The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 New Year’ s Eve Coup Quashing Appetizers

New Years Eve in Timesquare

Happy New Year!

So you have secured the privilege to host the largest event in most people’s social calendars all year and you want to hold on to this honor for years to come.  This is not an easy task my friend!  At least half of your friends and family that are attending your New Year’s Eve party this year have thoughts of forcing a coup d’état, that would make Napoleon Bonaparte blush, leaving your house empty on this festive occasion.   The best way to quell this treacherous scheming is to fill your visitors’ bellies with delicious foodie fare that will have them craving your apps like Charlie Sheen desires seven gram rocks.  The following is The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 Coup Quashing Appetizers.

1:  Candied Bacon with Mixed Nuts

If you read this blog you are well aware of my love of, alright obsession for, bacon, so it should be no surprise that the first appetizer on my list is full of salty smoked swine.  I created this recipe for Christmas this year because I had some left over slab bacon that I did not want to go to waste.  It was a huge hit, so even though there is no official recipe yet, it is not very difficult to make.  Please note that when I made this delightfully spontaneous dish I did not measure the spices so feel free to tweak the recipe to fit your tastes.

Slab Bacon

Slab Bacon

First you will need to acquire the following ingredients:

1 Pound of Slab Bacon (preferably from your favorite Pork Store)

1 Table spoon Cinnamon

Maple Syrup (Enough to coat bacon)

2 Jars of Emeralds Sweet and Salty Cinnamon Sugar Mixed Nuts

2 Table spoons of Brown Sugar

Candied Bacon

Candied Bacon

Preparation:

  1. Cut the Bacon into ¼ inch bite sized pieces making to cut against the grain as to preserve the integrity of the fat to meat ratio of the slab bacon.
  2. Place a ½ pound of the cut bacon into a skillet set to medium high heat.
  3. Sprinkle ½ tablespoon of cinnamon on Bacon once a layer of grease forms on the bottom of the pan.  Mix Well
  4. Cook bacon until very close to being done and then drizzle maple syrup into the pan coating the bacon evenly.
  5. Cook Bacon until it is crisp.
  6. Remove Bacon from pan and place on plate and allow it to cool for approximately 10 minutes.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for the other ½ pound of bacon.
  8. Fill two serving dishes (I use holiday tins to be festive) with the Emerald’s mixed nuts and top with Candied Bacon.
  9. Dust with Brown sugar and mix well to incorporate the bacon into the nuts.

This dish is easy to create and even easier to serve to your guests.  Simply prepare this crunchy, salty, sweet concoction the night before and set it out shortly before your guests arrive.  I assure you this hodgepodge of awesomeness will make at least a few of your guests Tweet the praises of your shindig, like a 14 year old girl who just received her first kiss.

2:  Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

New Year’s Eve Parties are hard to cook for because people are constantly on the move.    Furthermore, everyone is dressed up to ring in the New Year, so unfortunately the gold standard in appetizers, The Chicken Wing, is absolutely out of the question.  Right?  Wrong!  This tangy Buffalo Chicken Dip is the perfect solution to this sticky fingered dilemma.

This is another dish that can easily be made the night before and reheated just prior to your guest’s arrival.  Paired with a strong tortilla chip like Tostitos Scoops this magical potion will make your Grandma’s Onion Dip feel like Latoya Jackson at a family reunion.

3:  Double Bruschetta

 

Double Bruschetta

Double Bruschetta

As most of you already know, I am from the Armpit of our fine country, New Jersey!  New Jersey is known for a few things; the Mob, thanks to the Sopranos, the New Jersey Turnpike, thanks to the smell of cheese and death that emanates from it, Snookie, thanks to Ulster County, New York, and Jersey Fresh Produce, thanks to being the Garden State.  As the Facts of Life theme song once said, “You take the good, you take the bad,” (I just lost a man point there) and that pretty much sums up my love hate relationship with New Jersey.  I could do without being associated with the horrid odor of the Turnpike and Snookie invading my shore line like an overweight, orange skinned, vodka laced Godzilla, but then I would have to do without the mouthwatering taste of fresh Jersey Tomatoes and I can’t have that!

