Saturday, December 18, 2021

Soy Marinated Pork Chops


These thin-cut pork chops make for a perfect weeknight dinner. Easy to prepare, fast to cook and delicious to eat. They only need to marinate for 10 to 30 minutes, as the marinade will also serve as a drizzling sauce when you grill the chops. The chops are served with cilantro and jalapeño, making sticky rice the perfect accompaniment.

These pork chops are going to be a hit regardless of which soy sauce you use. Kikkoman is a delicious and very affordable store brand. But if you want to up your flavor palate by the power of 100, I would encourage you to try Yamaroku Shoyu Barrel Aged 4-Year Soy Sauce, "Tsuru Bisho". This is an artisan soy sauce....very dark, mellow and sweet. A 5-ounce bottle will set you back $18.00. While your wallet may grimace, your taste buds will thank you. It's available at

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4, 1/2-inch thick bone-in pork chops
Kosher salt
Cilantro and sliced jalapeños for garnish

  1. Stir first 3 ingredients together in a bowl. Prick pork chops all over with a fork and place in a ziplock bag. Pour in half of the marinade, seal bag and turn to evenly coat chops. Let chops sit on counter in the bag for 10 to 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare grill or grill pan for cooking over medium heat. Remove chops from bag and discard used marinade. Season chops lightly with salt and grill for 2-3 minutes per side, drizzling chops with remaining marinade while they cook.
  3. Top the chops with cilantro and jalapeños before serving.

Wine pairing: Unoaked Chardonnay or Merlot

Monday, December 13, 2021

Anne Serrane's Bone-In Prime Rib Roast


Anne Seranne was born in Ontario in 1913. She moved to the United States in 1936.  She became famous for two things: dogs and food. She was a very serious breeder of Yorkshire terrier show dogs. And she was a serious lover of all things having to do with food. She earned her living as a food consultant and eventually became the editor of Gourmet Magazine.

But she is little remembered these days, for she was a one-hit wonder in the vein of Billy Ray Cyrus and his song "Achy Breaky Heart". But, oh, what a hit she had. She single-handedly created the greatest recipe for medium-rare prime rib. Published in the New York Times in 1966, it was revolutionary. It was beyond simple. And absolutely foolproof.

Her recipe called for blasting the bone-in roast at 500º for a brief period and then turning off the oven...leaving the beef undisturbed for 2 hours. Unbelievably perfect medium-rare, every single time. Plus you can carve the roast the minute you take it out of the oven because it has already been resting for 2 hours.

For the recipe to work, your prime rib roast must be bone-in. You can cook it with the bones intact or do what I do... I have the butcher cut the bones and then tie them back to the roast. That way, I can just make a couple of snips of the butcher's twine and carve the roast up....reserving the ribs for a later snack that only I will get to enjoy.

One, 2 to 4 rib, beef prime rib roast, weighing 4 to 12 pounds
Fresh Ground Pepper

  1. Remove the roast from the refrigerator 4 hours before cooking and let it come up to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  3. Place the roast in an open, shallow roasting pan, fat side up (bone-side down). You don't need a roasting rack as the bones will serve that purpose.  Season generously all over with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the roast in the preheated oven (on the second lowest rack) and roast according to the roasting chart below, timing the minutes exactly  When cooking time is finished, turn off the oven. Do not open the door at any time. Allow the roast to remain in the oven until oven is lukewarm, for two hours. The roast will have a crunchy brown outside and an internal heat suitable for serving as long as 4 hours after removing from the oven. Makes about 2 servings per rib.

A.   2 rib roast (4 to 5 pounds)...32 minutes at 500º, then rest 2 hours, door shut

B.   3 rib roast (8 to 9 pounds)...47 minutes at 500º, then rest 2 hours, door shut

C.   4 rib roast (11 to 12 pounds)...62 minutes at 500º, then rest 2 hours, door shut

{Formula = 15 minutes per rib + 2 minutes} 

Wine Pairing: Barolo

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Beef Short Rib Ragu


When I first started shopping at Costco 22 years ago, I was blown away by the selection of beef cuts they offered. One that really caught my eye was something called a boneless short rib. I had only seen bone-in short ribs before. I mistakenly assumed that boneless short ribs were cut from the rib section and the bones had been removed. Dead wrong I was.

