Category: meat

Some stout pie shenanigans.

The Irish (and English, for that matter) love their pies. And I don’t mean fruit pies, I mean meat pies. Hot, cold, warm or room temperature, they love them some meat pies. It’s a famous pub dish; a flaky pie crust or puff pastry topping over a beef-stew like filling. You can make them in individual pie plates or as one big pie. Similar concept to Shepherd’s pie, except this pie actually has a crust on top, whereas the former has mashed potatoes.

meat pie is a pie with a filling of meat and/or other savoury ingredients. Principally popular in EuropeAustraliaNew ZealandCanada, and South Africa, meat pies differ from a pasty in the sense that a pasty is typically a more portable, on-the-go item, as opposed to a more conventional pie.


A few weeks ago, I went to a pub that Jay’s friend opened in Brooklyn, and somewhere around the third or fourth Guinness we decided to have a beef & stout pie. It was just a simple little pub with no kitchen, so the pie was an instant microwaveable one. But it gave me an idea: make your own, Marilla!  And at some point, in between then and now, I picked up this book, which conveniently had a recipe listed on the cover for beef & stout pies. SCORE.

How perfect is that?

Anyway, I decided I’d give ’em a try this week, and they turned out pretty amazing.

And quite easy, actually. In the opinion of the Irish (according to the book), the only stout suitable for cooking with beef is Guinness. If you have another stout you want to use, then so be it. I stick with Guinness for this kinda stuff though- it’s sweet, but not too sweet. Perfect for a stew.



  • 2 lbs. boneless chuck steak or eye of round steak, cut into 1″-inch pieces
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups meat stock
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 or 5 large carrots, peeled & sliced into “coins”
  • 4 or 5 medium/large potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 pound store-bought puff pastry or store-bought pie crust
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • vegetable oil, for frying


  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, then toss the (patted dry) beef in the mix until evenly coated.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, and transfer to a flameproof casserole dish or dutch oven. Deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup of the stock, and add the liquid to the casserole dish.
  3. Heat another 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet and cook the onion and carrots for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add to the casserole dish with the tomato paste, thyme, stout, potatoes and remaining stock. Heat the casserole dish or oven over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer gently with the lid slightly askew for around 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Check the seasoning, and add salt or pepper as needed. Drain the meat mixture in a strainer set over a large bowl. Reserve the liquid, letting rest until cool. Preheat the oven to 425° F and put a baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
  5. Divide the meat mixture among four individual pie plates or 5 -5 1/2″ ramekins. Pour in enough liquid to not quite cover the filling. Dampen the rims of the plates or ramekins with water.
  6. Cut your pastry into four pieces, each one large enough to cover the tops of the pies including a 1″ hangover.  Make holes in it or two or three slashes to allow air our and place them on top of the filling, pressing the edges down. I used a fork to push the dough onto the rim. Brush with egg yolk.
  7. Places the pies on a the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° F and bake for 5 more minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving so no one burns a tongue!

It isn’t the most attractive looking meal, but trust me. It’s way better than it looks! Potatoes, beer, beef, carrots… how can that be bad!?

If you wish, you can lessen the amount of carrots & potatoes, but add in some cremini mushrooms (just the caps, quartered- no stems). I’m not a big mushroom lover. I left them out. If you do choose to add mushrooms, add them with the onions and carrots in step 3. Also, I used frozen pie crust for the tops. Puff pastry will be puffier, obviously. You can also use homemade, if you’ve got a great recipe you like. For the sake of time I went with frozen. Sue me. 

I also made four ramekins, each one measures about 5″ across and 3 1/2″ high. I actually bought them at Pier 1 Imports, so here they are, the larger size. Vintage embroidered Irish linen napkins not included.

And that, my friends, is that. Serve with a hearty bread, or a bit of Irish soda bread, and a pint of Guinness! Or Harp. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter what you pair it with, just so long as you enjoy yourself.

I hope you all have a happy & delicious St. Patrick’s Day!

“Flautas? You don’t even KNOW us!”

Haha. CORNY. At least I know when I’m being corny, and I admit it.

I love all things Mexican; Dia de los Muertos, sugar skulls, calaveras, catrinas, Frida Kahlo, pinatas, etc, etc. But I  am a Mexican food fanatic. I make a lot of it at home, but just basic Tex-Mex or Americanized-Mexican stuff: quesadillas, burritos, tacos, tortilla soup, tres leches cake, etc. So this post is about my adventures in making flautas. Flautas are basically the same as taquitos, except apparently taquitos are longer, and flautas are typically made with flour tortillas and taquitos are made with corn tortillas. Or something.

