Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Dr. Gonzo's World Famous Peppermash

My good friend in the absurd, 4Rilla Neil Foisy popped in the other night with more products from his favorite condiment purveyor Dr. Gonzo's Uncommon Condiments. You may remember my enthusiastic reaction to my last experience with some of the good doctor's product. That was my review of his Jalapenomash which is very near and dear to my heart. It's just not Mexican, Tex-Mex or Southwestern food for me now without some Jalapenomash on the table or in the salsa. It's not a fish taco without Dr. Gonzo's Jalapenomash!

This time 4Rilla Foisy brought Peppermash which is one of Dr. Gonzo's best selling products. The good doctor describes his World Famous Peppermash thusly:

"Our seasonal best seller. Yep, this is our original all natural hot pepper relish with the patent pending three to six minute burn time... …using a fine blend of Jalapeno and Cherry peppers, this product has heat with a whole lot of taste. Since we add no fillers, fluff or any unnecessary stuff, what comes out of the fields goes straight into the jar."

I like that "no fillers, fluff or any unnecessary stuff" line, it is pretty appealing given the ever-growing list of nonsense that "food" companies are putting in their products. It's good to know the good doctor doesn't. I hope this trend continues!

So, what do I think of Dr. Gonzo's Uncommon Condiments Peppermash? I love it. What the Jalapenomash does for the Mexican and Tex-Mex food, the Peppermash does for Portuguese, Italian and other foods. By coincidence the night 4Rilla Foisy came over for dinner I was preparing some João Grandes which I usually add a little Tabasco Sauce to just before eating. Neil and I both thought the chourico and chip João Grande sandwiches were the perfect thing to try some Peppermash on. So we added generous amounts of it to our sandwiches. We were not disappointed! It was great! The next evening I added some Peppermash to a Thai Mango Curry I was preparing and the results were equally impressive. Straight up, every product I've tried of Dr. Gonzo's is quality stuff. I haven't even reviewed his Moose River Adirondack Blackfly Mustard which I also love on my turkey sandwiches!
Sometimes people mistake my passion for exaggeration, so I want to be clear. I am a fan of Dr. Gonzo's Uncommon Condiments. I use them and I think they are great. I am not paid to write these reviews and these products come from a friend who lives near the shop, not the good Doctor himself (which would be fine with me, by the way!). My only regret regarding Dr. Gonzo's products is that my dad passed away before I ever learned of them. My dad made a mean hot crushed pepper and he would have loved the good doctor's products.

All passion and no exaggeration: Buy them, try them, you will not be disappointed. If you are, I'll take the leftovers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook: Big Recipes from the Smallest State

Linda Beaulieu, an award-winning food and travel writer does a hell of a good job with "The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook: Big Recipes from the Smallest State" (Globe Pequot). In the cookbook she tackles the multi-cultural masterpiece that is Rhode Island cuisine and she often does it wonderfully with great background stories and historical references. Any Southern New England resident or long-term visitor to the area will be very satisfied with the selection of recipes she has assembled here.

Within the generous 272 pages of The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook you will find a host of regional delectables including: jonnycakes, quahog chowder, Italian wedding soup, grinders, Olneyville wiener sauce, caldo verde, creton, dynamites, strip pizza and many, many others. A homesick Rhode Islander could keep themselves busy all Autumn and Winter cooking and devouring the recipes in this book.

That's not to say The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook is perfect. There are no color photos and most of the recipes have no accompanying photographs at all. Also, folks in the communities of East Providence and other parts of East Bay will surely note the absence of many popular Portuguese dishes. You'll find no chourico and peppers or "Portuguese soup"* recipes in The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook. Also, one glaring error called for the addition of "chorizo" to give a quiche a "Portuguese flavor". Sorry, Mrs. Beaulieu but chorizo is Spanish and chourico is Portuguese and they are quite different. Local people will come to fisticuffs regarding that kind of inaccuracy!

None of those are deal breakers though. When considering the abundant information and recipes she does supply, Linda Beaulieu's The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook should be issued to all life-long Rhode Islanders leaving the state and all restaurant professionals and food service students entering it. If you're into the local flavor of not only Rhode Island but the Southcoast of Massachusetts as well, this book will not disappoint you.

