Archive for September, 2012

28th September
written by Arthur

I’m not much of a baker. In fact, I probably owe readers a report of some epic fails on a couple of bread baking attempts over the last year.  And cakes have been off my radar for years. But, I like eating baked things, especially freshly baked things, so lately I’ve been trying more simple baking recipes.  Ones that even I can’t mess-up.  Ones that allow you to play with them a little.

For last weekend’s chili cook, I baked-up a batch of corn bread.  I’ve posted this recipe before, but it’s a bit buried and corn bread is an easy bake that can go with a range of fall eats.  Plus, I’ve been told recycling is good for the environment.


I know true corn bread is supposed to be dry.  But I’m not particularly a fan of the dry stuff.  To get past this dryness, Mike and I developed the below in some long ago gumbo cooks.


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs (most would have use only 2)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 can of creamed corn
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar


Combine the dry ingredients in their own bowl.

In a separate medium bowl whisk the eggs.  Next, whisk in the buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk around you can make a good substitute by mixing one cup milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice).   Let that mixture get up to room temperature.  Next, melt the butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar.  Then add the sugar and butter mix to the room temperature egg/buttermilk bowl.   (Note: if you didn’t let your eggs and buttermilk get up to room temperature everything will fail here, the sugar and butter will get cold and start turning back into a solid.)  Whisk the liquid for a bit.

Now slowly whisk in large handfuls of the dry ingredients into the liquid and keep whisking until there are little or no lumps.  Next, put the batter into a greased baking pan.  Spoon a smattering of creamed corn onto/into the batter.  Finally, sprinkle the sharp cheddar on top and bake for about 30 minutes at 375 (or until it browns and a toothpick comes out clean).

27th September
written by Arthur

It’s fall.  You can feel it in the cool air.  See it the color and angle of shadows in the late afternoon.  Smell it.  It’s time for fall comfort food.  On weekend football days (college or pro) I love one pot meals that fill the house with great smells.   Meals I can cook as I can tend to other chores and watch NFL games or half watch college games.  And last weekend I was in the mood for chili.

This is one of those dishes created more from whim than recipe.  Do I want this one to be more meaty?  Heavy on the beans?  Loaded with tomatoes?  Spicy? There are so many variables to play with, but chili is forgiving. As long as the broad basics are there you’re likely to end-up with a satisfying dish.  The following is roughly what I did:

  • 2 medium onions (on the bigger side of medium)
  • 3 celery sticks (Now I can hear some of you say “I don’t like celery.”  Fair.  But included it anyway.  By the end of the dish you won’t know it’s there, but it’s inclusion adds critical flavors.)
  • Four jalapeños
  • 2 or 3 pounds of ground beef (just took a bit chuck out of a family sized pack)
  • A large can of tomato pure
  • A can of stewed tomatoes
  • A large can or two of whole pealed tomatoes.
  • A large can of dark kidney beans, drained
  • A can of white beans, drained  (To some this might be chili blasphemy, but I think adding this bean breaks-up the color leading to a more aesthetic outcome.)

Before doing anything else, I fire roasted the jalapeños by sticking each with a kebab skewer and roasting slowly over the stove’s gas burner until blackened. It may be my imagination, but I fee this process adds just a bit of smoky flavor.

An hour or so later I started cooking the chopped onions and celery. After the onions and celery start to get translucent, I put in the meat. Breaking the beef apart with a spoon as it browned, I added some chili powder and red pepper flakes.  Once the meat was browned, it was time for the canned ingredients.  As the mixture heated, I chopped the now cooled jalapeños (chopping while hot can be a bit painful) and added them to the mixture.  I covered the pot and brought to a simmer.

Then it’s time for football and an occasional stir.  Taste and season as needed.  Don’t worry about breaking down those whole tomatoes.  Over the next three and a half hours they’ll break apart with the just the occasional stirs.

With a little homemade corn bread, this was the perfect fall weather meal.