Taquito (from the Spanish diminutive of taco[1]), is a Mexican dish consisting of a small rolled-up tortilla and some type of filling, usually beef or chicken. The filled tortilla is crisp-fried. Corn (maize) tortillas are generally used to make taquitos. Flautas are similar to taquitos but generally made with flour tortillas.

There are many varieties of taquitos in different regions. Taquitos most often contain beef, chicken, and sometimes include cheese, pork, potato, or vegetables. They are generally thin and tend to be about 6 inches (15 cm) long. Potatoes are usually involved in the breakfast form of taquitos, which are thick and come with eggs. Taquitos are usually served with a type of salsa and/or guacamole.

In the United States, taquitos are very popular as a frozen food.[2][3] They are also sold by 7-Eleven[4] and QuikTrip[5] convenience stores in a variety of flavors, as well as established restaurants such as Chico’s Tacos.[6] Taco Bell began to sell steak and chicken taquitos in 2006. Taco Bell’s versions are wrapped in a flour tortilla and grilled, rather than fried.[7]

Crispy fried taquitos sold in Mexico are often called tacos dorados (“golden tacos”) or flautas (“flutes“). Typical toppings and sides include cabbage, crema (Mexican sour cream), guacamole, green chili or red chili salsa and crumbled Mexican cheese such as queso fresco.[8]

I got the recipe from the newest Food Network magazine, which just came in the mail last week. It sounded simple and delicious and what with the chicken, avocado, sour cream, cilantro and salsa (not to mention the frying!) I was a goner. Best part of it is you can use up leftover chicken, or just make some. You can add things to it (cheese, black beans, rice, jalapenos, etc) or take things away (I know not everyone loves avocado- you crazy people!). Or, you can make different sides for it like yellow rice or refried beans and rice.

I kept it simple: just chicken & salsa inside, with the avocado-lime-sour cream and salsa on the side, with some slices of avocado. I used corn tortillas, but the smaller ones, so instead of folding & rolling them up like mini-burritos, I just rolled ’em up like cigars. They look like the crispy taquitos at The Cheesecake Factory, actually, now that I think about it. They would be fantastic over a bed of rice with black beans on the side, and they’d also be awesome for a summertime meal with just this avocado-cream (or even fresh guacamole), salsa, & fresh cilantro. Mmm. Fuhgeddaboudit.

The avocado-sour cream was AMAZING. Just make sure you buy avocados that are already ripe (needless to say). The flautas were really easy, but just a few tips: make sure your corn tortillas are really, really soft. Otherwise they’ll crack and break and you won’t be able to roll them. Follow the instructions on the package for heating them in the microwave, and let them go a few seconds longer. They should be pretty floppy and malleable. Also, angle the toothpicks. Don’t just stick ’em in… they won’t sit evenly in the pan and they’ll fry unevenly. And wait for them to cool before attempting to remove the toothpicks. Sounds like common sense, but sometimes hunger overrides that! Making sure the tortillas are soft enough is very important. But if you mess up and few of them tear, don’t worry. Save them on the side and fry the torn up pieces later to make homemade tortilla chips.

I had a hard time getting the first few to stay rolled up, my tortillas weren’t soft enough and I just kinda stick the toothpicks in haphazardly. I learned after that though. Make sure your oil is hot enough too!  Otherwise they won’t brown & get crispy, they’ll just be soggy.



  • 1 Hass avocado
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 limes (1 halved, 1 cut into wedges)
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 ½ cups fresh salsa
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Scoop the avocado into a blender. Add the sour cream and the juice of ½ a lime, pulse until smooth. Season with salt.
  2. Squeeze the remaining ½ lime over the radishes in a small bowl and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Toss the chicken with ¾ cup salsa in a medium bowl.
  3. Wrap the tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave until soft, about 45 seconds (or a little longer, as needed). Spoon the chicken mixture down the middle of the tortillas. Fold in the ends and roll up like a burrito, secure with toothpicks.
  4. Heat ¾ inch vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until a deep fry thermometer registers 375° F. Fry the flautas, turning as needed, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with tongs; drain on paper towels and remove the toothpicks. Serve with the avocado cream, radishes, cilantro, lime wedges and remaining salsa.

