Sunday, June 10, 2012

When Milk's on the Mike: Buttermilk Pie

While I've seen reviews for Buttermilk Pies referring to it as a Southern classic, it was only recently that I heard of it.  My aunt had come across a recipe in the paper for it, made it and asked me to try it.

She had obviously forgotten that as a child I once mistakenly poured buttermilk in my cereal. Toucan Sam and I, however, never will.
"Why I oughta.....!!!!!"
"Ow! Sam I'm sorry! OW!"

Anyhoo, I tried it. And it was pretty good. A slightly grainy custard with just a hint of tanginess from the buttermilk.

Pretty good, but a little...boring for my tastes.  So I got a copy of the recipe, thank you Philippe Khan or whoever, took it home and added a few LionChef touches to it. 

Like  I do.
(My additions are in red)

I think that the added spices and fruit work well together and help to balance the sweetness of the custard.

Dig it....

Buttermilk Pie
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, melted
1 3/4 c Sugar
3 tbsp AP Flour
3 Eggs, beaten
1 c Buttermilk
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Curry Powder
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
3/4 tsp Salt
1 c Blueberries
1 c Strawberries
2 9" pie crusts (the original recipe says 1 deep dish 9"crust)

Heat oven to 350F

1) Combine all ingredients except fruit in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth.
2) Pour mixture into pie crust(s). I like to fold the edges of the crust over the filling kinda like a galette.
3) Sprinkle fruit into pie(s).

4) Bake 40-50 mins until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
5) Allow to cool completely on wire rack.
6) Can be served room temperature. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to store.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Illadelph Half-life: The Sandwich from Uncle

I'm a sandwich guy.

Always have been. Given the opportunity, there's not much that I won't put between two pieces of bread.

Add to that the fact that I come from Philly, birthplace of one of the most delicious, most famous sandwiches in the world:

Gimme a sec...

 I meant this:
I think I meant this....

Anyway, I remember eating a lot of sandwiches growing up. 4846 N. Bouvier Street had 3 generations of people living there, and that's a lot of mouths to feed.

Well, one per person, but you get the point.

Bread being relatively cheap and filling, it was likely more conducive to the family budget to make the occasional  sandwich for the 9 or so people that lived there, especially the kids. I mean c'mon, 9 people under 1 roof. Not to mention the various visitors and passers-thru.
Like this. Except, you know, a house...

Now, for purposes of this post, we will consider the only resident adult male and occupier of the basement, my Uncle John L. Welch. Nana's only son. Just don't drink the orange juice in his fridge.

Did I mention how much we liked the basement?

Trust me, this relates to sandwiches.

It was Uncle Johnny who introduced my brother Erik and I to the great and incredible Spaghetti Sandwich. Yes, I said Spaghetti sandwich. And before you get your collective underwear all bunched up about carbs and calories, remember that this was in the 70's. A time when you could smoke in hospitals. When gasoline still had lead in it. When a man could workout by just growing a mustache.
Fitness Instructors circa 1972

Besides, the math is easy enough. Spaghetti stretches a modest amount of meat much further. And it's usually accompanied by some kind of bread. Somehow, somewhen(?),  Johnny decided to put it all together and eliminate the need for utensils. The culinary equivalent of adding a Flux Capacitor to a Delorean.
Pictured: Cooking.

What's not to love? 

Especially to a kid who thought that his uncle and big brother were the coolest, funniest people in the world. 

Outside of Mork & Mindy. (Hey it was the 70's!)
"Cool" is such a ephemeral state.

Though I didn't know it at the time, looking back I see that we didn't have much materially. But what I do remember is that we had each other. Grammy, Nana, Mom, Erik, all the various aunts, uncles and cousins, we all had each other. That's what makes the little things stick out I guess. Spaghetti sandwiches and front-semis on old mattresses at the end of the block; Water ices and soft pretzels; Mr. Softy and riding Big Wheels down cement steps with no helmets because we weren't punks. 

(Fact: Every kid born after 1979 has an extra "soft" gene.) 

Some of them have more than one...
Don't blame me, blame Reagonomics.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that I eat a lot of sandwiches. Because that's where I come from; it's how I grew up. It connects me to my family, to my history and helps keep me grounded. I look back fondly on those Bouvier Street summer days. And on my family, the people who made those days special.

