March Madness

Recipe: Fresh Ham Sandwiches with Jarlsberg

Growing up in Mobile, AL my family had a very basic New Year’s Eve tradition. My father, a deputy sheriff, had worked more than enough fireworks related accidents.  Therefore nothing more volatile than a sparkler was ever part of our celebration. Still we had a tradition-rich New Year’s.

Each of us kids was given a dollar bill to keep in a pocket. The superstition was that if you didn’t have money in your pocket at midnight you’d be broke all year long. Most of the evening was spent playing with whatever toys or games we received for Christmas while my mother was busy in the kitchen preparing the feast for the next day. The usual “good luck” foods like collard greens, black eyed peas, cornbread and a fresh baked ham.

JarlsbergAn hour or so before midnight my father would slice some of the fresh ham and pan fry it for a little caramelization on this old cast iron griddle. Once the ham was browned he would then assemble sandwiches with the ham, mayonnaise and yellow mustard between two slices of white bread.  My mother loved cheese so as a special touch we would add a few slices of Jarlsberg.  The sandwiches would then go on the old griddle until toasty. Simple but truly delicious.

Those ham sandwiches, dripping with melted Jarlsberg, were one of my mother’s favorite meals of the year, I think because it was one of the few she didn’t have to cook herself.  She and I had a wonderful relationship because her eyes were always bigger than her stomach.  My stomach for that matter was always a bottomless pit.

You can make this sandwich yourself using smoked ham but it is better with fresh baked ham, especially if it was baked my mother. The flavor is similar to a Cuban sandwich. Most likely I am a fan of the Cuban because it takes me back to those New Year’s Eves of my childhood.

At midnight, bellies full, we would count down the last ten seconds of the old year before screaming, “Happy New Year!” Kisses and hugs were exchanged and maybe a sip or two of something naughty. Before long we were unconscious, pork and a swallow of Whiskey Sour makes an excellent sedative for a youngster. We needed the rest, too, because the next day would be a torrent of soul food and football, the cornerstones of life.

Sure it was a bland, humdrum way to spend a New Year’s Eve but it is a heck of a lot better than watching a giant Moonpie dangle from a construction crane or dodging drunks on the highway.  It is also one of my most cherished childhood memories.

My dear mother passed away last month and I know that I will never again get to finish the last few bites of her sandwich for her.  But I am happy that at our last Christmas celebration we had all the makings of of those New Year’s sandwiches.  There was ham, mayo, mustard, plain white bread, Jarlsberg and for the last time my mother.

Jarlsberg is the perfect cheese for this sandwich because of its buttery, rich texture and easy melt-ability (New Word!).  It’s nutty undertones go perfectly with creamy mayo and tangy mustard.  You can learn more about Jarlsberg by visiting their blog, or maybe even take in the Eat, Write, Retreat conference this May where they will be one of the sponsors.

You don’t have to wait for New Year’s Eve to make these sandwiches.  They are great for a middle of the week quick meal, a late-night snack or for your Super Bowl or March Madness party.  Check it out.

Griddle Ham Sandwiches with Jarlsberg
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Stuart Reb Donald
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 4-8
  • 2 pounds baked fresh ham, sliced (may substitute smoked ham)
  • 16 slices white bread
  • 16 slices Jarlsberg or Jarlsberg light
  • Mayonnaise and mustard to taste
  1. Heat a cast iron griddle or skillet to medium heat.
  2. Pan fry the ham until hot. Remove and set aside.
  3. On one slice of of bread put a healthy amount of mayo, on another a heavy amount of mustard. Place the two pieces together to and twist to mix the condiments lightly.
  4. Open the bread back up and add four ounces of ham and two slices of Jarlsberg.
  5. Place the sandwiches on the griddle and cook until toasty, turn and cook until the other side is also toasty.
  6. Repeat until all ingredients are gone.

Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Salad

I have a confession to make – I don’t like chicken salad.  In fact, I hate most chicken salad.  It’s odd, too, because I like all other compound salads like egg salad (my dear mother made the best ever.  EVER!), tabbouleh, tuna salad and potato salad in all it’s many incarnations.  But chicken salad is at best tolerable and usually unpalatable.  I especially detest those sweet chicken salads with fruit and nuts and sugar – that crap is more dessert than salad.

So I decided that since generations of cooks hadn’t done it I would just have to fix chicken salad.  Here’s a chicken salad that is perfect for your next tailgate or March Madness party.

Buffalo Chicken Salad
Recipe Type: Entree
Author: Stuart Reb Donald
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 15 mins
Serves: 4
  • 4 cups diced boiled chicken
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Ranch or Bleu Cheese dressing
  • 2 TBL Frank’s Red Hot or other cayenne-based hot sauce
  1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
  2. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

Buffalo Chicken Salad


The leaves from your celery would make a great garnish for this chicken salad as would a few bleu cheese crumbles.

Serve as a wrap, on a leaf of lettuce or in a toasty baguette. Or just throw it in a bowl with a sleeve of saltines next to it.


7 Questions with Hagan Blount the Wandering Foodie

There are food better jobs than being a food writer.  It’s one of the few jobs that even when it doesn’t pay much you don’t have to worry about starving.  Few people know this better than blogger Hagan Blount.

Blount is the writer of one of the most food-centric blogs in history, the Wandering Foodie.  At WF Hagan has made milking your blog for a great meal into an art form.  Hagan doesn’t just go to restaurants and blog the meal, Hagan goes to the best restaurants to blog the meal.  Never one to do things halfway, he has devised eating excursions that he calls “projects” but in reality they are full blown glutenous food marathons.  You have to love him.

