Monday, August 25, 2008

Subway 911

A man in Jacksonville, Fla. was arrested last week for making fraudulent 911 calls.

He wasn’t calling the police station to ask if their “refrigerator is running?” and he wasn’t asking the dispatcher if she had “Prince Albert in a can?” The Associated Press reported that Reginald Peterson was hauled off to the pokey because he called 911 to complain that the Subway restaurant had left the sauce off of his sandwich.

Peterson, 42, actually called 911 twice. The first call was to complain about his sandwich. The second call was to complain that the police weren’t arriving fast enough. By that time Peterson had become belligerent about the lack of sauce on his sandwich and they locked him out of the store. My guess is that his third call was made from the jail to his lawyer.

The AP reported that when “officers arrived, they tried to calm Peterson and explain the proper use of 911. Those efforts failed, and he was arrested on a charge of making false 911 calls.”

It baffles me that anyone would get so upset about a sandwich that they would call 911. But it baffles me even more that it happened at a Subway. It’s one of my son’s favorite restaurants. There’s one two blocks from my house and we eat there often. They make your sandwich right in front of you. If you want more sauce, or no sauce, all one has to do is say so. There’s no need to get the police involved.

Google and YouTube are filled with 911 calls of all types. Many of them have to do with food. One man called 911 because “Someone broke into my house and took a bite out of my ham and cheese sandwich.” A lady called from inside a fast-food restaurant and complained to authorities, “They won’t fix my taco… I ain’t havin’ no rice in it… he’s holdin’ my dollar and ten cents!” Another called asking, “Can you connect me to Domino’s Pizza?”

We are passionate about food. It’s one of the only things in life of which everyone has an opinion. Eating is universal. It’s what we do, three times a day (more if you’re me), 365 days a year.

YouTube has a lengthy 911 call from a woman who is sitting in the drive-through line at a Burger King waiting for her Western Bacon Cheeseburger.

The 911 archives are also filled with such non-vital emergencies as, “I’m watching a movie and there’s a guy beating another guy with a bat.” and “What day of the week is this?” But the best ones are food related.

It all falls back to the legendary Joe Pesci scene in one of the Lethal Weapon movies where he reels off a curse-laden diatribe as to why one should never use the drive-through window, but always walk up to the counter. That incident, by the way, was over a tuna sandwich at Subway.

Grilled Redfish Sandwiches with Seafood Remoulade Sauce

6 6-7 ounce Redfish Filets
1 1/2 tsp Creole Seasoning

6 Hamburger Buns
1/4 cup olive oil

1 Recipe Seafood Remoulade
1 1/2 cup Green Leaf Lettuce, shredded
10-12 slices Fresh tomato

Sprinkle the filets with the Creole Seasoning and grill over direct high heat until the center of the fish is slightly pink, about 6-8 minutes. Turn the filets once during cooking. Do not overcook.

Brush the inside surfaces of the hamburger buns with the olive oil. Grill over medium direct heat for 2-3 minutes.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread a small amount of the Seafood Remoulade the toasted surfaces of the hamburger bun. Top with the fish, tomato, lettuce and the top half of the bun.
Serve immediately.

6 sandwiches

Seafood Remoulade

1 stalk Celery
1/ 3 cup Onion, chopped
1 cup Ketchup
3 Tbl Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp creole mustard
1/4 cup Prepared horseradish
1 cup Mayonnaise
2 tsp Creole Seasoning
1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 tsp Garlic, minced

Blend onion and celery in the food processor until small but not completely puréed. Place onion and celery in a mixing bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Best if made at least 1 day in advance. Sauce holds up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

2 cups


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Monday, August 18, 2008

Eating Ones Way Through the 100-Meter Freestyle

My wife is nuts about the Summer Olympics. Every television in our home is tuned to the games in China and she calls me hourly with details of how well the United States is doing against the Lithuanian handball team.

I’m more of a Winter Olympics-type guy. I’ll take an out-of-control bobsled shooting down an icy mountain at 100-miles per hour over a lame ping-pong match every time. I have, however, enjoyed watching USA swimmer Michael Phelps break the record for all-time gold medals.

