The Ugly Gourmet

the perfect meaal

The term "ugly gourmet has its roots in the term "ugly American.  According to Urban Dictionary, the term is...

Taken from the book of the same name, an Ugly American is an American citizen that visits a foreign country and views everything from an American standard, refusing to acknowledge local culture and standards. Because of this ethnocentric viewpoint, the American is often ignorant to or dismissive of the foreign culture and is perceived as rude.

An ugly gourmet, then, picks and chooses the "gourmet" food he wants, bringing it down to his level.

You know, the real definition of gourmet food is well prepared food, made with fresh ingredients.  A grilled cheese sandwich made with crusty sourdough bread, imported cheddar cheese and fried in real butter can be a gourmet snack.  Two slices of Wonder bread, a slice of Kraft American cheese , fried in Blue Bonnet spread is not.

But, the truly funny thing is that there is but one rule to gourmet cooking, there are actual;l;y several rules to ugly gourmet cooking.

An Ugly Gourmet...

Would look at the illustration accompanying this web page, and think that would make for a good snack. 

Shops at the gourmet food section of his local mega market, and thinks those tiny jars of stuff are high eating.

Sees fusion cuisine as a good thing, but thinks they don't go far enough.  Why not French/Korean/Mexican/Chinese fusion?

Serves his wine in juice glasses or coffee cups-- that is, if he bothers to use glasses at all.

Doesn't bother with the real cheeses in the local mega market.   Instead, he buys such things as  "pasteurized processed smoked Gouda," "port wine cheese." or cheese balls/logs. 

Sees, spreads as the quintessence of high eating.  If it's a highly processed spread sold in small jars, it's good. 

Thinks that anything dipped in batter and fried is gourmet food: hot fogs, dill pickles, snickers bars, you name it.

Thinks that i If you can put it on a cracker, it's gourmet food.

Thinks that anything can be converted into gourmet food by pouring at least a 1/4" layer of Parmesan cheese over it.

Thinks that Lowenbrau and Blue Moon are the best imported beers in the market.

Pronounces Parmesan as "Parmesian."

Thinks that chelado (Budweiser mixed with Clamato) is a great idea.

Thinks that Parmesan and "grated topping" are the same thing.

Cooks chum salmon
.  It's cheaper than that wild caught stuff.  And who says salmon has to be pink?

Thinks that frozen lobsters from Aldi's are a great deal.

Believes that cheaper is always better.  Dried and/or frozen is better than fresh.

Believes that big gallon jug wine is just as good than that Frenchy stuff, and you can reuse the jugs to piss in.

Sees domestic champagne, imported champagne, and Asti as the same thing.

Doesn't just buy those little jars of stuff from the store and leave it at that.  He is also perfectly happy to ruin actual gourmet food by mixing it up, and making bizarre combinations. 

Loves caviar, especially the little 2 ounce jars of caviar that come from any fish other than sturgeon.

Prefers buying the chunked blue cheese over the whole pieces, because the chunks are cheaper.

Really likes that caviar spread found in toothpaste tubes.

Being an ugly gourmet isn't just a way of eating: it's a lifestyle choice. 


Substitutions are what sets ugly gourmets apart when they cook.  The basic rule is this: "______ can be used instead of fresh____, because when it's cooked you can't tell the difference."

a list of ready substitutes:

dried milk and water for fresh milk

Miracle Whip (or generic equivalent) for mayonnaise

canned tomatoes for fresh tomatoes

if you need 4 tsp. of chopped fresh herbs, use 1 tsp dried herbs and 1 TBS water

any red jug wine can be substituted for burgundy

margarine can be substituted for butter

all cheeses are interchangeable: one can be substituted for another in any recipe

Velveeta can be used instead of almost any cheese.

Imitation sour cream is as good as the real thing.  Or use unflavored Greek yogurt.

Onions is onions.  Use whatever you have.  There is no difference between Vidalia, white, yellow, shallots, or green onions.

The Recipes

You know me by now: of course there will be recipes on this page.  It's mandatory. 

Braunschweiger Pate

1 pound braunschweiger
1 stick Blue Bonnet margarine-like substance
1/2 tsp pepper
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 TBS whiskey, rum, vodka, wine, whatever
Put it all in a food processor and whir until smooth.  This is every bit as good as that Frenchy "pate de foie gras," because it's cheaper.

