When you Trust Your Heart Over Your Brain

Italian Corn on the Cob.

I wanted to experiment with Flank Steak and started looking through EPI and AR for a method. My recipe of choice called for an Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and soy sauce marinade, with chopped onions and garlic. It called for a refrigerator time of minimum 2 hours, and up to 2 days. I opted for the 2 days. Grilling was a 3 minutes per side on the hot half of the Weber to sear, and the 3 minutes per side on the cool half to finish. It came out perfect. It was tender and tasty. Success.

I wanted a go with, so I leafed around my signed copy of Molto Mario Italian Grilling recipe book and found the corn on the cob, pictured above. Mario Batali, I feel, is the end-all, be-all on Italian cooking; I have tried many of his recipes and enjoyed them to the max. Nothing short of hero worship.

The recipe called for grilling the corn for eight minutes, spinning the hot cob in a flat dish of Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil mixed then dredging in hand grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and finally sprinkling with chopped mint. The plate looked perfect, but I had my doubts as to the taste. As I was plating the corn I kept wondering how the Parmisan and the mint were going to blend. I took my first bite and got my answer. The sweetness of the mint did not, in my opinion complement the cheese. My dear friends ranted and raved, but I never trust them, because they always do that. I try to be brutally honest with myself.

Mario, I can’t fly with you on this one.

Potato and Leek Au Gratin

Potato & Leek Au Gratin

We spent this Christmas, as the last three Christmases, with our good friends and their marvelous family. We wanted to share one of our favorite dishes for the sumptuous table. Our favorite go-with for Prime Rib Roast is Potato and Leak Au Gratin, a Matha Stewart Living entry from several years back. I knew that the amount that I cooked wouldn’t go around, if it was a hit. When my wife went to clean the French porcelin gratin dish it had been scraped clean, except for the bubbly dark brown residue that forms along the sides of the dish. Everyone wanted the recipe. I want to share it with them, but I also want to share it with you, so here goes.

Serves 6 to 8

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish; 2 Leeks trimmed, thinly sliced and rinsed,(about one cup); 6 Russet Potatoes (about 2.5Lbs.) peeled and thinly sliced; 1/2 Tsp coarse salt; 1/8 Tsp freshly grated nutmeg; Fresh ground pepper to taste; 8 ounces Gruyère cheese shredded (about 3 cups); 1 cup Heavy Cream; 1 cup low-sodium ChickenStock.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 12 cup baking dish or gratin dish. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add Leeks, and cook until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Arrange 1/3 of the potatoes in dish, slightly overlapping the slices in a spiral. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt-pepper-nutmeg mixture, followed by 1/2 of the sauteed Leeks and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat second layer. Top that with third layer of remaining potatoes in a spiral. Sprinkle on remaining cheese. Combine cream and stock, carefully pour over cheese and potatoes. Cover with foil. (Mixture can be refrigerated over night if necessary.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes. Increase temperature to 425°, uncover, and cook until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender, about, 45 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.


  1. When peeling the potatoes, keep the slices in a deep water bowl to keep them from turning brown. Shake extra water off before placing in the gratin dish. I always have left over slices. Try to purchase medium large tubular shaped russets, for consistantly round slices.
  2. DON’T forget the nutmeg-salt-pepper mixture on the first and second layers.
  3. Don’t be afraid to use more cheese than the recipe calls for, especially on the top layer.


From Martha Stewart Living



I have found the Holy Grail

The Holy Grail
The Holy Grail

Believe me, my friends and readers, when I say I have found the Holy Grail, and just in time for the Thanksgiving Holiday.

One of my best friends, who travels three and a half hours, to and fro, to my home for Thanksgiving has told me on numerous occasions that there is a secret to cooking the Thanksgiving bird. “Can’t be. Hum Bug.” I said, “I have been cooking Thanksgiving birds for forty years, and know what I’m doing.”  “Okay,” says he, “Just trying to be helpful.”

I learned the secret to cooking Salmon, to cooking pork chops and to cooking chicken but I never considered cooking a turkey the same way. Too big, I thought. Too much trouble, I weighed. Too time consuming, I mused. Then from out of the blue my Sur la Table Thanksgiving Catalogue shows up and lo and behold an Urban Accents product feature catches my eye. The Holy Grail for $19.95 plus free shipping, can’t beat that.

Sure enough the main catalogue was out of the product and might not get it back in stock in time for Thanksgiving. DRAT!!!

