La What Now?

Since the 1960s, baseball teams and players have been publishing cookbooks. I collect them and try out some of the recipes that major leaguers have shared with their fans over the years. Photos, recipes and comments included.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Bookshelf - "Ballpark Eats: Recipes Inspired by America's Baseball Stadiums" (2016) by Katrina Jorgensen

144 pp. paperback

73 recipes inpired by classic ballpark foods and regional cuisine

For baseball fans with wanderlust in their veins, baseball travel is one of the best things in life.  

Visiting a new city and exploring a different ballpark with its unique sights, sounds and smells -- it's never quite as you expect after seeing it on TV. Fans have different accents and in-game rituals. The pre- and in-game hype and promotions are different. And of course, there's interesting new stadium food to try out.

Stadium food is a big deal these days, with clubs introducing increasingly creative (or just massive) new dishes each season to fill fans' tummies and empty their wallets.

For those who don't have the travel bug, this cookbook presents a collection of recipes that reflects something about each of the 30 different ballparks in Major League Baseball. With Ballpark Eats, you can visit every city in the majors by a culinary route.

Katrina Jorgensen put together a diverse but comforting collection of ballpark-inspired fare. She steered clear of the recent trend in Frankenfood monstrosities and focused on mostly regional cuisine. Seafood on the coasts, Tex-Mex in the southwest, six different styles of hot dog, and lots of American classics in between. 

Guessing the author hasn't been to Toronto, the most diverse city on the planet, because she stuck to poutine for Canada's lone entry. Poutine? Come on! Save that for when the Montreal Expos make their glorious return.

Anyway, this is a fun cookbook and I've already made and devoured several of the sandwich recipes, including: 

Maryland Crab Cake Sliders, representing Baltimore

Cuban Sandwich, representing Tampa Bay

Spicy Pittsburgh-Style Sandwich, representing The Burgh

Bratwurst Sliders, representing Milwaukee

Maryland Crab Cake Sliders by Katrina Jorgensen - from "Ballpark Eats" (2016)


1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley
4 green onions
12 ounces lump crabmeat, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 eggs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. seafood seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. oil, for frying
8 slider buns
8 leaves lettuce

Chop parsley and green onion finely and place in a mixing bowl.

Add crabmeat, mayonnaise, eggs, bread crumbs, seafood seasoning, salt and black pepper. Mix lightly with a fork until combined.

Separate the crab cake mix into 8 equal pieces. Shape into patties.

Place the oil in a nonstick skillet and put on a stove burner. Set on medium heat.

Carefully place the patties in the hot pan, about 1/2 inch apart. You may have to work in batches.

Cook one side for 4 minutes, and then flip the cakes over with tongs and fry an additional 4 minutes.

Remove the finished crab cakes from the pan.

To assemble the sliders, split the slider buns, place a crab cake on the bottom half, followed by a leaf of lettuce. Spread 1 tablespoon of tartar sauce on the top half and place on top of the lettuce. Serve immediately.

For the tartar sauce:
2 green onions
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Chop the green onions finely and add to a mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

It's all about the crab cakes in Baltimore, and this is an easy recipe from Ballpark Eats to make your own at home.

In terms of toppings the recipe keeps it simple. You can add whatever you like to personalize your sliders.

I found some cute mini Italian rolls and used those, slightly elongating the patty shapes accordingly. 

If you already have some tartar sauce at home, that's fine. However the extra recipe for homemade tartar sauce really nailed it. I would have been happy eating a bowl of the sauce, that's how nailed it was. So much better than the store bought stuff and I don't care if McDonald's is selling theirs in supermarkets now.

Anyway. Crab cake sliders. Cute and delish. Go O's!

Cuban Sandwich by Katrina Jorgensen - from "Ballpark Eats" (2016)


1 1-lb. pork tenderloin
generous amount salt and pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 ciabatta rolls
4 tsp. mustard, divided
12 slices smoked deli ham, divided
4 slices Swiss cheese, divided
4 dill pickle spears

First, prepare the pork. Preheat oven to 375F. Place tenderloin on a cutting board and season generously with salt and pepper.

Place pork tenderloin on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over the top.

Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until no longer pink inside.

Remove from oven and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly.

To assemble sandwiches, slice each roll crosswise and 1 teaspoon of mustard on the bottom half of each.

Place 3 slices of ham on top of the mustard. Add about 1/4 of the pork slices on top of the ham, followed by a slice of Swiss cheese and a pickle spear.

Place the top of the bread on and serve immediately.

This recipe comes out of the Tampa Bay section of Ballpark Eats, but it could have worked for Miami or elsewhere. This combination of meat, cheese and pickles is a classic and I've seen it available in restaurants all over the continent.

The one major change I made when making this was in the bread. I had some ciabatta bread in hand at the local market when my eyes fell on a huge loaf of rosemary focaccia. Sold. 

So instead of a Cuban sandwich I doubled up on the toppings and ended up making a kind of Cuban sub. Masivo! Didn't have to eat again for a day.

I don't know if there's a recommended thickness when slicing the pork. As I sliced away, I ended up with thicker slices than I had envisioned, but it all went down well. Go Rays!

Spicy Pittsburgh-Style Sandwich by Katrina Jorgensen - from "Ballpark Eats" (2016)


2 cups frozen french fries
1 French bread loaf
1 lb. sliced hot capicola ham
8 slices provolone cheese
8 leaves lettuce
4 tbsp. mayonnaise, divided

Place french fries on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and bake according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, cut the French bread into 4 equal pieces, then slice horizontally.

Place the meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Turn the meat frequently to prevent sticking.

When the meat is slightly browned, divide it equally among the bottom halves of the four sandwiches.

Top with provolone cheese, 1/2 cup of french fries, and 2 lettuce leaves.

Spread 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise on each of the top halves and place on top of the sandwiches. Serve immediately.

This is one of the more distinctly regional recipes in Ballpark Eats. Fries-in-a-sammich is very much a Pittsburgh thing and you can order a sandwich just like this one at beautiful PNC Park.

On the day I made this recipe, I couldn't find any hot capicola and didn't feel like searching in multiple markets. Instead I bought some mild capicola and hot Genoa salami. They went well together and I'd almost prefer that combination when I make this recipe again.

I wonder about the fries. Are they meant to be filler, like the middle bread in a Big Mac? They didn't really add any extra wow to the sandwich, other than reminding me that "yep, this is how they do it in good old Pittsburgh".

Whatever the origins of fries-in-a-sammich are, it helps make for a very filling dish. So many carbs. Go Bucs!

Bratwurst Sliders by Katrina Jorgensen - from "Ballpark Eats" (2016)


6 fresh bratwursts 
1 onion
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
12 pretzel slider buns
optional toppings: honey-mustard dipping sauce and/or sauerkraut

Carefully score the casing of the bratwurst lengthwise. Peel the casing off and discard.

Cut each sausage link in half. Use your hands to form the meat into patties.

Slice the onion thinly and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the sliced onions. Stir, then sprinkle a little salt and pepper in the pan. Cook until the onions are softened and slightly golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Using the same pan, turn the heat to medium and add the bratwurst patties, working in batches if necessary. Cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until each side is browned and cooked in the middle.

Open the pretzel bun and place a bratwurst burger on the bottom. Add about 2 tablespoons of onion. You can also add sauerkraut on top of the onions.

Spread 1 tablespoon of the honey mustard on the inside of the top half of the pretzel bun. Place the top half of the bun on top and serve on a platter.

Of the handful of sandwich recipes I've made out of Ballpark Eats, this one is my favourite so far.

A Milwaukee-inspired recipe for sure, and I've seen bratwurst sliders on a menu or two. Essentially you are taking bratwurst on a bun and transmogrifying it into burger form.

I couldn't find any pretzel sliders -- had a hard enough time finding regular-sized pretzel buns to be honest -- so I tweaked the recipe by making the patties into regular burger-sized shapes.

