Category Archives: cooking

Vegetarian Goetta? Aw, heck yeah! I got your recipe right here!

Cincinnati is a strange place.

Strange customs. Strange sayings. Strange food.

Mmmm. The food!

Having gone vegetarian a number of years ago, I rarely ‘miss’ meat. I don’t really even think about it anymore. But there are things that I do miss from back home like Gold Star Chili, Graeter’s Ice Cream, and Goetta.

Now, Goetta’s definitely a strange one, and it’s uniquely Cincinnati in the sense that, besides scrapple in the NJ / DC corridor, you won’t hear about this elsewhere or even have a reference for what it’s similar to. The traditional recipe is a combination of leftover pork (post-processing), steel cut oats, onions, and a variety of other spices, the likes of which vary from family to family / recipe to recipe. I’ve not had goetta in a good number of years because of the vegetarian journey I’ve been taking, but that all changed last year when my Dad took me to Melt in Cincinnati’s Northside community. They had a vegetarian Goetta sandwich that was absolutely divine.

And it drove me nuts. Being in Pensacola, FL makes it difficult to stock up on this stuff, so I did what I usually do when there’s something I really want to eat again but cannot afford it or cannot obtain it: I figure out how to make it.

It took 7-8 test batches before landing on the following recipe, an amalgam of several traditional goetta recipes, some vegetarian cooking common sense, and a few ideas offered by family and friends. Let me reiterate this: goetta does not have a single, end-all recipe, so what follows is simply what I’ve come to enjoy for any number of reasons.

Rustypants’ Vegetarian Goetta

1 c Steel Cut Oats
1 c Bulgur Wheat
1/2 lg onion, pureed
6 tbsp real butter
2 c vegetable broth
1.5 tsp poultry seasoning
1.5 tsp ground sage
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/2 c cooking sherry
1/2 tsp pepper flakes (or more or less)
2 bay leaves
Salt
Pepper

1. Soak the oats and wheat together in water for 4-5 hours. Drain leftover water.

2. Add all the ingredients together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium / medium-low and continue to boil, stirring frequently (say, every 5-7 minutes). Mixture will begin to thicken after a while and won’t “boil” any longer, but it’s still not done. Maintain the heat and stir frequently. Keep stirring. Keep cooking. Nope. It’s still not done. That’s right – keep stirring. Keep cooking.

Now, here’s the trick: You want your goetta to stay together, right? So you can slice it and cook it in a loaf-like way. Well, your mixture needs to become thicker than wallpaper paste. Thicker than glue. It needs to be so thick that you’re wondering how much more you can possibly stir it. It doesn’t need to be dry like play-doh, but it needs to be difficult (way difficult) to stir. There can’t be any “juice” left, just a paste-like consistency. (I’m gonna say that the double-batch of this recipe takes no less than an hour from the time I put all the ingredients together in the pot and when it’s finished)

3. While you’re waiting, get a 9×9 square glass pan, spray some Pam (or spread some butter) in the pan. Once you’ve determined it’s done, you need to pop that stuff right into the pan, smooth it out on top, let it sit on the counter for an hour or two and cool off, then saranwrap that sucker, pop it in the fridge and let it “set” for at least 8 hours.

4. In the morning, slice that loaf up into 1/2″ slices, put some butter in a pan, and fry the hell out of it!

Mmmm-mmm! You just made some damn fine goetta!

 

A photo posted by scott (@rustypants) on

going greens

lard.jpgwhen you’re the youth pastor at a predominantly african-american church, you come to appreciate the after-church lunches and potlucks more than you do in your traditional white churches.

white church potlucks are predictable affairs – lasagna, waldorf salad, baked beans, some kind of spaghetti cassarole, sandwich rollups bought at sam’s club, desserts bought at the local grocery store. it’s always good, but it’s rarely about the food and more about the company.

but when you hear that your local black baptist church is having a meal after morning service? oh, honey, you better be there! home-made fried chicken, hog maws, butter beans, cornbread, homemade macaroni and cheese, some kind of barbeque, home-cooked pies, cookies – oh, well, this is what i remember.

but my personal favorite dish at these meals was collard greens. the mouth waters at the thought.

my pastor, chris, thought he was The Man when it came to greens. and his greens were good, no doubt, but they just… well, they didn’t hit it. he’d make a bushel of greens each time, but i always hoped that one of the ladies would make theirs and bring it, too – there was something… missing from chris’ greens. he and i argued about this mystery ingredient, but having never made greens myself, i couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

about a year after being at New Creation, chris and i went to our semi-regular lunch at Millie’s over in madisonville. now look: if you want to have soul food done right, and you can’t make it to the church lunch? Millie’s is THE place.

so there we are, sitting in millie’s and i’m begging millie’s sister for a double helping of her greens (my FAVORITE greens of all time), when The Discussion about what’s lacking in chris’ greens comes up.

“my greens are better than this!”
“no, they ain’t – this is The Greens, man! you need to ask her how she does this so you can finally make a GOOD mess of greens some sunday morning!”
“psh, i soak those things 24 hours and add all these spices and cook them to a loving perfection…”
“dude, your greens are good but…”
“you need to stop talkin’ trash about my greens!”
“if you knew how to make ‘em right, i’d have less to talk about and more to eat!”

millie’s sister comes back out and i drag her into the argument. chris relents and they begin to share recipes. chris lists his ingredients and his methods for cleaning and soaking and preparing. she nods with approval every step of the way, until…

“how much lard do you put in them?”
“LARD? i don’t put ANY lard in my greens!” he replied.
“oh, honey, i see what the problem is now. i put two pounds of lard in for each bushel of greens.”

chris and i share a “look” – his look is one of astonishment. my look is one of epiphany.

