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Toad in the Hole

11 Sep

Toad in the Hole 2

I’m an Anglo- and Hiberno-phile (a lover of things English and Irish, that is).  I’ve been to Ireland twice and I have seen Toad in the Hole on a few pub menus, but I never ordered it.  For whatever reason, one day I remembered it on the way home from work…sausages in a pastry with gravy.  How can that be bad?  It can’t.  It’s one of the best dishes ever on an autumnal or wintery evening.  I mean, just look at it!  It’s just tits!

When I remembered the dish, I started doing some research.  I found a few recipes and sort of blended them all together (if you want the individual ones, let me know and I will look them up).  Toad in the Hole is traditionally made with bangers, English pork sausages made with breadcrumbs.  They are just not found around the central coast of California, except for one butcher in Arroyo Grande, who makes exceptional ones.  So, I thought that perhaps chicken and apple sausage might work  (I use Aidell’s from the supermarket…foodies can piss off).  Indeed, they do work famously, and I have thus created a new California/ English/ Irish fusion comfort food I actually call “Cock in the Hole” because of its chicken sausage.

This post, by the way, is a revised version of one of the first recipes I posted, which I altogether called “Cock in the Hole,” but I think I put some people off with the title. I have to admit, though, the search terms that brought up my blog because of that title were worth it. People search for some weird shit on the internet, let me tell you.

It might look daunting, but it’s totally easy. The readiness is all.

Toad in the Hole


1 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter melted

3 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon canola oil (or something equivalent)

1 pound of cooked chicken and apple sausages (or whatever your little heart desires in the sausage category) *Note: if you use uncooked sausages, brown them in a pan first to make sure they get cooked through!

For the gravy, you need:

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon of oil

1 teaspoon of superfine sugar or regular sugar

2 cups vegetable stock

2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon of mustard powder

2 teaspoons of flour

salt and pepper to taste

Makin’ It:

Whisk together the flour, salt and pepper, and then make a well in the center of it.  In the well, pour the melted butter, beaten eggs, and milk, and whisk it until it’s smooth like a pancake batter.  Cover it and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Make sure you have two racks in your oven. When you’re ready, coat an 8 x 12 baking dish with the tablespoon of oil, put it in the oven, and preheat the oven to 425° F (the dish and oil will be piping hot when you put in the sausages and batter).

Toss the sliced onions with the sugar and oil, and put them in a single layer on a baking sheet.  When the oven is ready,  put the onions on the top rack.  In the heated baking dish on the bottom rack, carefully place the sausages in there and watch so you don’t get splattered.  (If you are using uncooked sausages, make sure to brown them first before you put them in the oven pan!) Spoon the batter over the sausages in the dish evenly, scraping the bowl so everything is used.  Close the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile for the gravy, heat the stock (or make the stock from bullion cubes) and add the Worcestershire sauce and the mustard powder to it, mixing well.

After 15 minutes, remove the onions, which should be roasted and brown and even black in some parts. In a saucepan, heat a teaspoon of oil and add the onions and the flour.  Cook it about a minute or two until it’s paste-y, and then start adding the stock little by little, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pan.  After all of the stock is added, let it simmer and thicken until the Toad (or Cock depending on the sausage and your sauciness) is ready.  Season it with salt and pepper to taste.Toad in the Hole 1

(Note: I made a half version of a Toad in the Hole in these pictures, obviously.)

After the 30 minute timer goes off, it should be golden brown and fairly firm, as the picture above shows.  Let it rest a few minutes, and then slice the Toad between the sausages, and serve with gravy with which to smother it.

I love roasted potatoes and green beans smothered in the gravy with it.  Britons say that mashed potatoes are the key.  Whatever blows you hair back will work fine.

Drink:  Beer makes this heavenly, especially a Bass or a Harp.

