Food news roundup

We all do it – succumb to those BOGOs and then forget we have four cans of chopped tomatoes in the back of the pantry. Yes, the back of the pantry, where good food goes to die. If you’re tired of throwing money away, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) has tips for using up what’s in the freezer and pantry. Read more here.

The article is in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, too. Also, read about a real gin joint – the kind that makes it – in Kings Mountain, N.C. here.

Families with food allergies love to snack, too. The Feed With Care blog in the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) has recipes for snacks and Valentine’s Day treats that are free of common allergens. It’s here.

I’ve never heard them called Preacher Cookies, but I know well the no-bake combination of oatmeal, chocolate and peanut butter. A recipe is in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, here.

Monks growing mushrooms in South Carolina. As I once heard cartoonist Jeff MacNelly say, real life is stranger than anything you can make up. Read it all in the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) here.

Finally, some Valentine’s Day sweets. I was starting to think the food world had gone Grinchy. KitchenScoop offers a recipe for heart-shaped cookies. There’s also a split-pea soup from a late, lamented Raleigh restaurant.

Take a trip down a root beer memory lane at JanNorris. I’ve never been a fan of drinking root beer (it’s fun to cook with, though), but Jan almost makes me regret that. Almost.

The San Francisco Chronicle has the story of star chef Michael Chiarello’s new Italian restaurant in Napa Valley here.

Reader picks for favorite romantic bars in a city that must be full of them – New Orleans – are in the Times-Picayune, including one called the Lost Love Lounge. Read more here.

The recipe box speaks

Google “meat loaf” all you want, O children of the modern age. But there are plenty of us who prefer stuffing random recipes into receptacles, then excavating for gold among the bits of paper.

I learned this from the many comments I received after my Sunday Dinner column yesterday. And I should know by now that if I mention a recipe, y’all are going to want it. So, here’s the dressing. Really, the dressing doesn’t contain chestnuts or foie gras or anything like that; it’s just good, plain, dressing.

Country Corn Bread Dressing (with thanks to Helen Moore)

6 cups crumbled corn bread (see my notes at the end)

3 to 4 pieces loaf bread, crumbled

1 cup chopped celery

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 to 3 tablespoons margarine

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon or more dried sage, or to taste (see notes)

3 eggs, beaten

2 or more cups turkey or chicken broth

Crumble up the corn bread and loaf bread in a big bowl. Saute the celery and onion in the margarine in a frying pan until tender, but not brown. Add to the breads and add seasonings. Helen wrote: “The 1 teaspoon of sage is modest. Let your taste buds be your guide. I probably use 1 tablespoon of sage, because it seems to take more of the storebought seasoning to give a good flavor. If you don’t like sage, use marjoram, rosemary or thyme or a combination.”

Stir in the eggs, Worcestershire sauce and enough broth to make a mixture with a pork-and-beans consistency – sort of soupy. You’ll need to add sufficient broth so all the moisture won’t cook out of the finished dressing.

Pour into greased 9- by-13-inch baking pan and bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 40 minutes or until browned. Makes 8 to 10 servings

Notes: These are my suggestions. Several weeks before Thanksgiving, I purchase two packages of corn bread mix, bake them and freeze them to use in the dressing. (Don’t tell Helen.) I also freeze random bits of leftover loaf bread to use. For seasoning, I use 1 heaping teaspoon dried sage plus about 1 teaspoon each dried marjoram and dried savory. There’s a lot of bread and you want flavor. The 3 eggs makes a soft-textured dressing; if you want a less soft one, use 2 eggs. If you follow Helen’s description on adding broth, you will have a moist, wonderful dressing; deviate at your peril.

Big game, Super Bowl food

Not viewing at least a little of the Super Bowl, which will be on this Sunday, is like saying you hate fireworks on the Fourth of July. It’s not a football game, it’s a national eating holiday. Sort of like Thanksgiving, but without the family drama.

There are a couple of philosophies you can have about feeding the mob. One, provide a continuous stream of munchies. Two, offer some snacks early, then bring out the big food at halftime. There’s no need to look for more wardrobe malfunctions, so you might as well be eating. And the Hub and I can’t imitate the Black Eyes Peas. We did, I feel, a credible version of The Who last year, although I almost threw out my shoulder doing the Townsend Guitar Swing.

Chili is classic Super Bowl big food, and sometime you have to go with tradition. Here’s a recipe from my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home.” It was inspired by the flavors of Mexican mole sauce. Add cornbread to the bowls for something different.

