Archive for the ‘Recipe’ Category

Sauce Comparison

I have the opportunity to test two types of peeled plum tomatoes in order to see what differences there are if there are any. The first can is the 28oz can of Tuttorosso and the other is Cento San Marzano peeled tomatoes. If I make my standard sauce will I or my family be able to tell the difference?


The first can I opened was Cento. What I got from this can was peeled tomatoes and very little to no water. I have used Tuttorosso on multiple occasions and have never had a complaint. Upon opening it I recognized far more water than what Cento had. This was my first surprise as I had never really taken this into account. As for smell, there is a difference, but sorry, it was difficult for me to determine exactly what I was detecting. I would give the edge to Cento. Overall, Cento had less water and a different aroma that was for a lack of a better word more pleasant. This isn’t to say Tuttorosso was bad, but if I were doing a blind smell test, Cento would win.

Upon the initial taste, Cento had a more acidic tomato taste while the Tuttorosso had a sweeter and more pleasant taste. For Americans, I would imagine the Tuttorosso would be preferred. Overall, I would not turn either one down, but I wonder if the tomato juice in the Tuttorosso gives the sweet flavor. I prefer no tomato juice, but when you buy on price you get what you pay for , I guess. As I cooked my sauce down, the Cento was ahead as it appeared to be thickened from the start while the Tuttorosso was soupy and needed more time to cook down. Cooking the Tuttorosso down to the proper consistency gives you less sauce as you struggle to remove water in a timely manner.

I added as ingredients olive oil, onions, garlic, cheese, and basil to the sauce. Will these ingredients help mask the differences? The image on the left was prepared with Cento while the image on the right was prepared with Tuttorosso. Visually, I found the Cento to appear thicker but upon eating the two with pasta, they both appeared more watery than I thought they would be. When it came down to flavor, here is where I was surprised. There was very little difference between the two sauces. Cento was more flavorful but not worth the cost. The added ingredients altered, in a good way, the taste of the sauce enough to make it a push. I did have others sample and they couldn’t tell a difference between the two.

In the end, I do not appreciate paying for Tuttorosso’s tomato juice and water when I expect all tomatoes. In the past, I have added tomato paste to help thicken the Tuttorosso sauce. Cento’s price is too high to justify buying when I make this sauce even though without the added ingredients it tastes far better and fresher than Tuttorosso.


The Search for Kansas City BBQ Sauce

For years I have purchased Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce. Of all the sauces I have tried, this one is the one I absolutely enjoy. Kraft, Heinze, KC Masterpiece, and Stubbs are not up to par. In fact, I found that Stubb’s was my least favorite. The search for a sauce has had me making different versions from time to time without a great love for the sauce. Most are horrible while a few are just okay. Carolina sauce, Eastern style, isn’t my favorite, either, but it has a unique flavor that I don’t mind from time to time. My introduction to it was in North Carolina a few years back. The locals led me to a place and told me what to get.  My favorite has to be the Kansas City style and I wondered if I could make my own.

Barbecue sauces are not only regional but personal. I find that each region’s sauce has a unique flavor and style is enjoyable. The personality of the sauce reflects the individual that made the sauce. In my attempt to understand the Kansas City sauce, I selected twelve recipes from online and broke them down to find what the base is and what unique ingredients people use. I discovered there was much variety in ingredients as there was in the base. Some of the recipes may not even be considered KC style even though they are labeled as such.

My first surprise was the variety of ingredients between the twelve as there were 42 different ingredients used between the 12 recipes. Some of the ingredients were surprising to me as butter, vegetable oil, mace, allspice, and especially steak sauce was used. One recipe had bourbon. Of the twelve recipes, two did not have ketchup while one used water. The most common ingredient was black pepper. Molasses had a heavy showing with it being found in 8 of the recipes. The top five ingredients (7 as the last 3 were in 8 of the recipes) are black pepper, ketchup, chili powder, brown sugar, molasses, and salt. The next 3 ingredients were apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and liquid smoke.

One interesting note is the ketchup versus the tomatoes ingredient. In two of the 3 recipes, the tomatoes replaced the ketchup while the third had equal amounts of each at two cups. Also, the mace, allspice, and curry powder were found in one recipe only. As for the ingredient list, these ranged from eleven items to eight items. If it really matters, the mean and median are 13.5 items with 11 and 14 being the mode with 3 recipes each. That is enough statistics for now.

What I found within these main ingredients was the personality of the designer of the sauce where a specific type of ingredient was required. There were dark molasses and “unsulfured” molasses. The brown sugar had special meaning as did the chili powder. The black pepper was both coarse and fine. Even with the lesser ingredients, the type of hot sauce, paprika, and red pepper were specified. When you are adding a teaspoon or less of an ingredient, do you actually notice that the ingredient is something special?

