Every Rhode Island home needs to have a box of corn meal in case of Johnny Cake emergencies. If you’ve never had a Johnny Cake before, you’re missing out on a simple, delicious Rhode Island treat. But that’s a topic of another blog. The point is, I always keep a box of white corn meal in my pantry, and I used it to make the coating for my chicken.

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Corn meal is great, because it adds a wonderful crunch while keeping this recipe gluten-free, which may be an important factor for some. But even if you don’t have to be on a GF diet, corn meal adds great flavor.

To keep the batter light, I add flour to the corn meal.

2 cups buttermilk (whole milk is fine, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)
4 lbs. chicken wings
1 cup white corn meal
1 cup flour (or use Cup4Cup, a gluten-free flour, to keep it GF)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika
oil, lard or a combination of the 2 for frying

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Pour the buttermilk or whole milk into a large Ziploc bag. Add the hot sauce. Drop in the chicken wings, seal the bag,  and let them soak in the mixture in the fridge for at least several hours…overnight is better. Place the bag in a bowl to prevent bag leakage accidents.

In a separate bowl, combine the corn meal, flour, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and paprika. Mix well.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

I like to use a combination of grapeseed oil and pork fat (if I have it) when frying. Heat the oil to about 325 degrees.

Take the wings out of the bag one by one, and drop them in the bowl with the cornmeal mix, coating the chicken well on all sides, then shaking off the excess. Place the chicken wings in the hot oil carefully to avoid splashing hot oil on yourself.

Cook the chicken in the oil on both sides for just a few minutes, until golden. You’re not trying to cook them all the way through.

Place the chicken pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet. when you’ve fried all the chicken, place the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the wings are done, about 25 minutes.

There’s only one thing better than a freshly made mojito when you’re hanging out at home…and that’s a pitcher of freshly made mojitos! Organic raspberries and blueberries are in the markets right now, and my mint plants are taking over the yard! All the ingredients for a great mojito!

Very often, I’ll use raspberries alone, but mojitos are even better when you combine the raspberries with blueberries. I stock up on organic berries, rinsing them and placing them in plastic bags that go in the freezer until I’m ready to make my mojitos. I always go organic with berries. Pesticides should never be a cocktail ingredient!  Pay a little extra and get the good stuff…it makes a difference!

Once you make mojitos by the pitcher, you’ll never have them any other way. (Even if you’re drinking alone!)

 

The ingredients

 

Make ahead of time…
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lime juice
1 1/3 cups turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw is a common brand)

Mix both ingredients together, letting it stand at room temperature for a few minutes. I like to combine them in a Mason jar, then shake really hard until the sugar has dissolved. I keep it in the fridge, and it’s good for up to 3 weeks…ready to use any time. Shake it well again before using.

 

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For the Mojitos…
1 cup sugar/lime mixture
1 cup mint leaves, packed
1/2 pint blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 pint raspberries (fresh or frozen)
3 or 4 cups white rum (I use Don Q Cristal rum)
3 or 4 cups club soda or seltzer

Combine the mint leaves and 1/2 cup of the sugar/lime mixture in bottom of a pitcher. Muddle the mint up very well to release mint oils. Add the blueberries and continue to muddle.

Add the remaining sugar/lime mixture, rum and raspberries. Mix well. Just before serving, add the club soda and ice. Stir. Pour into tall glasses.

Or…for drinks one at a time, I put in a shot of the sugar/lime mixture into a tall glass. I throw in about 8 mint leaves and muddle them for a minute. Then I add 2 shots of rum, and a few raspberries and blueberries. I muddle again.  I add ice, and I top it with the club soda, stirring well. An option is to pour it all into another tall glass. Garnish with a mint leaf.

 

Cheers!

Cheers!

Stuffies, or stuffed clams, are a very personal matter here in Southern New England. There are as many stuffies recipes as there are chowder recipes, and everyone thinks they’ve got the best one. Most stuffies that I’ve had in restaurants, like most meatballs I’ve had, have too much bread and not enough of the good stuff.

