 part or less of blue cheese (or another super-sharp cheese — just see what you have in the fridge and adjust to taste.)
  • 1 can of sliced pineapple, drained. Or, get fancy and buy a fresh pineapple.

Cheddar and smoked ham are fantastic together, as all of you know. If the cheese is smoked, all the better. Really, you can put whatever you like on this pizza, but I chose to base my pizza around great ham, and simply took it from there.

The most important thing about grilled pizza is the crust. It has to be thin, and you have to work fast. Here is what you do:

Stir the yeast into the luke-warm water with a whisk until it looks cloudy. Then stir in the salt and the flour. It will stiffen up pretty quickly. When combined, turn out the dough ball, which will be sort of sticky, onto a surface along with any of the extra flour from the bowl. Knead for about 5 minutes, adding a tablespoon of flour at a time until it feels springy and does not stick very much.

Now, cover the dough ball with the bowl you mixed it in and let it sit a spell. You don’t have to let this rise, but if you do, you can give it about 1.5 hours. If it ends up going longer than that, punch the dough once and let it deflate a little before you roll it out.

Now, split the dough ball with a scraper or a sharp knife. Lightly flour a sheet of parchment paper on the counter and put one of the dough pieces on top, then roll the dough out thin until it is around 10-13 inches across in something that resembles a circle. Lay the rolled-out dough on a baking sheet using the parchment paper to pick it up. Repeat with the other side of the dough and put it on a separate cookie sheet.

(Note, I created this pizza from whole cloth, but the crust recipe I found at http://www.thekitchn.com and yes, you leave out the e. Great job, kitchn.com people.)

Light your grill and get it hot. You are going to need long-handled grill tools this time because you will be working over the flame a lot.

The dough hits the grill

The dough hits the grill

Brush the dough with olive oil on one side. Now, I suggest being conservative with your grill heat. If you think it is pretty hot, shove all the coals over to one edge or put them in a ring around the outside and grill this crust over indirect heat on the side away from the coals. This way, you can always take the grill grate off, safely, and spread the coals out if it does not seem to be cooking fast enough.

First, before the dough, grill the pineapple on both sides until it gets brown grill lines on it, and remove.

Use the parchment paper to carry the crust and to carefully flip it onto the grill. As the crust bubbles up, you can pop those bubbles with the edge of the grill tool, Ideally, you cook the crust on one side for 3 minutes. As soon as you put it on that first side, brush the other side with oil. but don’t want three minutes to flip it if  the bottom of the crust is starting to char. Go ahead and flip.

Hawaiian pizza

Hawaiian pizza

After the flip, you have to work quickly. Spread a few tablespoons of the sauce over the crust while it is cooking, then sprinkle most of the cheese over, then half of the ham, then either the onions of the pineapple or both, then the rest of the cheese over the top. Ideally, the pizza should be on there for about five minutes after the flip with the toppings on and the grill cover on to create an oven that will melt the cheese. If the grill is too hot, though, don’t leave the crust on that long. If need be, take it off and adjust the coals. Just don’t burn the crust. Stay alive, stay on your toes, and move fast.

How about this?Take that pizza off when the bottom of the crust is right and the cheese is melted on top. Then slap the other crust on the grill and start over, with the rest of the ham and the cheese and the toppings. Kitchen tongs are your friend on this project, as are baking sheets you can slide the cooked pizzas onto.

Or this?

And finally, when you try this, whether at the game or at home, please take a picture and send it to me. There are few things as as attractive as a grilled pizza. Peace.

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Razorgumbo’s State of the Hog Union Poll

Okay, Razorback Nation, let us know how you are feeling about the team. And comments are also welcome!

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Dry-Rub Ribs with Watermelon Pickles and Uptown Cole Slaw

Sometimes it is more powerful to see the aftereffect.

Sometimes it is more powerful to see the aftereffect.

 

ARKANSAS VS. LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

For articles from the 2012-13 season, go to http://www.razorgumbo.blogspot.com

Few meals are as perfect for football parties as ribs, especially when prepped with a Memphis-style spice rub. Dry rubbin’ creates more flavor in the tender baby-back ribs  and presents fewer hazards to the white parts of your Hog shirt. 

