by Robin Devereaux-Nelson

When my daughter figured out that Jim and I were dating seriously, she pulled him aside one day and said, "Hey, man, what is she feeding you?"

"What do you mean?" He wanted to know. I’ll tell you he was a bit wary. It's scary for a guy who's dating a woman with grown up kids—they're the same size you are, and if you tick them off they have the potential to do some damage.

My Heidi is a meat and potatoes kind of girl. She has a particular sweet-cute-disdainful look she gets on her face when I tell her I've made Hungarian Ragout or sashimi. Or anything vegetarian, which in her world is "just not right."

She went on to ask Jim if I'd been feeding him grilled octopus or blackened snow peas or anything disgusting like that. "I keep telling her," she said to Jim, "if you want to keep a guy around you have to feed him Man Food." She was genuinely worried about the guy. What a sweet kid.

Let me explain. Man Food is any dish in which the main ingredient is large quantities of meat. Not fish. Not chicken. Real meat-—beef, pork and sometimes venison, especially if the guy has killed it himself with his bare hands. Or whatever he used to bring about the animal's demise. And potatoes. Or maybe cornbread. Don't forget the gravy. And beer. Baked beans. You know, food with some gas production power.

The first thing I ever cooked for Jim was my roasted vegetable dish with homemade bread. Who knew he didn't like vegetables, other than DelMonte green beans from a can? However, because he was a trooper, and because I think he was already a little bit in love and didn't want to hurt my feelings, he tried it. It smelled like lasagna after all, how bad could it be? Turned out it's now one of his favorite dishes. He asks me to make it all the time.

I am a kitchen scientist, as I've said before, and I love taking traditional recipes and giving them a little twist. Today we are twisting up Man Food, and making it a little more interesting. These new recipes have been taste-tested by Real Men and have gotten the thumbs up/giant belch combo, so they are guaranteed tasty.

Incidentally, my mad kitchen scientist schtick must have worked—Jimbo and I got married last February. I'm still cooking weird Man Food, and he is still happily being my foodie guinea pig. Poor guy. This first recipe is one he raves about. It's a favorite on Red Wings night.


2 Manhattan cut steaks
Juice of 1 lime
½ cut chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon cumin plus 1 tablespoon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
½ green and ½ red sweet pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeno or poblano pepper, chopped
1 large can chopped tomatoes
1 small can chili hot beans
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon sugar or honey

The night before making the chili, combine lime juice, cilantro, ½ teaspoon cumin, garlic, and salt and pepper in a plastic zip-style bag. Place the steak in the bag and close. Shake well to coat and allow it to marinate in the refrigerator.

Grill the steak to rare. We grilled ours outdoors over the fire pit to give it a really smoky taste. Allow the steak to cool; then chop it into bite-sized pieces.

In a large pot, pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil and place the pot on medium-high. Add chopped onion, green, red and hot peppers. I like to freeze my hot peppers prior to chopping. This allows you to chop them more easily into small pieces, and keeps your hands pretty safe from burning caused by the pepper's heat. Cook the vegetables until they begin to get soft, then add the steak chunks. Cook until the steak is done through.

Add tomatoes, beans, and spices. Reduce the heat to medium and allow the chili to come up to boiling slowly. Add the sugar (this small amount takes the acidity away from the tomatoes), and the secret ingredient (the chocolate). You will not be able to taste the chocolate in the chili gravy; however, your chili will have a rich, silky flavor. Please be brave and try it!

Allow the chili to simmer for several hours, or place in a crock pot and simmer. Top with sour cream, chives, cilantro, cheddar cheese or any favorite topping. We served our chili with:


3 ears of boiled corn, grill-blackened
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1/3 cup flour

Cut the corn off the ears using a sharp knife and place in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and beat until they are lemony in color. Add the milk, baking powder, salt and pepper and beat well. Stir in the flour.

Heat a skillet that has been greased with olive oil to medium heat. Drop ¼ cup of batter onto the hot skillet and use the back of a spoon to thin the batter on the skillet. Fry until golden, then flip the pancake and fry the opposite side. Brush with melted butter. The recipe makes about 6 corn pancakes.

Another Man Food recipe altered by Dev is my famous Apple Bacon Baked Beans. We make ours up North in the smoker using a cast iron Dutch oven, but you can also make them in your oven, or grill at home.


1 pound lean bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 large or 2 small Gala apples, peeled and cubed
1 large sweet onion, such as Vadalia, peeled and cubed
2 large cans Bush's baked beans, any flavor
½ cup honey or brown sugar
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup

Cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp and drain the fat from the meat. Leave the bacon in the pan and add the apples and onions. Cook until the apples begin to get soft and the onions clear. In a large baking dish, combine the bacon mixture, beans, honey or brown sugar, mustard and ketchup. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or place in crock pot or grill to cook.

I hope you will enjoy nouveau Man Food. Join me next week for a new look at flour, and some gorgeous Chocolate Silk Pastries.

© Robin Devereaux-Nelson, 2010