Meat back on the menu

By Lucie R. Willsie Lifestyles Reporter

April 30, 2014

With Lent over and the price of all meats going sky-high, it’s time to take another look at this centerpiece of most meals.

In order not to waste money and to cook the best-tasting dishes possible, some local cooks and/or restaurant owners have given some of their meat-cooking advice.

First, Evelyn Newman, owner of Bluebird Diner said, “Never, never squish a hamburger.”

At most every barbecue and/or indoor kitchen, folks will take a spatula and squeeze the hamburger patties flat.

Don’t do it, Newman advised.

“Squeezing the hamburger makes it dry,” she explained. “All the juices run out. Squeeze it only once so the hamburger doesn’t wind up in a little ball.”

Then, as the hamburger cooks, it will shrink.

That’s when the cooks at the Bluebird Diner put a lid over the top of the patty.

“This keeps the hamburger moist and juicy,” she said.

And keep the patty covered until it is done cooking, or about four to five minutes.

A trick to the best tasting hot dog is not to boil it, but to fry it, Newman said.

And as far as chicken is concerned, just don’t overcook it, is Newman’s advice, or it’ll become stringy.

And when it comes to pork, well, Newman said, “A few years ago, it was thought pork should be cooked like a piece of cardboard.” Now, folks realize they don’t have to cook pork completely, if they don’t want to. “It’s OK now to have it a little pink.”

Paul Riekehof, owner and cook at Leon’s Burger Express, also has some advice to making the best meat dishes possible.

“Buy meat from a reputable retailer,” he said, “and check the dates. It’s very important.”

Shoppers should also be able to tell if the meat is bad if it smells badly.

“You know it’s starting to go then,” Riekehof said.

Make sure meat is stored properly. All freezer cases have thermometers inside them. The temperature to protect the freshness of meats needs to be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

“And, when you transport the meat, don’t take the long way home,” he added. “Let the meat be the last thing you buy at the store and the first thing you put away when you get home.

Investing in recyclable freezer bags in which to place the meat you just purchased is also a wise option, Riekehof said.

Another important piece of advice for most all meats comes from Chris Wishart, the owner and executive chef at Trio restaurant. This advice is searing. Searing is when the surface of the meat, whether it be beef, poultry or fish, is cooked at a high temperature. A caramelized crust forms arount the outside of the meat, holding the juices in, not letting as much juice escape, keeping the meat juicy. The natural sugar in the meat helps form this caramelized crust.

“Otherwise the meat gets dry,” Wishart said.

Temps must be greater than 300-degrees Fahrenheit to have this effect. Keep searing the meat until it releases naturally from the pan or grill, and then, keep moving the meat in the pan or on the grill until all sides are seared.

If the meat isn’t especially fatty, add oil or duck fat to the pan.

“This accelerates the heating process and protects the meat as well,” he added.

And equally as important is to allow the meat to rest — regardless of which type of meat is used. The longer it takes to cook the meat, the longer it needs to rest. Fifteen to 30 minutes for a large piece of meat is good. A typical steak only takes between 3 and 5 minutes to rest.

CHRIS WISHART, owner and chef of Trio restaurant

“I fell in love with cooking because mom, Roberta Wishart, was — and still is — a fabulous cook,” Wishart said. “I remember being very young, watching Mom cook. She had a special ability to make everything ‘just so’ … It felt like an ‘experience’ and not just like a meal.”

He admits still being amazed today with his mother’s ease at creating a wonderland of food and atmosphere at the dinner table.

A successful chef has to be flexible and adaptable, Wishart said, and willing to learn and work at whatever jobs are necessary and available to get to know all aspects of the business of cooking.

He wanted to learn. He needed to learn. He dedicated himself to learning everything humanly possible.

“I loved it,” he said. “I was miserable when I wasn’t in a kitchen. It was in my veins. And it never felt like work.”

He did a little bit of everything.

“I learned a lot from hands-on employers who were great mentors,” he said.

“This is when it went from a hobby to a passion,” he said.





Olive Oil

3 slices of bacon, cut into strips

3 pounds of boneless chuck or round, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tablespoons of flour

3 1/2 cups of red wine

2 1/2 cups of beef or veal stock

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

3 Tablespoons of butter

12 ounces of pearl onions

4 cups of button mushrooms


Heat a large casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the bacon in olive oil until brown and remove. Brown the beef in batches in the pan. Drain the oil and place the beef with the bacon to the side. Add the carrots and onions and cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden. Roll the meat in flour and return to the pan to brown again. Add the wine, stock to cover and salt and pepper. Bring to a strong simmer and cover. Reduce to a gentle simmer and let cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Heat half of the butter in a separate pan and cook the pearl onions until soft. Remove from the pan and add the rest of the butter and cook the mushrooms. Set aside with the onions. Take the casserole dish off of the heat and strain the liquid into another pan. Wipe the casserole dish and return the meat mixture to it and add the pearl onions and mushrooms. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer and skim off the fat. Reduce this liquid for a few minutes and then pour back over the meat and vegetable mixture. Serve over rice, serve with mashed or roasted potatoes.




