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The other day I was reminiscing about my recent trip down to my old childhood home, San Diego.  I visited my old neighborhood and found old friends. I photographed the house I grew up in there and I saw my elementary school and well, you get the picture. Chef Sheila Got a case of the Warm & Fuzzies.    

Major nostalgia for a Navy Brat, Lifer, Retiree, Chef.  ”So there I was…….kidding.

Later in my kitchen, I was reliving some memories of the house and garden and how my Grandmother took care of us and what should invade my nostalgic mind trip? But my granny frying up a fried baloney sandwich…

I mean I could smell it and my mouth was in full blown salivation! Now lets face it folks. I was born into a Navy family of five siblings and parents plus grandma on enlisted pay during the Vietnam War. We were poor. We were “Clever Mommy made my undies poor”. So whatever we got at the commissary usually looked like Navy Issue Food.

Brown paper packaged thin sliced Navy Issue Baloney….REALLY…nondescript packaging. Just like the Navy Coffee, a mixture of various cheap beans…quite good and I remember the great aroma to this day. That was the same with Navy Baloney. Quite tasty and relatively cheap.

A good friend of mine, Craig Crawford,  who is bizarrely hooked (northern girl opinion only) on “Fat Greasy Fried Baloney Sammiches”…That’s right, its called a Sammich in the South.  My Uncle Thomas in Alabama  loves  “Maater Sammiches”….Translate THAT.  

But I digress, Craig Crawford is a typical southern boy who pays typical homage to the hillbilly palate. It bears no pride, counts no calories, and uplifts even the lowliest of ingredients to the heights of celestial delight.  I mean, my Daddy added peanut butter to stew and put everything but the kitchen sink in his grits!

craigCraig’s Sandwich is not so much a recipe, as a southern scripture. The Holy of Holies, passed down from family lore. Heck, doesn’t Cracker Barrell sell FBS in Kentucky?

Start with good bologna – notice the PROPER name here –  deli-sliced about a half inch thick, not the pre-packaged stuff. Get some good deli-sliced cheese of your choice.

Bread is extremely important. Fried Bologna Sammiches are traditionally made on white sandwich bread, like Wonder Bread….YUCK…lol.  I can’t help it. A kid gets bored with just Wonder Bread. I used to take a slice and squeeze it into a ball just to throw it at my little brother!  the bread in the world that is mostly air.

Again I digressed.  –    Heat a small amount of oil on medium-high in a large skillet. Make a slice in the center of each slice of bologna. (prevents curling). Fry it till its browned.   But while it’s frying on the second side, plop on your favorite barbeque sauce. Add a few drops of hot sauce or Tabasco if you like.

Spread mayonnaise on the bread. To build a truly Southern Sammich,  just use the sauced and fried boloney.  DO NOT ADD VEGETABLES.  Top with cheese while still warm and put the sandwich together.

Now me and Grandma?     baloney2Grill both sides of a buttered hamburger bun. Fry the Baloney the same way, except fry up about three or four thin slices. A slice of Velveeta and there you have it!

    Seriously, this sandwhich  tastes better than it sounds.


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One of my childhood Buddies, Laura, wants a good recipe for Potatoes Au Gratin.   Laura’s family is huge and happy and fun!. Must be getting together for another celebration. If that is the Case Laura, what better buffet item than Cheesy Potatoes Au Gratin.

The potato gratin only requires a bit of work to assemble and then it goes into the oven,  ahead of time, so that potatoes and sauce have time to firm up. This popular bit of comfort food is pretty much a fix it, pop it in the oven and forget it dish. It is really hard to beat warm potato slices drenched in cream and covered in melted cheese.  You can give it a crunchy panko bread crumb topping or enjoy the perfectly burnt cheese topping instead.

Lets talk cheese…Oh The Cheese! What is your pleasure? I love to make this the American way with  just plain old sharp cheddar. I love the snap and bite on my palate with every bite. Some prefer Gruyere like the French originally used. As a matter of fact, do you know about how it came about?

This dish was originally developed for French Royalty. Some seem to think it was made first for a very young Crown Prince Henri so that he would eat vegetables…..nothing ever changes, does it?…..

The term Gratin is not just for potatoes. Gratin is from the French Language in which the word “gratter” meaning to “to scrape” as of the “scrapings” of bread or cheese.   Gratin is a widely-used culinary technique in food preparation, in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg and butter. Gratin is usually prepared in a shallow dish of some kind. A gratin is baked to form a golden crust on top (the gratin) and is traditionally served in its baking dish.

Of course, we Americans simply put our own stamp on it when it came to this country. I would NOT doubt that Potatoes Au Gratin was first served here in the US at some great old Hotel like the Waldorf.

So Laura, here you go. My Classic American Recipe and one French version to compare with. Cheers!

