White Trash Spaghetti

All right people, let’s get something out of the way right here (or “raht cheer” as you might hear at some of our finer dining establishments) at the top — there’s more to life than fancy French chickens, high-falutin’ restauants, and fatty duck liver that costs more per pound than I make in an honest day’s work. Oh sure, we might ramble on about cooking aged, bone-in steaks, completely from scratch cakes, and fancy-shmancy noodle dishes with names normal people can’t pronounce — but when it comes down to brass tacks, we cook our fair share of good old-fashioned Southern dishes. You know, Southern dishes like spaghetti. Now I know what you’re thinking — spaghetti is Italian, and I reckon you’ve got a point, but this is how we make spaghetti down in these parts. And if you think THIS version is white trash, remind me to tell you sometime how you can do it even easier with a bottle of ketchup and a few chopped up hot dogs.

Michael’s White Trash Spaghetti

  • 1/2 – 1 pound cheapest ground beef in the store. You might think that’s the 73/27 stuff, but you’ll get more bang for your buck if you go with the 80/20. Anything more lean than that is just showing off.
  • 2 – 8oz. cans of tomato sauce. Choose from some of the finer store brands here, like Always Save, Great Value, or Best Choice.
  • 1 – 15oz. can of “Petite Diced” tomatoes. Again, pick a store brand.
  • 1 – 4.5oz. jar of sliced mushrooms. I sprang for the fancy ones in the glass jar, but feel free to use the kind in a can.
  • 1 – small can tomato paste. I really don’t know how much is in there, just buy the little can next to the sauce.
  • Various herbs and things. I recommend basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion power, and some dried dill. But feel free to use that stuff you can get for 75 cents called “Italian Seasoning” and some garlic salt. It really won’t make a difference.
  • Dry spaghetti noodles. As much as you want.

Brown the beef. Depending on how cheap you went with it, there will either be a lot of grease or a whole lot of grease. Let your beef drain on some paper towels, or just leave the grease in — it’s all up to how shiny you want your lips to be when you’re done eating. Dump literally everything else (except the dry spaghetti) on top of the beef and mix it in. Bring the goop to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer so that you can get all those flavors mixing together. Stir this stuff periodically until the noodles are done.

For the noodles, fill a kettle with water and add some salt. Bring the water to a boil and dump in the noodles. When they start getting soft, give them a brisk stir so that they don’t stick together. White trash spaghetti doesn’t necessarily need pasta done al dente, so just cook the noodles until they’re as soft as you like them. Drain the noodles in a collander (which will also be your serving dish) and have everybody get them some noodles and sauce in a bowl. Eat sitting down and watching something good on television — this dish pairs well with the fine reality television brought to you by the folks of TLC. Enjoy!

Save Your Fork, There’s Pie!

Apple Pie from Ed and Kay’s in Benton

While most people think of this blog as a food writing site, it’s just as much about food photography. After all, it would be pretty boring to just read descriptions about the food we make and eat without some visual representations, right? Arkansas Foodies has always been a joint venture between two people, a writer and a photographer, and I think that the photography on this blog has been the driving force behind its continued popularity and success. While I always try to come up with something informative and interesting to say about food, Jess manages to do a better job with just a few pictures than anything I could write. Unfortunately, space limitations often mean that a lot of pictures wind up never being published, both on this blog and in our reviews for Eat ArkansasThat’s a real shame, because I count myself lucky to work with one of the best food photographers in this great state of Arkansas. With that in mind, here are some photos that we didn’t use in recent reviews, but I think are quite good.

This is the bluefin Tuna Tartare from our recent review of RJ TAO, the newest restaurant and lounge in the Little Rock Heights neighborhood. It was one of the freshest tasting tuna dishes we’ve ever tried, and although we wanted just a little more of a kick from the briny caper berries, we very much enjoyed it. RJ TAO is making an effort to provide high quality dishes with ingredients not found on any other Central Arkansas menu, and we salute them for it. Plus, the service there is impeccable.

This picture is a combination of our favorite things: it’s Loblolly ice cream served at the Green Corner Store in the SoMa neighborhood in Little Rock. Here’s the difference between Loblolly ice cream and, say, ice cream from a national chain like Coldstone Creamery — Coldstone takes some generic ice cream and makes a big show about folding in your choice of stale, boring toppings. Loblolly finds the freshest ingredients and creates flavors you can’t find anywhere — like the fromage blanc and jalapeno jelly scoop that you can see on the left side of the picture above. Or maybe you’d like their salted caramel ice cream in a crisp, delicious gluten-free cone? And even if ice cream isn’t your thing, the ladies of Loblolly have a huge stock of homemade flavored syrups that allow you to create your perfect soda (I recommend the sarsaparilla).

That’s a chicken quesadilla from Baja Grill in Benton, one of our favorite food trucks around, and one we reviewed for Eat Arkansas. This truck has one of the most unique menus in Central Arkansas — and that includes the brick-and-mortar places, too. Fresh ingredients, delicious recipes, and friendly service make us fans of this Military Road food truck. They’ve got a very faithful following, and once you’ve tried them, you’ll understand why.

Those beauties above are some of the hand-battered shrimp available from Eat My Catfish, a Benton restaurant we like so much that we reviewed them not once, but twice for the Arkansas Times. We’re food truck fanatics here on Foodies, and it’s great to see a place like Eat My Catfish get so successful that they transition from frying fish in the back of a trailer to a comfortable brick-and-mortar location with ample seating both indoors and on a patio. It might be the best catfish in Arkansas — but don’t miss these shrimp.

