When company comes, or when we want a treat for ourselves, here's what I make.
Sunday Gravey is what Italians call red sauce. Traditionally, mom would work all day Sunday to make it. This recipe, from Cooks Illustrated, makes it in just several hours. It is the best meat-laden pasta sauce I make. Click here for the recipe.
Who likes cauliflower? Who wants the fat that goes with wings? Here is the perfect compromise and it tastes great. You'll eat more cauliflower than you have in years. Click here for the recipe.
Alan's Red Sauce
Although the carrots and the amount of sugar will throw you off, go for it. This is a great red sauce, shown to me by a friend who has since passed. Click here for the recipe.
Fermented stuff is really good for you. This is an easy way to try your hand at it. All you need is a couple of pickle jars and (not necessary but recommended) an internet order of starter culture. I like it spicy, thus the hot sauce. Click here for the recipe. If you decide you like fermentation, you will need to buy a gallon crock. I use a cut piece of 2x4 to pound the veggies (e.g., cabbage for sauerkraut). Use kosher salt to avoid iodine. Use starter culture to avoid the mold that can grow on the surface. The mold cant hurt you but it's still not appealing. Whatever you ferment - peppers, onions, brocolli, grean beans, cucumbers (yes you can make pickles), tomatos, etc. - it must be totally submerged; things float so you will need a weight. I use a half gallon plastic jar filled with water pressed onto a plastic round tupperware cover.
Steak au Poivre
I have never had a restaurant peppercorn steak as good as this one. Also given to me by my friend Alan, who worked in great restaurants in Aspen. I saturate both sides of each steak with cracked peppercorns because I like it spicy. Click here for the recipe.
Tawny Port Sauce
Super easy. Works only with pork. Get it here.
This is good for a bunch of people where you don't want to be busy in the kitchen while they're visiting. Make it in the afternoon for evening dinner. Click here for the recipe.
Creamy rich makes it taste really good. I make it with the jerked chicken. Click here for the recipe.
Another one from Cooks Illustrated. Not your plain green beans. The baking powder prevents the beans from getting soggy. Click here for the recipe.
The best crab cakes have no bread crumbs. This is a Nantucket recipe with a fantastic sauce. Click here for the recipe.
There is no better basil pesto in the world than Costco's. Go buy some. There's no reason to make your own, but if you do, avoid Chinese pine nuts. They can give you pine nut mouth.
Stir fry can be almost anything you want. Here is my favorite, with or without meat (e.g., chicken). The secret is in the sauce which you can buy in most supermarkets. Click here for the recipe.
Here's my version, although you can play with the herbs and stuff according to your taste. You can't use pure olive oil because it will solidify in the fridge. Click here for the recipe.
Lobsta Mac & Cheese
This combination works suprisingly well. Cook the lobster as little as possible, shell, and cut it into bitesize pieces. This is a good make-ahead dish. Click here for the MacNCheese recipe and add lobster halfway through the bake before topping with the crumbs.
Best Burgers Ever
Most people ball up ground beef, flatten it down, and throw it on the grill. Here's a gourmet version. Grinding your own better cut of meat makes it even better and eliminates pink slime worries. Click here for the recipe.
Rice & Sausage
Low cal and low sodium but suprisingly tasty and filling. I make a batch and freeze individual portions. Keeps Billy the Belly and blood pressure in check. Click here for the recipe.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Great side dish, click here.
1. Not all potatoes are the same. Potatoes with the most starch, Idaho and Russett, are best for baking. Firm, waxy potatoes - New, Bliss, Fingerling - are best for potato salad and boiling. Medium starch potatoes, such as Yukon, are best for mashing.
2. Don't cook pasta with oil - it makes sauce harder to cling to it.
3. Instant oatmeal is like eating paste; we do it because it's fast. Just as convienient is to make a big batch of steel cut ahead of time and freeze portions in a muffin tin/silicone. After they are frozen, remove them to a bag in the freezer and just microwave one when you want it. Brown (saute) the hard oatmeal before making the mush to get a nutty flavor. Add stuff like maple syrup and walnuts for taste. Add a little milk when you microwave.
4. Omega 3 is really good for you but grain-fed meat is low in it. Better is range-fed meat.
5. If you make your own pizza, the hottest oven possible is a must. Pans with holes (better is a grid) heat the crust better and precooking the crust for 2 minutes before adding the sauce avoids it from getting soggy.
6. Packaged food has huge amounts of salt. Look at the lablels and take note of the serving size. One pickle has about 500 mg sodium for one serving which is one-third a pickle. Who eats one third a pickle?
7. One of life's mysteries - how often does the number of burgers or hot dogs you make correspond to the number of buns you must buy? If you have extra buns, triple wrap them before freezing - saran, ziplock, then into the plastic bag you bought them in.
8. Often the order you add ingredients is important to the final taste and texture.
9. It is important to brown meat before doing anything else with it (e.g., stew). This is because browning causes the Malliard Reaction, which releases hundreds of flavor compounds.
10. A George Forman grill machine makes the best plain boneless chicken breasts ever. Better than the grill, which tends to dry them out. If you use an outside grill, marinate overnight.
11. Fresh squeezed orange juice is a totally different drink than a bottle from the market. Most market orange juices are mixtures that can be over 6 months old. A cheap, but noisy, squeezer is made by Cuisinart. Much quieter, better, easier to clean, and more expensive is made by Breville. If you go this route, you will next be concerned with orange types. Different oranges are available different times of the year although Navels, which are satisfactory but not the best, are generally available all year. Costco has the best ones at the best price. Valencia or Cara Cara oranges are my favorite. I squeeze one glass the night before and refrigerate so it's cold in the morning. Squeeze too much and it will sour over even a few days. It loses 50% of its Vitamin C in 24 hours.
12. Don't overcook shrimp. A few minutes is all that is needed.
13. Ron Popeil's rotisserie ("set it and forget it", now sold by Ronco) really makes great rotiserrie chicken.
14. Brining meat, e.g., Thanksgiving turkey, is really worth it.
15. Really sharp knives make a difference and they are safer. No fighting. Just stay aware because even a nick does damage.
16. The onion glasses you see advertised really work. For us blind bats, buy cheap drugstore readers, remove the lenses, and place them inside the onion glasses.
17. Tarragon is my favorite herb. Mix it with chicken chunks, walnuts, cut grapes, and dried/sweetened cranberries with mayo for a great chicken salad.
18. Restaurant secret: salt and butter make anything taste great. I personally don't cook with salt (it can alwasy be added on the plate) and often use olive oil instead of butter. But sometimes....
19. Glaze your blackened pans. That means add an acid and a little heat. Acids are vinegar, wine, etc. Avoids a lot of scrubbing.