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Hot stove cooking: Man food

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What did an 80s ballplayer eat when there was no baseball wife at home?

JOHN TUDOR CARDINALS
Pitcher and cook John Tudor.

Last week, I kicked off a series of posts looking at recipes from Cooking with the Cardinals (I & II), a cookbook published in the mid-80s by “The St. Louis Baseball Cardinal Wives.”

As I mentioned in that post, while many of the recipes came from the wives of the players, a handful came from the players themselves. I’m fascinated by these. You’re a single, major league ballplayer. You finish up a day game at Busch II, change into a white suit, then drive home listening to Eddie Murphy’s Party All the Time. What do you cook yourself for dinner?

John Tudor’s Lobster Bisque Soup

When I was just becoming old enough to understand such things, John Tudor was the best pitcher on the Cardinals, and so in my mind, one of the best pitchers in the world. He ended the 1985 season on a phenomenal run, going 20-1 with 10 complete games. He ended the year with a 1.93 ERA and finished a hard-luck 2nd in the Cy Young voting because Dwight Gooden.

Tudor was very good, if not that dominant, throughout his Cardinal career. It’s not the best stat in the world, but Tudor has the lowest WHIP in Cardinals history. His .253 career BABIP allowed is also damn near the bottom. Classic FIP beater.

But could he cook?

Lobster Bisque Soup

1 can cream of asparagus soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 pint cream
1 or 2 whole lobsters, cooked and cut into small pieces

Blend soups together. Add cream and cooked lobster. Heat and serve.

This immediately struck me as the most ballplayer recipe I could possibly imagine. Cream of mushroom soup and lobster: It’s basically the cheapest ingredient in the grocery store mixed with the most expensive. The canned soups are classic single man food, but then if you’re a professional athlete, why not throw some lobster in too?

I did make two minor substitutions in this. My local grocer did not stock Cream of Asparagus soup, so I used Cream of Broccoli. Instead of true lobster, I used Trader Joe’s langostino tails, because I don’t make John Tudor money.

Holy shit, was this good.

I really expected the canned soups to give the whole thing an over-salted, off-taste. But this was delicious, and my guests likewise rated it probably the best of the recipes we made from the book. Be very careful not to over-heat the cream/soups as the lobster (or langostino) meat will toughen up quickly.

I was pretty skeptic of how this would turn out, but John Tudor grew up on the Massachusetts coast, so it’s not a big surprise he would know better than me.

Beer Muffins

For the most part, I chose recipes which came from players, but the books also contain recipes from other members of the coaching and stadium staffs, front office folks, etc. When I saw a recipe called simply “beer muffins”, I couldn’t resist.

Johnny Lewis played one season for the Cardinals, in 1964 - the first of his 4-year major league career. As a player, he is best known - and I’m quoting almost directly from his Wikipedia page here - for a game-winning 11th inning homer off Jim Maloney of the Reds, who had pitched a no-hitter up until that point.

Lewis coached and managed throughout the Cardinal farm system for several years, and when this cookbook was published seems to have been an assistant hitting coach with the big league Cardinals.

Here is the entire recipe:

Beer Muffins

1 can beer, at room temperature
3 cups packaged baking mix
3 Tbs sugar

Blend all ingredients together. Pour into 24 muffin cups. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until brown, at 350 degrees.

Now, Lewis doesn’t specify what kind of beer, but because we are talking about a recipe from ballplayers in St. Louis in 1985, I assumed he meant this:

I whipped up the batter, and for me, it seemed better suited to 12 muffin cups rather than 24. I ended up baking for just a bit longer than 30 minutes, getting a little browning around the edges, but the muffins still remained pretty light in color even when fully baked.

Now, I realize Jiffy Baking Mix is basically pixie dust that will turn anything into baked goodness, but I was still impressed at how well these turned out. The beer made for some of the airiest muffins I have ever had. The flavor was a bit subtle, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had more character if you substituted, oh, I don’t know, a better beer.

As these cold winter nights hit, you could do a lot worse than curling up with a bowl of John Tudor’s Lobster Bisque and a few Beer Muffins.