Is there anything more comforting on a cold winter day than soup?? A hearty minestrone, fresh tomato basil, and a good old fashioned chicken soup are all satisfying, but my favorite has always been French Onion. Is it the soup or the crusty melted cheese over a slice of French Bread (or Sourdough) that makes it so delicious?? My best friend from high school, Leah, and I would often order it as opposed to the typical pizza or mozzarella sticks in the budget of the day, and we became quite the critics. I was, after all, half French, my maiden name being Duvall and all.

My Nana, who was 100% Irish, made a delicious version that I recall having bowl after bowl of. It could frequently be found on our Christmas Eve potluck buffet we shared with our neighbors after the vigil mass along with a Caesar Salad, some crusty bread and plenty of grated Swiss Cheese alongside sprinkle in to get the melty, stringy, gooeyness that makes it oh so yummy. A giant pot of it always made it up to ski weekends and greeted us when we came in chilled after a few runs for lunch.

Nashua Country Club, in Nashua NH, where my parents were members for many years, always made a delicious version that my brother Gary and I were particularly fond of. My Nana’s was delicious, but the NCC version had a little extra something … the melted crusty cheese on top helped, of course, but there were some herbs in there that were lacking in Nana’s. As my palate evolved, I identified Rosemary and Thyme…and being 50% French, I would know, right??

Using my Nana’s recipe as the base, I set about trying to tweak it to get to my own perfect recipe that included the flavors of the NCC soup. Just when I thought I had it figured out, which I think the recipe proves, the shoe dropped . . . My parents decided to take the Ancestry tests and when the results came in, we were knocked for a loop. We fully expected to learn that my mother, with her olive complexion and propensity to “change race” rather than simply take on a golden glow when sunbathing, would have some Spanish or North African blood in her, the product of the Spanish Armada. Nope, she came in at 99.9% Irish, completely in keeping with what we understood as the Mahan and Clougherty family history. My father, on the other hand, the 50% French part of me, came in at 11% French and 89% Irish and Northern British Isles. So much for the “French Chef” in me, I’m a mere 5.5% French and pretty much Irish for the lack of further clarification. It’s a good thing I married an Irish guy, so I have the Irish name now. So, contrary to what many of us think, cooking talent is not necessarily simply in our blood, anyone with an interest, commitment and desire can become a superlative cook, like my Irish Nana, who shared her love through her wonderful treats, sweet and savory, and inspired me to develop my own culinary skills, explore my creativity and find joy in the process.


While my Nana's French Onion Soup was delicious, I wanted to incorporate some herbs from the Nashua Country Club version that my brother and I loved. I prefer a lot of onions with texture, so I've doubled the amount my Nana used. Better store bought ingredients are available these days, including good quality stocks and "Better than Bullion" provides a great depth of flavor without the saltiness of bullion cubes.
You can use a food processor to slice your onions, but I find hand slicing gives the right thickness to provide the texture I prefer. A really sharp chef's knife is essential and it really doesn't take that long when cutting in 1/4" slices.
This is a rich soup that is a great first course or a perfect light meal along with a salad. Delicious on the day you make it, but the flavors will continue to develop and deepen after a day or two, becoming super savory.
Course Soup, Soup, Appetizers
Cuisine American, French
Servings 12 healthy crocks or 16 cups


  • Dutch Oven
  • Saute Pan
  • Knife
  • Food processor (optional)


  • 6 TBSP Olive OIl extra virgin
  • 6 TBSP Butter
  • 20 Cups Onions, sliced 1/4" thick, 8 large onions, combination of yellow & sweet
  • 4 Shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 TBSP Garlic, minced (about 4 large or 6 medium cloves)
  • 1 1/2 TBSP Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Flour
  • 2 TBSP Fresh Rosemary, minced
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Thyme, minced
  • 2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3/4 Cup Cognac (or brandy)
  • 1 1/2 Cup White or Red Wine (Chardonnay or Pinot Noir)
  • 2 Quarts Beef Stock
  • 1 Quart Chicken Stock
  • 3 TBSP Better than Bullion BEEF (or 10 Beef bullion cubes)
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper freshly ground
  • Gruyere Cheese (for serving)
  • Sourdough Bread or Baguette (for serving)


  • Trim the ends from the onions, cut in half and peel the skins. Slice into 1/4" slices. (You can use a food processor with the wider slice attachment, but I prefer to do by hand with a very sharp knife . . . the time consuming part is the trimming and peeling.)
  • Divide the olive oil and butter into a large stock pot and a large saute pan (3 TBSP of each) and heat over medium heat until until the butter is just melted.
  • Divide the onions and add to the oil and butter and stir well. Cover and cook until the onions are soft and begin to become golden, stirring frequently to ensure they are not sticking to the bottom of the pans, about 5-7 minutes.
  • When the onions are soft and golden, add the shallots, sugar and salt and continue to cook, uncovered, until they become a deep golden brown and are very soft but still have texture, about another 4-5 minutes. Again, scrape the bottom of the pans frequently to ensure they are not burning.
  • Transfer the onions in the saute pan to those in the stock pot and add the garlic, rosemary, thyme & black pepper. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. At this point the onions should be a deep brown.
  • Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the Worcestershire, Cognac and wine and cook for 2-3 minutes to cook off the alcohol.
  • Add the stocks, water and "Better than Bullion" (or cubes if you are using). Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.
    Simmer for 30 minutes with lid partially on (half on/half off), stirring occasionally to ensure the onions aren't sticking to bottom of the pot.
  • Ladle into onion soup crocks, place a slice of sourdough bread (or baguette if you haven't been on the sourdough kick), top with grated gruyere cheese and place under broiler until the cheese just starts to melt.
  • Using a creme brulee torch, brown the melted cheese until it is nice and crusty.
  • Enjoy with a nice glass of red wine!


  • I find that splitting the onions into 2 pans, the stock pot that you will prepare the whole soup in, and other saute pan, allows the onions to cook faster and more evenly.  
  • If you’re gluten free, try gluten free flour.  
  • Good quality stock is readily available at most grocery stores.  I like the Kitchen Basics brand or even the Whole Foods 365 brand, but do use Stock and not Broth.
  • You can certainly make this and serve the same day and it’s quite delicious, but if you let it sit for a day or two, the flavors will develop even further and it will become richer.  Depending on your palate, you may wish to add an additional cup of water ot 2 if you think it has gotten too thick and rich.
  • If you’ve been making sourdough bread, a day or two old slice is perfect for your crouton, otherwise you can toast fresh bread or use a slice of baguette. 
  • I like to use Gruyere for my cheese, grated, piled on top of the crouton and melted under the broiler and finished with a creme brulee torch for that beautiful crunchy crust.  
  • You can always just toss in a bit of grated cheese, it will melt and become stringy, but you may find it clumps in the bottom of the crock.  
  • Vegan??  Use margarine (I cringe, but I’ll give you leeway) and skip the cheese.
Keyword French, French Onion Soup, Onion, Onion Soup, Soup

Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the hottest chef in Boston was Todd English. He initially had two restaurants in Charlestown, where he and his family lived. Figs was the more casual pizza place that my friend Leah and I loved and frequented on our girls nights out. Olives, however, was the flagship and the most difficult place to secure a table in it’s heyday. People would line up in hopes of getting a table, as it they didn’t take reservations. When Dennis and I were first dating and he was in town for a weekend while I was still living in the Boston area, we decided to try our luck to see if we could get in. Fortunately for us, my brother Gary lived right up the street at the time, so we were able to walk over and successfully get our name on the list and then go back to his place to hang out for the several hours wait for our table. The signature dish was the Braised Lamb Shanks, which was what I ordered and they were delicious.

I had the opportunity to meet Todd at a book signing for the release of his cookbook “The Figs Table”. My friend Leah had already given me that book for my birthday, so I decided to buy his previously released “The Olives Table”. As I flipped through the pages awaiting my turn to meet Todd and have my book signed, I was delighted to see the recipe for the lamb shanks I had enjoyed at that dinner with Dennis just a few weeks before. As my turn approached, I’m sure I was star struck, as it was like meeting a celebrity for me as a fledgling foodie, but I was taken aback by his brusqueness and lack of interest in engaging. Perhaps he was uncomfortable out of his element in the kitchen and irritated by the need to signed hundreds or more books for the long line of excited fans. In any event, I left a bit deflated at the thought that he was rather arrogant and had become rather taken with himself as a result of a steady diet of rave reviews and accolades. Perhaps I wasn’t off, as his popularity was soaring and he was in the midst of creating his restaurant “empire”, opening Olives in Las Vegas, New York and multiple international locations along with developing other concepts. Sadly the time away from Olives in Charlestown took its toll and the quality suffered. After several closures due to citations by the Health Department and no fewer than 3 fires, Olives in Charlestown closed for good in 2013.

