Ham and Potato Chowder

Every year around this time I spend an afternoon hunting for my chowder recipe so that I can use up our Christmas leftovers, because I am bad at organizing information consistently. So I’m going to share it here because I probably won’t forget I did that.

I don’t remember where this recipe came from, but it’s really good for a winter evening — rich and warming and luscious.

4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced into quarter-inch rounds
3 tbsp flour
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups water
2 tsp bouillon paste
3 medium russet potatoes, diced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups diced ham
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Add the bacon to a cold Dutch oven or heavy pot and cook over medium heat; remove the bacon when crispy.

Cook the onion and carrots in the bacon drippings over medium heat until softened. Add 3 tablespoons of flour and stir to coat the vegetables, then cook for about 1 minute.

Slowly add milk and water, stirring. Add the bouillon paste, potatoes, pepper and garlic powder. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Add ham and cheddar, and stir until the ham is warmed through and the cheese melts. Serve sprinkled with reserved bacon.

Sacrificed Chine of Beef
with Nectar Reduction
Pan Sauce
(Sept. 9, 2004)


1 sacrificed chine of beef, about four pounds 
2 tbsp butter 
1 cup nectar
2 shallots
1 cup tears of the damned
Chopped parsley to garnish

Selecting a good beef chine is essential to this recipe. We recommend a chine from the rib or loin, which are more suited to dry cooking methods. Chuck and round chines are better
for braises and other moist cooking methods. If your worshippers can’t be relied upon to secure a high-quality rib or loin chine, or to sacrifice it appropriately, smite them and build your cult from scratch. This recipe demands a high-quality chine, properly sacrificed to add that smoky altar tang.

Season the chine well with salt while melting a tablespoon of butter in a roasting pan over high heat. Once the butter stops foaming, sear the chine about 2 minutes on each side.
After searing, place the chine on a roasting rack, fat side up, and place in a 350-degree
oven for about two hours, until omniscience suggests the roast is medium-rare.

Meanwhile, begin reducing a cup of nectar in a saucepan over medium heat (for a subcontinental twist, you can substitute an equal amount of soma or amrita for the nectar). It should take about half an hour for the nectar to reduce down to a quarter cup.

When the roast is done, move it to a plate and tent with foil. Remove any fat from the pan juices, and then place the roasting pan back on the stovetop over medium heat. Add two diced shallots and saute until golden. Deglaze with one cup of the tears of the damned, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Once the pan is deglazed, add the nectar reduction and stir to combine. Wait for the foam to subside, then reduce the heat
to low and let the flavors meld.

When the chine has rested about ten minutes, remove the foil and carve. Add any juices from the resting plate back to the sauce, and whisk in a tablespoon of butter and a splash of fresh nectar. Ladle about two tablespoons of the sauce over each portion of meat and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with a small salad of ambrosia and endive.

A Bachelor’s Test Kitchen Thanksgiving
(Dec. 3, 2003)

Thanksgiving is a time  for bachelors to return to the ancestral hearth, and to bask in the warm glow of family. It’s a time to do laundry. A time to scam as much leftovers as humanly possible.

So we’re not going to be discussing how to make Thanksgiving favorites today in the Bachelor’s Test Kitchen. Instead, we’re talking about how to use those Tupperwares full of cold turkey and mashed potatoes. There’s good eating in a holiday meal that doesn’t have to be over once the turkey coma has passed.

And now … the recipes.

November Revolution Sandwich

1 sandwich roll
leftover turkey
canned cranberry sauce
sliced Fontina cheese

I call this sandwich “November Revolution” because its central ingredients are associated with November, because it revolutionized the way I think about sandwiches, and because its appeal depends on a struggle between Red and White.

The ingredients for this recipe are important, and some of them may seem a little highfalutin for a proper bachelor recipe. Explanations seem in order.

The greens don’t have to be arugula. You can use plain old lettuce, and the sandwich will still be great. I find, however, that arugula is a vastly underappreciated sandwich lettuce; it’s got a sort of bite to it without the bitterness of a lot of fancy greens. It also tends to be a bit drier, so it doesn’t water down your sandwich.

Similarly, Fontina is just the cheese that I like. Havarti works too. Probably any mild cheese would. Avoid cheddar; its sharpness is overpowering. You want the cheese to lend smoothness and only a little bit of cheese flavor.

