Archive for down home diner

Jack McDavid’s Tips on Keeping Your Thanksgiving Turkey Moist and Juicy

Thanksgiving Turkeys should be juicy.  Sadly, we’ve all endured our share of dry birds on the Day of Gratitude, but help is at hand.  Jack McDavid, Chef and Owner of the Down Home Diner shared two proven methods of keeping the bird from drying out.  Jack suggests employing both of these strategies on Thursday and he’s never steered us wrong.

Method One:

Immediately before cooking, fill the turkey with hot stuffing and pop it in the oven.  By placing hot stuffing into the bird, you begin an even cooking process from the inside out.  You also avoid the problem of the raw turkey juice seeping into the stuffing and making guests sick, because the interior starts off hot.

Jack’s Stuffing

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
2 TBSP minced fresh sage
1/2 lb butter
1 cup chicken stock (or more if mixture seems dry)
4 cups cubed day-old bread

Melt butter in large skillet and add vegetables and sage.  Sweat this mixture for about 5 minutes.  Add stock, bring to boil.  Add bread to pan and mix thoroughly, keeping heat on.    While stuffing is still hot, stuff into turkey and cook turkey immediately.

Method Two:  Brine and Rub the Turkey

1 20 lb turkey

For the brine:
4 TBSP sugar
5 TBSP salt
1 TBSP white pepper
3 gallons water

Mix all brine ingredients, and submerge turkey in mixture for 24 hrs.

For spice rub:

2 TBSP sugar
21/2 TBSP salt
1/2 TBSP white pepper

Mix all spice rub ingredients.

Remove turkey from brine.  Rub spice blend under skin, in cavity, and massage thoroughly for about 5 minutes.  Or, as Jack said, “Caress it like you would your girlfriend.  Get to know it real well.  Let that turkey know you love it.  Give it a good rubdown.”    Then stuff it as directed above and…

Roast turkey at 300 degrees for 4  hrs.  If you wish to brown top, raise temperature to 450 for final 10 minutes of roasting.  To ensure that turkey is done, check temperature at thigh.  It should be 165.  If it is not up to temperature, return to oven at 300 degrees and check again in 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, cover, and let turkey sit for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Breakfast Fare at the Market

My foodie partner Keri and I have an ongoing disagreement.  While she is a huge fan of breakfast, she is a downer on brunch, because it falls in that dead zone between breakfast and lunch (and she’s a stickler for etiquette.) 

For me, brunch is a languid breakfast — one of those ultimate indulgences that you only get to do, very occasionally, at the weekend or when you’re on holiday and can have a lie in…

What we both agree on, however, is the importance of a hearty breakfast to set you up for the day. 

You’d think that this would be an indisputable truth, but according to the medical website, WebMD, the majority of people still grab a coffee on the go and call that breakfast.  WebMD asserts that “making breakfast a daily habit can help you lose weight — and keep it off.”

In a post entitled Lose Weight: Eat Breakfast, WebMD cites several studies to back up their claim including a study using data supplied by The National Weight Control Registry.  As WebMD maintains: “Eating breakfast is a daily habit for the “successful losers” who belong to The National Weight Control Registry. These people have maintained a 30-pound (or more) weight loss for at least a year, and some as long as six years.”

Now that we know how important it is to eat breakfast, here’s a selection of some of the breakfasts that we’ve enjoyed at Reading Terminal Market.

1. Down Home Diner’s Spinach Omelet, turkey bacon, pigs in blankets, and grilled tomatoes. 

2.The Famous Smucker’s Breakfast Sandwiches – their sausage, egg and cheese is a current fave.

3.  Beck’s Cajun Cafe–We mourn the fact that Beck’s Beignets are only available on Wednesdays and Sundays. For those other days of the week, try Beck’s Bourbon St. Breakfast: Red beans and rice topped with a fried egg.

Beck’s Beignets

4.  Le Bus.  When you only have time for a grab-and-go breakfast, then the Market’s bakeries are the answer…

LeBus Muffins and Rolls

Metropolitan Croissants

5.  Metropolitan Bakery.  See #4.  Their millet muffin is delicious and provides plenty of whole grain roughage

6.  Profi’s Creperie.  We like both their sweet and savory options.  The egg/cheese/ham filled crepe fills the gap nicely.

8.  Dutch Eating Place–This is fast food and fast service, but it’s good food too.

9 & 10.  Once you’re done, stop by Tootsie’s for a healthy lunch-to-go, Old City Coffee for a quick coffee, or one of the fresh produce merchants to grab some fresh fruit for a mid-morning snack!

