Mary Had a Little Lamb. Roast.

If you look closely you can see a fan in the upper left hand corner. Placed there deliberately, it was wafting lamby scents through out the neighborhood.

It’s officially Fall and getting chilly.  I know some families make hamburgers and hot dogs to celebrate the end of summer. We, on the other hand, put a lamb on a spit and roast the shit out of it then invite neighbors and co-workers over to get completely inappropriate, courtesy of my uncle G.  In keeping with ES’ other end-of-summer post, I think this might count as food on a stick but more…I don’t know…pornographic?

I’m sure you have a lot of questions: where do you even buy a whole lamb? How long do you have to cook it for? How do you cook it? What parts of it do you eat? What parts are the best? What does it taste like? I The actual chef will reveal the secrets of the lamb after the jump…

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Pittsburgh vs. Arizona Super Bowl Food-Off

Super Bowl week is here and ES is confused. With no cheeseheads, cheesesteak-heads, or scrappy underdogs to root for, and no Patriots to root against, we just don’t know what to do. This year’s game is between Pittsburgh, which we think has something to do with steel but we’re not quite sure what; and Arizona, which we can always find on a map given two guesses but don’t know much else about.

There’s nothing worse than showing up at a Super Bowl party and not knowing which team to root for, but how to decide? Between making dips, buying beer, and ordering pizza, there’s just no time to research the merits and demerits of the individual teams.

So we’re choosing who to root for the only way we know how — based on which team has the best food. Will it be Pittsburgh with its all-American blue collar traditions? Or Arizona, with it’s sun-baked spicy flair? (The Cardinals are based in Phoenix, but since they claim the whole state, we’re gonna go ahead and give it to them, since we suspect they might need a boost anyway). Without further ado, the Pittsburgh vs. Arizona Super Bowl Food-Off: 



First Quarter: Best Sandwich



 OK, we lied. Turns out we do know at least one thing about Pittsburgh. Namely, Steeltown is home to Primanti Brothers, one of the most outrageously amazing sandwich shops in the country. We can’t think of a more appropriate way to enjoy the big game than with a Primanti Bros. pastrami sandwich, piled high with perfectly spiced meat, coleslaw and french fries. Yes, fries inside the sandwich, not on top of or beside. The only problem is trying to stay awake for the second half. (Photo: The Halberg)

Uh-oh, Pittsburgh. We did some research and it turns out America had outrageous sandwiches before the Italians got here – and we mean waaaaaaay before. If you ever find yourself around Mesa, Arizona, you’ll want to stop by Arizona Native Frybread and pick up a traditional Navajo Sandwich — golden frybread filled with grilled lamb meat and topped with lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and fire roasted green chilis. Now that’s a sandwich. (Photo: chowdownphoenix via Serious Eats)

Point: Arizona. Can’t hate on Primanti Bros, but that frybread is just too damn enticing.
Second Quarter: Best Pizza



 We try not to eat pizza outside NYC, but we’d make an exception if we drove by Vincent’s Pizza Park, because that crust looks so crispy, the cheese so golden brown, and, um..for g-d’s sake there’s an entire pig on that pie! Might have to start carrying around a pic of this beauty so that every time we go into a pizzeria and see a pepperoni pie with five or six measly ‘ronis on it we can show them this craziness, where the pepperonis actually have to be placed sideways to make room for all of them. Bravo, Pittsburgh. Youse sure know how to eat some meat. (Photo: hanzabean)

 We gotta say we’re a little surprised by how many people out there on the Internets claim the very best slice in America is served up at a pizzeria in Phoenix. Specifically, they’re talking about Pizzeria Bianco. The thin-but-not-flimsy crust does look impressive (seriously, look) and the toppings are nothing if not ballsy. For example, the “Rosa” you’re looking at is topped with onions, parmagiana reggiano, rosemary and Arizona pistachios. Yes, that’s pistachios as in pistachio nuts. On a pizza. We’re intrigued. (Photo: roboppy)

Point: Pittsburgh. Arizona gets an A for effort, but this is the Super Bowl, not the Oscars, so pepperoni trumps pistachio.
Third Quarter: Best Hot Dog



