Category Archives: Holiday

National Burger Month

Yes, National Burger Month is a thing. We’ve all become accustomed to the dozens of food holidays. And while I typically snub these fake holidays, there’s no resisting the burger.

I’m sure you have your favorite burger spot (Longman and Eagle for me), but if you’re looking to make a delicious burger at home, here are a couple of recipes that I like to make.

One question that I always get is about the best cut for a burger. I like to use a mix of grass-fed, free-range beef: 50% Sirloin (Ground), 25% Chuck, 25% Brisket (Ground).  Now, let’s get started!

The Working Man's Burger

The Working Man’s Burger

The Working Man’s burger is a burger that I originally created on The Next Great Burger. This burger has everything you love in a burger and more.

The Working Man’s Burger

Ingredients
1 lbs. sirloin (grass-fed or free-range for all three beef)
1/2 lbs. brisket
1/2 lbs. chuck
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
6 pretzel rolls
1 small red onion
3 garlic cloves
6 farm-free eggs
1 lbs. applewood smoked bacon
1/2 lbs. aged extra sharp Wisconsin cheddar
6 Roma tomatoes
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. hickory flavoring
2 Tbsp. steak and chop  rub
1 Tbsp. black lava salt.

Method
Grind meat, prep onions and garlic, finish meat and form patties. Grill tomatoes for 10-20 minutes. Brown the butter rolls on the flattop. Sauté bacon on the flattop. Cook eggs in a pan on the flattop. Take grilled tomatoes and finish them in a blender. After 20-30 minutes, put burgers on the grill. Then plate everything together.

Strawberry Chutney and Brie Burger

It may sound strange, but the strawberry chutney—made with raisins, brown sugar, lemon juice, honey, and red wine vinegar—complements the Brie and adds a dash of sweetness to an otherwise savory and hearty dish. Use burger recipe as shown above to make your patty and choose the bun of your choice.

Strawberry Chutney
1⁄4 c Raisins
1⁄4 C brown sugar
1⁄4 lemon juice
1⁄4 red wine, apple cider or raspberry vinegar
2 T honey
2 C fresh strawberries

Directions
In small pot, add first five ingredients and put over medium high heat, until boils. Stir in Strawberries. Down to a simmer for 10 min or until begins to thicken. Let cool and serve a top burger. To finish with a burger, Use our standard burger recipe, top with melted Brie, mesclun greens and our strawberry chutney.

Chers!
Chef Aram

Bourbon Pork Chop

Going Beyond the Grill

WGN Selfie June 2015

My standard behind the scenes selfie! Happy to be back at WGN!

A slew of grilled recipes seem to circulate like crazy around Father’s Day.  I have no idea why grills and grilling are always associated with dads, but I’m pretty sure that dads love many types of food in a variety of preparation methods — not just grilled!

While planning the dish that I was to prepare for a recent Father’s Day segment on WGN, I realized that dads across the county are probably sick of the same old stuff.  So, I created a dish that was special but still satisfying and easy to prepare in your home kitchen.  Dads, you can thank me later.

Before you get started, I have a quick PSA… do not overcook your pork chop!  There’s nothing worse than a tough dried out pork chop.  Trust me, there’s no saving it once it’s been overcooked.  As you’ll see in the segment, I cook the pork chop  on just one side on the stovetop and then I transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking it for 10-12 minutes.  This will result in a perfectly cooked, juicy and tender piece of meat.   Here’s the recipe below and you can watch the full segment here.

 

Bourbon Pork Chop

A collection of shots from my segment! Photo: Kristina Miller

 

Pork Chop with Bourbon Glaze Over Spinach Greens

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon bourbon
2 bone in 1” thick pork chops
1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:
In a bowl, mix together the mustard, brown sugar, and bourbon. Rub the pork with the garlic and any preferred house seasoning, then brush with half the glaze. Pre-heat oven to 375F. Season pork with salt, pepper or spice rub of choice. Bring burner to medium high heat, sear one side of pork for 4-5 minutes or until nice browning occurs. Then flip pork over, top with glaze and finish in oven for 10 minutes or until pork has internal temperature of 165F. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Apply additional glaze over pork and serve over spinach greens. Garnish with Heirloom Tomato.

