Thursday, December 15, 2011

I did it all for the cookie, the cookie 1-Sugar Cookies

**Authors Note** About a week before Christmas my Mac went on the fritz and my blog on Sugar cookies was not done in time. I love this recipe and they are great for any occasion so ignore the Christmas-centric parts and just enjoy

So not only has it been a month since my last blog but this is the first blog to address my true food love; baking. When I started baking was when my interest in food really took off. Fresh, homemade baked goods, particularly sweets, make people happy. Making people happy should make you happy so baking makes everyone happy. Now baking is also closer to science then cooking and recipes, amounts, ratios, etc can not be played free and loose or your end result will be less awesome then it should. Baking can be a bit challenging at the beginning but if you follow a few steps and it all becomes routine it's really a walk in the park. So here are a few general rules to successful baking experiences.

1) Unless the recipes states otherwise bring all your cold ingredients up to room temperature
2) Make sure your oven is preheated to the proper temperature
3) Quality ingredients= quality results. Avoid Christmas Tree Shoppes vanilla extract and cinnamon etc
4) Sift together all your dry ingredients ahead of time
5) Better hardware= better results
6) preparation makes everything go more smoothly

Regarding hardware, if you"re really going to do a lot of baking invest in a stand mixer. I did. Save up your spare change and get a good one. I did. Literally. I turned all my coins into Coinstar for an Amazon gift card and got myself a Kitchenaid and I use it all the time. By hand and hand mixers work but are way more labor intensive. Also for cooking trays avoid anything labeled "cookie sheets" or "baking sheets" and go pursue nice heavy duty half sheet pans you can find at most cooking stores. Nothing fancy about them but they don't warp and they conduct heat like a superstar. Lastly invest in some silicone baking mats. They can be reused hundreds of times and nothing sticks to them

So the first baked item I want to discuss is cookies. Cookies are the perfect dessert as they are a special treat warm out of the oven, stay fresh for days and are ultra portable and a perfect bring along item. Now, as holidays are looming I want to discuss my 2 favorite cookies before its too late to show off your holiday baking skills. We're talking sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies. Both are made using the creaming method and both doughs come together quickly and easily. We'll go over sugar cookies first as making the dough is easy while rolling and cutting takes a little more practice


2 sticks unsalted, room temperature butter

1 cup sugar

3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg lightly beaten

1 Tbsp milk

Step 1- Prep- Early in the day you're going to bake take out the 2 sticks of butter. Leave them wrapped of in a covered bowl. I do it before I leave for work and it's perfect when I get home. When you're ready to get going preheat the oven to 375. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat together the egg and milk in a small bowl

Step 2- add butter to work bowl of mixer with paddle attachment. Turn on low and start creaming the butter. You can increase the speed a bit. The color of the butter should lighten. Turn back to low and add the sugar. Increase the speed a bit for 10-20 seconds to finish creaming the butter and sugar. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl

Step 3- add the egg mixture and mix on slow for a minute until the liquid and creamed butter mixture are combined.

Step 4- with the mixer on low slowly add the dry ingredients. I use an oversize spoon and add a scoop at a time waiting for the flour to incorporate before adding another scoop. At about the halfway point, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl. The mixture will become denser and start pulling away from the sides of the bowl. When the last of the dry ingredients are added continue to mix until the dough pulls away from the sides completely

Step 5- separate the dough into 2 even pieces and form them into shallow disks. Wrap the disks in wax paper and put them in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or longer)

So at this point we're going to roll the dough to cut into festive shapes. This is not simple and takes some practice. I implore you to watch the video as to type the whole rolling process would be boring and repetitive. Some general hints ar:
A) use a well floured surface. Actually I prefer confectioners sugar as it won't change the consistency of the dough
B) while difficult to work with the dough must be cold. If it gets warm it will stick to your table and/or rolling pin. Keep a sheet pan in the freezer and if the dough gets to warm lay the cold sheet pan on top of it for a few minutes
C) Roll with even pressure to keep the thickness uniform. We're looking for 1/4" thickness
D) Choose sensible cookie cutters as the more elaborate they are the harder they are to work with
E) Try and get as many cookies as you can on the first pressing
F) Quickly re-roll the left over dough for a second pressing etc

Step 6- Arrange the cut dough on a 2 sheet pans with parchment paper of a silicone baking sheet. Don't crowd them (I usually go 6 to a sheet or a dozen at a time. Apply a liberal amount of appropriately colored sugar crystals

Step 7- Put in the oven for 7-9 minutes rotating pans once at 4 minutes. When the edges are just starting to brown they're done. Let cool on the pans for a couple of minutes before removing to cooling racks

I'm not kidding when I tell you these are probably the one thing I make that people can't get enough of and that are, with the exception of getting the rolling down pat, pretty damned simple to make. Well, if you have a stand mixer (go get one)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rise and Shine- Cleaning Out The Fridge