One of the best parts of being American is that I get to simulate, interpret, and amalgamate.    I have served this to people and they have been blown away.  They might say it’s an inside-out hot dog, but I think that’s oversimplifying, like we Americans tend to do.  In any case, this has become a regular menu item in our house, and perhaps it will be in your house too.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013


Roasted Herbed Pork Tenderloin

3 Jul

Herbed Pork Tenderloin 7

When my wife and I moved in together after dating for a year, we got an apartment in my home town of Fountain Valley, California, right across the street from Fountain Bowl, the past host of the PBA’s Dick Weber Open and the Cheetah Open, for those keeping tabs on such trivia. The bar inside of Fountain Bowl, a place my friends and I deemed “The Lizard Lounge,” must be seen in person to appreciate its beauty; it simply is a slice of Americana every night, and whether karaoke or a tournament is happening, every walk of life makes their presence known at some point in the evening.

I bring up that first apartment because it’s where I really started learning how to cook. We weren’t allowed to have a grill on our 2nd floor patio, and I was naive to the concept of the grill pan, so I used the communal grill near the Jacuzzi and pool. This thing was gas powered and altogether an insurance company’s nightmare had they known the condition in which it was kept. I basically had to turn on the gas, light a match, and then jump four feet back to avoid the burst of flames that singed my eyebrows and goatee.  All in good fun, and my salon visits were shorter for the few years we lived there.

At this time, I discovered those pork tenderloins that Hormel or the grocery store itself packages, perhaps with a peppercorn or lemony marinade infused with glowing and tasty chemicals. Still, they taste good, so I would grill these babies up fairly often, even for company. What sucked is that, at night, there was no lighting near the grill (besides the embers still smoldering on my clothes, of course), and I had no confidence in whether the pork was truly done or not. Pork (more specifically, trichinosis) used to scare me, so I always felt that overcooking it was better than it being underdone. Once I reentered our apartment and my eyes adjusted to the artificial light, I would realize that my pork tenderloin was now the equivalent of a Chee-to colored with a black Sharpie. The taste was there, surely, but my wife and I had sore mandibles for the remainder of the night from ruminating so thoroughly on the meat.

But pork shouldn’t be this way. And it isn’t now that I know what I’m doing, and I have a little something called a meat thermometer which, amazingly, indicates the temperature at which the meat is done. Who would’ve thunk it?

This Roasted Herbed Pork Tenderloin is probably the moistest, most tender one I’ve ever made. It only needs to marinade for a few hours, and the payoff is huge. It’s cheap, too. I got a nice tenderloin from Trader Joe’s for $6. Moreover, half of a tenderloin (HALF!) is an 8 on the old Weight Watchers system (Points Plus and 360° can go fuck themselves). Add some squash and steamed green beans, as in the picture below, and you have a huge dinner for a 9. Not bad at all. It’s even based on an Ina Garten recipe, which usually means copious butter, but this one is an anomaly in that regard.

Roasted Herbed Pork Tenderloin

Serves 2 or 3


the zest of one lemon

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 olive oil

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1 tbsp. chopped, fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. salt

1 pound pork tenderloin

2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary Dijon, and salt. Mix this well. Get a freezer bag (or something like it) and put the tenderloin in it. Pour the marinade over it, swish it around, and seal it after you get the air out of the bag. Refrigerate this for at least 3 hours up to a day.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Get an oven-proof skillet or saute pan and add the two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove the tenderloin from the bag but don’t shake it off (you want all of the good herbs and stuff clinging to it). Discard the rest of the marinade. Season the pork with a 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sear this until it’s nice and brown on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and roast the tenderloin for 15 minutes, or until the meat thermometer reads 140° +. It might be pink in the thick part, but that’s a good thing.

