Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Duck Leg Adobo – A Real Family Meal

If you’ve worked in restaurants before, you know that every night before service the staff sits down to what’s called the “family meal.” One of the younger cooks is usually charged with scraping together something filling and, more importantly, not expensive. It was during one of these meals that I first had adobo.

When I worked at the Carnelian Room in the late 80’s, much of the kitchen crew was Filipino, so chicken and pork adobo was a very common dinner. One of the dishwashers made a particularly great version, and I fell in love with the bold, simple flavors. I also remember being pretty annoyed that the dishwashers there were better cooks than I was at the time, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I happened to have some duck legs around last week, and all it took was a well-timed email wishing for adobo to inspire this video. I understand that most of you will not use duck for this, but if you do, be sure to save the fat.

Duck fat is prized by chefs, and more heart-healthy than people realize. It can be used for just about anything you’d normally fry in butter or vegetable oil. I roasted some Brussels spouts with mine, but it also will make just about the best homefries you’ve ever tasted.

Like I said in the video, no duck, no problem. If you can simmer it in a sauce, it will work in this recipe. Because of the high soy sauce content, be careful about over reducing, but other than that, not much can go wrong. This is cheap, easy, and very flavorful, which is why it makes for such a great “family meal.” Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 duck legs:
6 duck legs (or about same amount of chicken or pork)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp reserved duck fat
1 large onion, sliced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar (if not seasoned, use a little sugar to taste)
1/2 cup soy sauce, or to taste (this is a fairly salty dish, so if you're not into that kind of thing, add less and adjust later)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tsp sambal chili sauce, or other hot pepper sauce to taste
2-4 bay leaves

View the complete recipe

Monday, October 29, 2012

“Ultimate” Ranch Dressing – The Ultimate “Ultimate”

After five years, and a few thousand requests, I’m finally posting my “ultimate” ranch dressing recipe. What makes it the “ultimate?” Nothing, except that’s what I’m calling it, and in the world of dips and dressings, that makes it so. By the way, ignore those other roughly 65,000 “ultimate” recipes; this one is the actual “ultimate” ranch dressing.

It’s been ages since I made homemade ranch dressing, and I’d forgotten how much better it is than the bottled stuff. Don’t get me wrong; I like high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings, and preservatives as much as the next low-information voter, but this really is significantly more delicious.

As you’ll see, I used some crème fraiche (which we showed you how to make in this video), but relax, sour cream will work perfectly. However, I do believe the buttermilk is crucial. That some of my peers are calling their ranch dressings “ultimate” without using buttermilk, really makes me question their grasp of the word “ultimate.”

Anyway, hyperbole aside, this really is the best ranch dressing I’ve ever had, and I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 2 cups Ranch Dressing:
1 1/3 cup real mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 teaspoons sliced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
2 drops Worcestershire sauce

View the complete recipe

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls – The Least Scary Halloween Treat, Ever!

When I was asked to join some of my fellow foodies on YouTube, to produce a video for a special seasonal playlist called “Halloween Sweet Treats,” I sat down and considered all the scary sweets recipes in my repertoire. After several minutes of deep thought, I realized I had nothing.

Not to sound like a curmudgeon, but sticking broken pretzels into a marshmallow and calling it a “scary spider,” just isn’t my thing. So, instead of trying to figure out how to make a chocolate truffle look like a bleeding eyeball, I made a batch of pumpkin cinnamon rolls. They may not be scary (what’s the opposite of scary?), but they are seasonal, and incredibly delicious.

I used to joke that when Halloween/Thanksgiving time rolls around, the only thing a chef has to do to make a recipe seasonal is to add some pumpkin to it. Chili with a spoon of pumpkin stirred in? Halloween chili! Dinner rolls with a spoon of pumpkin kneaded into the dough? Thanksgiving dinner rolls!

Well, that’s exactly what I did here, and while it may be formulaic, it also produced the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever tasted. One key is a nice soft, sticky dough. Be sure to only add enough flour so that the dough just barely pulls away from the side of the bowl as it kneads.

You can certainly embellish by adding some chopped walnuts or pecans to the cinnamon-sugar layer, but since I decided to garnish with pumpkin seeds, I went sans nuts. Anyway, despite not being very horrifying, these really would make a special treat at any Halloween party. I hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 16 Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls:
(I used a deep 13 x 9 baking dish)
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes

For the dough:
1 package of dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm water (about 100-105 degrees F.)
1/2 tsp white sugar
1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup heavy cream (can sub milk, but cream is better)
1 tsp fine salt
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 1/4 tsp allspice)
1 large egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 to 4 cups all purpose flour (divided), as needed 
 (add enough flour to mixer so that dough just barely pulls away from sides, and a very soft, slightly sticky dough is formed)
*knead for at least 6-7 minutes

For the filling:
5 tbsp melted butter, brushed on rolled dough
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

*For the glaze:
1/4 cup room temperature cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk, or as needed
1/4 tsp vanilla extract, optional
*adjust glaze by adding more powdered sugar or milk to achieve desired consistency
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds to garnish

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And the Winner Isn’t….Pumpkin Roll!

