Lamb Ragu with Ricotta Cheese and Mint 

A simple slow cooked ragu is simple and tasty. Once you get it going you just let it simmer away for a few hours. This recipe is for a lamb ragu, however the method will work for any ragu you would want to make. Rabbit ragu is also fantastic.
It’s simple in the method as well as the food and equipment you’ll need. What you’ll need:

Olive Oil 

Onion 

Carrot

Celery 

Fennel

Salt/Pepper

Oregano 

Thyme 

Rosemary 

Mint

Red wine 

Diced or ground lamb 

Tomato paste 

Canned tomatoes 

Pasta 

Ricotta cheese 
First of all you’ll make you’re mirepoix. Dice your onions, celery, fennel and carrot. In a large pan sweat your vegetables in olive oil and season. 

Now you’ll chop and add your herbs. I tend to go moderate on the herbs. This can make the difference between an okay and a really good ragu. Depending on the protein you’ll be using in the ragu adjust what herbs you’ll use. For this recipe I use oregano, thyme and rosemary. Lamb is a gamey protein so you’ll want herbs that can stand up to that. I love basil, but it doesn’t add much adding it now. It’s too light and delicate for this recipe to come through enough in the final flavor of the ragu.

Add your tomato paste at this point. Stir it around and let it fry out. Let most of the moisture cook out. This will create a fond on the bottom of your pan. The stuff thats kind off cooked onto the bottom. Now you’ll want to deglaze this with your red wine. I just use a simple table wine. 
Add your canned tomatoes and water. Now is when you let it simmer for hours. Cook until your diced lamb is falling apart. If you used a minced lamb this would take less time, however the texture of the chunky lamb is nicer. Gently simmer don’t let it boil. Adjust your seasoming at this point.
For this recipe and ragus in general, use a bigger pasta. I prefer a short pasta like a penne or papradelle. Fresh pasta is perfect for this kind of recipe. Cook it al dente in seasoned water. 
In a separate smaller pan add as much ragu as you want and your pasta and stir. Let it sit for a minute. It will be extremely hot so it’ll stay warm for a minute. This helps the pasta and ragu come together as one the most they can. 

Ricotta cheese does this a lot of good. The creamy soft cheese with the rich tomato sauce is a match made in heaven. Finish with a little chopped mint and you’re ready to serve. 

Super easy cold brew coffee

For the longest time I turned my nose up to any cold coffee. I said coffee is supposed to be served hot. Now that it’s summer and I work in a restaurant I tried cold brew coffee and instantly fell in love. Especially after I realized how easy it is to do. 
The nice part is you don’t need to buy anything. You’ll need coffee filters, coffee and something to steep it in like a mason jar. Most people already have these if you drink coffee on a regular basis. 

All you do is pour 1 part coffee grounds to 4 parts water and shake and put in your fridge. 12 hours is easy, 24 is medium and 36 is strong. The other day I had procrastinated straining mine for 4 days and I tried a sip straight, it was like jet fuel strong. Once you’ve strained your coffee out and it’s in a grounds free mason jar it can hold for a long time.

Choose a coffee that you like. Making it cold brew will give you the pure flavor of that coffee. When you cold brew coffee it’s also significantly less bitter than when you brew it normally. It’s also served cold, so if you really want the natural flavor of a coffee try this method it’s a trip compared to normally brewed coffee. Try filling an ice tray with cold brew coffee to use when you serve your cold brew coffee. This won’t dilute your coffee when you serve it like normal ice will. 

Your cold brew coffee can always be ready in your refrigerator unlike hot coffee. It’s also far better when it’s hot outside. No one really wants cold brew coffee in January like they do in July. Just imagine having a week’s worth of coffee ready. Just waking up on a warm spring or summer morning with your coffee ready in the refrigerator for you. Strain your coffee Sunday night into 7 smaller mason jars, so all week all you have to do is grab one and go. 
You can even premix your coffee. I like mochas myself when I’m drinking cold coffee. I can put my syrup in the bottom of the jars and just gran one In the morning add a little milk, shake it and it’s ready to drink. No steaming milk or waiting around for the coffee machine to hurry up. 

You can also try new things. Add some chocolate, milk and some ice and blend it up. Make yourself a frappe. Make it anyway you want. All the things you can add and best of all it’s so much less expensive than most coffee shops. If you like whip cream you can make that yourself. You can just buy heavy cream and use that as the dairy in your coffee. Whipped cream is just cream and sugar whipped until it’s the proper consistency. 

