Monday, March 25, 2013

A Carnivore’s Guide to Cardiology: Master of the Little Pan

I grew up in a household with an Italian mother from the Bronx. 
That meant she did ALL the cooking…

Seriously, whether you wanted her to or not.

There was a sole exception to this single mindedness:  eggs.

Mom never liked eggs, and even though she used them in countless recipes, and prepared many other things she didn’t like, Dad would handle egg making duty when he was available.  (Of course, she makes them whenever my daughter or neices want them...because space aliens replace the brains of people when they become Grandparents.)

Because of that arrangement, eggs were one of the first things I learned to cook myself.  I realize this isn't much to brag about, but after the macaroni and cheese debacle, I'll take what I can get.  Eggs eventually led to a mastery of many dishes made in the Little Pan.  Note:  The Little Pan is a variety of manly cooking; the burner should always be set to “high.”  If the Little Pan is too hot, it should be raised off of the surface of the stove.  It should also be quenched under running water and quickly wiped with a paper towel between each item grilled in this manly fashion, or you will end up with very manly charcoal bits burned into your manly meals.

This was enhanced by the finer points of omelet making being one of the few non-baking lessons in my eighth grade cooking class.  The prime lesson of that class was how two guys could coat almost the entire room during a two period flour fight.

With my own family, control over the Little Pan remained.  (Waffle making was included by association of the Little Pan with breakfast.)  I developed the ability to make perfect over easy eggs, called Dippin’ Yellows by my daughter. Also, through years of practice, I became adept at making thoroughly mixed omelets, with all of the ingredients added at the right time to insure they were cooked to perfection. 

The ham was browned, the eggs fluffy, and the cheese lovingly melted throughout…

Holy heck, I’m going to get hungry writing this one!

Then egg yolks vanished from my diet, and I wasn’t able to share in my own breakfast creations. Technically, I could still fry eggs, and throw out the “Dippin’ Yellow” part of the Dippin’ Yellows, or I could taunt and insult myself to get the same outcome.

Luckily, food technology and changing taste buds helped me identify not only a breakfast solution, but several other beneficial replacements for my Little Pan specialties. 

I already used large volumes of Pam as opposed to butter, oil or lard, facing me in the right direction.

Yes, Jeff is going to provide heart healthy recipe tips.  In other news, congress will become a highly efficient and friendly organization, network programming will value artistic merit and intelligent writing, and snow cones will be readily available from the frozen banks of the Phlegethon.

(Go ahead...Google it for your mythology lesson o' the day.  I'll wait.)

Now it is a blend of red peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes I gently grill before adding eggbeaters whipped with milk and pepper.  If I feel I need meat in the omelet, a fat free hot dog works as a viable substitute for the ham. (Note: While turkey sausage and turkey bacon hold their own OK, putting turkey cold cuts in eggs is not an error I will repeat again.)  Afterwards, a party of fat free cheeses from the staggeringly large variety available tops everything off.  I’ve learned through experience that spinach must be added following the cheese, which I used to think had to be the final ingredient. Apparently adding the spinach any earlier than right before yanking the omelet out of the pan causes it to behave much like shrinky dinks, filling the eggs with tiny, crunchy green bits.

Basically, my eggs end up containing most of the same ingredients I use in my salads.  Those would be the same salads I’m trying to have the omelets as a change of pace away from in my diet.  This is also true in another area of cooking I inherited with the Little Pan. 

What started as a simple desire to make my own grilled cheese ended up blossoming into a sandwich making art of Arthur Dent proportions.

I’d start by insuring the bread slices chosen were a matching pair, pre toast them, and butter all four sides.

With the already crispy and buttered bread lined up, I would organize multiple cheeses on the two halves as well as any internal layers I would need ready on the side. 

Then I’d fry up any cold cuts, tomatoes (and later mushrooms) needed, and place them on the cheese while still hot to begin the sandwich melding.  

Once all the layers were assembled, I sprinkled shredded cheese into the pan, and on top of the sandwich to get a little flavor on the outside, and proceed to flip and press in quick repeated steps, insuring thorough cooking without burning the surface.

The finale of this bread enchased bacchanal involved turning the completed masterpiece onto a plate and


Cutting the finished product corner to corner with, and only with, the unwashed knife used to butter the toast.

The resultant sandwich was poetry on a plate, tantalizing to the taste buds, and confounding to the coronary arteries.

Clearly, I needed a new way to make my own, more heart-healthy, creation.  I tried grilling dry multigrain toast with fat free cheese  using only the Pam, but decided I could save a great deal of time by burning the bread in the toaster and slapping on some cold fromage. Therefore I had to find a way to make a sandwich in my diet plan elsewhere while frying other’s meals in the Little Pan.

Fortunately, I had access to Calandra’s fat free, cholesterol free, sugar free bread; and my grandfather’s garlic bread recipe.

Well, sort of his recipe.
I recently learned that I based my knowledge of the spices he used solely on color.  It turns out it’s more accurately my garlic bread recipe - loosely based on his.

A bit of olive oil on the bread starts it off, followed by multiple extremely liberal (like “I think the Democratic Party is an ultra-conservative bunch of right wing lunatics” liberal) doses of garlic powder.  Top it off with slightly less liberal doses of onion powder, oregano, and fresh ground pepper.

