September 18th is National Cheeseburger Day!

Instead of the usual beef, here’s a great recipe using ground chicken. I rarely use ground turkey, because I think it’s nasty and flavorless. But ground chicken has a better flavor, and doesn’t seem to dry out as quickly. Adding avocado to the mix gives each bite of this burger a creamy, fatty richness the ground chicken needs.  Chicken and ABC (Avocado, Bacon and Cheese) is a winning combination. My Awesomesauce puts it over the top.

I cut the avocado in small cubes. I don’t make guacamole out of it. When the burger cooks, it melts into the meat, giving it that luscious fattiness I’m looking for. The egg and the breadcrumbs bind it all together.

 

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1 lb. ground chicken
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 ripe avocado, sliced into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch granulated garlic
1 raw egg
slices of bacon, cooked
Awesomesauce (recipe below)

 

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Combine the chicken, breadcrumbs, chopped avocado, salt and pepper, garlic and egg in a bowl and mix them thoroughly but carefully so that you don’t squash the cubes of avocado.

Get a sheet pan covered in non-stick foil. Rub a little vegetable oil on the foil before measuring out the patties. Using a 1/2 cup measuring scoop, spoon out the burger meat onto the sheet pan, then gently press down on it with your hand to form patties. Place the sheet pan in the freezer for the burgers to firm up a bit.

 

Firming up the burgers in the freezer. The little meatball in the middle is a leftover…and a nice extra bite for the chef to enjoy!

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

I used to cook the burgers in a pan first, but I’ve found that placing the sheet pan right in the oven works just as well. Let the burgers sear on one side, then flip them. (Make sure they sear well and get a nice crust on them, or they’ll fall apart when you try to flip them.) Get a nice sear on the other side, then add cheese to the burgers, and cook until it has melted and the burgers have cooked all they way through.

Remember: it’s chicken…you don’t want to undercook your burgers!

When they’re ready to serve, place the patties on a toasted bun, add a couple of slices of bacon and slather with my Awesomesauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Refrigerate covered for a few hours to blend the flavors.

If you don’t want to make the Awesomesauce, Thousand Island dressing is a good substitute.

 

 

I marinated and roasted both, lamb and chicken, with this marinade, and both worked great. So if you’re not as big a fan of lamb as I am, no worries.

 

The key to the success of this dish is to make sure you give the meat a lot of time to suck up the marinade, and to season the meat well.

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
The zest and juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Fresh thyme and rosemary, chopped fine

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

 

Place the lamb and/or chicken in a Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade, squishing it around so that it really covers the meat. Marinate the meat for at least 3 hours, but overnight in the fridge is best. Make sure to squish the bag around every few hours to make sure all parts get the marinade.

The next day, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

 

 

Place the marinated meats on a sheet pan with non-stick foil. Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Pour whatever marinade is left in the bag into a bowl and use it to baste the meats as they cook. (Don’t use any of the marinade without cooking it–it has touched raw meat!) Bake until medium for the lamb, or all the way through for the chicken. At the end of cooking, toss the meat under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nice char.

 

 

Grilling is certainly an option for this dish. Lamb can be cooked directly on the grill, all the way through. Chicken will require to be pre-cooked in an oven or cooked over medium heat on the grill to make sure it’s cooked all the way through before that final char.

Cooler weather always gets us craving for comfort foods, and this is one we discovered on a trip to Spain in 2014. Croquettes are the Spanish equivalent of chicken nuggets: they’re found on every kids’ menu…and my daughter ordered them just about everywhere we went! So it’s no surprise that I “got the order” to make a batch of croquettes once we got home…and I’ve been making them ever since.

You can make these days ahead of time and then freeze them, re-heating them whenever you have guests. These are way better than your average snacks when that football game is on!

 

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I found a great recipe for croquettes in Saveur magazine, and decided to try it out. I was a bit clumsy at making them at first–they do need a bit of finesse–but by the end of the batch, I got the hang of it. And to make them gluten-free, I simply substituted GF flour and breadcrumbs for the all-purpose flour and Panko. (The best tasting GF breadcrumbs are the ones you make yourself. Buy a loaf of frozen gluten-free bread, like Udi’s, and toast it in your toaster oven. Crumble the slices into a food processor, processing them until the breadcrumbs are the size you like.)

