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No, Arby's Name Is Not Based On Initials For "Roast Beef"

I have been seeing this recurring post on social media saying that Arby's got its name from the initials for roast beef (R.B.'s), and people responding "oh, that makes so much sense." Have probably seen it three times a day on Facebook and Twitter the past week.

It's a nice story, but it's not true. It's close to the truth, but the name has nothing to do with roast beef. Instead, the chain was started by Forrest & Leroy Raffel, so they named it after the initials for "Raffel Brothers", (R.B.'s) not roast beef.

And if you wanted to know what roast beef has to do with a ten gallon cowboy hat (which is the shape of the Arby's sign), turns out they originally wanted to name it "Big Tex." The name, however, was taken so they went with Arby's while still keeping the sign shape they designed for "Big Tex."

So in your next game of anything involving trivia...

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The Finished Product...

Since I've been trying to encourage everyone to try making pulled pork barbecue this weekend, I did not want to appear to be one of those "do as I say, not as I do" kind of people. So here's my finished product.

It turned out great, particularly when paired with  cole slaw, baked beans, deviled eggs and potato salad. My wife said if I posted this, I better credit her for making the beans and not "steal her bean glory." So she made the beans and they were fantastic.

Hope yours came out as well. Now it's time to find a sofa and watch the Indy 500...

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It's Time For Memorial Day BBQ. You Can Do This...

Every time about this year, I run into younger friends who say how much they love barbecue. Each time I hear it, I usually counter with “if you love it so much, why don’t you make it at home so you can have it more often.”

This is usually quickly followed by a look from my younger friends that suggest I’ve just asked him to go dig up some uranium in the back yard.

So let’s go over this. One. More. Time.

Making pulled pork barbecue is about as easy as it gets. It’s only about a quarter step up from boiling water. And when it’s on sale, you can make as much as you could probably eat in a month for 10 bucks.

The cut of meat you need to make barbecue from is called either a pork shoulder of a Boston Butt. It normally sells for between $1.79 to $1.99 pound and around holidays like Memorial Day, it’s usually on sale. Harris-Teeter, for example, is selling a Smithfield pork shoulder/Boston Butt for 99 cents a pound this week (what you should see at Harris Teeter should look exactly like the picture above), which means WE are having barbecue this weekend. For you folks who skipped math, that means a good sized 8-pound shoulder is going to cost under $8. Or about what you’ll pay for one barbecue sandwich at a Nationals game.

After you’ve purchased one, you need to allow two days before you plan to serve it. I bought one today, will follow this process, and we will have it for lunch on Sunday. Here’s what you do:

A shoulder tastes best when slow cooked with a dry rub applied, so you need to make one. There are a lot of ingredients you can use, but they usually fall into three categories: something sweet, something salty and something savory. The something sweet is easy: brown sugar. The something salty is pretty easy too: salt. The savory includes things like garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, maybe even cumin. Add equal parts of the sugar, salt and the savory ingredients you like and mix together.

Not sure?, put them all in and then adjust if you notice a sour note you don’t like. I will add dry mustard some time (truth be told I’ll add every thing I have in my spice cabinet at times) and sometimes I’ll only mix sugar, salt, paprika, chili powder and onion powder. Truth is, you can’t mess this up. Just make sure you mix enough to coat the whole shoulder. If you err in any direction, add more brown sugar than anything. Sweetness is never a bad thing with pork.

Next you should get a pan big enough to hold this shoulder. Slice an onion and lay it on the bottom of the pan. Grab a sharp knife, take the shoulder and cut about 8 slits into it. Peel 8 cloves of garlic and put them in those slits (onions and garlic are aromatics that really help the flavor). Then take your dry rub and coat all sides of it, but when done make sure you put it back in the pan fat side up as you lay it on the bed of onions. This allows that fat to render while cooking and those juices baste the rest of the shoulder.

Cover (either with a lid or aluminum foil) and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours. If you don’t want to use your oven, you can do this same process in a crockpot. Make sure, however, that the shoulder fits in the crockpot with the lid on (a mistake I’ve made more than once and then had to change plans and use the oven). But either way the pork needs to sit in the refrigerator at least 24 hours with the dry rub on it.

You’re now almost done. When 24 hours is up, uncover and add liquid to the bottom of the pan. I use apple juice, but you can also use water, and I have at times poured Dr. Pepper in as the liquid. The pork needs this to stay moist, and I’ve found the sweeter the liquid, the better the barbecue.

Cover again and if it’s the oven, put it in toward the lowest settings you can (I put mine at 200 degrees) or put it in the crockpot on low. Then walk away for 8 hours. The longer it cooks, the better it’s going to be, so don’t keep peeking at it at 4 or 6 hours. I will usually do all the dry rub one night (like tonight) and put it in the fridge, then tomorrow night I will take it out of the refrigerator right before I go to bed at midnight and put it in the oven. When I get up the next morning, the house smells great, the dogs are walking around with their noses up in the air trying to find this heavenly creation, and the pork is pull-apart tender.

