Fred Casey, owner of Natick, Massachusetts diner passes away

Originally posted on Diner Hotline Weblog:

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Casey’s Diner, Natick, Massachusetts September 5, 2009 photo by Larry Cultrera

I got a message yesterday (Saturday the 7th of February) from Facebook friend Timothy Wood with a link to an obituary for Fred Casey, the long-time owner of Casey’s Diner in Natick, Massachusetts. Fred was only 63 years of age (a year older than me). I had not heard if he had been sick, in fact I have not seen Fred for quite a while as every time I have been to the diner in recent years, his son Patrick was running things. Fred was the third generation of the Casey family operating the current 1922 vintage Worcester Lunch Car. His grandfather (also Fred Casey) opened it in 1927, buying it as a used diner from from where it had operated in nearby Framingham. Fred’s late father Joe had been running the diner since 1952 and Fred took over…

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THE WORST RECIPE PRESENTATIONS EVER – No. 2

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COMFORT SOUPS

Yuki Gomi – miso soup

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An inviting bowl of miso soup. Photograph: Alamy

In Japan, a bowl of miso soup is what makes everything better. “It’s mummy food,” says Gomi. “Every time I have miso soup it feels like home. Whether in Japan or away, even the smell of miso soup reminds Japanese people of their mummy.” Miso is a core Japanese ingredient, made from fermented beans and then mixed, depending on the region, with rice, wheat or beans. “Where I’m from in Yamanashi prefecture, near Mount Fuji, our miso is made from a mix of rice and wheat and is quite pale. We use the paste to make hōtō noodle miso soup with thick, handmade wheat noodles, mushrooms and pumpkin, slow-cooked for a long time. You eat it in a big bowl and it’s really good.”

Like lots of fermented foods, miso is rich in amino acids and complex proteins. The fermentation process also means miso contains lots of probiotics, making it easy to digest. “My grandmother’s generation had miso all the time, as much as we drink tea in Britain. I learned how to make it from her and from my mother, but once you’ve got the basics you can use different miso soups as a base and add in whatever you feel like: pork belly for energy and extra-rich flavour; root vegetables for the comfort of carbohydrates. There are no rules.”

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OSAMA BIN LADEN BARS

A customer buys a bottle of mineral water at the Bin Laden's cave bar in Niteroi, 25 kms northern of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Several years back, Francisco Elder Braga Fernandes was tending his bar in downtown São Paulo when he noticed something strange going on in the motorcycle parking lot next door. “All of sudden, the bikers were snapping pictures of me,” he recalls.

When he asked what was up, they laughed and pointed to his flowing, salt-and-pepper beard. “They said I looked just like him, Osama bin Laden.”

Fernandes had little use for politics or world affairs, but the self-made club owner who left the hardscrabble northeastern backcountry to make a new life in Brazil’s toughest city knew a thing or two about marketing. This was mid-September 2001. He didn’t think twice. He changed the name of his place from Barbas (Whiskers) to Bar do Bin Laden.

“I am a man of goodwill. I can’t stand violence,” says Fernandes, 54. “But this was great for business. No one calls me Francisco anymore. It’s Osama or bin Laden.”

That might seem cynical, but then again, this is Brazil, the country that handed carnival over to professionals and holds nothing so sacred that it can’t be parlayed into a punch line. And Fernandes is no exception.

A brief Google search turned up nearly a dozen Brazilian establishments named after Al Qaeda’s former terrorist-in-chief, including bars, luncheonettes and one sit-down restaurant called Bin Laden and Family. There’s even a listing for an automobile parts dealer, Bin Laden Bombas, though the telephone apparently has been disconnected. Which may be a good thing, since in Portuguesebombas means “pumps” but also “bombs.”

All are variations on the theme. Bin Laden’s Cave, a popular nightspot in Niteroi, across the bay from Rio, bills itself as “the place where the Taliban gather.” Hélio’s Bar, in the southern Brazilian capital of Porto Alegre, claimed its happy hour of fame with a visit by a bin Laden lookalike, duly captured on YouTube.