I did break down the vinegar into apple cider, white, and red wine vinegar. Even the tomatoes from paste to the sauce to crushed tomatoes were broken down as these are enough of a difference to make it necessary. A few recipes used garlic and onion while the bulk of the recipes used the powder form with one recipe requiring onion salt.

There is definitely a primary ingredient list for the Kansas City style sauce and I would say that the top 12 ingredients are part of this style. These are black pepper, ketchup, chili powder, brown sugar, dark molasses, salt, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and liquid smoke. Onion powder, paprika, and ground red pepper were in 6 of the recipes, but it is not conclusive enough to say they are mainstays. I do believe if I search for more recipes these three will be primary ingredients, too.

Going forward, I may look into a few more recipes, but for now, I will develop my own recipe based off of the primary ingredients. I will tweak it some with minor ingredients to determine if they have an effect and if so, improve my sauce. As for the amount, most of the recipes were about the same with one that made about three quarts of the sauce. This is where I will use the other recipes to correct the amount of any “special” item found in the larger recipe. The biggest issue I have going forward is finding the time to do this. My best chance is in late July or early August. As I have brisket in line for cooking during that time frame, I may make a few test batches and if none work, the brisket will have Sweet Baby Ray’s to dip if anyone should choose to do so. I actually like my brisket with only the dry rub.



This is a dish that I have purposely avoided for years. They thought of having eggs as part of a sauce pushed me away from even attempting it. This changed when I watched a video of several chefs or cooks make this dish. Listening to a few Italian chefs discuss how they make it provided me with a change of heart.

Carbonara is a simple dish with guanciale, eggs, cheese, pepper, and pasta. Pasta water can be added. As the one Italian chef said, “Italians are poor” so they don’t put many ingredients into the dish. I took his advice and did not add garlic or olive oil as well as no green garnish. Oh, forget the egg-based noodles as you’ll already have eggs in the dish and you don’t want it too heavy.

My ingredients were:

.50 lbs of pancetta (an Italian bacon) Don’t use the cheap American bacon.

4 eggs (I added a fifth once my son said he was starving)

Freshly ground black pepper (Don’t overdo it)

1/3 cup of pecorino Romano (have additional cheese to put on top of each dish once served)

2 oz of Pamesan cheese (I just winged it and likely added more than I should. Same with the Romano)

1 lb of spaghetti (I saved my pasta water)

Now for the steps:

I started the water boiling for the pasta. Next, I whisked the eggs and cheese together. Placing my sauce aside, I began to saute the pancetta in a skillet. Don’t overcook this like I did. You want to cook this until the fat renders and the pancetta isn’t crispy yet. I drained the fat and put the pan to the side until the pasta was ready. Once the pasta was ready, I put the pancetta back on some heat and added my pasta with some of the pasta water. You really don’t need much. I added the pepper and then the sauce. It is here where you do not want high heat but a low heat and you need to constantly stir this sauce until you have covered the pasta and heated it thoroughly. You’re actually cooking the egg in this step.

As I stated earlier, I overcooked the pancetta and added too much cheese. Even with these issues, it was beyond my belief. The Carbonara was delicious and one that I actually crave to try once more. Maybe tonight! You have some saltiness with a unique flavor from the egg. The color was a wonderful yellowish to gold color.

This should be a simple dish with few ingredients. There is no need for garlic or even olive oil. Stay away from the green garnish. The preferred pork is guanciale. I was lucky to find pancetta in my area. We need more Italians here. American bacon is too thin and really isn’t the right type, so I recommend paying more for a better meat. Same with the cheese. Don’t buy the wood shavings Parmesan cheese. Get a good quality cheese and grate it. You will not be disappointed. Quality ingredients make the dish.

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That Homemade Sauce, From a Jar.

August 2, 2017 Leave a comment

I have Italian blood coursing through my veins. Pasta, red sauce, cannoli are vital to my life even at the expense of my Germanic other-half. It has even been said that I ruined my first born on the red sauce by feeding it to him on a continual basis when he was a toddler. I just think the German part of him is sour much like sauerkraut. When I make pasta there is one problem I often face and that is time to make the sauce and the lack of necessary ingredients.

A jar of sauce is a convenient way to make a pasta and ruin the experience, too. Quality jar sauces are too expensive, and this leaves me with the Ragus and Pregos of the grocery store. I truly hate them. They’re too sweet and, well, just not very good. There is a solution to using these jars without any good Italian recognizing the imposter. Yes, I have actually seen Italians, proud of their tastes, claim an imposter to be a good sauce. I have a friend that has been clueless every time we make a sauce and he prides himself on his Italian heritage. Is there a secret to making a jar sauce palatable? Yes.

