My summer pasta

Spring Pasta Recipe

Read the article here.

Ingredients

~1lb chicken cutlets

Montreal Steak Seasoning

Olive Oil

4 strips thick cut bacon (diced)

2 leeks (diced)

4 cloves garlic (sliced)

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup butter

1 package pasta

2 cups chopped spinach

1 cup roasted red peppers (diced)

10oz frozen peas

1/4 cup shredded parmesan

salt & pepper Continue reading →

Easy Oven-Baked Rice Pilaf with Vegatables

The Dish:

The roots for this recipe come from a video Chef John did for his Youtube Channel Food Wishes.  The guts of the recipe have not changed much from his recipe.  It’s a solid recipe, and frankly the family and I love it.  The pilaf pairs well with just about anything, and makes a great vegetable delivery vehicle for our two youngsters.  There is nothing like having two vegetable adverse children asking for more helpings of this vegetable pilaf.  Also, did I mention it is delicious?

I recommend pairing this with some nice pan seared pork chops or my own Cajun Chicken with Wine Sauce. Continue reading →

Blackened Chicken with Wine Pan Sauce aka My Favorite Roast Chicken Recipe

Get the recipe here.

The Story:

I love blackened chicken.  Hell, I pretty much love everything blackened.  I always have some sort of blackening seasoning in the cupboard where its easy to get to.  Generally I am partial to and ‘s line.  As with most things, you should try a couple and find one that makes you happy. Continue reading →

Blackened Chicken with Wine Pan Sauce Recipe

Read the article here.

Ingredients:

2lbs Chicken Breasts or Tenderloins

16oz Buttermilk

1/2 Cup Blackening Seasoning + 1/2 cup for dredging

1 tbsp Kosher Salt

3 tbsp Olive Oil

2 tbsp Butter (unsalted)

1/2 cup Chicken Stock

1/2 cup Red Wine

Method:

In a large mixing bowl or a resealable bag, add buttermilk, salt, and chicken.  Add 1/2 cup blackening seasoning and mix to combine.  Marinate at least 2 hours – but best when done for 24hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees if your chicken is particularly thick.

Drain chicken.  Dredge or dust with remaining blackening seasoning.

Heat a skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat.  Add olive oil, and sear chicken on both sides.  Remove from pan and let rest on a plate.

Add wine, broth, and butter to pan and stir to incorporate the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan.  Simmer over medium heat.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your tastes.  You’ll want it thicken a bit so it will lightly coat a spoon.

Return chicken to pan and baste with your pan sauce.

Serve.

*If your chicken is particularly thick, pop it into the oven for 20-30 minutes with the pan sauce to insure doneness.  Raw chicken is bad.  Clear juices running out of the chicken = done.

Grilled cheese with bacon

The Humble Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Get the recipe for my favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich here.

Childhood Memories

I dunno about you, but I have a LOT of memories connected to grilled cheese sandwiches.  I imagine many people will scoff at that statement, but allow me to explain.

My first clear and enduring memory related to a grilled cheese sandwich is attached to my cousin, Chris.  Chris is several years older than me and (to this day) one of the nicest people I know.  Years can go by between talking, and we still pick up a conversation right where we left off.  When I was about seven, I was visiting my cousins with my mom.  I couldn’t tell you where my mom and my Aunt Nancy were at the time, but we got hungry.  Being a precocious seven year old, I had yet to get any kitchen experience.  Chris, however, had a few chops.  He showed me how to make a grilled cheese from scratch (something which blew me away at the time).  He also let me make my own – something which I can definitively point to as a life changing experience for me.

Again, I can hear my readers scoffing.  A grilled cheese sandwich changed your life?

Yes.

That grilled cheese sandwich got me excited about cooking.  Granted, it wasn’t a souffle – but it was something I could cook (safely) for myself.  Somewhere, at that moment in time, my parents smiled and had no idea why.

Speaking of whom, my parents will tell you that there were several years where I ate nothing but hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches.

I can neither confirm or deny this assertion.

Now that I am older and wiser (hah!), I still enjoy the simple pleasure of a good grilled cheese.  I am not talking about white bread and american cheese (though you will still catch me eating those on occasion).  The grilled cheese sandwich is another one of those iconic dishes you can make as simple or as complicated as you like.  Sadly, this also means a lot of people muck it up in trying too hard.

