Potato Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon
Jul 3rd, 2011 by Mike

Potato salad is one of my favorite American classics when made properly. I recently started making it better by adding blue cheese and bacon. My friends on Facebook have been giving me grief for not posting the recipe. I’m ashamed to admit that it’s staggeringly easy.

First, I cook a pound of thick-sliced bacon on a baking rack over a sheet pan in the oven. It’s usually about 35 minutes at 425 degrees. At least half of the bacon goes to snacking.

I usually start with homemade mayonnaise, specifically Anne Burrell’s recipe. I only vary that by adding the zest of one lemon. You can totally use a good store bought mayo if that works better for you.

I cook anywhere from three to five pounds of potatoes, cut into 1/2″ chunks. My preference is Yukon Gold, but use what works for you. Cook them by boiling in salty water until fork-tender and then shock them in an ice bath to stop the cooking.

In my biggest bowl, I use about two cups of mayo, a cup of shredded carrots, a cup of diced celery, and the green parts of about three scallions. Sometimes i will add the juice of the lemon to thin out the dressing. Then I add about a cup of crumbled blue cheese. I mix this all together before adding the bacon, which has had time to cool and be crumbled.

Finally, I add the potatoes and use a rubber spatula/scraper to toss everything. This needs to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours just to let the flavors mingle and marry.

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a guide. Everything varies here, and I never make it the same way twice. Some times I use more blue cheese, and sometimes I use more bacon. Recently, a foodie friend told me that I should use closer to the entire pound of bacon.

Lemon Grilled Chicken
Jan 29th, 2010 by Mike

The other night, I came home from work and needed to cook myself some dinner. I knew I had chicken breasts in the refrigerator, but that’s pretty boring. So I started looking around my kitchen.

I found the following: lemons, fresh rosemary, fresh garlic. That chicken was screaming to be marinated. So I zested and juiced the lemon, chopped the rosemary and garlic, and tossed it all in a plastic bag with the chicken, some olive oil, salt, and pepper. That chicken was getting happy!

While my chicken was marinating, I lit the grill. Keep in mind that I live near the Massachusetts coast and it’s the middle of January. By the time that chicken hit the grill, it was packed with flavor.

Chicken just might never be the same again.

Turkey/Beef BBQ Meatloaf
Sep 27th, 2009 by Mike

Since I’m on the Weight Watchers program, I thought I would try to come up with some recipes that are lower in points and still high in flavor. This is today’s attempt, a BBQ turkey/beef meatloaf.

1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbls olive oil
1/2 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb 95% lean ground beef
2/3 cup rolled oats, ground
1 egg white

First, I cooked the onion in the olive oil. This was a sweat and not a sautee. Take this off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Then I pulsed the rolled oats in the mini food processor. Next, I threw everything in a big bowl and mixed it together. This went into a bread loaf pan and cooked at 350 for 35 minutes. Really, it was that easy.

When I pulled this out of the oven, it yielded about 800 grams of meatloaf. I figured each serving would be about 100 grams, or one slice. At four points, it’s not too shabby.

Recipe Find
May 21st, 2009 by Mike

I got the strangest call from my mom a little while ago. She was looking for one of her recipes and wasn’t able to find it in her binder. She said that she recalled my scanning that book several years ago and wondered if I still had it. Wouldn’t you know that I do still have it! I had to pull an old external hard drive, but I have it! The file is dated January 21, 2001. That’s over eight years ago. How many computers have I been through in eight years? I’m afraid to even guess.

Since I pulled the recipe, I thought I’d share it with you. Maybe some day, I’ll share the whole book. It’s got well over a hundred recipes from family friends, many of whom have since gone.

Hot Dog Sauce
2 lbs hamburger (browned and chopped)
3/4 lbs ground suet (optional)
2 onions, diced
1/8 c salt
1 box chili powder (small)
1 tbs cloves (use 2 tsp for less spicy)
1 tbs pepper
1 tbs nutmeg (use 2 tsp for less spicy)
1 small box paprika
1 1/3 tbs sugar
1 14 oz bottle ketchup
7 c water
1 c flour (mixed with additional 1 cup water)

Add all ingredients to hamburg and simmer for two hours. Use a 6 qt pan.

I just found some open-source software for recipes. Maybe I’ll publish a few of the gems I have.

