NASCAR

New Video Recipe for Mardi Gras 2011

Mardi Gras 2011 is so big people actually tailgate it. Weeks before Fat Tuesday the city of Mobile is overrun with RVs. When it comes to tailgating, Mardi Gras is the big leagues. Football and NASCAR tailgates last at best a week. Mardi Gras goes one more than twice that long. For this tailgate party I’m making Smoked Sausage Stuffed Grilled Meatloaf, BBQ Potatoes Gratin and Barbecue Gravy.  Enjoy this video recipe.

7 Questions with Nicky Mores, the Racing Chef

There are plenty of channels on the dial these days where you can get tips on how to use a chef’s knife or recipes for chocolate covered macaroons.  Of course there’s the Food Network and it’s kid sister the Cooking Channel, TLC, FOX, NBC and the SPEED Channel.  Don’t reach for your bifocals, you read that right – the SPEED Channel.  Racing’s premiere cable channel has it’s own cooking show, the Racing Chef starring award winning chef Nicky Morse.

Morse travels the NASCAR circuit cooking and teaching with the sport’s best drivers, pit crew members and even fans. The Racing Chef is part Iron Chef and part Talladega Nights.  In his post as NASCAR’s culinary pit boss, Chef Nicky has seen everything from a crew member that makes the best authentic, old-school manicotti to a guy roasting a whole alligator in the infield of a super speedway.  But just how did a gourmet chef well known among the country club set suddenly find himself rubbing elbows with blue collar stock car fans?

That is no short story.  Morse was a very successful chef by the time he was 30 years old but that is when fate entered into his life in the form of the big “C.”  Hodgkin’s lymphoma meant an end to the 70+ hour work week of a professional kitchen.  Something had to change.  A chance meeting with Jeg’s Drag Racing Team of the NHRA was just the ticket.  After eight years as the crew chef for the championship team, the Racing Chef just kind of fell into his lap.

A few critics have described the show as campy.  Really?  It’s a show about cooking and tailgating at stock car races, what were they expecting, Mad Men?  The reality is that the Racing Chef is wildly popular with it’s target audience.  That’s all you can ask for from any TV show.  Recently I spoke with Chef Nicky Morse and he agreed to answer 7 Questions:

Nicky Morse o9n WannabeTVchef.com1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Professionally 18.  Of course when I was in diapers I said I was going to be a chef.

2. Is that really when you decided that you could make food your career, when you were in diapers?

You know what?  To be honest with you, yeah.  I didn’t ever want to do anything else.  That’s it.  That’s all I was going to do.  You know it’s funny, the other day my mom pulled some stuff out from when I was in grade school and read me some of the stuff where I had said I was going to be a chef.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

I’ve had a lot of chefs influence me.  There’s a guy named Harmut Handke, he’s kind of given me a lot of inspiration in the culinary world. I looked at his work and I studied his work and I looked at a lot of his recipes.  He was the international chef of the year.  He was the manager for the United States for the Culinary Olympics.

I worked for a guy named Ziggy (Allespach).  Ziggy trained me and gave me the base for my education.  He had a French restaurant , well Continental cuisine but mainly French, and this was when I was just starting out.  He influenced me a lot.  He was top notch.  There was no other 4 star restaurant in Columbus, Ohio at that time to work at so I worked for him.

Your asking me for one I’m giving you two.  They kind of set my path for me.  I didn’t ever work for Hartmut but Ziggy I was probably with him four and a half years.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

You know what?  This is crazy and it’s going to sound nuts.  You’re going to be like, “What?”  I would love to do, like, somewhere between street magic and Candid Camera.  I love messing with, I mean I love messing with people.  I could mess with people 24 hours a day.  I love it.  And I’d love to do card tricks.

5. What’s the highlight of your career so far?

I’d have to give you a couple of highlights.  When I started and I was working for Ziggy and I became his sous chef.  I mean I was the sous chef at the only four star restaurant around here.

And then what I’m doing now I would have to say is the highlight of my career.  It’s almost like two different careers.  Working on television and working in a restaurant are two different things.

