Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Cheese Balls...


I have always found Christmas to be the most personalized of all of the holidays. Every family has its own hodge-podge amalgam of strange and wonderful traditions/rituals gathered over the course of their lifetimes. You know what I am talking about, Ma' and Da' put on viking helmets and watch Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas at exactly 7:23 on X-mas eve... Stuff like that. It doesn't really matter if the tradition is particularly enjoyable or meaningful. You do it just because. Family rituals are not good or bad, they just kind of 'are'.

For me, a yearly solstice punishment that I inflict upon my gut is the hallowed tradition of the "cheese ball." I take mine in the "Port Wine" variety and always from the Herkimer Cheese Co. (makers of the NY Cheddar Cheese Fudge that I just reviewed). Their slogan regarding cheese balls/logs is, "Log on... and have a (cheese) ball," which is amusing. Among the various blessings of living in Upstate NY is the fact that we have the Herkimer Cheese Co. which produces what I consider to be the Platonic ideal of a cheese ball/log.


Just look at the thing. A marvelous wonder of food dye and processed cheese food, all rolled up in some limp soggy walnut bits. I don't know why, but the thing represents vivid taste memories to me and screams X-Mas like no other food product. Do I know that the cheese ball is a wonder of modern science and artificial food production and probably has as many chemical compounds as your work-a-day can of shoe polish? Yes, of course. Does this stop me from buying one every year? No, of course not.


I have a bad habit of eating only the parts with the nuts which inevitably leaves a sad, weird, orange and crimson blob of cheese ball on the plate.

It is probably fairly amusing for my wife to see me hacking at the cheese ball every year. I never take it out of the fridge early enough to get all nice, soft, and warm so the cheese always sticks to the knife and gets lifted off of the plate en masse. When I do finally separate a bit of nut be-speckled substance from the ball, I never fail to break my cracker in half attempting to spread the stuff. I culminate the experience by shoving the entire cracker and cheese mess into my gob, grinning widely, and chewing obnoxiously while cracker crumbs rain from my mouth.

Anyhow, different strokes for different folks I guess. I don't care what anyone thinks, if I am having pre-Christmas snacks, then I am having some Herkimer cheese ball. Don't judge me. Take your brie en croute and stick it right in your ear. Haha, joking. As you know, I celebrate cheese in all of its form (processed or otherwise...). Not like my friend who exiled the Herkimer Cheese Fudge from her cheese plate and left it all lonely like in the corner. I completely understand her motives though, as the idea of Cheddar cheese fudge is a little disconcerting the first time you are confronted by it. You don't want the stuff stinking up all your other stinky cheeses...


Merry Christmas Eve and Waes Hail! my fellow Upstate NY countrymen! I expect that as part of your festivities tonight you will pour libations to Father Winter and ask for wind, snow, and bluster as the weather today feels un-natural here in our homeland. Have the Upstate winter gods of old abandoned us? I don't know, but the situation has me vaguely unsettled... The lack of snow portends strange and witchy things to come with the new year, me thinks... We shall see.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crisan Bakery B-Day Cake. I Was Impressed.


So I was going to bake my lovely wife, on the occasion of her birthday, a ridiculous construction that I planned on calling Cake-amemnon. The plan involved a brownie layer, red velvet layer, yellow cake layer, Devil Dog layer, and Swiss Roll layer (in the grand tradition of me making combo cakes like the Velvet Carrot and the Brownie/Cheese Cake/Cake Cake), but I got all crushingly lazy and decided to take the easy way out. I made a call to Crisan Bakery (Lark Street, Albany) and ordered up a b-day cake.

I had previously had very good experiences with Crisan's "Little Richards" and was very excited when they told me that I could get this in the form of a full-on cake.

Just look at the above picture. That beautiful specimen of a cake was prepared on short notice (I called the day before) and only cost around 25 bucks (maybe it was 30, I can't remember). To my sensibilities this is a true Albany bargain. You pay more than this for a shite sheet cake with franken-frosting at P-chops for Pete's sake.