I’m going to be posting a seasonal pumpkin recipe on Friday, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy deciding on which food wish to do. I get tons of pumpkin requests this time of year, and while I’m not going to spoil the surprise, I can tell you that the venerable pumpkin roll didn’t make the cut. Maybe next year I’ll do my take, but in the meantime, here’s a video from my friends at, featuring one of their highest-rated versions. Enjoy!

Click here to get the ingredients and to read the written recipe!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Warm Bacon Dressing and the Holiday Side Dish Dilemma

As I enjoyed this very tasty Brussels sprouts with warm bacon dressing recipe, I was reminded Thanksgiving side dish decision time is rapidly approaching. It’s that annual dilemma where we’re forced to choose five or six recipes among hundreds of potentially awesome options.

What makes this decision so tough is that you want things that are traditional and comforting, but at the same time, want to keep the menu fresh and interesting. You love those buttery mashed potatoes, and yet you’ve wanted to make twice-baked potatoes for years. You always make Grandma’s chestnut stuffing, but that spicy cornbread version you saw on Pinterest sure looks amazing. What do you do?

Do what I do; keep the starchy cornerstones classic, and switch up the vegetable sides instead. Go ahead and do your favorite and familiar potato, stuffing, and gravy recipe; but when it comes to tired old dishes like green bean casserole, or peas and carrots, let your freak flag fly.

As long as you have a few comfort food favorites around, people will forgive a little experimentation, and this creative, un-cooked Brussels sprouts recipe would fit the bill. I love the contrast between the raw, crunchy vegetable and the rich, smoky, sweet and sour dressing. This would do any turkey proud.

While I decided to go raw this time, you can certainly turn this into a hot side by giving it a quick, stir-fry in a large skillet. Just a minute or two, until it starts to wilt, and you’re good to go. Anyway, I’m not sure if I made your side dish selection simpler or more complicated by showing you this new and exciting offering, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out. You always do. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4-6 servings:
1 1/4 pound Brussels sprouts (will make about 1 lb. trimmed and sliced)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 oz bacon, sliced
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 lemon juiced
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne

View the complete recipe

Friday, October 19, 2012

“BBQ” Broiled Red Snapper – This One’s For the Haters

There’s a fairly large population of folks who just don’t like fish. I’m not talking about people with allergies, but those poor souls who’s worst nightmare is arriving at a dinner party, only to find out the main course is fish. Their reasons are as diverse as they are unfortunate.

Well, this broiled red snapper recipe may be just what the doctor ordered. Normally we don’t want to cover up the delicate flavors of the seafood, but in this case, we have no choice. It’s not like you can’t tell you’re eating fish, but close enough.

By the way, the last time I made red snapper, a few people wondered out loud if that was a wise choice, sustainability-wise. I believe the variety I used was local and not in danger, but I know it’s on some no-eat lists. However, things may be looking up for red snapper in the Gulf.

I just read that there appears to be an abundant red snapper population there, and fishermen are anxiously waiting for the bureaucratic powers that be to raise the limits. You can read more about that here. Of course, this will work with any white fish, so I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

2 (7-oz) red snapper filets
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp bbq sauce
salt and cayenne pepper to taste 

View the complete recipe

Bonus Red Snapper Info

I have no way to verify whether this info is accurate, but I found it compelling and wanted to share. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mixed Nuts

With the holiday entertaining season getting closer with each falling leaf, it’s time to start thinking about those easy, yet still kind of fancy, snack recipes. These sweet, salty, spicy, party nuts are simple to make, and will rival those expensive blends at the local Foodies-R-Us.

I find this technique much easier than the stovetop pan method. You’ll get beautiful, perfectly frosted nuts that are roasted evenly, with no bitter burned spots. Speaking of which, I played it pretty safe with the cooking times, so you may be able to go a few minutes longer for a deeper roast, but, don’t get greedy.

By the way, I always upload these videos to YouTube before I publish the blog post, and I just finished reading the first few comments. Wow, they sure have some wild imaginations over there! They claim the video is loaded with innuendos and lowbrow, double entendre-based humor. How dare they! They’re LOL’ing, ROFL’ing, and LMFAO’ing all over perfectly innocent recipe directions. It’s nuts.