Start smoking the day before you head up to Fayetteville for the U-La-La game, and when you pull these babies out of the trunk and ice down some beer, your Baggo game will be the most popular on the Hill. Or, perhaps better yet, enjoy the ribs in your living room with 15 other fans and let everyone else get the sunburn.

Razorback fans would love Memphis even more than they do if it weren’t for the nasty little drive it takes to get there. But on the other end of that trip — a journey to hell strewn with flooded bridges, froggy farmlands, sleepy truckers and homicidal crop dusters — is the land of the Liberty Bowl (hey, don’t knock it) and of dry-rub ribs.

The first place I ever tasted dry-rub was at Memphis’ famed Rendezvous. My last meal there wasn’t even that great, but no matter — Rendezvous remained the epicenter of dry-rubbery, at least until I finally made the vaunted ribs for myself, on my own Weber Silver One-Touch. Yes, I made smoky, tender dry-rub ribs on a simple charcoal grill. Man card punched.

Ribs usually come with sauce, or at least you are invited to dunk them in same. But no sauce is needed with dry rub, since the meat is dry-marinated for two hours in a thick rub of spices, led by the all-important paprika. You can do this, and I am the proof. All you need is the simple grill, charcoal,  three disposable aluminum lasagna pans. And, of course, the driest and tastiest of rubs.

First and Ten: Dry-Rub RazorRibs

The innocent ribs, which await our wisdom.

The innocent ribs, which await our wisdom.

  • Two racks of baby-back ribs (At Kroger, they are vacuum packed with the membrane removed.)
  • A six pack of ale, preferably something with a fruity flavor. I choose Redd’s Apple Ale.
  • Package of aluminum lasagna pans.
The ribs, having lost their innocence forever.

The ribs, having lost their innocence forever.

The rub recipe below is approximate. I started out with a recipe from The Joy of Cooking and made a lot of substitutions based on the things that were actually in my pantry, so feel free to improvise. The non-negotiable items are brown sugar, paprika, black pepper and salt:

RazorRub

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup paprika (I used smoked paprika because you can’t get enough smoke in this life)
  • 1/4 cup ancho chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground red pepper or cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup cracked black peppercorn
  • 1 chipotle bouillon cube, crumbled (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or a leafy dried Greek seasoning mix

If you aren’t into spicy, cut back on the red pepper or leave it out completely, and also cut back on the cracked peppercorn.

Whisk all the dry ingredients together into a bright red rub, then coat both of the racks well until every little crack is filled, but reserve a quarter cup or more of the dry rub to sprinkle over the finished product before it is eaten. A note about Paprika: long ago, it was used to dye clothes. So do not wear your favorite white apron while preparing  or eating the dry rub. Wearing Razorback red would be a better idea.

Cover the marinated ribs on a casserole dish or baking sheet and let sit in the fridge for about two hours. Not too much more, unless you want the pork to start to take on a cured-bacon effect. Meanwhile, soak some wood chips — I used applewood — in water to get them ready for smoking.

The pans keep the coals to one side and catch the drippings.

The pans keep the coals to one side and catch the drippings.

Before you take the ribs out of the fridge, light a charcoal chimney full of coals, and when they ash up, dump them out on only one side of the lower charcoal grate. Place a disposable aluminum lasagna pan on the other side of the grill bottom, basically holding the coals to one side. This becomes the drip pan. Now, sprinkle some wood chips over the hot coals.

The water pan provides steam.

The water pan provides steam.

Then, take another aluminum pan, fill it mostly with water, and place it directly over the hot coals and wood chips.  This will provide the steam needed to tenderize the pork. Finally, place the rib racks, meat side down, initially, onto the empty part of the grill to the side of the water tray.

The rubbed ribs go on the grill after two hours with the dry marinade.

The rubbed ribs go on the grill after two hours with the dry marinade.

Put some of the ale into a cup and use a basting brush to brush the side of the ribs that is up. Now cook the ribs over indirect heat — repeat, do not put the ribs directly over the coals — for 30 minutes, covered. Then flip and rotate the position of the ribs, baste with the ale, and repeat every 30 minutes. Make sure you are rotating the racks so the same one isn’t always right next to the fire. You are going to continue this pattern for three hours. If you have set up the right amount of coals and things are configured well, the coals will be just hot enough to barely boil the water in the pan. You can put some of the wood chip water in there for flavor, as well as some of the ale.

