Wednesday, November 20, 2013


The Mark


What was the world like before gumbo? For me, a sad shell of what true simple, hearty food could taste like. I do not know the specifics of the origins of this amazing dish, but once I learned how to make it it changed my mind on how food could be prepared. The ingredienent list is not all that complicated, and the reality is that this recipe is mostly just a guideline. I categorize this as a kitchen sink recipe, you can throw in whatever you have kicking around, if you don't have chicken, use turkey.... no andouille? Try spicy Italian. Don't like seafood, leave it out. The biggest thing here you have to grasp is the techniques, specifically the roux. 

A good roux can make or break your dish and I feel some people out there fail to make a roux that is cooked long enough to add that depth of flavor. I learned a long time ago that you should cook your roux according to beers, I prefer a four beer roux. Specifically that means you should start your roux, drink four beers and then it will be ready. Now there are occasions for 6 or 7 beer rouxs, but I would recommend taking turns with some one. Hot oil and a lot of beers can be a dangerous mix.

The Players

1lb bacon – try and find a good locally sourced one.
1 cup AP flour
6 Chicken thighs – again organic, farm raised.
1lb Andouille sausage -I prefer Gaspers if you can find it (sliced into chunks)
1lb Chorizo sausage – again, Gaspers if you can find it (sliced into chunks)
1lb shrimp – Peeled and deveined
2 large yellow onions diced
1 Red Bell pepper – diced
1 green bell pepper – diced
4-5 stalks celery – diced
Salt and Pepper
1 head of garlic - chopped fine
8-12 Okra – sliced or 1 bag frozen if you can't find fresh
beer – I prefer a nice brown ale like Brooklyn, but a lager will suffice.
Stock – chicken, beef, seafood, what ever you have. (preferably homemade)

The Con

Step 1: Crack a beer.
Step 2: Reduce the bacon over medium heat, til crispy, in a heavy bottom pot. I use my big              LeCreuset.
Step 3: remove bacon to paper towels
Step 4: Make the roux.
  • You should have about a cup or so of bacon fat
  • Add as much flour as fat
  • stir constantly – and I mean constantly!
  • drink 4 beers
  • roux should look like peanut butter
  • BE CAREFUL, this stuff is hot and WILL BURN YOU!
  • Looks good, but taste horrible, resist the temptation (trust me)
Step 5: Add the Onions, Peppers, Celery, and Okra (if fresh) salt and pepper. Cook till                   translucent (10mins-ish)
           ***add the garlic after about 6 mins
Step 6: Add about one beer. Pour in slowly so your roux don't clump!
Step 7: Add the sausage, cook for about 5 minutes to marry the flavors.
Step 7: Add the chicken - *see note
Step8: Add the stock. Just enough to cover. If you need more liquid you can add               
            water.....or more beer.
Step 9: Bring to a boil, reduce to med/low and simmer for about an hour or so.
Step 10: Add the Okra if using frozen, simmer ten more minutes.
Step11: Add the shrimp, cook for about 2 – 3 minutes as not to over cook the shrimp.
Step 11: Call everyone to the table and enjoy.
*Can be served with rice, cornbread, more beer, and if the bacon is still around (ususally not in my house) crumble if on top.


I like to salt and pepper the chicken and let it sit for about twenty minutes. Then pan sear the chicken, skin side down to get a nice brown crust before moving it to the pot. You can also deglaze this pan with stock, beer or perhaps some bourbon for an additional flavor boost.

**another note

The players here will give you a lot of flavor, but you can also add your own variations. I almost always put Bay leaves in everything, same with thyme. An addition of Paprika at the same time as the onions will give you a wonderful hue, I like Tumeric for the same reason.

**more freaking notes, WTF!
I think a part of cooking that has been lost is the frugality of it. This being a poor dish, everything was used. If you have scraps from the onions and celery, simmer them in your stock for more flavor, same goes with the shrimp shells. Frugal is not a bad word.

Monday, February 20, 2012


One of the few things I probably could not live without is coffee. Now I am not one of those who slumps out of bed and needs my joe before you can speak to me. I have not become an addict of caffeine. I actually will go days or even weeks without the stuff, but oh do I enjoy my coffee.

My infatuation with coffee started a long time ago. Not in some culinary moment of zen or a romantic interlude that ended with her offering me a cappuccino bedside after a night of passion. My entrance into the wondrous world of  that magical potion was a pragmatic one. 