Blueberry Sauce
Jan 11th, 2009 by Mike

When it comes to cooking, I’m my own worst critic. It’s hard for me to be impressed by much. This morning was an exception. We were doing our typical weekend brunch with the guys who live upstairs. Frequently, I’ll make bananas foster pancakes. Nothing is better than bananas sauteed in butter, brown sugar, and some rum. But today, I wanted to do something a little lighter, so I made a blueberry saunce. And it couldn’t have been easier.

In a small sauce pan, I combined a half pint of blueberries (I used fresh, but frozen would work just as well), about a third of a cup of sugar ,the zest and juice of one lemon. And I let that simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often. It reduced and thickened beautifully, and it was fabulous on top of pancakes.

The Whole Bird
Nov 25th, 2008 by Mike

For the past four years that I’ve lived in New England, I’ve gone somewhere or dome something for Thanksgiving. It’s either been to Beth and Paul’s house or making the trek to my parents’ house in western PA. And every year, I seem to miss the parade on TV. I try to watch it at my parents’ house, but my mom is forever asking me to help her with something. And I don’t mind helping her out since she’s having the whole family over for a feast about 2 PM. It just means I don’t get to see the parade.

This year, I intentionally didn’t make plans. I want to stay at home and watch the parade. From my own couch. On my own TV.

Somewhere along the way, I decided I was going to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I may be cooking for one, but I really don’t know. I sent an e-mail to the chorus e-mail list this morning, offering dinner to anybody who needs a place to go. I may have guests. Then again, I might be eating alone. Either way is perfectly acceptable.

So tonight I went to the grocery store with the goal of buying a turkey breast. They’re not cheap. I ended up getting a better deal on a whole turkey. That’s right, I bought a whole bird, fourteen pounds, potentially for one person.  That’s plenty of leftovers, right?

I’m also going to roast some sweet potatoes, make some cranberries, and make another attempt at the chocolate toffee wedges. I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie. I never have been.

Beth has given me some pointers on how to prepare this bird, and I’ll be brining it overnight, and then covering it with bacon to keep it moist. As Iron Chef Michael Symon says, everything is better with the pig. I’ll also be stuffing the inside with herbs, garlic, and lemon. Although I may skip the garlic and replace the lemons with apples. 

Why do I have the feeling that this has the potential to be a grand adventure?

Herb Roasted Potatoes
Nov 24th, 2008 by Mike

This almost isn’t worth blogging because it’s so freaking easy. It’s also a staple in my cooking because it’s so easy, scales well to large quantities, and frankly, is pretty inexpensive. A couple of people have asked about this in the comments, so here we go.

When I roast potatoes, I like to use white potatoes, although Yukon Gold work well, as to baby red. Your choice of spud is just that, your choice. Likewise, the herbs are also your choice. I ALWAYS use rosemary and almost always use thyme. In this case, I also used dill and chives. But you could also use parsley, cilantro, taragon, sage, or any other green herb you like. I might stay away from basil because the flavor is just so strong.

The first thing I do is chop the herbs. There is no need for fancy knife skills, just a good rough chop. I might stay away from the food processor, though. You want to chop the herbs, not puree them. For thyme and rosemary, remember to pull the leaves off the stems. Then I cut the potatoes into chunks, trying to keep them a reasonably consistent size. You can go big or small. Smaller chunks cook faster than larger chunks.  Then I throw the potatoes into the largest mixing bowl I have, which is quite enormous. I put on a few glugs of olive oil (again, using the inexpensive stuff), salt, and pepper. This is a time where you go heavy on the salt and light on the pepper, and toss everything together. Remember that these are root vegetables and they will suck up the salt. My rule is that when you think you’ve added too much salt, add a little more. You can use kosher salt here, but I prefer to use sea salt. Just stay away from the iodized salt.

Before transferring these to a sheet pan, I spray the sheet pan with cooking spray. You can use something like Pam, but I use pure canola oil cooking spray. And I spray the hell out of it. The last thing I want is to have to scrub potato off of a sheet pan. The liberal coating of oil will also help the potatoes brown/crisp.

Herb Roasted Potatoes - Before Cooking

These go into a 425 degree oven for about an hour. I pull them about every 20 minutes or so and mix them up with a spatula. This allows multiple surfaces to be exposed. This is also why it’s important to liberally oil the baking sheet.

There is no real science to determining when these are done, other than when they start to turn a crunchy golden brown. If you like them less crunchy, cook them less. If you like them more crunchy, cook them more. If you like them slightly caramelized, cook them even more.

Herb Roasted Potatoes - After Cooking

These are great right out of the oven (after slightly cooling) but they’re also good at room temperature. That’s why they scale so well for large quantities. You can put two baking sheets in the oven at once and cook somewhere close to 15 pounds of potatoes.