There you have it!  As always, I love seeing photos of your dishes, so be sure to tag me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Cheers to all the dads!

Chef Aram

The Power of Grilled Cheese

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of food holidays. It’s all gotten completely out of hand. Everyday seems to be some sort of food holiday—National Muffin Month, Turkey Burger On A Pretzel Roll Day, National Chocolate Covered Strawberry Week—you name it. The funny thing is, everybody knows these aren’t real holidays. I mean, there’s no patron saint of muffins, is there? Nope, just a group of really smart marketers. Yet we celebrate these days with enthusiasm. Well, bah humbug!

I recently found out we’re in the middle of National Grilled Cheese Month and the weirdest thing happened—I got a little excited about it. I mean, I love a good grilled cheese sandwich as much as the next guy. Oftentimes, it’s the simple foods that connect at an emotional level and spark nostalgia. Grilled cheese embodies “back in the day” and it’s the ultimate comfort food. For that reason, I decided to momentarily push my disdain aside and embrace this food holiday. But for the sake of this blog post, I’m going to ditch the lame name and call it NGCM.

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

Since my appearance on Guy’s Grocery Games, so many people have asked me about the grilled cheese sandwich that I made on the show. So, in honor of NGCM, here’s my Outrageous Grilled Cheese, similar to the one that I made on Grocery Games. Oh, and I’m also including a Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup recipe, because what’s a grilled cheese sandwich without the tomato soup?

I can’t promise that I’ll be on board for National Walnut Week or any other food holiday for that matter, but then again, you never know. Maybe this grinch’s heart has grown just a little—Happy NGCM.

Outrageous Grilled Cheese

Outrageous Grilled Cheese

Outrageous Grilled Cheese
(Makes 4)

Ingredients:
8 slices of sturdy white bread
8 oz smoked ham (optional), thinly sliced
4-6 oz thinly sliced cheddar cheese
4-6 oz thinly sliced Monterey jack
¼ c quality mayonnaise
1 c finely grated parmesan
2-4 T unsalted butter

Preparation:
Lay 4 slices of bread on work surface
Layer ham & cheeses in equal amounts on one side of the bread
Top with 2nd slice of bread
Spread mayo lightly on outside of bread (both sides)
Sprinkle both sides of bread with cheese
Press to adhere cheese
Heat a griddle OR fry pan, over med to med flame (let pan get fully hot)
Add ~2 T of butter & let melt
Place sandwich in pan
Cook til golden brown on 1st side
Turn over & add more butter to pan
Repeat with 2nd side
Repeat, as necessary, with remaining sandwiches
Cut in ½ & eat immediately!
Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup
(Makes 6)

Ingredients:
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 red pepper, roasted, cut in large dice
4c chicken or vegetable stock
1 28 oz can crushed tomato
1t red wine vinegar
2t dried oregano
½ c heavy cream
Fresh Basil Leaves
Preparation:
Rub red peppers with vegetable oil, place on sheet tray under broiler
Broil until charred on all sides
Remove seeds and stem from pepper, dice in large chunks
Heat oil in saucepan
Add onion and sauté until golden, ~ 5 min
Add garlic and oregano, stir in until aromatic
Add tomato and roasted pepper, let heat through
Add stock and vinegar, bring to boil then down to simmer, ~20 min
Puree with immersion blender
Add cream and bring to simmer
Season with s/p
Garnish with basil and crème fraiche

Pink Creme Brulee

Getting my set ready!

Getting my set ready!

This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to give the guys something that they could add to their arsenal to impress that special someone.

Creme brulee is  one of the most commonly ordered desserts and arguably the most intimidating dessert to make.  But what if I told you it’s actually one of the easiest (and most fun) desserts to make at home?

Not only are we having fun with color by adding organic beet powder, but we’re also using a blow torch.  C’mon, man, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Pink Creme Brulee

Voila! Pink creme brulee! Just add a some chocolate drizzle and berries to a plate and serve!

