What do you do when you love BBQ? You learn from the best – and then smoke, cook, and eat well. And, if you’re Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez, you turn that business into a way to give back, teach, and provide great food. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Fernandez, originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, learned how to fire roast meats from Tuscaloosa BBQ legend Moses Day. From there, he founded Moe’s Original Bar B Que out in Vail, Colorado (where he went to culinary school) – and has gone on to grow a business with over 50 franchises in a plethora of states.
Fernandez’s mission is two-fold – to provide a unique and delicious dining experience, and to be a cheerleader for young entrepreneurs by providing opportunities and education.
The geography of the popularity of southern cuisine, especially BBQ, is interesting to track. When we talked, Fernandez noted, “people love BBQ – it’s unique, and you know what you’re getting into. In Vail, people eat BBQ four times a week; in Maine, once every few weeks…and in the south, everyone is always bbqing!” At Moe’s, people enjoy a meat and 3 – which is an entree, two side dishes, and a beverage. A look at their menu shows me that it would be difficult to choose exactly which, to be honest. But one thing that I always love is cornbread, and so I’m extremely pleased that Fernandez picked that recipe to share with us!
What most impressed me, when talking with Fernandez, was his commitment to the growth and development of young entrepreneurs. Having been one himself, he knows how important it is to have a mentor. So most of Moe’s franchises are located in college towns, and hire young adults as staff. When these college students graduate, Fernandez helps them get a store. He said that he has a vested interest in these young people, and is always trying to figure out how to help them. When I remarked on this generosity, Fernandez said he’s humbled by his success, lucky as hell, and happy to teach and share what is important. Indeed.
Stop by Moe’s, in one of their 50 and growing locations (come to Michigan, Mike, please!), and know you’re not only getting great food, but supporting a business that is a cheerleader for their employees and creating small businesses that serve communities. Win/win!
Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
How long have you been cooking?
40 years. My mother taught me to cook when I was young. She is from Sicily, Italy, and we cooked together every Sunday.
What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh fish that I catch myself.
What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Various pickled vegetables, homemade jams, and homemade cured meats
What do you cook at home?
A lot of Latin food
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
One that knows about food and can tell when something tastes different. I love when they want to learn, because I love to teach.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they refuse to try an item I prepared “as it is”
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Your favorite cookbook author?
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn (Charcuterie)
Your favorite kitchen tool?
Kitchen Aid Mixer
Your favorite ingredient?
Your least favorite ingredient?
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean floor drains.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Chef you most admire?
Frank Stitt and John Currence
Food you like the most to eat?
Fresh fish just caught
Food you dislike the most?
How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None – my mom would kill me.
Moe’s Original Bar B Que’s Cornbread Recipe
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup yellow onions, fine dice
1/4 cup jalapenos, filet and fine dice
3 7-ounce packages Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix
Beat eggs, add jalapenos and onions.
Add milk and then mix in 3 packages of cornbread mix.
Spray with Pam heavily (if old pan, add parchment paper to release) onto large 4×10 loaf pan. Pour in cornbread mix.
Preheat to 325. Bake 1 hour. When done, it should be firm to press. Do not overcook.
Using rubber spatula, slice into 12 slices at 3 quarters of inch each. It’s easier to cut cold or bread will crumble.
Brush one side with margarine or butter. Place buttered side down on griddle. Fry til crispy.
What began as a love for baking at a young age, developed into a passionate and successful career for Abby Dodge. A widely respected, award-winning expert in baking and cooking for both kids and adults, as well as a popular food writer, instructor and media personality, Abby has a simple mission: To streamline baking and cooking for home cooks of all ages.
She studied in Paris at La Varenne and worked under superstars Michel Guerard and Guy Savoy, specializing in pastry. She has held food editorial posts at Parents and Woman’s Day, and has contributed to over seven dozen special-interest publications focusing on baking and family cooking. Abby is currently a contributing editor at Fine Cooking magazine, where she has been on the masthead since its first issue in 1994. She founded the magazine’s test kitchen, has written and contributed to over eighty articles to date, and serves as the magazine’s guru for all things baking.