Erik S. and Solomon E. Welch circa 1976

As for Uncle Johnny's Spaghetti sandwich, well I've dressed that up a bit. Made it a little fancier, a little less about the struggle that it came from and a little more about where that struggle can lead. A present to the Man I've become from the child that I was.

A portrait of a life done in pasta and bread. 

If you can dig it.

I'll put the recipe up soon, but until then: 

Wait for it...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bad Meets Evil, or Smacks of Witchery

OK, where to begin?

And yes I know that I started the last post off with "OK" too. You're not gonna be a problem are you?
Don't make me come over there.....
Now that that's over, there is something that I need to tell you guys...

I'm not sure where to begin....

I started this blog as a means of talking about food, of sharing my thoughts and recipes and as kind of the web-based arm of my plan for global domination.

Brought to you by the fine folks at C.O.B.R.A. Also, all of your base are belong to us.

So, mostly, I want to be positive. Tell you guys about my latest recipe or new favorite thing in food. Keep a positive spin on things so you guys can read along and say "Hey that Welch guy is right! Deep fried macaroni IS a good thing!" or "Wow.... that Lion Chef guy! Boy is his wife lucky! I think I'll order 40 pounds of his low-fat Pepperoni Lasagna right now!!*" (Both of which are true by the way.)

But, because of what happened to me earlier this week, I can't. I'm forced to (try) tell you about something that I don't like. Something no one should like. Something that has no place in our world. Something....Evil.

Pure soul-numbing evil....
(did you hear that??)

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before there was evil, there was ice cream. And a coupon.

Pictured: Kroger's New Coupon Printing Specialist
Let me begin at the beginning...
*Deep breath* Alright...

A few nights ago I was in my local  Kroger.


Like I do.

I was in search of  Peppermint Ice Cream for the aforementioned Mrs. Welch.

I don't know when Peppermint "Season" is, but I'm almost certain that it ain't in May.

And, as we do a good deal of our shopping there, I was also in possession of a coupon for a free "pint" of Haagen-Dazs. I know right? The good stuff! For free! Looking back, I should have known. But I can't blame the sweet, sweet taste of premium ice cream for what happened later..

Apparently the road to Hell is paved in sweet, tropical creaminess....
So there I was. I had acquired both ice creams and if I had just checked out and come home, maybe I could still sleep at night without the lights on. Without a crucifix under my pillow. But, thanks in no small part to the $20/month that I pay in gym fees and to those who say I need to eat more green stuff (Looking at you Rissa and Judith E.), I decided to meander over to the produce dept. to see if there was anything that I wanted instead of ice cream. Instead of free ice cream. Free Haagen-Dazs ice cream! I see now that I had already been bewitched. 

The Gates of Hell. Pictured: One of those handcarts. 

Anyhoo, there I was. Looking over the glorious bounty of Mother Earth. And keeping an eye out for birds.

(There's almost always a bird or two flying around in there and if I see them I like to chuck a few cherry tomatoes at them. Gotta have a hobby.)

I did them the favor of sampling the occasional Bing cherry (not sweet), for quality control purposes. Free of charge, but hey I'm a giver.

As I rounded the corner, moving from the grape section to the apple section (Notice that they are in 2 SEPARATE sections, it'll be important later), my eye was drawn some "apples" in plastic packaging. Wedged right between the apples and the grapes. In a manner that can only be described as lascivious.

I have no idea why that box of dates is in there.
Now, I like apples. And these, packed in what I can only assume now are the solidified tears of children, looked pretty tasty. Besides at $4.99 for four apples I wanted to know what was so special about them. You've heard what they say about curiosity, right? Below is what I saw...

How much is your soul worth? With card?
What you see there is a 4-pack of Grapple (Pronounced Grape-L), apparently endorsed by  Grape Ape . (Beegle Beagle could not be reached for comment). 'What,' you ask, 'Is a Grapple (pronounced Grape-L)?' How careless you are with your innocence...

If you haven't clicked on that link up there, then I'll tell you. It is a ostensibly a grape-flavored Gala or Fuji apple. I know, I know. I thought the same thing at first. "Hmmm," thought I, "I like grapes and I like apples. This sounds like a win-win." I considered putting back my FREE HAAGEN-DAZS ICE CREAM and dropping $5 on these novelty apples. 

