Category Archives: beef

My Russian son and borsch (no T!)

I have learned a thing or two from my 22-year-old son and I expect to learn a lot more as time goes by. The first thing is that when you throw out a leftover drink at the convenience store, always pour out the contents first. You do not want to create “trash juice” for the poor guy who empties the trash.

And it’s BORSCH without the T. Even though the entire internet spells it with a “t,” the entire internet is wrong. I know this because Noah is my Russian son and he spent five hours making BORSCH the other night. I am screaming, I know. But since becoming conversationally fluent in Russian during his college career at the University of Tennessee, my son speaks Russian around the house every day. With correct pronunciation, which is slightly irritating. Sadly for him, he speaks Russian mostly to my cat, Peanut. Peanut seems to understand.

Noah and Peanut

So Noah loves all things Russian. He loves the culture, he loves the vodka (WODKA)  and he loves the food. Particularly BORSCH. He made 10 gallons of it the other night. It only took him five hours. The recipe, by author Anya von Bremzen, is the luxury version because it contains meat. I have learned from my Russian son that there are many versions of BORSCH and they reflect the varying economic climate under which the Soviet people lived. Most of the time it sucked to be Russian during this era and much of the traditional Russian food culture went underground.

But at 5117 times are good and our BORSCH included beef brisket. I am a big beet lover as is Noah. King Daddy not so much so he reserved judgment as this soup slowly came together.

IMG_5559

I think he looks a little like an oppressed Russian dock worker here, cooking his BORSCH in a ripped t-shirt. But King Daddy and I were much the richer for the finished product. It was absolutely delicious and King Daddy had seconds. We paired it up with some terrific rye bread with Russian butter and Russian sour cream from Alexsey Market.

Noah had some WODKA with his BORSCH.

Photo by Noah Chapin Mayhew

Photo by Noah Chapin Mayhew

As I said, this recipe is not for the faint of heart. But it’s truly spectacular and on a frigid winter day when the Polar Vortex revisits Middle Tennessee, you can make it and reminisce about the bad old days in Russia and celebrate the young man in Brentwood, Tennessee, who treasures his new-found, old-school Russian heritage.

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The Big Easy

I know you want some of this - turkey from the Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer

I know you want some of this – turkey from the Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer

I have fried a turkey the traditional way once. ONCE. It was at Bunny and Paul’s house in Knoxville and here’s how it went.

I buy a turkey frying kit for about $80. I like fried turkey plus I regularly engage in pastimes that are traditionally male like competition barbecue, high heat grilling and never asking for directions. Frying turkeys falls into that category. I load the turkey fryer into the CC and head to Knoxville with King Daddy and Dammit Boy for Thanksgiving.

I buy about $40 of oil. I’m already starting to get skeptical. This turkey has already cost me more than $100. And that’s without actually buying the turkey. Plus, my mother in law is not pleased.

“Where are you going to fry the turkey?” Bunny asks skeptically.

“On the driveway,” I answer confidently.

“No, you’re not. There are a lot of children and dogs in this neighborhood. It’s a fire hazard.”

True enough. “How about the basement patio?”

“Just don’t get too close to the house. Your father in law already has a heart condition.”

So I lug the turkey frying kit and the 5 gallons of oil downstairs and set up shop. This is going to be great!

Long story short, it wasn’t. First you have to fill the giant turkey cooking vessel with water and lower the turkey in to gauge how much oil you need. If the boiling oil spills over the top as you lower the turkey, you will die. Then you have to completely dry the turkey. If you don’t, when you lower the turkey into the vessel any residual water will cause the boiling hot oil  to shoot into the air like a lunar rocket. And you will die. And then, of course, as you are frying the turkey – should you still be alive – you cannot use a digital probe thermometer to check for doneness because if you stick the probe in the boiling hot oil. Well, you know.

And then there’s the matter of cleaning up. The turkey fryer instructions say you can strain the oil and save it for another use. And I actually did that. Once. It sat in my garage for six months before I decided that it didn’t look quite right. I think I disposed of it illegally. Don’t tell.

So what I use now is the Char-Broil Big Easy TRU-Infrared Oil-less Turkey Fryer. Yes, I blog for them but my love affair with all things Char-Broil goes back way before the All-Star team was formed. When I wrote a cookbook about grilling, I needed a gas grill and the salesman at Lowe’s took me straight to the Char-Broil grills. I loved that first Char-Broil so much I almost moved it into the bedroom with me.