Bake at 400° for ten to fifteen minutes depending on whether or not you forgot to preheat the oven.

The type of bread chosen dictates the end result. 

Bastogne is too thick for plain garlic bread; replace the olive oil with fat free gravy and mozzarella, yielding Sicilian pizza.  Mushrooms and turkey pepperoni can be added for jollies. 
Do the same thing with chicken on a fat free tortilla for a chicken parm calzone.

French bread makes stand alone garlic bread. 

Sliced Panella bread, known as “Jeffrey Bread” Up the Lake (Though ordering it that way confuses the hell out of them – ask my sister.) is perfect for garlic toast sandwiches.

With the Panella bread prepared, but not cooked, add any combination of thin sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, avocado and red peppers on one side. 
(One could probably use green peppers too, but this is not one’s sandwich, it is mine.)

On the other side place some low fat turkey or chicken cold cuts, grilled cutlets, or lean burger pieces, whatever happens to be most abundant in the fridge, and not earmarked for a meal.  (Unless you like to sleep in the garage with your sandwich, then go ahead.)

“Daddy’s random chicken” also works well.  I can’t give that recipe in detail as it changes every time.  Simply cut the fat off some chicken breast, slice in small pieces and marinate the living bejeezus out of it. 

The marinade is a base of barbecue sauce, with any spice that isn’t nailed down, a mix of the fat free dressings and condiments that happen to be in the fridge that day…
And whatever other fat free items look interesting at the moment.

Examples: diet soda, maple syrup, leftover wine, chocolate syrup, pretzel crumbs, vanilla extract, etc.

After a couple of days soaking, bake at…
Whatever it says on the side of the “Shake N Bake” box.

WARNING: Though it always comes out spicy, unusual and deliciously flavor filled, it is probably best to follow my wife’s decision.
“I’ll eat it any time you cook it, but I NEVER want to see you make it again!”

Back to the sandwich:

Cover both sides with a mix of as many fat free cheeses as you can manage to find in the house, and bake per normal garlic bread.

When done, add some spinach and fat free condiments (ranch, deli mustard, or barbecue sauce all work well) and press the halves together while the cheese is still squooshy.
(That’s a culinary term.)

Caution: If you use ALL the vegetables, ALL the cheeses and ALL the condiments, you may dislocate your jaw trying to bite the beast…

And it’s totally freakin’ worth it.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Fat free does not mean salt free, or calorie free.  I exersize every night and my daily sandwich is one slice of fat free cheese, and two slices of low fat turkey on multigrain with a side spinach salad using only balsamic vinegar as dressing.  The above garlic toast sandwich is eaten, at most, once a week.  Consume that monster with any regularity, and you'll puff up like an anaphylactic blowfish.

While I lost sandwiches in the Little Pan, I’ve gained something else.

There was one dish we learned to make in eighth grade cooking class that had the distinction of being the only time my partner and I didn’t spend the entire class throwing baking supplies at each other.

It was also the only one I didn’t eat at the time, passing my entire portion along to the vice-principal, who often joined our smaller than average group to share in the excesses -
after the dust settled, anyway.

That dish was stir-fried/sautéed vegetables, something that has rapidly moved from a blight to a staple from my viewpoint.

Once again, it starts with the vegetables from the sandwich/salad, plus green beans, broccoli, pea pods et al.

I can even tolerate green peppers now, though they’re not my favorite. Considering the smell used to make me nauseous, it’s a weird new mouth to live in.

There will not be celery. Apparently my brain needed to still be reviled by  one last stupid vegetable, which  most people like and can be found in innumerable places, forcing me to occasionally still pick plant matter out of my food.

Give them a little drizzle of olive oil to help the garlic bread spices to stick to them.

Then they all get to dance around a while in the Little Pan, along with a helping of Walden Farms fat, gluten, sugar, calorie, and possibly molecular bond free Sesame Ginger salad dressing. (Asian works too.)

The veggies keep dancing until they change to their appropriate cooked color, or until just before the Sesame Ginger has reached range top spattering levels requiring sleeping in the garage. (Again.)

At this point throw in some already made par boiled or brown rice.

You know:  the rice that someone who doesn’t have his head up his butt about cooking would have told you boil before putting those vegetables in the Little Pan. 

Stir the rice amidst the veggies until it sucks up the excess dressing and you have a replacement for the Chinese food dish that is one of the few things I miss in my diet.

But instead of pork fried rice, its vegetable grilled rice.

Serve over a bed of spinach, particularly if you have a Popeye like level of addiction like me.

It works as an excellent side, or base for the fish marinated in the same spices and Sesame Ginger dressing.

You know: the fish that someone who doesn’t have his head up his butt about cooking would have told you to place in the oven before putting those vegetables in the Little Pan. 


Linda said...

You had me at anaphylactic blowfish

Jeff McGinley said...

Thank you!

Don't include that in any of the recipies...not even with garlic or sesame ginger sauce on it.

Kim Luer said...

That all sounds delicious - except for the mushrooms... I won't eat those. People tell me that they don't have their own flavor they just help bring out the flavor in other things, but its all a big lie I tell you.

Jeff McGinley said...

They do bring out the flavor of other adding the flavor of fungus!

thanx for posting.