And by apple, I mean hell-fruit.

Then it hit me. 

I had some serious misgivings about this. And a ton of questions. Why would I or any sane person want this? Why would I forsake free for paying? Who in the HELL (spoiler alert) wants a grape-flavored apple??!! Who in the hell left the gate open?? Who the hell is Roxanne?? How did I even consider this for a second, as it smacks of witchery? How many times can I work "smacks of witchery" into a conversation? So I did what any strong, grown, independent adult would do: 

I called my Mom. 

I don't have any exorcists in my contacts list.

"Yes, I'd like to use my Phone-A-Friend." " Hello, God?"

I won't go into all of the details of that conversation, but suffice to say to she was as alarmed as I was. And I was totally nonplussed. All of my plus had been taken right out me. I may have even said so aloud, but I'm not sure.

The website of this abomination product, speaks of some secret, proprietary process for infusing apples with the souls of children grape flavor. And I won't lie to you, friends and neighbors, I have no idea what that process is. There is some mention of soaking the apples in a solution for a period of time, but can that really be all that there is to it? If so, puts a whole new spin on bobbing for apples doesn't it?
"Yay, mine tastes like menthol!!"

Listen, I've given this some thought. There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just say what I know to be true. This smacks of witchery, pseudo-science and sorcery. Anything that can, however momentarily, make me consider putting back ice cream obviously has the Wicked Witch's Seal of Approval.

Not pictured: Farmer.

Or would that be a Seal Of Disapproval?  Or is that a double negative?

Plus, who needs a seal to approve anything? And how could a seal hold a rubber stamp with those flippers?


Anyway, long story short, I left Kroger with ice cream in hand, absolutely no combobulation, a tear in my eye and a prayer in my heart. My Pineapple Coconut was slightly melted from having been so close to the Inferno, but that's ok. I lived to tell the tale. 

*now humming Madonna's Live to Tell* (don't judge me) 

And most of all to warn you. 

You know, about the evil. But hey, you don't have to believe me.

Make up your own mind. You can find me in Bi-Lo if you need me.
With my new friend....

*My Pepperoni Lasagna is not low-fat. But if you needed me to tell you that, does it even really matter?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Back Again, For the First Time

Ok, OK.

Let's just address the elephant in the room and get it out of the way, shall we?

It's been a loooong time since my last post.

(Well about food at least....I've been burning it up here.)

But, that does not mean that I haven't been cooking, thinking about cooking or even writing about cooking.  I guess it just means that I haven't been blogging about cooking.

At all.

For a while now.  (Stop checking the date on the last post)

Yeah I'm talking to you!

 Anyhoo (love that!), I'm back! And if you are reading this, then I guess you are too. And I thank you.
Because otherwise, this is just me, typing in my kitchen about elephants in rooms. And really, when does that happen? And what kind of people would try to ignore it?!? Be warned, DO NOT EAT AT THEIR HOUSE!! 

Because, ummm, you know...

Let us move on....


So, now that we are back together, I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts on food, food "personalities" and recipes. 

I look forward to your feedback. I like talking about food, and meals and cooking.

So, welcome back.

I'll be good this time. I promise...

No, really, trust me!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Kon Queso: Veggie Quesadillas

I don't really buy into the whole New Year's Resolution thing. The way I see it is if you want to do something, then do it. Every day is the start of a new year. But, last year I dedicated myself to becoming more active and eating better. And I did pretty well, losing 30 pounds.

Then, my wife got sick.

And I realized that all of the hours I was spending in the gym and counting calories (I admittedly got a little fixated), meant nothing in the face of real problems. Like what was I going to do with 5+2 kids by myself? How was I going to explain to the kids if something did happen to her? But she had surgery, and everything was alright.


Having adjusted my eating habits, I found that I didn't mind eating better.  I was eating salad at least twice a day, I had cut out soda and most alcohol and was drinking a lot of water. Even when I fell back into some of my old habits, I didn't backslide completely. I even found myself converting some of my old recipes into new, healthier versions.

What follows is one such recipe. A variation on a family favorite, chicken quesadillas, with zucchini standing in for the meat. Dig it...

