Monday, February 25, 2013

Restaurant Gargoyles

So there I am, It's a weekend evening, and I am off the beaten path, on a romantic date with Sue McGleno.

We go to place she has selected.

We go to a place where she not only loves the dessert, but the joint also has high end specialty entrees at a reasonable price point.

One of the reasons we....she likes this place is often times it is only dusted with enough customers to fill the corner tables of a vast space.

You don't get thrust into others conversations.....

The kitchen is far removed from the front of the house.....

For a mere 30 some bucks, 2 people can be left to themselves.

So there we are, walking in, selecting a table in the center.......

Now the owner walks over, describes the specials, and after we give him are orders, dude slides behind a curtain to hand our requests to the cooks.

1 minute passes, 2 minutes pass, my betrothed and I hold hands and become smitten with a mood that is starting to cop an amorous vibe.

3 minutes, now 4......I am beginning to think I have set a tone that may eliminate a weeks worth of buffoonery.

"So what's new with you two/" a voice practically shout's in my ear.......

Klecko now turns his head 90 degree's only to find that the proprietor is standing over his shoulder like one of the little devils in cartoons......

But this devil wasn't leading me into sin.......he was interrupting a night I was hoping would be laden with it, if you know what I mean.

The guy's a nice guy though.

I like him, so I responded a little bit, but after 10 minutes passed, things became more than awkward.

Usually I have no trouble at all telling a brother to step back, but there wasn't a single customer in the place other than the Jewish Supermodel and me.

So now I start praying...."Holy Christ, please throw a handful of customers in here. Dude is cramping my ministry and I end up be a jerk so often, I'd really like to avoid it tonight....."

Tick-Tock went the clock, and the front door remained closed.

"Blah-Blah-Blah." spoke the lonely man with good intentions.......

"Blah-Blah-Blah" ranted a guy who I normally liked.

"Maybe he should hire an extra dish washer to talk to." suggested Sue McGleno.

On the exterior I laughed, but on the interior.....

Klecko wept.

Love had been suffocated.

If I remember right, we spent 75 minutes there, and our uninvited guest easily spent 65 of those minutes hovering over our table.

Even though I like the guy, a pro should know the difference huh?

My wife, who isn't quite as forgiving suggested that the guys reluctance to vamoose wasn't predicated by loneliness, she thinks it's a result of desperation.......

Like maybe the guy was going through some kind of personal or business trouble.

Either way, I do value customer service, but this doesn't mean that......if i am with a date, I want any of you to spend it with us unannounced.

Has anything like this happened to you L.A.B. Rats?

Klecko is dying to know.

Friday, February 22, 2013

We The Pretty People Are......

OK Peeps,

This Sunday is actually going to be interesting.

In the morning, I am driving to a radio station in Eden Prarie. If this is the one I am thinking of, it is actually really cool.

A couple of years ago when M.H.S. Press released my K-9 Nation "Baking for My Bestfriend" book, they sent me out to a radio station that I think is at least in the same area.

The place wasn't much bigger than a closet and it was plopped smack dab in the middle of a 10 000 acre plot filled with big radio relay towers and corn fields.

The moment was surreal.

I have been invited there to be interviewed by Susan Berkson.

If you live in the Twin Cities, you may know her as the quarterback of the Minneapolis Farmers Market.

Susan is high energy and like me, I think she must have terrier blood running through her veins, because this woman is ALWAYS into something new and interesting.

I am really looking forward to our date.

After that is over, I will drive back to Capitol City where Mike Finley and I will be launching a poetry book that we worked together on.

One can never be too certain, but my spies that contain the highest level of street cred have said this is going to be a FLAT OUT BASH!

Certainly to be the event of the season.

Then when the reading is over.........

Our V.I.P. friends will join us across the street at Costello's where beer and blood will be flowing with certainty.

If you will be in town, feel free to stop by and hand with me and the pretty people.

If you are a friend from a different part of the country, or from another country........

I am accepting whatever prayers and Karma you have to assure that my friends have a good time.

