Archive for the ‘food’ Category


Share your traditions… Win a book!

December 10, 2008

Frequent readers and subscribers to our feed will notice we’ve taken a couple of sabbaticals since we began this blog. Occassionally people have mailed asking, “So, what are you up to?” Well, this post is an effort at both making excuses and shameless self-promotion.


Well, during one of these breaks, the wife – the funny and talented one – wrote a book: Cole Family Christmas. The tale is based on a true story told by my 88-year-old grandmother, Hazel Cole Kendle, who was the youngest of the nine Cole children.

Cole Family Christmas tells the story of a very special Christmas my family experienced in 1920 when my great-grandfather was working as a coal miner in Kentucky. That year, he had received a promotion and had a little more money, and so the nine Cole children were able to write to Santa to ask for special gifts from the “Wish Book” (AKA the Sears catalogue). But when a freak snowstorm prevented the gifts from being delivered, my great-grandparents had to scramble to save Christmas. As the Cole children remembered it, though, the results of their efforts were even more inspiring – and more meaningful – than the store-bought gifts they had wished for.


This story was passed down in the family for years, until at last my mother thought it should be memorialized in writing. Originally planned as a small pamphlet to be handed out at our annual family reunion, the project blossomed into a book geared toward families and younger readers. Cole Family Christmas is now a hardcover book, complete with beautiful illustrations, and has received broad distribution. We’ve been lucky not only to be picked up by online sources like Amazon, but also by brick and mortar places like Barnes and Noble.

It has been a thrill for us to see Cole Family Christmas sitting in the children section’s at bookstores. As I hope you can tell, I’m extremely proud of my wife. As a result, I’m going to try to capitalize on my wife’s talent even more than usual.


We are going to have a contest.

As you might be able to tell, traditions around the holidays are a big deal for my family. The one I remember most as a child is the annual cookie decorating contest. Like many families, we’d make dozens of cookies, and then a major competition would begin. Typically, the winner would be picked by the first non-participant to walk in the door — a rule that resulted in a hilarious, and controversial, choice when a teenage girlfriend of my older brother made the choice one year.

What are your traditions? We’d love for you to share them, too! To sweeten the pot, we’ll award the top three favorites with a signed copy of the book. Below are the rules:


1. Post on your blog about your family’s food traditions for the holidays. It doesn’t need to be about Christmas.

2. Only one submission per blog.

3. Send an email to that includes your name, your blog’s name, a link to the relevant photo, and to the post in which it appears.

4. The best three (3) posts will get an autographed copy of the book.

5. The deadline is December 20, 2008 at 11:59 PM EST.

6. Round up will be posted on December 23, 2008. 

My family will choose the winners as soon as all the posts are up, and we’ll be sending out the books ASAP in hopes of getting you the book before Christmas day — unless you live outside North America, then we’ll do our best to get it there before New Years. I hope you enjoy our little competition and have a Merry Christmas!


“Peet-zah.” Or, Onion Marmalade Flatbread.

December 1, 2008


It’s disturbing that my 20-month-old son managed to say “pizza” before he finally spit out “mommy.” (A sad, but true story.)

Then again, who could blame him? Pizza is good. Pizza is real, real good.

And this Onion Marmalade Flatbread thing… it’s out-damn-standing. First, it’s a looker. Mounds of fresh green arugula, studded with specks of ruby red tomato, call to you. White, lumpy morsels of tangy goat cheese whisper your name. And a thick, sweet layer of rich brown onion marmalade makes eyes at you from its resting place on a thick, crispy crust.

That was kind of weird.

But can I help it that I have been seduced by this pizza… or flatbread… or whatever it is? It’s delicious. I’m not sure what umami is, but I think this pizza achieves something similarly zen. It’s the perfect combination of savory, sweet, tangy and salty. It’s perfectly delicious — and apparently easy to make. (Though I leave that to the husband.)

In fact, I think it could be made even easier — for us lazy cooks out there — by becoming bruschetta. That’s right: I think you could take all these fabulous pizza toppings and just mound them onto a crusty slice of French bread (that you’ve seasoned and toasted with olive oil of course).

But don’t tell the husband that I told you it needn’t be pizza. He’d think I have a bias against pizza. And so what if I do! After all, who couldn’t resent the word that came out before “mommy”? Jeesh.


And now, the husband’s take…

So, two weeks ago I was going on about the usefulness of onion marmalade. I gave you a burger and a sandwich as evidence of its true power as a pantry item. However, there are many more uses. This recipe is perhaps my favorite… though only barely because I do love the other two so much.

In this dish, you have sweetness and acidity from the marmalade. You have this great tang from the goat cheese. You have the freshness from the tomatoes and the peppery arugula (a.ka. “rocket” to my British friends). Finally, all this goodness rests on a thin, crispy crust that gives a truly satisfying crunch. In the end, sweet, savory, tangy, fresh, crunch… it is great.