Anyway, I hope you give these delicious, candied mixed nuts a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 cups of nuts:
1 cup raw walnut halves
1 cup raw pecan halves
1 cup unsalted, dry roasted almonds
1 cup unsalted, dry roasted cashews
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
*For the syrup:
1 or 2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
*Heat to a boil, cook one minute, and pour over nuts!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lamb Merguez Patties – If the Sausage is Moroccan, Your Burger Will Be Rockin'

After using Merguez sausage in this beautiful stuffed acorn squash recipe last year, I got a bunch of emails saying, “I can’t find that anywhere! Can you show us how to make it?!” I generally ignore those, since it’s usually just people not looking hard enough (I’m looking at you, Mr. “I can’t find Panko”).

However, in this case, I realized that Merguez is not commonly stocked at the grocery store, so I decided to come up with an easy home version. I didn’t bother with the casing, as these were originally going to be breakfast patties, but as I mention in the video, I was seduced by a brioche roll, and ended up going full burger. Happily, it made for a very memorable lunch.

If you do happen to give this Merguez recipe a try, I hope you make a double batch and not only experience the amazing burger it produces, but also use it in/on a number of things. It is wonderful in beans, frittatas, pastas, soups, and especially crumbled on pizza or flatbread. I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for Four (4 oz) Patties:
1 pound ground lamb (rec., 85% lean, 15% fat)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp fennel seed
1/4 tsp turmeric
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp Harissa (a spice red pepper paste), we did a version here. I didn’t add cayenne since my Harissa was very spicy, but feel free.
1 tbsp tomato paste
*Note: To check seasoning, fry a small piece and check for salt and heat.

View the complete recipe

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Pancakes – Forget About It!

I was browsing the web for some pumpkin recipe ideas, when came across this lovely looking stack of pancakes. I clicked the image link to see who was responsible for such sexy seasonality, and as I watched some blog called “Food Wishes” load, I realized I'd clicked on one of my own recipes. 

I guess after doing over 750 videos I’m allowed to forget about one once in a while. Besides, the beautiful photography threw me off.

Anyway, I figured it was the universe’s way of telling me to repost it, since it’s the perfect time of year to give those flapjacks a pumpkin makeover. You can get the ingredients, and read the original post here. Enjoy!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pickled Ginger & Asian Pear Coleslaw – "Holiday Slaw" 2012 Edition

I’m not sure when this relatively new tradition started, but for whatever reason, I like to come up with a new and interesting coleslaw to serve at Thanksgiving. With all the rich, heavy foods that the holiday table brings, I really enjoy the contrast these cold, crisp, bracing salads provide.

I’ve been doing this for five or so years now, and this may be my favorite version. Just adding the always interesting Asian pear to a standard coleslaw would’ve been a nice enough touch, but what made this so special was the subtle heat from the pickled ginger.

I can just imagine how great that piquant punch is going to work with roasted turkey, and while I still have weeks to wait for official verification, I’m pretty confident. I’m also confident you’ll be able to find some pickled ginger, especially if you have any sushi bars near you.

By the way, this is not one of those “make the day before” coleslaws. You want everything fresh and crisp, and if you leave it overnight, not only will it get soggy, but it will be way over-marinated. You can make the dressing beforehand, as well as slice up the ginger and cabbage, but wait until an hour before the dinner to cut the pear and toss everything together.

Anyway, if you’ve never considered a coleslaw for one of your holiday side dish selections, I hope this unusual, but very delicious variation inspires you to give it a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 servings:
1/2 small green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 large Asian pear, thinly sliced
1/3 cup finely sliced pickled ginger
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
For the dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 to 1 tsp yellow miso paste, or to taste
hot sauce to taste (I used sriracha)
*Best if tossed together no more than an hour or two before service.

View the complete recipe

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili – A Super Food for a Super Cause

When asked me to help raise awareness about their campaign to fight chronic malnutrition, using the humble sweet potato, I had one important question…if I agreed, would I get some kind of tote bag?

When I was informed there was no tote bag, I decided to check out their info anyway, and I’m very glad I did. While I was shocked to learn that millions of children die each year from malnutrition, it was heartening to learn what a huge difference this delicious “super-food” could make.

To help spread the word, I offer up this colorful, and very tasty, roasted sweet potato and black bean chili. I really enjoyed this 100% vegetarian version, and the extra step of roasting the potatoes not only concentrated the sweet, earthy flavors, but gave the starchy chunks a marvelously meaty texture.

Anyway, I’m going to sign off so I can go add “Helped Bono fight childhood malnutrition” to my resume, but I sincerely hope you take a minute and check out for more information about this sweet potato campaign, as well as sign the nutrition petition. Thank you, and as always, enjoy!