I’ve been getting tons of inspiration from food magazines lately. No idea why. I’ve gone so long, or well, since October, without making much that I saw in any of my magazines. Now it seems every page is drawing me in. Maybe it’s the spring? Spring recipe fever? This is a great spring & summer meal. Use all those fresh herbs & veggies!

Needless to say I didn’t do the radishes thing, I’m not a big radish fan. However, I did put fresh cilantro in the flautas themselves as opposed to on top. If you’re going for a prettier presentation, lay them next to one another on a plate, spoon the salsa and avocado-cream on top, then the radishes and then top with the fresh cilantro. I basically just wanted to shove them in my mouth like a fatty, so presentation wasn’t a priority. Besides, like I said, food stylist I am not. My salsa was just jar salsa, which is lame I admit, but next time I’ll use fresh salsa or pico de gallo. Actually, I was really disappointed because I used Pace Thick & Chunky salsa… and it wasn’t so thick & chunky! BOO PACE! I had a Stop & Shop brand Southwestern salsa with corn & black beans in it that was bangin’… should’ve used that one. Pfft.

Side note, how much do you love that vintage poster!? I’m kinda obsessed with vintage travel posters & postcards, I’d love to have that full size!

Cheesy, kinda Irish & loaded with alcohol.

No, not me. This recipe.

This is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day recipe, and I’ve been dying to try it for so long. I like making macaroni & cheese in the fall & winter, and I’ve been putting off making this because I wanted to make it for this holiday. So it’s been waiting for this moment for 3 years. Literally. Since I saw it on the Food Network‘s Ultimate Recipe Showdown, I’ve had it printed out and waiting (that and the French Onion Soup Mac & Cheese I’ve been promising to make for Jay). The problem with me is that when I have beer in the house, I drink it, so it rarely ends up in the food. I love beer, especially stouts & lagers. What can I say, I’m mostly Irish, part German, & part Polish (among other things) – all of which are known for having hollow legs.

Speaking of ‘Black & Tans’, they aren’t an Irish concept. As a matter of fact, like most watered-down so-called “Irish” traditions, they’re rarely consumed in Ireland.

Black and Tan is a drink made from a blend of pale ale, usually Bass Pale Ale, and a dark beer such as a stout or porter, most often Guinness. Sometimes a pale lager is used instead of ale; this is usually called a half and half. Contrary to popular belief, however, Black and Tan as a mixture of two beers is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland. Indeed, the drink has image problems in parts of Ireland and elsewhere due to the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which was sent into Ireland in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans.[1][2]

Far be it from me to insult anyone (like Ben & Jerry’s apparently did) by making a dish with such a name. But I didn’t invent it, or create it. I just made the recipe. Don’t shoot the messenger.

This recipe is easy, despite having lots of ingredients & steps. It doesn’t even bake in the oven, so it takes less time than most mac-n-cheese recipes. For someone like me who hates corned beef & cabbage, the traditional St. Pat’s dinner, it would be the perfect meal to make on the 17th.



  • 6 cups water
  • 24 ounces lager beer
  • 16 ounces rustic shaped pasta (I used decidedly un-Irish mini-rigatoni)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 5 tablespoons lightly salted quality Irish butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup stout beer
  • 3 ounces shredded smoked Gruyere
  • 8 ounces shredded Irish Cheddar
  • ½ cup bread crumbs, Japanese panko, or fresh country white
  • ½ cup crisp cooked apple wood or maple bacon crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves or several sage leaves for garnish (OPTIONAL)


  1. Place water and lager beer into a 4 ½ quart or larger saucepan over high heat and bring to boil, add pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile in 3 quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the milk, half-and-half, and evaporated milk just to a boil, keep hot. In a 4 quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir in flour until it begins to color slightly, whisk in hot milk, mustard, salt, cayenne, and stout, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheeses until melted. Place pasta into serving dish and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.
  3. Place remaining butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and stir in bread crumbs, stir until golden brown, stir in bacon crumbles. Spread mixture over top of macaroni. Garnish with cilantro or sage leaves.

Okay so I used Harp lager and Guinness stout for this recipe, but any stout and any lager will do, as long as they aren’t flavored with anything fancy. No chocolate stouts. Just plain old Guinness and Harp are excellent; good, hearty, Irish alcohols. I recommend good quality beer for this- don’t use PBR or Natural Ice or something, please. I’d also recommend buying or making some black & tans to drink with it. Although you can definitely taste the beer in the recipe itself, it’s more fun that way.

