Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Grilled Spaghetti

Ok, so of course the first thing you’re asking is Grilled Spaghetti?  What is this guy talking about?  Clearly, he’s gone round the bend.

I have to confess that on the last part you are probably correct, although a bit late.  The deep end is someplace I might have gone off a long time ago.  But I digress.

Today our topic is spaghetti.  Spaghetti for dinner.  Plain old spaghetti with tomato sauce and meat, and big hunks of sliced Italian sausage.  So what’s the big deal about that?

Nothing.  Except who in their right mind would want to cook spaghetti in the house when outside the temperature is pushing ninety five and the air conditioner is straining and groaning and wheezing to keep the inside of the house relatively comfortable?  Since we’ve already established that I am not in my right mind, obviously that would be me.  I might be half a bubble off plumb, but I’m not stupid.

Which brings us to Grilled Spaghetti.

Might it be possible, thought I in my infinite wisdom, to boil water on the grill, outside, in the shade of the tree that hangs over the back patio?  I use the term “back patio” loosely, but again I digress.  Without boiling water, one will not get very far with spaghetti.  Mainly what you’ll wind up with is thick tomato soup with meat and a side of crunchy noodles.

As it turns out, I can boil water on the grill, but man does it get hot, and not much fun to get too close to the grill.  The point, however, is that all of that heat stayed outside the house, where it only added to the existing oppressive heat, instead of messing up my perfectly comfortable air conditioning inside the house.

While you're waiting for the hottest day of the summer to try this recipe, take a look at this nifty technique that Jeremy and I developed.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monte Cristo Sandwich

Among the sandwiches in the world, there are many that I like, including the corned beef with Swiss Cheese, cole slaw and thousand island dressing, the club sandwich, peanut butter and jelly.  The list goes on.  All are simple in their own way, and all have their own complexity.  Few, though, combine and elegant simplicity with the complexity of delightful flavors and textures as the Monte Cristo.

My first experience with a Monte Cristo sandwich was when we stopped for dinner at a Bennigan’s after a World Cup soccer game at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1994 between Russia and Sweden.  Now, I could go on about how hot it was in the middle of August and the Silverdome was like a sauna because they brought in natural turf, and there were hundreds of young Swedish girls running around in blue shorts and yellow t-shirts, but that’s a story for another blog.

This story is about that stop at Bennigan’s that I mentioned earlier.  Skimming the menu, my eye was captured, not unlike the way it was captured by the Swedish girls, but the description of the Monte Cristo sandwich.  Turkey, ham, Swiss and American cheese, batter-dipped and deep fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with raspberry preserves.

Well, the powdered sugar and the raspberry preserves I could do without.  I mean, seriously, who puts raspberry jelly on a ham and turkey sandwich?  But the batter-dipped and deep fried part, I had to find out what this was all about.  My redneck, hillbilly heritage notwithstanding, I am a great admirer of deep fried cuisine.

I’ve had Monte Cristo sandwiches from several places.  Each was made in a slightly different way.  Some were batter-dipped and deep fried whole.  Others, only the bread was battered and grilled, which leads me to my own personal version of this versatile and tasty sandwich.

And here’s the best part: You can make an egg batter and dip the bread in it, but if you’re going to do that, why not make French toast?

I make the egg batter with eggs because, of course, who wouldn’t?  In that, a little sugar, al little milk, and a little cinnamon.  Then a little more cinnamon.  And after that a little more cinnamon.  If you have to think about how much cinnamon you’re putting into the eggs, then you’re not putting in enough.

While the French toast is cooking, this is a good time to grill the ham and the turkey.  This might seem redundant, and it is, but when you assemble the sandwich, the lightly grilled ham and turkey helps to melt the cheese, and there is nothing redundant about that.

Now, please enjoy this video of Master Bart Ryan teaching a throw at The Dungeon in June, 2012.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


You’ll notice that I have capitalized the word Chimichanga out of reverence to its awesomeness among the choices available on the menu at most Mexican restaurants.  Indeed, it may even be the name of a place in Mexico, or a person from Mexico.  If you have not yet noted this feature of the article, please go back and do so now.  I’ll wait.

For this dinner I will be using chicken to fill the Chimichangas.  The chicken itself is not special, but the way I cook it is.  For your own protection, do not attempt to tell a chicken it is not special.  Have you ever tried to deal with a chicken with low self-esteem?

