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Chicago Cook-in of June 28-30, 2002

Ariane and Erik (Ohio)

Erik and Ariane

I'm guessing this will be the first report, everyone else will still be recovering and/or sleeping off the effects of the joyous celebration that was the 2002 Chicago Cook-in.

Gar and Snot were wonderful hosts, and I can't believe they were still upright after this weekend after all the work they did. You guys should've seen how the alley was set up--all dandified with pots of flowers, tiki torches, a tent with lights and no less than FOUR grill/smokers, one of them brought by Mike B., Hag's dad. Too bad the company Gar and Snot invited brought the fancy atmosphere waaaay down.

[Gar - Thanks Ariane. I was very happy with the yard. I've been doing it like that for years, but this year I kinda went all out.]

Attendees were (in no particular order): Damsel and Crash, Boli and his son Tim, Hag and Stenni and Hag's Dad Mike, Liz and Bill, and Erik and myself. Honorary attendees Barb Schaller and Nancy Young sent (respectively) pickle hats and Taylor Pork Roll.

[Damsel - The Taylor Pork roll is SO good! And I scored a roll of it at the Minneapolis Cook-In, so we'll be eating well very soon, at the Damsel-Crash household. The pickle hats are a scream. I can't wait to get the pictures from Hag. (Do you think she got that Kodak moment when Gar mooned her?)]

[Gar - Gar did what? What a pig!]

Friday night was all Gar and Snot's doing, Italian Beef Sandwiches with pepper relish, followed by Chicago hot dogs, then finished off with three kinds of deep-dish pizza--pepperoni, sausage and "garbage" pizza with artichoke hearts and olives, among other goodies. That perfectionist bastard Gar threw out the leftovers before anyone could take any, because he claimed they were no good. Note: This didn't stop anyone from having some. The threat of rupturing intestines didn't stop anyone from having some, either.

[Gar - LOL... I'm still hearing about throwing those out from Snot 6 days later. Yesterday we did food leftover control and I made 3 of them in the oven to freeze. I wish you guys could have had the real deal. Maybe next cook-in.]

Saturday night was the big bash, with breakfast/brunch starting at 9 am and gradually blending into appetizers/dinner. Don't let them fool you, there was no actual halt to the eating. We had banana bread and banana bread with chocolate chips and cherries, pumpkin bread with chocolate chips, Mrs. Boo's cake, Smithfield ham, sliced Hanover tomatoes, blueberry muffins, cheese biscuits and monkey balls. Boli brought an assortment of jams and jellies, and I'm sorry to say I didn't steal the leftovers of the garlic jelly--it was excellent on the cheese biscuits and now I have to apologize to Boli publicly and admit it didn't taste anywhere near as vomitous as it sounded.

[Damsel - It sounded too damn weird for me! I just munched on those fabulous biscuits, plain. When we left, I scored an open jar of cherry jam and a new jar of strawberry preserves.]

Dinner was... Well, it would be easier to tell you what we didn't eat, so I'll leave the official listing to Damsel's website. Ribs that had been labored over all day by the tireless Mike, homemade sausage, lasagna, meatballs, smoked meatloaf and salmon, no-dairy slaw, chicken satay, lumpia and springrolls, potstickers, pork vindaloo, rice noodles, fried chicken, baked beans, bread, these wonderful Thai appetizers that were sweet, savory and HOT... and then there were desserts. Raspberry sorbet, "the best damn" key lime pie, three different kinds of dessert bars!, orange cookies with lemon glaze, tiramisu...]

There was way too much food. Only one person managed to have a bite of everything there was, and no one who knows her will be surprised to hear it was our very own Hag. ;) ::applause::

[Damsel - Amazing, too, since she and I had stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, grabbing slices of Smithfield ham as they came off the slab. You'd think we'd have been too full to eat anything else!]

[Gar - HEHE I missed a few things myself. It was unbelievable how much food there was. And Hag is Soooooo fun. Nonstop energy.]

