Category: Food Blogs

My Food Bucket List Suggestion: How Many Have You Had?


Number 49 on the list, handmade Coarse Liverwurst (Liver Sausage) from Kilgus Meats in Toledo, Ohio. I just eat the stuff by itself, no sandwich required.

In December 2006 shortly after starting this blog over at the Monroe News web site, I fell victim to the whole “Foodie Quiz” thing and wrote one myself. Looking back at it now I can see how ridiculous the concept is. The fact is, there’s no way to really define the thing people call a “foodie” because our cultures are different, we were raised in different environments, and to be perfectly blunt, it’s completely unfair to write any kind of “foodie evaluator” that excludes considerations for vegetarians, vegans, Kosher upbringings, or any other nuances in the culture of the person taking your quiz.

A few days ago some online friends posted a link to a so-called “foodie quiz”, one that was supposed to be a test of some “rare foods” the quiz-taker might have had. It was entirely boneheaded, completely ludicrous, including staples such as BBQ ribs, pulled pork, maple syrup … and then threw in “purple ketchup”, which is nothing more than a novelty item from Heinz. The “quiz” set my teeth on edge.

A lot of the “foodie quizes” out there, and sadly my own from seven years ago included, assume the people who score the highest are “better” at enjoying food than people who score lower. That’s simply untrue. A lot of folks who would never touch a lot of things are actually better educated about the foods they do focus on. That should mean something.

So, I decided something had to be done. Someone needed to make a list people might look at and think “Hey, some of these things might be kinda cool. I think I’ll try that.” Or maybe even “Oh yeah, I remember grossing my sister out when I ate that, and it’s real food!”

I decided to develop a list of a hundred items (frankly an arbitrary number), none of which could be called “rare” but possibly located in just few areas. These would be foods I think people should take the time to try at least once, not an actual measure of anything whatsoever.

When it came right down to it, it became what I’d like to consider to be my own suggestion for a “Food Bucket List”, a list of foods I think people should try before … well … you know …

In letting those online folks who knew about the purple ketchup fiasco know about what I was doing, I did take some suggestions from them. They’re either fellow tech writers or fellow food enthusiasts whose opinions I value. Some of their suggestions did make it into the list.

After releasing the Food Bucket List on November 7th I got a nice surprise. My own score on the list, also the number of items on the list that I’ve tried (the items that are bolded), is currently 54%. However, my son Adam who’s now a U.S. Marine ended up with the current high score of 57%. Part of that is not only my insistence that my kids try everything at least once, but also that since his orders have taken him to Japan and Korea, when he was in Okinawa he’s actually had a meal of real Kobe beef that was stuffed with foie gras. And then … ummm … drizzled with chocolate. He picked that over shallot butter. Go figure … But regardless of that, he specifically ordered a food that I may never be able to enjoy since it’s only available there. That makes me proud of what I’ve taught him about food.

On the other end of the spectrum is one of the tech writing leads (says she’s a “Manager” … supposedly that’s a better title …) at Symantec Corp. She’s a vegetarian and scored 9%. I might give her a hard time about that (and I do!) but the honest truth is that she does seriously enjoy food her way, and her own Food Bucket List is going to look completely different from mine. And that’s fine with me. Just don’t tell her I said that.

There are no right or wrong answers in this one. But remember, if you don’t try something just because you’re squeamish, there are people around the world who likely eat that particular item on a regular basis because either that’s their culture and heritage, or they’re simply so poor that that’s all that’s available to them. Think about it before dissing something completely.

So check out my Food Bucket List and use the comment section below to let us know how you did. And maybe why you scored a certain way. Because when it comes right down to it, that’s really the interesting part.

