Anybody Here?

Posted: May 30, 2011 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Peek. Peek. Anybody still here?
I’m sure that everyone has noticed my distinct absence of late. And by “of late”, I mean “over the past 7 months”. As sometimes happens to people, I went through some hard times emotionally and personally this winter, and cooking just stopped being fun. Writing stopped being fun. In fact, most things stopped being a whole lot of fun, and started feeling like a whole lot of pressure and pain.

But, with changes in seasons, come changes in outlook, and as the spring started, I got a much-needed return to normalcy and joy. And so, here we are. Memorial Day. Day of grills, and outdoor day drinking, and the official unofficial start of the summer. Many people will be firing up their grills today, and indeed I can smell my next-door-neighbors’ smoker, already working. And yes, I am WICKED glad that I managed to score an invitation to go over to their place tonight and hang out in their yard and eat food and talk smokers. I WIN.


I recently received a gift of a subscription to Food and Wine Magazine. Their most recent issue was about grilling, and involved an article on the best way to cook a burger – on a grill, or on a griddle.


Let me just say, any recipe that requires a cast-iron skillet, and gives you a turkey (yes, TURKEY) burger that looks like that one up there? Is the ultimate.

Burgers are one of those things that people get pretty passionate about, while still being kind of easygoing. We all have our favorite method, but we’ll all also agree that you have to work REAL hard to make a burger that’s just flat-out BAD. The smashed burger method gives you a way to use whatever meat you want, make small, flat burgers, and get great results. There’s a LOT of surface area for this burger, which means there’s a LOT of caramelization. And you don’t have to worry about overcooking them, because you have to accept that these are NOT the kind of burgers that you can make medium-rare, whether you’re using beef or turkey (I don’t have to tell you that you cannot, under any circumstances, make a medium-rare turkey burger, right??) And best of all, there are literally zero special ingredients.

Shall we begin?
Turkey SmashBurgers

1. Begin with a pound to a pound and a quarter of your ground meat of choice. For beef, go with something higher in fat content, like an 85/15 or 80/20 — this is sometimes called “chuck”. For turkey, if you have the option, go with dark meat. Season the meat liberally with salt, and shake or grind in some pepper as well.
2. Mush, mash, and smash your meat until you have something cohesive. Form into balls, like you’re making mutant meatballs. If you’re making single burgers, obviously you only need one per eater. We like doubles in this here establishment, however, so make two smaller meatballs per eater. Take this opportunity, after you’ve washed your hands, to get your cast-iron skillet, cast-iron griddle, or a heavy skillet that is NOT NON STICK over medium-high heat. Also, turn on the vent system in your kitchen and/or open a window if you’re lucky enough to have one.

3. When the pan is hot, place the meatballs into the pan, and let them sizzle there for about 30 seconds. Then, smash them flat with the back of a spatula.
4. Once the burgers are smashed, cook for about 30 more seconds, maybe a minute, then top with thinly-sliced onions and flip. The onions will steam, and cook, and get all the juices from the meat that are already in the skillet, and transfer them into a vortex of deliciousness.
5. Cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, top with cheese, and cover to let the cheese melt. For turkey burgers, you are totally allowed to let them go a little longer, and trust me when I say that all these times are approximate, since who slices the onions before she puts the burgers in the pan?! Not this Improviser.

In the end, you get a burger that looks like this.

And let me just say, it is delicious. It may not be the thing you make for Memorial day, since you’ll probably want to use your grill a little more. But if it’s sturdy enough to hold your skillet, and since even mine is I’m pretty sure everybody’s is, you can have your first successful grilling of the summer, without worrying about ANYTHING sticking to the grill grates. :)

Total Satisfaction

Posted: November 23, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

If you’re anything like me (god help you) you sometimes get things stuck in your head and become a little fixated, ok obsessed, with them. For me this happens a decent amount. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t get fixated on people and hide in bushes and stuff. That kind of stalking is just too damned exhausting for me to keep up with. For me its more things like songs, ideas, and recipes. The song thing I’ve learned to deal with by playing it repeatedly in my car until it loses some of its appeal. not so much that I can’t stand it, but just enough so that I don’t have it stuck in my head all day every day. Ideas I usually try to follow through on, or I quickly realize that I’m setting myself up for impressive amounts of failure and thus abort mission. Recipes, well the only way to get those out of my head is pretty obvious, make the dish!