In celebration of the only good thing to be associated with New Jersey since the first game of Baseball was played on June 19, 1846, I present to you this jaw dropping bruschetta recipe that will make your guests proud to be from THE GARDEN STATE.  Unlike ordinary Bruschetta recipes, this one throws sun dried tomatoes into the mix, and then prompts you to melt cheese on pre-made toast squares.   What you end up with is an appetizer that is not only healthy but is also a true crowd pleaser.  These crispy slices of heaven will make your guests completely forget that Chris Christie is our governor and their car insurance is higher than most people’s mortgages.

4:  Crunchy Swiss Cheese and Ham

 

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

If you are anything like me you always have some left over Christmas Ham that you are not quite sure what to do with.  Sure you can have Ham and Cheese sandwiches for lunch for a month, or you could make some fantastic Split Pea Soup, but why not share the wealth, in the form of a crunchy tasty treat.   These crunchy Swiss cheese and Ham patties are a great way to recycle that Holiday Ham in a fun and scrumptious way.

The home style appeal of these flavorful morsels transport me back to a simpler time when instead of Panko or Tempura batter, cornflakes would do just fine as a crunchy coating.  I like to serve these delicious nuggets with a variety of mustards, such as Dijon, Spicy Brown, and Yellow.

5:  Fried Green Beans with Wasabi Ranch Dipping Sauce

 

Fried Green Beans

Fried Green Beans

This recipe is one of my all-time favorites for any kind of entertaining.  Fried Green Beans can be served to a small dinner party with a refined palette or to a group of booze laden football fans on any given Sunday.  Either way these crispy fried tidbits are always a hit.

Kat and I found this recipe when we first got our Deep Fryer and went on frying binge that almost caused a zombified John Candy to rise from his grave and join us.  We literally fried everything, French Fries, Tator Tots, Hot Dogs, Twinkies (R.I.P.), Oreos, Snickers, and when we ran out of the normal things to fry, we went rouge and started tossing veggies into the hot oil.  After we gained 10 pounds in a month and our cholesterol was twenty points higher we had to retire the fryer for a while but this recipe always remained a staple.

Weather you use all or none of the recipes above, I hope that reading this article inspired you to create some amazing appetizers for your guests.  Remember your friends and family came to your house to celebrate the New Year, it is up to your spread to keep them coming back for more.  I hope your New Year’s Eve Party will be a complete success and no usurpers are victorious.  As Cersei Lannister said, “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die.”

Happy New Years to you all and thanks for a wonderful 2012!

Advertisements

The Blue Collar Foodie’s Ethiopian Epicurean Exploration

Being that my collar is blue and my wallet is usually emptier than Al Bundy’s stomach this time of year, I try to cut down on frivolous spending where I can.  Unfortunately, this usually means that going out to lavish restaurants during the holiday season is off the menu, pun intended.  However, when my lovely wife Kat, who before meeting me was the complete opposite of foodie, surviving mostly on Mac and Cheese from a box and pizza, suggested that we try Ethiopian food for dinner, I dug deep into my pockets and found the money to oblige.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Before Kat could change her mind, I invited our foodie friend Rory, and made a reservation for three at Mesob, located at 515 Bloomfield Avenue Montclair, NJ using Opentable.com.  Since none of us had ever experienced Ethiopian cuisine before, I perused the internets for any and all information regarding this gastronomic treat.  It seemed that not only did Mesob in Montclair get nothing but great reviews, but Ethiopian food in general seemed to be a hit all across the interwebs.   I could not believe my eyes; apparently Ethiopian food is the one of very few topics on this planet that the internet has nothing bad to say about, much like cats and naked women.