Remove the pan from the oven, transfer the tenderloin to a serving platter, and cover it tightly with foil. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, slice it into 1″ thick pieces and serve. Pour the juices over the portions, if you’re a rock star like that. You’ll get this:

Herbed Pork Tenderloin

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

BBQ Pork Balls

26 Jun

BBQ Pork Balls 2

Look at these guys. It almost makes me tear up just reminiscing about making them, let alone eating them.  I have posted a few recipes for meatballs on this blog, two of which are based on recipes from a book called The Meatball Shop Cookbook, which is a compilation of recipes from the guys who own The Meatball Shop in Manhattan, assuredly a destination on my next trip to NYC. These BBQ Pork Balls are based on their recipe too.

I’ve only been to New York twice: once when I was in my twenties to visit my friend Rich who was getting his Masters in art, and last April with my father-in-law, Bill. Bill is originally from Moonachie, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson a few miles.

On my first trip there about 15 years ago, I was wide-eyed and punch drunk. New York City is way too much to comprehend in a few days. I must have walked 20 miles through Manhattan and dodged 3 taxis for each mile; those fucking guys mean business when you’re crossing the street, as I learned quite quickly. I did get a taste of NYC, but I knew I had to come back at some point.

When I first met Bill (before my wife and I were married, of course), I knew I wanted to go to New York with this guy. I had to. Being a California Italian, I often have pined to have the New York Italian accent, the Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci “What the fuck are you lookin’ at?” edge. Bill owns this. For example, while helping us restore our old house, he once came back from Home Depot and said, “Hey Jonny, I did that thing you needed. No problem,” and I wondered if our room was tapped and if all of my enemies were still around.  It was fucking beautiful.  In any case, while I envy those brought up in New York and New Jersey for the accent, I will settle for having Bill around and, after a few glasses of wine, adopting his accent. I figure, at least it’s in the family and I am Italian, when all is said and done.

So after 11 years, we made it to New York with Bill. I mean, the guy had The Sopranos theme song on the radio as we crossed the bridge like Tony does in the opening of the show. Are you kidding me? It was all bitchin’ from then on out. We saw all of the sites, my 3 year old was speechless (which is a good thing, sometimes), we ate at diners and at Italian family restaurants, and I even got told to “get the fuck outta here” when declaring, with alacrity, that the Angels would beat the Yankees that season. Yankee fans have been busting my balls at the Big A my whole life, so I felt a need to recompense.  In essence, it was the trip of a lifetime.

I mention this story because I can feel New York in this cookbook. The authors are a “couple of fuckin’ guys,” to use my family’s complimentary epithet, and their recipes exhibit this. Moreover, these aren’t classic Italian meatballs; they’re pork balls, perfect if you want BBQ and you don’t have the time or the resources to spark it up in the back (the BBQ, that is).

I served these on sandwich rolls with a liberal amount of BBQ sauce and homemade KFC coleslaw. Nothing more needs to be said.

BBQ Pork Balls

Makes about 12 cueball-size meatballs


2 tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 lb. ground pork

1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I’m a KC Masterpiece guy, myself)

1 egg

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Makin’ ‘Em:

Preheat the oven to 450°. Get a, 8″ x 8″ or similar size baking dish and coat the bottom of it with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and cook them until they are soft and browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Transfer this to a bowl and put it in the fridge to cool (hot onions would make scrambled eggs when you add them to the mixture, so that’s why you chill them, kid).

When the onions are cooled, put them in a mixing bowl with the pork, BBQ sauce, eggs, bread crumbs, and salt. Mix this all together with your hands until everything is thoroughly combined.

Have a cup of water next to you as you roll out the meatballs. A key to making good meatballs is keeping your hands moist as you roll them.  It makes the balls smooth and it’s easier to make sure there are no cracks in them.

Roll the mixture into cueball-size meatballs and make sure the meat is packed firmly. Place the balls in rows and columns in the oiled baking dish. The meatballs should be touching one another.

Bake these guys for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. The meat thermometer should read 165° when poked into the center of a meatball. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes before you dig in.