No complicated instructions - slather a turkey breast with butter mixed with Cajun seasoning, put it in the fryer basket and take it for a spin.

No complicated instructions – slather a turkey breast with butter mixed with Cajun seasoning, put it in the fryer basket and take it for a spin

So how, you may ask, can an “oil-less turkey fryer” fry a turkey? Honestly,  I don’t understand it. It’s magic. I believe. I was hooked after my first bird. I get shatteringly crispy skin, a juicy moist interior and no clean up. Actually, I do not believe the Char-Broil folks brag on this as much as they should. After the turkey’s done, just leave the heat on for about 15 minutes and it burns away any debris. And the Big Easy costs less than the old-fashioned fryer when you add in the cost of oil. With no potentially deadly results.

This 5-pound turkey breast was done in an hour and a half.

This 5-pound turkey breast was done in an hour and a half.

So now I use it for turkey, but also for pork butts, chickens, pork loins – any large cut of meat. With Thanksgiving coming up next month, you might want to think about getting a Big Easy. It also clears up oven space for some of the equally important stuff like the dressing, mac and cheese, and green bean bundles. Tell me you have green bean bundles at your house on Turkey Day. No? We’ll have to have a talk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Music City Food and Wine: My Top Picks

Oh, I am so depressed. Almost suicidal. They let me in to the Disneyland of Food for two days and then shut the gates for almost a year. The Music City Food and Wine Festival has become one of the premiere food events in the nation in just two years. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have put on our big boy pants.

Fantastic demonstrations by world-famous chefs like Jonathon Waxman, Masaharu Morimoto, Michael Symon, Tyler Florence and Aaron Sanchez who then walk among you and exchange pleasantries. Regional chefs like Ashley Christensen, who is about to become a superstar, so approachable that when we told her we were going to make her tomato recipes that night, she gave us some heirloom tomatoes. And food by Nashville chefs who can hold their own with anyone in the nation.

Fueled by a wee bit of world-class wine, I grazed at the tables of 28 local chefs and I admit I grazed more than once at a few of them. It was all fantastic, but in the interest of time here are my Top Picks for best food at this year’s festival.

Butter Poached Lobster with Popcorn

Butter Poached Lobster with Popcorn by Kayne Prime

OMG. So simple and yet so delectable. The lobster was perfectly poached and then the popcorn soaked up all that lobster butter goodness. I went back four times.

Smoked Wagyu Short Ribs with Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Smoked Wagyu Short Ribs with Brussels Sprouts Slaw and Butternut Puree from Mason’s

This was my first taste of Wagyu beef and I went back multiple times. I hope that is not frowned upon.

Noodles with Sesame Chile Sauce and Cured Egg Yolk by Otaku South

Noodles with Sesame Chile Sauce and Cured Egg Yolk by Otaku South

I’m a sucker for noodles. This was one of Noah’s favorites because of the spicy chile sauce.

Duck Meat Loaf with Peach Jam from Etch

Duck Meat Loaf with Peach Jam from Etch

Seriously. The meatloaf was packed with spicy flavors. I could have eaten the whole meatloaf but I refrained.

Shaved beef, horseradish and green tomato jam on cornbread by The Capitol Grill

Shaved beef, horseradish and green tomato jam on cornbread by The Capitol Grill

Chef Tyler Brown has the coolest chops, literally and figuratively. He used beef from his own Double H Farms to make these delectable open-faced sandwiches. I love this dude so much that we dined on his food for Noah’s 21st birthday.

French Toast with Poached Pears from Sinema

French Toast with Poached Pears from Sinema

By the time I got to this little gem, I was literally too full to eat another bite and I gobbled down the whole beautiful piece of sugar-crusted French toast and a wine-poached pear.

Martin's Bar-B-Que and Friends

Martin’s Bar-B-Que and Friends

And how can you not love Pat Martin, who set up a cornucopia of grilling equipment, invited all his chef friends to help and turned out mass quantities of pork, chicken, fish and vegetables for two days. Well done, sir. Well done.

Yes, the tickets are expensive at $150 a day.  But the food, the instruction, the fun, the wine- so worth it. And this…priceless:

Noah with Morimoto

Noah with Morimoto

Noah started watching the original Iron Chef with me when he was a little boy. Because of Morimoto, he became fascinated with Japanese culture and food. He’s an advanced sushi eater and he got to watch Morimoto teach a primer on sushi. Money well spent.

