Virginia Hot Browns

I’ve never been to Kentucky and don’t have any plans to remedy that anytime in the near future. But I remain a devotee of the cheesy, salty Hot Brown.

This recipe varies from the classic in a few subtle, but essential ways, so I’ve christened it the Virginia Hot Brown. It’s totally gonna catch on.


For the Turkey

4 turkey breast cutlets

Olive oil



For the Mornay Sauce

2 1/cups milk

2 tbs unsalted butter

2 tbs flour

8 oz sharp white cheddar

1/4 cup pecorino romano

1 tsp Worcestshire

Kosher salt


Additional Ingredients


5 strips bacon, cut in half

Toast–nice, thick white bread


Heat oven to 450. Coat turkey breasts in salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil and cook for 10-15 minutes until done.

Meanwhile, fry up your bacon. At the same time, melt the butter in a skillet on medium heat and add flour. Stir roux for a minute until flour is combined. Heat your milk in a sauce pan (Or be lazy and pop it in the microwave like I did. Make sure it’s warm but not simmering or boiling).

Add milk to the roux slowly. Stir constantly. When all milk is added, bring to boil, continuing to stir. When the mixture thickens, remove from heat and add cheeses, Worcestshire, and salt/pepper to taste.

Cut tomato into thick slices. Toast your bread. A thick Texas toast is best.

Place turkey on top of the toast. Top with tomato. Slather in sauce. Crown with bacon.

Bon Appetit Short Ribs

I wish I could take the credit for this recipe, but it’s a Bon Appetit magazine recipe with some small tweaks for portion size and pantry availability. Perfect for chilly December evenings, it’s simple enough for a weekend meal, with restaurant-quality flavors that make it an ideal dish for a big (holiday) event. I think using veal stock instead of beef and a touch of Worcestershire in future versions would only enhance the umami.

Bon Apetit Short Ribs

(For 2 hungry people)


1 1/2 pounds boneless short ribs

1 1/2 tbs canola oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 onion chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 celery stalk chopped

1 1/2 tbs all purpose flour

1/2 tbs tomato paste

1/2 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon (Josh Cellars wine works well here)

Palmful dry parsley

3/4 tsp dried rosemary

2 tsp dried oregano

4 tsp dried thyme

2 dried bay leaves

2 cups beef stock

6 cloves peeled garlic


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally coat room temperature short ribs with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides in a sturdy Dutch oven. Don’t move the meat too soon. You want a good crust to form.

When the ribs are browned on sides, remove them and drain off all but 1 1/2 tbs of fat from the pan.

Add diced veggies and cook on medium high heat until the onions brown. Stir often. Add the flour and the tomato paste. Cook for 3 minutes to remove the flour taste from the veg. Add wine. Add short ribs and their accumulated juices. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until wine is half reduced–about 25 minutes. Add herbs, stock, and garlic. Bring to boil, cover, and then dispatch into the oven. Cook for 2-2 1/2 hours until fork tender. Serve with a heaping spoonful of mashed potatoes or polenta.

Squid Ink Pasta

My favorite bite in Venice, perhaps my favorite bite of our entire trip, happened when I ate squid ink pasta with cuttlefish for the first time.

Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with cooking the dish myself. I couldn’t find a satisfactory recipe, so I attempted to recreate it on my own. While it doesn’t have the freshness or the charm of dining al fresco along the Grand Canal, it’s a pretty solid rendition.

Squid Ink Pasta


1 pound spaghetti (we brought back some pasta with squid ink in the dough but regular pasta will work fine)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt

2 tsp squid ink (the Alma brand on Amazon works well)

3 cloves garlic

12 oz mussels or shrimp or clams (precooked)

Fresh lemons


Cook pasta in salted water to al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cooking liquid. In separate pan, heat minced olive oil, pepper flakes, and salt. After the garlic has become fragrant and soft, add the squid ink. Add drained pasta to the oil, watch for splatters. Add precooked seafood. Stir, using the cooking water to incorporate the ink and pasta and oil together. Squeeze fresh lemon over top. Serve with lemon wedges, so people can lemon the dish to their heart’s content.


BBQ Shrimp

This September I went to Paris. Great bread, buttery sauces, beautiful architecture. But the whole time I was there, I couldn’t help but think–We do all this better in the US, right? New Orleans is basically Paris…but better? Right?

