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

The Blue Collar Foodie Cooks With Science

As the Holiday season is approaching faster than Frosty melts in Al Gore’s very unpopular remake entitled Frosty’s Inconvenient Truth, everyone tends to overlook one of the greatest holidays of the year.  Everyone that is, except for the foodie community.  I don’t understand what is not to love about a holiday that is all about giving thanks for what you have, eating food until you feel like Jabba the Hutt, and then taking a nap while watching football.  Forget about Christmas and Chanukah people, Thanksgiving is where it is at!

Now that we have determined that Thanksgiving makes those other winter holidays feel like Daniel Baldwin at a family reunion, we are ready to celebrate, so put away your yule tide cheer for just a few more days and let’s talk Turkey!

Thanksgiving is a time for foodies everywhere to roll up their sleeves and prove to the world that they are not in need of an intervention because they watch Food Network every spare second of everyday.  Thanksgiving is a holiday tailor made for all of us that are just the right amount of food crazy.  This food-centric day gives all of us the opportunity to showcase our culinary skills to our beloved family and friends.

If you are anything like me, before you even acquired a kitchen and a dining room of your own, you hatched a James Bond-esque strategy to seize Thanksgiving from your kin, once grandma relinquished control.  This is not an easy task mind you; annexing a holiday is pretty much like licking your elbow, damn near impossible. (Go ahead and try to lick your elbow, I won’t judge. Can’t do it right? I know it is weird; you are so close but yet so far away.  Never mind that now, keep reading.)  But now as the victors of the great Thanksgiving conflict of 2010, Kat and I have won the right to host Thanksgiving and the traditions we create this year may be blogged about by our children someday, so we better bring the pain. The only question was how.

Right about now, you may be asking yourself, “Self, what the hell do I care about this crazy man’s Thanksgiving, I have my own Turkey anxiety to worry about?”   That is a very good question, and if you don’t want to learn how to cook with science and make every single person at your Thanksgiving table this year yearn for your turkey like Govenor Chris Christie and I crave bacon, then close this window and head over to RachaelRay.com and read all about her turkey.

Oh look who decided to stick around and keep reading.  Was it because this crazy foodie mentioned the possibility of cooking with science?  Good, because that is what this blog post is all about.  That’s right the Blue Collar Foodie is going to school you on cooking with straight up, Bill Nye approved science and cause all your relatives to doubt every other turkey cooking method they hold true to their heart.

Back in the 50’s Grandma baked her bird, then when Dad took over Thanksgiving in the 80’s the fowl was put to flame on the grill, and even Cousin Jebediah jumped into the mix circa 2000’s with a fry daddy and a truckload of oil, but if I was going to keep Thanksgiving at our place I had to come up with something huge.  Enter the Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer and the age of infrared cooked Turkey!

Anyone who has ever dreamt of deep frying a turkey but can’t shake the constant nagging reminder of the 100’s of You Tube videos that are forwarded to your many E-mail accounts this time of year depicting horrific Thanksgiving accidents when dealing with Frying, this baby is for you.  The Big Easy Oil less Fryer is the perfect compromise for the dare devil foodie that is willing to throw caution to the wind and his practical wife that is contemplating the best route to the emergency room during the Thanksgiving parade. This Bunsen burner on steroids can cook up to a 16 pounder in 8-10 minutes a pound and leaves your bird with crispy skin and moist, succulent meat.   Not to mention that you will get to post on Facebook the amazing picture of your Turkey, with the caption, “Cooked With Science,” and if you’re a foodie nerd like me, it does not get much cooler than that.  For my fellow science nerds here is an image that explains the science of infrared cooking.

As the late, great, Billy Mays use to say, “But wait there’s more.”  For all the traditionalists, who are about to comment on this article shunning this remarkable invention, put your blackberry away and relax.  Not only can you still brine your turkey just like you always do but you can also add a dry rub or inject a marinade as well.  Not to mention the fact that your oven is free to cook all your side dishes without the encumbrance of a giant feathered friend taking up 75% of it. 

Still not convinced, just look at the pictures of the nine pound chicken I cooked the other day, in 90 minutes I might add.  Let me explain it to you this way, you can keep cooking your turkey in the oven until someone in your family buys a Big Easy and starts cooking with science, thus commandeering your holiday!

 

 

 

 

 

The Blue Collar Foodie Gets Lucky on River Road!

