Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Yep, I met the man.

Sandwiched in between my excursion to the ultra exciting Amcon 2008 manufacturing expo (where I at one time spent more than 10 minutes in a conversation about rivets) and my riveting (pun intended) afternoon meeting with Actel where we learned about their new line of field programmable gate arrays, was lunch.

In case there was too much in the middle there, let me make it easier:

Sandwiched in between ... rivets... and my afternoon meeting... was lunch.

Seeing as how we were already on the Eastside, it only made sense to go to Dixie's BBQ, a landmark restaurant sitting directly underneath SR520.

It's a BBQ restaurant in a converted auto repair garage. Besides the fact that the food is incredibly good, their main claim to fame is their signature sauce - nicknamed "The Man" that the owner walks around spreading on people's sandwiches. Since I am somewhat known for my love of hot and spicy foods, I was prepared to stomach the worst to maintain my reputation.

We placed our orders and took a seat. I believe the chair I sat on was last upholstered during the Kennedy administration. Shortly thereafter, we were approached: "Have you met The Man?" I eagerly indicated that I wanted some. I was offered a toothpick-full at first, but insisted on the spoon. So, I was given a small spoonful. I whipped a large spicy bite on my fork and downed it. Several things went through my mind:

1) This isn't so bad.
2) I might burn my mouth more from the temperature of the food than the spiciness.
3) I should be macho and ask for more.
4) Why doesn't my voice work?
5) Maybe I shouldn't have downed the whole spoonful.
6) Can this stuff stop my heart?
7) Ok, take a swig of root beer and try to ask for more again.
8) Blink.

I did manage to keep most of my composure, and ask for more. It was definitely good, and despite thoughts 4 through 8, it wasn't as spicy as I expected or wanted. The first taste was a surprise because I just downed it and so it went to work on my throat instead of my mouth. After that, I was smarter about my consumption, and the whole experience was much more enjoyable.

Frankly though, "The Man" is not as hot as the Dave's Insanity sauce I have in my fridge.

But, I can now say that I met "The Man". Actually, I guess I can say, I met The Man, shook his hand, and kissed him on both cheeks. Or something like that. Don't get the wrong idea.

-The Krunchy Krab

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A picture post? Yes! A cooking post? Yes! A loophole? What else!

I've said before that I wouldn't let this become a cooking blog, but I found a loophole. It's time for a picture post!

Tonight's mission: A pizza pie. If you've never understood why it is called pizza pie, I highly suggest you take out the following ingredients and follow along.

1 batch Challah dough. I'll tackle that in another blog. You can easily substitute regular pizza dough, but you won't get the same dramatic rise and sweet flavor that Challah has.

3 Boneless, skinless Chicken breasts, cooked and sliced into bite-sized pieces

Some cooked bacon (optional), about 3 slices chopped

3 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

About 5 oz Sundried Tomato Pesto

Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

Parmesan cheese, shredded

Some fresh basil, julienned


Begin by dividing the dough into two balls - one roughly twice the size of the other. The larger ball will form the bottom crust of the pie, and the smaller ball will be used for the crust. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

Begin by working with the larger ball - keep the smaller ball wrapped in plastic wrap. You need to work quickly once you start to work the dough, we don't want to allow it a second rise outside the oven. This dough will be very jelly-like, and will fall if allowed to rise and is then disturbed again.

Roll/toss/stretch (whichever method you're comfortable with) the dough to the size of your pizza pan. You could also use a jelly roll pan to make a rectangular pizza.

Next, we will make the crust. Take the smaller ball and cut it in half. Then, cut each half into thirds. Still with me? We're going to make two braids, one for each half of the pizza. Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin, strand. (See picture - they're about the same diameter as your pinky) Once you've rolled three of them to about 24 inches long, begin to braid them.

Squish the three strands together at each end to hold them together. Then, once you've finished a braid, place it on the pizza. If your dough is too dry, wet your fingers to make it tacky so it sticks. Repeat with the remaining dough to make the other half crust.

You'll probably notice that where the two braids meet is not very pretty. If you're a perfectionist, or you're just feeling inspired, feel free to set aside a small amount of dough to make a mini (1.5 inch diameter) braided wreath to cover these areas. I usually do it, but hey it's a weeknight and I was tired. Plus, taking all these pictures took enough extra time that I really needed to save some time and get this in the oven.

Next comes the sauce. Spread a fairly thin layer - Sundried Tomato Pesto has a strong flavor, and will easily coat and stick to whatever it touches.

Next, lay the sliced Roma Tomatoes - make a single solid layer of tomatoes covering the whole pizza. When it cooks, these will soften down into the sauce. Now, sprinkle the chopped bacon over the pizza, and then the chicken.

Now comes the cheese. Mix the two cheeses together, and sprinkle a generous layer over the top. You need complete coverage to seal in all the toppings. Finally, brush the braid lightly with an egg wash.

When you get to this point, you will begin to understand what I meant by my pie comment at the beginning of this post. Here's a profile shot with some of my daughter's Duplos for reference. Please note these are Duplos, not Legos. The depth of the finished pie is somewhere around 2 inches.

You remembered to turn the oven on, right? Preheat to 375. Set one rack in the lowest position, and another right above it. Put an empty cookie sheet on the bottom rack, and place the pizza on the rack above it. We're effectively baking a loaf of bread here, which will require more time than your standard pizza, so we need to protect the bottom to keep it from burning.

Set your timer for 8 minutes, then spray the oven and close the door.

After 4 minutes, open the oven slightly and spray again. You need to maintain a high humidity inside the oven during the early stages of baking to encourage a good rise. If you don't get enough rise out of your dough, it will be really dense and chewy.

At the 8 minute mark, check to make sure the braid isn't falling off, and everything is cooking evenly. It's preferable to NOT turn the pizza at this point, the dough will still fall if not handled gently at this point. Spray again before closing the oven, then reset your 8 minute timer.

Check again at 4 minutes - if the crust has not begun to harden, spray again. When these 8 minutes are up, it's time to turn the pizza. Rotate 180 degrees. Now it is also time to sprinkle the basil over the top (it will burn if put on when you start baking). You should also remove the extra pan underneath the pizza, to allow the bottom crust to finish baking.

Total cooking time will be about 30-35 minutes. If the crust appears to be just about done on bottom, but the cheese hasn't browned yet, switch to broiling - low if you have multiple broiler settings. Broil until the crust sounds hollow when tapped and the cheese is browned on top. Here's the finished product:

Let's take another look at how thick this bad boy is. It's well over two inches thick now. More like 3 or 4.

And finally, here's a cross-sectional view:

It's completely wonderful. Also, this is great for serving company - this pie will easily feed 10 people.


-The Krunchy Krab

Friday, February 01, 2008


"Nice fabric is so much nicer than not nice fabric!"

-Guess Who?