Smoky Jalapeno Cheddar Soup

Another rainy day, another bowl of bubbling hot spicy soup. There’s not much else to do when it’s pouring out, and who doesn’t love an excuse to stay at home and cook all day?

I bought too many jalapenos and wanted to find a way to make them the centerpiece of a soup. So here we are – with jalapeno two ways – fresh and smoked.

Smoked jalapenos, if you’re not already familiar, are called chipotle peppers. You can find them canned in their sauce in any grocery store.

Chipotle, as it so happens, is also the namesake of my favorite fast food restaurant. As in, “If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you eat?” – my answer would be Chipotle.  No really – I ate Chipotle 4 to 5 days a week in high school for two years.

The flavor of chipotle is smoky, incredibly hot, and very addictive. I keep bags of it frozen in my freezer. Throw it in anything Tex-Mex – it’s like the Tex-Mex equivalent of barbecue sauce, incredibly versatile.

Your start to this soup is a roux, much like any chowder. It creates a thicker, stewy feel to the soup. I bet chicken and beans would be great in here as well if you wanted to bulk it up a bit, but I’m happiest when I get the full flavor of the cheese and the spices.

What’s your favorite go-to rainy day soup?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 / 3 quart whole milk
  • 1 1 / 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 / 2 small onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle pepper sauce (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Once melted, add the flour, stirring for a couple minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the milk, whisking until there’s no visible clumps of flour. Continue to cook on medium heat until it thickens and the mixture coats a spoon.
  2. In a separate saute pan drizzled with olive oil, add the onion, jalapenos, garlic, chipotle peppers, chipotle pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Saute for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent.
  3. Once the vegetables are tender, add them to the soup. Then add the cheese, and stir until completely incorporated. Serve, garnishing with additional jalapeno slices and a drizzle of extra chipotle pepper sauce, if desired.

Brie Wheel Fondue with Wacky Dippables

Who doesn’t remember their first trip to The Melting Pot?

We ordered the traditional fondue with the garlic & white wine and a separate pot with Wisconsin cheddar & beer. I remember undercooking the beef, on purpose, by an unsafe margin. That, and being so full that I felt sick for the next three days.

I’m going to eat like a goldfish if you put a pot of boiling cheese in front of me – I will eat until I explode.

But all that aside, I loved it. I recognize that as an American food chain, the dippers are going to have to appeal to just about everyone. Enter the beef, chicken, shrimp, slices of bread, pasta, crackers, broccoli, asparagus and mushrooms. And don’t forget – you can get the ahi tuna and lobster platter for an extra $7.50!

This is dandy for a family with picky eaters, and me for that matter – but I wanted to do something unconventional here. Which was essentially an exercise in me imagining all the foods I want to, but haven’t yet smothered in cheese.

The dippers I made here are the weird cousins of the family, but each has an element that balances out the heaviness of the cheese – the char of the peppers, sharpness of the pickled shallots, crunch of the ramen noodles, acidic tang from the chips, and the hot dogs and corned beef are there because… I mean, doesn’t that sound good?

And the cheddar-fried green tomatoes are just overkill, and I know it.

A wheel of brie (or in this case, cube) is the perfect, money-saving solution for those of us who are fondue pot-less – because it comes in its own pot!

I don’t know about you, but I love wheels of cheese. I’m looking into serving pasta like they do at Cacio e Pepe in New York, where they mix the oozy pasta inside a cheese wheel.

I’d also wear a cheese wheel as a hat.

I hope you have a “fun”-due time making this – now eat up! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S  &  D I R E C T I O N S

Serves 2 – 4 as an hors d’oeuvre or light dinner.