As a Fair Lawnite, I was very sad to see Sub Base’s reign at 18-50 River Road come to an unceremonious end.  I always had very fond memories of the location that Lucky’s Steak Plate has chosen to set up shop, because my Grandparents used to bring us there as a special treat when I was growing up.

One of the reasons I believe I became a foodie in the first place is because the taste and sheer smell of food can be linked to some of my strongest and happiest memories during my youth.  Just ask any individual of Italian descent to describe their Mother’s gravy or a member of the Jewish faith to discuss their Grandmother’s Matzah Ball soup, and you will hear the passion that food can instill in people, as just the thought of this comfort food transports them back to a simpler and happier time in their lives.

With that said, I was reluctant to go to Lucky’s at first because I wanted to remember Sub Base as it was lodged firmly in my psyche. Luckily, pun intended, Kat was not attached to Sub Base like I am, and she convinced me to give this spot a try.  Don’t tell Kat this, but after visiting Lucky’s Steak Plate I realized I should probably listen to her more frequently.

Kat and I entered Lucky’s and were greeted with a smile and a, “howdy” by a welcoming employee who was standing behind the counter.  This often overlooked and seemingly insignificant interaction is always appreciated by Kat and I whenever we go out, whether it is to a restaurant or even a clothing store.  I was ecstatic to see at Lucky’s, this, thought to be, dead art is strolling around searching for brains just in time for Halloween.

As for the décor, Kat and I truly thought that Lucky’s was a chain restaurant when we first walked in, and that is not the insult that it sounds like.  The color scheme, the paint, the uniforms, and even the menu are so well thought out that it seemed like they were all designed, implemented, and kept up by professionals.  I tip my hat to the proprietor of this establishment, because to be honest most newly opened restaurants look like they were decorated by a student of the Helen Keller institute of design.

I can hear my fellow foodies while I type this review, “WTF!, since when did the BCF turn into a furry Martha Stewart.”  I know this blog is about food and believe me if Lucky’s Steak Plate was just another flashy chain with  required flair this Blue Collar Foodie would not be doing a write up on them.  If you are familiar with my blog, I praise blue collar food done right, and Lucky is, well, doin’ it right.

On our first visit to Lucky’s, Kat and I were in the mood to sample a variety of the fare that Lucky’s is offering.  We decided upon the Cheese Steak Hero with Onion, Sweet Peppers, and Hot Peppers, a side order of hot wings, and a helping of the Disco Fries to round off our healthy meal all for $28.04.

After we ordered our food, the lovely waiting staff instructed us to have a seat and they would bring the food out to us when it was ready.  In the dining area there are several televisions that keep you entertained as well as a great soundtrack of American Rock and Roll, that Kat and I were convinced was someone’s I-pod with a playlist simply entitled Lucky’s. Once we were seated it was only a few minutes until the food arrived and we were able to dig in.

Kat and I are quite the wing lovers so both of us started off our entrée with one of the, “Lucky Wings.”  Lucky’s wings had the perfect ratio of crispy skin to moist meat, which is always a tricky balance to master.  The hot sauce was full of flavor but not punch you in the nuts so you can’t breathe kind of hot.  For those of you who like to lose all your taste buds for a week when munching down on some hot wings, Lucky does supply a bottle of hot sauce on the table to increase the heat.

Next we divided up the Cheese Steak Hero, which as a Chef I would be scared to serve to Kat, due to her roots in Might As Well Be Alabama South Jersey, but she seemed to like it.  I for one was a fan, if not for any other reason but the quality of the steak.  Most North Jersey eateries try to pass off store brought frozen “Steak-Um’s,” as a “Philly” Cheese Steak but not Lucky’s, they use fresh rib eye steak which is served on a fresh baked hero roll.  Furthermore, as a New York Sports fan that despises any and all Philadelphia sports fans, this includes Kat during baseball season mind you; I always love finding a proper Philly Cheese Steak in the North because then it is one less excuse Kat can use to drag me down to Philly to visit the city of brotherly hate.

After a few bites of the Cheesesteak and another wing each, we moved onto the Disco Fries, which as the menu says truly is a Jersey thing.  The fries were cooked well and tasted great due to whatever magical oil they fill their fryer with.  They were also smothered in mozzarella cheese, which is a must for any self-respecting order of disco fries, but sadly the gravy was lacking something.  Don’t get me wrong I would still order them again, but I may ask for the gravy on the side this time.

