Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sausage Party

I think I got the ultimate compliment last night when my mother told me that I really needed to write down the recipe for what I made - my riff on Italian Sausage and Peppers. So here's the recipe:

Joe's Kinda Sorta Italian Sausage and Peppers


1 to 1.5 lbs. Italian sausage, or 6 links - I use a large link sausage I get at Costco, but any good sausage will do.
1 medium onion, halved then sliced thinly, but not too thinly
3 green bell peppers, cut into matchstick-sized slices
12 pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in half lengthwise
4 - 5 cloves garlic, minced
2 15oz. cans of tomato sauce
2 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. grated Romano cheese


(It's optional to break up the sausage if you have links, but not necessary.)

Add one tablespoon olive oil to a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat, then brown the sausage and remove the sausage. Add the second tablespoon of oil to what oil is still in the pan, then add the onions, peppers, and olives, and cook until the onions have become translucent - about 6 to 8 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the garlic has begun to take on a little color. Return the sausage to the pan, then add the tomato sauce and cook for a few minutes. Add in the Italian seasoning and balsamic vinegar, and cook just until the sauce begins to bubble up. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, then add the Romano cheese just before serving.

Recipe should make six servings.


If you broke up the sausage, I'd serve it on top of a noodle pasta like fettucine, or perhaps a tubular pasta like penne. If you kept the sausage whole, a good idea would be to warm up some good rolls in the oven, then split them and brush the inside of the roll with some melted garlic butter (quick recipe: melt a stick of butter in the microwave, then add a teaspoon of garlic powder, and give the mixture a few minutes to let the garlic permeate). Drop a sausage in the bun, top it with the sauce and a little more romano cheese, then enjoy with a nice salad or coleslaw on the side.


Monday, April 23, 2012

How To Make A Bomb In Your Kitchen

A Mighty Bacon Bomb, that is.

There are really three ways of making a Bacon Bomb, otherwise known as a bacon-wrapped meat loaf. The simplest method is to just take your own meat loaf recipe, and before you put the loaf in its pan, layer the bottom of the pan with slices of bacon (otherwise known as rashers), and lay a few more on top of the loaf should the rashers on the bottom of the pan not be able to reach all the way around. Other than maybe adding a few more minutes' cooking time, you can follow your own recipe pretty much to the letter.

But here's how I make the Mighty Bacon Bomb.


2 - 2.5 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. pork sausage - for even more bacony goodness, try Farmland's Pork & Bacon Sausage
1 twelve-ounce package of bacon - preferably not thick-sliced
1 medium onion, finely diced (optional: 1 green bell pepper, finely diced, or a can of diced green chilis)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 - 1.5 cups Panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs) or regular unseasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs

Barbecue Sauce/Glaze
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. yellow mustard
1 - 2 dashes of the hot sauce of your choice (Tabasco or Sriracha work best)
A few drops of liquid smoke


Set aside the bacon. Combine all the other loaf ingredients in a large bowl and knead together until the mixture is relatively homogenous, but don't over-mix.

Here's where things get interesting. Since this is such a large recipe, a regular loaf pan may not work all that well. Usually, I put the loaf into a large rectangular (8" x 11" or so) casserole dish. Then I lay down rashers of bacon on top of the loaf, lengthwise. Then I weave the remaining rashers into the lengthwise strips - basically making a mat of bacon. I snip off the excess of the second set of rashers, and use them to fill in any gaps in the mat and make it look relatively even.

But tonight, at Joy's behest, I tried using a regular loaf pan. What I did was line the bottom of the pan with bacon like I mentioned at the top of this article, put the mixture inthe pan, then covered the top with more bacon. The loaf went into a preheated 400-degree oven. Because of the thickness of the loaf, I wound up taking nearly 90 minutes to cook it through to an internal temperature of about 160 degrees, and dropping the oven down to 350 degrees to keep the outside of the loaf from burning.

From here on out, we'll go back to using the casserole dish for our example. After putting the loaf mixture in the casserole dish and assembling the mat, cover the loaf in a layer of tinfoil and place in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine the barbecue sauce ingredients in order over medium heat and cook until the sauce just starts to bubble up, about eight to ten minutes or so. Drop the heat to low and let the sauce simmer.

When the timer on the oven goes off, take about half a cup of your sauce and put it in a ramekin. Pull the loaf from the oven, and drain off as much of the fat as possible to a suitable container. (NOTE: You may have to do this more than once during the cooking process. A good safety measure would be to have a cookie sheet under the cooking vessel to catch any fat that drips from the cooking vessel.) Bring the loaf up to the stove top, remove the foil, and brush the loaf with the sauce in the ramekin. Return the loaf to the oven without the foil for another fifteen minutes, or until the loaf hits an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Pull the loaf out of the oven, and let it stand for a few minutes before slicing it thin for serving. This recipe should serve five or six adults, with leftovers for sandwiches the next morning.