Phelps represents his country well. His feat of surpassing Mark Spitz’s accomplishments is amazing. His record-breaking swimming is remarkable, and his laid-back attitude and competitive demeanor are admirable. But what truly impresses me about Michael Phelps is the news story I read the other day with the headline: “Swimmer Michael Phelps Consumes 12,000 Calories a Day.”

Now that’s impressive. Mr. Phelps, you now have my attention, along with my complete and total admiration.

You can keep the gold medals, magazine covers, fan adulation, and the forthcoming million-dollar endorsement deals. I would gladly trade them all for the ability to eat 12,000 calories a day and get away with it. That would be a blast.

Every day Phelps consumes six times more food than the average male and his body-fat percentage is under four percent. I consume twice as many groceries as the average male though my body-fat percentage hovers somewhere around the legal drinking age.

Researching this piece, I found a story in the New York Post which gave a detailed description of a day in the life of Phelps’ intestinal tract. “Phelps lends a new spin to the phrase ‘Breakfast of Champions’ by starting off his day by eating three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. He follows that up with two cups of coffee, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes.”

Someone needs to give his chef a medal.

The Post continued, “At lunch, Phelps gobbles up a pound of enriched pasta and two large ham and cheese sandwiches slathered with mayo on white bread - capping off the meal by chugging about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks. For dinner, Phelps really loads up on the carbs - what he needs to give him plenty of energy for his five-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week regimen - with a pound of pasta and an entire pizza. He washes all that down with another 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.”

I admire Mr. Phelps and his accomplishments, but if I was able to consume 12,000 calories a day and get away with it, I wouldn’t be eating ham and cheese with mayo on white bread. At the least, throw some whole-grain mustard or horseradish in the mix. Can you say whole-smoked tenderloin on wheat?

At breakfast, throw some bacon and sausage on the menu, Michael. The way your metabolism is humming you’ll burn off the excess fat with the energy you use to pick up a forkful of those chocolate-chip pancakes.

In my twenties, during the 32-inch waist period of my life, I used to eat a large pepperoni pizza every night when I got off of work at the restaurant. The people at the pizza-delivery place knew my name. “Oh, hi Robert. The usual? Extra cheese? We’ll be over in 30 minutes. Say, how’s your grandmother?”

In those days I was working 90-hours per week in the kitchen of my first restaurant. Maybe I should have been doing the breast stroke.

I have eaten a lot of food over the course of my life. The closest I have ever come to eating 12,000 calories in one day was several years ago when I ate a 36-course meal at The French Laundry in Yountville, CA. It was the only meal I have ever eaten that needed a halftime break. After the meal, on the ride home, my friend Bill estimated that we had consumed approximately 10,000 calories over the course of the four and a half hour bacchanalia. Had I jumped into an Olympic pool that night, I would have sunken immediately to the drain. No one would have given me a gold medal, though I would have died a happy man.

Miniature Smoked Tenderloin Sandwiches with Three Spreads

2 Tbl Bacon Grease, melted
1 Tbl Steak Seasoning
1/2 tsp Black Pepper, freshly ground
2 pound Beef Tenderloin, trimmed and cleaned
24 dinner rolls, varied styles and flavors, cut in half crosswise

5-6 cups wood chips

Soak the wood chips for 2-3 hours and drain well. Prepare grill or smoker to cook at 275 degrees.

Rub the tenderloin with the melted bacon grease and sprinkle with steak seasoning.
Cook the tenderloin for 45-50 minutes, to an internal temperature of 130 degrees. Add more chips as needed to keep the smoke flowing.

Remove from heat and let tenderloin cool completely.

