We Love Hangi! A.K.A. So You Want to Put Your Meat In a Hole

Once a year, in the backwoods of Sussex County, an invite-only Pig Roast occurs that is so fucking epic it is known throughout the State as “The Pig Roast.” This soiree is an underground four-day foodie fiasco that includes bands, pot luck style dining, drinks of all kinds, a gigantic Pig roasted on a spit, and experimental food preparation.

THE PIG ROAST

THE PIG ROAST

I have had the distinct and greatly appreciated privilege to attend this event for the past two years. This year, however, my connection to the gathering wanted to prepare something special for the party and asked me if I wanted to assist him in this endeavor. Attending this affair is one thing, but cooking, on a large scale, is a whole other level of crazy. You see, some of the best and most eclectic amateur and professional chefs in the area ascend the mountains of New Jersey to concoct dishes that are not only tremendously appetizing but also prepared in exotic and daunting techniques, so when my cohort dropped the bomb that we might cook, I was wondering what the hell he was smoking.

Three Days of Pigs, Love, and Music.

Three Days of Pigs, Love, and Music

With a smile on his face, he asked me bluntly, “What do you know about Hangi?”

Thinking my friend was in trouble, I immediately asked him if he smelled burnt toast. He retorted that he was not having a stroke, and that Hangi was the New Zealand method of cooking in an Earth Oven.

I was intrigued, fascinated, damn near titillated about this unique cooking method, and I immediately signed onto the google machine to find out more.   Sure as shit, Hangi is a traditional New Zealand Māori (Indigenous New Zealanders) method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a damn hole in the ground.

From that moment on, we began to hash this plan out over the course of the next month. It seemed like every time we had a pint in our hands the conversation would switch to Hangi. We read articles, watched Youtube clips, scoured the internets, and even asked Reddit for help in the form of a post on R/NewZealand. It appears the old adage, “the best ideas are imagined in the minds of the sober, but it takes some lubrication to implement them,” is correct.

What started as half a joke, had now consumed us. We were going to put down a Hangi at The Pig Roast, and we were going to do it fucking right!

Don't sue me!

Don’t sue me!

Listen closely as this is as close as I get to a disclaimer. I am a fucking American, so this is in no way a definitive guide to Hangi. Furthermore, if any of you try this at home, please use common sense considering not only are you playing with fire, but you are playing with fire, next to a hole full of 1200 degree bricks! With that said, I hope this illustrated guide will give you a general idea of what cooking with an Earth Oven is all about. A huge thanks to the many Reddit users that assisted me in this endeavor, especially MurrayMcScurrilous.

The following is a list of the materials you will need for this endeavor, and I will explain each one in detail so you don’t fuck shit up! Pay attention, some of the details will make the difference between meat that gives you an orgasm and meat that gives you an organism. Don’t worry after the list of shit you need, I will explain how the whole thing comes to together.

Meat me at the Hangi pit

Meat Me at The Hangi Pit

Meat: There are a few things to consider here. How much meat you will need will of course depend on how many freeloading friends you have invited to your shindig, and whether or not they eat like birds or Joey Chestnut sitting outside a Nathans.

Another very important element is the type of meat that you choose to bury in your pit of awesome sauce. We did two Pork Shoulders, two Beef Rump Roasts, and two Whole Chickens. Honestly, you can throw what the fuck you want in the hole, but I would stick to boneless meats that contain a lot of collagen.

*Note (Even though we tried the Chicken, and it wasn’t half bad, it was not the best and was slightly under cooked, requiring us to cook it further on a grill. Since the whole idea of you reading this fucking thing is to learn from our stupidity, do yourself a favor and replace the chicken with Boneless Lamb, you and your guests will be happier.)

Why did the potatoes argue? Because they could never see eye to eye.

Why did the potatoes argue? Because they could never see eye to eye.

Vegetables: To be honest, no one walked past our table that night and said, “Oh shit look at those vegetables” or “Dude, I want to dip my balls in those carrots.” However, it is tradition in New Zealand to cook vegetables with the meat when putting down a Hangi, so if you want to experience the whole shebang, you should use the likes of potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots. Stay away from anything that would disintegrate in say a stew or a chili.

Clean Cabbage Is The Best Cabbage.

Clean Cabbage Is The Best Cabbage

Cabbage: This is used in place of the traditional banana leaves because it is what we can find in the states. You will use it to wrap the meat and to line the baskets so buy enough to do both jobs. Shit, buy some extra fucking cabbage it is $0.59 cents a pound, you cheap fuck.

Wrap it up be!

Wrap it up be!

Aluminum Foil: My Comrade and I had delusions of grandeur of rocking the Hangi ol’ school until we talked to some real life Kiwis. They told us that we would be dumber than a sheep in heat, if we did not use Aluminum Foil to wrap our meat rather than the traditional plant leaves and mutton cloth. Neither of us were 100% sure on the meaning of this insult, but we understood the context clues in the sentence enough to know that we would be wrapping all of our food in this food science wunderkind and so should you.

Warning!  Dropping a Hangi can make you a Basket Case.

Warning! Dropping a Hangi can make you a Basket Case.

Baskets: Considering if you are reading this you are from the States, you will most likely have the same issues as we had in acquiring Hangi Baskets. Apparently in New Zealand, you can run to the corner store and buy these fucking integral apparatuses, but here in America, you will have to be industrious and build your own. These baskets will have to hold all the meat and vegetables and will have to withstand a tremendous amount of heat so don’t skimp. We fashioned ours out of Chafing Dish Frames and NON-GALVANIZED Chicken Wire.

*Note (Notice the CAPITAL LETTERS IN THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE. For all of you that are internet disabled, that means I was yelling those fucking words. Galvanized metal will make people sick, and you don’t want to kill any of your friends, so don’t be a douche and buy the right chicken wire.)

Hole in one!

Hole in one!

Hole/Pit/Earth Oven:   Most people think the first step to laying a Hangi is crafting the hole that will act as your Earth Oven. HEY YOU! STOP! COME BACK HERE! Damn A.D.D. generation. Don’t just grab a shovel and rip up your Wives’ begonias… that right there is how divorces happen. In this case, much like penises, SIZE MATTERS!

Your Hangi hole size should be directly proportionate to the size of your baskets, the amount of food you are making, and the size of your stones. The larger the Ho’ the harder it will be to heat it. According to my extremely helpful New Zealand Hangi brethren, a solid hole should be deep enough to fit the Hangi Paraphernalia listed above, as wide as the bottom of the baskets and slightly flair out to the sides, similar to a wok.

Much like real estate the key to Hangi is, Location, Location, Location!

Much like real estate the key to Hangi is, Location, Location, Location!

Location: The pit should be on flat ground for the safety of both the meat and yourselves. Remember, you are going to be maneuvering/running around it carrying scolding hot bricks and eventually reaching into it to retrieve heavy stuff.   Pay attention to the wind in the area of your pit too, rain is tolerable, but wind is the enemy of your Hangi.

Pick a tool, any tool!

Pick a tool, any tool!

Shovel: I suggest at least three of these bitches, unless you want to do all the heavy lifting yourself. You will need this ever important tool for digging the hole, carrying the stones, burying the meat, and unearthing your buried meat treasure.

USE THE RIGHT STONES!!!

USE THE RIGHT STONES!!!

Fire Bricks: THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!! You will be heating these sons of a bitches to well over 1000 degrees, and if you do not pick the right stones, they will explode sending white hot shards of stone in every direction if you don’t want a money shot full of lava, pay the fuck attention!

One is supposed to lay down a Hangi using volcanic rocks and in New Zealand finding these is like finding a douche at the Jersey Shore. Unfortunately, we have douches a plenty, but we lack volcanic rocks. Once again we had to improvise. We decided to use fireplace bricks which are designed to endure a massive amount of heat without making us all look like JPP’s mangled hand stump.

In the immortal words of Beavis... FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

In the immortal words of Beavis… FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

Fire: I am not talking about a tiny little city fire either! I am talking about a ragin’, big ol’, country fire. This fire will have to fit all of your stones and burn for about 3-5 hours.

Hangi gives me wood!

Hangi gives me wood!

Wood: You are going to need more wood than Ron Jeremy on a four day binge of snorting Cialis and Viagra so act like a Boy Scout, and Be Fucking Prepared!  

Burlap sections

Burlap sections

Burlap: You can find spools of this material at Walmart or Home Depot. It is used to separate the layers of the Hangi and to add moisture to the mix.

Insert Cheesy Joke Here!

Insert Cheesy Joke Here!

Cheese Cloth: Enough to cover each of your baskets.

Let's Do This!

Let’s Do This!

Bucket: You will need at least one bucket to soak the burlap sheets in which will allow the burlap not to burn and add extra moisture to the process.

Yous a hose!

Yous a hose!

Garden Hose: This is optional, but you will need to moisten the Hangi hole one way or another, and a source of water is never a bad thing to have handy when you are playing with fire.

