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The 2017 Gift Guide from the chef behind The American Table

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A Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Care Kit, and two Lodge cast iron skillets, available at shop.lodgemfg.com, are photographed in New York, Thursday, Oct. 2, 2017. Inside the kit are use and care tips, a pan scraper, scrub brush, seasoning spray, and a silicone hot handle holder as a bonus. less

Photo: Richard Drew, AP






Two versions of the Chef Steps Joule Sous Vide: the stainless steel version, immersed, and polycarbonate version, foreground, are photographed with their smartphone app, in New York, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. Add warm water to a Dutch oven, insert the Joule, turn on the Joule with the phone app, add your food and cook. less

Photo: Richard Drew, AP







This holiday season’s gift guide contains a book by a real-life hero chef who built an empire by valuing his busboys, a set of nifty ceramic stoneware oyster shells, atasty tequila and “the last knife you ever buy.”

BOOKS FOR THE COOK WHO LIKES TO READ

“L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home”

By David Lebovitz (Crown, $27)

It’s easy to think that David Lebobvitz is living a dream life. Cooking, writing about food, giving chocolate tours and living in Paris. But that old saying, ‘nothing worth having is easy.’ comes to mind when you read his latest book. It’s a memoir about buying and renovating his Paris home. If you ever dreamed of having an apartment in Paris, this book is required reading. As horrible as parts of it must have been to live though, David tells the bittersweet tale with a sense of humor, insight into the French culture, and memories of delicious and unexpected recipes like how to make Croissants aux Amandes (almond croissants) at home (spoiler alert: they are made from day-old croissants — who knew?). But the best thing about this book is that David writes as he talks so it is like having a long conversation with a good friend. Equal parts honest, intriguing, distressing, entertaining, funny and appetizing. Pour yourself a glass of French wine, grab a nibble and cozy up to a great night with a great book.


“NOBU”

By Nobuyuki (Nobu) Matsuhisa (Atria Books, $30)

This year, many new food memoirs by chefs, bloggers and food writers were published. I read a stack of the books and was struck by how tedious and self-indulgent so many of them are. Maybe memoirs by the very nature of the genre are self-serving.? And, then I sat down to read a memoir by the most famous of all the authors, Nobu. Most people know Nobu as the highly acclaimed chef proprietor of 47 Nobu and Matsuhisa restaurants, and six hotels around the world with partners who include Robert De Niro.

I was instantly struck by how humble and inspiring his story was — or rather, how simply and humbly he presented his story and his life philosophy. Nobu is one of the good guys who has become famous by the old-fashioned tenets of being a family man, hard work, passion and perseverance even in the face of adversity. Forget about reading self-help books for motivation and guidance. Read Nobu and experience a real-life hero who built an empire and a good life by valuing his busboys as highly as his executive chefs. This is inspiration by example.

For Cooks Who Like To Drink

French Duralex Picardie Tumblers

Drinking glasses are very personal. They have to feel good in your hand, look good and be durable. I like my glasses to be sturdy, functional and elegant. That’s a lot to ask, but the tempered glass tumblers from Duralex check all the boxes. They are the epitome of good design and the French company has been in business since 1945. You can use the glasses for hot or cold drinks and they store easily because they are stackable. Thanks to shatterproof construction, if broken, the glass becomes small chunks instead of jagged shards — so cleanup is safe and easy. The glasses are microwave and dishwasher safe, impact and chip resistant and lovely to use.

I especially like that they come in eight sizes from 3.1 ounce to 17.62 ounces. The original French tumbler is the Picardie design and it is the only style available in a set of 18. It is a great gift for anyone who needs new glasses, or for the student or graduate moving into his or her first apartment. The set of 18 ($69.95) includes six of each, small (8.75 ounce), medium (12 ounce) and large glasses (17 ounce). They are perfect for milk, juice or a cocktail, iced coffee or tea, water and anything else that you care to drink. I also like the smaller 4.4 ounce size for espresso and sipping bourbon and tequila neat. They can be ordered separately to complete your set at https://www.surlatable.com .

Grand Mayan Tequila

The first time that I saw Grand Mayan Ultra Aged Tequila was about 10 years ago. I was at a liquor store in Los Angeles and I was struck by the beautiful hand-painted ceramic decanter. I gambled and bought the bottle based on looks alone and boy, oh boy, was I rewarded. The color, aroma and smooth taste rival my favorite aged bourbons for choice sipping. Deep with nutty caramel, vanilla and blue agave notes, this is tequila that you sip neat. The deep dark color comes from a blend of 3, 4 and 5 year-old tequilas that have been aged in American and French oak casks. The Ultra Aged takes 10 years to produce from agave plant to bottle.

