Sunday, October 2, 2016

Grandpa's Swiss Steak

Grandpa's Swiss Steak, mashed potatoes, homemade dinner rolls
and green beans - it's what's for dinner!

I haven't posted in over a year, and since my wife's been after me to write this up for a while now I thought it was a good place to start again.

It feels appropriate somehow that my first post in such a long time is a recipe that came from my grandfather.  I learned how to cook from watching both my mother and my grandfather, but it was my grandfather that taught me from a very young age that it was not only okay, but actually a good thing for a guy to be comfortable in the kitchen - for that I will be forever grateful.

This one's for you, Grandpa.

My grandfather owned a restaurant in downtown Kansas City, KS.  I don't remember it because it closed somewhere around the time I was born.  From everything I've been told it was basically a diner type of restaurant that served plenty of good, down-home cooking.

This is one of his recipes.  He wrote it down for me when I got married 30 years ago and asked him for some of his recipes so I'd be able to try to make some of my favorite foods here in Connecticut.

I've made small tweaks here and there but not many - and the basic steps and the idea are all from him.

So enjoy - and if you like it, say a thank you to my grandfather!

Ingredients laid out and ready


  • 2 lb round steak or pork tenderloin (sliced)*
  • 4 tbsp flour for dredging steak
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • 1 c vegetable oil (You need enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/4 inch.  This should take about 1/2 the oil.  The rest will be used to add more as needed to keep the same level of oil in the pan after browning each batch of meat.) 
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 28 oz can tomato sauce
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 3 c beef broth, water or a combination of both (Beef broth will give a richer flavor but water works just as well.)
  • 2 tbsp Mac Brothers Beef Rub (Chili powder will work also.)

* When my grandfather made this, he used round steak and pounded it with a meat hammer to tenderize it.  I have made it that way but I have also used cubed steak which has the added benefit of already being tenderized.  My wife isn't fond of beef so lately I've been making it with pork instead.


  1. Pound round steak or pork tenderloin until it's tender. (If you use cube steak you can skip this step.  When I use pork, I ask the butcher if they can run it through the "cubing" machine or meat tenderizer.  It does a better job than I can by hand and it's REALLY easy when you can get them to do it!).  
    Tenderized and seasoned steak (or pork in this case)
  2. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. (I prefer to use Lawry's salt but any will do.)
  3. Dredge in flour
  4. Dredge in flour.
  5. Place dredged steak/pork in pan with 1/4 in deep oil
  6. Fill skillet to about 1/4 inch deep with oil and place on medium heat.
  7. Brown both sides in hot oil
  8. Brown both sides in hot oil.      
  9. Place browned steak/pork in casserole dish
  10. Remove browned steak/pork from pan and place in casserole dish.  Repeat until all steak is cooked, adding additional oil if necessary.  
  11. Put onions/celery/peppers in pan with oil
    Sauté until soft
  12. When all meat has been browned, put the diced onions and celery (and green peppers if you are using them) in the pan where you browned the meat and sauté them until soft.  This should take about 5-8 minutes.
  13. At this point you want about 1/2 cup of oil in the pan.  Either pour off any extra or add a bit more to have this amount in the pan.  
  14. Flour added to vegetable mixture
  15. Add 1/2 cup flour to the pan (the onion/celery/green pepper mixture should stay in the pan also).
  16. Tomato sauce just starting to be added to flour mixture
  17. Mix together well and cook over medium heat for two minutes, stirring constantly 
  18. Add the tomato sauce a bit at a time, stirring constantly
  19. After adding broth/water to flour/tomato sauce mixture.
    End result should be a thick tomato based gravy.
  20. Start adding the broth (or water) a small amount at a time while stirring it in.  The flour/vegetable mixture will absorb the liquid.  Continue adding liquid and stirring.  It should take most of the liquid.  You want it to end up the thickness of gravy.
  21. Gravy mixture poured over the meat
  22. Add Mac Brothers Beef Rub (or chili powder).  My grandfather's recipe said that you wanted to add just enough to "color it good".  You can actually use as much or as little seasoning as you'd like to achieve the flavor you want (more will generally make it hotter).
  23. Pour the gravy/vegetable mixture over the meat in the casserole dish.  If you have a smaller casserole dish, you can put the meat in layers, just be certain to cover each layer with the gravy mixture.
  24. Finished and out of the oven
  25. Bake covered for about an hour at 350 degrees.
  26. Enjoy!
Mashed potatoes with tomato and vegetable gravy

I usually cook baked or mashed potatoes with it - both seem to go equally well covered with the gravy.

