Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

By Paul Briand

The challenge of cooking Brussels sprouts is to prepare them in such a way that they don’t taste like Brussels sprouts.

I have not been a big fan of these miniature cabbage look-alikes, despite their abundance of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber. I just don’t think they taste very good, given the old school tendency of boil-and-serve.

So my son David had me try his recipe, which endeavors to transform the taste of the sprouts with the sour/sweet interplay of balsamic vinegar and honey. It was, indeed, a transformative experience.

David eyeballs a lot of his proportions, so we tried to approximate measures here as best we could. This recipe serves two.

10 ounces of Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees;
2.Prepare a baking dish with a coating of olive oil;
3. Trim the nubs of the sprouts and cut each sprout in half lengthwise;
4. Arrange sprouts cut side down in baking dish;
5. Splash vinegar over the sprouts, making sure each sprout gets a splash;
6. Drizzle honey over each of the sprouts;
7. Add salt and pepper to taste;
8. Bake for 30 minutes or until the bottoms have browned and the tops have caramelized.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac n' Cheese

By Paul Briand

Let me say at the outset that his recipe is awesome.

I found it, as I usually do, just trolling around various food and recipe sites, finding it at

I love mac ‘n cheese. I love bacon. Throw in the squash as a reasonably healthy addition? Sold.

The squash really adds an element of flavor and texture that makes this dish worth the work (and the many pots and pans) that go into it.

Some notes: I tried to reduce the sodium content by using low-sodium bacon (yes, there is such a thing, though bacon lovers might ask, “Why bother?”). I used a whole onion. And I used orecchiette as my pasta, which I’ve used before in other mac ‘n cheese recipes.

12 slices thick-cut peppered bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ butternut squash, finely diced
½ yellow onion, finely diced
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
16 ounces cavatappi pasta (or shaped pasta of your choice)
1 cup plain breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9x13-inch casserole dish. Heat a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta and cover;
2. In a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other heavy, stainless skillet), fry the bacon until crisp;
3. Remove the bacon to a towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease;
4.  Adjust heat to medium-low and add the butternut squash and onion to the bacon grease. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash and onion are browned and cooked through. Once cooked, use the back of a wooden spoon to mash up the mixture (it doesn't have to be completely smooth - leave some chunks in for texture);
5. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook the pasta according to the box directions for al dente pasta then drain;
5. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a large saucepan;
6. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the flour starts to brown;
7. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer;
8. Stir in 6 ounces each of the Gruyere and cheddar cheeses, adding a handful at a time and stirring with a wooden spoon until completely melted before adding the next handful. Season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat;
9. Add the cooked, drained pasta, bacon and butternut squash mixture to the sauce. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is completely combined and evenly distributed;
10. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish;
11. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the breadcrumbs;
12. Sprinkle the macaroni and cheese with the remaining shredded cheeses. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the cheese;
13. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crispy Old Bay Wings

By Paul Briand

This is the recipe I settled on for the tailgate chicken I brought to a family reunion last weekend at the Air Force-Army football game.

It was a three-part event: the gathering/buffet Friday night at the hotel in Newburgh, N.Y., the tailgate before the game itself at West Point, and the tailgate after the game. There was a fourth part - the gathering Saturday night back at the hotel - but by then the chicken, all six pounds of it, was gone.

I needed something that was portable, whose flavor would stand up when served cold, and wasn’t messy. This recipe, which I found on the Old Bay seasoning home site, did the trick.

Some notes on the recipe: I didn’t serve it with the optional dressing, though that certainly would have added an element of flavor and it would have cooled down the heat that some people taste with Old Bay. Also, I made six pounds of boneless/skinless tenders: I didn’t double the recipe, I made two separate batches.

After I rinsed the tenders, I patted them dry with paper towel, then tossed them with about a teaspoon of canola oil before then tossing them with the breadcrumb mixture. Lacking skin, it helped crisp up the tenders once they got into the oven.

1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
3 pounds chicken wing pieces
Blue cheese or ranch dressing (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, mix bread crumbs and Old Bay in large resealable plastic bag;
2. Add chicken wings in batches; shake to coat well;
3. Arrange chicken wings in single layer on large foil-lined shallow baking pan sprayed with no-stick cooking spray. Discard any remaining bread crumb mixture;
4. Bake 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through;
5. Serve with blue cheese or ranch dressing, if desired.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Turkey Chili

By Paul Briand

This recipe had us at sweet potato.

My wife Jane and I are big sweet potato fans. And, since you can never have enough chili recipes, we decided to give this recipe, which I found at, a whirl.

There’s a lot that goes into it, which makes for a fair amount of prep. But the end result is well worth it, especially at 160 calories per serving for those of you who care about such things.