Boneless short ribs are actually cut from the shoulder...from the same area that the chuck roasts come from. This is why they have that big beef flavor and do best when they are cooked low and slow by braising. When I first started buying them at Costco, I believe they were about $2.00 a pound. I just picked some up last Thursday and thanks to pandemic inflation, they were $15.99 a pound. Pre-pandemic, that's what I was paying at Costco for USDA Prime Rib Eye Steaks.

This Cook's Illustrated recipe takes the short ribs and turns them into an unbelievably savory, umami bomb. In Italy, this ragu is used to top a bowl of warm polenta. My taste buds prefer buttered egg noodles, so that's how I serve this up. If you can't find boneless short ribs at your store, don't substitute bone-in short ribs. Use 1-inch cubes cut from a chuck-arm roast instead.

1-1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 anchovy fillets, minced
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 cup red wine
1, 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved, chopped fine
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs
3/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350º. Microwave 1/2 cup of broth and mushrooms in covered bowl until steaming (about 1 minute). Let sit until softened (about 5 minutes). Drain mushrooms in fine-mesh strainer lined with coffee filter, pressing to extract all liquid. Reserve liquid and chop mushrooms fine. 
  2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add tomato paste, anchovies and five-spice powder and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture has darkened and fond forms on the bottom (about 4 minutes). Add wine and increase heat to medium high, bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until wine is reduced and pot is almost dry (about 3 minutes). Add tomatoes and reserved juice, remaining one cup of broth, reserved mushroom soaking liquid and mushrooms, then bring to a simmer.
  3. Toss beef with 3/4 teaspoon salt and season with pepper. Add beef to pot, cover and transfer to oven. Cook for 1 hour.
  4. Uncover and continue to cook until beef is tender (about 1 hour more).
  5. Remove pot from oven. Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to cutting boarding let cool for 5 minutes. Using 2 forks, shred beef into bite-size pieces. Return beef  to Dutch oven to sauce and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Wine pairing: Amarone

Friday, November 19, 2021

Adult Cranberry Sauce

If you're a fan of adult beverages, you will be a fan of this adult cranberry sauce. This recipe packs a bit of a punch, for we are not boiling out the alcohol. We are leaving all of the alcohol in the mix for your eating and imbibing enjoyment. So make sure this gets placed only at the adult table. The kids can get their sauce straight from the can.  [NOTE: This dish can be made and refrigerated up to one week in advance.]

1, 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vodka
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier

  1. In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine cranberries, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve sugar. Then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, stirring often, until thickened and reduced to approximately 3 cups (about 15 minutes).
  2. Transfer to a medium bowl and cool, stirring often, until tepid (about 30 minutes). Stir in vodka and Grand Marnier. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and and refrigerate until chilled and set (at least 2 hours). Serve chilled or at room temperature. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Slow Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes


The frenetic pace and challenge of getting turkey and side dishes to be served together at precisely 6pm on Thanksgiving day is exhausting. So over the years, I've been working in "make-ahead" recipes that makes serving the meal a whole lot easier. Make-ahead gravy. Make-ahead stuffing.

Back in 2018, I added make-ahead, garlic mashed potatoes. And I'm here to tell you they were the best mashed potatoes ever. First off, I avoided all of the chemistry class theatrics required of boiling potatoes from scratch with cold water. And that method requires great precision in order to serve piping hot potatoes with piping hot turkey at the same time.

And this method is foolproof. You cannot screw it up. Anyone who can read can make perfect mashed potatoes. While the recipe calls for peeled potatoes, I really like the skins, so I don't peel mine. As a bonus, the skin is the tastiest and most nutrient-rich part of the potato. This recipe makes 20 servings. My experience is that the majority of folks come back for seconds.
My sons and their cousins always clock in for thirds. 