Marvelous Mole Chili

5 dried ancho chilies

4 dried pasilla chilies

5 dreed guajillo or New Mexico chilies

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 quarts chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

Place the chilies in a bowl, pour in enough boiling water to cover them and let soak for 30 minutes. Use a sauce to weigh down the chilies if they float to the surface. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Lightly brown the beef but do not overcook it. Remove the beef from the pan and drain out any liquid from the pan.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the same pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft but not browned. Remove the pan from the heat.

When 30 minutes are up, drain the chilies, remove stems and seeds by holding under running water, and pat dry. Puree the chilies to a smooth paste in a food processor.

Put the pan back over high heat, add tomato sauce and chicken broth, and bring ot a boil. then stir in the beef, chile paste, bay leaf and cinnamon. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook uncovered, for 1 hour. Then add the oregano, cumin and cayenne. Let simmer uncovered, for 1 hour. Add a little water or broth if the chili becomes dry or overly thick. Taste, then add salt.

Makes 6 servings.

Food news roundup

It’s Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay  – at the table. The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) has foods native to the areas, suitable for game-day serving. If necessary, you could probably stop an opposing player with that Pittsburgh pepperoni roll. Read more here.

At the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, hear about a man who dedicated his photographic skills to documenting that crazed beast, the college football tailgater. “At LSU, I ate seven different kinds of animals,” he says. Read more here. (Wonder if one was groundhog; since that stinkin’ Sir Walter Wally saw his dern shadow today, I’m ready to make groundhog meatballs.)

There only thing less expensive than a good, cheap red wine is using up the last of the red wine left at your house by a Christmas party mob. But don’t take pot luck, look at the Independent Weekly’s (Durham, N.C.) picks.

There are more Super Bowl recipes at the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, but these state a concern for calories. The way I see it, it’s once a year, but if you’re worried, have at them here. Although the “wings” made from avocado slices seem a lit-tle strange.

The pork tacos and meaty chili at the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) are more traditional for game day. Find the recipe here.

Is it girlie-man food or just a fresh approach to the Super Bowl menu? Decide for yourself at LeitesCulinaria. But at least he’s offering real wings.

Of course, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette is full of ways to plan your (Steelers-oriented) Super Bowl party. Here’s something wild: Aunt Elvira’s Roethlisberger Braunschweiger Ball. It’s a cheese ball, in case you were wondering.

And because I don’t personally have a dog in this fight, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes about the chef who cooks at the Packers’ training camp. Plus other stuff, including beer-flavored potato chips that will help you save snacking time by eating and drinking at once.

If you really don’t care about anything but the food, go Tex-Mex in honor of the location. The Dallas Morning News has a ton of tasty recipes here.

A bouncing baby brisket

I was going through my box of recipes recently, and found a recipe for brisket. I’d clipped it from a magazine with some intention in mind, but I had never cooked it. In fact, I’d never cooked a brisket at all. I pulled out the recipe and decided to use it.

The first trial was finding brisket. It’s not a common cut in your average supermarket meat bin. I found one at a Harris Teeter, but it was very thin. Brisket I’ve eaten in the past was thicker. I moved on to The Meat House, where I had a choice between the flat and the tip, which was the thicker portion I was looking for.

Brisket is fairly fatty. I trimmed off what fat I could see (noting in the process that my knives badly need sharpening). I believe I would trim even more when I cook this again. Be ruthless. No matter how much you take off, there’s more fat in there.

Here’s the recipe, which was delightful. I can’t say where it came from, other than a magazine. I would add that I did not cook my brisket for four hours – three hours was enough. There’s nothing worse, to me, than an overcooked brisket.

GG’s Brisket

1 (4 pound) beef brisket

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons pepper

All-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter or margarine (I used olive oil, worked fine)

2 cups strong brewed coffee

2 cups dry white wine

2 cups ketchup

Trim fat from brisket and discard. Sprinkle brisket evenly with salt and pepper, and dredge in flour. Melt the butter (or heat olive oil) in a large skilled over medium-high heat. Add brisket and brown on both sides. Transfer to a covered roasting pan.

Whisk together coffee, wine and ketchup. Pour over brisket.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 4 hours (I baked for 3) or until tender, basting occasionally with pan juices. Remove brisket, reserving drippings. Cut brisket with a sharp knife across grain into thin slices.

Strain the drippings and discard the fat and solids. Serve hot drippings with brisket.