A couple of observations: You’ll need a very large slow cooker (or pot). If not, halve this. If cooking in a pot on a stove (as I did), you may not need all the beef broth as shown. I ended up using about half.

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced (any color)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1-2 jalapenos, minced
20 ounces ground turkey breast
8 ounces mushrooms, minced (about 2 heaping cups)
2 teaspoons cumin
2  teaspoons kosher salt
½  teaspoons pepper
1  teaspoon oregano
1  teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2  teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes*
1 28 ounce can tomatoes (not drained)
2 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
32 ounces beef broth (one box/carton)
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (make sure you’re not using pumpkin pie filling :)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil and add onion, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapenos. Saute for about 5 minutes, until veggies are tender and fragrant.  Add to slow cooker or pot;
2. In same skillet, heat remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Add turkey and mushrooms and stir to combine;
3. Sprinkle in cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, chili powder and smoked paprika. Add turkey mixture to slow cooker;
4. Add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans, broth, pumpkin, cinnamon, and cocoa powder to slow cooker and stir to combine;
5. Place lid on pot and cook for 4-6 hours on high, or 8-10 on low, let stand with lid off for 10-15 minutes before serving;
6. If using a pot on a stove, cook over medium low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. It will thicken as liquid steams off;
7. When the sweet potatoes are tender turn off heat and serve with favorite toppings.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Crispy Baked Asian Chicken Wings

By Paul Briand

My search for tailgate food continued with this recipe, which I found at

Here’s the background: My extended family on my mother’s side is meeting for a combination football/reunion at West Point in early November for the Air Force-Army football game.

I’m looking for a chicken wing dish that 1) can feed a lot of people, 2) will still taste good cold, 3) have a lot of flavor.

This week I tried this recipe and, while tasty enough, probably won’t work cold because of the coating that involves hoisin and blackberry jam … yes, blackberry jam.

Hoisin is like an Asian barbecue sauce and, combined with the jam, produces a coating for the chicken that is yummy but very gooey.

I think next week I’ll turn my attention to a dry rub of some kind for the chicken wings. My sense is that a non-sauce coating for the wings will still have the taste, but travel better and stand up to being served cold.

2½ pounds chicken wings, tips removed, drumettes and flats separated
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Chinese 5-Spice or other Asian spice blend
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup blackberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and rinse wings and drumettes and pat dry;
2. Transfer wings to a large bowl and toss with vegetable oil and spice blend until well coated;
3. Position wings on baking racks in a single layer ensuring that wings aren't touching;
4. Bake, rotating pan half-way through, until fully cooked, 45 to 50 minutes;
5. Remove wings from oven and transfer to a large bowl;
6. Whisk together hoisin and blackberry jam in a small saucepot over medium-low heat until warm;
7. Drizzle wings with sauce, tossing until well coated. Serve immediately.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sweet and Sour Chicken II

By Paul Briand

A big family reunion is coming up in early November. It involves a football game -- Air Force at Army. It involves tailgating. And it involves a lot of food.

So I’ve been on the hunt for a dish to bring that will 1) feed the masses and 2) still taste good at room or cool temperatures.

This is a Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe I found at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. My thought was to try it at home using the chicken breasts in the recipe, then adapting the recipe for wings and drumsticks to bring to the family fest.

I’ve given this recipe the Roman numeral II because of a previous sweet and sour chicken recipe on these pages.

I liked it, but I’m not so sure about the transition to a tailgating environment. I liked the sourness of the apple cider vinegar; my wife did not … at all. I’m not sure whether this will make the cut. There are a couple of more recipes I want to try.

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees;
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. While the oil is heating, cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper;
3. Place the cornstarch in a gallon-sized storage bag. Put the chicken into the bag with the cornstarch and seal, tossing to coat the chicken;
4. Whisk the eggs together in a shallow pie plate. Dip the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces in the egg and place them carefully in a single layer in the hot skillet;
5. Cook for 1-2 minutes and then flip each piece over to cook on the other side until nicely golden but not all the way cooked through;
6. Place in a single layer in a baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces;
7. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over the chicken in the baking dish;
8 Bake for one hour, turning the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat evenly with sauce. Serve over hot, steamed rice.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Garlic Roast Beef

By Paul Briand

As I was picking through the meat cooler at the grocery store the other day, I realized I had never cooked a roast before.

And the roast looking back at me from the cooler seemed the perfect starting point to remedy that situation.

The trick to a good roast is to a) not overcook it and b) have enough fat on the roast to render the juices necessary for a good gravy.

I accomplished the latter, but the roast was a little overcooked, despite my judicious use of a meat thermometer. I like it rare, this was medium.

