Monday, September 26, 2005


I enjoy a good coffee drink. The only problem is that liquors like Kahlua and Amaretto cost a pretty penny. Try buying a couple of Irish Coffees or other "adult" coffee drinks in a bar or restaurant and you'll find yourself having to take out a loan to pay the tab.

Years ago I had some German friends in Atlanta that made their own kahlua. It was good rendition of the store bought stuff, and I always wanted to try to figgure out how to do it myself.

I did a little research and found a number of recipes for making Kahlua on the Internet, so I’ve started making it and adding a little “kick” of my own. Instead of 40 proof (20% alcohol), I expect mine comes out somewhere between 80 and 100 proof.

You’ll need the following ingredients:

2 cups water
6 tbsp coffee
¼ tsp cinnamon

2 cups water
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 dash of red pepper
1 dash of nutmeg

3 cups golden grain alcohol

Now roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work.

First make yourself a small pot of extra strong coffee. Let it cool off well.

Meanwhile, in a medium boiler heat the water, sugar, and spices until boiling, then turn off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.

Once everything has cooled, add the coffee to the water/sugar/spice mixture, then add your grain alcohol.

BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN HANDLING GRAIN ALCOHOL, unless you want your friends and family to see you on the evening news.

Let your mixture sit overnight, then bottle it in an old wine bottle or a new decorative bottle.

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Funky Mandarin Stir-Fry

From my fridge/pantry to the table in less than an hour…

I’ve done enough stir fry over the past couple of years to be comfortable making up my own variations on the theme. For those of you that haven’t tried it, stir fry is basically a bunch of stuff tossed in a medium hot skillet (or wok) and cooked until it is as done as you like, then seasoned with Soy sauce and thickened with a mixture of water and corn starch.

It’s just that easy, and it’s hard to come up with something that doesn’t taste edible as long as you keep your old dirty sneakers and your pets out of the mixture.

Tonight I did a little fridge and pantry shopping and I tossed everything that looked like it would be good in a stir fry out on the counter.

When I was done with my "in house" shopping trip, here is what I had to work with:

½ pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tbsp soy sauce

¼ head of green cabbage, shredded
½ yellow bell pepper, julienned
½ red bell pepper, Julianned
1 medium carrot, Julianned
1” piece of fresh ginger, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, diced fine
(1) 11 oz can mandarin orange segments
1/2 can bamboo shoots
(1) 14 oz can baby corn, drained and cut in half
2/3 cup frozen English peas (or snow peas or whatever you got)

2 tbsp peanut oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
¼ orange juice
A couple of dashes of red pepper (to YOUR taste—be careful)

¼ cup warm water
1 tbsp corn starch

1-1/2 cup white rice, cooked

First cut up your chicken into one or two bite pieces, place the pieces in a zip lock baggie, and add a couple tablespoons worth of soy sauce. Work everything around with your hands and let the chicken marinade in the baggie for a half hour or so.

While your chicken is marinating, dice up your veggies and heat up your skillet a little.

You can also put your rice on to cook when you start cooking your chicken. Don’t forget your rice like I always try to do.

Now pour the peanut oil in the skillet, let it heat up good, and stir fry the chicken until it is done medium well. Add the diced garlic when the chicken is half done. Don’t burn your garlic unless you want "truely funky stir fry."

Turn down the heat slightly and reserve the chicken on the side while you stir fry your veggies.

Toss in the cabbage and pour in the orange juice and a table spoon of Soy sauce. Stir the cabbage as it sizzles away. After a couple of minutes, add your bell peppers, peas, and carrots. Keep stirring. Now add the fish sauce and the toasted sesame sauce, along with the baby corn and the bamboo shoots.

Keep stirring for a few more minutes. Check your rice and open your can of mandarin orange segments. Keep stirring—why do you think that they call it stir fry anyway?

Now add your chicken back into the mixture, along with the mandarin orange segments, and stir everything together good. Take a taste of the veggies to check your seasoning.

Does it need anything? Well add it then, it’s your dinner.

Stir up the corn starch with the warm water real good, then pour half into the mixture and stir it up. Now add the rest of the water/corn starch mixture and let everything simmer as it thickens up.

Place a couple of big bowls on chargers, spoon in half your rice into each bowl, top the rice with your stir fry mixture, grab yourself a fork or better yet, some chop sticks, and EAT.

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

Monday, September 19, 2005

Rib Re-runs

Well, I did them again after letting them spend two days in a spicy brine.

Remember my Baby Back Pork Ribs that I cooked a couple of times earlier this summer?

Unfortunately my health continues to limit my kitchen endeavors, but I did manage to find the ribs on sale this past week and while one rack is comfortably resting frozen in the freezer, the second rack made dinner Sunday night.