Serve them with more BBQ sauce, buns, coleslaw, and whatever your little heart desires. You’ll maybe get this:

BBQ Pork Balls 7


Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Champagne Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie

3 Apr

Champagne Chicken Mushroom Pot Pie 6

Often I find myself throwing hints at my wife about what I’d like to cook to see if she’s interested.  When it comes down to it, she’s the final say in what I’m making on a given evening, and I’m fine with that.  Every once in a while, I get bold and, pulling my belt round my belly like a 70’s after school special, I declare that I’m making (insert manly dish here) whether she likes it or not!  It doesn’t emasculate me, either; like my job (English teacher), I have to know my audience and accommodate them, and generally I’m laid back about it all.  I strive to make everyone happy, and that’s me in a nutshell.

So I have been aching for pot pies as of late.  Spring is upon us, and pot pies are definitely a winter/autumn dish.  A few times in the last week, I’ve given the wife options: “Well, I took out chicken, and I can make pot pies?  Or I can make Chinese of some sort. Or I could make pot pies?  I could do Mexican, too. Pot pies are easy, you know.”  “Let’s do Chinese,” the wife will respond, and I will whip something up with happiness.  The next time around, “Mexican sounds good,” and I know that she’s over pot pies for a year.

Today, though, I wanted a pot pie, dammit.   Thus, I pulled up my belt, stating firmly and in a gruff tone that I bought pie crusts that I had to use soon, so pot pie was on the menu. I took the last sip of Budweiser and forcefully crushed the can in my left hand raised above my head. “You gotta problem with that, woman?” I said as I threw the can against the wall, missing the trash can, residual beer slack oozing slowly across a 70’s-patterned linoleum floor.

She didn’t respond because she wasn’t at home or even on the phone; I said it to myself to feel brazen, actually, as I would never act this way in front of my wife. In truth, I relied on my ability to make a pot pie to end all pot pies, so she would be stoked whether she wanted pot pie or not. I had cause, so I went with it.

I pulled out three different recipes to imagine this, and I will say that it’s the best pot pie I’ve ever made and it’s my own creation.  Moreover, and I can’t believe I can write this in a pot pie recipe, it’s light!  No shit.  I didn’t use butter or cream or bacon fat or anything like it.  The champagne and the whipped cream cheese give it a different dynamic.  So the result was a flaky-crusted savory pie perfect for an early Spring evening.  The best part?  It’s easy to make…as easy as a stripper who needs money to fix her teeth.

Champagne Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pies

Makes 4


2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup chopped shallots (onion will work here too, but ’tisn’t as sexy)

1 cup carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced into half-moons

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (whatever kind you have will work)

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 cup champagne (white wine would work too, here, wise guy)

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 cup frozen green peas

1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1″ pieces (frozen veggies would work too, I guess, but you’d be ghetto)

2 tbsp. cornstarch

3 tbsp. water

1/2 cup cream cheese, whipped or regular

1 box of store bought pie crusts (there will be two) or a recipe for 2 pie crusts

1 egg, beaten

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots, carrots, garlic, and chicken.  Cook this for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the chicken is brown and mostly cooked.  Add in the mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Mix it up and cook for 3  minutes so the mushrooms get going.  Add in the champagne, bring it to a low boil, and cook it for 3 minutes or so, again just to get it happy.

Add in the broth, green peas, and green beans.  Bring this to a low boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer it for about 5 minutes to combine the flavors.

In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the water together.  Add this to the chicken mixture along with the cream cheese.  Get the cream cheese to melt and simmer it, stirring often, until it’s thick and bubbly, like Britney Spears.  Taste it for salt and pepper and adjust if needed.  Turn off the heat.

Divide the chicken mixture amongst four oven-proof crocks or bowls or the like.  Brush the rims and sides of the crocks with the beaten egg.  Roll out the pie crusts and cut circles that will overhang the sides of each bowl by at least 1″; I made the last two circles by mashing together the leftover scraps from the first two and rolling them out on a floured board.