Oh, as for flatbread vs. pizza, I don’t think there is a difference, really. My big distinction is that pizza is round and typically has either olive oil or tomato sauce for a base. A flatbread I can roll out quickly and throw whatever I imagine onto it.

Seriously, though, I think of flatbreads as a rhombus-square type shape. All squares are rhombuses, but not all rhombuses are squares. So, all pizzas are flatbreads, but not all flatbreads are pizza. (e.g. Indian naan is a flatbread, but not a pizza). That said, I’m welcome to be persuaded that I’m wrong!


Onion Marmalade Flatbread
Yield: 2 12’’-14’’ flatbreads
10 grape tomatoes (quartered)
3 cups baby arugula
6 tbsp. onion marmalade
2 tbsp. coarse sea salt
1 recipe pizza dough (bellow)

1. After making the dough, preheat the oven to 500F. This can be done on a cookie sheet, however, we use a pizza stone placed at the bottom of the oven.

2. Roll out the dough into two 12’’ by 5’’ rectangles. Place about 3 tbsp. of onion marmalade on each rectangle.

3. Move the dough to the oven and cook for 5 minutes. Add crumbled goat cheese (e.g. chevre) and continue to cook until the edges of the crust become a deep, golden brown. This should take approximately 5 to 8 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and top with arugula, grape tomatoes, and season liberally with coarse sea salt.

5. Wait about 2 minutes then slice and serve.


Pizza Dough
300 g bread flour (can sub. AP)
200 ml warm water
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. active yeast
vegetable oil spray (e.g. Pam)

1. Place the flour, water, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook. Turn on lowest setting and slowly add the water then extra virgin olive oil.

2. Let the dough come together, and then knead for approximately 5 minutes. The dough should be mostly smooth and glossy when you remove it from the mixer.

3. Shape the dough into a ball. Spray a large bowl and then dough with oil. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place until it doubles in size. This should take about 2 to 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

4. Gently punch down the dough and knead briefly until it comes together. Cut into 2 pieces and form into balls. Let rest for 15 to 30 min. before rolling out as needed.


Roasted Brussel Sprouts: Try them, and be thankful!

November 25, 2008


I love brussel sprouts. This is as surprising to me as it may be to brussel-sprout haters out there. 

My first encounter with sprouts came under the worst possible circumstances: served as airline cuisine. Slimy, smelly and downright repulsive, they not only fouled my taste buds, they also fouled the air in the cabin. Those brussel sprouts were filthy little heads of cabbage, and I decided they might be the one vegetable that this vegetable lover loathed.

Enter the husband’s cooking (again). Under his excellent watch, foul little brussel sprouts are made delicious. Roasted to toasty golden perfection, they are savory, satisfying little bites of veg. They even have a subtle sweetness akin to popcorn. And much like popcorn, I eat them by the handful.

I admit, I’m all about the sides… and at Thanksgiving, sides are king. I suggest you add a little bit golden green to your groaning sideboard this Thursday in the form of roasted brussel sprouts. Try them. I think even the skeptical will agree: They are, indeed, something to be thankful for!



And now, the husband’s take…

As my wife stated, she’s about the sides. And I can’t blame her. On this day of turkey, you can see why the sides are bigger players then on most days. As a result, I’m giving you a quick, easy and delicious recipe for the day — roasted brussel sprouts. 

This is one of our family’s staple. We make this about twice a week during the fall and winter. And, as I’ve converted several people myself, I’m convinced this is the way to make even the biggest hater of brussel sprouts reconsider. We tend to think they smell, not like boiling cabbage, but popcorn. 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! If you are not in the US, it’s a great holiday to celebrate what you have been so lucky to receive this year. So I wish you Happy Thanksgiving as well! 


Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 lb. brussel sprouts
3 tbsp. olive oil

1. Slice the brussel sprouts in half through the stem. Trim off any rough part of the stems and pull off any bad (brown or with holes) leaves. This can be done hours in advance. 

2. Preheat the oven to 400F and turn on the convection feature. If your oven doesn’t have this feature, then preheat to 425F. 

3. Toss the prepared sprouts in olive oil. 

4. Heat a large, oven-safe pan over hight heat and coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the brussel sprouts to the pan. Work quickly to make sure the cut side is down. This should cause a sizzle.

5. Liberally salt the sprouts. Keep the pan on the stove over high heat until the sprouts begin to brown on the hottest parts of the pan. 

6. Move the pan to the oven. Check about 10 min into the cooking. Flip the sprouts over. They should be very dark brown on the bottom. Cook for another 10 min or until all the sprouts are completely golden. 

Note: If you are doing a very large batch or don’t have an oven safe pan, I recommend using a cookie sheet instead. Simply use two burners of the stove, and place the sheet over medium high heat. Spray the pan with a vegetable oil spray. Add the sprouts cut side down and then move to the oven. Takes about 20 min per side.


Turkey & Cheddar Panini (with onion marmalade) to the rescue!