Some say Summer is the best season, I say the best season is Hangi season!

Some say Summer is the best season, I say the best season is Hangi season!

Seasoning: Since you found this page, you have no doubt been bouncing around the interwebs in search of guidance on how to season the meat that you are about to bury in the earth. I was surprised to find that most websites simply don’t talk about this element of the process. However, upon speaking to many people that have participated in Hangi before I soon found out why. New Zealand has some weird ass herbs and spices that you or I have never fucking heard of. For example, Piko Piko, Piri Piri, Kawa Kawa, and Horopito.

Furthermore, we found that most Hangi meat is simply seasoned with a little bit of canola oil, salt and pepper. We decided to add a little ‘Merica into this bitch, and concoct seasoning rubs for each of our meats that we felt would not only taste fantastic but give a slight nod to the Mauri people by adding as many fresh herbs and spices we could get our hand on.

A-Roid would like this part

A-Roid would like this part

Marinades: We toiled and labored over the keyboard to find the perfect marinades for our meat, only to find out that wet marinades are horrible for Hangi, which makes sense since we are essentially cooking with steam. However, not to be deterred, we decided to use injectable marinades instead, which we did the night before, and let the juices sink into the lovely meat overnight while chillin’ out maxin’ and relaxin’ in the fridge.

Cheers to good times and good friends

Cheers to good times and good friends

Friends: In New Zealand they are called Mates, in America we call them friends, and you are going to need a lot of them. Putting a Hangi down is a social\team event from start to finish, and believe me, the more the merrier!

Who you choose might be your down fall!

Who you choose might be your down fall!

Foreman: Most likely if you are reading this, you have already assumed this role, but this is a must for a successful Hangi. This does not give you the license to be a dick, but as I will explain the last step, putting down a Hangi is intense and time sensitive. Decisions will have to be made that will affect the outcome of the food, and these decisions should not be questioned because those questions will eat away precious seconds.

Sit, Ubu, Sit.  Good Dog.

Sit, Ubu, Sit. Good Dog.

Seats: What are you going to do? Stand up for 12 hours?

Be Responsible You Jerks!

Be Responsible You Jerks!

Beer: Every single guide I read and person I talked to clearly stated that beer in some quantity or style was an absolute must when you are laying down a Hangi. Be responsible though, you are playing with insanely hot shit and the fate of the food lies solely on your shoulders.

Protection is important!

Protection is important!

Gloves: Holy Fuck the fire pit gets hot, and you are going to need some gloves. Not gardening gloves either you wanker. Get yourself some diesel BBQ gloves or even better Fireman gloves!

Saucey... Sauce... Sauce... I Love Sauce!

Saucey… Sauce… Sauce… I Love Sauce!

Sauce: I love sauce like Ron Burgundy loves Scotch, so I put sauce on EVERYTHING. If you are looking for a traditional sauce, I will include an amazing recipe at the very end of this tutorial; however, you can use any sauce that you think will taste good with the meat you selected.

Dirt Holder

Dirt Holder

Wheel Barrel: This will hold the dirt that you remove from the ground, so you can dump that shit back in the hole when the time comes. Remember time is of the essence, so this will come in handy later.

Pick a wood!  Any wood!

Pick a wood! Any wood!

Mesquite or Hickory Wood Chunks: These pieces of wood will be added to the whole after the bricks to add a bit of good ol’ fashioned smoke flavor.

Don't sleep on the Hangi

Don’t sleep on the Hangi

Step 1

The Meetup: Wake up really fucking early and meet up with your Hangi Homies. Make sure you have all your gear, a box of Joe, a cooler full of solid craft beer, and set up your seats.

Building a big ol' fire

Building a big ol’ fire

Step 2

The Fire: This ain’t Naked and Afraid, and the fire needs to be hotter than Ronda Rousey and bigger than Chris Christie so use as many fire starters as you need. To paraphrase Jim Morrison, come on baby light your fire.

Just keep digging, just keep digging!

Just keep digging, just keep digging!

Step 3

Can You Dig It: While a few of your mates tend the fire, grab a few others and start digging. By now I hope you have already scoped out the location of the pit and planned the dimensions, so this should be as simple as scooping the dirt out of the ground and into the wheel barrel.

In the immortal words of Beavis... FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

Use your Tetris skills here!

Step 4

Burn Those Bricks: Strategically place your bricks or stones into your now hopefully roaring fire. Your friends always said that all those years of playing Tetris instead of banging chicks and getting drunk were a waste of time, but now is your chance to show off your skills. BE CAREFUL!!! Use gloves and tools if necessary to stack the bricks in the fire. Now that your bricks have been placed in the hell fire you created, drink some beers, and take a breather. You need to get the bricks stupid hot, so they will sit in the fire for between 4 to 6 hours depending on the stones and the size of your fire. Just remember to tend the fire and make sure your bricks don’t fall out.

We can build it, we can make it stronger.

We can build it, we can make it stronger.

Step 5

Basket Weaving 101: Now that your hole is all holey and your bricks are on the barbi, it is time to turn your attention to your meat holders. If you found something that will work without any tweaking, more power to you, but if you need to build the DIY version, now is the time. All you have to do is wrap the chicken wire around the Chafing Dish trays and connect the two of them by folding the end of the wire over the frame. *NOTE* You might want to use gloves during this step too, Chicken Wire is sharper than your douchey cats nails, and you will poke yourself a lot.

It's Peelin' Time

It’s Peelin’ Time

Step 6

Peel Out: When you have about an hour left of cooking time on your bricks, you should start peeling and cutting your veggies. Before you start peeling them though, remove your meat from the fridge and place it to the side. Peel everything and cut the vegetables into large chunks, not too small so they fall apart, but small enough to allow them to cook. I know that is pretty fucking vague but stop your whining, I told you this shit ain’t scientific, you are cooking in a hole for fucks sake.

Rub your meat!  Rub it real good!

Rub your meat! Rub it real good!

Step 7

Rub Your Meat: Unwrap your meat and rub it down like a 16 year old that just found porn hub. Make sure to cover every square inch of your fleshy dead animal.

Wrap it up!

Wrap it up!

Step 8

Wrap it up: Pretend you are about to score with a Las Vegas hooker and triple bag your meat and Veggies. Wrap it first in your cabbage leaves and then in two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Don’t be a fucktard and use some bull shit off brand aluminum foil either! Remember the foil will protect your food from the pile of earth you will throw on it in about 15 minutes so don’t be cheap!

The wetter the better!

The wetter the better!

Step 9

Soak Your Sacks and Wood: Throw your large burlap cuts, your cheese cloth, and your wood chunks into a big pot of water and let them soak for approximately one beer.

Stacks on Stacks!

Stacks on Stacks!

Step 10:

Meat and Veggie Jenga: Place your meat on the bottom of the baskets and the veggies on top. Make sure that everything is stable because you will have to maneuverer these bitches in the hole and then out again.

The Calm Before The Storm!

The Calm Before The Storm!

Step 11:

Final Preparation: This shit is about to get real and now is the time to go over your plan one more time with your team and bring everything over to your Hangi hole. This is your last chance to make everything just right before you take the first stone out of the fire and the clock starts ticking, so don’t fuck shit up.

GO TEAM HANGI!!!

GO TEAM HANGI!!!

Step 12:

GO TEAM GO: Time is of the essence!

  1. Use a hose or a bucket to wet the hole slightly. Don’t make a puddle, you are not making soup, just add enough to dampen the dirt.
  2. Transfer all the bricks into the pit faster than an eight ball disappears during a bachelor party. Use your shovel and your gloves because those stones are going to be hot as fuck, and don’t just throw them in all willy-nilly either, you are going to need a flat surface to place your baskets on.
  3. Throw the chunks of wood on top and around your stones.
  4. Put the baskets on top.
  5. Place the Cheese Cloth on top of the baskets.
  6. Throw some dirt on the sides of the pit to protect your stones from touching the layer of burlap that will go on top.
  7. Place a layer of wet burlap on top of the baskets. Don’t let the burlap touch the stones or it will burn and ruin the flavor of your Hangi.
  8. Add some more dirt to the pit and fill it up about half way.
  9. Add the second layer of burlap.
  10. Pile the dirt into the hole and seal it up tight. The rule here is, NO STEAM CAN ESCAPE! Keep adding dirt until you no longer see any steam wafting from your Hangi Pit.
  11. Place the last burlap sheet on top of the hole and exchange several high fives.
Hang on Hangi we are almost done!

Hang on Hangi we are almost done!

Step 13

Mind the Gap: Now that your food is in the pit, the craziness is over. Stay close though because as your food cooks you may need to tend to the Hangi Hole. As the magic happens, the dirt in the hole may shift, and some steam may try to escape. If this happens, immediately cover that spot with more dirt.

Boom!

Boom!

