Pumpkin Gnocchi in brown butter herb sauce

So it seems that a lot of people know that they have heard of gnocchi before (pronounced “nyo key”) but they don’t really know what it actually is and have never tried it. Despite being listed alongside pasta dishes, gnocchi is not a pasta, but is actually a kind of Italian dumpling. Also worth noting is that gnocchi is not stuffed with anything, but rather incorporates all of the major flavors into the actual dough, which when cooked just right, can give you that tender center. It is usually based on a starch and flour-centric dough, containing things like potato, squash, ricotta, spinach, or today’s focus (what with October rolling around the corner): pumpkin.

Pumpkin gnocchi in brown butter herb sauce

Now if you’ve heard anything about gnocchi being hard to make, its not–its just a time consuming endeavor that requires care and patience (sounds believable, right? 😮 ). But if you’ve ever had a really good plate of gnocchi before, you know that its worth… click to read more…

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Tamale Pie

Tamale Pie is a great dish with a weird name. I almost hate calling it by that name because it doesn’t sound appetizing and the name is so uninformative–its not a pie and has absolutely nothing tamale-like about it. Its sort of a tex-mex flavored casserole held together with ground beef, cornbread, and a salsa-like mixture. Its crumbly like cornbread, moist, and zesty. And for something tex-mex, its very comfort-foodish.

Serving of tamale pie w/avocado and sour cream

I was inspired by the version of tamale pie from Simply Recipes and was surprised to learn that this is actually a commonplace dish. Prepare yourself for some really heavy news: I never encountered tamale pie growing up.

For me, this dish is nice because you can easily make it from a lot of fresh ingredients or substitute in some pre-made components with ease. I try to strike a middle ground, keeping it full of… click to read more…

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Michael Burgers!

This is what started it all. The one thing that I got good at before I could really cook.

For me, cooking started as a college-time exploration of marinate it in some storebought sauce, throw it (and all of the sauce) on the George Foreman grill, and then see what happens–yikes! But this dish wasn’t in that category: burgers. They were easy to prepare, cheap, and fed a crowd with ease. And what a crowd-pleaser! People asked for these–and not “hey, could you make burgers?” but “hey, I could really go for some Michael Burgers!” This made it seem like I was on to something…

Burger time

I’m going to wax philosophical here, but I think a big part of it is simply that people have really grown accustomed to flavorless, flat, dull burgers with a slice of (to quote Gordon Ramsay) plastic cheese on top. Nobody really expects anything from a burger, so this is a dish where you can… click to read more…

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Thai Red Curry Chicken

I have always had a thing for Thai food. The dishes are always colorful, delicious, and have a really interesting combination of flavors. Thai curries tend to be identified rather simply by their color, the common trio being the yellow, green, and (one of my favorites) red. The backbone of the red curry is coconut milk and red curry paste (doesn’t that seem a little circular?), which gives a creamy, but spicy, tomatoey, chili flavor. All of the vegetables you can add to this makes it feel like you’re eating something really healthy, but unfortunately, the coconut milk is kind of an important component that will rain on your healthy-eating parade.

Thai Red Curry Chicken

Either way, when you’re in the mood for Asian flavors, if your first impulse is to order Chinese take-out, try this out instead. This dish isn’t quite authentic, but the flavors are still distinctly Thai and this has long been a household favorite. And it’s also my… click to read more…

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Chicken Mole Poblano

Mole is a Spanish/Mexican sauce (pronounced MOH-leh) and what a sauce it is! It has a tawny red color with a really complex taste. Its hard to pick apart the flavors–kind of spicy, kind of savory, kind of toasty, and just…dark. The flavor is just really interesting, and perhaps most interesting of all (if you’ve never heard of it before) is that one of the key ingredients to this sauce is dark, bittersweet chocolate.

Chicken mole poblano with saffron rice

Yup, chocolate in a savory sauce…for meat. I know! What amazes me with this sauce is how well every single component meshed together as many of these ingredients don’t seem like traditional matches made in heaven (e.g. when’s the last time you had chocolate and garlic? yum?). This sauce is balanced and will not leave you picking out any one flavor after the fact. I encourage you to taste lots of your ingredients as you progress through this recipe to just try to taste… click to read more…

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Smoked drumsticks in Tarragon Citrus Honey Mustard sauce

Sure we’re kind of late into summer, but sloppy fingerfood fresh off the grill is always welcome in my book. This dish is about dark chicken meat, smoke, and most importantly, a complicated mustard sauce with a complicated name to match (tarragon citrus honey mustard…maybe it wasn’t that complicated). This zesty sauce is my entry in “Weekend Herb Blogging,” hosted this week by Thyme for Cooking.

Drumsticks, sauced and plated (overhead shot)

  • Grill-friendly pieces of chicken. I use drumsticks, roughly 3-4 per person
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Creole seasoning
  • A handful of wood chips for smoking (apple-wood is ideal, but I had none and used mesquite)
  • Sauce:
    • Leaves from 4-5 sprigs of tarragon
    • 5 or so sage leaves
    • 5 basil leaves
    • 1 cup Dijon mustard
    • 1/2 cup of white wine
    • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1/2 cup orange juice
    • 1/4 cup of honey
    • 1 tsp of soy sauce
    • juice from one lemon
    • black pepper
    • celery

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