In addition to her regular blog postings, Abby hosts a Baking Boot Camp video class on the popular site Craftsy.com, where she teaches and encourages an international group of bakers of all skill levels to become better bakers.
Her tenth book, The Everyday Baker ~ Recipes & Techniques For Foolproof Baking (The Taunton Press, Dec. 2015), has just been released to much critical praise – including my own! I love this book – and have recommended it far and wide. It’s the most comprehensive – and interesting – baking cookbook I’ve ever seen (and I own more than 5,000 cookbooks). I love the detailed instructions (with photos), as well as the creative, intriguing recipes (176 of them!). I’ve reviewed many of Abby’s cookbooks through the years – they are all amazing, and keep getting better. Highly recommended.
Abby’s Ten Popular and Award-Winning Cookbooks:
The Everyday Baker ~ Recipes & Techniques for Foolproof Baking, 2015 (Washington Post Top Ten Cookbooks of 2015; Dorie Greenspan Top Baking Cookbooks of 2015)
Mini Treats & Handheld Treats ~ Delicious Desserts to Pick Up & Eat (September, 2012)
Desserts 4 Today – Flavorful Desserts with just FOUR INGREDIENTS , 2010 (a viral & critically acclaimed sensation)
Williams-Sonoma Mini Pies, 2010
Around the World Cookbook, 2008 (Good Morning America Top 10 Cookbooks of 2008; Parents Choice Recommended Award 2008; Cordon d’Or Culinary Academy Award 2008)
The Weekend Baker, 2005, reprinted 2008 (Food + Wine Top Ten Cookbooks of 2004; IACP Cookbook Award Finalist)
Kids Baking, 2003 (Over 347,000 copies in print, translated into Spanish)
Williams-Sonoma Dessert, 2002 (Over 300,000 in print, translated into Spanish)
The Kid’s Cookbook, 2000 (Over 368,000 copies in print)
Great Fruit Desserts, 1997 (Translated into six languages)
Abby has also contributed or co-authored many cookbooks, including:
Baking Out Loud (Hedy Goldsmith, Clarkson Potter 2012)
B. Smith’s Southern A to Z (Scribner, 2008)
The Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition, 2006
Savoring America, 2002 (James Beard Award finalist; Ben Franklin Award winner)
Cookies for Christmas, 1999
The All New Joy of Cooking, 1997
Food Questions (with a nod to Proust):
What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Eggs. Easy & options abound.
What do you always have in your fridge at home?
What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Keeping it real – no posers at my table.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French… Italian… Greek… Spanish… don’t make me chose.
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Brussel sprouts but ask me again tomorrow, I happily bounce all over the veggie aisle.
Chef you most admire?
Alfred Portale – insanely gifted, a bear to work for & surprisingly shy.
Food you like the most to eat?
Cake. Make mine chocolate and in big pieces, please.
Food you dislike the most?
I’ll take some heat for this one but… beets. Chalk it up to a bad childhood experience.
What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Watching RHOBH with my darling daughter- a guilty pleasure.
Who do you most admire in food?
Michael Rulhman. A straight talker and brilliant writer worth listening to.
Where is your favorite place to eat?
On a warm day, I’ll be sitting at an outside table, preferably by the water. Please pass the Rose.
What is your favorite restaurant?
Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
My Motto: Don’t answer questions that you don’t want your kids to read.
Recipe: Lemon Ginger Mousse Soufflés from The Everyday Baker
These light, billowy individual soufflé-like mousses are a variation on a pie filling in my book, The Weekend Baker. Instead of adding heavy cream to the mousse, I use puréed ricotta (for a smooth texture) to add richness without heaviness. The lemon and fresh ginger make for a refreshing flavor profile, but it’s the ginger cookies hidden inside that are the surprise ingredient. Softened by the mousse, they bring texture and a burst of ginger flavor.
