Category Archives: Food

Best. Cornbread. Ever.

I have to admit that I don’t eat cornbread very often. I like it alright, but I think the sensation of having sand in your bread is a bit off-putting.

There are basically two types of cornbread: sweet cornbread and not sweet cornbread. I mistakenly thought southerners like sweet cornbread. I guess I shouldn’t make assumptions based on a southern friend who always shared his sweet cornbread with me at work.

I had a catering event yesterday and made a nice batch of cornbread. As a matter of fact, I was so enamored by it, I had to continually share my experience.

The caterees also shared their experiences. They likened the cornbread to cake and claim they thought they had two desserts. Claim #1: cake is good. Cakey cornbread is great. Claim #2: are two desserts such a bad thing? Of course not.

I perused many recipes and finally found one that I wanted to adapt.

1/2 cup corn meal
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar (I reduced the sugar. I can’t stand hyper sweet)
1 1/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (buttermilk rocks for baking)
1 tablespoon cinnamon (trust me)

The directions are all the same in the original recipe except after the cornbread comes out of the oven.

This is when you grab a stick of butter and slather it over the top. There is nothing more satisfying. You don’t melt the whole stick, just enough to butter the top.

Finally, lightly dust the cornbread with cinnamon. It really makes it come alive. I know it may sound unconventional, but I’m sure you will enjoy it.

I now know that southerners should like sweet, cakey cornbread. And unsweetened iced tea.

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BBQ Chronicles: Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q–Tyler, TX

Every five years, Texas Monthly publishes their Top 50 BBQ joints in Texas. The last list was released about a year ago and I decided that I needed to visit all 50 joints before the new list is released. Good thing I don’t live in Delaware. That would be a lot of miles.

I think the search for the best BBQ feeds an innate need for accomplishment. I hate sports. Bass fishing has too much action. All that casting tires me out.

I like fishing, but I enjoy the type where you go to the lake, cast out without a hook, and take a nap. If you make the mistake by putting a hook on your line, some fish may interrupt your slumber. I also have a short attention span and thinking about fishing can interrupt blissful thoughts of eating tender barbecue.

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I’ve been to seven or eight joints on the list, and most have proven to be solid BBQ joints. Among my favorites (so far) happens to be only about ninety minutes from home.

Now, before we discuss some serious BBQ, I should let you know that I’m not a shill for this restaurant or any other establishment I may have discussed. I’m a hack. Big time hack. I’m so hackneyed that a college professor called me a hack. That professor was the Dean of the a humanities department. That makes me hack du jour. As far as I can tell, hacks do not receive promotional consideration. If I’m wrong about that, I need to get some free andouille and alligator meat.

Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue in Tyler, TX is well worth the drive. I haven’t been to any joint in Texas in the past few months because Dave Ramsey says we can’t afford it. If I don’t get any ‘cue soon I’m gonna have to tell Dave to shove it.

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Stanley’s had some incredible ribs even though the meat pulled away from the bone a little to readily. The fatty brisket was a treat. I had only recently learned that fatty brisket was a delicacy when I stopped by Black’s in Lockhart, TX. Now, if you are looking for beef ribs with a two pound clod of meat hanging from the end of it…oh, did I mention the beans? Stanley’s beans had a distinct black pepper flavor that set them apart from other establishments’ beans. They were certainly travel worthy.

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I also really enjoyed the mustard potato salad. The tanginess helped transition the palate much like ginger does when you eat sushi. I think it has similar health benefits as well.

There you have it. If you’re within three hours, I would say it is worth the drive much like Hutchins BBQ in McKinney, TX is worth a four four drive. I have considered that I am biased, but I decided that I am not.

The Brownies I Can’t Forget

There was a time where I had an incredible memory. I knew everything there was to know, or so I thought. The most vivid memories revolved around food. For the past three years or so, I have documented my life with food pictures. Most of my pictures are of my kitchen creations, but there’s also a smattering of other memorable meals.

These past three years it seems that my life memories are disappearing. I’m forgetting even the context of food pictures. Who made it, how it tasted, where it was eaten seems to be slipping. I’ve decided that I need to capture the context before these food memories disappear altogether.

This house is missing the ground floor.

January 2012–I headed to Trussville, AL to volunteer with Mercy Chefs to feed hot meals to the tornado victims. When I arrived, it was determined that Mercy Chefs wasn’t needed as Samaritan’s Purse had the situation under control.

I just drove nine hours from Shreveport . I wasn’t going to turn back so I was allowed to volunteer in the kitchen as a Samaritan’s Purse volunteer.

We provided most meals but some meals were served by local organizations. Grace’s Kitchen served up some delicious meals a couple of times during the two weeks I was there.

This trip is beginning to get fuzzy already, but I don’t think I could ever forget the cappuccino brownies.

I remember them vividly. I was sitting at a long table with maybe thirty volunteers, most of whom I had never met. I sat across from this guy that moderately resembled Harrison Ford. He was telling me that he was an electrician and he traveled and volunteered his time.