While stationed in the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm we were working 12+ hr days and coffee was my crutch. In a land where my beer is banned and wine is wicked, I sought refuge in a jolt of joe that pushed me through my long days. Mind you, back then I was drinking Army coffee. The stuff that songs are sarcastically sung, with references to mud and muck. Half a cup of milk and a ladle of sugar seemed the appropriate accoutrements to this wretched excuse for a beverage, but for the time being, coffee became a part of my morning routine.

 The years moved on and my palette became a bit more educated. The king of beers was replaced with a Belgium brew. Wine went from pink to purple and my java, well that took some time. The search for the perfect cup of coffee went on for years. Then I moved to Baltimore.

One hazy morning, my brother and I cruised down to the Baltimore Farmers Market.  My head was fuzzy, but the crisp morning air brought me about and I smelled a magical scent swirling through the crowd. I instantly knew that alluring aroma. My synapses fired in succession and B lined me toward that scent. Standing before me was a line of fellow fiends waiting to get their fill of what has now become my favorite purveyor of my morning potion, Zeke's coffee.

 A small roaster in Baltimore, these guys have  been in business since 2005, and they know what they are doing. They bring forth the exotic Kopi Luwak to their faithful followers, and dazzle us with their daily Arabica blends. Their retail shop is a quaint little shop that bekons you forth to stop and relax. I hope in your journeys you check out their site and perhaps order some of their joe. Perhaps you are in the area and stop in, either way, tell them you heard it here.


Salsa Y Bacon Chipolte Guac

I guess for my initial, or shall we say, Inaugural post I wanted to talk about one of my favorite things, food. For those of you that know me, you know I geek out to food. I am a proponent of the local food movement and I do my best to find locally sourced ingredients, visit the farmers market, and even grow some of my own, albeit with mediocre success.

I get a lot of requests for my recipes yet as my brother will tell you, I usually don't cook the same thing twice. I love to cook and experiment with techniques and different food combinations, but I guess for the sake of you who seek my culinary counsel, I will attempt to bring my food world to the WWW and share these experiences and more importantly, these recipes with you.

My cousin Jess and her husband Ben where visiting and I made them some of my salsa and guacamole. Jess has been hounding me for these recipes for sometime now so I guess I will start here. I have a particular inclination to Latin food and these two are easy quick recipes that are satisfying and versatile. I hope you enjoy them and please let me know what you think. Buen provencho!


Ok, this is definitely a seasonal favorite, when the tomatoes are perfectly ripe, jalapenos are fat and delicious, and the cilantro you can smell from 10 feet away, it's time to make salsa. but please do not let the season hold you back, fresh salsa, even with winter tomatoes still brings a smile to your face and perhaps a touch of summer to your mind.

8 tomatoes. I usually use Roma's, but any kind will do.
   (cut in half, remove core and seeds)
2 medium onions, peeled
   ( again, any kind will do, red onions bring a beautiful color to the dish)
6 Jalapenos 
  ( seeded if you want it mild)
3 limes, juiced
1 bunch of cilantro, just use the leaves

Ok, now comes the hard part. Take out your food processor and throw the Tomato, onion, jalapeno and cilantro in and PULSE until you get a fairly homogenous mixture. There is no wrong here, if you like it chunkier, leave it chunkier. but please pulse the food processor, if you leave it running you will make gazpacho (not exactly, but soup nonetheless) 

You may have to work in batches but once everything is chopped, add about half your lime juice and a good sprinkling of salt (please see salt note at the bottom). Now taste the salsa, if it needs more lime juice or salt add until it tastes yummy! 

You can eat this alone or with.....


OK, I don't make regular guac. During a moment of food inspiration the marriage of avocado, chipoltle and the king of all foods, bacon, were combined into a heavenly dish that is truly fit for a king, but I love you all so much, Kings be damned,let us eat Guac!

5 avocados, pitted and chopped
1-2 TBLS of Chipoltle in adobo sauc. 
      (if you like it spicier chop up a chipoltle and add, otherwise use just the juice.
1/2 lb of bacon, fried until crispy (see note)
 1/2 cup of salsa
       (if you use jarred salsa, don't ever tell me, because I will hate you!)
and I do mean HATE!

Once you have all the ingredients prepped, throw em in a bowl and mix. I like to smash the avocado's a bit so the guac becomes creamy, yet there are still some recognizable chunks of avocados in there. Taste it, if it needs salt and it. Needs some more salsa, yup, add it! You are eating it after all.

That wasn't so complicated was it? Now go out and get yourself these ingredients and a bag of chips, (better yet, ask me how to make your own) and the fix-in's for Margaritas (I have a recipe for this as well) and celebrate! It is Friday after all!