Pate Spread

Mix 1/2 braunschweigher spread with 1/2 cream cheese (any amount, as long as it's a 50/50 ratio).  Chill and spread on crackers.


1 large jar Manzanilla olives
1 small jat capers
1 small can anchovies
2 tsp basil
2 TBS water
1/4 cup any oil
1 1/2 TBS white vinegar

Put it all in a food processor, and whir around until it's all blended.

Cheese Ball

4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
2 tsp horseradish mustard
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (12 oz.)
1 box (8 oz.) softened cream cheese
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chopped peanuts

Soften ingredients in a microwave for a minute or two.  Transfer to food processor.  Whirl until smooth.  Refrigerate until firm.  Roll into a ball shape, and then roll in nuts.  To make it extra fancy, push a red gumdrop in the top.

Gourmet Sandwich

1 slice toasted Italian or French bread
Blue bonnet, spread on bread
Tapenade, spread on bread
Black lumpfish "caviar," spread on bread
Blue cheese crumbles, sprinkled on top
Optional: braunschweiger pate, spread on another piece of toasted French or Italian bread

This is a good, tasty, salty sandwich, well fit for an ugly gourmet. 

Tonnato Spread

2 cans sardines, drained
1/4 cup Miracle Whip or generic equivalent
3/4 tsp parsley flakes
1 TBS water
2 TBS tapenade
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vinegar

Whirl in a food processor until blended.

Garlic Bread

per serving:
1 slice French or Italian bread
Blue Bonnet margarine-like substance spread on bread
garlic powder sprinkled on top, to taste
at least a 1/4" thick layer of Parmesan cheese, or "grated topping"

Broil in your toaster oven until it starts to brown.
This bears no resemblance whatsoever to real garlic bread.

Caviar Spread

1 box (8 oz.) cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp dill
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 oz. jar red or black lumpfish caviar

Soften cream cheese in the microwave for a minute.  Stir in all ingredients except caviar.  When mixed, stir in caviar.  Great with any crackers you can get at Dollar Tree.

Hamburger Mignon

The essence of being an ugly gourmet is substitution.  This is the ultimate substitution: hamburger for steak.

1 pound hamburger
4-6 strips bacon
steak seasoning (recipe below)
steak sauce

Shape hamburger into several filet mignon sized pieces (about 3" X 2").  Wrap each piece with one strip bacon.  Sprinkle streak seasoning on each side.  Bake or broil until browned, turning over at halfway point.  Apply liberal amounts of steak sauce on top.

Steak Seasoning

2 TBS paprika
2 TBS pepper
2 TBS salt
2 TBS garlic powder
2 TBS dill
2 TBS red pepper flakes
2 TBS parsley
2 TBS Italian seasoning

Mix it all together.  Sprinkle it on steaks before cooking.  Substitute whatever you want.  All those spices taste the same anyway.

foood processor

One essential part of ugly gourmet xooking is a food processor.  You can savew lots of time, mooshing stuff into spreads, chopping vegetables, and even kneading bread.  Get one.  Don't even question me.  Just do it.

corndog maker

The greatest cooking tool ever for the ugly gourmet is a corn dog maker.  With one, you can make all sorts of gourmet treats, without all the fuss of frying in oil.

The basic directions have recipes for corn dogs, pizza on a stick, and cheese on a stick.  But ever so many more gourmet foods can be made with this.

Don't bother with sticks.  Corn dogs and so on taste just fine without them.

Don't bother with their corn dog batter recipe.  Instead, use the old tried and true cornbread batter:

Corn Dog Batter

1 cup flour
1 cup corn meal
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
2 TBS vinegar

General Batter

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
2 TBS vinegar

(can be used with any of the below recipes)

For both of the above batters: Mix dry ingredients togther in one bowl.  Mix wet ingredients together in another bowl.  Stir the two together, and you have your batter.

Jalapeno Poppers

Get the canned jalapeno peppers that are in long slices.  Insert 1 slice on the batter, and put a piece of cream cheese cut to fit the corn dog maker well. Pour more batter on top to cover, and bake until brown.

Egg Rolls

Get some kim chee, and some cut up shrimp if you want.  Put the kim chee and the shrinp on the batter, asnd cover with more batter.  Bake until browned.

Sort of Fried Dill Pickles

Cut dill pickle pieces to fit in corn dog maker.  Pour batter in mild, then put a pickle slice on top of that.  Pour more batter on top, and bake until brown.

