Posts filed under ‘Recipes’

Recipe for the Perfect Hamburger

I know you’ve seen plenty of recipes for the perfect burger before, but before you move on to the next recipe, take a few minutes to review this one. What I’ve learned over the years is that the technique for making the burger is as important, if not more so, than the ingredients. There are just a couple of must-do steps here to make everyone stand up and take notice, or more likely sit down and ask for another one.

Recipe: The Perfect Burger


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 lb. brisket, ground
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp. ketchup
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • 1 c. finely shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 4 light brioche buns or other large hamburger buns, split
  • 1/4 lb. medium-sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin onion slices
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste


  1. Lightly shape the ground beef into four patties that are about four inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the patties for 1 to 2 hours.
  2. While the burgers chill, combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, cayenne, chili powder, and an pinch of salt and black pepper in a bowl and whisk. Add the lettuce and stir to coat.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a hot fire on a grill, or heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle each burger all over with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and season generously with black pepper. Sear the burgers on the grill or in skillet for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the burgers to a broiler pan and bake for four more minutes for medium-rare, 6 for medium.
  5. Remove the broiler pan from oven and position an oven rack closest to broiler element and heat the broiler to high.
  6. Toast the buns.
  7. Top the burgers with the cheese and broil until it melts, about 30 seconds. Set the burgers on bottom buns and top with the lettuce sauce mixture and the onion slices. Cover with the top bun and serve

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • Though packaged ground beef is easier to buy, it is worth the extra few minutes to have the butcher counter at your favorite grocery store grind up some brisket. It contains about 30% fat and the meat is from a very heavily worked area, making it far more flavorful than your typical tube of ground beef.
  • My family’s favorite sauce is very tasty, but you can certainly substitute your favorite spreads, cheeses and toppings. From fresh sliced tomatoes to pickles and beyond, it’s easy to make this burger your own.

May 5, 2010 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Grilled Steaks with Bacon-Wrapped Corn

Its springtime, and you know what that means. Fire up the grill and get cooking outdoors with fire. Whether you grill over charcoal or love the convenience of your gas grill, there are thousands of different combinations of spice rubs, marinades, seasonings, salts and sauces for just about any cut of steak that is on sale during any given week. Before you head out to the back yard though, take a few minutes to consider which cuts you plan to toss on the fire. Although we all like lean meat, a bit of marbling is absolutely necessary for a truly tasty steak. You want to look for meat that has a bit of fat marbled all the way through it. A steak that has no fat or concentrated blobs of fat breaking up long stretches of pure red will be tough after it takes a turn on the grill. Be selective and ask your local grocery store butcher for advice.

In this recipe, the steak gets a simple but tasty treatment; the side dish is really the star. When you cook corn this way, people won’t feel the need to slather it with butter.

Recipe: Grilled Steaks with Bacon Wrapped Corn


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6-10 minutes for steaks; 15-20 for corn


  • 4 ears of corn, shucked and silk removed
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon (preferably not a ‘sweet’ or ‘smoky’ flavor)
  • 4 New York strip, porterhouse, or T-bone steaks, cut at least ¾ in thick
  • Salt and/or garlic salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Fire up your grill and bring it to a medium high heat (if gas) or wait until the coals are mostly white but still have a good red core (if charcoal).
  2. Wrap each ear of corn with the bacon in a spiral pattern, making sure not to overlap the bacon too much.You can either tuck the bacon into itself to secure it or use a toothpick at either end to secure it.
  3. Place the wrapped corn around the outer edge of the grill and rotate every couple of minutes. Grill for about 10 minutes before adding the steaks to the grill.
  4. Liberally season your trimmed steaks with salt and freshly ground black pepper and lay them out on the grill with at least an inch of space between them.
  5. Steaks cook relatively quickly at high heat and there are dozens of methods to tell doneness. If you need a time, the best rule of thumb for an inch thick steak is 3 minutes per side for medium rare, 4 for medium, 5 for medium well and 6 minutes on each side for well done. Only flip the steaks once during cooking.
  6. Remove the steak when it reaches its desired doneness and let it rest on a warm plate for at least 5 minutes before serving. This allows all the boiling juices inside of the steak to redistribute through the meat so they won’t escape all over your plate.
  7. Remove the corn when the bacon is done and its outside is crispy. Remove the bacon from the corn and served it alongside the corn or even chopped up and added to any salad, green beans, baked potatoes or any other dish that could benefit from it. Or, you could just eat it as the cook’s treat while the steaks rest.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • One the steaks it the grill, leave them alone for at least 2 minutes. Don’t mess with it. The sear time helps create the steakhouse-style crust we all like.
  • If you want those nifty grill marks on your steak, rotate the meat a quarter turn onto a section of the grill that hasn’t had anything on it. The bars that have been under your steak for two minutes aren’t going to be hot enough to sear a dark char into already partially cooked meat.
  • The corn takes on the salty goodness and the fat from the bacon, and will also absorb the ‘flavorings’ used on the bacon. So if you don’t want smoky maple corn, don’t use smoked or maple bacon.