Alcohol flowed freely.

[Gar - Really? [eg] ]

Liz and Bill managed to escape before the Donning of the Pickle Hats, but several innocent strangers were, after a few drinks, convinced to put them on and have their photo taken along with the rest of us. As the evening progressed and alcohol flowed even more freely, I'm sorry to say that obscene and disturbing things were done to the pickle hats. I won't name names, but if you want to find out, bring a bottle of Rumpleminz peppermint schnapps to the next cook-in and stand back... I can say no more because I don't want to frighten away potential cook-in attendees.

[Gar - Ya, I would say there wasn't any inhibitions with too many people.]

Sunday breakfast was fried TPR (ooh, that's good stuff!) and cornmeal griddlecakes. We had to leave pretty early on in the day, but I think those who remained managed did justice to the food as well as the leftovers. I hear some wily thieves absconded with three bags of ribs, a large wedge of basil cheesecake and other goodies, including a jar of Barb's Peach Raspberry Jam. Better luck guarding the fridge/freezer next time, you guys.

[Gar - We needed to get rid of even more than we did. There's still too much stuff here.]

Wow, did we ever have fun. Erik and I agreed it was worth the drive to Chicago--easy for him to say, since I did all the driving. We left with more food than we brought, since leftovers HAD to be rescued from Gar and his unfortunate tendency to toss food when no one is looking. I hope someone can cure him of that. Ahem. O:)

[Damsel - [groan] We came home with lots more food than we started out with. Everyone is such good cooks!]

[Gar - I only destroy the failures. <g> Usually I hate throwing food out.]

Gar and Snot, I hope you guys sleep all day Monday so you'll stop cursing the day you decided to throw the cook-in! You guys did a great job, even if Gar stressed out about it too much and limped around on his broken toe (and it WAS SO broken) and griped about ruined pizzas. To everyone, it was great seeing some of you for the first time as well as some of you for the second time... and hopefully, none of you for the last time! Those of you who couldn't make it to this one (and you know who you are) will certainly not make the mistake of not attending the next... right?

So, when's the next cook-in? ;)

[Gar - Probably same weekend, same place, one year from now. We learned a few lessons I'd like to take advantage of.]

Thanks for coming Ariane.


Blueberry Lemon Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

I got the original recipe off RFC, posted by Pam Whitmire. I halved it, since we had so much other food at the cook-in. It makes a moist, cake-like muffin with lots of gooey blueberries.

Makes about 15-16 muffins

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
zest of one lemon, minced
1 cup sour cream
1 cup blueberries

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Gradually add sugar. While beating, slowly pour in oil; add vanilla. Combine flour, salt, baking soda and powder, and lemon zest and mix. Add dry ingredients alternately to the bowl along with sour cream. Gently fold in blueberries.

Bake in greased muffin tins at 400 F for about 20 minutes.

Lemon Orange Sour Cream Cookies

Orange Cookies with Lemon 

I love these. They're puffy, cake-like cookies and don't skip the glaze, it really makes the cookie.

moist and flavorful, cake-like cookie like an orange layer cake with lemon frosting

1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. cake flour
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. butter, room temp
1 cup minus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp. sour cream


1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line several baking sheets with parchment or lightly grease them.

Sift both flours, baking powder and soda, and salt and set aside. Using mixer, cream butter, sugar, zest and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

Add egg and mix. Add sour cream and mix. Fold in flour mixture by hand, then blend with mixer on low speed 5 seconds. Scrape down bowl and mix on low speed until batter is smooth and velvety, 10 seconds. Give batter a stir or two with spatula.

Drop batter by large rounded Tbsp. 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies have puffed up and are firm to the touch, just beginning to turn golden around edges, 10 minutes. Let cookies sit 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze by blending butter and lemon juice with sugar until smooth and creamy. Once cookies have cooled, drop generously rounded 1/2 tsp. glaze onto each cookie and spread. let sit until glaze hardens, about 2 hours. Or pop in fridge 1 hour. Store in airtight plastic container at room temp for first day, then in fridge for next day, or in freezer for up to 2 weeks. Makes 24 cookies.