I have to say this recipe was amazing. The bacon was a great addition to macaroni & cheese that I’d never done before, despite being the macaroni & cheese queen. And you don’t taste the cayenne- it is not overwhelming. So don’t be afraid to use it. If you can’t find Irish butter or Irish cheddar, you can use regular salted butter and regular sharp cheddar cheese. I made my panko crumbs extra crispy along with the bacon, ’cause that’s how I like it. The bacon, of course, isn’t 100% necessary. But I’d use it if I were you.

Arwyn, my little black Irish imp, wanted to say hi. Hi!

Delicious, even if you aren’t a shepherd.

Back when I was a kid, certain foods terrified me. Pot pies, shepherd’s pies, chicken stuffed with anything; those are just a few of the food items I ran from screaming. My parents loved shepherd’s pie. Everytime they’d order it, I’d cringe & order my requisite burger, fries and mozzarella sticks. Since I’ve grown up, I have a different take on them. Especially since now I can make them myself, and customize what goes into them. I’d say things have changed.

I love potatoes and onions and veggies, and of course, I’ve always loved cheese. I’m not a huge red meat fan nowadays, but when combined with the aforementioned things, I can dig it. And shepherd’s pie is exactly the kind of thing that combines all of those lovely foods and also sticks to your ribs on a night when there’s still a foot of snow on the ground. It’s the perfect time to get fat and eat warm, hearty food. Shepherd’s pie is a traditional meat & potato casserole that is technically shepherd’s pie only when made with lamb, otherwise it’s cottage pie, although nowadays they seem to be synonymous.

The English tradition of meat pies dates back to the Middle ages. Game pie, pot pie and mutton pie were popular and served in pastry “coffyns.” These pies were cooked for hours in a slow oven, and topped with rich aspic jelly and other sweet spices. The eating of “hote [meat] pies” is mentioned in Piers Plowman, and English poem written in the 14th Century. (Cooking of the British Isles, Adrian Bailey, pages 156-7) The Elizabethans favored minced pies. “A typical Elizabethan recipe ran: Shred your meat (mutton or beef) and suet together fine. Season it with cloves, mace, pepper and some saffron, great raisins and prunes…”

The key to dating Shepherd’s pie is the introduction (and acceptance) of potatoes in England. Potatoes are a new world food. They were first introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish. Potatoes did not appeal to the British palate until the 18th Century. (Foods America Gave the World, A. Hyatt Verrill, page 28). Shepherd’s Pie, a dish of minced meat (usually lamb, when made with beef it is called “Cottage Pie”) topped with mashed potatoes was probably invented sometime in the 18th Century by frugal peasant housewives looking for creative ways to serve leftover meat to their families. It is generally agreed that it originated in the north of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep–hence the name. The actual phrase “Shepherd’s Pie” dates back to the 1870s, when mincing machines made the shredding of meat easy and popular.”

– Courtesy

This isn’t the first shepherd’s pie I’ve made, I made one last year with Guinness that was so delicious I couldn’t imagine anything topping it. However I was stuck indoors with no desire to leave to buy stout or gravy mix, so I opted to make a simpler and quicker version. I omitted the Guinness, the tomato paste and the gravy mix; however I kept the cheese idea. This time I use sharp cheddar and I mixed the cheese in with the mashed potatoes before topping the beef. Also, I didn’t peel the potatoes. I like the rustic look of the skin mixed in, besides the fact potato skins are good for you!

Potato skins store many nutrients and also contain a lot of fiber, which is essential for a healthy diet. Leaving the potato skins on also helps preserve the nutrients in the flesh of the potato, which have a tendency to escape during cooking. Based on a 2000 calorie diet, a large baked potato, including the skin, has 278 calories. Only 3 of these calories are from fat. A baked potato contains only 1% of the fat allowance considered as part of a healthy diet, with 0% of this being saturated fat.

The potato, as well as the skin, is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Potatoes and potato skins contain 18% of the recommended daily allowance of iron and 7.5 grams of protein, which is rarely found in vegetables in such high concentrations. Potato skins also contain a variety of phytonutrients, which are a natural source of antioxidants that help to prevent cellular deterioration of the body. The phytonutrients found in potatoes include carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid.