On weekends you can easily spike your coffee. I think spiked coffee tastes better cold. Make a mocha or a frappe and add some Bailey’s. It’s really good this way. You can even use bourbon and honey with your cold brew coffee. Try some new things. Create your own cold brew coffee recipes.

Try making your own sausage 

I love making my own sausages. Controlling everything that goes Into them. You can try thousands of flavor combinations, not much as far as limitations go. It doesn’t require a lot of equipment either. All you need is a grinder, stuffer and casings. For the every once and a while sausage maker I reccomend a hand grinder. It attaches to the edge of the table. You can find them cheap and they do well for small batches. 

For larger batches or more often then I would go with an electric grinder. They are around 80 dollars and up, but make things go much more quickly. Another important thing is to keep as much of your grinder parts cold as possible. By this I mean your dye, the spinning parts and the tube it comes out of. Don’t put any electronic components in the fridge. It’s important to keep all this cool to keep the meat cool and firm. When you grind meat with a warm grinder it can make the meat less firm and the fat can melt. This won’t make your sausage as well. The texture will be off. Also when you mix your meat don’t over do it or it will get too warm and the texture won’t be as nice. 

I like to use beef that’s tougher. I like more connective tissue and flavor. Don’t use expensive pork or beef. You can make sausage out of just about any meat. The leaner the meat the more fat you’ll have to add. Lamb sausage is nice as well as venison. Adding fat is easy. Use bacon, or preferably pancetta. This will add a nice flavor and the fat it will need. You need the fat to keep your sausage moist. Do a little research to find out how much fat to meat you’ll want for what you grind. 

Now that your meat is ground properly and has the proper amount of fat content it’s time to season. Salt is a must, I also like to add a good amount of fresh chopped herbs. I decide on what i want dependant on what I’m going for and the meat I’m grinding. For my Italian sausage I use roasted fennel, chopped onions and mushrooms that have been sauteed off and drained of as much moisture as possible. I also use basil, thyme and oregano. I use pancetta and inexpensive pork for this sausage. 
You can also add things like cheese and fruit if you want. Pineapple and dried fruits can be good. Try sharp cheeses thru come through the best. With lamb I like to add dried apricots. 
At this point you stuff your sausages. You put them in the cylinder and press down. The tube will push your mix into your casings. 

When it comes to the casings of choice I always use intestine. It sounds gross, but it gets the job done and is the easiest to use. When you use the synthetic casings you have to remove them before eating them. In my experiance they’re also more of a pain to work with. 
You just need to press down on the lever slowly and constantly. You have to put the casing of the tube. Just press how much you need on it like a spring. The casing will come off the tube, just make sure the meat fills it up evenly. This is controlled by how fast or slow you press down. 

You’ll have a long sausage now. I usually make mine about 8 feet long into a curl. At this point you tie the ends when you’re done. Then you pinch 6 inch segments and twirl to make your links. 

Be gentle when you cook it. You can grill it or as i prefer to cook it all in a pan with a little beer. Let them poach until they’re at their desired tempature.
Like a lot of other things let them rest before you cut into them so they stay more moist. You can make any kind of sausage you want. Get creative with it. 


Enjoy your homemade sausages. Try some new things and let me know what you try. Ask me for some ideas. Share this with your friends and I’ll do a post about how to make your own salami in a later post. 

Try to dry age your beef

There are a few reasons why a dry aged steak is superior to a normal steak. I reccomend this for people who enjoy a strong beef flavor and are more patient. This is a blog post about why you should and how it works. To do it yourself it is easy, but do a little more research on your own. All you’ll really need to buy is the beef and a moisture level reader which isn’t expensive. 

Essentially all you do is clean a primal, which is just the side of uncut steaks like the picture above, above a pan of salt in a refrigerator. Preferably in a refrigerator by itself. You want to keep the moisture level down, this is where the moisture level reader comes in. Putting it above a layer of coarse sea salt sucks a lot of the moisture out of the refrigerator and aides in drying the steak. Don’t let the steak actually touch the salt though. 

A few things about what happens to the steak when it dry ages. The beef will shrink by about a third. The moisture being drawn out is water weight and mass and when you pull that out the steak gets smaller. Also it will form a not so appetizing crust like in the picture above. This is okay, you just need to trim it off and the steak underneath will look beautiful. A rich red color. 
I reccomend using a New York strip or a ribeye as your selected primal. It will shrink and you will have to cut the crust off so you want something bigger, not like a fillet or clod. 