Your choice of roll is also important. You need a roll with good heft and chew, but not a hard roll. Hard rolls tend to squirt the fillings out when you bite into them. I like Dutch Crunch rolls; they combine a nice crunchy top with a good soft chewy crumb and easy biteability.

Finally, it’s actually important to use canned cranberry sauce.  Homemade cranberry sauce is much better as cranberry sauce, but it tends to be too tangy; the balance between tart and sweet is off. It’s also frequently lumpy. I don’t recommend it.

Slice your roll lengthwise, and spread each side with mayonnaise. You want enough that it’s not scraped thin over the bread, but not so much that there’s a palpable layer of mayo. The mayonnaise and cranberry sauce are going to meld into a really good sauce, but the proportions have to be right. Too much mayo and you’ll have a greasy, sloppy mess.

Layer cranberry sauce onto one piece of bread. If you have a fresh can, you can slice it right off the cylinder. Quarter-inch slices or slightly thinner is the way to go, in a single layer. Stack the cheese on top of the cranberry sauce; the cheese will help hold that side of the sandwich together.

Lay your turkey on the other piece of bread. Again, quarter-inch slices or thinner is ideal. I
find shredded turkey just makes a mess unless you’re making turkey salad, and chunks are even worse. Put your greens on top of the turkey and top with the other piece of bread.

Pressing the sandwich down slightly will help the flavors to mix. I like to slice the sandwich in half before serving.

Cranberry Croquettes

leftover mashed potatoes
cranberry sauce

This one’s real simple. Put some mashed potatoes into a bowl. It’s best if they’re a little dry. Swirl some cranberry sauce into the potatoes.  For this recipe, homemade chunky sauce is superb. Form the mixture into patties; you want your patties to bulge in the middle, making them sort of oval or football-shaped. Flour the patties. Fry in oil until a golden crust forms. Serve hot.

If you want a more rib-sticking variation, you could try adding some shredded turkey to
the mix.

Turkey Stock

1 turkey carcass
1 red onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
a sprig of thyme
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. garam masala

People think that making stock from scratch is complicated and troublesome. Lies. All lies. The only reason that people don’t make stock more often is that we usually don’t have carcasses lying around to make them from. Stock is dead easy. It just takes a while.

After you finish picking all the usable meat off your turkey carcass, fill your biggest pot with
about 3 quarts of water. Dump in your carcass, your vegetables, and the thyme. Cover and place over high heat until the water boils, then reduce to a simmer. While the stock boils, heat a small pan and put in the garam masala. Cook briefly until fragrant. Then dump it in the stock. Simmer for at least 3 hours. You can keep boiling goodness out of the bones until they crumble rather than snap when you break a bone in half. By this point, the vegetables will probably have disintegrated — all to the good. Strain out all the solids. You’re left with a rich, velvety stock. It freezes admirably; stick it in some quart-size containers and stash it in the freezer.

Stock is good for a lot of things, but most of all it kicks ass for soups. With a good stock as
a base, you can just sort of clean your fridge into a pot and end up with a really good soup. You’re never at a loss for a meal if you have stock in the freezer.

What’s with the garam masala?, some of you may be asking. Yeah, OK, it’s a little weird. This
year our stock was really good, because we used a garam masala spice rub on our bird. It was excellent, with crisp and flavorful skin, but since we’re assuming a carcass scavenged from your grandma, I don’t want to assume you have that luxury. However, the faint Indian note in the stock was totally worth it, so I’m suggesting you add the garam masala directly to the pot. If you don’t have any garam masala, you can fake it with about a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon each of cardamom, cumin, black pepper, and ground cloves (I’m not claiming this is a proper garam masala, but it’ll do for the subtle effect we’re
trying for). Remember to cook the spices before you put them in.

Really, however, the garam masala is optional.  Mainly you want it so that you can make the
next recipe.

Best Damn Risotto

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
1 quart turkey stock
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

First off, put your olive oil into a skillet and heat it up. Add the onion and cook until onion is soft and golden. Add the rice and cook for about a minute. Then add the turkey stock, a little bit at a time. Maybe a quarter cup, or even less. Add some stock, stir it in, and wait for the rice to soak it up. Then add a little more and repeat the process. Stir frequently.  As you add the stock, the rice will give up its starch and become soft and creamy. If the rice is still chewy when you’ve added all the stock, add some water a bit at a time until it’s properly softened. When the rice is nice and tender, add the cheese and mushrooms and stir them
through. Cook for another minute or so, continuing to stir, and serve hot. It’s really simple, but it’s one of the most filling and satisfying things I know how to make.

