A bit of Chinese flair…

I know that there are  a lot of ways to go about reverse engineering a recipe and one of my favorite ways is to take a bit of something and gently deconstruct the different flavors while the food is in my mouth.  The only recipe I have still yet to  reverse engineer is the Vietnamese Pho from Pho Van in the Strip District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (If you are ever in Pittsburgh it is well worth the trip.  Your mouth and tummy will thank you.). Their flavors were sublime and extraordinarily complex.   However, I digress, and I need to get back to today’s recipe.

There I was having some Chinese takeout from a very respectable place down here in South Carolina and I was trying to do the flavor deconstruction thing with the Cashew Chicken that I was eating. The flavors that I was experiencing were good. They had great fresh ingredients and the sauce was very good but I could not help but see how it resembled barbecue sauce. The flavors I was experiencing had all the major players for cashew chicken, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, a hint of lemon grass, some garlic and hoisin sauce (I believe) but I kept thinking that I could do the sauce more simply. I wanted to have this recipe so that you would be able to do it on a week-night without any trouble.  As anyone who reads this Blog knows, I am a person that violates my mother’s rule of “Don’t play with your food” and I did. I was able to substitute a commercially available (albeit high quality) sauce to get the same flavors I was experiencing in the restaurant sauce. One day maybe I will try my hand at making my own sauce for cashew chicken but for now, the recipe below is my twist. It turned out great!  I hope you try it and let me know how yours turned out.

My Way – Cashew Chicken

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist
Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients –

1 lb – Chicken tenderloins, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 – Zucchini, medium size, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 – Red bell pepper, heavy diced (should be about 4 ounces)
1/2 – Green bell pepper heavy diced (should be about 4 ounces)
1/2 – Large sweet onion, heavy diced (should be about 4 ounces)
6 oz – Carrots, sliced (not too thick because they will be too crispy, not too thin because they will disappear in the cooking process)
2 – Broccoli crowns, cut into bite size pieces
4 oz – Mushrooms, sliced
4 to 6 oz – Cashews, lightly salted
1 tsp – Coarse ground, sea salt
1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp – Ground ginger
10 0z – Sweet Baby Ray’s Hawaiian Barbecue Sauce (so I cheated a bit on the sauce)
3 to 4 tbsp. – Canola oil or peanut oil (A couple of good turns around the each of the pans will do great)

Construction Instruction (Chicken) –

In a large skillet, do a couple of good turns around the bottom of the pan with the canola (or peanut oil) and bring up to heat. When the oil is at temperature, put in the cubed chicken and cook like you would in a stir-fry. While the meat is cooking, season with salt, pepper and ginger remembering not to over season. When the meat is done remove it to a separate bowl to wait on the vegetables.

Construction Instruction (Vegetables) –

In a larger skillet (this will have to hold all of the ingredients at the end), do a couple of good turns around the bottom of the pan with the canola (or peanut oil) and bring up to heat. When the oil is at temperature, put in the onions, peppers, carrots, cashews, and begin to cook like you would in a stir-fry. Season the vegetables lightly with salt pepper and ginger. Note: I always do my vegetables going from hard to soft. As these vegetables begin to soften a bit, add in the zucchini, broccoli and finally the mushrooms. The idea for the vegetables is to not allow them get too soft, as you will want them to retain a bit of their crunchy texture.
Construction Instruction (The Finale)

Take your chicken and add this to the vegetable mixture and combine thoroughly. To this mixture, add the Sweet Baby Ray’s Hawaiian barbecue sauce and make sure that all the elements have been coated well. Over low heat, bring the mixture up to serving temperature.

I served this over rice.


The Well Fed Cyclist


A nifty turkey chili twist…

So, here I am once again cooking and it makes me happy. I wanted to continue to post because creatively it helps me and gives me an outlet.  I wanted to continue to do healthy recipes and this recipe falls in that category. Please forgive me if I do not post often but I do need some time to create and then put these recipes into electronic format.  You would think that in this age of technology I would find something other than my hand written food notebook to facilitate getting the recipes ready to post but that has not happened yet.  Maybe somewhere in the universe there is something that I could do a sort of “Vulcan Mind Meld” with my computer without attaching it to my brain but we will just have to wait and see.

For the most part, I have always considered turkey chili to be a bit on the dry side and that is because of the meat. The challenge became how to infuse a bit more flavor without a ton of fat and I was able to combine just one Italian sausage with some chicken stock to attain this goal. The sausage provided just enough of the rendered fat that I needed to help the turkey along to its maximum potential and the chicken stock is a trick I use for one of my spaghetti sauce recipes to bring out the best in the vegetables. I hope you like this version of chili. It is a bit lighter and still very tasty chili.