2 cups of dried Navy beans, soaked overnight

1 stalk of celery, rough chopped

3 onions, 1 quartered, 2 thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, 2 whole, 2 chopped

8 cups of water

1 pound of pork belly, skin removed and meat cut into 4 pieces

1 pound of lamb shoulder, boned and cut into 4 pieces

Duck fat or pure olive oil

6 ounces of pancetta bacon, cut into thick pieces

2 pounds of pork sausage, cut into pieces

2 Tablespoon of tomato paste

2 1/2 cups of bread crumbs, unseasoned


Drain and rinse the beans and put them in a large pan with celery and onion quarters and whole garlic, season with salt and pepper. Add the water and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam and reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the pork and lamb into 2-inch pieces. Heat the duck fat or oil in a heavy gauge saucepan over medium high heat. Add the pork belly and pancetta and brown. Remove and repeat with lamb and sausage. Add the sliced onions and chopped garlic and tomato paste and cook in the fat for 2 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Drain the beans, but reserve the liquid and discard the vegetables. In large casserole dish or Dutch oven, layer the beans and meat alternately until all are used. Add the garlic-tomato mix and enough of the bean liquid to almost cover. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and cook for 1 hour, then reduce oven temp to 275-degrees Fahrenheit, remove the cover and cook for another hour.

DAVID PRINCE, local cook

“At a young age, I just fell in love with cooking,” Prince said. At around age 10, Prince remembers helping his mom make chicken. As he got older, he took a few professional cooking classes. He thinks his first class was on making sauces, but he’s not completely sure if his memory serves him well.

His favorite dishes are seafood, not just for the taste and because it’s what he grew up eating while living near the Atlantic Ocean, but because seafood is also healthy.

Prince eventually decided to take a lot of the cooking knowledge and experience he had learned growing up and modify these new recipes to suit his lifestyle and needs. He started cooking healthier, more low fat, less salty, and less sugary as a result. Then, he started cooking every day and tweaked these already good, healthy, weight loss-friendly recipes to his specific tastes.

“I admit I threw quite a few dishes out the first three or four years of experimenting to perfect my new cooking,” he said.

For example, he has learned that only lump crab must be used in crab dishes, such as Maryland Blue Crabs. Also, he advises being meticulous in following the recipe when making dishes such as crab cake.

“Cooking is about detail,” he said. “That’s the key.”

Another piece of advice Prince has learned is not to deep fry food. Saute many dishes in only a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for optimum taste and health.

“I feel so much healthier,” said Diana Prince. “Cooking is a labor of love for me … And, if you are going to do something, you have to do it right. I’ve learned that this is what life is about.”




2 4-to-6-ounces of fresh salmon, washed and patted dry

2 Tablespoons of spicy Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons of dry or fresh dill weed


Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit. Put the salmon on a baking dish. Spread the mustard on top of the salmon. Then, put the dill weed on top of the mustard. Bake at 400-degrees Fahrenheit for 6 minutes.




1 pound of crab meat

8 saltine crackers, crumbled

1 egg, beaten

2 Tablespoons of mayonnaise

1 teaspoon of mustard

1/3 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning

2 Tablespoons of oil

Salt to taste


Mix all ingredients, except the crackers. Roll the patties in the crackers to cover. Place the oil in a pan. Cook the breaded patties for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.




12 ounces of raw, cleaned shrimp

1 egg white

1/2 cup of Panko Seasoned Bread Crumbs

1 Tablespoon of lemon zest

1 teaspoon of freshly minced garlic

1 Tablespoon of olive oil


Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the bread crumbs, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil together. Take the shrimp and dip it into the egg white. Then batter with the crumb mixture. Place on a cookie sheet and bake between 4 and 6 minutes.

TONY AND CHRIS SARDLER, local cooks, specializing in tailgate cooking

Both Tony Sardler, a deputy with the Surry County Sheriff’s Department and a former player for the Mount Airy Bears, and Chris Sardler, assistant principal at Fort Bush school in Yadkin County, have been tailgating at Panthers games for 10 years. In fact, it was Chris Sardler who first bought season tickets and helped start the tradition.

“We have a lot of fun with this,” Tony Sardler said. Even when the couple has attended some really awful Panthers footballs games, like the season the Panthers were 2-14. “And Chris loves it as much as I do … She yells as much as I do … We have a good time.”

Leaving around 7:30 a.m. for the games, several friends also regularly come with them to these games with their delectable tailgate fare.

“You’ve got to get there early to set up, enjoy appetizers, play some corn hole, cook, eat, clean-up, and get into the stadium by noon for the one o’clock games. That’s the rule,” Tony Sardler said.

As far as the cooking and preparation is concerned, they divvy the work up equally. Chris Sardler usually makes the salads and the desserts. Tony Sardler makes the meats.