April 28, 2010 at 8:00 am 1 comment

Classic Easter Dinner: Lamb Shank with Orange and Mint

If you are anything like me, you’ve probably had a scary lamb experience: tough as shoe leather legs of lamb, gamey mutton, or unknown lamb parts covered in a “not found in nature” green mint jelly. I’m here to tell you that lamb can be not just good, but great, and you don’t have to be a professional chef to make it great. Lamb is one of the most forgiving meats out there and can be very affordable when you catch cuts like leg and shank on sale. So, I am asking you to give lamb a chance this Spring. For a fool-proof way to get your feet wet, start with a slowly braised lamb shank. While this recipe is a bit more involved than a typical weeknight dinner recipe, it’s not particularly difficult and you can get other things done while the shanks braise.

And while mint really does go very well with lamb, put the jelly down. Seriously. Put it down. As this recipe shows, there are many better ways to pair lamb with its familiar partner.

Recipe: Lamb Shank with Orange & Mint


  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours


  • 1 oz. canola oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 whole lamb shank, trimmed
  • 1 small onion, diced large
  • 5 baby carrots, cut into thirds
  • 1 rib celery, diced large
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 oz. white wine
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 c. beef or lamb stock
  • 1 orange
  • 3 sprigs of fresh mint
  • ¼ c. orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. butter


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add the oil to large, deep oven-safe skillet (preferably one with a lid) and heat to medium high. Salt and pepper the lamb shank generously and sear it on all sides. Remove the lamb from the skillet and set it aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, carrots and celery. Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes or until they begin to soften.
  4. Add the garlic and the tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste is cooked and no longer raw tasting, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine to the pan and stir, scraping up all of the brown bits off of the bottom. Bring to a boil and cook until the wine is reduced by half.
  5. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and the stock to the pan, stirring everything together to combine. Return the seared lamb to the pan and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil and then move it to the oven. Cook until the lamb is fork tender (around 2 hours), adding more stock if necessary to keep it from drying out.
  6. While the lamb braises, fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Zest the orange and add the zest to the boiling water for 1 minute, then remove and strain.
  7. Slice the peel off of the orange, cut the slices of orange out from between the white skin, and set aside.
  8. Pull the mint leaves from the sprigs and set them aside.
  9. When the lamb is fork tender, remove the skillet from the oven and move the lamb to a serving platter to rest.
  10. Remove the thyme stems and bay leaves from the sauce and put the skillet back on the stove over medium heat.
  11. Put the mint stems and the zest into the liquid in the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the liquid to about a cup and then strain it into a clean pot (the one you boiled the zest in is fine).
  12. While the liquid is reducing, mince mint leaves very finely.
  13. Add the orange juice to the reduced liquid, place it over medium heat, and reduce the sauce again by half. Taste the sauce and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Add the butter, the finely minced mint leaves, and the skinless orange slices. Stir until the butter is melted then pour onto the serving plate around the lamb shank.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • Use an oven-safe skillet or Dutch oven with a fitted lid if you have one. This will prevent the liquid from evaporating too quickly during the braise. If you don’t have a lid for your pan, use a double thickness of foil and seal it tightly around the edge of the pan.
  • You can use dried herbs for this if you prefer, but use the fresh ones if you have access to them. The flavors will be brighter.
  • Make sure you remove the thyme sprig and the bay leaf before serving; no one wants to chew on twiggy stems or inedible leaves.
  • Serve this over polenta or mashed potatoes for a hearty Easter dinner.