My recent obsession in the kitchen has been a two part situation. I discovered a recipe for ravioli in a balsamic brown butter sauce that sounded amazing, and perfect for me because I LOVE ravioli, but ravioli in red sauce sometimes makes me a little gaggy. Not because of the flavors, but I think something about the combined textures some times makes me a little queasy. So this new sauce seemed like a perfect fit for me: butter, no tomato, and less sauce overall since the oil from the butter would allow the ravioli to be coated in flavor without running the risk of over saucing. Then, being one who needs to complicate all things, I discovered a recipe for balsamic braised short ribs (thank you culinary cell phone apps). It immediately clicked in my head that with the common denominator of balsamic, these two things would go together perfectly, and not to brag, but I was damn right.

Now some of you are probably thinking, why waste time becoming fixated, why not just cook it dumbass? And while you have a valid point, I have a better one :) . This is a recipe that requires some love and attention, as well as a decent amount of time which is a pretty rare thing in my life these days. So I waited until I knew I would have time and then i got to it. I went to my local butcher (luckily he’s about 500 yards down the road so its pretty sweet) and got my short ribs and I was ready to go. So here it is: Ravioli in a Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce with Braised Short Ribs.

For the ribs:

You will need about 4 pounds of short ribs. Pat the ribs dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In a greased dutch oven over medium-high heat, brown the ribs on all sides. This takes some finageling (yeah thats a word) because it requires some weird balancing of ribs, but trust me its worth it because the more you brown the meat, the more flavor you are going to get. Once the ribs are browned, pull them out and set them aside for a few minutes (you may have to brown in batches). Add 2 cups of diced red onion to the pan and brown. Once brown add in 12 cloves of garlic, diced, and cook for about a minute until you can really smell the garlic. Put the ribs back in the pan and add 2 cups beef broth, 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 cup red wine, 2 cups diced tomato and 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar.

                                                                      Cover the pan and put it in a 275 oven for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Once its done in the over, let it cool a little and then put it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. I let mine sit over night, but that was more a time issue rather than a recipe issue. About an hour before you are ready to serve it, pull it out of the fridge and skim the fat off the top. Heat it on the stove over medium heat until everything is hot.

While the meat is heating up, prepare the ravioli. For this one, I used a prepared mushroom ravioli because I haven’t yet mastered the art of pasta and if I can’t do it better than I can buy it, why bother? You can also prepare the balsamic brown butter sauce while everything else is cooking.

Over medium heat, cook 6 Tbsp of unsalted butter. It will melt, then foam, and then begin to turn brown. Once it begins to turn brown, turn off the heat and let it sit for one minute. Then add 2Tbsp of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add about a half a cup of the braising liquid, and cook the liquid until it reduces enough to coat the spatula. While the sauce is reducing, slice up the short ribs and toss them in with the cooked ravioli. Once the sauce is ready, pour it over the ravioli and toss to coat. Top with some shavings of parmesan and enjoy!

There is something truly satisfying about eating a meal after you have put in so much time and effort, to me its the ultimate in comfort food.  Rich delicious food that I have had to work for and prepare.  When a recipe comes together and tastes so homey and good, its a sense of satisfaction that can’t be duplicated. 