The Ultra Aged has a younger sibling, the award-winning Grand Mayan Silver. It is triple distilled resulting in a crystal-clear spirit that is the cleanest silver tequila that I have ever tasted. The sparkling fresh 100 percent blue agave tequila is perfect for drinking over ice with a splash of citrus or mixing into almost any cocktail. It also comes in a very handsome black and white hand-painted ceramic Talavera bottle created by Mexican artists honoring the history and tradition of Mexico.

From my first taste of Grand Mayan a decade ago, I have had my eyes open for that bottle but I couldn’t find it outside of Los Angeles — that is until now. Luckily for the rest of the country, Grand Mayan is now distributed nationally by MS Walker and at http://www.binnys.com . The cost is $100 for the Ultra Aged, $70 for the Silver.

Little Book “The Easy” Blended Straight Whiskey

Fans of Booker’s bourbon will love Little Book. It was released in October from Freddie Noe, son of 7th Generation Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe. I am a personal fan of Booker’s and a huge fan of American whiskey, so I couldn’t wait to taste Freddie Noe’s first release in the Little Book series. The new limited-release whiskey is Little Book “The Easy.” It is aptly named as it goes down easy. Smooth and rich and perfectly balanced, it is destined to become a fast favorite. Freddie drew inspiration from the classic components of bourbon to create his first-ever whiskey expression. It features uncut and unfiltered Kentucky Straight Bourbon blended with corn whiskey, rye whiskey, and malt. As Freddie takes on an expanding role in the family business, Little Book is a nod to what he’s learned so far from the generations of distillers before him especially his grandfather, legendary distiller Booker Noe. Little Book “The Easy” is available nationwide for $79.99 for a 750-ml bottle and at http://www.binnys.com. If you miss it, take heart because the distillery plans to release a new expression every fall.

FOR COOKS WHO LIKE HANDY TOOLS

Loftin Oyster Shells

I like to grill oysters on the half shell which makes for both a pretty presentation and failsafe grilling. The tough shell protects the delicate oysters from the hot fire, tampering the heat and transferring it through the shell. But, if you are not very comfortable with shucking oysters, or can’t find whole oysters in the shell, then I have a gift for you!

Loftin Oyster Shells are made from ceramic stoneware. The life-like oyster shells are handmade from high-fire ceramic in Louisiana where oysters reign. Best is that they are uniform with flat bottoms which stop the shells from rocking on the grill. The beautiful re-useable shells will hold one large or two smaller oysters. So, all you have to do is buy the shucked oysters and get grilling! I like their motto which is ‘all shell, no shuck.’ You can buy the oyster shells by the dozen on their website and start making all your favorite restaurant oyster recipes at home. Their oyster grilling tong is especially helpful for taking the oysters off the grill. Suggested retail is $69 for a set of 12 shells and $18.49 for the tong/lifter at http://www.loftinoysters.com

Ninja Intelli-Sense Kitchen System

This machine surprised me and made me a new fan of Ninja products. As anyone who knows me knows, I love a good gadget! And, when a friend told me about the Ninja Intelli-Sense Kitchen System, I knew that I had to try it. And, now I can’t stop talking about it. It is so smart. There is one base (think brain) and four attachments that will blend, chop, make individual smoothies and spiralize. In effect, this one appliance replaces my food processor, my smoothie machine, my blender — and my hand-cranked spiralizer — that didn’t work well anyway.

But that’s not all, the Intelli-Sense base recognizes which of the four vessels you attach to it, and automatically displays the corresponding settings specifically designed for that vessel. For example, when you attach the processor, the touch screen on the base gives you options for four different functions (puree, dough, chop, dips). When you make your selection, the base adjusts the speed and torque of the motor to suit what you are making. It’s genius, or at the very least, very intelligent! But that is not all, the design feature that makes this appliance heads and tails above the rest is that the blender and the processor have four blades stacked at varying levels to process everything at once. It does all the hard work for you. No more pushing the food from the top to the bottom or manually turning the machine on and off while you distribute the un-processed food. It goes for $199.75 at https://www.ninjakitchen.com .

Sous Vide Joule

I just decided to sous vide my steak for dinner tonight. It may sound like a big project but it’s not. I have started to think of my Joule sous vide circulator by Chef Steps, as a fancy slow-cooker that makes cooking dinner and entertaining easier. Add warm water to a Dutch oven, insert the Joule, turn on the Joule with the phone app, add your food and cook. It’s that simple.