Lay a circle on each bowl, pressing the dough onto the sides and rims.  Cut three slits in the top of each pie to let steam escape.  Brush the tops of each pie with the remaining beaten egg.  Place the pies on a baking sheet and into the oven for 30 minutes, until the top is golden and irresistible, like this:

Champagne Chicken Mushroom Pot Pie 4

Let them sit for a good 10 minutes so no one has to go to the emergency room for burn assistance.

The champagne flavor comes through brilliantly and will give it an airiness. While indeed it’s spring, the winter flavors can still be had…just make sure to ask your spouse, though.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

The Sauce

30 Mar

The Sauce

I can think of no better picture to accompany this blog post than the one above.  It truly says volumes about my heritage, my blood line, my handsomeness, and the true essence of Italian food.  I believe this was the first or second time Tony had eaten my sauce, and he has always done so with gusto, as should everyone.  Funnily enough, this scungillio is a picky eater (unlike his uncles and his pop), but when it comes to my sauce on pasta, he’s at the table waiting with fork in hand as we put the plates together.

I have posted two tomato-based pasta sauce recipes on here before, and in both posts I made sure to note that they aren’t MY sauce.  I have also said that most Italians have their own version of sauce (again, I never heard the term “Sunday gravy” until I saw The Sopranos), which is most likely derived from their mom’s or nonna’s recipe. I am no different in this regard.  My mom taught me how to make sauce eons ago, and after screwing with and tweaking the recipe for years, I finally got to my version which tastes like no other I’ve had anywhere.  I didn’t even write it down until about 5 years ago; a student wanted to make her boyfriend dinner and asked if I knew how to make spaghetti and meatballs.  Writing it down was the tough part because I always had just made it, kind of like singing a tune you’ve known for years under your breath as you work away.

In any case, I truly think that an Italian’s sauce mirrors their soul to a degree, and ’tis true concerning this one.  Me?  I’m sanguine, sweet, complex, thick, and intense.  And so is my sauce.

Another essential element of a good sauce is this:

The Pasta Pot

The pot (and the readiness) is all.  Notice how it’s not perfect like a Martha Stewart ad: it has chips in it, it’s discolored, the lid handle’s a bit loose.  Yet I swear by this cast-iron beast and it’s importance in making a good sauce.  My mom swore by hers, too, which was an ugly olive green monster of a pot that weighed 15 pounds at least.  A good pot cooks everything evenly, so go to T.J. Maxx, drop $20, and you’ll have this buried with you when the time comes. It’s a must.

Half of the time, I make a Bolognese-style sauce, which is with browned ground meat in it; the other half of the time I make a marinara, which is sans meat.  With either one, you can make some meatballs or sausages, of course, which will add to the overall flavor of the sauce.  Personally, I rarely eat pasta because I prefer to make a meatball or Italian sausage sandwich on some good bread.  Make a salad to round it all out and everyone’s happy.

The Sauce

One batch will serve 4 to 6 people, usually


1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 lb. ground beef, pork, or veal (turkey would work too, although ‘twould be sacrilege), browned and drained (optional)

5 cloves garlic, peeled

2- 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes crushed with your hands)

1 1/2 cups red wine

1 1/2 cups water

(*or enough red wine and water to fill one of the big cans, which is what I do)

2- 6 oz. cans tomato paste

1 tbsp. salt

3 tbsp. sugar

1 heaping tbsp. dried basil

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, depending on your spice-whimsy

and about 3 hours of time

Makin’ It:

In a large pot (like the one mentioned in my preamble), heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the onions. You need to get them brown, and it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to do it.  This is the most important part, really. It’s where the flavor of the sauce comes from.  When they’re brown, throw in the garlic cloves and, if you’re using it, the browned meat.

Carefully pour in the tomatoes.  Pour the wine and water into the cans and swish it around to get as much tomato as possible from the cans.  (Note:  I wrote 1 1/2 cups of each liquid above, but I guesstimated because I usually use the equivalent of one large tomato can o’ wine and water, as noted above.) Stir.

