Rack of Lamb with Black Truffle & Morel Pan Sauce

Sometimes my mind wanders to scenarios like, “What if I could I buy truffles by the dozen?”

When I really think about it, I don’t want to live in a world with a caviar aisle. I live for the rare occasions when I get to splurge on a French cheese aged for decades in a cave sold by monks or a bank-breaking filet of perfectly marbled wagyu beef.

Hope exists for those of us who don’t have a $1,500 line item in our budget for truffles each month.

If and when you’re ready, authentic truffles can be found in butters sold online, but be wary about the vendor you choose.

D’Artagnan products, which I aspire to stock my fridge with, are great quality – they sell white and black truffle butters and oils that are surprisingly affordable. They also sell beautiful fresh chickens. When I place an order, I’ll splurge and buy several tubs of truffle butter to freeze and have on hand for special occasions.

This presentation calls for a packed audience, an encore, and a standing ovation with dozens of thrown rose bouquets. Make this at a dinner party, holiday, or on a special anniversary.

A tried-and-true side dish for any roasted meat is the versatile potato, and whipped potatoes always serve as an elegant accompaniment to any meat-heavy main course.

For a piquant twist, try the mash component of my Jägermeister & Guinness-Poached Blood Bangers and Mash, being sure to whip the potatoes vigorously so they develop that airy consistency. The added Dijon mustard twang works perfectly with the hefty flavors here.

You won’t be breaking the bank with this, but your guests won’t know that. They’ll be too busy experiencing truffle nirvana to even speculate.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4 – 6, depending on appetites. I have eaten an  entire rack of lamb before, so in my case this may serve 1.

  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary, minced
  • 2 oz. dried morel mushrooms
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 / 3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 / 2 small shallot, minced
  • 3 oz. black truffle butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 / 2 black truffle, shaved for garnish, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

O p t i o n a l

For a perfect side, serve with the mash from Hankerings’ Jägermeister & Guinness-Poached Blood Bangers and Mash.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *450.
  2. Place the dried morels in warm water for 15 minutes to reconstitute the mushrooms Remove from the bowl with a slotted spoon, reserving 1 /4 cup of the liquid for the pan sauce. Cut the stems off, slice the mushrooms in thick rounds, and set aside.
  3. Ensure the fatty membranes are fully removed from the lamb chop bones – if needed trim off of some of the sinew so all that remains are the chops and bones with a cap of fat.
  4. Rub the whole rack of lamb with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, minced rosemary, and salt & pepper, ensuring the seasonings are covering all sides.
  5. In a cast iron skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until near-smoking. Pan sear the lamb rack fat side down first for 3 to 4 minutes. Ensure your vent fan is turned on or a window is open – your kitchen will get smoky.
  6. Sear the rack on the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes, so that the underside of the chops have a chance to brown.
  7. Place the lamb in the oven, cooking for 15 minutes for rare and 18 minutes for medium-rare.
  8. Remove the lamb from the oven, and cover with foil while you prepare the pan sauce.
  9. In the same cast iron skillet, add the truffle butter, morels and shallot. Sautee for 3 to 4 minutes until the shallot becomes translucent. Next, add the cornstarch, heavy cream and 1 / 4 cup of the reserved liquid used to reconstitute the mushrooms. Continue to cook on medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the sauce is reduced by about half and thickened from the cornstarch. It should be glossy.
  10. Cut the lamb rack into chops, pouring a generous amount of sauce over the plated chops & serve family-style at the table. With a shaving utensil, shave black truffle over the chops, if desired.

North End Italian Hoagie Pizza

Take me to a sub place, and I never fail to order the Italian hoagie. I can’t resist the salty cured meats, spicy peppers, sharp provolone and vinegar-y bite.

Fresh out of college, I moved to the North End of Boston to work on a campaign. If you’re not familiar with the North End of Boston, it’s their city’s equivalent of “Little Italy” that you’ll find in several major U.S cities.

I’ve visited other Italian neighborhoods on the East coast, and I can tell you the food in Boston’s North End is first-rate. The pastas, prosciutto, olive oil, burrata, bread, wine, calamari, wood-grilled pizzas, arancini, carpaccios and I could go on – are, and I mean it, out-of-this-world.

