Dinosaur BBQ is now a chain with 7 locations, but back in the day the original, in Syracuse, NY, was not the place you’d take your wife for dinner before a weekend with her friends and their babies. In the last ten years it has gone from biker bar to group hang out spot, but the decor is still pretty honky tonk, with license plates and signs that read “temperance ignored here” on the walls.
The food is quick and rich – brisket, pulled pork, ribs, fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, cornbread. I had brisket and pulled pork with a side of mac and cheese and coleslaw, and while it was all good, I particularly enjoyed the brisket- tender without being fatty – and the mac and cheese. Most BBQ joint mac is dry and tasteless, but this is something you want a full bowl of. Judging by the amount of hits you get by googling “Dinosaur BBQ mac and cheese recipe,” it looks like many have tried to imitate it, and for good reason.
If you’re driving through Syracuse, this is a must stop destination. Otherwise, you might want to try the Harlem or Brooklyn locations.
One of my husband’s favorite desserts is lemon meringue pie, so this Thanksgiving I set out to make one. I immediately jinxed myself by remarking that the recipe didn’t seem too complicated, and in true form, ruined the pie completely. Now I’m going on a quest to find an error-proof lemon meringue pie to redeem myself, but for now, here’s all the ways I messed up Alton’s Brown recipe:
- 4 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (USED JARRED LEMON JUICE)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 (9-inch) pre-baked pie shell (THOUGHT PIE SHELL WAS PRE-BAKED. WAS NOT.)
- 1 recipe Meringue, recipe follows
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk egg yolks in medium size mixing bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch, water, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine. Turn heat on medium and, stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and gradually, 1 whisk-full at a time, add hot mixture to egg yolks and stir until you have added at least half of the mixture. (NOT SURE WHAT I DID WRONG HERE, BUT EVENTUAL PIE WAS TOO SOUR AND FILLING WAS NOT THICK ENOUGH. IF I HAD TO GUESS, SHOULD HAVE USED JUICE FROM ACTUAL LEMON AND MORE CORNSTARCH.)
Return egg mixture to saucepan, turn heat down to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and gently stir in butter, lemon juice, and zest until well combined. Pour mixture into pie shell (AGAIN, THOUGHT SHELL WAS PRE-BAKED. WAS NOT. PUT FILLING INTO RAW SHELL.) and top with meringue while filling is still hot. Make sure meringue completely covers filling and that it goes right up to the edge of the crust. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until meringue is golden. ( MOTHER SABOTAGED PIE. SHUT OVEN OFF JUST AS I PUT PIE IN.) Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Make sure pie is cooled completely before slicing.
- 4 egg whites
- 1 pinch cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Use to top lemon filling. (MERINGUE WAS REALLY EASY TO MAKE! BUT, DID NOT MATTER AS ONCE PIE COOLED THE UNBAKED CRUST MADE IT COMPLETELY DISGUSTING.)
Don’t worry Dave, I’ll get this right eventually. I’ll start by baking the crust.
This year, Dave and I went to Toronto on our mini-moon, not realizing that the day after our wedding was Canadian Thanksgiving, eh. Fortunately Canada doesn’t shut down the way we do, and we enjoyed feast after feast. In particular, we asked a local chef where to grab breakfast. He gave the perfect answer: “You go to St. Lawrence Market, you get a plain peameal bacon sandwich. No egg, no tomato- you can get an egg sandwich anywhere. Peameal Bacon Sandwich.” Peameal bacon is sort of like our version of “Canadian” bacon, only so much better. Dusted in cornmeal, it is tender and juicy. The sandwich itself made me want a nap afterward, but well worth it.
This year on Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my new husband, my family and friends, my health, and all future opportunities to discover new, delicious things.
My mom used to make these at Christmas and I loved them. I could never get enough of them and since they are so small, it didn’t seem so bad to have three or four. Now it seems kind of wrong to have that many, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do it.
Thanks to It’s Yummi.com for the recipe used in this installment of “Still Good: Recipes that still work even after I get my hands on them.”
- 2 1/4 cups graham crackers, finely crushed (about 14 sheets)
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 4 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons lemon extract (DID NOT BUY. COMPLETELY MISSED THIS INGREDIENT.)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- For the topping
- 4 cups sweet cherries, fresh or frozen
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 jar hot fudge sauce (DID NOT BUY. YOU DO CHERRIES OR YOU DO CHOCOLATE, NOT BOTH)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees (AGAIN, OVEN IS A BITCH. SET TO 350, TODAY CLIMBED TO 310, BUT BASED ON PREVIOUS BEHAVIOR WHO KNOWS?)
- In a large bowl, whisk together graham crackers and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir with spoon until evenly coated. (ONCE MADE DID NOT SEEM RIGHT. POURED OUT ABOUT HALF OF MIXTURE AND ADDED SOME MORE BUTTER. NO MEASURING WAS INVOLVED.) Divide graham cracker mixture among 24 paper lined muffin cups, adding a heaping teaspoon full to each. (24 SEEMED LIKE TOO MANY TO HAVE IN THE HOUSE SO AT THIS POINT DECIDED TO HALF THE RECIPE.) Press mixture evenly into each cup. Bake in oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool while preparing filling.
- In large mixing bowl, add softened cream cheese, 1.5 cups sugar, and flour. Use a hand or stand mixer to mix on low speed until well blended and smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend on low speed just until combined after each addition. (USED THREE THINGS OF CREAM CHEESE, THREE EGGS, SAME AMOUNT LISTED OF EVERYTHING ELSE. SO, SORT OF HALF. OMITTED THE CREAM BECAUSE IT SEEMED* THAT WOULD MAKE IT TOO WATERY. *NOT SURE WHY ALL OF A SUDDEN I THINK MY BAKING INTUITION IS SO GOOD.) Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula as necessary. Add vanilla, sour cream and whipping cream and mix just until combined.
