Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Let's Raise a Glass to 2013

2013 was an incredible year. Professionally, I had my most challenging yet rewarding project, helping facilitate a divestiture of a university while simultaneously enabling a hospital to operate as a stand alone facility. Countless late nights, weekend work, Sunday conference calls however incredibly satisfying to look back and take comfort in the real good we did.

Family-wise, I took the reins in thanksgiving dinner and have watched my nieces grow into little pseudo adults (I will be registering for a gun license as my oldest niece will be assuredly be dating at any moment, see the clip below for reference.)

Mom retired from work and unsurprisingly is staying busier than ever as they prepare to move to Florida full time.

Personally in 2013, I made my last first guy friend, traveled to Europe to hang out with my best friends in life (#ninjasinspain), spent a long weekend in Seattle on a whim where I successfully ate and drank my way through that beautiful city. Add to that Vegas, Miami, Chicago and countless weekend in NYC....it's been a great travel year.

I've dated incredible women, auditioned for television shows and have expanded my joy and passion for cooking. Not sure what 2014 will bring, but if it's anything like 2013....I think we're all in for a tremendous year. If nothing else, we for damn sure won't go hungry.

With that I'd like to raise a glass to 2013 and share pictures from my last dinner party of 2013 that was "Best of..." themed.  I was fortunate to eat in a number of incredible restaurants this year so I wanted to recreate the best dishes and cocktails to match for the evening. A thousand thanks to my guests who prepped, mixed, shook and poured the spirits.


the menu.  best things I ate and drank in 2013.

oh, it was a classy affair

octopus simmering away.  my first octopus.

needless to say, John was skeptical at best.

out in front of of my cutting board, a usual spot for me.
would've been much more effective over an open flame, but was able to get the
grill pan hot enough to get some color on the octopus

finished first course with the octopus, farro and andouille sausage
pickled red onions and homemade chili oil

2nd course, arancini (fried risotto balls) with mozzarella. I made a risotto
with pancetta and pink vodka sauce for this version.  we paired this with a selection of rose wines

course 3, roasted pork belly, tomato quiche and pepperoncini spread... delivious.
bacon old fashioned to pair

devon prepping the signature drink for the main course, champagne and hamburgers.
finished product below

i mean, how can you now love individual serving cans of bubbly.  

rosemary french fries, with sea salt of course

signture course, champagne and hamburgers.  These however were
shortrib sliders, seared fois gras, red onion jam and truffle aoli.  

dessert time. 2 pies:  key lime and salty honey, and homemade raspberry gelato

dessert plate with paired beverage, blackberry bourbon lemonade.  F'ing delicious

ok, fine, I admit... I used a premade pie shell.  A rarity, so sue me.

nothing beats a night of new friends, old friends, food and drink.

2013, out.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Duck Ragu for Diner en Blanc Philadelphia 2013

Recently, I was able to be a part of the 2nd Diner en Blanc – Philadelphia.  This is without question my favorite event of the year.  The event is described as, “At the last minute, the location is given to thousands of friends and acquaintances who have been patiently waiting to learn the “Dîner en Blanc's” secret place. Thousands of people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, all meet for a mass “chic picnic” in a public space.”

Naturally, I didn't want to miss this opportunity to put together a meal, worthy of the occasion.

My menu for Diner en Blanc Philadelphia 2013

Thinking about a delicious cold duck salad at Beau Monde, I thought I could sear off a few duck breasts, then let them simmer in a fragrant ragu, with chicken stock, red wine, mirepoix and herbs.  Mixed in with some fresh cavatelli pasta I found at whole foods, we had ourselves a delicious main entrée for the event.  Though meant to serve hot, I absolutely love eating cold or room temp pasta, especially after it’s had time to sit in the fridge for a while, letting the flavors meld together, and get more awesome.

Here’s a recipe I adapted from Mario Batali:

Cavatelli Pasta with Duck Ragu
Ingredients for Sauce:
4 duck legs and thighs, skin removed (I used breasts as its all I could find at the moment) 
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces red wine (Chianti preferred)
1 pound canned tomatoes, peeled whole (I always recommend using San Marzano)
1 cup chicken stock
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (don’t freak out if you don’t have the dried mushrooms.  They definitely add a depth of flavor element, but won’t ruin the dish if you don’t use)


Wash duck legs and remove all fat. Pat dry  (If using breasts, skip this step).

