Orecchiette with lamb sausage and peas

Lately, there hasn't been many pasta dinners on the menu at our household. As much as I like to eat pasta and as much as I like to cook pasta, I've been trying to lead a lower-carb lifestyle over the last six months or so. However, I do believe in moderation so when the mood struck for a satisfying dinner on a Monday night, it was time to call on a weeknight warrior ingredient to save the day — pasta.

Orecchiette with lamb sausage and peas

Pressure Cooker Braised Beef Shanks

​It is technically spring now and I am definitely ready for spring vegetables and grilled meat. However, today happened to be cold, wet, and un-spring-like, which is actually par for the course in Chicago. So, even though spring food has been on my mind lately, today felt like it required a comforting stew or meltingly tender piece of braised meat. But being a weeknight, there's not really time for the slow cooking of a proper braise. That's where the magic of the pressure cooker comes in.

Pressure Cooker Braised Beef Shanks

Pancetta-wrapped Cod

Flaky cod fish wrapped in ​salty, rich pancetta and roasted in the oven sounds like a pretty winning dish on many accounts. Fish is healthy. Pancetta is tasty and crispy. Clean up would be a snap. This version was pretty good but was a bit overcooked and the pancetta was not as crispy as I would've liked. I blame it on the pancetta that was a bit too thick. I guess you can have too much of a good thing. I think with some pancetta or bacon that was cut thinner, this would, indeed, be a winning dish.

Pancetta-wrapped Cod

Sweet potato & coconut milk gratin

Holy cow, has it been almost a year since I've posted last?! Well, I'm back and I'm going to slide this post in just before I hit the 1-year-without-posting mark. I've even brought with me a little design refresh. I'm still tweaking the look and layout but I'm going for a cleaner design to the blog. Hope you like it.​

This is actually the second time I've made sweet potato and coconut milk gratin. It's pretty simple. Not counting salt & pepper, it's just two ingredients – sweet potatoes and coconut milk. Both ingredients have a lot to offer in the flavor department so even though it's short on ingredients, it brings a lot of flavor. I served this with marinated flat iron steak and sautéed kale. ​

Sweet potato & coconut milk gratin

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

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I know what you're thinking and no, I did not count the cloves of garlic. This recipe would probably be more accurately called chicken with a whole heckuvalotta garlic. Regardless of what the recipe is called, it's very tasty, easy to prepare, and basically, a one-pot recipe. This is just the type of recipe that I love!

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Corned Beef with Cabbage Gratin


I hope that everyone had a great St. Patrick's Day weekend! It was an amazing weekend here in Chicago, weather-wise. It felt like summer! I felt like grilling more than simmering a big hunk of corned beef but it had to be done. I didn't grow up eating a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner so I thought I'd take a few liberties with this meal. I'm probably one of the few people who actually enjoys boiled cabbage but my family definitely does not. So I decided to come up with a way to make the cabbage more appetizing to my family. What if I make it creamy and cheesy? Cabbage gratin!

Corned Beef with Cabbage Gratin

Coconut curry with shrimp, tofu, broccoli

First, and foremost, I want to say that this recipe is inspired by Thai cuisine rather than being an authentic recreation of a Thai dish. Thai food is something I love to eat but I know little about cooking. I know some but hardly enough to feel comfortable blogging about an authentic Thai dish. For authentic Thai cooking blog, you should check out SheSimmers and Mananya Cooks. That's where you'll find the good stuff!

This recipe was, more or less, an improvisation. I was planning to make a basic stir-fry with these ingredients. However, that just seemed so uninteresting for this particular evening.

Coconut curry with shrimp, tofu, broccoli

Chicken and dumplings


I was tempted to not post this one at all because I didn't think the picture was very good. However, it did taste really good and when you make this it will look better in real life! I also wanted to post this one because I wanted to stress how much better your food will taste if you use homemade chicken stock versus anything that comes in a can or a box at the store.