Pancakes bursting with blueberries, or

A protein-packed cheesy omlet.

Which of these breakfasts stoke your fire in the mornings?

New Year Nibbles – the Quick and Easy Kind

Happy 2012!

Looking for sooper easy menu ideas for your New Year’s Eve party?

You can’t beat Jack McDavid’s Comfort Food Appetizers, which he created for a segment on Good Day Philadelphia.

His task was to come up with recipe ideas that could be rustled up in a five minute slot, which gives you an idea of just how straightforward and foolproof these are. 

Fancy trying some Firecracker ShrimpsChristmas mini-Pizzas anyone..? Or what about some Stuffed Mushrooms?

While the recipes sound easy, we can guarantee that they’re delicious.

Firecracker Shrimp
1 tsp chopped jalapeno pepper
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 TBSP olive oil
1 dozen shrimp, cleaned and shelled
Mix all ingredients.  Wrap shrimp in foil and grill or bake (400), 5 mins per side, or saute in skillet til done, about 8  minutes total. 

Christmas Pizza
1 pkg crescent roll dough
1 cup mayonnaise
1 lb cream cheese
1 pkg powdered ranch dressing
finely chopped assorted raw vegetables:  broccoli, tomatoes,
cauliflower, red and green peppers. Parmesan cheese 
Roll crescent dough onto cookie sheet and bake according to package directions.  Set aside to cool.  Mix mayonnaise, cream cheese and dressing til blended.  Spread on crust.  Top with chopped vegetables and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.  Cut into bite sized pieces and serve cold or at room temp.

Stuffed Mushrooms
2 dozen crimini or white mushrooms
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 diced red pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
2 TBSP chopped basil
Remove stems from mushrooms, coat lightly with oil and bake, stem side up, on cookie sheet at 425 til mushrooms begin to sweat.  Meanwhile, blend remaining ingredients. Fill mushrooms with cheese mixture, and return to oven to just warm filling.  Serve warm or at room temp.
*** Have a fun filled 2012 ***

RTM Breakfasts for Cold Weather

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  And as the chill winter wind approaches, we need a hearty meal to start our engines.  Good thing Reading Terminal Market has such a wealth of high quality, reasonably priced breakfast options to keep us going til spring!

Molly Malloy’s Blueberry French Toast

Beck’s Cajun Cafe Breakfast Po’boy
Down Home Diner’s Scapple and Scrambled Eggs
Dutch Eating Place’s Blueberry Pancakes

Feeling healthy?  Tootsie’s steel cut oatmeal will start your day off right!
Can’t decide?  Tootsie’s Breakfast Bar has plenty of options!

So no excuses. If you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal, there are plenty of speedy takeout, grab and go options. Cold and flu season is upon us and we need all our strength to stay healthy. Your mother was right. You need a good breakfast!

Philadelphia’s Pepperpot soup – The Tripe, the whole Tripe and Nothing but the Tripe…

It’s true. 

One of the reasons that this recipe is famous is that it includes honeycomb tripe. 

Before you wrinkle up your nose with distate, consider the merits of eating the stomach lining of a cow…

1. It’s environmentally correct.  It’s far greener to consume as much of an animal as possible.

2. Tripe is cheap and nutritious and packed with vitamins.  So it’s good for you.

3. It’s part of America’s history….

Pepperpot soup earned itself the soubriquet “the soup that won the war.”  The back story is fascinating. 

It was the Winter of 1777. Washington’s troops stationed in Valley Forge were cold and practically starving because the English had bought up all the local food supplies because they had hard currency.  The story runs that there were no victuals to be had for the Revolutionary troops so the army chef had to get creative.  With a few scraps of meat, tripe and peppercorns – anything edible he could lay his hands on – he invented this spicy, heart-warming recipe.  The soup was filling and nutritious, and legend goes, with bellies full, the troops went on to beat the English soundly and change the course of the War.

This weekend, Jack McDavid, chef/owner of Down Home Diner recreated this hearty fare at the Forgotten Foods Festival. 

It went down a treat!

An authentic version of the original Pepperpot Soup recipe is available here…

To obtain the Veal Knuckle and the Tripe itself, ask Giunta’s at Reading Terminal Market. 

Down Home Lunches Save the Day!