November 20, 2008


Yesterday, we brought you the secret of our house burger… onion marmalade. Today, we bring you the secret of our favorite sandwich… it is, er, onion marmalade.

Pictured above is the sandwich that makes us happy. Especially on those nights. (You know the ones I mean.) Everyone has them. Especially after you’ve had kids. Those are the nights when you know you need to make dinner. But you look at each other, look at your little ones, and realize that – shock! horror! – you don’t actually  want to cook. Even I have those nights… nights when the wife might grudgingly enter the kitchen, rather than give in to ordering or going out. Those nights are when we turn to this sandwich.

It couldn’t be more simple. A few slices of turkey, some good sharp cheddar, a slice of bacon, and delicious onion marmalade. Place the sandwich in the panini press, and 10 min later… voila!… hot delicious turkey and cheddar panini with onion marmalade. Plus, you don’t have to deal with the guilt of putting out the cardboard pizza box with the garbage, reminding your neighbors that, “No, your kids are not eating 100% organic, locally grown, micro-biotic tofu and sprouts.”

A few little tips. First, the cheese is important. In addition to being tangy and tasty, it’s a binding agent. There are two very thin layers that hold the sandwich together and keep the marmalade from bleeding through the bread. You don’t need a lot of cheese; spread it out and keep it thin. Also, don’t try to slice the sandwich fresh from the heat of the press. If you do, the cheese will still be molten and it will cause the sandwich to shift around. Wait 2 minutes before slicing.

Second, to me, the joy of a panini is the crunch as much as the flavor. After many trials, we know that if you add too much turkey, it becomes just a hot sandwich – not a panini. No more than three thin slices of turkey from the local deli seem to yield the best results.

Finally, the wife wanted me to say that the bacon is 100% optional. If you have no interest in breaking out the pan, you can have something just as delicious without it.


Turkey and Cheddar Panini with Onion Marmalade
Yield: 4 sandwiches
8 slices bread
1/2 lb. thin sliced turkey
6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
4-6 slices bacon
1/4 cup onion marmalade

1. Heat the panini press. Fry the bacon and let drain.

2. Slice the cheese thin and place enough to nearly cover the bottom slice of bread.

3. Break the bacon in bite-sized pieces and stack on the cheese. (Small slices ensure the bacon will remain in the sandwich, and not get yanked out in one big bite!)

4. Add the turkey next, then about a tablespoon of the onion marmalade.

5. Finish off by adding another thin layer of cheese and the top piece of bread.

6. Toast until golden brown. Let cool for 2 to 3 min to allow the cheese to firm before slicing.


Behold: The House Burger

November 19, 2008


The husband loves burgers.

I would like to say that I was his first love, but I know darn well that it was really the Big Mac. And now he’s moved onto bigger and better things. No, not me. Other burgers.

He’s sampled $10-$12 burgers in New York City’s finest burger joints. He’s hit every type of fast food burger from Sonic to Rally’s and back to McDonald’s (again). But he saves his true passion for the homemade burger.

Yes, he grinds his own meat. He experiments with different levels of fat, and different areas of the cow. He’s made lamb burgers, sirloin burgers, chuck burgers, blue cheese burgers, cheddar cheese burgers and who knows what else.

Now at last, he’s reached the burger pinnacle. A burger so good he has dubbed it, “The House Burger.” Cue the dramatic music.

Perhaps I’m being a bit playful. But there’s no joking about how good the house burger is. It is insanely good. I like a burger as much as the next guy (except if the next guy is my husband, who is, like, obsessed), and I can say, this is one of the best — if not the best — burgers out there. I have to give much credit to the delicious combination of sweet and biting onion marmalade, sharp Dijon mustard and pungent blue cheese. I also have to give props to the toasted potato roll, which no good burger should go without. But most important, the burger owes its deliciousness to my husband’s mad cooking skills. It is juicy, pink, moist and delicious.

If you can cook a mean burger, you can’t go wrong with this lovely combination of flavors. Add that onion marmalade. Slather on that Dijon. Top it with blue cheese. Behold, it is the House Burger.


And now, the husband’s take…

OK. I’ve discussed problems I’ve had with food in the past. There have been a few minor obsessions that have caused me to detour from common sense for, well, months at a time. The kitchen gets filled with an ingredient that gets used, abused, cultivated, and promoted.

Take, for example, pistachios. A couple of years ago I did several posts about these nuts: pistachio-date sticky buns, pistachio madelines with meyer lemon glaze, fried chicken with a pistachio crust, and, one of my family’s favorites, pistachio ice cream. I like pistachios, and they are only my second favorite nut to the pecan — ask my wife about driving through Georgia and stopping to get praline pecans… it wasn’t one of my finer moments.

But nuts can’t hold a candle to my obsession with hamburgers. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of burgers – good and bad – over my lifetime. (One highlight: When my wife and I lived in NYC, a slew of high-end burger joints opened, many in our neighborhood. Thus, we ate a lot of $10-$12 burgers.) Indeed, the burger madness extends to my own kitchen, where I’ve ground different combinations of meat based on various hypotheses and recommendations, trying to find the ideal burger. It’s unhealthy not just to my cholesterol, but also to broader mental health.

