Cuban Burgers

Hello! Hello hello, sorry I’ve been away so long! I never meant to leave you… I have to admit, I got the idea for these burgers from Throwdown. You know, Bobby Flay’s show where he challenges people at their own specialty? I normally don’t like the show very much, but there was nothing on, and it was a burger challenge. If anyone can do burgers, it’s got to be Flay. The competitor was pretty interesting too. I kept the channel on and was pretty happy with all the burgers they made. My favorite was the one Bobby made to be the burger version of a Cuban sandwich. His method of pressing the burgers with a brick right on the grill was pretty neat. I liked it too because when cooking burgers for a bunch of people, normally everyone wants their bread toasted and it is kind of annoying keeping track of everything. This way you can build all the burgers on the grill and just hand them out to people.

Sundried Tomato Marjoram Cauliflower Pesto

As the Summer slowly approaches, pesto is on my mind. This weekend we made a few great ones. One of them needs to be developed a bit further, but one is perfect just how it is, and that’s the one I am going to show you today. This pesto can be made in a blender, or with a knife. Both ways are very different and delicious in their own right. I have both ways shown here.

Nine Chile Chili Risotto

Every time Mandi and I reconstitute dried chiles, we think “what should we do with this beautiful water???” The water you use to revive the chiles always turns a deep red and retains a lot of the flavor. Risotto was the obvious thing that came to mind, so we developed this recipe from there. Now I am far from a stock snob and have nothing against store bought stock. I think it is a very convenient product and can add a deep flavor to quick meals. However, I find that if the stock is front and center of the meal like a plain chicken soup, it is essential to make your own. Risotto is a place where homemade stock will elevate the meal far beyond what you could ever get from a can or box. This is because as you make risotto, the flavors of the stock get more and more concentrated as you evaporate it into the rice.

Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwich

Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwich

We wanted to make many different things for this party but a lot of the ideas fell through. One of the ideas was cheesesteaks but we didn’t want Mandi to be on the grill all night. We were watching Man v. Food on the travel channel (have you seen it? Think Diners Drive-ins and Dives minus awful catchphrases, frosted tips, and backwards sunglasses, and plus a fun eating challenge) and they were in Chicago (another plus to MvF, one city at a time.) On that episode Mandi and I saw a sandwich we had never seen before. It was called the Chicago style Italian beef sandwich. One of the things that attracted us to this sandwich (besides the fact that we were drooooling at our TV) was that it sits in a gravy and not only CAN be made a day in advance, but NEEDS to be made a day in advance! Like most regional food we make, we like to have someone from the area to vouch for authenticity, especially in a case like this where we have never been before! Our friend Mike was more than happy to be a taste tester.

Chicken Parm

When I was young, chicken parm was my favorite meal. I got it whenever I went out to eat. I liked it so much that my mom even made it for me on my birthdays. (which happens to be tomorrow…) As I got older and more into the food world, I started to shrug off chicken parm as cheesy Italian-American fare. Something these so-called Italian restaurants serve to the masses. Places that lay on thick accents, but the food doesn’t resemble anything you would find in Italy. I try as hard as I can not to be snobby about food. Food is something that everyone shares, and if you are a snob about it, you will find yourself eating foie gras and sea urchin alone in a corner somewhere crying into your chilled melon and prosciutto soup(mmmsalty tears). If you set too many limits on your diet and only eat things people deep in the foodie world consider appropriate or acceptable, you may end up missing out on the best meal of your life! Last week I ate chicken parm for the first time in probably 4 years. I am sorry chicken parm and I hope you find it in your tenders to accept me back.

Jello Shots!

Jello Shots!

When most people think jello shots, they immediately flash back to some college party where there were two types of jello shots: green with a handle of ten dollar vodka and yellow with a handle of ten dollar rum. Pretty much the goal with those is to get it down without ever really tasting it. THESE jello shots are different. Each one is based on a real cocktail and is thoughtfully prepared with different ingredients. The list of jello shots has been growing since college and keeps expanding still!

The basic method is as follows: boil one cup of water, add one packet of jello, mix two minutes (don’t skimp on this it will be grainy!), add one cup alcohol, pour into little cups. If you are using two packets or one large box then this doubles to: boil two cups of water, add jello, mix two minutes, add two cups alcohol, pour into cups. If you remember this you can make pretty much any shot your mind can create!!! I will include a list at the end of all the variations I’ve come up with thus-far. The pics are of some of the recipes that deviate slightly from my basic method. Along with a couple pics of the process…

1100 Tortellini!

Tortellini soup has been a Christmas Eve tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. My Mom would buy 8 bags filled 100 tortellini each from a little old Italian woman who lived across town. When she called each year she would have to mention my Grandfather and I think there was even a secret password involved. The bags only cost 3 dollars, and the tortellini were out of this world. Every year it was the highlight of the season and we waited for it with anticipation. It was my Dad’s side of the family that came over every year. And since they are the Irish side of my family, they could only get their fix of this soup once a year and it became quite a big event.

One year we found out that the secret tortellini lady had moved back to Italy. What would we do?? For a few years my Mom bounced around from various specialty store to newer secret tortellini ladies. But it was never the same and our special meal suffered. Don’t get me wrong, it was still great, but not like it once was. On top of that these women were charging 15 dollars a bag and up! That got expensive when buying 8 bags. Finally one year when we had no other options (and I happened to be unemployed at the time and just beginning to love cooking) I offered to make the tortellini.

My Mom was unsure. Should we risk it not tasting good for all those people? Can we get the recipe from Grandma? Will you be able to do it all yourself? I was home for the weekend and she called my Grandmother asking about the recipe and if she thought it was doable, she replied probably not and that it was a lot of work. The NEXT MORNING, my Grandmother showed up with 2 pounds of tortellini filling, my Grandfather, 2 great aunts, and a ham(!) for lunch. We worked all day and it has been a fun tradition ever since. I was home for thanksgiving this past weekend and we all got together to make them for this year.