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Musings of A Detroit Based Food Fanatic

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Cooking my way through the Deep Freeze

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     It’s been quite some time since I last posted on this blog. I am hoping that the kind readers who read my posts in the past will forgive me and participate again. By participate I mean not only read what I’ve written but respond with comments. It‘s those comments that validate my efforts and let me know that I have something to say.

On to business…..

     Having been though the warmest recorded winter/year in Michigan it was only a matter of time before Mother Nature said “Don’t get used to it”. This past week we got the message when the temperature plunged to around zero and I decided it was time to get the wood burning stove fired up. When I bought my house years ago it was one of the feature that came with the addition on the back of the house. The down side is that when it get on the cold side in winter we need to burn wood to keep the house warm. I remember one winter where the temperature stayed below zero for a month and I kept the fire going continuously the entire time.

      What does this have to do with food you ask? Hang with me…

     One winter our stove (gas) needed to be replaced and rather than rely on takeout while replacing it I got asked myself “What if I tried cooking in the fireplace?”. So I marinated some boneless skinless chicken breasts, dragged out the cast iron skillet,set it on the fire logs and,low and behold, I cooked up some awesome chicken breasts. I mean I was truly impressed/inspired! Since then I’ve cooked chicken breast,pork chops and roasted fish (mahi mahi). I‘ve also done the accompaniments (potatoes,vegetables etc…) and everything I‘ve done has turned out well. The food took on a luscious,smoky taste. Recently I got extra ambitious and decided to try a whole chicken. As with everything else I have cooked in the stove the trick is to keep it from burning. This requires almost constant attention as there are a lot of variables when working over an open flame and in the wood burning oven.

     I began by spatchcocking the chicken. While this sounds like it could be complicated what it means is to remove the backbone of the chicken for roasting. I just uses a pair of kitchen shears and cut it out.



     The next step, and a very important one, was to brine the chicken. Brining give you and incredibly moist and flavorful bird. My brine is just salt and sugar (although you can add spices for flavor as well) my recipe is:

1/2 gallon cold water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar

     I brought the ingredients to a boil and allowed it to cool completely. You could do this the night before and just leave it on the back of the stove (covered).

     I then marinated the chicken in the brine for 3-4 hours (refrigerated). After which I towel dried it and sprinkled it with a mix of salt (little), cumin and black pepper.

     Not to miss a step but I had already gotten my fire going a couple of hours before to make sure it was good and hot. I then placed my chicken in the cast iron skillet and set it in the oven,making sure it was close to the flame, but not directly on it. I then closed the doors and let the magic happen!

P1010243 P1010250

     Not wanting to oversimplify the process it bears saying that I checked it every 5-10 minute making sure it wasn’t burning and that it sat level on a log. I also added white wine and water to create pan juice to baste with and control the heat under the bird. Constant shifting and turning were part of the drill. I also used my thermometer (calibrated) to make sure when my chicken was done. One and a half hours later I had a bird that any chef would be envious of. I mean when you go to that 4 star restaurant and they have  roast chicken on the menu ($25.00 and up),this is what you get (although maybe not as good).

     For those of you who say “I can’t do that!” you can still brine your bird. You can maybe try it on the grill outside when the weather gets warmer. the important part is to have fun with the experience! I know not everyone has the equipment to take this on but cooking is an adventure and the journey is what make the experience memorable.


Written by Ed Schenk

February 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Posted in BBQ, Chicken, chicken, Entertainment, Recipe

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Lamb Shanks in Red Wine

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      With as much snow as we have had here in Michigan I felt the need to step up my hearty meal intake. When the temperature take a dive I like to help keep the house pleasant and warm by preparing a lot of stewed or braised foods. One of my favorites is braised lamb shanks. I try to purchase them when they are on sale and save them for the proper occasion.Lamb ( and beef or Pork ) Shanks have a tremendous amount of gelatin. This makes any preparation with them extra special.

Having dug out of the storm earlier this week I was surprised when I  came back from the store in clear weather only to find the car covered by 2 inches of snow not 10 minutes later.



After this I came to the conclusion that this would be a perfect day for the lamb shank I had.

  Your basic stew relies on the protein and the aromatic vegetables ( Onion,Carrot and Celery). In this version I replace the celery with fennel for a spicy twist. I also add a gremolata towards the end of the cooking process which brings a freshness to the preparation. A gremolata, traditionally, is a combination of fresh herbs, lemon rind,garlic and parley. For this preparation I used the fennel fronds to replace the parsley and orange rind to replace the lemon giving this braise a fresh and exciting taste.

