Monday, January 28, 2013


I am fascinated with 'Nduja. 'Nduja is a spicy Calabrian spreadable salami made with copious amounts of red pepper. A while ago I sampled some of Boccalone's 'Nduja and wasn't super thrilled with that particular product. 

After much research and salivation over the subject of this creamy red salumi, I have been tossing around the idea of attempting to make it myself at home. Since Franken-Fridge (my cobbled together meat curing chamber) is operational I thought I would begin to experiment with the 'Nduja theme a little bit and give a sort of version a go.  

For actual, authentic 'Nduja it is necessary to procure some actual Calabrian pepper (Sausage Debauchery is prob. the source I would use). I didn't get around to purchasing any of the Calabrian pepper (because I am lazy) so I decided to improvise and make a sort of pseudo-'Nduja with a local ingredient. I happened to have a bunch of Utica Grind red pepper on hand and I thought that might be a pretty reasonable substitute for the Calabrian stuff. Due to the use of this ingredient I am calling my bastard creation "'Ndjutica"in honor of the fair city of Utica. 

I used about 1000 grams of fatty pork belly, 100 grams of the Utica Grind, 50 grams of sweet paprika, 28 grams kosher salt, 3 grams Prague #2, and for the culture I used Bactoferm T-SPX. Note that this is about half the amount of hot pepper that some recipes call for. I am in experimental phase here so I went a bit conservative.

Traditionally 'Nduja is cold smoked for quite a lengthy period... But I got lazy again. I only just cold smoked a bunch of hams a couple of weeks ago and today I did not feel like tending a marathon cold smoke session (for only one measly chub of salumi no less...). I added a teaspoon of liquid hickory smoke instead, don't judge me. To tell you the truth, I am more interested in the process than the end result with this version so I can refine my methods for future attempts. I am more interested in the final texture and to see how the Bactoferm worked and am not going to get bent out of shape over using a couple lame charcuterie short cuts. 

I ground the meat fine (2x, fine plate) and mixed to bind with all the seasonings and culture. I stuffed the mixture into a medium diameter collagen casing and tied it off a bit.

Currently the 'Ndujtica is incubating in the oven with the light on and a bowl of salt water to maintain some humidity. After 24 hours the chub will go into Franken-Fridge for probably about 6 months. Hopefully it turns out good so I have the confidence to spring for the real ingredients for my next attempt. I think a really well done version of 'Nduja would probably end up being in my top 5 favorite foods. Fat, spice, and funk that you can spread on other stuff. What is not to like?

Between 'Nduja and Rolf's Teawurst, I seem to be in a spreadable sausage craze lately. Don't ask me why. There is just something about a smearing a luscious, funky, fatty meat butter that gets me going. I could live on the stuff. So hopefully this experiment works out. I will let you know.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I know that I previously stated that I would not do any new posts relating to Stewart's due to people complaining that I was turning into a big Stewart's commercial (and accusing me of being on their payroll. Ha! I wish! They could pay me in Mountain Brew). But I kind of forgot that I don't really care about the thoughts or feelings of others... So here is another post about a Stewart's product. You are free to find yourself another hack, Upstate New York oriented, micro-regional, food weblog to read anytime you want. Thank you very much.

In any event, anyone else like Stewart's Vichy water? I do. Randomly I will mention Stewart's Vichy and people will look at me like I have two heads. It is available at most locations and it has been since time immemorial so I never understand why no one has heard of the stuff.

This is one of my secret weapons in the battle against culinary over indulgence. If you are burping bile and acid after a bacchanalian night of fatty food and booze, this stuff will sort out your tummy right quick. Trust me, have I ever steered you wrong?

Vichy is composed solely of bubbly water, salt (1300 mg Sodium per bottle!), and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). Baking soda and water is great for indigestion and the Vichy makes it a slightly more palatable potion (in my opinion, my wife finds Vichy to be incomprehensibly vile).

As far as the flavor, I guess it is a bit of an acquired taste but I find it sort of refreshing (especially ice cold). I can see how some people despise the stuff as it does kind of remind one of getting a mouthful of ocean at the beach. But Vichy serves its purpose. A small cupful settles the tum-tum and I was using it to supplement my sodium intake whilst doing my stretch of the keto diet (2 months, great results).