The apple ale, wood chips and dry rub

The apple ale, wood chips and dry rub

About half-way through the three hours, you will probably need to put new coals on. Give a new set of coals 20 minutes to light in your chimney, then carefully remove the water pan, pull off the grill and set it on something that can’t burn (I used the top of my smoker), dump the new coals down there and replace everything.

After three hours, wrap the ribs in heavy-duty foil and put them back on the grill for one hour still on indirect heat. When you come back to check on them, put a pot holder on your hand and lift the ribs in the center. If they are mostly done, they will easily bend. Open up the foil and you will know if they are ready.

The whole process takes 4-5 hours, depending on how hot your coals are. When you dump the new coals on, things will heat up some, so be aware of that.  Bring the finished ribs inside in the foil and if you feel like they need a little more time to cook, just leave them sealed up in the foil for awhile.

When you are ready to serve, sprinkle them with some of that lovely dry-rub for that Memphis look. Serve with the watermelon pickles and cole slaw. This meal easily feeds four adults.

The full meal. Boo yah.

The full meal. Boo yah.

Sideline Route: Martha’s Watermelon Pickles

This recipe is straight out of Martha Stewart Living. I don’t know what she knows about football, but this woman knows how to cook.

Here are the watermelon pickles of love.

Here are the watermelon pickles of love.

  • 1 pound watermelon rind (from a 3-pound piece watermelon)
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice

Using a vegetable peeler, peel outer skin and tough green layer from watermelon rind; use a knife if your peeler isn’t up for the job. Cut the rind into 2-by- 1/2-inch strips.
In a medium saucepan, combine 5 cups water with 3 tablespoons salt; bring to a boil. Add rind. Cook at a rapid simmer over medium-high until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, and transfer rinds to a heatproof bowl (reserve saucepan).
In reserved saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, pickling spice, remaining teaspoon salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt; pour hot liquid into bowl with rind. Use a small plate to submerge rind into liquid. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container; cover and refrigerate in liquid at least 2 hours and up to 2 weeks.

Extra Point: Uptown Cole Slaw

While we are using Martha’s pickles, why not go for her slaw, as well? The key here is the sour cream. Also, the dry-rub touch is mine — lends it a manly aftertaste.

Mmm creamy tart cole slaw.

Mmm creamy tart cole slaw.

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 small green cabbage, (about 1 3/4 pounds), finely shredded
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks or coarsely grated
  • 1 small onion, coarsely grated (optional–I did not include it)

Whisk together mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, mayonnaise, and sour cream in a small bowl. Refrigerate dressing, covered, until ready to use, or up to 2 days.

Put cabbage, carrots, and onion (if desired) in a large bowl. Pour in dressing, and toss thoroughly. Refrigerate, covered, until slaw begins to soften, 1 to 2 hours. If not using immediately, refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days. Just before serving, toss coleslaw again. Sprinkle it with a little dry rub right before serving. Note: This recipe is just right for one pre-shredded bag of cole slaw mix from the grocery store.

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Pre-Season Variety Pack: Killer No-Veeta Cheese Dip, Honeysuckle Melon Cocktails and Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

A no-Veeta dip for the ages

A no-Veeta dip for the ages

For articles from the 2012-13 season, go to http://www.razorgumbo.blogspot.com

This week’s pre-season party starts with a flavorful, authentic cheese dip that doesn’t include any processed cheese food in the pot. I like a good veeta dip as much as the next guy, but for you, I wanted to make something without synthetics. I also wanted a deeper flavor profile and a chance to use some of my garden-raised produce in the recipe.

Little Rock is the epicenter of cheese dip culture in the South, and I’m a little sad that the World Cheese Dip Championship has decided to take a year off this fall to regroup. So I offer up this recipe to keep your Sterno burning for another year until the championship resumes.

Honeysuckle goodnessNext, we have a truly original summer cocktail that caught my attention a few weeks ago on a food site’s twitter feed: a Honeysuckle Melon libation featuring Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka from Mississippi. Honeysuckle vodka? A thousand times, yes.