5 pounds of russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, each potato peeled (optional) and quartered
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1-1/2 cups whole milk

8 tablespoons butter
2 cups of half & half
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Chopped chives, for garnish


  1. Peel (or not) and quarter potatoes and place in slow cooker with garlic and 1-1/2 cups of milk. Set slow cooker to high and cover. Cook for 5 hours.
  2. After 5 hours, turn slow cooker to warm. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the slow cooker.
  3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. When melted, add half & half to the pan and heat to warm (do not boil). When warm, add mixture to slow cooker. Using masher, blend potatoes with butter/half & half mixture.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste....a half of a teaspoon at a time for the uninitiated.
  5. Cover potatoes in slow cooker (still set to warm) and serve whenever you want.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

How Long to Thaw my Bird?


If you bought a frozen turkey to cook on Thanksgiving, you need to plan ahead because a bird that size takes a lot of time to shed it's icicles in the refrigerator. In order for you to slide your fully thawed turkey into the oven on Thanksgiving, Thursday November 25th...use this guide as to when to take it out of the freezer and start the thawing process in your fridge.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Hot Italian Sausage Stuffing


If you are cooking a spatchcocked turkey for Thanksgiving, you'll want to bake your stuffing in the oven. If you are roasting a whole turkey for Thanksgiving, you'll want to bake your stuffing in the oven. You don't ever want to bake your stuffing in the turkey's body cavity. Let me explain why.

If your turkey is cooked to perfection, the stuffing in the cavity is going to be undercooked. That sort of error leads to salmonella, in which case your guests will suffer horrific gastrointestinal pain and/or death. If your stuffing in the cavity is cooked to 165º perfection, the meat on your turkey will be overcooked and taste like a spoonful of the Sahara desert.

So do the right thing. Bake your stuffing by itself in the oven. It will taste fantastic with no chance of flat-lining your guests. This recipe is incredibly easy. It uses simple, store-bought ingredients and comes together very quickly. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds hot Italian sausage
2 yellow onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
16 ounces mushrooms, chopped

10 tablespoons butter
4 cups chicken broth
2, 12-ounce bags Pepperidge Farm Sage & Onion Cubed Stuffing

  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat olive oil until it is shimmering. Then add sausage, onions, celery and mushrooms. Cook until there is no pink in the sausage and all of the vegetables have softened (about 8 minutes).
  2. In a large saucepan, heat butter and chicken broth over medium heat until all of the butter has melted into the broth.
  3. Preheat oven to 350º.
  4. In a large casserole, add the two bags of cubed stuffing. Add sausage, onions, celery and mushrooms then stir thoroughly to mix. Then add broth/butter mixture and stir again to thoroughly mix.
  5. Cover casserole and bake for 60 minutes. Serve.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy


When the turkey is ready for carving, all of the sides and gravy have to be ready to go. So I've been been using this recipe for years to make my gravy ahead of time. I make it the morning of Thanksgiving. Then when I take the turkey out of the oven, I just add some of the turkey drippings to the gravy and reheat it.


1 stick of butter 
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper
4  cups warm turkey or chicken stock 
Turkey drippings


  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on the onions, stirring constantly, and cook until flour is golden to brown. Adjust heat so mixture does not burn.
  2. Gradually whisk in 4 cups stock until mixture thickens and is smooth. If it is too thick, add more stock. Cool, cover and chill.
  3. When ready to serve, reheat mixture over low heat, stirring. Scrape bottom of turkey pan and add drippings or to gravy. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Spatchcocked Turkey


A turkey is an enormous bird with enormous organs. Once those organs are removed, we are left with an enormous bird with an enormous cavity. Essentially a basketball with white meat on the top and sides and dark meat on the bottom...which just so happen to cook differently from each other.

I have used three different methods to solve this problem. The first involved starting the cook with the bird upside down. While it worked, getting a piping hot, 24-pound turkey to perform a somersault inside a blazing oven is a gigantic hassle. I also used a cooking bag, which resulted in perfectly cooked and incredibly moist meat. But alas, there was no golden, crisp skin that is the reward for roasting.

The method I've used the most is to preheat a gigantic cast iron pan in the oven. Then I set the bird right on the pan. The dark meat is in contact with the cast iron, which heats it more quickly while the white meat enjoys a leisurely roast. This method requires an expensive, oversized pan that only gets used once a year. But behold, there is a much simpler method. Brighter folks than me have discovered that the easiest way to cook a turkey is to remove the cavity.