Stir in the tomato paste, salt, sugar, basil, and red pepper flakes well.  Raise the heat to high and get it boiling.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 or 3 hours until it’s thick and happy.  Scrape the sides of the pot every 15 minutes (or so) so the sauce doesn’t stick to the sides.  Taste for salt, dip some bread in there and mangia while you cook-a.

If you’re making meatballs or sausages, put them in during the last hour of cooking and serve them on the side.  Pour the sauce over your favorite pasta and pass the parmigiano.  Pour some vino, raise the glasses, say it loud, and say it proud:

Acqua fresca, vino puro,

Fica stretta, cazzo duro.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Carol’s Burritos

19 Mar

Mom's Burritos 012

I have written before about the recipe books that I inherited from my mom after she died.  I cannot emphasize what a gift this is.  It’s a walk through the kitchen of my youth plus a lot (and I mean A LOT) of recipes she never got around to making.  But in those recipes she never made, I see my mom clearly. I see what she loved to eat, who she was friends with, who she worked with, what she was reading, what caught her eye, or what she envisioned to make for people when they came over and received arguably the most exceptional hospitality for which one could ask.  She decked out the table whenever someone came for a meal not to impress, but simply because she was a lady, and in her generation, that’s what ladies do for guests.

The recipe books themselves are a marvel from the past.  They contain her own original recipes, some typed (not word processed) and some hand written in the uniform Catholic school-taught cursive of the 40’s and 50’s.  There are recipes from the neighbors that we had on our block that bring me back to the Fourth of July parties at the end of our cul de sac.  There are obsolete notecards with the “Recipe of the Month” on them from the local realtors who dropped by to chat or just to leave their information.  There are pages meticulously cut from Bon Appetit or Sunset or Better Homes and Gardens.  There are recipes that one would never see at a restaurant or house, but perhaps were the “in thing” 30 years ago.  Lastly, there are some recipes that are missing.

When I got the recipe book, my mom’s sister, my aunt Charlotte, who is just like my mom in the entertaining and lady department, said that I need to find her burrito recipe. Indeed, my mom’s burritos are legendary.  Since she had three boys and a husband from the old country, she knew how to feed large appetites and large amounts of people, especially considering that each one of our friends knew about my mom’s cooking by the time we each turned 12.  Her burritos went a long way, and you can’t eat just one.  They just didn’t last long at our house, and when you make them, you’ll understand why.

So I set about trying to find this recipe in those books and, lo and behold, there isn’t one.  My mom probably made these so many times and so often that she didn’t even think to write it down.  She told me once, but that was years ago and I have since forgotten the specifics.

So, my brother Chris saved the day with this one since he got the recipe some years back, and thus he gave it to me in a voice mail, which is how my mom would have done it too, come to think of it.  I thought about sprucing it up for the photos for this blog post with some sort of swirly sour creamy sort of thing, but if I did, they wouldn’t be her burritos any longer.  These photos, this is what they look like, pure and simple.  Still, mine are not exactly like my mom’s, but even if I had the recipe in her own hand, they never would be unless she made them for us.

Carol’s Burritos

Makes about 10 burritos


1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp. oil

1 lb. ground beef

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. chili powder

1 16 oz. can refried beans

1 4 oz. can diced green chilies

1/4 cup vegetable oil

10 burritos-size flour tortillas

Makin’ It:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion.  Cook them until they’re soft, about 5 minutes.  Add in the ground beef and get it brown, making sure to break it apart as it browns.  Once it’s brown, drain off the fat. Add the paprika, cumin, salt,, and chili powder.  Mix it well.

Add in the refried beans and the chilies.  Mix this well and warm it through.  Remove it from the heat and set aside.

To make the burritos, take a tortilla and put about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the filling at one end of the tortilla.  fold the sides in and roll it up, making sure that the ends stay closed.  Repeat this until you run out of filling (you might make more or less burritos depending on how heavy your hand is with the filling).

