Hot Ring Bologna with Chow Chow

One of the most beloved foods my mom ate during her trips to visit her grandmother in Salona, Pennsylvania was hot ring bologna.

Every nook and cranny in this world has its version of a salty, cured and freaky-good processed meat product. This one, pictured below, is what you’ll find in gas stations, butcher shops, and mom and pop shops across Western Pennsylvania. Unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’d be a clown not to try it.

ringobologna.jpg

I’m a vocal fan of processed meats. Hot dogs, Spam, Slim Jims, really – any meat in a can or a forced into an unnatural round or square shape will do it for me.

Not that I don’t love real-deal proteins, like a just-arrived-from-New-Zealand, gore-y rack of lamb. That undeniably delicious – read: salty & fatty flavor – and my total ambivalence over what part of the animal I’m eating inevitably draws me to tubular shaped foods like ring bologna.

I asked her how she ate this – imagining a very specific cooking process, or maybe a go-to sandwich on a very specific bun with very specific toppings. It turns out, they just ate it. They’d cut it into pieces and eat it cold. It’s cooked & cured to hell and back, so there’s no need to complicate things.

bolgona

But I like to complicate things. I wanted to get it sizzly, and render some of that fat, and serve it family-style right out of the pan for swift ingestion. So that’s what I did. Topped with local Chow Chow, which is a spicy, pickled garden vegetable medley you’ll find in Centre County where my family hails from, I can’t think of a dish that sums up eating in that part of the country better. Serve it with a German-inspired whole grain mustard sauce with two ingredients – mustard & some sour cream, for an added Oktoberfest vibe.

sauces.jpg

Eat a whoopie pie afterward, and you’re really indulging like a Western Pennsylvania native.

Too bad for us because I’d, predictably, already eaten all the whoopie pies.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 – 3 as an appetizer.

          1 hot ring bologna, brand of your choosing

          4 – 6 tablespoons Chow Chow, brand of your choosing

          1 / 4 cup whole grain mustard

          1 / 4 cup sour cream

D I R E C T I O N S

1.       Combine the whole grain mustard and sour cream. Set aside.

2.       Cut the ring bologna into 1 / 2 inch slices, on the diagonal. Remove the outer casing.

3.       Heat a skillet on high, add the bologna, and render the fat in the skillet, cooking on medium-high for 8 minutes or so.

4.       Remove from the heat, top with the Chow Chow, and serve alongside the mustard sauce, or pour dollops on top of the bologna and Chow Chow. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Soup

We’ve made a few scrumptious spicy soups on this blog already – oh boy, have we.  Habanero Pepper Soup and Smoky Jalapeno Cheddar Soup are two crazy-good soups I crave on a regular basis.

This soup comes from a fresher angle; it’s essentially a soup of pureed roasted red peppers. Not a heavy cream base, or a cheese base. But I’m sort of lying. Because there is heavy cream in this, but not as much as I’d usually pour in. Unheard-of on this blog, I know.

And no bottled roasted peppers here. These are roasted in your oven, done the right way, because it’s super, super dummy-proof.

You know those recipes you cook over the course of the day that seem so effortless? Any crockpot recipe feels like this, and so does any bubbling braised beef short rib recipe with a bunch of leftover vegetables from the produce bowl on the counter, and even simple roast chicken.

There’s a reason to do this recipe while you’re in between laundry loads, cleaning out your junk drawer, or opening your Comcast bill. First, you’re going to get your oven nice and hot. Takes a while, at least for my hard-working apartment-grade oven. Then you’re roasting the peppers in the oven for 40 minutes or so, and letting them sit in a plastic Ziploc bag to steam, allowing for easier removal of the skins.

That’s another 15 minutes to do, well, god knows what. In my case, it’s probably something preposterous like organizing my bookshelf by color.

Finally, when you have 10 minutes to spare after you’ve responded to that month-old email you’ve been meaning to send, comes the cooking part, which takes hardly any time at all. By this point, your kitchen is smelling super aromatic. With the fire-roasted flavor of the peppers already achieved, there’s little need to keep the soup simmering for long to develop a richness of flavor.

You know what really sets a soup over the edge? Those final garnishes. But not just the garnishes that look good – it’s the ones that look good AND taste good that deserve that place at the top of your soup. For me, that’s usually something pourable – whether it’s a long squeeze of sriracha, a hefty drizzle of posh olive oil, a spoonful of sour cream that is almost cheese-like, or in this case, and thick pour of heavy cream and some minced, raw habanero.

Easy days at home should be just that – easy. We shouldn’t try to force effort when we’re not feeling it. Whether that’s in the kitchen, or when life’s endless to-do list beckons you away from deserved “me” time.

You can fit in delicious, gorgeous meals minimal effort – this recipe is proof of that!

Happy souping! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

(If you are sensitive to heat, I would recommend leaving out the habanero in the soup recipe altogether. I know that raw habanero can be too much for some folks, so tread lightly!)

Serves 1.

