Saturday, 9 January 2010

Elvis night at The Underground Restaurant

Prepping the iconic Elvis sandwich
Deep fried in tempura batter, I feel I am on the cutting edge of sandwich technology

Beer batter deep fried dill pickles


7up salad...
Recipe at the end

Allow to freeze (quite useful this snowy weather when you lack space in the fridge)

Aunt Jemima's cornbread mix: NO MESS! You can mix it in the bag provided, just add an egg and half a cup of milk. I tried this out before I did a 'from scratch' version.

The Aunt Jemima Version, slightly metallic after taste and a bit sandy but the important thing was that there was NO MESS!
My version, served with butter whipped with honey. The sandyness seems to disappear after a few hours.

Brokeback Baked Beans

Once they'd cooked down a bit...ketchup is a major ingredient

That Neil Rankin, him of the snooty Michelin star ways, was laughing at me, laughing at my 7up 'salad'...but I showed him!
Neil used to own and run a sandwich shop chain. Highly successful, he got bored and decided to train up in his first love, food. He's done the Tante Claire cookery course and has done 'stages' for several posh restaurants. He's currently working at a Michelin star restaurant in the countryside. For some insane reason best known to himself, he offered to come and help me prep for the Elvis dinner and make a dessert.

At the beginning I always try to do a little talk about the meal. On this occasion it was refreshing to be able announce at the beginning
"Don't expect to like all your food tonight, in fact scrap that, don't expect to like any of your food tonight"
But guests LOVED the teensy deep fried peanut butter, processed cheese and banana sandwiches. I decided to fry them in tempura batter so that they wouldn't soak up as much oil.
As Neil and I were prepping these, I said to him
"and you thought you left the sandwich world..."
Neil looked rueful and, I might venture, a tad despairing.
Guests didn't much like the deep fried battered dill pickles but us kitchen staff did...especially as Neil had the genius idea to fry them in a beer batter...perfect combination.
Other hits: unbelievably one table devoured all their 7up salad and wanted seconds. One of them did faint later, not on the loo mind...
A woman wrote to me saying she was on a low fat diet .. I said
"you are coming to the wrong dinner love"
Brokeback Baked Beans: when a guest remarked upon their sweetness, I said:
"everything is very sweet, in fact I cut back on the sweetness. The Grits and Cheese recipe called for evaporated milk, I didn't put it in! The Candied Yams contained Sprite for instance"
'Grits and Cheese' recipe from Eating the Elvis way cookbook
Uncooked catfish
The catfish looked like baby alligators...something pre-historic. One guest looked askance as it was served...

'is this even edible?'
Hard to obtain in the UK, I finally found 'yellow cat fish' at Wing Yip supermarket. Catfish has quite a poor reputation, being a 'bottom feeder' people think it tastes of mud. I suppose it got it's name because of the whiskers. I roasted them whole, slashing them down the sides and rubbing in the blackened seasoning. When I pulled them out of the oven, I was shocked. The heads were a different colour from the body and solid, like God was doodling one day and said to himself 'I like the design of crabs, but why don't I stick a fish tail on the end instead?'.
Dubiously (on a wing and a prayer) they were served and...yeah people liked 'em.

Neil's fancy pants Michelin starred deconstructed American trilogy pie was hard to reproduce on the Aga. Finally he did a simple pie, and we adorned it with shop-bought vanilla ice cream mixed with peaches and chocolate chip cookies... Elvis' last meal. Unfortunately I can't show it because I didn't see it or taste it due to the fainting incident.
The corn bread (recipe from Shuna fish Lydon) was quite sandy in texture. But I left it for a few hours, warmed it up again later and it became softer. I served the cornbread with buttermilk and butter whipped up with honey, the latter a suggestion by @scottcancook who comes from the Southern US.
Hardly anyone drank their buttermilk which is a bit like yoghurt. I felt I had to serve glasses of milk and buttermilk: Elvis drank at least four glasses a day.
I served two shapes of fries; Elvis liked round fries and regular fries. Everything in this meal was historically and medically researched, no random decisions here people!
Cheese n grits: quite nice actually...I flavoured it with a large tub of Dairylea. (My teen was so thrilled with the shopping I did for this menu, a fridge full of junk food!)
Dying of too much junk food?