Potatoes are classified as a tuber, meaning bulb or root, and contain a protein called patatin specific to these types of vegetables. Patatin also works as an effective antioxidant and helps to lower blood pressure. Potato skins may even help to provide protection against heart disease and cancer.

The result? An excellent dish. You would think mashing the potatoes is difficult, but it’s not. Nor is it time consuming. It comes together very easily and quickly. Even if you think you don’t have time, you should try it. You’d be surprised at how easy it is. Like instant pudding, instant mashed potatoes are one of those things that make me scratch my head. Is it really that bad to boil & mash a few potatoes? No. Not at all.



  • 1 ½ lbs ground round beef
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1-2 cups vegetables – chopped carrots, corn, peas, green beans (I used a half bag of frozen mixed veggies plus some extra sliced carrots)
  • 1 ½ – 2 lbs potatoes (3 big ones)
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
  • 1-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (depending on taste, I like more)
  • Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated


  1. Wash and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 tablespoons butter (½ a stick) in large frying pan.
  3. Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.
  4. Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcestershire sauce. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes.
  5. Take out potatoes and mash them in bowl with remainder of butter, plus ¼ cup heavy cream. Add cheddar and combine thoroughly. Season to taste.
  6. Place beef, veggies and onions in greased baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.
  7. Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown.

So while it won’t replace the Guinness shepherd’s pie, it’s an excellent alternative for the nights when there’s no Guinness to be had. A mouth-watering alternative. One that I had three helpings of.

You can use any kind of potatoes you like; Yukon gold, Jersey Royal, Rooster, Red Pontiac, etc. I used Russet. And if you’re really philosophically opposed to mashing your own, use Ore-Ida’s Steam n’ Mash. They’re the closest thing to real mashed potatoes you can get. And yes, you can use ground turkey. I’m not a fan of it, so I stick to good quality organic ground beef. But to each his own! I don’t ever eat red meat, so when I do it’s not a big deal to me. If you eat it often or have high cholesterol, etc, use fat free cheese and ground turkey, and sauté the onions in olive oil instead of butter. Although I wouldn’t skimp on using real butter for the mashed potatoes. Smart Balance or margarine just doesn’t work as well, although maybe a butter substitute made with olive oil would work better. If you like your shepherd’s pie more liquid-y, you can add ½ cup beef broth (or chicken broth) to the cooking meat to add more “sauce.” I like mine moist, but dry enough that it holds its shape somewhat well, so I didn’t use it, and I found it was plenty moist.

The best thing to happen to me so far “this year” is seeing American Idiot on Broadway with Jay back on January 1st. It was fucking awesome, Billie Joe Armstrong is in it for a limited engagement playing St. Jimmy. I also saw Tom Hulce (a producer of the show & the actor who played Mozart in Amadeus) at the performance, although I didn’t know it was him (I was behind him) & basically told him to get out of the aisle & sit down. Haha. Oops. My big mouth hasn’t gotten any better in the new year. Add that to a delicious dinner at Robert Emmett’s (who, by the way, serve what looks like a dynamite shepherd’s pie)… perfect. So I know it’s only a been a week, but how is everyone doing so far with their resolutions for 2011? I didn’t make any, I never do. But I have changed a lot since 2010. See? (Not really.)

The worst part? The stomach virus I’ve been battling since 2010 (okay, only since December 30, 2010… but still). It finally seems to have gone away, leaving me weighing less. Which might be good for some, but not for me. Looks like I’ll be eating double to get back up to my normal weight so my favorite jeans fit right again. More shepherd’s pie, anyone?

I’ve got some balls. Meatballs, that is.

It is true. I’ve been told many times in my life that I “had quite a set on me” or “had some balls.” But this time I’m sorry to say it’s just in reference to meatballs, not me being a big-mouthed bitch. Maybe next time. A while back my friend Chichi from Bakeasaurus (Chichi is not her real name, it’s just what I call her… and yes, I did her blog logo) posted an evil picture on twitter. Evil. It was a picture of a homemade turkey meatball hero she made, all draped in cheesy deliciousness. Now, I don’t like turkey meatballs or turkey sausage, personally. I just don’t. So I decided since she gave me a hankering (yes, I said a hankering, problem?) that I’d make my own meatball hero’s using good ol’ ground beef meatballs.