Not to be put off, I called the closest Sur La Table Store near me and they said they had the Holy Grail in stock and would send it with free shipping. When the package arrived I opened it, read the instructions and got right to work. The night before Thanksgiving I placed my sixteen pound, free range beauty, in the heavy plastic bag provided in the package, breast down. I poured one quart of cold water in a 7 quart pot, poured in the Holy Grail and brought it to a boil. I took it off the stove and allowed it to cool. I poured four more quarts of cold water into the mix, then poured it all in the heavy duty plastic bag which nearly covered the bird. I poured enough cold water in to cover the bird about one inch, about a half quart more and refrigerated the results.

The next afternoon, Thanksgiving, at two thirty PM I rinsed off my beautiful bird, tented it and placed it, unstuffed, in a 325 ° oven for twelve minutes a pound. I removed the tent one half hour before completion. At six PM we sat down to eat and everyone, to a man, raved at the dinner table. Three days later the Turkey meat was still moist, tender and tastey for the last of the turkey sandwiches. The best Turkey I have ever cooked. PS No basting, my mom was wrong on that one.

Yes friends, brining is the Holy Grail of Turkey cooking. The kit said 30 minutes per pound in the brine, but I did it for twelve hours, plus or minus. The product is Urban Accents Turkey Brine and Rub Kit. You will never cook a better Turkey. Enjoy.




Lamb Shanks

Lamb Shanks

So…., Lamb Shanks was the first on my bucket list of shunned meat cuts to try to cook. My “175 Essential Slow Cooker Classics – By Judith Finlayson” had several recipes, but the one that intrigued me the most was “Lamb Shanks with Luscious Legumes”. Ingredients included 16 0z Navy Beans (two cups), carrots, celery, onion, garlic, orange zest, beef stock and a dry red wine. Got the whole thing assembled by 9AM and flipped the switch of my Kitchen Aid Slow Cooker to low (10 hours cooking time).

My wife said that the house smelled marvelous all day from cooking odors, my Border Collie walked past the cooker at least  ten times during the day for a closer whiff. My reaction was slightly different, I thought there was something off with the aroma, just different somehow. The “come on” picture in the cook book looked something like the one above, but with a lot more gravy.

When the moment arrived to plate the meal, I looked inside. Beans everywhere and no gravy whatsoever. I picked out the shanks and placed them on a plate. I then picked the meat off the bones, it fell off actually, and placed it on individual plates. I then scooped a ladle of the bean, carrot, onion, celery mixture and placed it over the meat.

It was barely edible. We ate the dry meat, and a few fork fulls of the veggies, got up and dumped our plates and the cooker remains in the garbage. My Border Collie, Buddy, raised and eyebrow, but I doubt even he would have enjoyed it. Don’t know what I did wrong, but the beans soaked up every ounce of liquid and fat and were mushy to the taste. UGH!!! Scratch that one off my bucket list for good.

Next up is Country Beef Ribs.

Processed Meat Scare Hooey

Processed Meat

All of a sudden processed meat is no good, cancer forming, fattening (we knew this) and bad for you stuff. As the news goes on and salami stocks plummet, the news caster says, “Cigarettes are 2,000% likely to cause cancer, and processed meats are 18% likely.” “Hooey,” I say. Certainly if you eat processsed anything by the ton every day, you are doing yourself a disfavor. Certainly if you eat only processed meat an nothing else, you are giving yourself a chance for a visit to the great beyond. But just as certainly if you eat normally, including processed meat along with fruit, vegetables, bread, and the other fifty food groups normal people eat, you aren’t going to die from Colon Cancer.

Air is a carcinogen for crying out loud. The air in a pine forest pegs a smog meter.

My sainted mother, God rest her soul; a Danish emigrant and mother-to-daughter trained cook; my mouth waters thinking about her meals, was a meat and mashed potatoes and gravy kind of gal, but she always had peas, or string beans or brussels sprouts to go along with. She never shied away from wurst, paté (leverpostej), salami, bacon, sausage or ham. (As a side note, it really wasn’t until after the war {WWII for you youngsters}, that we were actually able to buy meat on a regular basis.) My favorite Danish meal, Boeuf Maloy, is hamburger patties fried in bacon fat, with gravy, fork mashed potatoes and crisp fried (in bacon fat) onions. Don’t forget the peas.

I have eaten meat, for seventy plus years, and three years ago my colonoscopy doctor told me he didn’t want to see me again for ten years. I eat meat in some form or another, processed or natural (if there is such a thing) at least three to four meals a week. Octoberfest wurst, St. Patty’s corned beef, Thanksgiving Turkey, Easter Ham, and Christmas Prime Rib Roast are musts in my home and will be til the end.

