Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tribute to the 13 Colonies Parts VII, VIII and IX: Virginia Sweet Heat Pork Chops with Carolina Sweet Tea BBQ Sauce

I've been on a short hiatus from the blog.  It's nice to be back. 

I don't mean to rush the summer along or the summer series for that matter.  When I started to think about what regional recipes I would write for the colonies of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, the cuisines seemed similar to me so I decided to incorporate all three into one nice dinner post. 

Here are a few pictures that Dan and I took on our trip to the Biltmore in Ashville, through the moutains, and into Virginia to the NASCAR race.

Virginia, of course, is the oldest colony. North Carolina and South Carolina were once considered one in the same and . One thing is clear, though settlements, wars and time, the region is as diverse as any other in the US.

Not to take anything away from these three beautiful and diverse states, but I understand from my friend, Janice, who lives in North Carolina that the Carolina region takes such great pride her barbecue that there are actually disagreements as to the components of the sauce.  I do not want to cause any big controversy so I decided to compromise between the vinegar and a mustard-based champions.  And in honor of legendary comedian Andy Griffith who passed away recently, I added a twist to the sauce that I am sure "Aunt Bee" would love, plus an extra surprise -- sweet tea!

Do try both the rub and the sauce together as they compliment each other.  You will note that the sauce has all sweet characteristics while the spice is in the rub. 

I recommend a light side dish to go along so that you can enjoy two chops.  If you select a heavier side dish such as potatoes or rice and beans, one chop would be an adequate serving, and then you can turn this into a meal for four!

It was so hot outside today.  I actually prepared the chops on an indoor grill pan.  You can certainly throw them on the grill.  Adjust cooking time accordingly.

Note that I selected the hot sauce for this recipe as it is made in North Carolina.  I did not receive any product and this is not a paid endorsement.

Serves 2 - 4.

For the pork chops:

4 Virginia Center Cut Boneless Pork Chops, about 1 pound
1 tbs. smoked paprika
1 tbs. garlic powder
1 tbs. onion powder
1 tbs. coarse sea salt
1 tbs. light brown sugar
2 tbs. Texas Pete ® Hot Sauce

For the Carolina Sweet Tea BBQ Sauce:

2 tbs. Balsamic vinegar
2 tbs. honey
2 tbs. yellow hot dog mustard
1/2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 tbs. strawberry preserves
1/2 cup store-bought sweetened green iced tea
2 springs fresh oregano (do not remove from stem)

Remove pork chops from refrigeration.  Combine the smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, coarse sea salt and brown sugar in a bowl and mix well.

Bush the chops with the hot sauce and then coat with the seasoning on both sides.  Let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before grilling, covered lightly.

While the chops are coming to room temperature, add all ingredients for the sauce into a sauce pan.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, about fifteen minutes, whisking constantly until the sauce reduces.  Remove oregano springs.  Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Bring grill pan to high heat.  Add chops.  Cook for three minutes on one side, three minutes on the other until the internal temperature of the chops reaches 145 degrees F.

Need a quick side dish idea to go along with this dish?  Check out one of my previous posts:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tribute to the 13 Colonies Part VI - Roasted Chicken Marsala Orecchiette

Times Square in 2007
Photo taken by Dan LaBrie (used with permission)

Since we just left New Jersey, it makes sense that we will head across the Hudson to one of the culinary capitals of the world, New York City.

This summer series also includes a little history about each colony or region.   New York was originally called New Amsterdam. . Settled by the Dutch in the 17th century, it was later renamed New York when the British claimed it as a colony.

New York City is as diverse as a city as any; both culturally and from a foodie standpoint.  The amazing Chelsea market is there along with restaurants owned by dozens of acclaimed chefs.  Food trucks and street carts also produce delicious delights.

Don't count out the rest of the state.  From the Adirondacks to Niagara Falls, New York also has many regional recipes noted from north, south, east and the west parts of the state.  At one point, I might actually write a series on New York food.

But we are going to stay in the city tonight with this interesting, affordable cock pot meets pasta dish.  It reminds me of something you would find in Little Italy.  That is a section of the city known for great Italian culture and food. 

When you think of Little Italy and NYC in general, New York Style Pizza probably comes to mind.   Do a Google search on Chicken Marsala and you will get 154 returns on NY restaurants claiming to serve the best.  

I am using a store-bought braising product in this dish.  This is not a paid endorsement.  I did not receive any product. 

Truth is that it was on sale as a promotional item in my supermarket (buy one, get one free deal).  I estimated the cost of buying this product or buying the Marsala wine and other things I would need to make this sauce.  I found this sauce to be a better deal.  I actually got two meals out of one jar.    It's flavorful and I like the fact that other than the one preservative needed for the shelf, I can pronounce all of the ingredients on the label. 

