Conversation with a Food Blogger: The Domestic Man

In this column, we're interviewing the tastemakers, foodies and chefs that are dominating the web. This week: Russ Crandall from The Domestic Man
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Look out ladies, there’s a new man in town, and he's a whiz in the kitchen. Russ Crandall, paleo blogger and author, has just released his new cookbook Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites without the Junk and it's flying off the shelves. When Russ suffered a stroke at age 24 and underwent open heart surgery at 26 due to an autoimmune disease called Takayasu's Arteritis which causes inflammation of the arteries, he decided to completely transform his diet. After switching to a mostly paleo diet, he found relief from his symptoms and began blogging about his new lifestyle. His blog The Domestic Man is filled with a variety of delicious, healthy recipes, with a focus on historically relevant classics like Beef Bourguigon, Barbecue Ribs and Tuna Casserole. Based out of Pensacola, Florida Russ has been serving in the U.S. Navy as a Russian translator and teacher since 2000. But, if it's gluten-free and paleo recipes you're after, then he is your man...your domestic man.

If you could describe your blog in three words what would they be?
Authentic, adventurous, savory

Why are you so passionate about eating ­paleo?

After suffering a stroke at age 24, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Takayasu’s Arteritis, which was causing a narrowing in my pulmonary arteries. After a risky (and unsuccessful) open-heart surgery to fix my symptoms, I started looking for my own solutions to my health issues; I eventually stumbled upon the emerging Paleo diet in 2010 and changed my approach to diet. Since then, I’ve had remarkable improvement in my symptoms and have weaned off nearly all of my medications. So for me, my passion for clean, Paleo-friendly eating stems from regaining and maintaining my own health, and hoping to help others during their health journey.

What is your favorite meal of the day?

For me, everything centers around dinner. Truthfully, that’s the only meal I cook; I either fast in the morning or eat a light breakfast of fruit and berries, and lunch is leftovers from dinner. This process works for me because then I can focus on preparing one delicious meal a day.

What’s an ingredient that you just can’t live without?

I would have to say salt. I have found that a main component in elevating a dish from “pretty good” to “just right” is finding that perfect balance of saltiness. Using a high-quality sea salt is an added bonus.

This year I plan on eating more?

Fish! We recently moved to Pensacola Florida, so I’m trying to take advantage of the local wild-caught gulf fish. I foresee a lot of grouper, snapper, and redfish recipes in my future!

If you were stranded on a deserted island what two spices would you want to have with you?

I’m going to assume that I would be able to figure out how to convert the seawater into salt, so I’ll scratch that one off the list! I will say cinnamon and ginger. Both can complement flavors in unique ways - sometimes they add sweetness, other times they add an earthy flavor.

Where is your favorite place to shop for ingredients?

I’ve actually found that shopping online has become increasingly convenient, affordable, and efficient. Many farmers and producers are reaching new audiences online that they cannot reach at their local farmer’s market or co-op. So when it comes to sourcing fresh spices and meat, I’ve been turning to online vendors. Plus shipping with a large quantity of scale is very efficient - ordering 25 lbs of meat online that is shipped on the same delivery truck as several tons of other products is much better on the environment than driving to a local farm to purchase it myself.

What is your favorite kitchen gadget?

I’m a huge fan of high-speed blenders; they help to make uniform soups and sauces, and can create the best curry pastes and marinades. While fancy (and expensive) blenders work great, I’ve found that I rely most on my $50 Magic Bullet for smaller quantities.

You’re a popular food blogger with thousands of followers. Is there a food blog that YOU follow?

I tend to follow food blogs that are focused on photography, which I find very inspiring for my own work. VK Rees in particular is a favorite.

Who would you consider a culinary icon?

I’ve always appreciated Thomas Keller’s elegant, approachable take on cuisine; he really understands that simple tastes, when done right, are all we really need.

As a health conscious food blogger, do you still treat yourself to guilty pleasures?