Filled Donuts

You can add 1/4 cup cocoa to the batter if you wish.  Pour some batter in the molds.  Squeeze a thin line of jelly over the batter, and cover with mor batter.  Bake until brown, and then dust with cinnamon sugar.

Banana Fritters

Pour batter into wells.  Cut bananas to fit in wells.  Cover with more batter, and bake until brown.

Becoming an Ugly Gourmet, St. Louis Style

Saint Louis MO.  Mark Twain visited this place, found out that the locals liked to drink filthy water, and then wisely moved on to safer, more interesting places.  In this town, we have developed our own, uh, interesting way of eating.  There's stuff that is eaten here that is eaten nowhere else in the world.  Most people have better sense than that.  Here is a list of great dishes you will only find in St. Louis: dishes fit for ugly gourmets everywhere.

Saint Paul Sandwich

St. Louisans decided to look beyond uglifying Italian cuisine to do the same thing for Chinese food.  Behold the Saint Paul sandwich, a, uh, delicacy served in select storefront Chinese restaurants with the words "Chop Suey" in their names.  Saint Louisans have this obsession with Saint Paul, for some odd reason.  For instance, cheap blow molded statues of Saint Paul are sold here, because the natives believe that if you bury it in your yard upside down, your house will sell soon after.

This sandwich must be prepared with the cheapest generic white bread you can find.  Colonial or Wonder bread are too good.  Store brand generic white bread, preferably bought at a day-old bread store, is fart closer to the spirit of the sandwich.

6 eggs
2 TBS oil
1/2 lb. ham
1/2 cup bamboo shoots
1/2 cup water chestnuts
1 TBS flour
3 TBS oil
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small onion
1 rib celery
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce

Put bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, onion and celerry in a food processor.  Chop coarsely, in pulses.  Sprinkle mixture with sugar, soy sauce and pepper.  Fry in oil until onion is transparent, about 2 minutes.  Drain, and then sprinkle with flour.

Beat eggs, then stir ham and vegetable mix into eggs.  Pour about 1/2 cup of mixture in pamn with oil.  Fry on one side until slightly browned; flip them, over and fry the other side.  You should have enough for 6 sandwiches.

12 slices white bread
mayonnaise or salad dressing
sliced tomato
sliced dill pickle
6 lettuce leaves.
2 egg fu yung patties.

Assemble the sandwich, in any order you want.  You should get 6 sandwiches out of this.

Toasted Ravioli

A lot of the smaller storefront St. Louis restaurants have a simple philosophy: "How do you like your food fried?"  I know of at at least one restaurant here where they serve fried butter as an appetizer.  In true ugly gourmet fashion, this dish starts with something that has already been cooked and frozen.

3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 (25 ounce) package frozen cheese ravioli, thawed
3 cups vegetable oil for frying
1 TBS grated Parmesan cheese
1 (16 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce

Combine milk and egg in a small bowl. Place breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning in a shallow bowl. Dip ravioli in milk mixture, and coat with breadcrumbs.
In a large saucepan, heat marinara sauce over medium heat until bubbling. Reduce the heat to simmer.
In a large heavy pan, pour oil to depth of 2 inches. Heat oil over medium heat until a small amount of breading sizzles and turns brown. Fry ravioli, a few at a time, 1 minute on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately with hot spaghertti sauce.

Prosperity Sandwich

Supposedly a joke on president Herbert Hoover, who said repeatedly that prosperity was just around the corner.  To a Saint Louisan, grease equals good.  For instance, if a soup has small balls of grease in it, that means there's meat in it.  This is an extra greasy concoction.  Newspaper columnist Elaine Viets claimed that grease in food lubricated your joints.  Grease is every ugly gourmet's friend.

5 TBS butter
two 4 oz. cans muschrooms, drained
1 chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tsp mustard
2 tdp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp pepper
4 slices French bread
8 oz. sliced turkey
8 oz. sliced ham
2 sliced tomatoes

Melt 1 TBS butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until well-browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

Melt remaining 4 TBS butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup cheddar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and pepper; set aside.

Adjust oven rack 5 inches from broiler element, and heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray. Toast bread slices in toaster or arrange on prepared baking sheet and broil until toasted, 1½ minutes per side.

