Pork Burgers

We were out and about with friends at the first annual “Lake County Food Truck Frenzy” – and it was a bit of a frenzy, we were there for hours and, between the four of us, only managed to sample stuff from three food trucks – and so, while waiting in line, we would chat; and while trying to decide between the Buffalo chicken or the barbecue ranch poutine (I went with the barbecue ranch), Ruth was reminiscing about these pork burgers that her downstate home town supermarket sold when she was a kid.

“Pork burgers?”

I was intrigued

so, back at home, I did some research on the interwebs, then made a few changes based on our tastes and my pantry, and came up with this, very tasty, take on your basic burger.

Note: you are gonna want to keep a stack of these in the freezer to enjoy during grilling season. I made ours on the stove top, and they were good. On the grill, I believe they would’ve been fan-frikkin’-tastic.

•5 slices uncured bacon
•1 clove garlic
•1 lb ground pork
•1/2 tsp Kosher salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce (or your own fave hot sauce, to taste)
•Cheese – I used Provolone

Place the bacon slices and the garlic in your food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until nicely chopped.

Add the salt, pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, and the pork and pulse just until well mixed.

Here’s where you get to make a choice:

We don’t particularly care for hoooge burgers, so I used a 1/4 cup measure and made six patties; cooking four and stashing two in the freezer (to give to Ruth). If you have a larger appetite, by all means divide the mixture into four patties and enjoy.

Anywho; shape your mixture into however many patties, and, with your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each patty. This will help to keep the burgers from puffing up and bulging while cooking.

Heat your grill, or pan, to medium high, then season with additional pepper and add the burgers to the heat.

Cook for about six minutes, until you have a nice crust on the bottom, then flip and cook for another six minutes.

Give each burger a splash of your hot sauce of choice – if you haven’t tried it, I cannot say enough about Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce. They don’t pay me a thing, but I order this stuff by the case, and it is the only hot sauce I use – then flip the burgers one last time, arrange the cheese on top, remove from the heat, cover, and let rest for about five minutes, until the cheese is nicely melted.

The original recipe I found called for serving the burgers on buttered potato buns topped with coleslaw. I went with lightly toasted brioche rolls spread with mayonnaise, served the coleslaw on the side, and topped my burger with spicy pickled cabbage, mustard, and ketchup.

Good move, and wicked fine burger!

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Parfait! Benedictine

Because this coming Saturday is the Kentucky Derby, and because folk do like to prepare ahead of time, I am adding a bonus Parfait! post today.

Benedictine is a cream cheese spread that is said to be de rigueur for any proper Derby Day gathering; but it is also kinda cunning spread on a toasted bagel, mebbe topped with some smoked salmon and thinly sliced red onion, then dusted with some capers.


Anywho, back to the Benedictine. Apparently, there are folk who like to dye theirs green because – who knows? I skip that bit and keep the spread its natural color; but, you do what you want.

•8 oz cream cheese, softened
•3 tbsp grated cucumber
•1 tbsp grated onion
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/8 tsp Cayenne
•One Fresno chile, chopped
•Freshly chopped chive

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Combine the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and beat until well combined with an electric mixer.

Pack into a container, cover, and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve as you will. Some folk like this on sammiches (y’know, the tiny ones with the crusts cut off), but I like Benedictine just about any way I can get it.

Note: if you like, go ahead and add some scallions, which have been finely chopped in a food processor with a bit of fresh parsley.

And Happy Derby Day.



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Parfait! Baked Brie With Pepper Jelly, Two Ways

Who knew, when I first published this recipe, that it would be the NUMBER ONE HIT on this little food blog thing-y?

Certainly not me; I’ve seen a lot of Brie baked over the past several decades, and I thought everyone must surely already have their own fave down pat.

Mebbe it’s the pepper jelly? Mebbe the Crescent Rolls?

I dunno, it’s a mystery, but…

I am back, this week, with two versions; one, more or less the original I published a couple of years ago (with all thanks to the nice folk at Pillsbury), stuffed with Pepper Jelly, then wrapped in Crescent Roll dough before baking, and the other, just the cheese, folks, baked with a center filled with pepper jelly, so folk who cannot eat gluten, can still enjoy this lovely little nibble (happily, there are some quite nice gluten-free cracker options available these days that will not even make you miss the Water Crackers!).