In a thick bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, heat olive oil until smoking. Add duck legs and cook until brown on all sides and remove, about 10 to 12 minutes. (If using duck breasts, sear them off in a hot pan, flip, and cook in the 425 degree oven for a few minutes.  Then drain most of the duck fat from the pot, reserve maybe 2-3 tablespoons)  Add onion, carrot, garlic and celery and cook until softened, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, chicken stock and dried mushrooms and bring to a boil. Add duck legs (or  breasts) and return to boil, lower heat, cover and allow to simmer for 1 hour. Remove duck legs and allow to cool. Pull all meat off the bones and return to pot, without the bones. (If using breasts, slice into 1 inch pieces and return to pot)

Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until quite thick. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.  Boil the pasta (I used cavatelli) until al dente (if using fresh pasta, won’t be more than 2-3 minutes TOPS).

Heat duck ragu in a 12 to 14 inch sauté pan until quite hot.    Put hot pasta into pan with duck ragu and toss well. Pour into serving bowl and serve.


 All in all it turned out to be a fantastic meal shared with incredible friends both old and new. To me, that's what makes this event so great.  Here's a few more pictures from this year's event.  Can't wait until Diner en Blanc 2014.


Chris "garcon" DeAntonio pouring the finest prosecco for Aubrey.  Mikey keeping watch in the background

I was a table leader for DeB this year.  Though they didn't spell my name right for my sign, I was able to lead all 52 people in my group to the correct location.

Pam and Aubrey.  Stunning.  

I think Chris just said something hilarious, Aubrey however did not enjoy.

Lauren loving the sparkler action.  At 9PM, all 2500 Diner en Blanc guests light their sparklers.  Pretty cool moment.

Before we got going, I had to read a few rules.  Rule 1, Be awesome.  

A view of our table area courtesy of Chris.   

Serving the main course, duck ragu.  I of course made too much so got to take it on a road trip to share with hungry guests.

serving the cucumber avocado soup.  Got this recipe from the folks at Vedge right here in philly.  delicious.  

Shawn and Mikey looking studly.

Me and Veronica.  She totally makes this picture.

Somehow managed to find Rossi at the after party.  I had to tuck in under her hat.

My  beautiful cousin and I at the after party.

my incredible Group Leader Juli and fellow table lead.

Erin made for a great guest at DeB.  Clearly we must have had fun.

me and the guys, classing it up.  Chris whispering, "Atlantic City......."

and then Aubs anti-classing it up.  Who needs glasses when you can take the Veuve straight to the face.  Not sure what Christina is doing.

One of my favorite couples, in life, Shawn and LM

Ang and Irv made a strong appearance, and both incredibly dressed.  well done you both.

Christina and Irv

Irv and Jen (who always manages to flash the perfect smile.  Irv had to put on the stunner shades because Jen's smile was too bright.

Aubrey, Christina and Lindsay excited to get the night started

cheers, son.

Here are the incredible ladies in my group.  Shouts to everyone who made it the amazing night that it was.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Corn Puree with Arugula, Crab, Peach and Avocado Salad

summer corn puree with arugula, crab, avocado and peaches

Staycation dish number two.

Summer Corn Puree with Arugula, Crab, Peach and Avocado Salad

Stealing some themes from the Southern themed Summer Dinner Party I threw a couple weeks ago, I put a quick lunch together on day 2 of staycation.  While I do tend to hate the summer heat and humidity, it is 100% the best time of year for fresh and seasonal ingredients.  I created this dish to pull some of summer’s best stuff into a delicious plate.

Serves two:

3 tbsp butter, divided
½ cup onion, diced
¼ cup jalapeno, diced
4 ears of fresh corn, shucked and kernels removed
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup half and half

2 cups baby arugula
2 peaches, diced
2 avocados, diced
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 bsp olive oil
8-10 oz lump crab meat

To start, make the corn puree. Heat a pot over medium heat.  Sautee the onion and jalapeno in 1 tbsp of the butter.  When tender, add the corn to the pot with the rest of the butter.  Stir.  Then cover and turn heat to low.  Let the corn mixture simmer for 15 minutes, letting the flavors meld.  When done, transfer to a blender and puree in batches until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

To make the salad, add the oil to the lemon juice and whisk to combine.  Add to the arugula, then stir in the peaches, avocados and crab meat. 

Spoon in some of the puree to  shallow bowl, then top with some of the salad mix. 


Monday, July 8, 2013

Skirt Steak, Plantains, Grilled Pineapple and Tomatillo Salsa

skirt steak with plantains, roasted tomatillo salsa and grilled pineapple

Feels great to be back. 

some of the ingredients.  i need to hire a photographer.
I just wrapped up what was without question the most demanding, challenging, yet fulfilling project I've ever had in my 7 year consulting career.  Wrapping that up before the July 4th holiday, I’m fresh on to a much needed week of vacation before going back to the grind.  So what better way to unplug and recharge then getting back into the kitchen?  Since I worked pretty much every moment I was awake, I haven’t blogged in months (coincidentally, since I started this last project). 
Nevertheless, after an unsupervised trip to Whole Foods on an empty stomach and a quick lap through the aisles, I had a few ideas for new dishes I could put together. So here’s the first dish of my staycation….

