Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Thursday, October 22, 2009

DePasquale's Sausage Shop - Yummy Chinese BBQ Sausages For Not A Lot of Wonga

The village of Nonantum is already justifiably famous for being the childhood home of Matt LeBlanc and for it's Big Santa, but the real attraction is the sausages.  A friend turned me on to DePasquale's a couple of weeks ago and I had largely forgotten about it until I was penning the post on Ah-So sauce below.  How do you go from a sticky sweet "Chinese" sauce to an Italian sausage place?  Well, it's not as big a leap as one might think, as DePasquale's is the home of Chinese BBQ flavored pork sausage.  I was initially a bit put off by the somewhat dilapidated looking exterior, but around here good things often come in inauspicious packages (see the Dudley Chateau.) and the interior was immaculate.  After a brief transaction that had all the charm of a drug deal, I left with a tidy brown bag full of porky goodness.  I don't know who came up with the idea of Chinese BBQ sausages, but brothers and sisters, it's lightning in a bottle.  I grilled them up so the exterior was nicely caramelized and the result was almost bacon like in it's goodness, especially when paired with Chinese hot mustard.  So next time you're down by the Lake (as Nonantum is known as locally) pick up a dozen of these, you won't regret it, I suggest them as party appetizers.  On a side note, the Lake is also home to one of the most peculiar local dialects in America.  I dunno where this bizarre patois came from (no one seems to) but you can check out some examples here : Lake Talk

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

AH-SO Sauce

Mention this stuff to any current or former Massachusetts resident over 30 and you bound to get a smile.  This stuff dates back to the early Chun King dynasty, back when La Choy "Made Chinese Food Swing American" (click to re-live) and was a staple of New England regional cuisine.  Basically this stuff tries to approximate the taste of traditional American-Chinese restaurant "spare ribs".  Ah-So sauce is especially popular on appetizers like chicken wings, keilbasa slices and of course, pork ribs.   Brush a little Ah-So on right before the food is done and pop it on the grill or under the broiler for a bit until the sticky sweet sauce carmelizes a bit.  The reason it's just a regional oddity is that Ah-So was originally made in the Garden City of Newton, MA (Now Made In New Jersey)

15 Minute Bolognese Style Pasta Dinner

Photo Credit : http://www.dbgg1979.com/

I have been making this easy sauce as a quick weeknight meal for a few years now, and it never fails to please, and it really can be made in about 15 minutes.  My family has unabashedly used supermarket marinara sauce as meat sauce base for pasta since I was a child, it's cheap, quick, easy and tasty.  We all know the old aphorism; "Good, Fast,Cheap - Pick any Two" and it applies to just as aptly to cooking as it does to software development, fast and cheap food is seldom very good.  And thus it was with my childhood meat sauce, if you wanted it to be good, you would have to extensively doctor up the jarred sauce, which of course takes time.  The problem with most supermarket marinara sauce is it's cloying sweetness, the taste is almost instantly identifiable and they all taste the same, adding ground beef adds flavor, but does nothing for the sweetness.  So, if you want good and fast, cheap needs to go, the good news is that pasta and sauce is so cheap per serving, that even doubling the price only raises the cost to the level of a typical dinner.  Anyway, if you can stomach paying $10.00 for a jar of pasta sauce at Whole Foods read on.  Without further fanfare the recipe (serves 4-5 generously)

1 32oz. Jar  - Rao's Marinara Sauce (it's worth it I swear)
1/2 lb. - Ground Beef
1/2 lb. - Sweet Italian Pork Sausage (casing removed)
1 lb. Pasta (I like fresh ravioli)
Actual Italian Parmesan Cheese from the refrigerated section
Heavy Cream or Half and Half (cream tastes best)


1. Pan Fry Beef and Sausage breaking it up into small bits with the spatula.
2. When the meat is finished if it is super greasy drain off most of the fat.
3. Add the Rao's sauce right to the hot pan and scrape off any yummy bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
4. Decrease heat to med low and simmer till the pasta is ready.
5. Add 1/2 cup (more or less) of Parm to sauce
6. Add a bit of the cream to taste. in the neighbor hood of 1/4 cup or so.
7. Serve with Pasta

Woot ! Done, hope you enjoy it.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HDR On The Cheap - Nikon D40, Voyager Tripod & Photomatrix

HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography is a relatively new digital imaging technique that is becoming increasingly popular.  HDR seeks to address one of the principal shortcomings of the current crop of consumer CCD camera sensors, namely a compressed dynamic range.  When I made the switch to digital, one of the first things I noticed was that the comparitive lack of range of dynamic range compared to film.  By dynamic range I mean the amount of exposure between the brightest and darkest subjects in a photo that are visible.  In everyday shooting, the narrower exposure window of digital cameras is more than offset by the incredible flexibility and power of their modern imaging software.  Even my low rent Nikon D40 is capable of producing consistently excellent results merely using auto mode.  The tables turn however when taking a shot with both bright lights and dark shadows, leaving you with washed out highlights or a dark subject.  Enter HDR, the basic gist of HDR photography is to take three or more exposures per shot using the bracketing feature of your camera to vary the exposure widely enough to avoid washing out the highlights and at the same time bring out the detail in the shadows.  I really enjoy low light photography, and after seeing a number of stunning HDR shots, I decided to give it a go.  "Stuck in Customs" is a great website and resource for HDR techniques with a great tutorial on beginning HDR.  Taking their advice I downloaded a trial version of Photomatrix HDR imaging software and went to town.  Following the tutorial instructions I was easily able to produce the image above in 10-15 minutes and while I am not going to win a Pulitzer for it, I think it gives you an idea of the kind of results even a hack like myself can achieve.  HDR is kindof a polarizing format, some purists loath it and in truth many practitioners over amp their photos to the point where they look like paintings.  To me, that's O.K., I don't like everyone's music and I don't have to enjoy everyone's photography.  A few side notes and recommendations; I recommend trying the free trial version of Photomatrix, it's easy to use, and fun to play with, you can use it as much as you want, but the trial version will put watermarks on your images like you see above.  A tripod is pretty much required...I got a David & Sanford "Voyager" at Newtonville Camera for a reasonable price and  it has been excellent, the staff at Newtonville is top rate as well.