I could not get over how impressed I was with Crisan's product and I paraded all of my friends past this square confection and demanded that they appreciate the quality, beauty, and value. Heck, when I beheld this cake in the store I ordered a Buche de Noel for the following week based on appearances alone. I will certainly let you know how that goes.

In any event, recognize that Crisan Bakery is a treasure that we Albanites are lucky to possess. During this holiday season I humbly demand that you bless them with your patronage. Make it so! I want to continue to gorge on Crisan's delicacies for years to come.

Herkimer Cheddar Cheese Fudge, Yeah You Heard Me...


So I was on a morning stroll through the Slingerlands Price Chopper today when I spied something strange peeking out at me from among the soft cheeses in the cheese case. On closer inspection of the small brown squares I saw that they said "fudge" on them. That's strange I thought, fudge in the cheese case? 

Picking up a hunk I almost immediately noticed something unexpected and wonderful... The second ingredient is "NY Cheddar Cheese." That is right folks, here we have Upstate New York (Herkimer, a bit south of Utica) Cheddar Cheese Fudge produced by the Herkimer County Cheese Co. What sorcery is this?

Haha, another ingredient is - "Sorbate to retard mold." I am
laughing childishly at the thought of retarded mold. 

In the past I have seen recipes around for "Velveeta Fudge," and after a cursory search of "Cheddar Fudge" on the googles I found that the concept is fairly well attested. I found several different recipes and began to wonder how I was left in the dark in terms of cheddar fudge for all of these years. Upstate New York makes some of the best cheddar in the nation and you would think a purveyor, such as myself, of the strange and wonderful delicacies of our fair homeland would have been let in on this secret...


A goodly sized hunk was only a little over 3 green bills at 5 dollars a pound.


There she is folks. If you showed me this and I didn't know, I would assume that this was a standard, run of the mill block of fudge.


With a bit of trepidation (cheddar cheese fudge?!?) I sliced off a chunk and gave it a gander. The fudge seemed to have a creamy kind of consistency and there were flecks of what I initially took to be little hunks of cheddar... This seemed a little gross but upon closer inspection I realized that the odd little bits were chopped up nuts.

Now I am a brave man as far as culinary matters go, but somehow the thought of a chocolate/cheddar combination was unsettling to my sensibilities. It took me a tick or two to build up the courage to take a big ol' bite. But as with most things that you are worried about eating, the Herkimer cheese fudge was utterly normal. It tasted like a nice, smooth, chocolatey fudge with crunchy bits of nuts in it. I think I was expecting some sort of "sharp/aged" flavor from the cheddar but this character was completely absent.

If you like fudge, which I really don't, I guess this is a fair to middlin' example. Much more interesting for its novelty then its inherent fudginess I think.

But anyhow, if there has ever been a food that is more emblematic of the title of this blog, then the Herkimer cheese fudge is it. I can't think of any more ridiculous Upstate New York foods then this example. If you are aware of something better, do let me know. Thanks.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The "Trojan" Omelette at Manory's


So I was across the river (downtown Troy) the other day looking for a bit of breakfast. On the recommendation of a trusted associate who knows Troy I decided to go to Manory's. This was actually my first visit to Manory's after years of hearing about the place and driving by it uncounted hundreds of times.

Moving inside, the place has the old timey river town ambiance of which I am so fond. Yellowed pictures on the wall,  grizzly old people, and all that. You know what I am talking about.

Something you should know about me is that I feel honor bound during my first visit to an establishment to order whatever is proffered as a house specialty, no matter what it is (take the Doodle Dumpster for example).  So when I saw the "Trojan Omelette" on the menu with the tag line "HUGE!" my decision was pretty much made for me. A 6 egg, 13 dollar omelette has to be something to behold, right?


There she is folks- 6 eggs, homefries, sausage, jalapenos, cheese, onions, all soused with some white sausage gravy. I am not usually a fan of diner/greasy spoon type omelets, but I made an exception for the Trojan.

