Deviled Eggs, and Getting Those Eggs Right

A dozen hard-boiled eggs, prepared using the following technique.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving 2016. Personally, I’m looking forward to all the deviled eggs at the various get-togethers over the next month or so. I’m seriously addicted to hard-boiled eggs, and if there are deviled eggs in the vicinity you’d better hide them from me. I’ll eat eight halves before I’ll even consider stopping.

It might take a couple more halves before I finally stop eating the things.

One of the more oft-asked questions is “What’s the best way to cook hard-boiled eggs?” There are a lot of different answers out there, some using vinegar, some barely boiling the eggs once the water starts rolling then letting them rest in the hot water off the stove for an additional time, others suggesting using sous vide (that is, if you can afford the equipment.)

Some folks also say it’s impossible to hard-boil eggs at altitudes greater than 10,000 feet above sea level. I have yet to be able to vouch for this.

I learned quite a bit from a Greek I worked for from 1983 – 84 by the name of Gus Pappas. A Vincent Price doppelganger, Gus used the restaurant kitchen’s commercial steamer to steam a few dozen eggs at a time to hard-boiled in 12 minutes flat at low pressure. He’d then immediately place them in a running-cold water bath to stop the cooking process, and have us peel them five minutes later. They were great for salads and such, and the yolks never turned green. If you have a presure cooker, you can use this same process with a steamer basket with water underneath.

Gus was the one to explain the following process to me, which has worked for me every time since. The claim of “you have to use the freshest eggs” doesn’t seem to apply here. They still come out perfect every time.

Basic Deviled Eggs

1 dozen eggs
Yellow mustard
Salt, iodized
Black pepper, ground
Paprika, smoked

  1. Place a dozen chilled eggs in the bottom of a short pot wide enough to allow the eggs to remain in a single layer.
    Add cold water to about a half-inch inch above the tops of the eggs.
  2. Place the pot on a burner on the stove, and set the burner to High.
    When the water begins to actually boil, lower the heat to about 90% and set a timer for 20 minutes.
  3. Walk away.
  4. When the timer goes off, remove the pot from the heat. Gently dump most of the hot water down the drain and set the pot with the eggs into the sink.
  5. Run cold water into the pot and walk away for five minutes while it continues to run. This stops the eggs from cooking themselves all the way to the center.
  6. Stop the running water and walk away for five more minutes.
    Return and shell the eggs, being sure to rinse excess shell and membrane off in the chilled water in the pot before placing them off to the side.
  7. Cut each egg in half, removing the halved yolks and placing them in a small mixing bowl. Place the halves of the whites into a presentation platter.
  8. Add mayonnaise and a small bit of yellow mustard to the yolks and stir until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, stirring as you go.
    Spoon or pipe the smoothed yolk mixture into the halved whites.
  9. Top with sprinkles of smoked paprika.

The American Food Wuss, and a Recipe for Fried Chicken Gizzards and Livers

Our grandson “Bubba”, just over a year old, sucking on the head of a baby octopus at the Teppanyaki Grill in Lafayette, Indiana.

I’m sure a lot of people will look at the above image and blanch at it, doing a double-take, even a spit-take, gagging, wondering out loud “Who gave that poor child a baby octopus? That’s disgraceful, I really need to say something!”

What the above image says more than anything else is simply this: Food fears, feelings of revulsion and disgust at certain foods, is obviously taught and learned. It’s not an inherent thing whatsoever. When we’re little, young, and not yet revulsion-impaired, we’ll eat pretty-much anything.

Giving Bubba that whole baby octopus was so much fun, because it totally grossed out his mommy, who looked at me and exclaimed “Dad!!!”

The real issue isn’t giving a small child a whole baby octopus. The issue is the standard response from what I call The American Food Wuss.

I have to say though, our daughter is no food wuss by any means. She enjoys eel, frog legs, calamari and other “nasty bits” far more than many other people. On a trip to Parris Island in South Carolina when she was 17, we constantly searched for the best gas station fried okra that we could find. She grew up butchering rabbits, which few kids like her have any clue about anymore.

But that baby octopus threw her for a loop. She just couldn’t do it.

One of my plates at the Teppanyaki Grill in Lafayette, Indiana … Roast duck surrounded by, from bottom left, sauteed squid, spicy whole baby octopus, fried frog legs, and oysters in a sweet sauce.

Our personal food decisions are based on a developed sense of squeamishness, our wimpy minds controlling our stomachs. Corporate advertisers and their “studies” have created a large group of people who believe they have sensitivities to gluten, MSG, and even celery. Bullying by the likes of PETA get in the way of real issues related to food waste, overly-processed foods, and people and cultures who don’t have enough food, or either not enough water or unsafe water. We’re a young country with too much arrogance, our government acting like know-it-alls, with policies that are based on special interests instead of actual, honest knowledge, while the rest of the civilized world enjoys haggis, raw milk, foie gras, and other “banned” real foods.

We can do better. We just don’t want to, and don’t care enough to change.

A pair of Flint-Style Coneys at Mega Coney Island in Fenton, using the ground beef heart base from Abbott’s Meats, spiced by the restaurant’s cooks, and served on Koegel Coneys.

At the American and Lafayette Coney Islands in downtown Detroit, coneys have been served since bout 1917. We won’t get into who was first or any of that nonsense, but the Greek family behind the two shops have always made their juicy sauce with ground beef heart. In 1924 Macedonian Simion Brayan started serving his coneys in Flint (seen above) with a dry topping of spiced ground beef heart, topped with yellow mustard and minced sweet onion. Todoroff’s in Jackson had been serving coneys since 1914, switching to less-expensive ground beef heart in the early 1940s to save on costs.

I’ve been enjoying Flint Coneys since I was 7. But in many cases, if I tell someone there’s beef heart on any of the above-mentioned coney types, they stop eating them.

Nothing physical changed, not taste, texture, etc. Only their perception of the dish changed, suddenly and supposedly making the Flint Coney, in some way, inedible.


My one-time personal nemesis, Steak Tartare, as made by Chef Tad Cousino.

At one point I had my own personal revulsion. Even though I always enjoy my steaks and burgers medium rare, cooked to 145 degrees and nice and pink on the inside, I had stated many times I would never eat Steak Tartare. Steak Tartare is a raw ground beef preparation of French origin, topped with a raw egg, with capers and onions, eaten with toast or crackers. The idea of eating raw beef was repulsive, even though I’d basically been eating it for some time.

And then the unthinkable happened. I was sitting in the Frog Leg Inn in Erie, Michigan, where my son and I had been talking with Chef Tad about their web site, when he came from the kitchen and motioned us over. He placed the above serving of Steak Tartare in front of us, very proudly, saying he’d made it by request and wanted us to have some.

That was it. There was no turning back.

Aaron and I tried it … and absolutely loved it. Our fears were unfounded. Not only did it taste amazing, but through the coming weeks it became clear we weren’t going to become ill, either.

So much for what had turned out to be irrational fears.

Lengua Tacos, lengua meaning “tongue”, this made with beef tongue, which I enjoyed at Esmerelda’s in Monticello, Indiana, on August 5, 2015.

In thinking back on my up-bringing it has become quite apparent my dad got me interested in what’s now known as “adventurous eating” from an early age. I don’t think dad ever knew beef heart was the main ingredient in his favorite coney topping. Dad passed away in December 2008, shortly after I’d learned the fact myself, and I don’t believe I ever told him. But he was the one who took us to Palace Coney Island in Genesee Valley Shopping Center when it opened in 1970, and with mom would bring me frozen heart-based sauce from Angelo’s when I lived on the east coast. He would make me sandwiches made with Koegel’s Head Cheese, which I didn’t understand till recently as well. And even though he preferred his steaks and burgers well done and said he disliked melted cheese because of the texture, he later developed a liking for Chinese buffets and would try just about anything.