With the steak shrinking the beef flavor intensifies. It consolidates the flavor. It makes it a rich and beautiful flavor. A typical first time dry age is 30 days. It intensifies the flavor and is easy to eat. The longer you dry age the steak the more rich the flavor gets and it will get a funk after about 70 days. Some people like it, but others don’t. I like it myself. I’ve had steak that was dry aged 90, 180 and 270 days and I think anything over 180 is too much. It starts to get way too funky tasting like a string blue cheese. 

When you go to cook your dry aged beef cook it medium or below. You’ve ready sucked a lot of the moisture out of It, so it’ll go dry quickly if you overcook it. Dry aged beef is more tender, however it will go dry more quickly. I love to pan sear mine and baste it with a compound butter. Always let it rest, this will also help your steak be more moist and pleasurable. Do some research and try it yourself. 

Cheese and cheese boards 

All about cheese. As a kid I get up not far from the Tillamook cheese factory here in Oregon. It was amazing. Seeing how some of the best cheese in the country is made, start to finish. I grew up eating a lot of cheddar and swiss. Pretty standard decent cheeses. I wouldn’t touch American cheese them, because I couldn’t do the taste and now, because I’ve learned it’s very close in composition to plastic. 
However as I got older I realized that cheese isn’t a simple thing. There are thousands of different cheeses with different flavors and purposes. In this post I’m going to focus on a good cheese board and some differences in classifications of cheese. 
First of all let’s look at the main way cheese is classified, by it’s hardness. Cheese is separated into 4 groups this way. Soft, semi soft, semi hard and hard. This makes it far easier to find the cheese you want. For a good cheese board you want all 4. A full, well rounded experiance of cheese. Below I will post a helpful chart on how some cheeses are categorized, so you better understand the idea. 

The harder the cheese the more difficult it is for it to melt. American cheese melts extremely easy, because it’s a soft cheese. You can put a decent sized slab on top of it and it would melt just fine. That’s why pizzas are generally made with mozzarella, because it melts so easily. When I make my Alfredos when I add my Asiago or parmesan cheese it has to be shredded pretty fine to melt properly. Also the aging process makes cheese not melt as well. Most cheeses are hard because they’ve been aged a long time like parmesan. It changes the composition and makes it saltier and harder. 

When I put together a cheese board I put one of several of each cheese on. I will also look to put a nice rustic bread on my board. Cheese and bread are so nice together. I love spreading a soft cheese over crusty bread. The texture and flavor are incredible. This is one of those simplicity is bliss things. I always warm my bread and slice it relatively thick. Try something with a gentler flavor like a light sourdough or a baguette. 

Crackers are a classic on cheese boards. I prefer crackers for harder cheeses. Remember to slice your hard cheeses very thin. The cracker holds up much better than bread against these cheeses. Again likewise with bread pick a flavor neutral cracker. With it being eaten with a hard cheese that’s already salty, pick a cracker that is light on the salt. 

The best fruit for a nice cheese board is something mildly sweet and tart. This lets the cheese bloom and is a good underdone to the rich and salty cheeses. I really like fresh figs and grapes of several varieties on my board. It gives you options and flavor and allows you to eat a lot of cheese. Apple’s can also be nice, especially a green apple. 

Wine and cheese to me is almost as good as it gets. Due to the rich and salty nature of cheese a light red wine is my preference. It changes by what cheese I’m eating, but pinot noir is usually my go too. A generally smooth, gentle and fruity red wine it helps cut the fattiness of the cheese, without overpowering it. Never over power your cheese it defeats the purpose. Chianti can also be nice. It’s mildly spicy and aromatic it’s better for more flavorsome cheeses like a hard Asiago or blue cheeses. White wines can go well with a lighter, summery cheese board. If you choose a white wine make sure it’s fruity and tart. 

Blue cheese is an interesting thing. It’s the least popular of all the cheeses. It’s packed in flavor and it has a pungent odor that is off putting for a lot of people. Blue cheese is moldy, it’s injected with penacillium to encourage the bacteria growth. This mold is what gives blue cheese it’s salty and sharp flavor. This is also why it has the pungent flavor and blue veins. Blue cheese comes in many types too some more mild than others. 