So I haven't really touched on my favorite meal of the day- breakfast. I love eating breakfast and breakfast was the first meal I made well. Omelets, pancakes, waffles...I love them all. However the dish I make most often on weekends is an oven baked fritatta. A fritatta is an egg dish started on the stove top and finished in the oven typically with a carb base such as potatoes or cooked pasta. The best part is it's a great vehicle for leftovers from the weeks previous meals. I use it for leftover proteins, cheese, etc (veggies work great if you go for those things). It's a killer dish for 1 or 2 in the proportions we'll discuss here but it doubles and triples well. I've been known to break out the big ol cast iron skillet and crack a dozen eggs and make one for the family...anyway, this is another one of those where there are no real rules other then the egg base. Whatever carb you're using are best if they are already cooked but in a pinch potatoes can be cooked in the same pan first. As far as the fillings the sky is the limits just use common sense. The vessel for this is kind of important. You'll need a pan with fairly high, straight walls that has an oven-proof handle. A cast iron skillet works great. When I make it for myself I have a great little non-stick sautee pan that works great. Oh one last thing. On the video for this one I was experimenting with my point-of-view cam. Let me know what you think


Egg Base-

3 eggs

1/4 cup of dairy (whole milk, half and half, whole cream, etc) I use whole milk as that's what I usually have in the fridge. Avoid 1 or 2% if you can

A pinch of salt and a couple grinds of fresh cracked pepper


My famous pan fried potatoes

My equally famous pulled pork

Left over ham

Left over cheese from my chicken fajitas

Step 1- preheat oven to 350

Step 2- Beat 3 eggs, dairy, salt and pepper and add half the cheese. Let the mixture come to room temperature

Step 3- Preheat pan over medium high heat. Add 2 tbs off butter and a drizzle of olive oil to the pan. When the fat is properly heated add enough potatoes to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Keep the potatoes moving for a few minutes with a spatula. This is more or less further crisping the potatoes for a better texture on the final product

Step 4- Add the rest of the fillings except the cheese (in this case ham and pulled pork). As with the potatoes keep them moving around in the pan allowing the flavors to mix and putting a little carmelization on the fillings

Step 5- Add the egg mix to the hot pan. Let it set for a few seconds the using your spatula start pulling the cooked egg away from the sides allowing the raw egg to make contact with the hot pan. (see video) Do this around the whole pan. The middle will not be full cooked. This is a good thing

Step 6- Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese

Step 7- Place in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes or until the whole thing looks solid and the cheese on top has started to brown

Step 8- Carefully remove from the oven as the handle with be screaming hot. Extract from the pan, slice it in wedges and enjoy

The best part is you get your eggs, meat and potatoes all in one neat package and whatever your don't finish reheats really well so you can have leftovers of your leftovers fritatta the next day...errr or something

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tastes like chicken (fajitas)

I love to play with food. Interactive food types allow you to stretch the culinary imagination a bit. Southwestern or Tex Mex cuisine tends towards foods where you prepare the final dish yourself. The king of these would have to be fajitas a favorite of chain restaurants everywhere. The sizzling cast iron skillet of meat, sides like cheese, sour cream, peepers, onions, pico...yup, awesome.But did you know that making your own is super easy and relatively inexpensive? Well I'm telling you it is. You need only keep 3 rules in mind; a great marinade, larger cuts of meat, and a sizzling hot pan

I'm going to share my favorite fajita marinade which I tend to use on chicken even when I'm not doing fajitas. This marinade would also work great with shrimp and skirt steak (both of which I find overpriced). For demonstration purposes I will also be cooking with peppers and onions which, as you know, I loathe. The things I do for you people!! We're cooking with boneless, skinless chicken breast mostly because I love chicken and it's on sale every other week. Now, the absolute key is leaving the breasts whole, cooking them, then slicing them. When you use small little pieces like you would for stir fry they just dry out. So, we'll marinate, cook until it's mostly cooked, slice it, finish it and eat it!!


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (if you watch the videos (and I hope you do) you'll see I'm obviously not cooking the whole 2 lbs at once as I was cooking just for me)

1 yellow or white onion

1 pepper (green, red, whatever you want...I'm using red)

For marinade-
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Flour tortillas
sour cream
shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, etc)
pico de gallo

Step 1- To make the marinade combined all ingredients in a container with a lid and shake the heck out of it. Don't sub bottled lime juice for fresh!!