With my own kids I had a certain rule: They weren’t allowed to say they didn’t like a particular food unless they had Actually.Tried.It. Once they had tried it, then it was alright. But irrational fears weren’t allowed. Of course, I have never considered eyeballs, gizzards, bull testicles or dried insects to be anything they would absolutely have to try. But they’ve enjoyed blood tongue sausage, grilled calves liver, eel, squid, octopus, and have butchered and eaten rabbits they’ve raised themselves, so they’re more likely to try what may be considered more adventurous dishes anyway.

My kind of meat case, at Stanley’s Market in Toledo in January 2016. The pig’s head is a staple in Polish and other cultures, particularly for the cheek meat, ears, and for making head cheese. The whole head goes for $20.

All over this country are pockets of other cultures that we consider to be a bit strange. Just in the southern Great Lakes region there’s the Mexican community east of Adrian, Michigan, and another in White County, Indiana. There are various Chinatowns in the larger cities, with other Asian and Mexican pockets in smaller cities such as Toledo, Ohio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Lafayette, Indiana, and as far north as Grand Forks, North Dakota. Greeks and Poles are heavily represented throughout the Midwest, and the largest Muslim community in the United States is located in Dearborn, Michigan.

These are the places to find authentic cultural restaurants to help you get over your fears. Have some oxtail soup, some tacos made with beef tongue. Don’t just have the calamari, but try the squid tentacles as well. Menudo is made by hand at many of the authentic Mexican restaurants, and the tripe is cooked properly so it’s not chewy and gamey.

Soul food is a staple in the Detroit area, also referred to as Motown. Fried chicken gizzards are available in just about every soul food restaurant in the area. The preparation is so popular there’s also a GizzardFest in Potterville, Michigan, normally in early June. The Pit Stop Pantry, in a gas station between Monticello and Monon, Indiana, offers both of their popular fried gizzards and livers to travelers and truck drivers. And in Deerfield, Michigan, the first Saturday after St. Patrick’s Day, show up at the Testicle Festival for freshly cleaned-and-fried bull testicles.

A serving of Korean Hot Spicy Squid at QQ Kitchen in Toledo, which Ryan and I enjoyed for his 19th birthday on February 15, 2016.

What’s also important about these pockets of other cultures are the grocery stores and other shops that provide the families from those countries with what they need on a daily basis. For example, stinky tofu is available in Asian grocery stores if you’re into those kinds of dishes. 50 lb bags of Jasmine rice will be stacked toward the front, reach-ins will have the preserved products known as hundred-year-old eggs, jars of odd (to us) pickled vegetables will line the shelves, and freezers will contain seafood you’ve likely never seen before.

Mexican grocers will have meat cases containing different types of tripe for Menudo, beef tongue and heart, oxtail, and raw pig tails and ears. Muslim stores will have raw lamb of all varieties, some of which can be eaten raw as tartare, and the testicles of lambs and goats for various snack dishes. And Greek and other Mediterranean shops will have hearts, livers, kidneys, calves brains and a slew of other meats that the American Food Wuss should try.

Left: Ryan with his first squirrel, which he hunted in January 2015, and brined and fried for us. The meat was beautifully sweet and tender.

There really isn’t much difference between some of the common hunting game in the U.S. and many of the dishes served around the world. My kids have had rabbit, with one hunting squirrel and cooking it for us. Many organizations in southeast Michigan offer muskrat dinners in the Lenten season as the muskrat are approved as a fish by the local Catholic diocese. Game dinners are common throughout the entire midwest, with dinner ranging from ostrich and alligator to fried smelt, squirrel, wild boar, rattlesnake, bear, and even kangaroo.

“Nose-to-tail” is how the world eats. It’s nothing new. And you’re probably not too far away from enjoying some serious delectable dishes that only your brain is stopping you from trying. Stop being the American Food Wuss. Get out there and eat for real.

The freshly-fried chicken gizzards and chicken livers at the Pit Stop Pantry, a gas station located between Monticello and Monon, Indiana, as served to me on June 15, 2015.

Fried Chicken Gizzards and Livers

1 lb raw chicken gizzards
or 1 lb raw chicken livers
1/2 cup corn meal
2 cups flour, all purpose
1/2 gallon shortening, liquid or solid, or lard (not vegetable oil)

Drain the gizzards or liver in a colander. Pour the buttermilk into a glass dish and add the meat, ensuring the meat is completely covered. Refrigerate 24 hours.

In a large heavy pot or 3″ deep skillet, heat the oil to 350F (measured ith a thermometer), ensuring there is enough room above the oil to prevent overflow when the meat is added. Mix the flour and corn starch. Add the salt and pepper to taste, mixing completely. (Sifting together mixes it better and ensures better distribution on the met.)

To cook, shake the excess buttermilk from the meat, coat it with the flour mixture, and add it to the hot oil, making sure the meat isn’t crowded. Fry for 5 minutes or until the coating is a crisp golden brown. (With a meat thermometer, the inside temperature should be 155F.) Remove to paper towel or lint-free cloth to drain before serving.

On Food Waste, and the So-Called “Expiration Dates” of Food


For some interesting information take a look at this article which reads, in part, “[D]espite what the labels may suggest, the food is safe. The date printed on packaging clues consumers into when the product is at its best, peak flavor … The flavor or quality may start to degrade over time, but food safety isn’t an issue.” — Dave

There are many causes of food waste. “Expiration dates” on food and food products are probably one of the more serious culprits. If you subscribe to these things, you need to take another look at what’s really going on.

One of the local papers here reprints restaurant inspections via the county Health Department. Entries like this have a tendency to catch my eye:

Refrigerated ready-to-eat food held refrigerated for more than 24 hours was not properly date marked. Items in the cooler not date marked. To prevent food borne illness, refrigerated, ready-to-eat food held at a temperature of 41 degrees or below for more than 24 hours should be clearly marked at the time of preparation or the time the original container is opened to indicate the date or day that is a maximum of seven days by which the food should be consumed, sold, or discarded. The day the food is prepared or opened is day one.

Of course, the embellishment of the findings from two sentences into a whole paragraph is always completely ridiculous. But then again, so is the concept of expiration dates in regards to food.

Back in May of 2015 during a ServSafe course, before looking at the supplied book for the course, my classmates and I discussed the concept mentioned in this inspection at length. Some admitted to putting the preparation date on labels as a matter of habit. But we decided that was incorrect, as someone might look at that date the following day, assume it was the day the item was supposed to be pitched, and do just that.

It turned out the 6th edition of the ServSafe Manager course guide is kinda specific on this subject, on page 5.9:

Ready-to-eat TCS [time and temperature control for safety] food can be stored for only seven days if it is held at 41F or lower. The count begins on the day that the food was prepared or a commercial container was opened. For example, a food handler that prepared and stored potato salad on October 1 would write a discard date of October 7 on the label.

Ignoring the fact that “41F and lower” in the above paragraph also includes temperatures that freeze the food, which makes the dates useless, there are also the paragraphs that follow the above paragraph in the book:

Operations have a variety of systems for date marking. Some write the day or date the food was prepped on the label. Others write the use-by day or date on the label … Sometimes, commercially-processed food will have a use-by date that is less than seven days from the date the container is opened. In this case, the container should be marked with this use-by date as long as the date is based on food safety … When combining food in a dish with different use-by dates, the discard date of the dish should be based on the earliest prepared food.