Try a few ways to enjoy an oyster 

Oysters are really delisuous. Oysters have the most wonderful ocean flavor. It’s like salty ocean breeze. I love raw oysters. A lot of people have written off oysters, because they tried them raw once and they hated the texture. The texture of a raw oyster can be off putting for people who are texture oriented. When you buy a whole oyster you have to shuck it. Take an oyster knife to the joint of the oyster. It’s the part of the back where the little indent is. Gently place the tip of the knife in and rock slowly back and forth. This will pop the oyster open. Then pull the top off and separate the oyster from the bottom by gently running the knife around the bottom of the oyster. 

When I eat a raw oyster I like a splash of Tabasco, or lemon juice. The acidity does wonders with the salty ocean flavor. A  mignonette is a nice touch too. It’s vinegar, or lemon juice with shallots and sometimes liquor or honey. Just a tiny bit goes a long way. 

When you go to buy an oyster make sure it’s closed. Oysters are alive when they’re closed and they go bad quickly when they’re not quite closed. Scrub the outside of the oysters well to make them look nicer. Be mindful when you harvest oysters to check for red tide warning. This is where there’s been a algae boom and shellfish harvested in that area shouldn’t be eaten. They can be very dangerous. 

 When a raw oyster doesn’t suit your fancy try cooking them like something more relatable. Fry frying oysters. Fried oysters can be incredible. They’re already seasoned, I simply flour them, eggwash and coat them in panko. They cook extremely quickly. Serve them with some dipping sauce like a herbed aioli. 
Try putting the fried oysters on a sandwich like a po-boy. A baguette toasted with a spicy remoulade, tomatoes, onion and lettuce. The oysters go perfectly on this sandwich. Fried oysters also go really well with cole slaw. 

Baked oysters can also be nice. When you cook an oyster the texture is much nicer. It’s firm not slimy. When you bake an oyster try removing them and adding some mayo, herbs and bread crumbs to the oyster and baking it in the shell. These make for a really wonderful appetizer. Just serve with an aioli and lemon. 

Scallops a culinary gem of the sea

Scallops are beautiful in flavor, texture and appearance. Sweet with a mild ocean flavor they’re a real treat. You can take a scallop dish so many different ways. I prefer them seared myself, however you can also poach, or eat them raw. 
Luckily, most scallops you’ll find in the store, or at the fish market will come cleaned and ready to cook. Watch out for milky looking scallops that usually means they haven’t been kept well. 

Sometimes they’ll come in their shell and you’ll have to clean them. Cleaning a scallop is easy. Simply take a small knife and insert it into the shell and gently scrape it from the shell. Open the shell and remove your scallop. Now all you have to do is remove the skirt from the scallop. Just run your thumb around the main peice if the scallop and gently pull the skirt off. You’ll be left with a beautiful,  clean scallop ready to cook.

Like i said before I like to sear my scallops. They get a nice crust and a beautiful medium rare. The middle of the scallop should be pink when you’re done searing it. Over cooking a scallop will make it go rubbery and lose its flavor. I use a very hot sautee pan with some butter. I also coat the foot, the flat end of the scallop, in seasoned flour. This does a few things, it makes the scallops crust nicer and more distinct, as well as creating more of a fond. That’s the brown bits at the bottom of the pan when you sear it. I also make sure to sear my scallops in butter. 

Place your scallops in the pan, making sure not to crowd the pan. Once you put them in don’t touch them until they’re ready to flip. Flip them after about 30 seconds once they have a nice golden brown crust. Wait about another 30 seconds and remove your scallops. 

Now I add some white wine to my pan and deglaze. I add aromatics like thyme and parsley. Thyme and scallops are a match made in culinary heaven. When the white wine is almost gone mount with butter off of the heat and stir vigorously. Pour this over your scallops and serve. Finish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. That’s my favorite way to have scallops. 

Tips for taking the challenge out of white fish 

White fish is a fisheries term used for most fish with white flesh like cod and halibut. Usually more common than fish like salmon, because it freezes better and can thus hold longer. Fish and chips is an obnoxiously popular way to cook white fish here in the United States. I like fish and chips, but do nt limit yourself to that. 
A nice benefit of most white fish like halibut and flounder is the lack of trouble any bones will give you. Flat white fish have no bones that go into the fillet, so you just cut off your fillet, skin it and you’re good to go. Most of the time in super markets it’s already fillet and portioned ready for you to cook.