Horseradish Spread

1/4 cup Sour Cream
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 tsp Black Pepper, freshly ground
3 Tbl Prepared Horseradish
2 Tbl Red Onion, minced
1/4 tsp Garlic, minced
1 Tbl Chives, chopped
1 Tbl Parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and store covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Chutney Mayo

1 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tbl Yellow Onion, minced
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tsp Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Curry Powder
2 Tbl Sherry
3/4 cup Mango Chutney
3/4 cup Mayonnaise

In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Place onion, garlic, salt and curry powder in the hot oil and cook one minute. Add the sherry and reduce. Remove from heat and cool completely. Once the cooked mixture is cooled, combine it with the remaining ingredients. Store covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Honey-Spiked Creole Mustard

1/2 cup Creole Mustard
1 Tbl Yellow Mustard
2 Tbl Sour Cream
1 Tbl Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Honey
1 tsp Prepared Horseradish
2 tsp Parsely, chopped
1 tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves, chopped
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Salt

Using a wire whisk, combine all ingredients. Store covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Slice 1/8-inch thin slices of the beef tenderloin and arrange on a serving tray. Serve the cut rolls and three sauces on the side and allow guests to build their own sandwich.
All of the sauces may be made three to four days in advance, and stored in the refrigerator until needed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


One of the unexpected benefits of writing a weekly food column which is centered mostly around food is that people always give me food. I love my job.

At a book signing earlier this year a man walked up with a flat of blackberries and blueberries. “Here, check these out,” he said. An entire flat! That’s 12 pints. Did I mention that I love my job?

Over a breakfast earlier in the summer my friend Chris brought me a bag of peaches. I love my friends, too.

Peaches are a great gift. I used to go to a local peach orchard near my hometown and buy several bushels of peaches at the height of the summer and deliver them to my friends.

A few weeks ago a reader from Clarksdale sent me a case of South Carolina peaches. They were great. South Carolina peaches usually show up later in the year.

I write often of the difference between Alabama and Georgia peaches. When I write one of these columns I end up with several emails touting the qualities of South Carolina peaches over Georgia peaches. There is a constant battle between Georgia and South Carolina as to which state has the best peaches.

Trust me, there is no love lost between Georgia and South Carolina when it comes to peach production.

Each state is trying to top the other. Years ago Georgia named itself “The Peach State.” After hearing this, South Carolina adopted the moniker, “The Tastier Peach State.”

These inter-state battles of one-upsmanship can turn nasty if left unchecked. Be on the lookout for Georgia to rework their “The Peach State” motto and name themselves, “The Really, Really, Really Good Peach State.”

Then watch for South Carolina’s counter punch when they adopt the motto, “The Tastier Peach State with Slightly More Coastline than Georgia on the Atlantic Ocean.”

Realizing this, the Georgia Peach Board will go to their state legislature and petition for their slogan to be changed to, “The Really, Really, Really Good Peach State with a Professional Baseball AND Football Franchise.”

South Carolina will then counterpunch with, “The Tastier Peach State with Slightly More Coastline than Georgia on the Atlantic Ocean that doesn’t want a Perennial Losing Professional Football Franchise (and besides the Carolina Panthers are half ours).”

Georgia will then elongate its name to “The Really, Really, Really Good Peach State with a Professional Baseball AND Football Franchise that Doesn’t Have a Compass Point in Our State Name.”

After petitioning for a larger state seal to hold the entire new motto, South Carolina will propose to change their moniker to “The Tastier Peach State with Slightly More Coastline on the Atlantic Ocean that doesn’t Want a Perennial Losing Professional Football Franchise (and besides the Carolina Panthers are half ours) which doesn’t have bad traffic like Atlanta.”

It will finally take a steel-cage wrestling match between Ted Turner and Steve Spurrier to resolve the issue. Turner’s mean as hell, but my money’s on the visor-wearing Spurrier in the third round.

Georgia and South Carolina aside, I am a fan of Chilton, County, Ala peaches. They seem to be the red-headed stepchild of the Southern peach world.

Peaches taste like summer no matter where they’re grown or what’s stated in their home state’s motto.