Finished product!!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hawaiian Luau in the Smoker!!

Okay, okay, I know I haven't posted in a long time.  It's just a case of life getting in the way (new house, new job, etc.) but I'm going to get better.  I promise.  Well, at least until the next time life gets in the way again...

But I digress!  I'm writing this particular recipe up because I don't think anyone should have to miss trying this at least once in their lives (well, except for vegetarian/vegans - this is pretty much a meatfest, so you're completely off the hook for reading this one).

A friend of mine tagged me on Facebook the other day with a picture of something that looked amazing - there wasn't much in the way of directions, but I can deal with that (I'm pretty good at making stuff up on the fly).

It was basically pork ribs, inside a hollowed out pineapple, wrapped in bacon - and then put on the smoker.

I know some folks are probably thinking that it doesn't sound so good - but pork and pineapple go REALLY well together (think of a Hawaiian luau).  If you brine the pork first and use a great rub (Mac Brothers Pork and Poultry Rub - hint, hint), it's even better!

As great as it sounded to me, I decided I also wanted to try basically the same thing with kielbasa inside instead of the ribs (I'd LOVE to try both together, but I'd have to find a MUCH bigger pineapple first!) - so of course, I made two so that I could try each one.

So, here it is.  If you decide to try it, please let me know what you think!
Pineapple, stuffed with kielbasa, wrapped in bacon, smoked and ready to eat!


  • whole pineapple
  • boneless pork country style ribs (I had two pounds - just over half of a pound fit inside the pineapple so I cooked the rest by themselves in the smoker
  •  kielbasa (I was able to fit about a half pound inside the pineapple)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil (enough to coat ribs, if you're using them - not necessary for kielbasa)
  • Mac Brothers Pork and Poultry Rub (Regular or Spicy, depending upon preferences)*
  • Brine (recipe below)
  • 1/2 pound bacon
*NOTE: Any rub you like will work.  I don't list the amount of rub here simply because you're going to sprinkle the rub liberally on the pork and the outside of the pineapple. It won't take much at all if you're only using what you can fit inside the pineapple - a bit more if you're smoking extra ribs at the same time.

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup salt
**NOTE: This recipe makes enough brine that you could actually do twice the number of ribs in this recipe.


  1. If you're NOT using ribs and using only kielbasa, skip directly to number 8.
  2. Mix together the brine ingredients, being certain that the salt has dissolved (I typically use half hot water and dissolve the salt in that, then add the other half as ice water)
  3. Add the ribs to the brine
  4. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least four hours, up to overnight
    Ribs in the brine and kielbasa
  5. Remove the ribs from the brine and pat dry, then place on a large pan
  6. Pour olive oil on all sides of ribs and rub in to coat
  7. Sprinkle rub liberally over the surface of ribs (both sides - see picture for an idea of how it should look); make certain you cover all surfaces of the ribs with the rub (remember to remove the bones!)
    Ribs, after using rub
  8. Set the ribs aside
  9. Cut the top and bottom off of the pineapple
  10. Place the pineapple, bottom down, on the cutting board. Using a fairly thin knife (I use a meat slicer), carefully cut out and remove the core of the pineapple (if you have a pineapple corer, use that).  You will want to leave a whole big enough for the meat
    Top and bottom sliced from the pineapple and cored
  11. Carefully cut off the rough sides of the pineapple, leaving the fruit exposed all around
    Rough sides of pineapple removed
  12. Trim any necessary "bits" off of the sides and through the middle of the pineapple then set it back on it's bottom 
  13. Take strips of the ribs (or kielbasa) and carefully poke them all the way through the hole so they are just barely coming out each side (when I did this with the ribs, the pineapple "broke". I took some cooking twine and simply tied it back together)
    The ribs stuffed inside pineapple (and tied together after it broke; I had
    better luck with the kielbasa - no pineapple breakage!
  14. One at a time, wrap the pieces of bacon around the pineapple. In order to make it stay where I wanted it, I inserted toothpicks to hold it together at the end
  15. Overlap the pieces of bacon and continue wrapping until the entire pineapple is covered
  16. Generously sprinkle the outside of the bacon (the pineapple) with rub until the entire surface is coated
    Both pineapples with bacon wrapped around them and rub on them, ready to go in the smoker
  17. Place the pineapple in the smoker at a temperature of about 225. (mine took almost six hours - until the internal temperature reached 170)
    The smoker is fired up and ready to go!  I use a thermometer with probes
    so I can monitor the temperature as it cooks
  18. Carefully remove the pineapple from the smoker, let stand for about ten minutes, then slice and enjoy!
    The pineapple with the kielbasa stuffed in it
    The pineapple with the ribs stuffed in it