Note: the “no-dough” version NEEDS a Brie Baker or other small, round baking dish.

•1 round (8 oz) Brie*
•1 can (8 oz) crescent dinner rolls
•Pepper jelly (a couple of tablespoons)
•1 egg, beaten

*For my latest version, I used a perfectly wonderful “Comfort Cream” cheese from the Upper Canada Cheese Company, who also had a really nice Niagara Ice Wine Red Pepper Jelly that worked a treat. If you get the chance, a visit to Southern Ontario would be a very good idea. Wineries, cheese, condiments! What’s not to love?

Of course, we love and cherish our family up there as well, oh, and did I mention the out of the way roadside barbecue joint that they showed us?

ANYwho, back to the Brie – or Comfort Cream, or whatever you prefer.

Some folk call for freezing the cheese wheel for about 15 minutes to make it easier to slice, but I’ve not really had any trouble promptly slicing a wheel straight from the fridge.

You do what you want.

Heat your oven to 350º.

If using the Crescent Roll dough, press half of the can into a rough square, sealing the seams. Arrange this in your Brie Baker, or in the middle of a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet.

Note: you can shape the other half of the dough into rolls and bake it with the cheese.

Place half of the cheese, rind side down, in the middle of the dough and top with the pepper jelly.

Place the other half of the cheese, rind side UP, on top of the jelly and fold the corners up and over the dough to cover. Gaps in the top are not a big deal so chill.

Going gluten-free? Slice your cheese in half, arrange one half, again, rind side down, in the baker, then top with the pepper jelly.

Place the other half (you got it, rind side UP, on top, and place the cover on the baker.

Bake for five to seven minutes, until the Brie is warmed through and the center nicely oozy, then remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes or so before serving warm.

Sticking with the Crescent Rolls? Don’t bother covering your cheese, but do brush on the beaten egg to cover any exposed dough.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned, then remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving with crackers, or crusty bread, or whatever you happen to like your baked Brie and pepper jelly on.

Speaking of Pepper Jelly…

It is really quite nice, and comes in a variety of “heats” from mild to smokin’ hot.

It can also be kinda pricey, so, I make my own, using a mix of sweet and jalapeño peppers for a nicely spiced sweet and hot pepper jelly.

That recipe, is here.

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Asparagus Soup With Ricotta and Sherry

How’s this for a perfect springtime soup?

Asparagus, cooked with shallots in chicken stock, then blended with sherried Ricotta cheese and served warm.

And, the whole thing, with just a wee, tiny bit of prep, comes together in well under an hour, from start to finish!

Can’t beat that with a stick!

Only thing is…

If I am be totally honest, this soup, while totally delicious, is also wicked rich, and even though I served it as our main dinner course, with just some crusty French bread on the side; we were stuffed.

The next time I make this, it’ll be served in much smaller cups, mebbe chilled, and as a part of brunch.

Still and all, you want a kicker asparagus soup for a crowd? You’ve got it!

•2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
•2 tbsp olive oil
•1/2 cup diced shallot
•1 bunch of asparagus
1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 cup Ricotta cheese
•1/4 cup lemon juice
•1 tsp Seasoned Salt
•Black pepper

Cheese Topper:
•1/4 cup Ricotta
•1 tbsp Sherry
•1 tsp dried chives

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Whisk the 1/4 cup of Ricotta together with the sherry and chives in a small bowl and set aside.

Cut the asparagus into one inch pieces and divide into about three cups of stems and 1 cup of tips.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil and add the asparagus tips, cooking just until bright green and still a bit crispity – about 90 seconds. Remove the tips and place in a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking any further and keep their bright green color.

Note: you want to make this vegetarian? Simply substitute your fave veggie stock.

Once the asparagus tips have cooled, drain well and set aside.

Transfer the chicken stock to a bowl or beaker, or pull out a second pot and warm the olive oil over medium heat.

Add the shallot and sauté for two minutes, then add the asparagus stalks (not the spears, those are being held to the side still), and continue sautéing for another three minutes or so, until they, too, are this lovely, bright green color.