The Joule is shorter than other circulators which makes storing it a breeze. And, the bottom is magnetic so you can put it in a pot and it stands upright — and stays upright — without needing to clamp it on the side. You put your food in a heavy-duty re-closeable plastic bag — vacuum sealing is no longer a must — and attach it to the side of your pot with a chip clip. The Joule runs with an app that is so intuitive that you don’t need to be tech savvy to use it. You search for the food that you want to cook, choose a degree of doneness and the size of the food, i.e., a 2-inch thick steak, and turn it on by phone.

One added bonus is that with sous-vide cooking, it is next to impossible to overcook your food. I use my Joule mostly for cooking meat that I will char on the grill just before serving and poached eggs. Yes, if you only bought it for poached eggs, that would be enough! I first became enamored with sous vide when I discovered that you can place a raw egg (in the shell) in the water and 45 minutes later, you crack the shell and out comes a perfect poached egg. I make eggs like these at least once a week for topping avocado toast or eating for breakfast. Once you do it, you will be hooked! The Joule comes in two finishes, stainless for $199 and white for $179 at https://www.chefsteps.com/joule .

FOR THE COOK WHO HAS EVERYTHING

Gift certificate for Institute of Culinary Education

The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) is the heart of New York City’s academic culinary world. It is unique in that it has both a robust and award-winning professional program, and recreational program. It is the school where so many well-known chefs and food writers and editors attended, and or taught. I taught recreational classes at ICE for many years and most of the photographs in my column are now prepared and shot at ICE. When I taught, many of my students came to my classes with gift certificates that friends and family gave them. I always thought that it was the best gift of all, an experience that they could enjoy with or without the gift giver, and take home new recipes and new skills that they will have for a lifetime.

ICE has been in business since 1975 and houses the largest program of hands-on recreational cooking, baking and wine education classes in the world. More than 26,000 people visit ICE each year to learn and experience everything from wine tasting and mixology to hands-on cooking and eating. With 12 state-of-the-art kitchens in lower Manhattan, ICE is able to provide classes both day and night, 355 days a year. For a list of classes and to register, visit https://recreational.ice.edu . The minimum amount for gift certificates is $100.

Town Cutler knife sets

Galen Garretson wants this to be the last knife you ever buy. The former chef always loved knives, even as a kid. After tiring of the restaurant kitchen life, he worked as a butcher and became an expert knife sharpener. In 2011 he opened up Town Cutler, a shop selling and sharpening knives in San Francisco. Two years later, he sold his first handmade Town Cutler knife and says that there was a lot of trial and error to making that knife. Those trials paid off. Today, his collection of handmade knives are functional art pieces. I fell in love with the heavy feel and sleek look of the knives. These knives are a cut above.

To understand the quality of the steel and the quality of the wood handle, you just need to hold the knife. It is the difference between the feel of a custom-tailored piece of clothing and off-the-rack clothing. Equally beautiful are the soft leather knife rolls and scabbards (blade covers). This fall, he opened his second location in Chicago and sells his beautiful knives, scabbards and knife rolls through his website.

For the holiday, Town Cutler is putting together two kits, one For the Chef with an 8.5-inch chef knife, scabbard, palette knife for plate decoration and leather knife roll ($450). And one For the Butcher which includes a 6-inch Hankotsu knife (favored by butchers), scabbard, palette knife and leather knife roll for $450. Got to https://towncutler.com

STOCKING STUFFERS

Cast Iron care kit by Lodge

I love all things Lodge cast iron, but they can be a little tricky to clean. Now that all of their cast-iron pans come pre-seasoned, it makes cast-iron accessible to every cook, beginner to master chef. The properties of cast-iron make it a cinch for searing, crisping and baking. A good friend has a pan that is so well seasoned that he even cooks eggs in his cast-iron pan. But after every use, you have to wash your pots and pans, and that is when it becomes tricky with cast iron. You are not supposed to use harsh soap, metal scouring pads or the dishwasher because that will destroy the layer of seasoning that makes cast-iron cookware “non-stick.” So, Lodge has packaged a Seasoned Cast Iron CARE KIT for cast-iron cookware ($26). Inside the kit are use and care tips, a pan scraper, scrub brush, seasoning spray, and a silicone hot handle holder as a bonus. You can give this to your favorite cook as a stocking stuffer or add it to a Lodge cast-iron pan for an extra-special gift. I am partial to the 10-inch cast-iron chef skillet for $25.50 and the 10.5-inch square cast-iron skillet for $32. Go to http://shop.lodgemfg.com/prodcat/indoor-accessories.asp