But here’s a basic recipe for roast I found at the Simply Recipes website. I liked it because of the addition of the garlic.

3 to 3 1/2 lbs of Boneless Rump Roast (pick an end cut with a layer of fat if you can)
Olive oil
8 slivers of garlic
Salt and pepper
For the gravy:
Red wine, water, and or beef stock
Corn starch

1. Start with the roast at room temperature (remove from refrigerator 1 hour before cooking - keep it wrapped). Preheat the oven to 375 degrees;
2. With a sharp knife make 8 small incisions around the roast. Place a sliver of garlic into each incision;
3. Take a tablespoon or so of olive oil and spread all around the roast. Sprinkle around the roast with salt and pepper;
4. Place the roast directly on a roasting rack, fatty side up, with a drip pan underneath it;
5. Brown the roast at 375 degrees for half an hour. Lower the heat to 225 degrees. The roast should take somewhere from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours additionally to cook;
6. Pull the roast from the oven when the inside temperature of the roast is 135 to 140 degrees;
7. Let the roast rest for at least 15 minutes, tented in aluminum foil to keep warm, before carving;
For the gravy:
1. Remove the dripping pan from the oven and place on the stove top at medium heat;
2. Add some water, red wine, or beef stock to the drippings to deglaze;
3. Dissolve a tablespoon of cornstarch in a little water and add to the drip pan;
4. Stir quickly while the gravy thickens to avoid lumping. Add a little butter if there is not a lot of fat in the drippings;
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Salmon Baked in Foil

By Paul Briand

Chef Jackie Oliver has been a constant guest as part of the NBC Today Show’s coverage of the Olympic Games in London.

Conveniently enough, I stumbled across this Oliver recipe in the August/September issue of AARP The Magazine.

His recipe for salmon that’s baked in a foil parcel with green beans and pesto is an easy, flavorful, and all-in-one method of cooking your main dish and vegetable side dish.

2 handfuls of green beans
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons
2 chunky salmon fillets (about a half pound each), skin on
2 heaped tablespoons green pesto
Olive oil

(See before and after shots above.)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees;
2. Trim the beans by cutting off the stalk ends but leaving the wispy ends;
3. Halve the lemon;
4. Take a yard of aluminum foil and fold in half;
5. Take a handful of green beans and put at center of foil;
6. Layer a salmon fillet skin side down on top of the green beans;
7. Spoon a heaping tablespoon on top of fillet, then drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and douse with juice from lemon half;
8. Repeat process with second filet;
9. Fold the foil over the mixture and seal all the edges to create a parcel and place each on a baking sheet;
10. Cook until the salmon is done, about 25 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness;
11. Remove from oven and let sit one minute;
12. Carefully unwrap before serving, the steam is very hot.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Whiskey-Marinated Salmon

By Paul Briand

The Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal is a relatively new source for cooking ideas. Sometimes, the recipe ideas are a little out there -- at least for someone like me -- but sometimes the ideas are right in my wheelhouse.

This recipe for Whiskey-Marinated Salmon  from last Saturday is a case in point. It’s easy, it’s tasty, and I just happened to have a new bottle of Wild Turkey on hand for the occasion.

The Wild Turkey came from my future son-in-law’s stag party the weekend before, but that’s a whole other story.

Note: This is the recipe as originally presented. I only had about half as much salmon, so I halved the recipe. I used the dish to top a large salad.

½ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons dark (toasted) sesame oil
7 tablespoons soy (preferably light) or tamari sauce
¾ cup whiskey
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
A few drops Tabasco or similar hot chili sauce
3 pounds salmon filet cut into 8 equal pieces, skin left on

1. Whisk oils, soy sauce, whiskey, sugar, garlic and Tabasco together;
2. Using a large zip-lock bag, place the salmon in the marinade and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight;
3. Place salmon pieces on grill, skin side down. Cook 5 minutes. Slide a spatula between skin and fish and turn each piece of salmon over, resting it on its detached skin. This protects tender salmon from direct contact with hot grill;
4. Cook until desired doneness is reached, 2-5 minutes. If broiling, broil on one side only until done, 5-8 minutes.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Garlic Bread Spread Buns

By Paul Briand

You like garlic bread, right? Well, how about applying the same technique to hamburger buns?

What you get it is a burger with an extra kick.

This recipe is enough for four buns. Halve it, double it, do whatever to accommodate the number of burgers you’re making.

4 hamburger buns
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1. Heat the oven broiler to low;
2. Combine the softened butter with the garlic;
3. Spread the mixture on each half of the buns;
4. Sprinkle with a coating of the cheese;
5. Toast under the broiler until brown;
6. Serve with your burgers and favorite condiments.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Asian-Style Three Bean Salad

By Paul Briand

I ran across this recipe in the USA Weekend newspaper supplement, and with a Father’s Day cookout coming up I thought it would be the perfect complement.