One Sweet Turkey Chili

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist
Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients –

1 lb – Ground turkey (I used the ground turkey breast)
1 – Sweet Italian sausage (I bought a 5 pack and froze the other 4)
15 oz can – White Cannelli (Navy) beans, drained and rinsed
28 oz can – Diced tomatoes
2 cups – Chicken broth
1 – Medium jalapeno pepper, cored and fine diced
1/2 – Red bell pepper, diced
1/2 – Green bell pepper diced
1/2 – Large sweet onion, diced
1/4 cup – Chopped cilantro
2 cloves – Garlic, fine chopped
1 tsp – Coarse ground, sea salt
1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp – Chili powder
1 tsp – Cholula Mexican hot sauce (or a hot sauce of your choice but I find this one has a lot of good flavor)
1 1/2 tsp – Dried Mexican oregano
1/3 tsp – Ground Cumin
1/3 tsp – Smoked paprika
2 – Bay leaves
1 ½ tbsp. – Extra Virgin olive oil (Or, a couple of good turns around the pan will do great)

Construction Instruction –

In a large, heavy 4 to 6 quart pot (I used a ceramic coated cast iron) drizzle the olive oil in the bottom of the pan and bring up to heat remembering that olive oil has a fairly low smoke point. When the oil is at temperature, take the skin off of the sausage and brown the meat rendering the fat. To the sausage, add the ground turkey and brown that as well. When the meat is done either remove it to a separate bowl and set aside or push to the sides of the pot leaving the bottom center of the pot open. Into the opening, put the garlic and stir that around for a couple of minutes until it becomes soft, then add in the onions, peppers and sauté those until they a bit soft. Once the vegetables are done mix them in with the ground meat (if you moved your meat to the side add it back in at this time), lower the heat and add the chicken stock. The mixture will look like a shallow sort of soup. Bring this mixture up to a simmer (little bubbles not rolling boil) for about 10 to 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft. After this you will add in the tomatoes, beans and stir this around until everything is well mixed together. After everything is getting along nicely, add your soft ingredients; salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, smoked paprika, hot sauce and, yes, the bay leaves. Let this mixture simmer for another 25 to 30 minutes so that all the flavors marry together well and the sauce reduces a bit.

I served this with freshly baked corn bread or you can do some blue corn tortillas.

The Well Fed Cyclist

It has been a while…

While I was pondering whether or not to begin posting again, a funny thing happened when I got to work, I lost my job. At almost 62, losing yet another job to being laid-off, downsized, right-sized or whatever you want to call it, is frustrating and one begins to question, what in the world went wrong?  Good thing for me, situations like this help me concentrate my creative juices and find ways to express myself and at this moment it is by cooking.  I have some new recipes and ideas that I have developed which I will be  putting out here in the next few days.   I hope I can sustain the activity and continue to create without having to lose another job in the mean time.


A small amount of time has passed since Anthony Bourdain’s death but I am still trying to process the reason why it has affected me so much.  Perhaps it is because, I had come to know a part of him through his writing, cooking or documentaries and wanted to know more and now that chance is gone.  Or maybe, part of me identifies with some of his struggles, which were at least hinted at during his programs.  There was always that pain you could  glimpse as you looked at his eyes, disconcerting but genuine, making you wonder what was going on or what had happened. His death might also bother me because he was almost exactly one year older than I am but I still believe there is something deeper that I have not quite figured out yet.

I would like to say that my attitude towards cooking was based on what I saw  and read but knowing that I will never be as talented or adventurous these words ring hollow.  Cooking for me is a pastime for him it was his soul. I am sad as many people are and we must process the tragic and move on but I know a brilliant light has been lost. To me he was a person who dealt in reality, sifted out the bullshit, and looked for the commonality in the one thing that everybody on this planet must do, eat.  I thank him for the insights into other countries, cultures, foods and flavors. Anthony, wherever you are, may you rest in peace.

The lost and found…

Every so often a person can find themselves lost without direction or purpose and I can honestly say I am no different. I have started and, ultimately discarded over 20 posts since I last put a recipe out here and there is no other reason than I was just not into it.  Work and frustration had beat me senseless and wore me down to the point of indifference making me feel lost.  So here I am fighting the indifference and trying to get found, again.