Ok, I have a question, which would be … WTF???

Here’s a simple fact: Federal regulations require a “use-by” date on the product label of infant formula under FDA inspection. Baby formula is the ONLY food product the FDA says there must be dates on. The FDA site and regulations are full of phrases such as this one regarding eggs: “When a ‘sell-by’ date appears on a carton bearing the USDA grade shield, the code date may not exceed 45 days from the date of pack.” Notice that it’s a suggestion that the date be there. It’s not a requirement. There are countless other examples of this ambiguity within the FDA.

On all kinds of food products, both for commercial/restaurant use and consumer consumption, there are various types of dates. Supposedly, they go like this:

  • Sell By – Could be the shelf life on a store shelf, or even the shelf life after purchase. No one really knows.
  • Best By – A guess as to when the product will be at its peak quality. Doesn’t really apply to things like salt, which are already millenia-old products, but is still on some packaging.
  • Use By – Another phrase meaning “Best By”, which is another guess.
  • Freeze By – Again, it’s “Best By”, but for something that can be frozen.
  • Expires On – Eat it one day after this date, and we’re sure you’ll expire, too.

When you go grocery shopping I’m sure you’re probably checking some dates. You’re most likely actively looking for dates on containers in the dairy section and, in some cases, in the bread aisle. Without realizing it, when you look through various items for the ones you want in the produce section, you’re inadvertently “checking dates” as you either want what’s most fresh or, for something like bananas or tomatoes, something that will be ripe enough soon.

But do you check dates on canned goods, on bottles of dressings, jars of peanut butter, jams and jellies, or dry goods such as flour, sugar, cereals or cake mixes? Probably not. We have an expectation that these types of products will be good for some time, especially canned goods.

Some people assert canned goods would be fine after a nuclear blast, which I have serious doubts about.

Here’s a simple set of facts: There are far too many variables in product distribution for any date to be accurate. The transportation and storage chain for many food items has to be considered in the development of any kind of “expiration date”, which is completely impossible. Think about, say, a piece of fruit or a vegetable that’s picked in California and is on its way to Michigan. The pickers pick all day long and place them, sometimes tossing them, into a collection truck. We don’t know what the temperature or humidity might be there. The item then goes to a temp-and-humidity-controlled processing and packing plant where they’re cleaned, the good ones are selected by hand or machine, and they’re packed into their case size. They’re then loaded into other trucks, again with temp and humidity unknown (I’ve seen some recent trucks that are still simple boxes with extra refrigeration units tacked on) and transported to distribution centers for grocer or restaurant wholesalers. They’re then stored in well-regulated areas again, until another distribution takes place to wherever you purchase or consume them. In some cases, the truck is open for long periods at other restaurants before it’s off-loaded at the restaurant you eat at. If you buy them, how do you store them? In fact, what’s the temperature of your own refrigerator? You likely don’t even know.

There are a couple extremes to consider. When ordering from a supplier for a restaurant, you might get #2 breaking avocados for your Cobb salad. “Breaking” means they should be about two days out from ripening when you get them. But warehouse workers may be too busy to keep track of the ripeness of avocados under their care. So when a restaurant receives them, they might be immediately ripe and need to be used right away. They’re obviously not going to last seven days, regardless of how you mark them. That fresh guacamole you decided to make from them might end up too brown and sour to eat after two or three days.

One of the other extremes is the ubiquitous five gallon pail of hamburger dill pickle chips. No one, and I mean no one, dates those things. But very few places in a given area will go through one of these buckets in a week. I’ve seen them last at least a couple months, even when they’re not always resealed properly in the walk-in cooler. And even then, the pickle chips are perfectly edible, crisp, and safe.

Based on experience, I’d give pickled vegetables four or five months under good conditions, maybe even longer.

One of the other issues with that five-gallon pickle bucket, in some cases, is the unavailability of smaller packaging. Knowing our operation wouldn’t go through a whole bucket at the end of the season I asked the Sysco sales rep for a one-gallon version. He stopped in his tracks, looked at me oddly, and said “You know, I don’t think we have that.” And he was right. Unless I went to a store, a smaller package just wasn’t happening.

At the end of seasonal operation, what happens to those buckets still holding maybe three-and-a-half gallons of pickles? Some are actually pitched. Other operators might divvy up the remainder and sell them to employees to take home, or even relocate said bucket to properties that are still operating.

And finally, another contributor to waste is an aversion to eating leftovers. Really? Yes, teenagers, and yes many over the age of 18, largely hate eating leftovers, as do a lot of adults. So a lot of the food in our refrigerators, especially vegetables, head to the dump on a regular basis, only because too many people would rather eat something cooked right now.

We have to stop doing that.

Expiration dates on food is probably one of the largest contributors to the 40%, 133 billion pounds, or $165 billion dollars worth, of food wasted every year in the U.S. When deciding to throw food away, do yourself and the world a favor and don’t go by “expiration dates”. Use common sense. Eat the leftovers. Use your nose, your taste buds, and your brain. Transport and store your food properly. Listen to this guy. Just make good decisions.

Starting now.

Chef Buddha’s Recipe: Skyroom Hoosier Chicken & Noodles, Indiana Beach, Monticello, Indiana

A batch of Hoosier Chicken & Noodles in the Skyroom Kitchen at Indiana Beach Amusement Resort, Monticello, Indiana, made by Chef Buddha on June 14, 2015.

The summer of 2015 was … odd for me. Back in 1979 I’d spent the summer cooking at a YMCA camp in Irons, Michigan, and had a hackuva time up there. I was fresh out of high school and on my own for the first time, cooking three meals a day for kids out of central Chicago. To say there were problems was an understatement, but those ten weeks were still a lot of fun. I never thought I’d do such a thing again.

So it was strange this past May 6th for me, a 53-year-old man, to head out at 7 in the morning to drive five hours to an amusement park in central Indiana, driving away from my wife, kids and grandkids, to what was supposed to be only a 100-day position running a 50-year-old restaurant at the park. Getting there at noon, there was a Sysco truck waiting, along with the people I’d spend the whole summer with. We spent the next eight hours putting things away and starting prep for the Mother’s Day Brunch on the 10th.

Things rarely slowed down in Monticello after that.

The Skyroom dining room on the morning of August 16, 2015.

The Skyroom Restaurant at Indiana Beach Amusement Resort had an elegance over its five decades, serving Shrimp Cocktail, Prime Rib, Steaks, Salmon, Cobb Salads, even a Chateaubriand for Two. The various Chefs over the years would do Luau buffets with whole roast pig, Pasta Nights with fresh pasta dishes being made at an impromptu station in the glass-walled dining room overlooking the park, and many other special events. By the time I got there this past May tastes had, of course, changed. Diners don’t select dishes like Chateaubriand at amusement parks anymore, and we served fewer Shrimp Cocktails than ever. We still did some Pasta Nights and Luaus, but more burgers, steaks and salmon. The porkchops were alright, but when we ended up with some seriously nicer ones for a special they did better. The Skyroom has more of a “pub” feel now, which is fine. It’s still a great place to eat.

As the location is an amusement park people would come from all over to work there. Of course the locals and college kids came and went as staff, but there was an international program as well, pulling in staff from Jordan, Romania, and many other countries. Our own Jenelle Solomon, a vegetarian from St. Elizabeth, “the bread basket of Jamaica”, was there for her fifth season, grilling the best salmon and steaks anyone had ever tasted while honestly never trying them herself. Jesus “Chewy” Dominguez had come up from outside Mexico City for his 21st season this summer, and could cook up just about anything you asked him to. When he made Cream of Mushroom Soup this summer for the first time ever, just guessing the recipe while using fresh mushrooms and heavy cream with 36% milkfat, the result was astonishing.