6. What aspect of your professional life do you enjoy the most?

I like working with my family.  Mitzi, my wife, she takes care of the web site.  I like my wife working with me.  My brother, Matt, wrote the theme song for the show.  My nephew, Martin, made my chef hat.  It’s an amazing hat!  He had one day to make it.  My sister wrote and produced the show for years and her husband is still a producer.  I have a brother that helps me with graphics and a sister that helps me write things, checks my grammar.  I have a niece that created the logo.  Getting to work with my family and have everybody work and influence the show, that is the best part of my professional career.

7. What’s next for Chef Nicky?

I’m going to open an online store.  Since I started this TV show I’ve had so many people e-mail me.  They want to buy a cookbook.  They want to buy a T-shirt. They want to buy something.  So I guess the fans, hopefully, are going to dictate to me what I’m going to do nest.  I’m at a point right now where I have to open a store.  There’s too much demand for me not to open a store.

The Racing Chef with Nicky Morse airs Mondays at 9PM (ET) on SPEED.

Everyday Béchamel

Originally published by Lagniappe in 2004. This is the first food article I ever wrote.

Béchamel is one of those funny French words that no one in the States can quite figure out how to pronounce. Is it bay-shuh -mel? Or possibly boo-shuh -may? And what is that silly looking apostrophe thing doing hanging out over the second letter? And while we are on the subject what the heck is it anyway, a fancy sports car?

A Béchamel is one of the “five mother” sauces of classic French cuisine first created by Louis de Béchamel a steward of King Louis XIV circa 1700. At its base it consists of butter, flour, and milk. This sauce’s consistency can vary from thin to quite thick and it adapts to many different dishes depending on how you alter the base recipe.

This is all very nice, but why would Roy from Eight Mile care about some hoity-toity French food?

Because, Roy, you have eaten it all of your life.

How many of us have grown up with our mothers or grandmothers fixing a great big pan of milk gravy to sop our biscuits in? That’s right kids, sawmill gravy is nothing more that the nefarious Béchamel with a slight recipe adjustment. In the South we substitute bacon or sausage drippings for the butter. Add some fried salt pork, fig preserves, and black coffee and you have a breakfast fit for the most cantankerous NASCAR fan.

For the record the word ‘biscuit’ is also of French origin.

Think that is the only time you’ve encountered Béchamel? Think again. How about macaroni and cheese, or Alfredo sauce, or spinach cheese dip, or cream of mushroom soup? Even chicken potpie uses a variation of Monsieur Béchamel’s invention. It is also appears in Fondue from Switzerland and the Queso from your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. It’s everywhere!

As you can see Béchamel is not as foreign as you might think. So rather than dismissing Béchamel as just another high-brow dish meant only to give the appearance of culture and sophistication (see Tiramisu), let’s explore its culinary potential. If you are not convinced afterwards then toss it on the trash heap of French culture right next to the beret.

What red blooded American does not enjoy a gooey grilled cheese sandwich? When we are feeling especially sassy we have even been known to stick a piece of ham in between those two golden slices of cheese. Well in France they go one better, Croque Monsieur. In essence a grilled cheese sandwich, but in reality much, much more. This little offering is so gooey it must be eaten with a fork.

Croque Monsieur
8 thick slices French bread
1/2 pound ham, thinly sliced
1/2 pound Gruyère or aged Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup grated Gruyère or aged Swiss cheese
1/4 cup Dijon mustard Butter for spreading
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
Salt & pepper, to taste

Prepare the Béchamel by melting butter in small saucepan until it just starts to bubble. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly until smooth but not brown. Whisking constantly, add the milk, continuing to cook until thick. Remove from heat and season. Transfer to a bowl and cover by placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce not the lip of the bowl. Preheat the broiler and have a griddle or skillet ready. Spread the mustard on one side of the bread. Top with ham and cheese and cover with remaining bread.

Generously butter both sides of the bread.

Place sandwiches on hot griddle or skillet and cook about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown on both sides. Transfer the sandwiches to a broiler pan or baking sheet. Spread some of the béchamel on top of each sandwich and then top with the grated cheese. Broil about 2 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheese has melted. Serve immediately. Sounds good doesn’t it? Believe it or not in Paris this is considered a “healthy” snack.

As you can see not everything from France smells funny and looks like it needs a shower. The French passion for Jerry Lewis is disturbing to say the least, but Béchamel for instance is yummy. Give it a try in whatever form fits your appetite.

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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.

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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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