 

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2 lbs. raw potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
6 oz. ham, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour like Cup4Cup)
2 eggs
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
avocado oil for frying

 

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Peel the potatoes, cutting them into 1″ cubes. Boil them in salted water until tender. Drain them and set them aside.

Melt the butter in the same pot the potatoes were in, then add the onions and sauté them until they’re translucent. Put the potatoes back in the pot and add 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until smooth. Add more cream, if needed, but be careful not to make it mushy.

Add the cheese and mix until it has melted in. Add the ham and mix again. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the contents of the pot into a metal bowl and place it in the freezer to cool, stirring every 10 minutes until the mashed potato mix is cold, but not frozen.

Line up three bowls: all-purpose flour (or GF flour) in the first bowl, eggs (scrambled) in the second bowl, Panko (or GF breadcrumbs) in the third.

Remove the mashed potato mix from the freezer, and with floured hands, grab enough to gently roll a small meatball in your hands. (I’ve found that starting with a round shape makes it easier to work with.)

Roll the ball in the flour, then the egg, then drop in the Panko and roll again. With the ball in your hand, gently squeeze into a tubular (or small football) shape, and then place it on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Continue with the rest of the potato mixture. (You may need to add another scrambled egg or two if you run out.)

Once you’ve rolled all the croquettes, place the sheet pan in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.

Heat a pan with 2″ of oil to 350 degrees. Remove the croquettes from the freezer, and working in small batches, fry them until golden brown. Place them on paper towels, and quickly season lightly with salt while hot.

 

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The croquettes freeze really well, so this batch goes a long way. Once they’ve been fried, let them cool completely to room temp. Place them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer. When it’s time to cook them, let them thaw for about 15 minutes, then place them in a pre-heated 325 degree oven and cook for 15 minutes.

 

CHICKEN WITH A CHILI/MAPLE GLAZE

Posted: September 9, 2021 in Uncategorized

Recently on vacation, I ordered something similar to this from a take-out joint. It was chicken wings with a Sambal/maple syrup glaze, and although the idea was a winner, the execution: not so much. I found that the wings were really dry because they were over-fried. So I tweaked this at home with delicious results.

Using really good quality chicken makes all the difference, so buy the best you can find.

I also used a whole chicken as well as wings, and found that it works just as well. Cut the whole bird up into parts before cooking, saving the carcass for chicken stock later on.

 

 

Whole chicken cut up, or your favorite parts
Lawry’s seasoned salt
2 oz. real maple syrup
1 teaspoon Chinese chili garlic sauce

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the whole chicken into parts, or, if using wings, place the pieces on a baking sheet. (I like to cover the baking sheet will non-stick foil.) Season both sides of the chicken with the seasoned salt.

Bake the chicken pieces until they’re completely cooked, about 45 minutes to an hour.

While the chicken is cooking, combine the Chinese chili garlic sauce with the maple syrup. If you like things really spicy, simply add more chili garlic sauce!

When the chicken has cooked, place the pieces in large bowl, Pour the glaze over the chicken pieces and toss them around to make sure they’re thoroughly covered in the glaze. The darkness of the glaze will depend on the darkness of your maple syrup. I used a light amber syrup in these photos.

 

Serve right away…and bring plenty of napkins!

I’ve had Clams Casino in many different forms. Back when I worked in Italian restaurants in New York, we would make a breadcrumb mixture, press it onto a freshly opened whole clam, and then place a small piece of bacon on top before it went into the oven. It was good, but the clam often stuck to the shell, and many people didn’t want to gulp down a whole clam like that.

Oyster knife (left) and a clam knife (right.) Different tools for different jobs.

When it was time for me to make my own recipe, I decided that I would chop the clams and mix them into the breadcrumb mix, so that every bite was the same.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion (about a 1/2 an onion)
2 garlic cloves, squeezed through a garlic press
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup unflavored bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 dozen medium neck clams
1/3 lb. bacon, cut in small squares to fit the clam shells
Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions, and sauté them until they’re translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for 10 seconds. Add the wine and simmer for a minute. Add the bread crumbs, and stir the mixture until it becomes thicker, like a paste. Add the parsley and oregano. Season with pepper. (There’s going to be plenty of salt in the clam juice and bacon, so no salt is needed.)

