Italian Beef

Sunday Dinner – 13 January 2019

Italian Beef Sandwich

Claudia made Italian Beef for Sunday Dinner this week. This is one of our perennial crock pot favorites. A roast, a packet of Italian dressing seasoning, a bottle of beer, some garlic and some pepperoncini go into the pot on low for hours until the beef falls apart. She serves it on buns with Mozzarella and red sauce.

She also made a salad, and sautéed some zucchini and other vegetables as a side. We picked up a quart of her favorite pasta salad (from JR’s Chicken in Kankakee) as well. For dessert, she baked brownies and served it with Aunt Pat’s DQ. Wine was the Ménage à Trois Silk soft red blend, which was an Aldi find and surprisingly nice.

Another Detroit Pie and Some Old School Cheese Soup


Weekend of January 5th and 6th, 2019

We had dough left over, so I had another run at Detroit Style Pizza for supper on Saturday Night. I picked up a cheap steel cake pan at the dollar store (made in the USA, yet) earlier in the day, browned some Italian Sausage, and made the sauce.

For the sauce, just crush everything together with a potato masher.

  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 T tomato paste
  • 1 pressed clove garlic
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes

I use the Basic Artisan Pizza Crust Recipe for the dough.

  • 3 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 to 1 1/2tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 1/2 cups (scoop and sweep) unbleached all-purpose flour

This makes enough dough for several pies. I had just enough left to cover the bottom of the pan when stretched. It was much easier to stretch this time, after having rested in the fridge for nearly a week. This is one of the things that I love about the AB5 dough.

I sprayed the bottom of the cake pan, then drizzled olive oil and coated it well. I also sprinkled it with a little corn meal to add to the buttery taste, and pressed dough over bottom of pan. The Monterray Jack cheese (an 8 ounce block, grated) went on next. I got the tip on that from Cook’s Country. They did tests and it came closest to the characteristics of the Wisconsin Brick Cheese that would typically be used in Detroit. The sausage crumbles went on next, then the three iconic stripes of tomato sauce. The pie baked at 500 °F until the cheese was bubbly and brown, about 17 minutes this time.

I was amazed at how easily and quickly this pizza came together, and at how delicious it was. Our grilled pizzas are still my favorite, and we’ll continue to make the Malnati style deep dish from time to time, but I think the Detroits will be our go to, especially to use up leftover dough, and for a quick weeknight meal. I’m anxious to taste a slice of Chef Garibaldi’s again one of these days to see how ours stacks up to the authentic.

For Sunday Dinner, I made cheese soup. The recipe is one of my favorites, and comes from a restaurant in Decatur from the old days, called The Brown Jug. My Sister Marge gave me the recipe years ago and it was one of the first things I ever learned to cook.

Brown Jug Cheese Soup

I sautéed some diced celery and onion, then added them to a crock pot with some veggie and chicken stock (maybe a quart and a half altogether), and a couple 12 ounce bags of frozen mixed vegetables. Once that all got warmed up, I added 5 diced potatoes and 2 diced carrots. Finally, after all of that was cooked through, I added two cans of cream of celery soup and a pound or so of Velveeta cheese. Once everything is melted and combined, it’s ready to serve.

I baked a largish peasant boule with the leftover dough from earlier in the week. Again, the AB5 dough that’s been resting in the fridge for a few days takes on some great characteristics. It almost tastes like a sour dough.

Claudia made a nice salad, and we had Wisconsin Supper Club relishes, including marinated olives, marinated mushrooms and cornichons. The wine was Sharon Weeks’ Cattoo Red, which was just perfect. Later on, Aunt Pat and Caroline picked up some soft serve from DQ to go with Christmas cookies for dessert.

My sons were with us for a little while in the afternoon, and had their soup with a bit of hot sauce. 🙂

Split Pea Soup

A New Tradition for a New Year

Split Pea Soup

For decades now, I’ve cooked a mess of beans on New Year’s Day. It’s an old tradition, meant to signify good luck and prosperity in the year to come. We generally have a ham bone left from Christmas Dinner to help season the pot, and nothing could be much easier to prepare.

This year, Claudia asked if we could have split pea soup instead. I bristled a little at the suggestion at first, because I’m sort of obsessive about “traditions.” But she asks for so little, that I figured it was the least I could do to accommodate.

There really isn’t a “recipe” for this dish. I just sautéed some onions, diced up a couple of carrots and threw them into a crock pot with the dried peas, the ham bone, a quart of veggie stock, a quart of water, paprika, salt and pepper. About five hours later, it was ready.