Beer Meat

Posted: February 18, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

Brisket Plate

I have to apologise for my post slacking recently.  I had to travel to Boston this past weekend, and then work has just gotten out of hand.  Living in a dorm with 30 girls ages 14-16, in the dead of winter, with the nearest vacation a month away is getting sort of dramatic.  Unfortunately its very hard to cook with girls screaming about plants, and lunch tables, and god help us all the Sadie Hawkins  ”Sadies”  dance is coming up.  Just in case you think I’m exaggerating, let me give you a glimpse into my tragic life:

“Ms. Mac, SHE came into my room when NO ONE was here and put a plant on my desk.  What kind of b*tch just goes into someones room with out permission.  OMG I mean we used to be besties, but this is just a ridiculous invasion.  SO I threw the plant out the window. ”  (of the fourth floor, by the way)

I kid you not, this is just a small excerpt of the hour and a half long conversation I had last night.  Between this fantastic part of my job, and the THREE exes that came back to haunt me for Valentines day, I have felt the need to drink heavily on a fairly regular basis, just to get through.  Sadly, I can not go to the bar every night and can not go about my job reeking of booze, so I have to be sneaky about my “drinking”.  I have gotten pretty good at figuring booze into most of my recipes, so I thought I would just try to do that again.  I know, cooked alcohol isn’t the same, but its the flavor that counts, not the warm buzzy feeling right?  (Whatever, just let me delude myself. )  So despite all of  this ridiculous tom foolery in my life, ladies and gentlemen, I give you:  Guinness Braised Brisket….Ta Da!!!  (also known in my head as BEER MEAT :) )

Ok so this is wicked easy:

Cut up one large yellow onion into wedges and put them into the bottom of a deep roasting pan and nestle your 3-4ish lb brisket into its new vegetable home. * You can also add other veggies if you like, I actually threw in a couple of wedges of tomatoes and a few kalamata olives that I had left over from a recipe. *  Pour about 2 and a half bottles of Guinness Draught over it then float in a bay leaf.   Sprinkle the meat with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, then place about 5-6 fresh basil leaves on top of the meat.  Cover completely with tin foil and put in a 285 degree over for about eight hours.  I did it over night so that I woke up salivating.  Once its done, take it out of the over and let it cool.  Put it in the fridge for a few hours to let the fat rise to the top and harden.   Once its cold, remove the foil and spoon off the majority of the fat.  At this point you can either shred the meat or slice it and then re-heat it in the liquid and serve as you choose.  I greatly suggest serving it with mashed potatoes or polenta or something that will absorb some of the liquid.  I didn’t have potatoes the first night I ate this, but I just used crusty bread, and it was freaking sweet :) .

The beer gives it that smoky flavor with just the hint of sweetness that I love about Guinness, but there is also the great meat flavor with the onions and whatever other veggies you put in.   I have eaten this two nights in a row, and tonight I’m taking the rest of the meat out of the liquid and shredding it with a Guinness  stout BBQ sauce, and I’m pretty much banking on it becoming the best BBQ sandwich I’ve ever made.  It might even be good enough to get me through the ridiculous drama of teen age girls and 20 something boys (not together)  that I have been dealing with.  Wish me luck!!Brisket

The taste of winter

Posted: November 14, 2009 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

As we get further into the fall and it starts to feel like winter, I slowly begin to remember the hell that is Ohio winter.  With this in mind, I decided to try to turn a negative into a positive.  While winter tends to bring icy walk ways, cars that won’t start, white out snow, and literally NO sunshine for weeks on end, it also brings warm cozy sweaters, and even warmer, cozier food.  Root vegetables, soups, squash, and don’t even get me started on the holiday food :) .   So tonight I decided to make one of my all time favorite winter foods…beef stew.  My mom has a stew recipe that she made while I was growing up that was done completely in the microwave.  It was pretty good, but a) I don’t have any microwaveable cookware, and b) I’m always scared to microwave things like that because I’m a touch slow at times and with my luck I would blow up the microwave, and thus my kitchen.  So I decided to do it in my dutch oven instead.  I had never made it before, and didn’t have a recipe, but I knew the basic components, so I decided to wing it.

Here it goes:

1. pour 3/4 cup of  flour into a plastic bag and season it liberally with salt and pepper.   Throw about 1.5 pounds of stew beef into the bag and shake it to coat all the pieces.

2. Melt a couple TBSP of butter in the pot and put the meat in to brown.   Keep stirring the meat until it is all browned.