Monday, September 1, 2014

BBQ Pork Chops

Now that we're selling our BBQ sauce and rubs at the farmer's market every week, there are several questions I seem to get with regularity.

One of them is: exactly HOW do I cook pork chops on the grill? For those of you that do it regularly, it may seem like an easy question, but if it's something you've never tried, it may not be quite so simple.

Well, I'm here to help.

I'm certain there are MANY different ways to do it, including using things like Italian dressing, etc. Since we're there to sell BBQ sauce and rubs, I think the answer they are looking for is more in line with how to cook and BBQ on the grill, so that's the one I'm going to try to answer.

My first piece of advice is this: brine your pork.

Do you have to? Of course not.

Should you? I feel the answer is a resounding yes.

I had never brined anything until a couple of years ago but I'm now a HUGE believer in it, particularly for pork and poultry.
Bone-in chops are my favorite, but I can't always find the thick ones I prefer.
This is from dinner a couple of weeks ago after a visit to the local butcher shop.

Today's pork has very little fat in it and because of this, it's way too easy to overcook and dry it out - that's why brining is your friend. There are lots of different brines out there; if you don't believe me, do a quick search for it. To paraphrase my grandmother, there are more brine recipes than you can shake a stick at (though I never quite understood why you'd want to shake a stick at all the things I heard that saying used for).

Brining is NOT difficult - quite the contrary. I'm sure you can find some very complicated brines in that search that you just did, but it's really not necessary. The one I use for both pork and poultry is VERY simple and just has five ingredients (one is water). I've made brines with citrus, with rosemary, even with curry but I always end up coming back to this one for the robust flavor and simplicity.

A common misconception about brining is that it makes things salty: WRONG!! Yes, you use salt in the brine, but it doesn't make it taste salty - at all.

So, here is the brine I use and the procedure. Of course, I'd like to think that if you use our BBQ sauce and rub, these will be the best pork chops you've ever had, but realistically, ANY rub and/or sauce you like will work just fine (using rub is an option - once again, I believe it will taste better if you find a rub you like, but it's not really necessary).

One other tip: keep in mind that if it's too hot, rainy, snowy, or cold outside or if you simply don't have a grill you can use a grill pan on the stove top for this and it will come out just fine. You'll get the same grill marks and for the most part, the same flavor (some people debate whether or not the open fire on a grill actually adds any flavor - I tend to think it does but wouldn't argue with those that feel the opposite).


  • 6 pork chops (my preference is 1 1/2 inch thick, bone-in pork chops. I can't always find them - including for pictures today - so whatever kind you like or can find is fine. Simply adjust cooking time based on the thickness of your pork chops)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (enough to coat both sides of chops)
  • Mac Brothers Pork and Poultry Rub (Regular or Spicy, depending upon preferences)*
  • Brine (recipe below)
  • Mac Brothers BBQ Sauce (any variety - or any other sauce you prefer)

*NOTE: Any rub you like will work.  I don't list the amount of rub here simply because you're going to sprinkle the rub liberally on the pork and it's going to depend on the size and number of pork chops you're using.