I studied the menu with the concentration of a seven year old creating his Christmas list, so when we arrived at Mesob later that evening I had a general understanding of the food that I was about to consume.  We did have some issues finding Mesob on Bloomfield Avenue, but we knew the general area thanks to our trusty I-Phones, so we fought the world for a parking spot in downtown Montclair and snagged a spot about two blocks away in a parking garage.  We walked towards Bloomfield Avenue and located the store front quite quickly on foot.  The sign is somewhat small and in a strange font, so look for the red awning and you will be fine.

Mesob

Mesob

As we entered this modest yet roomy establishment a drool enticing smell wafted over us as we spoke to the hostess about our reservation.  We were seated within seconds of our arrival and offered menus by the welcoming wait staff.  As we situated ourselves, a waiter come to the table with a carafe of water,  glasses, and a bottle opener for the cold six pack of craft beer and cider that we had brought with us, since Mesob is a BYOB establishment.  The waiter opened three bottles for us and left the bottle opener at the table while we discussed the menu amongst ourselves.

Dining Room at Mesob

Welcome to Mesob

On the ride over, I had already discussed the possibility of ordering the Taste of Mesob, which includes 2 starters, 2 chicken dishes, 2 beef dishes, 1 lamb dish, shrimp tibs, and any 3 sides from the vegetable entrees, all for just $95.00.  I know this is slightly more expensive that my normal frugal foodie finds, but it is slightly harder to find Ethiopian food in this area than it is to find burgers and ribs.  Kat and Rory whole heartedly agreed with this veritable smorgasbord of Ethiopian cuisine, the only task left was to pick which mouthwatering dishes would eventually don our plate.

After a longer deliberation then the jurors in the O.J. Simpson case, we decided upon, the Timatim Fitfit (chopped injera, Ethiopian Bread, mixed with fresh diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapenos, olive oil, and lemon juice served cold) and the Katenga (rolled strips of injera coated with Ethiopian pepper  and clarified spiced butter) for our appetizers.  We then chose the Dora Kay Wat (a tender chicken leg simmered in a spicy sauce seasoned with spices and herbs served with a hardboiled egg) and Doro Tibs (scalloped Chicken breast marinated and sautéed with red onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper, fresh tomato, herbs, and spices) for our two chicken dishes.  Followed by our lamb dish Lega Tibs(cubed boneless leg of lamb marinated and sautéed with onions, garlic, jalapenos, fresh tomato, herbs, and spices)  AS the for the beef courses we decided upon, Bozena Shiro (cubed prime beef simmered in spicy pureed yellow split peas) and Minchet Abish Kay Wet (finely chopped prime beef sautéed in Ethiopian clarified butter and summered in a spicy sauce seasoned with spices and fresh herbs).   If this did not seem like enough food already we still had to choose three veggies, Gomen (Fresh collard greens), Difen Misie Alicha(brown lentils), and Buticha (chickpeas with red onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices.)  Mesob offers varying degrees of heat for dishes that are traditionally spicy so we ordered a few mild, a few medium, and two hot, so we could try them all.  As a side note, this impressive list of food barley scratches the surface of the menu provided by Mesob, which leads me to believe as the Governator once said, “I’ll be back.”

Buticha

Buticha

After ordering what seemed like enough food for ten people, we sat back and enjoyed the soothing ambiance that is Mesob.  Traditional Ethiopian music played softly in the background while we looked around the restaurant noticing all the Ethiopian textiles and artwork that adorned the walls.  The wait staff only added to the calming vibe with their soft spoken tones and eager willingness to help.  If Mesob reflects the tranquility of the Ethiopian lifestyle, it makes perfect sense why the peaceful Rastafari movement chose this country as their spiritual homeland.  Mesob was winning me over and I had not even tasted one bite of food yet.  That is until the appetizers arrived.