Fresh ginger is important here. (And here’s a tip, courtesy of celebrity chef Rachael Ray: If you have leftover fresh ginger, put it in a sealable baggie and store it in the freezer. Then just use a grater to get the desired amount you need.)

And I enjoyed the edamame, a first time ingredient for me.

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
One 10-ounce bag frozen shelled edamame
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
¼ cup 100 percent fruit apricot preserves
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
One 15-ounce can black beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
Salt to taste

1. Put the green beans and frozen edamame in a steamer basket over several inches of boiling water and steam them for 4 minutes;
2. Drain well, then transfer the beans to a large bowl and put them in the refrigerator to cool for 15 minutes or longer;
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, apricot preserves, sugar and ginger;
4. Add the black beans and scallions to the green beans and edamame, drizzle with the dressing, and toss to coat;
5. Season with salt, and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Crab Bisque Mac ‘n Cheese

By Paul Briand

Pinterest is a recipe magnet.

This relatively new social media site is a go-to location for foodies - the people who love to make good food and the people who love to eat it.

I saw this "pin" on Pinterest recently. That led me to a Fox News station, which acknowledged the recipe as originally coming from the Milk Marketing Board.

I made this as a side dish for a Father’s Day cookout. My only qualm was because of my own boo-boo. I made this a day ahead of time, and overcooked it somewhat. I then reheated it the day of the party, and overall it emerged too dry for my tastes.

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth, canned or homemade
1 cup diced canned tomatoes, drained
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sharp Wisconsin cheddar, shredded, divided
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, divided
8 ounces cooked crabmeat; fresh, thawed or canned and drained
1 tablespoon dry sherry
8 ounces penne pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions, drained

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees;
2. In large, deep saucepan, melt 1/2 tablespoon butter until sizzling. Add onion; sauté over medium heat about 3 minutes or until tender;
3. Add remaining butter. When sizzling add the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour is golden;
4. Over medium heat, gradually whisk milk and chicken broth into flour butter mixture. Cook, stirring constantly 8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is thick and smooth;
5. Stir in tomatoes, rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring just to boiling point and remove from heat;
6. Add 2/3 cup each of the cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. Stir until the cheese is melted;
7. Stir in crabmeat and sherry. Stir in the pasta, mixing well;
8. Transfer mixture to an 8-by-10 lightly buttered casserole (or slightly larger.) Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the casserole and bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Grilled Steak with Thyme Butter, Mushrooms and Onions

By Paul Briand

It’s grilling time, boys and girls. This is all done on the grill. It’s simple, easy clean-up, and - most of all - very tasty.

1 ½ pounds of Porterhouse or T-Bone steaks, enough steak for four
1 sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil
1 medium sweet onion, cut in half, thinly sliced
1 8-ounce package of mushrooms
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
2 tablespoons butter, cubed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1. Heat the grill to medium high;
2. Place onion, mushrooms, pepper, butter, and thyme in center of aluminium foil;
3. Fold the foil over the mixture, creating a packet;
4. Grill, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes;
5. Season the steaks with pepper and salt to taste and grill, turning once, to desired doneness;
6. Serve each cut of steak topped with buttered thyme and onion mixture.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chicken Sausage Stir Fry

By Paul Briand

We had some chicken sausage left over from the casserole recipe that my wife Jane had prepared.

So I whipped up a very easy, very quick stir fry. It was a bit of a fusion thing - combining an Italian-like sausage of garlic and mozzarella with stir fried vegetables in a soy and rice wine vinegar sauce.

For the sauce:
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
For the stir fry:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 links of turkey sausage, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound sliced vegetables (carrots, broccoli, snow peas, bell pepper, green onion)
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons water

1. In bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and ginger. Set aside;
2. Heat oil in wok (or large skillet) over medium high heat, add sausage and saute until meat starts to brown;
3. Add onion and vegetables and saute for two minutes;
4. Stir in soy sauce mixture, bring to boil, reduce heat and cover for 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are tender;
5. Stir in cornstarch mixture, bring sauce back to boil until sauce thickens. Serve.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chicken, Wild Rice and Cherry Tomato Casserole

By Paul Briand

My wife, Jane, found this very simple - and very tasty recipe -- in Real Simple magazine ad.

It’s a chicken-based recipe but she jazzed it up a bit with some chicken sausage prepared with Mozzarella cheese and garlic. She diced up a link and added it to the mix.

Here is the recipe as originally presented.

1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
4 ounces mushrooms, bottoms trimmed, sliced thin
2 (5-ounce packages) long grain rice and wild rice
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
4 chicken breasts, sliced into ½-inch slices
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 cups hot water
1 package cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees;
2. In a large casserole dish, combine first nine ingredients, top with tomatoes;
3. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes (or until liquid is absorbed).

