JACKSONVILLE – Shrimp and Grits Cakes





I have never been to Jacksonville nor did I have any clue what the culture or the cuisine was like there so this was an entire research project for me.  Turns out a lot of people have asked the same question.  While Jacksonville itself has a very long history it is a relatively new city in terms of carving out an identity for itself.  It is an up and coming place and now the largest metropolitan city in all of Florida.  I had been thinking about what I was going to do for Jacksonville for several weeks.  I thought this might be a good time to do fish tacos but decided to do that for Houston instead.  I had been thinking about doing a shrimp and grits recipe for this blog for some time and this seemed like a good opportunity as Jacksonville is not that far from the Georgia border and still a good southern place.  Then in my research I stumbled upon a very popular place that was famous for their shrimp and grits cakes.  I had never heard of that before, but I thought it sounded like a great idea since grits and polenta are basically the same thing.  It’s a great combination.  You get all the great flavors of shrimp and grits bundled together in one little cake like polenta which is a great accompaniment to many Italian meals.  So, while Jacksonville looks to establish its identity we will combine some great ideas into this dish which can be a side dish or main dish to pair with another.





1 ½ cups quick cook Grits

6 cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth

4 TBSP Unsalted Butter

¾ cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Salt, to taste

Fresh ground Black Pepper, to taste

6 strips Hickory Smoked Bacon

1 lb. medium Shrimp (30-36 ct.), completely peeled and deveined

2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ cup finely chopped Yellow Onion

½ cup finely chopped Red Bell Pepper

2 Garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 TBSP Paprika

½ TSP Garlic Powder

½ TSP Onion Powder

1 TSP dried Oregano

½ TSP ground Thyme

¼ TSP Cayenne Powder

1 Lemon, juiced



  1. In a 4-quart pot place the Grits and Broth and heat to boiling
  2. Once boiling reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until Broth is absorbed. About 7 minutes.
  3. Transfer Grits to a large bowl and add 2 TBSP Butter, Parmesan Cheese, Salt, and Pepper. Stir to combine.
  4. While the Grits cook in a large frying pan fry the Bacon over medium high heat until crispy. Place on paper towel lined plate.
  5. Season the Shrimp with Salt and Pepper
  6. In the same pan pour off all but 1 TBSP Bacon drippings. Add 1 TBSP EVOO and turn the burner on medium high heat.
  7. Sauté the Shrimp until pink on both sides. About 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the pan and transfer to a cutting board.
  8. Add 1 TBSP EVOO to the pan. Sauté the Onion and Bell Pepper until soft about 5 minutes.  Season with Salt and Pepper.
  9. While the Onion and Bell Pepper cook coarsely chop the Shrimp
  10. Add the Garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer
  11. Transfer the contents of the pan to a medium bowl. Add the chopped Shrimp.  Season with Paprika, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Oregano, Thyme, Salt, Pepper, and Cayenne.  Stir together.  Crumble the cooked Bacon into the bowl and stir again.
  12. Transfer the contents of the medium bowl to the large bowl and mix together. Add the Lemon Juice and mix again.
  13. Grease a large 9 x 13 baking pan with the remaining 1 TBSP Butter
  14. To the baking pan add the contents of the large bowl. Spread evenly in the pan to make level.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  15. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  16. Remove baking pan from the refrigerator while the oven heats. Cut the last TBSP of Butter into small pieces and dot the Shrimp and Grits.
  17. Bake in the oven until the top is golden brown. About 30 to 40 minutes.
  18. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit. Then cut perpendicular lines to make squares.
  19. When ready to serve use a spatula to lift each square piece of Shrimp and Grits Cakes to a serving plate


WINE PAIRING:  I would say wine is a better choice than beer, but you could enjoy this with a nice frosty one.  I would recommend an Italian white as the wine choice.  I would not say Pinot Grigio is a good option.  A nice, crisp, dry white wine from the Veneto region would be my top choice.


ARLO GUTHRIE – Happy Thanksgiving (part 1)





at Alice’s Restaurant of course and what I have in mind this Thanksgiving week is to give you some great recipes for the grand feast and what to do with all that leftover turkey.  So, today I’m offering you three wonderful side dishes to accompany your roast turkey.  There are well over a hundred different ways to prepare a turkey dinner and I’m not going to bore you with another one because they don’t vary that much.  The fun is in what unique side dishes you can design to make the table and your plate exciting.

“Let me tell you about the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts”.  I’ve actually been there many times.  I’ve had a lot of family living in the Berkshires area for many years.  If you’ve never been there it is just as described in the song.  The famous Red Lion Inn, one stoplight, and train tracks.  There used to be a sign where Alice’s restaurant was located but I haven’t been back in a very long time, so I can’t verify if it still exists.  I’m a big traditionalist and every year on Thanksgiving Day I play Alice’s Restaurant for everybody.  I think it lasts maybe seven minutes at most before my wife turns it off, but the legend survives regardless.  It’s a timeless classic and must be revered.

So, here’s the deal for this week.  As I said today we will have a few side dishes to consider for the big day on Thursday.  Since football is a big part of the Thanksgiving tradition tomorrow I will move our usual Friday series to Wednesday for a totally unrelated holiday recipe.  On Friday I will give you three great ideas on what to do with all that leftover turkey.  Hope this plan works for everybody.  It’s my way of saying thanks to all of you for reading this blog.  Happy Thanksgiving everybody!