Here we go with this simple Little Italy-style recipe:


1 whole free range chicken, washed and giblets removed (3 1/2 - 4 pounds)
Pepper, to taste
Garlic Salt with parsley, to taste
1/2 jar Gia Russa Marsala Simmer Sauce (about one cup)
2 or 3 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 pound sliced white mushrooms
1/2 lb. Orecchiette pasta, cooked by package directions
1 tablespoon olive oil
Grated Parmesean cheese
Fresh torn basil or lemon basil (optional but recommended)

Other:   Butter flavored cooking spray


Spray the inside of the crock of your slow cooker with the cooking spray.

Season chicken on both sides with pepper and the garlic salt.

Place chicken, breast side up into the slow cooker.  Cover and cook over low heat for six hours.

Using a turkey baster, carefully remove most of the juices which came off during the cooking process.  I removed about one cup of juice.  (Save this for another day for making gravy).

Add the braising sauce over the top of the chicken only to create the glaze.  Add the thyme sprigs.  Cook for another 2 1/2 hours over low heat.

Add the sliced mushrooms during the last 30 - 45 minutes of cooking time.

Remove chicken from crock pot.  Let chicken cool. It should fall right off the bone.  Debone chicken and keep it warm until you are ready to serve.  You can moisten the chicken with a little of your reserved chicken juice if you like.

Cook orecchiette pasta per package directions.  Drain  and toss with the olive oil in a bowl.

Add the marsala and mushroom sauce from the slow cooker to a skillet.  Simmer over low to thicken.  Season with more salt and pepper as needed.  You can also add a little bit of the reserved chicken juice if desired.

Toss desired amount of chicken with the orichette pasta and the warm mushroom sauce.  Add in cheese, toss and plate immediately. 

Top with fresh torn basil.

If you enjoy orecchiette, you might want to check out my other post tomorrow night on Cafe' Cheapo!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tribute to the 13 Colonies Part V - Dan's Blues and Bourbon Bruschetta

New Jersey on the far left from the Empire State Building
Photo by Dan LaBrie (used with permission)

I am so proud of my husband for becoming such a great home cook. He is allowing me to post another one of his recipes. This one is extra special.

Today we are traveling to New Jersey.

New Jersey was colonized in 1664.
I visited Jersey several times in the late 90's. This picture which Dan took years later shows the state across the Hudson River from Manhattan. New Jersey also has beautiful rolling hills as I recall. And, of course, there is the famous Jersey Shore and Atlantic City. And if you are a fan of the TV show, "The Sopranos," you got to see quite a bit of the state as they shot on location.

Jersey is also known as the "blueberry" state. I did not know this until I started to do research on these regional recipes.

I've been told that the Jersey Shore is known for having some pretty good blues clubs. This dish fits right in! It can be prepared on the gill or in the oven.  



1 cup all natural frozen wild blueberries

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1 tsp. corn starch
1/4 cup Kentucky Bourbon
1 French Baguette - sliced into 12-15 slices (3/4 inch thick on a diagonal)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Cooking Spray for Grill
1/2 cup water
Butter flavored cooking spray
1 tbsp. fresh chives (optional)


Spray grill with cooking spray; pre-heat grill to 350 degrees.

On the side burner of the grill, add frozen blueberries and water to a grill-safe sauce pan.  
Bring to boil, 3-5 minutes.  Whisk in brown sugar and cinnamon.  Continuously whisk for another 3-5 minutes.

Combine corn starch with bourbon.  Whisk the mixture into a blueberry reduction, off heat. Return sauce pan to heat, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, whisking continuously.  You want to preserve the integrity of the blueberries, but you want the sauce to be thick enough to your liking.

Remove sauce pan from heat and tent with tin foil until ready to serve.  Spray both sides of baguette slices with butter flavored cooking spray. Place slices on grill to toast 1-2 minutes until a light brown.  Flip slices and transfer to grill-safe pan or tin foil layered on grill.  Sprinkle ½ tsp. blue cheese crumbles onto each slice.  Add ½ tsp. of solid blueberries from sauce to each slice.  Place pan on grill until cheese begins to slightly melt and bubble. 
(Approx. 1-3 minutes depending on heat).  Remove pan from grill.

To Plate:
Using a demi-glace spoon and a long white plate, place six slices of  bruschetta; top with extra sauce and sprinkle some around the plate.  Top with fresh chopped and whole chives (optional).   Repeat with remaining slices.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tribute to the 13 Colonies Part IV- Dan's Famous Vidalia Onion Rings

 Replica of the famous "Bird Girl" Statue
   Savannah History Museum
    Photo by Dan LaBrie (used with permission)

I love Georgia.  I love everything about Atlanta (except for the traffic).  I love the outskirts of Atlanta where shows like the "Dukes of Hazzard" were filmed.  I love Savannah. 

