Thursday, May 08, 2008

Recession post vol. two with special guest Al the Retired Army Guy

I first met Al when I was a junior at Ohio University. My buddy Sean and I went to a party at Ohio State hosted by Al and his roommates.

Sean and I headed north on State Route 33. I didn't know the Ohio State guys, so I grilled Sean about them all the way there.
"Al's been my friend for years. You'll love him," said Sean. "He's ROTC. All these guys are ROTC."

"All ROTC? " I said. "Scary. There'll probably be a can of Cruex in the bathroom."

That was more than twenty years ago. Since then, Al's been all over the earth serving in the Army. I won't say anything else about it because I don't want George W. Bush coming over here and clopping me over the head for talking about important military stuff in the crazy blogosphere. Suffice it to say that if our military was involved in it over the last 20 years, Al was probably there. I was sure glad to hear from him late last year and learn he was safe and that his active duty was over.

The cool thing about Al is that he's not only a tough Army guy, he's also a sophisticated chef. And now that his military days are behind him, he's going to culinary school in order to teach others how to be great chefs.

Here is a recession-buster recipe courtesy of Al. I imagine he'll be lurking around the comment section if anyone has questions about this recipe or other stuff.

As for the party all those years ago. I don't remember all the details. I remember a great deal of eating and drinking. I remember thinking Al was swell. And oh yeah, there was a can of Cruex in the bathroom.

Al The Retired Army Guy's Hobo Potatoes


Sheet Pans (One if doing in an oven)

Mandoline (to slice onions; if not, a good chef’s knife will do; if in a recession, use a pocket knife or whatever knife you have on hand)

Heavy-duty aluminum foil

Chef’s knife (or or whatever knife you have) to dice ham

Tongs (in a recession, a fork or even some really good sticks will do to enable to move the packets around; it will be hot picking these things up by hand, trust me)

Instant read thermometer (just to be safe! If in a recession, well, you probably can’t afford one – go by smell, touch, and sight)


3-5 medium-large Yukon Gold or Red Bliss potatoes

1-2 medium red onions

Casino butter, vinaigrette, oil and vinegar, or other liquid (store bought salad dressing is OK, but I don’t recommend it as it is more expensive). Since we’re in a recession, any liquid will do, but it will impact the final product. Beer is an option as is any type of wine, or water. Stock is fine as well, or bouillon cubes diluted in lots of water (I mean lots of water; bouillon cubes themselves are like a salt lick as you probably already know)

3-4 ham slices or diced ham (2-3 ounces or so, more if you like ham. If you can get it pre-diced, that would be good)

Salt (preferably kosher; if you’re in a recession, anything you can salvage from a fast food joint or other emporium will do, though the taste won’t be as good)

Freshly ground pepper (if possible; if not, one use what you can salvage from said fast food place)


Slice potatoes using either mandoline or chef’s knife about ¼” to ½” thick. If you’re in a recession, use a pocket knife. Set aside.

Slice onions ¼” thick using mandoline or chef’s knife (or pocket knife). Set aside.

Dice ham if necessary; if using slices, stack and slice into ¼” square pieces. Conversely, you can buy this at a store already done. If you’re in a recession, along with the government cheese* you can get some pre-diced government ham. (I’ve had it in the military, a scary thing indeed!) This being said, ham is entirely optional (it's included for flavor), or if you can get some canned stuff, you can use that.

Take sheets of aluminum foil (amount of foil will vary based on size of potatoes and other ingredients, but it should be large enough so you can close up foil into a “packet” when filled with ingredients), and place potatoes, vinaigrette/butter/liquid on them (use about 2 Tbsp liquid/vinaigrette/butter per packet). Add ham (sprinkle it on, a heaping spoonful) and onions (a few slices, it’s up to you). Season to taste with salt and pepper, then close packet by crimping foil. Place either on a grill (over medium high heat), an open fire (on coals, but watch so ingredients don’t burn – it will cook much faster this way. You could always put the packets on the rim of the fire, so it won’t cook as fast allowing greater control over the finished product), or in an oven on a sheet pan (at 400 degrees F). Cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes or so (it may take less or more time depending on the cooking medium).

To serve, open packet. Take in smell. Use fork. Eat. Enjoy.

*Government cheese is an option, but that stuff is downright nasty. Better you than me.

Thanks Al. Can't wait to try it. I'm going to go pilfer packets of salt and pepper from Arby's right now. Bet these spuds will go great with a Stroh's or PBR. I've even got some Velveeta and Spam on hand if I need to come up with something in a pinch.


Mone said...

I've never seen goverment cheese, its a joke, rigth?
Or do you get them on foodstamps only?

Velvet Fog said...

Can SPAM be used instead of ham?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Spam can be used, or any other cold cut you like. Pate can be used, as can any other forcemeat.

Al the Retired Army Guy

Erin O'Brien said...

Say "forcemeat" again baby.

And yes, government cheese is very real. You can listen to Alexyss K. Tylor talk about rationing dick out like Government cheese in the projects in this extraordinary YouTube and get an excellent description of government cheese in general.

PDD said...

How much is 1 corn these days?

lindsay said...

I have very clear memories of government cheese.

Also, E O'b, in regards to that date - Cleveland ain't so far.

Fred said...

Al must have been a Boy Scout. Google for
boy scout foil pack
and among the results will be this one:

Anonymous said...

Nope. Never a Boy Scout. I did spend about 8 years in the Infantry though.

Al the Retired Army Guy