Parmesan-Crusted Chicken

March 31, 2010

The truth is I am not a fan of red sauce. While I always make homemade red sauce for my youngest son (never bottled), I never eat it beyond tasting to adjust the spices. So, I was quite happy to try a Parmesan Chicken without the marinara sauce; just plain Parmesano. The result, 5-star and the absolute #1 favorite recipe for my son Matthew.

A wonderful recipe of Parmesan-Crusted chicken, taking just 45 minutes from start to finish. Pre-freeze the chicken to firm it up and make the horizontal slicing easier. Pound the chicken thin to 1/4″. Dredge in flour, then egg white, then in grated Parmesan Cheese (mixed with 1 tbsp flour). Cook each side for 3 to 4 minutes in a non-stick pan. Serve with lemon slices.

Pounded thin, it takes just 7 to 8 minutes per batch to cook.


  1. I accidentally shredded most of the cheese on the small side of a box grater, rather than the big side. The ingredients mentioned only “shredded” and “grated” and I forgot that “grated” meant the large holes.  Result: it tasted the same, but I prefer the ascetics of the larger pieces of cheese (should be like thatch work).

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $7.50
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium (needs 3 pie plates for dredging).
Started: 6:15.  Ready:  7:00.

BTW, this recipe is about a year old, so these don’t count towards my goal of 100 “new recipe”. As Q1 of 2010 ends, I have completed 24 new recipes; more or less on track.

Braised Beef Short Ribs

March 27, 2010

Perhaps the most expensive non-holiday meal I’ve made. $29 ($23 for just the 4-lbs of boneless short ribs). But my 11 year-old son proclaimed it the best meal I’ve ever made; so in the end, that alone is worth every penny.

I started by browning the ribs in 3 batches on the stovetop, then sauteed the onions. I added garlic, beef broth, wine and carrots to the dutch oven, and finished in a 300-degree oven for 2-1/2 hours. Afterward while the meat rested, I strained the sauce and reduced it on the stovetop to 1 cup. Finally, I served over mashed potatoes (and buttered egg noodles for my 11 year-old son Matthew) and slathered with sauce.

The result is a definite 5-star recipe. While it took 4-1/2 hours of clock time, it wasn’t a lot of work, but I did have to stir twice during the 2-1/2 hours oven time which cut into my tennis time.

Braised Beef Ribs served over buttered egg noodles.


  1. Went pretty flawlessly.
  2. I forgot to start the water for the egg noodles and mashed potatoes, which caused a 30-minute delay.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $29
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 2:00.  Ready:  6:30.

Braised Beef Ribs served with mashed potatoes. The first photo is with buttered egg noodles.

German Potato Salad

March 26, 2010

When I started making this recipe, I thought that I was making a regular potato salad, only with bacon added (yum!!).  But I quickly realized that this is not merely a variation of your average potato salad. Chris Kimball says it’s best served hot. Hot? Not only does it adds bacon, but also drops the mayonnaise.  The onions are sauteed (I miss their crunch), and there is no celery to make up for the onions softness.

The salad was dominated by the 1/2 cup vinegar and mustard, and didn’t have enough other flavors. Really more of a harshly, sweet than a traditional salty flavor. I give this recipe only 2 1/2-stars, but everybody else said that I was being too harsh. My 9 year-old-son whose tastings are always right on, gives it a 4-star.

I prefer my potato salad served cold and crunchy.


  1. I didn’t have German-style mustard so used French-style Dijon instead.

Rating: 2 1/2-star.
Cost: $2.50
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 1:30.  Ready:  2:00.

Skillet-Roasted Red Potatoes

March 25, 2010

So simple that it doesn’t really require a recipe, but the techniques are fool-proof. Roast the potatoes cut side down. One-by-one, turn so the other cut side is also nicely browned. Finally, cover skillet to finish cooking the potatoes all the way through.

Cooked all the way through without over browning.

I had wanted to make some of the variations, but they didn’t go with the main course of Texas Barbecued Beef. Next time I’ll try either  Skillet-Roasted Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary or Skillet-Roasted Potatoes with Lemon and Chives.


  1. I wasn’t successful in evenly spreading 3/4 teaspoons of kosher salt. Some potatoes were too salty. I incorrectly thought that stirring the potatoes would distribute the salt.
  2. I felt that the potatoes were too moist after uncovering, so I gave them a few extra minutes on the stove-top to dry out.

Rating: 3 1/2-star.
Cost: $1.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 5:30.  Ready:  6:10.

