“Everything but the squeal…”

May 25, 2010 at 3:18 PM (Uncategorized) (, , )

Doesn’t sound like the most appetizing phrase, ya know, not something that would make you walk in off the street, but the restaurant responsible for that saying is worth not just walking in off the street, but getting yourself all the way to Raleigh, NC.  We all know the South is known for is mastery of two types of food: soul food and barbecue.  This past Easter, instead of traveling home, I decided to take a trip to Raleigh to see one of my best friends of all time.  We grew up down the street together, and we knew that it would be a perfect weekend to get a couple of our old friends in town to see his new home.

Before going down, I was watching one of my favorite shows, Man vs. Food, on the Travel Channel.  If you’ve never seen this show…make sure you do something about that.  Now, I’m not a person that enjoys watching others suffer, but nothing puts a smile on my face like watching Adam Richman take down a pulled pork sandwich doused in “shut up juice” in Little Rock, AR or any of the other spicy foods he’s challenged to eat.  Anyways, I was watching and there happened to be an episode on about the Raleigh-Durham area!  The timing could not have been better.  On that episode, Adam visited a place called “The Pit” in downtown Raleigh.  Now, I’d been craving some pulled pork since my trip to Arizona in February and since the Southwest is not the place to find it, I knew we had to visit this restaurant.

Man was that the best decision we made all weekend!!  Now on the episode they didn’t do too much coverage of the layout of the restaurant so I was half expecting sawdust on the floor and the smell of bbq sauce and vinegar everywhere.  But that was not what we walked into- we walked into a beautiful but casual restaurant with a trendy bar and it smelled like…well…HEEAVENNNN!  My senses were heightened the second we walked in, the aroma was the perfect blend of slow cooked pork, corn bread, and bbq sauce.  You could feel the love that goes into their food before we even sat down.

Now even before looking at the menu, I knew I was getting pulled pork with a side of slaw and homemade mac and cheese.  That to me is hands down, the perfect barbecue dish.  And since there were so many options, I don’t think anyone at the table had the same thing!  Before our main courses, we did order their wings.  Let me preface this by mentioning that, to me, the best wings are smothered in buffalo sauce and spicy.  I’m not taking make you cry spicy, but maybe enough to clear your sinuses… and enough sauce to keep the ends of your fingernails orange for a day or two…those are the perfect wings.  The wings at The Pit…looked nothing like that, but that wasn’t going to stop my from tasting these bad boys.  These wings had a homemade dry rub on them and when I say they were the best chicken wings I’ve ever had I mean they were the best damn chicken wings I have EVER had.   They didn’t need to be dipped in ranch, or blue cheese, or anything, every bite you got a new tang on your tongue.  These wings were somewhat sweet and tangy and the meat just fell off the bone.  While the rub wasn’t like a sauce dripping down my fingers, I definitely licked those babies clean.

That was just the appetizer!!!  I stopped myself at 2 wings because I knew I had a whole plate of pulled pork with slaw and mac and cheese coming my way.  Before getting to the deliciousness that was my meal, I have to point out the wine I was drinking which was also pleasantly surprising.  It was a Zinfandel called “Hey Mambo” (Mambo, Italiano!  I feel like Cartman with Styx’s “Come Sail Away” when I say that wine name…I have to finish the line!)  It’s a fairly cheap zin that I hadn’t heard of before, but really very tasty and went very well with my meal.  Alright, onto the masterpiece put together by Pitmaster Ed Mitchell.  In the episode of Man vs. Food, you watch how Pitmaster Mitchell preps and slow cooks the pork.  It’s so perfect that Adam didn’t need more than a fork to get the meat away from the bone.  To pull the pork, they don’t chop it or shred it, they can literally just pull it off the bone by hand its so tender.  It’s one thing to watch them do that on television and talk about it, it’s an entirely different thing to have experienced how moist, delicious and tender the pork really is.  Every bite got better and better.

