Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Italian Sausage and Peppers

Last week on my shopping trip to town, I stopped at The Produce House in Clarksburg to see what they had. On their back wall, they have half peck baskets of discounted produce for $1.50 each. If you shop carefully, this can be a real deal.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up several baskets of green peppers. Peppers are really easy to put up - just wash, cut, bag and into the freezer they go. But they also had some real nice poblano peppers. I bought one basket to try. They were so good, I decided to stop back and see if I could get more. They only had two baskets of the poblanos, but this week they had some large Italian frying peppers. Peppers didn’t do well in our garden this year, so I was happy to pick some up cheap to eat fresh and put by.

I wait until onions are on sale for 3lbs./$1, then buy several bags. This is after I have used up the ones from the garden. We never seem to be able to grow enough onions. I use an onion a day. I have to laugh when writing up my recipes - almost every dinner recipe starts with chopping an onion. I can’t eat them raw at all, so my recipes always use cooked, blanched, dried or frozen onions. BTW, the secret to chopping an onion without crying – keep the onion vapors away from your eyes. Don’t stand over the onions when chopping. Don’t touch your eyes. Stay downwind.

When I run out of fresh cloves of garlic, I use chopped garlic. I just bought a 2lb. jar on clearance at Wal-Mart for about $2.50. It won’t last that long. I use garlic in just about everything also. The old proverb about “eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away” goes just as good or even better for onions and garlic. They have so many health benefits.

You can buy Sweet Italian Sausage at the store. But I like my meat with less fat. I usually buy whole boneless pork loins when they go on sale for under $2.00 per lb. and have the store grind it. But right now, I have a freezer full of FFA pork, thanks to my daughter. The kids did a pretty good job of trimming the meat and their ground pork is surprisingly lean. Thanks kids!

The Sweet Italian Sausage Seasoning is my own recipe from my former herb business. I made it several pounds at a time. I have tried to approximate the quantities for a small amount.

For the pasta, canned tomatoes and olive oil, I shop at a discount store called, Country Roads. Locally it’s often called “The Dented Can Store”. I hate paying more than 50¢/lb. for pasta, but that is becoming impossible to do anymore. If you make this in the summer, you can use a couple of chopped fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones.

I picked up several bags of shredded mozzarella at the IGA a few weeks ago on a BOGO sale. The price came to $3.00/lb. I use Parmesan and Romano interchangeably. It just depends on what I have. I usually buy a large ziplock bag of grated Pecorino Romano at Sam’s Club. They don’t carry the same items at all the stores. I think Clarksburg has it, but Parkersburg does not. Anyway, I’m all out. I am using a nice wedge of Pecorino that my husband brought me for a treat. He likes to stop in at Marino Brothers in Clarksburg for lunch once in a while. They sell a nice line of Italian meats and cheeses.

Italian green beans are so good. They can grow as bush or pole beans. They can get really big and still cook up tender. They don’t get fibrous like regular green beans. I have always grown bush Romanos, but last year my neighbor grew green and yellow pole Romano beans. I think they are heritage beans that she got from my former sister-in-law. I hope to get some seed for this year. Anyway, the beans I served last night came from Kroger. I had bought quite a few bags of Kroger brand frozen vegetables on sale. This is about the last of them. I think there is one bag of snap peas left. I found that the frozen Romanos don’t cook well in the microwave. They need a good long cook on the stovetop, just like frozen limas. But they were so tender and delicious. I have found large cans of Italian green beans at discount stores like BigLots and Deals before. The canned ones cook up quick in the microwave.

I cooked this for dinner last night. I have made it many times for my family, but have never written it down before. Now my daughter will know how to make it.

12 oz. spaghetti or egg noodles
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 medium Onion, ½” dice
2 large Italian peppers, 1” dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground pork
1 Tbsp. Sweet Italian Sausage Seasoning (Recipe follows)
1 (15 oz. can) diced tomatoes
1 cup (4 oz.) Shredded mozzarella
¼ cup grated Parmesan for garnish

Put large pot of water on to boil for your pasta. Cook according to package directions. Drain and toss with olive oil to keep from sticking. Time your pasta to be done about the same time as your sausage and peppers.