I use medium-sized clams for this recipe and not the traditional quahog, a large clam often used in chowders that I find to be too chewy. Dropping the clams in hot water in the beginning helps make opening the clams a lot easier.

Just 30 seconds in boiling water is all it takes.

This recipe requires quite a bit of fresh sage, which can be expensive at the supermarket. So I grow sage in my garden, using throughout the season, then snipping as much as I can at the end of the growing season to store it in freezer bags for winter use. I’ll even measure out 1 1/4 cups of fresh sage leaves (what I need for each batch of stuffies), then place that amount in the freezer bag, so I don’t need to measure later.

Freezing the sage makes it easier to chop finely later on.

I use Portuguese chourico (since I live near Fall River and New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Portuguese capitals of America), and I think their flavor is best.

This recipe makes a lot of stuffies, but they freeze well so you can have them when you want.

This recipe is gluten-free…and you’ll never be able to tell the difference! But if that doesn’t matter to you, use toasted Portuguese bread instead of gluten-free bread.

I don’t like peppers in my stuffies (or my crab cakes), so I leave them out. But if you do, feel free to add them to the recipe.

stuffies

4 dozen medium neck clams
1.5 pounds chopped chourico, skin removed (I use Mello’s from Fall River, Mass.)
3 onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
3 cups frozen or fresh corn kernels
3 cups toasted and coarsely ground bread (I use Udi’s Soft & Hearty Whole Grain bread to keep it gluten-free)
3/4 cup chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 1/4 cups chopped fresh sage (don’t use dried)
Salt and pepper
Butter
Sambal chili paste
Mayonnaise

In a large pot of boiling water, drop the clams in, about a dozen at a time. Remove them after about 30 seconds, before they open. Place them in a bowl to cool. Do this with all the clams.

Open the clams with a clam knife over a bowl with a strainer, making sure you save all the liquid from the clams. Put the clam shells to the side. Throw away any broken shells, and wash the empty shell halves thoroughly, making sure there are no broken pieces.

I use a strainer to keep the sediment away from the clam meats.

Take the clam meat pieces out of the strainer, leaving the clam juice behind in the bowl. Move the clam meat to a cutting board or food processor and chop them to medium-fine. Set them aside.

I pour the clam juices carefully from the bowl to tall drinking glasses, being careful not to let the sediment get in. Then, after some time, I pour off the clam juice from the glasses, leaving even more of the sediments behind. I find that the tall glasses make it easier to see the sediments, and maximize the amount of clam juice I get.

I let the clam juices sit in their tall glasses for a while, so that even more sediments get left behind.

In a large frying pan, add the olive oil, onions, and chourico and cook them on medium heat for a few minutes. Add the oregano and sage and cook a few more minutes. Add the corn and cook a few more minutes, a little more if the corn was frozen. Add the chopped clams and stir, cooking for a few more minutes. Add the breadcrumbs a little at a time until you have a nice balance of bread and other ingredients. Add the clam juice a little at a time as well, so that you can add all the breadcrumbs, but the mix isn’t runny. There’s lots of flavor in the clam juice, so use as much as you can! Season it all with salt and pepper.

Remove the pan from the heat and fill the empty clam shells with the stuffing.

At this point, you can freeze the clams. I put them on small sheet pans in the freezer until they harden, then I wrap them 6 at a time, and put them in freezer bags. Keep them frozen!

Ready for the freezer!

To make the aioli, mix the mayonnaise and Sambal in a bowl, to taste. Sambal is hot, so a little goes a long way. Keep it covered and refrigerated.

When you’re ready to bake, remove the clams from the freezer and place them on a sheet pan in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Top each clam with a small ¼” square piece of butter. Bake them about 15 minutes, until the clams are sizzling and light brown. Top each with a small dab of aioli.

I’m not a jealous guy. But when, just the other day, I saw my friends post that they’re on their way to one of my favorite islands in the world, St. John in the USVI, I got jealous.

I thought about the many trips I’ve taken there, alone and with friends, and the mandatory catamaran trip we took to sip Painkillers at my all-time favorite beach bar, the Soggy Dollar on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.