About the ingredients: some people insist you need special Italian rice for risotto. I just use calrose rice — the short-grain stuff, sometimes called sushi rice.  It also doesn’t really matter what kind of oil or Parmesan you use, but I like to grate my own cheese. The stuff in the green can doesn’t quite work for me.

Bachelor Cuisine: Kielbasa
(June 21, 2003)

Gooey starch is all well and good, and a bachelor heart is warmed by it. But now it’s time to turn to something heartier. Something rib-sticking. We need some meat.

Today we’re looking at kielbasa. It’s ideal for our purpose — a little smoky, a little sweet, not too expensive, usually precooked (and thus easy and safe to handle and prepare).

I like the Hillshire Farms Turkey Polska Kielbasa, myself, but you should experiment. For example, the Hillshire Farms regular kielbasa has a firmer skin, with more of a snap. I don’t like it so much, but you might. Or perhaps you feel like true bachelor cuisine ought to shun un-fried poultry. In any event, there are many excellent kielbasa products out there for you to explore.

And now . . . the recipes.

Kielbasa with Dwight Street Sauce

1 bun-length piece of kielbasa
1 sandwich roll
Cranberry juice
This recipe was developed during the year-long period of box mac and pork fried rice that followed college. It’s simple but tasty.

Place a bun-length chunk of kielbasa into a pan over medium heat. Add a good squirt of ketchup, and a hefty splash of cranberry juice. Stir and flip the kielbasa occasionally. The heat will cause the ketchup and cranberry juice (with perhaps a bit of help from kielbasa drippings) to combine into a sweet and tangy glaze-like sauce. The sauce will keep the kielbasa from burning. When the sauce has reduced to taste, move the kielbasa onto your sandwich roll. I prefer a sandwich roll to a hot dog bun because it has more heft and chew. Kielbasas are also often too big for a normal hot dog bun. You can pour or spoon the sauce over the kielbasa if you like, but it usually isn’t necessary; a good coating before leaving the pan will do.

Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions

1 large kielbasa
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 onion

Slice your kielbasa into inch-long chunks. Slice your bell peppers into strips about half an inch wide. Chop your onion into half-inch square chunks. Toss everything into a pan over high heat and cook until the onion turns golden and is softened but not limp.

This recipe can be served on a sandwich roll or over rice. You can also add the Dwight Street Sauce to this recipe; it helps avoid burning.

Mexican Terror Kielbasa

1 large kielbasa
1 green chile pepper
1 red chile pepper
1 onion

This dish is prepared just like Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions, but with different ingredients. It is the result of a tragic misreading of an early, less clear version of the recipe for Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions. Two out of three roommates rate it “hard on the digestion”. The other really likes it, though.

Kielbasa Braised in Beer

1 large kielbasa
1 bottle of beer
a few shallots

This recipe is adapted from one in James Beard’s American Cookery.  However, the original calls for red wine. Now, there’s always a place for alcohol in bachelor cuisine, and certainly red wine is truer to the spirit of bachelor cookery than some wussy Chardonnay, but a more
virile brew, like beer or tequila, would be better. Thus, whenever possible, a bachelor chef replaces wine with a beer or spirit more befitting his muse (keep an eye out for the upcoming beer risotto).

In this dish, beer seems most appropriate; braising in tequila, while decadent, would be more expensive than bachelor cuisine can reasonably sustain.  I prefer a relatively mild beer for this dish. I love stout, but I find that in sauces and stews it tends to bring an unpleasant bitterness to the party. A nice ale would be good.

Slice your kielbasa into as many pieces as you have guests, and chop the shallot finely. Put the kielbasa into a skillet with the shallots and beer and bring to a boil.  Depending on the size of your skillet, another bottle of beer may be called for. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the skillet, and braise the kielbasa for 35 minutes, turning once.

When done, the kielbasa will be swollen and juicy, with a pleasant note of beery bitterness. I like to serve this plate with mashed potatoes.