Ma Po Tofu

Ma Po Tofu

This is easy to do and we like it...don't be scared off by the tofu, it works really well with the strong flavorings in this dish.

1 lb. ground pork
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sherry
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
black pepper

2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 thin slices of ginger
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 cake tofu, cubed
1 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce
3 scallions, minced

Mix ground pork, oyster sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, sherry and garlic powder. Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat oil and add red pepper flakes and ginger, saute 1-2 minutes. Remove ginger slices. Add ground pork mixture and brown until cooked through. Add tofu. Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce and scallions. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Season to taste and serve with steamed rice.

[Damsel - Thanks for making this, Ariane. This is one of those dishes that looks like barf, but tastes out of this world. I was lucky enough to have scored the leftovers, and have had two meals of ma po tofu and rice noodles. Good eatin'!]

[Ariane - *laughs* It DOES look awful, doesn't it? Well, the scallions and bits of chili give it a slightly festive look, like someone ate Christmas candy before they tossed their cookies. But it's really good, I swear! Even my picky sister stole the leftovers out of the fridge one day and ate it for breakfast.]

[Hag - I HATE tofu, and I loved it...]

Mogolian Stewed Garlic

Not many people were brave enough to try this. I only had one clove myself, and it was too much for me...definitely for garlic-lovers only! Boli, however, seemed to like it and I apologize to his son Tim, who had to ride all the way back to Washington, D.C. in the car with him.

From The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp.

4-5 hard heads of garlic with large cloves and rose-hued skin, or enough smaller heads to yield 45-50 firm fat cloves (do not use elephant garlic)
2 1/2 Tbsp. black soy sauce
3 Tbsp. chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock or water
2-3 Tbsp. crushed golden rock sugar (found at Asian groceries, looks like yellow rock candy in a box)

Pull apart heads of garlic, separating individual cloves from the base. Remove most of papery outer peel, leaving intact and unbroken the thicker, rose-hued skin which encases each clove. Do not use any cloves which are soft, bruised or half-peeled.

Combing soy sauce, wine, and chicken stock in a small heavy pot that will hold garlic snugly. Bring liquids to a steaming near-simmer over low heat, then add cloves and stir to combine. Stew mixture 5-10 minutes, scatter in sugar and stir to dissolve. Cover pot, check after a few minutes and adjust heat to maintain a steamy near-simmer with few or no bubbles. Lift lid occasionally to check that liquids are not boiling, and at the same time swirl the pot to coat cloves with sauce.

When done, remove lid partway and let cloves sit for 2 or more hours before eating, swirling pot occasionally to distribute sauce. Serve tepid or at room temperature, and spoon on a bit of the sauce. To eat the garlic, crush a clove lightly against the roof of your mouth. Let creamy pulp dissolve on your tongue, then discard peel. Cool, garlic may be refrigerated for a week or more in an airtight glass jar. Rotate jar occasionally to distribute sauce. Leftover sauce is excellent on cold noodles or meats and dumplings.

Note: IIRC, Tropp's book explains in more detail her differentiation between "black soy sauce" and other types of soy sauce. I was lazy and used regular soy sauce, it turned out fine. Garlic keeps very well and has a mellow, salty-sweet taste.

Pork Vindaloo

Pork Vindaloo

This is Erik's updated version from last year. I'm not sure what is different, but I think he's probably tweaked the spice amounts or put in the exact amounts for the increased amount of meat he uses.

Goanese Hot and Pungent Curry (Vendaloo - Erik's version)

Based on a recipe from Classic Indian Cooking by J ulie Sahni.

2 lbs of bone-in pork chops.

