I love all things caprese (tomato/mozzarella/basil), so when I found a lovely block of white cheddar labeled “Tomato-Basil”, it didn’t event require a second thought…(if you can’t find it, a couple of thick slices of provolone are pretty awesome, too!)
Yeah, it rocked.
Oh, and if you can find this “Everything” Italian bread…it was amazing!
The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich 4 thick slices of rustic artisan bread (your choice) 3.5 ozCabot Tomato Basil Cheddar Cheese(sliced ½ inch thick) 1 firm beefsteak tomato, sliced 10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped 1-2 Tbsp. butter, melted Coarse sea salt, to taste
Brush each sliced of bread (both sides) with a little olive oil.
Layer 2 pieces of the bread with cheese slices and chopped basil.
Pre-heat a nonstick pan over medium-low heat, and drizzle with a melted butter.
Grill sandwiches until golden brown, add tomato, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, to taste.
Top both pieces with remaining bread, flip and grill until cheese has melted.
DO NOT cover the pan with a lid to melt cheese, it will make your bread soggy!
As much as I bleed red, white, and blue, I tend be be a little hypocritical when it comes to the subject of food.
With major exceptions (like BBQ), I tend to be, if not disdainful, at least dismissive of what I consider “traditional American food.”
But first, let me define that phrase (as I see it)…
American’s (an obvious generalization), have an obsession with taking things that are complicated, and simplifying them. And we’re very, very good at that, and it’s a GOOD thing…usually.
The problem comes in when we apply that mentality to food.
It’s that “how can we make it easier” mindset that leads to ideas like “Hmmm…people like spaghetti, people like meatballs…let’s use a bunch of preservatives to create a shelf-stable version, add a bunch of sugar (to feed THAT addiction), stuff it into a can, and make it cheap so folks can microwave and serve it as quickly as possible.”
Oh, and let’s put a Italian-looking chef on the label, to legitimize our evil greed.
Jesus doesn’t want us to do that.
Also, let’s face it…there’s not a lot of food that, from a historical standpoint, can really be classified as “American” (at least not “North” American), as they are either a mass market-simplified version of a recipe that originated elsewhere, or they’ve been Americanized with each passing generation until they bear only a superficial resemblance to the dish that an immigrant brought to our shores originally.
Spaghetti & Meatballs (which are two separate dishes)
Pizza (though this is improving)
Corned Beef & Cabbage
90% of “Chinese” Food
Taco’s and other “Mexican” food
For a great example, watch the “risotto scene” in the movie Big Night.
Many of these foods come from the first waves of immigrants to hit these shores: Italians, Irish, Mexicans, Africans*, Chinese, etc.
(Obviously calling early African-American’s “immigrants” is a gross misinterpretation of history, but given the huge influence that those cultures have had on how and what we eat, I felt they needed to be included to this list).
I’m not talking about just ingredients. I’m talking about using local, regional foods (the backbone of any great food culture) but to use them in combinations, and flavors, and presentations that are honest interpretations of the culture they supposedly represent.
The good news is, more recent ethic groups that have made major migrations…the Vietnamese and other SE Asian groups, Japanese, Middle Eastern, etc., remain much more “unadulterated” by Americanization, largely do to the social shrinking of our planet, and more open and adventurous mindsets that have developed because of it.
At the same time, an unpopular as the concept may be in certain circles, the effect of war (especially WWII, Korea, and Vietnam) has had a HUGE influence on our acceptance of “traditional” foods and cooking techniques.
Korean food, especially, had avoided any reinterpretation of itself, mostly due to the fact that Korean’s in general, just plain refuse to change their recipes, and don’t particularly seem to give a crap is Americans will accept or buy it. I salute this!
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the value of “gateway” foods in introducing people to new cuisines (the California roll being, arguably, the best example), but I think these foods need to be recognized for what they are…training wheels, and training wheels are great as long at their NEEDED, but the goal is to eventually take them OFF.
Let’s face it…you don’t see a lot of training wheels in the Tour de France. 😉
The problem comes in when people refuse to graduate to the real thing, and the gateway becomes an acceptable REPLACEMENT for the original, and becomes our definition of the real thing.
I’m brave enough to admit it…
I enjoy a Taco Bell soft taco on occasion, but I understand that it’s an AMERICAN TACO (as does my 10 year old daughter), and don’t accept it as being either as good as, or a replacement for the “real thing”. (For the sake of disclosure…I am a hopelessly addicted street-taco junkie, lol, even the ones with “scary” ingredients!)
But, if Taco Bell eventually leads you to a good taco truck (as it has for many people), then I say God Bless ’em!
But, back to my point…
The reason I tend to be dismissive of “American” food is, in some part that I feel it’s often a disservice to it’s original version, and is an “enabler” that allows people to not experiences the REAL, and amazing, food of other cultures, or worse, dismiss it because it “doesn’t taste right”.