Heat a large skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and coat lightly with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat, while chopping the vegetables.

Cut ends off onion and peel. Cut in half from top to bottom. Lay onion halves flat and slice crosswise, then lengthwise to dice. Place in skillet.

Trim tops off peppers; discard veins and seeds. Cut in half from top to bottom. Lay pepper halves flat and slice lengthwise, then crosswise to dice. Place in skillet.

Squeeze, twist and rub garlic cloves to loosen skin. Remove skin. Mince in a garlic press or mash with side of large knife on cutting board and then dice finely. Place in skillet.

Turn heat to medium and start sautéing vegetables, stirring frequently. When vegetables are hot, add pork. Sprinkle sausage seasoning over pork. Break up pork and stir constantly until no longer pink.

Stir in tomatoes and their juice. When hot and bubbly, sprinkle mozzarella on top.

Serve when mozzarella starts to melt. Grate or sprinkle parmesan over plates.

This is very good served with Italian green beans or tossed salad and garlic toast.

Serves 5-6

Sweet Italian Sausage Seasoning
By Hilltop Herbs
Yield: 2 ½ Tbsp.

1 tsp. ground sage leaf
1 tsp. ground marjoram
½ tsp. ground fennel seed
½ tsp. whole fennel seed
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground paprika
¼ tsp. granulated garlic
¼ tsp. ground bay leaf
2 tsp. sea salt

Mix all ingredients together.
Use 1 Tablespoon to one pound lean ground pork.
Store in tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dark, dry place.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Mighty Mo in Honor of Pearl Harbor Day

I made these burgers Sunday in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. We had
three inches of snow on the ground and the temperature was 14°F, but I was out on the front porch grilling burgers!

1/4 cup Ketchup
1/8 cup My chili sauce
1 tsp. A-1 sauce
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup My sweet pickle relish
1/2 cup Light Mayonnaise

¾ lb. Ground venison
¾ lb. Ground pork
¼ tsp. Ground celery seed
¼ tsp. Granulated onion
1/8 tsp. Granulated garlic
2 Tbsp. Soft margarine
5 hamburger buns
5 slices American cheese
1 ½ cups Shredded nappa cabbage (or lettuce)
10 Bread-and-butter pickle chips
10 Dill pickle chips

To prepare the sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate until needed.

To prepare the burgers: Preheat a grill. Mix together the two meats. Divide into five portions of equal size, and shape each portion into a thin patty four to six inches in diameter. Sprinkle with spices: celery seed, onion and garlic. Grill hamburgers. Top with one slice of cheese and heat until just starting to melt. Remove from heat.

While meat is grilling, spread margarine on hamburger buns, toast on a medium hot griddle and set aside.

To assemble: Spread 2 tablespoons of Mighty Mo sauce on bottom of each bun.

Top sauce with some shredded nappa and a cheeseburger.
Put four pickle chips on top of cheese.
Add another tablespoon of sauce.
Add top of bun.

I served this with a large can of Hickory Bacon Baked Beans.
Yield: 5 servings.

I used regular hamburger buns, but next time I will invest in a larger, sturdier roll (with sesame seeds!). I grilled the buns on my large griddle on the stove before I cooked the burgers outside, but next time I will wait to do this while the burgers are cooking.

I made 5 burgers from 1 ½ lbs. of meat. Surprisingly, the burger was not too thick, considering each patty was more than a quarter pounder. I started to make the thin patties, but it didn’t look like they would hold up on my outdoor grill. Since we have a freezer full of Rheanna’s FFA pork and Patrick’s fresh venison, the meat was half pork and half venison. Very Yummy! The recipe I was using called for Lawry’s seasoning, so I sprinkled the freshly shaped patties with ground celery seed, granulated onion and granulated garlic.

The sauce was really delish! And right up my alley. I make great homemade ketchup, chili sauce and sweet pickle relish. Unfortunately, we ate all my ketchup already, but I did use my chili sauce and relish. I was also a lot more liberal with the sauce, using at least two tablespoons on each bottom bun.