The Chateau Burger, Re-visited

A couple weeks ago I posted this photo of the one-pound burger at the Chateau Louise here in Luna Pier. A short while ago, the folks at A Hamburger Today in NYC re-posted this photo for New Yorkers to see. They also copied the photo and their commentary from the post on A Hamburger Today onto Serious Eats, which is run by NYT’s food writer and occasional Iron Chef judge Ed Levine. Reader comments over there on the east coast are already interesting, with one reader refering to the burger in this photo as, “clearly a cow core sample”. Looking at this photo is making me hungry for one of these things all over again … yes, you’re right, absolutely … half of one …

Recipe from Pel-Freez: Rabbit & Sausage Gumbo

Over on the Home Life blog here on BlogsMonroe.com, Sarah asked an interesting question a couple weeks ago:

Lately my husband and I have been considering raising rabbits as a meat source for our family … I like the idea of raising our own meat as we know how it was cared for, what it was fed, and how it was processed … And there are a ton of recipes out there for rabbit that seem delicious. Care to share your own?

I don’t have any of my own because, up until now, I’ve not cooked rabbit. I’ve eaten plenty, that’s for sure. If you look at the first comment on Sarah’s post, that’s my oldest son there. He and I both really like rabbit, as do his brothers and sister.

But my wife Mary has always reacted negatively to the possibility of eating rabbit … that is, until now.

Last week in response to Sarah’s question, I headed over to the Pel-Freez web site and ordered their free cookbook. As Mary browsed through this booklet a couple days ago, the recipe for Rabbit & Sausage Gumbo caught her eye. Before I could even wrap my brain around the possibility of cooking rabbit, she had half the ingredients for the gumbo in a shopping cart!

Once Mary had almost everything together, I headed out and picked up 3-1/4 pounds of the necessary frozen domestic rabbit.

But there was something missing. The filé powder.

Now this filé powder stuff doesn’t look like much. You don’t even add it until it’s time to serve the dish. But it was likely necessary. Had I ever had it in any of the gumbo I’d eaten here in the Great White North? I haven’t a clue. What the Heck is it anyway, the stuff you scrape off a French file?

Wait, it’s … what?? Ground sassafras leaves? Huh … I’d never heard of such a thing. Sassafras goes in root beer … some tea, but … gumbo? Well, alright, if you insist …

Try to find filé powder, aka Gumbo Filé, in SE Michigan/NW Ohio. Go ahead, I dare ya’.

Yesterday morning I was on the road over two hours looking for filé powder. I’d discovered Zatarain’s makes some so that’s the one I went looking for. I went to two Kroger’s, a GFS Marketplace, Lee William’s House of Meats, The Anderson’s … Staff at these stores kinda looked at me funny (I would have too), and tried to even correct me … “filet powder?” … “phyllo powder?” … “flea powder?” … yeah, sure, I put flea powder in my gumbo, don’t you??

So I’m wandering through the Sofo Foods store in north Toledo wondering why the hey I’m wandering through an Italian food supplier’s shop looking for something Creole-specific, when I suddenly stopped.

At the bottom of this page someone had written:

**Update** I recently noticed a container of Tony Chachere’s Filé powder at the store and picked some up. It’s the real deal, pure Sassafras, just like my homemade. Highly recommended!

Well I’ll be fo-shizzled. That’s exactly what I was staring at! Tony Chachere’s Gumbo Filé, in Sofo Foods in north Toledo. Who woulda thunk it??

After grabbing the Tony Chachere’s brand and heading up M-24 back toward Michigan, I had this crazy thought. Right there, south of the state line is The Fish Market I blogged about late last week. I had this thought, that maybe I should make some seafood gumbo at some point. I mean, there was enough filé powder there for …

D’OH!!!

I hit the brakes, parked the van and headed into The Fish Market. Steve Gale was behind the counter, and I asked if he had any filé powder. “Sure do, it’s right there”, he said, pointing at some glass jars on the counter.

I really need to not do these kinds of funky ingredient searches before ingesting enough caffeine for the day …

This evening as Mary tried this dish she just fell in love with it. She actually said, “Honey I get the feeling this is going to become one of my favorites, something I ask you to make.” Sounds good to me! This stuff is nice and chunky, the veggies al denté, the rabbit nice and tender, a spot of heat from the cayenne, and the amazing smell and flavor of sassafras, all rolled into one seriously-nice dish.