But I digress . . . I have made the Ginger Braised Lamb Shanks from “The Olives Table”, and while delicious, I have tweaked things over the years. When we decided to host our first dinner party following our move to Houston, I wanted to do something Mediterranean that could largely be made ahead that would minimize the amount of time at the stove so that I could visit with our guests. My favorite store, Central Market had beautiful looking lamb shanks from Colorado, so thought this might be the perfect dish, especially given the weather had turned chilly, ideal for a hearty braised dish. Lamb can be very polarizing, people either love it or hate it, so I did a quick pulse check with our guests and I was in luck, everyone liked lamb. The verdict was “delicious” and I hope you’ll agree. A fantastic Bordeaux from St Emilion, heavy with merlot, is a perfect pairing.


These lamb shanks are full of Mediterranean flavors and make a delicious one dish dinner served over mashed potatoes, as the onions, fennel and chickpeas provide the vegetables. Perfect for a snowy day where you don't want to leave the house, as they require several hours of braising in a low oven. I've also made these on Christmas Eve, popping them in the oven before heading out for mass. The meat becomes super tender and is literally falling off the bones. The flavors intensify if you make them a day in advance. These are a great meal when entertaining, as they can be made in advance and kept warm in the oven until you are ready to serve, leaving you free to visit with your guests.
Cook Time 3 hours
Course Main Course, Meat
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 4 people


  • Dutch Oven


  • Lamb Shanks
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil estra virgin
  • 2 Cups Onions, thinly sliced 1 very large or 2 medium onions
  • 2 Cups Fennel (Anise), cored & thinly sliced 1 large or 2 medium bulbs
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Ginger, minced Peel & mince in a small food processor
  • 1 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3/4 Cup Red Wine
  • 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 tsp Cumin ground
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt Morton's
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper freshly ground
  • 4 Cups Beef Stock or Broth
  • 2-4 Cups Chicken Stock or Broth
  • 1 Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes, including juice 29 ounces
  • 1 Can Chick Peas, drained 29 ounces
  • 3 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary


  • Allow the lamb shanks to come to room temperature (about 30-45 minutes before you are ready to cook) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Measure the spices out into a small ramekin or a cup.
  • Heat 2 TBSP of olive oil in a large Dutch Oven over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the lamb shanks and brown on all sides, being careful not to burn, reducing the heat if necessary. Lamb has a lot of fat and creates a lot of smoke, so be sure to use your exhaust fan.
  • Remove the shanks from the pan and place on a plate/platter.
  • Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel, being careful not to burn yourself.
  • Preheat your oven to 300* (or 275* on convection, which I prefer). Set your oven racks to the lower third, ensuring there is room for your Dutch Oven (you may need to remove a rack).
  • Add the remaining 2 TBSP of oil to the pan and return to medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until just softened.
  • Add the ginger and garlic and stir for 1 minute, making sure not to let the garlic burn.
  • Add the spice mixture and mix well.
  • Add the Balsamic Vinegar and Wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and allow to reduce by about half.
  • Add the tomatoes and their juices, the chick peas and 4 cups of beef stock and 2 cups of chicken stock.
  • Return the shanks to the pan and spoon the vegetables over them so they are nestled into the liquid and vegetables. If there is not enough liquid to cover the shanks fully, add another 2 cups of chicken stock, or a bit more if necessary.
  • Add the Rosemary sprigs. Increase the heat and bring to a boil.
  • Place the pot in the oven, uncovered, and cook for 3 hours until the meat is very tender and falling off the bones.
  • Serve with Mashed Potatoes and ladle the vegetables over the top.


  • I prefer Colorado lamb, it is much milder in flavor than Australia or New Zealand lamb and may convert those that recall the gamey lamb of their childhoods.  It’s worth sourcing.  
  • Lamb shanks are relatively inexpensive, so provide a great dish without breaking the bank.  If you don’t see them at your butcher, ask, as they may have them in back, often frozen.  
  • I like to use a large oval Le Creuset Dutch Oven when I’m making 4-6 lamb shanks.  
  • I like the Muir Glen brand of Fire Roasted Tomatoes.  You don’t need organic, but sometimes that’s all I can find. 
Keyword Braised, Lamb, Lamb Shanks, Mediterranean

Those were the exact words my friend Joe commented on my first post after a long hiatus! Really, who decides to embark upon a major renovation in the midst of a pandemic and a severe disruption in the supply chain resulting in LONG delays in furniture and appliances? Well, we did, that’s who. As if packing up and moving from Chicago after being happily settled there for 10 years, wasn’t enough of a challenge, what started out as a little “tweaking” of the kitchen in our newly purchased Houston home turned into a total gut job. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? We were lucky to find a contractor who could start right away and his 90 day timeline didn’t seem unreasonable in February, bringing us to about Memorial Day. I had been through a complete renovation of our Chicago kitchen, and I was pretty clear on what I wanted, so I set about making selections of appliances and fixtures. I was advised that appliances were backordered by about 12 weeks, which didn’t seem like such a big deal since the mid-May delivery dates I was being quoted seemed just about in keeping with the timeline.

Well, that was the week before the historic freeze that hit Houston in mid-February, shutting the city and its power grid down for the better part of a week. Once the power grid was restored and burst pipes repaired and thus water restored, we thought we were back on track. Then came the great national foam shortage. As we all know, foam is needed for furniture, but it is also necessary for insulation in appliances such as the refrigerators, freezers and ice maker that I had just ordered. It turns out several of the largest foam manufacturers are in Houston and they were victims of the freeze. Our 12 week backorder more than doubled with mid-September the new estimated delivery time. This was going to be painful.

The contractors were back on track in a mere 2 weeks and were making great progress with the cabinets. I pivoted with selections if something was backordered and the new kitchen began to take shape. We were looking at a late June move in, which was only a month off, and I know from experience that you need to tack on a few weeks to keep expectations in check and frustration at bay. We anxiously awaited word on the wood for the flooring as lumber prices soared, and we breathed a sigh of relief when it arrived a week early,

Our pack up in Chicago was scheduled for the third week of June, so we let the contractor know he had a hard deadline of June 29th, at which point we would be moving in. The walls of the temporary apartment that we were in since the end of January were beginning to close in on us and with our belongings packed up in Chicago and headed to Houston, it was “ready or not, here we come”. The painting contractor brought in extra crews and the house was habitable, though we still were waiting for appliances. We moved the refrigerator that came with the house to the laundry room, and the washer and dryer were in, so we could manage. In late August the refrigerator/freezers arrived and we seemed to be close to the finish line. Then the project manager quit…not our job, but the contractor. Thankfully, one of the partners took charge and set about fixing the things the project manager had dropped the ball on. Clearly he had “left” before giving his notice, and there was a long list of things that were wrong (outlets for refrigerators too high and needed to be moved), broken (cracked mirror on a new piece of furniture) or lost (like all the doorknobs removed by the painters that we planned to reuse). The profit margin was dwindling, but while that wasn’t our problem, and it was our problem, as the delays continued due to the need to order replacements, reschedule installations, and make repairs.

Meanwhile, furniture ordered in the spring began to arrive . . . Dining room table and chairs, the extra counter stools for the kitchen island, so the house was starting to look like a home. Finally in early October the range arrived and was installed! There was still a hole for the further delayed ice maker, but at long last we were operational and ready to host our first dinner party!

While the move from Chicago to Houston was emotional, the transition has been made easier thanks to the blessing of great friendships . . .both those we have known for many years from our time in London together and are like family, as well as new friends who have welcomed us with open arms. The menu of a Mediterranean Mezze with Hummus (HUMMUS), Tabbouli (TABBOULI) & Olive Sourdough Bread (SOURDOUGH BREAD), Braised Lamb Shanks and Creme Brulee was a hit (recipes coming).

The long renovation was worth it and KtinasKitchen is officially Back in Business…new recipes and posts on the way!

Oh yeah, the ice maker arrived the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and the panel is finally being installed next week!

I haven’t written much recently because I have been in project management mode in preparation for our move from Chicago to Houston. Since mid January, we have purchased a new home in Houston, Dennis started a new job, we embarked on a renovation project involving a gut rehab of the kitchen, and have been preparing our Chicago home to go up for sale. It’s a lot of work staging one house to sell while decorating another, especially in two different cities that requires me to zigzag back and forth every other week. Managing contractors, plumbers, electricians, painters, real estate agents and decorators doesn’t leave much time for cooking. Not to mention our temporary accommodations in Houston are not as not as well equipped as my Chef’s kitchen in Chicago, which means we have been eating out a lot. Who would have thought a year ago when we were DYING to go to a restaurant that we would be sick of eating out!

