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 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.