The bread crumb mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool.
It’s time to open the clams. If you know how to do that, open them over a sieve with a bowl underneath so that the clam meats and juices are captured. Discard any broken shells, but save the good ones.
If you struggle with opening clams, this method makes it a little easier: Bring a large pot of water to boil, and drop the clams into it, about 10 at a time, for 30 seconds. Don’t let them open! Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl to cool. Continue doing this in small batches until all the clams have been in the water. You’ll find this makes opening the clams much easier. Then proceed as above.
Once you’ve shucked all the clams, let the clam juice sit for a bit, so that any grit settles to the bottom of the bowl. Then pour off the clean clam juice and add it to your bread crumb mixture. (Don’t worry if it looks soggy at this point.)

Looking a little soggy, but that’s OK.

I like to hand chop the clam meats instead of using a food processor. You want tasty clam chunks, not too big but not mush. Add the clams to the the bread crumb mix.
At this point, if the clam mix looks very soggy, simply add a little more bread crumb to dry it out.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with foil. Separate the clam shell halves and wash them, making sure you don’t have any shell fragments left in the clam shell.  Fill them with the clam mixture, mounding them slightly, and placing each one on the baking sheet.

Clams and bacon…delicious!

Cut the bacon in small squares to fit the clam shells. Place a small piece of raw bacon on the top of each clam.
Bake until the clams are just cooked through, the topping is golden, and the bacon is cooked, about 30 minutes.

This makes a great appetizer, but it’s hard to just eat a few!

Image  —  Posted: September 5, 2021 in Uncategorized

Good news if you’re on a gluten-free diet. These fritters can be made GF! And they’re delicious.

I have both recipes–gluten-free and the original–below!

They key ingredient in making a good fritter batter is beer. But until recently, there weren’t many gluten-free beers to choose from…and the ones that were out there tasted like crap. All that has changed.

Now you can pretty much find a gluten-free craft beer in every state, and there are several regional gluten-free beers as well. Easy enough to find: just go to a good beer store and ask. They almost always carry a couple of brands.

Gluten-free beers can be divided into 2 types: truly gluten-free: brewed with gluten-free ingredients and safe for Celiacs to drink…and gluten-reduced: beers that are brewed with ingredients containing gluten, then had an enzyme added to reduce  the gluten. These are fine for those that have an intolerance to gluten, but are not Celiac. Read the labels!

 

 

The beer that I used for my recipe is a beer that they say  is “crafted to remove gluten,” meaning there’s still a small amount left in there.

Ultimately, if gluten is not an issue for you, follow the recipe at the bottom of this page. It’s my original, and not only uses a tasty lager full of gluten, but also a special fritter flour, which can be found in many stores.

However, if you have to “live the gluten-free live,” and you’ve told yourself you can never have another fritter, I have good news for you: you can…and they’re delicious! This is a large batch, so feel free to reduce it if needed.

 

In making this recipe, I tested 3 types of gluten-free flour: Cup4Cup all-purpose flour, Bob’s Red Mill GF Baking Flour, and a Canadian brand (not available here yet.) Cup4Cup (far left) was the clear winner for taste and texture of the fritter.

 

1 lb. all-purpose gluten-free flour (I like Cup4Cup)
2 lbs. frozen or fresh mussels
1/2 cup (or more) gluten-reduced lager beer (I used Omission)
oil for frying (I stay away from canola, but use what you like)

 

Pour an inch of water in the bottom of a pot, and place a strainer on top. Pour the mussels, fresh or frozen, onto the strainer and cover the pot. Set the heat on high and steam the mussels until they’re cooked, about 5 minutes. If you’re using fresh mussels, throw out any of the ones that didn’t open. Frozen mussel meats (without the shell) are also available in many areas. They work with this method, too.

 

Steamed New Zealand green-lipped mussels. Available frozen in many stores. Get the plain ones, not the ones that already come with sauce.

 

Remove the meats from the shells, and toss them in a food processor. Give them a quick chop…not too fine, because you want to see and taste them in the fritter.