Things you will see while you’re in the North End – two old men smoking cigars on a bench at dawn arguing tirelessly in Italian, an inebriated bar full of soccer fans screaming at a tiny, black and white TV, loud, pinky ring-wearing large mafiosos sitting on too-small chairs sipping espressos, and tourists carrying blue bags filled with cannolis from the rivalrous Maria’s and Mike’s pastry shops.

My favorite haunt for subs and pizza was always Il Panino’s Express, which appears to have shut down since I lived there. The tortellini with ham from its flagship restaurant, Trattoria Il Panino, was arguably one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

And then there was the great divider. Just like the Yanny and Laurel debacle, half of the campaign staff favored Ernesto’s Pizza – the other half swore by Regina Pizzeria.

I was team Regina – all the way. They have a lot of grease on their pizza – so what? That’s what makes it good!

For your subs, you walk over to Dino’s or Pauli’s on Salem Street, the “hidden” street that runs parallel to Hanover.

I was partial to Dino’s because their “12-inch subs” were actually 16-inch subs if you measured them. And at the end of the Salem Street, you’ll find Neptune Oyster House.

From my experience, this is the only way to get a table at Neptune Oyster House. You put in your name at 10 or 11AM in the morning. They call you at 9PM to let you know a table has opened up, and you proceed to run, or fuck it, sprint to the restaurant within a 15 minute time-frame to secure your table. If you don’t make it, you’re shit out of luck, because they gave your table to someone else.

This hoagie pizza has all the same flavors that remind me of my time there – you have to go for high-quality meats and cheeses. If you want to splurge sparingly, Italian-imported, very sharp provolone makes a huge difference.

If you’re ever in the Boston area, do yourself a favor. Head over to the North End, grab the first table you see outside, and enjoy a hot, greasy slice of sausage pizza and a Peroni while you people watch.

After a few minutes of sitting there, seeing sweet old Italian grandmothers shuffle down the sidewalk on their way to Sunday Mass, you’ll understand why it was so easy for me to fall in love with the place.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This is a large pizza. Serves 2 to 4.

F o r  t h e  P i z z a  D o u g h  ( A d a p t e d  c / o  t h e  B a r e f o o t  C o n t e s s a )

  • 2 / 3 cups warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 teaspoons salt

F o r  t h e  V i n a i g r e t t e

  • 1 / 2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 4 cup olive oil
  • 1 / 8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

F o r   t h e   T o p p i n g s

  • 3 / 4 cup sharp provolone, shredded
  • 4 oz. mortadella, diced
  • 4 oz. capicola, diced
  • 4 oz. salami, diced
  • 4 oz. pepperoni, diced
  • 1 cup lettuce, sliced thinly
  • 1 / 4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1 / 4 cup cherry pepper spread or jarred minced roasted red peppers

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat oven to 500*.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1 1 / 2 cups flour, then the salt, and mix.
  3. While mixing, add 1/ 2 more cup of flour.
  4. Knead the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  5. Remove the dough and put on a floured board or stone countertop, and knead by hand a dozen times.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and stretch the ball into a rough 16-inch circle using a rolling pin, and place it on a pizza baking sheet.
  9. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Pour half the vinaigrette on the dough, spreading so all of the dough is evenly covered with the vinaigrette.
  10. Top evenly with the shredded provolone, followed by the deli meats.
  11. Put the pizza in the oven, baking for about 15 minutes, until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling hot.
  12. Remove the pizza from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  13. Once cooled, top evenly with the shredded lettuce, then the red onion, roma tomatoes and cherry pepper spread or marinated red peppers. Finally, pour the remaining vinaigrette over the top of the pizza.
  14. Slice into 8 slices with a pizza roller. Enjoy immediately!

Beef Wellington Tartare

What’s the opposite of a picky eater? Whatever it’s called, I’m that. But I won’t preach perfection. Black licorice, pretzels, grape juice, mint or, and here’s the kicker – puff pastry – don’t do it for me.