  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 2 habaneros, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 /2 shallot, minced
  • 1 / 2 cup heavy cream, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Pinch of sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Place the bell peppers in the oven on a sheet pan and roast for 40 minutes or so, until the peppers are charred in most places.
  2. Remove the peppers from the oven, and place them directly in a Ziploc bag. Allow to steam for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Remove the peppers from the bag, cut the tops off, remove the skins, and de-seed the peppers using the back of your knife. Cut the roasted peppers into large chunks, saving some of the pepper for garnish.
  4. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and the butter in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and shallots, and sauté for 4 – 5 minutes or so, stirring often, being sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
  5. Add the roasted red peppers, 1 pepper’s worth of the minced habanero, heavy cream, a heavy pinch of salt, a heavy pinch of pepper, and a small pinch of sugar.
  6. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Remove from the heat, and add the mixture to the food processor, processing batch by batch until all the soup is pureed, adding the pureed soup back into the pot as you go.
  7. Once all the soup has been pureed, bring the soup to a boil. Remove from the heat.
  8. Plate the soup, garnishing with a pour of heavy cream and a sprinkling of fresh habanero, if desired.

 

 

 

 

Cream of Fresh & Sun-Dried Tomato Soup

Homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese is a new thing for me – in particular, the homemade part. I’ve typically been an open a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, add milk, and heat it up on the stove kind of person. But this homemade version is one million light years ahead of the canned stuff.

I can’t get enough of cheese crisps. In Caesar salads. Or as a snack. I have Ina Garten to thank for this cheese discovery.

She’ll serve parm reg cheese crisps as hors d’oeurves with drinks. I can’t think of anything more perfect. She’ll take shards of parm reg, too, and serve those on their own with sea-salted Marcona almonds, citrus-marinated olives, or other ridiculously tasty snackables.

Make them tonight with that hunk you have in your fridge right now. You can find the recipe here.

Some of my other favorites of hers – Soppressata and Cheese in Puff Pastry, Blini with Smoked Salmon and Herbed Ricotta Bruschettas.

Cheddar cheese, like parm reg, is perfect for crisp-izing. Take a tablespoon or so of the shredded cheese, throw spoonfuls on parchment paper in a hot oven, and you have cheddar cheesy chips to snack on.

This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons.

Here, I wanted to find a way to incorporate sun-dried tomatoes. I could eat one after another, especially the tomatoes marinated in oil and herbs. This soup, with the sun-dried tomato flavor, is a welcome tomato punch to the mouth.

Cream-of soups are so versatile. You’re taking an ingredient you love – and really, it could be anything – and enveloping it in heavy cream, butter, and giving the flavors time to deepen on the stove top. Hankerings has posted a few of its favorite cream-of soups, including Cream of Chicken Soup with Crispy Chicken Skin and Mushroom Forager’s Soup.

Next cream-of soup on deck? A cream of bell pepper soup, which I have very high expectations for. Check back soon!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil and herbs, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 / 2 white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 / 4 cup basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 1 / 2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Add the butter and olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan. Heat until the butter is melted, and add the onion. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic, and saute for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Open the can of tomatoes, and crush each tomato with your hand into the onion & garlic mixture. Be mindful of the tomato juices – they are likely to spray as you crush them. Add the remaining tomato sauce from the can into the pan as well.
  4. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, heavy cream, salt, pepper, basil, sherry, red wine vinegar and sugar. Heat until just-simmering, then turn off the heat.
  5. In a food processor, pour the soup until just below the liquid line. Pulse until nearly smooth. Puree the soup in batches, adding the soup back into the pot as you go along.
  6. Once the whole batch has been pureed, bring the soup to a near-boil, and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the soup is reduced slightly.
  7. To make the cheese crisps, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place tablespoon-sized piles of the cheddar cheese 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes or so, until the crisps have seized and are slightly browned. Remove the crisps from the oven an allow to cool.
  8. Plate the soup, topping each bowl with 2 of the cheddar cheese crisps. Enjoy hot.

Truffled Shepherd’s Pies

Shepherd’s pie – another one of those quintessential comfort food dishes.

Comfort food is an overused term in the food world. But you won’t hear me complaining. Comfort food has always been around. It’s just that we have a nice little click bait-friendly term for it nowadays. It’s all-encompassing – but I usually see two common threads: comfort food is hot, and it’s carb-packed.

What is the definition of comfort food anyway?

It’s defined as, “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.”

Point being – it’s about memories, and less so about the food itself.

I’ve only had Shepherd’s Pie one other time in my life. But the specifics are hazy.

It was somewhere in New York, at one of those British pubs. Probably on a side street off of 5th Avenue. And I probably ordered a Guinness with it – those were my Guinness days. It’s a major food gap in my cooking repertoire at home, so this dish was a long time coming.

Pie

My other major food gap? Duck leg confit. Wow, was I missing out.