On my last trip back to Chicago, I thought I better clean out the refrigerator and noticed the sourdough starter that I had been neglecting over the past several weeks. It looked pretty sickly, with a watery layer covering the gluey flour mixture. I opened it and gave it a sniff and it smelled pretty much the same as the last time I had fed it back in late February. After a quick Google search to inquire about how to tell when sourdough starter had gone off, it didn’t seem that it was exhibiting any of the symptoms of death (namely a red/orange streak or mold growth), so I decided to try feeding it to see if there was still any life in it.

I fed it and left it to sit out overnight and when I went to the kitchen to make coffee, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the starter still seemed to have life in it. It had more than doubled overnight, though did seem to be a bit less lively than when I had been feeding it regularly. I did a little more research and learned that it is suggested to feed “neglected” started more frequently until it doubles in 8 hours (or less), so I fed it again and left it on the counter while I went about my chores for the day. When I checked back later that afternoon, it had more than doubled in 8 hours, so it seemed that I hadn’t killed it after all! The only way to find out was to try making bread.

Since it was 9 pm on Wednesday evening and I was flying back to Houston on Thursday afternoon, it was now or never. I made a batch of dough and folded it over once. The recipe calls for letting it rest and repeating the stretch and folding process, so I went to wash my face and brush my teeth so that I could crawl into bed immediately. Truth be told, the second fold and stretch never happened as I fell asleep while waiting the extra 20 minutes since I was so tired. I woke up on Thursday morning to see the abandoned dough and the television still on, The dough had risen overnight, so I rather than discard it, I thought I may as well conclude my experiment and see just how robust this stuff is. I stretched the dough, prepared my dutch oven and preheated the oven.

When the timer went off after 25 minutes, I lifted the lid expecting that it would be a dud, but was pleasantly surprised to see the bread looked just like the success loaves I had baked since receiving the starter from my friend Jenny. I returned it to the oven for the remaining 20 minutes. It was nice and brown and although it was not as high as some loaves I had made, it certainly had risen and looked like a beautiful sourdough boule. As I removed it from the pot and placed it on the cooling rack, I could hear it crackling as the dough continued to expand. An hour later, I cut into it for the final test . . . it was delicious! I texted Jenny to tell her that i hadn’t killed the starter after all, to which she replied “it’s impossible to kill!” I brought the loaf to Houston with me and it made for a tasty avocado toast with an over easy egg for breakfast.

Last, but not least, it was Timmy Lynch’s turn to spend the day in the kitchen with me. As the youngest at 8 years old, (and 11 and 8 years younger than older brothers Billy and joe) “the Caboose” is not very adventurous about food, so I wasn’t sure what we were going to cook. He announced during Joe’s Spaghetti & Meatballs dinner “I want to make Fried Chicken when it’s my turn”, which I thought was funny since we had already made it together before Christmas. It’s his choice, so fried chicken it would be, but if he thought he was taking the easy way out by choosing something he knew didn’t involve knives he was in for a surprise.

What goes better with fried chicken than Potato Salad?? So, while the chicken was brining, the first order of business was to get the potatoes prepped to cook, which meant cutting them into smaller pieces and using a knife. I know his mother would have been cringing and worried about a trip to the emergency room, but with some instruction and careful supervision Timmy did a great job and not a drop of blood was shed. While the potatoes were boiling and I chopped the celery, onions and dill, I put Timmy in charge of making the dressing, which is essentially a lot of measuring, so no sharp objects involved (I figured I’d quit while I was ahead on the safety front).

With the potato salad done, it was time to take the chicken out of the brine and rinse it. While the chicken came to room temperature, we had time to make an appetizer to serve when the rest of the Lynch clan arrived to snack on while the chicken was cooking. Guacamole is a hit with everyone, so we got to work on making it. Once again, I took care of the chopping and mincing, but Timmy was in charge of the rest. One perk of being the chef is you get to be the taste tester and dip the first chip. “Delicious” was the verdict and we were ready to focus on the main event.

Now we were ready to go and the Lynches arrived just in time to watch the fried chicken production. We set up a dredging station with the seasoned flour and buttermilk. I heated the oil and dunked the chicken pieces in the flour, then buttermilk, then flour again and it was ready to be fried. We may have survived the knives, but now we had to face hot oil, so safety was key to ensure we wouldn’t be heading to the burn unit. I took care of the frying and Timmy whisked up the Honey Hot Sauce.

At last it was time to eat . . . some champagne for the grownups, which is the perfect pairing. It was a deliciously fun day and the rest of the Lynch clan loved it all. As a bonus they took home leftovers for dinner another night (or two). Timmy declared he “didn’t care for” the potato salad, but I guess that’s an 8 year old’s palate. He was a great helper and I can’t wait for him to come back to my kitchen to cook something else.

After the Spaghetti and Meatball factory closed, it was nephew, and Dennis’s godson, Billy Lynch’s turn to spend the day in Ktina’s Kitchen. As a sophomore in college on break, I thought getting him to commit to a day might be a challenge, but he enthusiastically committed to the Sunday following Joe’s day as a chef. Like his brother, I had an idea of what his favorite meal that I cook is, so it was no surprise when his response to what he would like to cook was Thai Peanut Noodles and Asian Pork.

The first order of business was to make the marinade so we could get the pork marinating. Since a lot of the ingredients in the peanut sauce are also in the marinade, we got going chopping lots of fresh ginger and peeling the cloves from 2 heads of garlic. Thankfully the Cuisinart mini-prep took care of all the chopping, and then it was all about measuring and pouring ingredients into the blender and Voila, marinade done. We made a double batch so Billy had some to take home to share with the rest of the Lynch clan and to try with a different protein another time. Once the pork was covered and in the refrigerator soaking up the flavors, it was time to make the peanut sauce. Just as the blender took care of most of the work on the marinade, the food processor did the heavy lifting for the sauce. With the garlic and ginger already prepped, it was measure, pour, whiz and the sauce was done. Now all we had to do was to slice the garnishes for the peanut noodles and we were good to go.

Since the peanut sauce is the basis for Chicken Satay, we pulled a chicken breast out of the freezer and thawed it for an appetizer. In keeping with #trysomethingnew, I also pulled out some Tom Yum Goong broth that I had in the freezer. While Billy has never been a seafood fan, he agreed to try the soup, which is “Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup”. He loves spicy food, and the Tom Yum Goong is very spicy since it includes Thai Red Curry Paste, and fish sauce and lime juice add salty, sour flavors. It turns out 19 is a lot different than 9 and he not only tried the soup, he liked it!

Now it was time for the main event , . . once the pork was on the grill, we poured the marinade into a sauce pan and brought to it a boil to kill off any bacteria and allowed it to reduce to make a syrupy sauce. We assembled the peanut noodles and it was time to eat. Everything was delicious and Billy devoured tons of pork (we cooked 2 and there was not a speck leftover). I guess it really is his favorite meal! We had a great time and the best compliment was that Billy said he wanted to come back to cook again before he returned to school later in the month.


Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Thai


  • 1 jar 8-10 ounces Hoisin Sauce
  • ½ Cup Orange Juice pref fresh
  • ¼ Cup chopped Ginger about 4” piece
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • ½ Cup Soy Sauce or Tamari for gluten free
  • ¼ Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • ¼ Cup Sesame Oil
  • ½ Cup packed Brown Sugar
  • ¼ Cup Honey
  • ½ bunch Cilantro rinsed (leaves & stems)
  • 1 fresh Fresno pepper or long Thai Chili or a Jalapeno seeded
  • ½ tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1-2 tsp Hot Chili Oil to taste, optional


  • Place all ingredients except chili oil in a Vitamix, blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth.
  • Taste and add 1-2 tsp chili oil if you prefer a bit more spice.
  • Pour 1 ½ cups of the marinade into a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.


  • This marinade works well with just about any protein: Chicken, Pork, Beef, Duck, Shrimp or firm Fish such as Halibut, Tuna or Swordfish.
  • Pour sauce over until well covered and refrigerate several hours or overnight. I find a Ziploc bag works well to allow even distribution of the marinade.
  • While grilling the meat, pour the additional marinade into a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, which will kill any bacteria from the raw meat, and reduce heat to medium and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes and use as a sauce for your grilled meat.
  • Shrimp or Fish – Pour sauce over and marinate for 15-30 minutes before grilling or pan searing. Do not marinate longer than 30 minutes as the acids will begin to “cook” the fish.
  • THAI PEANUT NOODLES and THAI WATERMELON SALAD make a delicious meal.
  • MANGO SALSA make a tasty accompaniment to any protein except beef.
  • I often make a double batch of the sauce to share, and it keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator
Keyword Aisan Pork, Asian Marinade, Thai Peanut Noodles

One of my first memories of cooking when I was young was helping my father make and roll meatballs to add to a huge pot of simmering tomato sauce on a Sunday. It was the perfect thing to make on a cold New England winter day, as it was a big project from the trip to the butcher for just the right sausages and meat, to the slicing, dicing, rolling and frying. It took all day as the sauce simmered for hours allowing the meatballs, sausages, pork and chunks of pepperoni (my father’s specialty) to impart their flavors. I recall sneaking tastes by dunking hunks of bread into the sauce and noticed how the flavors developed as the hours went by and the sauce reduced. It was always a family favorite, which continues to this day with my nephews and nieces.