But the real backbone of the Skyroom, the man who was there for most of the restaurant’s existence so far, was Chef Buddha. Robert M. “Buddha” White had started working at Indiana Beach out on the piers at the tender age of 13. This was his 47th year at the park, most of them spent moving up through the ranks in the Skyroom until he was appropriately named as Chef. But that’s not all he did … He was also a county Sheriff’s Deputy for 34 of those years, along with being SWAT Team Commander, while spending every summer at the Skyroom. To say he was a proud and hard worker is an extreme understatement.

When I first met Chef Buddha in May I watched as the entire staff, those who had been there many years themselves, treated him like gold. I instantly understood the serious respect he had earned over the years from everyone around him. And when my wife showed up for her first of many visits to the park on May 22nd, Chef Buddha took the time to sit down with her in the dining room for a long and friendly chat.

One of the things I’d heard many times from Chef Buddha was that he had wished he and I had met earlier. We shared lot of similar interests and, as he was only six years my senior, a lot of common experiences outside of our work areas. And as I’ve developed a keen interest as an amateur food historian, he told me it was nice to have someone to discuss the Skyroom’s history with.

Early in the 2015 season I’d heard about an older special, the Sunday Hoosier Chicken & Noodles, that was apparently last served during the 2008 season. On June 5th I asked Chef Buddha about this dish. He replied it was in his head, and had simply never been written down. The Spackman’s had founded the park in 1926, and the Sunday Hoosier Chicken & Noodles special was a Spackman family recipe that was then tweaked by Chef Buddha and an earlier Chef Dave via discussions, nothing more. So I promptly asked for it. As you can see in the above photo, he wrote it down, taking over an hour to cover an entire page with the details.

After writing the recipe down for me, Chef Buddha told us Tom Spackman had the following policy: “You only serve peas on Sunday, and you’d better have peas on Sunday, and you only serve peas with this dish.” It turns out Sunday Hoosier Chicken & Noodles had defined Sunday in the older iterations of the Skyroom. It’s the kind of tradition the Skyroom’s caretakers and diners had drifted away from over the years. Without realizing it, I was just as guilty as any of them. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful those days will return.

As he was becoming quite ill, we saw less and less of Chef Buddha as the season went on, and by mid-August he had stopped coming to the Skyroom. In late September I received a text from his phone, a photo sent by his longtime girlfriend Kathy, showing them getting married on September 20th. We lost Chef Buddha to cancer on October 3rd. I was in Grand Forks, North Dakota, when Kathy sent me the news that morning. I cried like a baby.

When I think about it, I realize I had only known Chef Buddha for a couple of months. It’s amazing the kind of impact some people can have on your life over a very short period of time. There are people I proudly say are more like family to me. Chef Buddha is near the top of that list.

My wife and I have discussed my getting a Buddha figurine for the fireplace, with it wearing a Chef’s toque. It seems only fitting.

Merry Christmas, Chef Buddha. I’ll see ya’ later.

Sunday Hoosier Chicken & Noodles Special
Chef Robert M. “Buddha” White, June 5, 2015

5 lb ½” diced white chicken
1-1/2 gal 2% milk
4-1/2 qt 36% heavy cream
Extra wide egg noodles (aka “butter noodles”)
Fresh basil
½ lb cornstarch
Chicken base to taste
Cold water
Peas, frozen
Mashed potatoes, hot
Chicken gravy, hot

Method: Thaw and heat the diced chicken in a 4″ full-size hotel pan. Sprinkle chopped fresh basil over the chicken and set aside. Also, make a slurry with the cornstarch and cold water and set aside as well.

Combine the milk and cream in a heavy-bottom pot. Add enough chicken base to get a golden color and good chicken flavor. While stirring often, cook over medium-high heat to just before boiling. Slowly add the slurry while constantly whisking until thickened. Remove from heat immediately.

Pour the thickened cream sauce over the chicken, cover with plastic film and foil, and keep hot in the steam table. Also cook the green peas al dente and keep them hot separately. Cook egg noodles (aka “butter noodles”) to 80%, drain, rinse with cold water, and keep cold.

To Serve: Rejuvenate noodles in pasta pot. Place scoop of hot mashed potatoes at one end of an oval plate, off-center. Ladle heated chicken gravy over potatoes. Put egg noodles on plate diagonally, and ladle the chicken mixture over the noodles. Serve with green peas on end of the plate next to the mashed potatoes.

Buffet Style: Prepare cream sauce and egg noodles as described. Cook green peas till al dente. Combine cream sauce, noodles and green peas. Present on buffet in 4″ full-size hotel pan.

In-Progress: Allergen and Info Icons for Online Restaurant Menus

It’s not completely ready yet, but this is what it looks like.

In working on various web sites for restaurants, I’ve found there really aren’t any good methods for displaying menus. Using JPG images of menu pages or even PDFs of those pages flies in the face of a lot of what people believe should be done, so they’re termed “unacceptable”. Many restaurant web sites are built using the WordPress platform. Plugins for restaurant menus for said platform makes sense. But many of the restaurant menu plugins that work aren’t up-to-date with the current platform, and the ones that are updated correctly are missing some vital features, including being responsive enough to work well on smart phones.

It also stands to reason that WordPress crosses international boundaries. For example, as of Dec. 13, 2014, 14 allergen icos are required on restaurant menus in the UK. But none of the available WordPress plugins address the use of those icons.

What we’ve ended up doing is to begin the development of a new plugin for WordPress that creates restaurant menus the way we want to see them. Above are some of the icons we’ve assembled for use in the plugin, including the official UK icons, along with some other icons developers might want to use. They’re not quite ready yet, but at least we have some progress.

We hope to have the plugin ready in a month or so, if only to be able to test it on our own web sites prior to releasing it into the wild.

We’ll see how it goes …

Recipe: Peach Mango Habanero Barbecue Sauce

Longtime readers, friends, and fellow cooks will know of my longtime fascination with a certain couple of hot sauces. In a ten-year timespan our household subsequently had become partially involved with the sauces, as many of the recipes on their web site came from our kitchen. Later on, the recipes had even migrated onto one of our own web sites, and we became the official archive for the collection.

Sometime late this summer a disconnect of sorts occured, and suddenly and without warning the sauces became completely unavailable. They simply weren’t there anymore. I only found out when Mary asked for the barbecue sauce I used to make, to be used in pulled pork sandwiches for her birthday celebration this past Saturday. I went to order a half-dozen bottles of the peach-mango-habanero sauce, only to find the web site itself no longer existed.

Talk about a mad scramble.

I had convinced Mary that using Sweet Baby Ray’s was alright as a substitute. Ray’s has always been our fall-back sauce. We use Old Montgomery on occasion when our son-in-law Andrew is here for dinner as that’s his favorite. And we sometimes use a Kansas City sauce, if only because it has a unique flavor profile we all enjoy.

But even though she said Sweet Baby Ray’s was alright, I knew better. I needed to find some kind of a substitute for the peach-mango-habanero sauce I used to make for her with the older hot sauce.

andersons_terminal_federal_oshima_05312014I decided to head to The Anderson’s, a local chain of three retail stores in the Toledo area. The Anderson’s is more than just the stores … Since the 1940s they’ve also been the leading grainery in the area, with huge silos (seen in my image to the left of the Federal Oshima) along the River Raisin, accessible by grain shipping vessels traveling the Great Lakes. They’re also known for dealing in fertilizers for farmers, ethanol, and managing fleets of rail cars transporting their products. They opened their first retail store in the 1950s, which have become places to find all kinds of more unique food products than the national chains they’re competing against.