The Basics:

At it’s core, a good grilled cheese is based around a few core ingredients.  Bread, cheese, and butter (I know, you can use Mayo – but I personally have not tried this).  Find yourself a nice bread you like and start there.  Get a couple cheeses – try out some of the ones that sound fun from your deli section at the grocery store. Snag some good butter.

Avoid loading the sandwich up with fifteen kinds of cheese.  You want balance between the bread and the cheese.  Don’t go too heavy on the butter (wow, that hurt to write).  You want it to get crisp, but not soggy. Soggy grilled cheeses make kittens cry.

Technique:

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m picky about my grilled cheese sandwiches.  One of the most affirming things I have ever felt was seeing a making of scene from the movie Chef with Jon Favreau.  In it, Favreau is getting advice from a chef about how to act in a scene where the main character is making a grilled cheese.  It’s actually pretty intense (and the clip I think conveys the mindset better than the scene used in the movie)   Aside from the excellent technique employed (specifically – keeping the sandwich moving), I find that scene strikes a chord because someone else gets it.  Silly, I know. But hey, validation!

So, to begin.

From my father (and later Thomas Keller) – butter both sides of your bread.  This way, you get flavor as well as browning.  Again, use good butter.

I like to add potato chips to the inside of my grilled cheese sandwiches (again, from Thomas Keller).  I recommend kettle chips as they hold up better (although oddly, the old standbys do great too).  The chips give you a textural change which is great.  Depending on the cheese you are using, they can also keep things from going over to the gooey side.

Be sure you get your skillet or griddle hot before you start.  And have a spatula handy.  You want to keep the sandwich moving throughout to insure it doesn’t develop soggy spots (too much butter in one location), or have less than golden areas (not enough butter in another spot).  Keeping the sandwich moving helps to even this out and make your sandwich golden all over.

Putting your grilled cheese in the oven after the pan is a game changer.  If you like harder cheeses (gouda for instance), then just doing the sandwich in a skillet won’t result in grilled cheese goodness  – the bread will burn to blackness before the cheese ever gets to wonderful meltiness.  Popping the sandwich in the oven melts the cheese and also gives you a buffer to cook a few more sandwiches for family and friends.

Recommended:

Bacon.  Yes.  Put it in there.

I like to add a few chili flakes to mine, simply because I like the flavor.  In lieu of these, there are some nice pepper cheeses which also work – though I find many of them to be a bit on the overpowering side for my tastes.

Salt and pepper your sandwich just like any other food.  You’ll notice the difference!

Slices of chorizo and pear in the same sandwich linked in my recipe substituted for the bacon and chips would make a fantastic sandwich with some or cheeses.

Grilled cheese with bacon

My Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe

Read the article here.

Ingredients:

8 slices Brioche (or your favorite bread)

Butter (room temperature)

3 slices thicker cut cheese (Gouda, Cheddar, American, be inventive!)

Potato Chips (I like Kettle Chips)

2 slices thick cut Bacon

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and Pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Bake bacon until crisp in oven and lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Let your butter come up to room temperature.

Buttered bread

Buttered bread

Butter one side of each slice of bread.  Place one slice of cheese on the buttered bread (butter side up).  Add some potato chips, covering the space from edge to edge.  Add another slice of cheese.  Break two slices of bacon up and cover the

Assembly!

space.  Add another slice of cheese.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the buttered top slice of bread and set it on top.  You want the butter on the inside again.

Gently butter the bread on the top slice of bread.

Get a large nonstick skillet or griddle onto your stove and set it for medium to medium low heat.  You want to brown your bread, but not burn it.

Into the skillet!

Place your sandwich with the buttered side down first (if you move fast, you can get two or three going at once).  Quickly butter the top slice of bread.

You want to keep your bread moving in the skillet.  Shift and turn the sandwiches a bit at a time to insure the butter melts evenly and the bread browns evenly.

Golden brown goodness!

Now, once your bread reaches the color you prefer, you want to yank them out of the pan and put them on the heated tray in the oven.  Work your way through the rest of the sandwiches you are preparing in the same fashion.  The oven will insure your cheese is melted while retaining the crispy bread you have created in the skillet.

Enjoy your sandwich!

*Sandwiches cut into triangles taste better.  Its science.  Or something.

Grilled cheese with bacon

Hot dogs

The Best Damned Hot Dog and Bratwurst Recipe I Know

Get the recipe here.