A small handful of shredded Nappa cabbage (in place of lettuce which I can’t eat), was put on the bun next. Then the cheeseburger. I only had a few Bread and Butter pickles left, so each burger got two. That looked too skimpy, so each burger also got two dill pickle slices. I had more sauce to use up, and the burger looked a little bare, so I put another tablespoon of sauce on top the pickles! Oh, were these yummy!

The important points for this dish are: The sauce!, a sturdy grilled bun, a cheeseburger, lettuce and pickles. This burger should be big and sloppy. I guess a double decker would be keeping with tradition, but I and my family would rather have a bigger piece of meat and a sturdier bun. After researching the origins of this recipe, I was pretty liberal with everything but the bun and the cheese. In keeping with the big and sloppy tradition, I would recommend two slices of cheese!

This is the second time I made this burger. The first time was for Memorial Day, May 31, 2001 and Richard added a slice of onion. I originally found this recipe 5/27/2001 6:37 PM from Audree at
Audree wrote:Mighty Mo is a sandwich named after the battleship USS Missouri which was at Pearl Harbor in Dec 7th 1941, and was the ship on which WWII ended when the Japanese signed a peace treaty. Seems like a good time to try it on Memorial Day.”

That caught my attention and I wondered when it was first made. A little research followed and I was surprised at its origins.

From "Hot Shoppes Cookbook: Sixty Years of American Cookery" - The Mighty Mo has been a Hot Shoppes classic through the years. Because it was the first triple-decker hamburger in the Washington area, however, no one knew what to call it---so one of Mr. Marriott's principal assistants organized a contest. The winner chose the nickname of the great battleship the USS Missouri.

Anyone who lived in or visited the Washington, D.C. area from the 1950s through the 1980s will remember The Mighty Mo featured at The Hot Shoppes. People would drive for miles for just one Mighty Mo hamburger and its incredible thousand island-like sauce! Sadly, they've all disappeared from the D.C. Scene. The last Hot Shoppes closed its doors in 1999.

The mighty Marriott Corporation got its start in 1927 as a small restaurant, The Hot Shoppe, at 14th and Park road, N. W. in Washington, D.C. That restaurant soon grew into a chain of Hot Shoppes restaurants all over the D.C. area.

From the Washington Post:
Bob Levey, of the Washington Post, spoke with Woodrow D. Marriott, retired vice president and general manager of Marriott Corp., who said he is the father of the Mighty Mo if anyone is. "We wanted a double-decked hamburger," he recalled, so he invented one. The company offered a reward for a name. A secretary won by naming the sandwich after the USS Missouri, a battleship whose nickname was Mighty Mo.

How did the recipe for the thick, thousand island-ish sauce develop? Marriott said he doesn't remember. Does he like the taste? "Oh, sure." Might that have had something to do with the company's decision? "You might say so."

"I don't eat hamburgers anymore, because I'm too damned old," he said. I'm 84." But the Mighty Mo was always a top seller in the Hot Shoppes chain, Marriott said.
Although the official recipe doesn't specify it, Hunt's ketchup ("thicker than others") was used in the Mighty Mo sauce. Also, Redpack chili sauce, which is sold only to restaurants and isn't available to riffraff like you and me.

From the Chowhound:
This June at Revival in the Key Bridge Marriott, the newly refurbished dining room revived the Mighty Mo from Marriott's Hot Shoppe days. Revival has also rolled out onion rings and cole slaw to compliment the Mo first introduced in the late '50's and last regularly served almost twenty years ago before Hot Shoppes finally closed all of their restaurants. The Hot Shoppes cafeterias, which did not sell Mo's, closed about ten years ago.

I don't think anyone at Marriott today has ever tasted one, certainly no one involved with what they are putting on the plate in Rosslyn. If a Marriott family member reads this they should taste one themselves at their Key Bridge hotel. It's a different sandwich.

The Mighty Mo sold for fifty five cents when it was first introduced in the D.C. area by Hot Shoppes in response to a wave of triple decker burgers sweeping the U. S. (McDonald's Big Mac was first introduced at least ten years later.)