For what it was, the Trojan was pretty well executed. The homefries were nicely browned, onions good and caramelized, crisp jalapenos, and sharp melty cheese. Not to mention the sausage, which was chopped up links. It was really good breakfast sausage, absolutely perfect texture. I wonder where they get their sausage, anybody know?


Here is the empty plate of my shame and self hate. I had skipped lunch and dinner the previous day which led to a perfect storm of piggishness that allowed me to demolish the Trojan. Probably the most that I have eaten in one sitting in years. I felt like a competitive eater.

Anyhow, I enjoyed Manory's and will definitely go back. They also had "Sugar Cookie Egg Nog French Toast" on the menu. As a seasoned Eggnogologist, I think I feel obligated to give this a whirl as well.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oh Midwest, Aren't You Quaint?


So I was out in Ohio the other week and I spied this at a hotel bar. Apparently, Yuengling is a "coming attraction" arriving in October, 2011 (I was there in November...).

But now that I think of it, Yuengling was rarely seen in our Upstate homeland before about 10 years ago. So maybe there it is considered some sort of strange and wonderful delicacy from faraway lands. But I also think I remember (in the late 90s) making runs across the border to Pennsylvania to stock up on fireworks, cut rate cigarettes (oh self destructive youth), and absurdly cheap cases of Yuengling. I am pretty sure that even back then I was aware that Yuengling was an American lager that was a bit of a cut above what I was drinking at the time (college days, don't judge me). So maybe I can't fault the Ohioans for looking forward to the arrival of the stuff.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse Nog (Zombies and Eggnog, How Can This Post Not Be Interesting?)



There are two things that I truly love in this world - zombies and eggnog (not necessarily in that order).  Actually, I am lying about this... But zombies and eggnog are definitely in the top 20 things that I love in this world. 

What an age we live in for lovers of eggnog and zombies. Has there ever been a better time for zombie fiction than now? You can play Left 4 Dead, read World War Z, or watch The Walking Dead to get nearly constant zombie fixes. As for eggnog, I have already shared a multitude of ways to enjoy the frothy golden nectar. Although in my opinion Stewart's is still the best. Suck it other Nog merchants. 

So what am I getting at with all of this? Well, I have something of a penchant for survivalism, Zombie Apocalypse readiness if you will. Along with this comes a healthy interest in shelf stable food stuffs. I have already shared my opinions on a couple other canned dairy products (Red Feather butter and cheese). I thought I would weigh in on the subject of canned eggnog. 

I am declaring Borden canned "Premium" eggnog my official Zombie Apocalypse preparedness canned eggnog. This is mostly because it is the only canned eggnog that I have ever seen. There is still the holidays during and after the ZA (Zombie Apocalypse) and after all, we must not live like savages during those trying times, right? I fully intend to belly up to the campfire, oil my shotgun, and indulge in hearty swills of Borden canned nog. 

One of the best things about the canned nog is that you get to open it thusly, like a man! 


Here is some random and obscure local (Albany) nostalgia bait. Look at the below picture. Does it give anyone else flashbacks to "Juice Time" at Albany Academy Day Camp circa 1989? That was the best dixie cup of Hawaiian punch in town I say.


Anyhow, the canned nog pours surprisingly thick. It coats the glass almost like, hrmm, nog out of a vessel other than a can...


It is a fairly pale yellow with no hint of the spicy flecks you get in some nogs. Not surprising as it is almost devoid of any nog spice flavor. You get just the faintest soup├žon of cinnamon/nutmeg essence. The nog has the appearance of thickness but it goes down surprisingly thin. The flavor is lightly eggy, not too sweet, and vaguely bland. Like it is missing salt or something, don't know what that is all about.


Anyhow, if you have a bunch of Zacks (cool guy Army slang for zombies, read World War Z) mucking about your encampment (and no fresh dairy or eggs) this will do the trick nicely. As with any form of nog it would be much improved by gobs of whiskey. I declare Borden Nog a fitting substitute for the real thing in nearly every end of the world scenario.