My lovely youngest daughter is a Vegan. I don’t hold it against her, she chose her own path in life. I do have a bit of malice in my soul for scare mongers and irresponsible newscasters, however, who rant on without thinking. Every single prime time network news station lead with the Cancer Scare story last night, as did all the newspapers this morning. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about. C’mon, enough already.

Meat Snobs Beware

Beef CutsPork Cuts

I’ve alwayas been somewhat of a meat snob. Chateaubriand, Porterhouse, New York, Filet Mignon, Pork Loin, Baby Back Ribs, Chicken Breast, you know what I mean. My wife and I had been craving a Pot Roast, you know, like Mom used to make. So yesterday at 9:30 AM I popped a 3.5lb Chuck Roast into my Kitchen Aid, 7 quart Slow Cooker; along with three large carrots halved lengthwise and cut into 1″ pieces, three small onions sliced vertically in 1/2″ crescents, four stalks of celery cut in 1″ pieces and six small, white potatoes cut in fourths. I added two packets of McCormick’s “Slow Cooker Pot Roast Spice” mix with two cups of water and cooked it all on low for 9 hours. Friends joined us and were pleased with the results, as were we. This got me thinkin.

After the paper, this morning, I leafed through my copy of “175 Essential Slow Cooker Classics” by Judith Finlayson, and noticed that most of the meat cuts were the odd named cuts that I have shunned my entire life. Beef Chuck, Cross Rib, Rump, Brisket, Short Ribs, Country Ribs, Round Steak, Pork Shoulder, Lamb Shanks*, Bone in Chicken Thighs, you know what I mean. (* I’ve ordered this in restaurants, but have never cooked it.)

Every one of the pictures depicting the recipes  looked delectable. What have I been missing all these years? I have decided this winter, to go on  a Slow Cooker dish binge and once and for all find out what I have overlooked these seventy odd years.

I’ll keep you posted.

Cioppino means love in any language

Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes. It serves many needs that I have. One, nourishment; two, the taste, smell and feel of well cooked food; three, seeing others enjoy my efforts (nurturing); four, basking in praise (only if the dish is truly superb) and five, a very strong sense of self satisfaction. Of the many dishes I enjoy cooking, Cioppino brings me the most joy. My Cioppino can only be cooked in months ending in ‘r’, because Dungeness Crab needs the rest of the year to develop and grow. (I tried Alaska King Crab once and it didn’t work.)

In the beginning I used to make my Cioppino sauce from scratch, I was a purist. Since then I have found that the pre-made sauces, found at your local fish market are as good, with certain enhancements. I tweak the sauces with butter sauteed, diced, onions and celery and reconstituted, chopped, dried Porcini mushrooms. Adding a cup of a nice hearty red wine and a cup of the Porcini reconstitution liquid is a must. Chili flakes are a great addition, but not so much you burn out the other flavors.

The seafoods I like to include are; True Cod cut in 3/4 inch squares; Fresh mussles, cleaned and scrubbed; Hard Clams, like Littleneck, Topneck and/or  Steamers, cleaned and scrubbed; Shrimp, medium sized, cleaned, shelled and deveined with tails left on; Bay Scallops, not too small; Dungeness Crab Legs, cleaned and cracked. You can figure out how much of everything you need, and be liberal. Start with like three of everything, per person, plus three for the pot and see how that goes. For your next attempts go up or down from there.

In a large non-reactive pot, dump in 1/2 quart of Cioppino Sauce for each person plus one quart for the pot (i.e. 8 people = 5 quarts). Add the sauteed onions, celery and mushrooms. Over med. to med high heat, bring the sauce to a simmer for 5 minutes (Don’t let the sauce boil violently). Gently place the seafood into the sauce and let simmer until the clams and mussels open and the shrimp turns pink. Cull out any clams or musssels  that don’t open. Provide shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, on the table, for those who wish to sprinkle.

Serving the Cioppino is my most enjoyable time. Each person hands me their bowl and I ladle in, hopefully, fair and even portions and give it back with the biggest smile I can muster. We use two or three layers of newspaper for a tablecloth (Shells get tossed on the table. Roll up the newspaper and throw everything in the garbage when done). We use pint canning jars for the fine, room temperature, Pinot Noir. We use dish towels for napkins (you should get very messy eating Cioppino). Don’t forget to serve ample amounts of country bread crostini or well heated country sourdough loaves cut in 1/8th wedges for dipping.

Try this once and they will be beating down your door for more.