For a while during Covid, the BVI was closed to Americans, but now, happily, we’re allowed back!

The Painkiller is one of the tastiest rum drinks you can make, and one that certainly brings you back to the Caribbean. And it was invented at the Soggy Dollar. Located on White Bay, a stretch of the whitest most beautiful sand in the Caribbean, surrounded by beautiful turquoise waters, there is no dock. You have to anchor your boat offshore and swim…hence the name: the Soggy Dollar.

Daphne Henderson was the owner of the Soggy Dollar years ago, and she is credited for inventing the Painkiller, which used Pusser’s rum, a British rum that is readily available here in the United States. Charles Tobias, a businessman that received permission from the British Royal Navy to commercialize Pusser’s rum in 1980, tasted the Painkiller and realized the potential of this amazing drink. He took some Painkillers home to the island of Tortola, where he experimented in recreating that drink, coming up with what he thought was something that was as good as—if not better than—the original. He called it the Pusser’s Painkiller.

Tobias never found out what Daphne Henderson’s original recipe was, but when he brought his own Pusser’s Painkillers back to the Soggy Dollar, and had a tasting battle between the two recipes, legend has it that his recipe won 10 out of 10 times. With 4 Pusser’s bars and restaurants in the Caribbean and 2 more in the states, Tobias quickly made the Pusser’s Painkiller the signature drink of these now-famous establishments…and perhaps the most popular drink among the sailing community in the US, Caribbean and West Indies.

The drink itself is simple…

PUSSER’S PAINKILLER
4 parts pineapple juice
1 part cream of coconut
1 part orange juice

Combine these 3 ingredients, with lots of fresh grated nutmeg in a glass with ice. How much Pusser’s rum you use depends on how hammered you want to get! A Pusser’s #2 uses 2 parts rum…a Pusser’s #3 uses 3 parts rum…and a Pusser’s #4 uses 4 parts rum!

I’ve had several Pusser’s #4’s back in the day when there was a Pusser’s bar on St. John in the USVI many years ago. I’ve also sampled them in the BVI at the 2 Pusser’s locations on Tortola.  But I still prefer going back to Jost Van Dyke and knocking back a few at the place where the Painkiller was born, the greatest beach bar on planet Earth: the Soggy Dollar Bar.

I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to go back. But my bathing suit is already packed. Me, below, in happier days…

Sailing away many years ago…

Cauliflower seems to be the veggie of choice these days. You’ll find it riced to take the place of rice or mashed potatoes, in a crust for pizza, and now, the dish du jour is a cauliflower steak. All you need to do is to slice the cauliflower into thick, steak-like pieces, and then bake them. The thicker cut gives the cauliflower a more meaty texture. Of course, with a meat sauce, I’m using cauliflower as a pasta substitute in this dish.

The marinade I use for the cauliflower is pretty simple, with my favorite Italian flavors. With the garden now growing happily, I use fresh herbs, but you can use dry as well.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cups chopped scallions
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
chopped fresh parsley and oregano to taste
salt and pepper

Combine these ingredients in a bowl.

Slice the head of cauliflower across the whole head into 1 1/2-inch steak-like pieces. Place them on a baking pan covered with non-stick aluminum foil. Brush the cauliflower on both sides with the marinade. Use it all up!

Place the baking pan in a pre-heated 400-degree oven and bake it for about an hour, until the cauliflower is golden brown on the edges. Flip the cauliflower steaks over after the first 30 minutes.

It’s OK if your cauliflower steaks break apart a bit. They’ll still taste great!

The meat sauce I use is one that I make all the time with simple ingredients…

1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 28-oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
dried oregano, basil and parsley
granulated garlic
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onions. Sauté them until they’re translucent, then add the ground beef. Cook the beef until it has browned completely. Add the can of tomatoes, chopping the whole tomatoes up with a spatula (or squeezing them with your hands), breaking up the big pieces into smaller chunks. (I like my sauce a little chunky.) Add the oregano, basil, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

Let the sauce cook down until it has thickened.