Finally, we offer a touch of Thanksgiving with a chocolate-bourbon pecan pie bar that will be nice to throw into the Tupperware and take to October/November Fayetteville games, or maybe even to please your Ole Miss Friends at the Grove in Oxford.

Killer No-veeta Cheese Dip

See how this queso drips and stretches?

See how this queso drips and stretches?

I like this queso because it involves a white sauce or instant roux. The recipe calls for Longhorn cheese — yes,  I hate Longhorns, too. But this is actually an American variety of Colby and it isn’t BURNT orange. It might be hard to find Longhorn, which comes in a wheel shape, at your grocery store, so we decided to use a shredded Colby Jack mix and it turned out great. Colby and Monterey Jack are both good melting cheeses, but don’t use cheddar for this, as it has strange melting properties.

The real key to this recipe is to keep the temperature low while incorporating the cheese and to add it only 1/4 cup at a time. Don’t put any more cheese in until the last pinch is completely incorporated. Just when it starts to look a little too thick, the sour cream helps to liquify the dip enough to get it on a chip.

Now stay with me for a moment, but you owe it to yourself to try this over apple wedges with some chips on the side just to say you had them. Cut some apples into chunks that you can pick up easily, and then drizzle the dip over the top. As it cools, the queso maintains a great texture and doesn’t go all gelatinous like the fake stuff. The textured blend of the cheeses, along with the slight graininess from the insta-roux, make this really tasty over tart-sweet apples.

  • 1/2 onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced (don’t combine it with the onions and peppers yet)
  • 3 Serrano peppers, diced
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, diced (you can vary the types of peppers and adjust for missing heat with the spices at the bottom of this list, or with some hot sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 6 cups of shredded cheese, using any combination of Longhorn and Monterrey Jack (or just Colby Jack mix)
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • 2 plum tomatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • Salt, ancho chili powder or Chipotle bouillon cube (crumbled) to taste
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat (just edge the heat up until a piece of onion stars to sizzle in the butter) then add the onions and peppers and cook for about five minutes or until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Whisk the flour into the butter, vegetable mix and cook for about 30 seconds.

    The milk goes in to create the white sauce

    The milk goes in to create the white sauce

  4. Add the milk to the pot, and cook on medium, whisking constantly until sauce is thick, about five minutes. Now, stir in the cilantro and tomatoes.
  5. Turn the heat down to low, and a 1/4-cup at a time, slowly add the shredded cheese stirring into the white sauce until completely melted. Repeat.
  6. Stir in the sour cream.
  7. Add salt, ancho chili powder and/or chipotle bouillon cube (crumbled) to taste. I really like ancho as it has a mild flavor and a nice dark color that adds interest to the dip. If you like the smoky chipotle flavor, crumble one of those cubes in there when all the cheese is melted and mix in, then check flavor and adjust with the other spices.

    Add the cheese slowly, a 1/4 cup at a time, at low heat.

    Add the cheese slowly, a 1/4 cup at a time, at low heat.

The dish serves four. When reheating it, don’t use the microwave. Instead, just put the dip in a small pan on medium low heat and stir til it is somewhat liquified again. It would work just as well to reheat it with a can of Sterno.
I owe thanks to a Texan for this recipe. So thank you, homesicktexan.com, for doing the research that took a lot of the work out of this for me. I added a few things such as ancho powder and chipotle bouillon, and I switched the peppers to the ones I had.

Honeysuckle Melon Cocktails

Ingredients for the Honeysuckle Watermelon cocktail

Ingredients for the Honeysuckle Watermelon cocktail

This recipe comes straight from Southern Living  (July 2012) and it was the best of a bunch of new drink ideas I found featuring the new Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka. Run an internet search and you will find some great recipes on Pinterest for this product.

The chilled watermelon juice in this recipe provides instant relief from summer when combined with the honeysuckle hooch. The soda just smooths everything out and gives it a punch-like quality. The only thing missing from this drink is liquid firefly to make it pulse with light in the dark. Um, someone get on that. Make an extra pitcher for the kids without the vodka and they will probably be very pleased with the unique flavor.

You can find Cathead vodka at Colonial Wine and Spirits in Little Rock, my favorite liquor store. I’m sure they have it somewhere else, as well, but that place has everything and really fast service.