Return the chicken stock to the pot, along with the Sherry Peppers Sauce, if using, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for three to five minutes, or until the asparagus is tender.

Transfer the whole shebang to a blender jar, add the cup of Ricotta cheese, and blend until smooth.

Return this to the soup pot, give it a taste, and stir in the lemon juice, Seasoned Salt, and black pepper. Stir in the reserved asparagus spears and warm over low heat just until heated though.

Serve with crusty bread, a dollop of that sherried Ricotta cheese, and additional black pepper cracked over the top.

This was rich enough that there were easily four ample servings as a main course, and I would bet, at least eight as a starter.

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Beer Marinated Chicken and Beer BBQ Sauce

Chicken (thighs, in this case), marinated in spiced beer overnight, then grilled and brushed with a beer based barbecue sauce.

Hmmm… I am seeing a theme here.

In truth, the beer marinade is kindofa classic for many meats, and the barbecue sauce? Well, I came home from a visit to family in Canada with a couple of bottles of “Diana Sauce.” No, not that Diana, but our cousin Lois swears by it, so I thought I might as well give it a shot.

No access to Kraft Canada products? Fret ye not! While the Diana sauce is quite nice; most any good barbecue sauce will work, so, go ahead and use your favorite. My favorite is home made, and here’s the recipe. I also make a Steak and Chop Sauce which would work really well here, too.

So. Sauces well and truly worked out, let us talk of beer and chicken and good stuff on the grill, shall we?

•Chicken thighs
•12 oz beer
•2 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp garlic powder
•1 tsp dried shallots
•1 tsp Honey Chipotle (or other sweet and spicy seasoning blend)
•1 tsp dried parsley
•1/2 tsp curry powder
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•Diced red onion
•Diced tomato

Diana Sauce and Beer:
•1/2 cup Diana Sauce (or your fave barbecue sauce)
•12 oz can beer
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
•Black pepper

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Pour the beer over the chicken thighs in a gallon sized zipper bag, then add the marinade seasonings, seal the bag, and toss gently to evenly coat the chicken with the beer and seasonings.

Arrange flat on a rimmed plate (in case the bag leaks) and stash in the fridge for a few hours or, always more better, overnight; giving the bag a flip and a turn when you think to.

When ready to cook the chicken, remove from the marinade and pat dry.

Throw out the marinade.

Whisk the Diana Sauce together with the beer, Sherry Peppers Sauce, and pepper, then heat in the ‘wave for a minute or two, until slightly thickened.

Rich didn’t feel like using the gas grill, so I warmed up my trusty grill pan over medium high heat, then added the thighs and cooked them for four minutes, until the bottoms have these lovely char marks.

Turn the thighs over and cook for another four minutes.

Brush half of the the Diana and beer sauce over the chicken, then flip and cook two minutes.

Note: inside, this will get a bit smoky.

Brush the rest of the sauce over the chicken, flip, and cook for another two minutes.

Remove from the heat, scatter with the freshly chopped parsley, then cover and set aside to rest for five minutes or so.

Nice chicken!

Great flavor, tender and moist, but with that bit of a char on the outside. Can’t beat that with a stick, if you ask me.

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Cherry Smash

We were in Canada visiting relatives, and our cousin, Jesse, took us out to lunch at a pretty terrific restaurant right on the shores of Lake Ontario. Since we were on vacation, and were planning a rigorous afternoon of wine tasting at several highly recommended venues, I chose to sample the cherry and bourbon cocktail shown here.

Wicked tasty!

So, when we got home, I set about finding a recipe to replicate said beverage.


I’ve come close. I used thawed frozen cherries in my first attempt, but think now that Maraschino is the way to go.

•6 Maraschino cherries
•2 oz bourbon
•1 oz cherry liqueur*
•Club soda

*I went with Dr. McGillicuddy’s, seeing as how it’s Canadian and all.

Muddle five of the cherries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.

Add the bourbon, cherry liqueur, and ice, then shake well and pour into a glass filled with ice.

Top with club soda and float another cherry on top.

Good times, people.

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Parfait! Blender Hollandaise Sauce

There are folk out there who maintain that one should be able to make Hollandaise the traditional way before giving in to the ease and convenience of using one’s blender to cut out all that (let us be totally frank, here) tedious mucking about with double boilers and whisking and such.