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Crab-Stuffed Portabellas

By Paul Briand

My wife was overcome by mass marketing, influenced by her love for crab.

She kept seeing a television ad for a crab-stuffed mushroom appetizer at one of those chain steakhouses. Then a coupon arrived with the Sunday paper for $3 off that appetizer.

“We have to go,” she said.

But I did her -- and the steakhouse -- one better. I created my own crab-stuffed mushrooms, but used the mother of all mushrooms -- the Portabella -- to make it. And this wasn’t any appetizer, it was dinner, served on a salad drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette.

4 Portabella mushroom caps, stems removed
4 ounces Shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 pound lump crab meat
4 slices Canadian bacon, diced
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
3 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Old Bay seasoning
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat;
2. Saute the bacon and Shiitake mushrooms in skillet until the bacon appears crisp, about three minutes;
3. In a large bowl, combine the crab, bacon/Shiitake mixture, egg, and mustard and gently fold together;
4. Add bread crumbs and seasoning to taste and mix. You’ll want a mixture that’s firm enough to pack as you would a crab cake;
5. Place Portabella caps top side down on a lightly greased large baking sheet;
6. Divide mixture and evenly distribute onto the mushroom caps;
7. Bake in oven for 15 minutes;
8. Remove from oven and add Parmesan to the top of each mushroom/mixture as needed to cover;
9. Return to oven for another 5 minutes or until cheese melts and starts to brown then serve.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Big Sal

By Paul Briand

April is Grilled Cheese Month … who knew?

So, in light of that eureka moment, I’ve found a grilled cheese recipe that is way beyond what you’d expect of a grilled cheese sandwich.

It’s called The Big Sal, and it’s included as part of a recipe contest for grilled cheese promoted by Tasting Table, which describes itself as “the free daily email for adventurous eaters everywhere.”

(The Big Sal, if you want to find it on the link above, is No. 25 on the slideshow.)

This dish serves four and is a gooey combination of sweet Italian sausage and different kind of cheeses melted into ciabatta rolls using a panini press. Like I said, it’s not your mama’s grilled cheese sandwich.

A couple of notes on this: I grilled my sausages using my outdoor gas grill, and I skipped the 15 minutes of baking.

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 sweet Italian sausages
2 onions, such as Vidalia, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 large bell pepper, sliced ¼ inch thick
4 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced ¼ inch thick
4 ciabatta rolls
4 ounces Wisconsin Asiago cheese, grated
8 ?-inch thick slices fresh mozzarella
White or black truffle oil, optional
1 cup jarred, roasted red pepper strips

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and heat  2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in large, oven-safe sauté pan over medium heat;
2.  Add sausages and brown on all sides. Remove sausages to plate and return pan to stove;
3. Add onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Sauté 5 minutes.
4. Cut sausages in half lengthwise and place in pan with vegetables;
5. Place pan in oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven;
6. Preheat panini grill over medium-high heat. Drizzle buns with olive oil and halve;
7. Place 1 ounce (generous 1/8 cup) grated Asiago cheese on each roll bottom; top with 1 slice mozzarella;
8. Layer with 2 sausage halves and approximately 1/2 cup of the onions-peppers-mushrooms;
9. Drizzle with a few drops of white or black truffle oil, if using. (A little goes a long way.);
10. Top with 1/4 cup pepper strips, additional slice mozzarella, and ciabatta tops;
11. Place in panini press for 5 minutes or until cheese melts and bread is golden brown.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ham, Potato & Egg Casserole

By Paul Briand

Every Easter it’s the same thing: What do we do with the leftover ham?

My mother normally gets the bone for a wonderful pea and ham soup that she makes. One of these days, I’ll get the recipe posted.

Last year, I made a Ham Casserole, using a can cream of celery soup as the base.

This year, a stumbled on a recipe by way of the Foodily app on my iPhone.

It caught my eye originally because of the bacon. But I decided to re-do the original recipe, substituting bacon with ham, upping the number of eggs and milk, using a little more cheese as a  topping and adding some panko bread crumbs to give it a bit of a crunchy crust.

2 cups cooked ham, diced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, cleaned out and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
10 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
3 cups frozen diced potatoes, unthawed
½ cup panko bread crumbs

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a large baking dish with baking spray or olive oil;
2. In a teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat, cook the onion, yellow bell pepper, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes until all the vegetables are soft. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly;
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly and whisk in the milk and black pepper;
4. Stir in 2 cups of cheese, frozen potatoes, ham and vegetables from the skillet;
5. Pour the whole mixture into the baking dish and bake for 20 minutes;
6. Remove from oven and top with remaining cheese and bread crumbs;
7. Return to oven and bake another 20 minutes or until the eggs are firm;
8. Serve immediately.