I prefer to cook the chicken in a Crock Pot at low temperature for three to four hours.  When it comes out of the Crock Pot it shreds apart easily with a fork, and anyone who has been to a Mexican restaurant will attest, the key to the illusion that you are experiencing authentic Mexican cuisine is that the chicken is tender and shredded, not necessarily that it was made by someone named Juan.

I mix the chicken with some good chunky salsa and scoop it onto the steamed tortilla.  Along with the chicken I add some shredded cheddar cheese.  Again, the use of the shredded cheese is an indicator of a theme that speaks to the authenticity of the Mexican dish.  For example, one might ask: How is the Mexican economy?  And one might answer: Shredded.

As a side note, there is a trick to making the tortillas soft, warm and tender, and that is to steam them.  It’s a pretty simple process.  All you do is fill a pan with water and put it on a burner.  Put a rack over the pan, big enough for the tortillas, cover the tortillas and let them steam.

Now, some people might think that this innovation is so revolutionary that it requires a patent.  Other people might think that it is so common-sense that any moron with a pan an a rack can achieve excellent results.  But I digress.

The best part about the Chimichanga is the deep fried flour tortilla.  For the security of the Chimichanga, as well as burritos and any awesomely delicious item wrapped in a steamed, tender flour tortilla, it is important to employ the double-fold.
This seems to be a key element in burrito technology that Taco Bell was missing until recently.  As anyone who has ordered a burrito from Taco Bell in the last twenty years or so can tell you, a Taco Bell burrito was open at one end and secured at the other end by only a single-fold.  The result of this design meant that a good portion of the contents of your burrito wound up in your lap.

Recently, however, Taco Bell has upgraded their burrito design to include the double-fold, which provides an added measure of strength and support to keep the contents on the inside of the burrito.

I confess that I am not the originator of the double-fold technology, and it is likely that this burrito design element dates back to the origins of the burrito itself.  However, my discovery of the double-fold construction took place at a local restaurant called Taco del Mar, where I witnessed this burrito construction first hand, safely behind the glass counter, which shielded me from any possible eruptions or refried bean splatter damage.

So, with this new, high-tech design concept available to me, I decided to employ the knowledge to the construction of the Chimichangas.  Please note the arrow in the photograph.

The Chimichangas were a big hit in our household, and currently rank near the top of the list of favorite dinners.  For another big hit, take a look at this video of Master Bart Ryan recently teaching a lesson at The Dungeon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spaghetti and Italian Sausage

One of the beautiful qualities of spaghetti, and in fact about a lot of Italian cooking is that there is little requirement for an exact measurement of ingredients to make an excellent sauce.  For this reason, spaghetti is one of the best dishes for the Kung Fu Cooking Guy to make.  Those of you who have been following the previous articles may have noticed that I don’t spend a lot of time going over measurements for ingredients.  A little here, a little there and you’re good.  Am I a dangerous risk taker?  Maybe.  Am I just plain lazy?  Definitely.

So you might be asking yourself, Jack, you dangerous, crazy, risk-taking but mostly lazy cooking guy, what is it that goes into your spaghetti sauce?  An excellent question.  To start with, I use spaghetti sauce.  Bear with me because I know it sounds complicated and redundant, but this is America and no one is going to get too upset if I open a jar of Prego.  There are some who will, but they won’t get too upset and I think I can deal with it.

But it’s not just about the jar or three of Prego that goes into the pot, it’s also about what goes into the Prego.  Although their sauce is pretty good right out of the jar, I mean honestly, it’s just not finished.  Sure, they put Italian seasoning in the sauce, but more seasoning just makes it more better, right?  Of course it does.  And with Italian cooking the most important more that the sauce needs more of is garlic.

I’m not sure if it’s true that garlic keeps vampires away but when I’m done making my spaghetti sauce I don’t see too many vampires hanging around.  The garlic I use is minced garlic in olive oil.  I like to throw in a couple of heaping spoonfuls, at least.  To some this might seem a bit strong, but again, no vampires hanging around.

Another useful ingredient in spaghetti sauce is sugar.  This is nothing special, just an old traditional way to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, so don’t think I’m really crazy or anything like that, I mean, just because I am.  Remember, dangerous risk-taker.