I know that everyone needs a reason to be or “raison d’être”.  My reason to be, as I have come to discover, is to have fun writing and figure out ways to use food ingredients to their maximum taste by utilizing all of  their flavor qualities and, not just the obvious ones.  I guess I need this blog to take my mind away from the frustrations.  To that end, I have been quietly stockpiling new recipes so that I will have something to put here and I will get them out shortly, once they make the leap to electronic format from my food notebook. Among these recipes are chicken quesadillas and a pineapple stuffed pork tenderloin. (Yes I am going to go Hawaiian on you)

Since I completed my cabbage quest, I have decided on a new quest and I believe it will be an interesting one.  The quest is to conquer vegetarian cooking in a unique way that will not only cater to those who are vegetarians but those who are not. Obviously I will use only vegetables or vegetable based products but I want to come up with entrees and sides which will not just be, “the same old thing”  because, face it, boiling, and steaming seem to be the main way folks get vegetables done and frankly that is boring.  There are folks out there that destroy vegetables by boiling them into a mush and serving them in a shapeless heap on the plate. (It really should be a crime.) I want to change that and I am fully aware that there are chefs and cooks out there that are way more talented than I am but, I want to see if I can do something new. I am imagining a twist on sweet potato hash, vegetarian chili, nifty lasagna riffs and a whole hearted effort to extract all the flavors I can from various vegetables without breaking the bank.

On a different note, there is an awesome new blog out there that is a must see if you love well written pieces about unique and interesting things about New York City.  The blog is wander woman-nyc (https://wanderwomannyc.com) and is written by the lovely and talented Jess G.  You owe it to yourself to check this out and visit some of the places in New York City she describes in her writing.

Until Next time,


The Well Fed Cyclist

Gary Bechard

I did it!! (The end of a quest)

Well, I now consider myself a conqueror, not in the bloody now I have taken over a country kind of way, but I have completed my quest to stuff every type of cabbage I know. Those of you who may have been following this quest saw my take on Galumpki (green cabbage), Bok Choy, Savoy and a holy host of others. For each iteration, I tried to match the flavor characteristics of the cabbage to the ingredients with which I stuffed them. Red cabbage, in its own right, is kind of sweet so I sought out the flavors that would challenge that sweetness and create a nice mixture of sweet and spicy.  Chorizo sausage was one of the choices that I considered along with hot Italian sausage and Cajun sausage but I have always leaned toward Chorizo.  There is something about the mixture of spices that kind of seduce you like a flamenco dancer when your head is full of good Spanish wine. The only thing I did not like about Chorizo was the fattiness.  However, I figured that I could drain the fat from the meat after cooking before I put it into the stuffing mixture.  Also, there were a couple of alternatives for the rice component of the stuffing mixture, wild rice flavored with lime and cilantro, saffron (yellow rice), regular basmati rice and a flavored box rice.  I believe that each of the choices would have worked but the flavored box rice was the winner. Zatarain’s makes a cilantro and lime flavored rice that fit very well into the recipe, it was easy AND… well that is about it, easy.  The resulting recipe turned out very well and surprised me with its depth of flavor.  It was nice not to have to adjust the different flavor ingredients since the chorizo added most of the nuances.  You might notice that the name of the recipe mirrors what I was watching while I was creating it. It seems that I was not the only conqueror yesterday as Army defeated Navy in a hard fought football game and won the Commander in Chief’s Trophy (the trophy goes to the service academy who beats the other two in football in the same year) for the first time since 1996.  It was a long time in coming for Army just as it was a long time in coming for my being able to complete my quest and stuff every kind of cabbage. Now without further adieu, the recipe.

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Army Wins! Stuffed Cabbage

(Chorizo stuffed Red cabbage)

(Serves 4-6)



9 oz or 0.6 lbs – Chorizo sausage

11 oz or 0.7 lbs – Lean ground beef (I used 92/8)

1 box – Zatarain’s Cilantro Lime rice, (prepared according to package instructions)

1 – Medium head of Red cabbage

1/2 – Poblano pepper, finely chopped (Stuffing mixture), use more or less for the amount of hot spice you want in the mixture

1– Red Bell pepper, small, fine chopped

1/3 – Sweet onion, finely chopped

1 ½ tbsp – Cilantro, chopped

1 – Lime, juiced

Preparation – Before everything else, core the cabbage head by taking a 3 to 4 inch deep cone (the cone should be about the same length as a good paring knife) around the stem and place top down in a medium stock pot, cover with water and boil for about 35-40 minutes. Once the cabbage head is done, take and set in a colander to drain and cool. However, while the cabbage is doing its thing, take the chopped onion, Poblano pepper and red bell pepper and sauté them in a medium pan until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft. When these are done remove them from the pan and place in a bowl for later. Next take the chorizo and the ground beef and place them in the same pan from which you just removed the vegetables and brown fully at medium heat making sure that the chorizo and the ground beef are very well mixed. At the end of the cooking process and before you are getting ready to remove the meat from the pan add the lime juice and the cilantro and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. When this is done strain the fat juice from the meat and place in a bowl for later.