All in all the food that we tried at Lucky’s was worthy of praise and most definitely earned Lucky’s Steak Plate a return visit, so I can eat me some steak.  Although I was sad to see Sub Base leave, after seeing what Lucky’s is all about, I truly hope they stick around for the long haul and create more than a few memories for the foodies in training that are running around Fair Lawn today.

Lucky Steak Plate on Urbanspoon

Before The Impending Porkcalypse, Follow The Blue Collar Foodie to The Swiss Pork Store For Oktoberfest

     As a self-proclaimed foodie and bacon aficionado it is about time that I bring up a place that is very near and dear to me.  Not only is this shop located minutes away from my house in Fair Lawn, but the mere smell of this brilliant store makes me smile. The boutique that makes this Blue Collar Foodie enter a dream world tantamount to Willy Wonka’s factory, only instead of chocolate it is full of wondrous meaty goodness, is none other than The Swiss Pork Store, located at 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

The Swiss Pork store is what Disneyland is to children for carnivorous foodies all across Bergen County and beyond. Their motto, which is extremely apropos, is, “We’re Not Just Pork,” and they are not kidding. Their packaged goods menu reads like a who’s who of foods that one needs to try before they die. They are a one stop shop for all things meat and then some.

Some of the best homemade sausages in the state, if not the planet, can be found at the Swiss Pork Store, and just in time for your very own Oktoberfest. You can buy Bratwurst, Weisswurst, Bockwurst, Bauernwurst, Knockwurst and pretty much any other damn wurst that is known to man. On top of that they offer frankfurters with or without skin for anyone who feels somewhat inadequate when eating a large sausage, TWSS. You also never know what type of specialty sausages the mad men at the Swiss Pork Store are going to concoct on any given day, so I suggest stopping by and taking a peek before making up your mind, you might end up leaving with a Jalapeno and Cheddar Wurst that would make Oscar Mayer cry himself to sleep.

The Swiss Pork Store also doubles as a full-fledged butcher as well. Although their fresh prime meats are rather expensive, ask before you buy, they are well worth the price. You can acquire chop meat that is unlike no other in the beef, veal, pork, or lamb varieties to create awe-inspiring meatballs or hamburgers. The steaks they offer compare to any of the steaks that I have paid triple for at a high end steak house in New York City, and you can choose between any cut, including porterhouse, shell, skirt, and NY strip.  If you are feeling one of the white meats they can also carve your choice of Chicken and Pork in a variety of different cuts.  If you are feeling a little frisky though, you can choose something a little more obscure to don your dinner table and go with their veal or lamb. Whatever you choose I assure you, you will not be disappointed, or at least I have never been.

     Not sold yet?  Well, I am about to make the boldest statement that this Blue Collar Foodie has ever put in print, and if this statement does not make you get into your car and drive to the Swiss Pork Store immediately, I am not sure we can be Facebook Friends anymore. Ready?  You might want to sit down.  Are you sitting?  THE SWISS PORK STORE SELLS THE BEST BACON YOU WILL EVER TASTE! There, I said it, and I mean it. I have somewhat of a Bacon addiction as any of my followers know from previous posts, and I must tell you, with 100 percent certainty, this bacon could seriously create peace in the Middle East and it could make North Koreans and South Koreans hug it out. In fact, I have it on good authority that Roger Goodell and the Referees for the NFL, sat down and ate this Bacon on Wednesday night just before they settled the lockout. Alright maybe none of that is true, but I am serious, this is really good bacon!
     If everything you have just read did not convert you into a Swiss Pork Store customer, which does not bode well for our friendship status I might add, I present to you the following. Not only can you procure some of the finest uncooked goods in the land, you can also find remarkable homemade cold cuts for purchase by the pound or, unbeknownst to most, on a fresh made sandwich, that can only be described as simply divine. I suggest trying the Veal Loaf, which is scrumptious, but you can stay within your comfort zone as well and try the smoked in-house ham, salami, and turkey, or you can go completely off the rails and sink your teeth into their famous head cheese, blood & tongue loaf, or liverwurst.  Creating a sandwich at the Swiss Pork Store is always an adventure and the best part is there is always a happy ending, get your mind out of the gutter people; I am talking about a full stomach.  Furthermore, instead of the horribly unhealthy fries that any run of the mill burger joint will pair up your lunch with, the Swiss Pork Store has a huge selection of cold salads which Kat fiends for like a pregnant lady craves ice cream and pickles.