*The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook includes a recipe for "caldo verde" which is a Portuguese soup, but should never be confused with the far more popular, rustic blend of chourico, meat and potatoes known ubiquitously as "Portuguese Soup".

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recipe: João Grande (Chourico and Chip Sandwiches)

All cultures have fast food. Here in the USA we have more than our share. The selections are endless and the icons of the industry are omnipresent. Names like the "Big Mac" and "The Whopper" are synonymous with fast food around the world let alone just here in the states. That got me to thinking what our local Portuguese equivalents might be.

We have a decent variety of Portuguese fast foods, Principally among them are Portuguese-style steak sandwiches and chourico sandwiches. Having covered Portuguese steak sandwiches in previous posts I figured it was time to focus my attention on another local favorite: The chourico sandwich.

Chourico sandwiches come in many incarnations. There are ground chourico sandwiches, chourico and pepper sandwiches, chourico and sauce sandwiches, chourico and egg sandwiches, chourico hot dogs, chourico burgers, chourico EVERYTHING! Chourico is a ubiquitous part of our local food culture. Chourico is food religion in Southern New England. Why? Because EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH CHOURICO!

What I write three times is law:


One of my favorite types of chourico sandwiches comes from a great little hole-in-the-wall bar called "Billy's Cafe" in Fall River, Massachusetts. Billy's is one of those funky little places that doesn't change with the times, instead it just drags its time along with it. It is unpretentious and unrepentant. I ordered a glass of red wine there one night and I was asked if I wanted a small or a large! I can get behind that! Billy's is food and drinks their way, and their way is good.

They do a "chourico and chips" sandwich there that's great. Just good bread stuffed with fried chourico and french fries. It's just simple Portuguese fast food goodness. A couple of shots of Tabasco sauce on that and a LARGE wine or a cold beer and I'm in heaven. Check out Billy's if you're ever in the Riv. It's not for everyone, but it is certainly for ME!

I've made a few changes in my version of the chourico and chip sandwich. I butter and grill the bread a bit and I add some pimenta salgada and hot pepper rings to add a little more texture and a wider range of flavors. In keeping with the fast food motif, I've also named my version of the chourico and chip sandwich the "João Grande" (The Big John). I do that in honor of my Azorean great-grandfather: João de Lima da Ponte. As far as my Azorean Portuguese ancestors go, he was first to set foot on these shores and that at least merits naming a great Portuguese sandwich after him! It was also his daughter that introduced me to many Portuguese foods!

The "Big Mac" and "The Whopper" cannot compare to The João Grande!

João Grande (The Big John)

1-2 Tbs olive oil
1 package of chourico (cut into 1/4" disks)
Frozen french fries (enough to fill the desired number of rolls and some extra for sides).
2-3 soft torpedo sandwich rolls (sliced like hot dog buns)
2 Tbs sweet butter
1 pimenta salgada (rinsed well and cut into slices)
Hot pepper rings
Tabasco or Piri-piri sauce (optional)

There aren't many recipes this easy. If there is one trick to preparing a João Grande perfectly, it's timing! Try to have everything ready at relatively the same time. Keep that in mind when you're preparing the components!

Ready your fries for cooking. If you fry them (better-tasting) have your frying rig ready and hot. If you're baking them (healthier), preheat your oven. Time your fries to be ready just after the chourico and rolls are done.

Place two large skillets over medium heat. In skillet number one, add your olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer add the chourico and cook, stirring occasionally.

While the chourico is cooking. Butter the inside surfaces of the rolls and place them one at a time (buttered side down) on the second skillet grill until they are well toasted. You may want to use a small plate to push them down a bit on the hot skillet surface.

Continue cooking the chourico stirring occasionally until the edges of the chourico begin to brown or even blacken a little. Remove from heat, immediately add the french fries, pimenta salgada and hot pepper rings (to taste) and toss together well.

Overfill the buttered and toasted rolls with the chourico, french fries and pepper mixture and serve plated with the extra french fries. Offer the Tabasco Sauce or the Piri-piri as condiments.

Couple these with giant mugs of extra-cold beer and make some friends!