Maybe he was a plumber, I can’t say I wasn’t really paying attention. Something about being a former alcoholic and whatever else he was saying about carpentry or Hungarian ice wrestling. I was too busy thinking about these brownies to pay him much mind. I’m surprised he didn’t mention my glazed eyes.

These cappuccino brownies floored me. I knew I had to have them again. Fortunately for me, they posted the recipe on their website. I don’t even have to suffer through a conversation with some Blade Runner wannabe.

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My friend, Josh, shot the picture of the brownies. I was able to pay him in brownies.

Busted

I don’t bake much, but when I do I love licking the beaters, spoons, bowl, whatever. If there is cake batter it needs to be licked.

I have three daughters, so I usually usually just let them have all the paraphenalia because sharing is the right thing to do.

Some time ago, I was working on a cake when all the girls were playing in their rooms. I got the cake in the oven and I went straight for the bowl. Have you ever eaten something where you just can’t stop?

I believe it was a peanut butter cake. Who can resist? In my weakness, I greedily wiped on the bowl’s interior with my whole hand. Batter covered my face like an infant eating strained peas. I’m certain I had batter in my eyebrows.

Then I was caught. All three girls bound for the kitchen and I attempt to gain composure. I couldn’t even make up a story as my face gave me away. I surrendered my cake batter cornucopia to those girls with the sunshiny faces. I’d be smiling too if I still had that bowl.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Sadly, it wasn’t the virtue of sharing. I learned to bake while the kids are in school.

The Real Pickle–Shreveport, LA

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They bring a small bowl of these guys to you as you look over the menu.

Since Dave Ramsey took over our home two and a half years ago, we haven’t had many opportunities to go enjoy a meal.  Today was different because I was only with my fourteen year old daughter, Alli, so it wasn’t too hard on my pocketbook.

I try to frequent local places because franchises sometimes seem really stale, unless of course you are talking about Five Guys.  I just love those fries.  This afternoon was no exception and we decided to visit The Real Pickle.

It’s been here as long as I can remember.  I’ve only been here a couple of times prior, but those gastronomic experiences were definitely memorable.  I usually get the shrimp poboy with remoulade sauce because it has always been excellent.  Today, it was very good but it was too salty for my taste.  We were the first customers of the day.  Maybe the chef got too excited and oversalted the shrimp.  Maybe I cut him off in traffic one day and he finally had his chance to get back at me.  Nonetheless, I go light on the salt in my own cooking and I frequently have had meals at restaurants that were too salty for me.  Perhaps I’m just a salt wuss.

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These fries are nothing like Five Guys.

On the plus side, the prawns were breaded nice and happy and were a fried jubilee.  The spice level was excellent.  I love firey hot food, and typically if I can detect ANY heat, it’s too much for many people I know, but I was surprised with a nice, warm burn.  The remoulade was remoulade.  I don’t care where you get it.  Remoulade tastes great.  It tastes good on everything.  The bread was so light and crusty and had a hint of buttery delight.  The fries?  Well, they weren’t Five Guys.

Alli had a ham and something on a croissant.  It wasn’t mine, so I didn’t pay much attention to it.  She liked it and that is what’s important.

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Alli really enjoyed her ham and something sandwich.

In fine, (I’ve always wanted the opportunity to say “in fine” as I remember it from the poem “Richard Cory“).  In fine, the most important aspect was that I had an opportunity to spend some quality time with Alli.  I need to take her to another Texas BBQ joint soon, but that’s another story.

Food Idiosyncrasies…I Don’t Like White Food

I know it sounds silly. It’s a fact I haven’t shared much in the past. I haven’t even told my wife until about a month ago, though I’m sure she already suspected it.

There are some innocuous white foods like eggs, potatoes and rice, but I sincerely abhor mayonnaise, cream cheese, white milk (or milk in general)…you get the picture. There are exceptions to the rule, like when you need to use mayonnaise for tuna salad or cream cheese for a velvety peanut butter pie, but when I cook with these ingredients I have my cleansing ritual. There’s nothing worse than leaving a milk ring on the counter with the milk cap.

I’m sure my white food aversion stems from my dad’s efforts to cajole me into drinking white milk. I don’t know what his obsession was because I loved chocolate milk, but I guess at six or seven, I was his experiment in Nazi parenting.

Cajole is too soft a word. My dad was the White Milk Enforcer. Numerous times, he would wrestle me in the kitchen to pour that evil beverage down my throat. He would literally pour it down my throat after he pried my mouth open. My hatred for that ivory abomination ran so deeply that he usually ended up pouring two glasses onto my face only for it to soak us. After the fight was wrestled out of me I would finally submit so that I could brush my teeth and take a shower.

So I have an aversion to white food. It’s definitely not a hard and fast rule because to make delicious treats I frequently have to make exceptions, but I still have to scrub down like I’m about to perform an appendectomy after their use, though.