Fainting lady was @lisadevaney ...I must confess that although I was concerned, I also couldn't stop laughing...was trying to hide the shaking shoulders whilst trying to prevent her from from falling on the ground...then ruthless newshound that I am...I got out my iPhone and said to her, as she came to...

"Do you mind if I blog and twitpic this?"
Dyed in the wool New Media person that she is ...she said 'no problem' and attempted to style herself more artfully...


Bottle of Bud

Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Fried dill pickles

Glass of Milk or buttermilk

Candied sweet potatoes
Sweet Corn.
Grits with cheese
Fried collard greens.
Blackened catfish (Vegetarian hot dogs for veggies)
Fried fries.
Home-made Baked beans.
7up salad.
Ketchup (classed as a vegetable for these purposes)
Relish (quite healthy)

Cherry, apple and pecan pie with peach and chocolate chip cookie ice cream

Coke and Root Beer £1 a bottle


7up salad

A box of Lime jelly
A box of Lemon jelly
A pack of cottage cheese
A can of pineapple (crush)
3 cups of 7up

Melt the jelly, broken up into pieces, in the hot 7up.
Allow to cool and add the cottage cheese and pineapple
Allow to set.

Brokeback Baked Beans

2 Tins of haricot beans
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
Half cup of molasses
1 cup of cider vinegar
Half a cup of ketchup
2 tablespoons of mustard
A sprinkling of chipotle chili sauce (if you have it, and to taste)
Black Pepper

Fry the onion,
Add the beans
Add the sugar, molasses, vinegar, ketchup, mustard.
Add the chili sauce, pepper and salt to taste.
Halfway through the cooking, take out some of the beans and crush them up then put them back.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour, all purpose
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup sugar, brown or raw
1 teaspoon baking soda, sift
¾ cup buttermilk
1 each egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
preheat oven to 350°
generously butter a 9” cake pan or various pans
mix all dry ingredients in a bowl, whisk to create a well in the center
in a separate bowl mix together the buttermilk and egg
melt butter
pour buttermilk mixture into the well of the dries all at once
mix this with a spatula/wooden spoon until almost completely incorporated
while mixing gently, add melted butter just until batter is uniform
pour into pan: batter should make the pan 1/2 to 3/4 full
bake until skewer or small sharp knife inserted in the middle comes out clean and sides have pulled away from the pan, approximately 30 minutes
when done baking, put pan on cooling rack for 5 minutes. then turn cornbread out of pan and cool completely before slicing
Cornbread will keep, unrefrigerated for about 4 days
Delicious eaten toasted with honey-butter, pan sautéed, with stewed greens, crumbled into soup, and dunked in cold buttermilk...
If you cannot get your hands on Anson Mills cornmeal (I ordered Yellow Coarse), please please find yourself a bulk section that has fresh organic cornmeal. I made this yesterday in a standard bread pan, but it's nice in your blacker than black cast iron skillet, (make sure that it has been sitting in the oven for a spell before the batter goes in, or it's the pan that the sizzling bacon just came out of), or cake pans. Really it depends on the ratio of interior to exterior you desire!

Thanks to Carla of Can be bribed with food for front of house and Neil Rankin of The War on cookbooks for kitchen assistance.


  1. The 7 up thing does SOUND disgusting but assume it tastes better than it sounds?! ;)

  2. erm, you want the truth? It was pretty awful...but @scottcancook says his southern grandma always likes to encase all fresh foods in sweet jello, it's a tradition.

  3. How whimsical. I can see a lot of work went into this.

    7 up crush sounds great - like it needs to be on a stick in the middle of summer from an ice cream van.

    Don't think I could have done the buttermilk either. Too much. How he could have eaten like that every day is a mystery.

    The deep fried pickles would make a great bar snack.

    What's trilogy pie? Feel like I've missed out.

  4. Unfortunately I didn't get to try it...hence no was supposed to be a triple pie, deconstructed...but the triple challenges of doing a trashy menu, working with an Aga, and working at a home restaurant meant that the original idea could not be executed.
    When Lisa fainted, Neil had to leave to get his last train, everything happened at the same time, so I never got to see the final result!

  5. Sounds like an amazing night. I'm disgusted to say I could probably happily have eaten all of that.

  6. Those baked beans look fantastic, I would definitely have a go at making those. I'm a bit scared of the fish though! I reckon the 7up would be very popular in the summer but people just don't fancy it at the moment. Beer battered pickles sound good!