Vegetable Quesadillas

4 Burrito sized Flour Tortillas
1 Med White or Yellow onion, sliced thin
1 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Black Pepper
1 Large Red Bell Pepper, sliced into rings
2 Garlic Cloves, Smashed and chopped
2 large Zucchini, sliced into ring
2 ribs Celery, chopped
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tsp Red Pepper Flake
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp corn starch
2 tbsp. Chili Powder
½ c. Water
½ c. Crumbled Feta
1-1½ c. Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Taco Sauce

Heat oven to 400F

1) Heat olive oil in large pan over medium heat.

2) Add onion to pan, stirring until translucent.

3) Add garlic, bell pepper, celery, spices and corn starch to pan. Stir until well coated.

4) Add water. Once mixture starts to thicken, add Zucchini slices.

5) Cook 1-3 minutes, until zucchini softens, but is not cooked through. Remove from heat.

6) Spread onion/pepper mix onto tortillas, covering entire surface.

7) Add zucchini pieces on one side of each tortilla. Top with cheeses and taco sauce. Fold tortillas over, making half circles. Top with any remaining cheese.

8) Bake for 6 mins. Serve whole or cut into ½ or 1/3’s. Serves 4-8.


*This is a fairly mild version of the original recipe. 2 Chipotle peppers and 1 tsp. of Adobo sauce can by added in step 3, if you wish, to up the flavor profile. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Children's Story

I taught my oldest stepdaughter* to make folded eggs a few weeks ago. She's 16, bright and usually pays attention- even while looking bored out of her mind. I told/showed her what to do, and she did it. Sounds like an easy story right?

Yeah well, not so much.

First of all, she's a teenager. So to her I'm mainly just an old guy that cooks, drives and doesn't understand her music.
It's not so much the music that I don't understand...
We've had our ups and downs over the last 11 years. Neither of us are necessarily warm and huggy types. Plus add in the fuzzy math of a Daddy's girl with a Dad who was random (in my eyes) even when we lived in the same state and my estranged daughter, who actually seemed closer when I was 20 hours away, and we both bring some baggage to the table. Not to mention the other 4 kids in the house.
Add melanin, subtract maid...
We have our good days and bad, like everyone else. And we make it. I have a lot of respect for her. She's come through most of the various tribulations of teendom with a fair bit of grace and humor. She helps out, mostly without eye rolling. She's realized how well she can do in school, and
she does it. And, at least 11% of the time, she's fairly pleasant to be around. Hey, she is a teenager. And a girl.
Pictured: Communication.
But, I told her what to do and she did it. Showed her how to do it, and she did it. Perhaps more importantly, she asked to make eggs again, a few days later, and she did the way I showed her. It really felt good to be able to share something that I like to do with her.
Our kitchen is not actually this big though.
Maybe we've got more in common that I used to think. 

Not to mention, when she made eggs before I showed her how, she didn't use any butter/margarine/oil. There was more egg stuck to the pan than there was on the plate. Teaching her the right way was the only viable economic option. The Incredible, Edible Egg people wanted her for high treason. The estate of a Mr. Humpty J. Dumpty were threatening to picket in front of our house. The Easter Bunny was giving us the side-eye. I had to do something to save us all.
They're always watching...
Oh yeah, plus all that other stuff too.

All said, she's a pretty good egg.

*I dislike the term "step-insert noun". Not because it connotes a lack of closeness and familiarity, but because you just never get to step on them as much as you might want to.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Put It In Ya Mouth

I remember watching cooking shows on PBS when I was 7 years old. Something about them fascinated me. All the different pastas and sauces and meats, stuff that we didn't see, didn't buy and mostly, in 1980's Augusta/North Philly, couldn't. I was a big fan of fantasy and sci-fi, and watching Jeff Smith cook couscous was along the same lines as watching Doctor Who. Minus K-9.

Also, knives.     

Back then, cooking shows had a kind of dry, distant innocence. They were mostly low budget, stand-talk-cook affairs that were directed at upper income housewives. There was a lot of wine, a lot of sauces and talk, talk, talk. But mostly it was about food. French food, Cajun food, Austrian food, whatever. But even Julia Child's shows were less about her than the food. Her brand of craziness just happened to catch on.