Potatoes Au Gratin

 4 side servings

Ingredients: 1 cup heavy cream,  1 cup milk , 1 clove garlic (chopped) A couple of springs of fresh Rosemary chopped,

 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg,  salt and pepper to taste,  1 pound potatoes (pealed and sliced thinly length wise),

 1 ½ cups of Sharp Cheddar (or more) , 1/4 cup bread crumbs (optional), 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Directions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk the cream with the salt and pepper and nutmeg Butter a 1 1/2 quart baking dish with about 1 tablespoon of the softened butter. Arrange a layer of potatoes in the baking dish, pour some cream mixture and then sprinkle some of the cheese over them. Sprinkle some rosemary . Continue layering potatoes and cheeses until you’ve used them all, ending with a layer of Cheese.  Dot the remaining butter over the top and sprinkle with the paprika.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the potatoes are tender and golden brown on top. Let stand for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

AND the French Version taken from Cuisine France                                                                                           http://www.cuisine-france.com/recipes/gratin_dauphinois.htm

Gratin Dauphinois

 2lb (1kg) potatoes (waxy potatoes such as pink fir apple, russet) 1 or 2 cloves garlic, mashed, ,   2 oz butter 2 cups (50cl) whole milk ,  5 oz (160g) French or Swiss Gruyère cheese , 1 pint double cream,  Salt and pepper

Dauphinois Recipe (serve 6)

Step 1: Preheat oven to 360ºF (180 ºC).     Slice the potatoes into thin slices (1/8 inch thick).   Rinse in cold water. Drain and dry in a towel        Step 2: Put the potatoes in a pan and cover with milk. Add salt     Step 3: Bring to the boil starting at moderate heat for 5 minutes then low heat for 10 minutes. Stir from time to time. Step 4: Rub a fireproof dish with garlic and grease it well with butter. Transfer half of the potatoes in the gratin dish. Add half the cheese, double cream and pepper to the layer. Put the second half of the potatoes and cover with the cheese and double cream left. Step 5: Put the dish in the oven and cook for 1 hour at 360ºF (180 ºC). Gratin Dauphinois is ready when the top is gold and brown.

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Chicken Stock….the most satisfying basic ingredient I can think of. Rich, luxurious, brilliant. The easiest and most versatile base you will ever make…..Don‘t be nervous…its also very forgiving. You’ll never want to use a bullion cube ever again.

Lets Talk Chicken Stock and Broth.   I bet your thinking what’s the difference? Well here it is and very simply; The major distinction between broths and stocks is that broths are intended to be served as is, whereas stocks are used in the production of other dishes.” Therefore, Broths have all their seasonings. Stock is “Nude or Neutral” no salt, no pepper and No additives to make it a signature flavor.

Stocks are a great ingredient to always have on hand. They can perk up a lot of recipes.  Even when my freezer is bare, you will always find either containers of stock or stock cubes!    Stock reduced by half and then frozen in single cubes…my addiction!!! 

The moment I fabricate some chicken, the raw bones and bits of skin go into the freezer. The bits of carrot, onion, and parsley will end up in the freezer too….no waste in this kitchen and boy that’s a fun fact of arrogance for this Chef!

Gardeners stay away from my pile of veg! It ain’t for the compost pile, its for my stock.

You can save a lot of fat and calories by using stock for sautéing instead of oils or fat. You can also add lots of flavor to everyday foods (such as rice) by substituting stock for water in cooking. And not to be forgotten, the meat taken from the expended bones makes fantastic chicken Salad. Just imagine the flavor of that meat after simmering in its own juices….YUM…

So, now that I’ve hooked you. I’m not going to give you the usual recipe. Forget the strict, rigid, binding list and directions. Shake off your fear of flying.    Let me share the “Method and Ratios” of Chicken Stock to free your mind. Chicken Stock with Grandma in Mind.

 2 pounds of Chicken Wings and necks….why chicken wings you say? Cheap and fuller flavor concentrated in the bones, because there are so many of them. Believe me, if you aren’t a wing person, try freezing them with the necks for later use.

Mirepoix. The official name for a sainted trio of flavoring. Onions, Carrots, Celery. Now here is the simple ratio that will free your mind!   2:1:1 If you use 1 onion, you will chop carrots and celery by half the bulk amount. So look at your chopped onion and then take half of that away. This visually is the amount of the other two, each.

So how much Mirepoix for your stock?    The Ratio is 10 wings (or big bones) to 1 helping of Mirepoix. 10:1. That means 10 wings to 1 onion and ½ each the carrot and celery. Easy. Our Grandmas were brilliant in their simplicity!!!

So the rest of the ingredients for great stock would be, 2 bay leaves, about 2 smashed garlic cloves (flat end of your knife), one bunch of parsley, one sprig of thyme, 10 cracked peppercorns (flat end of your knife). You can either put this in some cheese cloth or….I just toss it in. I’m going to be straining anyway.

Enough water that will cover your ingredients with a half inch to spare in the pot. Bring to just boiling and immediately lower to simmer or what we chefs call a slow bubble. A few bubbles at a time. This way, you won’t boil off the water to soon or dissolve calcium from the bones which clouds the stock. When your wings fall apart and your veg are very soft. Its done.

Strain by putting scoops of meat and veg into a strainer and pressing down. Don’t lose all that great flavor! Wa La! That is great stock. Too easy for words. Made on a morning while you are doing some dusting or while you are making your dinner!

Any Questions or clarifications?

OK!  Sandy, thanks for pointing out that I left out skimming and degreasing.  Occasionally skim the grey matter off.  As for the Fat.  I skim fat at the end.  as long as there is still slow bubble, you can pool the fat and then skim most of it.  OR….if you aren’t going to use the stock right away. Poor into containers, cool it down quickly in an ice water bath and then chill over night. the next day before you freeze, cut off the congealed fat. .

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