“A great tailgate must have excellent meat,” he said. His favorite to make is pork ribs. In fact, Sardler has his own trick to making delicious ribs. With a big cut of ribs, he will cook them halfway — about 1 1/2 to 2 hours — in the oven, with just some salt and pepper to taste, the night before the tailgate. Then, at the game, he’ll cook the ribs another hour or so on the grill, putting barbecue sauce on them 5 to 10 minutes before they’re done. “If you put barbecue sauce on them too soon, the sauce burns.”

The couple also cooks meals at home together as often as they can.

“I just love to cook,” he added.




6 to 8 ounces of filet mignon, cut in cubes and marinated overnight in your favorite marinate

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

1 large onion


Alternate meat and vegetables on two skewers placed side by side. This makes turning the meat and vegetables easier. Once the kabobs are assembled, wrap in foil and place in the cooler. These cook easily on the grill. Other vegetables, such as yellow squash, zucchini, and grape tomatoes can be used in addition or instead of the peppers and onions listed above. If you use carrots or potatoes, it will be easier if you cook them slightly before assembling them on the skewers.




Select meaty ribs to your own taste, about 8 to 10 ounces per person


Lightly salt and pepper each side. Wrap each rack separately in aluminum foil. Bake in a 250-degree Fahrenheit oven for 2 to 3 hours. Remove from the oven, but do not unwrap. Let cool, then refrigerate. When ready to finish cooking, place each rack on a hot grill. Baste for about an hour with your favorite barbecue sauce. Serve from the grill or on a platter.




2 to 4 boneless, filleted and tenderized chicken breast

2 to 4 slices of Swiss cheese

Precooked bacon

Sesame buns

Lettuce and tomato


Grill the chicken breast. Heat the bacon. When the chicken is done, top with Swiss cheese and close the grill to melt the cheese. Add another topping with the bacon and place on a warm sesame seed bun. Serve with lettuce and tomato if desired.




1 pound of ground beef, browned

1 package of chili seasoning

1 16-ounce jar of thick and chunky salsa


Put the browned meat in the crock pot, add chili seasoning and salsa. Heat for about 2 to 3 hours on low. Serve with corn chips.

BRANDON OVERBY, chef at The Olympia restaurant

Brandon Overby started cooking in restaurants 19 years ago.

He started off being a prep cook, cutting up veggies, making dressings, making soup, and the like. Advancing his up in the ranks, Overby worked himself up to cooking as a sous chef in a fine dining restaurants, such as the one at the Cross Creek Country Club. He now works as the chef at The Olympia restaurant.

“I cook everything on the menu,” he said of his present job. “I just want to make people happy with a belly full of good food.”

To that end, a summer two years ago, Overby experimented with making different flavors of ice cream, such as cheesecake, orange vanilla, peanut butter and jelly, and others. “There were so many.”

Overby also is unique in that he never writes down any of his recipes

“I have a photographic memory,” he said. So, he doesn’t really need to write down all his unique culinary twists. “I’ve taken everything from every single place I have worked.”

He also has the unique ability to taste a dish and know what ingredients are in it and then be able to duplicate it on his own.

“And then I make it to taste,” he said.

That might change if he decided to go to culinary school now, but he’s not really planning on it, although he feels he would be successful. He just doesn’t have the time right now, he said.

“I’m content with the current situation … but I don’t know about the future.”




1/2 pound of chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch strips

1/2 pound of angel hair pasta, cooked and drained

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of white pepper

1 Tablespoon of garlic

1 Tablespoon of ground black pepper

1/4 cup of white wine

2 Tablespoons of lemon juice

2 Tablespoons of capers

1/4 cup of butter

Olive oil


Mix the flour and the spices. Coat the chicken with the flour mixture and sauté in the olive oil. Once the chicken is browned and crisp, add half of the white wine and half of the butter. Sauté until the chicken is done. Then, remove the chicken from the pan and add the remaining butter and wine. Add the lemon juice and reduce to half. Layer the pasta, then the chicken, and then pour the reduced wine and lemon butter over the top. Sprinkle with the capers and the fresh basil.




1/4 cup of sautéd shrimp, chopped

1 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning

1/4 cup of chopped green onions

2 Tablespoons of sour cream

2 Tablespoons of mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons of lemon juice

1 cup of bread crumbs

1 large, dark-skin flounder filet



Filet the meat from the skin on the flounder filet. Mix the shrimp and the other ingredients. Then, stuff the flounder. Brush with butter and lemon and then dust with the paprika. Bake in a shallow water bath in a 400-degree oven for 12 minutes.




Dry rub

1 pound of whole tenderloin

1 teaspoon of dried sage

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of minced dry garlic

1 teaspoon of dried ground allspice

Olive oil


6 baby bella mushrooms, chopped

6 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

2 green onion shoots, chopped


Sauté the mushrooms, green onions, and fresh garlic in the olive oil until soft. Pierce the tenderloin lengthwise 3 to 4 times for the stuffing. Combine the mushrooms, garlic, green onions, and stuff the tenderloin with the mixture. Coat the tenderloin with the olive oil, dry rub it, and bake covered in a preheated 375-degree Fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes.

Lucie R. Willsie can be reached at 719-1930 or on Twitter at LucieRWillsie.