I had decided to find some kind of barbecue sauce with a spicy-hot base and some kind of fruit involved. The Anderson’s store in north Toledo has a twenty-foot aisle of barbecue and hot sauces, along with other spicy preserved sauces, so that’s where I headed. Some barbecue sauces had raspberries and pineapple, along with some spicier sauces containing honey, but really nothing even close to what Mary really wanted.

Heading into the hot sauces I looked around for a bit … and then stopped dead in my tracks.

There they were. A couple rows of 14 ounce bottles of Robert Rothschild Farm® Peach Mango Habanero Sauce. Which of course solved absolutely everything.

Looking at the back of the bottle I found a few differences from what I was used to. The ingredient list was in a different order than the one I knew, so I’d have to make a few adjustments to the recipe I already had. This bottle was also 14 ounces vs. the 12 ounces of the other bottle. Robert Rothschild Farms also uses lemon juice in theirs instead of the lime juice of my previous supplier. There’s nothing I could modify there … I could have added lime juice, and still might as I experiment later. But it’s really not necessary.

After grabbing this bottle I headed home, printed the older recipe, and started scribbling the modifications. Some items increased to accomodate the larger bottle size. But I also decreased the amount of water, wanting to kick up the flavor (for a reason I’d rather not disclose here). I could decrease the water further, replacing some of it with lime juice, which again might happen later …

I made the one batch on Friday for the Saturday event. Once I had the sauce rendered down I took a tasting spoon to Mary, who pretty-much swooned at the flavor. The resulting pulled pork went over extremely well with our family, which was very satisfying. And Mary was eating sandwiches with the leftovers for a few days.

What you want to do is this simple: Take a 9 – 11 lb bone-in skin-on pork shoulder and generously rub it with a combination of Kosher or sea salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder. Place it skin side up on a rack in a roasting pan, cover it with a lid or aluminum foil, and roast it at 225F for eight-to-ten hours. Test it after about the seven hour point … You’re not looking for a given internal temperature, but rather the meat flaking apart, without being mush. At that point, remove the meat from the oven. Remove the skin, fat, and the bone, and pull the pork apart into a large pot. Add the sauce as described below and stir, completing the pulling for a good texture. Heat the sauced pork through. Serve on good buns, such as a Kaiser roll, possibly topped with sliced jalapeños for additional heat.

Peach Mango Barbecue Sauce
Yield: 1-1/4 quart

1 medium onion
3 Tbsp unsalted butter (for sautéeing the onion)
14 oz bottle Robert Rothschild Farm® Peach Mango Habanero Sauce
32 oz. bottle ketchup
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp beef stock
3 teaspoons white vinegar

Chop the onion. Melt the butter in a 4-quart non-reactive pot and sauté the onion until translucent. After shaking it well, add the full bottle of Robert Rothschild Farm® Peach Mango Habanero Sauce, ketchup and Worchestershire sauce and stir until combined well. Add the water, beef stock and vinegar. Heat till boiling, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes to thicken, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.

Note: Make sure to use good ingredients for this recipe. Less-expensive ketchup, Worchestershire sauce and beef stock will likely not allow you to achieve the best final flavors.

The Realities of the Current Minimum Wage Issues

A look at our version of the circa-1800s Macedonian Goulash the Flint Coney sauce was developed from. Click the image for our recipe.

Just to be clear, if you want to republish this or any part of it, let me know via comments. We can discuss it.

In their current arguments against current reports of people protesting for a $15/hour minimum wage, opponents make such claims as “Fast food was never meant to provide a ‘living wage'”, “Increasing wages will increase the costs of what I pay for”, and “Those people don’t work as hard as I do/aren’t educated like I am, and don’t deserve it.”

The realities are vastly different than these claims.

As to the first claim, “Fast food was never meant to provide a ‘living wage'”, in 1929 the Flint Chamber of Commerce published a small pamphlet, “Progressive Flint”, which set out specific indicators of what had happened economically in the city since 1910. According to the pamphlet, the population of Flint in 1910 was 38,550 and had grown to 148,800 by 1928, with an estimate of 163,000 by 1930. General Motors had been founded in 1908 and its growth through those years had been rather extreme. The average annual factory wage for Michigan’s eleven largest cities was $1,450, but in Flint that average wage was $1,780.

The small volume didn’t mention restaurants, but there was a detailed paragraph that broke down the more than 1,700 retailers in Flint at the time. The list included 504 grocers and 32 meat markets. Two of those meat markets would have been Koegel’s and Abbott’s Meat. At the time of the pamphlet’s publication there was one coney shop, Flint Coney Island.

From the beginning Flint Coney Island was constantly open, twenty-four hours each day, seven days every week. Grill cooks and waiters worked the same hours as sailors on a ship, twelve hours every day, with no days off. At the time the railroad ran just south of the Flint River, within walking distance of the restaurant, so passengers and railroad workers alike discovered the Flint Coney Island as a quick place for a good meal.

According to “To To Go”, a Flint oney history pamplet published by the Genesee County Historical Society in 2007, the restaurant workers’ meals were paid, their room was taken care of, and they received $21 each week. If one follows the math on the rate of pay, that’s an annual pay of $1,092, or 60% of what the factory workers were making in Flint, and as much as 75% of what other factory workers were making across the state. If you include the room and board, those wages are even better than they first appear. Theirs were rather good wages, far better percentage-wise than the wages of the “fast food” workers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The issue here is that other workers have lobbied for better wages, sometimes violently, and have succeeded … while those workers currently lobbying for a $15/hour minimum wage are instead being oppressed. How ridiculous, how repulsive, is this situation? Why are the protests from other workers alright but not this one? There is no logical, sensible explanation.

The past century has not been good to minimum wage workers. It’s not their fault. But they’re the ones getting ridiculously punished for it.

Regarding the second claim, “Increasing wages will increase the costs of what I pay for”, you’re being greedy, and so are employers, corporations, and middle-men. That’s all there is to it.

Let’s look at some numbers … in “How to Price your Restaurant Menu“, Lorri Mealey of gives the equation for calculating prices from food costs using the industry standard of 35% markup. But here’s the catch: Labor is not calculated as part of the food cost before the markup. What this means is that labor is stripped right off the profit margin, however low that might be. This is particularly troublesome for dishes where the labor cost might be higher due to more intensive prep work.

In the article “Cheat Sheet: Retail Markup on Common Items” by Kentin Waits on WiseBread we see that the markups for many items are much higher than for foodservice … clothing and shoes at least 100%, furniture and medicines upwards of 200%, eyeglasses better than 800% markup … but grocery is, interestingly enough, far less than that of menu prices at 5% – 25%.

The question arises: Why is food in general treated so differently when it comes to pricing than just about anything else?

In the Wall Street Journal, Sumathi Reddy has written quite an interesting piece on the subject of, “Unwanted New Item on Menu: Higher Prices“. The piece is rathering interesting in the context that the cost of labor isn’t mentioned once. Instead we see statements such as, “Increased food prices have hit the restaurant industry hard, causing some to pass on part of the cost to consumers for the first time since the recession …”, “… the $20 price increase instituted earlier this year [at Per Se] was due to overall increases in costs, ‘food being the most substantial.’ [general manager Anthony Rudolf] said it was the first increase since 2008 …”, and “… the cost of a case of eggplant has more than tripled, to $72 from about $20″.