Our Appetizers

Our Appetizers

The first bite of Ethiopian food I would ever eat came in the form of Katenga.  Katenga consists mainly of Injera, which is a white Ethiopian flatbread, similar to a crepe.  This choice was rather fortuitous yet somewhat kismet because Injera is an intricate part to Ethiopian cuisine.  It is not only eaten by itself as an appetizer but also is used as a plate to hold the Wat or stews that we ordered as our entrée and as a utensil to bring these stews to your mouth.   The Katenga was fantastic and unlike anything I have ever eaten before.  This spongy, sour, flatbread that easily defeats my favorite American multipurpose utensil, the spork, made us realize that we had waited entirely too long to embark on the magical food adventure that we were just starting.

Injera Plate

Injera Plate

After our appetizer dishes were cleared from the table, a massive round dish covered in a gigantic piece of Injera was delivered to our table.   Then another waiter brought a large serving tray occupied by petite bowls full of the entrees that we had ordered.   One by one, the waiter pragmatically spooned the courses onto our Injera plate, making sure that the dishes did not mix, while explaining each dish as he moved along.  What we were left with afterword was the best smelling art I have ever had the privilege to be in the company of.  At first, all of us were speechless, scared to damage the beautiful canvas that our waiter had just created on our table.  But our curiosity and hunger got the best of us, and we dug into this masterpiece of Ethiopian delights.

Ethiopian Food Art

Ethiopian Food Art

As stated earlier the injera is your utensil so no forks, spoons, or knives are presented with the meal, but if you don’t just where your mates’ hands have been, you can request silverware.   Kat, Rory, and I opted to eat Ethiopian Style and began to rip small pieces of injera up and taste each dish one by one.  I was astonished by every varietal of wat that was served to us.  I thought that some of the concoctions would taste too similar due to the comparable spice palettes within each dish, but I was happily mistaken.  Each stew tasted different, yet somehow they all danced together on my tongue like a finely tuned chorus line of yumminess.   As we tried each and every dish, it seemed that the last one we ate was our favorite until we tasted the next one.  Every bite brought new and exciting flavors and none of us could stop eating long enough to speak.

Ethiopian Spork

Ethiopian Spork

I could attempt to describe all the fantastic food that we shared that night at Mesob and smack your brain with a laundry list of adjectives for each creation that was expertly prepared by the Mesob Chefs, but I won’t.   Instead I will tell you that this foodie voyage is exactly why I love food so much.  I most likely will never have the opportunity to explore Ethiopia but thanks to the delightful people at Mesob, I can experience at least a piece of their culture one scrumptious bite at a time, and I assure you each bite is delectable.

Shrimp Tibs

Shrimp Tibs

I understand that Mesob’s prices might scare some of my readers away, but this restaurant is not just about food.  Mesob offers you a chance to immerse yourself in a culture that is widely ignored and forgotten.  If the food was half as good and the wait staff a quarter as pleasant, I would still happily pay the price of admission.

Judgment:

Overall:                  4.5 out of 5

Taste:                         5 out of 5

   Presentation:            5 out of 5

 Value:                     3.5 out of 5

Mesob on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 Foodie Gifts under $30

Top 5 Foodie Gifts

‘Tis the season of yule tide cheer fueled by Spiked Eggnog, lighting the menorah, hopefully this one, and decorating your house and Christmas tree like a Griswold, in an attempt to be the first house to be seen from outer space. Unfortunately this time of year also signifies the dreaded anxiety disorder that is caused by the commercialization of the holiday season, known as giftphobia. The symptoms of this common ailment include procrastination, stagnation, agitation and overall aggravation.

Lucky for you, I am here to help!  If you have a foodie in your life that you need to purchase a gift for this year for Christma-Hanu-Rama-Ka-Dona-Kwanzaa, have no fear, the Blue Collar Foodie is here.  The following in no particular order are my Top 5 Foodie Gifts under $30 bucks for this holiday season!

#5:Cast Iron Skillet

Cast Iron Pan

Cast Iron Pan

Most of you are thinking, “A pan? Really? That is about as exciting as a lecture on the French Revolution taught by a one armed mime,” which by the way is equal to monotone in the speaking world. I would have agreed with you five years ago, that is until I received this supernatural gift from a foodie friend of mine and it changed my culinary prowess.