Our greatest recent discovery came thanks to Jess’ mom and dad in the form of Ron’s Barbecue. We’re of the opinion that the best barbecue is made in small towns, and this Glenwood transplant from Caddo Gap certainly fills the bill. Great brisket, great pork, and great smoked turkey make the addition of excellent sauce and cole slaw all the more better. It’s worth the drive to sample this barbecue from wherever you are in the state.

Lastly, I end with a picture from Vino’s Brew Pub and Pizzeria. Vino’s is easily our favorite place in Little Rock, and since brewmaster Josiah Moody has taken the reigns, their beer has become something that Little Rock should brag about. That picture is their Firehouse Pale Ale, a brew that is a perfect pairing for their excellent pizzas, massive calzones, or just an afternoon that needs a pint or three to become perfect. 7th and Chester is our home on many a Saturday afternoon, and if you haven’t had some Vino’s beer in awhile, you should really get down there to see their new-found creativity in action.

Food writing is, in many ways, a visual medium, and I can’t say enough about how lucky I am to work with a photographer like Jess. From chili cook-offs to filet mignon, she manages to capture things in a way that I can only hope to do justice by with my writing. So here’s to food porn, and here’s to my favorite photographer (and also love of my life), Jess Miller!

Arkansas Cooks and Other Fun Stuff

We’ve just been having a blast here lately now that the summer has given way to a small taste of the autumn to come. We’ve eaten a lot of good food, and we’re very excited about some upcoming events that we hope you’ll all come out to.

In shameless self-promotion news, I recently appeared on the local radio show Arkansas Cooks with Mary Twedt, and we had a very fun time talking about some of the wonderful things going on with Arkansas food. Mary was gracious enough to have me over to her home, and if you’d like to listen to the podcast of our interview, you can do so at the KUAR 89.1 website.

I’d also like to encourage everyone to come down to the Bernice Garden on Thursday, September 13 from 4:30 – 7:30 for the first ever SoMa Second Thursday Food Truck Night. Our very good friend Jeffrey Palsa of The Food Truck has organized this event, and it’ll feature some of our favorite food trucks, Little Rock Urban Farming, and there’s the Green Corner Store Soda Fountain right down the street.

Fans of our food reviews over at the Arkansas Times might be interested in checking out some of our recent posts. We tried an excellent oyster bar in Hot Springs, ate some fish tacos, and had barbecue from a quaint little place in Glenwood called Ron’s. This week’s (9/12/12) Times should have a very interesting review in it including the burger you see to your right — which is actually made from kangaroo. It was a brand new experience for me to eat kangaroo, and I have to say that it was very different but also delicious. We’ve got some new and exciting places in mind coming up, and if there’s someplace you’d like to see us take a look at, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

As a final note, we just passed 400 fans over on our Facebook fan page, and that just simply amazes me. Thanks to each an every one of you who read this blog, and know that we always appreciate your feedback, suggestions, and recommendations. As we move into cooler weather, there’s going to be a ton of things around the state for us to do, so if you see us around, be sure to say “hello.” Cheers!

Quick Bite: The Sandwiches of U.S. Pizza Co.

We may have mentioned this before, but U.S. Pizza Co. is one of our favorite places to eat. We’ve eaten at several of their locations across the state, but here lately we’ve found ourselves at the Bryant location more often than any other — it helps that it’s just a few minutes away from where we live. We’re not always in the mood for pizza, though, but that doesn’t rule out U.S. Pizza as an option for a quick lunch by any means, because they’ve got a very respectable selection of sandwiches and salads that are well worth taking a look at (an a bite out of). In fact, the sandwich selection at U.S. Pizza is nearly as varied as their pizza menu, and the high quality of these sammies is just what what we’ve come to expect from the place.

One of my favorites to order is the New Orleans Muffuletta (seen above), which while not exactly true “New Orleans” style is still a tasty combination of Canadian bacon, salami, pepperoni, and shaved ham covered with artichoke hearts, olives, lettuce, tomato, and a melted slice of provolone cheese. The sandwich is available in full or half sizes, and just like with most muffulettas, I don’t recommend ordering the full unless you’re sharing or saving some for later. This is one of those sandwiches that’s so good that it doesn’t really bother me that they’ve taken a few liberties with the style.

Another tasty sandwich on the menu is the Roast Beef and Cheddar — and one bite of this thing will make you forget all about that crappy fast food place that claims to have a roast beef and cheddar. This version comes with thick slices of juicy, tender roast beef and an ample amount of tangy sharp cheddar cheese. To top it all off, a few crisp leaves of romaine lettuce are given just the right dollop of U.S. Pizza’s house dressing, a heavenly creamy Italian that hits all the right notes as a dressing for both salads and sandwiches (or as a dip for potato chips — yes, that’s on the menu). Again, the sandwich is available whole or half, and this one’s so good that a whole one isn’t out of the question for somebody with a hearty appetite. It’s nice to see a pizza place have non-pizza items on the menu that feel like they belong there and aren’t just an afterthought. Don’t get me wrong, the pizza at U.S. Pizza is some of the best in Central Arkansas, but don’t let the place slip your mind when you’ve got a taste for a sandwich, either.

U.S. Pizza is located all over this fine state, but our favorite locations are Hillcrest and Bryant. They also pour some of the coldest beer in town, so stop by soon for a bite and a pint. Enjoy!

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