One final note: I stuck my bottle of Cathead in the freezer to chill so I could try it neat, and I must say that I’ve never tasted a vodka so silky.

  • 8 cups seeded and cubed watermelon
  • 1 cup Cathead honeysuckle vodka
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 2 cups lemon-lime soda
  • Garnishes: lime slices, diced watermelon, fresh mint leaves
Finished drink

Finished drink

Process the watermelon in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large pitcher, using back of a spoon to squeeze out juice; discard solids.

Squeeze four or five limes to make the juice, then slice one lime and throw those slices into the pitcher for an interesting color contract. Stir vodka, lime juice and sugar into the watermelon juice.

Add ice and top with the soft drink, then stir gently. Serve immediately into Mason jars, please, garnished in the glass with a generous sprig of mint. This drink is the perfect match for those early-season sunburn games.

Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

bourbon pecan barsI love bars — the weight of them, their moisture, the fact that they are square. I reviewed a bunch of recipes to satisfy my craving for pecan pie bars, but the best one comes from Deep South Dish.  http://deepsouthdish.com What really caught my eye about the recipe was the fact that cocoa powder was included in the crust, along with a second layer of chocolate that is incorporated into the bars with melted chocolate chips. The topper, for me, was  the touch of cayenne included with the buttered pecans.  I took a sample tray of these to the office and they were devoured.

For the Roasted Pecans:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter
  • Pinch of Cayenne or Cajun seasoning
  • 1 cup of pecan halves
  • 1 cup of pecan pieces
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher or coarse sea salt

For the Crust:

  • 1-3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup of powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup of cold butter or vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the Bars:

  • 3/4 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375 to roast the pecans.  Melt the butter and add in the tiny pinch of Cayenne or Cajun seasoning. Toss the pecans with the melted pepper-butter and roast on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven for about 10 to 13 minutes, stirring once or twice until fragrant. Remove, sprinkle with salt, toss and transfer to paper towels to cool. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, leaving excess hanging over on the ends for handles; butter the foil and set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 350. For the crust, whisk together the flour, cocoa and powdered sugar, and cut in the cold butter or shortening until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Press into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and slightly up the sides. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, remove and immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Let rest a few minutes, then use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly on the crust. Set aside to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Once the crust has cooled, heat the oven to 350 again. Make sure you have allowed your butter to get soft. Not melted — soft.  For the filling, whisk together the brown sugar and flour. Using a wooden spoon, very gently  stir in the eggs, corn syrup, vanilla, bourbon and butter. If you haven’t let the butter soften adequately it will not incorporate into the batter properly. Stir in the roasted pecans. Just like pecan pie, stick with hand mixing and don’t over-mix the filling or it will be runny.  Pour into the cooled crust. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Let cool completely on a rack, about 1 hour, until you can hold the pan in the palm of your hand. Don’t try to shortcut the cooling process – you really need it to let the filling set well before cutting into bars. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to chill for another hour, then use the aluminum foil to lift out of the baking pan and let the finished product rest at room temperature until pliable enough to cut into bars.

Cut these into squares and store them in a covered container in the refrigerator, layered with wax paper to separate the bars, and bring them to room temperature before serving. These bars freeze well, and they will be perfect for game-day guests if you set them out overnight to thaw.

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Tailgating Fall Camp: Bacon-Blue-Cheese Burgers of the Gods on Perfectly Bronzed Buns with Man-Child Ketchup and Fig Jam

Please try a huge dollop of fig jam on top, too. Trust me.

Finished burger with blue cheese, man-child ketchup, Petit Jean Bacon and a slice of Rainbow heirloom tomato

For articles from the 2012-13 season, go to http://www.razorgumbo.blogspot.com

Razorback fans, we await the dawning of Bielemania. If you are like me, you have salivated over the running skills of Alex Collins and sharpened your indoor Baggo skills as others enjoyed their bowl games. You’ve pondered, in a dream state, if Randy Shannon can work Miami miracles with an undersized corps of linebackers.