MOSTLY, though, it’s because it just doesn’t taste as good.
In a marketing-driven attempt to please as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, most of these foods end up over-salted, under-seasoned, poorly cooked, bland, and boring.
I’m not advocating food snobbery, I eat and enjoy many of these foods (well, not canned pasta…ever) and, for me, the point of food is enjoyment and experience.
If you love it, EAT it!
Just don’t make it something it’s not…and don’t settle for what’s easy.
I keep seeing this video comparing what American’s eat, to the “healthy” lifestyles in Europe, implying that if only we yanks would follow Europe’s healthy eating habits, we would be as skinny and healthy as THEY are…and, frankly, it ticks me off.
In fact, I’m calling BS!
This might have been true of “Europe” (and the rest of the world) 20 years ago, but things have changed, the average European diet is no longer significantly healthier, or “better”, than ours, and the rest of the planet needs to stop pointing their chubby fingers at US, and start dealing with the problem in their OWN kitchens!
What we ARE guilty of, here in the US, is accepting every piece of BS idiocy that pops up on our Facebook pages as though they were written in stone by the finger of God, and then mindlessly sharing this “fake news” without any effort to confirm it, because we’re too damn lazy to look it up ourselves.
Now, I’m sure Aunt Marge is a very smart, caring, nice person…that doesn’t make her an expert on world healthcare (or any other of a number of subjects.) And hitting the SHARE button certainly doesn’t make YOU one either.
While the world (and US Media) loves to tout about America being “the fattest nation in the world“, the fact is…that’s a baldfaced LIE.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in a 2015 study and world ranking of obesity (NOT “overweight”, “Obese”), listed the US at #12 in the world. As far as overweight, we drop to #22.
Don’t rush out to DQ to celebrate that, btw…12 is still bad.
But, it’s NOT #1, as we keep hearing…which means we’re receiving, accepting, (and worse), perpetuating false information! (Very likely on a wide range of subjects…)
Who profits from the spread of that false information?
Media ~ The website’s, newspapers, programs, and papers that are being PAID to convince us that we deserve all of that unhealthy crap, and then getting paid AGAIN, to tell us how to fix all of the consequences of stuffing that crap into our gaping maws.
Big Pharma ~ It’s being forecasted that American’s will spend over 3.5 BILLION dollars, on prescription drugs alone, in 2018. Do you really think these “drug cartels” are interested in curing their cash cow?
US Annual Spending (and this is just the “prescription” drugs)… in BILLIONS:
Healthcare: You thought the drug number’s were steep? In 2016 we Americans spent 3,337.2 BILLION on healthcare, and is estimated to rise 5.3 percent a year between now and 2024.
If you think for a minute that any of these groups is going to trade their profits for the sake of our health…you need a firmer grasp on how capitalism works. 😉
Here are the Wordwide FACTS:
Italy’s rate of childhood obesity has now reached one in three.
In France, fast food swiped 54 per cent of the food market last year for a turnover of 34 billion euros (£29 billion)
According to a recent report by the British Parliament, more than 50 percent of British children will be obese by 2020.
In Wales, residents of the Welsh capital spend £86.80 every month (£1,041 a year) on takeaways and fast food.
Paradoxically, India has high rates of both obesity and undernourishment. According to the World Bank, the number of malnourished children is double that of sub-Saharan Africa; at the same time, India ranks third in the world for obesity.
The UK’s reported purchases in the category “chips” (French fries – frozen and not frozen)” were three times higher in 2014 than in 1974.
The European Association for the Study of Obesity states: “there will be over 20 million overweight children (of which 5 million will be obese) within a decade, despite a decline in the European population of children.”
Obesity rates among children and youth in Canada have nearly tripled in the last 30 years.
With a 32.8 percent adult obesity rate in 2013, Mexico inched past the 31.8 percent obesity rate in the United States, according to a study released by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
Barry Popkin, an obesity expert at the University of North Carolina, attributes much of the spike in Mexican obesity to increased consumption of cheap sugary drinks and mass-marketed snack food.
As of 2015, 2 in 3 adults (63.4%) were overweight or obese, as were 1 in 4 children.
Twenty-two percent of Aussies in 2012 had cardiovascular disease.
280 Australians develop diabetes every single day.
Germany has incidence of overweight and obese adults as a percentage of the total population at 54.8% as in comparison with France at 60.7%, Spain at 60.9% or the United Kingdom at 63.4%.
A survey in 2007 had Germany listed as the country with “the highest proportion of overweight children in Europe.” However, despite dropping in the rankings, the number of truly obese children have doubled in the past decade.
Obesity rates across the continent are projected to increase to 50% by 2030 and 60% by 2050.
