Friday, June 17, 2011

Going South....

This edition of the Urban Chef takes us out of the urban, into the suburban, and well, sometimes pretty rural!  I went home last weekend to good old Burtonsville MD (Silver Spring) to visit my family.  My brother turned 24 on June 9th (Yay! Bennett!!!) and I hadn’t been home since Christmas and a visit was in order.  I was very excited to see my family, but a bit less so when Bennett told me that for his birthday celebration he wanted to eat at the BBQ rib joint, Red Hot and Blue (more on that later…)  As for me, all I wanted from my visit was a grilled half smoke (a half-smoke is a local sausage delicacy found in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding regions. Similar to a hot dog, but usually larger, spicier, and with more coarsely-ground meat, the sausage is often half-pork and half-beef, and smoked,) and some good wine from my dad’s cellar.  I love living in this urban lifestyle, but sometimes, I just want to hang out on the deck and grill (well, watch my dad grill anyway!)

Friday, I visited with my grandma, who is 84 and still very spunky.  She is always fun to be around, but a bit of an over-sharer and an over-interviewer, believe me, no secrets are kept by or from my grandma. I think she really missed her calling; she could have been Barbara Walters!  My grandma also takes care of my cat, Lucy, fondly referred to as Lucifer.  They are two peas on a pod, Lucy gets all the attention she could ever want and my grandma has a companion and something to fuss over and about.  I still miss my Lucifer, but she and the urban chef don’t quite get along, and I’m glad she’s happy with my grandma.

Friday night birthday dinner at Red, Hot, and Blue—Bennett was so excited, all he kept saying to me is “ribs, Jess, ribs, how can you not like ribs?!”  I’ll tell you why.  They are messy and kinda fatty, and really the flavor does nothing for me as I don’t like BBQ sauce, it’s something about the sugar sweet stickiness that really turns me off.  Overall, the restaurant experience was very good.  If you are ever in MD and need some BBQ, I highly recommend.  For appetizers, we shared hot wings (not nearly hot enough), hush puppies (awesome, really had good onion flavor and were perfectly fried) and fries (good, standard thick cut well fried fries.)  Entrees arrive, my dad had convinced Bernice to order a rack of ribs, which looked ridiculous as they sat in front of her!  Dad I think forgets that Bernice is not a big eater like his children—(we can seriously pack it away), but even Bennett (who is 6’5”) couldn’t wipe out this rack.  What I loved was the desset, a brownie Sunday!!! YUM!! It even came with one of those maraschino cherries!  So, happy birthday Bennett, to the best brother a sister could ever want, who is there for me in the good and bad, who always makes me laugh, and is one of the smartest people I know.  I ate ribs for you, so clearly, I love you.

Saturday night cookout!  Half smokes were thawing on the counter and meat had been pulled from my dad’s meat fridge.  Yes, my dad has a meat fridge, it’s in the garage, and usually stuffed to the gunnels as he buys a part of an organic grass fed cow each year—the meat is always so fresh, flavorful, and tender.  My dad is the grill master, he makes excellent hamburgers and hotdogs, and well, anything else you can think of grilling.  For the hamburgers he has been using the trick of adding soggy white bread to the hamburger meat to keep it moist.  See below, my dad making our cookout feast.  

I really put it away that night, I ate a hamburger (with American cheese, a classic combo!) a half smoke, baked beans, chips, and fruit salad!  Delicious!!! Nothing beats home cooking.  Thank you to Dad and Bernice who cooked all day (kudos to Bernice, she made baked beans I would actually eat!)  It was a good Saturday. 

My dad is also a master pie maker—in addition to all the yummy cookout food, he made a strawberry pie, which I assisted with (note the decorative look of the pie!).  The trick to fruit pie is to make a slurry of cornstarch and sugar and cook half the fruit, but leave the other half uncooked so that the pie is fresh, otherwise you just have a pie with jam in it!  The below recipe works with any fruit, but is best with peaches, blueberries, or strawberry’s.

Glazed Fruit Pie
Preparation time:  20 minutes
Total time:  20 minutes

Number of servings:  8

Make these low cook pies in summer when fruit is fresh and you don’t want to run the oven.  For my friends who are doing CSA, this is a great recipe to use up all that fruit we are getting.

1 pie crust (see recipe from earlier post or use store bought)
6 to 7 cups of fruit
1 c water
½ to 1 cup of sugar
2 ½ T corn starch
1 ½ T lemon juice (optional)
½ t cinnamon (optional)
½ t vanilla (optional)
¼ t salt

Preheat oven 450 and bake empty, docked pie crust.

Clean fruit.  Over medium heat, combine water, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt and 2 cups of the fruit.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  Mash fruit until a glaze forms (thin with water if necessary or cook to thicken).

Let pie crust cool.  Let glaze cool.  Pour in glaze into cooled pie crust and then add remaining fruit creating a pattern on the top (or you can just stir and mix together).  Pour into pie shell and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

All in all, a great trip home.  A little cute picture below, on my run (trying to work off all that BBQ) I saw chickens and a rooster in the road!  Thanks to Dad, Bernice, Bennett, Grandma, and mom for a fun visit.  Hope to see you up here in Brooklyn soon.  


  1. There is nothing better than a good old cookout. I agree that grass fed beef is always so fresh, flavorful, and tender. I order my beef from La Cense Beef. The flavor of their montana beef is delicious. I order online and buy in bulk and freeze it as well. You should check out the site and possibly try it. I’m sure you will be completely satisfied with the flavor.

  2. Ok, today we make your berry pie! I'll let you know the family's feedback afterwards