Category Archives: How to Cook “American Style”

Grilled Skirt Steak

Grilled Skirt Steak




Skirt Steak

Marinade I (Teriyaki) or Marinade II (Rose & Bills)


If your butcher has already pealed and cleaned the skirt steak for you then all you have to do is add it to the marinade of your choice. Let it marinate overnight. Turn the meat over every four hours except while sleeping. If they have not taken the time to remove the fat and silver skin off the meat, you will have to do it yourself. The silver skin will make it extremely chewy and unpleasant to eat.

After the meat has marinated. Preheat the grill. Add skirt steak onto the hot grill and cook on high with the lid open and grill for one minute. Turn down the grill to medium. Cook 1 more minute. Turn steaks 90 degrees. Cook one minute. Flip. Turn heat to high. Cook one minute. Turn down grill again. Turn meat 90 degrees. Turn grill to low and cook two more minutes or until your beer or meat is done. Thin skirt steak will be well done. Fatter pieces will be medium and pink. Let the steaks rest only long enough to serve with grilled potatoes and beer.

Enjoy life, stay healthy, and enjoy Septemeberfest!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

The Friendship Bread Adventure

For all incentive purposes, it is essentially fall. In the fall people bake. So get your loaf pans ready. I am not a big baker, but I do bake.  I am a better chef then I am baker. To me, being a chef is the easier of the two. I have a lot of respect for other chefs and even more respect for bakers.

All this leads me to my story about friendship bread. For those of you who have never had it, it is addicting, not only to make, but also to eat! I received my first zip lock bag with friendship bread starter about twenty years ago. I have always talked about cooking with my fellow coworkers so it was only natural that one of them would ask if I was interested in baking a loaf of this stuff that I had never heard of. They may not have even asked me. They may have just thrust it upon me like a quest to find the Holy Grail or a Golden Fleece.

I accepted the challenge with the vigor of a young man (back then) and followed the directions as they were passed along to me. Then I proceeded to pass a bit of this goo called “starter” and the recipe to the next few unsuspecting coworkers while eating four loves of this stuff I made myself. It was indeed and amazing experience. However I did NOT save any starter when I when done and without the starter I could not make any more of these scrum-dilly-umtious loaves. It took several years before I saw this recipe come around again. By now, I had very much missed the cake like substance I had once had in the fall while drinking my coffee. This time I received the starter goo in a different building and I was a little older and a little wiser, but the recipe looked and tasted exactly the same. It was like the miracle of the friendship bread calling too me.

I learned my lesson from the first time of giving away all of the starter. I gave out the recipe and starters but always made sure to keep one batch of starter and copy of the recipe for myself. I kept making theses loaves of deliciousness every ten days and passing on the recipe to many, many, many more unsuspecting people as would take the stuff and make it. This included not only my sister, but all her coworkers as well! As I heard a group of people talking about this cake in the coffee room I thought; what have I done?! It was like and bad science fiction movie now that kept growing (like The Blob staring Steve Macqueen). Months of baking went by and just after Christmas Day I could eat no more Friendship Bread or I would spontaneously combust. Covering the walls in cinnamon. That or I would have to start buying stretchy pants. Mind you all this baking started BEFORE Thanksgiving. I finally decided to freeze my starter in the hope that in the fall it would still be good. Somehow I doubted freezing this starter would work.

In the New Year, I researched a few different recipes on Friendship Bread starter and found one that seemed like is would work best. I tested it out and gave more starters away for opinions the very next fall. My original frozen starter never came back to life, but the new recipe for a Friendship Bread starter (below) worked! It even freezes okay according to one of my coworkers.

It has been at least two years now since my last endeavor into this Friendship Bread baking frenzy, so now is a good time as any to start it again. It takes time for the started to get to be a good enough quality, taste wise, for me to giveaway so I discard my first extra batches myself and give away the stuff starting with the second batch. You guys can always let me know what you do in the comments section below.

Today, I am staring my first batch of “starter” to ultimately make two loves of Friendship Bread. I dare you to follow along with me these next few upcoming weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to see if it is a disaster or a delicious hit this year. I double dare you to join me in making said “starter” listed below and getting even more people involved in this wonderful tradition in your neck of the woods!