Step 2- Put the chicken in a zip top bag and pour the marinade over it. Seal and move the chicken around to coat it all (note- if you breasts seem overly thick you may want to butterfly them-see 1st video). Put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight

Step 3- Cut the onion in thin rings then cut in half. Cut the pepper into long strips then cut in half (again see first video)

Step 4- Preheat a heavy skillet (or electric skillet) on medium high. Add a drizzle of oil (I used regular olive oil). Add the chicken to the skillet. Cook 4-6 minutes depending on the thickness of the breast (if the bottom is nicely brown it's ready to turn). Turn the chicken over. Add the onions and peppers. Keep the veggies moving. We want to saute them, not burn them. After about 4 minutes remove the chicken

Step 5- On a cutting board, with your sharpest knife, cut the chicken into thin strips. The chicken should be a bit "under" cooked. Return to pan with onions and peppers and continue to stir the chicken and veggies around the pan. The meat will pick up the flavor of the veggies and the marinade which now coats the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes and enjoy

I'm not going to tell you how to serve fajitas as anyone who's been to a chili/friday/applebees knows how to do that!! I hope you like this one as it's both tasty, fun, and a great meal for a group (or one hungry, hungry person)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

(cold) Salad Days

OK, I'm still not out of the weeds yet with work and life but I wanted to get a quickie in before summer unofficially ends. Cold salads are a staple for cookouts, BBQ's, and picnics alike. There are so many variations on potato and pasta salads it's mind boggling. Here is one I like because it comes together quickly and has only 3 ingredients. This is my version of tortellini salad


1 8.8 oz package dry tortellini (I'm using Ronzoni 3 cheese tortellini)- Your can use fresh or refrigerated but make sure you still boil it. Uncooked refrigerated ends up too al dente

8 oz creamy dressing- I like lite creamy parmesan

1/4 cup shredded carrot

Step 1- Boil the pasta according to the package- It will likely say 11-13 minutes but I'm telling you to check it a around 8 minutes. We are looking for super al dente. If you over cook it it will fall apart when adding the dressing. Drain it and let it cool completely (refrigerate it if needed)

Step 2- Shred a carrot with a box grater to get approximately 1/4 cup of carrot. It adds to the taste and a textural crunch to the pasta

Step 3- Add the dressing and carrot to the cooled pasta. Mix thoroughly with a spatula to distribute evenly. Refrigerate for at least an hour and ideally 3 plus hours to let the flavors meld.

And that's it. The cold, cheesy tortellini and the crunchy, sweet carrots offset perfectly by the creamy, tangy dressing. Because we're using dry pasta and salad dressing it's primary ingredients are something you can always have in the pantry so, um, no excuses

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No Excuses Excuse

As I posted on my other blog ( I have just plain run out of time and energy these last few weeks and haven't found time to post new recipes etc. Work, like the job I get paid for, has been exhausting and idle time when I'm off has been hard to come by. But oh, I've been cooking and filming so once I get a chance to sit down in from of my Mac Book and edit some vids they'll be coming fast and furious (no, not the Vin Diesel movie). In the next few weeks look forward to chicken fajitas, several salads (seriously) and Texas red chili and some other goodies. I've also upgraded to a high def video recorder and look for the debut of the P.O.V. cam

Keep cooking, no excuses!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pigging Out

OK, so if you've been paying attention (and I hope you have been) I've been slowly building towards my indoor pulled pork preparation. We've discussed BBQ sauce, slow cookers, and dry rubs and now we're going to put them all to use. I love pulled pork and never miss an opportunity to eat some whenever I go for BBQ. As I don't have a yard, a grill, or a smoker I've had to find other ways to make nearly authentic pulled pork and this is what I've come up with. As noted in my slow cooker blog I have upgraded to a Rival BBQ Pit which is even closer to authentic but for the sake of this blog we're just talking a regular crock pot

Pulled pork is one of the big three BBQ items along with ribs and brisket (as far as I'm concerned). I mostly associate great pulled pork with the Carolinas and the smoky, tangy taste it comes along with. Great pulled pork has a vinegary taste to it that is great accompanied by BBQ sauce but shouldn't be necessary. For this preparation we're going to rub, cook, then finish with a vinegar based sauce. The classic BBQ sauce we discussed here (getting saucy) is more a condiment to be used as much or as little as you like

Let's start with the cut of meat, pork butt. Now with a name like that you'd figure the cut is from the backside of the pig, right? I know I did the first time I saw a diner in New Bedford, MA advertising pork butt sandwiches. No, pork butt (or Boston butt as it's also known) is from the upper shoulder of the front leg of the pig. It's usually well marbled, relatively inexpensive, and a tough cut of meat that works best with long, slow cooking techniques. For cooking in a crock pot (which we will be) I prefer boneless but of late I've only been able to find cuts with the blade bone still in. It's not a big deal. If the cut has a LOT of exterior fat then trim some of it away. Most will melt away but as we're doing a slow simmer all the rendered fat will end up in the simmering liquid. I feel the best result is prepping the day before cooking so plan ahead

The hardest flavor to impart on your pork in a Crock is smoke. We did use smoked paprika in the rub and will use more in the finishing sauce but for that real smoky essence we're going to add a little liquid smoke to the simmering liquid. Liquid smoke is actually made from gathering condensed smoke so it's all natural, not artificial and can usually be found in just about any supermarket. A little goes a long way so be careful.