F o r  t h e  F o n d u e

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 wheel brie
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cut into the brie wheel (or cube) around the edges, leaving the outside rind and being sure you don’t cut through the bottom of the wheel (this will ensure the melted cheese doesn’t escape).
  2. With a spoon, remove the cheese and put into a microwave-safe bowl, being sure to discard the top of the rind. This will not melt well. Fold in the minced garlic.
  3. Heat the cheese in the microwave for 1 minute and thirty seconds on high heat, immediately pouring the cheese into the brie mold. Plate the fondue wheel in the center of a large platter, circling with the dippers.
  4. Serve while the cheese is bubbling hot!

F o r  t h e  W a c k y  D i p p a b l e s

  • Charred Shishito Peppers, recipe below
  • Pickled Shallots, recipe below
  • Cheddar-Fried Green Tomatoes, recipe below
  • Corned beef, cubed
  • Cooked hot dogs, cut into pieces
  • Uncooked ramen noodles, broken into chunks
  • Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips, recipe below

F o r  t h e  C h a r r e d  S h i s h i t o  P e p p e r s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 bunch Shishito peppers

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put the Shishito peppers in a very hot skillet. Allow peppers to char, turning a few times in the pan. The entire process should take 5 to 7 minutes.

F o r  t h e  P i c k l e d  S h a l l o t s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 10 small shallots
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Peel the skins of the shallots, removing the ends. Cut the shallots in half and put in a bowl.
  2. Heat the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small saucepan until the salt and sugar has dissolved. Pour over the shallots, and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

F o r  t h e  C h e d d a r – F r i e d  G r e e n  T o m a t o e s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 large green heirloom tomato
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 / 4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper and put in a shallow bowl. Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  2. Shred the cheese and put in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the tomato. Set aside.
  4. In a line, dip the tomatoes in the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, then the cheese mixture, being sure to press down the cheese so it sticks to the tomato on both sides.
  5. Add olive oil to a non-stick pan, and sautee the cheesy tomatoes on medium heat until the cheese begins to brown. With a metal spatula, flip the tomato, letting the cheese brown on the other side.
  6. Remove from the pan and cut each tomato in half.

F o r  t h e  S a l t  &  V i n e g a r  P o t a t o  C h i p s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 large Yukon gold potato
  • 2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 4 cups canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Slice the potato with a mandoline, placing the slices in a large bowl with the vinegar. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the canola or vegetable oil in a large shallow pan. To test the oil, put a slice of the potato in the oil. When it bubbles and starts to fry, add the rest of the potato slices.
  3. Fry on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the chips are golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels, and sprinkle immediately with salt.

Overstuffed Olive & Pimento Cheese Sandwich

I was big on dirty martinis from an early (note: legal) age.

This olive juice craze gave rise to many abandoned, juiceless jars of olives. I began to look for recipes to use up this massive surplus. In little time I was routinely making batches of – you guessed it – pimento cheese dip – that included the olives as well as the pimentos inside.

I have historically relied on Southern cooking tradition in assuming there are few acceptable ways to serve pimento cheese.

On crackers.

In a sandwich.

But even with its alleged limited applications, I would list pimento cheese as one of my top desert island foods. When you’d eat it with a spoon, that’s when you know.

The other reason to love pimento cheese so much? There’s barely any ingredients! So it’s an ideal whip-together-at-the-last-minute dish made of things you very likely have in your fridge right now.

So as a service to both you and I, I put my head to paper and came up with a list to get me ruminating on how I can justify eating more of it, for those occasions when I make it in alarmingly huge quantities.

  • Mixed into macaroni and cheese
  • Stuffed in enchiladas
  • Mixed into broccoli cheddar soup
  • Mixed into mashed potatoes
  • Topping fries
  • Mixed into a soufflé
  • Topping a burger
  • Mixed into risotto
  • On pizza
  • On a Philly cheesesteak
  • Mixed into cream cheese
  • Stuffed in chicken breasts
  • Mixed into grits
  • Rolled in panko breadcrumbs and fried
  • Mixed into scrambled eggs
  • Mixed into pasta carbonara
  • Stuffed in homemade ravioli
  • Melted inside quesadillas

Let me know if you have, want to, or will give any of these a try. I’d love to hear what the results were!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

  • 2 slices white bread
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 oz. pimento-stuffed olives, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl. Put mixture between two sandwich slices.
  2. Cut in half.
  3. You’re DONE! EAT!