25th September
written by Arthur
I love watching football while a nice slow cook simmers away in the kitchen and fills the house with comfortable smells.  But the NFL games of late have rocked that comfort.
Over the past few days I’ve read a couple articles pointing out what the replacement refs need to do in order to gain back some credibility.  I think that is a little unfair.  The league created this mess with the lock-out of the professional refs and the league should step in to help.  Here are five suggestions:
1.  Eliminate the Pass Interference Penalty
Pass interference seems to be causing a lot of trouble for the replacement refs.  Both Sunday night and Monday night calls came when there was no interference and were missed when it was flagrant.  It’s unfair to expect the newbies to get up to speed with the fast pace that is NFL football.  So lets just get rid of this penalty.  No defensive or offensive pass interference would certainly make it easier to get the call right.
2.  Unlimited Challenges
If you can’t get the call right the first time, you might as well take another look.  The replacement refs already started trying this one out in the Vikings-49ers game.  If a coach or player yells really loud they are probably right and a review needs to be implemented–number timeouts or challenges remaining be damned!
3.  10 Point Lead Win Requirement
As the score at any given point in the game becomes more of an approximation than accurately reflection of action on the field, it would be prudent to require a larger lead before declaring a winner.  Take the questionable call at the end of the Monday Night game that handed the Sea Hawks a victory over the Packers.  The final score was 12-14. That’s way to close to determine an actual winner.  A 10 point lead should be required before victory can be declared.
4.  Penalties on the League and Referees 
As an incentive to get things right, penalties should be applicable to the league and referees for blown calls. A panel of made of a cross section of network commentators would have the power to propose a penalty with Adam Schefter appointed as ultimate arbiter.  Decisions to be released via Twitter.
 5.  Extension of the Coin Toss
Lets face it, we can’t expect the replacement refs to know every rule.  Game after game there seem to be long discussions between the refs of what call should be made.  In the event certainty cannot be reached, a decision should be made with a coin toss.  In the interest of expediency, the head-tail call made by each team at the start of the game can be utilized and the determinate toss made by the head referee.
With these modest changes football can go back to the being America’s fall pass time and I can go back to relaxed viewing over a good cook and cold beer.
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18th September
written by Arthur

For years I’ve near heard Nick’s stories of epic crab feasts. Mountains of Maryland’s best eaten outdoors with an endless flow of beer.  Unable to make it last year, I jumped at the invitation to join this early September.

I love the Midwest, but there are some joys that my blessed heritage simply could not provide.  Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes lay far from the oceans and their briny bounty.  Eating decent seafood in my home state means a visit to a specialty store or a high end restaurant.  Only on moving to the East Coast did I find high quality seafood at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

The crab feast efforts are led by Nick’s long time friend, Tom.  Tom’s recent purchase of a house with his fiancé Teresa put this years feast in jeopardy.  But Nick’s tenacity came through and Tom and Teresa were convinced to open the doors of their new home to a hungry hoard. Nick, Becca, and I were tasked with bringing two things: beer and butter.  After picking-up two cases of light beer we swung by the super market to grab the butter.  We grabbed two pounds of butter and, with a joke in mind, an I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter olive oil based spray.  Tom feigned calmness as Nick told him that the store was out of butter, but the spray should be good enough.  But, when Becca finally broke the really butter out of her purse Tom literally breathed a sigh of relief.  He had exercised immense restrain by not belittling Nick (“for fuck-sake Nick, you’re from MarylandII!”).   A few laughs later we were off to see the crabs.

The crabs were in a true bushel.  For the Midwestern, think a bushel of apples but replace the apples with crabs.  Dozens of crabs.  Crabs with bright blue claws and legs protruding from a gray shell and white underbelly.  Crazy little arachnid-like creatures who appear asleep but, when prodded, wake-up and spray a bit of water before snapping their muscular pinchers or scurrying about.

Tom set-up a giant steamer with water, cider vinegar, and a mixture of seasoning.  The smell was fantastic as it heated-up.  Two dozen or so crabs were layered in the bottom and covered with a layer of Tom’s secret spice mixture (old bay plus…).  More layers were added until the steamer was full and half the bushel empty.

As the crabs cooked the picnic table on the back deck was prepared: newspapers laid, hammers and knives piled, dishes of melted butter, and cups of cider vinegar.  You don’t need no plates for a crab feast!  And finally the first batch was ready.