Delicious Ledenheimer bread. Beautiful, colorful buildings. Drinking in the middle of the street. Buttery and spicy sauces.

NOLA wins.

While I’m not from New Orleans or the South, I take great pride in recreating dishes from their incredible food culture. Dishes like gumbo have been labors of love. But this BBQ Shrimp dish, lifted from Paul Prudhomme, has been a simple slam dunk from the first time I made it (many, many, many mouthwatering meals ago).

BBQ Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp with shells on

Spice mix: 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1/8 tsp oregano

1 stick unsalted butter and 5 tbs

1 tsp Worcestshire sauce

3 clove grated garlic

1/2 cup seafood stock

1/4 Abita beer (Purple Haze recommended)


Put large skillet on high heat. Add 1 stick butter, garlic, Worcestshire, and spice mix. Once butter is melted, add shrimp. Cook for 2 minutes. Rather than stir the shrimp, shake the pan. Make sure those shrimp dance around in the sauce. Get them well coated and starting to pink and plump up. Then add stock and 5tbs butter and cook for 2 minutes, shaking continuously. Add beer and cook for one more minute. Remove the shrimp from the heat and serve in a bowl of butter sauce with many, many slices of crusty bread.

I gua-ran-tee you will enjoy this!

Apple Crisp

I’m not a huge dessert person, generally, but I’m a sucker for this apple crisp. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and tart. In fact, we may be eating this very same apple crisp recipe less than a week from now as part of our Thanksgiving feast, but the thought of waiting that long to stuff my face with it was simply not an option. Once you try it, you’ll see why. There’s simply no such thing as too much apple crisp.

Apple Crisp



7 cups sliced peeled Granny Smith apples (7 or 8 apples)

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon


1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/4 cups flour

2/3 cup butter or 1 stick margarine


Core, peel, and slice 7-8 apples. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in with the sliced apples. Put in a greased 13 x 9 pan.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and flour for the topping. Using a fork, break cold butter in the flour/sugar mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Orzo Pasta Salad with Mustard and Honey

Neither god nor man has created a food more perfect pasta. I defy you to find something better.

Endlessly versatile. Comforting. A perfect canvas for sauces and cheeses and veggies and meats. I sing your praises eternal, oh pasta.

And while I enjoy a bowl of homemade spaghetti coated in a thick ragu , I’m just as content with 99 cent cheap-o grocery store noodles with butter and a good parmesan.

Pasta does not discriminate and I refuse to discriminate against it.

There’ll be countless pasta recipes on this site in time, I’m sure, but today’s offering is a fresh, light orzo dish that capitalizes on the last gasps of summer. It’s simple and tasty as a side dish, but holds up well to the addition of grilled chicken or fish, canned tuna, or a large dollop of hummus.

Orzo Pasta Salad with Mustard and Honey


1 container grape tomatoes

1 English cucumber

1 red onion

1 16 oz package orzo

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup scant Dijon Mustard (fill the cup to the top with a good glug of honey)



Dry oregano

Garlic powder


Bring water to a boil in a large pot and cook orzo according to package directions.

Meanwhile, chop your veggies. I prefer a making a very small dice on the red onion, slicing the cucumber into thin discs, and halving the grape tomatoes. But you do you!

In a large container add the white wine vinegar and whisk in mustard and honey. Season liberally with salt and pepper (about a small palmful of each). Make sure the mustard and honey are incorporated fully. Slowly stream in olive oil, making sure to whisk continuously. Add a small palmful of dry oregano and 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Whisk, taste, and adjust seasonings to your preference. You may find you prefer a less vinegary dressing. If so, add a bit more honey or olive oil for balance.

Toss your veggies into the dressing and add more salt and pepper to taste.

When the orzo is done, drain and add to the veggies. Stir, making sure to coat all the pasta and that the veggies are running throughout. Season again with salt and pepper to taste.

Chill for 4-6 hours or overnight. When you’re ready to eat, recheck the seasonings. Time in the fridge and cold temps can reduce the punch of an initial application of salt and other seasonings.

Fuck yeah! It’s time to eat your veggies.

Paul and Kathleen’s (Pretty Damn Close to) Definitive Chili

The best time of the year has arrived. The leaves change to crimson and apricot, the air’s crisp, and the light turns mellow and golden.

It’s the perfect time for a piping hot bowl of chili.