Beef Wellington should absolutely fall in my wheelhouse. Mushrooms, filet mignon, Dijon mustard, ham, Pâté, shallots & garlic. And it’s a gorgeous presentation to boot.

This sans-pastry recipe let’s me have my cake and eat it too. And the runny egg doesn’t hurt either.

Chances are you like puff pastry. I wish I did. But this dish encapsulates the essentials of the classic, with a lot less hassle. I’ve heard several horror stories – one that involved waking up at 6 AM to mince mushrooms. Another recalled a burnt pastry and undercooked beef situation.

Speaking of holiday cooking disasters, does anyone else watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation year-round and think it’s wildly underrated? I can recite that entire damn movie line-by-line. That dinner scene when Clark goes to carve the turkey Ellen’s sister put in the oven too early, and it cracks open with a puff of smoke, makes me howl every time.

I’ve eaten everything from grasshoppers to alligator to pig eyeball. And a lot more weird stuff that I can’t remember. I’ve liked every single one of those food experiences. But I still can’t stomach puff pastry. Go figure.

To quote cousin Eddie at that famous dinner scene…

Save the neck for me, Clark.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 2 tartare servings.

  • 1 6 oz. filet mignon, chopped finely
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 4 oz. foie gras Pâté, or another Pâté if preferred, sliced 1 inch thick
  • 4 oz. Parma ham or prosciutto
  • 2 quail eggs yolks
  • 8 button mushrooms, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 / 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, minced, plus additional for garnish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Flatbread, for serving with the tartare

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine the beef, half the shallot, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Set in the fridge to marinate.
  2. On medium-low heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sauté the mushrooms, the rest of the shallot, garlic and thyme. Add a pinch of salt to render some of the liquid from the mushrooms.
  3. Once the mushrooms are lightly browned, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. To arrange the tartare, take a 3 inch round mold and press down on a layer of Pâté. This will be the tartare base. Brush 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on top. Then add a slice of Parma ham or prosciutto of similar size and shape, followed by half the cooled mushroom mixture. Finally, top with half the chilled beef mixture, pressing down in the mold to form into a circular shape. Repeat for the second tartare.
  5. Place both plates, while still in the round mold, in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
  6. Remove from the fridge, slide the tartares out of the round molds, and create a slight indent on the top with your thumb, sliding a quail egg yolk into the indent.
  7. Sprinkle with minced thyme, serving immediately alongside flatbread for scooping.

Labor-Inducing Beef Stroganoff

My mom first went into labor with me while she was eating beef stroganoff.

Forget pickles. Forget donuts. No ice cream. No bon bons – whatever the hell those are.

Beefed-up stroganoff is what she’d eaten over the course of her entire pregnancy.

My understanding is it came into fashion a few decades ago. Now, I see it making a comeback at high-end restaurants. It makes sense because it’s one of the home-iest dishes around.

That, and there’s like a pint of sour cream in it.

Chefs around the world practice the art of mise en place – which is ensuring you have all your ingredients washed, chopped and within hands reach before starting to cook. It will make cooking this dish, and for that matter every dish, so much more expedient and effortless.

I also bet you could pull all the meat & vegetable ingredients together in a crockpot, cook for hours while you’re at work, and spoon over cooked egg noodles when you get home.

I’m not one of those people, though. For now, this is a start to finish recipe for those of you, like me, who are not morning people and don’t do things like “meal plan.”

This is a classic American variation of stroganoff, similar to what my mom made for us growing up. It was the rare occasion that she did, because the male members of my family inherited the most abhorrent food aversion known to man – a dislike of dairy.

There are Finnish versions that include chopped pickles, Brazilian versions that substitute shrimp or chicken for beef, and British versions that gravitate toward a white sauce infused with wine.

You can’t go wrong or screw up this recipe. It’s impossible. Take a deep breath, and realize the only thing you have to do right now is cook, then eat this crazy-good food when it’s done.

You don’t have to delivery a baby either, so that’s another plus.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 really hungry people.