Meat thermometers by ThermoWorks

ThermoWorks has been in business for more than 20 years and is serious about its thermometers. They make a variety and my favorite is the Thermopen. It’s the barbecue and chef community’s choice of instant-read thermometer because it is fast, accurate and the foldable probe makes it easy to carry. All it takes to be a believer is opening the box and seeing the individual “Certificate of Calibration.” Every Thermopen comes with their own individual certificate that is filled out by hand, an extensive instruction booklet with real-time tips and a serial number to track your Thermopen. These added value features underscore that you’ve purchased a professional instrument, not just a gadget.

The foldaway thermocouple probe is strong but thin and goes into meat quickly and efficiently without leaving large holes for juices to escape through. I love that it folds into the plastic body, and is thin, and I would buy it for those two features alone. But the fact that it is fast and accurate seals the deal. It can read the internal temperature in 2-3 seconds. Thermopen ($99) is handmade in England and comes in your choice of 10 colors at http://www.thermoworks.com/Thermapen-Mk4 .

___

EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”

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Dining Out: Bartonville Diner filled with comforting breakfast options …

BARTONVILLE — The parking lot told us everything we needed to know.

Late for a breakfast, early for a lunch and nearly every space outside Bartonville Diner, 1420 W. Garfield Ave., was taken on a Saturday morning. Nearly every table inside, too, from the booths that line the walls to the small tables for two and four in the middle of the single-room restaurant.

And still, service was hopping. The friends we met there had been seated for just a few minutes and already had been checked on a few times for drink orders and other introductory requests. Seconds after we joined them, another such check set in quick motion our beverage orders, iced tea ($1.99) and hot coffee ($1.49), for the latter of which the serving staff demonstrated an eagerness to provide refills.

Fair warning, the menu is a small book, with four pages of all-day breakfast offerings — pancakes, waffles, omelettes, skillets, all manner of meat-and-egg combinations — and a further six pages of sandwiches, soups and entrees, not to mention other space for starters, desserts and choices for seniors and kids.

None of the fare is overly complicated, but instead no-frills, reliable and recognizable choices. Though it was pushing on toward noon, we were all more inclined to the breakfast side of the menu.

My guest zeroed in quickly on the strawberry banana pancakes ($6.99), a trio of wide flapjacks the size of a small plate, topped with strawberries and strawberry sauce — she omitted the bananas — and covered with generous dollops of whipped cream. No syrup needed to get your sweet tooth going on this one.

Another of our friends enjoyed the French toast combo ($7.39), which comes with two eggs, two strips of bacon and two pieces of thin French toast. (Two menu options for just a French toast meal let diners calibrate their appetite between thinner slices of bread and thicker ones.)

The last two of us ended up unintentionally nearly duplicating orders. We both selected the supreme skillet ($8.49), a mixture of hash browns and ham, bacon, sausage, green pepper, onion, mushrooms and Swiss cheese, topped with two eggs. I went with toast, the other friend with the biscuit-and-gravy side.

Like most skillets, it was predictably enormous. The various cured meats meant it needed no salt at all, and the sundry meats and veggies were in good proportion to one another. My toast was a bit dry, holding up better to scoop up bits of the breakfast, while the friend pronounced his gravy nicely creamy.

If you have room for it, fresh pies are on offer, as well as plenty of milkshake and sundae choices to help you linger longer over conversation.

 

Chris Kaergard can be reached at ckaergard@pjstar.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.

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Dining Out: Bartonville Diner filled with comforting breakfast options

BARTONVILLE — The parking lot told us everything we needed to know.

Late for a breakfast, early for a lunch and nearly every space outside Bartonville Diner, 1420 W. Garfield Ave., was taken on a Saturday morning. Nearly every table inside, too, from the booths that line the walls to the small tables for two and four in the middle of the single-room restaurant.

And still, service was hopping. The friends we met there had been seated for just a few minutes and already had been checked on a few times for drink orders and other introductory requests. Seconds after we joined them, another such check set in quick motion our beverage orders, iced tea ($1.99) and hot coffee ($1.49), for the latter of which the serving staff demonstrated an eagerness to provide refills.

Fair warning, the menu is a small book, with four pages of all-day breakfast offerings — pancakes, waffles, omelettes, skillets, all manner of meat-and-egg combinations — and a further six pages of sandwiches, soups and entrees, not to mention other space for starters, desserts and choices for seniors and kids.