Kielbasa Tubesteak

4 3-inch pieces of kielbasa
4 strips of very thinly sliced steak, about 3 inches wide
1 bottle of beer

This recipe has two things the ideal bachelor cuisine recipe should: an absurd amount of protein, and a really juvenile name.

Begin by quickly searing your steak over high heat on both sides for about a minute. The idea is to take the red off and prevent the steak from stretching and shrinking in later stages of the recipe. Both sides of the steak should be just grayed, but there should be no red spots left. It doesn’t need to be browned.

After you’ve seared the steak, you may want to blot off any fat that may have rendered out, depending on the cut. While you do, toss your kielbasa into the pan to warm them up a bit and add the beer. As in Kielbasa Braised in Beer, you may need two bottles if your skillet is large. Lower the heat to medium, allowing the beer to come to a boil while you begin the next part.

Spread each piece of steak on one side with a condiment of your choice. I recommend a good mustard, though Dijon was very disappointing. Ketchup is serviceable if unexciting. Barbecue sauce didn’t survive cooking in my test, but a thick sauce might work well. Horseradish might also be good for some palates, or you could use some soy sauce and pickled ginger for an Asian/fusion-inspired twist.

Remove the kielbasa from the beer, and roll each piece inside a piece of steak, condiment toward the kielbasa. Secure with toothpicks. By this time, the beer ought to be boiling. Reduce the heat to low, add back the tubesteaks, cover, and leave to simmer for 10 to 20 minutes.

Kielbasa Tubesteak keeps relatively well, though it dries out a bit if left to stand. A relatively small portion is very filling, especially if you use a strong-flavored condiment.

Bachelor Cuisine:
Box Macaroni and Cheese
(Dec. 13, 2002)

American society does not adequately appreciate bachelor cuisine. There’s something magical in a culinary mind so unfettered that it can look at a jar of peanut butter, a brick of ramen, and a bottle of hot sauce, and think “Pad thai!” The ingenuity of a cook constrained by economics but not by any notion of how to cook must, of necessity, devise dishes never before seen or imagined (this isn’t always a good thing, but that’s why we have editors).

So here we pay homage to the epicurean hallucinations that emerge from the crucible of the studio apartment kitchen. In this first installment, we treat the very bread-and-butter of bachelor cuisine — box macaroni and cheese. And now … the recipes.

Box Mac with Oil

1 box macaroni and cheese
Vegetable oil

I developed this recipe, mentioned in my Squishy Yellow Elegy, in response to a double-edged problem. First, I was dissatisfied with the richness and cheesiness of my box mac. Too often, you wind up with a bland, greasy noodle mess. I may have no taste, but I have taste buds, damn it, and I insist they be challenged. The blandness problem is, to a certain extent, a matter of cooking technique; I find that leaning well to the al dente side of things makes the box mac cheesier. I also found that leaving out the milk makes for a less runny, more forceful dish. As a result, I had been making my box mac exclusively with butter (or, more frequently, margarine, which melts more readily) for some time.

The second part of my problem was that I was, at the time, living in a dorm. I had no proper kitchen, and no refrigerator. I just had a hot pot (for those of you well removed from the college lifestyle, a hot pot is like an open-topped electric kettle. Like a hot plate, only a pot. Hence the name). Now, a hot pot is an admirable vessel for cooking box mac, as long as you have a strainer and no qualms about dumping boiling water out a fourth-story window into the quad. But margarine keeps poorly without refrigeration, and hanging your perishables outside in a bag doesn’t work as well as you might think, even in the depths of winter.

Faced with this conundrum, I made a daring and terrible logical leap. I essayed an experiment, using pure vegetable oil in place of margarine. It worked surprisingly well. It makes a thick, gooey cheese sauce, extremely rich and tarry. You have to be careful not to overdo it; too much oil, and it passes gooey into greasy and oily, which isn’t very good. Oil allows you to back off from the al dente principle a bit; it’s actually sort of good to have slightly better done noodles, so that they soak up some oil and let go some starchy goodness to party down with the oil and cheese and make a truly righteous cheese sauce.

I don’t cook Box Mac with Oil much any more; I have a kitchen now, and a post-adolescent metabolism. Box Mac with Oil is also particularly disappointing when it fails – noodles swimming in oil are not appealing. It’s like a reheated Alfredo sauce. Occasionally I use a few drops of oil to supplement the margarine when I feel particularly decadent.