Step 14

Low and Slow: As I stated earlier, I am just a stupid American, and I have only done this once so as far as cooking time goes, your guess is as good as mine. I let mine cook for about five hours, and it came out awesome, I checked each cut with a thermometer, and I suggest you do the same. Best case scenario, everything comes out epic. Worst case scenario, you have to throw your Hangi in the oven for a few to complete the cooking, but at least everyone will be alive at the end of this experience.

I did not get a picture of us making the sauce.  Fucking Deal With It!

I did not get a picture of us making the sauce. Fucking Deal With It!

Step 15

Make the Sauce: If you are making the sauce I mentioned earlier, and you fucking should because it is pretty damn amazing, now is the time. Follow the directions and improvise as you see fit.

X marks the spot!

X marks the spot!

Step 16

Dig up Your Buried Treasure: The nice thing about the burlap cuts is that you can slowly lift them out of your hole to remove layers of the dirt that you threw on top of your baskets. Be careful stabbing your shovels into the ground as you don’t want to hit your meat. Ruin your Hangi at this stage would be a catastrophe. Once you hit pay dirt, use your gloves to remove the baskets from the hole and bring them to your carving station.

THAT IS FUCKING PORK!!!

Hangi Ninjas

Step 17

The Moment Of Truth: Unwrap your first cut of meat and stab that bitch with a thermometer. If you are rocking a Hangi I assume you are not a novice chef, so make sure your meat is cooked to a safe temp and then start carving. Carve and plate all the meat and the vegetables.

Our first Hangi!

Our first Hangi!

Step 18

Sit your ass down to a true New Zealand Mauri FEAST!!! You are fucking welcome!

Hangi WIN!!!!

Hangi WIN!!!!

Our Hangi Slideshow

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 Our Hangi Video

The Maori Sauce Recipe

2 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Onion

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

1 Cup Chili Sauce

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 ½ Teaspoons Garlic Powder

½ Teaspoon White Pepper

¼ Cup Pineapple Juice

1 Small Bay Leaf

¾ Cup honey

1 Cup Tomato Sauce

½ Teaspoon Salt

2 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

1 ½ Teaspoon Chili Powder

1 Tablespoon BBQ Spice

1 ½ Teaspoon Liquid Smoke

1 Tablespoon White Vinegar

 

Sauté onion in vegetable oil until golden brown. Combine with remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about an hour. Makes three cups.

Eating Healthy this Super Bowl Without Losing Man Points. Here is an App for that!

Super Bowl XLVIII

That mean Super Bowl 48 for those of us that did not go to a wealthy school which taught fancy roman numerals.

Did you know that the number one New Year’s resolution in America for 2014 was to lose weight?  Furthermore, studies say that only 39% of people in their twenties and a mere 14% of people over 50 with accomplish their resolution.  If you decided to jump into the deep end of Resolution River without a life jacket, you are not the first and you will certainly not be the last.

In December 2012, my wife and I were sifting through pictures from the past year and saw a picture from a recent wedding where we resembled the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Miss Piggy attending a cocktail party.  To paraphrase Queen Victoria, we were not amused.  So our 2013 resolution was to lose weight, and although it was an uphill both ways in the snow without shoes or a jacket kind of arduous task, we succeeded.

In 2013, Kat and I lost a combined 75 pounds before the Holidays gave us about a 10 pound present.  I am not telling you this to boast, although I am proud of our accomplishment, I am telling you this to inform you that even if you are a foodie, you can lose weight and keep it off.  The secret to our success was not some scientific weight loss drug, newfangled exercise machine, or fad diet, it was good old fashioned vomiting, that is right bulimia is not just for teenage girls anymore!  Relax people; the real top-secret weight loss program we established was portion control, exercise, and calorie counting.

Now I could ramble on about how we accomplished this three pronged attack on our floppy bodies but this is a food blog not fatties anonymous, so I will simply say the hardest thing to do while on a diet is to make the correct choices while eating out or at a party.  This problem is only compounded for men that are trying to lose weight because there is nothing less masculine than the phrase, “I can’t eat that!  Do you know how many calories are in (fill in the delicious food here)?”

With this in mind, I have compiled a list of the top 10 healthy yet still somewhat manly appetizers you can bring, serve, and eat at a Super Bowl party without losing dozens of man points per carrot dipped in broccamole that you force yourself to eat.  Note:  I don’t care that the word “Bro” is in the word Broccamole, it is the least manly thing you could ever eat, and that includes Activia yogurt that is specifically designed to make women regular.  (Click the titles of the food to follow the link to these fantastic recipes.)

Buffalo Balls

Buffalo Balls

You might wanna change the name but you will not want to change the taste!
Photo Credit: I Breathe…I’m Hungry…

Buffalo Wings and Football games go together like Kayne West and Douchebaggery, so a Super Bowl spread without some form of chicken wings would be like A-Rod without steroids.  Unfortunately, Chicken wings are about as healthy as a deep fried Twinkie wrapped in bacon, unless you follow this easy low carb, gluten free recipe.

Individual Seven Layer Dip:

Mini Seven Layer Dip

Size doesn’t always matter! Right… Right?

These delicious little cups of yummy pack the same great flavor that your mother’s seven layer dip offered with two outstanding improvements.  First off, they have built in portion control so you can keep track of how much of this wonderful stuff you are eating. Secondly, if you have germophobic tendencies, like I do, and the mere thought of a double dipper causes you to cringe worse than Freddie Krueger scratching a chalk board, the individual servings keep your dip safe and sanitary.

Lightened Up Mac & Cheese Bites:

Lightened Up Mac & Cheese

Mac and Cheese that will not make your personal trainer weep!
Photo Credit: 3 Pastries A Day

I think we can all agree, if you do not like Mac & Cheese you are un-American.  I don’t know why Reagan did not just use this as a test to find all the communist spies that infiltrated our country in the seventies.  Instead of all the surveillance, interrogating, and torturing, all he needed to do was put a plate of herring and a plate of Mac & Cheese in their hotel rooms and wait to see which one they picked.  Since we no longer need Mac & Cheese to protect our country, I suggest you use this recipe to pair America’s favorite food with America’s favorite sport.

De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket:

De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket

Not all pigs are fat! That is fatism!
Photo Credit: Lisa Lillian, Hungry Girl

As far as appetizers go, pigs in a blanket have weathered the test of time better than Vanna White, which by the way is not easy considering she is 56 and still is in the GSHILF category.  I will wait for you to get that one and if you don’t e-mail me and I will explain.  These little buggers are perfect for any party and by using reduced fat all beef franks and low reduced calorie crescent rolls they can be quite healthy.  Another bonus to these tried and true apps, they are so damn easy to make even Lunch Lady Doris couldn’t screw them up.  For a slight change of pace try this recipe, Mini Corndog Muffins.

Chuck’s Crab Cakes:

Crab Cakes

Crab People, Crab People, look like cakes tastes like crab!
Photo Credit: Chuck Hughes

If you have been dieting longer than a day and are at least slightly smarter than anyone of these celebritarts, you already know that, for the most part, seafood is pretty healthy.  As long as it is not bathed in butter or deep fried, when you are out and about, seafood is a pretty safe bet to keep your calorie count lower than the NY Mets payroll.  These simple yet tasty crab cakes are not only low in calories but also allow you to keep your mantastic foodie street cred.

Paleo Pizza Bites:

Paleo Pizza Bites

Paleo Pizza Bites GOOOOODDDDDD, Inner Aisles BAAAAAAAADDDD!
Photo Credit: Health Bent

This dish is for all the cavemen who read this blog.  For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years, I am referring to my followers that prescribe to the Paleolithic diet.  The basic rule of this diet is if a caveman could not eat it, neither can you.  If this is the diet that you chose to hitch your fat ass to, more power to you, here is an app just for you.  These pizza bites remove the dough, lessen the cheese, but still allow you to visit the most wonderful place on earth, no not Disney Land you jerk, Pizza Town!

Deviled Eggs:

Deviled Eggs

These Healthier Deviled Eggs Should Be Called Angel Eggs.
Photo Credit: Molly Burke

Relax, remove your hand from the mouse, keep reading, I will explain everything.  Some of you who have not eaten in a while just got really Hangry, part hungry, part angry, all vicious, with me for even suggesting that you can eat deviled eggs on a diet.  I am here to inform you, that you can.  Maybe not your grandmother’s 300 calorie lard filled egg o’tasty goodness, but you can have these healthy dressed up deviled eggs without feeling guilty.  These recipes all use reduced fat mayonnaise to create a deviled egg that is ready for the big game.

Healthified Spinach Dip in a Bread Bowl:

Healthified Spinach Dip In a Bread Bowl

So good you will wanna dip your bread in it! You thought I was going to say something else that starts will a B and is round didn’t you?
Photo Credit: Living Better America

I can hear some of you now.  What do you mean healthified spinach dip?  Spinach is one of those green things; therefore any dip that has spinach in it must be good for you.  If you believe this, I have a sweet bridge in Brooklyn I would love to sell you.  Think of all those hipsters you can charge a toll to just to cross your bridge to get to their warehouse parties and scarf shops.  This Spinach Dip adds more spinach and uses low-fat sour cream to start down the healthy path and then replaces the calorie rich cream cheese that is normally found in this dish with Greek Yogurt!  Mental Note People, Greek Yogurt was sent to earth from the heavens to replace fatty calorie laden ingredients in recipes without sacrificing the creaminess.

