Monday, May 26, 2014

Making a Difference. One Cookout at a Time.

I wanted to post this earlier, but I didn't want to rain on anyone's Memorial Day cookout.

Including my own.

So I'm posting this now as to give us food for thought for next year.

Maybe it's because I have sons who are 'draft-able'. Or maybe it's because of I have young in-laws who are currently serving our country.

Or maybe it's because I'm simply older and more reflective.

Whatever it is, a friend posted this pic on Facebook and for some reason it hit home for me.

Granted, I love to grill. Especially if I'm given 3 full days to do it. I've even posted numerous grilling recipes over the years. And I will continue to do so. But next year with a difference. And maybe you will too.

In a world where athletes, movie stars, and pop singers pull down more money than the GNP of many nations, it's hard to swallow the fact that our servicemen and women - those who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way for our benefit and (in some cases) for the benefit of those who actually despise them - sometimes have to struggle when they return home.

I often approach those in uniform at the airport, in a restaurant, or downtown and thank them for their service. You might too.

Maybe it's time to do more than just talk. So here's my thought. I hope I can get some buy-in.

At your next backyard Memorial Day shindig, put out a bucket for donations. And let your guests know about it in advance so they can come prepared. The next day, send the proceeds to your non-profit of choice (ie. Wounded Warriors). It works. And it will grow. Here's how I know.

Back when we had a big house, we hosted an annual Blues Brothers party in February. I'd cook up a Chicago blues feast, everyone would come dressed as a character in the movie, my son-in-law and friends would play live blues music, and the piece de resistance would be my son and my good friend Jeff lip-syncing 'Soul Man' to the delight of everyone in attendance (oh…and they were spot on!) We put a bucket out with a sign stating that we were on a mission from God. Each year we'd raise a couple of thousand of bucks for an orphanage in Mexico, Alaska, etc.

I know it's not a lot of money. But hey, what if 10 of us were committed to doing something similar. 100? 1000? 10,000? Now, we're talking serious cash.

This backyard party cost next to nothing (unlike the huge celebrity 'fundraisers' that cost more to produce than they raise…and trust me on that…I was a non-profit fundraiser for 25 years…) and everyone knows exactly where their money is going. And there's no middle man taking a hefty cut.

Better yet? Invite some servicemen and vets from the neighborhood over. Don't fawn. Just thank 'em and offer them a cold beer and a brat.

So, with that in mind, what do you think?

Are you with me?

If so. Whip up some of these brats. They're cheap. Delicious. And together we can pay homage to those who lay down their lives for us.

Bon Appetit!

Chef Warren


Double, triple or quadruple this. It's all good.

PREP: 10 minutes            COOK: 1 hour


8 good brats. (If you can get them from your butcher, great. If not, Johnsonville is a good national brand.
2 Spanish or sweet onions (Vidalia, Walla-Walla) peeled and sliced

6 garlic cloves, minced or crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 bottles good amber beer - don't bother with lite or cheap beer crap
1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

8 brat buns


1. Preheat outdoor grill.
2. Melt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 an onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté an addition 2 minutes. Add the brats, salt and beer and bring to a slow boil.
3. Quickly lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered.
4. In the meantime, heat remaining butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining onion slices and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
5. Remove brats from pot and grill over medium heat until nicely brown, about 10 - 15 minutes.
6. Serve on buns with sautéed onions and plenty of good beer.
7. Put out a bucket for donations.
8. Send donations to non-profit of choice.
9. Repeat every Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Life Lessons from a Frittata (or Broken Eggs and Leftovers)

Do you remember the Egg Toss Game? It's often played at summer camp and Easter picnics. Two lines of people face each other a few feet apart and toss a raw egg back and forth, taking a big step backward with every successful catch. Soon, contestants are 10 or 20 yards apart, a few eggs begin to break, and the number of contestants begin to fade until only a few are left gently tossing eggs across an expanse that would rival some Walmart parking lots until one pair of contestants is left with their unbroken egg.

Of course, there's always one or two clowns that want their eggs to break -- all over their partners. You know these knuckleheads. They either hurl the egg at you like they were pitching for the Mets or they heave back and send it sky high in the hope that you will lose track of it in the sun. Yep, I can almost see you nodding your head. We've all been there.

Sometimes Life can be one of those knuckleheads, too. Just when we need a gently tossed egg to make it through the day, week, or month, Life cocks it's arm and sends the egg screaming right at our faces where the only response it to throw up our arms to block it. Either that or Life hurls it so high we have no hope of catching it intact.

Either way, we have broken eggs.

And what do we often do with those broken eggs? We make do with what we're comfortable with and usually whip up an omelet or a batch of scrambled eggs. Why? Those dishes are easy, familiar, and require little risk.