 

Pink Creme Brulee

Click here  for the full recipe and the  step-by-step video as shown on WGN Midday.   Thanks to my WGN friends for having me on again and letting me spread the love.   

Ingredients:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp beet powder
2 Tbs vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375. In a separate pot, bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil and reserve. In small stock pot, heat heavy cream until bubbles form around the edge. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let steep for 10 minutes. In a mixing bowl, add sugar and egg yolks and begin to whisk for 1-2 minutes, or until it thickens up and looks like mayonnaise. Once you have reached desired consistency, add beet powder and stir evenly.

Slowly add heavy cream, first to temper to avoid the eggs from cooking. Add cream in a slow steady stream while whisking until all together. Evenly distribute batter into ramekins . Place ramekins in casserole dish and then add water ½ way up the ramekin. Bake in oven for 30-35 min or until custard sets and quivers (like Jello)
Place in fridge for 4 hours to set.

When ready to brulee, add sugar on top and finish with blow torch to get desired texture or put under the broiler for about 30 seconds or until you see the sugar bubbling on top.

Makes 6 – 4 oz servings

This is one dessert you’ll definitely want to try at home.  Let me know how it goes!  Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook @chefaramreed.

Cheers!
Chef Aram

It’s all gravy, baby!

This final Thanksgiving post goes out to my Facebook friend, Christina, who asked “hey chef, what about the gravy?!”  Well, Christina, this one’s for you.

In my post Thanksgiving Dinner Part I: The Bird I actually snuck in a quick and easy pan sauce with a twist – cranberries.  What I most like about this pan sauce is that you’re using the flavors from the turkey and taking them to the next level with the flavor of cranberry.  Here’s the full recipe:

Cranberry Pan Sauce

Add cranberry sauce to your deglazed pan for an amped pan sauce.

Add cranberry sauce to your deglazed pan for an amped pan sauce.

 Note: this sauce should be made in the same pan that you’ve used to sear your turkey.  Remove the turkey from the pan and place it on a sheet tray with a rack.  Leave whatever’s in the pan and anything that dripped onto the tray after it cooked.  Add that to the pan and get started on your pan sauce as follows…

 Ingredients:

1 Shallot, small dice

1 C White Wine

3 C Turkey Stock

1⁄2 cup Cranberry Puree

2T Butter

Salt and Pepper

Preparation:

Place the pan that you’ve seared your turkey in over medium-low heat, add extra oil to the pan if needed

Add shallot and sauté until tender, ~2-3 min

Take a sip of the wine, then add the rest to the pan to deglaze

Scrape bottom of pan to make sure all the bits come up off the bottom

Let wine reduce 2-3 min, then add stock. Lets reduce for 10 min

Add cranberry and butter. Swirl pan, possibly whisk to break up cranberry

Season to taste with salt and pepper

Serve and enjoy

What’s The Difference: Pan Sauce v. Gravy 

Gravy like your grandma's.

Gravy like your grandma’s.

Now some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering – is pan sauce and gravy the same thing?  Well, yes and no.  It’s true, gravy is a sauce, but pan sauce is not a gravy.  The basic difference is that with a pan sauce, you’re using the bits at the bottom of the pan where you’ve roasted your meat and then you’re deglazing the pan with a liquid, such as wine, to create a sauce.  

Deglaze your pan... get all the bits!

Deglaze your pan… get all the bits!

 

With gravy, you’re adding flour or cornstarch to the pan juices after the meat has been cooked.  This will thicken the sauce and add those lumps that we’re all use to when we think of traditional gravy. Pan sauce versus gravy is a personal preference, so just go with the sauce that you like the best.

Giblet gravy

Giblet gravy

 

Here are a few gravy recipes that you should consider this Thanksgiving.

Chicken Giblet Gravy

Traditional Gravy

Gluten-Free Gravy 

I’d love to see what you’re serving this Thanksgiving, so don’t forget to tag me in your Instagram photos @aramreed.  You can also ping me with your turkey day questions on Facebook and Twitter @chefaramreed.