With Christmas being a bit different this year due to the pandemic, I was a little stuck on what to get my Chicago nephews, as my usual tradition is an experience such as Celtics at Bulls, Bruins at Blackhawks, theater, etc. With those not options at the moment I asked my sister in law, Julia, for ideas, and she suggested that in keeping with the experience theme that I invite each of the boys to spend a day in my kitchen for some one on one time to cook with me. Well, that was easy! I did find some super cool Vans in a Chicago motif for something to open that were a huge hit, so I wasn’t sure the “Day in Ktina’s Kitchen” was going to be too exciting, especially since it meant they were going to have to work. I was surprised and delighted when their reaction was “that’s awesome” when I told them to pick a day to cook their favorite dish with me. First up was Joe, my godson, and it was no surprise that his response to what he would like to cook was “Spaghetti and Meatballs please”. What might have been a surprise was the amount of work that was in store.

Just as my father did, I headed up to my favorite butcher, Paulina Meat Market to purchase the meat: ground beef, ground veal, ground pork, hot and mild Italian sausages and pork chops. Next was Eataly to get the tomatoes, cheese and spaghetti and I was ready. First up was to make the sauce and get it simmering so the flavors could begin to develop while we prepared the meat. Sausages and pork chops were grilled (less mess) and then added to the sauce. Next up the main event, meatballs. It’s a messy, time consuming job with all of the chopping, so I asked Joe if he understood why I make so much, to which he nodded and said “because it’s a lot work” – smart kid!

Once the meatballs were browned, we realized there was not going to be enough room in our pots, so we transferred some sauce to a third pot and added the meatballs. All we had to do was stir it occasionally to make sure nothing was sticking to the bottom and let it simmer away to reduce and let all the flavors develop. Our dinner guests, the rest of the Lynch clan, arrived at 4:00 and we were good to go. All we needed to do was cook the pasta and dinner was served!

While I have always called what my father and I make “sauce”, there are some that would say what we made is “Sunday Gravy”. I first heard of this when I was in college and a friend who hailed from North Providence, Rhode Island (the Italian neighborhood where even the lines in the streets are painted in red, white & green like the Italian flag) referred to the dish as “gravy”. Since I’m not Italian, I thought perhaps I was wrong to call it sauce, so I asked another friend, Mike Ricchio, a few years ago who emphatically answered “SAUCE”! I had apparently struck a nerve, as he and a friend had debated for years over this, so I thought I would delve a bit further. I referred to a cookbook that my good friend Marie (Borelli) Hatton had given me “The North End Union Italian Cookbook”, with the North End being the landmark Italian neighborhood of Boston. What I found was an entire chapter entitled “Sauces and Gravies” peacefully coexisting and there it was, “Sunday Gravy”. I called Marie and asked “Sauce or Gravy?”, to which she replied “SAUCE”! Hmmm, so where does the gravy thing come from. The cookbook indicates that it refers to the use of the meat drippings as the basis for the sauce. Since I make mine with olive oil and simply add the meat to the simmering sauce, it must be SAUCE, right? Either way, it’s DELICIOUS! A real crowd pleaser, it’s well worth the effort, and when you do, make A LOT so you have leftovers to share and freeze.

TOMATO SAUCE (Sunday Gravy)

I was inspired by watching my father make sauce over the years. I don't know that he had an actual recipe, it was all about the taste, which is how I've learned to cook myself. When I had a hankering for sauce and was living overseas, I attempted to create his sauce and have tweaked it over the years. While my father adds pepperoni to his, it's not my personal favorite so I omit it. I love the sweetness that the pork imparts to the sauce. The longer the sauce simmers, the richer it gets. After freezing, some of the meat falls apart and it becomes more like a Bolognese.
Makes enough for a crowd plus extra to share and freeze.
Course Main Course, Pasta, Sauces
Cuisine Italian


  • 2 Cups Onions, finely chopped (1 large onion)
  • 3 TBSP minced Garlic (6 cloves)
  • ¼ Cup Olive Oil pref Extra Virgin
  • 1 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper flakes
  • 4 cans 28 oz Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 2 cans 28 oz Tomoato Puree (Passata)
  • 1 can 6 oz Tomato Paste
  • 1 ½ Cups Red Wine
  • 1 ½ Cups Water
  • 2 TBSP Sugar
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper pref freshly ground
  • 1 ½ TBSP Oregano dried
  • 1 ½ TBSP Basil dried
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2-3 Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Rinds
  • ¼ Cup fresh Basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 recipe Meatballs approximately 18
  • 8 Pork Chops boneless, center cut
  • 8 Hot Italian Sausages
  • 1 Coil Mild Italian Sausage or 8 individual sausages


  • Place the largest stock pot you have over medium heat. (I use a 13 ¼ quart Le Creuset dutch oven.)
  • Add the oil, onions and crushed red pepper flakes. (I like to add everything before the pan is hot and allow the onions to gradually begin to sweat as the oil heats.) Saute until the onions are translucent, stirring frequently. If the onions begin to brown, reduce the heat.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until it is very aromatic (don’t allow the garlic to brown).
  • Add the tomatoes, puree, paste, wine, water, sugar, spices and cheese rinds, stirring after each addition.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. When it is boiling, give a good stir and reduce heat to low. Partially cover the pot, leaving about an inch opening on one side and allow to simmer, stirring every 20-30 minutes.
  • While the sauce is simmering, prepare the meat.
  • Grill the sausages and pork chops on the grill or in a grill pan until evenly browned. They do not need to be cooked through, as they will finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Prepare the meatballs (see separate recipe)
  • Add the meats to the sauce as each is finished and while still hot. (You may need to divide the sauce into 2 pots to accommodate all the meat.)
  • Allow the sauce and meat to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes and add the fresh Basil.
  • Continue to simmer for at least another 30 minutes and up to 4 hours, stirring occasionally, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as the cheese rinds tend to stick. The longer you simmer, the more the flavors will develop. The sauce will bubble up a bit just after stirring, so beware of splatters.


  • This is not difficult, but it is labor intensive and time consuming, so when I make it, I like to make a lot so that I can share and stock my freezer.
  • My father adds pepperoni to his sauce – cut a stick in 2” chunks if you like.
  • Depending on your butcher,  both the Hot and Mild Italian sausage may come in coils.  I like to use the individual sausages for the Hot and the coils for the Mild so that I can tell them apart in the sauce, as the ends are cut and they are curved. 
  • I usually end up making another batch of sauce to cover the meat and freeze in individual meal portions. I freeze extra sauce separately in Ziploc bags (double them so the don’t leak), which stack easily.
  • If you don’t like Hot Italian sausage, use all mild. I like the flavorful blend of both. Chicken or Turkey sausage works equally well.
  • At the end of the summer when my farmers market has bushels of San Marzano and Plum Tomatoes, I go the extra mile and make the crushed tomatoes from them. It is labor intensive to peel and seed all the tomatoes, but it really makes for a wonderful fresh flavor.  You will still need to use the puree and paste.  
Keyword Spaghetti & Meatballs, Sunday Gravy, Tomato Sauce


These meatballs are packed with flavor thanks to the addition of Hot Italian Sausage, which was inspired by my father in law (though I never had the opportunity to try them). The veal and the milk add tenderness so they are not too dense. Rather than pan frying them, I cook them on rimmed sheet pans in the oven which is so much easier, especially when making a lot. My nephew Joe says they are the "Best Ever".
Makes 18 3" or 24 2" meatballs.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian


  • 2 pounds Ground Beef Chuck
  • 1 pound Ground Veal **
  • 1 pound Ground Pork
  • 3 Hot Italian Sausages, remove from casings or 1 pound bulk sausage
  • 1 Cup Onions finely chopped
  • 2 TBSP Garlic finely minced
  • ½ Cup Flat Leaf Parsley chopped
  • ½ Cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Bread Crumbs preferably fresh
  • 4 slices Bread crusts removed (use a good quality bread, such as a rustic Italian or Sour Dough, not seeded, you can use the same loaf for bread crumbs)
  • ½ Cup Milk
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt & Black Pepper freshly ground
  • ½ Cup Olive Oil it does not need to be Extra Virgin


  • Preheat oven to 350*. Place 2 racks on the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  • Place bread slices in a shallow baking dish or pie plate. Heat the milk in the microwave for 30-45 seconds (until hot but not boiling) and pour over the bread.
  • Place all of the meats in a very large bowl. Using your hands (I like to use disposable kitchen gloves) combine the meats until they are well blended.
  • Add all remaining ingredients, crumbling the moistened bread so that there are not any large pieces.
  • Mix together with your hands until well blended, making sure to scrape from the bottom to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Line a sheet pan or cookie sheet with parchment.
  • Roll meat mixture into balls and place them on the parchment lined pan.
  • Pour 1/4 cup oil into 2 rimmed sheet pans and place in the oven to allow the oil to heat for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Place the meatballs on the sheet pans with the hot oil and return to the oven.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes, until the meatballs are browned on the bottom. Turn the meatballs to the other side and then return to the oven, switching the position of the pans, and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Add the meatballs to the Tomato Sauce and simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours to tenderize and absorb the flavors from the sauce.