Anyhow folks, I promise that this is only my 2nd or 3rd to last post on eggnog this season (it is an obsession, but a sweet, delicious, velvety obsession). I have some opinions on the Byrne Dairy (Syracuse) offering on deck, as well as yen to track down some Ronnybrook Farm (Ancramdale) nog. The Ronnybrook got voted as the #1 nog of the nation in the HuffPost so I am not going to lie, I am a bit excited.

On another note, you still have time to gather ingredients and whip up a batch of boozy aged nog. Cheers!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gas Station Roller Thingy Cuisine


"Corn Dog Dough" roller thingy? Can you live at that speed? Indiana has obviously outpaced Upstate New York in terms of hot dog roller technology.

In Upstate America we do have the Cheeseburger Hot Dog, the Cheesy Buffalo Ranch Chicken Dog, and the Oatmeal Machine. But Corn Dough Dog? This is strange and wonderful territory. I think we need to devote a few more scientists to research and development, nano-tech be damned. We mustn't be shown up after all...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An Albany Holiday Story From My Past

Thanks for the pic Daniel B.

Have you been to Ragonese Imports over on New Scotland? Well I haven't, at least not in about 20 years. I hear it still has good food, but that is not where I am going with this post. This is a little holiday story from my family history that came to mind last night. I thought I would share. I don't feel I am too off topic here because it is the holidays, Ragonese has food, and the story takes place in Albany. I trust you won't mind this short little sentimental trip into my murky past.

Ragonese has always been one of my Albany childhood landmarks as it was right near my elementary school (School 19, I don't know what all they are calling the place now). That was also the neighborhood that I grew up in. As with most other children, I wasn't too interested in Italian specialties back then. My parents used to go in from time to time for a sandwich or cold cuts. My father has always enjoyed good food.

Do you remember the Cabbage Patch doll(many were produced in Upstate, NY don't you know?) craze of the mid-eighties? Albany was hit every bit as hard as the rest of the nation and my older sister caught an itch for one in the worst way. My mother took upon the mission of obtaining one of the plastic-noggined things with a sort of grim determination.

I have a fairly vivid memory of being toted along to Toy"R"Us over on Wolf Road with my Ma and standing in a hectic line waiting. But alas, we were not among the lucky chosen. The dolls were all gone. Leaving the store, I am sure my mother felt a disappointment that I only now understand as I have a darling daughter of my own.

Some days later, as my mother tells it, she stopped into Ragonese for some cold cuts and as she came to the counter to pay do you know what she saw? Several true blue Cabbage Patch dolls sitting on a shelf in their boxes, for sale, right there in the middle of a local, independent Italian deli. This was at a time when you could absolutely not find the dolls anywhere. Of course she purchased one along with her salami and cappicola and it must have warmed her heart to know that she would not have to let my sister down on Christmas morning. Nobody has ever been able to explain to me how or why the Cabbage Patch dolls were at Ragonese Imports, maybe it is a question that shouldn't be asked.

So there you have it folks. A little ol' Albany Christmas miracle from my family history. So when you are muscling through the hordes of humanity at the mall and exiting into the bleakness of an Upstate winter day this year, when you are fighting traffic on a road lined with piles of dirty snow, always remember that there are still tiny miracles out there in the world. You just have to recognize them, put them in your pocket, and take them with you throughout your life.

By the way, I know it is horribly commercial of me, but I may or may not have bought an absurd amount of presents for my little ones this year. I know that these are tough times and I should be saving my money (or giving it to someone who needs it more), but there are tiny faces in my household that simply must have ear to ear smiles on them (at any price).





Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Lore of Our Grandmother's: Dr. Pepper Ham


You know those stories wherein an indigenous tribe in the Andies has been rubbing some sort of tree bark on their cuts since time immemorial, then later it turns out that the bark was really a super antiseptic? Well, I like those sorts of stories. I tend to think that a lot of these sorts of situations happen in the recipes of the past.