Just thought everyone should be aware of another strange and wonderful product that exists in our environs.


I was just informed via the twitters (by @jengonroff) that Vichy is used in the stead of buttermilk/milk in pancakes by the old timers. This is genius and should go into the Upstate New York book of ol' timey lore and legend.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Grumpy Loaf: Mr. Dave Gets Meme-y With Loaf (Grumpy Cat Loaf)

Black pepper for shading....
If you don't know, I fancy myself something of an artist. The medium in which I work just happens to be meatloaf. I like to call myself a "Meatloafartist." My previous meat masterpieces include - "Meatloafy the Whale" and "Meat Romney." You are welcome to consult either of those posts if you are interested in the process that begets a meatloaf masterpiece...

Anyhow, mayhaps you are aware of the "Grumpy Cat" meme that has taken the internets by storm. Check out the "Tard the Grumpy Cat" reddit for some good examples. I am not usually susceptible to internet fads, but for some reason ol' Tard the Cat has just plum tickled my fancies. I can't get enough of that silly cat...

As I had a bit of excess meat in the fridge I thought that it might be an opportune time to pay tribute to this particular fad by immortalizing the "Grumpy Cat" in meat form. As a note, I cover the meatloaf with mashed potatoes. I did not use some manner of strange white meat...

Here is what I came up with-

Initial Attempt.

Spice Rub Ears!

A different angle.

Grumpy Loaf!!!

Hopefully this gave you a giggle or two. I thought it came out pretty damn good. It is amazing what a steady hand, some instant mashed potatoes, and a squirt bottle full of barbecue sauce can come up with!

I am still conceiving a grand project called the "Meatpire State Plaza" that is sure to impress the Albany-born (it will include a Meat-Egg) but that grandiose project is going to take some planning and time... Hopefully this example of meat-art tides you over until I can get that whole thing together...

Oh yeah, I thought I would add a picture of the actual Grumpy Cat for comparison purposes.

Tard the Cat

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mr. Dave Gets Crabs (A Strange Impulse Drove Me to Give Joe's Crab Shack a Whirl)

So the family and I were on our way to Ala Shanghai the other day when we happened past the sort of new Joe's Crab Shack location over that way. My darling daughter (nigh four years old now!) Giblet spied the pirate ship/playground thingy and let out a yelp. Then the morbid fascination that I have concerning the strange and wonderful, fluorescent lit, garishly colored world of American casual dining started a fire in my belly. A fire in my belly for crab! In buckets! I glanced at the ever trusty Mrs. Dave and she rolled her eyes and let out a - "fine."

I have never actually eaten at a Joe's Crab Shack. I guess there are strong opinions in both directions concerning the place. I seem to remember people getting in a sort of snit when ol' Barnsey-Warnsey at the Table Hopping weblog gave the place a sort of good review. I kind of had a feeling I was going to regret not going to Ala Shanghai but I always keep an open mind. In any event, I knew there would be plenty to delight a lover of the droll and banal such as myself.

Here is a fish. 
Upon entering the establishment you are immediately assailed with your standard chain restaurant barrage of friendliness and ushered towards a table. The interior is an epileptic fit of weird slogans and tie-died art work. I was in a bit of over stimulated shock as my family was led, cattle like, to the table where we would soon slop ourselves from buckets.

On the way to the table I noticed the hand washing station in the middle of the dining area. It seems that getting covered in crab juice up to the elbows is part of the appeal of Joe's. I told my wife that it would be funny if after eating she brought our dishes over there and started washing them. She would not, however, indulge my urge for comedic, public, performance art.

Soon after sitting down you are given your implements of crab-war. A meal at Joe's seems to be more of a sporting event then a quiet dining experience. I believe that you are supposed to revel in cracking shells, stabbing crustaceans with metal implements, slathering your face with butter and shrimp fat, until exhausted you finally have to be hosed down in a large dish sink in front of the gaping populace.

