Sliders for visitors

All Day and I are blessed to have our house be “the house” to go to for our daughters friends. For many reasons, but a few would be; we get to keep a close eye on them, boys know how tough All Day is and I get to (or am forced to) cook food that teenagers like. In the Summer it’s easy, anything on the grill and pasta salad. But for the winter days I like to fill them up with some comfort food, that also passes the teenager test.

These sliders are an easy, make ahead, and definitely crowd pleasing. I learned the pickle in the middle from a Martha Stewart recipe. Also the optional part of the slider is to make a shallot butter and brush the buns with it before serving. I end up making 1/2 with and 1/2 without. But you do have to soften 1/2 of the stick of butter to brush the burgers before broiling, it makes for an extra punch of flavor and broils much better.

I pair them with roasted potato wedges and voila, a meal for the mighty movie watchers.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground round (not too fatty like chuck, even sirloin works well)
  • 1/2 cup of dill pickle slices (or about 20)
  • 1 tbs season salt
  • 1 tbs ground pepper
  • 1 package potato dinner rolls or slider rolls of your choice
  • 2 shallots minced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 stick of butter

Toppings:

  • Sliced plum tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Bacon
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard

Mix meat in a large bowl with 1 tbs of season salt. Form into 20 patties with approximately 2 tbs of meat for each patty. Place one dill pickle slice in the center of each patty, press down firmly.

img_2553

take softened butter and brush the top of each burger, if you need to pop it in the microwave for a couple seconds to make it easier to brush on (don’t melt it all the way).

img_2562

Now let the burgers sit in the refrigerator for about an hour, they will broil up better.

Preheat broiler to medium high. Meanwhile, make up the shallot butter for the buns. melt remaining butter and add minced shallot and sauce until tender and set aside.

img_2560

Set up your toppings and brush your buns.

 

Broil the burgers for 6-8 minutes depending on your preference.  All Day likes them 5 minutes but you can determine your time, it doesn’t take long at all. If you like your burgers a little Pittsburgh style (crispy on the outside and less done on the inside), set your broiler at a higher temp…..but please keep an eye on them!!!

 

Serve immediately.

Spicy Carrot and “Cuke” salad

If you’re from New England you know that Cuke means Cucumber. It’s an easy salad, believe it or not I found the recipe at Publix. I changed it up a bit. Hope you like it. Great for a side to my Home (from college) for the Holidays

  • 1 Tbs Thai Chili Garlic Paste (or Chili Sauce then skip Honey)
  • 2 Tbs Honey
  • 2 Tbs Rice Vinegar
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled seeded and sliced
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots (bag at grocery)
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced

Combine first three ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Adjust taste to your sweet to spicy taste by adding a little honey or chili paste (doubt you’ll need more chili paste).

Add remaining ingredients and toss and chill until ready to eat.

Home (from college) for the Holidays

fullsizerender

I just got off the phone with number one son, Connor and HE’S COMING HOME TOMORROW! We missed him over Thanksgiving, he decided to stay because of the loss of class time due to Hurricane Matthew. He goes to College in Savannah GA and was evacuated for two weeks. We had him unexpectedly for 10 days, but just wasn’t the same as home for Thanksgiving. This was his first adult decision….very weird time for Mom and Dad (All Day Ray).

All Day Ray and I were extremely proud of his decision, but missed him nonetheless. When he called to discuss his arrival plans, I asked him (of course) what he wanted me to make for his first dinner home.  He said “really anything you make will be a perfect welcome home”. So it got me thinking about when I would come home and my mother would always ask me the same thing. …My answer was always her “beef and pilaf” recipe.

So with great anticipation of Connor’s arrival tomorrow I would love to share MY favorite “Mom recipe upon arriving home for the Holidays” with all of you.

I make this for an army and if I don’t have one over, it makes great leftovers. A favorite of the whole household and to-go bags I make for neighbors.

  • prep time 15 minutes
  • cook time approximately 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs of top round London Broil (you can use less expensive meat, just cook longer) chopped in bite size pieces
  • 2 large green peppers roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs garlic powder
  • 4 tbs ground pepper (yes 4 tbs used on separate steps)
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 2 jars/cans of mushroom beef gravy (I’ll eventually get to making my own)
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs Steak sauce (A1, Shulas, or something like those)

Melt butter and oil together in a large high sided saute pan or large shallow sauce pan. Add pepper and onions and sprinkle with garlic powder and 2 tbs of ground pepper. Saute about 5 minutes don’t let the veggies get too soft. Remove vegetables and put aside. You now have a great tasty oil/butter mix to brown the meat.