I think I’ve said before that I don’t eat red meat much anymore, probably once every few months in the winter although in the summer it’s more often because of barbecues, but I still try and keep it no more than once or twice a month tops. Not only is it high in fat and cholesterol, but I try to go meatless as much as possible in general because of the environmental impact I’ve learned about from Meatless Monday. I’ve mainly just lost my taste for it altogether, I no longer crave steaks or burgers all the time. I do occasionally get a craving, and when I do I indulge it, because I believe when you crave something that you don’t eat often or ever, it’s your body’s way of telling you you need it (or something in it at any rate). So I can blame Chichi all I want for planting the seed, but in reality I was probably in need of some iron or something.

I had never ever made meatballs before, so I was a bit unsure of how this would come out. But it turns out, like anything else I’ve been intimidated to try, meatballs are stupid easy and cook really quick. So really, try them. They’re awesome. THEY’RE NOT JUST MEATBALLS… THEY’RE AMAZEBALLS! Since I’ve made these I’ve been wanting them almost constantly. Next time, I’m going to make chicken cutlet hero’s using  homemade fried chicken cutlets. I think the best part is that they don’t get soggy! You can load ’em up with meatballs and sauce and cheese, and they won’t get mushy and fall apart. Using ciabatta is definitely a better bet than a regular ol’ sub roll (more about that at the bottom of the post).



  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup (maybe more) fine dry Italian-flavored bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • ¼ cup freshly grated pecorino romano
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch dried basil
  • Pinch dried oregano
  • Pinch dried parsley flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the hero’s themselves:

  • Ingredients for the homemade sauce, or 1 jar of sauce
  • fresh ciabatta rolls
  • fresh mozzarella cheese


  1. For the meatballs: Mix meat, bread crumbs, cheeses, eggs, oregano, parsley, basil and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Gently shape mixture into 1 & ¾” meatballs, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. Get together the materials for your sauce.
  2. In a skillet, pour about ½ cup olive oil. On medium heat, cook the meatballs until they’re browned on all sides.
  3. Make the sauce according to the recipe, and when it’s done simmering, combine the meatballs into the sauce pot. Cook for 45 minutes on low, as the sauce recipe says.  Or heat up the jar sauce and add the meatballs, then cook them for about 20 minutes. While they’re cooking, slice your rolls and mozzarella cheese so it’s all ready when you need it. Some of the meatballs might break off a bit into the sauce- that’s fine.
  4. Turn on your broiler and open your ciabatta rolls. Put about three to four meatballs and some sauce on each, then top with a few slices of mozzarella cheese. when your broiler is ready, put the hero in and let the cheese melt. Take it out, let it sit for a minute, slice in half if you like, then serve.

The most beautiful-est hero ever.

Since you’ll only need 3-4 meatballs per hero, you’ll have a bunch left over. My advice is to to this: cook only the amount you need according to this recipe. For the rest, cook them thoroughly in the skillet (making sure there’s no pink inside). Let them drain and cool on a paper towel covered plate, then put them in a tupperware and freeze them for another day.

If you like a thicker sauce, use crushed tomatoes instead of whole. That’s what I did this time. The sauce can also be doctored up to your liking: add garlic, meat, etc. If you don’t want to make your own sauce, jar sauce is okay too. Just make sure the meatballs are very browned before putting them in the sauce, and then cook them in the sauce for about 15-20 minutes. Also, as far as the meatballs go, you can make meatballs with any meat you like. If you wanna use half pork, half beef, go for it. You wanna throw some lamb in? Fine. Turkey meatballs? Fantastic. Even veggie meatballs or pretend meatballs using mushrooms? That’s fine too. Just be sure to alter your cooking time accordingly. Turkey, chicken & veg-based foods cook faster than beef and you don’t want your meatballs to be tough or rubbery. You can also season them however you like. If you like onion in them, put in some chopped onion. Do whatever you like. If you’re gonna eat it, you should like it. So make it how you want it!

Around here some people like their hero’s on garlic rolls, so an easy way to do that is to spread a little olive oil on the roll, then spread some minced garlic on it, and pop it under the broiler just long enough for it to get warm. Then take it out and make your hero and put it back under for the cheese to melt. Mmm. Garlic-y, tomato-y, cheesy goodness. And I seriously stress the importance of ciabatta rolls here. They’re hard on the outside with a really nice moist interior and will resist the soggy-ness that most hero’s end up being. If you must use regular sub rolls, toast them a bit before using them for this, so they’re a bit harder. But seriously, go get some ciabatta. You’ll thank me for it.