Two main ingredients are quality garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Seriously, olive oil is key and you need to find a very good maker and pay the price. Right now I use a domestic olive oil, California Olive Ranch. The imported are risky as you don’t know how long they been sitting since they were bottled and where they were sitting. There are even incidences of so-called quality olive oils from Italy being fake. A good way to know is to buy a bottle and test it. There is a bit of a wow factor when you taste the good oil. As for garlic, you want a type that you like as there are many varieties of garlic. I prefer not to use elephant garlic as it is part of the onion family, and I do not care for onions in my sauce.

You want to heat oil in a sauce pan before adding the garlic to infuse flavor. Don’t worry if you allow your garlic to sit idle for a bit after mincing. Apparently, there are healthy things happening when you do. Do not cook the garlic for too long as you don’t want it to brown. I usually eye it to my liking and turn the heat down before adding the dreaded jar. This is the first step.

The next step is allowing it to simmer for a short time while adding dried oregano and basil. It can simmer while you heat up the water and cook the spaghetti. Keep in mind of the sauce you are using as you could add too much if there is already plenty of these herbs in the sauce. You could try fresh but the dried imparts more flavor. This doesn’t make the jar taste go away, but it becomes palatable. You can add onions before the garlic and let the onions cook down. Another option, and a great

You can add onions before the garlic and let the onions cook down. Adding olives to the sauce, don’t fry these, imparts a nice flavor, too. Another option, and a great one, is to add meat. My mother would fry up some pork on the bone and add it to the sauce. The pork and bone change the flavor for the best. You can add just about any type of meat to the sauce. Oh, do NOT make meatballs and place them in the sauce without first cooking the meatballs. The texture and taste become wrong with the meatballs if you do that. DO NOT buy the pre-packaged meatballs. Just make a large batch, broil or fry them, and freeze them. Adding real cheese, not the wood chips you find in the plastic containers, helps with the flavor of the sauce. Sometimes I’ll add tomato paste or another type of canned tomatoes.

The base of altering a jar sauce is the olive oil and garlic. From there you can add what you like to produce a sauce you can enjoy with your pasta. Some people prefer ground beef to pork or meatballs. My wife doesn’t like the cheese in the sauce while I try to sneak it in. The key is to add the very best ingredients to the jar sauce.

What about a white sauce? Make the real thing! You can’t improve the jar alfredo sauce. Look online for a good sauce recipe, and it will be unhealthy. Anything fat-free or has a substitute for health reasons does not taste good. We all know it, so why trying to fake ourselves as we struggle to eat horrible items. Just do not eat the white sauce as often or not at all. As for the red sauce, alter the jar sauce if you cannot make the real sauce.

My Irish Stew

March 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Years ago I was in Boston and had a wonderful dish. It was an Irish Stew. Knowing my chances of having this dish was slim, I went to work researching a recipe to duplicate what I had. What I came up with was a concoction made from multiple recipes I had found. This is a traditional Irish Stew without Guinness. Guinness is not part of a traditional Irish Stew.

1-2 lbm lamb 2 celery
1 or 2 lamb bones fresh parsley
4 large potatoes sprig of thyme
2 medium onions salt and pepper to taste
2 large carrots 2 bay leaves
1 knob of butter 3 cups of stock (You may use lamb or chicken)

You will need a casserole dish with a lid. The oven will need set at 375°F

The onions will need chopped in a large size and place to the side.

Melt the butter in a pan over high heat. Cut the lamb up into pieces if it is not already in pieces. Place the lamb and bone in and brown it. Upon browning the lamb, place it into the casserole dish.

Add the onions into the pan you just used and cook for a minute or two. Move the onions to the casserole dish just before the onions turn brown.

Pour half of the stock into the pan, turn the heat to high and scrape the pan as it boils. You are trying to capture any of the flavor left in the pan. For a non-stick pan this may not be needed. I usually boil for a short time. Pour the pan stock into the casserole. As for the rest of the stock, pour it into the casserole, too. Add the bay leaves and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. When I used chicken stock or broth I do not add salt. Cover the dish and place in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.

The carrots and celery are to be cut into thick pieces. The potatoes, too, will need to be chopped into pieces. After the 45 minutes or hour, add the carrots and celery. I usually stir it around. Next, lay the potatoes over the top of the stew and cook for 45 minutes in the oven.

The broth is not thick.

As I stated, this is made from two or three separate recipes. If you decide to make this dish I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I do like to enjoy a nice bread with this meal. I have eaten pumpernickel bread with this stew. Saloio bread goes well with this too. Of course, a nice Italian bread will do. I like dipping my bread into the stew.