Alright kiddo's, I'll see you in 48 hours -

Weekend Arts Roundup: ice instruments and local poetry

by Euan Kerr
, Luke Taylor

Norwegian musician Terje Isungset displays some of his ice instruments.
Norwegian musician Terje Isungset displays some of his ice instruments. (Emile Holba)
  1. Feb 21, 2013 Euan Kerr provides the Weekend Arts Roundup
With Marianne Combs on vacation this week, MPR News Arts Reporter Euan Kerr joins The Current's Steve Seel and Jill Riley to talk about two performances taking shape this weekend:
Terje Isungset: If you're out near Twin Cities lakes this weekend, you may spot Terje Isungset cutting out pieces of ice. Isungset is a Norwegian musician who uses ice to make his instruments, including marimba, harp and trumpet. He'll perform using these instruments at the Cedar Cultural Center on Monday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m.
Mike Finley and Danny Klecko: Local poets Mike Finley and Danny Klecko celebrate the release of their chapbook, Out on a Lark, with a reading on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 4 p.m., at SubText Books in St. Paul. After describing the work and backgrounds of each poet (including Klecko's impressive tattoo collection), Euan reads Finley's poem, "The Grate on Carroll Avenue."
Plus, listen for a recap of last night's "Cube Critics Take Trivia Mafia" Oscar-themed trivia night.
Marianne Combs joins The Current's Morning Show for the Weekend Arts Roundup every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Read about all the latest arts news at the State of the Arts blog at

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sausage or Kielbasa

Have you ever had somebody ask you a words definition, and you kinda had a vibe what the word meant, and you probably even knew how to use this word in a sentence.....
But when the spotlight shined in your face, and Webster asked you once again to give this words definition, your mind just turned to slush.

That's exactly how I feel when I try to get all connoisseur like with sausages.

As a Polish - American, I grew up eating Polish sausage all the time.

Because I was a Pollack, it didn't matter what kind of sausage you put on our plate.....

If you tossed me a Ukrainian Sausage.....I'd eat it, lick my chops and simply thank you for the Polish.

But truth be told, that Ukrainian delicacy would actually be a Kielbasa.

So whats the difference between the two?

Kielbasa is a Polish product that has been produced for centuries.

It is also often misunderstood.

Kielbasa is the Polish name for “a sausage”.

A general term if you will........

When you go to Poland and walk in a store, you can't simply say......

"Give me a Kielbasa."

That would be like walking into an AM/PM and asking for a pop.

Dude behind the counter might give you anything from a Diet Coke to a Mountain Dew.

Kielbasa is a generic term.

The most popular Polish sausage is Polish Smoked Sausage, also known as Polska Kielbasa Wędzona,

This is what the first immigrants might have brought with them to America. The little problem we face here is that you can find Polish Sausage in almost every supermarket in the USA and no two are made the same way. The Polish Smoked Sausage has been well defined for centuries and almost everybody in Poland knows what goes inside.

We do not intend to become judges in this matter. Instead, we are going to rely on Polish Government Standards for Polish Smoked Sausage as those rules have remained unchanged for the last 60 years. This way if any reader does not agree with our recipes he is welcome to contact the Polish Meat Industry in Warsaw, which still publishes the latest standards for meat products and sausages through the Polish Bureau of Standards (Polski Komitet Normalizacyjny).

Before we anger many people who have been making Polish Smoked Sausage in their own way for many years, let’s clarify something further. If you add an ingredient that you or your children like into your sausage it is fine and you have the full right to say that you have made a better sausage than the famous Polish Smoked Sausage. You may say that your grandfather who came from Poland made the best Polish sausage in the world and we honor that. Maybe he used chicken stock instead of water or maybe he added something else.