I said earlier about how it freezes better, however fish doesn’t freeze well. This is why most of the time, especially with fish and chips, the fish itself offers almost no flavor. White fish is delicate in flavor to begin with, so when you freeze it a lot of the flavor it does have is lost. It freezes better in the sense that it doesn’t fall apart on you as much as say salmon or trout would. When buying White fish look for non previously frozen. It should also be bright white and not grey. 
When I cook white fish I cook it with a gentler method that imparts more flavor and aromatics to help it along. I like to poach mine in olive oil with herbs, sear it in a pan, or bake it with lemons and herbs packed on top. White fish is a little more dense so it will take a bit to cook so lower on the tempature is better to cook it through evenly. 
Everyone’s impressed by the massive several hundred pound halibut that are pulled from the ocean floor. In reality those don’t taste good. Halibut over around 80 pounds start to loose flavor and a proper texture. Around 50 pounds is the perfect size halibut for eating. 

Tips to take the challenge out of Salmon 

I lived in Alaska on and off for years and one of the best ingredients there was the incredible salmon and crab. Almost everyday, all summer long I would come into work and fillet at least 2 big king or sockeye salmon. Fish can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. 
Salmon is great, it has it’s own distinct flavor, yet it’s light and takes on other flavors well too. Stay away from pink or chum salmon. I used chum salmon for bait and pink salmon for smoking. They don’t have the most pleasant and clean flavor you want out of a salmon. King salmon, or Chinook depending on what you call them where you live, are nice and large. King salmon to me has a little bit of a generic flavor compared to sockeye. Chinook is so popular, because of their large size. Sockeye is flavorsome and contains the least amount of mercury. The fillets that come off of a sockeye salmon have a very bright and distinct color.  Coho salmon is also pretty nice. It’s similar to the taste of a king salmon, just a bit smaller. 
I always prefer fillets over steaks. I think steaks don’t look as nice and they’re more of a pain to eat. Usually in super markets salmon comes fillet and with the pin bones already removed. Also I find salmon cooks more evenly cut into fillet portions rather than steaks. 
Look at the label in the case. Wild caught is always better. Farmed fish isn’t good. They feed it corn pellets and something to make the flesh look kind of how it’s supposed to. The flesh should look bright, not washed out or faded. Look for salmon that hasn’t been frozen. Previously frozen salmon will almost always end up being dry and it makes it harder to cook, because it’ll be falling apart more. This will also drain it of a lot of its flavor. 
Try cooking it skin on. A nice crispy skin can be nice on A salmon. I prefer it myself. If you don’t like the skin and don’t want to ruin your fillet by trying to skin it, cook it skin on and it’ll just come right off with your fingers. 
When it comes to cooking your salmon I prefer to pan sear, bake or eat it raw. Salmon is nice on sushi and in poke if it’s fresh and fatty. When I sear mine I just heat a pan up with some oil in it and put it skin side down in the pan. Let it cook about 70 percent the way on the skin and flip it. It will finish soon after. You can see it when you cook your salmon in a pan how cooked it is by looking at the side. Salmon is nice medium rare. When you bake it just season it and put it skin side down in a oven around 350 degrees until it’s done. It really is that simple. 

Easy beef Wellington 

Beef Wellington was an intimidating dish for me to cook at first. It seemed difficult, but making a few for dinner is really an easy thing to do. A beautiful fillet mignon in puff pastry. What you’ll need:

Fillet mignon 

Stone ground mustard 

Prosciutto 

Portobello mushrooms

Thyme 

Oregano 

Basil 

Parsley

Puff pastry 

Salt/pepper 

Eggwash 
First of all you’ll cut your fillet into about 4 inch long rounds. This makes them look nicer and cook more quickly. Sear your fillet until nice and brown on all sides. While still hot rub your mustard on it. Lightly coast it. The beef will absorb a lot more mustard flavor while it’s hot. 
Blitz your mushrooms and herbs in a blender. Add this to a sautee pan with no oil and cook out all the moisture from the mushrooms. 
Set your prosciutto out on plastic wrap. Enough that it’ll wrap all the way around the beef. Place your mushroom mixture on top of the prosciutto in a thin even layer. Place your fillet down now and wrap around tight. 
Now you can wrap it in your puff pastry coated in eggwash. Pinch the seems tight and score the top of the puff pastry. Place on your baking sheet seem down and bake until your desired tempature is reached. I reccomend using a digital thermometer. You won’t be able to feel the beef for doneness so this takes the guess work out of It.
When it’s done, rest it for around 8 minutes and slice into thick slices. I like to slice mine around 1 inch thick.