March 31, 2010 at 12:05 pm Leave a comment

Quick and Easy Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

This classic Louisiana dish has a thousand varieties, and everyone says theirs is the best and most authentic. While I won’t say that, I will say this recipe is easier than most of the cryptic ones I’ve found, and yields a delicious result which is what I’m after during a busy week. The leftovers reheat beautifully and are great for lunches.

Recipe: Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes


  • 1 3 lb. broiler chicken, cut up
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1 c. chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ lb. smoked sausage, thinly sliced
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) stewed tomatoes
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. long-grain rice
  • 2 tsp. leaf thyme, crumbled
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. hot pepper sauce such as Tabasco
  • 1 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined


  1. Wash the chicken and pat it dry. Sprinkle the paprika over both sides of the chicken pieces and rub it in to distribute it evenly.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it just shimmers. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Remove chicken from skillet and reserve.
  3. Add the onion, green bell pepper, celery, and garlic to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and Sauté the mixture until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the sausage, tomatoes, chicken broth, rice, thyme, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Add chicken and turn to coat with sauce. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and the rice is fluffy.
  6. Stir in the shrimp and cook about 3 minutes longer, or just until the shrimp turn pink.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • If you don’t want to have to debone a chicken, you can shorten the cooking time on this recipe to about 20 minutes by just using 4 chicken breasts or chicken thighs.

March 24, 2010 at 9:04 am Leave a comment

Irish Beef Stew with Guinness and Chestnuts

It has come to my attention after spending time dining with friends from all over the Emerald Isle over the years that corned beef and cabbage is not all they eat. Neither are spuds or sprouts for that matter (although these two are more often consumed than the corned beef). A strange hybrid created here in the States, the ubiquitous meal of corned beef and cabbage that several people share on St. Pat’s isn’t precisely what those who wish to get their Irish on would choose. Instead, they would opt for more traditional –and tastier – dishes like this beef stew that features the oh-so-Irish Guinness beer. This year, give this Irish dish a try. It doesn’t take any longer than corned beef and cabbage and I promise you’ll make it again before March 17, 2011.

Recipe: Irish Beef Stew with Guinness and Chestnuts


  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 1/2 hours


  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 lb. lean stew meat, cubed
  • 3 large onions, sliced
  • ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 8 c. beef stock, divided
  • 8 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1 bunch celery, thickly sliced
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. raisins
  • 1 c. Guinness Stout
  • 18 to 20 whole cooked chestnuts, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley


  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat until it ripples. Add the meat and cook in batches, stirring constantly, until the meat is lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a large pot or Dutch oven.
  3. Lower the temperature on the skillet to medium, add the onions to the pan, and sauté for about 2 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add the flour and stir to coat the onions, cooking 2 minutes more.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook it with the flour and onions until it darkens slightly and loses the metallic taste of raw tomato paste, about 2 minutes.
  5. Pour in 1 cup of the beef stock and whisk up all of the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Pour the mixture into a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven.
  6. Add the remaining beef stock, carrots, celery, caraway seeds, and raisins to the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil then cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is almost tender, about 2 hours.
  7. Add the chestnuts and the Guinness and cook for 30 minutes more. Taste, add salt and pepper if needed, the sprinkle with the parsley.
  8. Serve over boiled potatoes.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • Use a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid if you have one. This helps the liquids evaporate more slowly.
  • Adding the Guinness toward the end of the cooking times keeps it from mellowing. If you want a milder flavor, add it with the rest remaining beef broth, vegetables, and spices. If you prefer your stew without it you can leave it out entirely.
  • The raisins may seem strange, but their sweetness really does add a lot to the finished product.

March 17, 2010 at 8:25 am Leave a comment

Healthy and Freezer Friendly: Vegetarian Chili

Have you looked at the labels on canned chili recently? 26 grams of fat per serving, and they think that there are two servings in that tiny can! Skip the fat and the preservatives and make your own chili. It freezes well, it’s easy, and best of all, it’s delicious.