This was originally cast as a breakfast casserole, but works perfectly fine as a brunch or dinner dish.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Braised Beef with Rigatoni

By Paul Briand

When I saw this one on the cooking segment of a recent “Today” show on NBC, I liked what I saw about the low and slow braising of the beef. Oh, and I liked the wine.

The recipe was courtesy of Eric Gabrynowicz, chef at Restaurant North in Armonk, New York.

I substituted a bag of baby spinach for the arugula called for below.

For the braise:
1 pound beef cubes - try to utilize the less expensive cuts suitable for braising, such as short ribs, shanks, cheeks, brisket
8-10 cloves garlic
3 sprigs sage (or from your spice jar if you don’t have fresh)
1/4 cup tomato paste - homemade is best
2 cups red wine
2 tablespoons canola oil
For the pasta:
1 pound of rigatoni or your favorite pasta.
1 bunch arugula
Cheese for grating, such as parmigiano reggiano
Extra virgin olive oil
Chili flakes to taste

1. After setting the oven for 300 degrees, sear the meat it in a heavy-bottom saute pan over medium high heat;
2.  Remove the meat, and saute the garlic and sage;
3. Add the meat back in. Add tomato paste and wine. Bring to a simmer. Cover and braise for 4 to 5 hours at 300 degrees or until tender;
4. Cook rigatoni until al dente;
5. Immediately add the pasta to the braise in the saute pan;
6. Fold in arugula, extra virgin olive oil and chili flakes, and toss until completely coated;
7. Plate and shave cheese on top.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grilled Chicken and Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

By Paul Briand

Mac ‘n cheese is all about comfort food, and we needed some comfort recently as my wife Jane’s family gathered in Maryland for the funeral of a beloved aunt.

And what better source for comfort food, at least in my mind, than Rachael Ray.

Her recipe for Grilled Chicken and Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese struck a chord because it was relatively easy to prepare, it served a lot of people … and it had bacon. You can never go wrong cooking with bacon.

I basically doubled this recipe to handle six people (there were leftovers). And I didn’t use fresh thyme (I used what was in the spice rack), and I used a bag of Italian blend cheeses rather than the Gruyere.

6 slices good-quality smoky bacon, such as applewood smoked bacon
Salt and pepper
1 pound whole wheat short-cut pasta
2 skinless chicken breasts, lightly pounded
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced
2 rounded tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cloudy apple cider or chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
Chopped flat leaf parsley or celery greens, for garnish


1.Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees;
2. Arrange the bacon on a slotted broiler pan or on a rack placed over a baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Chop and reserve. Switch on the broiler and position the rack in the center of the oven;
3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt it, add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions indicate, or until just shy of al dente. Drain and return to the pot;
4. While the pasta is working, heat a grill pan or cast iron griddle over medium-high heat. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil to coat lightly, then season evenly with paprika, salt and pepper;
5. Grill the chicken for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.Transfer to a cutting board and halve the pieces lengthwise, then thinly slice them crosswise;
6. While the chicken cooks, melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until light golden brown and very soft, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute;
7. Whisk in the cider (or stock), then add the milk. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, 3-4 minutes. Add the thyme and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the cheese until melted;
8. Add the chicken, bacon and sauce to the pasta and transfer to a casserole. Broil until bubbling and browned, about 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley or celery greens.

Click here for recipe card.

Digg this

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fried Egg Sandwich with Bacon and Blue Cheese

By Paul Briand

This was love at first bite. No, it was love even earlier than that: Love at first sight when I saw the recipe on the web.

I’m a big fan of breakfast sandwiches that include an egg and whatever processed meat happens to be laying about.

My Dad lacked all manner of culinary skill but developed back in the ‘60s what he called “the Briand Special”, which was a fried egg and fried bologna on a toasted English Muffin.

This recipe -- which I found through a convoluted set of circumstance on the web -- takes the fried egg sandwich to a whole new level of taste and sophistication.

This is the orginal recipe for two sandwiches. I adapted it to make four sandwiches, I substituted spinach for frisee lettuce, and I used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon. You’ll sacrifice some rendered fat by using the turkey bacon, so a a teaspoon or two of butter was needed at the point of sauteeing the shallots. I also used more -- way more -- than a single slice of bacon.