The Story:

There’s just something about sausage.  Aside from being delicious, it happens to be tremendously flexible.  Sausages, cooked up and served on a tasty fresh bun are one of those things most people grow up loving.  Be it brats or hot dogs, there’s just that soft spot we all have for them (and if you don’t love a good hot dog, well, move on you heathen!).  When I was a kid I went a whole year eating nothing but hot dogs (or so my parents are happy to tell everyone). I really can’t argue, I love the damned things.

When I was a kid, my Dad was the one (knowingly or unknowlingly) who set me on the path to this recipe.  Aside from old school boiled hot dogs (I have fond memories of my dad picking up hot dogs for me at gas stations), the other hot dog I grew up with was the movie theatre roller hot dog (which I also enjoy, fyi).  My dad however, changed all of that when one day he introduced me to the joys of fried hot dogs.  While messy, and possibly painful to cook, they were head and shoulders above the gas station weenies I had enjoyed before.  My dad taught me how to fry those tasty hot dogs in butter.  If you’ve never tried it, I recommend giving it a try.

Then in the early ’90’s, my dad took me to his hometown of Miami, FL to meet his Dad.  While there, he took me to one of his childhood haunts, a place called Mae and Daves.  Now, when my dad went there as a kid, it was a very different place than when he introduced me to it.  When I went, it had a hotel full of prostitutes next door, a pretty eccentric auto painting shop across the street, and was in the middle of Little Havana.  That being said, it also had some amazing 1/4lb beer steamed hot dogs (something my dad and I sought to duplicate at home).

In 1989, at the ripe old age of 13, my dad took me on a trip to Europe.  One of the places we went to repeatedly was a Wurst shop at the Munich train station.  Basically, a German version of a corner burger shop but with sausages instead of burgers.  The sausages (bratwurst and weisswurst) were grilled on a flat top and served with a nice roll.  They were fantastic.

All of these things led to this recipe.  Its simple but delicious.  My kids love it.  My wife loves it.  Hell, I love it.

This recipe combines a bit from all of these memories.  The sausages steam in beer to begin with, then fry in butter with onions at the end.  Good brown mustard and a hearty beer pair up to add flavor.  Add in a good roll, and top the sausage off with the caramelized onions from the pan and you will find your sausage happy place.

This one is for my dad – thanks for all the great memories.

Notes:

This recipe works great for hot dogs or sausages of many types.  Get a good hot dog (I really like the Private Selection Brisket variety from Kroger’s) or whichever version of Brat you like.  Either one will work in this recipe.  You can use the same recipe, minus the mustard and it will even work for Italian Sausages.  The recipe also keeps fairly well if you’re tailgaiting and not cooking on site.

Use a good mustard for this.  You do not need much in the recipe, but a little goes a long way – so pick a good one.  I recommend Lusty Monk products since they are consistently fantastic.

As for beer, I recommend a nice Negra Modelo to cook this with, as well as to enjoy it with.

Enjoy!

Baked garlic cheesy bread

Cheese and Garlic Bread Recipe

Read the article here.

Ingredients:

1 loaf Italian Country (or similar) bread

1/2 stick room temperature unsalted butter

1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese (grated)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 tsp Italian herb seasoning

Sprinkle paprika

splash Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Method:

Preheat oven to 425•. Line a  with aluminum foil.

In a small bowl mix butter, cheese, garlic, and herbs together with a fork.  Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil.  Mix.  Taste and add salt and pepper.

Butter and herbs

Butter and herbs in bow

Cheese added

Cheese added

Mixed

Take your bread and make one long slice down the length of the bread, about 3/4 deep through the bread.  Now make perpendicular slices every inch or so.  Your goal is to make lots of room for that butter mixture.  Be sure and spread the slots open so the cheese and butter melt evenly (unlike in my photos, where I forgot to).  No one you actually listen to will ever complain about there being too much butter or cheese on their bread.

Next you are going to spread the garlic/butter/cheese mix into all the slots you just cut into the bread.  Try and keep it even, and don’t stress if you have extra leftover – just spread that over the top of the bread.  Keep in mind, your goal is some buttery-garlicy-cheesy goodness.

Place on baking sheet and bake until golden and delicious (about 10-15 mins).

Devour!

Notes:

I like to use an Italian Country loaf I find at Krogers near me for this.  The boys flat out demolish this every time I make it.

Cheese is good.  Add more if you like.  Your cardiologist will thank me.

Be sure and taste the compound butter before you put it on the bread – sometimes it can do with a bit of salt added.

You can also sprinkle some kosher salt over the loaf before you bake it for a neat effect.