And yet, here we are at this post. This is the burger that has affectionately won the title of “the house burger.” It has onion marmalade, blue cheese, Dijon mustard, and a perfectly cooked patty of ground meat. It is served on a toasted potato roll. It’s a combination of sweet, savory, pungent, and spicy. It makes me happy every time I eat one.

When we have a barbeque, I make a stack of them and place them alongside the safer, more traditional burger offerings. And while some people may pause, ultimately the plain ones are left cooling on the plate while these burgers disappear.

So what makes it great? Answer: the onion marmalade. The rest of the ingredients are easy to get, and simple to come by. The only effort comes in making the onion marmalade. But it elevates it to something not simply good, but spectacular. Something worthy of the title “house burger.”

A quick note about burgers: If you have the time, make the patties by hand. Yes, the machine-shaped patties are easy to come by. But I think that one of the reasons so many burgers are dry and hard is that the meat is overhandled. So, if you have time, do it yourself and be gentle. Handle it just enough to shape the patty.

Regarding meat mixes: My favorite is simple ground chuck (80/20) combined with ground sirloin. Just make sure you don’t leave out the fat. This is where the flavor and moisture of the burger come from.

Finally, I keep my burgers small. Rarely are they over a quarter pound. I know people love big, but at some point, it’s just too much. Gigantic size causes many burgers to be less than delicious as you char and try to cook them to temperature.

House Burger
Yield: 6
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
6 potato rolls
6 oz. blue cheese (Maytag, gorgonzola picate)
Onion marmalade
Dijon mustard

1. Start with a quarter pound of meat. Shape the patty using just enough force to bring it together. Use the curve between pointer finger and thumb as the guide to shape roundness. Finally, press gently flat between both hands. Repeat for the five other patties. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Heat the grill or pan over medium high heat. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the patty. Cook for four to four and a half minutes a side for medium.

3. After about two minutes on the second side, add the blue cheese and allow it to melt. If you are using the grill, this is also a good time to toast the buns. (Just watch for burning!)

4. Remove the burgers from heat once the appropriate temperature is reached. Allow them to rest for one to two minutes. Meanwhile, slather Dijon on the bottom of the bun. Add about 1 tablespoon of onion marmalade to the top. Add your blue cheese burger and close ‘er up. Serve with a napkin!


Onion Marmalade: Sweet, Savory, Sticky.

November 18, 2008

Of course marmalade is good. Who doesn’t like marmalade?

But folks, this ain’t no Smucker’s marmalade. No, it isn’t that orange, jewel-toned jelly from a jar. You can’t just spread it on toast, chomp it down and forget about it. No, this marmalade makes an impression. Better still, it makes your dinner (or lunch, or maybe even breakfast).

I don’t mean to imply that it will actually cook your meals for you. But it will elevate them to seldom-seen levels of awesomeness.

This is onion marmalade. It is a rich deep brown, reflecting its roots of caramelized onions, revealing its brown-sugary rich but not burnt flavor, suggesting the hint of bite from its balsamic vinegar reduction. It’s really, really, really (three reallys) good.

Now, you could just eat it by the spoonful, but that wouldn’t unleash its full potential. In the coming days, the hubby will reveal just a few of the ways you can harness its awesome deliciousness. It’s totally worth the time and effort to make it — and, bonus, it will make your house smell like you’re making the meal of a lifetime. Did I mention that it is good? Enjoy!


And now, the husband’s take…

I’ve many people in my life who tell me they don’t like onions. I sort of look at them and think, “You eat right?” And in my head, I’m listing all the foods that most people eat that have onions, but they don’t appreciate.

But, onion marmalade is the exact opposite. I’m told originally it was a staple of French Bistro cuisine in the ‘50’s. It’s an in-your face challenge to onion haters. The onions are browned and then hit with the acidity of wine and balsamic vinegar along with the sweetness of quite a bit of sugar.

The result is an awesome condiment. It is one our pantry items. I make it every few months. Put it in the fridge and wait for a time we want a really quick, tasty meal. The next few posts are going to be quick ideas of what to do with it that makes it an awesome addition to your own repertoire.


Onion Marmalade
4 lbs onions (sliced thin)
3 slices bacon (thick cut)
2 cup/225g sugar
1 cup/125g dark brown sugar
2 cup red wine
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp./20g salt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1. Place a large, non-reactive pan over medium-low heat. Add the bacon. The goal and render the fat. Once the bacon has crisped, remove.

2. Turn up the heat to high to medium-high, add the onions, salt and olive oil. Stir to make sure the onions are coated with the oil and bacon fat. Cook covered with a tight lid for about 20 minutes. Continue to cook stirring every 5 to 10 minutes until the onions begin to turn golden brown.