Save the “mussel juice,” the water in the bottom of the pot. It’s got lots of mussel flavor.

Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the chopped mussels. Add a 1/2 cup of the mussel juice and a 1/2 cup of the beer. Mix thoroughly, using a fork or your hands, until you get a batter that’s a bit gooey, but not really wet. You might need to keep adding small amount of broth, beer or flour to get just the right consistency. Once you’ve done that, let the batter rest for 10 or 15 minutes. Keep it at room temperature, and do not stir again! If you need to wait a while before frying, cover the bowl with a wet towel.

In a heavy pan or a fryer, heat the oil to 350 degrees.

 

 

Once the oil is hot, take small meatball-sized globs in your hands and gently drop them into the oil. Don’t fry too many at once or the oil temperature will drop quickly. Fry them until they’re golden brown and cooked all the way through. Drain the fritters on paper towels, and season them immediately with salt and a little pepper.

The dipping sauce recipe I have listed at the bottom is not gluten-free. But most tartare-type sauces usually are, and are equally delicious.

Of course, you can make fritters with anything, from mussels to shrimp to lobster!

 

You’d never know they were gluten-free!

 

Here’s the original recipe, full of glorious gluten!

It was a fall afternoon in Newport, Rhode Island, at the now-defunct Newport Yachting Center’s annual Oyster Festival. We’re gorging on freshly shucked oysters and clams, boiled shrimp, and…what have we here? I never heard of a mussel fritter before, but once I took a bite, there was no turning back.

They couldn’t be easier to make, but it is crucial to have the right fritter batter. And that starts with a Rhode Island product called Drum Rock fritter mix. If you live in New England, you can find it in just about any seafood department at Whole Foods. If you live further away, you can check out their website (www.drumrockproducts.com) or try your luck with a local brand of fritter mix.

 

fritter ingredients

 

If you’re using fresh mussels, be sure to clean them well and remove the beards. Steam them in a pot over a small amount of water. As they open, they will release their flavorful juices and you want to save every drop of that broth for the fritters. Here in New England, frozen mussel meats are available in some seafood stores. All you need to do is thaw them, steam them saving the broth, and you’re ready to go.

For the fritters:
1 lb. fritter mix
2 cups cooked mussel meats
1/2 cup mussel broth (saved from steaming mussels)
1/4 to 1/2 cup good quality beer (I use Sam Adams Boston Lager)
Oil for frying

 

Steam the mussel meats until they’re just cooked. Remove the mussel meats, and reserve 1/2 cup of the broth. Pulse the mussel meats in a food processor, but leave ’em chunky…or chop by hand.

Put the fritter mix in a large bowl. Add the mussel meats, mussel broth, and beer. Stir gently until just mixed. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and do not stir again. (If you’ve got guests coming, you can prepare up to this part ahead of time, covering the bowl with a wet towel, and leaving it at room temperature.)

Using a thermometer, heat the oil in a deep pan to 350 degrees, and using a small spoon or scoop, drop the fritters in the hot oil, turning gently, cooking 3 to 4 minutes until golden.

Drain them on paper towels, and season with salt and pepper immediately. Serve right away!

 

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An easy, delicious dipping sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Ponzu sauce

The perfect dipping sauce for these mussel fritters is made from two ingredients: mayo and Ponzu sauce, a citrus-based soy sauce. Combine both ingredients in a bowl. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

MAKE YOUR OWN KETCHUP

Posted: August 29, 2021 in Uncategorized

I suppose the first question someone would ask is: why?

I like to know the ingredients that are in my food, and looking at the label of a bottle of ketchup, there are quite a few ingredients I’m not thrilled with. Things like corn syrup and thickeners. So when I had an overabundance of tomatoes in my garden this year, and I made tons of tomato sauce, I thought it might be cool to make my own ketchup out of some of it. The results were pretty darn good.

If you don’t have your own garden-fresh tomatoes to work with, using canned tomatoes is just fine.

 

 

2 (28 oz.) cans peeled ground tomatoes (or 56 oz. fresh ground garden tomatoes)
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2/3 cup cane sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
1 whole clove

 

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot under high heat. Bring it to a boil, and as the ketchup starts to thicken, turn the heat down accordingly so you don’t burn the sugar.