I'm quite serious when I say that you should experiment with the brining mixture. This time I just winged it--1 and 1/2 gallon cold water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tbsp black peppercorns, and ...... the piece de resistance...

1 tbsp red pepper flakes.

Man, was this mixture ever spicy--particularly after two days of soaking.

I've made these little rib racks thingies out of wire coathangers that work well keeping the ribs standing on edge over a pan of water while they cooked indirectly on my charcoal grill. I'll post a drawing and some pictures later so you can make your own.

I appreciate you continuing to bear with me as I recover from my malady.

Regards Y'all,

The Redneck Gourmet

Monday, September 12, 2005

General Tsao's Chicken

I'm Baaaaccckkk…

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I’ve somewhat recovered from the disastrous month of August and my bout with intestinal ischemia—blood clots in my abdomen. I was lucky that I threw in the towel when I did and allowed my mother to take me in for medical treatment or they say that I’d be upstairs cooking with Justin Wilson and Julia Child right now. Thank God we live in 2005 rather than 1905 or my prognosis would have been quite different. Fortunately, I’m a number of pounds lighter, but hardly worse for the wear and ready to get back in the kitchen.

My appetite has been slowly returning and I actually cooked dinner the past couple of days—nothing fancy, just some frozen veggies and a pre-roasted grocery store chicken breast. I think that it’s time for something spicy to test out the old gastrointestinal tract.

Tonight I fired up the stovetop and on the menu was General Tsao’s Chicken. I guess almost everyone has had some variation of this dish if you have ever had carry out Chinese in a large city, but I did a little research and found this entertaining Washington Post article telling us a little more about the dish’s namesake.

Yes, there really was a guy named General Tsao (generally pronounced “Sow”.) He was actually named Tsao Tsungtang and he lived in China between 1812 and 1885. How the spicy chicken dish actually came to be named for the good General is a matter of wide speculation, but I found it interesting to read the article as I made my recipe preparations.

Authentic recipes used in the restaurants use dark meat chicken, but I also found recipes that called for using chicken breast meat. I compromised and used some Perdue boneless chicken thighs that I found very reasonably priced and had never used before.

For my version of “General Tsao’s Chicken, you will need:

1-1/2 pounds Chicken (boneless chicken breast halves, thighs, or whatever)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped green onions
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or as many as you like, be careful)

For the Sauce:

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
3/8 cup white sugar
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
`/8 cup white wine or sake
1/4 cup hot chicken broth

Make the sauce first. Combine the cornstarch and water in a mixing bowl and stir together. Now add the sugar, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, white wine, and the chicken broth. Stir it all up, and refrigerate—over night if you want.

When you are ready to cook, preheat a skillet to 350 degrees.

Cut up your chicken meat into bite sized pieces (two bites at a maximum) and place it in a medium mixing bowl. Add the soy sauce and white pepper, and then stir in the beaten egg. Add the cornstarch and toss the chicken pieces to coat, and then stir in the vegetable oil to separate the pieces

Add the chicken in small batches to the skillet and stir fry until crispy. Drain the cooked chicken on the side on paper towels.

Did I mention making some rice? Well, make yourself some rice if you want—it’s your dinner.

Puttin’ it all together…Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet and allow it to come up to temperature, then add the pepper flakes and green onions and stir fry briefly. Remove the sauce from the fridge, stir it up, and add it to the skillet along with the chicken pieces and cook until the sauce thickens and everything has heated though.

Get out a couple of bowls, spoon in some rice, and serve the General’s chicken and sauce on top. Teach yourself to use chopsticks while you’re at it—I’m still training Pat.

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hospital Food

Sorry for my absence--it wasn't by choice...

I'm happy to report that I survived 9 days in intensive care and 6 days in a regular hospital room, and a clear liquid diet is even less attractive today than it was before I landed in the emergency room on August 17th.

The medical diagnosis was that I had a series of blood clots develop in the veins between my intestines, liver, and kidneys. Without boring you with the details, I have fought hyper-coagulativity problems for the past 21 years with the only previous symptoms developing in my legs.

Not any more, however.

I will live the rest of my life, such is it is, taking the blood thinner Coumadin. So much for eating a bunch of collard greens or other leafy green vegetables containing vitamin K that affects blood clotting factors.

The good news was that the stove got fixed before I was admitted into the hospital, Hurricane Katrina missed our South Alabama farm by about four counties, and I hope to be back home on St. Simons this weekend. My appetite is returning and I'm looking forward to grilling some pork or chicken over the Labor Day holiday. I'll try to have something new to post as a result of my efforts.

Hope everyone has a good holiday weekend. Pray for the storm victims--they need all the help they can get.

Regards Y'all,

The Redneck Gourmet