Island Cooking

Blues and Bleus

by Chef Jenn Farmer

Memorial Day always reminds me of the Blues.  Where I grew up there was a little bar, made from quarried stone, which sat on a bluff.  The bluff overlooked a flat grassy area that sat upon a river.  The grassy area was surrounded by lovely trees.  There was a couple of big trees that grew over the river in such a manner that you could sit upon them and let the water slip over your toes.  The river was very slow and a bit muddy; it reminded me of warm molasses as it slid over the rocks and around the twists and bends in the aged river.  The water was lazy, and comfortable.  Children in shorts and summer dresses splashed and waded across the river, some upturning rocks, in search of crawdads for cooking up later, others just swishing their feet silently thorough the water, basking in the sunshine and absorbing the music.  A small group of boys was strategizing the construction of a swimming hole with found, large rocks.  The sun was warm, and the music was perfect in this setting.  There were several bands all lined up to play the Blues.  They set up stage on the grass near the river, and would play their hearts out to the joy of the eclectic crowd.   Even though it was hot, people danced, I mean really let themselves be influenced by the seductive sounds.  Beer always seems to taste better when listening to great blues music, and the adults were enjoying both.

The actual bar was so simple and honest, that it was nearly elegant.   They only served two types of beer, one type of whisky, and cola.  There was no food being served, so people would bring coolers and leave them in their cars.  In the afternoon, little hibachi grills would light up, and the smell of cooking brats, hot dogs, burgers, and thick cut pork chops would fill the humid air.  Many people would take it pretty seriously, and most would have condiments and side dishes to compliment the main course.

I like to slice open brats lengthwise and grill them butterflied out.  This does two things; it makes the brat cook faster, and gives it a crispy element, and it is also a bit healthier, since it allows more of the fat to escape during the cooking process.  Some like to melt cheese on them or a little garlic: my personal favorite is some chili peppers, garlic, and bleu cheese (bet you didn’t see that coming did you?).  The following recipe is for an addicting smear (for lack of a better term) filled with onions and cheese and seasonings.  It goes very well with the flavor of the brat.  I got this recipe from another tailgater—he couldn’t remember where he found it, but it is good.  It is basically an onion relish with blue cheese, and it tastes great on brats or burgers.

Bleu Cheese and Onion Smear for Brats and Burgers

  • 1 package of bratwurst (5 or 6)
  • Equal amount of buns
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • One quarter cup olive oil
  • 2 T. vinegar
  • 2 T. steak sauce (I like 57 sauce, or just simple Worcestershire)
  • 1 tsp.  sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 2  fresh chives, and fresh parsley
  • one teaspoon garlic, freshly minced
  • cracked black pepper
  • Salt if necessary

Mix all together, and let it marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.    Turn on the grill and cook the brats to your likeness, and grill the buns too, so they have a bit of golden brown.  Put the cooked brat on the bread, and then smear a couple tablespoons of the onion mixture over the brats.  Enjoy while hot.  Serves 5

One of my favorite things to eat at these all day outings was a loaded pasta salad.  Filled with protein, carbs, vegetables, plus it tastes good with cheap beer.  We always brought a big batch of this salad, and we would share it with our neighbors, and they would share with us.  Like a giant tailgating and potluck party.

Pasta Salad for Sharing

  • 1 # uncooked gemeli, or spiral shaped pasta
  • 1 head  broccoli, medium diced
  • 1 head cauliflower, medium diced
  • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts ( do not drain)
  • 1 red onion, medium diced
  • 2 teaspoons, finely diced garlic
  • 6 ounces pepperoni, sliced
  • 4 ounces ham , sliced (Serrano is very good)
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese cut into medium cubes
  • 2 ounces Parmesan shaved
  • 6 ounces black olives
  • One quarter cup good quality olive oil
  • One quarter cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil, chopped
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and lightly salt it.  Cook the pasta in the water, stirring carefully in to prevent sticking.  Then allow to cook, stirring occasionally for about 9 minutes.  Drain carefully and toss the pasta in a little olive oil, and fluff up to separate the noodles.  Pour the noodles onto a sheet pan and refrigerate to chill. Make a dressing by whisking together the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, salt and  pepper.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can add just about any veggies you want to it, like blanched green beans, shelled peas, and fresh tomatoes.  Serves 12

I love to grill fruit, and decided to try something sort of new; I added blue cheese and a spot of honey and thyme.  So good together, especially on peaches, pears, strawberries, and apricots.

Grilled Fruit with Local Honey, Blue Cheese, & Thyme

  • 2 peaches, stone removed
  • 4 apricots, stone removed
  • 4-6 strawberries
  • 2 Pears
  • Cooking oil or pan spray
  • Bamboo skewers, soaked in water
  • Honey
  • Fresh thyme, tender leaves off stems
  • Cracked black pepper
  • High quality Blue Cheese

Soak the sliced fruit in cold water with a little lemon juice for about 20 minutes.  Turn on the grill and thoroughly clean the grate.  Wipe the grate with a lightly oiled cloth.  Let the heat burn off the rest of the debris.  Meanwhile thread the fruit on the skewers alternating them.  Brush the skewers with oil and put on the grill. Sometimes I will sprinkle a little cayenne, and ginger over the skewers.  Be patient and allow the fruit time to caramelize and get nice marks, but also take care not to let the fruit become too overcooked and soft.  Turn and cook briefly on the other side.  Platter up the skewers, and drizzle them with honey and sprinkle with a few thyme leaves, cracked black pepper and blue cheese.   Eat and sigh in contentment.  Yields 4-6 skewers

The other reason I loved the bar was the mid-summer softball tournament.  It was so hardcore, it was 24 hour a day, weekend event.  Many of the teams had no idea when they were playing, so everyone camped out and sat around eating and drinking, and occasionally sleeping.  By the end of the thing only one team was left standing, but that is a story for another day.

Articles by Date from 2012