When the cauliflower steaks are ready, place them on a plate and pour the awesome meat sauce on them. Garnish with some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

This dish was a huge hit when I brought it to a neighborhood party a while ago. Imagine the best of a deviled egg and a BBQ chicken sandwich, and you’ve got this appetizer that rocks in more ways than one….and you can make it ahead of time.

I boil the eggs and make the cole slaw the day before, then keep them in the fridge. Even the chicken can be cooked the day before and then warmed through before assembling right before your guests arrive. Be sure to make a lot of them…they’ll go faster than the hard-boiled eggs in “Cool Hand Luke!”

This recipe is gluten-free, as long as you use GF soy sauce.

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For the chicken and BBQ sauce:
3 cups ketchup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
For the cole slaw:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
For the deviled eggs:
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard (I use Gulden’s)

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees.

Combine the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, hot sauce, and brown sugar in a oven-proof pot with a lid. Mix well, then add the chicken breasts, making sure they’re immersed in the sauce. Cook low and slow in the oven for about 2 hours.

When the chicken is cooked through, shred the meat with 2 forks. Set it aside, but keep it warm.

Combine all the cole slaw ingredients in a bowl, mixing well, and place them in the fridge.

For perfectly hard-boiled eggs, place the eggs in a pot of cold water, and turn the heat on high. Just before the water starts to boil, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. Once cooked, keep the eggs in the fridge.

Slice the eggs in half and place the yolks in a bowl with the mayonnaise and mustard. Mix well and keep in the fridge.

To assemble, take a teaspoon of the mayo/mustard/yolk mixture and place it in the cavity of one of the egg halves. Place another teaspoon of the shredded chicken on top (I like it warm, to counter the cold of the mayo and cole slaw), drizzling a little of the BBQ sauce that you cooked the chicken with on the meat. Then place a teaspoon of the cole slaw on top of the chicken.

Serve immediately!

SCALLION “PESTOCHURRI”

Posted: May 30, 2021 in Uncategorized

I love chimichurri and I love pesto. And although both are similar, with many of the same ingredients, they are definitely not the same.

Chimichurri is found in Argentinian, Paraguayan, and Uruguayan cuisines, and features parsley as the main green ingredient. People from those countries will tell you that cilantro has no place in a true chimichurri recipe. It is used as a marinade as well as a side dressing to grilled meats, and often contains vinegar, which pesto does not.

Pesto, on the other hand, is less strict in its ingredients. I’ve made pesto with the classic basil, but also with spinach or arugula. Pesto also features nuts, like the classic pine nuts, but also pistachios, walnuts, or even macadamia nuts. (There are no nuts in chimichurri.) Pesto often features cheese as well.


So when my garden had an abundance of scallions, I decided I would make a chimichurri/pesto hybrid using whatever ingredients I had in my cupboard. What I came up with was absolutely delicious as both a marinade and side dressing. This time, I tried it on chicken.


1 cup chopped scallions, tightly packed
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 salted pistachio nuts, shelled
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup (plus more) extra virgin olive oil


Place the scallions, garlic, pistachios, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.


Start the processor and slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until you get the consistency of a loose paste.

How thick you want your pesto is a personal choice. You might need more than 1/4 cup of olive oil.



I used chicken leg quarters, and I brushed them on both sides with the pesto, and let them sit for an hour before baking them in a pre-heated 350° oven. They baked for one hour.


A bad weather day prevented me from finishing them on the grill, but they still came out flavorful, with a crispy skin.

I ate the chicken using the extra pesto as a dipping sauce on the side.



Note: For safety, I take a small amount of the pesto and put it in a separate bowl when I brush it on the meat. I don’t want to have raw chicken contaminating the rest of the pesto I will want to use later to serve on the side!

Chourico is as important to the Portuguese as bacon is to us Lithuanians. Here in Southern New England, they pronounce it “sha-rees,” not “chaw-reezo,” like you hear on the Food Network.

I was joking with a friend the other day that if I won the lottery, I could buy a lifetime supply of chourico at my favorite store: Mello’s, in Fall River, Mass. His response was: “Is there such a thing as a lifetime supply of chourico?!”