I am attaching the “starter” recipe below. Then in the next 10 days, I will provide you with the actual recipe to make the loaves of Friendship Bread itself. They call it friendship “bread” but it is really a cake. A yummy, cinnamony cake that is like heaven with coffee. Trust me! When it comes to coffee I do not #&%$ around. This is good shit. So lets go bake!   

The Drunken (blabbering) Chef (Russ)

You can follow me and this whole process on INSTAGRAM here:

Friendship Bread “Starter” Recipe

        Makes 4 to 5 starters


Plastic spoons

Glass Bowls

One box heavy duty Gallon Zip Lock type Bags


1 package of active dry yeast

¼ cup of warm water (110 degrees F / 45 degrees C)

3 cups all-purpose flour (divided)

3 cups whole milk (divided and at room temperature)

3 cups granulated sugar (divided)


(Do Not Use Any Metal mixing spoons, measuring spoon or bowls)

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in the water. It is very important the water be the correct temperature. Use an instant read thermometer for this (see Gadgets article). Hot water will kill your yeast and cold water will take forever to bubble. Yeast is a live organism that omits carbon dioxide and that is why it bubbles. Let the yeast stand in the water for 10 minutes. In a large 2-quart glass, plastic or ceramic bowl, combined 1 cup AP flour, 1-cup sugar and mix well or it will all clump up when the water is added. Slowly stir in 1-cup milk and then the yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly.

Consider this day 1 of a 10-day cycle. Leave loosely covered in a warm place in your kitchen until day 2. Just not on top of the radiator or stove! That’s a bit too warm.

On day 2, stir and transfer starter into a zip lock bag. On days 3, 4 and 5 squeeze the zip top bag several times or stir with a plastic or wooden spoon. Let some carbon dioxide escape from the bag when necessary. I have had one burst open because I forgot to let the air out and it was all over my counter and very messy.

Day 6; stir in 1-cup of AP flour, 1-cup granulated sugar and 1-cup of room temperature milk.

Days 7 thru 9; stir or squeeze the bag.

Day 10; stir in 1-cup AP four, 1-cup sugar, and 1-cup milk. Stir well. Remove 1-cup of batter to 4 to 5 zip lock bags.

NOW it’s DAY 1 again. You can give one cup (zip lock bag) to each of your friends along with a copy of the recipe found here: “Amish Friendship Bread”.

Begin the process all over again. I think by the second or third batch is when the batter is the tasting its best.  

NOTES: Serve with coffee and add chopped walnuts or cholate chips for an extra twist.

Enjoy life, stay healthy, and have a great weekend!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)


I woke up and sat at my word processor/computer/typewriter and thought to myself, “what the hell did I eat last night for dinner?! It’s getting bad that your brain does not remember the simple pleasures in life.” Low and behold, it dawned on me. PANCAKES! Yes, dear friends, I made pancakes for dinner. This was even at my dear wife’s suggestion, and she usually HATES pancakes, but she even complimented me on them and said dinner was very good!! I am sometimes amazed at the world around me. So onto today’s blog about small appliances.

For the sake of easiness, I will be pulling pictures off Amazon and will try to include the links. You are not obligated to buy any of these appliances at AMAZON. As a matter of fact, is it not more enjoyable to “shop for sales or deals” on all these items.

Let’s start simple with a blender, a universal piece of equipment I have been using since I was a kid making milkshakes. The last thing I used it for was the Green Goddess Salad Dressing Recipe.

Amazon Oster Blender $59.99

This is not my exact blender because mine is OLD, but this one should do the trick.

I also own a NuriBullet. This is nice when I don’t want to break out that bulky blender for a small job. It costs just as much as the blender above, but hell if you’re stuck for Christmas gift or birthday ideas…BOOM!

AMAZON NutriBullet NBR-0601

Food processor. Hardly. Ever. Use. it.

This is a small one hidden in my cabinet

You know what I do love? My Phillips Air Fryer

Philips TurboStar Technology Airfryer, Analog Interface

This is the exact one I own and I have used the shit out of this for years and it still cooks perfect frozen French Fries. Cost $179.00

Things that Toast…A TOASTER. This is a matter of personal preference. I own a two slice toaster because my kitchen is not huge. I also hide mine away in an appliance garage, which is nothing more than a “Bou-jie” name for a cabinet with a roll up door. If I were to leave it out on the counter, then it would have to be all-retro and cool looking.

