Family-Style: Grandma’s Ham Sandwich

I love my Grandma and I have such a deep food love because of her. Some may call it sacrifice, but I consider her life-long dedication to feeding others a home-cooked meal a true, honest labor of love. Stories of prized fresh cream skimmed from the top of milk; years of entertaining trustees at The Hill School; the freshest, purest applesauce in all the universe – no matter the menu, she insisted that hard work and integrity were the best ingredients.

Something about a Grandma’s touch makes even the simplest of meals taste even better and, these days, her 90-year-old hands can only do so much. You can’t visit Grandma without being offered a snack and, on this trip, she was so proud to make me and Gramps ham & mustard sandwiches. Built with the sincerest food love, I savored the best ham & mustard sandwich I’ve ever tasted. Thank you, Grandma. Thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me.

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To Taste: Erin’s Amish Reuben

I’m guessing most of you outside of Central/Southeastern Pennsylvania have lived your whole lives without tasting the best, THE BEST, cold cut in all of our United States. I, however, have been blessed with easy access to savory, salty, delicious Lebanon bologna (named for the PA county, not the country).

Sweet Lebanon Bologna

This PA Dutch smoked & cured all-beef sausage is available sliced as a deli meat in regular & sweet varieties. Sweet is the right kind for me – bold, zesty, tangy, smokey – all the beginnings of a fantastic sandwich. Introducing… Erin’s Amish Reuben.

Back in May, on Day #6 of my week between jobs, Sunshine & I took a trip to Zern’s, our favorite farmer’s/flea market. Every visit, I pick up a fresh pound of sweet Lebanon bologna and two fat dill pickles from my favorite butcher, Clover Farms (See: Triple Smoked Bacon). I always keep a jar of my favorite mustard, Kosciusko Spicy Brown, in the fridge for the glorious occasions I bring home the salami of all salamis. I smeared it on wheat toast and topped it with 3 ribboned slices of Lebanon bologna, a thick slice of Swiss, & dill pickle chips for a culinary daydream to the PA Amish country. Take the photo journey through my magical sandwich assembly and get your hands on some Lebanon bologna!

Kosciusko Spicy Brown Mustard

Dill Pickle

Soon to be sammie

Erin's Amish Reuben

Erin’s Amish Reuben

sweet Lebanon bologna

+ sour dill pickles

+ sharp Swiss cheese

+ spicy brown mustard

on toast

Restaurant Rewind: Phillips Seafood in AC

On May 19th (bear with me, folks! I just started a new job!), I had the pleasure of attending a food blogger dinner hosted by Breslow Partners and Phillips Seafood. I have yet to share my personal philosophy on sharing my restaurant dining experiences, so what better time than the present. It pretty much boils down to a commitment to post only about positive encounters (gratis meal, as in this case, or not) and our evening at Phillips definitely fits that criteria.

Dre & I rushed to AC after work that Wednesday, checked into our amazing room in the new Chairman Tower at the Taj Mahal (thanks, Mike!), and hurried over to the Pier at Caesars. We arrived at Phillips first and were greeted with smiles from Tina & Jennifer, the dynamic mother-daughter duo behind Breslow Partners. Our server, Mike, took drink orders as we got to know our hostesses and perused the amazing menu of food coming our way. How could you not be excited for this?

Phillips Seafood Blogger Dinner Menu

Cocktails arrived and so did 5 other new friends. It was so great to meet the people behind the local food blogs I enjoy, let alone dive into an indulgent seafood feast with them. Lisa & Lisa joined us first, from Jersey Girl Cooks and John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey, respectively (har-har!). We then welcomed Allie of A Food Coma and her guest Mikey with Elaine of Elle Eats rounding out the group. No sooner did we finish our introductions when our first course arrived, Steamed Mojito Clams.

The GM, Brian Fountain, and Executive Chef Paul Drew were nothing short of hospitable, informative, & accommodating through out the meal. They joined us between each course to explain the history & philosophy of Phillips along with all the juicy ingredient and prep details that really  make foodies like us drool.

Steamed Mojito Clams from Phillips

We all had already dove into the tender clams while Chef Drew recapped the Mojito-inspired ingredients that flavored the dish. Phillips excels in freshness when it comes to their seafood and these middle necks fit the bill. They were cooked in butter, rum, mint (which I believed is mis-mentioned on the menu), slivers of garlic, & anaheim peppers and served with a ramekin of extra Mojito butter on the side. We happily sopped up the remaining butter with the warm bread we were served. I appreciated learning that Phillips strives to maintain the option for sustainable seafood by returning all clam shells to the Chesapeake.