2 lbs orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 tbsp cumin
2 or 3 tbsp Ancho chili powder, or other chili powders, or to taste
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 can (28-oz) diced or crushed tomatoes
1 cup water, more as needed
1 tbsp corn meal
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
2 cans (15-oz) black beans, drained, rinsed
cayenne to taste
sour cream and cilantro to garnish

View the complete recipe

Monday, October 8, 2012

Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops – Great Recipe, No Bones About It

This shining example of what a few well-placed ingredients can do to a plain piece of meat reminded me of a couple very important things. By the way, if you’re new to cooking, being reminded of stuff is one of the best parts.

First of all, it had me recalling the old, “if it doesn’t have a bone in it, it’s really not a chop.” Of course, search engines being what they are, we were forced to use the oxymoronic “boneless, center-cut pork chops” instead of the traffic stunting “pork medallions.” Not a big deal, but worth mentioning in case you’re ever backed into a corner during a heated, butchery-related water cooler debate.

Secondly, I remembered I need to redo that demo I did for another website many years ago, on how to cut your own boneless, center-cut pork chops, thereby saving some cash. It’s a quick and simple trick, and one I’m sure many of you will remind me I forgot about in a few weeks.

Anyway, the glossy glaze is really easy, and while there’s no starch or extra butter involved, it reduces quickly to a thick, rich, sweet-tart apple syrup. The rosemary and pepper flakes were the perfect accents for me, but this is a technique that begs for your own personal touches. I hope you give this simple and very tasty pork “chop” recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 chops:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter
6 boneless center-cut pork chops (6-8 oz each)
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups apple cider
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp minced rosemary
pinch of red chili flakes

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Big Dipping

As you may have noticed, we are smack dab in the middle of televised sports season. Baseball playoffs are starting (Go Giants!), football season is in full swing (Go Giants!), and basketball is just around the corner (Go Warriors??), so you’re going to need some delicious dips to help soak up some of that beer. As I’ve said before, the cornerstone of any proper game-day buffet is the dip selection. Here are a few of our favorites. Just click on the recipe name in the caption, and as always, enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How to Flip Food in a Pan Like a Chef

I always feel a little guilty when I post one of these technique videos, which is kind of strange since I get just as many “wishes” for this type of demo, as I do for straight recipes. People seem to like them, and I’ll get lots of comments asking for more of the same, but there’s just something about not being able to take a bite out of the final product that leaves me slightly unsatisfied.

Of course, I could have eaten some more cheese balls at the end, but you know what I’m saying. Anyway, lack of proper money shot notwithstanding, I hope this “cheesy” trick helps you master this very basic and desirable kitchen skill.

By the way, this is about much more than just looking cool. Depending on the recipe, flipping the food around without having to use a spoon or spatula can be a big advantage. It’s faster, more effective, and yes, it looks super cool too. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Chicken Riggies – What if You Never Saw This?

Way back when, the only way you would’ve found out about a regional recipe like Chicken Riggies, would have been to eat it while traveling through Central New York. 

You would’ve loved it (because there’s nothing not to love) and maybe even tried to recreate it when you got home, but more likely it would have ended up fading into nothing more than a pleasant memory; referred to as “that rigatoni we had in Utica.”

I’m sure you’ll plan a trip through the lovely Utica/Rome area of New York State eventually, but in the meantime, I offer up my take on this thoroughly enjoyable plate of pasta. I think it’s fairly authentic, with two notable exceptions. I use Marsala instead of the standard white wine, and use roughly chopped thigh meat, instead of the more popular chicken breasts.

This results in a sauce that seems much richer than it actually is, and I think you’ll love the subtle sweetness the wine imparts, which works wonderfully with the heat from the peppers. Of course, as I joke about in the video, forget how tasty the recipe is…it’s worth making just for the name alone. What’s for dinner? Chicken Riggies! Riggies? Yes, Riggies!

Anyway, if you’re from Central New York, I hope I did your venerable recipe proud. If you’re not, I hope you give this gorgeous rigatoni recipe a try, and experience what only a few decades ago, you may not have ever heard of. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz hot Italian sausage, crumbled
1 onion, sliced or diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, roughly chopped or cubed
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 (28-oz) can whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water, or as needed
1 1/2 cups chopped hot and/or sweet peppers (any jarred or fresh peppers will work, but cherry peppers are a good choice)
*if using mild peppers, use chili flakes or chili paste to increase the spiciness.
1/2 cup pitted, halved Greek olives
3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 pound rigatoni
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese

View the complete recipe