I've been to Georgia many times, both on business and pleasure.  Established in 1732, it was the last of the 13 colonies.  From the Revolutionary to the Civil War, the state has played a big part in our American story.  Georgia has long been said to have been a penal colony.  However, that story is inflated.

When I think of Georgia in the summer, I think of sweet Vidalia onions.  These were first grown in Georgia.

We don't eat fried foods very often in this house.  Many of you already know that my husband, Dan, is also an accomplished home cook.  Dan's onion rings are delicious and not greasy at all.  He "shallow fries" them instead of deep frying to get a golden crispy coating.  You must give this recipe a try.


1 large Vidalia Onion, sliced into rings
1 cup Beer Batter Mix
2/3 cup beer or water
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt (plus more for shaking on after frying)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil


Separate onion rings. 

Mix beer batter mix with beer, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper until well mixed. 

Preheat oil over medium heat in a heavy skillet.

While oil is heating, dip the onions in the batter to coat evenly.  Once the oil is hot (toss a couple of drops of water into the pan to see if the oil pops), working in batches, fry the onion rings until golden brown.

Remove from oil to a plate lined with paper towel.  Add additional salt while the rings are hot. 


Next up, we are going to New Jersey for another one of Dan's recipes that I know you are going to love.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tribute to the 13 Colonies Part III – Turkey Burgers in a Francaise Glaze with Thyme Mushrooms, Feta Cheese and Avocado-Caper Mayonnaise

CALI VIZSLA and SIERRA VIZSLA hiking with Mom and Dad in Kent, CT
Photo by Dave Popoff (used with permission)

Today we are traveling to Connecticut where my husband, Dan, was born.  The Puritans established the colony in the mid 1600’s.  Connecticut became the fifth state in 1788.

Although small, Connecticut is a very diverse.  There are beautiful coastal regions, mountainous areas, and scenic New England back roads.  Stamford, where my husband was born, is now often referred to as a “little New York City.”
Many French Canadian families, like my husband’s, immigrated to Connecticut.  In the case of my husband’s family, it was by way of Fall River Massachusetts.   So you will often find many French-inspired restaurants in the various cities and towns around the state. 

Connecticut is also known as the “Nutmeg state.”  Nutmeg was considered a valuable spice back in the 1700’s and 1800’s and was often brought back by returning sailors for trading.  Source:
Mystic Pizza was made famous on its own and from the movie with the same name.  When I passed through Mystic about thirteen years ago, I didn’t get to eat at Mystic Pizza as it was closed.  I did find my way to a wonderful little seafood place at the top of a hill overlooking the ocean.  I cannot remember the name, and as I was on a business trip, I didn’t get any pictures to savor the memory.  Although I can tell you, the food was as excellent as the view.

One fact that I did not know about Connecticut until recently was that the first hamburger was said to have been created at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven.  Source:
In thinking about what recipe I would create to encompass all that is Connecticut, I decided to create a turkey burger with French influences in honor of the state.

Francaise and Piccata are often used interchangeably.  I understand from cooking over the years that the only difference in the two is that Francaise is prepared in the “French style” where the meat is dipped in egg before it is dredged in flour, whereas Piccata is simply dredged in flour and then sautéed in olive oil.  
You won’t have to worry about doing that here as this is a burger.  I used a store-bought Francaise sauce to make this dish.   There are several good quality brands on the market right now.   You can also whip up your favorite Piccata sauce; a little wine, butter, lemon and cream should suffice.  If you are foodie and you read this blog and you have an easy Piccata or Francaise sauce, feel free to post your link in the comment for my readers to share.

Oh, and I managed to incorporate a little nutmeg in this recipe, too!
Since I understand that Cali and Sierra were born in California, I wanted to also make a recipe that would remind them of wine county, or pair well with wine.   I can totally see those two dogs running around a vineyard.  So in honor of Cali and Sierra - dog lover that I am - this burger is a little bit Connecticut with a touch of California fusion. 
Serves 4.


1 pound ground turkey
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup store-bought Francaise or Piccata sauce (or make your favorite)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms (white or baby bella or a combination)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped of leaves
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

For the Avocado-Caper Mayonnaise:

1 small Florida or one large Hass Avocado
2 tablespoons canola oil Mayonnaise
½ tablespoon capers, rinsed


Cooking spray for skillet (optional)
4 Hamburger rolls
Fresh spinach (optional)
Additional nutmeg for grating (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
A one pound ground turkey to a mixing bowl.  Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Form into four even-sized patties, being careful to not compress the turkey too tightly.