Chicken and dumplings

Turkey meatloaf


After a couple days of meals dominated fast food and convenience food, I always crave something homemade and wholesome. I don't want to go off the deep end and go raw food diet or anything like that but I know that something simple, scratch-made and balanced would hit the spot. I can think of few things better-suited to filling this mission than the venerable meatloaf. To lighten it up a bit, I decided to go with turkey meatloaf. Served up with roasted broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce to round out the meal, it was exactly what I was looking for.

Turkey meatloaf

Chicken Piccata


Chicken Piccata always reminds me of the first episode of Top Chef, Season 4, wherein one of the cheftestants did not know what chicken piccata was and made a mess of a dish. You can read about that particular episode here. Chicken piccata, based on the critique from that episode as well as other recipes, is a breaded chicken cutlet accompanied by a sauce that includes white wine, lemon juice, capers, and butter. I'm not a huge fan of the breading process, even though I love to eat breaded food, so I chose to skip that part. Since I am not being judged by the likes of Tom Colicchio and Rocco DiSpirito, I feel ok with not breading my cutlets. If were going to bread the cutlets, I would employ the technique I used in my Chicken Milanese recipe.

Chicken Piccata
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Sloppy Joes

I'm sure the first question that crosses your mind when you saw the title of this post is "why would I make my own Sloppy Joes from scratch when I can just open a can of Sloppy Joe sauce?" I think that's a valid question. In fact, I asked myself that. However, sometimes you turn the can around and read the label and you might see words like mono sodium glutamate or high fructose corn syrup and you think, "do I need to add more of that to my diet?" Now, I'm actually not an MSG-hater and HFCS is something I could do without but if it sneaks in here and there, I'm not going to freak out. But the most important reason to make your own Sloppy Joes is to make them taste better, have the texture to your own liking, and choose your own ingredients. 

Tony HamComment
Sloppy Joes
Tony Hamchili, turkey4 Comments

Turkey and veggie chili

The weather in Chicago this past Sunday was not quite chili weather yet, but, it was the first Sunday of the NFL season and I had 2 pounds of ground turkey in the freezer. Thus, it was time to make chili! I don't usually follow a recipe for chili, therefore, I never make it the exact same way twice. The one thing that is usually a constant is that I make it with beef. Since I had the ground turkey in the freezer, i decided to go with it. I also figured I'd stick with the healthier theme and add addtional vegetables to it.

Tony Hamchili, turkey4 Comments
Turkey and veggie chili

Make your own cookbook! I did.

So, the nice folks at Blurb gave me a credit so I could make a book to try out their service. Naturally, I chose to make a cookbook. I figured I would use the content from my blog to put a book together quickly. I wanted to see how easy it was, what the quality was like, etc. and I'm happy to report that the experience was pretty great!

Make your own cookbook! I did.

Beer can chicken

I first heard of this crazy method of grilling a chicken about 12 years ago. It sounded funny and looked even funnier. You shove a beer can up the cavity of a chicken, stand it up on the grill grates and let it cook standing up at attention.

The technique is actually pretty ingenious. Standing it up promotes even cooking and browning while the steam created by the evaporating beer keeps the meat juicy and helps cook a bit faster. If you add aromatics, such as garlic, herbs, citrus to the beer, it will also impart some flavor. I have no idea where this technique originated but kudos to the person that came up with this.

Beer can chicken

Gnudi with ramps and tomatoes

What is gnudi? As far as I can tell, gnudi is basically ricotta gnocchi. The word gnudi basically means "naked." So in this case, it refers to the typical filling for ravioli or tortellini without the pasta. So, in essence, it's naked ravioli filling. Perhaps, gnudi has less flour than a typical ricotta gnocchi recipe? I think it's the same thing. However, I think it's much more fun to say the word "gnudi" than it is to say "ricotta gnocchi." So, I'm going with "gnudi." 

Gnudi with ramps and tomatoes

Spaghetti with shrimp, lemon and arugula

When it comes to quick weeknight meals that take advantage of fresh, seasonal products or high-quality pantry ingredients, and prepared in a non-fussy manner, the Italians have it down. An olive-oil based pasta dish seems to be one of the quickest and easiest meals to thrown together. There are many types of "sauce" or condimento, as the Italians would say, that take as much time to cook as it takes for the pasta to cook. Also, there's very little advanced slicing and dicing of ingredients that needs to happen prior to the actual cooking. You just get your pasta water on, a saute pan heated up, and you're good to go!