  • You may need to have your butcher grind the veal for you.
  • To make fresh bread crumbs, simply toast 8 slices of the bread and grind in the dry container of a Vitamix or in a food processor.
  • Along with the Sauce recipe, a lot of chopped garlic is needed (especially if you’re doubling it as I sometimes do), so I like to buy peeled garlic and pop it into my Cuisinart Mini-prep food processor to save time.  You can also use a garlic press.
  • I like to make larger 3” meatballs as I find they hold up better to freezing.
  • It is not important that meatballs are cooked through, as they will finish cooking in the sauce.  
Keyword Meatballs, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Sunday Gravy

A few weeks ago I received a text from my friend Jenny saying that she “left a small present” on my front steps to thank me for the dinner I had prepared the evening before. I was expecting perhaps some flowers, as she had given me a gorgeous rosemary plant back in the spring when I was in the midst of experimenting and perfecting my Rosemary Focaccia. What I found instead was a small container of what looked like wallpaper paste, which was 100 grams of Sourdough Starter, along with a note instructing me to store it in the refrigerator and that I would need to “feed” it weekly. I was grateful, but a tad anxious, since I had managed to kill the rosemary plant in a few short weeks and now I had what was basically a new “pet” that I was responsible to keep alive. I dutifully popped it in the fridge and figured I had a week to learn what my new friend liked to be fed to stay healthy.

After feeding my sourdough starter with bread flour & water, it doubled in size in 4 hours.

After about a week, I noticed the lid kept popping off of the container and a layer of liquid had formed on top. I reached out to Jenny and she advised that it was probably telling me that it needed to be fed. I took a few notes and then consulted a few websites to learn more, and immediately became confused as there are so many different recipes for maintaining sourdough starter and most strongly suggest the use of a kitchen scale for precise measurements or risk of failure. As I’ve mentioned previously, I much prefer cooking to baking for the very reason of the precision required for baking, so I wasn’t sure about this “gift” at this point, as it was beginning to feel like more of a project. I managed to find a site that gave suggested measures in ounces and cups, so I commenced with the first feeding and then waited to see if anything happened. I was delighted to see that in a short time the mixture was rising and in four hours had doubled- I hadn’t killed it! I called Jenny to report my success and she told me that this starter is strong stuff, hers having come from her sister in law in San Francisco, who in turn received it from her sister in law in Louisiana.

Now that I had fed my starter and it was flourishing, it was time to bake. With the only ingredients being flour, water, salt and the starter (which is simply flour and water), I was’t sure how this was going to end up with tasty bread, but I figured I had nothing to lose and I owed it to my thoughtful friend to give it a go. The dough seemed pretty sticky, but I resisted the temptation to add more flour since my focaccia also has a sticky dough and it comes out crunchy and delicious every time.

Voila! Sourdough Bread! I wasn’t sure how it would taste, but it was delicious and reminded me of my grandfather (Papa), who used to bring back sourdough bread when he traveled to San Francisco. Dennis popped some in the toaster and said it was “awesome”, so I toasted up a slice and made avocado toast, which was so tasty. After the initial success, I decided to try to recreate the fantastic olive bread that Publican Quality Meats sells (from Publican Quality Breads, not open for retail sales) which I love and use to make decadent croutons for my Caesar Salad. The first one needed a little work with the olive distribution, but it tasted exactly like PQM’s and the croutons were great. When you feed your starter you are supposed to discard all but 1/2 cup, so I’ve since been re-gifting to friends, though the batch I sent to my sister in law never arrived, so we think it might be a science project gone wrong. . . the starter may have been too active for shipping and actively fermenting exploded. SO, I’ll try again, but make sure it is in a container with plenty of room to expand, after all it is a living thing!


This bread is so easy and delicious you may never buy a loaf again. The most important ingredient is mature sourdough starter, which you can keep in your refrigerator and feed once a week until you are ready to bake.
Other than the starter, you need time, as the dough will need to proof for 8-12 hours before you can bake it. The amount of time to proof, will vary depending on the temperature of your kitchen (70* is ideal). Depending on your schedule, you can either prepare the dough in the evening and allow it to proof overnight and bake in the morning, or prepare it in the morning and bake in the evening. If you're an early bird, you can make your dough, proof and bake in time for dinner.
Once you master the basic sourdough, try adding herbs, nuts, seeds, olives and incorporating whole wheat or rye flour (substituting 1/2 – 1 cup) to the bread flour.
Prep Time 12 hours
Cook Time 45 minutes
Course BREAD
Cuisine American
Servings 1 Loaf (Boule)


  • Dutch Oven (I use a 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset)
  • Large Bowl
  • 1/3 Cup DRY measuring cup
  • 2 Cup or larger LIQUID measuring cup
  • Rubber spatula (or Spoonula)
  • Disposable kitchen gloves (I like the Nitrile ones)


  • 1/3 Cup Sourdough Starter heaping
  • 1 3/4 Cups Water (warm)
  • 4 1/4 Cups Bread Flour
  • 2 tsp fine Sea Salt


  • If it has been a while since you fed your starter, then you will need to feed it 8 hours before baking to ensure it is at least doubling in size, which means it is strong enough to make the bread rise. If you have been feeding your starter regularly, you can use it straight from the fridge as long as it has been fed within 7 days, however leave it on the counter for about an hour before making your dough.
  • Measure a heaping 1/3 cup of the starter in a dry measuring cup. It will be quite sticky. Add the starter to the water, after a couple of seconds it should float, which means your starter is strong and active.
  • Whisk the starter and the water together until the starter is dissolved and you have a murky liquid.
  • Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a rubber spatula (Spoonula) until a shaggy dough forms and there are no streaks of dry flour. It will take a bit of elbow grease to get the last bits of flour incorporated.
  • Let sit for 15 minutes.
  • Wet your fingers (or the gloves, if using) and pull one side of the dough from the sides of the bowl and stretch and fold it over the other half of the dough.
  • Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat until you have made a full turn (4 times total).
  • Let the dough sit 15 minutes and repeat the stretch and fold process.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and allow to proof for at least 8 and up to 12 hours in a warm place free of drafts.
  • After "proofing" your dough should have risen and approximately doubled. It should have a curved dome and look a bit like a distended belly. If you poke it with a floured finger, it should slowly come back.
  • Line a clean bowl with baking parchment. Make sure to use a parchment that can take high heat, as you will be baking at 475-500*. I use the brand IF YOU CARE, available at Whole Foods, Amazon and other specialty stores and buy the pre-cut sheets).
  • With wet fingers, pull the dough away from the bowl and grab it with both hands and rise it high above the bowl and allow it to stretch. As it returns to the bowl, fold it over itself. It will be sticky, but should not be too loose or stick to the bowl once you gather it together. If it is sticking to the bowl, add a touch more flour, a tablespoon at a time.
  • Wait about 90 seconds and repeat the stretching 2 more times. (During the 3rd stretch, the dough may not stretch as high and may require you to pull from all sides.)After the 3rd stretch, mound the dough into the parchment lined bowl, shaping it so the "seam" is on the bottom. Dust the dough lightly with flour and place in the refrigerator while you heat your dutch oven.
  • Heat oven to 500* (or 475* on convection setting, which is what I use).
  • Place the dutch oven (covered) in the oven while it is preheating and allow it to heat for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • When the oven is ready, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using kitchen shears or a very sharp knife, cut a long slice in the top of the dough or several slices to make an X or flower pattern.
  • Carefully remove the dutch oven and remove the lid. Lift the dough by the corners of the parchment and place in the dutch oven. (I leave the dutch oven on the rack and remove the lid, drop in the dough and replace the lid.)
  • Cover and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Remove lid and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until dark golden brown.
  • Remove to a rack and allow to cool for an hour before slicing.