Oven “Fried” Pickles with Skinny Ranch Dip:

Oven Fried Pickeles.

Oy! These Pickles Are Good!
Photo Credit: Skinny Taste

If you have not accepted the amazing pickle as your diet savior you are a blasphemer.  Excuse me a minute while I testify about the sanctity of the almighty pickle.  These salty and garlicky explosions of flavor weigh in at a measly 5 calories a serving and are a great way to curb your appetite in between meals.  These oven fried pickles are of course a little heavier on the calories but still pack immense flavor in each tasty morsel and it does not get much manlier than breaded pickles.

Healthy Cookie Dough Dip

Cookie Dough Dip

Want to win some bets this year at your Super Bowl Party? Have everyone taste this dip and bet them they can’t guess the secret ingredient.
Photo Credit: Chocolate Covered Katie

A Super Bowl party is just not over until you have stuffed your face with sweet, sweet, fat filled dessert right?  What if I told you that you could have your sweets and not completely ruin your diet at the same time?  Put me down, crazy person, I am not a witch.  I am referring to this Healthy Cookie Dough Dip that uses a surprising ingredient to keep it low in fat and carbs, Chick Peas.  I know what you are thinking, “I don’t care if you are not a witch, I want to burn you at the stake anyway for this heresy.  Chick Peas are not a dessert you douche!”  I dare you to make this and have only one bite!  Go ahead, that is a challenge!

There you have it!  The top 10 Blue Collar Foodie approved healthy yet manly apps for the Super Bowl. Remember, one bad day will not ruin your health, just like one good day cannot make you healthy, so if you decide to cheat on Super Sunday, make sure you get back on track during Move Your Ass Monday.  Save this page to your favorites and when you need to make a dish for a party that won’t make you feel less masculine than buying Maxi-Pads for your wife during the Super Bowl, remember, there is an App (itizer) for that!

Belly Up Roll

Bacon Fest 2013

If there was a town called Baconville, I would be the Mayor; if there was a Baconland, I would be the ambassador; and if there was a Bacon Church, I would be the fracking Pope O’Pork. What I am trying to say is that I like; no, love bacon, like the interwebs loves cats, the Kardashians love attention, and Jim Jones apparently loves Julius Caesar. It is this obsession for all things salty and cured that gave birth to my annual Bacon Fest Celebration, which Kat and I host for all of our friends who are swine inclined.

Jim Jones' Giant Julius Caesar Head!

Jim Jones’ Giant Julius Caesar Head!

Bacon Fest is one part food competition and two parts all out, bacon celebration. Each year we gather between 13 and 16 foodies who love to cook and ask them to let their imaginations run wild, the only rule is that the star of their dish must be Bacon! This once small gathering has been growing each and every year and this year. This year it became obvious that I could no longer host it at my house, so we decided to upgrade to a hall.

The Creed Of Bacon Fest

The Creed Of Bacon Fest

After calling around to several local halls for rent, we found that it was quite difficult to acquire a hall that would allow you to utilize their kitchen. That is until we stumbled upon the Ridgewood Elks Club, located at 111, North Maple Ave., in Ridgewood, NJ. The Ridgewood Elks club had everything our bacon soirée could possibly need, a large main room, tables, chairs, a deluxe industrial kitchen, and a very reasonable price tag. They also had a cash bar so our guests could wet their whistle in between courses, named the Jolly Cork.

Ridgewood Elks Club

The Ridgewood Elks Club

Once the hall was booked and the invites went out, my next challenge was to decide what I would concoct as my entry to this year’s contest. The competition for Bacon Fest has been increasing exponentially with each iteration. What began at first as a friendly rivalry has evolved into a passionate tournament that would make Tyler Durden proud.

I originally created an entry in my head that I was generally content with, but I knew I could do better. I racked my brain, spending damn-near every waking hour thinking about how I could improve my dish for what has become the Academy Awards of salty meat. That is until one fateful night when I got a little tipsy and passed out while visions of bacon fairies still danced in my head. I only slept for about an hour that night, because I was awoken from my restless slumber after tasting the most amazing baconey goodness that had ever crossed the threshold of my lips.

Counting Pigs Instead of Sheep!

Counting Pigs Instead of Sheep!

Still groggy and now all worked up on dream bacon, I grabbed my smart phone and began researching, like I had never researched before. My thumbs were moving a mile a minute, it was as if St. Anthony, the patron saint of bacon and the namesake of the Bacon Fest Cup, himself had possessed my fingers and they were doing his bidding. After an hour of zealous obsession, my bacon fantasy had come to fruition. I returned to my slumber counting pigs one by one that evening, knowing that I was well prepared for this year’s pork laden prizefight.

Me As The Bacon Pope!

Me As The Bacon Pope!

On the day of the event, each cook was issued a number designation and a time slot when they would present their dish to the judges. Each dish would be explained to the lucky people that were chosen at random and then judged based on Taste, Presentation, and Originality. As time ticked by the anticipation of the salty and savory war that was about to be waged on the culinary battlefield began to increase. Slowly but surely you could feel the tension in the kitchen as the cooks were doing their final preparations.

The following was the artery-clogging lineup that rocked Bacon Fest 2013, in the order that they were presented:

Sweet Potato And Bacon Lettuce Wrap

Sweet Potato And Bacon Lettuce Wrap with Yogurt Dill Sauce Presented by Stephanie Bates.

Sueyy-shi

Sueyy-shi: Loaded mashed potatoes wrapped in bacon, dressed with BBQ sauce, and bacon skillet spread. Presented by Dave Michaels and Allie Maurer.

Bacon Maple Popcorn

Bacon Maple Popcorn Presented by Jennifer Sellers

Apple-Bacon Empanada

Apple-Bacon Empanada with dried cherries, mascarpone, and Apple-Bacon Caramel Presented by Keith Shatsoff and Bryan Barnhart.

Bacon Cassoulet

Bacon Cassoulet: Medley of bacon, beans, and pancetta prepared in a traditional cassoulet in bacon cups. Presented by Tyler Hutchinson and Sara Toth

Bracon Bad:

Bracon Bad: Bacon Confit Brulee with Fring’s Blue. Presented by Tyler and Jessica Ochs.

The Heaven Hog

The Heaven Hog: Mozzarella, Spinach, and Bacon Pork Tenderloin. Presented by Timothy Hurwitz and Michael Pindilli.

Belly Up Roll

Belly Up Roll: Braised Pork Belly and Avocado Sushi Roll with a bacon maple chutney. Presented by Michael and Katherine Arp

Candy Bacon Chocolate Brownie

Candy Bacon Chocolate Brownie with Jameson Caramel Sauce topped with candy bacon. Presented by Kevin and Kimberly Feehan.

Dude Food Magic Bars

Dude Food Magic Bars: Dessert Bar with pretzels, potato chips, chocolate, peanut butter and Bacon Presented by Brian Massey and Kristen Dyak.

Bacon Mac and Cheese

Bacon Mac and Cheese with Spiced Bacon Twists presented by Chris Buro.

Pork Star Ice Cream Cake

Pork Star Ice Cream Cake Presented by Matthew Arp and Emily Holmgren.

Pancetta Meatballs

Pancetta Meatballs in Joan’s homemade sauce Presented by Joan Perreca.

Clearly even though this was a competition and there was a winner declared, the judges were the actual victors in this epicurean struggle because they got to eat the above mentioned food. Granted the cooks were also judges, so I guess we all won, but this ain’t some new age hippy dippie coed baseball league where there is no score kept, and everyone wins ribbons for participation. This is Bacon Wars!

The Cup of St. Anthony

The Cup of St. Anthony

The reason all the cooks wake up at 6:00 A.M. on the morning of Bacon Fest and shovel their own money into their dish, is to the have the honor of taking home the Cup of Saint Anthony! The Cup of St. Anthony is similar to Lord Stanley’s Cup, only it is better, because people actually care who wins this cup. (Hockey Burn!) Whoever takes first place in Bacon Fest is granted the righteous reward of placing their name on the cup and displaying it at their house for an entire year.

In this culinary death match that lasted 2 hours and featured more bacon than most regular folks eat in a year, only one dish reigned supreme. Alas, it was not my dish this year, although I did take third place, with the Pork Star Ice Cream Cake taking second, and all of the dishes bowed down to the Apple-Bacon Empanada which made most people let out a louder moan of satisfaction than they do in their own bedrooms.

Bacon Empanda Inside

The Winner Dissected!

While baconey goodness followed baconey goodness in this divine swine parade, our guests were placing money in the donation jars that were being passed around and tickets in the raffle prize baskets. All the proceeds of Bacon Fest 2013 were donated to Eleventh Hour Rescue, a local animal rescue agency, which saved our own dog from a kill shelter and delivered her to our hearts.