It is genius. It is simpler. And it enables you to cook that enormous bird much faster. Start with setting the bird on the counter, breast side down. Using kitchen shears, cut down the right side of the bird's spine. Then do the same on the left side of the spine. Then remove the spine from the bird and save it to make turkey broth for your gravy.


Now flip the turkey over, breast side up. Press down hard in between the two breasts to crack the breast bone. Voila! There you have it. The cavity is gone and you only have to contend with a large, flat slab of turkey. Place the bird on a cooking pan and rub it thoroughly with olive oil. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Skip adding any spices or herbs as they will just burn at the higher temperatures you will be cooking at.

Your turkey is now ready for your preferred method of cooking. You can oven-roast it, grill it or go low and slow in your smoker. I am a fanatic for the crisp, golden skin, so I always choose to oven-roast it. To accomplish that, I preheat my oven to 400º (that flat slab of protein means I can do a hotter and much faster cook). Slide that spatchcocked beauty into the oven and cook for 12 minutes per pound (e.g., a 10-pound bird would cook for just 2 hours). If the skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent bird with foil.

When your bird is done, remove it from the oven and loosely cover it with foil. Do not encase it in foil, otherwise you will steam the skin and lose the crispness that everyone craves. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes and then carve it up, serving with your favorite sides. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Perfect turkey pairing: Let your guests choose between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Brats in a Blanket


I am eternally grateful to the Germans for all of the wonderful things they have engineered. Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Leica, Sennheiser, Bosch, Zwilling J. A. name a few. I am especially grateful to the unknown butcher in Nuremberg who blended beef, veal, pork and spices to engineer the first bratwurst sausage in 1313 AD. Fast forward to 2021 and there are 1500+ different types of bratwurst available around the world. But I find that even those ubiquitous Johnsonville brats can put a big, huge honkin' smile on my face.

This Christine Gallary recipe requires that the brats be pre-cooked. So you can grill them, smoke them or simmer them in beer. You can even take the lazy way out by buying them from your grocery store pre-cooked. Any way works as long as the brats are pre-cooked and at room temperature (so give them 30-60 minutes of kitchen countertop time before you start). "Everything Bagel Spice" is readily available at Costco and Amazon.

1 large egg
1, 8-ounce can of refrigerated crescent roll dough
4 tablespoons whole-grain mustard, divided
4 fully cooked bratwurst sausages, at room temperature 
2 teaspoons Everything Bagel Spice

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
  2. Crack egg in a small bowl and whisk until no streaks of white remain.
  3. Unroll crescent roll dough and separate into 4 rectangles (2 triangles each). Press on the seams in each rectangle to seal. Spread 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard on each rectangle.
  4. Place one bratwurst sausage on the short end of each rectangle. Starting at the end with the bratwurst, roll up tightly. Place seam-side down on the baking sheet. Brush the top and sides of each one with the egg wash. Sprinkle each one with Everything Bagel Spice.
  5. Bake until deep golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Pairing: An Ice Cold German Pilsner

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Pasta al Limone


Saturday and Sunday dinners are always the greatest and heartiest...even more so now that the chill of fall has set in. Steak, stews, pasta...a lot of time, labor and ingredients go into weekend meals. So Monday dinner is actually penance for the sins of the weekend.

So it's also a goal of mine on Mondays not to spend a ton of time in prep and cooking. The beauty of this Emiko Davies recipe is that it is really, really fast. The sauce is easy to make and can be completed in the same time it takes to cook the pasta.

The sauce seems to work best with long, flat pasta noodles. In a perfect world, I would choose fresh egg as I do not have the patience to make my own from scratch. But truth be told, any long, traditional semolina pasta will work just as well.

Monday is a workout day for both Becky and I, so a little bit of added protein scratches an itch. My fave is to add a little warm, canned tuna that was packed in olive oil. I also add some red pepper flakes...a nice little contrast of heat to this tangy and creamy lemon sauce.

Kosher salt
2 large lemons
2 ounces Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)
12 ounces fresh tagliolini or other long pasta
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, finely grate the zest of the 2 lemons. Then juice the lemons.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until butter is melted. Add lemon zest and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add lemon juice and simmer for 3 minutes. Add heavy cream and season with the salt and pepper. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
  3. Add pasta to water and cook according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain pasta. Add pasta to the sauce and cook over medium heat, adding some of the pasta water as needed, until pasta is well coated and glossy with sauce. Serve immediately with the grated cheese.