You see I have a sort of fetish for all of the 1950s and 1960s era strange and wonderful recipes to be found in various periodicals and branded cookbooks. Something about the bizarre mishmashes of ingredients and the horrid food photography of those days just tickles me pink (go poke about the venerable Gallery of Regrettable Food for some examples).

Anyhow, sometimes I think there is method in the madness of our Grandma's. Take Dr. Pepper Ham for instance. You can poke about and find various recipes for this out there, the one I use is fairly simple. A bone in shank ham, pineapple, and brown sugar is all you need. Sounds pretty strange (even a bit vomitous) right? Maybe there is something to it. As I had been tasked by the in-laws to "bring ham" for Thanksgiving this year,  I thought I would experiment on them.

As you all know, pineapple contains Bromelain which is a protease enzyme that acts as a tenderizer and can break down meat fibers. That pineapple on top of your Al Pastor is no accident, it serves a function. Maybe there is a strange interplay between the acidic Dr. Pepper and the enzymatic action of the pineapple that results in some sort of delicious, tender ham. I just don't know.


The process is simple, stake those pineapple rings (make sure you use fresh, the canning process destroys the enzymes) into your ham until it looks like some sort of horrible, monster larva then douse it with the Dr. P. Throw it covered into a slow oven for a couple hours, then uncover and cake with brown sugar. Throw it back in for a bit and that is all she wrote.

I cooked it yesterday, and will be serving it today. I am not going to reheat it, just gonna let it come up to room temp I think. I will let you know if everyone's favorite raisin flavored beverage, along with the pineapple makes for a delicious ham. I kind of think it is going to taste like ham-candy, but we shall see.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Bear's.



It has always been my opinion that the tradition/process/ritual of a culinary experience is often more important than the actual morsels of food that you chew up and swallow into your gullet. It isn't the taste of the lame-o over-grilled hamburger on a Freihofer's bun that makes a summer cookout enjoyable, it is the entire process. With the venerable Duanesburg institution that is The Bear's Steak House, this is the rub. From beginning to end, the entire meal is a sort of strange (but thrilling) ritual. 

Go to your phonebook, look for a phone number for The Bear's. Go ahead, search the internet. See if you can find a website... You will eventually track down the needed information, but this is only due to the much lamented (by me) advent of "yelpers" and other idiot, internet, restaurant documentarians. Before this was the case you kind of had to know someone who had been there and had the phone number handy in their rolodex. Also, it is still comically difficult to find a street address other than "Route 7, Duanesburg" for The Bear's. Use the Google map directions and you will find yourself taking a scenic tour of Duanesburg as the map is very wrong. 

You have to make reservations at The Bear's, and for a weekend evening you should probably call a week or two out. You may want to talk to someone in the know before making your reservation as you will be asked the question, "Chateaubriand or prime rib?" You don't have to pre-order either as The Bear's has a (sort of small) menu, but I recommend  that you go with the Chateaubriand for your party on the occasion of your first visit. While the Chateaubriand is probably not the best item on the menu, it is necessary for your traditional and classic visit to The Bear's. Make sure you have the number in your party firmed up and don't even think of canceling without a good amount of notice. Once you have committed to the Chateaubriand, there is no going back. You risk a verbal lambasting by the staff at the very least, possibly the denial of meaty delights in the future. You just never know.

After finding the phone number, making your reservation, securing your Chateaubriand, and obtaining a general idea of where the place is you must, along with your merry band, depart into the night. To Duanesburg! For me it is a long, lonely drive down good ol' Route 20 through Guilderland. The Bear's seats only twice per eve, at 5:30 and 8:30. I prefer the later seating and I usually make my visits in the fall. There is something very clean and crisp about a fall night in Duanesburg. 

After your long journey a house will appear out of the night. You will see the silly, portly bear on the sign and a pleasant sort of tingly anticipation will skitter up your spine. You will park, muster your merry band, and make for the door.


Hang up your jacket, take your seat, sigh and gaze upon the vivid blue wall paper. You will soon meet your waiter/waitress.