What we are trying to say is that he was making his own version of the known classic or some other Polish sausage and it could have tasted better for you and your family. We do not dispute that fact. You can of course add anything you like to your sausage, but it will no longer be the original Polish Smoked Sausage (Polska Kielbasa Wędzona) or another sausage. Once you start changing ingredients you create your own recipe and you may as well come up with your own name. Let’s unravel some of the mystery:
  1. For centuries Polish Smoked Sausage was made entirely of pork. Then in 1964 the Polish Government introduced a second version of the sausage that was made of 80% pork and 20% beef. All other ingredients: salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, and marjoram remain the same in both recipes. The marjoram is optional but the garlic is a must.
  2. The meat is cured before it is mixed with spices.
  3. The sausage is stuffed into a large hog casing: 36 - 38 mm.
  4. The traditional way was to cold smoke it for 1 to 1.5 days (it had to last for long time).
  5. In most cases it is hot smoked today.
For curiosity sake let’s see how large American manufacturers make Polish Smoked Sausage. Four sausages called Polish Kielbasa were bought at the American supermarket and each of them were produced by a large and well known meat plant. Let’s see how they compare with the original Polish recipe.
Name Meat used Ingredients
Authentic Polish Smoked Sausage, Natural hardwood Smoked Pork salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, marjoram, sodium nitrite
Polish Sausage, Natural Hardwood Smoked Pork, beef, turkey salt, water, corn syrup, 2% or less dextrose, flavorings, ground yellow mustard, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed whey protein, monosodium glutamate, potassium and sodium lactate, sodium diacetate, sodium nitrite, starch, (modified food, potato starch), Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid, Contains: milk
Polish Sausage, Natural Smoke Flavoring Added pork, turkey, beef (2% or less) salt, turkey broth, water, corn syrup, starch (potato, modified starch), dextrose, hydrolyzed milk protein, smoke flavoring, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), autolyzed yeast, gelatin, sodium phosphate, sodium diacetate, sodium nitrite, potassium lactate, potassium chloride, granulated garlic, oleoresin of paprika, flavorings, ingredients not found in or in excess of amount permitted in regular smoked sausage, Contains: milk
Polish Sausage, Naturally Hickory Smoked Pork, beef salt, water, dextrose, natural spices, garlic powder, paprika, monosodium glutamate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite
Polska Kielbasa Fully Cooked Beef salt, water, corn syrup, 2% or less of: natural spices, natural flavors, dextrose, monosodium glutamate, isolated soy protein, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), sodium phosphates, sodium nitrite, Contains: soy

Looking at the above sausage recipes we tried to come up with a name of an equivalent Polish sausage that might fit the description but we couldn’t. It becomes quite clear that different manufacturers put different ingredients inside of the casing and the name Polish Kielbasa is used just for credibility and to gain the trust of the consumer. It seems that for some manufacturers any sausage that is smoked and stuffed into a 36 mm casing will qualify to be called the Polish Smoked Sausage or Polish Kielbasa.

Listed below is the recipe for a Ukrainian sausage..................

Ukrainian Sausage

Ukrainian sausage is a heavily smoked sausage that is cooked in water.
Meats Metric US
beef 700 g 1.54 lb.
pork jowls, hard fat trimmings, bacon 300 g 0.66 lb.

Ingredients per 1000g (1 kg) of meat

salt 18 g 3 tsp.
Cure #1 2.5 g ½ tsp.
pepper 2.0 g 1 tsp.
paprika 2.0 g 1 tsp.
allspice 2.0 g 1 tsp.
marjoram 2.0 g 1½ tsp.
garlic 3.5 g 1 clove
cold water 150 ml ⅝ cup

The last thing I want to do is declare myself as an authoritarian on this topic.

I'm actually far from it.

I've taken much of this info from the internet just to give you guys a few examples......

Years ago when I was in  Gelendzhik and the Sochi district down by the Black Sea in southwestern Russia,

Ukrainian sausage was their sausage of choice.

The biggest difference is that this Russian version had a heavier pepper content and more of a burn on the back of the palate from the paprika.

But the burn was slow, it just kinda creeps into your mouth.

With all that said, I'm gonna make a confession, and I am sure JP2 and the Saint's of Warsaw will throw lightening bolts at me.....

But when I go into my favorite sausage shop, sometimes I do get the Polish, and sometimes I get the Ukrainian........