Hand held Mixer. This is used in the mashed potatoes recipe that will be published sometime in the coming months. I just have not made them recently that I recall.

This one looks good for me because it stores well.

Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Electric Hand Mixer, Beaters and Whisk, with Snap-On Storage Case, White

Lastly, for today at least, is the stand mixer. For my money, nothing beats Kitchen-Aid when it comes to design and accessories. Yes, they are expensive, but it will last a lifetime. I know a wonderful woman who purchased one for her elementary school aged daughter as a gift. Now she will have that memory every time she uses it all through her adult life. Best gift EVER!

I own this small Artisan Series 5-Qt mixer that my wife got for ME as a Christmas gift one year. It was on one of those SUPER door buster sales at Kohls way back in the day. I love it and use it year round, especially when making chocolate chip cookies like the ones for those ice cream sandwiches just a few weeks ago!

That’s all today. Like the Gadgets List, I will be adding to this. Remember I have wire racks filled with cooking paraphernalia and a lot of it plugs in, so on that note, have a good weekend.

The Drunken Chef (Russ)


From iced water to cocktails, everyone needs to drink something. Your choice of beverages can be as varied as the items on a restaurant menu. The first beverages the Scouts learn to make out in the woods are iced tea and fruit punch. More importantly, they learn how to clean the beverage coolers and why it’s important to keep them clean. They also learn that iced tea is not a rehydrating beverage, and water on a hot day or a cold day is a must!

It’s summer time, so the beverage selections are VAST and varied. They are usually cold and definitely necessary on a hot day! When I was in elementary school, the first beverage recipe I learned how to make was a Chocolate Milkshake! I am sure that it might be hard to believe with all the coffee I drink, but I still like the occasional homemade milkshake. I have played with my milkshake recipe over the all these years, ever since I was a kid to get it just right! It will take time to post all the following recipes, so you will be able to come back here and click on any  new links that take you to all the drink recipes over the upcoming months here at The Magic of a Perfect Pairing (MoaPP for short). I will also have to post some kind of list or index I suppose to make life easier. They will be under the new category of BEVERAGES.

This new section will slowly cover all of the BEVERAGES I can think of over the course of the next ten months. Trivia: Did you know why sodas are referred to as being soft drinks? Its designation is made because they have no alcohol in them and therefore children can drink them. As soon as you mix rum into Coke-a-Cola, it is now a cocktail or hard drink. When you mix Rum into Coke, it’s called a Cuba Libre. A diet Cuba Libre is made with Diet Coke and if you ask for a Virgin Diet Cuba Libre it is just plain diet coke. This is all thanks to the television show The Big Bang Theory.

The first list is one of breakfast beverages: Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice, Tomato Juice, Apple Juice (yuck), Milk, Chocolate Milk, Coffee, Iced Coffee, Tea, Iced Tea, and even Hot Chocolate. You know how to make coffee, but how about iced coffee or flavored coffee?

The second list is the lunch menu: Iced Coffees, iced teas, lemonades, spiked lemonade, refreshers, beer, and seltzer.

Dessert beverages: Milkshakes like strawberry, banana, and chocolate. Then there are egg creams, floats, cocktails.

Party Cocktails: Pina colada, Whiskey sour, Tom Collins, Martinis, Long Island Iced Tea,  

Summer Smoothies are good for breakfast, lunch or just as a cool refreshing drink.

Cocktail mixology 101– Tools – Gadgets – blender, bottle and corkscrew, cocktail shaker, ice bucket, pitcher, shot glasses, drink glasses, mugs and wine glasses…

Liquor: Whisky, brandy, gin, scotch, tequila, rum, vodka and liqueurs to name a few…

“Mixers” Sodas: Club, coke, sprite, ginger ale. Fresh fruit juices, like lemon, lime, orange…

Garnishes can include : Olives, cherries, fruit, celery or even cocktail onions in martinis.

BEER: Is one of the oldest beverages know to human beings. It dates back to 5000 to 4001 BC. Why? Perhaps because this is when agriculture spread from Western Asia to Southern and Central Europe. Perhaps it could be said, that agriculture spread to produce beer!