Other than that, a little dash of paprika and a dash of chili powder to add a touch of flavor.  My family will think it’s great and I don’t have to give away my secrets, although I’ve just done that and now they can make great spaghetti sauce without me.  Oh well.  There’s nothing like making my self obsolete.

This is going to be a meat sauce, not a marinara sauce, which has nothing to do with Ed Marinaro, who played a cop on Hill Street Blues and set 16 NCAA records as a running back at Cornell.  Ok, what does that have to do with anything?

The meat I will be using for my meat sauce will not be ground beef, so those of you who were taking notes and thought you’d get ahead of me please go back and cross that off.  To make a more tasty, or is it tastier, sauce is to add ground Italian sausage.  The one I use comes in a tube and is made by Bob Evans because 1. There is something weird about meat that comes in a tube and 2. Nobody makes pork sausage products better than Bob Evans.

But hold on.  There will be not just ground Italian sausage but also regular Italian sausage cut up into meatball-sized hunks.  The Italian sausage I like to use is Johnsonville because 1. Big hunks of sausage in your spaghetti is like finding a tiny treasure in every bite and 2. Nobody makes pork sausage products better than Johnsonville ... Wait a minute ...

With a package of noodles it all comes together in a beautiful cacophony of sauce and meat and, well, noodles.  Slap some on a plate with some garlic bread and a little bit of parmesan cheese and it’s ready to go.

Go to the Scrivens Academy website or check out Howard’scorkscrew layout on YouTube.  And if you haven’t done it yet, go to Henry Ford Community College and sign up for my class Intro To Kung Fu and Self Defense.  I want to see you in the class and I want you to learn what I have to teach.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole with Stuffing

According to the December 12, 2011 issue of Time magazine, “The cost of a home-cooked meal is rising faster than eating out.”  Does this mean that at some point it will be cheaper to eat out than to eat at home?  I’ve got to say I certainly hope so.  All of this cooking dinners every day is starting to wear me out.

In the meantime, I made a special treat for last night’s dinner, and it involves chicken, broccoli and stuffing in a casserole.  If somehow you’ve already divined this information, don’t get too full of yourself.  You’re not the only person who knows more than me.

To start my dinner I am going to cook the chicken.  I am using boneless chicken breasts, which cost a little more than split chicken breasts with the bones, but when you’re lazy and in a hurry as I usually am, boneless chicken saves a lot of effort.

So first I drizzle, which I’m pretty sure is Italian for “spill some”, olive oil in a pan, arrange the chicken breasts in the pan, sprinkle with salt and drizzle more olive oil onto the breasts.  Next I cut up some broccoli and put it on to steam.

While those are cooking can get started on the sauce portion of this casserole.  This amazing concoction consists of cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder and shredded cheddar cheese.  I won’t bore you here with the exact measurements, but I’ll just tell you that when I get done mixing it all together I have a bowl full of sinful deliciousness with just a slight kick to it.  This is what makes the whole dish so yummy.

I want to be careful not to over-steam the broccoli because it will just get mushy once t goes into the casserole.  The same goes for the chicken.  I want to take it out while it is slightly undercooked.  The chicken gets cut up into bite-sized pieces and goes into the casserole pan.  The cut up broccoli pieces go on top of the chicken so they mix together and when I eat it I get a bit of chicken, a bite of broccoli, or sometimes if I’m feeling dangerous, a bite of chicken and broccoli.

From the mixing bowl, I pour the sauce mixture over the chicken and broccoli and the whole casserole begins to take shape.  But there is one thing missing, and those of you who skipped to the end because you can’t stand the suspense have already figured it out.  There is stuffing to go on top.

This is ordinary turkey stuffing and it comes out of a box, so don’t be too surprised because everything up to this point has been made from scratch.  I’m still just a guy and I wouldn’t let you down.  For some of us, the best things come out of a box.

Here is the finished casserole when it comes out of the oven.  This was the only picture I was able to get.  Once it is ready to eat, it vanishes in a hurry.

However, let me add a picture of the guys working on a couple of throws at the last Scrivens Academy seminar.  Howard has a lot of good stuff to teach and I especially want to thank the guys for coming in to The Dungeon and taking part.  We’ll see you at the next seminar.