Peach Ice Cream

2 cups Peaches, fresh, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 /4 cups Sugar, divided
1 Tbl Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
2 Tbl Peach Schnapps
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 /2 cup Milk
1 /2 Vanilla Bean
2 Egg Yolks

In a bowl, combine peaches, 1 /4 cup sugar, lemon juice, and peach schnapps. Cover and refrigerate 2- 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove peach mixture from refrigerator, drain, and reserve the juice. Return peaches to refrigerator.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and— in a medium-sized saucepan— combine remaining sugar, heavy cream, and milk. Heat just until just boiling.

In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk egg yolks. While whisking, slowly add 1 /3 of the boiled cream mixture. Stir well. Add remaining egg mixture to cream mixture. Return to low-medium heat and continue stirring for 5-7 minutes. Just as it begins to simmer, remove from heat and strain into a bowl set over ice. Add the reserved peach juice. Stir well until completely chilled.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. After the ice cream begins to stiffen, add the peaches and continue to freeze until done. Remove the ice cream from the ice cream maker and store in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to serve.

8 servings

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Hillbilly Gypsies-- Shuckin' the Corn (Live)

The Hillbilly Gypsies - "Shuckin the Corn" - LIVE - Click here for the most popular videos
Sweet Corn

“… Pray what more can a reasonable man desire, in peaceful times, in ordinary noons, than a sufficient number of ears of green sweet corn…”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)

My friend Ronnie telephoned the other day. He wanted me to check out his garden. It was nice. There were several varieties of melon, peas, and beans— the usual suspects. Its size was manageable, there weren’t too many weeds and everything seemed in order.

“Come over here,” he said. “This is what I called you about.”

He was holding an ear of corn he had just picked. As he peeled back the shucks and stripped the silk from the kernels, I asked what type of corn he had planted.

“I can’t remember,” he said, “just try it.”

I took a bite of the corn. It was sweet, and delicate, and moist. As the juice ran down my cheeks to my neck and finally to my shirt collar, I took another bite, and then another, and then another. I stood there in the sweltering mid-day heat, among four short, manicured rows of stalks, and ate the entire ear, raw.

I had eaten raw corn before. A few times during my failed attempt at gardening, I had picked an ear and taken a bite or two. It was O.K., nothing memorable.

Ronnie’s corn was different. It might possibly be the best I have eaten, and it had no salt, no butter, no pepper, no grill marks— just corn, raw and sweet, as God intended.

I attach an uncommon reverence to summer corn. There is, among my friends, a tight-knit, covert group, who— along with me— scout out locations and farmers who grow the best sweet corn in my area. When one is found, the word is disseminated among the group’s members, and I am warned that if I write about the farmer’s whereabouts— ruining the group’s chances for “putting up” enough sweet corn to last through the winter— I will be out of the loop and banished to Field Corn Hell for the rest of the summer.

The telephone calls usually begin in early June. “Larry said that Farmer Smith is not planting this year.” “Virginia told me that Farmer Jones switched crops.” “Barbara Jane says keep an eye out for Johnson’s roadside stand.” A strategy is developed, a plan is implemented, and the corn buying begins. Wall Street speculators purchasing corn futures have nothing on my summer sweet corn contingency.

I didn’t tell the corn contingency about Ronnie’s garden. It wasn’t that I was trying to hoard the corn for myself. I was only given half a dozen ears. I was fearful that— in their unabashed quest for corn— a few rogue members might sneak out to Ronnie’s place in the middle of the night to procure a few ears for their personal summer stash. Then, of course, they would be at risk of running into me in the middle of the night sampling raw corn by moonlight while standing in Ronnie’s garden.

The American humorist Garrison Keillor once said, “Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.” As a young man, I viewed that statement as hogwash. With each year, as I grow older, Mr. Keillor appears to be much wiser.

Summer Creamed Corn

8 ears Silverqueen corn, shucked, silked, and scraped to remove milk
2 cups Water
1 stick Butter
2 Tbl Half and half
2 tsp Cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste

Break two of the shucked corncobs in half. Place in a small sauce pot with two cups of water. Simmer for 10 minutes to make a corn stock.

Melt butter in a medium sized skillet over a medium heat and add corn and 1 /2 cup of the corn stock. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in the Half and Half and stir into the simmering corn mixture. Return to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot. Yield: six to eight servings