In Germany, they take their beer making very seriously. Reinheitsgebot is a beer making law that was introduced in 1516 by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria. This German law allows only hops, barley, water and, yeast in every Stein. Even though you will find more than 1,200 breweries, producing some five thousand different types of beer, none of it is “craft beer” with any added flavorings like orange, lemon or lime. Here in America, you can find all kinds of craft or specialty beers.

Some beer types and tastes here in America include:

            Ales: These range in alcohol levels but usally remain high in alcohol content when compared to Lagers. They can be sweet, tasty beers or hoppy bitter as in IPA.

         India Pale Ale: Some people liked the higher alcohol and hoppier stronger flavor at the time in the 1800’s. The true reason for the increased hops in bees from Europe was that IPA’s were formulated to survive long voyages by sea better than other styles of the time. I am not a fan of the very hoppy IPA’s but you should at the very least give them try with the right food.

                        Berliner Weisse: This is my beer of choice now. These are wheat based beers and very pale. To me they have a very smooth and refreshing flavor. They include the brands: Blue Moon, Shock Top on the lower end of the mass produced beer and Wiekerke, Hoegaarden, Leffe and Franziskanner on the higher end.

            Lager: This is what I grew up drinking. Budweiser Beer being the most popular in America at the time. It is now owned and brewed by Anheser-Bush InBev that is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium. Lager beer is still the most mass produced beer in the world.

        Pilsner is encompassed in the lager family of beers. The brands include: Stella Artois, which is imported from England, and Peroni, from Italy, which pairs terrific with Italian food. 

            If your tastes dictate drinking only one or two beers once in a while, then specialty beers might be for you. These are more commonly known as “craft beers”. They include things like coffee, fruit, and smoke. Some of the most popular name brands include Yuengling, Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn Brewery, Dogfish, Harpoon, and Summit Brewing Co..

Wine types:

            White Varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigo or Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvigon Blan or Fume’ Blanc like the one I had with the shellfish.

            Red Varieties: Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Merlot.



                        Fortified: Vermouth, Marsala, Sherry, Madeira


                        I have a wonderful recipe for SANGRIA that I will post soon!

Serving and storing wine:

            White wine and Champagne should be chilled. I serve it in an ice bucket.

Drink Basics: Garnishes…How to make, Simple Syrup.

Summer drinks: Shakes, Frozen Margaritas, and Pina Coladas.              

Wintertime beverages: Hot Totty, Spiced Cider, Egg Nog and Mulled Wine.

Year Round: Screwdrivers, Bloody Marys, Margaritas, Mimosas, and Bellinis

This is just the tip of the iceberg, or is it ice cube? We (Jules, Sam and myself) will be writing all about all these things and more as we explore BERVRAGES through out the rest of the year!

Enjoy, imbibe and explore….drinks. Until we meet again, be well.

The Drunken Chef (Russ)


HOW TO COOK: “American Style”:

Charcoal Grilling

Ever since I was a kid, the charcoal barbeque grill fascinated me. I remember the first time I cooked over charcoal too. It was probably the 4th of July in the 1970s. My first cooking gadget was a stick from my own backyard, probably even off my mother’s favorite bush, the purple lilac. I stripped off any leaves on the stick and stuck a marshmallow on the end. I believe it was my sister who first showed me how to properly toast a marshmallow without burning it. I did burn quite a few marshmallows in my day before learning how to get them a perfect golden brown (I never liked them burned). I find it ironic that my sister, who never even cooked more than an egg or bacon back then, was the one giving me one of my first barbeque cooking lessons. Yes, I believe toasting a marshmallow is cooking at its finest. Even as a youngster, I enjoyed the challenge of it. That Fourth of July, I ate as many marshmallows as I could stomach without getting sick, just so I could cook them. Even my brother and sister could only eat so many. Subsequently, I could not cook the entire bag or I would have. Thus, began my endeavors into grilling over charcoal for the rest of my life. I only hope that some of the BSA Scouts I have known acquired the very same marshmallow cooking techniques and that it helped inspire them to be great at grilling as an adult.