* a note. 
All salt is not the same. Please go buy yourself some course Kosher salt, I am sure I will post something about the specifics soon enough, but trust me for now.
Also, if you have a source for local bacon, please use it. If you need help finding that local source let me know!

And please remember, Life Don't Suck.....Pass it on!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


The beauty of food is that everyone is doing it. Your choice of cuisine may be a simple grilled cheese or burger on the grill. You may have aspirations  of culinary genius, but no matter where your muse lay, food is truly that thing that binds us.

My own culinary journey began a long time ago. My mother would prop me up in the kitchen and let me assist with whatever concoction was simmering for that nights meal.  From there I have been blessed with a family of, what would be called "foodies" in society today.

 My Uncle Bob is probably one of the finest cooks I know. He was one of the first people to have a cooking show on TV. Then there is my Uncle Johnny who catered events. He would hire my brother and I to do the dishes, my foray into the food industry. My Step Mom, Carol , was making Babaganoush and Tandoori Chicken before it was cool. She then left a successful career to return to school and become a classically trained chef, again, before it was hip. And  what accolades would be complete with out good ol' Mom.

Propped up on the counter, intuitively learning the skills that would some day lead to marriage proposals from woman AND men alike, Mom did more than anyone could to make me the cook I am today. She instilled the happiness, solace and comfort that I find when I am in the kitchen and for that I am ever great-full. 

These people were some of my original inspirations, but I continue to be inspired by the likes of others out there. Chef's, cooks and foodies have sprung up to share their recipes, ideas and family treasures with everyone willing to seek there counsel. Yet with the plethora of sites available via the web I always seem to come back to a certain few. I have provided links to my favorite sites and those that continue to inspire me. Please check them out and let them know the Refined Swine sent you their way. I hope you are inspired and in the true spirit of a foodie, please share any of your favorites.


Here is a great source for recipes that are tasty and Jenny believes in the inherent goodness in our food to both heal and nourish us.

When I need inspiration, this is my go to site. Elise's recipes have always been amazing. I can't say enough.

Alejandra you may recognize from MasterChef. I have recently become friends with here via Twitter and her positive spirit and culinary skill awe's and inspires me.

Mike out at Green Akey farms is an awesome guy. I just joined his food co-op and he is doing some great things. These are the people that truly make the food world spin.

My last shout out will be to the Baltimore Farmers Market. This is the finest farmers market I have been to and they are there every week for 75% of the year. If you live in this area and you have never been, you are missing out!

Ok, remember, Life Don't Suck .... True story! and I will see you soon!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mac n' Cheese

Simple things in life are good. Flowers, children's laughter, a new born puppy... How fucking cute!!!! I don't intend to sound crass, they are fucking cute, but come on, we all know life ain't that simple. Sometimes we need more in our lives, and to over emphasize this whole issue, I am going to compare these kiddies frolicking and puppies pooping to mac n' cheese.
Yes, mac n' cheese! The stuff we all love. Perhaps it comes in a blue box with a powdered cheese sauce in which you add your liquid of choice , the recommended 2% low-fat milk or a couple swings off that JD bottle you got left from last Fridays NASCAR rally, up to you. Maybe it's your mother's homemade version made with government cheese and last night's pasta a la leftover, souped into your favorite Green Lantern bowl. Which ever one it is, we love the shtuff. Simple carbs loaded with flavored fat curds. The epitome of American comfort food. Heart attack here I come! But this ain't the simple life and sometimes I don't want a quick velvety cheese sauce squeezed from some astronauts pouch. I want the real deal. A version I am proud to serve. I could call it "Penne a la Frommage" and charge $20 a plate for it to the unsuspecting suburbanite, I want a mac n' cheese that's good! Not, I just smoked a fatty good, rather.... "Eat me, WTF was that? Give me more..... SUBLIME!"
And I think I found it.
Now, entertain my thought here. Most of my ingredients are exactly what you will find in the recipe from a pretentious snooty classically trained chef, with one exception, it's sold in a big block of yellowish orange goo that will melt in your hand, and clog your arteries faster than rubberneckers choke rush-hour traffic.
Any guesses?
Yup! and there is only one reason for this. Mac n' cheese is an American icon. If I start adding Gruyere and Roquefort, well, that's just un-American. Your average blue-collar type will look at you like you've got two heads. My recipe boasts the ability to satiate your soul, appease the masses and just taste damn good!
   But this is only the teaser, check back soon for the details!