Texas Shredded Barbecued Beef

March 23, 2010

A sunny 75-degree Sunday in mid-March can mean only one thing; a barbecue.  Even though I had to spend $90 on a new Weber Grill to replace my decade-old rust bucket, there was no way I was going to miss the best barbecue opportunity since last fall.

Six hours in the making for just a sandwich (but what a sandwich).

I’ve been wanting to make this Shredded Barbecued Beef since I saw it on Cook’s Country about 6 months ago.  It looks like pulled pork, but using beef. Often these can be dry, and rely on tons of BBQ sauce to compensate for the overcooked meat.  The secret here is to use the relatively high fat content of the chuck roast to self-braise for the entire 4-1/2 hours cooking time.  The results was a delicious, 5-star sandwich. (Q) Am I crazy to spend 6 hours just to make a sandwich? (A) Probably, but I will do it over again soon.

I started at 9AM by trimming the excess fat and seasoning the beef with salt and cayenne, then put it in the fridge for 3 hours. I barbecued the 5-1/2 pounds of chuck roast in an aluminum roasting pan over indirect heat for 2 hours. Then finished cooking in a 300-degree oven for 2-1/2 more hours. The homemade BBQ sauce only took about 30 minutes to make. I sauteed an onion for 10 minutes, added garlic, chili powder, 3/4-cup coffee, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and ketchup. Finally I shredded the beef and added a cup of BBQ sauce in the beef, and used the rest of the sauce to top the sandwich.


  1. Ouch!! After 2-1/2 hours in the oven, I burned my finger from the escaping steam as I removed the foil.  It was bad enough that I couldn’t wash dishes until the next day, and even then it was still quite painful.  Next time I will be sure to uncover the far-side, so that the steam goes away from my body, and fold the foil to protect my fingers.
  2. My 50 coals didn’t have quite enough power. I need to either allocate and extra 30-minutes or boost the coal count to 60 to 65.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $19.50. Fed 6 adults and 5 kids.
How much work? Medium
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: Noon.  Ready:  6:00 pm.

All-American Potato Salad

March 22, 2010

I give this recipe a 3-star, while my old standby potato salad is a 4-star. Why? My regular recipe has bolder flavors; balsamic in lieu of white vinegar; 1/2 onion in lieu of just 2 tablespoons, dijon in lieu of mustard powder.

But what I liked about this recipe is that it dices the potatoes prior to cooking; reducing cooking time to just 10 minutes.  Not only do the potatoes cook faster, but they also cook much more evenly. My fears of soggy potatoes were not realized because of the short cooking time. This recipe won’t replace my own, but I’ll definitely be modifying my recipe with this great technique.


  1. Flavors were well rounded, but too mild.
  2. My potatoes were still hard after 8-minutes cooking. After about 12 minutes they were a good texture.

Rating: 3-star.
Cost: $2.
How much work? Low
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 4:30.  Ready:  5:00.

Classic mayonnaise-based American potato salad. The flavors need to be kicked up a notch.

Chocolate Ice Cream Cake

March 17, 2010

OK, I know I could have bought a pre-made ice cream cake for less money (and saved three-to-four days effort), but a year ago I promised my son that I would make him an ice cream cake for his birthday. So I started on Tuesday,  making chocolate ice cream using 8 oz of bittersweet chocolate, and poured into a wax paper-lined cake pan. Wednesday I made chocolate ice cream using 4 oz of bittersweet chocolate. Unfortunately, it wasn’t half a dark as I had hoped. Then things went downhill: I ran out of eggs and forgot to pre-freeze the  sleeve. Finally, on Friday I abandoned the third layer.

Ice Cream Cake

The chocolate ice cream recipe (from 1993) started by making a custard base. Heating in two stages; first heat the milk and cream to 175-degrees to melt the sugar, slowly add to the egg yolk/chocolate and re-heat to 185-degrees. Strain to remove any “texture” added by the cooking, cool, and process using ice cream maker. While a little more work than the traditional dump-and-freeze method, it does result in a smoother ice cream. Also, it has the advantage of not eating raw egg yolks.

Having conquered the two chocolate ice cream layers (and abandon the third chocolate chip layer), I was left with how to “frost” the cake.  Matthew wanted a hard “magic shell” like chocolate coating. After some research (mix chocolate with coconut oil), I ran out of steam, and ended up buying two bottles of Magic Shell.