Adding a collar of parchment adds additional height to the ramekins. This way you can mimic the impressive height of a baked soufflé without the need for any last-minute fussing.
Neutral oil (safflower, canola, vegetable, or corn), for the
For the mousse
3⁄4 cup (180 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 envelope (1⁄4 oz./7 g) unflavored powdered gelatin
11⁄4 cups (111⁄4 oz./319 g) ricotta (part skim is fine)
3⁄4 cup (51⁄2 oz./156 g) granulated sugar
1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
Pinch of table salt
4 whites from large eggs (4 oz./ 113 g), at room temperature
1⁄2 tsp. cream of tartar
1⁄2 cup (2 oz./57 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
12 gingersnap cookies + more for the crushed cookie topping
(I use Nabisco or homemade molasses cookies)
Blackberry Compote (recipe in the book) or other berry sauces, optional
Have ready six 6-oz. (180 ml) ramekins (31⁄2 inches wide and 12⁄3 inches high/9 cm wide and 4.25 cm high) arranged on a flat plate or quarter sheet pan. Cut parchment into six strips 21⁄2 inches (6 cm) wide and 12 inches (30.5 cm) long. Wrap one strip around each ramekin so that the paper covers the ramekin and stands 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the rim; secure with tape. Lightly grease the inside of the paper rim (I use a paper towel dipped in a bit of neutral oil).
Make the mousse
1. Pour the lemon juice into a small heatproof ramekin (or keep it in the measuring cup) and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Set aside to soften. Once the gelatin has absorbed the liquid and is plump (about 3 minutes), microwave briefly until it is completely melted and crystal clear, 1 to 2 minutes. This can also be done in a small saucepan (instead of the ramekin) over low heat.
2. Put the ricotta, granulated sugar, lemon zest, ginger, and salt in a blender. Scrape the lemon–gelatin mixture into the blender, cover, and process until the ricotta is smooth and the mixture is well blended, about 11⁄2 minutes, scraping down the sides once or twice. Pour into a medium bowl and refrigerate, stirring frequently, until the mixture is cooled and thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. It should be as thick as unbeaten egg whites. For faster cooling, set the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice, stirring and scraping the sides frequently until cooled.
3. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a medium bowl and using an electric handheld mixer fitted with wire beaters) and beat on medium speed until the whites are frothy, 30 to 45 seconds. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the whites form soft peaks, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue beating while gradually adding the confectioners’ sugar, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat until the whites form firm and glossy peaks when the beater is lifted.
4. Scoop about one-quarter of the whites into the thickened lemon mixture and, using a silicone spatula, gently stir until blended. Add the remaining whites and gently fold in until just blended.
Assemble the mousses
Arrange one cookie in the bottom of each ramekin. Using a large spoon, fill the ramekins halfway with the mousse. Arrange a cookie on top of the mousse and evenly portion the remaining mousse on top of the cookies. Using a small offset spatula, smooth the tops.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 1 day.
Using a sharp paring knife, carefully peel away the parchment from the ramekins (up to 3 hours ahead). Just before serving, place each ramekin on a small plate and top with some of the crushed ginger cookie or a little of the blackberry compote, passing the remainder at the table.
The soufflés can be prepared, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days before serving.
– The End. Go Eat. –
Recipe and author photo courtesy and copyright Abby Dodge. Recipe photos courtesy and copyright Tina Rupp [finished dishes] and Sloan Howard, Taunton Press [how-to photos]
I stopped writing on “i8tonite”. It wasn’t going anywhere and truthfully, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to take it. It started because I love cooking. We know that. Truthfully, the sheer act of it (and craft) saved my life. I’m forever indebted to the stove, the fridge, farmer’s markets, and washing dishes. It will have been almost four years since I took on the name of “i8tonite” and the whole thing was a lark. Really. I just needed something to occupy my mind while I gave up a business, a partnership, a dog and the home that I had for more than decade.