Next up was a raw bar lovers dream, The Chilled Plateau. Its top tier featured fresh Maine Lobster and Alaskan King Crab Legs, each steamed with cinnamon, cloves, lemon, Phillips seasoning, pickling spice, & orange and served chilled. Melpac & Blue Point Oysters and Middle Neck Clams on the half shell outlined the bottom tier with fresh lemon wedges and a red wine, shallot, & garlic mignonette. Bowled in the middle, were Tuna Tartar (ahi poke style), U15 Shrimp, and Jumbo Lump Crab Meat with sides of cocktail sauce & mustard sauce for dipping. It was a tower of raw seafood indulgence and I loved every bite (and swallow in the case of the oysters) of it!

The Chilled Plateau from Phillips

The penultimate course for our dinner were the famous Phillips Chesapeake Crab Cakes,  packed with their own pasteurized crab meat, a process first developed by Phillips. 300 million tons of their crab meat are canned each year with 1/3 of that coming from our Gulf. The effects of the current outrageous oil leak saddens me beyond words and I’m sure this will have a grave effect, short & long term, on Phillips crab meat distribution. Let’s all hope for the best that can come out of this unimaginable disaster. But, this afternoon, it’s back to the crab cakes…

Chef Paul Drew explained that Phillips variety includes jumbo lump, back fin, & special lump crab meat for a variety of taste & texture. The whole chunks of crab are seasoned and bound with Phillips seasoning, lemon, mustard, Worcestershire, egg, & mayo. They’re formed into mounds and chilled at 40degrees until broiling them at 450degrees. Dre inquired about their cooking approach, as growing up in Maryland he was used to the deep-fried variety. Without solicitation, the Chef was happy to whip up a batch of fried crab cakes for comparison.  Their table was split on their cooking preference, but I think Lisa (of John & Lisa) summed it up perfectly – “They’re really good baked, but ethereal fried!”

Chesapeake Crab Cakes, Potato Gratinée, & Broccolini

The crab cake entree was well-rounded with sides of Potato Gratinées with Swiss cheese and tender Broccolini. We discussed our final thoughts on the meal over a palate-cleansing dish of mango sorbet. Overall, it was a great experience to try a restaurant I normally would not have with great fellow food bloggers. It was a refreshing experience, as sometimes a classic presentation of a seafood indulgence truly hits the spot. I couldn’t ask for a better meal that this beachside feast to kick off my Spring/Summer!

Blogger Dinner Contacts

Breslow Partners

Phillips Seafood AC

Jersey Girl Cooks

John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey

A Food Coma

Ell Eats

To Taste: Catfish & Shrimp Po’Boys

Last Sunday, the Colts took on the Saints for Superbowl XLIV. I wanted to cook up a dinner in the spirit of the game, but even though we were rooting for Peyton Manning to pull out a win, there’s not much to say about the cuisine of Indiana. Dre suggested a New Orleans flair and requested Po’Boy sammies. We had just gotten thru the first round of Snowpocalypse 2010 and it was a slow, slippery trip to Acme to pick up the rest of the supplies.

Thank goodness for Dre! He found the Green Bean under 28"+ of snow!

I’m still very much in the honeymoon stage with my new Deep Fryer, so I was excited to fry again! I defrosted (2) Catfish fillets & a half dozen U20 Shrimp, rolled them in Cornmeal Flour seasoned with Tony Chachere’s, dipped them in milk, and rolled them in the Cornmeal mixture again for a double layer of flavor & crisp. The Catfish & Shrimp fried up perfectly in only about 5 minutes!

Cornmeal Crusted Catfish Fillet

You can’t make a Po’Boy sandwich without a delicious Remoulade to spread on your roll. I deferred to Emeril’s recipe and pretty much followed it exactly (which is a rarity for me!). The batch ended up being WAY more than we needed for our sammies, and I certainly wished I had cut the recipe in half until I realized I’d have a delicious spread for other sammies all week. I ended up using it on a Griddled Ham, Turkey, & Swiss Sandwich for dinner Tuesday night and on a Ham, Egg, & Swiss Sandwich on a leftover long roll for my snow day breakfast. It was perfectly creamy & spicy with LOTS of flavor!

Spicy Remoulade w/ Shallots, Celery, & Green Onion

I discovered some amazing fresh long rolls from the corner store when picking up salt for the sidewalks.  They were no Louisiane French Bread, but were soft & crusty. We split them, spread them with the Spicy Remoulade, and topped them with Romaine, Roma Tomatoes, and our Fried Catfish & Shrimp. Dre prepared Zatarain’s Dirty Rice to pair with our Po’Boys for a perfect New Orleans dinner. Way to go Saints!

Shrimp on our Superbowl Po'Boy Sandwiches

CATFISH & SHRIMP PO’BOY SANDWICHES w/ SPICY REMOULADE

  • Cajun Fried Catfish & Shrimp
  • Emeril’s Remoulade Sauce
  • Romaine Lettuce, Sliced Roma Tomatoes, & Crusty French Bread
  1. Split French Bread or long roll and spread Remoulade Sauce on both sides.
  2. Add Lettuce & Tomato Slices and top with the fried Catfish & Shrimp
  3. Enjoy!