  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
**NOTE: This recipe makes enough brine that you could actually do twice the number of pork chops in this recipe.


  1. Mix together the brine ingredients, being certain that the salt and brown sugar have dissolved (I typically use half hot water and dissolve the salt and sugar in that, then add the other half as ice water)
  2. Add the pork chops to the brine
    Brined chops
  3. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least four hours, up to overnight
  4. Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry, then place on a large pan
  5. Pour olive oil on both sides of chops and rub in to coat
  6. Sprinkle rub liberally over the surface of chops (both sides - see picture for an idea of how it should look); make certain you cover all surfaces of the chops with the rub
    Apply the rub liberally, then rub into the chops
  7. Place all of the chops on a preheated grill.  I heat mine to about 400 degrees
    Put sauce on the pork chops after placing on the grill
  8. Using a grill brush, spread BBQ sauce on the top of the chops
  9. Close grill and cook for about seven minutes for 1 1/2 inch chops. If yours are thinner, adjust cooking time as necessary
    If you want diamond pattern grill marks, simply turn chops
    45 degrees about halfway through the cooking time for each side
  10. Turn over and again spread sauce on top of the chops
  11. Close grill and cook for another seven minutes
  12. Remove from grill - I typically put a bit more sauce on the last side that was cooked right after removing from the grill (keep in mind, the USDA minimum safe temperature for pork is 145 degrees)
    Let the chops sit for about five minutes after removing from the grill
  13. Let rest for about five minutes
  14. Enjoy!
    Simple and hard to beat!
Let me know what you think in the comments if you try this!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Risotto Cakes

Risotto cakes
My wife said it best last night: mouth orgasm.

These really are that good - well, nearly so anyway since I'm not certain that's a real thing. Whether it is or not, I DO know that the three of us that were here all loved them.

I had them for the first time at a small restaurant up in Northampton, MA a couple of months ago and they were incredible.  They have a different type every day and I was actually disappointed the second time I had them. Ditto when I ordered them at Olive Garden (that one didn't surprise me as much, though I actually think their food is quite good for a chain).

That's when I decided I had to make them myself. After all, when something is this good and you can control what goes into it yourself so that you KNOW you're going to like it, it's a win-win situation!

If you've never had a risotto cake, it's basically leftover risotto formed into balls with some kind of coating and then either pan or deep fried. You can use any type of risotto - the one I used is here, but you really could use whatever type you like. I actually made my risotto the day before and made it with the specific purpose of making risotto cakes.

Since you can make them with different coatings, I chose to use a flour/egg wash/panko coating.  I also chose to deep fry them. You can use regular bread crumbs and pan fry them as well - and I'm certain they would also turn out great.

There is something about the creaminess of the risotto combined with the crunchiness of the panko on the outside that turned it from great to outstanding (the swiss cheese I put inside didn't hurt either).

We topped ours with some homemade roasted garlic aioli that I had whipped up earlier in the day and it was the perfect topping.

If you'd like to try it yourself, here's how:


  • 3 cups leftover risotto, chilled
  • 1 cup flour, for dredging
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 pound cheese cut into 1/4 inch pieces (type is your choice - I used Swiss but whatever you like will work)
  • Vegetable, corn or peanut oil, for frying
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan


Remember when you were a kid and your mom told you not to play with your food? Well, this time it's okay - that's pretty much what you have to do for the first part of this.
  1. Set up a dredging station with the flour in one dish, beaten eggs in another and panko breadcrumbs in a third
  2. Take a spoonful of the risotto and place it in the palm of your hand (it obviously helps if your hands are clean first or you wear gloves - or both)
    Place a spoonful of risotto in your hand
  3. Flatten the risotto. It should be about three inches across
  4. Take a slice of the cheese and place in the middle of the flattened risotto
    Place a slice of cheese on the risotto
  5. Take another spoonful of the risotto and place it on top of the cheese
  6. Using both hands, make a patty out of the risotto, being certain to seal the cheese inside the risotto
    Make a patty out of the risotto - make sure the cheese is sealed inside
  7. Dip the patty in the flour, then into the eggs, and finally coat them in panko and set aside