Whether you are looking for packaged goods, including imported candy and European Groceries as well, to take home to feed your family or a sandwich on the go to feed your face, The Swiss Pork has it all.  From the second I walked into this place and was greeted with a smile and slice of veal loaf, I fell in love.  The people that work the counter here are always extremely helpful and have tremendous knowledge about the magnificent product that they sell. So don’t be shy when you give the Swiss Pork Store a whirl, and ask some questions, they will be happy to answer them and steer you in the right direction!

 

The BCF’s Top Ten Football Foods

I am well aware that the post you are about to read is not a restaurant review, but if you are anything like me, and most guys in this country, you understand that Sundays, from early September to mid-February, is no time to be gallivanting around town visiting restaurants.  By 1:00 PM any self-respecting Blue Collar Foodie should be on his/her couch, with the Television tuned to whatever Nationally televised NFL game that is on,  while the oven, smoker, grill, or slow cooker is gradually cooking some type of food that will be consumed joyously at around 6:00 P.M. by family and friends.

As I have stated in previous posts, Football Sundays at my house are damn near religious events.  Tuesday morning during football season, I begin my search for my recipes for the big day, much like the players begin their workouts.  I scour Google, Allrecipes, Food Network, and the like for something that tickles my fancy.  By Wednesday I usually have my game plan and the first shopping trip is done after work, this is where I pick up my non-perishables and proteins, anything that can keep until Sunday.   Thursday and Friday the invites go out and we find out how many people will be watching the games with us.  On Sunday, Kat and I are up early shopping, preparing, seasoning, preheating, and marinating.  The following is what I consider the BCF’s Top 10 Foodie Football Finds for any given Sunday.

Since there is usually three different times that football games are on television during the regular season, I feel that there are really two distinct eating times during the games.  I always cook appetizers for the first game, 1:00 PM, to prime everyone’s stomach for the main event which I serve at halftime of game two, 6:00 P.M, leaving the late night game for digestion and discussion.

5: Guacamole

Coming in at number five in the appetizer class is everyone’s favorite use for an avocado, Guacamole.  This dish has been around since the 16th century, and was very popular in the 1940’s and the 1960’s.  We can all thank our west coast comrades for the resurgence of this classic Mexican dip, since the Avocado has become more popular than celebrities flipping off paparazzi in California, and has since spread like wildfire throughout the country.  This tangy concoction of Avocado, garlic, cayenne pepper, and whatever the hell else the recipe tells you to throw into a bowl and mix until somewhat smooth has become a staple at my house for basically any party.  It is not only simple to make but it is an affordable replacement for the prehistoric and lackluster party basics, salsa and onion dip. The following is just one of the recipes I use, I like variety, so you can try this one, or better yet hunt down a recipe that makes your mouth water and give it a go this Sunday!

4:  Sausage

At the very respectable number four spot for the appetizer division is the ever so manly Sausage.  Some foodies will tell you that sausage is an entree, which I understand, but I am all about slicing these veritable grenades of flavor and cooking them until they are crisp on my grill top.  With an arsenal of toothpicks at the ready and an array of dipping sauces whatever sausage you buy can turn into a crowd favorite in minutes with little to no prep and cook time.  I recommend going to the Swiss Pork Store, located at 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey 07410 to procure some of the best homemade sausages on this planet!  But, if you want to make things easier on yourself you can always pick up any of the packaged sausages from the local grocery store, I for one, like these the best.

3:  Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos

Rounding out the top three for the appetizers, is a new recipe for my household, but these spicy little devils have stolen my heart, Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos.  First and foremost, anything wrapped in Bacon is always welcome on my team, but when cheese and hot peppers were combined with the world’s best condiment, yes bacon is a condiment; a new level of love was formed.  These petite gems are not only inexpensive and stress-free to make but they are the perfect companion to whatever beer you and your guests are imbibing while shouting at the television as if the coach and players can hear you.

2:  Chicken Wings

The second best appetizer for any football Sunday, in my opinion, is the ageless classic and utterly delicious chicken wing.  Whether they are hot, mild, garlic, sweet, honey, teriyaki, or plain these scrumptious pint-sized buggers just scream football.  Not only can you make them every week for less than 10 bucks, their versatility allows you to never cook the same batch twice.   Not only can you create 100’s of different flavors by combining sauces you can fry, grill, or bake them to create even more variety.  All in all, these vintage sporting event treats are a great choice for the novice chef trying to feed a small army.