 Good gravy! If we had to paint a picture of what the Super Bowl means to America, it would probably look very much like this photo. The bacon and cheddar dog is one of just many heart-stopping options offered at Pitt favorite D’s SixPax & Dog’s, but in our humble opinion, it’s the most perfect. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated. Take meat. Cover with bacon. Douse in cheese. Pray for forgiveness. (Photo: Mr. Velocipede)

The legendary Sonoran Hot Dog may have originated in neighboring Mexico but it was made famous by the Hispanic-heavy neighborhoods of southside Tucson, Arizona. A bacon-wrapped hot dog is placed on an oversized bun and topped with pinto beans, tomatoes, onion, mustard, mayo, crema, relish, jalapenos…well, you get the point – basically whatever the hell else they have on hand. (Photo: Mr. Frosted)
Point: Pittsburgh. For pure all-American outlandishness, we’ve gotta give it to Pitt.
Fourth Quarter: Best Beer



Iron City Brewing company has been drowning Pittsburgh’s sorrows for going on 150 years now, and the Steelers probably wouldn’t have won half as many games if their fans didn’t have this solid stand-by to get them through all those snowy seasons. (It’s also safe to say this brew probably played a hand in the invention of the three culinary delicacies presented above). (Photo: Iron City)

Daaaaaamn, ‘zona! Is there anything you people won’t put hot chilis in? It doesn’t get much more macho than drinking a beer laced with hot serrano chili peppers. Arizona gave the world just that with Chili Beer, a Cave Creek, Arizona original (now produced in Mexico). (Photo: srboisvert)

Point: Arizona. Hot, cold, and drunk, all in one bottle. What more could a fan want? Tie game!

Look’s like we’re headed to overtime, and it’s up to you, readers. Who cooked it better? Pittsburgh or Arizona? Vote below, and don’t forget to do the thing where you tell me how dumb I am and that everything I said is completely wrong.

[Poll id=”31″]

Previously on ES: 

March Madness: America’s Top 10 Drunk College Foods

America’s Real Best Ballpark Food

The Top 10 Foods Only America Could Have Invented

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Feed Us Back: Comments of the Week


– Jason Q is down to have dinner at Sarah Palin’s house: You know, I can’t stand the woman’s politics, but I’d bet she’s a helluva cook. Moose chili? Hell, I’d eat that all day. And them bones – yeah, I’m sure they’d make an awesome stock. Moose more or less equals venison. Crack ‘em, roast ‘em, and boil ‘em. Tasty.

– Yvo isn’t so happy with our list of google search terms:  Dude, some guy just walked by carrying a banana and I immediately thought, “Ewww…” Sigh. I’ll never think of bananas the same way.

– Belmontmedina  and JoeHoya have some added suggestions for ES Book Club. Thanks guys, we’ve added your books to the list. Maybe we should start an actual food book club?

– Steve On Broadway (SOB) has gossip about one of our White House chef candidates:

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Spice Master: Contestant #1


Editors Note:  I’ve got to be honest.  So I hadn’t cooked in a while and was trying to think of something I could post on ES.  And then I remembered those kick-ass spices that I got from Gypsy‘s travels to Tunisia.  Contest – now that’s an easy post.  I had no idea that people would actually try to figure out that impossible 12.  Especially for the lame prize of pre-made seasoning packets – basically the most opposite item anyone savvy enough to enter the contest would actually want. 

Regardless, after checking the entries, we had a tie.  And without even asking the co-winners, we decided to ride out the enthusiasm of the Spice Master Contest.  So here we are, we demanded that ES readers guess spices they couldn’t even smell and now we’ve demanded that the co-winners give us recipes based on those same foreign spices.  Luckily, both bobby (aka bobbyc) and JoeHoya took this opportunity to send in breathtaking recipes.  Thank you to both.  

 So here we are with bobby’s Tunsian recipe.  Tomorrow we’ll post JoeHoya’s recipe.  And on Wednesday we’ll offer you a chance to vote for the winner in a special Who Cooked It Better: Spice Master Edition.  Stay tuned. 