D’Artagnan produces package-sealed duck confit that you can pull out of the freezer and put straight under a broiler. I bought them on a whim. And I almost cried while eating it – I’m not being hyperbolic, I was so elated by the revelation of duck fat that I almost cried. It was perfect. Duck fat is like chicken fat, but gamier. I didn’t know duck, stewed in duck fat, could taste so good.

This shepherd’s pie, while not as much a revelation as duck confit, is still that blow-your-mind level comfort food. No fond childhood memories required – it’s just plain good.

Making some of these foods at home, at the right place and time, are reminiscent of childhood home cooking. Browning the ground beef, the smell of boiled potatoes, and sauteeing mirepoix all brought back smells, tastes and sights that trigger those fuzzy memories.

But, we need to make room for the new comfort foods in our lives. For me that’s absolutely and unequivocally, duck confit. Even if it’s package sealed sometimes.

Happy comfort food cooking! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 4 small casseroles.

  • 2 lbs. red bliss potatoes, cut into large cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 / 3 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 tablespoons black truffle butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb. ground beef (20% fat)
  • 2 carrots, small diced
  • 2 celery stalks, small diced
  • 1 large white onion, small diced
  • 1 / 2 lb. mushrooms, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons thyme, minced
  • 1 splash red wine vinegar
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, sautéing for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes or so. Add the ground beef and brown the meat. Once the meat is browned and broken up, add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper. Sautee for 10 minutes or so, until all the vegetables are tender.
  3. In the meantime, heat a large pot of boiling, salted water. Add the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fork tender. Strain. Add the potatoes back to the pot, adding the butter, truffle butter, heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of salt. Beat with a hand mixture until the potato mixture is thickened. Allow the potatoes to cool for 10 minutes. Then crack the egg into the potato mixture, stirring until incorporated. Put the potato mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. To the meat mixture, add the water, bouillon cube, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, bay leaf and thyme. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the mixture. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the gravy is thickened. Remove from the heat, allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, and put the mixture in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.
  5. In 4 6 by 4 inch casserole dishes, or gratin dishes, layer the meat mixture, then the potato mixture. With a fork, create small peaks with the potato mixture. This will help parts of the pie brown in the oven. Place the pies on a sheet pan in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the peaks on the potato have browned.
  6. Serve hot.

Grits Carbonara

Hankerings publishes its fair share of butter-, cheese-, and animal fat- laden dishes. No surprise then that we’ve shared an inordinately high number of wow-factor, carbonara-inspired dishes.

If the general concept of carbonara tickles your fancy, I urge you to check out our Red Hot Pasta Carbonara Nests, Pizza Carbonara or Linguini with Clams Carbonara.

There’s a reason for this.  I’ve been known to crave some combination of cheese, egg yolks, garlic and meat when my hungry monster rears its head. All in one dish.

In theory, you could “carbonara-ize” any starchy comfort food – and you’ll end up with something salty, porky, cheesy, eggy, and garlicky.  Check, check, check… & check.

grits_carbonara_closeup

Garlic delivers the heat, pungency and baseline flavor for the dish. Parm reg, the king of cheese, brings the dairy fat. Then you have the egg yolk, which is a nature-made sauce in and of itself – a miracle bestowed on us from the food gods and goddesses.

And then there’s bacon. One of the most readily available, scrumptious hunks animal fat you can get your hands on. Speaking of, if you want to give a killer gift, Zingerman’s offers the best bacon of the month club you will find online.

Because let’s face it, grits could use a pick me up.

I’ve never gone wrong with buttered grits. I’ll typically reserved my grits consumption for my rare trips to the Waffle House, usually while I’m on the road to southern Virginia. They’re incredibly good cooked simply, but as with most ubiquitously-loved and adaptable foods, I can’t help myself. I add all sorts of stuff to grits when I make them at home. Whatever I have in the fridge on any given day – herbs, tomato sauce, blue cheese, you name it – is likely to end up there.

There are two kinds of grits – instant grits and real-deal, stone-ground grits. I used instant grits here for hunger-pang related reasons, however, you’re going to have a much more toothsome outcome with the low and slow stone-ground variety. If you are lucky enough to have the time to go that route. Just substitute the same volume of grits, substituting the recommended liquid with milk, and cook according to package instructions.

What are some of your favorite grits additions? And more importantly, what dish should I carbonara-ize next!? 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 4 oz. bacon, of your choosing, medium diced
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 / 3 cup instant grits
  • 1 / 3 cup parm reg, plus additional for garnish
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 / 4 cup scallions, for garnish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper, plus additional for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Brown the bacon in a medium-sized saucepan. When the bacon is almost done cooking, add the garlic. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Add the grits, stirring for a minute or two. Add the milk, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, cover, and simmer on low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the grits are al dente.
  3. Add 3 of the egg yolks off the heat to the grits, and stir vigorously to cool. Add the parm reg and stir until melted. Plate the grits. Top each plate with one egg yolk, sprinkling with pepper, parm reg, and chopped scallions for garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.