I get the sense you are now fully aware of where, exactly, I stand on this issue.

As long as I have a blender and a working socket to plug it into, this is the sauce!

•3 egg yolks
•1/4 tsp Seasoned Salt (or sea salt)
•1/8 tsp Cayenne
•2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
•1/2 cup unsalted butter

Note 1: this will make about 3/4  cup of perfectly lovely Hollandaise – more than enough to drizzle over a fresh bunch of asparagus or two. If you are cooking for a crowd (Asparagus Eggs Benny, mebbe?), feel free to double or even triple this recipe.

Note 2: this sauce should be made immediately before serving; good thing it takes next to no time to make.

Place the egg yolks, Seasoned Salt, Cayenne, and lemon juice in a blender jar and pulse to mix well.

Melt the butter – in the ‘wave or on top of the stove, it is totally your choice – and, with the blender running, pour the hot, melted butter through the hole in the lid.

Continue to blend until the butter has been absorbed and the Hollandaise has thickened nicely. This should take all of about one to three minutes.

Serve immediately.

Note 3: feel free to add a dash of your favorite hot sauce – this is my long time favorite; I buy it by the case.

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Strawberry Soda Cake

Another Thursday, another cake recipe.

We were visiting family in Canada over Rich’s birthday, so I didn’t have a cake for him (though his cousin had some LOVELY cupcakes from a local bakery), so, when we got home, I decided to put a little sumpin’ sumpin’ festive together for him.

But nothing too involved, we’re having friends over in a week or so for dinner and I’m making his favorite, from scratch, carrot cake for the occasion.

So. A soda cake it was.

No, not baking soda; a bottle of soda, the all sugar, no corn sweeteners kind, if you can get it, and most certainly no diet or “zero” sodas. I opted for Strawberry Fanta to go with a strawberry cake mix.

And that’s it. You need nothing else to make this cake. Well, frosting, but I am including my favorite buttercream, so all’s good there.

•1 strawberry cake mix
•12 oz vanilla cream soda

Buttercream Frosting:
•3 cups confectioners’ sugar
•1 cup butter, softened
•1/8 tsp black pepper
•1/8 tsp salt
•1 tsp vanilla
•1 tbsp Amaretto (optional)
•1 to 3 tbsp whipping cream

Topping (Optional):
•Sliced strawberries

Heat your oven according to instructions on the back of the cake mix box, and prepare your chosen cake pan(s) – I went with a 13×9 baking pan and applied a bit of cooking spray to the bottom. If I was making a layer or Bundt cake out of this, I would have combined one tablespoon each of:

•Solid shortening
•Cooking Oil

in a bowl until well blended, then brushed this mixture over the pan(s) you are using. Works a treat, and the cakes always come out cleanly.

Add the soda to the cake mix (and nothing else!) in a large bowl, mix according to the instructions on the back of the cake mix box, and transfer the batter to your prepared cake pan(s).

Bake according to the instructions on the back of the cake mix box until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My metal, 13×9 inch pan took about 30 minutes at 350º, but again, follow the instructions from the box.

Nice looking cake, no?

And it smelled very strawberry-ish.

Set the cake aside to cook completely, then prepare your buttercream frosting.

Using the whisk attachment, beat the butter with the black pepper (trust me, it’s a good thing), salt, vanilla, and Amaretto, if you’re using it, until the butter is light and fluffy.

Add the confectioners’ sugar and, starting on low speed (that powder will fly everywhere) blend into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl and increasing the speed as you go, until you have a thick, fluffy frosting.

Whisk in the heavy cream by tablespoonfuls until your frosting is the consistency you like. Note that if you go too far one way (too much cream?) – you can simply stir in additional confectioners’ sugar until you’re happy with the results.

Give it a taste. Nice, right? That hint of black pepper serves to bring out the other flavors.

Frost your cake and, if you have ’em top with fresh strawberries.

My strawberries had been macerated with blueberries in a bit of sugar and Cointreau to be served for breakfast with a lemon curd yogurt sauce, so I went with shiny red sanding sugar.

Nice cake! And popular with Rich, as well as the under 10 set at our semi-weekly lunch gatherings, so, all in all, a hit.