  • 1 1 / 2 lb. sirloin steak, cubed
  • 1 lb. egg noodles
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 / 2 pint full-fat sour cream
  • 1 / 2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 / 2 white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, minced
  • Salt (used throughout)
  • Pepper (used throughout)

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan. Dry the beef cubes well. Season liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Once the oil is very hot, put the beef cubes in the pan. Don’t crowd the beef, otherwise they will not brown. In batches, brown the cubes on all sides. Set the meat aside. The beef will not be fully cooked through at this point.
  2. In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Throw in the mushrooms, onions, thyme, and a heavy pinch of salt and pinch of pepper, sautéing until the vegetables are translucent and the mushrooms have shrunk and released most of their liquid.
  3. Add the beef cubes back in, juices and all, as well as the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Let this cook uncovered for 30 minutes on medium-high heat until half of the liquid remains.
  4. While the stroganoff sauce is reducing, heat a pot of water to boil and cook the egg noodles according to package instructions. Drain, and throw the pasta back in the pot, adding 4 tablespoons of butter and mixing until the butter melts. Set the pasta aside.
  5. After 30 minutes, add the sour cream and Dijon mustard. Stir until incorporated. Cook on medium-high heat for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. To plate, put egg noodles in the bottom of a wide shallow bowl, topping with the stroganoff sauce and plenty of beef cubes. Don’t be shy about adding more spoonfuls of sauce. You cannot have too much of the stuff. Sprinkle each plate with minced parsley.

Double-Dressed Radish & Arugula Salad with Ramp-Ranch Dressing

In the odd moments where I’m longing for some clean eating, usually after days of fried food, red meats and dairy-laden dishes, I admit I will throw a salad together.

I urge you to try this new dressing technique next time you make any simple, garden salad. They are, after all, simple salads, so they are by definition screaming for flavor.

Dressing salads not once, but twice, is the perfect remedy to what would be an otherwise flavorless disappointment. You want each leaf to impart some tang when it hits your tongue. Dressing twice eliminates the possibility of that truly miserable, dry forkful of undressed leaves.

We’ve all been there.

It’s the same feeling when you get to the bottom of the nachos, and there’s no cheese or toppings left.

Don’t text while driving. Hold the door for moms with strollers. Pick up after your dog when they do their business in public parks.

Layer your nachos.

The first round of dressing includes the acids, salt and with a bit of olive oil to coat – whether that’s lemon juice, balsamic or wine vinegar.

Due to some lettuces’ tendencies to wilt, the heartier the leaf-base of the salad, the better. I wouldn’t try this on mixed greens. But hearty arugula, romaine, bitter greens like radicchio & endive or kale would work great.

The second dressing – you guessed it – is the headliner. Here I made a ranch-style dressing with ramps I saw at a farmer’s market. Scallions offer the near-exact same flavor, so that can and should be used in place of ramps if you can’t get your hands on them.

Radishes and arugula share a sharp, spicy undertone. I added some roughly-crushed peppercorns to bring the pepper theme home. With a buttermilk ranch to mellow out these flavors, I can absolutely guarantee you will like this.

At least once in a while. 😉

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  S a l a d

  • 2 big handfuls arugula
  • 8 – 12 radishes, tops removed & sliced
  • 6 basil leaves, chiffonaded 1 / 2 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns, for garnish

F o r  t h e  V i n a i g r e t t e  B a s e

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or vinegar of your choosing
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper

F o r  t h e  R a m p – R a n c h  D r e s s i n g

  • 1 / 3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 / 2 ramp, minced
  • 10 chive stems, minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dill, minced
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Mix the ramp-ranch ingredients in a small bowl, whisking vigorously to ensure there are no small clumps. Set both in the fridge for as long as possible (10 – 15 minutes) so flavors have a chance to blend.
  2. Rinse dirt & sand from the radishes in cold water. Dry. Cut the tops and roots off the radishes and slice thinly. Cigar roll the basil leaves and chiffonade about 1 / 2 inch thick.
  3. Serving 1 large handful of arugula per person, toss the leaves with the basil and vinaigrette base in a large bowl until all leaves are lightly coated in the vinaigrette.
  4. Plate the arugula & basil mix. Layer the sliced radishes into the arugula.
  5. Pour as much ramp-ranch dressing as you’d like over the top of each salad. Top with crushed peppercorns and a sprinkling of finishing salt.