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.

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.

Garlic Mashed Plantains by Ambiorix Burgos - from "GourMets" (2007)


1 tbsp. salt, dissolved in 4 cups of water
3 ripe plantains
1/4 cup milk
3 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Bring salted water to boil. Leaving peel on, cut plantains in half and add to boiling water. Place lid on saucepan and boil plantains rapidly for 20 minutes. Drain, peel and place into a mixing bowl. Beat in milk, butter, garlic, salt and pepper until mixture reaches mashed potato consistency.

This is an excellent side dish to accompany grilled steak and baby carrots.

Ambiorix loves this dish.

Ambiorix Burgos' Mets career lasted just 17 games in 2007. He was traded to New York after two seasons in Kansas City, and things went downhill fast. He had to undergo Tommy John surgery and was shut down for most of the season. He never returned to the big leagues and was released by the Mets in 2008.

Things get really dark from there. Burgos' Wikipedia entry is quite the read:

On September 9, 2008, Burgos was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. Prosecutors say he repeatedly punched her on the back, bit her and slapped her. On March 12, 2009, a jury convicted Burgos for the assault. Sentencing was scheduled for April 3.
On October 1, 2008, Burgos was indicted on charges of hit and run in his native Dominican Republic. Sources say that Burgos struck two women in his SUV and drove off. The women later died of their injuries. Burgos turned himself in to authorities on October 7.
On August 27, 2010, Burgos was accused of kidnapping and poisoning his ex-wife. Police in the Dominican Republic charged Burgos with kidnapping and attempted murder.

Holy hell what a downfall. Not every baseball life ends well.

Let's talk about the plaintains. This was one of the clubhouse recipes provided in "GourMets", and it turned out really good. A sweeter alternative to mashed potatoes. You can add more butter or milk, depending on which consistency you prefer. I used a lot more in the photo above.

With a fresh, hot bowl of plaintains done, I decided to pair them with a pulled beef stew recipe also out of "GourMets". Rolled everything up into burritos. Creamy sweet plus savoury beef, it turned out great.

Grilled Snapper with Avocado Salsa by Carlos Delgado - from "GourMets" (2007)


4 skinless Red Snapper fillets (you can substitute Halibut if Snapper isn't available)
1/2 cup ripe avocado, diced in half chunks
1/2 cup ripe papaya, diced in half chunks
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp. lime juice
4 lime wedges for garnishing

Mix the coriander, paprika, salt and cayenne pepper in a small bowl or cup until blended well. Lightly brush the olive oil over the fish fillets and sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon of the spice mixture over each one. Set the rest of the spice mixture aside for the salsa.

Rub the bottom of the grill pan with a bit of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Once the pan is ready, place the fillets in the pan and grill for about 5-6 minutes on each side.

In the meantime, mix the avocado, papaya, cilantro, lime juice and and leftover spice mixture in a bowl until the spices and cilantro are distributed evenly.

Plate the fish and spoon the avocado mixture over each fillet. Serve immediately.

Carlos prepares this dish all the time at home in the off-season.

Carlos Delgado! The popular first baseman was a fixture at first base for the Toronto Blue Jays immediately following their World Series years. He played for Toronto from 1993 to 2004. He departed for the Marlins via free agency, but was traded to the Mets after just one season. He finished his career in New York from 2006 to 2009. 

Delgado does have a World Series ring from 1993, but he only played in two games with one plate appearance for Toronto that season. Remembered for his big smilin' home runs, he was a fan favourite and his name was added to the Blue Jays' ballpark honour roll (the "Level of Excellence"). Delgado also appeared for Puerto Rico in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. 

I can tell you right away I loved this dish. The seasoning for the snapper was flavourful but not too spicy. The sweet salsa made the perfect side. 

Just keep an eye on the snapper when it's in the grill pan so it doesn't start to stick, and you'll get a nice result.  I've made this dish twice already and will definitely make it again.

Chivo Guisado (Stewed Goat) by Moisés Alou - from "GourMets" (2007)


4-5 pounds goat meat - "chivo" (found in any Spanish market or butcher's shop), washed thoroughly in cold water and cut into pieces about 1 1/2 - 2 inches
juice from 1 fresh lemon
juice from 2 small oranges - "naranja agria" (found in any Spanish market)
3/4 pound Cuban peppers (you may substitute red peppers, but they're less flavorful)
1 jalapeño pepper
2 tbsp. dried oregano
3/4 tbsp. chili powder
3 yellow onions, diced very well
3 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
6 garlic cloves, whole
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 tbsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. salt
1 small can of tomato sauce
3 tbsp. sliced green olives
2 tbsp. nonpareil capers
1 packet Goya Sazón with garlic and onion
2 packets Goya chicken bullion powder
1 1/2 cups water

In a food processor, add lemon and orange juices, garlic cloves, peppers, onions, oregano, chili powder, black pepper, salt and cilantro. Coarsely chop the ingredients, but do not overprocess them. Combine half of the chopped ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the chivo, mix well, cover and place in the refrigerator for about 1-2 hours. Set aside the remaining half of the mixture in the refrigerator for later use.

Remove chivo from the refrigerator and wipe off most of the marinade. In a very large sauté pan or dutch oven, heat canola oil over medium-high heat, add remaining chopped ingredients and sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Then add the chivo and brown for about 6-12 minutes turning very frequently. Add the white wine and sauté for 5-7 minutes more. Add water, Sazón, bullion powder and tomato sauce, turning very frequently. Lastly, add the green olives and capers, continuing to cook on medium-high heat for about 5 more minutes.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until the chivo has become very tender.

Serve with white rice and hot sauce on the side.

This recipe was furnished by Moisés' wife, Austria.

For the longest time, you couldn't watch a National League game without seeing Moisés Alou in action. From 1990 to 2008, he played for seven different NL clubs: Pittsburgh, Montréal, Florida (with the 1997 World Series winners), Houston, Chicago, San Francisco and finally New York.

By the time he got to the Mets in 2007, Alou had one good season left in him. He would go down with injuries for most of 2008, and retired after playing for the Dominican Republic in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

The list of ingredients for this dish may seem daunting, but you should be able to track down or substitute most of the items. I used my favourite kalamata olives instead of green ones. 

As for the process, it's one for a slow weekend when you've got plenty of time for prep, marinating, cooking and stewing -- it's definitely not a quick weeknight recipe.

The resulting stew is rich and tangy.  I'd be interested to try it again with pork or beef.  It's worth trying at least once.