When done, pull the pan out of the oven and let it cool. It should now be so tender you can pull the shoulder bone out cleanly and the meat falls apart. Shred it (pulling as much as the fat out as you can) and put it into another pan. Apply barbecue sauce of your choosing, add a little coleslaw, put on a bun and you will have the best barbecue sandwich you’ve ever hard. We will keep it in a large Tupperware container, store it in the fridge and then only pull out what we need at meal time for barbecue sandwiches, barbecue nachos...I’ve even put it in a ragu sauce and served it on angel hair pasta. Because 8 pounds makes a LOT of barbecue.

It’s cheap, easy and delicious. Only thing it really demands is time.

So get to the store, buy a butt, then get off of yours and make some this weekend….

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Welcome To National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day....

Since every day is apparently national SOMETHING day (yesterday it involved pets), today we honor melted cheese between two slices of bread: National Grilled Cheese Sandwich day.

I always wondered who decides these things, because there’s a national day for just about every kind of food, animal or occupation imaginable. And there are far more than 365 foods, animals or occupations, so clearly there’s some overlap.

I struggle with grilled cheese because if I’m going to invest a lot of cheese, a flour-based product like bread and grill/bake it, I’m going to  make a pizza. It’s is nature’s perfect food, and why mess with what God has already perfected?

But there are times when a toasted grilled cheese sandwich – served with a mandatory bowl of tomato soup – can be pleasing. My issue, as is the case with everything I cook, is I use too many ingredients. I have to have significant amounts of American cheese, swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, and if I have any in the refrigerator, provolone. As a separator, I will put a thin slice of ham between the various types of cheese, and occasionally will even add a few thin slices of pepperoni.

See? I end up making a pizza again.

I Googled the topic to see just how serious people take this manufactured holiday, and the answer is pretty serious. The first story to pop up is titled “9 ways to honor National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on Thursday.” Of course it’s from a newspaper in Milwaukee, and in Wisconsin they do take their cheese extremely serious. But with that kind of reverence, you’d almost think they have a “Tomb Of The Unknown Cheese Curd” or something there too.

So enjoy National Grilled Cheese Day...until tomorrow...when it's National Peach Cobbler Day...Blame Someone Else Day...International Skeptics Day...and Friday the 13th...

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Eating Some Of These Sandwiches WILL Make You A Po' Boy

While waiting for the Nationals’ home opener to start, I found myself browsing through Twitter, reading of everyone’s experiences in the cold downtown near the Navy Yard. Over about a 10-minute timespan, the pics you see at the top were posted, and you couldn’t help but notice the contrast.

On the left are pics posted by The Washington Post’s Scott Allen, whose assignment today was to go around and sample all the new foods, with no worry of their cost. Today, it was good to be Scott Allen. But Scott, while giving his reviews of the culinary offerings, also posted signs that showed the prices. Scott posted another pic of his meal of a Nashville hot chicken sandwich and some mac and cheese, and while I’m sure it was wonderful, it looked no different than what I could get at Chick-Fil-A.

According to my math, Scott paid $22 for those two items. Usually when I spend that much for an entrée’ at lunch, they bring a steak knife and serve it with dishes like potatoes lyonnaise. Dire Straights must have been thinking about this meal when they sang, "Money for nothing and the (Nashville Hot) Chicken ain't free"...or something like that.

While these pics were coming over Twitter, the pic at right from Augusta National was posted. There is no more exclusive ticket on the planet than going to see The Masters. They could literally charge whatever they wanted and people would pay it. But they don’t. The make a fair profit and leave it at that. Just like when you would go anywhere in the South, a sandwich is 3 bucks. A drink is 2 bucks, etc., etc.

I get the whole paying more for convenience factor at sporting events. But there should be a limit of just how much of a premium you charge before it’s crossing the line. A soft drink should be $2. A hot dog should be $4. Charge all you want for the gourmet, free-range, organic, gently massaged chicken used in a specialty sandwich, but be realistic with the concession stand staples that are part of the ball park experience.

The Atlanta Falcons have done just that with their new stadium, and it’s a smart move. Folks are more inclined to spend more when they believe the prices are reasonable, and I’d rather make a $2 profit off an item and sell 10, then make a $5 profit off the same item and only sell 2. It also extends some good will for when the team is not doing so well, something Dan Snyder appears to have never learned.

I was a Redskins season ticket holder for many years, but finally one Monday night, I had enough. The product on the field wasn’t good. This was the Monday night Michael Vick and the Eagles came to town, blew the Redskins off the field, and it rained from mid-1st quarter to the end. The tickets were expensive, the parking was expensive, watching the game was miserable, and the ushers working the game that night – and there weren’t many – sort of disappeared in the rain.