2 ciabatta rolls
1 1/2 cups frisée (French curly endive), torn into-bite size pieces (about 2 ounces)
1 bacon slice, preferably thick-cut
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 to 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided
2 large eggs

1. Split the rolls and toast them (in toaster if they fit, toaster oven, or oven);
2. Place lettuce (or spinach) in a medium bowl;
3. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/4-inch wide lardons;
4. In a small heavy skillet, cook bacon over moderate heat, until pieces are crisp;
5. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels, reserving bacon fat in pan;
6. Add shallot to bacon fat and cook for one minute, stirring;
7. Add red wine vinegar and let hiss and bubble for 20 to 30 seconds, then remove from heat and whisk in Dijon;
8. Immediately pour hot dressing over lettuce and toss with drained lardons, salt and pepper;
9. Remove rolls from toaster and divide bacon-frisee salad between each bottom bun (you’ll want to heap on more than seems feasible or needed);
10. Top each salad pile with half (2 tablespoons) of the blue cheese;
11. Reheat skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and swirl it to coat the pan;
12. Crack one egg into the skillet, season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium and cook sunnyside up or over easy;
13. Remove the egg from the pan and place it on top of the bacon-frisée salad on the bun;
14. Repeat with remaining egg.

Click here for recipe card.
Digg this

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sticky Lemon Chicken

By Paul Briand

I went trawling this week for some recipes on the BBC Good Food web site, where I’ve had some good luck in the past.

This time I netted this Sticky Lemon Chicken.

The flavor of this dish was disproportionate to the effort. In other words, you get a lot of flavor from this dish without a lot of ingredients and/or cooking time.

4 chicken breast fillets with skin, about 5 ounces each
1 large lemon
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or a generous sprinkling of dried
1½ tablespoons honey

1. Preheat oven broiler to high and lightly oil a shallow heatproof dish;
2. Put the chicken in the dish, skin side down, and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 5 minutes. While the chicken is grilling, cut four thin slices from
the lemon;
3. Turn the chicken fillets over and put a slice of lemon on top of each one;
4. Sprinkle over the thyme and a little more seasoning, then drizzle with the honey;
5. Squeeze over the juice from the remaining lemon;
6. Return to the grill for 10 minutes more, until the chicken is golden and cooked all the way through.

You can serve the chicken and the sticky juices with rice or potatoes.

Click here for recipe card.
Digg this

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Roasted Jalapenos and Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

By Paul Briand

I rarely click on banner ads on web sites. But I clicked on one for a recipe from the folks at Cabot Cheese.

I couldn’t resist the combination of jalapenos and bacon with ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese.

Don’t be afraid of the jalapenos. The roasting and trimming process described in the recipe actually reduces the heat from the pepper.

(Full disclosure: I split the recipe in half so that half was made with the jalapenos and half made without for the sake of my wife Jane’s tender pallet.)

Since this is a Cabot Cheese recipe, its products are recommended, but feel free to substitute with your favorites as needed.

I found this recipe to be both time and pots and pans intensive, but well worth the effort.

2 fresh jalapeno peppers
4 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, diced
3/4 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Cabot Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups whole milk, heated to just below simmer
12 ounces Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar or Cabot 3 Year Cheddar, grated (about 3 cups)
Salt to taste
8 ounces dry garganelli or penne pasta

1. Roast jalapenos directly over stovetop gas burner or under preheated broiler, turning with tongs, until skins are blistered all over;
2. Transfer peppers to small plastic bag and let stand. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard stems, skin and seeds. Chop flesh into fine dice and set aside;
3. Cook bacon in skillet until lightly browned; after dicing, transfer with slotted spoon to small bowl. Add breadcrumbs, along with small amount of bacon fat to moisten, combining well;
4. In medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Let cook, stirring, for 2 minutes;
5. Gradually whisk in milk. Continue cooking, stirring often, until sauce is simmering and thickened. Let sauce bubble gently until quite thick, about 10 minutes longer, stirring often so it doesn't scorch on bottom;
6. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar; when cheese is melted, season sauce with salt as needed;
7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain and return to pot. Add cheese sauce and reserved jalapenos and stir together;
8. Transfer pasta to 2-quart baking dish or six individual ramekins. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until browned on top and bubbling throughout.

Click here for recipe card.
Digg this

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Green Tea Asian Chicken

My wife Jane didn’t like the sounds of this recipe: Green tea with chicken? She likes each separately well enough, but was wary of the combination.

But I made it anyway, and, like Mikey in the old Life cereal commercial, she likes it.

The recipe originates from Relish, the food magazine that’s inserted into some newspapers. The recipe online is here.

The green tea serves as the liquid base for a marinade. It’s the spices -- the coriander, ginger and garlic -- that give the dish its taste, in combination not too dissimilar from teriyaki, in fact.

I served it on a bed of cooked baby spinach with a side of brown rice.