Cheers!

Chef Aram

Thanksgiving Dinner Part II: The Sides

In my last blog post, I covered the ins and outs of the Thanksgiving turkey.  Now, let’s get into what’s arguably the most exciting part of Thanksgiving dinner – the sides.  Side dishes are the real stars of the table and many of us will happily make an entire meal out of them.  For this reason they deserve just as much attention as the turkey.

See The Kitchn's tips on organizing your buffet table.

See The Kitchn’s tips on organizing your buffet table.

Below are a few of the side dishes that’ll be gracing my table this Thanksgiving.  For those looking for vegetarian options, it’s important to note that variations of these recipes can easily be made by simply substituting the turkey stock with vegetable stock and by removing the bacon.

Of course, I haven’t forgotten about my gluten-free friends.  My Sweet Potato Puree is a great gluten-free side dish and the Brussels Sprout and Bacon Gratin can easily become gluten-free by substituting for GF breadcrumbs.  Here are some additional GF side dishes to check out.

Gluten-free side dishes abound.

Gluten-free side dishes abound.

Prepping and Serving Go ahead and make it easy on yourself by prepping some of your side dishes, such as the start of the stuffing, the night before.  Here are a few pointers on what can be prepped ahead of time.

Whether buffet-style, family-style or a combination of both, the manner in which you serve your Thanksgiving dinner is totally up to you.  Generally, a buffet is a great option, especially if you’ll be feeding a lot of people.  Here’s a nice guide on how to organize your buffet for ultimate enjoyment.

And lastly, without a doubt the most important thing that you should do this Thanksgiving is enjoy your time with loved ones. Have fun creating new memories.

Cheers!

Chef Aram

P.S. – Have a last minute Thanksgiving cooking question?  Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook @chefaramreed!

Enjoy your company

Enjoy your company!

Cranberry Pecan Cornbread Stuffing 

3 boxes, Cornbread Mix ( I love Jiffy)

3 Eggs

1 C Whole Milk

1 C Candied Pecans, rough chopped

1 C Dried Cranberries (Dried Cherries can be used as a substitute)

3-4 C Turkey Stock (see my Thanksgiving Part I post for an easy DIY turkey stock)

3 T Sage, minced

Preparation:

Bake off cornbread recipe following directions on the box

Once cornbread is done, using thongs, break up the cornbread

Add stock, cranberries, sage and pecans

Return mixture to cornbread pan until stuffing has absorbed and dried the stock

Return to 400 degree oven and bake for 10-15 min

Serve and enjoy

 

 

Sweet Potato Puree

4 lb of Sweet Potato, small dice

2 T butter

1⁄4 cup Makers Mark

2 T Brown Sugar

2T Sage, minced

Preparation:

Small dice sweet potatoes and place in pot of water

Bring to a boil and cook until tender, approx. 20 min

Drain water

Add remaining ingredients and puree with immersion blender until smooth

Season with salt and pepper to taste

Serve and enjoy

 

 

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Gratin 

1 lb Bacon, cooked until crispy, then rough chop with knife

1⁄2 C Reserved Bacon Fat

3 lb Brussels Sprouts, julienned

1 1⁄2 C Heavy Cream

1 Shallot, minced

8oz White Cheddar, grated

3 Rosemary Sprigs, minced

1C Breadcrumbs

1T Vegetable Oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In large sauté, bring to medium heat. Add bacon fat

Sauté brussels sprouts until bright green, remove and place in bowl

Add 1T of oil and sauté rosemary and shallot until tender, 2 min

Add cream and leave on heat until bubbles appear.

Add to brussels sprouts and stir

Place brussels sprouts in casserole dish.  Add cheese, breadcrumbs and bacon

Place in oven and cook until cheese has melted and is golden brown, approx. 15-20 min

Serve and enjoy

Thanksgiving Dinner – Part I: The Bird

Let’s be honest, Thanksgiving is America’s favorite holiday because it’s the only day that’s all about the food.  We’ve waited the entire year for that big, golden bird with all the trimmings.  This is the day where foods that dare not meet during other months, now, happily rub shoulders with one another to form glorious food-collages on our plates.