Increases in labor costs are rarely mentioned, if ever. They’re certainly not accounted for, simply because those increases don’t exist.

Back here I discussed how milk prices have changed so little since 1975. Yup, same problem. It’s still ongoing, and workers at restaurants are suffering the same as farmers and their laborers.

In “Concession stand treats – a license to print money” by Paul Michael on WiseBread, Mr. Michael rants about the prices of concession foods:

“Be it a movie theater, zoo, church event or a local concert, you can expect to pay serious extra cash for a regular item. From the $5 bag of popcorn to the $4 corndog, these are premium prices for very ordinary foods. But you usually let it go, because you’re having a good time …  We’re talking a 97% profit margin on a simple Sno-Kone! … You could even hire someone to man the stand for you, at $8-$10 per hour you’ll easily cover the cost of that person’s salary with the huge markups you’re making from the menu.”

Head back on up to the cheat sheet on markups on common items. It’s on the same web site as Mr. Michael’s piece. Go ahead, I’ll wait … It’s easy to see that a 97% markup isn’t much at all when compared to other items. But less of a markup is expected only because food is involved. Otherwise Mr. Michael, you’d pay it without complaint just like everyone else. And if the markup was more inline with the rest, the food concession worker could then also get a competitive wage, if it were offered.

Again, in this post about the milk prices I’d stated specifically why I felt a gallon of milk should currently be $7.50 – $8, about triple what I’m paying at local grocery stores in SE Michigan/NW Ohio. Frankly, if foodservice workers, grocery floor staff and farmers were to actually make what they’re worth via a competitve wage, food prices across the board, from farmers to distributors, grocers, stand operators and restaurants, should also be at lease triple what they are. Those wages should also go up annually via cost-of-living increases and performance-related raises.

Think for a moment about the price of beef. But don’t think about what you pay for beef at the supermarket. Think about the fact that cattle farmers sell their animals whole, for a single price. A processor then partially breaks that animal down, with butchers completing the work later. The farmer doesn’t see the difference between 73/27 ground hamburger and the best cuts of steak reflected in his or her price. Those are set by other workers and managers later on in the process. So when you pay $2.99 for a one-pound chubb of hamburger, but then pay $7.99 per pound for a Porterhouse, it’s actually likely those came from a single animal for the same price, that price per pound to the farmer that spent time, energy, and money breeding and raising the thing, being less than that for the hamburger.

Meanwhile, you get upset, wanting to boycott the place, or yell and scream at some minimum-wage worker, if the price of your precious dollar menu item goes up by one iota, something they have zero control over, with the increases going into the owner’s or coporation’s wallet, not that of the workers, but you don’t care.

You not caring really is part of the problem. Figure it out.

As to that last claim, “Those people don’t work as hard as I do/aren’t educated like I am, and don’t deserve it”, you have a lot to learn.

Restaurant work is inherently dangerous, with long hours. Many shifts are 10, 12 or even 14 hours long, with workers sometimes being scheduled “open-to-close”, even on holdays and weekends when you’re off work. They have no “TGIF” like you do. If you’re at a family-owned restaurant, that may be the owner in the kitchen the entire time the place is open. Grills, broilers, salamanders, both deep fryers and pressure fryers, even rinse water are all at scalding temperatures that can injure, maim or even kill. Knifes, both flat and rotating, have to be kept as sharp as possible to cut correctly, and those that are rotating are moving extremely fast. Cleaning chemicals are highly toxic, and even basic chemicals such as bleach are used in large amounts. I’ve been cut, burnt and had my eyes clouded over too many times to count. I’ve had 350F fryer oil all over the back of my right hand just in simply adding new shortening into the fryer to top it off. And a friend’s face was disfigured by chemicals used to clean fryers, chemicals that were so hot as to sear him in a very short period of time.

Meanwhile, you want your fast food “fast”. Even in restaurants that don’t generally serve quicker, you want it now. So workers have to be quick. And you tend to forget you aren’t the only one there, so you get very demanding. The workers have numerous tickets in front of them, sometimes in the dozens, but that’s not something you care enough to consider. Well, I’ll tell you what, you need to consider it, especially since if you do this you don’t know what you’re talking about.

As to the worker’s education, what do you know about them? Nothing, that’s what. That kid in front of you may have aced their 11th grade calculus final while you were happy with an ‘A’ in algebra. They may be in their first year in the physics degree program at a nearby university, nailing all their courses, while you’re “only” an amazing self-taught finish carpenter. But still, who’s more educated? That 50-year-old at the register that you smirk about because of their “five-year” pin … How do you know if they were let go from a UAW position in automotive position in the 2008 crisis and can no longer get back into factory work because of age discrimination?

That’s right, you really haven’t a clue.

And as to the side issue of immigrants working in this country … A large part of the problem is that, not only do U.S. citizens consider restaurant and farm labor work to be mundane, below them and of a throw-away status, immigrants are more than ready to take their place. In The Nasty Bits Anthony Bourdain wrote:

The bald fact is that the entire restaurant industry in America would close down overnight, would never recover, if current immigration laws were enforced quickly and thoroughly across the board. Everyone in the industry knows this. It is undeniable. Illegal labor is the backbone of the service and hospitality industry–Mexican, Salvadoran and Ecuadoran in particular. To contemplate actually doing without is to contemplate mass closings, a general shake-out of individually owned and operated restaurants–and, of course, unthinkably (now) higher prices in the places that manage to survive. Considering that our economy and employment picture is now largely based on us selling hamburgers to each other, the ripple effects would be grave. … I suggest immediately opening up our borders to unrestricted immigration for all Central and South American countries. If the [Culinary Institute of America] grads don’t want to squat in a cellar prep kitchen for the first couple of years of their career, or are too delicate or high-strung or too locked into a self-image that precludes the real work of kitchens and restaurants, then they should just stand back and watch their competition from south of the border take those jobs for good. Everyone will end up getting what they deserve.

Americans, especially younger people, are largely unwilling to do the work (with wages possibly being a big factor), and the illegal immigrants are happy to step up to work harder for lower wages. But you scoff at all of them regardless, becuase you’re damn certain you’re better than they are.

You’re not.

Next time you want to complain about anyone else wanting a higher wage, stop thinking only about how that will affect you, and think instead about how to get it for them. Both history and current reality speak for themselves. You’re the arrogant one not thinking it through.

Recipe: Harvest Sautéed Green Beans

A serving of Harvest Sautéed Green Beans served with deer venison tenderloin medallions.

This is one of our go-to side dishes that seems to go with just about everything. It’s particularly good with meats, and game meats seem to suggest it. At that point it also goes very well with the wild rices and other grains that are generally served with game.

This recipe, however, gained some traction a couple weeks ago. On November 12th Flint Journal Entertainment Reporter Scott Atkinson posted that he was looking for a green bean recipe to include with the MLive Group’s statewide set of Thanksgiving recipes for the year. I submitted this recipe even though I’d never written it down … I was in such a hurry I ended up submitting it as follows:

Fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped to 2″ lengths
Toasted almonds
Dried cranberries
Trimmed and chopped green onions
Unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Fresh-ground black pepper
Granulated garlic

Melt the butter in a skillet. Sauté beans, cranberries and green onions 4 minutes, add almonds one more minute. Season to taste. Different amounts give different flavor profiles, experiment at will, for example, using chopped Vidalia onion instead of chopped green onion.

There was some discussion in the comments from other submitters that this wasn’t a green bean casserole. But Scott had never specified that’s what it had to be. By that Friday Scott had selected this recipe and asked me for a more complete version. I threw some guesstimates for measurements into a Word version, fleshed out the procedure a bit more, and sent it off.