Order your beer or wine secure in the knowledge that the mental burden of deciding on a meal has been lifted away. You have already made that decision by pre-ordering a Chateaubriand. This is a set meal that includes bread, soup, meat, veg, and tatties. You must only trouble yourself with deciding on an appetizer.

The fist thing to arrive will be a roll. This will be a simple affair, nothing more than a plain, work-a-day white flour roll with a pat of butter. But look at the plate. Take in the pattern.


Of course, this is indigenous New York China. Just in case you haven't figured it out by now, at The Bear's you are in the middle of a definitive Upstate New York experience. I am not just talking about the food here folks. I can't think of another way to spend an evening that is so undeniably (and undefinably) Upstate-ish. If my whole person and being were expressed by a meal, this meal would be it. The stoic and the cranky, the ol'timey and the classic, the unflinching (and unapologetic) desire to be unchanging, all combined with a kind of shy warmness emanating from under the surface of the whole deal.


For your appetizer you will have a few choices. Below we have tomato and mozzarella.


Also offered are herring, salmon, and the most popular (traditional) choice which is shrimp cocktail. All of these were represented at my table and all were declared worthy. I had the shrimp.


Offered for the soup course that night were chili made from the trimmings off of the tenderloins...


as well as beef and barley soup.


I tasted both. The chili was well spiced and the beef and barley had some nice wine-y undertones, sherry or port I thought.

At this point, enjoy the lull. Have another glass of wine, mayhaps some sparkling water. In any event, gird your loins for what is to come. For soon to arrive will be the below pictured vision. Your Chateaubriand.


There she is folks. Meat on a platter. Does it ever really get better in this life than rare meat on a big, metal platter? If it does, I just don't want to know about it. They don't even ask you for a temperature for the meat when you reserve it as the staff of The Bear's assumes you aren't stupid and take your meat on the rare side of medium rare. I think I remember disclaimers on the menu deriding well done meat.

Pictured below are a couple slices unadulterated by anything save the white and blue Syracuse China. Look at that meat. Meat such as this surely honors the cow.



You get potatoes and carrots with your tenderloin but they are almost unnecessary.  However, a way of taking your tatty that I thoroughly endorse is to grasp one with the hand, break it in half, and run it through the lake of meaty juices on the bottom of the platter. Then devour it whole.

Here is the destruction wrought by 7 hungry souls. Hah! I just realized that I was at The Bear's with a party of 7. Twas a fortuitous and worthy number.



After the coming of the platter and the ensuing feast you will want to linger a bit and sigh until you summon the necessary willpower to leave this happy place and reenter the black and cold Duanesburg night. You will find yourself loosening the ol' belt and smiling out your window at the passing farmland as you head home.

You don't feel bad about how much you drank, how much you ate, or how much you spent. You feel somehow as if you have been quietly whispered a secret.  You have now been to The Bear's and you will already be thinking of your next visit. Maybe reservations for next weekend. Resist, for it may be too soon. Give it a little time, maybe until a clear crisp January night comes around and the memories of your meal have faded.

Only when you can just barely recall the pattern of the wall paper and its particular shade of blue should you venture out into the cold night again, Duanesburg bound.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Maggot Water


So I was a-travelin' again recently and had my first Steak 'n Shake experience. Nothing much of note to report, a fairly standard burger was consumed. As I tend to do at burger places with "Shake" in their names, I did not have a shake (out of fear of behaving piggishly).

The one thing I noticed was that next to the catsup there was an odd little bottle of wee, pale, white thingies floating about in some clear liquid. Upon further inspection I discovered that this was "Pepper Water" and it is intended as a condiment. I spritzed some upon a french fry and found it to be a vaguely pepper-y vinegar tasting substance.

Anyhow, I have decided to call this stuff "Maggot Water" because this is what it looks like. All in all I was a bit disappointed with Steak n' Shake, but I was also in a grumpy mood (red eye flights involved).