Tickets

Charity is fun!

All the raffle prizes were generously donated by some of the fantastic businesses that this Blue Collar Foodie frequents on a regular basis. I would like to take this time to give a shout out and some electronic love to these wonderful businesses that did not think twice to support this remarkable rescue agency through our event. These benevolent establishments and every single person that donated their hard earned money at our event have helped this rescue agency not only save the lives of animals but also connect them with their forever family.

Lilly Likes Bacon

Lilly Loves You For Supporting Eleventh Hour Rescue Almost As Much As She Loves Bacon!!!

These are not your standard, everyone be damned but me corporations; these are honest companies that are aware of their societal footprint and want to help their community. Please help me say thank you to these exceptional establishments by supporting them as they supported us.

Meatball Obsession: At Meatball Obsession®, it’s all about the meatball. That’s why we call it an obsession. We use the original, all-natural old-world Mancini family recipe and slow-cook it in pots. At Meatball Obsession we serve grandma’s beef, turkey and sausage meatballs in her Sunday Sauce. Our food is meant for people on the go so you can enjoy your meatballs in a cup with dipping bread or stuffed in a custom-made Italian pocket bread. We deliver too. – 1 Garden State Plaza, Paramus NJ 201-843-3888.

Twisted Elm: Twisted Elm is a gastropub in Northern NJ. We are a casual, pub-style restaurant with an award-winning chef in the kitchen and a fun, relaxed atmosphere at the bar. Our creative menu is prepared using the finest local and seasonal ingredients, and we proudly serve delicious, naturally-made wines. We have hand-tossed brick oven pizzas – even for our gluten-free guests! Bringing the craft beer scene to Bergen County, we offer a rotating selection of the finest American and imported brews. – 435 River Dr. Elmwood Park, NJ 07407 (201) 791-3705

Baconery: Two ingredients that make everything taste like heaven in your mouth. Apart, these ingredients represent a delicious cornucopia of different tastes, but together they create an explosive flavor that is seldom rivaled in the food world. Everyone has talked about it. People have dreamed about it. Most were afraid to put them together. It’s a secret, twisted fantasy that everyone hides their love for. And now it’s a reality. Available Online and at their Brick and Mortar location at 911 Columbus Avenue, New York, New York (104 & 105th)

J&D’s: We’re Justin and Dave, and this is our improbable bacon-flavored story. Who are we? We’re just two regular guys who love grilling and football on Sunday afternoons, eating until we can’t get off the couch and of course, the taste of great bacon. And it’s our dream to make everything taste like bacon. Whether you’re a regular griller or a gourmet chef, are counting calories or are a vegetarian who craves mouth-watering bacon taste without the bacon guilt, this is what you’ve been waiting for.

The Swiss Pork Store: It’s a throwback, a dinosaur, a trip to the old country. In the same location since 1950, time has moved forward only on the other side of the door. Even the customers will tell you how long they’ve been coming here to shop.

A local legend of the original owners is that one of the two men who opened the place in 1950 was German, the other was Swiss. They were concerned about anti-German sentiment just after WWII, so they named the shop the Swiss Pork Store, with a wink and a smile. 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, Fair Lawn, New Jersey 07410

Breaking Bad Bacon

For those of you who did get the Breaking Bad Reference.

Photo Credit and many thanks to Evan Bindelglass!

The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 Spots to Celebrate National IPA Day

IPA DAY

Are you the type of guy that buys your wife a half a dozen wilted red roses from the gas station around the corner from your house while fervently calling all the restaurants in town to get a reservation on your anniversary day?  The kind of Santa that pays no attention to the calendar until December 24th and all your loved ones end up with dollar store dog toys and gift cards from Walgreens as presents.  If so, when you signed onto Facebook this morning and found out that today was National IPA day, you most likely panicked and began to scour the interwebs for a place to celebrate this most hallowed day.  Have no fear my procrastinating hop heads, The Blue Collar Foodie here.  The following is the Top 5 Blue Collar Foodie approved craft beer bars to wet your whistle on this hop filled holiday!

Andys Corner

Andy’s Corner

5:  Andy’s Corner:  If you are looking for a low key neighborhood bar that serves nothing but the best beer this world has to offer, look no further than Andy’s corner.  Not only is their draft menu constantly rotating, they have refrigerators full of bottled hoptastic perfection that is sure to please.  Furthermore, the proprietor, George, is the type of bartender that has long since gone the way of the dinosaur, beepers, and Blockbusters.  He not only is personable and friendly, he has more beer knowledge in his pinky toe than most pompous cicerones have in their entire bulbous craniums, yet is humble unlike those D-bags.  Although there is no true IPA Day event at Andy’s tonight, I assure you, if you go see George he will point you in the direction of some beers that are just perfect for the evening’s festivities.

Andy’s Corner Bar:  A World of Beer, Just a Corner Away
257 Queen Anne Road
Bogota, NJ 07603
(201) 342-9887

The Shepard & The Knucklehead

The Shepherd & The Knucklehead

4: The Shepherd & The Knucklehead:  A long time ago when I was just a naïve college student shot gunning PBRs, I thought nothing about the quality of beer and food that I ingested.  That is of course until this Knucklehead met the Shepherd.  If I had to pin point the moment that I realized that I had an affinity for craft beer which in turn gave birth to my passion for all things gastronomic, I would have to say that it was the moment that The Shepherd & The Knucklehead became my Cheers.  Although I am not there as much as I would like to be anymore, the years I spent at this now even more epic craft beer bar shaped and honed my palate in a way that I could never have envisioned.  The Shepherd & The Knucklehead now features 90 taps and serves classic and creative pub food to boot.  Much like Andy’s Corner there is no IPA Day event scheduled for this evening but I can attest that at the Shep it is IPA day, every day!

The Shepherd & The Knucklehead: Where we celebrate the Duality in Man
529 Belmont Avenue
Haledon, New Jersey 07508
(973) 942-8666 *after 4:00 PM*

The Twisted Elm

The Twisted Elm

3:  The Twisted Elm Tavern:   This North Jersey Gastropub exploded onto both the foodie scene and the beer scene in 2011 and has not looked back since.  The Twisted Elm features an ever changing remarkable beer menu that will satisfy even the most refined beer aficionado’s palate.  However, the Twisted Elm doesn’t just have beer; they combine their impressive craft beer list with foodie fare that is prepared by an award winning chef and an outstanding staff that makes you feel as if you are one of the family.  This truthfully is my favorite bar in North Jersey and a spot-on representation of what a Gastropub should be.  There may not be an IPA event scheduled for tonight but never the less The Twisted Elm Tavern makes the list because there is no place I would rather be on a Thursday night.

The Twisted Elm:  A New Jersey Gastropub
435 River Drive
Elmwood Park, NJ, 07407
201-791-3705

Cloverleaf Tavern

Cloverleaf Tavern

2:  The Cloverleaf Tavern:  When it comes to craft beer bars there are only a few bars in North Jersey that are on the level of The Cloverleaf Tavern.  Not only do they have one of the most notable beer lists in the state, their food is stupid good.  They also love to celebrate beer centric holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and of course National IPA Day.  Tonight the Cloverleaf is celebrating by having an IPA showdown of East Vs. Midwest by offering Kane Head High and Founder All-Day IPA drafts for only $3.50.  To add to the appeal of this event, if either of those brews don’t make you more excited than Bill Clinton snorting Viagra at the Bunny Ranch, they are also damn near giving Dogfish 90 minute away for $4.50.  If you are looking to pair some of the best IPAs in the land with foodie fare that is off the hook, look no further than The Cloverleaf Tavern tonight.               

The Cloverleaf Tavern: Where Good Friends Meet
395 Bloomfield Ave.
Caldwell, NJ 07006
973-226-9812

Morris Tap & Grill

Morris Tap & Grill

1:  Morris Tap and Grill:  Where is The Blue Collar Foodie going to celebrate the most sacred American beer holiday of the year you ask?  I have to admit it was a very difficult decision, but after careful consideration the Morris Tap and Grill was the clear winner.  Their beer list for tonight has an average Ratebeer rating of 96.91 and is the most serious IPA selection that I have ever seen compiled under one roof.  With selections from Stone, Kane, Carton, Elysian, Founders, and Dogfish Head to name a few, my biggest problem is going to be that I am going to want to try them all.  On top of their incredible beer list, Chef Eric Levine, a freaking Chopped Champion by the way, will be on hand to create his awe inspiring, drool invoking, culinary creations as usual.  Morris Tap and Grill may be somewhat of a drive for this foodie, but every mile is worth it, and I am super excited to spending my IPA day with the cast and crew of this praise worthy establishment!           