chris never did make a great mess of greens even after hearing this. but i know now that the trick to good collard greens?

rendered hog fat. lots of it. and save some room for the collards!

spice snob (and an endorsement)

when we finally got the house sold and had to go up and pack, i knew there was going to be trouble in the kitchen. one of the things we loved about this kitchen was the amount of cabinet space, and this made for a collection of spices and goodies that i could have only dreamt of previously.

one favorite from friends and the wife alike is my Garlicky Spicy Worcestershire Burgers. besides huge amounts of garlic, various spices (ain’t tellin – you’ll have to come to p-cola and visit – i’ll make you some and you can guess), and lean ground beef, the key ingredient is worcestershire. and not just ANY worcestershire. it has to be lea & perrins. there was a time when i would have used an inferior brand but those days have been long gone.

worcestershire.gifbut about a month ago, i’m at the store and keeping my eyes peeled in the spice section, what do mine eyes spy?

tobasco brand worcestershire sauce with the red / white word… SPICY at the bottom.

oh. my. gosh.

this adds a new dimension to the burgers. it adds new dimension to seafood sauce. soups. salads. just about anything you can add worcestershire to – MMmmmm…

now, i ought to add here: i do NOT like Tobasco sauce. i think it’s a cheap heat and not a very good one. i don’t use it. i don’t own any. i don’t like it on wings. i’m not impressed with it in any way, shape, or form.

but they have a new group of sauces that have come out in the last 10 years or so that are just divine – a spicy soy sauce / spicy teryaki sauce / chipotle sauce – and now this.

i’m quite impressed. and you ought to give it a shot.

and if you ask nicely, i’ll give you my garlicky burger recipe. email me at youthdude at gmail.com

a man is nothing without his grill

“don’t be silly,” she said. “when we have a little extra money, we’ll buy a new one.”

i knew she was mocking me, even if only lightly. the look on her face combined with the tone of her voice told me what i already knew: women just don’t understand.

when we moved to pensacola, we had three cars worth of stuff packed and that was it. in subsequent trips back to cincinnati, we’d load whichever car we had with whatever we could stuff in it and drive back with a few more of our precious possessions.

and on each of our return trips there was a small, slight, pleading voice calling me from the back yard.

i did what i could to ignore it. i’d hum. i’d crank the tunes louder and louder. i’d try and distract myself from the sound. eventually i began hearing the voice calling me down here in p-cola. sleepless nights spent trying to block out the voice, thrashing to and fro under the covers led to serious bouts of insomnia. a nervous twitch developed just under my right eye. the slightest whiff of a barbecue being lit sent my brain into a paroxysm of uncontrollable mental anguish. like a man whose arm has been amputated, the phantom limb cried out and i could feel the missing appendage tho’ it be seven hundred miles north, oh, sweet heavens, when will this torture end, when???

i knew before i broached the subject that i had to tread carefully. women, you understand, like the outcome but rarely understand the process and manly ego involved in grill cooking.

“so, i’m thinking that this next trip up to cincy… our list this time is really short. i ought to have a good amount of room leftover for my drive back.”

“that’s nice, dear. be nicer to drive without all that stuff in the back seat blocking the window.”

“yeah! but hey, i’m thinking that i’ll take a shot at bringing the grill down with me. if i can get it taken apart and i can clean it up good, lay a cloth down and bring it down in pieces and that way…”

and i could tell by the look on her face that everything after “bringing the grill down” was being translated as “blah blah blah blah…” and this is when she said it.

“don’t be silly,” she said. “when we have a little extra money, we’ll buy a new one.”

now, i knew she was going to say it. i had a script prepared in my mind and had rehearsed it in five different possible scenarios to convince her and show her that i’m not silly and that i was hurting, hurting in a deep, psychological, but almost physical way. but her gaze… oh, lord, her gaze shut me down. i went mute. drool pooled up at the front of my mouth and i barely shut it in time before it slopped over the front of my shirt.

“duh, uh, well… er, see… i mean…”

but by the time i regained my footing, it was too late. i could see by the smug look on her face that she chalked up another one to good old fashioned female reasoning. it took some doing but my fractured ego was taped back together and as i arrived in cincinnati a fortnight hence, the small, pleading voice had become a shrill scream.

the grill demanded satisfaction, it demanded a sacrifice. “take me to p-cola and cook on me or be cooked, sucker!

as i took WD-40 to this 7 year old rusted, wobbly beast of a grill, i realized too late that i was to be the sacrifice!

jenny, our friend and neighbor, saw me fighting with the fused screws and gave me the same look that lise had given me. it was as though they had spoken via some internal woman-cam and a collaboration on the destruction of the fragile male condition was underway.

this, my friends, was like throwing propane on my fiery soul. i would not be mocked again!!

and two hours later, disheveled, bleeding, cold, filthy, unable to feel my right hand, and a second twitch doing a jig under my left eye, i emerged from the garage with the look of a crazed maniac. holding high the left leg assembly, i turned in triumph to jenny, playing with her children in their yard, and proclaimed in a loud voice, “A MAN IS NOTHING WITHOUT HIS GRILL!!!” and collapsed in a heap on the lawn.

*2 days later*

the-grill.jpgas i arrive back in pensacola, my wife rolls her eyes slightly at the grill-in-fifty-pieces and gives me that what-is-it-with-these-barbarians look and leaves me to cart the pieces to the patio of the apartment. my psyche lay in shards and i begin to doubt my own sanity until…

…until the first taste of scott’s famous garlic / worcestershire / dozens of unnamed spices / port wine cheese burgers touch her tongue and she utters in a flushed and breathless voice,“mmmm… these are delicious… oh! i’ve missed them!”

“i know,” i think to myself vaingloriously, “i know.”