Others arise by popular demand. Therezinha Álvaro de Paula Texeira and her husband, Hélio, couldn’t settle on a name for the beer hall they’d opened back in mid-2001 in Juiz de Fora, an industrial city in Minas Gerais state in eastern Brazil. But when college kids started showing up and took one look at her husband, with his bushy beard and unfriend-me look, the problem was solved. “The students said we had to call it Bin Laden’s Bar, and that they wouldn’t come around if we didn’t,” Texeira says. “The day bin Laden died, the whole university dropped in. The kids even made up some bin Laden T-shirts.”

But no one has taken the trope as far as Francisco Fernandes. The São Paulo barkeeper is now something of a celebrity and a tourist attraction. “Al Jazeera came by twice to shoot a story on the bar,” he says. Though he favoUrs jeans and T-shirts, he dutifully dons a skullcap and camouflage when visitors want to cozy up for selfies.

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THE WORST RECIPE PRESENTATIONS EVER – No. 3

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The  Knox gelatin recipe for Fruit Cocktail Egg Nog Pie.

  • 1 (1 lb. 14 oz.) can of fruit cocktail
  • 1 envelope Knox gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups commercially prepared eggnog
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 9-inch baked pie shell

Directions

Drain fruit cocktail thoroughly; measure 1/2 cup of the syrup. Stir gelatin into syrup; place over boiling water and stir until gelatine is dissolved. Remove from heat; stir into eggnog. Add salt and flavorings. Chill until mixture mounds when dropped from spoon. Whip cream; fold into gelatin mixture along with 1 1/2 cups well drained fruit cocktail. Chill again 5 to 10 minutes, until mixture mounds. Heap into baked and cooled pie shell. Chill 2 to 4 hours. Decorate with remaining fruit cocktail.

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THE WORST RECIPE PRESENTATIONS EVER – No. 4

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WHAT ACTORS EAT

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In What Actors Eat When They Eat, Cary Grant’s entry is for Barbecued Chicken. It’s a simple oven-barbecued chicken recipe, nothing fancy. I can’t help but wonder if the recipe is a nod to his more humble beginnings. About the recipe, Grant says:

“Now go to it, friends, and don’t blame me if it is not to your liking. For after all, the recipe is not mine. It is the national prize winner of the year and I happen to like it.”

I made the recipe, and it is pretty good. I used one 4.5 pound chicken, rather than the recipe’s suggested 3 chickens, 1.5 pounds each. I increased the oven heat and baked it for a long time to ensure the chicken was well-cooked and tender. I also thickened the sauce a bit as suggested by the recipe’s liner notes. The recipe produces a LOT of sauce, but it isn’t really a problem, since it helps keep the chicken moist and tender as it cooks. Next time I might cut down on the vinegar a bit; that is a personal preference, though. It’s a simple and homey recipe, just right for a cold autumn evening.

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Ingredients

  • 3 chickens, 1 ½ lbs each (or 1 chicken, 4.5 lbs), cut into pieces
  • Olive or vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup A-1 sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch (or more if needed)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Heat olive or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium till hot. Fry the chicken pieces in the hot oil in batches till browned. Season with salt and pepper as you cook.
  2. Place browned chicken pieces in a 9×13 baking dish. In a saucepan, combine ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, water, A-1 sauce, sugar, cider vinegar, onion and garlic. Whisk together over medium heat till warm.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp cold water till smooth. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the barbecue sauce, whisking till incorporated. Continue to whisk over medium heat till the sauce is hot, bubbly, and thickened. Remove from heat. Pour the sauce evenly across the top of the chicken pieces. Cover the roasting dish with foil.
  4. Bake the chicken for 60-75 minutes, or until the meat is tender and well cooked. Remove from the oven. If you’d like to serve extra sauce with the chicken, skim the fat drippings from the top of the sauce. To thicken the leftover sauce, pour it into a saucepan and heat over medium. Mix together equal amounts of cornstarch and water, a half tablespoon at a time, and slowly whisk into the sauce. Heat and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly, till desired consistency is reached. Serve chicken warm with the thickened barbecue sauce on the side.

Tips/Techniques

You will also need: 9×13 baking dish, saucepan, aluminum foil

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