Well, it’s fall camp time, both for the players and those crazies, like me, who launch our fan-hood weeks before the season, poring over football publications and planning what we are going to eat for the big game. For your patience and loyalty, Razorback fans, I will now reward you with a tailgate recipe for the ages: Gourmet Burgers of the Gods.

Make no mistake: Razorgumbo is back in a big way. We’re getting our ground game rolling with two pre-season articles designed to get you dreaming about your game day grub well before the season opener against a scary-tough Louisiana-Lafayette.

Razorback Head Coach Bret Bielema

Razorback Head Coach Bret Bielema

After a year of posts read mostly by the author’s Facebook friends and a smattering of international foodies, Razorgumbo is going big this year with a new site, sporty logo and some great support and exposure from local sports journalists.

Let’s Eat

Everyone loves a juicy charcoal-grilled burger. Follow my guidance and you will be adored by fellow tailgaters, whether then are in your living room, on your back deck or together with you braving the heat of the August/September home games. The keys to this burger are the homemade buns, which will remind you of the ones at gourmet restaurants; aromatic Gorgonzola cheese; and, surprise, a little pot of fig jam.

A little pot of wonderfulness

A little pot of wonderfulness

Figs? Work with me. During a waking dream, I had an epiphany about the combination of grilled beef, blue cheese and sweet fig spread. This was one dream that turned out to be real.

I have two fig trees in my back yard but they it is not quite time for harvestt.

I have two fig trees in my back yard but it is not quite time for harvest.

To put things in motion, let me say that a great burger deserves an incredible, sturdy, bronzed bun that can stand up to the rigors of the beef slabs and epic condiments we are going to layer on there.  After much research and experimentation, this is the most amazing recipe I could find.

Perfectly bronzed buns

Try these incredible buns instead of using the flimsy store-bought types.

Perfectly Bronzed Buns

Buzzkill: You are going to need 2-4 hours to let these buns rise, so they come first, before you touch the meat. Go soften your butter now. I suggest making two or three batches of buns one day ahead of the game and freezing the extra. Then your focus on game day can be on preparing and cooking the meat, dip and dessert, and desparing over Erin Andrews’ absence from College Gameday. Store-bought buns just don’t cut it with huge, juicy hunks of meat.

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 2 teaspoons (or one small package) active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour (a special flour with more gluten)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I used sea salt)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Sesame seeds  (your choice)

Is your butter soft? Okay now…

“Proof” the yeast by combining in a glass measuring cup one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Just let this sit until it gets a little foamy, or for about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk the two types of flour with the salt. Add the butter and rub into the flour between your fingers, making crumbs that are evenly distributed. Using a dough scraper, (see picture below for a small one or get a big rubber or wooden spatula) stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape the dough onto a clean, well-floured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The slapping is important.

Scraping the dough together

Scraping the dough together

Let the dough remain just a little tacky, because if you add too much flour to dry it, the buns will be tougher when they are baked.

slapping the dough

Slapping the dough

Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about one to two hours.

Now line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide the dough into eight equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. (This is important — I didn’t do this the first time and the buns ran together, forming baking ridges.) Cover the buns in the baking dish with a piece of plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Let the buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.

In a cold oven, set a large shallow pan (like another baking dish or the bottom of a broiler pan) on the oven floor, and pour water into it. Now preheat the oven to 400 degrees with set another rack in the center. Then beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. if you like, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake these buns on the center rack, above the pan of water, turning the sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times by way of Comme Ca restaurant in Los Angeles, and also through another nice food blog called parsleysagesweet.com. It makes eight 4-inch to 5-inch burger buns, and I appreciate everyone who aided in its  development.

Man-Child Ketchup

Man-child ketchup

Man-Child ketchup

If you’re going to put this much work into a tailgate burger, why not make your own signature sauce?

  • 1  7-oz. jar of roasted red peppers, strained
  • 1 cup store-bought ketchup
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (It must be smoked!!! This is the flavor key!!)
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, and you better use Tabasco

Add the red peppers and ketchup to a food processor and puree until smooth. Add the mustard, horseradish, paprika, garlic powder, pepper, and hot sauce and blend until well combined. Using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small bowl and serve. FYI, if you take the leftovers of this sauce and combine it with some brown sugar, you have the makings of a fantastic sauce to go over top of a meatloaf. We did it.