A good picture of Howard, with Jimmy Woo over his right shoulder and Bruce Lee over his left.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Intro to Kung Fu at HFCC

For those of you in the Detroit area who wish to learn some basics of self-defense and begin your training in Kung Fu, I will be teaching a class at the Henry Ford Community College Dearborn Heights campus.

This will be a good course for beginners who have had no experience in Kung Fu or any other martial art, and I will also tailor the class for those with more training and experience.

The first class will be Saturday, January 28, 2012 from 12:00 to 1:00 pm.  Use this link to download the HFCC Center for Lifelong Learning Catalog.  Sign up now to get your spot in class and learn Kung Fu.

If you would like more information, please feel free to contact HFCC at (313) 317-1500, or me at burpingfrogbooks@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Smoked Sausage and Alfredo Noodles

Today’s dish  is one of my wife’s delicious creations, seen here in a slightly modified form, dumbed down if you will, for the Kung Fu Cooking Guy and my average skills.

Some of you will notice an uncanny resemblance between this dish and the immensely popular macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. (Note: the Kung Fu Cooking Guy refuses to use the term “wiener”.)  Your undeniable powers of observation are not without merit.  Our dinner of Smoked Sausage and Alfredo Noodles takes as its foundation the concept of combining a tasty sausage product with a familiar pasta dish.  Call it unsophisticated if you must but such things have no effect on the overall yumminess of our dinner or the speed with which it vanishes from the pot.

Tonight, or I should say a few nights ago because I have fallen a little behind on this story, our weapon of choice is the cast iron skillet.  The one I am using has a nice wooden handle to keep me from burning my hands half the time, weighs about as much as the engine block from a ’73 Buick, and proudly wears the residue inside and outside of the many meats and vegetables that have been cooked in it.  In polite circles this is referred to as seasoning.  I call it the stuff that keeps the pan from rusting.

It is the sausage that I will be cooking in the cast iron skillet.  I take my trusty knife and my trusty cutting board and cut the smoked sausage into 1/8 - 1/4 inch slices.  When I am done I have a pile of meat discs which I dump into the skillet and cook on low.  There is nothing fancy going on with this dish, so if you were looking for something insightful here, I have sad news for you.

While the smoked sausage discs are sautéing nicely in their own juices, I am going to get to work on the second half of my two-part dish, the Alfredo noodles.

Now before we go any further, I feel I should give you a little word of caution.  This is a cooking story by a guy, which I’m sure most of you have probably figured out by now.  Being a guy, I take a pretty simple approach.  There isn’t going to be any mixing of flour and eggs to make past dough, or blending of cheeses and cream to make the sauce.  This is not to say that making pasta from flour and eggs may not ever happen because I have done that in the past, but tonight my Alfredo noodles are coming out of a package.

I understand if this sounds anathema to you, but right now I see a lot of other guys out there nodding their heads and thinking “Yeah, I’m totally down with that.”  So let’s keep going with it because as soon as I’m done with the cooking I’m going to get into the eating.

For this dish I’m using two packages of Knorr Alfredo Pasta Sides.  First, I bring some water, milk and butter to boil, then I insert the noodles and sauce mix and turn it down to simmer.  It is so easy to forget to turn down the heat and keep stirring the sauce.  More than once I have wound up with burned cheese soup.  So when it says “Stir constantly” on the package, that’s what I do.

Ok, so it doesn’t have to be constant, but it does have to be frequent, and it has to be for the next eight to ten minutes.  The noodles in the pan, they bubble in the sauce and it makes the whole house smell good.  If you like, and I do, add a bit of garlic powder to make the noodles taste even better.  When it’s done I let it stand for a few minutes so that it can “thicken upon standing”.  I find that I usually thicken upon standing, but that’s another story.

Now comes the next important step, where I bring the two separate portions of my meal together into a single entity that becomes dinner.  And the strategy I will use to bring about this finale?  The care, the discipline, the practiced ease?  None of that, of course, because I’m a guy.  I pick up the skillet and dump the sausage into the noodles.

And so I have finally achieved the miracle of Smoked Sausage and Alfredo Noodles.  Now I just apply fork, insert into mouth and repeat until the plate is empty.  If, like me, you’ve made this dinner for your wife and a house full of boys but the boys haven’t come downstairs to find out what smells so good, then you might have a chance to go back for more.