None of the fare is overly complicated, but instead no-frills, reliable and recognizable choices. Though it was pushing on toward noon, we were all more inclined to the breakfast side of the menu.

My guest zeroed in quickly on the strawberry banana pancakes ($6.99), a trio of wide flapjacks the size of a small plate, topped with strawberries and strawberry sauce — she omitted the bananas — and covered with generous dollops of whipped cream. No syrup needed to get your sweet tooth going on this one.

Another of our friends enjoyed the French toast combo ($7.39), which comes with two eggs, two strips of bacon and two pieces of thin French toast. (Two menu options for just a French toast meal let diners calibrate their appetite between thinner slices of bread and thicker ones.)

The last two of us ended up unintentionally nearly duplicating orders. We both selected the supreme skillet ($8.49), a mixture of hash browns and ham, bacon, sausage, green pepper, onion, mushrooms and Swiss cheese, topped with two eggs. I went with toast, the other friend with the biscuit-and-gravy side.

Like most skillets, it was predictably enormous. The various cured meats meant it needed no salt at all, and the sundry meats and veggies were in good proportion to one another. My toast was a bit dry, holding up better to scoop up bits of the breakfast, while the friend pronounced his gravy nicely creamy.

If you have room for it, fresh pies are on offer, as well as plenty of milkshake and sundae choices to help you linger longer over conversation.

 

Chris Kaergard can be reached at ckaergard@pjstar.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.

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Dining Out: Bartonville Diner filled with comforting breakfast options

BARTONVILLE — The parking lot told us everything we needed to know.

Late for a breakfast, early for a lunch and nearly every space outside Bartonville Diner, 1420 W. Garfield Ave., was taken on a Saturday morning. Nearly every table inside, too, from the booths that line the walls to the small tables for two and four in the middle of the single-room restaurant.

And still, service was hopping. The friends we met there had been seated for just a few minutes and already had been checked on a few times for drink orders and other introductory requests. Seconds after we joined them, another such check set in quick motion our beverage orders, iced tea ($1.99) and hot coffee ($1.49), for the latter of which the serving staff demonstrated an eagerness to provide refills.

Fair warning, the menu is a small book, with four pages of all-day breakfast offerings — pancakes, waffles, omelettes, skillets, all manner of meat-and-egg combinations — and a further six pages of sandwiches, soups and entrees, not to mention other space for starters, desserts and choices for seniors and kids.

None of the fare is overly complicated, but instead no-frills, reliable and recognizable choices. Though it was pushing on toward noon, we were all more inclined to the breakfast side of the menu.

My guest zeroed in quickly on the strawberry banana pancakes ($6.99), a trio of wide flapjacks the size of a small plate, topped with strawberries and strawberry sauce — she omitted the bananas — and covered with generous dollops of whipped cream. No syrup needed to get your sweet tooth going on this one.

Another of our friends enjoyed the French toast combo ($7.39), which comes with two eggs, two strips of bacon and two pieces of thin French toast. (Two menu options for just a French toast meal let diners calibrate their appetite between thinner slices of bread and thicker ones.)

The last two of us ended up unintentionally nearly duplicating orders. We both selected the supreme skillet ($8.49), a mixture of hash browns and ham, bacon, sausage, green pepper, onion, mushrooms and Swiss cheese, topped with two eggs. I went with toast, the other friend with the biscuit-and-gravy side.

Like most skillets, it was predictably enormous. The various cured meats meant it needed no salt at all, and the sundry meats and veggies were in good proportion to one another. My toast was a bit dry, holding up better to scoop up bits of the breakfast, while the friend pronounced his gravy nicely creamy.

If you have room for it, fresh pies are on offer, as well as plenty of milkshake and sundae choices to help you linger longer over conversation.

 

Chris Kaergard can be reached at ckaergard@pjstar.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.

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Cooking up memories of Mom – Houma Today

How fast this year is passing by. I can hardly believe our choir at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Houma is already practicing Advent and Christmas music.

Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and the holidays always take me back in time. I think about that little two-story white house on Palmer Street across from Sacred Heart Church in Indianapolis that my family called home in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. How I miss the sights, sounds and smells of that house at holiday time. That is when I miss my dear Mom the most.

Being the oldest of the large Belviy clan, Mom depended heavily on me for help, especially during the holidays. That is probably why I love cooking so much and always have.

I remember when I was just a child, Mom would scoot the red metal step stool up the the stove for me to stand on and stir the pots while she did other chores. Having such a large family — I am the oldest of 10 children — Mom had to cook big meals.