The veterans helped us newbies through the crab eating process.  How to start with the claws and get at the meat in the middle of the small beasts.  I was a mess.  I covered myself and everyone near me in a spray of crab juice.   It was ugly.   But, I got at the meat with little waste leaving no tasty morsel behind.

To my surprise I loved the rich meat dipped in the cider vinegar.  The acidity balanced the crabs’ decadence. Though a dunk or butter now and then didn’t hurt either.  I ate and ate and ate, taking down five of ’em.

Just in case crabs weren’t enough, Tom also slow smoked a beautiful slab of meat to make a mound of pulled pork.  At 1:30 a.m., as I was leaving the bar the night before, Tom was firing up his smoker.  The slow cook paid off and the pork was delicious, but I focused my stomach space on the piles of crabs.

A final surprise for me was how happy I was to be drinking Miller Lite as I took down crab after crab.  As readers of this blog might have gathered, I can be a bit of a beer snob.  Maybe a Pilsner could have stepped in, but an American light beer was just what this crab feast called for.  Something to wash everything down while keeping its place in the background.

After eating, and as a torrential down pour started, the 15 or so guests retired inside to the living room.  More beer was drank over conversation and stories about the “old days” while the couple’s bulldog scramble for attention.  For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, this was one the most adult feeling dinner experience I’ve had.  It was chill, not fancy.  Calm, but not boring.  Just a feeling of being older–in a good way.  Maybe it’s because I’ve turned 30.  Maybe it was similar to what I remember as a child when my parents would bring me along to get-togethers with their friends.  Maybe it was the couple’s “real” home.  It was comfortable.  I can’t thank Tom and his fiancé enough.

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4th September
written by Arthur

New research shows that the shape of your beer glass might influence how fast you drink your cold one:

[R]esearchers surmise that while drinking alcohol, people pace themselves based on when they reach the halfway point of a glass. (When participants drank soda instead of beer, the shape of the glass had no significant effect on drinking speed.) But drinkers failed to accurately estimate the halfway point on curved-edge drinking glasses, and so they slurped up a greater quantity of alcohol faster.

Read the whole article at Discover Magazine.  Any bets on how long it takes Mayor Bloomberg to legislates strait glass in NYC bars?


1st September
written by Arthur

Hidden in the middle of an office park in Columbia, Maryland is a gem.  If you can manage to navigate through Stanford Road, Standford Avenue, Stanford Circle, Stanford Lane, Stanford Way, and Stanford Drive you’ll find a wood-panelled dining room.  A place where quiet music from a live jazz band floats through the dimly lit air.

It’s been almost twelve hours since I took my last bite of key lime pie at the Stanford Grill and I’m almost ready to think about food.  After driving five or so hours from New York, with nothing but a bag McDonald’s dollar menu food to sustain us, we were ready to eat!  For half the drive, Nick extolled the virtues of the Stanford.  After ordering drinks I was skeptical.  Our waiter was confused when I ordered a negroni, after a consultation with the bartender I had to walkthrough the drink’s construction.  But all was well.  An adequate negroni (and mysterious bonus glass of gin) arrived.  And the quality of the food stood above that of the bar.

I ordered the bone-in ribeye steak, but was convinced to go surf and turf and add a crab cake.  Before I could get the words out of my mouth, Nick put in an order of the mac and cheese starter.  The mac and cheese was a solid and extremely cheesy dish.  I prefer a more refined version with top layer of bread crumbs for texture.  But this dish satisfied my taste buds and thrilled my stomach.  The crab cake contained large chunks of crab held together with the right amount of breading.  And the steak,  Oh the steak.  I haven’t had one in a restaurant since Peter Luger and I was not disappointed with my choice.  A perfect light char surrounding a medium rare center.  The mashed potatoes side was well executed as were the green beans, though I decided to forgo much of them so as to take down every bit of protein on my plate.  I continued to devour steak as my fellow diners ordered and received desserts.  Cleaning the bone, I accepted generous offers of bites of key lime pie and  crème brûlée.  The key lime pie was extraordinary (says the man who usually skips dessert).

A meal full of delicious nap inducing excess.  I owe my body a run for this one.  But for now, I think it’s time to consider lunch.