  • If you are lucky enough to have a friend (like me) to share starter with you then you are good to go.  I have shared my starter with many friends, who have shared with others, so it’s proliferated all over the place now.  I’m happy to send some to you if you don’t know someone who has some.   Otherwise, if you’re have the time and up for the challenge, you can easily make your own starter in about a week. There are many websites, including King Arthur, that provide instructions.   
  • It is best to make bread when your starter is “hungry” meaning it has recently been fed and has at least doubled in size in 8 hours.   
  • If you keep your starter in the fridge and it has been fed within the past 7 days, you can use it directly from the fridge, but I have found better results when I leave the starter on the counter for an hour before preparing the dough. you should notice it rising while it comes to room temperature.  
  • I have found my best loaves are made with starter that has been fed within 4 days, as they seem to rise a bit higher producing loaves that a little less dense.  
  • Feeding your starter calls for discarding (perfect time to share)  all but 1/2 cup and adding 1/2 cup of warm water and 3/4 cup + 2 TBS bread flour . . . mix well and leave, covered, at room temperature until it has risen an inch or two and then return it to the refrigerator.  If you are baking, let it rise for 8 hours until it peaks; if you a just doing a weekly feeding, do not let it peak, just let it get going and then return to the fridge.  
  • There is no limit to how frequently you can feed your starter.  If you are baking frequently, you will need to feed it more frequently since you will only have enough starter to make 2 loaves of bread and still have enough to feed and keep it going.  
  • For OLIVE BREAD, substitute 1 Cup whole wheat flour for a cup of the bread flour (ie:  3 Cups bread flour and 1 Cup whole wheat flour).  After stretching the proofed dough, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and press out.  Add 3/4 Cup mixed pitted olives and press in lightly.  Roll the dough over, jelly roll style and then form into a ball and place in the parchment lined bowl, dust with flour and place in the fridge while the dutch oven heats and bake in the same manner as the plain bread.
Keyword Baking, Bread, Sourdough, Sourdough Bread

As I mentioned in one of my early posts “A Taste for Thai Food”, I began experimenting with making Thai Curry Pastes when we lived in Argentina due to the lack of availability of tasty Thai food. Thai Curry Paste is a blend of aromatic herbs, spices and chilies that are pureed to a fine paste which you then fry in oil and whisk in coconut milk to make a sauce. The coconut milk tames the heat of the chilies, so even if you don’t care for things too spicy, you can tone it down to accommodate your palate. The addition of protein such as chicken, beef, pork, tofu or fish along with vegetables finishes the “curry” which is then served over rice to make a complete, tasty meal. The pastes are also key ingredients to other sauces and soups such as Tom Yum Goong (Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup) and Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Chicken Soup).

Clockwise from top left: Coriander seeds, Cumin seeds, Green Chilies (Jalapeno, Serrano and Thai “bird” chilies), Garlic, Red Chilies (Fresno & Thai “bird” chilies), Lemongrass, Galangal & Kaffir Lime Leaves.

Now that I’m in back in the US, I can certainly simply buy curry paste in a jar, but I find that making it from scratch is really worth the time and effort, as the taste is so much fresher. While my local Whole Foods usually has fresh lemongrass, chilies and sometimes even galangal, a trip to the Asian markets just a few miles to the north usually provides me everything I need at a fraction of the cost. When we were at the Cape for the summer, I couldn’t find lemongrass, galangal or Kaffir lime leaves anywhere, so I ended up ordering online and was able to get what I needed within 2 days through Etsy. As I had to improvise when we lived in Argentina and some ingredients were not reliably available, so too did I have to pivot when I learned a friend is allergic to shrimp and I would not be able to serve the curry due to the shrimp paste that is typically included. I found that anchovy paste was a perfect substitute, with no discernible difference in the taste, and now I use it all the time so that I don’t have to be concerned about a shellfish allergy when menu planning.


These pastes are the basis for Thai Green and Red Curries. I typically make the Green with chicken and the Red with pork or beef, you can use any protein, including seafood or tofu with either. I also the pastes to make sauces to serve as an accompaniment with grilled fish, pork or chicken along with a mango or pineapple salsa. The Green is a bit more herbacious and citrusy due to the additional Coriander seed and the absence of dried chilies. The process is the same for both, with the addition of the soaked dried red chilies for the Red.
While this may seem tedious to try to source the ingredients, it is so much better and fresher tasting than most store bought curry pastes that have preservatives to extend their shelf life. These make about 2 cups of each, so I divide them into small containers store some in the refrigerator for use within 2-3 weeks, share some with foodie friends and freeze the rest. You can also freeze it in individual portions (about 2 TBSP) in plastic bags.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Southeast Asian, Thai
Servings 2 Cups of Paste


  • Food Processor
  • Spice. Grinder, Coffee Grinder or Mortar & Pestle



  • 1 1/2 TBSP Coriander Seeds whole
  • 1 TBSP Cumin Seeds whole
  • 1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns whole
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt Mortons
  • 4 stalks fresh Lemongrass tender purple section only, about 4"
  • 4 slices fresh Galangal about 1/2" slices
  • 8-10 fresh Jalapeno peppers, stems removed (use 8 if using Serranos)
  • 2 fresh Serrano peppers, stems removed
  • 20 Green Thai "bird" chilies, stems removed
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 2 Large Shallots, peeled
  • 1 bunch fresh Cilanto Roots (or stems if you can't find cilantro with roots (Conserve leaves for another purpose)
  • 8 fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves, spines removed
  • 1 TBSP Anchovy Paste (1/2 tube) OR 1 tsp Shrimp Paste


  • 1 TBSP Coriander Seeds whole
  • 2 tsp Cumin Seeds whole
  • 1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns whole
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt Morton's
  • 5 stalks fresh Lemongrass tender midsection only, about 4"
  • 8 slices fresh Galangal (about 1/4" slices)
  • 8 fresh Fresno Chilies fresh, stems removed
  • 12 dried long red Chilies, such as New Mexico Hatch (hot), soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, stems removed and liquid drained.
  • 20 Red Thai "bird" Chilies, stems removed
  • 6 cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 2 large Shallots, peeled
  • 8 fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves spines removed
  • 1 bunch fresh Cilanto Roots (or stems if you can't find cilantro with roots (Conserve leaves for another purpose)
  • 1 TBSP Anchovy Paste (1/2 tube) OR 2 tsp Shrimp Paste


  • In a small saute pan, toast the Coriander, Cumin, Salt and Peppercorns over medium-high heat until fragrant. Toss or stir frequently to make sure the seeds don't burn.
  • Transfer the toasted spices to a spice grinder or coffee grinder and process to a fine powder.
  • Place the lemongrass and galangal in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse to chop. Galangal is quite coarse, so I find it helps to cut your slices into smaller pieces.
  • Add the cilantro roots, shallots, garlic and lime leaves and pulse a few times.
  • Add all of the chilies, spices and anchovy (or shrimp) paste and process until a fairly smooth paste forms, scraping down the sides frequently and mixing to make sure no large chunks remain. Be patient here, as it is a very fibrous mixture of ingredients and how quickly it blends together will depend on how powerful your food processor is.
  • Transfer to airtight container(s) and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks or freeze.


  • This is another recipe that I tend to double when I make it due to the labor intensiveness of the process, and then I share with friends who are fans and keep several containers in my freezer.  It’s a great project for a cold or rainy day, or that day that you have to be home for a repairman, etc.  
  • I have a Magimix food processor which has a very powerful motor and a large bowl that allows for a double batch (just barely).  If you have another brand, you may find that you can only make a single batch (which makes a lot, so unless you have a lot of friends that you plan to share with, doubling isn’t necessary).  
  • If you have Asian grocery stores near you, it’s worth heading there as you are likely to find all of the ingredients you need, particularly lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste (if using) and chilies.  You will also find the prices to be much more reasonable, since many restaurants do their shopping at these stores and buy in bulk.  If you don’t have the good fortune of having an Asian market near you, or can’t readily locate the ingredients, you can source them online through many sources such as Amazon, Etsy and some other specialty food websites.
  • Many grocery stores stock fresh jalapenos, serranos and fresno chilies (which look like a red jalapenos, but they are actually different and have a firmer texture that is much better here), as well as Thai “bird” chilies.  Look for chilies that are firm and free of blemishes.  If you can’t find them easily, you can source them online including at Amazon and Etsy, which serve as go between for small specialty vendors.  I had great luck with Melissa’s Produce ( for Fresno chilies when I could not find them anywhere.  
  • If you can’t find cilantro with roots, which can be difficult, use the stems instead.  When I can find cilantro with their roots attached, I grab it and rush to the Asian market to get the other ingredients as the results are really better with the roots. 
  • I usually slice my chilies in half to help the food processor . . . if you find brown/black seeds when you slice, toss them as they are starting to go off.  
  • I use Hot New Mexico Hatch chilies for the dried red chilies.  They are available at many grocery stores, or readily available from many online sources.  They don’t weigh much, so don’t order the 5 pound bag like I did or you’ll have enough for your lifetime.
  • When soaking your dried chilies, they will float to the top, so I place a small plate or saucepan lid on them to keep them submerged.  Make sure to take off the stems and drain the water.  
  • I use an old coffee grinder that I keep for the sole purpose of grinding spices and it works beautifully.  It is really important to grind your spices, as the food processor will leave you with large chunks of peppercorns and coriander seeds, which are unpleasant in your curry.  
  • Traditional Thai curry pastes call for fermented shrimp paste, but since several friends have shrimp allergies, I have substituted anchovy paste with equal success and now simply use that . . . plus it’s much easier to find, especially if you don’t have an Asian market near you.  
Keyword Curry, Green Curry, Sitr Fry, Thai Basil, Thai Curry, Thai Green Curry, Thai Green Curry Paste, Thai Red Curry, Thai Red Curry Paste