On a totally unrelated note, since this post is about as far from vegan as one can get… check out my girl Jeanine’s blog, Vegan Nourishment, which she recently got up and running. A really talented artist designed her logo too *ahem* So if you’re vegan or vegetarian or even gluten-free, definitely bookmark her blog because she’s going to be posting recipes that are all three. Wow that rhymed.

Shepherd’s pie for the alky’s.

Everyone is familiar with Shepherd’s Pie. If you’re Irish, then you definitely know Shepherd’s Pie. It’s classic pub food. The original name is “Cottage Pie.”

Cottage pie refers to an English meat pie made with beef mince and with a crust made from mashed potato. A variation on this dish using Lamb mince is known as Shepherd’s pie. The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791,[1][2] when potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor (cf. “cottage” meaning a modest dwelling for rural workers). In early cookery books, the dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top.[3][4]

The term “shepherd’s pie” did not appear until the 1870s,[2] and since then it has been used synonymously with “cottage pie”, regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] There is now a popular tendency for “shepherd’s pie” to be used when the meat is mutton or lamb,[9][10] and not cattle,[11][12] with the suggested origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep, however this may be an example of folk etymology.

Therefore, the recipe I’m presenting to you here today is really a cottage pie. Although nobody would know what the hell that was if I called it that. So anyway, basically what a Shepherd’s Pie/Cottage Pie is is a “casserole” of sorts, made of meat, vegetables, and topped with a mashed potato “crust.” It can be made lousy, I’m sure, like a sort of mystery meat pie (which reminds me of Sweeney Todd, with Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett with her meatpies… *cringe*) but it can also be made in a super flavorful, delicious and not-mush-like way. And would I make it any other way than that?

There’s been a lot of talk about Shepherd’s Pie lately, Brianne made it a few weeks ago, and recently Jay’s mom was talking about it as well. It gave me a hankering for it,  I haven’t eaten any red meat (or cooked any) in a long time, so I thought this was a good way to reintroduce myself to it. I had a really awesome recipe for Shepherd’s Pie with Guinness that I found somewhere on the web years ago, and of course I couldn’t find it, so I did a Google. And luckily I did, because I couldn’t find that recipe again, but I found the Hungry Housewife’s version instead and it was fantabulous. Seriously. I added a few things and made some changes, and have some recommendations but it’s essentially her recipe.

It would be awesome if you made this, served Guinness stout with it, and then made Guinness cupcakes for dessert. A whole night’s meal made with Guinness! Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. And remember, you can use any kind of ground meat for this: turkey, lamb, a mixture, etc.


Get thee the following materials:

  • 1 ½ pounds organic ground beef 80/20
  • 1 (1lb) bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
  • 2 packets of dry Brown Gravy Mix
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 medium onion
  • olive oil
  • 2 bottles Guinness (or other dark stout- just NOT a chocolate stout or cream stout)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups sharp Irish cheddar cheese (i.e. Dubliner)
  • 3 pounds baking potatoes
  • ¼- ½ cup milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Then ye do as follows:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Peel the potatoes, then boil them in salted water until fork tender, about 40-45 minutes. Drain completely and place back in pot so all of the water evaporates. In a medium mixing bowl add butter and potatoes. Mash until smooth, while adding the milk for a medium consistency. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Cook and drain ground beef. Place drained beef back in skillet and add Worcestershire sauce and 1 bottle of Guinness*. Cook until beer has almost cooked out.
  4. Add tomato paste to meat. In a medium sauce pan, prepare the brown gravy according to package directions, however, use beer for half the liquid called for (1 cup water, 1 cup beer)**. Pour gravy into meat mixture. And cook all together until you get a nice thick gravy.
  5. Rough chop the onion. In medium skillet with olive oil,*** sauté onion until soft and translucent. Add mixed vegetables to the onion and cook until warm throughout.
  6. In a 2 quart baking dish, add meat as bottom layer, the add vegetables, and then add the mashed potatoes. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until cheese gets nice and bubbly.
*I used Guinness in cans. It doesn’t really matter, the bottles have a little bit more in them, that’s all. We’re talking the difference of an ounce or two.
**I used Knorr, and it called for 1 ½ cups water per pouch, so I used 1 ½ cups of each. However, the gravy was a bit much so next time I’d do either 1 straight cup each or maybe even less.
***I used the same skillet I used to cook the beef, so the flavors absorbed into the veggies too. I also suggest not cooking the vegetables too much, or else they’ll be mushy in the pie. I left mine somewhat cold, just barely heated (I circled them a few times in the skillet with the onions), and they were nice and crisp in the pie.