As with all Stew/Braises low an slow is the rule!!


Braised Lamb Shanks in Red Wine with a Fennel and Orange Gremolata

For 2

For Lamb

    2 Lamb Shanks
    1 Cup Onion Rough Chopped
    1/2 cup Fennel Bulb Chopped
    1/2 cup Carrot Chopped
    1/2 cup Flour
    1 cup red wine
    • Dredge Lamb Shanks in flour and sear in a hot pan with oil

    • remove lamb an saute vegetable until translucent

    • Return lamb to the pan, add red wine, cover and simmer until tender.


    • Zest of one large orange
    • 1 lg. or 2 sm. cloves garlic; crushed
    • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fennel fronds
    • 1 tsp. olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

    Stir in  Gremolata and return pan to oven. Continue to cook for 30 minutes.

    Bon Apetit!

    Written by Ed Schenk

    February 11, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Thoughts of Ocracoke Island

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    IM_A0008                                                                        The neighborhood

       It’s been a long time since my last post. I apologize. I am feeling it’s time to get back to my second passion,writing!.

         Since my last post I was able to make a trip back to my second home (Ocracoke Island N.C.). To those not  acquainted this is a barrier island on the outer banks of North Carolina where I spent vacations as a child and have visited each year for the last decade. While we have  always rented a house (my buddy and 
    I). The last couple of time I chose to come down to the island early. The house we rented would not be available until Sunday but I chose to leave Thursday afternoon. Fifteen hour in the car later I Caught the ferry leaving the workaday world behind.

     ferry pic

    While I am not, generally, a rustic person I have camped on the island,a couple of days, for the last 2 years.

    P1010152 IM_A0056 P1010150

              Home for a couple of days                                     The View from the backyard                              Bluefin


    This last year I found myself hanging out at the campground feeling hungry and called a takeout order in to ( what I believe is) the only Thai restaurant on the outer banks. My thought process was that the seafood would be absolutely fresh as almost everything served on the island comes from day boats. I chose the Penang Curry with shrimp. It was everything I expected. Sweet and spicy with the freshest shrimp available and served over rice. I decided that I would have to recreate the dish when I got back to Detroit.


                                                             Trying to catch Dinner! Me (left) and Steve(right)(2004)

         I had most of the ingredients I need to reinvent this dish. I always have Pankow Breadcrumbs and and have had Java Curry Cubes in my freezer for some time. The plan is to bread the chicken in Pankow and Coconut and serve it with a Penang Curry Sauce over stir fried Rice Noodles.



    Coconut Crusted Chicken with Stir Fried Rice Noodles in a Penang Curry Sauce

    Serves 2

    • 2 4 oz Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
    • 1/2 cup Pankow Breadcrumbs
    • 1/2 Cup Shredded Coconut
    • 1 egg + 1 cup Milk (or water)
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup Rice Noodles (wide)
    • 1 can Coconut Milk
    • 1/2 Square Java Curry Paste (available in Asian groceries)
    • 1/2 cup Bean Sprout
    • 1/2 cup peanuts
    • 1/2 cup Cilantro (freshly Chopped)
    • vegetable oil
    1. Combine Coconut and Panko and reserve
    2. Wisk milk/water with flour to create a batter.
    3. Dip Chicken in the batter (draining excess) and dredge in the Coconut/Panko blend using the standard breading procedure rules ( in an earlier post)
    4. Set  aside for at least 10 minute so the Breading will set.
    5. In a separate pan combine the Coconut Milk with the Curry paste. Bring to a boil and wisk until combines. Keep warm for service.
    6. Cook Rice noodles according to direction and shock (stop cooking )in cold water.
    7. Fry/Sauté breaded chicken in vegetable oil until a golden brown color is achieved. Finish in a 350 degree oven until internal temp is 165 degrees.
    8. Stir fry Rice noodles.bean sprouts and peanuts in a little of the vegetable oil until warm.
    9. Add1/4  of the curry/coconut mix and toss. Add cilantro and toss again.
    10. Place a portion of the rice Noodles on a plate and arrange slice chicken around it.
    11. Drizzle with remaining sauce.

    Notes Food:

    • Panko is readily available in most supermarkets.
    • The Java Curry paste I used was from a Japanese grocery. It works well with this application. A Red or Green Curry sauce might not work as well in this S.E. Asian preparation.
    • The egg/milk/ flour combo is a Japanese take on Standard Breading Procedure. By creating a batter they eliminate a step.

