HAMILTON — Living in other parts of the country, says Mike Faber, has inspired and broadened a love of cooking he’s had since childhood.
Faber’s wife, Gloria, surprised him by recommending him as a perfect subject for “Our Good Cooks.”
“My husband is excellent at smoking meat on his Texas smoker,” she wrote, explaining that Mike’s job in the paper industry had necessitated transfers to other cities throughout the country.”Whether it is smoking different meat or making fantastic gumbo, our table is always ready to have an exciting meal.”
Faber, now retired, was last interviewed about his cooking for the Hamilton Journal in 1982. At the time, he and his wife had lived in Hamilton all of their lives and his cooking was quite different.
“At that time, it was mostly recipes I’d inherited from my mom but a lot has changed since the ’80s in terms of my cooking,” says Faber. “Since then, we’ve lived in Texas three times and in Montana once, Arizona once, and in-between we’d be back and forth to Ohio.”
Everywhere he went, he picked up regional recipes.
“When I got to Texas, I fell in love with their smoked brisket and ribs — they’ll smoke just about anything down there,” Faber says. “And then I discovered Cajun, and in Arizona we ran into the chillies that have more of a Mexican than a Tex-Mex influence.”
Q. How did you originally become interested in cooking?
A. My mom was always a great cook so I first became interested as a young boy helping her in the kitchen. In my 20s, in order to make ends meet, I worked a second job for about three years in a local cafe, The Homestead. It was fairly well know in Hamilton and specialized in shredded beef, ham and fish sandwiches, soups and other items.
Q. Who taught you to cook?
A. An assortment of people in an assortment of places: My mom, Sammy Long at the Homestead Cafe, Ray Brockman and Jim Johnson on the Champion Chicken Crew, and some other friends in Arizona and Texas.
Q. What early memories do you have associated with food?
A. My mom’s chicken-and-dumplings and going to Isgro’s Italian restaurant for dinner with my parents.
Q. What are you known for when it comes to cooking?
A. Chicken-and-dumplings, ribs, brisket, shredded beef, chili, bean soup, plus some varied ethnic dishes. My recipes over the years have grown, now I have a big paella pan and do a huge paella. It’s a lot of work but man, is it good!
I was a member of the Champion Management Association Cooking Crew for several years, we were most famous for our fried chicken. We would cook 200 pounds or more fried chicken for a single meal, and we would do this two or three times a year.
Q. What are the spices or special ingredients you couldn’t live without?
A. Garlic, onion, cumin, chili, rubs for beef and pork.
Q. What advice would give to someone who is just starting to cook?
A. Start simple and basic, don’t get discouraged if a recipe doesn’t work the way you want it. You will learn from the process. Every chance you get talk to other cooks and find out their special foods and tips.
Q. What are some of your favorite restaurants in our area? In Hamilton?
A. Ryan’s Tavern, Isgro’s, Richard’s Pizza, Bonefish Grill.
Q. What is important about cooking, how does it bring people together?
A. Eating is one thing that all people have in common. You have to eat to live, and you might as well enjoy the process. When people gather for any reason, and good food is served, the conversation exchange over the table is almost always the most enjoyable fellowship of the day. Good food helps the bonding process.
Meet Mike Faber as he smokes meats: see mydaytondailynews.com
SPOTLIGHTING GOOD COOKS THROUGHOUT REGION
In this new weekly food feature, Life reporter Meredith Moss chats with folks throughout Southwest Ohio who have a passion for cooking and are willing to share advice and recipes with cooks everywhere.
If you know a terrific cook — either amateur or professional — please send your suggestion to Meredith Moss at MMoss@coxohio.com Please include a daytime phone number.
Southwest White Chili
“I learned this recipe from a friend in Snowflake, Arizona,” says Mike Faber. ” I was part of cooking team that would cook breakfast for special occasions at a paper mill out there. We would cook breakfast for each shift over a four-day period — in total we would cook breakfast for about 600 people. While chili may seem like a funny food for breakfast, they loved it and it was always a favorite. All the food was cooked on propane cook stoves, and in cast iron cookware.”
*Fry together until the meat is cooked and onion is transparent:
1 pound ground beef
1 pound pork sausage (hot or mild depending on taste)
1 large onion chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
* In a large pot combine the ingredients listed above and:
4 14 ounce cans of chicken broth
1 14.5 ounce can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 4 ounce can of Hatch fire roasted diced green chilies
1/2 chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste.
Bring ingredients to a boil then reduce heat and slow simmer for 2 hours. Serve in bowls topped with sour cream, shredded cheese and broken tortilla chips.
Mike’s Tips for smoking pork ribs
* I use dry rubs only and I smoke at about 200 degrees.
* I typically keep my ribs in the smoke for about 3 hours.
* At the end of that time I make double-strength foil pouches to put the ribs in. I seal up all the sides but one. Before I seal that last side I pour in about a third of a bottle of beer into the pouch. I then place the ribs, in pouches, back into the 200 degree heat for an additional 60 minutes. (Poke a couple of holes in the top of each pouch for steam to vent while cooking.)
* At the end of that time remove, unwrap and enjoy. Before you put any sauce on them try a bite first with no sauce. Many times the meat is just to good to put sauce on. This tip also works well for brisket — you just increase the smoke time and the amount of beer in the pouch to accommodate the increased weight of the meat.