2-3 lbs pork butt (shoulder) well trimmed- I have a 6 quart Crock Pot so this is as big as I can get in it)

Rich O's Dry Rub (found here)
1 cup water

1 tsp liquid smoke

For the finishing sauce (I can't some up with a better name so that's the name I'm using)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Step 1-Take your pork that's been well trimmed and pat it dry with paper towel. Place it on a flexible cutting board (or anything that can catch the excess rub and that the pork won't stick to). Grab your dry rub and coat the entire butt in it. Really work it into the surface. You can wear gloves if you wish but if not as soon as you are done wash your hands thoroughly. Put the rubbed pork in a container with a lid that seals tight and let it sit overnight. Dump any rub that didn't stick as once it's touched raw meat it can't be used again

Step 2- Remove the pork from the container. You'll notice quite a bit of liquid has been pulled out of the meat. That's a good thing. Place the pork in the Crock Pot. Add the liquid smoke to the water. OK, here is the inexact part. Carefully start pouring the water around the pork. Depending on the size and shape of the pork butt AND the Crock Pot the whole cup may not be necessary. Pour in enough so the liquid comes no higher then 2" up the side of the pork. If you add too much liquid at the start the additional liquid drawn during the cooking phase could cause your Crock Pot to overflow like in the unfortunate corned beef incident of 2009. The pork butt I used in the accompanied video I only added about 1/2 cup. Put the lid on, set it to low and let it cook for 10-12 hours. Yes that's right, 10-12 hours. AND don't you dare remove that lid

Step 3- Some time in the course of 10-12 hours you want to prep the finishing sauce. This is easy peasy. Mix the brown sugar with the hot water and stir until it's dissolved. Add the cider vinegar, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne. The original recipe I used for this sauce was chokingly strong with vinegar so I've cut how much I use. If you prefer to switch out red pepper flake for cayenne you can do so. This sauce gives the pork a more authentic taste

Step 4- Remove the pork from the Crock Pot. This can be easier said then done as it will quite literally be falling apart. I use whatever I have to get it out from tongs to a slotted spoon to a fat skimmer. Because we're adding our own vinegar based sauce you can dump whatever liquid is left in the bottom of the Crock Pot. Now we pull. Some like to chop, others to shred with forks. I just throw on kitchen gloves and tear right in. If you do use your hands it's a good idea to let the meat cool down a bit. There is no method to the madness just grab big pieces and tear them up into smaller pieces. There really isn't anything more I can add to that

Step 5- Add the pulled pork back to the Crock Pot and set it to "keep warm" if you have that setting (you should). Add the vinegar based sauce from step 3 to the pork. Use a spoon or spatula to evenly coat all the pork. Leave it on warm until you're ready to eat. That's it

I like eating my pulled pork on burger rolls with a squirt of our ketchup based BBQ sauce. For a side I like a killer mac-n-cheese...but that's for another blog. As I am a solo act I end up with LOTS of leftovers which I like to use in a Cubano inspired sandwich or as an ingredient in a clearing out the icebox style fritatta...again, a story for another day. Have fun with one of my favorite dishes. No excuses!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


One of the surest ways to flavor meat is with a rub. While most people (myself included) associate rubs with BBQ dry rubs, almost any kind of flavor enhancer added to food prior to cooking can be considered a rub. In fact I can recall years after the fact the chef in the one and only kitchen I ever worked in using a mustard based "wet" rub on large roasts before cooking them. Rubs can be as complex or simple as you want and many a pit master will take the specifics of his or her rub to their grave before revealing the specifics of what's in there. I have a few I keep around based on what I'm cooking including a poultry "shake" for when I do fried chicken, a spicy rub for spicy turkey or chicken tenders and a base rub/sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder for just about everything else.

Now when we're talking dry rub for BBQ (and we are) the rub needs to perform 3 primary tasks- 1) Drawing moisture from the meat. This moisture will form a saline solution with the herbs and spices that is then drawn back into the meat imparting flavor to the meat and partially tenderizing it 2) Enhance the flavor of the meat- I guess this goes without say 3) Carmelization- This will form the crust or bark that is so desirous in BBQ. So the way I see it every good rub needs at least salt (flavor and drawing moisture), sugar (flavor and carmelization), and herbs and spices (flavor). Getting the proportions right is really the key.

The base proportions of this rub are borrowed heavily from a few sources but mostly the Good Eats dry rub. The last "part" is exactly how I do mine (so no secrets there). The reason for parts versus exact measures is it makes it easy to make whatever volume is necessary as long as the proportions remain the same. In other words it doesn't matter if it's tablespoon, cups, mugs, or shoes. As long as the same size receptacle is used and you follow these proportions you can't go wrong.