Salt and pepper the meat in batches and Saute in batches as well. This way they get nice and brown and not gray (or steam).

When all of the meat is brown, put everyone back in the pool together (meat, onions and peppers). Now add Worcestershire and Steak sauce. Cook on Medium high for 5 minutes. Now add one jar of your gravy (the other is used to get to your correct consistency).

Cover and reduce to simmer/low for 30 minutes. Check your consistency and taste. Add water or additional gravy depending on how you like it. Season to taste. Cook until meat is fork tender about 1 1/2 hours. Serve over  ‘Out of the box’ Rice Pilaf.

 

 

Meatballs–The Correct ITALIAN Way!

I was lucky enough this past weekend to visit my hometown of Leominster, Massachusetts  to enjoy some Birthday celebrations with old friends and enjoy some family at the same time.

img_2386-3

I would also like to preface this particular segment, with the fact that I am the only Frenchman (and a few other things) in the midst of beautiful Italian women that have been my friends for a lifetime. I realized while we sat at the initial celebratory dinner for our good friend Debbie Depasquale, that I should take advantage of the Italian cooking knowledge deep within this group and gather all the tips from their Nona’s and Moms pretty quickly since we all just celebrated our 50th.

My brother in law will be here this weekend to show me the sauce for these meatballs, another true Italian (Tocci being the last name). So we will have a full Italian meal before this holiday is over.

Had an incredible weekend at my friend Lisa Cuddahy’s house, that’s her married name….don’t fret she is a true Italian (DiGeronimo being her maiden name). I spent a great Saturday with Lisa and Maryellen Daigneault (also a true Italian, Mother was a Ciccollini) , they taught me how to make a proper meatball. There is apparently a set of rules that apply to every journey into meatball world:

  1. Ensure you are instructed by a real Italian
  2. Use basic ingredients (none of the fancy stuff)
  3. Know how the meat should “feel” before you start rolling
  4. Speaking of rolling, that’s a specific technique as well NO CRACKS!
  5. The whole adage of not overworking the meat, is apparently bull*&^* according to these ladies!
  6. Oh yes and a couple bottles of wine didn’t hurt this experience one bit.

Now, in my culinary defense I made a pretty awesome garlic spread to place on some local Italian bread. But I do contribute these incredible meatballs go to the DiGeronimo family, who I’m still waiting to adopt me for Sunday Dinner and meatball/pasta night at the beach by the way.  Also, I am still on the lookout for some real authentic Italian bread ATLANTA!

THE MEATBALLS

img_2396

Ingredients:

  • 1-1.25 lb ground beef 93% fat content
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese
  • 1/8 cup plus 2 tbs Good Olive Oil
  • One cup Dried bread crumbs (Lisa makes her own, but store bought is okay. She says if you buy store bought, run them through a food processor to ensure a better, finer texture)
  • one small onion diced
  • one sprig of fresh rosemary
  • one clove garlic

Mix together the meat, 2 tbs olive oil, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper (mix well at this point, remember the Italian’s do not believe that you can overwork the meat….so mix away). Now add the bread crumbs and mix again. If one pound feels too wet, add more breadcrumbs 1/4 cup at a time. From my time with the girls, your fingers should come right off the meat without sticking.

img_2400

Now ROLL, flatten in the palm of your hand and then roll a tight ball. Don’t make them too big……NO CRACKS. Now for the BEST hint ever. After you do the below process of heating the oil, test one meatball, if it stays together, you have done it!!! Now add the rest….don’t overcrowd the pan.

 

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a heavy stock pot, add onions, garlic and rosemary sprig, heat until the oil is hot, add meatballs and sear on all sides. Then add 2 cans of Contadina Tomato Puree, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 3 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

Ghoulish Goulash

This will be the easiest recipe so far! I make it every year for Halloween BECAUSE it’s easy! I can whip it up when I get home and it’s done before those little buggers head out for loads of CANDY. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s name is Goulash and I can add Ghoulish to the name and be the hero of 5 year old’s everywhere. I also sneak a couple vegetables in it and feel good that they have something yummy in their tummy. This was another of my Mom’s recipes that I love to make and think of her when adding every ingredient.

Now…. I make a big batch for Halloween, it’s very easily halved  but I’ll put the big batch here. Use it for guests over the holidays It’ll go fast.

I use Paula Deans House seasoning in almost everything. Mix up a big batch, keep it in an air tight container. It seems like a lot of salt, but really you are only using a tsp to a tbsp at a time, and it makes a HUGE difference.