Writing out what I was cooking on social media gave me something to look forward to while I was crying about the state of my life as it became unhinged. Then came the requests for photos. Taking the images, a little food styling, along with the hazy images became an extension. My life, as a whole, began to come together again. Then, I started this blog which has had fits-and-starts. Partially, because I only wanted to cook and I wanted to show to prospective clients that I knew about the culinary world, from a sophisticated and well-traveled home cook.
Candidly, I’m not really that interested in creating my own recipes. There are so many great chefs and home cooks out there that I just don’t feel that creative need. However, I do love reading cookbooks. I like understanding the ingredients and how they going to be appealing. I can taste the ingredients before beginning the process. It’s also important to note whether each recipe is laborious or fun. Puff pastry is laborious, making a cake or pie is fun.
I’m also not interested in reviewing restaurants. If I did, I would want to pay for my own meals and try the experience several times over. That would be a costly endeavor and I don’t think many restaurants are worthy of going to 3 or 4 times in a year, much less in a single month. (I’ve been called by friends “extremely picky” in my restaurant choices.) No, I leave that to the food bloggers and newspapers.
Therefore, I’m beginning this endeavor with a new verve with a fresher eye about food and cookbooks. My plan is over a calendar month to attempt at least 4 recipes from one single book. The idea is really to try cooking them. It’s not to review them so much as to just cook from them and then maybe add something with my own thoughts. I do own quite a few cookbooks and I’ve never used one recipe from about three dozen. I’ve read them…but never cooked from them. This will give me the impetus to execute something. Selfishly, I also want to expand my food repertoire and hopefully to whoever reads this blog…if anyone does.
For the first book, I’ve chosen Mitchell Davis’ “Kitchen Sense: More Than 600 Recipes to Make You a Great Home Cook.” Davis is also the executive vice-president and director of communications for The James Beard Foundation along with being an adjunct professor of Food Studies at the venerable New York University. His pedigree about food is astounding. It’s not a new book as it was originally published in 2006 by Random House.
It’s a vast collection around such culinary pantheons as Chinese, American, Italian and Greek and so on. Mr. Davis provides also great tips such as how to make a compound butter or “flavored butter” in a small area on various pages called “kitchen sense” or “basics”, small guidelines for executing simple home cooked gastronomic pleasures like roasted garlic or a compound butter. If you are a professional or have worked in a kitchen, you know some of these recommendations but if you haven’t, some of them are very handy to have.
There also aren’t any photos so I have to think with my tastebuds in order to pick the recipes. I want all my senses to be used as each recipe is made. Can I smell that it might need more seasoning? How does it look? Should I have used the richer Dutch processed chocolate or no? These are the things that I hope to learn as well as a little bit about myself.
Devil’s Food Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from “Kitchen Sense” by Mitchell Davis, 2006, Clarkson Potter).
Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting (NOTE: I had to double the recipe to cover the two layer cake. Although delicious and rich, the caramel flavor was very subtle. Next time, I make it I will double the caramel portion. Regardless, is was still delicious and I’m now running four miles every other day to remove it from my body.)
Place water and sugar into a medium sauce pan. Using a medium high heat, melt sugar by stirring constantly. As the syrup develops, it will thicken into a sauce and begin to darken. This will take roughly 8 – 10 minutes. (You will notice of the water to begin to darken as the sugar stiffens.) Watch carefully as the sugar can become burnt quickly. Swirl until the color of caramel. Remove from heat.
Slowly add the heavy cream and stir constantly. Replace saucepan on very low flame until all the cream has been incorporated. Add the salt. Keep stirring with a spoon or wooden spatula (do not use a whisk) until a beautiful, rich caramel sauce has developed. (You can always use this for ice cream or pour over cakes.)
In another bowl, mix the butter and cream cheese until frothy. Making sure you scrape the sides of the bowl, slowly add the caramel sauce until completely merged and, viola, you have made your frosting.