Revival's Mighty Mo has two half inch thick "Angus" burgers (proudly announced on the menu) where the original Mo featured thin patties slapped on a grill. The result is a sandwich that is much thicker, much less juicy and overwhelmingly beefier than the original Mo. A Mo was a marriage of glorious grease, cheese and "secret" Mo sauce that combined on a sesame seeded bun whose bottom layer sometimes fell apart under the weight. It wasn't about the flavor of beef. In Rosslyn it's far too prominent, far too thick and, simply, nowhere near greasy enough.

And the pickle is different, too. The original Mo had a cheap thin dill pickle sliced rectangularly that covered half of the top of the bun. Rosslyn has a quarter inch thick deli slice that overwhlems the sauce and juice.

While it may not be the Mighty Mo from yesteryear, it was still a darn good triple decker burger with plenty of beefy meat, lots of goopy sauce, and a fresh (if too soft) bun. The $12 Rosslyn burger is actually fairly decent. But it's not a Mo although perhaps remarkably the sauce is real Mo sauce.

Original recipe from Shaboom’s Kitchen:


1/2 cup Hunt's Ketchup
1/4 cup chili sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons A-1 Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco Sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet pickle
1-1/4 cups mayonnaise

Combine ketchup, chili sauce, A-1 Sauce, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco Sauce. Add pickle to sauce mixture. Combine the sauce-pickle mixture with mayonnaise, stirring until well-blended. Store in a tightly covered container under refrigeration until time of service.

1 uncut sesame seed hamburger roll (sesame seeds also must be uncut)
1 tablespoon of softened margarine
2 hamburger patties, each two ounces
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
1 tablespoon shredded lettuce
1 slice American cheese
4 teaspoons Mighty Mo sauce
2 dill pickle chips

Cut hamburger roll crosswise into three equal slices. Spread bottom, top and one side of center cut of bun with margarine. Grill bun until lightly browned and heated throughout.

Shape hamburger into thin 4-inch diameter patties. Grill very lightly on both sides. Do not overcook. Grill second hamburger very lightly on one side, turn and top with American cheese and grill lightly. Do not overcook.

Spread two teaspoons of Mighty Mo sauce on bottom of roll. Top dressing with shredded lettuce, then hamburger. Top hamburger with middle layer of bun, grilled side up. Spread with remaining Mighty Mo sauce.

Top with cheeseburger. Place pickle chips on cheese. Cover with top of bun. Do not cut.

One must always remember that there is really no substitute for the name brands listed, or the measurements or proportions. These burgers were the gooiest and probably that fattiest thing in town, but totally luuuuuuuvvvvvved!!!!

Here is Audree’s recipe:
Subject: [RecipesLostandFound] Recipe: Mighty Mo (USS Missouri / Memorial Day)
From: Audree
Date: 5/27/2001 6:37 PM

Mighty Mo

Mighty Mo is a sandwich named after the battleship USS Missouri which was at Pearl Harbor in Dec 7th 1941, and was the ship on which WWII ended when the Japanese signed a peace treaty. Seems like a good time to try it on Memorial Day.

1/4 cup Ketchup
1/8 cup Heinz chili sauce
1 tsp. A-1 sauce
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup Pickle relish
1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1 lb Ground beef
Lawry's seasoned salt
Fresh ground white pepper
2 Tbsp. Soft margarine
8 hamburger buns
4 slices American cheese
1/4 Head (approximately) Shredded iceberg lettuce
8 Bread-and-butter pickle chips

To prepare the sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate until needed.

To prepare the burgers: Preheat a grill or broiler. Divide meat into eight portions of equal size, and shape each portion into a thin patty four to six inches in diameter. Season to taste with Lawry's seasoned salt and white pepper.

Spread margarine on top and bottom of four hamburger buns, and on the bottoms of four additional buns; reserve the four tops without margarine for another use. Lightly toast buns, and set aside.

Grill hamburgers on one side, turn them over, and top four of them with one slice of cheese. Grill to taste, then remove from heat.

To assemble:
Spread 2 teaspoons of Mighty Mo sauce on bottom of each of four buns.
Top sauce with some shredded lettuce and a burger without cheese.
Top with the additional bun bottom, and spread with 2 more teaspoons of sauce.
Top with a cheeseburger patty, and put two pickle chips on top of cheese.
Add top of bun.

Serve with French fries.
Yield: 4 servings.