Egypt and Ghana also experienced a significant increase in obesity over the past 25 years — from 34% to 39% (13% increase) in Egypt and 8% to 22% in Ghana (65% increase). The increase in obesity doubled in Kenya, Benin, Niger, Rwanda, Ivory Coast and Uganda, while Zambia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Malawi and Tanzania experienced a three-fold increase.
Intercountry comparable overweight and obesity estimates from 2008 show that 62.0% of the adult population (> 20 years old) in Spain were overweight and 26.6% were obese.
If trends continued, the mainland is expected to have 48.5 million overweight children in 2025, more than the population of Spain.
That compared with a projected 17.3 million overweight children in India and 16.7 million in the United States.
China is eighth on a list of 20 countries with the fastest increases in the prevalence of overweight children, with Vietnam, Azerbaijan and Serbia being the top three as of 2013.
The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology recently published a report that found the prevalence of overweight boys in China jumped from 0.74 per cent in 1985 to 16.35 per cent in 2014; and from 1.45 per cent to 13.91 per cent for girls.
In Nauru, the Cook Islands and Palau, more than 30 percent of children and teenagers were obese in 2016.
In Polynesia and Micronesia, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caribbean, more than 1 in 5 children are obese.
It is clear, statistically, the we ALL have an obesity crisis, all due to the same external factors, world-wide:
The significant decrease in learning about and practicing “Home Cooking” and related activities, over multiple generations.
The expansion and availability of “Fast Food”
The expansion and availability of “Junk Food”
An increasingly sedentary lifestyle, largely due to an addiction to technology.
None of that, however, changes the fact that we, as Americans, are eating outselves to death right along with the rest of the world.
We have a GLOBAL problem, and we need to find a solution better than…”well, at least we’re not as fat as them!”
It is not the government’s responsibility, it’s not Healthcare’s responsibility, it’s OURS…YOU and ME, to stop letting the media (who are getting paid to do so) tell us what we crave or “how much easier our lives can be”, or that “we deserve a break today!”
Our children DESERVE to not be taking Diabetes medication at 14, our grandchildren DESERVE to have living grandparents, our nation DESERVES to not be bankrupting our schools and our social-security system to pay for the consequences of our laziness!
1. LEARN how to plan, shop for, and cook real food! (and I’m not talking about sitting on the couch sucking down Doritos while watching “Iron Chef!”
2. UNPLUG! Turn off the TV, the video games, the iPad, the $%#$% CELL-PHONE… exercise more than your eyeballs and thumbs.
3. Get off the COUCH! You don’t need a new gym, or the latest video, or a bunch of equipment! God gave you everything you need to get healthier…they’re called LEGS.
Just because we can’t see them anymore, doesn’t mean they’re not there.
For God’s sake…JUST GO FOR A WALK!
4. PRIORITIZE! No matter how “busy” we all think we are, each of us has 24 hours in our day. Choose how you spend them wisely (Do you REALLY need to binge-watch Sopranos, AGAIN?)
You CAN do it! Believe me, I know. This is me in 1997, when I topped out at 387lbs.
5. MODEL IT! The most important thing we can do to improve our children’s lives isn’t getting them into the best college, or paying for their popularity…it’s making sure they KEEP LIVING! SHOW them. TEACH them. Create healthy, fun family activities so that 20 years from now, you’re kids memories of you won’t just be the back of your iPhone.
This isn’t about looking good in a pair of jeans, or who goes to the coolest gym, or even feeling better, day to day, so we can just plain enjoy life more!
This is about the survival of our species.
So, please don’t try to sum it up in a meme…especially if you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.
Chefs and Pit-masters use drip pans and water pans for a number of reasons.
First, placing meat over a drip pan helps prevent flare-up and scorching caused by juices dripping down onto the coals as the meat cooks.
While that action adds flavor, it can be hard to control over the long haul (and get get plenty of it, when you searing the exterior of the meat in advance of the low and slow cook time.
While many outdoor cooks will place the water pan on one side of the coal grate, with the coals on the other side (meat over the pan), I’ve found that I get much more even cooking and browning, by placing the pan in the center, and the coals all the way around it (see: Kettle Grilling: #1 ~ Advanced Charcoal Techniques)
I also recommend just using hot water in the pan (always start with hot water, or you’ll drop you temps too much, while it heats. Some folks will add wine, beer, herbs, fruit juices, and other flavoring in the water pan, but I haven’ found that this has much effect on the flavor of the food.
It can smell great, but it’s really just water vapor escaping while everything else reduces in the pan.
If I’m cooking something that I know is going to produce a LOT of drippings, I’ll add a small amount of complimenting stock (beef, chicken, or pork) in the pan, to keep the juices from burning off, so I save the flavorful dripping for stocks, sauces, or gravies.