CAUTION: Under no circumstances use olive oil in this recipe! The results will be vile and nasty.

Egg Noodles and Cheese

Wide egg noodles
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese cheese topping

This was a dish of my childhood. It depends on a particular product, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese cheese topping. It used to be called, I believe, Kraft Grated American Cheese Food. In most supermarkets, you can find green canisters of pre-grated Parmesan. They also make grated Romano, in a red canister (it was red, anyway). And they used to make American in a yellow canister. However, somewhere along the line, Kraft took it off the market, and then decided to reintroduce it as part of their box mac brand. It’s a festive blue canister, now. At any rate, you make this dish by boiling up some egg noodles, straining them, dumping them on a plate, and sprinkling with cheese topping to taste. It’s similar to box mac, but way less fat. You can also get casual about the cooking; egg noodles don’t care if you overcook them. It’s really hard to ruin an egg noodle.

Red’s Box Mac Tuna Casserole

1 box macaroni and cheese
1 can tuna, packed in water
four slices American cheese
Optional: Kraft Macaroni &; Cheese cheese topping

This is only sort of a casserole. I’ve never made it in a real casserole dish; instead, I use one of a few medium-deep round bowls I have. Whatever you make it in needs to be microwave safe.

Make your box mac according to taste. Turn it out into your bowl. Add the tuna, and stir well. I don’t advise using oil-packed tuna; despite my general comfort with box mac and oil, oil-packed tuna invariably makes a greasy casserole. At this point, you can sprinkle the surface with some cheese topping, but it’s optional.

Finally, layer the surface with American cheese slices. I recommend using pre-sliced cheese; it’s easier to get a uniform thickness, and it tends to have the right amount of processing for good melting. I try to stay with packages labeled “cheese” or “processed cheese”. “Cheese food” and “cheese spread” get a little too artificial even for me. I usually wind up tearing up the last slice or two to fit the uncovered corners.

Then pop the bowl in the microwave and heat on high for one to two minutes, until the cheese has melted. Serve quickly; it’s still good once the cheese cools, but it’s not as good. I recommend waiting until the cheese is no longer molten, however; it’s best hot enough for all the parts to be soft, but not too hot to taste.

Box Mac with Bonus Cheese

1 box macaroni and cheese
1 slice American cheese

This is the simplest way I know to give your box mac’s cheesiness a boot in the rear. After preparing your box mac in the usual fashion, toss in a slice of American cheese with the butter or margarine. Stir vigorously. You may want to put the pot back on a low heat while you do this. The cheese melts relatively quickly, and the resulting cheese sauce is wonderfully thick and sticky.

This is a good technique for when you’ve mildly botched your box mac and created a bland batch. It’s not as risky as Box Mac with Oil.

I use American cheese rather than a more respectable cheese because better cheeses don’t melt as well. Processed cheddar works sometimes, and will usually work for Red’s Tuna Casserole, now that I think about it, but cheddar sliced from a block probably won’t do it. Cheshire is right out; too dry. Grated cheddar can work if you add some heat and start with a fairly moist sauce. Soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert would probably melt, but mixing classy cheese and box mac is just silly. I mean, at that point I might as well start adding a bechamel sauce or something.

Box Mac and Spam

1 box macaroni and cheese.
1 small can Spam

I got this recipe out of a TV commercial. This is, for bachelor cuisine, the highest possible provenance — superior even to can labels — but I remain slightly dubious. However, it’s such a good example of the style that I include it here.

A small can of Spam is key. A larger can is way too much Spam. Dice the Spam, or cut it into 1/4″ sticks. Fry until lightly browned. Overbrowning your Spam will make it overpowering.

Make your box mac to taste. I recommend a lighter recipe; this is a heavy dish, and using Box Mac with Oil or Box Mac with Bonus Cheese will make it a bit strong.

Mix the Spam into the box mac. Stir well and serve.

This recipe is better than it sounds; on the other hand, it sounds pretty bad. The salty, greasy meat flavor of Spam is an interesting accent to the salty, greasy cheese flavor of box mac, and the firm yet spongy luncheon meat adds texture. The die-hard aficionado of bachelor cuisine will enjoy this dish; it is, in a sense, the escargots of bachelor cuisine.