Something about sausage, onions, sauerkraut and mustard does it for me. The pretzel bun takes it to another level. I want to go to Milwaukee, right now. Sit in a windowless tavern, drink beer that has a funny German name and eat these while watching a game on a small TV over the bar. In other words, this dish will transport you. Go Brew Crew!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bookshelf - "GourMets" (2007) by the New York Mets

56 pp. paperback with wire ring binding

47 recipes from players, coaches and management, with some bonus Clubhouse recipes

After their appearance in the 2000 World Series, the New York Mets struggled through the first half of the aughts. 

At the end of the 2004 season, Omar Minaya was brought in as general manager of the team. Minaya immediately set out to build a winner, and signed players like Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. He expanded the Mets' presence in Latin America, and the team's growing roster of Latin American stars soon earned them the moniker "Los Mets".

By 2006, the Mets were back in the postseason. They won 97 games and took the NL East by 12 games, dethroning the Atlanta Barves at last. After sweeping away the Dodgers in three, they battled the St. Louis Cardinals to a deciding seventh game in the NLCS. A ninth-inning home run by Yadier Molina clinched the series for the Cards, who went on to win the World Series that year.
Despite the NLCS setback, things were on the upswing in Metsland at the start of 2007, when they published GourMets: New York Mets Family Cookbook

Proceeds from sales of the book went to the Food Bank for New York City, and to Island Harvest, an organization dedicated to reducing hunger and food waste on Long Island.

This glossy, high quality production includes fun photos of players with chef's hats and cooking tools.

There was a previous version of "GourMets" published back in the early 80s. The biggest difference between the two reflects the Latino face of Minaya's Mets teams. The newer cookbook is heavy on family recipes from the Dominican and Venezuela, as well as Latino Clubhouse recipes that players enjoyed.

I've prepared the following dishes so far:

Chivo Guisado (Stewed Goat) by Moisés Alou, outfielder

Grilled Snapper with Avocado Salsa by Carlos Delgado, first baseman

Garlic Mashed Plantains by Ambiorix Burgos, pitcher

(This was also the era when the Mets uniforms were splashed all over with black for black's sake. Black jerseys, hats and trim everywhere. I kept the food photos period-accurate, but I'm glad they ditched these combos and went back to their traditional pinstripes, blue and orange.)

Venezuelan Carne Mechada (Flank Steak Stew) by Endy Chavez - from "GourMets" (2007)


1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut into 2-3 large pieces
3 tbsp. canola oil
2 bay leaves
5 cups beef stock
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 15-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes (do not drain)
cooked black beans
cooked white rice
salt and pepper

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in large casserole pan or short stockpot over high heat. Add steak pieces and cook until browned on all sides. Add bay leaves and beef stock. Reduce heat and simmer slowly until steak is very tender, turning occasionally, about 2-2 1/2 hours. 

Remove beef from heat and allow meat to cool in the stock. Once cooled, remove the meat from the stock and shred it into thin strips. Reserve 1-1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium to high heat. Add onions and sauté until they are golden, about 10-15 minutes. Then add garlic, oregano and cumin and cook until onions become sweet-smelling, about another 7-9 minutes. Add diced tomatoes with their juice and continue to cook until most of the liquid evaporates.

Fold in the shredded flank steak and 1 cup of reserved cooking liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes. Arrange beef, rice and beans on a square or oval platter in three rows with rice in the center.

This is one of Endy's favorite Clubhouse recipes.

One wouldn't think of Endy Chavez as a journeyman player, but he played for seven different clubs from 2001 to 2014: Kansas City, Montréal/Washington, Philadelphia, New York Mets, Seattle, Texas and Baltimore.

I always identify Chavez with the Mets, even though he only spent three seasons with them. Most Mets fans will remember him well. Chavez became an instant New York legend in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, when he made a spectacular snow cone catch to keep the game tied 1-1 in the sixth inning. The Metsies would eventually fall to the Cards, but Chavez's catch was immortalized. 

                                                                        photo by RichieK

This dish is described as one of Chavez's clubhouse favourites and I can understand why. It takes some time to make pulled beef, but it's worth it. You might say the hardest part is the waiting.

The recipe above calls for the beef to be served with rice and beans, but I decided to pair it up with another recipe from "GourMets". I combined the beef with garlic mashed plantains and rolled them up as burritos. I wouldn't go around calling myself Iron Chef Latino, but I daresay this combo turned out great.