More reasons to use drip/water pans:
Water pans create a space for indirect cooking, and will protect meat from excess heat.
Water pans create a moisture, which helps cooking food retain IT’S moisture.
This moisture traps smoke particles from the air and holds them to the surface of the food, inscreasing its “smokiness.”
Water pans help control the temperature and maintain consistent heat between 225F and 250F (ideal for BBQ). The water absorbs heat and the steam stabilizes temperatures.
When using a water pan, be careful not to over fill it, and remember to check the liquid levels often, adding more (hot) water as needed.
Water pans work best for low and slow BBQ, so use it with meats such as pork shoulders, ribs, roasts, and briskets.
For poultry, I don’t typically add water to the pan, and only a little stock, as excess steam will keep skin from getting crispy, leaving the best part of the bird flaccid and rubbery.
(And when is “flaccid” EVER a good thing?) 😉
In our next lesson, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of an advanced technique known as “reverse grilling.”
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I grew up a grub-scout, and we cooked a LOT of foil-pouch dinners over campfires. We called them “Hobo Packs” back then (way before anyone had heard of “political correctness” lol)
Nowadays, I make some up and freeze them before leaving for camping trips, to get a delicious dinner, with no clean up!
I have an exhaustive list of foil-pouch recipes and idea in the “MY KITCHEN Cookbook“, but here’s a couple of tips we teach the kid’s before we let them loose on the ingredients table:
One thing I see done a lot, when people are assembling foil-pouch meals, is that they want to place the meat on the bottom, and pile their veggies over that. While they probably think that this will ensure that the meat cooks faster, and thoroughly, it’s actually the opposite of how you want to build your pouch, and will only dry out and/or burn the meat.
The juiciest ingredients need to be placed closest to the foil (tomatoes are best), as they will be the least damaged if burnt, then ingredients with less moisture content on top of those, then your seasoning, and LASTLY the meat (pre-seasoned with salt and pepper.) Top with a little butter or olive oil, and close it up.
The reason for this layering: Fats/oils from the meat drips down to flavor the veggies, while the tomatoes, potatoes, onions, etc., contain water, which mixes with all those natural juices, and steams the meat into tenderness. That excess moisture also helps to keep your veggies from drying out.
I also like to wrap the pouch, seam side down, in a second piece of foil, to help prevent leaking and scorching.
Personally, I like to brush a thin layer of bacon-fat, or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) on the foil before I add my veggies.
It adds a little more flavor, and also helps prevent your veggies from sticking to the foil.
Then start cooking with the outer seam down. Try it and see what you think!
Home Chef Note: Don’t use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for foil-pouch cooking…just don’t do it.
They dry out too easily in this form of cooking, and they don’t bring any fat or flavor to the party.
Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs and hindquarter work great, though. Slice along both sides of the bones (but don’t remove them) before seasoning and cooking.
This not only gets more flavor into the meat, but it helps the meat cook faster, and more evenly!
Have any foil-pouch cooking questions? Let me know!
Barbeque is not just a method of cooking food– it’s an experience. It’s a culture, a link to our past, a tribute to the resourcefulness of our forbearers, and a reminder of times both great and terrible.
It’s about the age-old mainstays of good food, good friends, and good times. It’s rugged but romantic.
It’s charcoal and chatter.
Here are my most popular dishes, tips, and techniques from nearly four-decades of cooking in, over, and with fire and smoke.
If you’re looking for great recipes and insights for taking your culinary skills to the next level, you’ve come to the right place. From bacon weaves, to melt-in-you-mouth brisket, to whole roast pigs…if you can cook it, low and slow, in sweet, sweet smoke…
I’ll show you how.
Welcome to the fire, Home Chefs!
GRILLING: A Home Chef’s Guide
Grilling. It’s the most primitive of all the cooking methods. Picture our ancient ancestors spearing chunks of raw meat on sticks and gathering around a communal fire to cook their meal.
What would summer be without the sights, and sounds, and smells of meat searing to perfection over glowing coals? The laughter of friends and family, and the sharing of a delicious, flame-kissed meal?
“Grilling: A Home Chef’s Guide” includes dozens of Chef-tested, fully-illustrated recipes, tricks, techniques, and resources for grilling just about anything you can cook over fire!
I guarantee that you will see an instant, and significant improvement in your outdoor cooking! No more wiener flambé, carbonized chicken, or particle-board steaks.
Clear your calendar, strap on your apron, you’re about to become the grilling-god of your family!
There are plenty of cookbooks out there, but a Home Chef’s Guide wants more than just the instructions on how to make single dish a single way.
It means continuing you kitchen education, learning the professional-level tips, tricks, and techniques the pro’s use to become a better cook…to understand cooking, healthy real-food cooking, it means advancing your culinary skills until recipes are no longer really necessary.