Spice Master Contender: bobby

Typically when I cook a new dish, I look at a bunch of different recipes, get an understanding of the basic concept of the dish, keep the essential ingredients the same, and play around with the rest. For Coucha (spelled Koucha in some references), I couldn’t find any recipes — only descriptions. Odd, since most references describe it as a “Tunisian favorite.” The basic idea seems to involve cooking a young lamb shoulder smothered in oil and spices at low heat in a sealed earthen vessel — similar to a Moroccan tajine. The low heat for an extended period of time breaks down the fat, making everything delicious, and the sealed vessel keeps everything super-moist.


I built my own clay vessel out of flower pots at Lowes — just had to make sure everything sealed fairly well.

From the rest of my reading on Tunisian cuisine, I gathered that nearly every meal is served with couscous. It is prepared in a special couscoussière, which steams the grains while you cook a stew of meat, vegetables and spices below. I didn’t have one of these, so I put the couscous in boiling chicken broth, then mixed in an assortment of spiced vegetables.

To finish everything off, I mixed up some harissa — spicy pepper & garlic sauce. From what I gather, harissa is the ketchup of Tunisia, only with flavor.

Click through: full recipe, more pics, serving suggests

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Who Cooked It Craziest? Top Chef All-Star Plates

So Top Chef Season 4 is over, and America has our first female commander-in-chef. Richard may have shot himself in the foot, but I think it’s pretty clear that Stephanie won because of her brilliant tactics on one specific dish. Her roasted lamb medallions, cooked with mushrooms, braised pistachios, olives and blackberries, were so over-the-top, so utterly batshit insane that the judges had no choice but to give her the win. I mean, whoever heard of a braised pistachio? And blackberries with olives? On lamb? All flavored up in miso, butter, red wine, balsamic, and chicken stock?

Stephanie really pulled a fast one on the judges here. If you put that dish on a menu in a fine restaurant you would have zero people order it. But they put her all the way into the final, so they couldn’t very well admit that she had made something fit for service at the looney bin, so they had only one choice: proclaim her a genius.

This is my favorite part of Top Chef. The just plain insane things that the cheftestants make in an effort to appear “avant garde.” I love that Bravo puts all the recipes on their web site, as if any human would actually make these. Like one day you’re just gonna say, oh ho-hum, I happen to have some leftover braised beef tips in my fridge, perhaps I’ll batter them in crumbled frosted flakes, quickly sear them on each side and serve them up with a pomegranate-truffle foam. Yeah, that sounds nice.

So for this week’s Who Cooked It Better, we’re looking at the craziest, most nutso things that the Top Cheftestants have ever put before us.

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Mount St. Helens EXPLODES… in the Kitchen!

New Zealand Lamb

My Sunday Night Dinner Club took on a new form this past weekend – it was a task that we’ve not undertaken in quite sometime. What was supposed to be a nice quiet dinner for twelve turned into a debacherous affair for twenty-four. But what a night it was. If you are familiar with my Sunday night dinners then you will know they are themed, like last weeks picnic, for instance. Our spring tour continued with our good friends Summer Camp and his ladywife hosting (they are available for all future Sunday night dinners).

This past Sunday was the 28th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State, and with Summer Camp being from Washington he thought what better way to celebrate this than to have a meal dedicated to all that is volcanoes. We planned the menu meticulously, and ensured that most, if not all, ingredients came from a region with a volcano.

To start we served a white bean and herbed crostini; we had Korean inspired lamb, albeit from New Zealand; and Japanese and Peruvian inspired miso garnet sweet potatoes, courtesy of our resident chef, T2. There was also a tomato and mint keftedes from Greece and last but not least, a Pacific-rim Fuji apple salad. Not forgetting dessert we created an amazing chocolate molten cake from Mexico (not really from Mexico, but we claimed that region for the dish). We even sought out Assyrtiko wine, which is made from a grape grown in volcanic ash in the Santorini region of Greece.

The lamb, keftedes and molten cake were simply amazing. I have included some pictures after the jump and more details re the lamb.

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