But everytime-everytime-everytime I walk up to that sausage case......

The first thing I say is......

"Give the Pollack a pound of Andouille."

Andouille is French in origin, and you know how I hate to give the Frogs any credit, but I swear to Polish Jesus.......

They created the greatest item I have ever tasted.

The Anddouille is so versatile.

You can toss it on a brat bun -

Throw it in chili -

Toss it in soup..............................

It's pretty much like a super model in a little black dress.......

It goes well with anything.

The Andouille is

and Seasonings.

All right.....I've said enough for a night.

I realize that sausage has little to do with baking, but it is God's favorite food.

I'm Danny Klecko, and I'll be here all week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why Less Cost's More ( Juniper / Wild Boar Soup Recipe )

Klecko......where have you been??????

He's Back............

What's Up L.A.B. Rats?

Hope all has been well on your side of the fence.

As for me, I was just doing my best to duck low and stay out of the Dragon's path and keep myself afloat until the year of the Snake kicked in.

The Dragon sure had a few choice parting gifts..........

But Klecko's still standing, so all you fire breathing, scale covered, treasure hoarding freaks can kiss my a**.

LOL, with that said......let me tell you a story.

Last Saturday I had to cover the desk at work.

Typically our shop doesn't run production on Saturday's, there are numerous reasons, but that isn't today's focus.

However, even though the plant isn't producing, it is paramount that at least one problem solver works the desk each Saturday.

When that person enters the plant, the first thing they do is check the temps on the walk in cooler and freezers. If one of the motors or compressor breaks down and you down realize this until Sunday.....thousands of dollars of inventory will perish.

After this task is complete, it's into the business office where you need to check the phone messages.

If a chef forgot to place an order, or our office staff or route driver made an error......somebody needs to start pulling rabbits out of hats.

That's me.


So this day (last Saturday) was slow....uneventful.

Life on Saturday's is easier when it's boring so now I moved down the list and saw that I had "Baby Hot Dog Buns" that had been prototyped for a newer account of ours.

These people run a Sausage House / Micro Brew and they decided to start offering a special Sausage Flight, where they paired exotic sausages with interesting beers.

As you know, when you do flights it's about options right?

So these cats wanted a 3 inch dog bun for their meat samples.

Now the standard  American dog bun ranges between 5-6 inches in length, so for all practical purposes....we just had to make them 1/2 the size.

Well my little Mermaids........this is not as simple as it might seem at first.

When you work in a wholesale plant, everything is measured, everything is regulated.

Bread lines are created to meet the needs of not just a restaurant, or even a city......but an entire society.

When a baker creates a product, they do so trying to kill 1000 birds with one stone.

When my staff gets into hotdog mode, they prepare for hot dogs, poppy dogs, New England Coney's and
Egg & Cheese Dogs.

We can make a wide range of flavors, but each one of these pieces will be scaled off at the same weight.

Machines are set up for that.

Each one of these pieces are same length.

Specialty pans are set up for that.

So when you talk about making a product 1/2 the size. often times the consumer (and in some instances my accounts) the natural reaction is for them to think that since the ingredient cost is nearly 50% less, that their invoice should announce a total with saving at a similar percentage.

However, ingredient cost is just the beginning, what people don't see is the labor cost that is involved.

Those baby dogs have to be hand scaled, run through molders at new settings and then placed on pans of an appropriate size.

The forms impression are simply too long and as the bun proofs....the dog stretches longer.

So now the baker has to take a proofed piece a bun dough and softly squeeze together like an accordion player who is serenading with girlfriend in a room filled with sleeping children.

It is a lot of Mickey Mouse.

Am I complaining.........


Not in the least. This is what I do for a living, is helpful when consumers place demands on production.......sometimes less can actually accelerate cost for the producer.

In this instance, the account that asked for this specialty piece said they only needed around 250 baby dogs a week.

So how do you price something like that????

Well when the client purchases in high volume, pays their accounts in a timely fashion....I've always found that the best strategy is to discuss with them what I have just told you.