I also baked a peasant boule to serve with the soup, and we had some of the leftover ham slices and some Swiss cheese on the side as well. It was the perfect, hearty but simple meal to begin a new year, and we agreed that it should become our own family tradition in place of the beans and cornbread from here on.

Here’s to health, happiness and all good things in 2019!

New Year’s Eve 2019

After Mass on New Year’s Eve, Claudia made a lovely meal of stuffed chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, and broccoli steamed with lemon. Grammy put together a cheese plate and Claudia stuffed some Portobello caps for appetizers. We drank one of my favorite wines, a Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc cuveé from South Africa called “Gooseberry Bush.”

The evening was relatively quiet. We watched Grace and Frankie for awhile with the folks, and then after they went home we watched WLS TV’s Countdown Chicago, sharing a bottle of Asti around Midnight. I made a Champagne Cocktail for my second glass. Kid drank ginger ale from a crystal flute.

Thankful to see another year in. Here’s wishing everyone a beautiful 2019.

From Chicago to Detroit


Sunday Dinner – 30 December 2018

Chicago and Detroit Pizza

For our last Sunday Dinner of 2018 we made pizza two ways, with a Lou Malnati style Chicago deep dish and our first run at a Detroit style pie.

Inspired by Chef Garibaldi, I’d been wanting to try my hand at Detroit pizza for awhile now. I used my usual dough recipe from AB5. Lacking one of the typical high sided 13 x 9 pans, I used a square cake pan, coating it with cooking spray and olive oil before stretching out the dough. I covered that with shredded Monterrey Jack, and then put the three iconic stripes of sauce across the top.

The sauce was a can of diced tomatoes, some olive oil, two pressed cloves of garlic, a little sugar, salt and pepper, and some oregano and basil – all smashed up with a potato masher. It went into a 500 °F oven for 15 minutes.

The other pie was an old favorite alla Lou Malnati’s, baked in a cast iron skillet.

Malnati Style

Claudia made a marvelous Wulff salad with Balsamic vinaigrette. Wine was a 2016 Sangiovese, for those not drinking Newcastle Ale.

We’d definitely make the Detroit style pizza again. In fact, Claudia said that she actually preferred it today. The sauce was just a bit too garlicky for her taste, and we’ll likely add some Italian sausage next go ’round. It’s nice to add another pizza to our repertoire, and particularly one that is so easy to prepare and quick to bake. I can see this becoming our go-to for weeknights.

Holiday Meals 2018

Here are some photos from around our table Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve, Claudia prepared a lovely meal for after Mass. There was a shrimp ring, lobster and crab cakes, crudités, Feta stuffed phyllo, and a choice of potato soup or oyster stew. The oyster stew is our Christmas Eve tradition, and it was the most delicious ever this year. Wine was a very nice Chardonnay from Franc Dusak.

On Christmas Day, we cooked a ham on the Weber Genesis, using Jamie Purviance’s molasses and mustard glaze. Claudia also made pasta shells with cheese sauce, a Pampered Chef holiday appetizer wreath, and a lovely green salad. Grammy brought a tasty cauliflower, broccoli and raisin salad, and Aunt Pat brought a vibrant and fresh Jello and fruit salad. The wine was Jacqueline Bahue’s 2015 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir.

Of course, there was an incredible variety of Christmasy baked goods – cookies, candies, fudge and more.

Alder Planked Salmon


Sunday Dinner – 23 December 2018

Grilled Salmon

It was Alder Planked Salmon (and near disaster) this week.

We love salmon cooked on the grill, and alder wood is our favorite smoke flavoring for it. We’ve had good luck in the past cooking fish on cedar planks, so we decided to try alder planks this time. I soaked four planks in water for a couple hours before beginning to cook. Here’s how they looked on the Weber Genesis.

Alder Planks

The process for the plank grilling is to char the planks on one side, flip them over, and then cook the fish on the charred side. The planks didn’t get very charred in the first few minutes, so I turned up the burners to high. That was my first mistake. The second mistake was to leave them unattended for four minutes.

When I went back to check them and opened the hood, there was a backdraft and a huge flameup that singed the hair off my left forearm. I was lucky that it didn’t catch my clothes (or rather longish hair) on fire. When the flames died down, the planks were nearly cinders.

Improvising, I scooped the mess toward the back of the grill, turned the burners to low, and closed the hood. I had four remaining planks that hadn’t been soaked, and decided to risk using them to cook the salmon steaks on over very low heat. I watched them closely, peeking under the hood every two minutes. Fortune was with us, and they turned out delicious, despite more than a “kiss of smoke.”