We were not really poor, but we certainly weren’t well off, and we did have to stretch money and food to “make ends meet,” as Mom said. That meant we ate lots of big pot meals so we each got plenty, even if it wasn’t steak and potatoes.

Mom made mostly soups and chilis during the week. But Sundays were special, and she often would cook a big roast or meatloaf. We were only allowed one portion of meat so she could have leftovers for the rest of the week.

Her beef and noodles were always a treat, even if the meat was sparse compared to the noodles. 

No one could stretch food better than my mother. I can remember we bought 12 loaves of bread a week and depended on bread to round out all of our meals. Mom made a fabulous gravy and beef with leftover roast or meatloaf that she served over toast. I can still remember how great that tasted and smelled.

Mom’s meals weren’t fancy, but they were hot and filling, and I miss them. Mom also made the best beef liver and fried potatoes, which we didn’t get often, but when we did, we savored the treat.

She would get out her two largest cast-iron skillets. She would first fry several slices of bacon in each skillet while I would slice potatoes thinly into a large mixing bowl and lots of onions into another bowl. Then Mom would removed the crisped bacon onto a paper towel and pour the potatoes into one of the greased skillets and layer several slices of liver into the other skillet.

Next, she poured half the onions into each skillet and lowered the heat. I would have charge of turning the potatoes while Mom watched the liver.

When the potatoes were crisp and brown, we would line up the many dinner plates on the table and put a helping of potatoes and slice of liver topped with onions on each plate. Then to top it off Mom would crumble a slice of bacon over the food on each plate.

Since my family was raised in Indiana, we were raised on beef and potatoes and not seafood like people are down here on the coast. While I enjoy the food of the South and the Gulf, there is nothing that gives me that warm fuzzy feeling of comfort and home as much as the wonderful meals my Mom cooked daily for her large family in my youth.

Mom, I love and miss you but it really comforts me to know you must be famous all over heaven for the meals you are cooking up there now.

— Donna Knight is an artist and freelance writer in Houma.

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The Maine Ingredient: Hearty supper sandwiches a perfect go-to option

As preparations for Thanksgiving begin to heat up, it’s nice to have simple, hearty sandwich supper options in your back pocket. Because protein, starch and even some vegetables are already on the rolls, all you really need to add are some pickles and chips to make a meal.

SAUSAGE AND PEPPER GRINDERS

Several companies in Maine produce really excellent fresh Italian sausages. This sandwich makes a great supper accompanied by a big tomato salad.

Serves 4

1½ pounds sweet or hot Italian sausages

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 green or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 Portuguese or grinder rolls, sliced horizontally, warmed if you like

4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, optional

Cut sausages into 3-inch lengths and prick in several places with a fork. Place in a single layer in a large skillet, add about ½-inch of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover, and cook over medium to medium-low heat until water cooks off and sausages brown on all sides and are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Heat oil in another large skillet. Add onion and peppers and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown and soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the oregano, cook for a minute, and stir in the vinegar.

Split sausages in half lengthwise if desired and layer onto rolls with peppers, sprinkle with optional mozzarella, slice in half diagonally and serve.

PAN-FRIED HADDOCK SANDWICH WITH HOMEMADE TARTAR SAUCE

Haddock sandwiches could well be the most popular year-round lunchtime sandwich in Maine. The fresh fish is usually dredged in a breading mix (lightly, preferably), deep-fried and served on a bun with a lettuce leaf and sliced tomato – tartar sauce, chips and a dill pickle on the side. What could be better? For the home version, I’ve called for pan-frying the fish (less messy, less greasy) and making a quick, delicious homemade tartar sauce.

Serves 4

TARTAR SAUCE:

¾ cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons drained sweet pickle relish

1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated sweet onion, such as Vidalia

2 teaspoons chopped capers

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

PAN-FRIED HADDOCK SANDWICH:

1¼ pounds haddock not more than ½-inch thick

½ cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon paprika

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 sandwich buns, split

Greenleaf lettuce leaves

Sliced tomato

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, pickle relish, onion and capers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to blend flavors. (Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week.)

Cut fish into pieces a bit larger than the buns. On a plate, combine the flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Dredge haddock in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.

Divide the oil between two medium-large skillets over medium-high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add fish to the pans and cook, turning once, until golden brown and crisp on both sides and just cooked within, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Spread buns with tartar sauce, layer on the fish, lettuce and sliced tomato, and serve.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

facebook.com/brookedojny


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