Wine pairing: Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Grilled Ham and Gouda Sandwich


In the Middle Ages, a family named Van Der Goude built a fortified castle along a stream in southern Holland. The area around the castle became a settlement where goods made around the countryside would be sold in the markets. Feudal rights were granted during that period and cities could become official trading centers for certain products.

I know you're smart enough to figure the rest out. The Van Der Goudes named their little slice of heaven "Gouda". And in 1184 AD they were granted the right to be the authorized trading city for cheese in the Netherlands. The cheese, which was made in the surrounding countryside, became known as Gouda Cheese. In America, we have totally screwed up the name by pronouncing it "goo-da". In the Dutch language, the "g" is a guttural sound and is pronounced "(g)how-da".

Gouda is made from cow's milk. Unlike all other cheeses, Gouda becomes sweeter the longer it ages. It's that sweetness that makes such a remarkable contrast to the salty and smoky ham. I'm sure you've had a ham and cheese sandwich before...but ham and Gouda are on a whole different level. Bon Appetit's brilliant recipe adds artisan bread, caramelized onions and torn frisée to the mix. This recipe makes 2 sandwiches, but I swear I could eat 4 of these sonsabitches all by myself in a single sitting.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Unsalted butter at room temperature
4, 1/3-inch-slices of sourdough bread
4 ounces thinly sliced smoked ham, divided
3 ounces Gouda cheese, thinly sliced, divided 
2 large handfuls of frisée, torn into small pieces (about 1 cup)

  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until onion is very tender and golden, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Cool slightly.
  2. Butter 2 bread slices. Place bread, buttered side down, on a platter. Divide onion, ham, cheese and frisée between bread slices. Top each with a bread slice and butter the top of each slice.
  3. Heat another large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sandwiches and cook until bread is golden brown and cheese melts, pressing occasionally with your spatula, about 4 minutes per side. Cut sandwiches in half diagonally and serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Gouda loves the tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Cheese Stuffed Baguette

I've always considered spaghetti and meatballs to be a complete meal. Protein, veggies and carbs. But my wife begs to differ. She's of the opinion that spaghetti and meatballs are not a complete meal unless there is a warm baguette to dip into the marinara sauce. Begrudgingly, I do believe she is correct.

But there is a way to elevate that simple baguette with one of Italy's greatest inventions. Mozzarella cheese. When you heat that beautiful baguette with some olive oil and mozzarella cheese tucked inside, you end up with an exceptional taste treat. Crisp, toasted bread embracing a wonderful, gooey layer of cheese. Now you are truly ready for some serious dipping. Thanks, Becky.

1 Italian loaf or rustic baguette
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound mozzarella, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
tablespoon dried Turkish oregano

  1. Heat the oven to 400º.  Halve the loaf lengthwise almost all the way through, leaving it attached on one side. Open it, lay it flat and brush the insides with olive oil. Tuck in the mozzarella, then sprinkle with salt and oregano. Close, then wrap tightly with foil. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Unwrap loaf, let cool for 2 minutes, then slice and serve.

A complete meal

Saturday, October 9, 2021


You are right. It does look like lasagna. That's because it is lasagna. But it is not from Italy. Pastitsio is actually a Greek lasagna. And while it looks for all the world like Italian lasagna, the flavor profile is actually quite different.

On the bottom layer, we have pasta. In this case, bucatini...which is like a thick spaghetti noodle with a hole in the middle. But any cylindrical shaped pasta will do. Next comes a hearty layer of cinnamon-kissed beef ragù. Then we top all that with creamy béchamel and a generous dusting of Greek kasseri cheese (you can use adagio or parmesan if you can't find kaserri).

Be forewarned that this is not a quick weeknight dinner. You want to save this recipe for a cold and rainy Sunday. It's a wonderful way to spend the afternoon in your up a really unique and delicious pan of Greek comfort food while streaming "Troy" on Netflix. I know that your family and guests will be duly impressed with the fruits of your labor.