 

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Filed under appetizers, beef, eggs, pasta, pork, sauces, snacks

Portobello Patty Melts with Comeback Sauce

Patty Melt 1

So bad and yet so good. A patty melt is just a hamburger on a piece of bread, but when you add comeback sauce to it…well it’s that whole new level thing.

Comeback sauce was invented in Mississippi and the name says it all – it’s so good you’ll want to come back for more. Down in Mississippi, they use it for sandwiches, salad dressings and just as a dip for something equally sinful like fried pickles.

I made this gut bomb of the hamburger world for my friends at Char-Broil. Hop on over and take a look. I think you’ll want to come back for another.

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Ham dip and the Princess

 

Noah and Sydney ham dip

The Princess is in the house and the first order of the day is ham dip. We are at our beloved Oak Haven Resort for the latest family reunion and after the luggage is deposited and the wine is cooling, ham dip must be created. It is the glue that holds this family together. We will make multiple batches over the far too few days we are here and it is now tying generation to generation.

It is a simple concoction from my mother in law, Bunny – Underwood Deviled Ham (I know of no other kind) and sour cream. Served with Fritos Scoops. Bunny taught me. I taught my son, Noah. And now, Noah is teaching my granddaughter, Sydney. She is 5. We call her the Princess because that’s what she is. Truly. She wears a tiara. And she’s a generous girl – she shares it with whoever is within tiara range. Gender is not an issue.

Noah crownedNoah and Sydney

Ham dip is the catalyst for a week of excess. It is a miracle we have not all been admitted to the cardiac care unit of the Sevierville City Hospital. This is literally the snack list for the week: deep fried macaroni, taquitos, steak bites, pigs in a blanket (both kinds – puff pastry and pretzel dough), Lipton’s onion dip with bacon-flavored Pringles, Doritos with that magic cheese dust, triple chocolate chip cookies, apple fritters, molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and both chocolate and caramel sauce, a 4-pound jar of Jelly Bellies (49 flavors!) and an energy blend of edamame, cranberries, almonds and sunflower seeds strictly for health reasons.

If you cannot smile broadly and swallow a laugh as you dig into the onion dip and bacon potato chips while preparing for an excursion to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Aquarium in Gatlinburg, you are not our kind of people.

So Tammy, mother to the Princess, inspired snack week by the virtue of the fact that when she married our beloved Josh she did not cook. Snacks she could do and she has taken this genre to a high level of art. But I believe Bunny and I have rubbed off on her over the years. A few weeks before the reunion, she asked me if I could teach her how to grill a steak. Wow, that’s a single source of food that requires heat not set to 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Hell, yes.

So, here’s the lesson and your tip for the day. Pick a steak. I like flat iron. Hot and fast on the grill. Salt and pepper or your favorite rub. Put it on the steak. Spray oil. Spray one side. Throw the spray side on the grill. Hear that immediate sizzle sound. That’s what you want. Grill it until you can peek and see nice grill marks. Don’t mess with it too much. Spray the top side and flip. USE AN INSTANT READ THERMOMETER. Sorry to yell, but if you’re an amateur griller you need to invest in one of these. 130 degrees internal temperature for medium rare. Pull it off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes under a tent foil. That’s it.

Tamy grills

There’s my girl. Checking her steaks with an instant read thermometer. Notice King Daddy and the Princess in the background. They are waiting for this:

Sriracha-marinated flank steak

Done deal. From ham dip to perfectly cooked steak. We’ve got it covered. And it’s just Day 3. By the way, the super secret recipe for ham dip is two large cans of Underwood Deviled Ham to 8 ounces of sour cream. Serve with Fritos Scoops. It looks like dog food but you will eat every last scrap. You’re welcome.

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The Pioneer Woman’s Salisbury Steak

So one of the things I love about cooking is that, really, there are no rules. I’m not a rules girl. It’s probably why I ultimately failed in upper management at a giant newspaper chain. It’s also why I’m not a very good baker. Baking is science and it has a lot of rules. Cooking is chaos. It’s a pinch of this and a dab of that. This is also why I love Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. Not only does she not have rules, she doesn’t have any pretensions about her cooking.

When I got her first cookbook, I leafed through it eagerly to discover new and exciting recipes. What I found instead was a very level-headed guide to simple things she cooks for her family. Who puts Egg in a Hole in a professionally published cookbook? Or her husband’s favorite sandwich – a steak sammie made with cube steak. And yet, my absolute favorite blackberry cobbler comes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook. And it’s not even really a cobbler. It’s more like a cake. But King Daddy absolutely adores it.