2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup hot brewed green tea
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Fresh cilantro and mint, chopped (optional)
Arugula or spinach (optional)

1. Stir sugar into tea while hot and let cool;
2. Combine tea with coriander, salt, pepper, ginger, garlic and 2 tablespoons canola oil;
3. Place chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag and pour in half of marinade. Seal and let chill 1 to 6 hours;
4. Heat remaining marinade over medium high heat  about 4 minutes, or until reduced by one-third;
5. Remove thighs from marinade; discard marinade in bag. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet;
6. Add chicken to pan without crowding and cook until browned, 3 to 4 minutes on each side;
7. Serve with sauce and fresh herbs over greens.

Click here for recipe card.
Digg this

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Easy Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas

By Paul Briand

My wife Jane put this recipe together -- not for her and me, but for her daughter Kelsey and son-in-law Jeremy who had our granddaughter Rylin a few weeks ago.

Kelsey and Jeremy are still very much in new-baby mode, trying to get Rylin on a schedule of eating, sleeping, being awake. In the meantime, the new mom and dad’s meals are a bit catch-as-catch-can.

So the other day Jane spent the day cooking and this Easy Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas was one of the dishes, adapted from a recipe that was part of a Campbell’s soup ad in Relish magazine. Here it is online.

It received very high marks from Kelsey and Jeremy.

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup picante sauce or salsa
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6 flour tortillas (6-inch), warmed
1 small tomato, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 green onion, sliced (about 2 tablespoons)

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Stir the soup, sour cream, picante sauce and chili powder in a medium bowl;
2. Stir 1 cup soup mixture, chicken and cheese in a large bowl;
3. Divide the chicken mixture among the tortillas;
4. Roll up the tortillas and place seam-side down in an 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking dish;
5. Pour the remaining soup mixture over the filled tortillas and cover the baking dish;
6. Bake for 40 minutes or until the enchiladas are hot and bubbling;
7. Top with the tomato and onion and serve.

Click here for recipe card.
Digg this

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ricotta Cheese Crab Tortillas

By Paul Briand

My wife Jane alerted me to this recipe. As news editor for the Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass., she had edited the copy for a story on healthy recipes that included this one for Ricotta Cheese Crab Tortillas.

We love crab, and I was intrigued by the combination of the crabmeat with the ricotta. It isn’t a hot dish, since a cool to room temperature filling is used in a pan toasted tortilla. I mentioned to Jane that you could almost cut up the tortillas into appetizer sized portions and serve this as an hors d’oeuver.

Since I bought a pound of lump crab and since this recipe called for half a pound, that left a half a pound of crab for me to make crab cakes the next night for dinner -- definitely, a win-win in my book.

1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon of each; salt and pepper
1/2 pound fresh crabmeat, drained and flaked
4 (8-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas
Vegetable cooking spray
Salsa on the side

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and mix well;
2. Fold in crabmeat, set aside;
3. Place 1 tortilla in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat coated with cooking spray;
4. Spread some of the crab mixture over half of tortilla in skillet, leaving a 1/4-inch margin on sides;
5. Cook about 3 minutes or until underside of tortilla is golden brown.
6. Fold in half. Transfer to a serving platter, serve with salsa.
7. Repeat with remaining ingredients;
8. Serves four.

Click here for recipe card.
Digg this

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Beef & Noodle Casserole

By Paul Briand

The shout out for this recipe goes to my stepdaughter Eileen who gave me a cookbook to me for Christmas.

The cookbook is a collection of recipes from people associated with the Dominion School for Autism in Richmond, Va., where Eileen recently worked as an aide.

This recipe, according to the text, comes from Dorothy Lucy in memory of Aunt Ruby.

Layered a bit like a lasagna, this casserole intrigued me with its combination of cream of mushroom soup and tomato sauce. My adaptation includes baking instead of microwaving, and I used low-salt soup and tomato sauce. In addition, I sauteed my vegetables.

1 pound ground beef
2 cups tomato sauce
Green bell pepper chopped
Medium onion chopped
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 teaspoon steak sauce
18 ounce bag of egg noodles
1 can cream of mushroom soup
One bag of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. In an large oiled skillet over medium high heat, sautee the pepper and onion until they start to become translucent;
2. Add the ground beef, break up and cook through, drain off fat;
3. Add tomato sauce, ketchup and steak sauce, stir through and keep warm on simmer;
4. Cook egg noodles according to package instructions;
5. Drain noodles, return to pot and mix the soup into the cooked noodles;
6. In a greased large casserole dish, add a layer of the noodles, then add a layer of the beef mixture, then another layer of noodles and the rest of the beef mixture;
7. Spring with the cheese;
8. Place the casserole into a oven pre-heated to 350 degrees and bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starts to brown and the mixture starts to bubble.

Click here for recipe card.
Digg this