Then you follow that up by saying you value their business, and you don't want to lose it over the price of 250 baby dogs.

Then finally, you just crack a smile and say something like.....................

"I'm happy to have been able to have done this, if I charge you what I think is'll probably slug me, so just come up with a number that "you" think is fair.....and we'll call it a deal."

Every time I have taken this approach, the account has kicked in more than their fair share.

People who are successful usually are because they are clever. Clever people know that it is just smart to take care of their purveyors, it 's also good business.

So now I walk out of the sausage house and next door is an Eastern European deli run by Pollacks and Ukrainian's.

I love the joint. I often times will leave Capitol City and cross the ocean just to stock up on my sausages that I use at home.

Every time I go, I get my standards, but often times a good butcher shop will offer monthly or annual specials. If you like to cook, especially soup-stews or chili.......a butcher shop is like a passport. It can take you anywhere.

A good butcher shop will offer you products that will stand your standard recipes on their ear. usual, I digress.

Bottom line is I walked by the monthly special case, and there it was..............


I knew I had to get a pound.

I knew I was going to use this for soup, but I didn't want to rush greatness.

So after getting off off work, I spent a couple hours praying over what flavors I should introduce into this masterpiece.

Let me start off by listing the ingredients I selected...............................


Here's the Klecko method ....................................................

I broiled 2 - 10 inch wild boar sausages (maybe 1/2 to 3/4 pound) at the same time as 3 skinned-boned chicken breast.

While this was taking place, I put a pot of water on. when it hit it's boiling point....I dumped in a pound of potato gnocchi. After 3-4 minutes, the little dumpling like pieces start floating right?

That's when you put a big pot in your sink a place a strainer over it. Dump the potato gnocchi into the strainer, but reserve the water and now add 4-5-6 little baby red potato's back into the water. I cut mine into little-little-tiny pieces.

I don't want them to compete in size and texture with the potato gnocchi. I simple wanted that "extra" potato to balance off some of the other ingredients (i.e. I.P.A. - Juniper - Ham Base) which would come across as rich and sweet.

So now the potatoes are boiling so I switch my attention to the empty soup pot. I add a little butter on the bottom and then toss in diced carrots, onion and mushroom.

I take whatever time it takes to saute them thoroughly

By the time this is done, the potatoes will have been boiled tender. So now I dump the potatoes and water into the soup pot with the veggies. The amount of reserved potato water will be close to 2 bottles of beer.

Usually I will add more water later, but we'll get to that.

Next I added my ham base. On this day, I didn't have enough time to make an authentic stock, or secure a ham bone, so I just used a bouillon version. 

Ham stock gets overlooked all to often in soup.

I like it because it switches gear.

Beef-chicken and sometimes even vegetable versions come across saltier.

So I blend in the ham stock, and then I followed that by dumping in a 12 ounce bottle of I.P.A.

Eventually I would add 24 more ounces of water, so are ratio rests between 4 to 1 or 5 to 1 of water VS beer.

It is easy to overkill with booze in soups.

The more I cook, and the more expert soup makers I talk to, the more I subscribe to the wisdom.

Alcohol is an ancillary ingredient in soup.

The person eating it shouldn't be certain it's there.

But if it wasn't, you'd sure notice the difference.

Next I cube my meats and then I towel them off with paper.

Some have suggested that this is wrong because the grease enhances the flavor......

Fine, do it your way, but I also want to taste other flavors.

Grease is great, but it will overuse it's authority in a soup pot and bully the other ingredients in a hurry.

Finally I chop up my fresh dill very-very fine, about a handful and then I toss that in and the unless I've forgotten are set!

Boil this delight for 10 minutes and them simmer for 30.

In closing, I'd like to say it's good to be back in the fold, and my friends in Russia.......what's up with that asteroid thing smashing into the Motherland?

That's some messed up biz, and I am sorry for your suffering. That had to be really frightening.

Do your best to recover.

And the rest of you guys.......hit the butcher shop, create a work of art, and then send it to me.....

The Last American Baker.