Good point!

If you’ve had really great chourico, you’re always looking for new ways to include it in your cooking. Inspired by chef Chuck Hughe’s recipe, this is a great chourico appetizer that’s really easy to make. Whip up the arugula pesto ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Then when guests come, just slice the chourico, sauté it in a pan until brown, and serve.

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3 cups fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup + one tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano or other good quality parmesan cheese
2 lbs. chourico, sliced into 1/2″ pieces

Combine the arugula, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and the 1/2 cup of cheese in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Set the tablespoon of cheese aside for garnishing later.

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Remove the casing from the chourico and slice it into 1/2″ thick pieces. Sauté the chourico slices in a pan until both sides are caramelized and golden.

Place the chourico on a plate, topping with some of the pesto. Sprinkle a touch of the grated cheese to garnish. Serve immediately, while the chourico is still hot!

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This is a really delicious grilled steak full of wonderful Thai flavors. You do need to marinate it overnight, so keep that in mind. The overnight marinating is key to the intense and unbelievable flavor of the beef.

The original recipe called for skirt steak, but I didn’t have any in my freezer. I did have a fat ribeye, though, so once I thawed it, I sliced it lengthwise to get two large, thin steaks which would easily suck up the marinade I was going to make. And the ribeye was nicely marbled, so it stayed juicy and tender. Beef flap is another favorite cut that would work well with this recipe.

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1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped dry roasted unsalted peanuts
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon chile oil
2 lbs. beef ribeye (or skirt steak or beef flap)
1/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)

In a bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, cilantro, peanuts, scallions, sugar, lime juice and chile oil. Transfer half of it to a shallow dish.

Add the steak to the dish and turn the meat to coat it well. Cover and refrigerate the beef overnight. Refrigerate the other half of the marinade in a separate container.

The next day, light a grill. While it’s warming up, get out a sauce pan and pour the chicken stock in along with the reserved marinade. Heat it to combine it well, but not letting it reach a boil. Remove it from the heat and let it come to room temperature. This will be the dipping sauce for the beef.

About 30 minutes before cooking, take the marinated steak out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Season it with salt and pepper, and grill it over high heat until it’s medium-rare, about 5 minutes.

If it’s too cold to light a grill, or if you just want to use the oven, heat a cast iron pan on the stovetop, add a few drops of avocado oil or pork fat, and sear the beef on both sides before placing it in a pre-heated 375-degree oven to finish cooking.

Devour the beef with the dipping sauce!

When my daughter hangs out with me, I always ask her what she wants me to cook for her, and there are a few “Dad” recipes that are her favorites. This is one of them, especially when fresh asparagus is available. And as any parent will tell you, if your kid is craving a dish that has vegetables in it, count yourself lucky–and make it!!
Prepping asparagus is easy, and you don’t need a knife to cut off the woody bottoms of the stalks. Simply bend the stalks at the bottom and they will naturally snap off at the right point.
4 mild Italian sausages, sliced into pieces 1/2″ thick
1 lb. penne pasta
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh trumpet mushrooms (white button mushrooms work, too)
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, passed through a garlic press
1 cup homemade chicken broth
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Have the pasta water salted and boiling, and add the pasta, cooking until just a bit more undercooked than al dente.
Heat a large pan, and drizzle in some olive oil. Sauté the sausage pieces until browned and cooked through, but not overcooked. Remove the sausages from the pan and place them in a separate bowl. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat left behind in the pan.
Place the pan back on stove and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for 10 seconds. Add the sage, and saute for 10 seconds, stirring. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken broth, and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Pour the contents of the pan into the bowl with the sausages.
Return the pan to the stove, add a little more olive oil, and on medium heat, sauté the asparagus pieces. Cook them until they are al dente, not too soft. Once the asparagus has reached this stage, return all the contents of the sausage/mushroom bowl to the pan to heat through. Drain the pasta, and add it to the pan as well, combining all the ingredients. If it looks too dry, add a little pasta water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Make sure you serve this hot, with grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top, and drizzle lightly over the top with extra virgin olive oil.