Morris Tap and Grill:  The MTG
500 Route 10 West
Randolph, NJ
973-891-1776

Whether or not you decide to take one of my suggestions and venture to these spectacular craft beer bars to celebrate IPA Day 2013 is up to you.  I do however ask that all of you drink responsibly tonight or ask one of your hoighty-toighty wine drinking friends to be a designated driver.  Have fun and Hoppy Holidays to one and all from The Blue Collar Foodie!

The Q-Crew BBQ Catering Company Rocks Out With Thier Hog Out!

So, you want to throw a backyard Barbecue that will make one of Andrew Jackson’s epic White House parties seem like a lame Jack and Jill shower, but even though Yan Can Cook, You Can Not.  You may think that you have no options and sheepishly accept your fate as merely a party attendee and not the host with the most, but you would be wrong.  Perhaps you can cook with the best of them, but you are lazier than a freshman in college after partaking in your first all night weed and fast food festival. Not that I condone that sort of thing, I mean fast food is horrible for you.  Maybe you are not lazy or gastronomically challenged but just want to be able to enjoy the legendary soirée that you are planning without having to man, or woman, the grill all night while your friends enjoy the giant bouncy castle and life size wrestling Ring full of Jell-o shots that you rented for this event.  If you fall into any of the aforementioned categories you need to request the Q-Crew to come to your next event!

Andrew Jackson sure did love to party!

Andrew Jackson sure did love to party!

Recently, I had the honor of officiating the wedding of two of my friends, one whom happens to be a fellow blogger. (Check out his humorous child rearing blog by clicking here.)   You read that right, I not only have a 9-5 job and write about some of the best Blue Collar Food I can find, but I also happen to be an ordained Reverend!  I thoroughly enjoy performing marriage ceremonies, and I have a blast at every wedding that I get the chance to preside over, although, this wedding had something that made this member of the cloth salivate like never before.  Instead of a pretentious indoor, five course meal, offering the same menu that has been served at receptions for 35 years, this couple made the executive decision to call in the Q-Crew to cater their special day.

Whole Pig Roast

Here Piggy Piggy Piggy

The Q-Crew is not your stereotypical catering company.  Instead of chasing stuffy white gloved waiters throughout a banquet hall, creating a live action Pac-Man like game that ends in you eating three shrimp and one pizza bite that you had to wrestle from your Great Aunt Bertha, you get to watch the Q-Crew in action as you mingle with the other guests during the cocktail hour.  Q-Crew does offer many different packages for any event that you could imagine, but by far their most impressive is the roasted whole pig complete with Pre-dinner photo ops.

Grilling

The Q-Crew hard at work!

This particular event not only featured the whole roasted pig, but the privileged guests of this amazingly meaty shindig got a one way ticket to flavor country courtesy of the Bride and Groom, via the Q-Crew express.  The menu for this grand affair consisted of St. Louis Style Ribs, Pulled Pork, Barbecue Chicken, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Grilled Vegetables, and a plethora of fixings that paired perfectly with this meatgasmic offering.  Although the Bride was beautiful, the Q-Crew spread gave her a run for her money as the most stunning attendant of this fine affair, but since she was the one who brought this eating orgy to my world, I will say she beat the pig by a snout.

So much meat! TWSS

So much meat! TWSS

Once the food was ready, I was like Alex Rodriguez in a Performance Enhancing Drug store; I did not know which wonderful concoction to try first.  Since there was only limited plate space and I am a carnivore at heart, I decided to fill my first plate to capacity with the tantalization flesh of my most favorite farm animal, the pig!  As I was scooping the hearty portions of this fantastic meat onto my plate, the wafting aroma overwhelmed me with so much joy and happiness; I could barely make it back to my table before shoveling copious amounts of this picturesque BBQ into my drooling mouth.  Before I damn near ran to my table, I hit up the sauce bar to dress my swine properly before eating the hell out of this masterpiece that I created.  Not knowing which sauce was going to be the best on the pork I added a small amount of each type strategically so they did not comingle and contaminate each other.

Plate of Pig

Meat my plate of pig! See what I did there?

My first plateful consisted of two ribs, a generous helping of the roast pig, some pulled pork, a piece of corn bread, and a few pickles.  Considering I had been peering at Wilbur throughout the afternoon much like a 12 year old boy studies the first playboy he finds hidden in his father’s garage, I decided that it was the most logical starting point for my adventure down BBQ lane.  As I took my first bite, all I could think is if I were Zach Braff in Scrubs, my favorite pork memories would be playing in my head in slow motion with a horrible 80’s ballad added in for good measure.  Alas, I am not Zach Braff, although I think Kat would not be opposed to it.

Divine Swine

Divine Swine

Even though there was no divine swine montage, the pig was uber tasty.  It was moist, yet firm, with the proper bite that should be associated with good, wait check that, great barbecue.  The smoke flavor was not overbearing but still created that slight wood cooked twang that barbecue aficionados search near and far for.  I also loved the fact that the meat was not over seasoned or over sauced. The Q-Crew allowed the meat to speak for itself and not only did it talk but it sang!

Ribs of plenty

Ribs of plenty

After demolishing the pile of roast pig I had liberated from the buffet table, I moved onto the ribs.  When most people discuss ribs they rave about the meat falling off the bone but not I and much to my euphoric joy not the Q-Crew either.  In my opinion, ribs should have a slight firmness that requires a small amount of effort to remove the succulent meat from the bone, which perpetuates the primal sensation one gets when eating a bone-in cut of meat. The Q-Crew’s rib was not only expertly prepared in this fashion, but it also had a flawless smoke ring that added to its esthetic appeal.   As for the taste, the sweet smoke flavor paired perfectly with the tanginess of the barbecue sauce and spices creating a cacophony of flavor that made me want to create a Facebook page for these ribs simply so I could become friends with this rib for real because we all know you ain’t really friends with someone until you are friends on Facebook!

Pulled Pork

Pork that is pulled makes me happy!

The pulled pork, which had been waiting patiently as I fell in love with the pig and then cheated on her with the angelic ribs, was finally ready to be devoured.  I created a sandwich with the pulled pork and topped it with a liberal slathering of BBQ sauce, because that is how I roll.  See what I did there, sandwich, roll, get it, get it… Oh to hell with you, that was funny.  Once again this pulled pork was not drowned in sauce but instead the Q-Crew let the natural flavors of the porky goodness be the star of the show.  Don’t get me wrong, this pulled pork had some righteous flavor, but the predominant taste was good ol’ fashion pig and that is just how pulled pork should be.

Hamburgers

Just in case you’re a traditionalist.

I would be remiss as a card carrying member of the foodie community if I did not try everything the Q-Crew had to offer, so as I explained to Kat, it was my civic duty to say to hell with our diet and rock some seconds. On this trip up to the buffet line, I had to try some of the Q-Crew’s chicken because I had yet to sink my teeth into that BBQ favorite, but I simply could not pass up the opportunity to grab some more pig, pulled pork, and ribs.  Once again, there just was not any room for sides or the hamburgers and hotdogs, but I was told by other guests that they were mighty good.

Corn Bread

Mmmmmmm Corn Bread!

As for the chicken, at this point if you expected anything lower than stellar marks for anything that graced the Q-Crew’s grill, you have not been paying attention to this review very closely.  The flavor profile on the chicken was simple yet palatable, and it was cooked impeccably.  Chicken can be tougher than Howard Wolowitz’s Mother’s brisket, to cook properly on an open flame in large quantities, but the Q-Crew’s professional staff made it look about as easy as finding a celebrity who has a drug problem.

If you are looking to be the envy of the entire Social Media community that was not invited to your next backyard bash, you need to contact The Q-Crew BBQ Catering Company at 908-256-1198.  I warn you though, whoever can’t make it to the event due to a prior engagement will have to be put on suicide watch after they read all your friends’ status updates.  Furthermore, if I was you, I would warn my neighbors that the Q-Crew will be cooking at your function so they don’t think that you rented your house to a purveyor of cinematic filth when they hear the sounds of pure ecstasy escaping from your guests’ mouths after they take their first bite of the serious barbecue that the Q-Crew will deliver.  The Q-Crew slogan pretty much sums up the awesomeness of hiring these BBQ connoisseurs to bring their epicurean treats to your next jamboree and that is, “You Chill…We Grill.”

Grilled Veggies

BTW, Their Grilled Veggies were pretty good too!

The Cloverleaf Tavern: Come For The Beer, Fall In Love With The Food

The Cloverleaf

Most Blue Collar Foodies would rather have a cool refreshing craft beer paired with their meal rather than a hoity-toity glass of wine. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for wine, and I do enjoy a goblet of grapes every now and again, but my heart belongs to the hops and barley that can be found in every mug, pint, or stein of carbonated class in a glass. There are only a few spots in the North Jersey area that stimulate craft beer enthusiasts better than a pill of Viagra at the Bunny Ranch, and there are even fewer that not only have a remarkable beer menu, but also a food menu that is worthy of praise. It is my goal as The Blue Collar Foodie to find these institutions of higher inebriation and shout their accolades from high atop my soap-box, known as the interwebs.