While we were waiting for our waiter to swing by a young lass screamed - "let's dance!!!" and a disco ball in the middle of the ceiling activated. My lovely little minions were delighted, but I found the impromptu dance routine to be a bit strange. I wondered if they would get angry if I voiced my displeasure with the situation by hucking crab shells at the performers. This was all academic at that point as I hadn't yet gotten to tear apart the limbs of any crustaceans and didn't have any pointy shells to huck.

I was in a sort of "when in Rome" mood that day so I immediately decided that when present in Joe's Shack of Crabs, crabs are the way to go (in a bucket). Also, I haven't reviewed any crab products on this blog since 2008's wonderfully strange "Crab Pretzel, Crab Pretzel. Looks Like Crab, Tastes Like Pretzel" post.

I ordered the Alaskan King Crab bucket and did a couple of light upper body stretches to prepare myself for the coming crab-battle. Not long after my prize arrived. In a bucket. Here we had a fair amount of crab legs for the 30 greenback or so price tag. With gusto I began to crunch and crack joints, poke meat out of crevasses with my handy tool, and happily plunge bits of meat into the duo of butter ramekins that I was presented with. All the while howling in pain because I kept stabbing my fingers on the viciously sharp crab-spikes. I actually bloodied my thumb in the process.

So what do I think of Joe's Crab Shack? It is what it is. It is frozen seafood boiled up and brought to you in a bucket inside of a seizure inducingly overstimulating environment. Take my opinion with a grain of salt though, I am a true inlander and not the world's biggest seafood fan. While eating my crab legs I kept thinking to myself, "so this is what those poor gentlemen get washed into the frozen sea for on all of those television programs? Doesn't seem worth it..." I guess crab is sort of tasty, but I can take it or leave it to tell you the truth. It just always feels like work instead of dinner.

As with a lot of these sorts of joints I sort of think you are paying mostly for the spectacle of the whole situation. It is sort of like a modern version of a Roman gladiatorial display. I think a nice touch would be if they had a guy dressed as a giant crab walk through the dining area screaming, "Are you not entertained!"

In any event, we did the Joe's Crab Shack thing. I don't think I ever need to do it again and I really don't think I can in good faith encourage anyone else to go unless that is really your sort of thing.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I Think I Found My First Food Photograph... (A Meersburger)

So I booted up an ancient lap top that I haven't used in quite a while and what did I find sitting there on the desktop? I found what I believe to be the earliest example of the crappy cell phone food photography that I utilize on this hack blog. I think this is what started it all folks, I believe this is where the idea of documenting my food adventures was born in my tiny brain.

The above picture was taken in 2007 (I think) with my Blackberry in Oklahoma at Meers Store and Restaurant. If you are ever in the Lawton/Fort Sill area of Oklahoma and ask anyone where you should eat they will tell you Meers. The picture is of their world famous "Meersburger." Meers' eponymous burger is made out of grass fed beefs right out of their own resident herd. It adds a little something to the burger eating experience to know that the family members of your meal are outside still mooing. The burger is huge and served to you in a pie tin. Read the description on the website as it is pretty amusing (they won't put ketchup on it because that would make it a Yankee burger among other things).

It seems strange now, but that Blackberry I used back then was the first cell phone that I owned (I was a late comer to the cell phone game) that had a camera. I don't think I would have ever lugged an actual camera into a restaurant to take a picture of what I was eating at that point in my life. The cell phone camera seemed to me to be a little less obtrusive and less obnoxious. I don't really recall why I even took the picture as I wasn't involved in blogging or really any other social media at that point. I guess the burger tickled some urge to begin documenting and exploring my feelings about food culture.

I ended up starting this blog about a year later (2008) after I upgraded to the iPhone 1. The ease with which you could snap and then download pictures onto your computer allowed me to write pictorial posts while still being a pretty lazy sack. Looking back, those early pictures are pretty drab and awful. My pictures are still pretty bad but I refuse to learn anything about photography or cameras and I insist on using whatever phone I currently own (after a sojourn to Android, I am back with the iPhone). So I guess the cell phone industry, social media/blogging, and I have grown together over the years...

In any event, it was kind of neat to come across the spark that led to a gettin' on 6 year long endeavor.
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