Mary didn’t like the thought of eating rabbit. She’s had this, and wants more, as do I. If you’re leary of trying rabbit for whatever reason, here’s where to start enjoying it.

That is, after you track down the danged filé powder …

Special thanks to the kind folks at Pel-Freez Rabbit Meat, Inc. for their express permission for me to post their recipe here at Luna Pier Cook.

Rabbit and Sausage Gumbo
From “Recipes from Around The World: Rabbit, An International Delicacy”
Used with permission of
Pel-Freez Rabbit Meat, Inc., Rogers, Arkansas

2-1/2 to 3 lbs Pel-Freeze Rabbit, thawed
6 cups water
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
6 oz Kielbasa (or other smoked sausage) cut in 1/2 ” pieces
1/2 lb okra, cut in slices
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 16 oz can peeled tomatoes
2 tsp filé powder

In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, simmer rabbit, salt and pepper in water for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Remove rabbit from broth and let cool. Remove meat from bone in large pieces and return meat to broth in pan. In a skillet, heat oil. Sauté onion, pepper, celery and garlic for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add sausage, okra, cayenne, thyme and bay leaf. Continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes. Add vegetable mixture and tomatoes to rabbit. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in filé the last few minutes before serving. Serve over rice with a green salad and crusty French bread. Serves 4 to 6. Gumbo can be frozen, but filé should not be added until just before serving.

Recipe: More On Batali’s Babysitter’s Green Sauce

In the past few days I’ve posted more than once about Chef Mario Batali’s babysitter’s Chicken with Green Sauce, how easy it is to make, how wonderful it tastes, and yesterday, how versatile it can be. But I have a confession to make. There’s a reason the sauce never looked quite green enough in the photos I’ve posted: The tomatillos Briahna and I had picked up were probably on their last legs. Kinda yellowish, actually, and more wrinkles than a California raisin. To be sure, tomatillos aren’t grown too many places here in Michigan. The ones we get up here … well, we’re lucky to get fresh ones, if we can get them at all. Mary had never heard of tomatillos until this past Saturday, and as I’ve found out, neither had a lot of folks. I’d seen them and had been curious, but had never done anything with them until Saturday.

So imagine my pleasant surprise this morning, while I was at the Kroger down in Point Place, Ohio, when I found the produce guy with a new box of tomatillos. Where he’d gotten them, I have no clue. The box was labeled “Old El Paso Chili Peppers”, so that didn’t help. But as you can see, the husks aren’t too brown, and inside, the tomatillo fruits are a wonderful shade of green.

These tomatillos sure look like apples, don’t they? They’re almost the same shade of green as the serrano chiles the recipe also calls for. A few of the tomatillos had some shallow wrinkles, but until you husk them, there’s no way of knowing this. Three pounds of tomatillos, with only a few being slightly wrinkled … yeah, I’d call that good.

If you haven’t handled tomatillos before, when you husk them you’ll find the outside of those not yet fully ripened a bit on the sticky side. That’s alright, don’t worry about it. Just give them a quick rinse to get any dirt off.

All this sauce needed was a quick fly-through with a Fritos Scoop, which happened to be on its way to my mouth.

A few thoughts on this recipe:

  • The yield is between six and seven cups of sauce. However, that’s after blending. My residential blender only has an eight cup pitcher. I had to add as much blanched veggies as I could and still close the blender’s lid, knock it down a bit with the “Pulse” function, then add the rest of the veggies before finishing in the blender.
  • No, nothing’s seeded, not the tomatillos nor the chiles. I simply cut the tops off the chiles and added them to the boiling water with the rest.
  • I can see countless possibilities for this sauce, from the sauté liquid for the chicken as it was used originally, to the sauce for the pork from yesterday, to the basis for a salsa verdé, even as the topper on a seriously-interesting Latina-style omelet.

All these reasons were good enough to drive me to make more of this stuff. Dorothy, Ms. Squires … if you want some, come and get it! But of course, bring your own jars …