My definition of a fantastic meal is when each component on the dish tastes phenomenal on its own, but pairing it with something else on the plate makes it an entirely new experience.  This dish was exactly that.  The slaw, mac and cheese and pork all tasted so good on their own, but the slaw with the pork or the mac and cheese with the pork created new flavors.  Cole slaw is not something I usually order at a restaurant.  I prefer homemade slaw that isn’t overpowered by mayonnaise or has soggy cabbage.  This slaw was perfect, just enough vinegar, not too creamy, and a fresh, cool, crunch from the fresh veggies that complimented the warm, tender pork.  The homemade mac and cheese was something your grandmother used to make in her oven when you were 10, extremely nostalgic, the perfect comfort food.

Wow, I need a trip back down there ASAP!  1000 words about “The Pit” just made me insanely hungry for pulled pork…go figure!  If you are ever in the Raleigh-Durham area, do yourself a favor…GO TO THE PIT!  They’re waiting for you!  What was also surprising, was after that full meal (where I ate so much I could have been rolled out of the place) and 2 glasses of wine, my tab was half of what I was expecting.  Having lived in DC so long, I’m used to paying for a good meal… but this, I would have paid twice what it costs me to eat at the Pit it was that good.  Alright, I need to stop, I’m going to need to find second grade pulled pork if I keep this up…and that’s the last thing I need.

Thanks, as usual, for stopping by!  Until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love and the Squeal**

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Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

May 24, 2010 at 8:41 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

So as I’ve mentioned before, I’m now living in Manchester, NH where, let’s face it, there’s not a restaurant with a notable chefs name to it in a 50 mile radius, yeap, Boston is the closest place you’ll find that.  While that makes Manch-Vegas sound totally glib, I really think its a good thing because it keeps me from eating out as often as I did… my bank account thanks me!  It also forces me to cook at home more which is actually really nice, I do enjoy it!  My problem is planning out what to make for dinner each night, so I always find myself mid-afternoon trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to make so I’m not stuck eating cereal for dinner… not that there’s anything wrong with that…

In order to sort of prevent a total loss for dinner, there’s a few things I ALWAYS keep in the freezer.  One of which is something everyone should always have in their freezer…chicken.  It’s too easy just to get some cutlets and put each into separate freezer bags.  Single serving chicken…done!  What’s also nice is when I come home for lunch, I can take one out of the freezer and have it thaw by the time I get home from work.

So last week, I ran into that problem… no ideas until I was about an hour from dinner time.  This was one of those just take what you have in the fridge and doo eeettt, and a pretty successful one if I may say so myself.   All you need is a bit of butter, basil, Parmesan, and garlic powder.  The best way to prepare this would be on a grill, but a frying pan also worked perfectly.

In a bowl, melt the butter and add freshly chopped basil, Parmesan and a pinch of garlic powder.  Mix it all together then brush the chicken on both sides with the mixture and place it on either the grill or in your pan.  Continue brushing the butter and basil on the chicken as it cooks and that’s it!  It’s really quite delicious.

With this dish, I made broccoli by sauteing it in some oil with red pepper flakes.  This added a nice kick to the dish and I love preparing broccoli in a pan to get some of the florets with a nice crunch on top.  For the starch I roasted some potatoes in olive oil and salt and pepper.  Quick and easy and most of the elements you have in your pantry/fridge already!  The white wine I had was very complimentary to the dish.  It was a 2006 Viognier which tends to be a little sweeter than my taste of white wine but still tasty.  As long as the white isn’t Riesling, I’m willing to try it with a nice meal.

So coming into this week, I really had a case of the Mondays and was all but depressed that Lost was done.  Luckily for me, this was the only season I watched live and I plan on watching every season from the beginning again…and again….and probably again.  Don’t get me started I could write an ENTIRE blog (not just a post, a full on BLOG) about that damn show.  So good… anyways.  Today, Monday in the afternoon, I had my usual epiphany…what…the hell… do I make…for dinner?!  Again, I ran for the freezer right before I finished my lunch and pulled out some chicken to thaw.  Now that I had my protein picked out, it was time to decide what to make.