            To grill burgers, hot dogs or even marshmallows, you don’t need some fancy barbeque grill either. I have used barbeques that were in my local park that sat there for years and were exposed to all of New York’s worst weather. They were simple barbeques made from a few cinder blocks and a rusted steel grate that we cleaned with a wire brush and covered with aluminum foil to cook on. The charcoal was always the classic Kingsford that needed lighter fluid to get it to start burning. I found that match-light (also made by Kingsford) had lighter fluid already in it, but to me seemed to make the food taste of lighter fluid.

To light the charcoal, you make a pile shaped like a volcano. Sprinkle lighter fluid on top and toss on a match. It will have a large fire flaring up and then slowly burn off. Then, wait until all the coals start to turn gray and then using tongs or a small hand shovel, spread the coals out to an even layer.

To the best of my knowledge, Scouts are not allowed to use lighter fluid so I learned in my BSA training class to use something called a charcoal chimney (see Gadget List). Even adults can learn valuable skills during camping trips (hint hint). Since there is no lighter fluid used, there is no lighter fluid taste coming off the charcoal. Thank you Scouting!

I use my charcoal chimney all the time now, particularly when Barbequing. What’s the difference between barbequing and grilling?  You grill a steak, which means you’re cooking over heat quickly and to just the right temperature before pulling it off, letting it rest and cutting it up. There are chefs who are just trained in the art of how to work the grill. I’m sure that Peter Lugar’s and Blackwell’s Steak House have experienced and well trained chefs to cook those expensive aged pieces of beef to perfection. To me, there is nothing better than a two-inch steak cooked over charcoal and served with a baked potato, creamed spinach, or fresh string beans.

Barbeque, however, is low slow cooking. It is impossible to get a rack of ribs to cook so they are edible in ten minutes. There are tips and tricks to grilling great ribs on a gas or charcoal grill, but those involve aluminum foil and allowing them to cook slowing away from the direct high heat. We will get to that at a later day this summer I’m sure. If however you want true southern ribs, pork shoulder (aka pulled pork) or beef brisket THAT’S “barbeque”, then you need a new gadget called a smoker. Smoking is a completely different lesson in itself and this lesson is about grilling.

To grill on your “barbeque”, you must wait until those coals are gray all the way around or you risk having “yucky taste imparted to your steak”. You just want the slightest hint of the charcoal yummyness imparted to the steak, hamburger, hot dogs, or whatever it is you are grilling. A gas grill will never give you this flavor, unlike those advertisements in the seventies would tell you they could. They said that the lava rocks they sold with the grill back then would “flare up and impart the same charcoal taste”. Nope, they lied. Now, barbeque manufactures do not sell those lava rocks anymore, and with good reason! It was ruining the natural beauty of places like Hawaii by taking them away for no reason, sheeesh. So, cook on charcoal.

This Father’s day, or July 4th , go buy yourself a fairly inexpensive charcoal grill and fire that bad boy up using your new charcoal chimney. Then, open an ice cold beer, light a cigar, and wait. Take your time. Relax and chill while you grill. After the steak is done, toast a marshmallow or two and make some s’mores. Don’t even think about letting the kids or your drunk friends toast a marshmallow on your expensive boujee designer gas grill. It was probably built into the stonewall that’s impossible to replace easily and you will have a sticky mess to clean when the hot burning marshmallow falls off the that fancy ass skewer and lands inside the grill! YUCK! On charcoal, you would just have to clean out the ashes when the kids are finished. No muss, no fuss, no problems!

  Go, have fun and grill your next steak or cheeseburger over charcoal, just like the Scouts do!

Welcome to SUMMER FUN! Enjoy the weather, the drinks and the food!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

NOTES: Whether you choose wine or beer with your steak, may you have a healthy and happy Father’s Day! Even if you’re not a dad yourself, I hope you had a father figure you can always look up to.


Good morning. The whole giving up coffee thing didn’t last long. I’m weak. I gave in to the need to be awake in the morning after not sleeping all night. Enough about my addictions for the time being. Let’s move back to talking about my culinary experiences. To cook we need GADGETS. I have discovered that throughout this whole “How to Cook: American Style” cookbook project I will be adding to the Gadget List as I use new ones. I own a few of them. Correction, I own a whole heap of them. Maybe I should rephrase that as I have “collected” a lot of them.