  1. After “frosting” the cake with Magic Shell, I didn’t cover it quickly enough with plastic wrap. As you can see, that oversight left a white frost (the real ice particle type of frost) all over the cake.  It didn’t affect taste, but detracted a bit from the overall presentation.
  2. Twice I forgot to add the vanilla to the ice cream.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $13.
How much work? Medium
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: Tuesday. Ready: Saturday.

Refried Beans

March 16, 2010

An important side dish for lots of tex/mex fare. In this case, it was the first layer for my party Tostadas from the weekend, so pre-manufactured refried beans were out of the question. (Chris Kimball says spackle is spackle)

Chris also says to start your refried beans by using canned pinto beans. But I started with dried beans (soaking them the night before).  Not only did this cut my bean cost from $3.80 to $0.80, more importantly, it lets me avoid the awkwardness of opening four cans in front of my dinner guests. The 1-1/2 hour cooking time wasn’t a big deal, because I was cooking all day anyhow.

I ran most of the cooked beans through the food processor, with chicken broth, and reserved a cup of whole beans to give a better texture.  Then I cooked some diced bacon, then sauteed the onion, poblano chili and jalapeno in bacon fat for 5 minutes, then added garlic. Finally I added the processed and whole beans to the pan and cooked until warmed throughout.

The whole process only took about 25 minutes of work. Mostly it’s a matter of patience while the beans soak and cook. I give them only 3-stars, but refried beans are never intended to be more.

Rating: 3-star.
Cost: $2 (for doubled recipe).
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Dinnertime 6:30 PM.

Tostadas de Tinga

March 14, 2010

Having been disappointed with the lack of flavor from the Carnitas, I was looking for a spicier version of Mexican pork to serve at my son Matthew’s 11th Birthday party.  Fortunately Cook’s Illustrated just published a new recipe for Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas (Tinga) With Homemade Chorizo. For the party I doubled the recipe, and ended up with lots of leftovers (yum, just look at photo!)

Tostada of shredded pork with homemade chorizo. The only recipe variation was the addition of refried beans as the bottom layer.

I cut four pounds of pork into 1-inch cubes, seasoned and cooked in water for 90 minutes then shredded with a potato masher. I then turned an additional two pounds of pork into homemade chorizo; seasoned, chopped in a food processor and slightly cooked. The whole thing is then cooked more; with tomato sauce, chipotle (dried jalapenos) powder.

I fried the tostada shells one at a time in 3/4-inch of oil, holding each down with a potato masher.  Most of the $7 in garnishes went to avocado for the guacamole.

Everybody at the party unanimously rated this recipe 5-stars. Also, my Mexican friend explained that Tinga refers to the spicy shredded pork (not another word for tostada).  I had wanted to use the plural “Tingas”, but he explained to use the singular “Tinga”.


  1. I bought the picnic shoulder rather than the boneless butt (not available), so it took about 30 minutes to trim down.  Both cuts are from the shoulder, but I had to remove the shank.
  2. While I doubled the recipe, I did not double the 6-cups of water. 6-cups was enough to cover, and since most was discarded later I wanted to concentrate the flavors.
  3. I didn’t break the chorizo up sufficiently when cooking, so there were some larger-than-desired chunks.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $17.60 (for doubled recipe) plus $7 for garnishes.
How much work? High.
How big of a mess?  Huge mess.
Start time 2:00 PM. Dinnertime 6:30 PM.

Mashed Potato Casserole

March 11, 2010

A significant upgrade from the regular run-of-the-mill mashed potatoes. In addition to milk, I included sour cream and a little dijon. Then topped with grated cheddar cheese and homemade bread crumbs.

Cook’s Illustrated also has a make-ahead variation (a real time saver) that I wanted to try from my son’s 11th birthday party this weekend. Unfortunately,  the heavy rain in the forecast forced me to change menus (to Mexican), so I cooked and ate this casserole all in the same evening.


  1. I realize that these are not supposed to be mashed potatoes, but the texture of the potatoes was a little too soft for my liking (too much milk). Next time I’ll add the milk little by little, which is the proper way to make mashed potatoes anyhow.
  2. I halved the recipe, since this wasn’t for any special occasion and I didn’t need 8 to 10 servings of mashed potatoes.

Rating: 3 1/2-star.
Cost: $2.50 (four to five servings as a side dish)
How much work? Medium. (mostly due to homemade bread crumbs).
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:45 PM.

Mashed Potatoes with sour cream and topped with grated cheddar cheese and homemade bread crumbs.

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