Whether using Green or Red Curry Paste, the process is the same as outlined here. I use the vegetables that most frequently turn up in this classic, but feel free to experiment with any protein or vegetables that you like or have on hand.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Thai


  • Deep Saute Pan or Wok


  • 2 Boneless, skinless Chicken Breast halves cut into 2" pieces
  • 2 TBSP Canola or Peanut Oil
  • 2-3 TBSP Green Curry Paste 2 for less spicy, 3 for more
  • 1 can Coconut Milk
  • 1-2 TBSP Fish Sauce
  • 1-2 TBSP Palm Sugar or Light Brown Sugar
  • 4 fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves, spines removed substitute dried if you can't find fresh
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 2" chunks
  • 1 8 ounce package Button Mushroom, cleaned
  • 1 Cup fresh Green Beans cut into 2-3" pieces
  • 1/4 Cup Cilantro leaves and/or Thai Basil leaves.


  • Pan sear chicken in a saute pan in a bit of oil over medium high heat until it is lightly browned all over. Remove from the pan and drain. (The chicken does not need to be cooked through, as it will finish in the curry sauce.)
  • If using the same pan, wipe out any juice from the chicken. Add another TBSP of oil and when it is hot, add the curry paste and stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Whisk in the Coconut milk a little at a time, starting with the cream at the top of the can. Allow to come to a boil before adding more of the milk, whisking constantly.
  • Reduce heat to medium (or medium low) and add the Kaffir Lime Leaves, 1 TBSP Fish Sauce and 1 TBSP Sugar and cook for 2-3 minutes, reducing heat so that it just simmering.
  • Taste the sauce and adjust if it needs a bit more Fish Sauce and/or Sugar.
  • At this point, if you are not ready to eat (or your rice is not ready), cover and turn off the heat until you are ready to eat.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken and mushrooms to the sauce. Cover the pan and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms have released their liquid, stirring occasionally to ensure the meat doesn't stick to the pan.
  • Then the mushrooms have cooked, add the green beans and cook, covered, for 1 minute then add the peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes and sprinkle with Cilantro leaves or Thai Basil leaves.
  • Serve immediately with Jasmine or Basmati Rice.


  • Use the same process for Red Curry regardless of what protein you choose.
  • I think it makes a big difference to pan sear your meat, chicken or tofu before adding to the sauce, otherwise the meat will “stew” and it’s juices will water down the curry.
  • The curry should have a spicy, sweet, salty flavor from the paste, coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar and the lime leaves brighten it lending a citrusy note.  
  • If your sauce is too spicy, add more coconut milk.  Not spicy enough, add more curry paste.  
Keyword Green Curry Chicken, Thai Curry, Thai Green Curry

Is it me, or have you noticed that Fried Chicken is all the rage at the moment? Much like the current obsession with bacon, it seems every restaurant has their own version, even our local Italian restaurant around the corner starting offering Fried Chicken in a Basket before the pandemic shut down restaurants in mid-March. There was no Italian twist, just old fashioned fried chicken and potato wedges and it stood out on the menu like the old Sesame Street game “one of these things is not like the others”. Since restaurants re-opened in June, and now are outdoor only dining, it has disappeared from that menu, but it is prevalent on those of many other fine dining establishments and not simply at KFC or Chick-fil-A.

In all honesty, I’ve never quite understood all of the hype. My father used to bring home that red and white striped bucket for dinner on an occasional evening and while I recall liking the coleslaw, I thought the mashed potatoes were more akin to wallpaper paste and the gravy was always congealed by the time it arrived on our dinner table from the KFC in town. My brothers loved it, though, so it was a good alternative to pizza when it was my mother’s night off from the kitchen or when they needed to feed us kids before they went out for a “date night”. I was completely turned off around the age of 10 when I was sick after one such dinner while on vacation in North Conway, New Hampshire. Truthfully, I probably had the flu, but even to this day the smell of those 11 herbs and spices makes my stomach flip, so I have had an aversion to it ever since.

Leave it to a couple of Michelin 3-star chefs to change my mind, namely Thomas Keller of The French Laundy in Napa, California (as well as Per Se in New York, Bouchon Bistro and Ad Hoc) and Grantz Achatz of Alinea in Chicago (as well as Next, The Aviary and Roister), who studied under Keller at the French Laundry before striking out on his own. Both chefs have the distinction of winning the James Beard award for Best Chef in America and their restaurants have been ranked #1 in the US, with Alinea holding that title at the moment. We attended a Dom Perignon vs Krug champagne dinner at Roister last November and fried chicken was one of the pairings. I don’t recall if the Dom or Krug was the winner, but I do remember it was delicious. Since Dennis is a huge fan of fried chicken, I decided to give it a try since I had nothing but time on my hands and it was most definitely in keeping with #learnsomethingnew. I pulled out my “Ad Hoc at Home” cookbook and embarked on Thomas Keller’s version. I had to make a few adjustments and cut the amount of brine in half and shortened the brining time to 4 hours since I didn’t have restaurant size storage and we wanted to eat before midnight. I also took the shortcut and bought the chicken parts already cut up and only had to cut the breasts in half. All in all, it worked out perfectly and Dennis’s verdict “AWESOME”!

Upon returning to Chicago after 4 1/2 months on Cape Cod and lots of seafood, I offered to make friend chicken on Sunday. While not difficult, it is time consuming and thus it’s worth it to make a large batch, so we invited the Lynches over for dinner. I enlisted our nephews Joe and Timmy to help with the dredging while I fried the chicken. I put Julia to work whisking up the Honey Hot Sauce that I had concocted during the first attempt, which was inspired by a sauce that Maple & Ash serves with their fried chicken that is very tasty. I had the recipe for Maytag Blue Cheese (MBC) Coleslaw from a restaurant that my brother in law Brian used worked at that I adapted, so that and Ktina’s Potato Salad were the sides to round out the meal. And of course Champagne was the perfect pairing!


Maple & Ash is an upscale steak house around the corner from us in Chicago and they serve a honey chili dipping sauce with their fried chicken. I love the sweet and spicy combination so concocted my own version that is so easy it probably doesn't even qualify as a recipe. Try it with fried chicken and I think you'll love it.
Course Sauces
Cuisine American


  • 1/2 cup Frank's Hot Sauce
  • 1 cup Honey


  • Whisk the ingredients together. That's it! Serve as a dipping sauce for fried chicken and make sure to have plenty of napkins as it's sticky.


  • This is basically 2 parts honey to 1 part hot sauce, so use proportions according to your crowd.  
  • This will keep for several weeks in an airtight container or jar.  I suggest keeping in your pantry and not the refrigerator, as the honey will crystallize in the refrigerator.  
  • I like the tang of Frank’s Hot Sauce (plus it is available in a large bottle, since it’s the original Buffalo Wing hot sauce), but feel free to experiment with other hot sauces that you like.  There are endless options, but you may need to adjust the proportions depending on the heat so as not to overpower the honey and allow some sweetness to come through.  
Keyword Dipping Sauce, Fried Chicken, Honey Hot Sauce
Sunset over Hyannisport Club

During a summer of the Coronavirus pandemic where there were so many restrictions on our movements and what we could do in order to stay healthy, it might seem strange to write about it in terms of FUN. As it turns out, the summer of 2020 will hold many fond memories for the relationships that were strengthened through times spent together in smaller, more intimate gatherings. While “back to basics” may seem trite, it truly was the case. With so much uncertainty, it would be easy to be overcome with anxiety and become depressed, so enjoying what we could do, playing golf at Hyannisport (and we played lots of it), helped to keep things in perspective and the beautiful surroundings were a reminder of the many blessings we have despite the circumstances.

While so many events had to be canceled or postponed, we were not about to let our friend Nell’s 60th birthday go unrecognized. Her birthday was not until November, but her days on the Cape were running out, so we planned to get together for cocktails at Darlene’s to toast the big day before she headed back to RIchmond and “real life”. What she didn’t know, was that Darlene, Lisa and I had contacted some additional friends and family and a proper Surprise Party was hatched. We kept it small, only including those in her golfing and personal “bubbles” and simple, champagne, canapes and cake from 5-7 pm. It was clear that everyone was ready for something to celebrate and it was the perfect way to close out what was an imperfectly fabulous summer.