During our years together, we have made many variations of “our” chili. Each one coming closer to what will one day be our “definitive” chili. This one is pretty damn close.


Paul and Kathleen’s (Pretty Damn Close to) Definitive Chili


2 pounds meatloaf mix (reserve 2 tbs meat drippings)

1 pound 93/7 lean ground beef

1/2 pound pepper bacon (and 1 tbs bacon drippings)

1 tbs canola oil

1 green bell pepper

1 red onion

2 serrano chiles

10 garlic cloves

1 20 oz can tomato puree

2 14 oz cans Rotel tomatoes with mild chiles

1 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes

3/4 tbs syrup



Garlic powder

Onion powder


Northwoods Seasoning (Pensey’s spices)

Hot chili powder (Pensey’s spices)

Chili powder


Dry cilantro


Dice peppered bacon and brown in a skillet. Reserve fat.

Meanwhile, dice your veggies and mince (or grate) your garlic cloves. Leave the seeds in your serrano peppers, unless you’re a total wimp and can’t stand the heat.

In a separate skillet, brown your meat. Reserve fat.

In a large stock pot of Dutch oven, heat 1 tbs canola oil, 2 tbs meat drippings, and 1 tbs bacon fat. Sauté veggies until translucent. Add garlic. Season with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper and 1/2 tsp garlic powder.

Drain meat mixture and add to the veggies. Season with 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, Northwoods Seasoning, and hot chili powder. Add 1 tsp cumin and 1 1/2 tsps chili powder.

Break open the cans of tomatoes and add them, along with 10 oz water. Re-season the mixture, but reduce the cumin to 1/4 tsp and increase your chili powder to 2 tsp. Add a good size glug of syrup (about 3/4 to 1 tbs).

Bring to boil. Reduce to low simmer for 25-30 minutes. Add a palmful of dry cilantro.

Holy fuck! Enjoy!

Italian Frying Peppers

If they say mornings are meant for coffee and contemplation, then I say afternoons are meant for listening to old Ina Garten podcast appearances and attempting to reclaim recipes from my youth.

When I moved out of my parent’s house, my mom gifted me with a book filled with hand-written recipes. Most of her recipes are complete with measurements and methods, but the recipe for Italian Frying Peppers was simply a list of ingredients.

It’s been 25 years since I’ve had those peppers, and armed with a strong taste memory and a sparse “recipe,” I set to work on recreating them.

They may not be exactly like my mom’s recipe, but they’re pretty darn close.


Italian Frying Peppers


12 anchovies in oil with capers

1 clove minced garlic

4-6 cubanelle peppers

2 tbs parsley

1 loaf of crusty Italian bread (the soft interior only)

1/4 cup pecorino romano

Salt and pepper to taste

Vinegar ( 1-2 tbs for the stuffing, a bit more to wash the peppers)

Water (1/2 cup, plus 2-3 tbs)


Slice off tops with of the cubanelle peppers.  Pull out seeds. Rinse pepper interior with vinegar passing vinegar to consecutive peppers. Give peppers a quick rinse with cold water. Dry thoroughly with a cloth. Set aside.

Remove the white, soft interior from a crusty loaf of Italian bread. Tear into little pieces and toss into a bowl. To the bowl, add parsley, garlic, cheese, anchovies and capers (not the oil they’re packaged in), salt and pepper. Add 1-2 tbs of vinegar, depending on how strong you want to make the mixture and how much bread you get from your loaf (I had about 3 cups of bread crumbs and added about 1 1/2 tbs of vinegar). Add 1/2 cup water, plus 2-3 tbs, until the mixture is moist enough to combine. Break down anchovies with a fork (or, if you’re a savage like me, your hands), and make sure the cheese, anchovies, capers, and parsley are incorporated throughout the entire bread mixture. The bread mixture should be moist, like an uncooked Thanksgiving stuffing, but not sopping wet.

In a frying pan, heat a thin layer of canola oil.

While the oil is heating, fill the peppers. I stuffed mine over the top of the pepper. I planned poorly and should have brought 6 cubanelles. If you planned wisely, fill the peppers just to the top. If you planned poorly, pile them with stuffing until they look like ice cream cones (no sense losing any delicious filling to poor shopping!).

Once the oil is hot, fry the peppers. Cook roughly 6 minutes per side, rotating so each side of the pepper is nicely browned and cooked through.

Fuck yeah, mangia!