That Food Guy
Saturday, May 28, 2016
  TC's Grill - Maryville, Tennessee

TC’s Grill
2514 Old Niles Ferry Rd, Maryville, TN 37801
(865) 980-1905
Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed on Sunday
Our good friends, Abbie and Mariano, told us about a new restaurant they discovered. Discovered is the operative word. To find it you either had to be going there on purpose or were helplessly lost. It all has to do with how the local area has grown over the years. From way back when, in the horse and buggy days, at small crossroads businesses would spring up. Perhaps a general or feed store, perhaps a smith or even a grain mill; quite often there was a church as well. It was easier for the local farmers to go a mile or so to the local crossroads rather than spend the day in travel to the big town many more miles away over rough and unimproved roads. With the advents of the motor vehicle and improved highways, farmers can now travel to the main town often bypassing the local crossroad businesses they used to frequent. If you should visit TC’s, look around and ask yourself how you would attract customers, what would you do to draw them to this seemingly remote location (albeit just a few blocks from a Walmart Super Store) surrounded by bucolic acres of working farmland.
 I may be wrong but it appears that pattern has influenced the advent of TC’s Grill. There is a church, a few outbuildings, and what was once a busy gasoline service station. Restauranteurs Shirley and Tom Clark and Jeff Hodge moved to present location in 2012 repurposing the old service station (which accounts for the motif and much of the interior décor). They established a reputation for good wholesome food at reasonable prices. In 2015 they a placed the restaurant up for sale. Steve and Audrey Nelson purchased the Grill in December 2015 with plans to continue TC’s Grill much as it has been only seeking to tweak the menu bit and perhaps add-on to the kitchen to make more workspace. See the link at the bottom of this article for more information on the evolution of TC’s Grill.
Abbie and Mariano ate breakfast there one day. They wanted to tell us about the biscuits; big beautiful freshly baked biscuits! Apparently a lot of people were impressed with TC’s biscuits because they were frequently mentioned in food blog websites. It was only natural that one day Abby and Arturo along with Janis and I went to TC’s for breakfast to see for ourselves what it was all about..
The original renovation from service station to restaurant was well done. But inside of the restaurant seems more like a purpose built restaurant made to resemble the old service station rather than an old service station made into a restaurant. The starkly contrasting black and green tile floors, the shop-green color of the walls, the murals and pictures tell the story of the servicenbays where we were now dining.
Their menu has many selections for breakfast (served 7 AM until 10:30 AM), lunch and dinner. One of their combos, the Fairview, caught my eye. It consists of two eggs, bacon or sausage and served with biscuits and gravy for $4.49. I chose that one; the egg over and sausage. I also like my breakfast potatoes so I ordered a side order of home fries for an additional $2.50. Coffee was an additional $1.35. Our server made sure the coffee cup stayed full.
It is a diner and it was a busy morning. Certainly an acid test of what comes out of the kitchen. My eggs were cooked to order, over medium, although they were a bit rough looking somewhat like Army mess hall eggs cooked on a griddle. I will say they were cooked to order, were not greasy and tasted good. I can’t hold their rough exterior against them. The sausage patties were well cooked, nicely seasons, cooked done but not overcooked to crisp. When I ordered the home fries I took the option of adding onions. The home fries are diced potatoes that are fried to a nice golden brown. The onions were perhaps added a little late as I would have preferred them cooked a bit more. All in all it was a satisfying serving of potatoes with onions. The biscuit gravy was served on its own plate. True to their reputation, the biscuits were big, lite and tender; easily as big as two biscuits elsewhere. It cut easily with a fork. The gravy was just the right thickness, had good flavor and was an excellent pairing with the biscuit. It was a good breakfast, adequate portions to fill a hungry appetite and tasted good. It was good enough that I will be coming back to TC’s Grill to try other things on their menu.
Janis chose the Shirley’s special; two eggs, bacon or sausage, with a short stack of pancakes for $7.00. She chose eggs over and bacon. By the time I got the camera out she was already remaking her plate into an egg and pancakes sandwich. The eggs were cooked order, the bacon crisp and not soggy. The pancakes well cooked and with that the ethereal “golden brown and delicious.” She did enjoy her breakfast very much; all very tasty. Coffee was an additional $1.35.
Abbie and Mariano’s choices for breakfast with similar to ours. When I asked how their food was they replied that it was very good, as good as remembered, and they would be back for more. To return for another meal in the future is perhaps the best accolade you can bestow on the restaurant.
TC Grill is just a few moments automobile drive from downtown Maryville. For a nice place the, serving good food, and a friendly atmosphere, it is not far away from anyone in Maryville or Alcoa.
There menu is posted below.
 For more information about TC's Grill...