1: The Bacon Explosion

The BCF’s top appetizer and truly what should be the winner in any appetizer competition from this point forward is and should always be, THE BACON EXPLOSION!  Nothing goes better with football and beer than a meat log filled with cheese and bacon, wrapped in more bacon, slathered in barbecue sauce and cooked to perfection.  This dish has been known to convert more vegetarians than the crusaders converted heathens.  Although this is a non-traditional appetizer, once you make this stunning bacon wrapped meatgasm, you will forever remember the first time you tasted it, and for that very reason since October 19, 2008 THE BACON EXPLOSION has been The Blue Collar Foodie’s Favorite Football Appetizer!

 

Once the appetizers are all gone and the chips are starting to dwindle your guests are going to become restless.  If you are doing things properly, by the beginning of the second game your entire house is going to smell glorious, and your friends are going to know that dinner is going to be just as good as the appetizers were.   Now after serving one of the aforementioned appetizers you could settle for cooking some hot dogs and hamburgers, or maybe even order some pizza, but that would be the easy way out.  I am the type of person that agrees with the old phrase, Go big or Go Home, I don’t just settle for what is acceptable, I want to crush acceptable into a fine dust and add to one of the next dishes that make up the Blue Collar Foodie’s Fantastic Football entrees.

5:  Chili

Number five on my list only finds itself that low because I have to wait until the colder months to truly enjoy it.  This mélange of ingredients that takes the entire day to truly meld into a cohesive mouthwatering meat potion is one of my favorite dishes to munch on, during a cold blustery football Sunday.   One of the many reasons I love making and eating chili is because everyone has their own recipe and method of cooking, but no matter what they all taste great.  I for one hardly ever make the same Chili recipe twice. With literally 1000’s of recipes to choose from on the internet, I feel that having the same one all the time is just meaningless.  Check out the winners of the International Chili Cook-off recipes for inspiration or be adventurous and create your own.

4:  Barbecue Chicken

Barbecue Chicken is a very simple, yet difficult to master dish, that can go from undercooked to charcoal in a matter of minutes if you are not paying attention.  Furthermore, it is very easy to end up with chicken that is burnt on the outside and pink on the inside, which not only tastes horrible but can be dangerous.  It is these problems that usually make people shy away from cooking this delicious meal, which is exactly why, you should master this art.  There are only a few people in this world that cook truly superb barbecue chicken, and if you can distinguish yourself as one of them, you will have friends lining up at your doorstep at 12:30 P.M. on Sunday begging for a seat on your couch.  Now go get started!

3:  Pork Tenderloin

In third place, and one of my most favorite cuts of swine, other than Bacon of course, is the Pork Tenderloin.   It really does not matter how you prepare this succulent cut of pure porky goodness, it will turn out to be a fan favorite.  This type of meat is so damn popular it has a website devoted to it where you can find recipes and cooking tips that is literally named PorkTenderloin.org.   I have cooked this wonderful piece of meat a dozen different ways and I have never been disappointed before, and neither have my friends.  If it was up to me Chicken would be demoted and we would start calling pork just THE WHITE MEAT!

2:  Brisket

The runner up in the Entree class, Smoked Barbecue Brisket, almost took first place, and really is an amazing meal for anytime of the year, but especially during football season.   In fact, both first place and second place honors were given to meats that are smoked, low and slow, all day long.  (TWSS)  This particular cut of meat is served at almost every BBQ joint I have ever been to, and there is a damn good reason for that.  Brisket has an ideal flavor absorbing quality and due to its fibrous make-up, takes to smoking, like a cheetah takes to running.   Remember though, smoking is a skill that must be honed; one cannot just assume that the first brisket that he or she smokes will turn out as good as a true pit master’s does.  With that said, practice makes perfect and even if your brisket is not perfect, it will still taste fantastic, so I don’t mind practicing.   Try this recipe for your first one.

1:  Ribs

The winner of the entrée group and still tailgate/football party champion of the world, are the one and only, fantastically tasty, PORK RIBS!  Whether these flavor-filled racks of ridiculously good yumminess are grilled, baked, or smoked does not really matter.  There is something about Ribs that just exude football and manliness.  I for one enjoy the smoked variety slathered in my favorite barbecue sauce, surrounded by all the best barbecue sides that I can manage to squeeze on my plate.  Although, ribs, are very forgiving due to their appetizing nature, be careful when smoking and grilling them, there is nothing worse than a ruined entrée to ruin your perfect football Sunday.  For a full rundown on the proper way to prepare a rack or two of awe inspiring ribs, click here.