Thanksgiving Dinner If you’re the person who’ll be preparing this year’s dinner – kudos!  I’ve got a few pro tips that’ll make this the easiest (and best-tasting) Thanksgiving dinner ever.

In this blog post, we’ll start with the turkey.  First, let’s decide which type of turkey you’ll buy.  This is really all about preference.  If you’re interested in purchasing a local bird, here’s a good list of places in Chicago where you can pre-order your bird.  There are several turkey variations available such as “natural”, “kosher” and  “heritage” all of which can be a little confusing, but Saveur has laid out the differences for us.

See Saveur's list of what's what in the world of turkeys.

See Saveur’s list of what’s what in the world of turkeys.

Now that we’ve selected our turkey, let’s get cooking. The first mistake that many make with the turkey begins with the cook’s picturesque vision of a whole bird cooked to perfection and served on a platter all ready to carve.  If you have that vision, dump it.

For the best turkey that you’ve ever had, I want you to deconstruct your turkey into two parts: leg/thigh quarters and breasts.  Why?  Well, we all know that white meat cooks faster than dark meat, so by breaking down your turkey, you’re allowing for a more even cooking process.  It’s called the cut-up-and-cook approach and in addition to a juicier turkey, you’ll also get a richer tasting gravy with this method.

Here’s a video on how to deconstruct your turkey at home with just a few simple cuts.  Make sure that you have a good, sharp knife.  And if you feel uncomfortable breaking it down yourself, just ask your butcher to do it for you. (Note: I recommend keeping the leg and thigh quarter together and this video separates them. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your preference.).  Once you’ve deconstructed your turkey, follow my Thanksgiving turkey recipe below.

Thanksgiving Turkey

1 Turkey, broken down into two parts, leg/thigh quarters and breasts, on separate sheet trays

4T Dried Herbs de Provence

Salt and Pepper

1 Shallot, small dice

1 C White Wine

3 C Turkey Stock

2T Butter

1⁄2 Cup Cranberry Puree

 Preparation:

• Season turkey with salt, pepper and dried herbs

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees

• In large sauté pan, medium-high heat, add olive oil

• Place turkey skin side down, sear until golden brown ~4-5 min

• Add 1-2T of butter to pan and swirl around

• Flip over, and sear the other side until golden brown

• Remove turkey from pan and place on sheet trays, then in the oven

• Cook until turkey reaches internal temp of 165 degrees.

• 1 hr for white meat, 1.5 hrs for dark meat quarters

• Turn the heat down to medium-low

• Add extra fat if needed to pan, then add shallot

• Sauté until tender, ~2-3 min

• Take a sip of the wine, then add the rest to the pan to deglaze

• Scrape bottom of pan to make sure all the bits come up off the bottom

• Let wine reduce 2-3 min, then add stock. Lets reduce for 10 min

• Add cranberry and butter. Swirl pan, possibly whisk to break up cranberry

• Season to taste with salt and pepper

 Turkey Stock

4 Carrots, rough chop

5 Celery Stalks, rough chop

4 Fresh Rosemary sprigs

Salt and Pepper

Turkey carcass

1 Lg Stock Pot

 Preparation:

• In large stock pot, add carrots, rosemary and celery along with turkey carcass

• Fill stock pot with water just short of the top

• Bring to boil, then down to a simmer for 2 hrs.

• Strain stock to remove all impurities

• Return stock pot to burner and reduce until desired color and flavor

• Season with salt and pepper to taste

Make sure the internal temp reaches 165 degrees!

Make sure the internal temp reaches 165 degrees!

Once the turkey is done, go ahead and grab that beautiful platter of yours and arrange the turkey for presentation.  Trust me, once you and your guests take a bite of this bird, they’ll be singing your praises.

 In my next blog post I’ll share a few side dishes that I like to add to my Thanksgiving spread.  Don’t forget to ping me @chefaramreed on Facebook and Twitter with any Thanksgiving cooking questions.

Cheers!

Chef Aram