I used over a pound of the mixed vegetables. I bought a 2 lb bag and just kinda eyeballed it, and it turned out to be more than half the bag. But that’s up to you.  You could buy fresh veggies if you really wanted. And If you can, I recommend using an Irish cheddar, like Dubliner or another Irish cheese, and shredding it yourself.  If you can’t, then it’s quite alright to stick with a regular sharp cheddar. And organic beef is my preference, if I’m going to eat red meat, but again… that’s totally up to you. Nobody’s going to shoot you if you buy the ground beef that’s on sale this week instead. Also, if you don’t have the time to mash your own potatoes, I suggest using 2 bags of Ore-Ida’s Steam & Mash in the classic cut russet flavor. It’s the closest thing to homemade mashed potatoes you can buy. Box mixes just really don’t cut it.

The Guinness flavor in this is amazing. It really comes through perfectly. If you’re a Guinness fan, I highly endorse you making this dish.

Onion rings, pico de gallo & chili-rubbed steaks.

I was going through some old magazines in the drawer of my mom’s coffee table and happened upon 3 old Bon Appétit‘s, two from 2000 (July and September) and one from 2001 (March). In addition to how different the magazine was then compared to now (it was much thicker then, but I think it had a lot more advertisements, also, the photography is beautiful but not as artsy as it is now) it got me contemplating how different the world was since then. First off, 9/11 happened. We’re in two wars, George Bush isn’t President anymore (I thought that would never end), the economy has tanked, a lot of the restaurants mentioned in the older magazines probably don’t exist anymore thanks to the tanked economy, and we made history by electing a black President. Fashion has changed considerably since then, also. I know my style has certainly changed. But food- food remains the same. Particularly barbecue. Sure there are variations on a theme, but a good recipe never goes out of style!

The three old Bon Appétit‘s, Sept. 2000, March 2001 and July 2000
July 2000 (left) and July 2009 (right)

The July 2000 issue was the annual Barbecue Issue. Now, 9 years ago I was 19 so I wasn’t really interested in cooking or barbecuing anything myself, nor was I really interested in Bon Appétit magazine (plus that was the year I met Jay so I was a bit preoccupied I suppose)… but I missed out on a lot looking back. This issue is chock full (did I just say ‘chock full’? I must be 90 years old) of amazing recipes and meal ideas.

The recipes I’m sharing today are from that very issue (and are also coincedentally the cover recipes for that issue): chili-rubbed steaks, pico de gallo and red chili onion rings. I didn’t use rib-eyes, which is what the recipe calls for, I used sirloins, but it doesn’t matter. You can use any steak you like with this rub. You could even use chicken or shrimp too. The steak rub was off the hook (wow, isn’t that a blast from 1999!). The homemade onion rings are AWESOME. A-W-E-S-O-M-E. And the pico de gallo? Amazing. But then again, I could live on pico de gallo, guacamole and tortilla chips for the rest of my life and be happy. I omitted the jalapenos because my 91 year old grandmother was eating this with us and probably wouldn’t have enjoyed that surprise.

Needless to say, it was another score for me in the cooking department. Thanks to chef Stephan Pyles who contributed these recipes to the magazine.



  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 4 14-16 ounce bone-in ribe-eye steaks, about 1 ½ inches thick (You can use any steaks you want, this is just what the original recipe was for, like I said I used sirloin)


  1. Mix first 4 ingredients in pie dish. Coat steaks with spice mixture and transfer to another dish. Cover; chill at least 8 hours.
  2. Spray grill racks with nonstick spray; prepare barbecue (medium heat). Grill steaks to desired doneness, moving and turning occasionally to prevent chili rub from burnin, about 20 minutes for medium-rare.
  3. Serve with pico de gallo and onion rings.



  • 1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeno chilies (about 2 medium)*
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


  1. Mix ingredients in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill.



  • 2 large onions, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices, separated into rings
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Place onions in a bowl. Pour milk over; let stand 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  2. Whisk flour, chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Pour enough oil into a large pot to reach depth of 3 inches. Heat to 350 F.
  4. Working with a few onion rings at a time, shake off excess milk. Dip into flour mixture, coating lightly.
  5. Add onion rings to pot; deep fry until golden, about 45 seconds. Drain and serve.

I plan on going through and making things from these old magazines all summer. So stay tuned!