Those were good times for a slightly chubby kid with nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon. Blackstarr and Thundarr were gone until next week My older brother and cousin out of the house, off somewhere with their friends. The TV was mine, all mine. Good times.

Ain't we lucky we got 'em. Not pictued: Me.

Then, some time in the '90's, came the Food Network. And I didn't mind. I was even kinda happy about it. All food shows, all day with no pledge drive? Sign me up! And by the mid 2000's (00's?), it transitioned to food porn. Hot, salty cooking all the time. What's not to love?! How was I to know how bad it would get...

Wait for it...
The first chef (BAM!) that really (BAM!!) made him(BAM!!)self a household name was Emeril LaGasse. He had some BAM catchphrase that caught on like an internet meme in real life. Don't remember what it was now, though... I didn't mind Emeril so much. He actually cooked in what was purported to be real-time, and his plating was terrible. It was like watching a home cook, that just happened to always be sprinkling some random "essence" all over everything like a culinary Peter North.

All over your face. Also, BAM!
Then the next thing you know, he's got like 23 shows, on all hours of the day. He's on GMA. He's on Today. Times Square is covered in layers of essence unseen since the Regan years. It's like one of those horror movies where you run and run from the killer/monster, turn a corner and BAM there he is.(See what I did there? Huh? See?) Two words: overkill. Wait, that's like one word right? Well, over kill then, that's better, Anyhoo (thanks, and yes I laugh every time I say it too) it didn't take long for me to hop off of the Lagasse bandwagon, although I do like that he was able to move on from his initial gimmick and continue to be a presence, albeit a much quieter one, on Food TV.

After, Emeril there was Rachael Ray. And I know that a lot of people hate her, even some chefs hate her. Hell even I hate her from time to time.
And sometimes I don't....
She's cute and bubbly and says things like "delish" and "evoo", which annoy me and somehow seem to fit right in on FoodPorn TV. I hear that she can be a handful in person, but hey what a handful! Sorry. Plus if you had the kind of work going on that she does, would you have time to be nice to EVERYBODY that wanted a minute of your time? Hell, most people can't take time out to say hi to people they know on a regular basis. And that's without 3 tv shows, a magazine, a spouse (bastard) and whatever else she does. Probably something wholesome like clubbing baby seals.

But, say what you will, her 30 minute show is in "real-time", plus commercials, and that appeals to me as a home cook. And you can't knock her hustle. Taken in small doses, I like her. Just don't tell the wife.....
There's just something about that Jokeresque smile. 
Just to recap, the innocent days of just reciting recipes to eager housewives are gone, replaced by Giada's bobblehead, the Neely's extended foerplay and Paula Deen's butter-coated, GMILFish double entendres.

Who got next?!
This actually started to be about how cooking show have changed since I was a kid. About the slick production values, the rise of the CelebuChef and what I think may have been lost along the way. Then somehow, food porn got in. Blame the testosterone. Plus, the the obvious differences between Jacques Pepin and Nigella Lawson really say it all.
With a throaty British accent.
I am not a chef. I don't have the training, haven't paid the dues and neither smoke nor drink to excess. That is in the job description right?

But what I am is a GREAT home cook. I can make anything that I've seen (almost) made on TV or in a cookbook. I think that the influx of personality and sensuality into the food business actually serves to show that most good home cooks are really only a few technical classes away from the most arrogant, esoteric 3 star hash-slinger.

I think that that's what the so called "food porn" is about. Emeril is very personable on TV, had a very commercial (BAM) hook, and that catchphrase, whatever it was. Rachael Ray is all about cooking like people at home cook, but with maybe different ingredients. Even Anthony Bourdain, Mr. black and white up there, for all of his pooh-poohing about Paula and Rachael's temerity to talk food without benefit of formal training, spends a great deal of his time on his various shows eating in people's homes, backyards, street corners and jungles.
Not pictured: Bobby Flay
I guess what it boils down to for me is that the luscious pictures of food prep is almost the home cook's price of admission to the Great Food Guild. If we can reproduce it then we've made it. Cooking shows, and those on them, have gone from telling us about exotic dishes to showing us how to make them, from giving information to teaching. From the Haves to the masses. From literature to porn, if you can dig it.

Oh yeah, baby. I knew you could.