3 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2, 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt
1 pound bucatini
1/2 pound kasseri cheese, grated
4 eggs
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup flour
5-1/2 cups whole milk

  1. In a large pot, add a little olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, cook until onions are just translucent. Add the ground beef and cook and stir until no longer pink, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Add the 2 cans of tomato sauce and cinnamon, stir and bring to a simmer. Season with salt to taste. Let meat sauce simmer for 3 hours with a lid on, slightly askew. Stir occasionally.
  2. Grate the kasseri cheese and set aside, you want at least 4 cups. 
  3. Cook bucatini in boiling salted water until al dente (I cook a minute or two less than package directions). Drain noodles and when cool enough to handle, put them in a large bowl and mix one beaten egg into the bucatini noodles with your hands. 
  4. Preheat oven to 350º. In a lasagna pan, or other large pan, drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom or coat lightly with cooking spray. Put all of the noodles which were tossed with egg in the bottom of the pan and arrange evenly. Sprinkle with a third of the shredded cheese. Using a slotted spoon, cover the noodles and cheese evenly with all or most of the meat mixture, leaving room for the béchamel layer on top. Sprinkle another third of the cheese over the meat layer. You now have noodles, cheese, meat, cheese layered so far. 
  5. Make the béchamel sauce. In a heavy bottomed large pot, melt 1 stick of butter. Add the flour to the melted butter and whisk to combine well and cook, stirring constantly for a minute or two. Slowly add 5 cups of milk, whisking the whole time. Cook and whisk until it just starts to boil (when it starts to bubble.) Turn off heat. 
  6. In a separate bowl, beat 3 eggs and 1/2 cup milk with a hand mixer. Add this mixture to the pot, slowly, whisking the whole time.
  7. Put back on medium-high heat and cook and whisk until thick and bubbly. When at the desired consistency, cut the heat and let the béchamel sit for a few minutes.
  8. In a small sauce pan, melt 1/2 stick of butter. After the béchamel has rested a few minutes, pour it over the meat and cheese layer, spreading evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the béchamel. Lastly, drizzle or spoon the melted butter on top of the cheese, this is what will brown the top of the pastitsio. 
  9. Put pan into preheated oven and bake for 1 hour, until browned and center is hot. If not browned enough, after 1 hour, turn on broiler and cook another 3 - 5 minutes, watching carefully until top is browned.
  10. Let pastitsio rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Wine pairing: Syrah

Monday, October 4, 2021

Air Fryer Tater Tots


Oh how I love my tater tots. And I love them even more when they are cooked in an air fryer. Golden crisp on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth creamy on the inside. Cooking tater tots in an oven is so 19th century. 

I cook a half of a bag at a time so that I get all the tots in a single layer. Frozen tater tots already have oil on them, but if you're a crispy freak, you still want to add a quick blast of cooking oil. Preheating your air fryer for a couple minutes will also add to that golden brown texture. And then I am going to let you in on a secret ingredient that will forever guarantee that you will never, ever, have leftover tater tots.

Go to and buy yourself a jar of this "Truffle/Parmesan/Black Garlic" seasoning. This stuff is so f*cking delicious that it will take every ounce of will power in your body to not just rip off the cap and free-pour this incredible sh*t into your mouth. What this stuff does to a tater tot can only be described as "sinful".

1/2 bag frozen tater tots (14 ounces)
Cooking oil spray
Kosher salt
Truffle/Parmesan/Black Garlic Seasoning

  1. Preheat air fryer for 3 minutes at 400º.
  2. Place tater tots in a single layer. Then give them a light spray with cooking oil and sprinkle some Kosher salt over them.
  3. Cook tater tots for 7 minutes at 400º. Then remove drawer and shake to reposition tots (if you're incredibly anal, you can turn each tater tot over). Then season tater tots with a generous dusting of Truffle/Parmesan/Black Garlic seasoning.
  4. Return drawer to air fryer and cook tots for another 7 minutes at 400º .
  5. Open air fryer and serve tots. Add extra seasoning to taste.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs


Fall is upon us. It's time to move on from summer fare to some heartier dishes. And one of my favorite fall dishes is spaghetti and meatballs. I've always made my meatballs with a traditional recipe, but last week I stumbled on this Cook's Country recipe for stuffed meatballs....and I was hooked.