Cajun Fried Catfish & Shrimp

Prepared for (2) people

  • Catfish Fillets – (2) whole fillets – rinsed, patted dry, & cut in half
  • U20-25 Raw Shrimp – (6-8) – de-veined, de-shelled, & de-legged
  • Cornmeal Flour – (1.5) cups
  • Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning – (3) T
  • Milk – (1.5) cups – you choice on fat level & use buttermilk if you have it!
  1. Pre-heat deep-fryer or pot of oil to about 350 degrees. Set prepared Catfish & Shrimp aside.
  2. Combine Cornmeal Flour & Tony Chachere’s in a bowl and then spread evenly on a plate.
  3. Lay Catfish Fillets on seasoned Cornmeal mixture and flip to coat each side. Dip each fillet in a bowl of milk and return to Cornmeal mixture to coat again.
  4. Drop coated Catfish filets into hot oil and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes. While cooking, prepare the Shrimp with the same coat with Cornmeal then dip in milk then coat in Cornmeal process.
  5. Remove Catfish once crispy and drain on paper towels. Make sure the oil comes back up to temperature and drop in coated Shrimp. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until crispy. Drain.

Emeril’s Remoulade Sauce

Makes about 1.5 cups from Emerils.com

  • Mayonnaise – (1) cup – prepared or homemade
  • Ketchup – (3) T
  • Creole Mustard – (3) T – I used Inglehoffer’s Original Stone Ground Mustard
  • Hot Sauce – (1) tsp – I used sriracha, but any kind you’d like works fine.
  • Celery – (1) T – julienne, then minced
  • Shallots – (1) T – minced
  • Garlic – (1/2) tsp, minced
  • Green Onion – (2) T, minced
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper – to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2. Chill in fridge at least 15 minutes or until you are ready to use.

Catfish & Shrimp Po'Boy w/ Dirty Rice

To Taste: Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese

Dre’s main request for Friday’s dinner was Mac & Cheese WITH BACON to accompany my Roasted Tomato, Mushroom, & Smoked Mozz Stuffed Chicken Breasts. On a shopping trip last week, I picked up the most adorable red casserole dish and this was the perfect opportunity to christen it. I needed to refresh myself on Mac & Cheese basics and Alton Brown seemed like my go-to man. I forgot how easily you can turn a basic rue, some milk, onion, & cheese (and bacon, of course) into the most comforting of foods. Mmmm, Mac & Cheese!

Shredded Mozz, Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, & Velveeta

I put Dre in charge of finishing up the Mac & Cheese. He crumbled bacon and tossed it into the macaroni & melty cheese mixture. The jumbo macaroni were perfectly filled up with the bacon & gooey cheesiness. He gets half the credit on this cooking venture for that move!

Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese

No Baked Mac & Cheese is complete without a crunchy crust and why not have it add to the cheesiness! Dre crushed up some Cheez-Its, tossed with melted butter, and sprinkled on top. It added a crunchy texture to the creamiest, yummiest Mac & Cheese I’ve ever tasted, if I do say so myself! And how cute is that casserole dish?!

Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese w/ a Cheez-It crust

Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese

adapted from Alton Brown’s Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

  • Macaroni – (1) lb, cooked al dente
    • Farfalle, Orchiette, Spirals & Shells all work well, too
  • Butter – (3) T + (2) T
  • Flour – (3) T
  • Milk – (3) cups
  • Whole Grain Mustard – (1) T
  • Paprika – (2) tsp
  • Bay Leaf – (1)
  • White Onion – (1/2) med onion, chopped
  • Shredded Cheeses – (4) cups or more
    • I used (2) cups Mild Cheddar, (2) cups Mozzarella, & (1) cup of Smoked Gouda
  • Velveeta – (8) oz, cubed
  • Smoked Bacon – (4-5) slices, cooked & chopped (optional, I guess…)
  • Cheez-Its – (1.5) cups, crushed
    • Next time, Goldfish!
  1. Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Melt (3) T of butter in a heavy pot on Med and add flour. Stir for about 5 min until it turns a light caramel brown, watching closely.
  4. Add Milk, Mustard, Paprika, Bay Leaf, Onion, & S&P and stir. Bring to a simmer on Med for about 5 min. Remove Bay Leaf.
  5. Immediately add the cheese mixture to the pasta in a large bowl or your stock pot and coat. The bacon crumbles can go in now, too.
  6. Pour mixture into a large, greased baking dish or casserole.
  7. Crush (1.5) cups of Cheez-Its in a sealed plastic baggie and then toss with (2) T melted Butter in a bowl. Sprinkle over Mac & Cheese.
  8. Bake for about 30-40 min until bubbling. Remove and let it sit for (5) min before eating.