dy-no-mite.

I’ve never been to Rhode Island. I now have a reason to go.

Mrs. Crappy has a subscription to Cook’s Country magazine and we received a new issue last week. The magazine publishes an index of sorts on back cover, and as soon as I looked at the new one, I saw something I knew I had to make right away: a big batch of Rhode Island Dynamites.

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The magazine explained that the sandwiches are a staple of Woonsocket; they’re a bit like Sloppy Joes, but spicier and with a turn towards an Italian flavor profile — in other words, right smack in my wheelhouse.

I can’t link to the Cook’s Country recipe, because they require a subscription; instead, I’ll take you through the modified version I made yesterday.

What you need:

  • 2 pounds ground beef (the magazine suggests 85/15)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jarred hot cherry peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon brine from the jarred cherry peppers
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • A bag of deli rolls (6-inch sub rolls are the traditional thing)

What you do:

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven, medium-high heat. Add the beef and water (which will help keep the meat tender). Season with salt and pepper (about a 1/4 teaspoon each). Break up beef with a spatula and brown until most of the liquid has cooked off and meat starts to sizzle.

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2) Add onions and bell peppers, along with another 1/4 teaspoon shot of salt and pepper. Stir frequently until veggies are soft.

3) Add cherry peppers, brine, tomato paste, garlic, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes. Stir until paste is fully mixed with the rest of the stuff.

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4) Stir in tomato sauce. Turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Stir occasionally. When it thickens to your taste, season with salt and pepper to taste, scoop into the rolls and serve.

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What I could have done:

The original recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of the diced cherry peppers, 2 tablespoons of the brine and a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes, but Mrs. Crappy requested a less spicy version, so I toned it down to the measurements in the recipe above. I think I went too far in the safe direction and next time, I’ll go more towards the what the original recipe calls for. Another variation I’ll try: using sweet cherry peppers instead of hot.

Even with my overly-cautious modifications, the sandwiches are delicious — layers of flavor and, as I said before, nearly perfect for my comfort-food sensibilities. I will eat these again and again, even if I never actually make it to Rhode Island.

hope you’re thirsty.

It’s a pretty simple theme. And all you have to do to take advantage is find the guy in the red hat.

As we’ve done for several years, we’re volunteering again at a Pittsburgh Marathon fluid station. As we done for not quite as many years, we’re working the Mile 6 station, on Western Avenue near the Humane Society’s North Side shelter. And as we’ve been able to do since we’ve worked that station, we hope to set up on the right side of the street — for those of you who are running — near First Niagara Bank.

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Find the hat. Get a high five.

So if you’re running on Sunday morning, look for me and the same red Ohio
State bucket hat I wear every year. Find me, and that’s where the tag line comes in:

Hugs. High fives. And the best water on the course.

See you Sunday morning, yinz guys.

choked.

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I should know better than to stroll through the produce section of Whole Foods A) while I’m hungry and B) just two days after I get paid. But in our most recent trip, it worked out well.

Because there it was, a display of good-sized, bright green artichokes. Three chokes for five bucks. And after a quick consultation with Mrs. Crappy, three good ones made it into our cart. And because it had been years since I’d had one — I think just once since our honeymoon — I was pretty excited.

Artichokes are difficult. They’re pointy and tough, and preparing them takes a while, even if the process isn’t especially difficult. Even eating them isn’t intuitive (“Whaddaya mean I scrape them with my teeth?”).

I can’t make them appear any less mysterious, but I can tell you what I did when we cooked and ate all three on Saturday … and I hope that will help.

Cooking.

Get a pot big enough to hold all the artichokes you’re cooking. Fill it about halfway with water. Into the water, you’ll add:

  • A couple bay leaves.
  • Four cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.
  • A couple of lemons, quartered.
  • Some white wine (something between a quarter cup and a half cup).
  • Some parsley (we didn’t have fresh parsley at home, so I put in a handful of dried).
  • A drizzle of olive oil.
  • Towards the end of cooking, melt a stick or two of butter in a separate pan, and have some extra lemon wedges handy.
They look delicious, even in the pot.

They look delicious, even in the pot.

Trim the tops and the stems of the chokes and add them to the simmering pot tops down. Let them bubble for about 30 minutes before you start checking to see if they’re finished. When a knife runs through the stems without resistance, they’re ready to eat. Make sure they’re well drained before you serve.

Eating.

I misspoke earlier. Eating artichokes isn’t difficult, but it is different. Remove a couple outer layers of leaves before you serve the chokes — they’re generally too tough to be enjoyable. Then you remove a leaf at a time, dip it into a bowl of melted butter (I like it with a squeeze of lemon juice too) and scrape the bottom two-thirds of the leaf across your top teeth.

Yes. Really.

The scraping removes the meat from the leaf — that delicious, butter-soaked meat that’s been stewing in garlic, lemons, wine and parsley for 30 to 45 minutes. And that’s How You Eat An Artichoke (Part One).

Part Two? That happens when you get down to the really flimsy leaves in the middle of the artichoke. You can eat those, sure; you can also ditch them and dig down to the artichoke’s heart. To get there, remove any remaining leaves and then dig out the the thistle-y part that’s covering the heart. Once the heart is exposed, dig out a bite with a spoon — you could eat the whole thing, but I think it tastes better to leave some of the artichoke’s outer layer behind — dip it in the butter and go to town. The flavor is unlike anything else you’ll ever encounter. It is also amazing.

choke dinner

Artichokes were a special treat when I was growing up, and I think they’ll remain that way now that we’ve kind of broken the seal.

But there’s nothing that says we can treat ourselves a little more often than usual.

the beam.

This is awesome on all kinds of levels, but I was especially excited to see some tight shots of The Beam, the big thing with the piano strings that Mickey’s beating on. Those vibrations, when amplified through a concert PA system in an arena like, say, Richfield Coliseum, could rattle your sternum. If I were to ever assemble a bucket list, playing a Beam at high volume would be near the top.

above and beyond.

First, let’s make sure you’ve all seen this comment, left by Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown) winner Kewyson on the previous post:

Now, on to my wish (I thought I’d get three) – I propose, assuming UC is okay with this, that he organizes a social gathering at Bocktown – all participants are welcome – and I will donate my hard earned winnings to whatever $50 buys. All I ask is that I be remembered and idolized at the event (and since I’ve not personally met most of you – you can pick any idol and pretend).

How does that sound UC?

In short, Kewyson, it sounds awesome, and I really appreciate your generosity. Here’s what we’ll do: when the weather gets warm enough for our friends at Bocktown Robinson to open their back porch, we’ll do a Friday night happy hour, and we’ll use our $50 prize to buy drafts for any TAUCNFFC contestants who can show up. There will be plenty of notice, so we can get as many people as possible out to Bocktown on the chosen evening.

And as far as idolizing Kewyson goes, it’s not a bad idea; he is, in fact, the only person I know who actually speaks writes in tongues.