They can also be quite boring.

It's the same way with leftovers. What do we usually do with leftover spaghetti? We nuke it and have another plate of spaghetti for lunch or dinner the next day. Leftover spinach from a salad? We toss some dressing on it and have another salad. All quite safe. And all quite boring.

When Life is not hurling eggs at us, she might be serving up plate after plate of leftovers instead of something new and challenging, and we settle for it. Why? It's safe and comfortable. I mean, spaghetti is spaghetti, right? When either of those situations happen to us, instead of responding with what's familiar and safe, we may want to re-think things and create a completely brand new dish with those broken eggs and bland leftovers.

I'm learning to.

To change my perspective and explore creative (and risky) options. Will it be messy? Probably. Invigorating? Absolutely.

So, back to the egg toss. When some clown tosses the egg in a way it can only break, instead of whipping up a plain old omelet or scrambled eggs, let's raid the fridge for some leftover pasta, that half can of dice tomatoes, the bowl of sautéed mushrooms, a handful of fresh spinach, or maybe some leftover cooked veggies to create a spectacular frittata.

Will it be messy? Probably.

Delicious? Absolutely.


What better way to clean out the fridge than with this creative and delicious frittata. Even though my specialty is cooking for two, we're making this for four because it will taste even better the next day. Especially at room temperature. Oh, and don't worry too much about the measurements. This is a messy and delightful dish that is almost impossible to mess up. Now let's open up that fridge and see what we have.

PREP: 15 minutes            COOK: 25 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk or half and half
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried basil, oregano, or thyme
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 or 2 cups* cooked spaghetti or similar pasta (linguini, fettuccini, angel hair, etc) cut into 2" pieces if desired, but not necessary

From the Fridge:
1/4 to 1/2 cup leftover sautéed mushrooms
1/4 to 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh spinach, torn
1/4 to 1/2 cup leftover cooked veggies (broccoli, squash, zucchini, potatoes, etc)

To Finish:
1 cup shredded Muenster cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or 1-1/4 cup Parmesan cheese if not using Muenster).

1. Preheat broiler to high.

2. In large bowl, beat together eggs with milk, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and herb of choice. Fold in fridge ingredients.

3. Heat a cast iron or other oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter and swirl to coat. Add onions and sauté until crisp tender, about 5 - 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 - 2 minutes.

4. Gently stir onions, garlic and pasta into egg mixture then pour into the skillet. Flatten mixture with a spatula and cook, undisturbed, over medium - heat until bottom is set, about 5 - 8 minutes (lift edge with a spatula at 5 minutes to make sure the bottom is just lightly brown).

5. Sprinkle top with Muenster cheese and Parmesan cheese. Place pan under broiler, about 4"- 5" from heat source, and cook for 5-10 minutes until frittata is puffed, set, and beginning to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and cut into wedges. Can be served immediately or at room temperature.

*The amount of pasta will depend on how much stuff you are adding from the fridge. Use less pasta if you have a lot of fridge ingredients, more pasta if you are not using a lot. Either way, this recipe is almost foolproof!

Monday, May 5, 2014

He's Back...He's Bad...And He Smells Like Garlic

It's been many moons since I wrote my last blog post. Why? Between extensive touring and writing my next book Cooking Outside the Lines - Musings of Extemporaneous Chef, I just didn't have that much time.

Lame excuse, I know.

I'm actually ashamed.

To be honest? I missed our comaraderie. Your comments. Your wise-ass remarks. And your recipe suggestions...

After giving myself a half-dozen dope slaps, I came to my senses and committed myself to writing weekly again (or weakly again, depending on your perspective of my prose..)

So let's open a bottle of wine or two, crush a couple of bulbs of garlic, and enjoy each other's company just like we did in the old days...

Bon Appetit!

              • CHICKEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC •

It seems everyone is a little hesitant the first time they prepare this dish. 40 cloves of garlic? Isn’t that a bit much? It seems so on the surface, but you’ll be surprised at how mild the garlic becomes after an hour of cooking. Of course, for the Table for Two version we will not be using 40 cloves. But I bet you’ll increase the amount once you’ve tried this dish.

PREP: 10 Minutes
COOK: 1 Hour


2 chicken legs and 2 thighs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic, separated but unpeeled
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon allspice (or cinnamon)
1/3 cup dry white wine or chicken broth


1. Heat the olive oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, turning, until golden brown, about 5 – 10 minutes.

2. Add garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and allspice and sauté for 1 minute. Pour the wine over and toss.

3. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer, undisturbed, until chicken and garlic are tender, about 1 hour.

4. Transfer to a serving plate and serve. Squeeze the garlic cloves and spread over warm and crusty French bread.

Serve with Roasted Red Potatoes and Lemon Pepper Peas.