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until a drop of water pops back at you (that’s when it’s ready).  Carefully put in two burritos and fry them, turning them once or twice to get them a golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  They’ll cook faster as you make them, so be careful to watch the coloring of the tortillas so as not to burn them.

Drain them on paper towels and serve either alone or with some hot sauce or salsa or sour cream or whatever.  These taste even better cold, in my opinion.

Mom's Burritos 007

I might suggest doubling this if you have more than three or four people because they’ll get devoured quickly.  Thanks Carol!

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Lentils and Grilled Italian Sausage

8 Mar

Lentils and Italian Sausage 010

In an Irish accent, I said “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” when I took a bite of this tonight.  God-DAMN I love when I go with the mojo, improvise, use the knowledge I’ve gathered as well as some research and the package instructions, and just make a taint-masseuse of a dish.  Such is the case with the Lentils and Grilled Italian Sausage above.  ‘Tis easy, deep, primal, and altogether exemplary.

I learned how to cook lentils from my Aunt Anna. One day, I wanted the lentil soup that I had had so many times at my nonna’s, and my pop told me to call his sister, my aunt, because she makes it best.  I’ll never forget that phone call, truly, because it was the first time I actually reached out to a relative for a food recipe, which is something everyone should do if they want to learn how to cook what they love from their childhood.  She told me that the recipe is simple, revealed the ingredients, and then she threw forth the little tricks to make it exceptional, like using beef broth and the right amount of salt. Only the pros do this, and from memory.  That was the beginning.  Since then, I’ve made lentil soup, pasta with lentils, Indian spiced lentils (it will be on here later), and a bunch of other recipes with them.

So tonight’s a Steak and Sherlock Night, meaning that I get to make whatever my giant heart desires because the wife is at the in-laws with the kid.  Moreover, lentils aren’t her favorite.

A few days ago, I bought some red split lentils from Trader Joe’s (  Since spring is about two weeks away, I have a limited time to indulge in the hearty winter meals that I love.  Thus, tonight the stage was set for some lentils and Italian sausage.  The recipe below is mine.  You can use any type of lentil, but look at the package and adjust the cooking time and liquid for the lentils accordingly. The split red lentils I used tonight, for example, take about half the time than whole lentils (go fucking figure).  I’m clever like that.

Lentils and Grilled Italian Sausage

(Serves 4 Irvine-like People drinking Chardonnay Lite, or 2 Gluttons)


2 cups split red lentils (or any type of lentil, but adjust the cooking time accordingly, wise guy)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup diced onion

2 carrots, peeled, split lengthwise into quarters, and then sliced thinly

1 big celery stalk, diced

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 cup red wine (vermouth or white wine works too in a pinch)

5 cups beef broth (again, adjust according to the lentils)

1 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. salt (Be careful with this. Use a bit and then taste it later.  The broth and the sausages will give it lots of salt, too.)

3 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley (regular works too, kiddo)

4 grilled Italian sausages, sweet or hot depending on what blows your hair back

Parmesan cheese

Makin’ It:

Over medium high heat, heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a lid or a pot with a lid.  Add the onion, carrots, and carrot.  Cook them for about seven minutes until they’re soft and happy.  Add the garlic and cook one minute more. Add the lentils and get them coated with everything.

Add in the wine, broth, pepper, and salt (again, careful).  Bring it to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Cook it for 13 minutes or until the lentils have absorbed most of the liquid.  Uncover it and taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

To serve, spoon about 1 1/2 cups in a large pasta bowl.  Top with slices of grilled sausage, parsley, and parmesan.  You will get this:

Lentils and Italian Sausage 002

A small side salad would probably lighten this up a bit but, personally, fuck salad with this.  I want more of the lentils and sausage, the world be damned.

Warm up some crusty Italian or French bread, and you’re getting laid tonight, even if you’re alone.

And before the first bite, raise the glasses and say it loudly, say it clearly, and make conservative people repeat it unknowingly:

Acqua fresca, Vino Puro,

Fica Stretta, Cazzo Duro.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013