This remarkable cast iron cooking device, which has been used for hundreds of years, is not just a pan, but it is a paradigm shifting scientific instrument that will forever change the way your friend cooks protein. Instead of frying a steak leaving it oily and tasteless or cooking it on a sheet pan leaving it dried and stringy, now your friend will be cooking their steak using the same method as countless high end steak houses. This pan is so important it was the star of Season 1 Episode 1 of Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. You can ask Kat, it cooks the steaks to a perfect succulent medium every time with a seared outer layer that locks in the flavor.

Steak Cooked In Cast Iron

Steak Cooked In Cast Iron

One thing to remember though is that not only is cast iron different from all other pots and pans in the way it cooks; it is also different in how it is maintained. It is not hard to take care of cast iron but I suggest forwarding the following links to your friend as part of his/her present, to ensure his/her new pan lasts for generations.

First and foremost the cast iron pan must be seasoned before using it, most companies state that the pan is pre-seasoned, but I don’t cook on anything until I wash it and once you wash it you have ruined the seasoning. Secondly, the pan has a specific cooking method that is somewhat counter intuitive and downright incredible. Finally, the pan is not cleaned with soap but salt, which most people would never think of. If your friend follows these steps he/she will be cooking steaks and chops using this method for years to come, and I bet you get a few tasty steaks out of the deal as well.

#4:Alton Brown’s Gear for Your Kitchen

Gear for your kitchen

Doc Brown’s Book

If you have read this blog before you know damn well that I am all about Dr. Alton Brown, and yes I did just give him an Honorary doctorate because if Mike, “I eat ears” Tyson has one, Mr. Brown should have one too! For my younger readers, the gift I just mentioned above is a book, I know you have only probably seen them in a book museum, or library, as us old folks call them, but back in the day these archaic artifacts made of paper and ink were given as presents all the time.

I understand that cookbooks are antiquated and generally useless since any and all recipes your friend could potentially want/need are easily found on the Googles. This book, however, is not full of boring old recipes but of inspiring foodie science. Alton Brown discusses not only what gear you should have in your kitchen, but in true Alton Brown fashion, why you should have these items. There is also an entire section of the book devoted to getting rid of needless kitchen items, which is great for us that have a rather small kitchen.

Kitchen Clutter

Kitchen Clutter

I recommend this book for the gadget oriented foodie who buys every new cooking device that hits the market. It is difficult to buy something for this type of person because you never know what they have hiding in their drawers and cupboards. Dr. Brown explains every aspect of cooking in detail in this well written book complete with hundreds of illustrations, that, if I could, I would go back in time at 88mph and would read it much sooner than I did.  (If you got that joke you are reading the right blog.)

#3:Digital In-Oven Thermometer

Digital Cooking Thermometer

Digital Cooking Thermometer

If you have ever served under cooked meals, by accident of course, to any of your houseguests, you will fully understand the necessity of this kitchen gadget. This thermometer is literally the gift that keeps on giving every time you insert the probe into any type of meat. (That’s what she said.)

Armed with this device your now well-equipped foodie friend will be able to follow the mantra of late night infomercial lore, set it and forget it!  Once the probe is inserted into the protein, this magical little object will allow you to keep your oven closed while your meal is cooked to the perfect temperature every time, leaving you free to cook the rest of your meal and drink a beer or two with your guests.

Cooked Steak

This Steak Is Done Man

Although the standalone Meat Thermometer is an great addition to any kitchen, if you really want to spoil your foodie friend, get him/her a Thermometer with a remote receiver that allows the chef to roam around the house while being able to check the temperature of his/her concoction which is wirelessly transmitted throughout the house to the remote device.  This is the one that I have, and I now I could never live without it.