3. Add the sugar, brown sugar, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. Cook over medium heat until vicious. To test if it’s the right consistency, dribble a bit of the reduction on a plate and it still liquid, but slowly slips down the plate after it cools briefly. I also look to for doneness by dragging a spoon against the bottom of the pot. If it leaves a long valley, then its done. WARNING: Do not walk away from this once it begins to get close. There is enough sugar in this that it can burn and create sugar concrete on the bottom of your pan.

4. Remove from heat and let cool before storing. Place in a glass or heat resistant container. Cover and refrigerate. This is both acidic and high in sugar, so its excellent for long term storage. It keeps in the fridge well for at least 2 months. Some of the fat may become solid at the top after cooling. I simply scrape it off and dispose of it. Additionally, if the marmalade become too thick after cooling, simply reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds and I find it spreads very easily.


Fresh chorizo and stuffed dates, or as we think about it: rethinking folklore about watching sausage being made.

November 14, 2008


I’ve seen how sausage is made… And it’s not that bad.

OK, I didn’t go to the “sausage factory,” where, I’ve no doubt, the process is much, much more stomach churning. But watching my husband make chorizo sausage from scratch was in no way traumatic. And the smell of him cooking up little “tester patties” was actually kind of appetizing.

There, I said it. Sausage making can be appetizing.

Indeed, I’ll go further. You should try to make sausage, too. Why? Well, I’ll give you three good reasons: Delicious southwestern-style fritatas, hearty corn bread and chorizo stuffing, and to-die-for chorizo stuffed dates. All of these tasty, tasty items are drastically improved when you bring your own homemade chorizo sausage to the party.

Consider: Rather than ripping open the shrink-wrapped styrofoam package of pallid, speckled links, you could make — in your own kitchen — fragrant, delicious, crispy, and spicy pork sausage. The smell of fresh cinnamon and the bite of potent spices could cause your nose to twitch. The sound of pork fat hitting pan could cause your stomach to growl. And the smell of the chorizo sausage browning in the pan could cause your mouth to water.

The best part? Not only is making chorizo sausage not gruesome, it’s also not hard. Grind and combine, baby. Plus, none of these recipes call for linked sausage, meaning you can forgo wrestling with slimy intestinal lining or other equally slippery casing alternatives.

Sound good? Don’t forgot to cook me up a tester patty. I’m willing to be your guinea pig!


And now, the husband’s take…

The first time I had fresh sausage was as a kid. My father’s family were farm folk in eastern North Carolina and grew the regions staples—pigs and tobacco. This meant, at least once a year, my father got fresh sausage from the farm. And, no offense to Jimmy Dean and Bob Evans,but to be honest, there really was nothing better. There was something about the quality or perhaps the novelty that made such a positive impression.

So fast forward a few decades, the first thing you learn when you get serious about cooking is controlling quality. The reason the great restaurants produce the greatest food is that every ingredient is high quality. And every step thereafter, from making stock to plating, is about enhancing the underlying quality. If you take this to the level of Thomas Keller at the French Laundry or Patrick O’Connell at The Inn at Little Washington, then it becomes obsessions that leads to legendary greatest. Or if you are me, it’s why you make chicken stock a couple times a month, go to various farmers markets around town or make my own sausage then write a post about it.

The chorizo is great. You could eat sausage alone, but it isn’t a hot dog or bratwurst. To me, it’s a component and taking control to build a better result. As my wife pointed out, there are at least two other posts on the blog where chorizo is used. Today, I add another recipe here, a cocktail party classic—chorizo stuffed dates. So while, “making sausage” has it’s negative connotations, if you have the inkling, do it yourself. It’s actually fun.

Before I quit writing, some technical information about the recipe. First, this is fresh chorizo. Aficionados of chorizo can do dissertations on the subject. In some regions, it’s a dried sausage like salami or pepperoni. In others, it’s a loose sausage. It can or can’t be smoked. In general, I’m not remotely claiming this as a definitive or authentic recipe. This is simply my recipe which tends to be a bit on the spicy side.

Second, I got into sausage making right about the time I started culinary school. It began with Brian Polclyn and Michael Ruhlman’s great book, Charcuterie. While this recipe is significantly different then the one that can be found in their book, it would be a lie if I didn’t acknowledge their influence. If you enjoy this sort of thing, I would highly recommend their book. My copy is getting beat up from going on and off the shelf so much.

Third, this makes quite a bit of chorizo. It keeps easily for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. It also freezes well. I don’t put mine in cases to make links, but Ruhlman and Polcyn recommend hog casings if you want to follow their lead.

Finally, you need to work clean and cold when you grind meat. This means I clean my grinding equipment before and after every use. It also means that everything gets placed in either the freezer or refrigerator between steps including the meat, the grinder, and the bowl that catches the meat. If you don’t keep things cold, you risk the fat rendering out and loosing flavor.


Fresh Chorizo
3 lbs pork shoulder (diced to fit grinder)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. tequila

Spice Mix:
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika (hot)
1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flake


1. Toss together diced pork, spice mix, salt and minced garlic making sure that everything is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 min.