So the other night, Noah was watching The Pioneer Woman and she made Salisbury Steak. I actually had to look up what Salisbury Steak was and then I got curious about who invented it. Turns out it was a doctor in the 1800s who was a proponent of a low-carb diet. Some things never change (pass the pasta, please).

This is decidedly low brow. The recipe calls for ingredients like ketchup, a beef bouillon cube and Kitchen Bouquet. I didn’t exactly know what that was, either. Turns out it’s primarily made of  caramel with vegetable flavorings. My beloved Publix didn’t carry it and just as well. It would have sat in my cupboard for another 17 years before I found another use for it.

The bottom line is this:

Pioneer Woman Salisbury Steak

It was unfussy, easy, pedestrian and delicious. Even without the Kitchen Bouquet. I’m going to send you on over to the Food Network now to take a look see at the Salisbury Steak Recipe.

And here’s my recipe for the sour cream mashed potatoes that went with it. Equally simple, unfussy and delicious.

Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold or red potatoes
  • ½ stick butter
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring two quarts of water to a boil.
  2. Cut each potato into quarters. Boil until tender when pierced by a fork.
  3. Drain and put back into the pot and let the potatoes dry for a minute. Add the butter and milk.
  4. Mash with a potato masher (this is a simple device but the best one for the job – if you don’t have one, invest in one). Stir in sour cream and salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

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Red wine marinade

Shish Kabob

I cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.

I put at least a couple of cups of Malbec or merlot in my spaghetti sauce. As I’m sipping on a wee glass, of course. A little splash of white wine with butter and capers makes a lovely sauce for chicken cutlets. Quality control must be maintained at all times. Never put wine in food that you wouldn’t also drink. So I do. Now that Noah is home he’s helping in the kitchen. That’s cut into my wine supply quite a bit. We both like to cook with wine. It must be inherited.

Making marinades with wine is one of its highest and best uses. If you’ve bought any bottled marinades, take a look at the ingredients. You might as well make your own. Any words you can’t pronounce on the label? If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it. Bottled marinades also have a lot of sodium and some of them contain high fructose corn syrup.

But I digress. I got a 1950s itch for shish kabob the other night and broke out some filet pieces left over from breaking down a whole tenderloin. Yes, I am just that good. I butcher my own whole tenderloin. I used this red wine marinade that just deepens the beefy flavor of the meat. I believe a had a couple of sips of the red wine without all the other ingredients just to make sure it hadn’t turned to vinegar. Actually, I cannot fib. There’s never enough left over wine in my house to turn to vinegar.

Use this marinade on any cut of beef or lamb. Have a glass or two of Pinot Noir while you make it. I cook with wine.

 

Red wine marinade
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup canola oil
Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk thoroughly. Use immediately for steak or lamb chops. May store in the refrigerator for a several weeks.

 

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The perfect hot dog

Hot-Dog-1-500x375What makes the perfect hot dog? It involves these things and they are non-negotiable:

  • Hot dogs with casings. There is no snap to a hot dog without a casing and without a snap there is no point.
  • Chili out of a can. Yes. Hot dog chili out of a can. No beans. Vietti Hot Dog Sauce comes to mind. It’s made by a Nashville company. I think it costs $1.29 a can.
  • Plain yellow mustard. No Dijon. No deli mustard. No honey mustard. Plain and yellow.
  • Diced yellow onions. Enough said.
  • A buttered bun. Yes, add butter to the hot dog and chili. Why not? You’re not eating these every day. Please say you’re not eating these  every day.
  • Grilling. No boiling of the hot dogs. Can’t you hear them screaming?

Want the complete story? Head on over to Char-Broil LIVE to get my recipe for The Perfect Hot Dog.

 

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American Grilled: The prelude

American Grilled

I am a contestant on American Grilled.

Of course, I can’t talk about the actual competition. The series starts tonight but my episode doesn’t air until Sept. 3. So mum’s the word lest the Travel Channel pulls up to 5117 with a 54-foot moving van to take away my house.

But I can talk about the unlikely scenario that landed me on this national show to begin with.

As is many times the case, it’s not what you know but who you know and I know Danielle Dimovski. She’s a fellow Char-Broil All Star Blogger and has her own hit show on the Travel Channel – BBQ Crawl. And she sent me a message: “You ought to apply to American Grilled.”

I like grilling. Actually, I love grilling. I do it almost every night. And I love reality shows. I have never missed a single episode of Survivor and I’m not ashamed of that. So a timed competition that involves grilling? How hard could that be?