We’d grilled some asparagus and baked some potatoes on the Genesis earlier, and they were waiting in a warm oven while I finished the fish. Claudia also made a nice salad, and we served it with a simple creamy garlic dressing. That’s always Grampy’s favorite that he asks for when dining out. We found the old recipe from the Blue Mill restaurant in Decatur, Illinois online and decided to try it out.

  • 1 qt Mayonaise
  • 3/4 oz Lemon Juice
  • 4 t Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1.2 oz Grated Parmigiana
  • 1 1/4 t Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 c Water

Alder Planked Salmon

Wines were a 2016 Marchesi Sauvignon Blanc and a 2017 Jacqueline Bahue.

Grilled Pork Chops and Vinegar Potatoes

Sunday Dinner – 16 December 2018

Pork Chop Dinner

This week it was grilled pork chops, vinegar potatoes and sautéed green beans for Sunday Dinner.

I usually marinate the chops, but this time I simply seasoned with Custom Culinary Spice and grilled them. I used the Salt & Vinegar Potatoes recipe from Kitchn, and it came out even more delicious this time, roasting the par cooked potatoes on the Genesis. Claudia steamed the green beans for a bit, and then sautéed them with some onions and Penzey’s Mural of Flavor herb mix. She and Aunt Pat made a nice salad with raspberry vinaigrette too.

Wine was the 2017 Crowdpleazin Dry Creek Zinfandel. Really tasty, and we got to try out a Rabbit aerator that Pat gave us. I’d always thought that it was only old, high-tannin reds that could benefit from aeration, but it amped up the bouquet and flavor of this young jammy Cali Zinfandel nicely. Looking forward to trying it on a bottle of white wine soon.

Caroline baked cookies to go with ice cream for dessert.

Grilled Chicken with Pasta Bake

Sunday Dinner – 9 December 2018

Grilled Chicken with Pasta Bake

This week we grilled chicken on the Genesis and Claudia made a nice pasta bake with Ricotta. Wine was a Calavaras County cuvée from F. Stephen Millier.

We have some white meat and some dark meat fans in the group, and it’s taken me awhile to learn how to cook the leg quarters properly. This time, they turned out perfect. I seasoned them with coarse salt, black pepper, Herbs du Provence, garlic and onion powder, and a little MSG. The grill was set up with the outer burners on medium and the center burner off. The chicken went on the cooler part, in the middle, skin side down at first for about twenty minutes. Then I flipped them and let them cook another twenty minutes indirect. This allows the fat underneath the skin to render. Once the internal temperature was around 170 °F I turned the middle burner on as well, and finished them skin side down over direct heat. This crisped up the skin nicely and brought the temp up to 185 in the thigh. I put the breasts on over direct medium heat (one of the outside burners) as the leg quarters were finishing. The legs came off first to rest, so that we could serve everything as soon as the breasts were done (they cooked about twenty minutes total).

The pasta bake was made with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmigiana, with a red sauce on top. Claudia also made a fresh green salad and steamed some broccoli and cauliflower with garlic. Aunt Pat brought cookies and ice cream for dessert.

Linguine con Vongole

Sunday Dinner – 2 December 2018

Linguine con Vongole

This week, I made Linguini with Clam Sauce, an adaptation of a recipe from my friend, Joe Placido.

If you’re an American of a certain age, it’s very likely that you have heard Giuseppe “Joe” Placido’s voice. In the 1980s, he was the announcer for Chrysler Corporation’s “Guaranteed Rebate” advertising campaign. Lee Iacocca heard Joe’s voice on local Detroit radio, and nabbed him right up as the voice of the campaign.

I met Joe in the mid 1970s when we were both working in Decatur, Illinois at WSOY radio. He introduced me to some great music, and some great food. The first “authentic” Italian cuisine I ever tasted was around the table of he and his wife Jini’s apartment. This is one of my favorite recipes, and one of the first things I attempted to cook on my own.

It starts with a sauté of onions and garlic in butter and olive oil. Then you add some salt, Italian herbs and white pepper. Then the juice of a couple cans of chopped clams, and some white wine. Eventually, you add the clams. I usually add some cream or half and half as well. That, the pasta and shredded Parm, and you’re ready to eat.

We enjoyed this with a lovely salad with raspberry vinaigrette that Claudia made, some pesto stuffed mushrooms, and bread with drizzles of Bahue Olive Oil, herbs and Parm shreds. The wines were Sauvignon Blancs. Aunt Pat brought a coconut cream pie for dessert.

Here are some shots from around the table.