The proportion is 8 parts light brown sugar, 3 parts kosher salt, 1 part chili powder and 1 part made up of additional herbs & spices. To make this simpler (I hope) I'm going to base this batch on 1/4 cups. So each part is one 1/4 measurement

Step 1- Add 8 1/4 cups light brown sugar to a lidded, air tight vessel. When you measure brown sugar make sure you pack it down to get the proper amount

Step 2- Add 3 1/4 cups of kosher salt. Avoid table salt. Most kosher salt has no additives and the flake shape tends to work better for drawing out moisture

Step 3- Add 1 1/4 cup chili powder- Chili powder is different then powdered chiles as it is a blend of ground chiles and other spices. I like making my own (future blog alert) or in a pinch one of the really good chili powders from Penzey's Spices. I like using a medium chili powder as opposed to hot as I will be adding some heat later

Step 4- Add 2 teaspoons each black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder (not garlic salt), onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Add 1 teaspoon each turmeric (I like it more for color then anything) and cumin. That's 12 teaspoons or 1/4 cup (see how that works out)

Step 5- Seal the container and shake the hell out of this mix. The brown sugar may clump into little balls. I like to break them up but it's not the end of the world either way. I store mine in the same container but you can also transfer it to mason jars or whatever you have on hand. Properly sealed and stored this will last for quite some time

So what do we do with this rub? I used this on pork ribs, brisket and pork shoulder for an awesome pulled pork! How do we make this pulled pork in an apartment with no backyard? I let you know next time!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Slow Ride

With it being a holiday weekend I figured I'd slow it down (pun intended) a bit and talk a little about an essential kitchen tool; the Crock Pot or slow cooker. This little creation from the 70's, once the receptacle for keeping Swedish meatballs warm during parties, is a must for the busy cook, the beginner cook, or even the absolutely clueless cook. Most recipes involve dumping the ingredients in with some liquid then, to coin a phrase, set it and forget it. The actual cooking method would be considered a long simmer with constant temperatures between 175-200 degrees. The absolute key to success (and it's so hard to screw up that if you do I'll rap you upside the head with a tack hammer) is leave the lid on! The whole damned time! Don't let temptation get the best of you, just leave it on. This maintains the constant temperature and the steam creates condensation to add extra moisture to the dish. As with most low and slow cooking techniques one of the great advantages is you can use tougher, cheaper cuts of meat and they come out fall off the bone tender.

So, what do I make in my Crock Pot? My staples are chili, beef short ribs, baby back ribs, beef stew, pot roast, a pretty decent chicken vindaloo (seriously) and most of all pulled pork. When I started using my Crock Pot I just bought the McCormick seasoning packs and dumped them in but I slowly adapted my own rubs, spice mixes and sauces to make for a better end product. What I really love is being able to dump everything into the pot in the morning and having a finished product when I get home from work. Plus from a timing standpoint you can devote more time to the side dish as the main course is basically done

I recently purchased a variation of the slow cooker in the Rival BBQ Pit. One of my true loves is BBQ but as I have no yard that means no grill, no smoker, no authentic BBQ. You can come close with brisket and pulled pork with a Crock Pot but you get no bark and no smokey flavor. I had been searching one of these out forever and recently found out they are exclusively on QVC (or HSN or one of those places). I've had mine about 4 months now and I love it. The higher dome gives the cooking more convection and is not reliant on moist heat like a traditional slow cooker. It's bigger then I expected which is good and bad as you can cook a lot at once but storage is a bit of a bitch. I've done baby backs, pork ribs, pulled pork, smoked wings and brisket so far and all have been killer. One nice feature is you can add smokey essence with hard wood chips (as I don't have a hood that vents outside I soak them in water so I don't die of inhalation) on the bottom of the cooker. I'm not recommending this for beginners but if you love good Q and have no backyard options the BBQ Pit is awesome

Slow Cookers are short money so go get one right now!!. I have a 4 quart and a 1 quart. 6-8 quart might be a little big for cooking for 1 or 2 people but whatever works for you. My recipe for pulled pork will follow shortly.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Getting Saucy!

Note: This is part 1 of a multi-part blog culminating with my version of pulled pork made indoors

I love condiments, sauces, toppings and the like. I just do! Getting something ordinary then topping it and making it extraordinary is what food is all about. You know you go to that wacky little hotdog stand and get a killer homemade mustard or ketchup, maybe you go to a chi chi restaurant and while the steak was awesome the Bearnaise sauce was what you raved about. Well, that's me! Sauces also happen to be one of my favorite things to make. Now some have a slightly higher degree of difficulty while others are a breeze. One of my absolute favorites, and one that's an absolute breeze to make, is BBQ sauce

BBQ sauce can be made from many different bases ranging from ketchup to vinegar to tomato sauce to mustard depending on your taste, where you're from and what you're using it on. The sweet to heat ration can also vary. For this simple, all purpose, go-to sauce we're going with a ketchup based, sweet but not sickeningly so basic sauce. Prep time is next to nothing and it cooks up right quick. Best of all you should have most of the ingredients lying around the house already (maybe not the paprika but invest in some).