  7. Wow, I guess it is quite fitting that a lady fainted...the food isn't healthy - it killed Elvis so...! I can't believe the lady on the low-fat diet though - what was she thinking?!

    I'm sure this feast would have been my childhood dream...though now, I'd imagine I'd find it rather sickly - how did the guests feel by the end of it?

    It sounds like it was fun though! Wicked idea! xxx

  8. K, there's a review of the evening on the BBC Food Chat board - at least one person definitely liked that 7 up crush!

  9. Twas I who loved the 7-up Salad. The description sounds awful and doesn't do it justice.

  10. hehe thanks Sue, you can come back anytime! Love people with an apetite.
    Here is Sue's marvellous description of the meal on this BBC site:

  11. That Deep Fried Peanut Butter Sandwich is a killer, do you think the calorie level is as high Deep Fried Mars Bar?

    Rumour has it that Elvis used to nail around 6,000 calories per day. Shocking stats!

    Happy Eating!

  12. Mmmm Grits and Cheese... Haven't had those in years. Last time will have been in an ihop outside Macon, Georgia on the way Atlanta to fly home after a ridiculous fling with an American girl... good times and bad! Very brave on the Catfish front, they just do not look like something "people" should be eating!

  13. What a fun and adventurous menu. Kudos to you for making it and to those that ate it!

    Yippers is brilliant for unique ingredients. One of the reasons I miss living in Manchester!

  14. My arteries have clogged just reading this never mind eating any of it, but I absolutely love the authenticity and single-mindedness of the mission to recreate 'la cuisine Elvisienne'!

  15. Haha Hugh: I might nick that 'la cuisine Elvisienne'
    Geoffrey: Is that all ?
    Jozef: more deets on the ridiculous fling please. (You are talking to someone who has had more disastrous dates than hot dinners)
    Miss Bliss: yeah love Wing Yip. Cheaper and better service than 'Western' supermarkets

  16. Love it! the kitsch Americana is so much fun, deep-fried pickled mmmm....yum! have been mandated to reproduce your deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches this weekend ;-)

  17. Scandi: ooh er...will you be doing them with a scandinavian twist...on rye bread perhaps? Or sticking to white plastic loaf as I did?

  18. I really wanted to come to this, but think that probably Elvis Food is inappropriate for defective diabetics :'(
    Might make some consolatory cornbread later.
    And I guess the catfish are ok too :)

  19. What a great job! I love that you've stuck with the theme regardless of how popular or otherwise you expected the food to be!

    Looks really great!

    Is there a mailing list for your suppers?

  20. Lex: That's something I haven't gotten together yet (after almost a year doing this!) but I pioneered the use of where you can check my is at the top of the page!

  21. Have recovered from fainting from Elvis deep fried food. Extreme temperature chang may also have made me pass out--had popped out for a gag, prior to collaspe. Felt like my atteries were freaking out, can't believe Elvis made a regular diet of so many rich foods--no wonder he kicked it.

  22. Jones has left a new comment on your post "Elvis night at The Underground Restaurant":

    I can feel my arteries hardening just reading this! Very entertaining though and sounds like a lot of effort and research went into a great night. It's going to take a while for me to get the 7-up salad out of my head.

    (I pressed the wrong button on my iphone and rejected this comment by mistake)

  23. re your 7up salad, which you say was pretty awful, (looked pretty, though) well, i guess it's like the french aspic, which i think is VILE! your menu was a blast, have never seen anything like it. creative, even if the 7up salad was awful. x
    ps i do like anything from dear old aunt jemima.

  24. Two types of fried fries- love it!
    The 'salad' sounded dubious though....

  25. When I read the menu I was gutted to miss the meal!

    Deep fried Pickles Delish! I Love Catfish! Thanks for the tip on where to source!

    Buttermilk in the US is very different to UK. In US it has the consistency of Double cream, here its like yogurt!

  26. This is simply awesome. I really wish I had been there. The idea of an Elvis night is, quite simply, inspired. I may have to make the peanut butter sandwiches this weekend and I'm not even the hugest fan of peanut butter but then, they are deep fried.

  27. Those deep fried dills look really good.


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