3.  While the meat is browning combine 2 cups beef broth (I used bouillon cubes since they are so much cheaper than stock), a cup and a half of red wine and a half a packet of onion soup mix (I wanted to use it up, so I threw it in…good life choice).

4. Once the meat is  browned, pour in the liquid, throw in two whole or halved cloves of garlic and bring it to a boil for about 5 min, uncovered.  Then reduce the heat to simmer, and cover it.  Let it simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half.

5. Cut onion, celery, carrot, and baby bella mushrooms into bite sized pieces.  After the meat has simmered, throw in all the vegetables and keep it covered, simmering for about another half hour (until the veggies are fully cooked).

6. Serve, and be happy.  I suggest using some sort of bread product to soak up the juices, I made biscuits.

Now, I always liked my mom’s stew growing up, and I’m not trying to be a conceited bitch, but holy sh*t dude it was good.  It was all smooth and buttery from the meat and the mushrooms, but with a tang from the vegetables and the wine.  Seriously, I expected to tank this one since I was just sort of throwing crap in a pot, but somehow I stumbled onto something good.  I didn’t put in potatoes because stew is normally heavy enough for me without the added starch, also, I did not in fact have any potato.

This is such a good dish because you can literally throw in anything you have in your fridge.  You could add corn, green beans, peas, anything really.  Once you have the meat done just throw in whatever you want and heat until its cooked.  Its also nice because this would also be something you could easily do in a crock pot.  Just brown the meat in the morning, throw it in the crock pot and set it on low.  When you get home at the end of the day, just put in the veggies and turn it to high for about an hour, and you have dinner.

This is probably going to end up being one of my weekly staples this winter. Anything to get me through another damn Ohio winter :)

Happy Stewing!!


Mmm..loaf of meat…

Posted: October 9, 2009 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Meatloaf is easily one of the most versatile foods on the planet.  Just on this website alone, you will find at least three recipes that are impressively different from one another.  This diversity is one of my favorite things about it, because no matter how you make it, its probably going to be good, and no matter what people say, it is still meat loaf ;) .  Growing up, I had meat loaf maybe a a half dozen times, but it was hardly a staple in our household, probably because none of us liked it.  As I got older and cooking on my own, it was always one of those foods I was curious about, but I had this weird feeling that I had to be a soccer mom of four in a crazy sweater with embroidered reindeer on it to make a successful meat loaf.   Somehow I thought the ingredients would not successfully make a delicious meatloaf if they were brought home in my Jetta and not a minivan.  However, about a year ago, I decided to conquer my fear and tackle the challenge that was meatloaf.  All of the meatloaf recipes I looked at sounded good, but didn’t really seem like they were my style, so I made one up.

Here is my take on the deliciousness that is meat…in loaf form.


1lb ground beef

1lb ground sweet italian sausage

One medium onion diced fine

One large rib of celery diced fine

3-ish cloves of garlic diced fine

a couple of mushrooms (depends on how much you like them) diced fine

1 egg

bread crumbs

italian seasoning


parmesan cheese

red wine – at least 1/3 cup (I usually go more, but I don’t think anyone is surprised by that)

The hardest part of this recipe is cutting all the vegetables up super fine, but the rest of it is cake.  Put the meat in a bowl and mix in all the vegetables  (your hands are your best kitchen tool here).  Mix in the egg and red wine, then the bread crumbs, cheese and herbs until all the liquid is soaked up, if you add too many bread crumbs, the easiest fix is going to be to add more red wine.  I know this would be a tragedy, but hey,  sometimes you have to do things you don’t like in the name of the culinary arts.  Schlep it all onto a cookie sheet and form it into a loaf type shape and top it with more shredded parmesan.  Bake it at 375 for appx. an hour…I usually just shove my meat thermometer in until it gets to 160 degrees.

Of course with this, I have to make mashed potatoes.  I usually try to make a different kind every time, but so far my favorites are the fully loaded mashed potatoes, carmelized onion and bacon mashed potatoes, and bleu cheese mashed potatoes.

Happy Carnivore-ing!


Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.