    Notes: Ocracoke Island

    • Ocracoke Island has it’s own dialect which, if you listen carefully, you will hear spoken by the Island residents! It’s been in use since the island was settled in the 1700’s.
    • Hoi Toide = High Tide

      feesh= fish

      Dim witter= dumb ***

    • Until the 1960’s wild ponies had the run of the island and the local boy scout troop were the only “mounted” unit of the Boy Scouts due to the fact that they captured and trained the wild ponies. Due to progress they have since been corralled and remain an Island feature.
    • If visiting don’t miss picking up a jar of the local fig preserves. Figs grow wild on the island but also look for the Apple trees which have been growing on the island for hundreds of years. In recent years I have found Prickly Pear Cactus growing as well.
    • I also recently found, what I think is, the worlds largest rosemary plant growing there. It was in somebody’s front yard!
    • In addition to being a fisherman’s paradise there is also clamming and crabbing available.

    Written by Ed Schenk

    February 5, 2011 at 9:07 am

    No… I haven’t gotten lost!!!/ Rib eye Steak with Grilled Romaine

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          In my last post I alluded to my new position.I wanted bring you up to date with my current status. I am currently in Grand Rapids Michigan. I am living on-site and ( doing what I do) creating/implementing first rate dining services programs. I do return to my house in Detroit weekly.

            For the last 2 weeks I have enjoyed the  Downtown Blues Festival in Grand Rapids Little Ed was the first week and Duke Robilard  appeared last week. This week it was Janiva Magness.

    janiva magness

         Last week we had our first Al Fresco Dining  event and it went very well. We had literally twice our usual number participants joined us.We will be doing this weekly as long as the weather allows. Our resident  love what we are doing!! We have a wonderful Chef Manager who has a great relationship with our residents.

          I am taking a day off but wanted to stay in  touch

         Michigan has great small cities. Lansing, Ann Arbor, Flint and Grand Rapids  each host an  variety of cultural  events.



    My favorite meals lately has been steak with grilled romaine lettuce. I top the lettuce with an herb vinaigrette ( herbs from my garden) and Maytag Blue Cheese, as well as marinating the steak in fresh  herbs from my garden. I am fortunate to have a butcher shop in my neighborhood and they will cut steaks to my specifications.  I prefer to have my steaks cut to about 2 # and grill/roast when cooking.




    The Romaine lettuce I drizzle with the vinaigrette after I have topped it with the cheese  and slice the steak thin.

    steak on the grill steak1 steak on the grill 2

      The results are spectacular!!!

    Written by Ed Schenk

    June 26, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Sorry I didn’t Write!

    with 10 comments


         I want to begin by thanking all the folks who have been reading this blog.

          I have been posting 2 to 3 times a week for several months now but recently I took a position as Regional Director of Dining Services and it  has curtailed some of my efforts. As I am new to the company I choose not to reveal it’s name. My role/goal is to establish a first rate Dining Services program at each of the Senior Dining Communities I am involved in. This has taken up a great deal of my time.

         Recently we did a Mother’s Day Brunch and it was exceptional. There was Prime Rib, Chicken Marsala, fresh Asparagus with Hollandaise,Baby Carrots with Fresh Dill, as well as, an omelet bar, a cheesecake bar, a waffle bar and fresh fruit and pastries. I was thrilled that we put on an event on par with any in the area (and exceeding most).


    Waffle Bar image   


    I will be getting back to a regular posting as son as I am able. I hope you stay tuned in!

    Written by Ed Schenk

    May 14, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Turning Japanese..I think I’m turning Japanese.I really think so ! Making and Eating Chicken Katsu

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    Katsu 1    

    I have always had a love of Japanese food and culture. As early as me teens I was going out to Japanese restaurants and slurping up sushi. My Asian journey was helped by a good friend whose nickname Red Ed. He was called due to the fact that he had red curly hair and freckles and so people would know which Ed they were talking about ( I was called …..Ed. Sorry I won’t reveal more!). The thing about Red Ed was that he grew up in Japan and was fluent in the language. Besides introducing me to Japanese food and culture he also taught me some of the language (a skill that would serve me well later). A favorite prank of ours was to go to a party and speak Japanese to each other and watch as the whole room fell silent while trying to figure out what we were saying to each other. Anyway…

      Fast forward 30 years. I was hired to run the Cafeteria at a large Japanese auto concern. It was a natural. I knew food and spoke some Japanese. One of the requirements of the position was to serve authentic Japanese food. In order to fill this requirement I hired a Japanese Chef. Now my background as a Chef is pretty deep but I was in awe watching this Chef work. It was such a pleasure and I learned so much more about Japanese cuisine than I thought I knew. One of the dishes we served was called Chicken Katsu. It’s basically Japanese fried Chicken but is very popular. We served it once a week and people would line up around the building just to order it.