Another thing I usually now keep in my fridge is pizza dough since we all know I’m trying to perfect the pizza.  Well tonight, well I think I’m getting the hang of it.  I have finally figured out my retro-oven…I have beaten it!!!  When it comes to pizza crust anyways…

**Important Tangent!!!: Here I am typing up this blog post after enjoying some delicious pizza I just made and the preview for The Karate Kid is on.  Now when I hear Karate Kid, I think Ralph Macchio, wax-on, wax-off, STRIKE FIRST, STRIKE HARD, NO MERCY SIR, bonnzzaaaiii! You get the picture… I don’t think of this:

Have any of you seen this preview yet?!?!?! Are they KIDDING?!  There’s remaking a movie, and there’s totally disrespecting and mucking up my childhood memories.  Thanks a lot Columbia Pictures. Tangent: fin.

So anyways, back to this thawed chicken and pizza dough now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.  Now there’s only one kind of pizza that chicken should show up on…okay only one outside of Matchbox’s chicken pesto AMAZINGNESS.  That one’s in a category all it’s own.  The other is a more common and loved pizza, the BBQ chicken pizza.  I had everything I needed to make this: chicken, pizza dough, BBQ sauce, red onion and cilantro.

I don’t need to spell out how to roll out the pizza dough, (though it has taken me a couple tries to finally figure out the quickest way to do that haha) so here’s a picture of the final product:

All it took was some BBQ sauce (and I like mine with a little kick to it), a nice mix of freshly shredded mozzarella and jalapeno pepper jack cheese, red onions and chicken.  The chicken I pan cooked in oil with just a seasoning of salt and pepper then shredded since I really don’t like cubed cut chicken (its a texture, consistency thing).  I added a drizzle of BBQ sauce on top of the pizza once everything was on right before putting it in the oven.

Now the one thing I would have changed is when I put the cilantro on the pizza.  Not thinking, I threw it on top before putting it in the oven, which cooked off some of the pungency and wilted it a bit, so if you don’t like a strong taste of cilantro this would work for you, but if you like a lot of cilantro, wait until after the pizza is done cooking and sprinkle it on right before you serve.

Well there’s 2 chicken dinners that are easy, cheap and quick…that’s what she said… yeahhh I went there.  Try them out, let me know what you think, what you’d change, add, make for a side dish.  I hope you enjoy them!  Until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love, and Mr. Miyagi**

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Easy like Sunday Morning…

May 17, 2010 at 2:47 PM (Uncategorized) (, )

Growing up there was nothing I loved more than waking up on Sunday mornings…why?!  Because it meant PANCAKES!  Yes, warm, buttery, syrupy pancakes my dad would make before he left for the golf course.  Every year for my birthday he’d spell out Happy Birthday Stephanie in little tiny pancakes that’s how much I love them.  Naturally, when I was old enough (aka tall enough to see over the stove) I learned how to make them.  Now, I’m not saying my dad made the batter himself, we used the recipe right off the Bisquik box, however, he always added his own touch which made them the best.

Always wanting to try new things, I decided to add my own touch on these Sunday morning delights.  Now, banana pancakes are hands down my favorite pancakes in the whole world.  And when I make banana pancakes, I don’t slice the bananas, I don’t dice them, I mash them until they look like baby food so every bite there’s a bit o’ banana.  I know some people are cringing at that thought, you banana haters I’ll just…. I’ll just never understand.  I digress… banana pancakes are my favorite, but there’s one fruit that is always good when baked and I had to try them in pancakes.  So ladies and gentlemen…something easy, cheap and really not all THAT creative but rully freaking good, and I mean ruuulllllyyyy good…Apple Cinnamon Pancakalacies!