Paula Deans House Seasoning:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup pepper
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 3 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 jars of your favorite grocery store tomato sauce (really)
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Paula Dean “House Seasoning”
  • 2 lbs elbow macaroni
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1 package of frozen peas, thawed (optional)

 

Heat butter and oil in a large dutch oven (or sauce pan). Add in onions, peppers and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add meat and sauté with vegetables until no longer pink.

 

When the meat is brown add Italian seasoning, soy sauce and house seasoning. Stir and let cook for 20 minutes, add the sauce and cook for 45 minutes longer. If you’re using peas, add them 10 minutes before it’s finished.

While the goulash is cooking, cook pasta according to box directions.

Drain the macaroni and pour into the sauce mix well, add some parmesan cheese and serve HOT!

 

Greek Village Salad

 

village-salad-cover

It’s called a village salad for a reason it can feed an entire village for a few days and since we have one awesome village coming for a week, I thought we’d give it a go. I will make a batch of this and use it with chicken, beef or fish. We got a whole mess of healthy eaters who want something light but tasty, can’t wait to serve it to them. We ate it tonight with some salmon, it was delicious…we will blog that separately.

veggies-villagesalad

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of chopped peppers. Yellow, Red and Green (Stoplight peppers)
  • 3/4 cup of chopped red onion
  • 1 cup of chopped kalamata olives
  • 2 small tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium cucumbers seeded and chopped
  • 3 tbs chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/8 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 6-8 oz of feta cheese (please buy the un crumbled…you’ll be happy it just makes a creamier dressing)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pour the oil, vinegar, oregano and feta into a medium size bowl. Whisk together.

dressing-village-salad

Add the vegetables and salt and pepper. mix well and that’s it.

 

REAL Mac and Cheese

img_2165

At the request of a follower/friend (Kim), I have finally put up my favorite, easiest, Mac and Cheese recipe that is always a crowd pleaser and is versatile enough to make just plain, or dress it up a little for the grown-ups….or those kids with a finely developed palette. I have one of each so I made this recipe as a base that can be built upon.

Below is just the basic recipe and following the base are some additions that may sound intriguing, but really once you have the base…..use your imagination!

AND Please!!! use real cheese (not pre-grated) and whole milk. If you want to skinny it down or make it easier, don’t blame me for the after taste or gritty taste that’s left in your mouth.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of pasta (elbows…and 4 cups is equal to a whole box)
  • 2 1/2 cups of WHOLE milk (get it to somewhat room temperature)
  • 1 lb or grated sharp cheddar (put some muscle into it…you’ll be pleased)
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3 tsp of dried mustard
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt (Lawrys) or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground pepper (not coarse)

Cook pasta in boiling water for 6 minutes (2 less than package says). put drained pasta aside.

Beat an egg into a small bowl that will accommodate additional liquid….set aside.

img_2109

In a large pot (not too deep, you’ll be whisking a lot), melt the butter and then pour in 1/4 cup of flour. This will make a roux, for this dish it should be a nice yellow color.

img_2144

Once the roux is complete, pour in the milk slowly and whisk the entire time. This sauce will thicken upon cooking when it sticks to the whisk it is done.

img_2146

Now put the ground mustard into the sauce along with the salt and pepper. Check seasoning before you put the pasta in.  Make sure it’s salty enough at this stage, it’s important to get it seasoned correctly and not have the salt sit on top of the Macaroni and Cheese after the pasta is added.  Here I add additional spices to make it spicier if that’s something you want to do (like cayenne pepper, pepper flakes, etc)

After the sauce has been seasoned correctly, incorporate the cheese. You can reserve about 1/4 cup of the cheese to mix in with the topping (recipe below)

img_2157

Now for the beaten egg…I knew you were wondering when this would come in. I learned it from the Pioneer Woman and it sure does make a creamier mac and cheese.

img_2159

TEMPER your egg….take 1/4 cup of the hot cheesy liquid and mix it slowly into the beaten egg. THEN you can incorporate it into the sauce without the egg scrambling.

 

Pour cooked pasta into the cheese sauce and mix well. You can eat the creamy goodness now, or grease a baking dish and top with cheese or topping recipe and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

TOPPING:

  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • t tbs dried minced onion
  • 1 tbs garlic powder

melt butter add bread crumbs and cook until absorbed.  Add seasonings and cook for 2 minutes.  sprinkle

DRESS UP IDEAS:

Put any of these ingredients into cheese sauce once complete, prior to adding pasta.

  • Cooked Bacon with a little Blue Cheese
  • Prosciutto and Asiago Cheese
  • Cooked Lobster
  • Buffalo Sauce and Blue Cheese

.