- Tap mixing bowl against counter top about 30 times to release some of the air bubbles. (DID NOT DO.) Divide mixture among muffin cups, filling each cup nearly full. Bake in heated oven for 20 to 23 minutes; centers should still jiggle slightly… don’t overbake! (If tops begin to crack, they’ve been baking too long). (FOUR OF MINE CRACKED.) Remove from oven and allow them to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.
- To garnish before serving, place a dollop of cherry topping on top (directions for preparation below).
- For the cherry topping: In a small bowl, whisk corn starch and cold water to make a slurry; set aside.
- Place cherries and sugar into large microwave-safe bowl. (USED TWO CUPS CHERRIES AND 1/4 CUP SUGAR, AND HALF OF SLURRY.) Stir to combine and microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring after the first minute. Add cornstarch mixture to the cherries and continue cooking on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring briefly every 30 seconds. (FORGOT TO STIR BRIEFLY EVERY 30 SECONDS.)
- Remove from microwave, stir in vanilla extract and chill until ready to serve. (TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL: DECIDED NOT TO MEASURE VANILLA AND WAY TOO MUCH CAME OUT OF BOTTLE. CHERRIES TOO VANILLA-Y, BUT, STILL GOOD!)
More risotto! This is a combination of Mio’s Mac and Cheese and Nigella’s Cheddar Cheese Risotto. The danger with mac and cheese is that it can become too dry – especially if you bake it for too long. The danger with risotto is that it can become too gluey – especially if you don’t add enough liquid or let it sit for too long. The good thing about this recipe is that it combines both worlds but minimizes the risk. If you want to make this a faux mac and cheese, top with panko breadcrumbs after toasting in some butter.
Cheddar Cheese Risotto – serves four
2 cups arborio rice
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cloves garlic
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp butter
two links chorizo sausage, browned
Heat the chicken broth in a separate pot until warm. Brown the onion and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the rice and stir to mix everything over medium heat. Add the wine, red pepper, and mustard and stir until absorbed by the rice. Add the broth by 1/2 cup increments until it is absorbed into the rice. Once you have added 8 cups of broth (or enough that the risotto relaxes on the plate), add the cheddar, parmesan, butter, and sour cream, stir to combine. Salt to taste. Top with chives. Serve immediately. If using the variation, add the chorizo with the cheddar and parmesan.
I’m into risotto. It’s one of those dishes that makes you feel really accomplished for taking the time to cook, but is actually really easy. Once you learn the basic ratio (1 cup arborio rice to 4 cups chicken broth) and recipe (brown the onion and garlic, toast rice, slowly add liquid), you can take it any direction you want. I made this last weekend, it’s reminiscent of pappa al pomodoro and great for a fall day. If you want to make it extra decadent, you can add the butter and cream at the end, but you don’t need them for this to be rich and filling.
Lemon Tomato Risotto – serves four
2 cups arborio rice
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped basil
juice and zest from one lemon
salt to taste
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat the chicken broth in a separate pot until warm. Brown the onion and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the rice and stir to mix everything over medium heat. Add the wine and stir until absorbed by the rice. Add the broth by 1/2 cup increments until it is absorbed into the rice. After two cups, add the herbs and the lemon juice and zest. Once you have added 6 cups of broth, add the tomatoes. Depending on the consistency at this point, you may not need to add anymore broth. You want the risotto to relax on the plate- it shouldn’t be soupy it shouldn’t be solid either. At this point you can add the optional butter and cream if you want to make the dish more decadent, but this also makes it extra rich. Salt to taste. Top with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
I consider myself a fairly healthy eater (aka: someone who knows how to eat in a healthy manner and sometimes chooses to do so, other times chooses not to), but when a friend offered to buy lunch at Life Alive, I had a hard time choosing from a menu that reads like this:
The Adventurer: Sesame Ginger Nama Sauce combined with a colorful mix of corn, beets, broccoli, dark greens, shredded cheddar, tofu & tamari almonds over quinoa & short grain brown rice.
My friend gushed: “It’s just amazing food, this big bowl of cozy, comforting vegetables.” I cringed. Cozy is the BBB, soothing is Mio’s Mac and Cheese. Vegetables are crisp, refreshing, something you eat too much of when you’re trying to fit into a bathing suit. Since it’s November, I’m less in the market for vegetables these days. Plus, its the holidays. I want things smothered in gravy, not sesame ginger nama sauce.
Life Alive Cambridge (they also have locations in Lowell and Salem) does not have gravy. Or meat. It goes without saying that the place is proudly vegetarian, with Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar and Nutritional Yeast Flakes as condiments. They have reusable silverware and bowls, and bins for compost, trash, and recycling. They are VERY Cambridge.
Here’s the thing: the food is delicious. My friend was right - cozy and soothing actually does describe the steaming bowls of vegetables (also available as wraps). I don’t usually seek out rice or beets, but my favorite dish here has both of those things. The names of the sauces are largely unrecognizable, but they all translate into rich, layered flavor. A “demi” size portion is perfect for lunch, a full bowl is perfect for dinner. Want some extra protein? Add an egg or some avocado. They also sell fresh kombucha, juices, and smoothies – the last I’m staying away from, just so I don’t get hooked and remember that vegetarian food can pack on the pounds too.
If you need to take a break from holiday eating for a meal or two and feel good about yourself, go to Life Alive. Something tells me that come January 1st the lines will be much, much longer.