2. Clean grinding equipment and bowl. Place equipment in the freezer (or keep cold) until ready to grind.

3. Grind the meat being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to catch any straggling spice mix or garlic. When using the Kitchen-Aid grinder attachment, I use the small die (the screen in front of the grinding blade) on low speed for best results. If the meat is no longer cold, cover and refrigerate before proceeding.

4. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the ground meat and tequila to the bowl. Mix on medium speed until the meat is a pâté consistency. This should take about 1 minute.

5. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, place a small, quarter-sized patty of the sausage. Brown on both sides. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

6. Once done, move to a clean container, cover tightly and refrigerate. Should keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or can be divided up and part placed in the freezer for later use.



Chorizo Stuffed Dates w/Goat Cheese
24 pitted dates
1/4 lbs fresh chorizo
6-8 slices bacon
4 oz. goat cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Slice each date along one side using a paring knife.

3. Taking a pinch of chorizo, press into the pocket formed by opening the date.

4. Stretch each slice of bacon out on a cutting board. This is the key as it avoids the need for toothpicks. The bacon should be about 1/3 larger then when pulled from the rest of the slices.

5. Roll the date until date is covered and the bacon comes around about 1 1/2 times. Cut from the slice. You should get 3 to 4 dates per slice of bacon.

6. Place on baking sheet with a rack. Bake for 30 min or until the bacon is golden and fat rendered. Rotate halfway through cooking. It’s important your baking sheet has a lip on all sides as there will be a good pool of fat on the bottom of the sheet.

7. Plate, sprinkle over with goat cheese. Serve warm.


‘nilla wafer puddin’: so good, it’s scary

October 30, 2008


It isn’t right to torment your husband.

I know this, and yet, when it comes to Banana & Vanilla Wafer Pudding (‘nilla wafer puddin’ for short), I can’t help myself. It’s just so good.

Yes, my husband has had months of professional French-style culinary training. Yes, he can braise, glaze and flam-baze with the best of them. But when it comes to old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs, lick the spoon, go for third-helpings kind of deliciousness, this clip-from-the-back-of-the-box recipe still takes the cake (er, pudding).

It is a crowd pleaser. Everybody loves it. Everybody comments on it. Everybody wants the recipe. Everybody goes back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths, until finally you come upon a guest surreptitiously running his finger along the rim of the empty bowl and making satisfied sucking sounds until said bowl is forcibly removed from his hands.

It’s that good, people.

Now my husband grumps, and moans, and bellyaches about that “darn ‘nilla wafer puddin.” But he makes it, and then begrudgingly laps up the accompanying praise and glory.

But let’s be honest. I do the work here, people. I am the one who flatters, badgers and goads until the husband ponies up the delicious homemade vanilla pudding. And then I am the one who lovingly assembles the whole concoction into a thing of beauty. Yes, I — the wife — make the whip cream, cut up the bananas and lovingly stack the Nilla wafers into a towering trifle of dessert deliciousness.

That’s right: Don’t believe the husband, he’s not the ‘nilla wafer puddin’ martyr he’d have you believe.

But you can believe one thing: This Banana & Vanilla Wafer Pudding is really that good. It’s totally worth tormenting your husband for. Enjoy it! And Happy Halloween!


And now, the husband’s take…

I hate this recipe. No, actually, I don’t really HATE this recipe. It’s just that I don’t get it. I think it’s a good recipe. I really like what it makes. But… well… despite culinary school, despite all the cool techniques, despite my growing knowledge of food, this very simple recipe is the one I’m asked for the most.

I get emails from family members saying, “I’ve looked everywhere on the blog, but can’t find it.” I get calls asking for it. My wife even has a slightly obnoxious chant she does when she wants me to make it, and I’m quite certain my 19 month old is going to start joining her any day now. I’m pretty much obligated to make this for every family gathering or to bring it to any social gathering where you are expected to provide a dish. Because of this demand, I’m putting it up to share.

Finally, I appreciate this recipe is most associated with summer and childhood. But, honestly, its perfect for tomorrow if you are having a party. This recipe can easily serve 12 very hungry folks and I suspect even more of the smaller guys. It keeps well if you refrigerate it. It’s actually better if you make it the day before as the flavors of the banana spread around and the cookies absorb the liquid and get a more cake-like consistency. So, Happy Halloween and enjoy! Just don’t ask me for the recipe later.

Click here for the recipe for ‘Nilla Wafer Pudding.


Banana & Vanilla Wafer Pudding
1/2 box Nilla wafers
5 bananas
Vanilla pudding (recipe below)
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Make and cool the pudding according to the directions below.

2. Just before starting construction, use a mixer (preferably hand or stand) and whip together the heavy cream, vanilla, salt and sugar until you see stiff peaks. Set aside. (How do you know when you’ve achieved stiff peaks? When you can turn the whisk upside down and the peak of mount whipped cream stays pointy.)