Now before I go any further someone always asks "why bother making your own? You can buy a decent bottle of BBQ sauce for pretty short money". Yes, you can. The reason you make your own is IT TASTES BETTER!! There is something comforting about knowing every ingredient going into something you're going to ingest. Your going to take an ingredient list on the back of a bottle of store bought sauce from 20 plus, most of which you can't identify, to about 6 or 7 (I know mass produced ketchup has a bunch of ingredients too but, well, shut up!!). Anyway try this and tell me if you disagree. As always this is an homage to many base BBQ sauce recipes I've found online and I am in no way claiming it as 100% original


2 cups tomato ketchup- I use a 20 oz bottle and use as much as I can squeeze out. It usually ends up being slightly more then 2 cups (16 oz). But if you have a bigger bottle then measure out the 2 cups. Also, I buy whatever is on sale and not premium stuff like Heinz (I get Hunts at Ocean State Job Lots or Del Monte at the dollar store).

1 cup water

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar- A lot of the taste and tang comes from the vinegar. Make sure you use cider vinegar, not straight white vinegar. Trust me on this one

5 tbs brown sugar- I like light brown sugar and it's more common. Dark brown will produce a different taste because it's heavier in molasses. If that's all you got tho, go with it. I have a different sauce I make with molasses that is equally tasty

5 tbs sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground mustard- (if you have a 1/2 tbs measure you can use that. I don't)

1 1/2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp paprika- I prefer the half sharp to the smoked in this application but again, whatever you have

2-3 grinds black pepper- I've cut way down on how much black pepper I use in this sauce as it kind of over powered the sauce before. If you like more, use more but this is how I like it

1 tbs lemon juice- I have used lime juice in a pinch for that citrus flavor but lemon juice works best

1 tbs Worcestershire sauce


Medium saucepan- You want something deep as opposed to wide. In other words not what you boiled pasta in. I use a high sided saucepan but use what you have.

Spatula or spoon- I use a silicone spatula as towards the end the gunk on the sides can get pretty sticky

Step 1- Dump all the ingredients into the pot (everyone in the pool). Mix all the ingredients together

Step 2- Turn the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer (1 or 2 setting in most cases but it depends on your stove top and your pot)

Step 3- Let simmer for 1 hour - 1 hour 15 minutes uncovered- This will reduce the sauce and give it a thicker body. Stir constantly and keep scraping the remnants from the former "fill line" back into the sauce

And that's it!! Try a taste of it while it's still warm and tell me it's not freakin awesome!! Go ahead, I'll wait....

I store the cooled sauce in a mason jar and store in the fridge. I also like to get a cheap condiment squeeze bottle at the dollar store and fill it if I'm having people over for BBQ for more pinpoint accuracy. Try this one as it's simple, cheap and tasty. No excuses!!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tastes like chicken (cheese steak)

The cheese steak. Probably no sandwich is associated with a city and region the the cheese steak is with Philly. There are literally hundreds, maybe thousands of steak shops found throughout the entire Delaware Valley. Typically a Philly style cheese steak is thin sliced rib-eye (as opposed to shaved sirloin like a Northeast steak and cheese) grilled on a flap top wit or witout (sic) onions and your choice of Whiz (Cheez Whiz) or provolone. The ordering process is soup Nazi-esque as there are monstrous lines at the most popular of these joints. I happen to love cheese steaks and was thrown for a loop when a friend mention a chicken cheese steak. Intrigued, I asked her to describe it. She said grilled chicken served cheese steak style. OK, makes sense. It's one of those makes sense in a chicken fried steak kind of way. I said to myself well I've had a bunch of grilled chicken subs, how different could it be? Next time I was in the area I went out and tried one and it rocked in it's simplicity. It was different say a chicken stir-fry sub or any grilled chicken sub I had tried in MA. The secret seemed to be the really thin cut chicken, marinated, cooked hot and quick so as to not dry out. After a couple of trial and errors and a bit of research I found the perfect, simple recipe that's both simple and tasty

Before we move on I want to address one subject briefly; knives. I've learned over the years the success or failure of many a dish can be traced back to knife cuts. A sharp knife allows you to make thinner, finer, much more precise cuts then using a dull knife. In the following recipe thin cuts are required so grab your sharpest knife and let's get going


Boneless, skinless chicken breast- I bought 2 1/2 lbs at $1.69 a lb. I prepped it all and froze what I didn't use. Depending on your appetite or how many people are eating I'd figure on a 1/2 to 3/4 lb portion per person