The first warm surprise came in the form of the rest of the complete menu from across the state:

  • Apple Cider Brined Turkey, Ann Arbor: Chef Joe Flores of Full Circle Group, Zingerman’s Roadhouse and Frita Batidos
  • Michigan Salad, Detroit: Marilyn Thibodeau
  • Mashed Potatoes, Frankenmuth: Bavarian Inn
  • Sweet Potato Casserole, Kalamazoo: Karen Stowall, made by Chris Kidd, Chef de Cuisine at Rustica
  • Stuffing, Bay City: Vince Stuart, owner of downtown Bay City’s Stock Pot
  • Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins, Jackson: Mat Stedman of Mat’s Cafe and Catering
  • Cranberry Jell-O, Muskegon: Penny Larson
  • Apple Pie, Rockford: Julie Setlock, Julie’s Pies

I was certainly in excellent company here with these folks, some of them rather heavy-hitters. But MLive also included this description in the listing of included recipes:

We know how attached people are to the green bean casserole, and Flint is no exception. But taking the main ingredient out of the casserole and mixing it with less traditional pairings — like almonds and cranberries — added up to a side that could end up being the star of the show.


When Scott finally posted the official version of the recipe there were 19 photos, along with a video of the completed dish. He described the completed dish with the sentence “I expected this recipe to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was.” That kind of thing is always great to hear, or see.

This recipe works year round, as long as you can get the fresh green beans. If you feel you have to use frozen or canned beans, please … don’t bother.


Harvest Sautéed Green Beans
1 lb fresh green beans
½ cup green onions
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup slivered almonds
4 garlic cloves
4 tbsp unsalted butter
Kosher salt
fresh-ground black pepper

Rinse the green beans and break off the ends. Rinse and trim the green onions (leave the white bulb end for flavor) and chop to 1/4 ” length. Mince the garlic and set aside.

In a high-wall skillet or a wok, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is hot, sauté the green beans over medium-high heat about eight minutes. Add the chopped green onions and garlic and sauté one minute. Finally, add the slivered almonds and cranberries, season to taste, and sauté one more minute. Transfer to a glass bowl and serve hot.

Note: Different amounts and other ingredients give different flavor profiles. For example, try using chopped sweet Vidalia onion instead of chopped green onion, use toasted slivered almonds, try golden raisins instead of or with the dried cranberries, replace half the grean beans with 2″ lengths of grilled asparagus, etc. This is one of those recipes where measurements could be a handful of this and a pinch of that.

Recipe for “Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs”, a Flint Style Coney Sauce

After we’d discussed the conclusions of this test of Gillie’s recipe, Monica Kass Rogers updated her “Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs” recipe with a small-batch version that she likes. It’s definitely worth trying.

Most online recipes and recipes in-print are about as far from Abbott’s original sauce as they can possibly get. They involve ground hot dogs, kidney, or maybe haven’t been tested and should never be made.

Still, in scouring the web for variations and specific versions of recipes for Flint-style coney sauce, we’ve stumbled across what appears to be a “diamond in the rough”. This one is seriously as close to the original as we’ve seen so far …

Over on her Lost Recipes Found site, greater-Chicago-area food writer Monica Kass Rogers has posted what she wrote up as the recipe for “Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs“. Her notes on the recipe included the following statement:

“Gillie’s Coney Island [circa 1985 in Mt. Morris, Michigan] … shared this large-volume recipe for Flint-style Coney Island chili in a Michigan Restaurant Association cookbook more than 20 years ago.”

It turns out that, sometime in the 1980s (data seems to support 1987), the Michigan Restaurant Association did, in fact, publish a spiral-bound cookbook titled “A Taste of Michigan“. The timeframe for this book would support Rogers’ claim that the recipe is printed there. Until we receive a copy of the book we’ll refrain from further conjecture on our part …

It must be noted that Gillie’s Coney Island is currently showing an image of an Abbott’s Meat truck on their web site that indicates that’s where their sauce is coming from. Which sauce they’re actually serving at the moment remains to be seen.

There are a couple things uniquely interesting about the particular recipe Rogers posted on her site that illustrate a high level of authenticity. First of all, there’s the 10 lb of ground beef. This might seem extreme to a home cook. But anyone who walks into a GFS Marketplace store in Michigan, Ohio, or elswhere along the GFS “trail” to Florida, will find that’s the minimum amount of ground beef they can purchase there. This is because that’s the volume most restaurants base their GFS truck purchases on. Gillie’s would certainly specify this same amount.

More interesting, however, is the process for this recipe, i.e.:

  • Over medium heat, melt shortening. Heat until quite hot.
  • Add onion and saute for 1 minute
  • Add spices and stir, heating for 2 minutes
  • Add 10 lbs of hamburger; reduce heat to very low and cook for one hour

This is extremely interesting because it matches the description regarding the making of the Abbott’s sauce given by none other than Edward Abbott himself to an interviewer from the Flint Journal:

“According to Edward Abbott, who eighty plus years later is still making the ground meat base for Flint’s coney island sauce, the only meat ingredient is beef heart, regardless of the stories and rumors of other meat parts being used. Abbott’s added some seasoning … The sauce is made by boiling commercially prepared beef suet for several hours, then browning finely chopped onions in it and adding the spices and the meat. Taste varied according to the size of the chef’s hand … ‘They still sell the traditional sauce; the meat base … that has all the seasonings – cumin, chili powder, onions and the rest of the spices … The Abbott product has always been sold uncooked …’”

“Two to Go: A Short History of Flint’s Coney Island Restaurants”, 2007 by Florine, Davison & Jaeger (Genesee County Historical Society)

What this means is that someone at Gillie’s either read that same article/interview, or they used to work for Abbott’s or one of Abbott’s direct competitors. They then used the information from Abbott’s to create the recipe that was subsequently published in “A Taste of Michigan” and reposted by Monica Kass Rogers.

We’ll re-post it again here with Ms. Rogers’ kind permission, also assuming this is how it was published within the now out-of-print “A Taste of Michigan”. Once we find a copy of that book, we’ll ensure what’s listed here is updated to match those pages. And we’d like to thank Monica Kass Rogers for inadvertantly pointing us in the direction of this “diamond in the rough”.

Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs

Makes 10 lbs of chili

Flint-Style Chili Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup fine-diced onion
  • 3 Tbsp each paprika, cumin powder, chile powder
  • 10 lb extra-finely ground hamburger

Hot Dog Assembly Ingredients

  • hot dog buns
  • Koegel Vienna hot dogs
  • mustard
  • ketchup (optional, frowned upon by some)
  • diced sweet white onion
  • Gillie’s Coney Island Chili


  • Over medium heat, melt shortening. Heat until quite hot.
  • Add onion and saute for 1 minute
  • Add spices and stir, heating for 2 minutes
  • Add 10 lbs of hamburger; reduce heat to very low and cook for one hour
  • Assemble hot dogs: Grill hot dogs (preferably a Koegel Vienna dog from Flint, MI)
  • Place dogs in buns and top with Gillie’s chili, mustard, (ketchup optional) and raw diced sweet onion.

To be honest, this is a lot of Gillie’s coney sauce. If you eat coneys as much as we do this might be a worthwhile venture. But to be honest, the amount this makes simply isn’t at all “family friendly”. We’ll adjust these amounts to something that makes more sense for a home kitchen.

Ground beef it now specified in ratios of lean meat to fat. In most foods, especially burgers, we’ll use an 80/20 ground chuck. But for this sauce we’ll use more of a utility beef, a 73/27. Since it’s readily available in 3 lb. chubbs, that’s the amount we’ll adjust the recipe for and divide the other measurements by about a third.