3. Slice the bananas about a quarter inch thick.

4. Layer the dish as follows: Pudding, wafers, whip cream, bananas.

5. This is best done the day before serving, but is still good if made several hours before serving. The goal is to have the pudding — with all its fat — pick up the flavors from the banana, and for the wafers to soften when sandwiched between the liquids.

6. Refrigerate when done. Serve cold.

Vanilla Pudding
6 cups milk
3/4 cup corn starch
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Take 1 cup of milk and add to the starch. Whisk until dissolved. It should have the consistency of heavy cream. Set aside.

2. Combine the remaining milk, salt and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.

Note: You can use a whole vanilla bean. If you wish to use one, slice in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the bean now while warming. Also, remember this is milk boiling, do not walk away from it. It will overflow and cause a mess if left unwatched.

3. Turn heat to medium. While whisking consistently, add the slurry of milk and corn starch.

4. Temper the egg yolks. Do this by ladling in some of the hot liquid into a bowl containing the egg yolks while constantly whisking. This will slowly warm the yolks and prevent them from curdling when you add them to the hot liquid. Add the tempered egg yolks to the milk mixture.

5. Continue to whisk regularly while the mixture begins to heat up. It should start to thicken as it approaches a boil.

6. Once thick, pour into a second container and cool. You can place this in the fridge and let cool for a couple hours. Or you can set up an ice bath by placing a bowl inside another bowl of equal parts ice and water, then whisk the pudding until cool. Add the vanilla extract once it’s no longer hot.

Note: If using a vanilla bean, remove the bean’s shell at this point.

7. Refrigerate until ready to use. If the pudding is stiff when you remove it from the refrigerator, simply whip it for about 30 seconds with a hand or stand mixer. It should smooth out quickly, and be easy to pour.


Braised beef short rib defies definition

October 28, 2008


Braise (tr.v. braised, brais*ing, brais*es): To cook by browning in fat, then simmering in a small quantity of liquid in a covered container.

Seldom has a definition been so inadequate. Shouldn’t the definition of braise include words like “sublime,” “transcendent,” “gorgeous,” “silky,” or just plain “delicious”? Clearly dictionary writers have not eaten braised meats, or they wouldn’t be so adjectively-challenged.

A braise done right is a thing of beauty and joy to devour. And to eat my husband’s braised beef short ribs is to consume comfort and deliciousness in a bowl. It’s the kind of meal that assaults your senses and your memories… conjuring up the sounds of your grandmother’s kitchen, or the feeling of swinging your legs under the dining room chair when you were seven, or the first time you ever had mashed potatoes. If there were a movie about eating these braised short ribs, it would include a montage of your most favorite childhood memories. Seriously, they’re that good.

The ingenious braising process not only yields fork-tender strands of juicy, flavorful meat, it also produces the most heavenly dark and rich sauce to pour over it (and over the starch of your choice). With subtle hints of the generous veg, wine and of course, meat, that combined forces for hours over low heat, the sauce alone is good enough to lick off the back of your spoon — repeatedly and joyfully.

Still not convinced? Well, if my words aren’t enough to persuade you, perhaps you can feast your eyes on the photographs… Yes, it really is as good as it looks.


And now the husband’s take…

While I do love to braise, and braise often, there are even better reasons to make this recipe. First, is its versatility. There are really a half dozen ways you can use the short rib you’ve prepared; here I show you two. One, you can simply remove the bone and serve the short rib, as is, covered with sauce. The is classic: Put your protein on a plate, serve with starch (I like spaetzle) and some vegetables, and you are good to go. Or, two, you can shred the short rib and serve it in its sauce over pasta for a one-plate dish. Another way, not shown here, is to serve the short rib on toast or a roll for a truly decadent sandwich. (This is frequently the fate of our leftovers!)

The second thing I love about this recipe is what I think of as its “watch the game” benefits. Sure, this recipe does take time. But it really is a series of 10 minute bursts. The night before you take 10 minutes to start it marinating, and then you forget it. The next day you brown things, add some liquid, put it in the pot, and go “watch the game.” When the game is over, you strain and work for 10 to 15 minutes. An hour or so later, you have one of the best meals you’ve ever eaten. This is huge. While I’m often in the kitchen, I’ve got plenty of time to do other things.

Finally, I’ve attached my recipe for pasta dough. I’ve been playing with it and have never quite been pleased with my results until recently. The biggest change is a shift in mindset. I’ve started to think of it more like a pie crust, meaning, I need just enough moisture to bring it together and then I need to let it rest. Once I began to imagine it this way, I found my pasta was all the better. After I add the eggs, I look for the dough to be a bit like wet sand and not more. I shape it, then let it sit for at least 30 minutes before rolling. Everyone agrees the pasta is even better now.