This is how I do it. I first saw Ina do it on the Food Network, but my friend Beth has also taught me a lot. She taught me that if you can see more white than green, you need more herbs.

One last hint… when they come out of the oven and are still piping hot, hit them with a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, the real stuff, not from a can.

Broccoli Advice
Nov 14th, 2008 by Mike

I got a message from a blog reader asking for some advice on how I do my roasted broccoli. I thought my response might be worth sharing.

Cut the florets into manageable pieces. Since you’re making large quantities, I’d keep the pieces a little larger. It’ll take slightly longer to cook, but it’ll also prevent them from getting mushy. You’re going for a a crunchy texture. The idea is to have them cooked without being overcooked.  I use the stalks, too. Just keep them slightly smaller than the florets because they take longer to cook.

Here are a few tidbits…
* Toss it in a very large bowl. It’s easier than doing it on the sheet pan.
* Use olive oil, not extra virgin olive oil. This is not the time to use expensive oil.
* Don’t even think about using iodized salt. Forget the blue box. Go for the red box of kosher salt or even sea salt.
* Grind your pepper fresh, but I wouldn’t stand over a large bowl with a pepper mill. Put whole peppercorns in a spice mill, coffee grinder, or Magic Bullet. Yes, I use my magic bullet for this. It works great.
* Just when you think you’ve added too much salt, throw on a little more. Remember that the two worst things you can do to any piece of food is underseason or overcook it.

I wouldn’t use the broiler.  I roast my broccoli at 400 or 425 for 10 to fifteen minutes on a sheet pan. You want it to just show signs of charring without burning. I tend to put foil down on the sheet pan to make cleanup easier. Regardless, spray the sheet pan with some canola oil to minimize sticking. In the summer, you can totally do this on the grill, too.

Marinated Steak Tips
Aug 17th, 2008 by Mike

Yesterday, I went to the Hilltop Steak House Butcher Shop in Saugus to get some meat. I picked up a four pound bag of steak tips. About half of that went into the freezer. The other half got split between four plastic bags where they awaited their marinade.

Tomato Basil
A whole tomato
a glug of balsamic vinegar (tne inexpensive stuff)
three cloves of garlic
a bunch of basil leaves
a glug of olive oil (the inexpensive stuff)
One green onion

This all went into my magic bullet for a brief whirl.

Tex Mex
A glug of canola oi
A glug of tequila
zest of one lime
juice of three limes
one jalapeno pepper

Again, this went into the magic bullet for a brief whirl.

Asian
A glug of soy sauce
About a tablespoon of grated ginger (fresh)
a glug of canola oil (I should have used rice wine vinegar)
about a tablespoon of wasabi paste
One green onion

Once again, a brief pulse in the magic bullet combined all of this.

American – This is the one I “iron cheffed” because I had no idea what I was going to do
A glug of whiskey
A drizzle of honey
Some green onion
A bit of worcester sauce

All of the bags got sealed with their meat and marinade in them, and then they spent the night marinating in the refrigerator. Tonight, I cooked up the Tex Mex and Italian. The Tex Mex were okay, and I mean okay. The Italian, on the other hand, were amazing. This is a recipe I need to cultivate because it could very easily be used to feed a crowd. I cooked up some pepper with my steak tips.

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What you see in the picture above is the Italian tips cooking with the peppers. The Tex Mex had just come off the grill and the peppers had just gone on.

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This is obviously more than just one meal. Well, I ate the entire portion of peppers, but half of the steak tips will be for lunch tomorrow with some steamed asparagus.

Dear Martha Stewart
Aug 17th, 2008 by Mike

Dear Martha,

Every time I walk through the kitchen section of Macy’s, I’m amazed at all of the items from your collection that Macy’s sells. And every time I walk through, there is some item that I never knew I needed. Or if I knew I needed it, I thought I’d need some high-end name brand that was really expensive. You’ve shown me the light.

A few weeks ago, I found your cast iron dutch oven that works just as well as the LeCreucet dutch ovens, and yours cost a fraction of what theirs would. And you sell it in red, to boot! Yesterday, they had your cast iron griddles marked way down. On top of that, it was sitting on the 40% off table. That’s right, I paid $14 for your cast iron griddle. I love how it’s reversible, allowing me to have a flat griddle or a surface that will do grill marks. It will be broken in tonight when I cook my steak tips that are marinating in the refrigerator.

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If you ever want a gay guy to come cook on your show, I would be happy to volunteer.

Love,

Mike

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