There's only one important thing to keep in mind when making these meatballs. Moisture is the enemy. If your meatball is too moist, the cheese will ooze out of the meatball during cooking. In our perfect world, the cheese does not ooze out until you cut into the meatball.

So we will be using no white bread, milk or cream in our meat mixture. Panko bread crumbs are a necessity to minimize the moisture. Choose 93% lean ground beef to keep from getting too much fat into the meatball. Mozzarella string cheese is the easiest way to create 15 equal portions for stuffing. And after forming the meatballs, we will brown them in oil and then gently poach them in a simple marinara sauce. 

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1 pound 93% lean ground beef
3, 4-1/2 inch long sticks mozzarella string cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried Turkish oregano
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

  1. Combine panko, 1/2 cup Parmesan, eggs, 2 tablespoons basil, half of garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Add sausage and knead with your hands until incorporated into panko mixture. Add beef and knead until just incorporated. (Do not overmix or meatballs will be tough.) Using greased 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, divide meat mixture into 15 portions and place on plate. 
  2. Cut mozzarella sticks crosswise into fifteen, 3/4-inch cubes (each stick should yield 5 cubes). Place 1 mozzarella cube in center of each meat portion and pinch meat around cheese to enclose. Roll meat between wet hands to form completely sealed meatball. Place stuffed meatballs on plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. 
  3. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add meatballs and cook until browned on 1 side, about 3 minutes. Flip meatballs and cook until browned on opposite side, about 3 minutes. Transfer meatballs to plate. (Sides of meatballs will still appear raw.)
  4. Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet and return to medium heat. Add onion and cook until just softened and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add oregano and remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  5. Nestle meatballs in sauce with 1 browned side up and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 4 minutes. Flip meatballs so second browned side is up. Cover and continue to cook for 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove cover and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil. Serve meatballs and sauce over hot spaghetti.

Wine pairing: Chianti

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Cilantro-Lime Flank Steak with Mexican Radish Slaw


My go-to steak for all things Mexican is flank steak. Huge beef taste for not much money. While a lot of cooks like skirt steak for Mexican grilled meats, I think flank is the wiser choice. It has better's cooks up better...and it's a lot easier to chew. Skirt steak skirts around the latter issue by making you slice the meat really thin. I want big honkin' pieces of meat to savor when I'm wearing my big boy pants. Skirt steak is more like chewing a plastic bag of rubber bands while they are still in the plastic bag.

Pairing a grilled flank steak with strong Mexican flavors can be a challenge. But this Mexican Radish Slaw is an outstanding pairing for this meal. So much so that there are actually three different ways to serve it up. The first choice is to combine some sliced steak and slaw in a flour tortilla. Second would be to slice the steak and serve it over the slaw. The third way would be my choice....put some beautiful steak slices on my dish and plate the slaw to the side. Pass the Malbec, please.


For the Steak
1 bunch cilantro
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup pickled jalapeño rings*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

One, 1-1/2 pound flank steak

For the Slaw
14 ounces shredded cabbage*
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (juice of 1 lime)
1 teaspoon salt

1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 or 2 thinly sliced fresh jalapeños 

  1. Make the steak marinade. Place the first 8 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are liquified.
  2. Place steak in a ziplock bag and pour contents from food processor over the steak. Close bag, toss to mix well. Place in refrigerator to marinate for 4 to 24 hours.
  3. About an hour before you grill, combine the first 4 salad ingredients in a bowl and toss to mix. Set aside. Then remove steak from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Set it on a sheet of foil on the counter let it come up to room temperature. 
  4. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  5. When coals are hot, grill steak over coals for 3 minutes per side. Then remove steak, tent with foil and let steak rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Grab slaw bowl and add cilantro and jalapeños. Toss and put the slaw on each serving plate. Slice steak thinly across the gain and add to the plates. Serve.

* Blogger's Notes: Pickled jalapeño rings are usually found in the condiment section of your grocery store, likely near the olives. To make the slaw easy, buy Dole pre-shredded cabbage/cole slaw in the produce section. Steak cooking time is based on grilling over blazing hot lump charcoal. If you are using briquettes or gas, add 1 to 2 minutes per side. Setting a chunk of mesquite on your coals will add a big wallop of flavor.

Wine Pairing: Malbec