You can chill but bring to room temperature before frosting the cake. It will make spreading so much easier. It’s still delicious even though it’s a subtle caramel flavor. I think I wanted it to be overpowering like a caramel latte from Starbucks but it’s more like a European subtle instead of an American-beat-me-until-I’m-black-and-blue.
Devil’s Food Cake
Honestly, this maybe the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. It was densely, moist with a very light crumb and an intense lovely chocolate flavor. (Will make two 9-inch layer cakes).
Unsalted butter for greasing the pan
1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Use the good stuff. I like Dutch-processed as it creates a darker, fudgier cake)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strong coffee
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. (We do this first so the oven pre-heats while we gather our wits.) Butter the pans and then line with parchment. Butter the parchment. (We do this so we keep our gathered wits about us instead of the cakes sticking to the pans. Trust me on this step….it’s a life-saver.) Once we remove the cakes from the pans, they aren’t that pretty… yet. We will do a little trimming of rough edges using a LOT of frosting to cover up the wrinkles left by the parchment indentations.
In a large mixing bowl, we will sift all the dry ingredients together (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, both sugars and salt).
In another bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together (coffee, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla). Mix with a whisk.
Using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on low, merge the wet with the dry.
Pour into your buttered cake pans. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from oven once a toothpick comes out cleanly.
Making holiday cookies is really not that complicated to understand or do. It might seem difficult because there might be a food processor or a stove but making cookies, a small nugget of sugary goodness, is so simple. So divinely simple…and fun. Simply simple.
I’ve been invited annually to a cookie exchange party for the past three years. The party, now in its fourth year, was the first time that I was able to go. To make up for the past three years, I made three different kinds of cookies because I couldn’t figure out which to bring. (Ultimately, I only brought two.) I discovered one of the recipes from Real Simple Magazine which has quickly become one of my favorite publications when it comes to food. (I could do without the makeup tips though.)
The magazine recipe for Cornmeal, Fig and Thyme was delicious but the Mexican Wedding Cookies is truly one of my favorite for the holidays and everyday. Apparently it has many names around the globe such as Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Wedding Cakes, “biscochitos” (Mexico), “polvornes” in Spain, Swedish teacakes (to be confused with the Russian), Moldy Mice, Pecan Sandies, Danish Almond Cookies, Finnish Butter Strips, Napoleon Hats, Melting Moments, Butter balls and…the hipster version, “Yeti Balls”. (Oh, the Iceman cometh…). All are made with the same method (flour, sugar, vanilla and butter) but with different shapes such as crescent, balls or strips…sometimes they use different nuts such as hazelnuts (filberts) or pecans in different European areas.
You can research why it’s called the Mexican Wedding Cookie/Cake, Russian Doll Goes to Mall…whatever, but I’m calling it the “Auntie Mame”. Not only is it sugary and sweet like the Lucille Ball musical version (“We Need A Little Christmas“) of Mame, but it’s well-traveled and glamourous as if Rosalind Russell dusted it with white. It’s also smart, sort of like the casting of Angela Lansbury in the Broadway musical.
And as I said, it’s simple. Really, really simple…and very holiday-like.
Let’s make these puppies: “Auntie Mame”
1 cup (2 sticks) of softened (room temperature) unsalted butter
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup very finely chopped toasted nuts (Note: Toast nuts at a low temp of 325 for about 20 minutes or until fragrant on a cookie sheet. Then place in a food processor to a mince.)
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine the butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until creamy. Beat in the flour and nuts. Chill the dough 30 to 60 minutes.
3. Shape the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and try to make them them the same size. You want them to cook evenly. Arrange them on parchment paper, squishing them down to flatten the bottoms so they don’t roll around, about an inch apart. Bake on the center rack of the oven until the cookies are set and seem to be a golden. Roughly 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through cooking
4. Transfer the cookies to a rack or a plate. Then using the sifter, immediately dust heavily with about a cup of the powdered sugar. Once they cool, place the remaining confectioners sugar into a bowl and roll the suckers coating them entirely. Sometimes, before serving, I like to sift some sugar on top to make it look pretty.