Looking for simple, healthy ways to fill your child’s lunchbox?  Us too!  And with the typical morning mayhem of getting the family out the door, there often isn’t time to lovingly prepare wholesome, balanced meals that travel well.  Not to mention the fact that I’m on crutches (fractured foot) so food prep, precariously balanced, is not what the doctor ordered.

Fear not, fair friends, Down Home Diner gallantly came to the Rescue!  I availed myself of  several of their takeout items last week, and so far, all have met with approval.  If you have any experience with teens and tweens you’ll know that approval is doled out sparingly at best, so I considered this experiment a real success.  Some of the greatest hits from last week’s lunchbox menu include:

DHD’s Fried Chicken–we love it hot, but it’s delicious cold, too!

Wraps and Sandwiches–with a selection to please even the choosiest of brownbaggers.  My kids are not great fans of sandwiches, but they ate these.

As the mercury drops, a hearty soup in a thermos is a great option, (though even on a warmish Wednesday my daughter enjoyed her black eyed pea with and a biscuit on the side.)

The salads also travel well–the Mediterranean was a hit, though my kids did pick out the cherry tomatoes….

Of course, we didn’t forget fresh fruit from Reading Terminal Market’s produce merchants or treats from the bakers.  I fear, with these sumptuous repasts, my kids will wish me an extended convalescence.

Do you have any trade secrets for lunchbox ooohs and ahhhs?

No Cook Memorial Day Weekend

If cooking isn’t in your bag of tricks this weekend, there are lots of ways to eat well without slaving over a hot stove (or grill.)   Bring your empty shopping bags to Reading Terminal Market and fill them to the brim with fresh seasonal  fruit and salad greens from the merchants or specialty stores, or better still, buy ready made food from the multi-talented chefs working at the Market.

Try Down Home Diner’s Take out Salads–Grilled veggie and blackened chicken, roasted sweet potato, or tuna with tomatoes.

Diener’s Barbecue Selections

Perfect picnic, By George

Or buy some pre-cooked items from your fave merchants–maybe a few racks of ribs and slather them with this elixir.  Your tastebuds (and your guests)  will sing and they’ll never know that it’s not home cooking…

Down Home Barbecue Sauce–good on everything!

Down Home Diner, Breakfast at its Finest

With our current focus on that consummate breakfast food, i.e. eggs, it became increasingly clear that  and we were long overdue for a visit to the Down Home Diner in the Reading Terminal Market.  The DHD is a veritable breakfast haven and practically a Philadelphia institution.

Imagine our delight when we glimpsed Jack McDavid himself stationed behind the griddle.  Jack is a legend.  He was a major pioneer of the Farm to Table movement.  He continues to talk the talk and walk the walk, sourcing all of his ingredients from, in his own words, “The Best Market in the World”.  His dedication to high quality, authentic home cooking seeps from every seam of his well worn denim overalls, and his trademark “Save the Farm” hat broadcasts his devotion to the real stuff.

But let’s call a biscuit a biscuit.  Anyone can jump into a pair of overalls and don a cap for a worthy cause.  We wanted to know if the DHD was still the real thing.  We were delighted to learn that it is.

Fresh, hot biscuits, right from the oven to join your eggs for a down home breakfast.

The breakfast is unrivaled here in Philly–or possibly anywhere. The menu offers sufficient variety to please all palates:  omelets and eggs in every imaginable form; corned beef hash;  creamed chipped beef on toast; breakfast burritos;

Breakfast Burrito in the works.

four different types of pancakes (corn-blueberry, buckwheat, buttermilk, and a seasonal selection)–and this barely scratches the surface. 

Buckwheat pancakes with strawberry salsa.

For smaller appetites, DHD offers an oatmeal “buffet” (you select from a variety of health-a-licious toppings); locally made yogurt and granola, and grilled grapefruits.

While we are serious cooks who heartily encourage our friends and readers to stand firmly at the stove, we recognize that even the most culinarily devoted of us need a break sometimes.  When that happens, we recommend the DHD as the next best (or, dare we suggest, the best) best thing.

Post brought to you by Down Home Diner

Saint Jack McDavid?

Jack McDavid, in a rare still moment, enjoying a Coke at his Down Home Diner

With all this talk of the March saints (Patrick and Joseph), and our theme of charity, we got to thinking about some folks in our midst who do an awful lot to help their fellow man. As our focus is food, we naturally gravitated toward people who operate in this arena.   And the name that kept coming up was none other than Down Home Diner’s award-winning chef Jack McDavid.   