            I recently received a letter from a fellow co-worker and reader on the subject of Gadgets. He began his email talking about his favorite Commercial products. He advocated for all things of commercial quality to buy VOLLRATH. Saying “A one stop shop for a quality lifetime product, almost always made in USA. From measuring spoons, ladles, pots, & pans to ovens fryers, slicers and EVERYTHING foodservice or restaurant related. Lasts a lifetime+

            I would totally agree with that statement. I have seen their pots and pans in many restaurant kitchens that I have had the privilege of being in. Here in the school district, where I work at my REAL JOB, they have a culinary program. I believe they use many of their pots and pans as I recall seeing them hanging in the classroom kitchens. This by the way is an AMAZING high school program and not just cooking but BAKING too! Sorry about that diversion; now, back to the program.

I have never thought to look for Vollrath cookware before but he suggested that I start looking for them at garage sales and estate sales. Speaking of estate sales, I was at one this weekend run by Pair of Picker’s. Pair of Picker’s are some of the nicest people I have met at one of these things. This weekend alone they sold my son Sam a set of dishes that included a magnificent soup tureen. I can’t wait to use it and fill that puppy up with some matzo ball soup. Thank you guys for all the resplendent items I have purchased over the past few years from you!

The next item on his list was knives. I have always looked for good knives at garage sales. I find I have better luck at estate sales for these items, as no one wants to give up their best knife while they are still alive. I know it almost sounds strange to buy things at an estate sale, but for me it is always better to buy something at an estate sale then have it go into a landfill. If you plan to start a chef’s knife collection, then I would begin by getting a good knife carrying case or Chef’s knife roll to store them in. Amazon has loads of them. I purchased mine in a store called Su La Table in the Smithhaven Mall. The knife roll along with one knife was a Christmas gift actually. I have since filled up the entire roll and perhaps have been thinking of getting a second one. Yes, I’m crazy like that. Any-who, long story short, Pete recommends “DEXTER RUSSELL USA, not the Dexter Russell Japan International (it’s a thicker blade) knives. Takes an edge, with a thin blade, inexpensive, NSF plastic handle etc.” Again, this too is now on my list of things to look for.

            Now we move onto more about pots & pans. This is an essential cooking utensil (is that an alliteration?). I myself have two pans that I absolutely love and they are both made by All-Clad. Pete however, prefers to use his 1985 Cuisinart Commercial Stainless cookware. That’s pretty specific there, Pete. He explained to me that it was “Made in France with a sandwiched copper slab between the pot and the stainless bottom.” I know this is good for heat conductivity but more importantly, even heat conductivity! He has been using these pots and pans for 35 years and expands his collection at thrift shops and yard sales. When Pete is not using Cuisinart pans, he has a collection of cast iron frying pans. His favorite is his 10” Griswold made in the USA cast iron frying pan. He tells me: “they have a SMOOTH interior bottom, easy to cure or strip down and season again, not like the new pebblly bottomed Chinese/Lodge stuff.” Thanks Pete, which is what I own. He gave me a whole lesson next on how to strip down and season cast iron frying pans. Perhaps I need to impart some of this wisdom on that subject to more than just the BSA Scouts. The Scouts all learn how to season cast iron pots every year in some troops, as many of them use cast iron pots to cook in all year long. They are a marvelous thing to use in those campfires and with charcoal!

            So check out my latest update to the Gadget List. Have fun collecting and have fun cooking! Thank you for the email, Pete. To the rest of you, keep those emails coming! I love hearing from you!

Be well, cook well, and eat well!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)


It was a cool wet late spring day yesterday, perfect for cooking indoors. Sam was requesting Chicken Parmesan for dinner. He always requests Chicken Cutlet Parmesan. He either asks for that or Tex-Mex (chicken enchiladas). Chicken Parmesan is also one of Jennifer’s favorite meals. I have to admit, I like Chicken Parmesan too.