Rice – I used Zatarain’s rice because it is easy and only takes 25 minutes and can be done at the same time as everything else. Cook the rice according to the package directions place in a bowl and set aside.

Stuffing Mixture – Take your meat mixture, rice and vegetables and place into a very large bowl. Now you are ready to fold everything together until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Construction Instruction

Creating the stuffed leaves – First, make your “production line” in a pretty large working area of the kitchen with the colander that contains the cabbage, then the stuffing bowl, a large flat plate on which to stuff and fold the cabbage leaves then your baking dish. In the baking dish (a deep 9” X 13”), or similar dish, (the one that I use is about 2 ½ “ to 3” deep) put about a ¼ inch (about a 1/3 cup) of water in the bottom to keep the leaves moist during the baking process. Working from the outside of the cabbage head, take a leaf and place on the plate with stem side toward you, spoon about a couple of tablespoons worth of the mixture in the center (the amount of mixture will vary with the size of the leaves) then, take the stem side and fold over top of the mixture so that the end is at the edge of the pile of mixture, next, fold each side to the center and finally take the far end and fold toward you. Take the completed packet and place with the smooth side up in the baking dish. Repeat, this process until you have a layer of packets along the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Plating – I plated these 2 to 3 per person and allow each person to put the amount of Salsa or Piquante Sauce that they like on them. You could also serve this with plantain chips as a side.


The Well Fed Cyclist

You must be true to a legend…

I know that most people are going to think that I am nuts but…I am okay with that.  Everyone knows that legends are legends for a reason.  Take Pele, his performances on the soccer field (football for those European folk I know) are the stuff of legend.  The same can be said of Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, and a holy host of other sports stars. There are foods that are also legendary like Jaques Pepin’s Bouef Bourgignon, Julia Childs whole cookbook, or even Anthony Bourdain’s riffs on French cuisine. That is not to say that a person cannot do a wink and a nod to a legend, change some things and make it their own. I know I have done it and for the most part the recipes worked but the completed dishes were no where near on par with the legendary recipe from which I borrowed. There are some dishes that are so iconic that they need to remain as they are, or at least as close as possible. Philly Cheesesteaks are one of the dishes that I feel should always be true to the original. This sandwich has been around since the 1930’s when Pat Olivieri first grilled some beef at his hotdog stand and put it on a sandwich roll.  Geno’s cheesesteak sandwiches came around in 1966 and there has been a rivalry ever since. Geno’s was the first to put Cheese Wiz on the roll before the beef  and the result was, not to put too fine a point on it, legendary. So how did I come to want to pay homage to these legends?  It was when I saw what was out there on Philly Cheesesteaks and the people making them.  They were actually calling them Philly Cheesesteak and I was disheartened. They all looked okay but please, Hawaiian King rolls, hamburger slider buns or using, GASP! Steakums?!!  I wanted to do a Cheesesteak slider that was as close to the original as possible and the result was a change in the type of bun and making sure that the steak was right.  I loved how everything turned out and I hope you try them. Now for the recipe.

Ode to a Legend, (Philly Cheesesteak Sliders)

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist


1.2 lbs – New York Strip Steak, sliced very thin

½ – Sweet onion, sliced very thin

½ – Red bell pepper, sliced very thin

½ – Green bell pepper, sliced very thin

1 tsp – Garlic, minced (you will use half for the meat and half for the vegetables)

1 tsp – Sea salt

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil (a couple of turns around each of the pans)

6 – Chicago rolls

Cheese Wiz

Construction Instruction:

Vegetables – In a nice sauté pan (a ten inch should work), do a couple of turns around the pan with the olive oil and bring the pan to medium heat remembering that olive oil has a pretty low smoke point. First add the garlic to the oil and allow the garlic to soften. Next add the peppers and onions and sauté them until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft.

Meat – In a slightly larger pan than used for the vegetables (one that will fit the vegetables and the meat in a bit), do a couple of turns around the pan with the olive oil and bring to heat. First add the garlic and soften, then add the meat and brown the slices all the way through. Season the meat with the salt and pepper while cooking.

Together – Take the vegetables and add them to the meat pan, complete with the juices, mix together, cover the pan and reduce the heat.

Take the buns and split each the long way like a sub roll (hoagie or grinder depending on which part of the country you are from), take a generous helping of the meat and vegetable mixture place on the rolls and add Cheese Wiz and serve.

These were served with a pasta salad with celery, green pepper, red pepper and carrots finished with lemon tarragon vinaigrette dressing.


The Well Fed Cyclist