Welcome To The Clover

Welcome To The Clover

One such location is The Cloverleaf Tavern, located at 395 Bloomfield Ave., in Caldwell, NJ. Considering that The Cloverleaf Tavern has been continuously operating for over 75 years, this extraordinary establishment should not be a secret to any craft beer connoisseur that rests his or her rump within the Tri-State area. What these pint professors may not realize, and neither did I at first, is that The Cloverleaf Tavern, or The Clover, as it is known by the regulars, not only offers an awe-inspiring beer menu, but also serves up some serious eats as well.

First off, I feel that in order to properly discuss The Clover’s true appeal I will need to approach their exuberance for craft beer and their epicurean prowess separately. This way I can guarantee I will devote enough verbiage to each of these astonishing contributions that the Clover is making to the foodie community on a daily basis.

Mmmm Beer

Mmmmmmmmmm Beer

The Clover doesn’t just serve craft beer; they embrace the very notion of its very existence and attempt to house as much variety as they can possibly fit within their beer centric structure. Their ever changing beer menu reads like the phone book of Hop City, USA and is constantly updated via their website. The Clover is one of the first beer lists that I peruse as soon as the interwebs get all twitterpated about a specialty beer that has a limited release, because odds are not only will they have it but they will be throwing an event in its honor.

Lots of Beer!

Lots of Beer!

Furthermore, they have a free to join program known as the Masters of Beer Appreciation, MBA that now has over 1550 Alumni whose names adorn the walls on plagues that are updated with each new graduating class. This beer aficionado’s dream come true, escorts the participant in a veritable world tour of some of the best brews that can be procured on a regular basis by the Clover. To add to the charm of this intoxicating self-guided tour, after you earn 15 and 30 credits, you receive a $15 clover gift card. After you earn 45 credits your name will be added to the wall as an M.B.A. graduate and you will be entitled to a 20oz pour instead of the standard 16oz pour the common folk receive. There are also accolades for completing multiple MBA programs, like receiving your Doctorate, but don’t get ahead of yourself sparky, one degree at a time.

Masters of Beer Appreciation

You know you want it!

As for the Cloverleaf’s culinary prowess, I have to say I was initially surprised with the caliber of food that I was served the first time I ordered one of their insanely good burgers. Not to say that pubs serving decent food are unheard of but, the food that the Clover is offering to its patron is not just good, it is “shiv your best friend for looking at the last bite of your food” good. I am not just talking about the burgers either; I have thoroughly explored their menu and have not been able to find one thing on it that was not excellent. On top of their regular tasty menu, the Clover offers a weekly specials menu that allows even the regulars to indulge in something different.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled, straight from the heavens, Pork Sandwich

On my most recent visit to the Cloverleaf, I was in the mood for some good old fashioned American Barbecue, and since it was lunchtime, I decided to go with the Pulled Pork Sandwich served with homemade coleslaw, a pickle, and I opted to swap the fried for their jaw-dropping beer battered Onion Rings all for $10.99. One of the best things about The Clover is that even though they serve prodigious food and astounding beers they consistently keep their meals affordable for us Blue Collar folks that still want great tasting grub.

Onion Rings

Crispity Crunchity

When it arrived, the smell was utterly divine, and the pulled pork was blended with a BBQ sauce that was unearthly. Each bite of this sandwich sent shock waves of flavor from my mouth to my stomach, which in turn sent hate mail to my brain for only ordering one. After forcing myself to put down a sandwich that could only be described by using a made up word such as, amazeballs, I tasted one of the Onion Rings that were recommended by our awesome waiter, whose name I can’t remember because I am a horrible person, and I was in love… With the Onion Rings, not my waiter, I don’t think Kat would have been amused if it was the other way around. To add to these crispy and tangy fried rings of yummy, I dipped one into the Maker’s Mark Gourmet Sauce that the Clover places on each and every table, and I thought I had died and went to Texas, which as everyone knows is what BBQ heaven is called.

Maker's Mark Gourmet Sauce

Saucey Sauce Sauce

The moral of this article is that if you like food and/or beer and have not entered the hallowed walls of The Cloverleaf Tavern then you should be removed from the foodie guild immediately. Luckily, as a card carrying member of both the Clover and the Foodie Guild of America, or the FGA, which I just made up and am imposing an instant trademark on, I have talked both organizations into an amnesty program. They both agree that if you take it upon yourself to get your ass to the Cloverleaf before the summer is over; you will still be allowed to be a member of the FGA. Seriously though, all it will take is one visit to the Cloverleaf Tavern, and you will be sending angry emoticons to all of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, for not alerting you to this food and beer sanctuary earlier.

Cloverleaf Tavern on Urbanspoon

The Best Pizzeria In Millville, NJ May Very Well Be The Best Pizzeria In The World!

New Jersey, in general seems to be everyone’s least favorite state, and to be honest our bulbous surly governor and the entire cast of the Jersey Shore does not help our cause. With this said, there are a few things that New Jersey is not only known for, but dare I say it actually loved for. First and foremost, we have Taylor Ham and you don’t, and if you are from this area you know all about this flavorful salty pork puck, that former Jersians crave so much, they have to make a yearly pilgrimage to a true New Jersey Diner just to get their fix. Secondly, New Jersey supplies its residents with bagels that are so damn tasty that no one seems to notice that this popular breakfast treat has about as much nutritional value as tree bark wrapped in bacon. Lastly, and at least in the context of this article most importantly, New Jersey is home to the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD! Calm down, New Yorkers, I can hear you cursing me out from across the G Dub, you are a close second, and seriously you are New York F-ing City, you beat us in every other category from Architecture to Zoos, so please let the red headed step child of the union that is New Jersey have this one.

Now that I have thrown the gauntlet down and expressed my love, no, obsession for New Jersey Pizza, and basically lost all of my readership from New York and Pennsylvania, I feel that I might as well further alienate myself, and piss off the New Jersey folks too, by proclaiming, in my opinion, which Pizzeria is slinging the best slice. Now, by making this statement I am breaking my own rule, which states one should never start a conversation which is bound to turn into a debate, and ultimately into a no holds barred battle royal, by bringing up politics, religion, or Pizzeria Prowess, but I have decided to throw caution to the wind and shout my declaration from the roof tops, or at least from the top of your internet browser. As I write this, I am anticipating a crap load of hate mail from every Tony, Don, and Horatio that trolls around the internet looking for blogs to flame, but remember first place is a lot like the Highlander, there can only be one, and this foodie, unlike our society today, does not hand out participation medals, so send your nasty grams somewhere else. Now without further ado, I, The Blue Collar Foodie, from atop my virtual soap box, proclaim, with the entire internets as my witness, that BIMS Pizza, located at 618 E. Main St. in Millville, NJ, is the indisputable champion of the Pizza World.

BIM's

BIM’s

As you enter BIM’s, which stands for Best In Millville, you will be greeted by Joe Pierce, owner, Chef, sole employee, and story teller extraordinaire who has been tossing pizzas around Cumberland County for over 35 years. This house, turned pizza shop, is literally a one man show, and Joe Pierce has been there from the beginning, taking orders, and making pizza. Surrounded by a seemingly endless army of conveyor belt frozen pizza shops that are taking over New Jersey towns much like the outlaws did in the Wild West, Joe, like a modern day Pizza Sherriff, remains persistent and dedicated to making fresh, consistently fantastic pizza for his loyal customers on a daily basis.

Joe Pierce

Joe Pierce, Owner, Operator, Chef, and Pizza Sheriff

BIM’s is not like your ordinary pizza shop; they don’t make chicken wings, meatballs, sandwiches, or salads, hell they don’t even sell slices. What they do sell, however, is a pizza pie in several sizes that is made fresh to order, using homemade dough and sauce which is made daily on the premises. Even though Pizza is all you can get at BIM’s that does not mean you can’t customize that pizza to experience a new BIM’s masterpiece each and every time you visit. They offer the following toppings that can be added to your pie for a nominal fee; Extra Cheese, Double Thick Crust, Pepperoni, Sweet Sausage, Mushrooms, Sweet Green Peppers, Anchovies, Onions, Bacon, Black Olives, Broccoli, Tomato, Garlic, and Hot Peppers.

Bim's Pizza

Customized BIM’s Pizza

The Pizza at BIM’s is so damn good that I travel two hours and thirty minutes just to eat a few slices, before heading back to North Jersey until the craving strikes again. BIM’s expertly prepared pizza has many levels of perfection that when combined create a pie that is out of this world. Like all pizzas the first level, and the canvas to this piece of artwork, is the crust. BIM’s pizza is constructed on fresh hand-made and hand-tossed dough that when cooked crisps to just the right amount of awesome. Piled on top of this righteous crust is a home-made sauce that balances between sweet and savory flawlessly, and then Joe invites not one type of cheese, but two to join the party. This combination of cheese and sauce eventually turns into a masterful blend of gooey yumminess once the oven has done its magic. The result is a pizza pie unlike any other, because all the recipes are a Pierce family secret and therefore cannot be duplicated, believe me I have tried.