But I am probably one of 8,000 people applying for this so I do not get my hopes up as I fill out the extensive online questionnaire and hit the “send” button.

Ring.

I am at the CRC warehouse, with the cement plant going full bore across the street, when the phone rings. I can barely hear the male voice on the other end. It’s some dude in New York City wanting to ask me some questions about American Grilled. They are questions that require some bravado on my part, explaining why I’m God’s gift to grilling. I fake it.

“What’s you’re favorite thing to grill?” he asks. I search my memory bank for some outlandishly difficult ingredient.

“Steak.” Really, can’t you come up with anything more impressive?

Perfectly grilled filet mignon topped with herb butter

Perfectly grilled filet mignon topped with herb butter

I grill a really good steak. See? So I embellish and tell him I also make a red wine reduction. That sounds marginally better. The dude hangs up and I figure that is that.

Ring.

It’s a delightful young lady in California a few weeks later. She wants to ask me more questions about American Grilled, including that annoying one about my favorite thing to grill. Steak. I say steak again. What is my issue? Nobody is going to put you on national television because you know how to grill a steak. Why didn’t I say alligator or water buffalo? She hangs up and, once again, I surmise that this will be the end of the road.

Ring.

I am sitting on a bench outside the Little Brothers Shell Station in Brentwood, waiting to get my tire changed. It’s another delightful young lady in New York. “I am happy to tell you that have you have been selected to compete on American Grilled.”  I am stunned. What does this actually mean? I have been told nothing about how this works other than I am expected to show up in Memphis in a few weeks. “Is there anything I need to do to prepare other than be hysterical?” I ask her. “No, that’s about it,” she says. “Oh, and don’t tell anyone you’re doing this.”

Don’t tell anyone I’m doing this?

So I haven’t until now. The producers say I can now tell my friends and family I am going to be on American Grilled. I can now tell you that I competed on my birthday and that it involved torrential rain and the very real possibility of tornadoes. And it involved grilling. Have I told you I grill a pretty good steak?

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Sometimes magic happens

Noah Birth AnnouncementWhen Noah was born in 1992, we sent out birth announcements naturally (today you’d just post it on Facebook).This is what the announcement said:

Mark and Catherine Mayhew

are proud to announce the arrival

of the newest Tennessee Volunteer

“Class of 2014″

Noah Chapin Mayhew

Yesterday, my boy graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in public relations. Sometimes magic happens.

So this is my love letter to my son upon the beginning of his life as a fully functioning adult. I hated writing that by the way. It’s those “roots and wings” things.

Noah, yesterday could not have been more magical to me and not because of the birth announcement. You took Daddy and I to the Communications Building where you’d spent long hours learning and studying. We ran into the Dean and he knew you well. That speaks volumes. You do stand out in a crowd. We watched you get a Special Citation from the Russian Department for your joyful involvement in the Russian program. How many kids your age…I’m sorry, adults…know how to make pelmeni and whirl like a mad man performing Russian dances? Not a one I know about. Plus your teacher – the beautiful Masha – has pronounced you fluent in Russian.

Then we watched you graduate. Noah Chapin Mayhew “walked.” One doesn’t graduate these days. One walks. With purpose and confidence, I might add.

And I handed you the birth announcement. A younger Noah would have winced. But an older, wiser and mature Noah knew that photo with that announcement meant everything. Have I mentioned I have now started crying, oh, seven times in the last 10 minutes. Bad Mommy.

Noah Graduation UT 042So meanwhile, Granbunny was getting ready for the graduation party. I am hard-pressed to say who is more OCD about entertaining, but I believe I’ll give it to Noah’s grandmother. She painfully allowed plastic plates instead of china (no paper!) but stood her ground on real silverware (no plastic!). She spent the afternoon searching for a six-foot serving table (not five, not seven) and went to three different places before she found it. When Noah and his guests arrived, it was perfect.

Noah Graduation UT 029I grilled sirloin burgers (not regular hamburgers!). We drank beer and wine. There was convivial adult conversation. It was perfect.

Granbunny, Mum, Noah and Masha

Granbunny, Mum, Noah and Masha

I am not saying what I want to say as eloquently as I want to say it. I’m sure every parent dreams of this moment when their child launches. When he or she has put in incredible hours and hard work to achieve. When they learn that good enough isn’t great and they want great. When the whole world is opened up to them because they’ve prepared to step into it.

Noah Balboa, your father, Granbunny and I could not be prouder of you. We could not love you more. We think we might have done a pretty good job, but the end results are all yours.

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