For marinade:
1 1/3 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/3 tsp black mustard seeds
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
6 medium cloves garlic
4 tsp chopped fresh ginger root
8 tsp cider vinegar
8 tsp light vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove

For cooking:
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
2/3 cup mustard oil or substitute light vegetable oil
2 cups tinly sliced onions
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp red pepper
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp kosher salt


Debone pork chops, cut meat into 3/4 inch cubes

Heat small frying pan over medium heat, and add cumin and mustard seeds. Roast seeds, stirring constantly, until cumin seeds turn dark and mustard seeds gray (about 3 minutes) Transfer to small bowl and let cool briefly, then grind into fine powder.

Put onion, garlic, ginger, vinegar and oil into container of electric blender, and puree.

Place pork along with bones, in a nonmetallic bowl. Add ground cumin and mustard seeds, pureed mixture, cinnamon and clove. Mix throughly to distribute paste over meat, and marinate for 8 hours or refridgerate for 48 hours.


Mix tamarind paste with enough boiling water to make 1 1/4 cups and set aside.

When ready to cook meat, heat mustard oil over high heat in large enamel-coated pan. When oil begins to smoke, turn off heat and let cool completely.

Heat oil again over medium high heat, and add onions. Fry until golden brown (about 12 minutes) stirring to prevent burning.

Reduce heat to medium, add turmeric, red pepper and paprika.

When spices begin to sizzle and turn dark (about 15 seconds) add meat and bones, and fry until meat pieces are slightly seared and oil begins to separate from gravy (About ten minutes).

Add tamarind juice, salt, and any remaining marinade, and bring to boil. Lower heat and cook partially covered, until meat is done (about 30 minutes). pick out bones and discard.


I typically refrigerate the marinade over night and let it sit out on the counter for a bit before I cook it.

This dish is BETTER as leftovers. I never eat this dish right away - as soon as it cools, I put it in the fridge for another day.

[Hag - THIS is some wonderful stuff! Wonderful wonderful wonderful... So pungent and rich... mmmmm... I can have and will eaten myself sick on this... You just gotta try it... Goos Shit maynard and all that!!!!]

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf

1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9x5x2 1/2-inch metal loaf pan. Sift first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in sugar, then beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla. Beat dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture alternately with milk. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake loaf cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely (can be made 2 days ahead. Wrap in plastic; store at room temperature).

Makes 12 servings.

Bon Appétit, November 2000, Flavors of the World

Rice Noodles with Chicken, Napa Cabbage and Mushrooms

Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

My mom made this all the time when we were growing up, especially on weekends. It keeps and reheats pretty well, although it never lasts more than a couple days at our house. You can add whatever vegetables or meat you want, too.

Damsel said her first instinct when she tasted garlic on noodles was to add parmesan. I've forgiven her for her barbarian ways, but the rest of you shouldn't push it. ;)

Serves 4

2 lbs. chicken breast, cubed
2 Tbsp. sherry
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
2-3 Tbsp. peanut oil
3 scallions, julienned
3-4 cups chopped Napa cabbage (it cooks down a lot)
6 dried black chinese mushrooms, soaked in cool water for an hour to reconstitute and cut into small pieces, discard the stems
1/4 cup chicken or beef broth
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 14-16 oz. package thin rice noodles, soaked in hot water for half an hour or until softened

In a bowl, mix cubed chicken with sherry, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil and set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat oil. Add chicken and stir-fry until cooked through. Add scallions and stir one minute. Add napa cabbage and keep stirring until cabbage wilts. Set this mixture aside in a bowl.

Add broth and soy and oyster sauce to the wok. Add diced mushrooms to the wok. Drain off rice noodles and mix in the wok, tossing gently to make sure it absorbs the liquid evenly. Try not to break the noodles up too much, it makes them more difficult to pick up with chopsticks. I eyeball this part, because you don't want there to be so much liquid, the noodles will get soggy. If you need more, you can use water, too. When noodles are softened and have absorbed most of the liquid, mix back in the meat and vegetables and serve.

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