I walked to the concession stand, there was trash all over the concourse (which seemed to me due to the team intentionally understaffing that evening to save money) and I ended up paying through the nose for a single soft drink and a hot dog. It wasn’t a matter of being able to afford it. It’s like they had a sign up that said “we’re screwing you on the prices and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

I’m a sucker, I thought. This team is squeezing every dime they can out of us fans, they're investing minimally in our comfort, and they’re laughing at us. I did not renew the next season and have not re-upped since.

So c’mon, Nats. You’re flying high now, the team is good, there’s a buzz in the air, and I get you wanting to go for the gold while you can. But don’t squeeze every drop of blood out of the turnip. Be somewhat like Augusta and provide a few reasonable alternatives. Remember, our kids when little, judge how much they like the team by how many times they get to go to the concession stand. The actual game doesn’t make sense to them until a few years later.

They will grow up and remember their ballpark experience sometime in the future. A time, perhaps, when you’re not riding quite so high….   

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Might As Well Turn Those Easter Eggs Into Something...

It’s the day after Easter, which means you need to get two things done today: One is go buy up all the half-priced chocolate. The other is to turn those hard-boiled Easter eggs into something edible, assuming you refrigerated them after all that decorating.

I turned mine into deviled eggs, mainly because it’s very simple, and the people in my house scarf them down like eggs will no longer be available on earth at the end of the day.

Here’s how to make them: Peel them, chop them in half, and put all the yokes into a mixing bowl (a slight push on the bottom of the round part of the egg will pop it out like a lost contact lens. When  you’ve done that to all the eggs, take a fork and mash them until they look more like a powder than an egg.

I add a little minced onion to give the deviled egg some texture. Just take a small amount of onion, chop it until you think you’ve chopped it enough, then go back and chop it two more times. You want a hint of onion, not chunks like it’s chicken salad. Add an equal mixture of mustard and mayonnaise and mix it up thoroughly. I add about 3 or 4 drops of Sriracha into the mix to give it a slight hint of heat (i.e., the devil in deviled eggs) and a subtle smoky flavor. If you decide to do this, be careful. The difference between 3 drops and 5 drops can be the difference between subtle flavor and your mouth on fire. It’s in a squeeze bottle, and I have seen people in my own house give the bottle a firm squeeze and unintentionally put enough Sriracha into a recipe to burn the house down. So you’ve been warned.

Spoon the mixture back into the egg whites. If you want to get fancy, use a piping bag (which you can buy online for about $5) with a pastry tip (again, another $5 online) to get those fancy grooves. But whether pastry bag or spoon, it still tastes the same. As a final touch, I usually put a light dusting of paprika on top of the eggs to give it another layer of very mild heat, and the color looks nice.

With the eggs peeled, it takes about 10 minutes. But since they look fancy, you can lie to your family, say you slaved away for a couple of hours because you knew they liked them, and then get them to clean the kitchen and take out the garbage. A fair trade, if you ask me…..

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Just A Little Light Dessert After A Great Easter Meal

Usually at holidays, I post food pictures on Facebook. But I'm not on Facebook any more.

So I guess I'll just have to do it here. This is a chocolate dome cake, filled with chocolate mousse, topped by an Easter bunny face with M&Ms for eyes and a nose.

As a friend noted, the bunny seems to have fear in its eyes. And well it should :)

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Here's How To Make Chicken Salad Out Of, Well, Chicken

When I decided to quit being on Facebook and write my own site (I mean, if the whole world is going to see everything any way, what does it matter?) more than one friend asked “are you going to keep posting food pictures there?”

You see, my two main passions in life (besides my family) are watching sports and food. On Friday nights in the fall, I’m watching high school football. On Friday nights in the summer, I’m watching the Washington Nationals. In between those two times, on Friday night I’m watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

I like to eat, but I also like to cook. As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered that many of the really good meals you’re going to get are the ones you make yourself. I’m also Italian, and food means tradition, and if done right, it means “home.” The ultimate compliment I can get is when my daughter comes to visit, I’ve been cooking for a few hours, and she observes “it smells like home.” It’s really garlic and onions being sautéed in olive oil, but don’t tell her.

But also as I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed people don’t seem to like to cook any more. Somewhere along the last 30 or so years it’s been branded as a servant-like chore. I’ve talked to many women, from my wife, to my daughter to many who are in-between the two in age, who think wanting to cook is kind of sexist, as if you’re being a submissive doormat if you decide to cook meals in the house.

I’ve also talked to a number of guys – particularly the younger ones – who don’t think cooking is something they need to worry about. They’ll eat in restaurants, their mom will cook for them, or somebody will do it.