Divide mushroom mixture among toasted bread slices. Arrange 2 ounces turkey, 2 ounces ham and 2 slices tomato over mushrooms on each slice of toast. Spoon ½ cup cheese sauce evenly over each sandwich and sprinkle with remaining 1½ cups cheddar. Broil until cheddar is browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Fried Brain Sandwich

Fried brain sandwiches used to be the standard bar food here, until eating brains was connected with mad cow disease.  You can still find them if you look.  I remember one friends trying one and saying "It's like eating nothing!"  Brains have no flavor, except for the flavor in the breading, and any flavor they get from the frying grease.

1 set of beef or pork brains
1 quart water
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp pepper
oil for deep frying

Take membrane off brains.  Boil until firm.  Dry them and pull into small pieces.  Dip in eggs, and then roll in mix of flour and pepper.Heat oil until a small piece of bread put into it satarts to sizzle.  Fry brains until brown, turning over once.

Serve on bun with pickle and onion and mustard.

Gooey Butter Cake

Supposedly made as the result of a chef mistakenly adding too much butter to a cake recipe: rather than throw it out, the bakery decided to sell it..  Like a lot of St. Louis foods, this came out during the Depression, and back then people would eat anything.  Various attempts have been made to market this across the USA, but the reaction from everywhere else is that it is a "flat gooey mess."

1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 box cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
  4 cups powdered sugar

Grease one 9x13 rectangular cake pan.  Melt butter.  Empty cake mix into a large bowl.  Stir melted butter, along with one egg, into the cake mix.  Press dough into pan. 

In a food processor, mix cream cheese, vanilla, powdered sugar and the remaining two eggs.

Pour evenly over top of the cake mixture in the pan. Use a spatula to spread.  Process it until well mixed.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes until golden brown on top. Allow cake to cool.   Dust the top with powdered sugar, and serve.

Thin Crust Pizza

Native Saint Louisans refer to this as "ketchup on a cracker," which is a fairly accurate description.  This pizza is made from Provel cheese (recipe below), which is also seen only in St. Louis.  It's as if, many years ago, an ugly gourmet decided to redo the concept of a pizza.  "Bread dough crust?  Nope: biscuit crust rolled thin.  Marinara sauce?  No, sweetened tomato sauce.  Mozzarella cheese?  Nope.  Let's mix up three different cheeses, just like Velveeta!"  What you get only appears   here, and thankfully the disease has not spread.

2 cups plus 2 TBS flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. honey
9 TBS (1/2 cup & 1 TBS) water
1 TbS vinegar

Mix ingredients together and press into in greased pizza pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, cool, then put on toppings.

1 can tomatoes, chopped
1 can tomato paste
1 1/2 TBS sugar
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. thyme

Whirl around in a food processor until mixed.

Provel cheese (see recipe below)

Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Soft Stick Pretzels

For years you would see street corner salesmen hawking these pretzels.  Even when fresh, they have the hardness of day old bread.  Flavor?  None.  They're like eating a mouth full of flour.  Now, the best place to get them is where all food goes when it is ready to die: gas stations.  I suspect they are sold in stick form because it's easier than twisting the dough into proper pretzel shapes. 

Be sure to let these sit out for a day before eating them, to get that authentic texture.

3 cups flour
3 TBS sugar
2 TBS oil
1 cup water
1 tsp yeast

Water Bath
4 cups boiling water
1/3 cup baking doda

1 egg
pretzel salt

Whirl the above around in a food processor until it forms a smooth dough.  Spray a bowl with spray grease, put the dough in, and sp[rsay the top.  Allow to sit covered ina  warm place for an hour.  Pull golf ball size pieces of dough, and shape them imntpo sticks.

Prepare the water bath: Put the pretzels, a few at a time, into the bath.  When they float, roll them over and boil for a few seconds more.  Put on wire racks to drain.

Spray cookie sheets with grease, and then put on pretzels.  Brush egg on pretzels.  If you are going to freeze these, do not add salt.  If you are going to eat them fresh, sprinkle coarse salt on top.  Bake at 450 degrees for 12 to 16 minutes.

Pork Steaks

This is not so much a recipe as a way of cutting meat.  Pork steaks are cut from pork shoulder, which is usually rather tough and full of fat.  I suspect that pork steaks started out here during the Depression, and when times got better, people still kept eating them, out of sheer force of habit.  That describes Saint Louisans to a T: once someone does something, other people imitate it, and it sticks with us for generations.