Anyhow, Maggot Water. That sounds appetizing, now doesn't it?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chicken Riggies Reloaded


A while ago I did a post on the Utica, NY specialty that is Chicken Riggies. As it turns out, this has become one of my most popular posts of all time, and is among of the top Google searches for the dish. I felt a little bad about this because that batch of Riggies was kind of weak, health-ified version. So when the wife asked me to prepare some Chicken Riggies the other night I decided to document a heartier version of the recipe.

To oversimplify the matter, Chicken Riggies is rigatoni and chicken with a spicy tomato/pepper cream sauce. There are endless variations and any Utican granny worth her salt is bound to have her own notions about what constitutes a dish of Riggies.  They even have annual "Riggiefests" out there in the strange and wonderful land of Utica. The following is merely my own preferred way of taking the dish.

To begin, as I stated before, Riggies is a "Grandma" dish. You don't need to hunt around in your specialty  Italian grocers for ingredients. This recipe is best served by using your standard grocery store items. You are going to need chicken, cream, tomato sauce, chicken stock, parmesan, cherry peppers, roasted red peppers, onion, garlic, rigatoni, whatever "Italian" herbs you like.


Maybe a little bit of Utica Grind red pepper flakes for kick.


There is something about a jar of pickled cherry peppers that I find extraordinarily visually pleasing.


I use two large, plump cherry peppers in my recipe (one red, one green). I find the cherry peppers to be the true essence of a Chicken Riggies. Some use Cubanelles or Italian frying peppers, I prefer the cherry peppers.

With the cherry peppers I use two large-ish roasted red peppers, 3 cloves of garlic, and 1 medium onion. Some favor a rough chop, I like to put a fairly fine dice on everything.


Saute the veg a bit in equal parts olive oil and butter.


Throw in you chicken, a couple pounds of browned, 1/2" diced should do nicely. Pour in a cup or two of chicken stock and a jar of decent pre-made tomato sauce (thickish if possible), a teaspoon of Utica Grind, and whatever herbs you choose. Let this all simmer for about 45 mikes and then remove from heat and stir in whipping cream until you have reached a pleasing pinkness. Throw in a handful of parmesan and that is all she wrote.


Pour in your nice, fat, ridged rigatonis and let it sit for a couple minutes.


There are those out there who finish this with black olives, I don't approve of this. I like a bit of parsley, nothing more.

So there you have it, a big pot of Chicken Riggies. I first encountered this dish in a cheap hotel in Oriskany (in hotel pans, at the complimentary dinner) and have had a soft spot in my heart ever since. The wife has also taken a liking to it, and we rarely share affinities for the same food stuffs. Chicken Riggies has become on of our infrequently consumed "family meal" kind of things and I have tailored it to our particular tastes. That is to say, what is described here is not an attempt at a definitive Riggies recipe. I find Chicken Riggies to be a very personnel experience.

Anyhow, hooray for Utica.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ryan's Farmers Market. Even if You Have No Other Reason to, Go for the Nibble With Gibble's (Lard Chips)


I have found that a lot of locals have driven by this place and are vaguely aware of it, but have never actually gone in. I am speaking about Ryan's Farmer's Market over on Fuller Road in Albany. Ryan's is a pretty no frills operation, the space is a little spare to say the least. My wife inexplicably says that it smells funny and won't go in with me (she is a strange one). But I have found that they generally have some decent produce items (at least as good as anything you are going to find in our local grocery chains), as well as all sorts of random and unexpected items that I like to peruse.

For one, they have Nibble with Gibble's potato chips.


You want to know why Gibble's (a going concern out of PA) chips are so good? Look right there at those ingredients. These chips are cooked in lard! If you are going to eat chips, you must trust me, take the drive and get some Gibble's at Ryan's. They are unctuous, salty little flakes of joy.


Ryan's also has a reasonable selection of Upstate farmed meat, mostly frozen beef and pork. I picked up a pork roast care of Gemini Excursion Farms in the Heldebergs. I think I am going to cure and smoke it for a canadian bacon kind of deal.