Also, the spices simply specify “paprika”. Most people don’t realize there are numerous kinds of paprika available. If a cook happens to have the Hungarian style in their pantry and use it, the sauce will end up far too sweet. We’ll make sure to specify the more savory Spanish paprika.

But there’s also one other adjustment we want to make. This recipe calls for 1 1/2 cup shortening. When this recipe was apparently printed, shortening had different characteristics than it does now, back in the pre-trans fat ban era of the 1980s. Still, shortening is vegetable oil, not an animal fat, and we can certainly do better in the interest of flavor.

We can replace the shortening with lard to get better richness. But remember, lard is made from pig fat. Mr. Abbott specifically mention boiling beef suet for several hours, the result of which is beef tallow. This would certainly give the sauce a more accurate flavor profile. Premium edible beef tallow is readily available in jars from FatWorks. (It’s also available from Amazon at an inflated price, so we’ll go with ordering directly from FatWorks.) What we can do is specify both the lard and the tallow as options, forgoing the shortening completely.

The end result of these adjustments, along with modifying the list of ingredients to match currently-available products (and obviously ditching the ketchup), is below:

Gillie’s Coney Island Sauce (Home Version)

  • 1/2 cup edible beef tallow (available from FatWorks) or lard
  • 1/3 cup fine-diced white onion*
  • 1 Tbsp Spanish paprika
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin seed
  • 1 Tbsp mild chili powder
  • 3 lb 73/27 ground beef
  1. Over medium heat, melt the tallow or lard. Heat until very hot.
  2. Add onion and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add the spices and stir, heating for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the hamburger; reduce heat to very low and simmer for at least one hour to let the flavors develop. Stir regularly to ensure the meat is broken up to be as small as possible.
  5. Assemble hot dogs: Grill hot dogs (preferably a Koegel Vienna dog from Flint, MI.)
  6. Place dogs in steamed buns and top with Gillie’s chili, mustard, and raw diced onion.

* Notes:

  1. For the onions, just cut a couple medium onions about 1/8″ small chop, then set aside 1/3 cup for use in the sauce.


  1. This recipe turned out to be quite bland. During testing, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt was added to kick up the other flavors. Doubling the amounts of the spices would certainly help. But we’re not so sure paprika of any kind is a necessary part of the equation, while garlic powder or granulated garlic would certainly be a nice addition. So the spices should probably be 2 Tbsp ground cumin seed, 2 Tbsp mild chili powder and 1 Tbsp granulated garlic.
  2. The extremely dry and loose but greasy/oily nature of this particular sauce indicates the real need for the textured vegetable protein, i.e. soy flour, in the circa 1907 original Abbott’s sauce package. It’s obviously used there as a binder to give the sauce at least a bit of body. The Bob’s Red Mill version of soy flour is inexpensive, while cacker meal would also work.
  3. What this obviously does for this is to set up the direction for developing a recipe for recreating what’s in the circa 1907 original Abbott’s Flint coney sauce package at home in smaller batches.

Home Dishwashing: A Standard Operating Procedure

“What do you mean … I have to put dinner away when I do dishes? That’s can’t be an ‘implied’ rule, I don’t see that written down anywhere.”

And the pot containing cooked No. 3 spaghetti noodles mixed with sauce sat on the clean stove. The rest of the dishes were washed and air-drying while the former Marine just stood there with a smirk on his face.

Really?? Oh, he ain’t gonna like me …

I’m a rather fair technical writer. I wrote early video editing manuals at DeVry in 1985, then a few extremely detailed NAVAIR calibration procedures while in the Navy before moving on to assisting in the technical editing and some authoring of Microsoft Access and Visual Basic programming books for Wrox Press. So I can write me some techie stuff.

What’s he’d inadvertantly triggered was a Standard Operating Procedure for dishwashing at home. It took a few hours to nail down this morning based on what I’ve bitc … er … complained about in the past. But I do believe it’s all there. If not, there shall be revisions.

last updated June 30, 2014

1. Dishes should be washed each evening. 48 hours from the last washing is an outside time limit to prevent insect infestations, odors, and other issues.
2. Collect all dirty dishes from the living room and bedrooms. Stack dishes to the right of the sink. (If stacking also on the rangetop, first ensure the elements are turned off and cool to touch.)
3. Put the previous meal away, throwing away food as needed (i.e., if the food will not store well, such as cooked pasta without sauce). Ensure there are no open containers in the refrigerator. If there are, fix the problem as needed, asking for recommendations if necessary.
4. Put away the clean dishes from the last washing, stacking largest on the bottom to smallest on top, keeping pieces together, such as lids to travel mugs, grease catcher in the electric griddle, etc. If you don’t know where something goes or how it’s stored, ask.
5. Change the drying cloths, the wash cloth and scrubbing sponge you’ll be using, and any drying towels, putting the older ones in the laundry.
6. Clean the sink bowls with hottest possible water to touch, and dish soap if necessary.
7. Stop the right sink, add hottest possible water to touch till 2″ from the top (deep wash water distributes foodstuffs better), adding 2 tablespoons dishsoap halfway through.
8. Wash the drain rack and its drain surface in the right sink first, along with the counter underneath, rinsing the drain rack and its surface in the left sink under hottest possible running water to touch.
9. Wash dishes individually in the right sink, checking all surfaces, soaking only when necessary.
10. Check the inside of the microwave and wash the glass plate if necessary.
11. Rinse dishes in the left sink under hottest possible running water to touch.
12. Stack rinsed dishes in a safe manner, keeping pieces together, such as lids to travel mugs, grease catcher in the electric griddle, etc.
13. While washing, if more room is needed to continue stacking dishes in a safe manner in the dish drainer and on the drying towel space, towel-dry and put away the clean dishes, stacking largest on the bottom to smallest on top, keeping pieces together, such as lids to travel mugs, grease catcher in the electric griddle, etc. If you don’t know where something goes or how it’s stored, ask.
14. While final dishes are soaking in hot soapy water, clean the inside of the microwave (including the ceiling and carousel), rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap. Reassemble the microwave with the glass plate and carousel and close the door.
15. Clean the rangetop with hot soapy water, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap. This includes lifting the elements (first ensure they’re turned off and cool to touch) and cleaning the drip bowls.
16. Clean all counters and backsplashes with hot soapy water, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap, including under appliances, cutting boards, etc., and corners.
17. Clean the table with hot soapy water, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap.
18. Finish washing, rinsing and stacking any dishes left to soak. NOTE: There should be zero dishes left soaking at this point.
19. Drain both sink bowls, putting rinsed and clean drain stops upside down on the back of the sink top. Clean the sink bowls, faucet and faucet area with hottest possible water to touch, and dish soap if necessary, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap.
20. Rinse dishcloths and scrubbing sponges in running hottest possible water. Wring out and lay out dishcloths to dry. Wring out scrubbing sponges and place on the back of the sink top next to the clean drain stops.
21. If the Keurig was unplugged, plug it in and turn it on. Ensure water tank is filled to the Fill line, and if it isn’t, fill it and reattach it to the Keurig with the lid on correctly.
22. Take the garbage out (including items next to the trash can, and any trash in the bathroom trash basket). Put a new trash bag in the trash can correctly for use and place the lid correctly.

Me: Well, whadaya think?
Ryan: I’m still reading …
Me: You hate me, don’t you?
Ryan: I’m still reading …

Yeah, they don’t like very much, do they? Meanwhile, Mary and I are still laughing.