            When I was a kid, my mother used to make veal cutlet parmesan. At the young age of nine, I was not a big fan of veal cutlet parmesan but the sauce and the cheese made it very palatable. It was at this age (I think) she started making chicken cutlet parmesan the same way as she made her veal cutlet parmesan. I enjoyed the chicken more than the veal, but always ate both with spaghetti. By the time I was 10 or 11, I saw my mom preparing dinner. I inquired what she was making. It was the dreaded veal parmesan. I asked why she didn’t make chicken parmesan more often than the veal. She looked at me with a surprised look and asked why? I said that I liked the chicken parmesan better! She said, “That’s great!” very enthusiastically. Then she continued: “Chicken is much cheaper then veal, so from now on I’ll use chicken!” This was probably much to my older brother’s dismay, but from that day on, it was chicken parmesan instead of veal. Now that I know more about veal I never make it for my own family or friends, besides that Jennifer will not eat it. Sam does not like most beef so it has always been chicken parmesan in my house. Chicken parmesan is not completely what I came to talk to you about today. Since we need spaghetti sauce for chicken parmesan, first we need a post and a cooking lesson about Spaghetti and Meatballs (Ma’s Spaghetti Sauce).

            My mother always started her spaghetti sauce by making meatballs. One fine Sunday afternoon, when I was probably bored out of my mind, I sat down and watched her cook. I was a teenager in high school and very interested in food—both eating it and cooking it. I even wrote down the recipe for her meatballs and sauce on an index card that I still have to this day. That was the very first recipe I typed up and put into that MS Word document back in 1999.

            I watched as she mixed the chopped meat and the other meatball ingredients by hand. Then, she carefully shaped the balls so that each one was the same size. When she was done, it was time to fry them in her pressure cooker. After adding a tablespoon or two of olive oil, she added six or so meatballs to the hot pot. She cooked them on medium high heat and turned them over and over so they were brown all the way around. This was so time consuming. No wonder it took her all day! She moved the first batch of meatballs to a plate and kept adding more until they were all fried. Next, she fried the sausages the same way when the last of the sausage and piece of pork was cooked. Then, she added everything back into the pot and started the sauce.

            She began by opening the Redpack whole tomatoes on an old style can opener mounted on the kitchen wall by a side door that led out to the driveway. The can opener was this antique golden yellow and the brand was Swing-A-Way. How I even remember that is beyond me, especially when sometimes I can’t even remember my password for my email.

            She used an Oster blender to chop the whole tomatoes one can at a time, pulsing it on and off, until they were just the right consistency. Then, she poured each can into the pot covering up all the browned yummy meat. After that was the onion and the garlic. First, she dices the onion and the crushes the garlic before adding it into the blender. She added just enough water to the blender so she could chop it all up smooth. It was probably only a 1/4 cup of water but it did the trick. Again, the blender pulsed until she was satisfied with the consistency of the onions and garlic. It smelled amazing, and there were certainly no large chunks left. She poured this into the tomatoes and meat, then stirred. The burner was on low and the sauce was beginning to heat up and bubble.

            Lastly was the seasoning. If she had fresh basil in the summer, she added that (otherwise, it was dried), she always used fresh curly parsley. The parsley she cut using a pair of scissors so it was nice and fine. She never measured anything and cut the parsley right over the pot. “That looks good,” she said. Brilliant it was. Then came the McCormick spices: Bay leaves, oregano, black pepper, (maybe some crushed red pepper), some Morton’s table salt, and a pinch of sugar. “That’s to cut the acid,” she said.

            She covered the pressure cooker and added the thingy on top. She called it a jig-gil-ar. As soon as the sauce heated up enough to start the jig-gil-ar jiggling, she set the timer for 30 minutes.

            After thirty minutes, she would have to run the pot under cold water before removing the jig-gil-ar and opening the lid. Once she said she accidently knocked the jig-gil-ar off too soon and she had spaghetti sauce all over the ceiling, but that was before I was even born. What a mess it must have been.

Now, it was time to add a second large pot of salted water to the stove and bring it to a boil for the pasta. She ALWAYS added just a bit of olive oil to the pasta water. “That’s so the pasta doesn’t stick together,” she said. Soon, we would be eating spaghetti and meatballs!

            This recipe was the same sauce she used to make the chicken parmesan. We will get to that recipe tomorrow. For now, I need to eat something. All of a sudden, I’m hungry.

            Be well, be happy, and enjoy your own family history.   