Spaghetti with shrimp, lemon and arugula

Chicken Milanese

Golden. Brown. Delicious. GBD for short. We all love food that is golden, brown and delicious. Especially, if it's been breaded and pan or deep fried. Admittedly, the process of breading and frying is not my favorite. The process involves dredging in flour, then in beaten eggs, then in breadcrumbs, and then in the hot oil. This process is also referred to as pané. This process is also a pain. It requires lots of dishes and it's kind of messy and awkward for a Monday night. However, you can't really argue with the results. It's delicious, satisfying and a crowd-pleaser.

Chicken Milanese

Moroccan braised beef and sweet potatoes

I suppose I could also call this a beef and sweet potato tagine, but is it a tagine if it's not prepared in the cooking vessel that also goes by the name of tagine? This reminds me of the whole paella discussion. In any case, it's a braised beef stew, not unlike good ol' American beef stew or the French stalwort, boeuf bourguignon, except this version is more heavily spiced with aromatic, sweet and earthy spices. It's quite delicious and great change of pace from the usual braised-beef-in-red-wine flavor.

Moroccan braised beef and sweet potatoes

Honey-soy roasted chicken wings


Who can resist a big plate of chicken wings? No one! Well, except for vegetarians, maybe. I think the best way to prepare chicken wings is to deep fry them. The combination of crispy exterior and juicy meat that results from a stint in the deep fryer can't be beat. Grilling the wings is also a great method. I employed neither of those cooking methods for this recipe. I employed my trusty oven to roast them for an easier weeknight preparation.

Honey-soy roasted chicken wings

Baked rigatoni with sausage and tomato-roasted red pepper sauce

Sausage and peppers - a classic combo, right? However, roasted peppers are not on the list of preferred vegetables for my kids. Now, I'm not a fan of "hiding" vegetables in kid-friendly foods, but, this sauce is a common preparation, so I don't feel like I'm "cheating."

Baked rigatoni with sausage and tomato-roasted red pepper sauce

Roasted edamame

If you didn't already know, I am a huge fan of oven-roasting food. Vegetables, especially, turn out really well after a spell in a hot oven, covered in olive oil, salt and pepper. The flavors concentrate. The exterior in caramelized. The results are delicious. 

Roasted edamame

Fish tacos with cabbage and radish slaw

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I must start this post with an apology. I've been a bad blogger. I can't believe I haven't posted since December! Sorry for the long delay between posts everyone.

Maybe it was the long winter that has kept me from posting because today happened to feel very spring-like. I think the it was the warm weather than inspired me to fire up the grill and make these tacos. Most fish tacos I've seen involve battering and frying the fish. I actually prefer grilling the fish. I love the smokiness and char that the grill brings. And as much as I love fried food, I dislike making it at home. I think it would be great if you sauteed the fish as well, but if you can grill it, that's the way to go.

Fish tacos with cabbage and radish slaw

Asian pot roast

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In my opinion, wintery Sundays in December exist so we can cook large, tough cuts of meat for hours, until they give up their toughness to reach their soul-satisfying destiny. I believe every culture has their own version of a long-simmered stew, braised meat dish, pot roast, etc. One of my personal favorites is a Korean dish called galbi jjim, braised beef short ribs. The flavors of this dish are soy and sugar. The end result is hearty, familiar, and a crowd-pleaser. However, I was not able to acquire the necessary short ribs in a timely manner. Instead, I picked up the ever-dependable, always available, chuck roast. This is one of my favorite cuts of beef, so I was not really disappointed. When cooked properly, you will be rewarded with an extremely flavorful and tender piece of meat.

Asian pot roast

Jamie Oliver's Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

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My kids gave me Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Food Revolution cookbook for my birthday this past year. It's got great, quick, nutritious meals suited for the family, so I was looking forward to trying some of the recipes. Well, several months later, I've cooked something from it. My son has actually been asking me to make this recipe. He's a big fan of mac & cheese. And cauliflower too, actually. 

Jamie Oliver's Cauliflower Mac and Cheese