In a very hot cast iron or heavy oven-safe skillet sprayed with cooking spray, add the four patties.  Be sure to not overcrowd you pan.   Cook for three minutes one side until you get a nice crust and flip burgers. 
Add the Francaise sauce over the burgers and brush so that the burgers are coated evenly.  Carefully transfer the pan to the oven.  Continue to cook for about seven minutes or until the internal temperature of the burgers reaches 165 degrees. 

Enjoy!  The burger is a meal in itself. I suggest making a few baked chips to go along.

Next up, Georgia is on my mind!

Oh, and I almost forgot, Laurie at gave me the "addictive blog award."  Thank you, Laurie.  Please check out her blog.   I will pay the love forward to other bloggers with the award as soon as I finish my summer series.   Look for that down the road. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tribute to the 13 Colonies Part II - BBQ'd City Chicken

My super smart nephew, John, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh last year.
Photo taken by my big brother; Dan Shalenko (used with permission).
Today we are traveling to Pennsylvania, the state where I was born and raised, for more summer fun, flavorful warm-weather recipes, and a little history in honor of the upcoming 4th of July.

Named after William Penn's father as a repayment of a debt (and Sylvania means forest), this state is rich in history and culture. The east side of the state is remarkably different than the west. On the east, you will find Pennsylvania Dutch country and the marvelous jams, relishes, and German/Dutch influenced dishes. And, of course, we can't forget about the famous Philly Cheesesteak!

On the western side of the state where I grew up, a variety of ethnic influences including Polish, Italian, Irish and Slovak make for very interesting cuisine. Back in my grandparents' time, immigrants came to the area for work in the coal mines and the legendary Pittsburgh steel mills. Pittsburgh is a very different, high-tech city today.

I grew up in a Slovak/Ukrainian/Polish family where food was always plentiful. My Aunt Katherine used to make enough for an army when we came to visit on a typical Sunday afternoon.

My grandfather on my mom's side - Matt  - a self-made man - became district manager for a well-known meat company. He was best known around town for bringing quality hot dogs to Three Rivers Stadium in the 70's.  

Kielbasa, grandma's stuffed cabbage, or chipped ham aside, one of my favorite regional dishes while growing up in Pittsburgh was city chicken. My mom made it on occasion, although I would be hard-pressed to remember her recipe. It's really not chicken at all. This dish is prepared with cubed pork and sometimes veal.  I was told by my mom that the name, "City Chicken," comes from the 1700's.  Keeping chickens within the city limits  in those days was illegal. Cooks substituted other meats on sticks to make it look like chicken legs. 

I think mom used veal in her recipe.   I used pork.

Normally this dish is lightly floured and braised in the oven.  I 86'd the flour and I added a marinade and a BBQ seasoning (both store-bought). I braised the city chicken in a tasty blend of chicken stock, ketchup, mustard and soy.  Think of this as your quick BBQ sauce.

Important:  If you are using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for a couple of hours so that dinner doesn't go up in flames.

Serves 2 (2 skewers each):

1/2 pound pork shoulder, cut into bite-sized cubes
1/8 cup light Italian dressing (your favorite brand)
1/2 tablespoon BBQ Seasoning (your favorite brand)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon slivered elephant garlic
1 cup good quality chicken stock
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce

Other:  4 Small BBQ skewers


After cutting the pork into cubes, marinate in the Italian dressing for at least on hour. Refrigerate during this process.

Drain dressing from meat and pat off extra moisture. Let stand at room temperature for about fifteen minutes, covered.  Toss with BBQ Seasoning.  

Thread pork onto small wooden skewers. You can fit about four or five pieces of meat onto each, depending on how large or small you cut your chunks.  Repeat until you have four skewers total.

You can double or triple this recipe accordingly.

Add oil to a heavy skillet. Sauté garlic for one minute, making sure that it does not burn.

Remove garlic to bowl and reserve.

Add pork skewers and brown on all sides, about three minutes total.

Add the garlic back to the pan along with the chicken stock.  Whisk the ketchup, mustard and soy sauce together and pour over the chicken while it is braising in the stock. 

Bring to a low simmer.  Cover and cook for about  five (5) minutes.  Uncover and cook for 10-15 minutes longer until the stock thickens slightly with the sauce

I served my city chicken with fresh summer veggies with dill and my famous boiled and broiled potatoes.  I'll be sharing that potato recipe with you another time.   

Enjoy.  Up next, my husband's home state of  Connecticut.