Ramen on Empty Burger

We’ve watched food trends explode over the past few years. Ones that come to mind – the cupcake frenzy of 2008 singlehandedly instigated by Georgetown Cupcakes, toasts, matcha, kale and cronuts.

I’m a dupe for social media shareables of searing-hot raclette cheese poured over some carb-packed vehicle. Raclette NYC does this right – so right. That, and Momofuku’s Milk Bar, which is – for better or for worse – two blocks from where I live. They dole out the most addictive and sedating cookies and cakes a human being will ever taste.

But of all the food trends I’ve seen come and go, my biggest regret is that I didn’t hop on the ramen burger train when I had the chance.

I had the intent while working part-time in New York to head to the celebrated birthing place of ramen burgers – Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. This never happened.

With no imminent plans to head to New York, I made this at home. I know I’m very late to the party here. I’m like Europeans screening U.S. blockbusters – always lagging behind.

But even though I’m obsessed with food, I’ve embraced my indifference to food trends – & I’m fully aware I’m just as uncool as I always knew I was. 😉

This recipe is fluid – approach it as a good use-up-your-pantry & freezer opportunity. I had frozen ground pork and scallions that I incorporated into the patty mixture to mirror the ingredients you’ll find in a bowl of ramen. The mayonnaise sauce is made from staple Asian condiments I always have stocked on the door of my fridge.

And if you’re familiar with the TV show Bob’s Burgers, I hope you might have picked up on my tribute to his pun-tastic daily burger specials in this recipe title. If you haven’t watched it – do.

I like to think I approach food the same way Bob does – content to cook the same ho-dum thing over and over again. All the while, Jimmy Pesto’s restaurant across the street grasps at the flashiest dish that will bring customers in. Bob refuses to sell out and play that game. He knows good food will always be good food.

You should also know – Thrillist did their homework & compiled a list of every single burger special featured on the show. You’re welcome.

This one’s for you, Bob! You just keep doing you!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 ramen burger.

  • 1 package ramen noodles
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 3 oz. ground pork
  • 3 oz. ground beef (80% lean to 20% fat)
  • 1 slice American cheese
  • 2 oz. microgreens
  • 2 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon wasabi
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 / 2 scallion stalk, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, discarding the seasoning packet. Strain the noodles. Once cooled, mix with the beaten egg, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper. Set aside.
  2. Combine the mayonnaise, wasabi, Sriracha, chili oil & sesame oil. Set aside.
  3. Combine the pork, beef, scallion, and pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Form into a round, large golf-sized ball and set aside.
  4. Pull the caps off the mushrooms and slice thinly. Sautee on low heat with the soy sauce, a dash of olive oil, and pinches of sugar, salt and pepper. Once browned, set aside.
  5. In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Take 1 / 2 of each of the noodle mixture and place them inside two large patty-sized mason jar lids inside the pan. Smush the noodles down to compact them. Cook the noodle buns for 4 minutes on medium heat until golden brown. At this point, remove the lids as the ramen buns should be able to retain their shape. Flip the buns over and finish cooking, about 4 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside for plating.
  6. Heat a tablespoon of flavorless oil, like canola oil or vegetable oil, in the bottom of a cast iron skillet. Once heated, place the meat in the pan, smashing with the underside of the spatula until it’s as about 1 1 / 2 to 2 inches thick. Cook for 10 minutes on medium-low heat, then flip and brown until cooked through for another 8 to 10 minutes. Place a slice of American cheese on top of the patty and cook for an additional minute until the cheese is completely melted.
  7. Put 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture on each of the buns, topping one bun with the burger patty, then the sautéed mushrooms and the microgreens. Serve hot.

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!