I borrowed this recipe directly from http://www.foodrepublic.com, where it is called “grown-up ketchup.”

Burgers of the Gods

Alt Burger shot

  • 2 pounds freshly ground chuck
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Start with freshly ground, nicely red, coarse-ground chuck like the type they have in bulk at the butcher counter. Don’t get the beef that is hidden by plastic.

Keep the meat cold, and feel free to wet your hands with cold water. In a large bowl, mix the beef, salt, pepper and onion powder until barely combined. Try to massage the meat as little as possible during the process or you will end up with hard, dry burgers.

Split the meat into six portions and make patties of uniform thickness without pressing very hard. Smooth out any cracks in the burger.  Make your patties and refrigerate them, covered with plastic, until right before you cook them.

There are many ways to make burgers, but in general, don’t put a lot of wacky stuff in the meat itself. Instead, simply put the decorations on top. Cheeses and chunky stuff within the burger can just make it harder to stay together. The only things you need to put into the meat itself are the dry spices.

Pre-heat the grill to a very hot temperature. I recommend a charcoal chimney to get your charcoal perfectly and evenly lit. You can get these metal cylinders with a wooden handle on the side at your local sporting goods stores, or at retailers like Wal-Mart. Right before cooking, use a basting brush to lightly coat the side of the meat that will be next to the flame with melted butter, olive oil, or a blend of the two. That will actually help keep it from sticking to the grill and improve the flavor profile.

When the burgers hit the grill, cover them with the grill lid.

Resist the urge to press the burger at all during cooking. Pressing is for amateurs. All you are doing is releasing those delicious juices onto the flames and making the burger harder.

Cook the burgers on one side for about two minutes. They are ready to flip when it is easy to get the metal spatula under them, because the crust under the burger has separated from the grill. Until that moment, they will try to stick. when they are cooked just right on the first side they will scoop right up.

Gorgonzola: Slice it cold, please, and place it on the burger right after it is flipped.

Gorgonzola: Slice it cold, please, and place it on the burger right after it is flipped.

When you flip the burgers, give them a quarter turn if you want that beautiful grill pattern.  If you are using cheese, add it on top now. I recommend Gorgonzola blue cheese, as its strong, sharp flavor is a perfect match for beef. The burgers will need another 2-3 minutes on the second side, but you can be sure about it by making sure the meat registers 160 degrees with a meat thermometer in the center of the burger. There is no shame in checking.

Rest the burger for several minutes when it is done. Meanwhile, brush the inside of the homemade buns with butter and grill them over the flame, being careful not to let them burn. The grilled texture on the bun is vital, both for flavor and for preventing the bread from becoming soggy.

Now put that big, fat burger on the already grilled bun and add the man-child ketchup, lettuce, some nicely smoked bacon like Petit Jean Or Wright’s, a slice of an amazing tomato if you have one, and, finally, a big dollop of fig jam or spread. You can get the fig spread at the deli of your grocery store.

Pump up the jam. The fig jam.

Pump up the jam. The fig jam.

I paired these Burgers of the Gods with a six-pack of Rolling Rock beer. (Remember when they used to advertise that they used Arkansas rice?) For my money, I would think about complementing these burgers with the the beer-battered onion rings we wrote about last season. These onion rings will stay crispy in the fridge for two or three days, and you can put them in a bag to transport to the game.

Shut-The-Front-Door Onion Rings

DSCN0699

  • A couple of purple onions
  • 1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups cold beer
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Vegetable oil or shortening (We used Crisco and it was unbelievable)

Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, Greek seasoning, salt, and black pepper; stir well. Add 2 cups cold beer and egg, stirring until thoroughly blended and smooth. Pour oil to a depth of 2 to 3 inches into a Dutch oven; heat to 375°. Or, use a professional fryer like the one my wife gave me for Christmas. It’s even better!

Slice onions a half-inch to an inch thick, dip into batter and shake off excess. Fry the onions in batches until golden. You will know when the time comes. Drain on paper towels. You have never had an onion ring this crunchy and perfect in your life.

If you really want to get ridiculous with it, put one of the onion rings on the burger and put those wonderful condiments and bacon on top, smush that burger down and get ready to enter Hog Heaven. See you next week.

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