Like I said, recipe for the batter itself, I get right off the Bisquik box (I always cut this in half since I’m cooking for one so feel free to do that as well):

– 2 cups Bisquik batter mix

– 1 cup milk

– 2 eggs

Mix this all together until the batter is smooth.  I always use a granny smith apple because I think the sour from the green apple pairs so well with the sweet of the cinnamon.  Here’s my tip on how to make sure these pancakes are as tasty as possible… grate the apple, don’t dice or slice.  Take out a cheese grater and have at it.  This way, it’s easy to cook.  Usually when you cook with fruit diced in pancakes, the area around the fruit takes longer to cook, sometimes coming out still doughy and wet.  We don’t want that, so to make sure your pancakes cook thoroughly, I suggest the grater.  Add a dash of cinnamon– a little cinnamon goes a long way…

As your mixing in the apple and cinnamon, try a splash or two of vanilla extract and about a tbsp of honey.  They really lighten up the pancakes.

Now, I’m sure most of you have made pancakes before, but sometimes they’re a little hard to flip, even if you’ve done it time and time again.  The best way to know they are ready to flip the first time is when little air bubbles start appearing in the batter.  That’s when you know they’re ready to flip.  They should be cooked over medium heat to make sure they cook evenly.

All you need on top of those babies is some butter and some syrup.  Again, this goes back to my post on the maple salmon, PLEASE, I beg of you, do not ruin your delicious pancakes with the fake stuff…get yourself some real, New England maple syrup and go to town.  Now, if you don’t like syrup, these pancakes really don’t even need them!  The cinnamon provides a lot of sweet.  The best accompaniment with these flap jacks are some crispy strips of bacon!  The salt from the bacon is a great compliment to the sweet of the apple cinnamon.

Alright, I know it’s only Monday, but I’m already thinking about the weekend which means you should too!  Wow I’m a bad influence…  If you can, keep this little nugget in the back of your mind for an upcoming weekend and I guarantee you will enjoy them.  I’m thinking of taking a stab at homemade pizza again this week.. we’ll see how well that goes!  On that note, it’s time to sign off and hopefully dream up another delicious recipe to bring you this week.  Until then, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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I really gotta get better at this thing!

May 13, 2010 at 11:25 AM (Uncategorized) (, , )

Alright, alright, so I said the haitus was over… I was wrong.  Here I am almost 5 months to the day from my last post JUST opening this blog up for the first time since I wrote on Jan. 20.  I swear I need to get better at this thing.  Not just because I have ya know, you 2 readers (that means you Adam and Harry) but I really do have a passion for food and wine.  And I’d really like to get into it as a hobby, so until Food & Wine Magazine calls me to replace Gail on Top Chef  as a judge, I’ll just have to settle for a food and wine blog.

What helps is my dad has now recognized my passion for it… meaning he’s helping me learn the complexities of wine.  I went home to CT about three weeks ago where my dad has now made me the sommolier…I’m in charge of picking the wine.  He certainly knows more than I do, and hell, it’s his cellar so he knows what’s in there!  But I love the challenge.  He’s given me his password to Wine Spectator and I have been spending WAY too much time on websites like Snooth.com.  There I can rank, comment and even buy wine.  They sometimes like to put up recipes to pair with the wine they are showcasing that day/week.  Food and wine has truly been becoming a passion.  And yes I include recipes in this blog, but the more I think about it, the more I love just the taste of food.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, but we all know there’s no shot in hell for me to ever become Sandra Lee or Giada DiLaurentiis.

Unfortunately for me, I have moved to a city where the food is…well…alright.  Trust me, this isn’t the place celebrity chefs come to open restaurants.  There are a couple places I could write about (and will) but it’s one thing I do really miss about DC, the food.  Luckily for me, I live less than an hour from Boston and have a boyfriend who lives in Providence where the Italian food is just…well the best.  Manchester also has a Farmer’s Market, thank GOD! Lord knows I couldn’t survive without one, Eastern Market was the best part of my Sundays.  Anyways, I do plan on keeping this up now and will definitely be including recipes as I go along.  I did venture out and make creamy champagne pork chops the other night so I’ll have to crack that back out and include it in here.  I’ve also been trying to perfect the pizza and calzone (some of you know it as stromboli) so I’ll keep updating the attempts at that!

Hopefully this blog will catch on, maybe catch someone’s eye, because let’s face it…I’m an English Lit major who loves food and wine whose losing interest in her current career…any takers?! No?! Okay. Maybe later…until then, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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