At Ryan's you can also get wine grapes/wine making supplies, cheeses, dairy products, deli meat, snacks, etc... To tell you the truth, I am so disgusted as of late with our local farmers market situations that I would  almost just rather just go over to Ryans to poke about. At least they actually sell meat and veg.

First the Troy market became a giant, obnoxious extravaganza and now the Delmar market (which sort of sucked to begin with) is even worse. I went there yesterday and there was probably about 1 grocery cart full of edible material in the entire place. It was pretty much an overcrowded, mediocre craft fair. I did actually see a few small and plump pumpkins at a stand and was going to buy them to do up some pumpkin butter, but I got so frustrated by being jostled by a pair of pushy silver foxes that I gave up and left with the family in a huff. But what is there to do? You have to take the world as it is and not as you wish it to be I guess... sigh.

Anyhow, I like Ryan's. It ain't D'Artagnan's, but I kind of like the joint.

A Quick Addendum to My Last Post Concerning Stewart's



Rum Raisin! This photo is a better specimen than the one I used in my last gallery of Stewart's oddities. I found it yesterday. Why is it better? Well, because RUM RAISIN!, that's why.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day Post: Dehydrated Egg Mix, Butter Flavored, Pasteurized, Uncooked.



In honor of Veteran's Day, and in my tradition of sharing with you examples of military rations (see my MRE review, Heater Meal too), today I bring you breakfast items. As a veteran, I find that there is something of a disconnect between members of our country's all-volunteer military and the public in general (probably especially the food blog reading/writing community). I think these small glimpses into the life of a service member help us all gain some perspective.

So today, I bring you Dehydrated Egg Mix, Butter Flavored, Pasteurized, Uncooked. This is an item taken out of a breakfast Unitized Group Ration (UGR) which is meant to feed about 50 Joes. It comes in three big ol' cases which include everything you need for a meal (beverages, utensils, condiments, etc...). These are generally consumed in the field during training, deployment or any other time when a dining facility is not readily available.



In that foil bag you have 50 servings of egg divided between two "boil in bag" packages, all in a shelf stable, easily prepared, and portable form.


Inside you have two big sacks of dehydrated egg with caps. You simply follow the idiot proofed instructions to prepare. There are two methods of preparation, you can either add the water and boil the whole bag for 50 minutes, or add water and then utilize as you would any other egg mixture sort of thing. The boil in bag method results in a giant, spongy, egg loaf sort of thing that you can eat in slices. I went for the second method which is bit more manageable for the home kitchen.


 Make sure you slosh it around good, you wouldn't want to bite into a big hunk of dried egg, now would you?

Before we get down to egg cookin', here are some other items that come in a UGR.  Here is some "Butter Flavored Grill & Topping Oil." I think the cooks use this stuff to grease the griddle when they are making french toast out of bread and the afore mentioned egg mixture. What other mysterious and buttery uses there are for this stuff I know not.


This is a giant carton of "Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes." I am sure all of my fellow veterans are familiar with the limp, flavorless, soggy hash browns that result from improper preparation of this stuff.


You rehydrate the "hash browns" right in the box and then dump them out on a griddle to crisp up, this step never seems to be done thoroughly.


Usually there is good ol' American Ketchup included, but sometimes you get wing nut stuff like "Buffalo Bob's Extra Spicy Everything Sauce." This is pretty much just slightly spiced ketchup.


 Now back to the eggs. Pour a goodly amount of the gloup into a hot pan.


Pretty soon the egg mixture will congeal into something that looks very much like scrambled eggs.


There you have it, pictured below is what a standard breakfast of this type would look like. You would also have breakfast meats, and probably grits, but you get the idea.


You know what? As with MREs and most other Army chow you will find that the stuff really isn't that bad at all. These are obviously not farm fresh eggs, scrambled with care. But they are good enough for government work and I actually kind of like them. They are packed full of all sorts of familiar taste memories and nostalgia.

Anyhow, while everyone is enjoying a day off and getting all drunk, take a minute to remember what the day is truly meant to be.
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