Guancialini – Homemade Cured Pork Cheeks

Homemade Guanciale - GuancialiniThings have slowed down a bit work-wise and as you may have noticed I’ve been doing some adventurous stuff lately.  One experiment I was eager to try was curing some pork cheeks into guanciale.  It’s been on my ‘to-do’ list but I always kept forgetting to ask about pork cheeks when in a butcher shop.  Well, I remembered, but instead of whole cheeks I ended up with a package of pork cheek meat.  So instead of gunaciale, I ended up with guancialini!  That’s improv Italian for mini-gunaciale. (more…)


Soup Time: Manhattan Clam Chowder

Manhattan Clam ChowderIt’s cold and damp out there.  Soup weather.  Now, soup is not that complicated to make so don’t be scared of making it from scratch.  I hadn’t made any in a while (because it was summer) and since Cheryl and I sampled some really good chowder in Seattle last weekend I decided to make a pot of Manhattan Clam Chowder to warm us up this week. (more…)

First Fall Dish – Lamb Stew with Backyard Garden Vegetables

Lamb Stew recipeI probably say this every year but fall is by far my favorite time of the year to cook.  It’s nice to get back in front of the stove after cooking on the grill all summer.  I just feel more creative in the fall, there’s only so much you can do with the grill, and the season brings lots of variety with it: soups, stews, roasts, braises, and baking (not that I’m much of a baker).  You can see why I was eagerly looking forward to building a lamb stew. (more…)

Tomato Bisque

Tomato BisqueEvery Monday night there’s a TwitterChat I usually participate in called #FoodieChats (follow @foodiechats or @foodiechatsCHI for updates) where the moderator asks themed questions and people tweet their responses.  It’s a fun way to interact with the “Twitter Community” and I occasionally get some good ideas from it.  This week’s theme was “Eating Red” so all the questions revolved around the color red like “What’s you favorite red fruit? Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.”  One question asked about lobster bisque which got me thinking about soups and how tomato bisque is redder than lobster bisque.  It’s frigid here in Chicago this week so, at that particular moment I decided to make a pot of tomato bisque. (more…)

Cassoulet – A Labor of Love

CassouletCassoulet is one of my favorite wintertime French dishes.  On the surface it doesn’t seem like anything too special, basically a white bean stew with some meat in it, slow cooked into a rich, hot, warm your bones dish.  I don’t think you simply “cook” or “make” cassoulet, it’s something you actually “build.”  In her French cooking opus, Julia Child offers a “Note on the Order of Battle.”  I don’t think assembling cassoulet is quite a battle but you definitely need a plan because the dish is not one of your quick- throw-together weeknight dinners.  In fact almost everyone recommends days to assemble it.  They’re not me though!  (more…)

Braised Chicken Legs with Kalamata Olives

Way back in time when I became more serious about cooking for myself I used to read a lot of Food and Wine magazines.  This is a variation of one of the first “step-up dinners” I made where I graduated from using one of those jar sauces to cook chicken in.  Those, of course, were a step-up from Shake N Bake chicken.  I don’t remember all of the original ingredients in the F&W recipe and over the years I’ve tweaked this plenty.  Make it a few times and you’ll find it’s a very easy one to customize for yourself. (more…)

Garlic Herb Stuffed Leg of Lamb with an Orange Mint Sauce

So remember a few posts back how I said I always make a leg of lamb for Easter? (No? Well go back a few and get caught up!)  Since we were traveling I didn’t get to cook Easter dinner.  However, upon returning to Chicago I noticed ham and lamb were both on sale.  Imagine that.  It was kind of like buying wrapping paper on December 26.  Very nice.  They didn’t have any full lamb legs but there were plenty of 3-4 lb shanks and shoulders to be bought.  Prices being what they were I picked up a nice little piece of lamb (and some ham) which I intended to make for Sunday dinner.  And since this past Sunday was Orthodox Easter it turns out I did make lamb on Easter! (more…)