It could take an hour–or more–for the ketchup to reach the thickness you like, but once you’ve achieved it, remove the pot from the heat and pour the ketchup into a blender and puree it until it’s smooth.

Let the ketchup cool completely, then taste it and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

 

The ketchup can be frozen in containers, or kept in the fridge. Try it in recipes for meatloaf, cocktail sauce, barbecue sauce–anywhere you’d use regular ketchup.

The original recipe for this white bean soup used bits of bacon. But it just so happened that I was planning on slow-cooking a pork shoulder in my smoker today. When the smoked pork met the white bean soup, it was a match made in pig heaven!

 

2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 smashed garlic clove
3 cans (15 1/2 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, 1 1/2 cups reserved
40 oz. veal bone broth (or chicken broth, if you prefer)
1/4 teaspoon bouquet garni
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Bacon fat and/or olive oil
A slab of slow-cooked smoked pork shoulder, pulled and shredded

 

In a large heavy saucepan, sauté the onion, fennel, and garlic in bacon fat or olive oil until they are tender, about 8 minutes.

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans, reserving 1 1/2 cups for later. Pour the beans in the saucepan.

Add the veal (or chicken) broth, the bouquet garni, and the salt and pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off and let it cool for 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender, until smooth.

Return the soup to the pot and add the reserved beans. Heat for 10 minutes, and then taste it, adding more salt and pepper, if needed.

 

 

To serve, place a mound of the pork, cubed or pulled, in the center of a bowl. Pour the soup on top, and drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. Chopped scallions, or fresh chives, or parsley on top never hurt!

 

 

 

Inspired by an episode of “Good Eats, the Return” with Alton Brown, I was craving poke big time. I had almost all the ingredients…..sort of.
Alton prepared tuna. I had salmon.
Alton used white soy sauce. I had dark.
Alton used chopped macadamia nuts. I had cashews.
Alton used yuzu juice. I had a lemon.
None of my ingredients were that drastically different, really, and when I combined them, I found that I had prepared one helluva poke indeed! (Poke, pronounced PO-keh, means “chopped into pieces” in Hawaiian.)
I used 6.5 ounces of salmon because I had a nice, big 26-oz. filet that I cut into 4 pieces.  Up to 8 ounces of fish will do fine with this recipe. And tuna would be just as tasty as salmon here.
If you’re going to go through the trouble of making poke—and for that matter, eating it—the freshness and quality of the fish is extremely important. I never eat farmed salmon (anything labeled Atlantic salmon is farmed.) It’s amazing how many so-called fine sushi restaurants serve Atlantic salmon. You can tell it’s farmed by the weird white and orange zebra stripes on the flesh of the fish. Farmed salmon would look gray if it wasn’t for the fact that farmers feed them pellets to change the color of their flesh to a more appealing orange.
Wild-caught salmon is just that: caught off the coast of the Pacific Northwest or Alaska, they feed on their all natural diet of shrimp, krill, and small fish…not food pellets and antibiotics. The salmon flesh is a beautiful natural bright orange, thanks to a shrimp-heavy diet. And the flavor is beyond compare.
I get my wild-caught salmon on line, shipped frozen from reputable distributors like Wild Alaska Salmon and Seafood. I cut the salmon into usable pieces while it’s still frozen, then re-wrap the pieces carefully and put them back in the freezer. When it’s time to eat, I move the salmon from the freezer to the fridge, letting it thaw overnight.
6.5 ounces wild-caught Alaskan salmon, in the refrigerator (thawed, if previously frozen)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons untoasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped raw cashews
One scallion, green and white parts finely chopped
Keep the salmon in the refrigerator until the very last moment.
In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and lemon juice. Whisk them together.
Chop the cashews and add them to the bowl, mixing them in.
Cut the root ends off the scallions, chop the green and white parts finely, and add them to the bowl, mixing them in.
Remove the salmon from the fridge, and remove the skin if it is still on the fish. Cut the fish into half-inch cubes. Add the salmon to the bowl and gently mix all the ingredients together. (You don’t want to break up the fish.)
Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, if you can wait that long!
Time to eat!