Creamy Italian dressing- Nothing high end, whatever is on sale

Sub roll or torpedo roll
Cheez Whiz Processed Cheese Spread or provolone cheese


Frying pan with lid- I'm using my handy dandy electric skillet

Sharp knife

Cutting board

Ziploc bag

Strainer or colander


Step 1- Lay out the chicken breast on your cutting board and trim any excess fatty pieces of skin or cartilage hanging on. This will ensure every bite is tender. Take the trimmed chicken and put them in your freezer for about 45 min to an hour to solidify making thin cuts much easier

Step 2- Remove your slightly hardened chicken from the freezer. Leave the chicken you're not working with in the freezer until ready to cut. Carefully, keeping your fingers away from the knife, cut the chicken in long, thin strips. As thin as you can. When you're done cutting strips, cut the strips in half to make cooking easier

Step 3- Put your sliced chicken into a Ziploc bag and pour in enough creamy Italian dressing to cover the chicken. Work the chicken around with your hand to evenly distribute it. Squeeze as much excess air our of the bag. Let marinate the the refrigerator for at least a half hour. Since I'm doing a make ahead I'm going to let it marinate over night

Step 4- Take the chicken from the bag and put it in a strainer in the sink. Run cold water over the chicken until most of the visible marinade is gone. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to come to room temperature as it will cook quicker (this is suggested but not necessary)

Step 5- Turn your skillet to 350 or your frying pan on your stove top to medium high heat. Using tongs or a slotted spoon put your chicken in the hot pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan as the steam will help with the cooking. Don't add too much as it won't all evaporate and you'll end up with excess liquid in the pan. Grab your spatula and and move the chicken around, turning it over and chopping it up as you go. After a couple of minutes lid the pan to again use a little of the steam to cook the chicken thru. If you followed the directions to this point the total cooking time should be no more then 3 minutes or so

Step 6- If your using Cheez Whiz, split your roll in half but not all the way thru and apply a generous spread of Whiz to both the top and bottom of the roll. If you're using provolone, and I recommend sharp provolone, apply 2 slices to your now cooked but still hot in the pan chicken to let it melt. If you want to eat it like me go with both Whiz AND sharp provolone

Step 7- Use your spatula or slotted spoon to pile the chicken on the roll and enjoy!!

The important parts of this recipe are ultra-thin slices, a long marinade, and a hot pan to ensure thorough cooking while not drying it out. As you probably know by know I'm not an onion or pepper guy but if you want to add them to your cheese steak, go for it. Let me know what you think of this one

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

1 potato, 2 potato, pan fried potatoes, more!

Let's get this party started with my favorite versatile ingredient (albeit an ingredient I should use in moderation) the humble potato. It's delicious in every form be it baked, fried, roasted, mashed, pureed, whipped, shredded, and on and on. And as a side dish the potato is awesome at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For today's blog I'm going to go over my favorite preparation and that's pan fried potatoes. Now, some will say "hey Rich, this sounds and awful lot like home fries". Well, you'd be correct. This really is a classic home fries preparation but I like them as a side for dinner as well. They come together faster and with less steps then mashed and taste better and doesn't require turning on the oven then baked. French fries rock but the whole pulling out the deep fryer thing on a random night is just too much effort (and my place ends up smelling like a Speedy Change Oil for a week). No, I choose pan fried potatoes because they're crispy outside and silky smooth inside and are really a breeze to make

So, this is going to be a loose preparation without a precise recipe (this will happen a lot). This is mostly because this is supposed to be versatile and to be versatile it means using what's on hand. The great part about this type of potato is that because of out secret weapon (read on) the insides will be cooked perfectly without the outside burning from over cooking as is often the case.
So, for the ingredients we will need:

potatoes- I prefer russets or something with a sturdy skin as we're leaving the tasty skins on. I'm using 3 large potatoes as that's how much my pan will hold. Whatever is left over will become, well, leftovers
fat- butter, olive oil, corn oil...whatever you have. I use a combination of butter and olive oil myself
Dry spices- Whatever you have on hand but at the very least salt (kosher or sea salt) and black pepper (fresh ground). But whatever else you have (within reason) works. I typically use seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and onion powder. I've been known on occasion to use bacon salt or a little cayenne depending on my mood but again, use what you have

For the hardware:

frying pan with lid- Size doesn't matter (that's what they all say) but a proper fitting lid is integral. If you have one I recommend using an electric skillet with lid as the thermostat keeps the heat constant so you won't have keep messing with the oven knobs
sharp knife- Please, no steak knives. Just grab the largest knife you got with that block of knives you bought
Slotted spatula or spoon
cutting board
plastic bowl w/lid
Strainer or colander

Step 1- Prep the potatoes- A small (but not tiny), even cut is critical to even cooking. I start by halving the potatoes, then cutting the halves in thirds lengthwise, then crosscuts in about 1/4 segments. Throw the cut potatoes in the bowl and fill with cold water. Let them sit in the water for at least 15 minutes before draining off the excess water in the colander or strainer (in water in the fridge the potatoes will still be awesome the next day). This will take care of any excess dirt from the potato skin and it washes out some of the starchiness.