Happy 60th Nell, and Cheers to good FRIENDS and a FUN summer! See you in 2021

Lisa made some killer Scallops Wrapped in Bacon and prepared a beautiful Charcuterie Board. I made Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce. Shrimp Cocktail from our local fish market and Smoked Blue Fish Pate from Fancy’s in Osterville, plus an adorable cake rounded out a simple, yet delicious menu.

CHICKEN SATAY with Peanut Sauce

Chicken Satay is always a crowd pleaser and so easy to make for a cocktail party. I have tried using chicken tenders or cubes of chicken, but found that it gets dry, especially if it is not being served right away. By cooking the chicken breasts and slicing them on the diagonal at the last minute, the chicken remains juicy and flavorful.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Asian, Thai



  • 6 Cloves of Garlic
  • ¼ Cup chopped fresh Ginger about 3” piece
  • ½ Cup Tahini Paste
  • 2/3 Cup Peanut Butter smooth or chunky
  • ½ Cup Soy Sauce or Tamari for gluten free
  • ½ Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • ¼ Cup Sesame Oil
  • ¼ Cup Honey
  • 1 Fresno or Jalapeno chili seeded
  • ½ tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1-2 tsp Hot Chili Oil


  • 1 Cup Peanut Sauce
  • 2 TBSP Fish Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Freshly squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1 TBSP Sambal Oleek
  • 6-8 Boneless, skinless Chicken Breast Halves, trimmed of fat and sinew.



  • Place garlic, ginger and chili pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse several times until finely minced, scraping down the sides.
  • Add all remaining ingredients, except chili oil, and process until smooth. Taste for spice and add 1-2 tsp chili oil if you prefer a bit more heat.


  • Whisk all ingredients (except chicken) together.
  • Pour sauce over chicken breasts, turning to coat, cover and allow to marinate 30 minutes at room temperature. Alternately, place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate several hours or overnight*.
  • While chicken is marinating, prepare your gas or charcoal grill. (*Remove chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling.)
  • Grill chicken breasts over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes, flip and reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until cooked through, approximately 12-15 minutes total.
  • Remove chicken from grill and cover with foil and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes until you are ready to serve (up to 2 hours).
  • Slice chicken on the diagonal and thread onto 6" wooden skewers.
  • Arrange on a platter and serve with Peanut Sauce on the side.


  • The chicken will remain warm for up to 2 hours if covered tightly with foil.
  • When grilling the chicken, do not touch it for 5 minutes, then check for a good char.   It ready to turn when it pulls easily away from the grill grates and is not sticking.  
  • If your chicken breasts are quite large, then 6 is enough, if they are smaller, I suggest using 8.  
  • This chicken is also delicious to serve as a main dish with Thai Peanut Noodles.  
Keyword Chicken, Peanut, Satay

Summer is winding down, you can tell by the way the light reflects off the ocean and sparkles like diamonds. The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler and family & friends are starting to make plans to head back to their year round homes. While we were craving a bit of Cape Cod in Chicago back in the Spring, we are now hankering for a bit of Chicago after two and half months of enjoying the bounty of fresh seafood that is available fresh from the ocean. Swordfish, Striped Bass, Halibut, Cod, Scallops, Clams, Oysters and, of course, Lobstah!! I have been remiss in posting, but I have been cooking up a storm, creating new recipes and taking lots of photos, so all that will be coming soon.

Just as the Cape is eponymous with seafood, Chicago is famous for it’s steak houses. There are endless choices from the national chains such as Ruth’s Chris, Smith & Wollensky, Mastro’s, Steak 48, Morton’s (though native to Chicago), to the locally born and bred Ditka’s, RPM Steak, Bavette’s, Swift & Sons, Gene & Georgetti, Chicago Chop House and, perhaps the most famous, Gibsons. While they are all great, the quintessential steak house experience continues to be Gibsons, which is frequented by the “high rollers, politicians and hookers” and the waiters bring out trays of raw steaks displaying the various cuts. When restaurants were closed for in person dining, Gibsons not only did take out, but began offering their prime steaks to purchase and cook at home. We enjoyed a number of them before departing to the Cape, so it was welcome news when I received an email announcing that they had started Gibsons Steak with nationwide shipping available and I promptly placed an order.

My shipment arrived just in time to host dinner the night before the Fall Member-Member, which has become a tradition this year having brought us luck the two prior times. My regular Monday game is with great friends Darlene, Lisa and Nell, and we were all playing as partners in the tournament (me with Darlene and Lisa with Nell), so I announced that Dennis and I would host the pre-tournament dinner as a Chicago Steakhouse theme and everyone was in. Lisa offered to make dessert, Nell said she would bring an appetizer, and Darlene said she would pack her PJ’s (it’s true!). I texted to let everyone know it would be casual, to which they responded “Too Late” . . . they were dressing up, wearing heels, jewelry and makeup… and the guys were wearing jackets, just like we would if we were going out to a steak house for real. A quick shoe change and lipstick application was in order.

We started with the classic “Seafood Tower”, or rather an abbreviated one with local Barnstable Oysters and Lobster Cocktail. Nell & Tim brought delicious Smoked Bluefish Pate and Ham Biscuits straight from their home in Virginia. The salad course was Tableside Caesar Salad with homemade croutons. Dennis cooked the steaks perfectly and I made the classic sides of Au Gratin Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Sauteed Wild Mushrooms, all served family style. Dennis selected a delicious Handwritten Coombesville Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a perfect pairing. We saved just enough room for Lisa’s incredible cheesecake with fresh berries and caramel sauce. (Shout out to fellow BC ’87 alum Jean Boyle Johnston for her mother Regina’s recipe). It was the perfect evening of fabulous friendship and so much fun! Both teams were in the money on skins and Darlene and I ended up winning the day prize on Sunday, so it was a lucky dinner indeed and the tradition has been firmly cemented.


Union Square Cafe Cookbook
These creamy, cheesy potatoes are super decadent and irresistible. I serve these at Christmas with Prime Rib or Rack of Lamb, and they are the perfect family style share dish for a steak house dinner. They are worth the extra statin! The original recipe says it serves 4-6, but I have no idea who can eat that amount of potatoes. . . they must weigh 800 pounds! I have adjusted the recipe from the original to use large potatoes and more cheese. I often make them in 2 separate dishes – one to serve, one to share or freeze. They are super easy and can be made ahead, which is why they are a dinner party staple of mine.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Course Side Dish


  • Mandolin


  • 4 Large Russet Potatoes scrubbed clean
  • 1 Clove Garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 tsp Butter
  • 3 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 3 Cups Gruyere Cheese, grated (1 pound)
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg, preferably fresh
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/8 tsp White Pepper, or finely ground black pepper


  • Preheat oven to 350*
  • Lightly butter a large oval au gratin dish or oval roaster* or 9 x 13 pyrex dish.
  • Rub the cut sides of the garlic around the pan. Discard the garlic.
  • Whisk the cream with the spices together in a very large bowl.
  • Using a mandolin** slice the potatoes paper thin (1 or 1 1/2 setting) and add to the cream mixture.
  • Add the grated cheese to the potatoes and cheese and blend well.
  • Pile the potatoes into the prepared dish (dishes), making sure the potatoes are stacked flat.
  • Pour any leftover cream mixture over the potatoes.
  • Place the potatoes in a larger roasting pan and add hot water halfway up the sides to create a Bain Marie.
  • Bake for 2 hours until bubbly and golden brown. Check at 90 minutes to ensure they are not too brown, if so, cover with foil for the remainder of the cooking time.
  • Allow to cool 15-20 minutes and serve.


  • No need to buy potato brush or gloves . . . simply take out a brand new scrubby sponge and use the scrubber side to wash the potatoes, then use the sponge to wash your dishes.  
  • *I love the Apilco Deep Oval Roasters that I buy from Williams Sonoma.  The #6 is perfect for this recipe.
  • There’s no need to buy a fancy mandolin if you don’t own one.  OXO makes a simple one that does the trick.  Microplane makes Kevlar gloves that I highly recommend when working with a mandolin or microplanes to save your fingertips and nails from the razor sharp blades.  
  • If you are making ahead, cook the potatoes for 90 minutes, removed from oven and cover with foil until you are ready to pull dinner together.  Place in a 350* oven for 30 minutes about an hour before you are ready to eat.  
Keyword Au Grantin Potatoes, Potaotes, Union Square Cafe


I love sauteed mushrooms as a side to a great steak, but not just any mushrooms. I like to use a blend of wild mushrooms for a robust, earthy flavor as opposed to simple button mushrooms. The addition of fresh Rosemary and Thyme adds a lovely flavor that is the perfect Steakhouse side.