You'll need the help of your local butcher for this one.  Get a pork shoulder roast, and have your butcher cut it into 1/2" slices.  The most common way to cook these is with St. Louis style barbecue (recipe below).

Mayfair Dressing

Saint Louis held the World's Fair in 1904.  And a lot of things came from there: People here talk as if it happened only a couple of years ago.  A lot of foods have been said to have first appeared at that fair, and amazingly, the list gets longer ass the years progress.  Part of that list includes hot dog buns, hamburgers, ice cream cones, banana splits, iced tea, Dr Pepper, cotton candy and peanut butter.  Mayfair salad, named after the Mayfair hotel in St. Louis, also made its first appearance at the fair.  All that's left of the fair has been carted off or buried.  The Mayfair hotel is long gone.  But the dressing remains: a strange combination of things that do not really belong together.

1 onion
1 garlic clove
1 tsp pepper
1 tin anchovy fillets
1/4 cup mustard
1 1 /4 cup mayonnaise.

Whirl around all o the above in a food processor until smooth.

Gerber Sandwich

What is it with Saint Louisians and sandwiches?  It's as if there was some sort of Food Network style contest during the Depression: "OK, you have a half hour to make sandwiches out of this pile of food in the middle of the room: ready, set, GO!"  The name alone invokes a sandwich made of baby food and bread, but that isn't the case.  And Provel cheese (recipe below) makes an appearance as well.

Yes, this is just garlic bread with ham and cheese added.  So what?

1/2 stick of butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
french bread
ham, sliced thin
shredded Provel cheese

Slice french bread in half.  Mix butter & garlic. Spread onto french bread.  Top with ham & cheese.  Sprinkle a touch of paprika.  Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Open Faced Sandwich

The open faced sandwich is a common St. Louis food item.  It started during the 1904 World's Fair or the Depression; take your pick.  It's not so much of a recipe as a way to get rid of leftovers.

Take a slice of white breads.  Top it with leftover roast beef (or chicken or turkey) which has been boiled in gravy.


I can picture how this came about: it's late night during the Depression.  Someone comes into a diner.  He's hungry, and doesn't have much money.  So the waiter suggests a new dish called a slinger.  The waiter goes into the kitchen.  "Hey, throw a bunch of stuff together that you're about to throw out.  Let's see if that cheapskate eats it."  The waiter brings out the steaming concoction, and both he and the cook laugh as they watch the customer dig into it. 

This is a staple of late night dining in St. Louis.  Late night is when people will eat anything, no matter how foul, to ease their guts after a night of drinking.  Always serve this with two slices buttered toast.

1 cup cooked hash browns
1 cooked hamburger patty
2 eggs, cooked any style
2 TBS diced white onions
1 cup cooked chili with beans
1/2 cup grated cheese

Bottom layer: hash browns
Next layer: hamburger patty
Next layer: eggs
Next layer: onions
Next layer: chili
Top layer: cheese

Provel Cheese

A staple of St. Louis dining, Provel cheese is a mix of provolone, cheddar and Swisas cheeses.  It has a low melting point, and at room temperature it is a gooey consistency.   Attempts to sell it nationwide hit a snag, because legally it does not meet the moisture content requirement to be called real cheese.   This makes no sense: one would think that if you mixed cheeses together, the end result would be cheese tro.  Be that as it may, here is the recipe for St. Louis gooiness.

1 cup shredded white cheddar
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
1/2 cup shredded provolone
1 tsp liquid smoke

Microwave until melted; stir.  Refrigerate until firm.  Use in any recipe to add foulness.

Saint Louis Barbecue

"I put my barbecue sauce on after my meat is done.  I don't have no truck with those other fools."  A professional barbecue cook, probably talking about St. Louis barbecue.

Saint Louis barbecue is not so much a recipe, as it is a method.  Any barbecue sauce will do, as long as it's sweet.  The method consists of using a standard charcoal or propane fueled grill.  Either hamburgers or pork steaks are the preferred meat.  Have the grill good and hot, and turn the meat over several times.  Spread barbecue sauce on top during each turn.  Have a beer in one hand.  Have the radio on (preferably to a baseball game) while you're cooking.  Sit back and relax.  These things take time.  The meat is done when you damn well feel like it.