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Vacation #1: The Blueberry Pie Recipe

August 23, 2013 Leave a comment

This is the first in a series of posts about our latest vacation. It is not to be about my family’s trip but more as an information source chocked full with filler.
There is one item Maine seems to want you to think it is a king of – blueberries. They’re blueberries to be specific, and this means pie. Allow me to tell you the Maine blueberry is a myth. It is a myth to think their berries are better when they are really no different than other “wild” varieties. There it is done. Sorry Maine, you can’t own the blueberries just like you can’t own the whoopie pie. It is strictly Pennsylvanian just like the Kentucky Pennsylvania rifle. The whoopie pie is strictly a Pennsylvania Dutch creation.
What is special with the Maine blueberry pie? Well, nothing. I spent time in Maine sampling a few pies and have found my pies to be better. Actually, the one pie was slightly different that my version and that dealt with the crust. Maine pies utilize the smaller sized berry found with wild plants. How can a berry be considered wild when the environment and possibly the berry are modified? Think about that when in Maine.
I have picked wild berries since I was young and can tell you it is a lot of work for little amount. The effort is worth it for the flavor is supreme to store bought or farm picked. This goes for all berries.
I am not saying their pies are not good. They are not unique or special.


The three most important parts to a blueberry pie are the crust, blueberries and filler. I recommend you find a great homemade crust recipe. Store bought crusts are just that, store bought. They are horrible. You can try a graham cracker crust. I had this in Maine and it was tasty. The Educator won’t make one because “it is not healthy for me.” Blah, I say. A poor crust leads to a poor pie. Next are the berries. Frozen from the store are the least preferred. Next are the store pints. Nah, they are not fresh and not the best. Picking your own at an orchard is a great way to add nice flavor. These tend to be big and not as flavorful as wild. Wild blueberries are the best. They have the best flavor. Their small size means more berries and less filler. I am indifferent to most fillers. I generally know of tapioca and cornstarch. The higher the quality the better the pie.
3-4 C blueberries. (If small size, you may want another cup)
¾ C sugar. (You can reduce this amount or add more according to your taste)
2 tbsp Cornstarch
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tspn cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine these ingredients, stir until well mixed and let sit for 10 to 45 minutes. Pour into lined pie pan and add the top layer. Place three slits on the top to vent.
Bake for 40 – 50 minutes.
Another variation to the recipe is as follows:
3-4 C blueberries. (If small size, you may want another cup)
1/3 C sugar.
1/3 C brown sugar.
1 tbsp quick dry tapioca
½ tbsp nutmeg
½ tspn cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Sprinkle lemon juice on blueberries and fold into dry ingredient mixture. Do this gently. Allow to sit for 45 minutes. Place into pie shell and cover with top. Add the vents and bake for 10 minutes at 400. Reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 25 minutes.
I forgot to mention that you need to crimp the completed pie edges with your fingers before you bake the pie.
Glazing. You brush the top with milk or better yet, heavy cream and sprinkle sugar. I have used turbinado sugar.
There you go, blueberry pie. There are many variations of this pie. You can you maple syrup instead of sugar. There is the graham cracker crust I mentioned earlier. What matters most are your crust and berries.

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BBQ Sauce

August 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I have been tasked to develop or find a barbecue sauce by the family; it really is Youth 2’s request. The sauce is a type of dip sauce experienced at Bushy Run recently.

Normally, we eat Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce. It is the best I have found of all of the commercial sauces that I have experienced. It disappoints me when visiting family and they are using KC Masterpiece or any other variety. Some of the commercial brands are gritty to the taste or taste very artificial. Baby Ray’s is just the better of the bunch. There are the dry packets, and they are horrible! I’ll stick with Baby Ray’s for commercial.

A few years back we experienced the Carolina sauce at a highly recommended place. Our family found it to be average at best. It could be the sauce itself is not to our liking. I found the flavor to be lacking. The best restaurant was McPhersons in Port Royal, SC. It was excellent the only time we ate there. It was filled with marines and their family members. It is now gone. Most establishments have average sauces. The two best I have found are no longer in business.

At home, I make a dry rub for our ribs. This dry rub also works well with pork chops. It begins with a marinade and ends with the dry rub on the meat. It is by far the best dry rub I have ever eaten. This dry rub is not the dipping sauce Youth 2 is looking for.

In my search of a better sauce, I have discovered a variety of sauces. I just do not have enough meat to put these sauces on. I will have to visit barbecue joints to sample the types of sauces and work on it on my own. For now, I will continue looking online for a recipe or hints on how to make my own recipe.

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