Building The Perfect Pizza

Building The Perfect Pizza

If you plan on visiting BIM’s you will not only get to taste the single greatest Pizza to ever grace the inside of a Pizza Oven, you will also get to meet and perhaps even hear a story or two from Joe. Much like the small business owners of yesteryear, Joe, embraces the idea of customer service and actually enjoys what he does, including interacting with his customers. Whether the conversation is about Millville, The Phillies, The Eagles, fishing, or life in general, Joe has a way of simplifying things and imparting wisdom about virtually any topic, like a zen pizza making life Sherpa, all the while continuing to take phone orders, toss dough, make pizzas, and restock extras. Joe epitomize the ethos of what a small business owner used to be and in a world where this style of business ownership is dwindling to damn near extinction, it is great to see that some people refuse to allow it to disappear forever.

Building The Perfect Pizza

Joe Multitasking

Attempting to explain the wonderfulness of a BIM’s pizza is much like trying to describe the Mona Lisa to a blind person. A person without sight, might mistake this extraordinary painting for just another portrait of a female, just as one might look at a BIM’s pizza and merely think that it is just another mundane pie. If, however, through the miracle of science that very same blind person’s sight was somehow restored, they would easily see that it is the intricate detail that makes Mona a true work of genius. Luckily for you though, you don’t need scientific intervention to have the same realization about BIM’s pizza, you only have to taste it to see the light. I assure you that after that first bite, you will be hooked on BIM’s like The Blue Collar Foodie is addicted to Bacon.

The Perfect Pie

The Perfect Pie

There are a few things you should know before you go to BIM’s Pizzeria. As stated before this establishment is an epic one man show and the operating hours reflect that. BIM’s is open Wednesday to Sunday from 4 P.M. to approximately 10 P.M. Furthermore, BIM’s is a cash only restaurant, so leave your plastic at home. Lastly BIM’s does not have tables, so in order to eat your remarkable pizza pie you must pick it up and go elsewhere or get it delivered to your house.

BIM’s motto is,” We specialize in pizza because pizza is the only thing we make,” which can be found on their menu as well as a sign that hangs in the shop. This phrase scares some people off, because they want variety but I suggest that you embrace this unique singularity. BIM’s does not have 101 different items on the menu because Joe concentrates on his one true passion, Pizza, and anything else would only distract him from creating the best Pizza Pie on the planet!

Damn That Is Pretty

Damn That Is Pretty!

Bim's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie’s New Meatball Obsession!

For some people the mere utterance of the word meatball can conjure amorous memories of Sundays gone by.  These reminiscences most likely depict Grandma, all 5’2” furious inches of her, hard at work in the kitchen, while the entire extended family waited in anticipation for the meal that created such an aroma throughout the house that lingered until damn near Wednesday.  Most likely if you grew up in a family like this, you send a malcontented glare in the direction of anyone that suggests the idea of ordering a meatball from at a restaurant knowing that it can never be close to these angelic savory balls of meat that are on a pedestal in your mind, and so if I proposed the notion of buying one from a kiosk in the mall, you would probably want to punch me in the face.  Well, get your fists ready friend, because I am willing to take a punch if it means that you will give Meatball Obsession, a brand new meatball centric foodie cart located in the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus New Jersey, a whirl.

Meatball Obsession Logo

The Logo

Meatball Obsession technically started in 2008 in New York City, but its true origins date back to when Dan Mancini’s, the founder of Meatball Obsession, assisted his Grandmother in a Brooklyn, New York kitchen while she prepared authentic recipes from Bari, Italy.   These cooking sessions ignited a passion for cooking within him that could not be extinguished.  So much so that even though he worked in the apparel industry for 25 years, he decided to abandon that profession in order to dive into the often unrelenting world of food service.   Lucky for us, over the years Dan kept his Grandmother’s recipes alive and well in his own kitchen, and therefore we now get to experience the greatest meatball that Dan has ever tasted.

I have to admit, as my wife, Kat, and I were on our way to Meatball Obsession I was slightly apprehensive.  I am The Blue Collar Foodie and all, but purchasing meatballs from a kiosk is as unsettling as buying American made electronics.  As we approached the cart, which is located near the Cinnabon (See Map Below), the fragrant smell of the simmering sauce guided me towards our destination and with each step my worrying seemed to dissipate.  Even though my olfactory senses were being bombarded by every other malodorous mall scent, I could still make out the marvelous aroma of Meatball Obsession’s Sunday Sauce, and that made me feel much better about the meal we were about to partake in.

The Treasure Map

The Treasure Map

When we arrived at the Meatball obsession Cart we were greeted by a welcoming staff that seemed genuinely excited to be a part of this newfangled foodie movement.  Furthermore, since it was the grand opening we were also received by the owners of Meatball Obsession and I got to speak to both of them for a little while about their new endeavor.  Just from speaking to them for a short period of time, it was obvious to tell that they are passionate about the food that they serve and the business that they run, which is an often overlooked integral part of a successful food establishment.

Meatball Obsession Kiosk

Meatball Obsession Kiosk

Meatball Obsession specializes in, wait for it, Meatballs, and therefore even though they serve a few other items, the menu mainly consists of their Meatballs and Meatball related accoutrement.   Additionally, Meatball Obsession is not your ordinary Italian Restaurant and therefore the ordering process is somewhat different than what you may be used to.  You don’t just order meatballs at this establishment, you create custom made meatball sundaes tailored to your specifications. This ordering process is broken down into three fun and easy steps that the extremely helpful staff will guide you through if you are a rookie, as I was:

Meatball Cup

Ordering is only half the fun!

Step One:  Indulge Your Obsession:   In other words choose which type of meatball(s) you would like to tantalize your taste buds with.  They offer Beef, Turkey, Chicken, or Pork Sausage which can be mixed and matched any way you would like.

Step Two:  Choose Your Culinary Vessel and how large     you want it to be:  The tasty meat morsels that Meatball Obsession serve can be served in a cup or in an “Original Pocket Sandwich.”  Both options are served with their special Sunday Sauce and the amount of meatballs that you ask for.

Step Three:  The toppings!  This is by far my favorite part of the ordering process, and in my opinion what makes the Meatball Obsession experience unforgettable.  Meatball Obsession offers a wide variety of toppings that you can pair with their already flavorful meatballs to create your very own Meat Sundae.

Kat and I stumbled and bumbled our way through this process, changing our minds not once but three times, until we were finally satisfied with our order.   I decided to get three different meatballs, 1 Beef, 1 Turkey, and 1 Pork Sausage in a cup topped with Ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, Mozzarella Pearls, and Basil Olive Oil for $11.00 and Kat decided on one turkey and one beef meatball topped with 24 month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and gnocchi for $9.50.  While our concoctions were being assembled, we were informed that even though the idea behind Meatball Obsession’s containers, whether you chose the cup or the sandwich, were meant for people on the move, they are also going to provide seating for individuals that want to enjoy their meals sitting as opposed to walking.

Meatball Obsession Close Up

Cup of Yummy!

After receiving our cups full of yummy, Kat and I took our first forkful of Meatball Obsession together and it was magical.  If we were in a movie, as we chewed that first bite a melodic tune would have played over a slow moving montage of all the disappointing meatballs that I have eaten in my life, culminating in the triumphant rise of the music as I ate this very meatball.   A meatball, with so many layers of flavor, the perfect consistency, and that was swimming in a hearty marinara sauce that is literally so good that I would give up bacon for a year, just to get a peek at the recipe.   If this was not enough, the toppings paired flawlessly with the meatballs and sauce and brought the meal to whole other level.  After we were done devouring our meatballs, we then used the included side bread to sop up as much sauce as we could, and when our bread supply was depleted we just settled on spooning the sauce into our mouths until every last drop was gone.

Cup of Yummy 2:  The Rise of the Gnocchi.

Cup of Yummy 2: Rise of the Gnocchi.

Meatball Obsession also offers a variety of beverages to wash down your tasty creation with.  For the unadventurous, one can order Coca-Cola or Bottled Water.  If you are feeling somewhat frisky, you can go with a San Pellegrino Soda or even better a Manhattan Special Soda in a variety of flavors.  For the true Old World New York experience however I highly recommend a traditional egg cream, created with seltzer and U-Bet Chocolate Syrup.   They also offer a fresh made cannoli that is not filled until you order it, which are imported from Brooklyn, if you are in a decadent mood.

Egg Cream

Egg Cream!

I understand that YOUR Grandma, Nonna,  Bubbie, MomMom, or whatever the heck you call her makes the best meatballs on the planet, with YOUR Mother coming in a close second, but if you are interested in trying the third greatest meatball that you will ever taste, you should make your way over to Meatball Obsession.  I warn you though, once you taste these remarkable spheres of meaty goodness, you may have to lie to your Grandmother on a regular basis, when you say her meatballs are still the best.  You have been warned!

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!

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