Note: if you cannot find strawberry soda, try cream soda, or, mebbe, lemon lime.

Just no diet, lite, or Zero sodas. Ever.

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Corned Beef Hash

Hash is, at its heart, I think, a dish of leftovers. A bit of meat, some potatoes, mebbe chopped onion, and…  well, whatever you have laying about the fridge that might work for breakfast or breakfast for dinner.

I had some barbecued corned beef on hand, some leftover pan fried potatoes, and a bit of grilled corn kernels sitting around so I thought to myself, why not make hash?

A fave of mine, topped with runny eggs and a bit of hot sauce, what’s not to love?

Note: this recipe is dead simple, but it does use ingredients from several other recipes. I am providing links to each recipe, but feel free to go your own way and use this as a general guide to hash goodness.

•2 tbsp veggie oil
•1 tbsp unsalted butter
•2 cups diced sweet onion
•1/2 cup roasted or grilled corn kernels
•2 tbsp Cowboy Candy or pickled jalapeño slices
•2 cups diced cooked corned beef
•2 cups diced roasted potatoes
•2 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•Black pepper
•1 tbsp Spicy Honey Mustard
•Chopped fresh Parsley

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, then add the corned beef, potatoes, onion, corn, and jalapeños.

Stir in the Sherry Peppers and Cajun Power Sauces, then cook for about ten minutes. Don’t fuss around with the pan too much, you want to build a crust.

Turn the mixture over, then stir in the black pepper and Honey Mustard. Cook for another ten minutes or so, until all sides of your hash have a nice crust to them.

Toss with the fresh parsley, then cover and set on a back burner while you make your eggs – I like mine fried, but with runny yolks.


Spoon some of the hash on a plate – mebbe with some buttered, toasted rye toast – and top with a couple of the eggs.

Sprinkle a bit of hot sauce over the top, mebbe add a bit more black pepper; and I think you have the perfect breakfast – or breakfast for dinner – dish.

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Beer ‘n Butter ‘n Brats ‘n STEAK!

So… this is gonna be a kindofa weird post.

It all started with an unseasonably warm spring weekend and some green pepper and Mozzarella sausages Rich picked up at the market. And a couple of nice rib eye steaks.

The only way I cook sausages anymore is in beer, with butter and coarsely chopped sweet onion, quickly follwed (weather permitting) by a nice scorching on the grill. Then… all that beer and butter and onion seemed a shame to waste, so…

•Sausages or brats
•Two cans beer (not light)
•1/4 cup butter*
•1 sweet onion, chopped

Steak Marinade:
•Cooking liquid from the sausages
•2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
•1 tbsp Dijon mustard
•Dried shallots
•Dried parsley
•Black pepper

*I used seasoned butter leftover from preparing corn on the cob.

Pierce the sausages in a couple of places with a fork, then place in a sauce pan with the  butter and chopped onion. Add enough beer to cover the sausages – usually two cans is plenty.

Note: if you like, go ahead and add some sliced green and red pepper to the beer.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until they are cooked through.

Heat your grill, then cook the sausages and the onion (and peppers, if using) until nicely charred. Use a bit of the beer mixture to baste, if you like.

Enjoy sour grilled sausages, then, ponder for a minute before just tossing that lovely beer and butter and onion mixture.

Steaks always taste a bit better with butter, and beer? Well, it’s there, after all!

Whisk the Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings into the cooled sausage cooking liquid, then pour over the steaks in a gallon sized zipper bag (or a covered container, if doing more than two steaks).

Flip the bag a couple of times to cover the steaks well with the marinade, then stash on a rimmed plate (to catch any drippage) in the fridge for a couple of hours, or – you know what’s coming – always more better – overnight, flipping the bag whenever you think to.

When ready to cook, remove the steaks from the marinade and allow to come to room temperature on the counter for an hour.

Note: if you happen to have a cat on a diet, keep an eye on him, because he will try and snag the steaks.

Prep your grill for direct cooking and medium heat.

Add the steaks and cook for six minutes or so, then flip and cook for another six minutes for medium-rare steaks.

Remove from the grill, loosely cover, and allow to rest for five minutes before serving.

I used that time to make a blender Hollandaise sauce for the asparagus.

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