    Without further babbling I present to you Chicken Katsu:

    Chicken Katsu Dinner for Two

    • 2×4 oz chicken Breast
    • kosher salt
    • White pepper
    • 1 cup flour (all purpose)
    • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
    • 1 egg
    • milk
    • Bulldog brand Tonkatsu Sauce
    • Finely shredded cabbage*
    • Nishiki brand Japanese short grain rice
    • Black sesame seeds

    1. Butterfly both chicken breast so that they are an even thickness through out.
    2.Sprinkle each piece lightly with kosher and white pepper.
    3.Make a batter with the egg milk and some of the flour. It should be the consistency of a thin pancake batter.
    4.Dredge the chicken in the flour and then dip it in the batter. Place the battered chicken in the breadcrumb.
    5.Using dry hand  coat the chicken with the breadcrumb. Allow the breaded chicken to rest fir 1o minutes so the coating will set.
    6.Fry the chicken at 350 degrees until golden brown and the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
    7.Place shredded cabbage on the plate in a mound.
    8.Run a knife through the chicken in order to cut it in strips.
    9.Put on plate with the cabbage and drizzle with Tonkatsu sauce.
    10.Serve with cooked rice sprinkled with black sesame seed.


    * Soak the cabbage in cold water after shredding. It will get crisp as it absorbs the water.

    • Panko breadcrumbs are available in all Japanese grocery stores and most groceries.
    • I am not endorsing the rice brand as I know there are other brands of Short grain Japanese rice. It is, however the most recognizable brand in the U.S.
    • While it is possible to make Tonkatsu sauce nobody in Japan really does because the commercial stuff is widely available. It’s like mayonnaise…Yeah I know how to make it but why go to the trouble if I don’t have to.
    • Bulldog brand Tonkatsu sauce is the most widely available brand and can be found in Most Japanese (and Korean) groceries.

    Nokorimono ni wa fuku ga aru

    Luck exists in the leftovers.

    Written by Ed Schenk

    April 15, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Honeybee Market

    with 2 comments

    Honeybee meat counter (2)    

    Every community has anchors. These are businesses that, in spite of economic difficulties stay the course due to the ties they have to their communities. In Mexicantown Honeybee market is one such anchor.

         Started by Geraldo Alfaro in 1956 and passed on to third generation family,  Honeybee  is also call “La Colmena” which means “the hive where the bees gather”.

        In a city devoid of major supermarket chains Honeybee has quietly grown from a neighborhood grocery and bodega to become a major food destination, not only for local residents, but for suburbanites, too. In addition to a fully stocked meat and seafood counter Honeybee has a hot foods counter with Mexican specialties. Honeybee also has a great produce section carrying the freshest produce in the city. In addition to the basics Honeybee carries the freshest chilies(I counted 7 varieties), Cactus, Tomatillos, Chayote, Guava…well I could go on and on.

         When you enter Honeybee you are greeted by samples. Freshly made salsas and guacamole are offered along with crisp tortilla chips to entice you. Ever wonder about that fruit and if its really ripe?  No problem! I found many produce items with a sample cut open so you could see what was inside the skin. Freshness never seemed better!

         In the seafood counter was shrimp, fresh fish and octopus for the asking and all cuts of meat, as well as, regional specialties such as tripe and tongue. The prices were on par, if not better than, any supermarket in the suburbs.

         I mentioned the hot foods counter earlier. When I stopped by there was quite a line. Tacos, Tamales, Barbacoa (BBQ) were on the menu. On Saturday and Sunday the have a specialty that I think is unique to Honeybee. Although it is a Latin American specialty I don’t believe steamed cow’s head is offered any place else in Detroit. If you don’t believe me watch the travel channel to hear how good the meat from the head can be. Anthony (Bourdain) and Andrew (Zimmern) will tell you!!

    Honeybee Market is open Monday through Saturday (8 AM – 8 PM) and Sunday (8AM-6 PM)

    Honeybee Market – La Colmena

    2443 Bagley

    Detroit, Mi 48216


    Honeybee Market Website

    Written by Ed Schenk

    January 27, 2010 at 11:28 pm