Well guys, somebody won’t one day. So figure it out now.

Cooking can be tiring. But it’s creative. You make sure what you’re eating is the good stuff. You can make it taste the way YOU want it. Or more importantly the way a child, spouse of loved one wants it. And there are other benefits; I cut a deal with my wife (and later my daughter) that I’d do the cooking if they cleaned up. Getting a “you don’t have to do the dishes” card for the rest of your life does have its benefits. You’ll also save significant amounts of money over your lifetime while still eating restaurant quality food. And I’m not talking about having to go to culinary school either.

So from time to time, every time I make something at home, I’m going to post a picture or two of the food and explain how to do it. Today, for example I made chicken salad. For the week. Now before you shrug your shoulders and say “big deal. You can buy a tub of it in the grocery store.” Well. not like this.

I make it whenever Giant puts its boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.99 a pound, which is about every second or third week. I buy four pounds for under $8, wash them, and put them in a pan. I chop up an onion and lay it on the base of the pan, throw in some garlic cloves and lay the breasts on the onions and garlic so they’re not touching the bottom of the pan. I put in a couple of red cups of water (you don’t HAVE to drink beer out of them) and add salt and pepper. I cover the pan in plastic wrap (to keep the steam in) and cover the plastic wrap with aluminum foil (to keep the plastic wrap from melting). Put them in the oven at 325 degrees for 90 minutes, then pull them out to cool.

I put them on a rack (which you see in the picture at right) to cool and drain of any liquid. Once cool, I chop them into cubes and stick them in a food processor. Pulse the button (push it down for a half second at a time) to lightly chop it up further. If you mash the button and let it go for 10 seconds, you’re going to have chicken sawdust, something you do NOT want.

Once all the chicken is done, peel an apple, core it, and chop up the apple into small bits. Do the same with about half an onion. Do the same again with some sweet pickles. If you buy the big gherkins, I use about 6. These three foods add crunch to your chicken salad, but different levels of sweetness. Make it all onion, or apple, or pickle (which a lot of homemade recipes do) and it’s too much. Breaking it into apple, onion and pickle hits a good balance.

Put it all in a bowl, and if you need a bicep workout, get out the big wooden spoon and start mixing as you add mayonnaise for your appropriate taste. I’ve started use a Kitchen Aid mixer, as the paddle gives a more consistent mix. Plus I can sit back and sip coffee while the real work is being done.

When you THINK you’re done, taste it. I have found it always needs just a little more salt and pepper. Chicken breast white meat can also tend to be slightly dry and will pull out moisture from your mayo or dressing. So if it’s a little dry now, it will be even worse after it’s been in the fridge four hours. Make appropriate adjustments.

Yeah, it’s a little work. But you get to have a sandwich like the one above. And for $8 worth of chicken, there’s enough to make them thick, pile them high, and have them all week long.

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Never Thought Being A Coffee Snob Would Be This Difficult

If you have found yourself turning into a coffee snob – and if you live in Ashburn, it’s almost a requirement – you may have found yourself purchasing a Chemex.

I found a number of number of people – led by journalist Salena Zito – discussing on Twitter one day how a Chemex will allow you to brew the perfect cup of coffee. So many people piled in to agree with this that whether it mattered or not, I had to have one. In my world, the person with most culinary toys wins, and a Chemex was not in my collection.

The Chemex was easy to acquire for about $50, but the special coffee filters for the Chemex were not. A lot of places carry them, but for the last three months, they weren’t available at local stores. Usually when that happens you go to Amazon, but when you went there, the filters that should be $9.95 or less were selling for $22 a box and higher. Turns out that a few assorted clowns realized a lot of people get them for Christmas, so these entrepreneurs went around and bought up all the available inventory, then resold them on Amazon for a much higher price. Judging from comments I read online, this was going on just about everywhere.

Places like Chemex sold them online for $9.95, but unlike Amazon, where if you buy $25 of more freight is free, Chemex does not offer this. So by the time you add in freight, it’s about $22.

My search ended today when a UPS truck plunked down a box with 200 filters in it. Turns out I was in a Peet’s store two weeks ago, and they carry them. Like everyone else, they were sold out, but I was told I could go online and Peet’s has a flat $5 shipping charge to anywhere. They charged only $7.25 for a box of 100, so by buying 2 boxes, with the $5 shipping it still comes out to under $10 a box delivered to your door. Plus, every now and then they have sales. So on the day I ordered, they gave an additional 17 percent off for St. Patrick’s Day. With tax, freight and everything, it was $17.33, or $8.67 for a box of 100.

So while I’d like to find these clowns cornering the market on coffee filters and pour hot coffee on very sensitive areas, there is an alternative. If you too have had the same frustration I have had finding them – and judging from all the complaints on the Amazon page for this product, many have – Peet’s online is the way to go.

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