A small sample of the  barbecue awards (including many charity cook-offs)
won by Jack over the years

Not satisfied with merely producing award-winning food, Jack has always felt the desire to give back.   “I grew up on a dirt farm in back-country Virginia and we didn’t have much.  But we were always taught to give what we could to help others.”

Jack clearly learned this lesson well.

He launched a massive fundraising dinner for “Meals-on-Wheels” delivery program to bring healthy, wholesome food to shut-ins.  He also was instrumental in launching the Manna Thanksgiving Pie In The Sky program in 1996, which raises funds for people who are homebound due to critical illness.  With the help of  Jack and many others, Pie in the Sky has become an annual fundraiser, raising over $226,000 in 2010 alone.

For the last 20 years, Jack has also been a central figure in the “Party with a Purpose”.  This  annual benefit is held in conjunction with the Super Bowl and brings celebrity chefs together to raise money for various hunger relief organizations.    This year they raised over $1 million. Whether Jack danced with Fergie at halftime remains a mystery.

Jack continues to support AIDS-related causes as well, in honor of a former waiter and manager who died of the disease.  He is an active participant in Chef-AID, an annual dinner which supports AIDS research and provides assistance to those afflicted with the illness.

In 2011, Jack will continue focusing on these and other charities, including:  fire prevention; breast cancer; youth programs and hunger relief.

Ok, so maybe he’s not a saint, but he’s surely an example for us all to follow in terms of generosity, charity, and helping others.

 Post brought to you by Down Home Diner.

Bountiful Breakfasts at the Market

“Breakfast like a King; Lunch like a Prince and Dine like a Pauper,” runs the oft quoted wisdom about how to stay fit ’n’ healthy, with the idea being that you front-load your day and eat progressively smaller meals then onwards.  We’re all in favor of that — especially if it means we can enjoy breakfast at that food mecca, the Reading Terminal Market.  The Market is a destination both for locals and for anyone visiting Philly because so many cuisines and cultures are represented under its hallowed roof.  And breakfast is no exception. With so many breakfast options, it can sometimes be difficult to choose.  We recently came across another blog featuring top ten places to breakfast in Philly, and were shocked to see that our favorite place to have breakfast was conspicuously absent. 

Truthfully, the Market isn’t really one place.  In terms of breakfast, well, I guess the Market warrants its own top ten list.  Here are our ten fave spots to “Breakfast like a King”…

Down Home Diner’s Spinach Omelet, turkey bacon, pigs in blankets, and grilled tomatoes. 

1.  Down Home Diner–Jack McDavid has a gift for getting his patrons’ day off to a great start. This feast–spinach and cheddar omelet, grilled tomato, sauteed greens, ham, bacon and–wait for it–DHD’s own version of pigs in blankets (turkey sausage wrapped in buckwheat pancakes) makes me happy all day.
2. Barb and Suzy’s Kitchen–the Famous Smucker’s Breakfast Sandwiches will keep you going all morning.

Smucker’s Breakfast of Champions

3.  Beck’s Cajun Cafe–If you can’t make it to Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter, try the beignets at Beck’s.  If you close your eyes while taking your first bite, you really will feel like you’ve been transported to N’Awlins.  Seriously.  If you’re seeking something heartier, Beck’s Bourbon St. Breakfast will fill you up:  Red beans and rice topped with a fried egg.

Beck’s Beignets
4.  Le Bus.  When a grab-and-go muffin or scone is the order of the day,
Le Bus will provide.
LeBus Muffins and Rolls

Metropolitan Croissants

5.  Metropolitan Bakery.  See #4.  Different selection, equally delicious.

6.  Profi’s Creperie.  I have thus far sampled the Nutella/ strawberry/blackberry/banana filled crepe, and the egg/cheese/ham filled crepe.  Not at one sitting.   Both were divine. Looking forward to trying their vast assortment of other combos.  

Merci, Profi!

8.  Dutch Eating Place–From open ’til close there is a line here–starting with the epic breakfasts, and finishing with the famous apple dumplings–which, on particularly bad days may serve as breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.  Don’t forget the cream!

9 & 10.  Once you’re done, stop by Tootsie’s for a healthy lunch-to-go, Old City Coffee for a quick coffee, or one of the fresh produce merchants to grab some fresh fruit for a mid-morning snack!

Pancakes bursting with blueberries, or
…is it too early to sample an Apple Dumpling…?