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Thursday, May 05, 2016
  Chicken Chow Mein for Breakfast

Chicken Chow Mein for Breakfast

It is true. This blog is about chicken chow mein for breakfast. It’s not just for dinner anymore! Chicken chow mein is for breakfast too. But seriously, it is also about a tip to save time and some money

Back in my Florida days, shopping at the Publix Super Markets, I saw in the meat section small packages of diced ham sold in 8-ounce packages and labeled as “recipe ready” packages. As such they were just the right size to make lunch and served ham salad sandwiches, or to make a wonderful ham and cheese omelet. No need to buy a 10 pound piece ham when you’re only going to use a handful to start.
So, that brings me today. We buy our chicken in the multi-piece pack from the big-box stores and I repackage when we get home into smaller portions. A lot of the times the chicken breast will have rough edges or pieces of the tenderloin still attached. I trim those small pieces of chicken and place them in a separate bag. And presto, I have recipe ready chicken.

Place the diced pieces of the raw meat on a plastic film or parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Cover with a sheet of plastic film and place in the freezer until fully frozen. Remove the cookie sheet and place the frozen meat chunks into a Zip-Lock freezer storage bag for short term storage or into a Vacu-Seal bag for long term storage. Freezing them before bagging keeps them from sticking together; it is easy to grab a cup or handful as you need them. Observe safe food handling procedures.
I used a bit of that recipe ready chicken to make my chow Mein this morning for breakfast. Normally, my preferred breakfast is a serving of hash browns (I like to make my own but I usually make too much so I use the little already cooked prepared hash brown patties), and egg, and usually one strip of the pre-cooked bacon (that saves a lot of frying time) and sometimes they slice of buttered toast with a little dab of jam. As I said it’s my preferred usual but sometimes a little difference is appreciated.

I just happened to have in the refrigerator a bag of bean sprouts and some Chinese Peapod’s. There is a long story about those but that is for another day.
In short order I assembled all the goodies to make my chow Mein. I sliced up some celery, a bit of roasted red pepper, a small onion, some sliced baby carrots, a clove of garlic and went to work. I use my five dollar Walmart wok. The thin steel heats quickly on the ceramic stovetop so the stovetop doesn’t get too hot. I preheated, added a bit of canola oil, watched it smoke, and tossed in my chicken. I stir-fried until the chicken was browned but not quite cooked all the way through. To save a bit of time I directly added the vegetables but held back the bean sprouts and pea pods. I stir-fried the vegetables until the celery was just tender. I then added the sprouts and pea pods along with a few mushrooms that had been cooked the day before, mushrooms that I put on just about everything else. While that was cooking, I made a slurry of a rounded teaspoon of chicken base, a quarter cup of water, and a few drops a sesame oil, and a good sprinkle of soy sauce with a tablespoon of added cornstarch. I seasoned with salt, pepper, and some MSG.

Also while I was cooking, I boiled up a package of Ramen noodles. I added the flavoring packet to the water. When they were cooked through I drained noodles into a colander. When bean sprouts were just tender, I added the slurry and stir-fried until the sauce thickened.  I put the drained noodles on a plate and then ladled on half of the stir-fried mixture (the other half will be breakfast tomorrow). However tomorrow, I will use a bowl instead of a plate because it is easier that way with chopsticks.

I enjoyed those two chow mein breakfasts but I would never have made the batch if I did not have the diced chicken in a convenient, ready to use small portion. I plan on keeping a supply of diced, ready to use small portions of chicken as well as some beef and even make my own diced ham handy-pack for the freezer. I never know when the impulse to experiment in the kitchen will come but I will be ready when the urge strikes.

Just remember, with the possible exception of the ham, the meats, chicken and beef are raw and all precautions need be observed when handling, preparing, freezing and storing the raw meats to prevent contamination and the possibility of causing a food-borne illness.

Using my stash of Recipe-Ready chicken pieces, I had fun cleaning out the refrigerator and was rewarded for my efforts with some delicious meals. Best wishes from Tennessee, home of chicken chow mein for breakfast!

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