Step 2- Season the potatoes- Add your seasoning to the bowl (in this case about a tsp of seasoned salt and garlic powder, 1/2 tsp or onion powder and 1/2 tsp half hot paprika) lid up and shake to coat. In an ideal world let the seasoned potatoes sit for about 10 minutes but if time is of the essence, rock-n-roll

Step 3-Get your fat hot. If using an electric skillet set to 350. If on a stove top set to medium high heat. I'm using a 14" electric skillet so I use about a quarter stick of butter and approximately 4 tablespoons of olive oil (not extra virgin). These measures aren't exact but basically you want to coat the bottom of the pan. I like butter for the taste and olive oil for the frying and it keeps the butter from browning too much. When the oil/butter comes to heat (drop one small piece in, listen for the sizzle) CAREFULLY add the potatoes to the pan and distribute them evenly on the bottom of the pan

Step 4- Let the potatoes sit for around 5-7 minutes (don't wander too far as depending on the actual heat of your pan and size you cut the potatoes this will vary) then take your spatula or spoon and turn them over. You will never get them all turned over perfectly but that's ok. Give them about 5 minutes on that side. Next comes our secret weapon...steam

Step 5- Move the potatoes around again with your spatula/spoon. Grab the did remember to use a pan with a lid, right? OK, lid in hand add a couple tablespoons of water to the middle of the pan and put the lid on. The steam will expedite the cooking of the inside of the potatoes giving you the fluffy inside to contrast the crispy outside. Steam is a great secondary cooking method for anything you want to ensure doneness on the inside while not burning the outside (chicken, sausage, etc). Leave the lid on for 3-5 minutes. When you remove the lid be careful as there will be condensation. Move the potatoes around one more time and let cook for a few more minutes. Test a piece. They should be fork tender. If not give them a couple more minutes continually moving them around

Step 6- Remove from the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy

I love the taste and texture of potatoes cooked like this. Yes, they are pretty much home fries but with the savory seasoning they work as a great side for beef, chicken, anything. And if you're cooking for one they hold up very well as leftovers (I love using leftovers in a nice ovenbaked frittata but that's for a future blog). Want to kick this up another tasty and sinful notch? Take a pound of bacon and cut it into one inch pieces. Render these down in the pan you're going to cook the potatoes in making bacon bits (or lardons). Remove the bacon (you know where I'm going) and use the bacon fat to cook your potatoes in the method described above. Awesome!! Another notch (sorry Emeril)?? When cooking is complete, add back the bacon and a healthy fistful of shredded cheese, lid it for just a minute to melt the cheese and you have a heart attack in a pan...but in a good way

Try this one and tell me what you think. With the hot weather here it's a delicious side dish without having to turn on the oven (or crank up the grill for those lucky enough to have a yard). If you try this let me know the results. If you have an interesting variation to the ingredients or methodology, let me know

You can make this dish, no excuses!

Friday, May 27, 2011


For the record I am a forty-something single guy, never married, no kids. I live alone in a small condo in the city. Like a lot of my generation and of my marital status, I lived at home for way longer then I should have finally moving out in my mid-30's. After almost 2 years of takeout food, eating out, bumming meals off my parents and frozen entrees from the grocery store I found myself 30 pounds heavier and many dollars poorer. I needed a change. A funny thing happened one night. I came across a television show called Good Eats with Alton Brown and my eyes were opened to how simple cooking and even baking can be when broken down to it's basest levels. I started slowly and worked my way up to the point I haven't called for delivery for almost 4 years now, I make most of my 3 workday meals at home and have even gained a following amongst family and friends for some of my baked good. Not only do I feel better about my eating habits but it's become my favorite free-time activity

As I have friends who find themselves in my situation one way or the other I try and encourage them to start cooking. Most say they can't. I say if I can, they can! No excuses, just get started. It's easier then you think. I have no culinary background just a strong desire to make good, tasty simple foods. Nothing fancy and in many cases no too healthy but always tasty

A few caveats. 1) I don't do a lot of veggies so you won't find much content for vegetarians and the like. I also have allergy issues with a lot of seafood so unfortunately you won't find a lot of that either 2) Most of the recipes I'll be presenting are based of other people's recipes with my own tweaks. The blog will concentrate more on preparing the recipes then the recipes themselves 3) For those with a lot more experience, background and knowledge then me I'm always open to improvement but keep the criticisms to a minimum as I don't claim to be an expert and this project is more for fun then anything else

So, that's it in a nutshell. I will be focusing mostly on preparation but will also touch on critical kitchen gear and do's and don'ts on ingredients. I hope to produce some videos from my ridiculously small and overcrowded kitchen in the near future (better call Merry Maids). Expect to find a lot of sarcasm, irony and humor in general here. Like I said, this is for fun

So, onward and upward