      Coat in flour, then egg, then panko
  8. Repeat steps 2 through 7 until you're out of risotto
  9. In a heavy pan (or a deep fryer) heat the oil until it's between 325 and 350 degrees.  It's important that it not get hotter than this.  If it does, the outside of the cake will get done before the inside gets hot enough to melt the cheese
  10. Very carefully place the patties two to three at a time in the hot oil (how many you can cook at once is determined by the size of your pan - remember, the temperature will drop when you put them in the oil)
  11. Fry for two to three minutes and flip them over while still in the oil, until nicely browned, then remove from the oil
    They should look like this when they're done
  12. Place on a wire rack which will help them stay crispy
  13. Place the wire rack with the patties in a 250 degree oven to stay warm
  14. Repeat steps 10 to 13 until all the patties have been cooked while maintaining the 325 to 350 degree oil temperature
    On a wire rack with a paper towel to absorb extra oil
  15. Arrange on a serving platter and serve hot
  16. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

We served this with garlic aioli. They are great by themselves but are really complemented by the aioli.

With homemade garlic aioli as a topping

Monday, August 18, 2014

Risotto with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Fresh Peas

I love risotto. I had never tried it until a couple of years ago (yes, I led a sheltered life) but since then I make it regularly. There are many different types, and I've liked all of them I've tried, but my favorite has mushrooms, asparagus and freshly shelled peas.

I also make chicken stock frequently and this recipe is one of the reasons. Risotto is great with canned chicken (or vegetable) stock but it is VASTLY improved with homemade stock. It's also much easier to control how much sodium is in it since you KNOW how much you put (or don't put) in your own stock.

There are a lot of recipes for risotto out there - and the first time I made it I looked at LOTS of them and pared them down to come up with my own conglomeration that suits my tastes.

Making risotto is really kind of an act of love - it's time consuming and demands constant attention as you stand over the stove. Certainly there are package mixes that don't take as much time but they don't come close to the flavor of the real thing - and though it is a bit time-consuming, it's certainly not difficult.

Feel free to change this in any way that suits you - add whatever kind of mushrooms you like (or none!), whatever vegetables you prefer, make it vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock, etc.

I'll also let you in on a little secret - I had an ulterior motive for making it this time around. I wanted risotto cakes. If you've never tried them (they're patties made out of cooked risotto, dipped in flour, egg and panko and deep fried), I'll be posting that as well, but just to give you an idea how good they are, when my wife bit into one she told me she had just had a mouth orgasm.

Now, I won't claim that's going to happen to you, but they are pretty awesome - good enough that it's worth making the risotto for that alone.

If you try it, let me know what you think!


  • 6 cups chicken broth (homemade or canned)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (or any kind of mushrooms you like)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 oz very lightly steamed asparagus
  • 4 oz freshly shelled peas


  1. Pour the broth in a saucepan and warm over low heat
  2. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms and onions, and cook until soft, about 3 - 5 minutes
    Sauté the mushrooms and onions just until soft
  3. Add garlic and mix well. Cook another one to two minutes until garlic is fragrant
    Add garlic and cook until fragrant
  4. Remove mushrooms, onions and garlic and their liquid, and set aside
  5. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to skillet and add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes
    Add the rice to the oil, stirring to coat well
  6. The rice will start to darken a bit; you want it to get to a pale golden color. When it reaches this stage, pour in the wine and stir constantly until the wine is fully absorbed
    Cook the rice until it starts to turn a golden brown, then add the wine
  7. Add 1 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed 
    Add one cup broth
  8. Continue adding broth 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 25 to 30 minutes
    Stir until the rice is absorbed...
  9. When all of the broth has been absorbed, the rice should be ready to remove from the heat. 
    ...then repeat until there is no more broth.  The rice
    should look like this before adding the butter
  10. Add the butter and stir until melted
  11. Add the mushroom/onion/garlic mixture and stir well
    Add the mushroom mixture and stir well
  12. Add the parmesan cheese and mix well
  13. Stir in the asparagus and peas
    Add the asparagus and peas and mix well
  14. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  15. Serve hot - and enjoy!