Skirt Steak with Plantains, Grilled Pineapple and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 lb of tomatillos, skins and stems removed
1 jalapeno
1 cup parsley (feel free to use cilantro, I just won’t touch the vile weed)
3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil

2 plantains (the green kind, not the super ripe brown/black ones), peeled and sliced to 1 in. pieces. 
Salt to taste

1 lb skirt steak

1 pineapple, cleaned, cored, sliced (1/2 in. slices)
3 tbsp honey
1 lemon, zested

To start, make the tomatillo salsa.  Take tomatillos and jalapenos and roast in the oven at 400F for 20 -25 min, until some charring happens.  When done, remove charred skins off tomatillos and jalapeno, then transfer to a food processor.  Add parsley and garlic.  Process mixture until smooth, pouring in olive oil while processing.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat about ½ inch of vegetable oil in frying pan until hot.  .  Add plantains.  Fry for a couple minutes a side then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.  Then mash plantains down, then fry again.  Note: this twice frying technique is what gets the nice crispy exterior and tender interior.  Also works for french fries)  After frying for a couple minutes on each side, remove, place on paper towel lined plate.  Salt to taste.

Light a grill.  (I don’t have a grill, so I use a double burner grill pan. 

While your grill is heating up, season the skirt steak (remember to allow time to let the meat come to room temp before grilling).   I only use kosher salt and black pepper on my steal, so add a liberal amount to the steak as the grill heats up.  Also during this time, mix the honey and lemon zest together.  Dip the pineapple slices in the honey mixture, set aside. 

When the grill is hot, oil the grill pan so it doesn’t stick.  I use vegetable or canola oil.  DO NOT USE OLIVE OIL.  It has a low smoke point, so the oil will burn before the grill get hot enough for the meat.  Place the steak on the grill.  Grill for 4 minutes per side.  Note: don’t move the steak before its done cooking.  If you try to move it and its sticking, ITS NOT READY TO BE FLIPPED YET. 

After the steaks are done, remove them from the grill, and place on cutting board to rest.  Meat should rest at least as long as it was cooking.

While the steak is resting, grill the pineapples.  Give them 3-4 minutes per side on medium-high heat. 

Done.  Just have to plate the dish.  I put a few spoonfuls of the salsa on the bottom of the plate, then the plantains. 

Remember to slice the skirt steak against the grain as it will be much more tender/easier to chew.  Add the sliced steak to the plate, then the grilled pineapple.

Finish the dish, by spooning the salsa over the plate.



Thursday, February 28, 2013

Breakfast. Hash.

turkey sausage hash, chimichurri and sriracha.  and of course...an egg.

Have I mentioned that I’m really enjoying working from home?  Waking up, in my own bed, and making breakfast in my own kitchen….I’ll tell you it’s the little things that really count here.  Nevertheless, I can seriously get used to this.  Wanting to take as much advantage of my kitchen while I can I figured why not make myself some breakfast.  So, a few potatoes, parsley and sriracha later, here’s a quick homemade recipe to throw together.

Turkey Sausage Hash w/ Chimichurri and Sriracha

This recipe brings together a few of my favorite ingredients.  Sausage, potatoes and of course sriracha.  I’m seriously thinking of starting a campaign to make sriracha available on restaurant and diner tables across this great land of ours.  Just delicious.

I used multicolor petite potatoes and turkey sage breakfast sausage, but you can use whatever you have on hand, or whatever you like for both (e.g. pork sausage vs. turkey, etc.     ).


Turkey Sausage Hash:
½ lb breakfast turkey sausage, diced
8 petite potatoes, diced (again, use whatever potatoes you’d like)
½ cup red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced

Chimichurri Sauce

1 bunch parsley
½ bunch cilantro
4 cloves garlic
sriracha, red rooster, call it whatever you want...its delicious.
3 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 cup olive oil


To start the hash, over medium-high heat, cook off the sausage.  Drain all but 2 tbsp of the fat, and remove the cooked meat.  Add diced potatoes, red onions and garlic to the pan.  Cook until potatoes start to get tender.  Season with salt and pepper.

When potatoes are fork tender, return the cooked meat back to the pan and sauté together for a few minutes. 

While the hash is cooking, prepare the chimichurri. Add all ingredients except for the olive oil to a food processor. Process ingredients until a puree forms.  Then, while processor is running, slowly add the olive oil.  Let the processor run for 45-60 seconds. 

To plate, top the hash with a fried egg.  Because as I always say, if you like than you should've put an egg on it.

Drizzle the chimichurri and the sriracha over the hash and egg.  Done.