I’ve found ways to recreate so many of our favorite flavors without having to rely on poor food choices. So something like pizza using ideal, gluten-free ingredients; and though it may not be an everyday meal, it is satisfying without any subsequent stomachaches. This ethos was the foundation of my second cookbook, Paleo Takeout!

What is your favorite late-night snack?

On movie nights, our family will sometimes pop our own popcorn in coconut oil or red palm oil, then season it with butter and nutritional yeast.

What are the biggest challenges and greatest rewards of being a food blogger?

In terms of challenges, I have always had a hard time finding inspiration for new content. The Domestic Man has been around for over 5 years now, and I post a new recipe every week, so it’s hard to keep that schedule up in a way that is satisfying to both me and my readers. By far, my greatest reward is getting feedback from someone who reads and enjoys my blog; after all, the whole reason for writing in the first place is to share my story and cooking adventures. It’s awesome to see people using my work as a resource.

What’s one piece of cooking advice you’d like to share with our readers?

My best piece of advice is to not worry too much about the time indicated on a recipe. Because every kitchen is different, it’s best to let your food tell you when it’s ready to be eaten. For example, when cooking vegetables, let color and texture indicate when something is done coking. On the other hand, when cooking a meat, let its internal temperature be your guide - having an instant-read thermometer is key!

Do you have any recipes that stand out for being epic fails?

I would say that because I pride myself in posting recipes that are tasty and easy to make, most of the dishes on my blog are satisfactory to me. But that isn’t to say that I don’t have any epic kitchen failures! Most of them usually get fixed in subsequent experiments or they get dropped altogether.

What’s next in your career?

At this point, having just published my second cookbook, I plan on supporting that book and seeing what opportunities open up because of it. I’ll be touring all summer doing book signings, which I’m very excited about!

Finally, can you share one of your favorite recipes?

I think this recipe for Boerenkool Stamppot (Kale Hash) is an excellent indicator of the dishes you’ll find on my blog - steeped in a traditional cuisine, comforting, and honed over generations. This one in particular is a Dutch dish of potatoes, kale, and sausage, and is a quintessential meal to share with family.

Kale-Hash

Boerenkool Stamppot - Kale Hash (Paleo, Primal, Gluten-free, Whole30-friendly)

Serves: 6
Total Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs white potatoes, washed and partially peeled, cut into 1″ chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb smoked (fully-cooked) mild sausage, like kielbasa
  • 6 tbsp butter, cubed, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale (about 1/3 lb), stems removed and chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or coconut milk), divided
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place the potatoes and bay leaves in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover the potatoes by 1″. Add a bit of salt to the water, then bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are easily pierced by a fork, about 15 minutes.
  2. As the potatoes boil, let’s get the sausages going. I grilled them over indirect heat for 20 minutes (turned off the burners on one side of the grill and put them on the cool side), but you could also pan-fry them over medium heat until crispy. Some folks like to throw them in the water with the potatoes as they boil, and that’s cool too. Either way, cook them up and set them aside once done.
  3. Similarly, as the potatoes boil, you can prep the onion and kale. Add 2 tbsp of the butter to a medium-sized pot and heat over medium heat; add the onion and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring it to a simmer, then add the kale. Saute until the kale is bright green and starting to wilt, about 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Once the potatoes are done, drain them then return them to the stockpot. Add the kale mixture, the remaining 4 tbsp of cubed butter, a pinch of ground cloves, and half of the cream, then mash with a potato masher or a sturdy fork. Add more cream as needed to ensure the potatoes are nice and fluffy, then taste and add salt and pepper until it tastes just perfect.
  5. Finally, slice the sausage into bite-sized pieces and stir into the Stamppot, then serve.

To make this dish Whole30-compliant, use ghee instead of the butter and coconut milk instead of cream.

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Check out Alexis Nilsen's blog Cow Crumbs where she is proving one recipe at a time that gluten-free can be so much more than rice flour and tapioca starch.