Here's what my loaf looked like tonight in a regular loaf pan:

Just a big ol' nasty mess, ain't it? But damn it, it tastes good! This is family cooking for the family that just loves food, and is willing to work that Mighty Bacon Bomb off later that night, or the next day. In fact, I think I'll take a nice walk...... once the Mighty Bacon Bomb coma wears off. Cheers!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Soccer In The South?

Sorry if I've neglected you here on this other side of my brain. Nothing has really grabbed me that much, enough to put it into this blog. But as I wrote this post on the comment threads at ESPN's website, I realized that I had a good blog post here, so here's what I wrote:

What nobody is really talking about is why there won't likely be any expansion in MLS beyond 20 franchises. It isn't a matter of what cities would make good homes for potential franchises. It isn't stadium issues, dilution of talent pools, promotion/relegation, or anything like that. Here's what the issues are, in no particular order.

1.) FIFA is mandating that domestic first-division leagues limit themselves to no more than twenty teams, in order to ease schedule congestion for clubs and national teams alike, and to ease demands on players. This mandate came up about a year or two ago, and didn't get noticed much beyond a few press reports. In theory, MLS could potentially expand beyond twenty teams because of the multinational nature of the North American soccer structure - MLS, NASL, and USL clubs represent five FIFA member nations (US, Canada, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Antigua & Barbuda) - therefore requiring a need to expand beyond twenty first-division teams to encompass those nations. But I don't think MLS would want to risk incurring the wrath of FIFA over the issue and risk penalizing the leagues and national teams. FIFA has already been pushing MLS to move to a traditional (fall-to-spring) schedule for several years now as it is, and its quite likely that had the Russian FA not offered to, and did move its top two divisions from their usual summer schedule to the traditional fall-to-spring schedule, FIFA may not have awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia.

2.) Past failures loom large in the MLS front office. Remember, the entire concept of MLS as a single-entity organization instead of an alliance of like-minded individual organization is because of the spectacular flameout of the original NASL. The structure of the league was created with the specific purpose of spreading out financial losses and gains as widely as possible, so no single organization could either dominate or decimate the league as a whole by its financial superiority or lack thereof. And MLS' folding of Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion FC was arguably the league's nadir, when nobody was really sure if the league would last much longer - even those within the MLS front office. Since then, the league has improved, largely due not only sound leadership, but to the number and quality of investor/operators (don't call them owners) brought into the fold, people who understand the game and understand that success doesn't just come overnight - unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, of course. That said, there really hasn't been that much interest from the kind of people who can afford things like MLS franchises in the Southeast, outside of Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who has publicly stated that he was interested in joining MLS and bringing a franchise to Atlanta. Fans can say whatever they want about what city is most deserving, but fans can't pony up the US$100m expansion fee MLS is supposedly asking for the rights to that 20th franchise.

3.) Here's the big one for me: Can an MLS franchise draw in more than just the hardcore soccer fan in the Southeast? You might think I'm full of it with my other points, but we can all agree on this - in the Southeast, SEC football and NASCAR are king. Even the NFL plays second- or even third-fiddle to the SEC and NASCAR in most of the South. If you think I'm crazy, I've got two words for you: Jacksonville Jaguars. Miami and Tampa Bay have had attendance problems as well, and the only reason New Orleans and Atlanta are succesful in the stands is because they're successful on the field. (NOTE: I'm not really including Carolina here, because as past commenters have noted, North Carolina is really more mid-Atlantic than Southern, though NC is the heart and soul of NASCAR) What I'm getting at is this: would an MLS franchise in the Southeast be able to lure in the average sports fan, a man who's heard of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo from SportsCenter, but likely wouldn't be able to pick either out of a lineup of Buddhist monks?

To close, MLS returning to the Southeast reminds me a lot of the NHL's expansion into the Sun Belt in the 90's. While it's worked in some markets, like Dallas and Tampa Bay, it's been a miserable failure in others (I'm looking at you, Phoenix and Atlanta). It will have to take the right owner in the right city. For the time being, my money is on none of the above. the more likely option for the Southeast won't be getting a 21st or 22nd franchise - even if MLS chose to expand that far. MLS returning to the Southeast will also not likely be something along the lines of its recent expansion, cherry-picking the most successful second-division clubs from the NASL and USL - if that were the case, either Rochester or Charleston would be in MLS by now. Instead, it'll likely mean an existing franchise moving to an Atlanta, New Orleans or a Florida market. I'll go out on a limb and say that Atlanta would be the best place, with ownership and facilities already in place.