Braised Beef Short Rib
5 lbs. beef short ribs (bone in)
1 large onion (rough chop)
2 medium carrots (rough chop)
3 ribs celery (rough chop)
5 sprigs thyme
1 bunch stems of parsley (just stems)
2 bay leaves

1 qt. beef stock
2 cups red wine (rec. cabernet sauvignon/shiraz)
1 large onion (rough chop)
3 medium carrots (rough chop)
3 large ribs celery (rough chop)
4 cloves garlic
6 stems fresh parsley
5 sprigs fresh thyme
5 peppercorns

1. In a large container, combine the ingredients for the marinade and add the short ribs, making sure they are fully submerged. Refrigerate overnight or for no more than 24 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 250F.

3. Remove the short ribs from the marinade, pat dry and set aside. Stain the liquid and reserve both the vegetables and the liquids for later use.

4. Place a large pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once the oil shimmers and before it smokes, add the short ribs being careful not to overcrowd. They should sizzle softly. You may need to work in batches. Brown the meat on all sides.

5. Add both the reserved vegetables and new. Scrape the bottom of the pot to remove the fond (the caramelized bits stuck to the pan). Continue to cook over medium to medium high heat until the onions begin to take on a golden color.

6. Add the reserved liquid from the marinade. Once again, scrape the bottom to remove all the fond. Add the bay leaves, thyme, parsley stems, and meat. If the meat is not covered add just enough water to cover.

7. Place in oven for 4 1/2 hours or until the meat falls from the bone.

8. Remove meat, cover in aluminum foil, place in a warm oven and strain liquid.

9. Place liquid over medium to medium high heat and reduce about 75% or until it forms a viscous sauce. It should coat the back of the spoon easily. At this point, you can serve the short rib with the sauce over it, or add shredded meat to the sauce and serve over pasta. If over pasta, I recommend topping with pecorino or parmesan cheese.

Fresh Pasta
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tbsp. water

1. Place the flour in a food processor and run. Slowly add the beaten eggs. Once integrated stop. Add the water and pulse 5-6 times.

2. The flour should feel/look like wet sand and come together if pressed in the palm of your hand. If it doesn’t, add a small bit of water and pulse again. It should not come together easily.

3. Turn the dough out into a bowl and press into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. If it has rested longer, let it sit out still wrapped for about 10 minutes or until you can work with it more easily.

4. Cut into four pieces and roll out using a pasta machine. Start at the lowest setting and follow your machine’s instructions. You can hand cut to papperadell or tagatali or use machine’s cutting attachments.


Beer is good. Fathers are good. A post about excellent collaborations.

June 12, 2008


Fathers don’t always want ties for Father’s Day. They don’t always want breakfast in bed. Dads don’t always want power tools for their birthday (unless of course they are cooking geeks and want a cold smoker — ahem, Jack, you get the message there, buddy. Notice the link.).

It is true, however, that dads like a good beer. OK, even that isn’t always true. But it is true of this father on his second Father’s Day. That is why I’ve decided to make a pair of recommendations to all you folks looking for something for dear old Dad.

So, a couple of years ago, Garret Oliver — brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, beer luminary, and Slow Food guru — had a moment of mutual admiration with Hans-Peter Drexler, brewmaster of G. Schneider & Son of Germany. The American loved the wheatbeers of the German. The German loved the hoppy beers of the American. And in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup moment of brilliance, they decided to combine efforts.  Their joint venture became these two bottles of beer.



While using essentially the same recipe, they manufactured two distinct beers. Brooklyner-Schneider is brewed here in the States using American hops and Schnieder’s yeast; the Schnieder-Brooklyner is brewed in Germany using local hops and Brooklyn’s yeast. The result is some of the most delicous beer I’ve had. Both are snappy, with a myriad of flavors like banana, but with high acidity. These are perfect beers for lighter summer fare or even richer barbeque food. They are also spectacular for sitting and drinking on the back porch after the kids have left the house or gone to bed.

Either beer would make an excellent gift for a Dad. I tend to favor the Brooklyner, the wife seems to favor the Schneider. So, have fun and pour both to decide for yourself. This is the second year of this collaboration, and the beers are available only in limited quantities — so they may be difficult to find. Try your local beermonger.

Finally, in the last food post, I mentioned a pairing for the salad with some great craft beers. I also felt a little self conscious because I gave such light beers my first nod. So I feel the need to prove my manliness and my growing understanding of beer. Yes, real men only drink dark, monster hopped IPAs and Budweiser. Well, OK, I don’t drink like that. But I’m a man, dammit! I’ve a son to prove it to!


As a result of this need to prove my manlihood, I’ll occasionally make suggestions for pairings of beer and food. I’ll also drop a post now and then about something exceptional I’m drinking. We aren’t going to become a beer blog; there are better and smarter guys doing that sort of writing. Instead, we like to think of ourselves as being about the food and the joyous event of sharing time with people. I hope you enjoy this new twist. Also, if you’ve got insights and suggestions on things that you are drinking, we’d love to incorporate them.

So, if you don’t have a chance to sit down and pour your Dad a beer, and/or sit down and share a meal with him, I hope you call him on Sunday.


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