The most important thing to remember when hosting a football Sunday is that people are over to watch the game first and eat your food second.   Which means, if you expect people to enjoy their Sunday you must keep the game on at all times, and allow people to eat while sitting right in front of it.  If you are worried about a little barbecue sauce getting on your couches then perhaps hosting a football Sunday is not for you.   However, if you don’t mind spending your entire Sunday, cooking, drinking, and watching your favorite teams do battle on the field, then as the envelope said to the stamp,  stick with me kid and we’ll go places.

The Blue Collar Foodie Laments about the Impending Demise of Backyard Barbecues

As the end of summer draws near and the seemingly endless supply of weekend barbecue invites slowly dissipates on my Facebook page, I can’t not help but shed a hickory flavored tear.  The enticing sound, amazing smell, and astonishing taste of searing meats, which were marinated for two days in homemade sauces, cooked to perfection with flawless grill marks is enough to cause a foodgasm, and the sheer thought that soon these events will  soon disappear is enough to make this foodie blue with sadness.

Just as I was contemplating going to Costco and buying a Fred Flintstone sized rack of ribs and going into a Barbecue induced Hibernation for the cold, soul less, barbecue-lacking months that lie ahead, I received an E-mail from LivingSocial.com, an online company that delievers local deals to your inbox.  Like a warm beacon of hope this E-mail shined through the impending gloomy darkness, and invited me to try a barbecue spot called Bourbon BBQ, located at 529 Goffle Rd., Wyckoff, N.J. 07481.  Living Social had come through in the clutch and delivered not only a new Barbecue joint to test out but a half off coupon for something called the Garbage Plate, which appeared to be a barbecue sampler for two.

Upon further research I found that the Garbage Plate was in fact made for two and consisted of bourbon ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, Texas smoked sausage, coleslaw, smokehouse beans, collard greens and corn bread.  I immediately purchased this living social coupon and scheduled a date with Kat for the first available day in our calendar to try this alluring dish offered by Bourbon BBQ.  Their website also informed me that Bourbon BBQ is a BYOB establishment, which always makes this foodie smile, and I noticed that you can make reservations on their site as well.

As we entered Bourbon BBQ, the first thing I noticed was the tantalizing smell wafting about.  I could tell right off the bat that this was not a B.S. BBQ joint due to the smell of smoke lingering in the air.  Kat and I approached the counter and spoke to the hostess who allowed us to choose any table that was available.  We made our way to a table that was empty and sat down with my beer and Kat’s cider in tow.

Before our rumps could warm the seats we had just taken, our waiter appeared in front us and handed us our menus.  We explained that we had the Living Social Garbage Plate coupon and took our drink orders at this time as well.  Our waiter then left the table, and returned quickly with a bottle opener and some glasses for our adult beverages.  The prompt service was highly appreciated because we arrived to dinner close to 8 P.M. and were famished.

As Kat and I discussed our hectic days over a few sips of our cocktails, we eagerly awaited our meal.  Which we did not have to wait long for, and that made both of our bellies smile.  What exited the kitchen and landed on our table was a colossal pile of barbecue, and it was love at first sight.  In addition to the food itself, the server also delivered a caddie full of homemade barbecue sauces, which he described in detail to us one by one, and a roll of paper towels.   More so, before the server left he explained the Garbage Plate to us, pointing our each item of the plate, which for a first timer at Bourbon was extremely helpful.

I consider myself a sauce aficionado, so when the server explained each sauce and informed us that they were all homemade, I paid attention like a physicist listens when Stephen Hawking talks about black holes.  With that said I feel obligated to not only name these sauces but also give you my first impression of them as well, the following is the list:

  1. Kansas City:  Bourbon’s take on a Kansas City style sweet Barbecue Sauce.  This sauce was fantastic for a sweet Barbecue sauce which I tend to shy away from most of the time.   I recommend this sauce on the Pulled Pork.
  2. Carolina:  Bourbon’s vinegar based Barbecue sauce which I found simply divine.  This sauce complimented everything I put it on, instead of overwhelming the flavor of the meat.  Great on the Brisket.
  3. Delta:  This sauce blew mine and Kat’s mind.  A great combination of a spicy yet sweet Barbecue Sauce with an almost three dimensional flavor.  Our favorite sauce by far and we ate it on everything.
  4. XXX:  This is Bourbon’s spiciest sauce offered.  Although we enjoyed this sauce, we found that the Delta had a deeper flavor with just a little less spice.  I recommend this sauce on the Pulled Pork for a spicy twist.