#2:Cookie Cooling Rack

Cooling Racks for Bacon

Cooling Racks for Bacon

Wait! Wait! Wait! Come back, at least let me explain. I know that a cooling rack for cookies does not sound like it would make anyone sing out Fa La La La La, but what if I told you it was not cookies at all, but it was for bacon!  Not only is it for bacon, but it is for crispy, perfectly cooked, uncurled, porkgasm inducing strips of yummy delicious salty goodness, unlike any other bacon he/she has ever cooked before.

This gift like others in this list, and of course the Transformers, is more than meets the eye. You are not only buying your foodie friend a cooling rack, you are buying them the gift of properly cooked bacon. Once you see the method to this madness you will join the oven cooked bacon cult and most likely purchase yourself a drying cooling rack immediately. Watch this video that explains the cooking method and you will realize that this gift is a necessity for anyone who believes that swine is simply divine.

Bacon Cooked Properly

Mmmmmmmm. BACON!

Since the racks are only $10, might I suggest going to your local butcher shop or pork store and procuring (see what I did there) a pound of bacon to accompany this thoughtful foodie gift. Then make sure you invite yourself over for brunch one day and sample the perfectly cooked bacon that was all because of your gift. Remember friends don’t let friends improperly cook bacon.

#1:Belkin Kitchen Stand and Wand

Belkin Kitchen Stand

Belkin Kitchen Stand

If your foodie friend happens to be a bit of a geek like me, a gift that combines their affinity towards technology and their love for all things food couldn’t be more perfect. Enter, the Belkin Kitchen Stand and Wand for Tablets. This kitchen gadget allows the tech savvy foodie to utilize their tablet/iPad in the kitchen without smearing salmonella all over the screen.  This simple device is designed to hold your friend’s recipe wielding tablet upright so he/she can read it while he/she works in the kitchen, without pausing every 12 seconds to wash up. Furthermore the wand, which in the muggle world is called a stylus, is washable so it can be handled with their gooey hands without spreading mad cow disease to their entire family, thus causing the Zombie Apocalypse that we all know is coming.

This gift is not only on my Christmas list but I will be giving a few to my foodie friends this year as well.  As of right now my tablet stand is named Kat and the stylus she uses is the same finger that is usually pointed in my direction after I bellow from across the house to get her to assist me in the kitchen.

BONUS: Whiskey Stones

Whiskey Stones

Whiskey Stones

After a long day in the kitchen fighting with the aforementioned gadgets and gizmos, it is always nice to sit down after a long meal with my remote control and a glass of Single Malt Scotch. I don’t think I am alone in thinking this, so if you can’t decide what to buy your foodie friend or he/she has everything that is listed above, I suggest a package of whiskey stones and nice scotch glass.

These stones are usually hand crafted out of 100% soap stone and are designed to slightly cool your adult beverage to below room temperature to allow the flavors to open up in the glass.  Ice tends to water down good Scotch and a watered down good Scotch is bad! If your foodie friend seems to be a connoisseur of fine Whiskey, Scotch, or Bourbon then this may be just the right present for him/her.  If your friend drinks Georgia Moon Corn Whisky Moonshine from the Jar, I don’t think they will appreciate these.

Moonshine

Granny approved moonshine

If you followed the links that I provided for each item you may have recognized a common thread, Amazon.com. Although, once upon a time, I was a Mall Rat, I cannot stand the malls during the holiday season. As Kat would say, “It makes me want to punch babies.” Kat and I either shop on Amazon.com to take advantage of their super cool free shipping, which all the items above are eligible for by the way, or we shop locally.  However you decide to shop, I hope this little gift giving guide helped make your holiday season a little easier.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my subscribers, readers, followers, and Facebook friends for stopping by and reading my blog. I enjoy writing this article immensely and every time I see a comment or a new Facebook like it makes me smile. I want to truly wish you and your family all a happy and safe holiday season and may all your foodie dreams come true.

Happy Holidays from Dog

Happy Holidays from Dog and I