Take for instance the one he called Restaurant Madness.  Blount go together with other notable Big Apple food bloggers Joe DiStefano (World’s Fare), Lawrence Weibman (NYC Food Guy), Gabrielle Langholtz (Edible Brooklyn) and Andy Freedman of Wined and Dined.  They divided 64 NYC restaurants into a bracket and doled them out tournament style to determine the title of the crowd’s favorite.

Another one of the Wandering Foodie’s projects was called 93 Plates.  Beginning last January and lasting thirty-one days straight he ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at NYC’s best restaurants.  He was joined by the city’s most influential food writers, blogging their every bite.  That’s three meals a day at a famous NYC restaurant until he had consumed 93 plates.  Other projects include 24 in 24: DC and 24 in 24: Boston tours of each cities’ food scene where he hit 24 eateries in 24 hours.

Hagan Blount was kind enough to take on my “project” called 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to write?

Hagan Blount on WannabeTVchef.comI was published by my local paper in third grade. It was a limerick contest. I don’t remember the poem exactly, but it was pretty weak. The rest of the applicants must have been pretty damn terrible.

2. Most people’s “bucket list” involves going to foreign countries and seeing world wonders; yours includes deep dish pizza and roast duck. What’s that all about?

I’m all about new experiences. I’ve been to something like 24 countries and counting, and I love travel, but travel is expensive. My theory about food is that (aside from reading) it’s the least expensive way to have an interesting new experience every day. There’s nothing else like it. I respect where food comes from, how flavors come together, the history of certain dishes … Think of how many ingredients go into making a curry paste and it boggles the mind how much trial and error went into this creation, yet in 3,000 years of work, it’s been perfected.

3. I know you are a New Yorker but can you separate yourself from the Chicago/New York rivalry long enough to weigh in on who has the best pizza?

I’m a Red Sox fan so I have no problem separating myself from any NY centric rivalry. I just moved here in December, and I’m still getting acclimated. I didn’t get to go to Lou Malnati’s when I was in Chicago, so people say I didn’t get the full experience. I did go to Uno’s, Gino’s, and Pequod’s though, so I think I got the full experience. New York Pizza is better, hands down. The one thing I think NYC could learn from Chicago is to incorporate Jardiniere into more pizza. Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn offers something like it as a side, and it should not be missed.

4. Of your marathon eating adventures that you like to call “projects” which was your favorite?

93 Plates for sure. Wouldn’t you like to eat out every meal for a month at some of the best places to eat in the greatest foodie city in the world for free? Of course you would.

5. You’ve had eating projects in Washington DC, Boston and New York City; when are you coming to the South?

Right after I finish the Pacific Northwest. I’m eager to get out to San Fran and Portland sometime in the next few years. Where would I go in the south? It’s so spread out down there, I would need my old RV back!

6. On your “93 Plates” project you ate 93 meals at New York’s best restaurants in 31 days. A total of 51 other food bloggers (yes I counted – twice) joined you; was there one experience that stands out?

Spending the day with Baron Ambrosia in the Bronx. This guy is a trip. For breakfast, I had pig ears at 188 Bakery Cuchifrito, For lunch, we had Goat Marrow at Ali’s Roti Shop in the Bronx, and for dinner, we had a whole roast goat at Xochimilco. I mean, I’m talking Eyeballs, cheeks, stomach, brains. It was nuts. The Baron is not a character – it’s his way of life. He’s an incredibly generous and cool guy.

7. What’s your next project?

I am working on a pilot to pitch to a production company and trying to figure out to record TV to my MacBook, but I can’t tell you more than that right now. I was selected to judge a contest and I was flown out to Chicago for the Sears Chef Challenge; I won a dream kitchen suite from Kenmore with that, but I don’t have a kitchen! It kills me to have to sell all these beautiful appliances, but I’m going to get a professional video camera and some lighting (and take a photography class or two) so I can get better at my craft. I’m also going to be taking some improv classes to think better on my feet and be more comfortable in front of the camera.

Slice of Life: Healthy Meatball Pizza

Slice of Life is a series on inventive styles of pizza. Some may have toppings you’ve never thought of putting on pizza and a some use crusts that are a little out of the norm.

March Madness is here and that means pub grub.  Everyone loves meatballs and everyone loves pizza so I have combined the two.  Now I’m not the first person to ever make a meatball pizza, they are pretty common.  But this may be the first ever healthy meatball pizza.  Whole wheat naan for the crust, turkey meatballs, low-fat mozzarella and no-sugar added tomato sauce makes this a heart healthy pizza.  Did I just say that?  I think I did; in fact I’ll say it again: heart healthy pizza.

For those interested in the nutritional value of the ingredients just click on the links.  What makes this pie even better is it is quick to make (provided you grocer’s bakery makes whole wheat naan like mine does – if not use whole wheat pita bread).  Open a jar of Ragu Light No Sugar Added Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce and spread a generous amount on the naan.  Lightly sprinkle Sargento Reduced Fat Mozzarella Shredded Cheese over the sauce.    Open a package of Honeysuckle Italian – style Turkey Meatballs slice them in half with the flat side down onto the pizza.  Top with a little more cheese and bake in a 425 degree oven for 5 – 6 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and toppings are hot.

Oh, and my prediction? Kentucky over Kansas.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

Stu’s Latest Kindle Single is Just $2.99

Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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