Although the offering of specialty craft Barbecue Sauces, which you can purchase online or in house,  is all well and good, let’s face it, one goes to a Barbecue Restaurant for the meat not the sauce.  I would be remiss if I did not discuss the Garbage Plate Sampler in detail and tell my loyal audience all about Bourbon’s actual Barbecue.

Kat and I attacked this monumental mound of mouthwatering meat as if we were at war with the plate, and employed the “divide and conquer “strategy.  We started with the Pulled Pork, and shoveled a healthy helping onto our plates.  We first tried these delectable slivers of swine sans Barbecue Sauce and at that moment we knew the rest of the meal was going to be utterly remarkable.  The meat was so tender, chewing it felt like overkill, all I needed to do was let it linger in my mouth for a few seconds as it dissolved on my tongue.   Then we decided to splash on a few drops of the different types of Barbecue Sauce and the pulled pork, in the immortal words of John Candy in Spaceballs, went to plaid.  All the sauces transformed this meat into something else, something almost entirely different but equally as tasty.

Next up was the Brisket which was piled high enough to be a meal of its own.  Kat and I once again divided the portion and dug in first without sauce and then with.  This may have been the best brisket Kat and I have ever had, and that is saying something since I like Brisket like Rex Ryan from the New York Jets likes feet.  The meat was tender and succulent with just the perfect pink around the outside to remind you that it lived in a smoker for quite some time.  Once again the sauces that were offered only added complexity to the already impeccable taste.

The Texas smoked sausage reminded me of the smoked Kielbasa that I make at home.  Except for Bourbon BBQ is able to get the skin to the perfect amount of crispness that I just can’t seem to achieve.  I was unsure just which barbecue sauce to match up with these crisp morsels of smokey goodness, so I ate them naked.

The piece de resistance of all Barbecue plates and really how I ultimately judge barbecue chefs is the ever important ribs.  These behemoths were not your run of the mill miniscule baby pork ribs either, these ribs looked like they came for hogasaurus.   Bourbon’s ribs are the type of ribs that make most men feel inadequate if you know what I mean, and that is just the way I like it.  At first bite I noticed that the meat did not need much help in separating from the bone, which is a great testament to the chef with ribs this size.  I was a little underwhelmed by the flavor of the ribs during my initial bite but then I added a small amount of barbecue sauce and the rib came alive like Frankenstein’s Monster.  It appeared that Bourbon’s Ribs were only cooked with a dry rub so as to allow the customer to choose the type of sauce they want to add at the time of consumption.  The sauce complemented the rib meat effortlessly and I found myself leaving not a speck of meat left hanging on the bone.

As for the sides, the Baked Beans actually have what appeared to be pulled pork in them, which made them even better than I expected.  The Cole Slaw seemed fresh and did not have that store bought chemical taste to it that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  The Collard Greens tasted fantastic, as they were not too vinegary, which tends to happen in the north.   The corn bread was exactly as I like it, sweet enough to be a side, but not sweet enough to be dessert.  Kat on the other hand was hoping for dessert corn bread, but she was pleased with the other sides.

Not only was the food marvelous but during our dinner our server came over several times to check on us, which is always under appreciated.  Furthermore, throughout our time at this restaurant who I believed to be the General Manager walked around to every table, including our own, to speak to the customers.  One by one he approached every table and made sure that everything was cooked to their liking and just made some small talk.  Kat and I love small businesses and this added special touch made us feel like Bourbon BBQ truly cared about us, as individuals and not as just another customer.

Bourbon BBQ’s menu is quite extensive and if our first visit is any indication of how all the other items are going to taste, I can see this foodie squandering many an hour at this establishment.  Kat and I both felt that Bourbon’s amazing sampler dish can compete with any and all Barbecue joints that we have frequented in our decade together.   This combined with the fact that they are right next door in Wyckoff and their prices are truly affordable, very well may have placed them number one on our BBQ list.  So when the snow begins to fall and you place your cover on your grill for the last time this season, make sure to stop by Bourbon BBQ when you get the hankering for some good old fashioned BBQ.

 

Judgment:

Overall:                                4 out of 5

Taste:                                   5 out of 5

Presentation:                      3 out of 5

Value:                                   4 out of 5

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