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Feed Dad's appetite with a good meal

Scripps Howard News Service

Must credit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By GRETCHEN MCKAY

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Stumped for menu possibilities for Father's Day, June 17?

Consider these recipes from Esquire's "Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need" and "Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers Who Cook for Their Families."

The first book is a witty and beautifully photographed collection of 100-plus recipes from some of the country's best chefs (and Esquire contributors). The other is a memoir-style book with no photos. Recipes are tucked at the end of the food-related essays from 21 "kitchen dads" -- some famous, such as Mark Bittman and Mario Batali, and others less known -- who do most of the cooking for their families.

BREAKFAST-STYLE RED BEANS AND RICE GRITS

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

This breakfast dish is absolutely delicious, but it's definitely not for the last-minute chef or a dad who expects to eat as soon as he gets out of bed. Unless, of course, you make the beans the day before -- then it's just a case of frying eggs and sausage while you make the grits.

Speaking of which, homemade grits are easier than they sound (all you need is a clean coffee grinder) and so very tasty as a dinner side dish when reheated with butter and salt.

1 pound dried red kidney beans, picked over

4 cups chicken stock

1 onion, chopped

3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 pound good-quality smoked ham, diced

1 pound smoked ham hocks

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 dozen turns freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons coarse salt

Rice Grits (see recipe below)

12 poached or loose sunny-side-up eggs

Grilled andouille sausage for serving

Chopped scallion greens for garnish

Put beans and 8 cups water into a small stockpot over high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let soak for 30 minutes.

Drain water from beans and add 8 cups fresh water and stock, along with onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, ham, ham hocks, bay leaf, Creole seasoning, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; cook for 90 minutes. Add salt and crush some of the beans with a potato masher. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove ham hocks, strip off and return any meat to the pot, and keep the beans warm.

At this point, you can remove half the beans, cool and freeze for future use.

Ladle about 1 cup beans into each serving bowl and top with about 1/2 cup rice grits. Top grits with poached or fried eggs and serve with a piece of grilled andouille and some freshly chopped scallions.

Serves 6.

-- "Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need," edited by Ryan D'Agostino (Chronicle, 2011)

RICE GRITS

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

1 cup long-grain white rice

1 teaspoon coarse salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

In a clean coffee grinder or small food processor, grind rice into meal.

Bring 4 cups water to a boil with salt and 1 tablespoon of butter. Slowly whisk the rice meal into boiling water and continue to whisk until mixture begins to thicken and spit at you. Lower heat and continue to stir for about 3 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until thick and creamy, about 15 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Serves 6.

-- "Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need," edited by Ryan D'Agostino (Chronicle, 2011)

FISH TACOS

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

1-1/2 pounds flounder or other mild white fish

1 tablespoon olive oil

Corn tortillas

1 head purple cabbage, chopped (this is the key ingredient)

1/2 cup black beans (canned are fine)

1 tablespoon or more fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup or more salsa (store-bought or a mix of onions, tomatoes and peppers)

Chipotle mayo (that is mayo mixed with the liquid in a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce -- insanely good)

Season fish with salt and pepper and saute in a frying pan with the olive oil until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove fish from heat, set it aside and let it cool slightly. Break it with your fingers into small pieces.

If you buy premade tortillas, heat them in a cast-iron frying pan (no oil required). If you want to make your own, mix masa and water, roll out some golf-ball-sized balls and squash them between sheets of plastic wrap in a tortilla press -- this is fun for kids, and it tastes much better. Add salt to the masa before you roll it. Heat these tortillas a good bit longer than store-bought.

Remove tortillas from heat and assemble tacos using the fish pieces and remaining ingredients.

Serves 4.

-- "Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers Who Cook for Their Families," edited by John Donohue (Algonquin, 2011)

CHICKEN-PARM HERO WITH SAUSAGE

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

I made this in an un-air-conditioned kitchen during a heat wave, so we melted the cheese on the sandwich in a toaster oven. If you have time, you may want to simmer the sauce a bit longer; my son thought it tasted too "fresh."

1 boneless, skinless organic chicken-breast cutlet (about 8 ounces)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Canola or peanut oil for frying

Soft semolina hero roll with sesame seeds, ends trimmed, split

Homemade Tomato Sauce (recipe below)

2 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (buffalo is best)

Dredge chicken breast in flour (knocking off excess), dip in the egg (dripping off excess) and press in the breadcrumbs (the chicken must be thoroughly coated at each step).

In a saute pan over medium to high heat, heat 1/4-inch oil. When a pinch of breading sizzles on contact, fry the breaded cutlet (lowering the heat if necessary) until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side. (Check for doneness by making a tiny cut in the thickest part of the breast.)

Preheat broiler. Place open roll on an aluminum-foil-covered sheet pan and lightly toast under broiler. Remove, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat both bread halves with sauce and arrange a cutlet on bottom half, cutting to fit if necessary. Top with sauce, pecorino and mozzarella. Transfer to oven until cheese is melted, 2 or 3 minutes. Set top in place and serve.

Serves 1.

-- "Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need," edited by Ryan D'Agostino (Chronicle, 2011)

TOMATO SAUCE

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

1/4 cup crumbled loose spicy Italian sausage

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup minced white onion

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 fresh basil leaves, chopped

14.5-ounce can crushed organic tomatoes

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan over low to medium heat, cook sausage. Drain off fat, add garlic, onion, fennel and basil and cook until softened. Add tomatoes and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes about 2 cups.

-- "Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need," edited by Ryan D'Agostino (Chronicle, 2011)

COCA-COLA-BRINED FRIED CHICKEN

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

This might be the best fried chicken our family has ever eaten -- so good, I didn't even think about the calories. Cayenne pepper and garlic powder give the battered crust a hint of spice, while the cola brine adds sweetness.

For the chicken:

12 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on

4 cups Coca-Cola

1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)

2-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

3 tablespoons coarse salt

3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

For batter:

1 large egg

3/4 cup peanut oil

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons coarse salt

4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Peanut oil and lard for frying

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pickle-Garlic Relish (recipe below)

To brine chicken: Rinse chicken, drain and set aside. Combine remaining brining ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until salt dissolves. Put chicken in the brine, cover and marinate, refrigerated, for 4 hours.

To make batter: Whisk the egg well in a stainless-steel bowl and add peanut oil and 2-1/2 cups water. In a separate bowl, combine all remaining batter ingredients, then add the dry mixture to the egg mixture, whisking slowly so the batter doesn't clump.

To fry chicken: Fill a large cast-iron skillet halfway with equal amounts of peanut oil and lard. Slowly bring temperature to 375 degrees (use a deep-fat thermometer).

While oil is heating, remove chicken from brine and place in a colander in the sink. Once chicken has drained, pat dry with paper towels (a critical step) and season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in batter and place it (carefully) in hot oil. Adjust heat, as the chicken will bring the oil temperature down dramatically -- you want it back up to just above 350 degrees. Turn chicken regularly using tongs to prevent burning. After 8 or 9 minutes, remove a piece, prick it to the bone with a fork and mash it. If juices run clear, it's done. Continue cooking if necessary. Drain on brown paper bags or paper towels.

Serve chicken with Pickle-Garlic Relish.

-- "Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need," edited by Ryan D'Agostino (Chronicle, 2011)

PICKLE-GARLIC RELISH

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 cup dill-pickle chips, plus a little pickle juice if desired

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Finely chop and combine all ingredients.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

-- "Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need," edited by Ryan D'Agostino (Chronicle, 2011)

(Contact Gretchen McKay at gmckay(at)post-gazette.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)