Category Archives: Holiday

Al Dente Rewind: Stovetop Smoked Beef Brisket

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This weekend marked The Kid’s 4th birthday party. We still do family-only gigs, with our neighbors and some friends’ children joining the fray, but assume that will end next year. If The Wife gets her way, we would tell people that we were Jehovah’s Witnesses just so we could get out of having kid’s birthday parties.

I smoked a 7 1/2-pound beef brisket using the below recipe. It was a beautiful hunk of meat with a 1-inch fat cap that I trimmed in half. I was happy with the effort, based on this recipe from two years ago.

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Something is wrong with my gas grill. Some of you will say that the problem is that I use gas and not charcoal. That’s fine, and to each their own. My problem is more of a fire/explosion hazard.

Continue reading Al Dente Rewind: Stovetop Smoked Beef Brisket


Easter Dinner: Citrus-Marinated Flank Steak

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The other half of Easter dinner was inspired by someone that I’ve never met (Actually, that would mean that both halves of dinner were inspired by people I have not met. Never mind.). I have exchanged Tweets with Albert Burneko on one or two occasions, but I find his writing on food delightfully sarcastic and blistering. He writes the way I want to write, with f-bombs and crude humor sprinkled throughout. He, however, has an arena at Deadspin and Gawker Media that embraces this, whereas I am still trying to build an audience.

I’ve referenced Burneko on a couple of occasions here, finding his pot roast recipe to be useful and entertaining.

A couple of weeks ago, he wrote about the beauty and splendor of the flank steak, which he dubbed the perfect steak for socialists because it encourages communal eating of something that is supposed to be wholly capitalistic. Steak, in all of its glory, is about men and guns and Camel non-filter cigarettes and fire, not fancy marinades and driving Volkswagens and slicing on a bias. It is big hunks of meat and FIRE (cue Tim Allen grunts) and knives. Continue reading Easter Dinner: Citrus-Marinated Flank Steak

Easter Dinner: Ham Steak with Charred Blood Oranges

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This is a story about grocery shopping.

My friend Phil once gave me a stunned look when I told him that I will shop at two to three different stores for groceries in a given week. It was not unheard of for me to buy meat at Nichols Supermarket in Liverpool, seafood at Price Chopper, and finish my shopping at Wegmans. Nichols has a far superior meat department when compared to other stores in this area, and Price Chopper’s fish selection is vast. Wegmans has everything else. Tops is terrible. Green Hills Farms is just too far away.

Continue reading Easter Dinner: Ham Steak with Charred Blood Oranges

Saturday Dinner: Corned Beef Hash

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I think corned beef and cabbage is a gigantic joke that the Irish play on Americans. I think that many years ago, a group of drunks gathered in a Boston pub and tried to come up with a way to trick millions of people. After hours of ideas and many pints later, one of them came up with an idea: make people eat garbage. Maybe not actual garbage, but something that smells like rotting trash. It had to sound ethnic and related to a dirt poor nation of people dodging famines. They chose the cheapest possible meat — a beef round that had been cured — and a vegetable that was plentiful but that no one wanted to eat. When tossed into a pot and left to cook all day, corned beef and cabbage would make homes around America smell like landfills in the name of being “authentically Irish.”

That’s what I’m going with. And while my conspiracy might be a tad off, according to, corned beef is about as Irish as the pizza I ate for dinner on Friday night. Continue reading Saturday Dinner: Corned Beef Hash

New Years Day Dinner: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Dr. Pepper

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This is the perfect New Year’s Day post-hangover dinner. Throw a bunch of stuff into a slow cooker, press a button and go convalesce while watching The Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy.

But, as a semi-responsible 36-year-old husband and father, a lot of the above no longer happens. I don’t remember the last time I was hungover. It was probably the New Years Day that inspired the blog, or The Weight Loss Story. I don’t stay up all night on New Year’s Eve anymore. I’ll hang that on The Kid and her wakey-wakey times that could be between 5 to 8 a.m. on a holiday (We spent a very nice New Year’s Eve at our friends’ house, eating pot roast and watching children scream and run around.) And, well, The Twilight Zone stopped being an option a long time ago.

Continue reading New Years Day Dinner: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Dr. Pepper

Christmas 2013: Calamari Salad

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No real story here. This is a standby side for our holidays and a rather typical salad for an Italian Christmas or New Years Eve. It made its return as the seafood accompaniment to the meat-wrapped meat entree I prepared.

My father’s version is good, but it’s not quite as balanced as the version served at Asti Caffe and Trattoria in Syracuse, which this salad is patterned after. Continue reading Christmas 2013: Calamari Salad

Christmas 2013: Orzotto With Pancetta and Peas

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I don’t care what she did. I don’t care what she snorted. I love Nigella Lawson.

She could have drowned puppies. She could make weekly visits to daycare centers to kick babies.

I don’t care. She is wonderful. The only thing she has done wrong, as far as I’m concerned, is marry Charles Saatchi.

No Christmas meal in an Italian home should be without a pasta dish, but I was looking for something out of the alfredo/marinara realm. Enter Nigella and her orzo recipe, which may be the most copied recipe from her 2012 cookbook Nigellissima. I happened to find it at Williams-Sonoma.

Continue reading Christmas 2013: Orzotto With Pancetta and Peas

Christmas 2013: Shallot and Red Wine Sauce

So, here’s the thing with my Christmas roast: it didn’t produce enough drippings to construct a gravy. All it really did was make a bunch of grease to burn on to the pan.

I was confident that roast would be moist, rendering a gravy or sauce unnecessary. But, people like something that they can ladle over roast beef. It’s habit and who am I to interrupt such a practice? Not wanting a traditional thick beef gravy and with a bunch of shallots in the house, I thought I would look for something else. Enter Gordon Ramsay’s shallot and red wine sauce.

Shallot and Red Wine Sauce
By Gordon Ramsay via BBC GoodFood (adapted and measures converted from metric)

  • 8 oz. shallots, sliced
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
  • sprig rosemary
  • 5 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 13 oz. red wine
  • 13 oz. beef stock or brown chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 tbsp. butter

Heat oil in a medium saucepan until it shimmers. Add the shallots and cook until lightly browned and soft, 3 minutes. Season with ground black pepper and add the garlic and rosemary. Cook 3 more minutes, stirring to prevent the shallots from burning.

Add the vinegar and cook until it has a syrup consistency. Add the wine and reduce by two-thirds.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by two-thirds. Remove the garlic and rosemary, add a pinch of salt to taste and whisk in the butter.