Recipe: Vegetarian Chili


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30+ minutes


  • 1 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped into ½ in cubes
  • 8 carrots, chopped into ½ in cubes
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into ½ in cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and chopped into ½ in cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin (more or less to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano
  • 2-3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 16 oz. cans kidney beans
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and black pepper (to taste)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly golden and the onions are translucent.
  2. Roll mushrooms in flour then add to the pot, and stir to combine. After the mushrooms lightly brown, add the garlic, cumin, oregano, and chili powder to the pot. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the beans with their juice and the tomatoes. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes, but more if you have time. The longer it goes, the richer the taste.
  5. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • You can add just about anything to this chili: zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, even meat if you don’t want to make it strictly vegetarian.
  • This recipe freezes extremely well, so once you’ve tweaked the recipe to how you like it you can make huge batches of it and freeze portions for later.
  • Because you know what is in the pot you can control the fat, sodium and cholesterol levels, making this a very healthy recipe that doesn’t skimp on taste.

March 3, 2010 at 5:48 pm Leave a comment

Frugal Friday: The Magical Roast Chicken

Whole chickens are about the least expensive meat per pound that you can buy, particularly when they are on sale. When whole chicken shows up on sale my store circular, I stock up! Not only does my family enjoy a roast chicken on a Sunday, roasted chicken meat has so many applications throughout the week:

  • Tossed with cooked pasta, steamed veggies, and a little parmesan cheese for a quick lunch or dinner.
  • In homemade chicken salad. My favorite light recipe includes Greek yogurt, grapes, and walnuts.
  • With some cheese in a tortilla for a tasty quesadilla.
  • In a pita or wrap with blue cheese, a chopped apple, and some greens.

Many weeks I’ll roast a couple of chickens at the same time so that I have plenty of leftover meat.

Of course a dry, flavorless chicken isn’t useful in any application, so I think it’s worthwhile to spend a little bit of time prepping the chicken so it’s juice and full of flavor when it comes out of the oven. I also make a tasty gravy to serve with the whole roast chicken. For a really tasty and frugal leftover lunch, top a piece of toast with some warm chicken and gravy.

Recipe: Whole Roast Chicken


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40-50 minutes


  • 1 whole roasting chicken
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butcher’s twine (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Season the chicken evenly outside and in the cavity with salt and pepper then spread the garlic evenly over the chicken.
  3. Put the bay leaf, onion, carrot and celery into the bottom of a roasting pan.
  4. Put a rack in a roasting pan on top of the vegetables to keep the chicken out of its own drippings.
  5. Place the bird breast-side down and place the pan in the oven.
  6. Roast for 20 minutes and then flip the chicken over for the rest of the cooking time. The chicken is done with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.
  7. Remove the rack with the bird still on it from the roasting pan and set it over a cutting board or shallow dish to catch any stray drippings. Let the chicken rest while you make the natural gravy.
  8. Drain excess fat from the roasting pan and pour the white wine over the vegetables. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  9. Turn two of your stove burners on medium-high and place the roasting pan so it covers both burners. Bring the liquid in the pan to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, reduce the liquids until they are thickened, about 5 minutes.
  10. Add the chicken stock and thyme sprigs to the pan and reduce for a few more minutes until thickened. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  11. Pour the liquid and vegetables from the pan into a strainer set over a medium mixing bowl to remove the solids from the gravy.
  12. Serve the chicken with the strained gravy.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • If you want, you can truss the bird to so it cooks more evenly. To truss the chicken:
    • Cut about a 3-foot length of heatproof butcher’s twine.
    • Lay the chicken on a clean surface with the breast facing up.
    • Hold one end of the string in each hand, and loop the center of the string underneath the chicken’s tail.
    • Catch the ends of the legs inside the string, then cross the string over the chicken’s breast, making an X. Loop the string under and around the wings, and then tie the string snugly in a knot across the middle of the breast.
    • Make sure that the ends of the wings are tucked in.
    • This video outlines the trussing process nicely.
  • Invest in a meat thermometer to be sure that you are cooking your poultry thoroughly. Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, tested by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Even if you don’t make the gravy, be sure to let the chicken rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it. This break between oven and plate lets the juices in the chicken redistribute throughout the chicken.

February 26, 2010 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

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