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

lesson six: SOUP (but its to damN hot for soup)

I love soup. All kinds of soups, just not watermelon, Gazpacho, or Vichyssoise; that is probably only because they are served COLD. I like my soup HOT. I have an entire soup selection in the “recipe book”. The recipe book is just a very long word document (500pgs) that I have been working on for about twenty something years. In the beginning it was just my hand written recipes that I typed up. This included but was not limited to my mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe. I hope my brother still has it. I remember he loved that sauce, and her meatballs!

All my recipes have evolved over the years, including many of the soups. So, there are different “variations” of chicken soup for example. There may not be much of a change from one recipe to another, perhaps only slight differences in ingredients, but when you are cooking, you can often adapt a recipe to your own personal taste. I would suggest to try to make the dish as the recipe writer intended (being an amateur writer myself, I am partial to this). Then, the next time you make the recipe, swap out an ingredient you don’t like with something better. Then *SHA-ZAM* you’re a chef, who is now developing their own family recipe!

Like I was saying earlier, it’s too damn hot for soup, so I will not be posting any soup recipes here for a awhile yet. Don’t worry, I will get to them in lesson six along with the fall. It will all be here before you know it. Let’s not rush summer. It is my favorite time of year. School is out here in New York for the entire summer and the kids don’t go back to school until after Labor Day. To this very day, that’s why summer is still my favorite time of year. Plus, I love all our outdoor barbeque parties!

Speaking of parties, I am cleaning up my backyard now and trying to get it ready for guests to come over. I am looking forward to having huge crowds again in my back yard, just so I can cook for everyone. Is that crazy? Somehow it sounds crazy. If I really think about it, I’m working on cleaning up my yard so I can work at cooking all day so people can eat…OH I must love cooking! I do tend to drink while I barbeque so maybe that is why they call me The Drunken Chef at work!

Bon Appetit. I mean, be well, be happy and eat yummy food!

-The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Lesson 7 – Salads

I love salad. I usually eat some kind of a salad before dinner or just as a meal for lunch. Sometimes I will eat a salad for dinner on a hot summer night. One of my favorite salads to eat as a meal is the antipasto salad. The first place I ever had a good antipasto salad was at a local pizza place here on Long Island 30 years ago. After that day, I started making it myself. There is nothing to cook after all. No oven and no stove heating up the house. Which as a cook on a hot summer night, is a blessing. The main ingredient in most salads is just lettuce, usually Iceberg. I have found that as good as iceberg lettuce is, I often like to use Romaine and “spring mix” to change thing up.  

Let start with the Antipasto Salad. Begin by washing and drying the lettuce and greens. I have a salad spinner to dry my salad greens and I love it. My sister in-law simply just uses a colander and lets the greens sit and drain well. I have even used paper towels in the past, because if your lettuce and salad greens are too wet, they will literally water down the salad dressing.

Now I begin to build my antipasto salad right on our large dinner plates instead of using one big bowl. Sometimes, if I am making an entire tray for the women in my wife’s classroom or for a party, then that’s a different story.

The lettuce goes on the dinner plate first. Now, I cut the deli sliced salami into quarters. I repeat this with the pepperoni, and the provolone cheese. I place all these items carefully on the lettuce, spreading them all out. On top of that goes some quartered plum tomatoes or garden fresh tomatoes. I add thinly sliced red onion and roasted red pepper that I cut into strips or diced into one-inch squares. Then, I add some canned sliced mushrooms and marinated artichoke hearts that I drained the juice off. If I have it, lastly I put on a whole pepperoncini right on top.

To season, I sprinkle with black pepper, Italian seasoning, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and add just a bit of either Wishbone Italian dressing or Olive garden salad dressing on top.

This is the first recipe I choose to talk about in the section on salads not because it is alphabetically first, but because right now, it’s my favorite.

So, get out there and make a salad. Here is another one of those places where you can experiment freely with the ingredients. I will be posting many more salads and homemade dressings in the future including:

Chef’s Salad

Chopped Salad

Rotelle Pasta Salad

Spinach salad with hot bacon dressing


Italian Vinaigrette Dressing

Creamy French dressing and thousand island

Caesar Salad dressing

Green Goddess

SO, watch for my salad recipes ALL summer before it gets too cold to eat salad…