2 lbs. Brussel Sprouts

1 TBSP Olive Oil

1 TSP + ¼ TSP fine Sea Salt

½ TSP + 1/8 TSP ground White Pepper

4 strips of Bacon

1 TBSP finely chopped Shallots

1 Garlic clove, finely chopped

½ TBSP Dijon Mustard

½ TBSP fresh squeezed Lemon Juice

½ TBSP Sherry Vinegar

1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil



  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Cut the stems off any Brussel Sprouts that need trimming. Cut each Brussel Sprout in half lengthwise.
  3. You will probably need 2 baking sheets. Line each with parchment paper and place the Brussel Sprout halves in a single layer on the sheets.
  4. Drizzle the Olive Oil over all the Sprouts and season with 1 TSP Salt and ½ TSP Pepper. Mix together evenly.
  5. Roast the Brussel Sprouts until brown and crispy. About 25 minutes depending on how crispy you like them.  Leave them in longer if you prefer them extra crispy like I do.
  6. While the Brussel Sprouts cook fry the Bacon strips until nice and crisp. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool.
  7. To make the dressing in a small to medium bowl combine with Shallots, Garlic, Mustard, Lemon Juice, Vinegar, 1 TBSP reserved Bacon drippings, EVOO, ¼ TSP Salt, and 1/8 TSP Pepper and stir. Crumble the cooked Bacon into the dressing and stir until blended.
  8. Transfer the roasted Brussel Sprouts to a ceramic serving tray. Pour the dressing over and gently toss a few times to combine.  Serve warm.





12 oz. Game Sausage Links or Sweet Italian Pork Sausage Links

1 TBSP unsalted Butter

1 TBSP Olive Oil

1 Large Fennel Bulb, chopped, fronds reserved

1 medium Onion, chopped

1 large Carrot, peeled and chopped

Salt, to taste

Fresh ground Black Pepper, to taste

1 ½ cups homemade Turkey Stock or Broth

1 cup toasted Pecans, chopped

1 cup dried Cherries, chopped

½ TBSP fresh Thyme leaves, finely chopped

12 oz. package Cornbread Stuffing cubes

2 Eggs

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a large frying pan poach the Sausages in water up to half the height of the links until cooked all the way through turning a few times. About 10 minutes.  Do not replaced water once it boils off.  Transfer to a cutting board.
  3. In the same pan heat the Butter and Olive Oil over medium heat
  4. Sauté the Fennel, Onion, and Carrot until soft. About 10 minutes.  Season with Salt and Pepper.
  5. Add the Stock, raise the heat slightly, and cook until the Stock reduces about 1/3. Turn off the heat and add the Pecans and Cherries.
  6. Dice the cooked Sausages and add them to the pan.
  7. Finely chop the reserved Fennel fronds. Add them, the Thyme, Salt, and Pepper to the pan and mix all together.
  8. In a large bowl place the Stuffing and crack both eggs over the bread cubes. Season with Salt and Pepper and toss to combine.
  9. In a 9 x 13 well-greased baking pan place the bread cube mixture in the pan and then the contents of the frying pan. Stir together and then bake for about 40 minutes.  Drizzle with EVOO and serve warm.




1 small to medium Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 small to medium Rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 large Carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 TBSP Olive Oil

Salt, to taste

Fresh ground Black Pepper, to taste

1/3 cup Balsamic Vinegar

1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 oz. Goat Cheese crumbles

½ TBSP fresh Thyme leaves, chopped

2 TBSP chopped fresh Chives



  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place all the vegetables on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle Olive Oil on top and season with Salt and Pepper.  Stir to combine evenly.
  3. Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  4. While vegetables roast in a small frying pan heat the Vinegar on medium. Reduce until Vinegar has a syrupy consistency.  Don’t overcook.  Remove from the heat.
  5. In a greased baking dish place the roasted vegetables and toss with 1 TBSP EVOO. Add the Goat Cheese, Thyme, Salt, and Pepper and toss lightly again.
  6. Drizzle the Vinegar syrup evenly over the vegetables
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes to heat through
  8. Remove from the oven. Garnish with the chopped Chives and serve warm.



WINE PAIRING:  I am always of the belief that Thanksgiving is kind of a free for all.  With so many dishes beyond just turkey and gravy being passed around it’s hard to come up with the right match.  Given that I usually recommend you go as neutral as possible with your wine selection.  Having said that Rosé is actually a great choice for Thanksgiving.  If you are a red wine drinker I wouldn’t go heavier than a young Pinot NoirGamay would also be a good choice.  Chardonnay will pair well with a few Thanksgiving staples but it’s such a temperamental grape, especially in the United States because of the oaky quality, it will not work well with other food on the table.  Riesling will work with the sweet and spicy dishes but miss the mark on the savory ones.  The best choices for white really come from the old world especially France like a Roussanne or a Marsanne combination or a Viognier.

INDIANAPOLIS – Fried Catfish with Remoulade





I really had two options this week.  Come January I always enjoyed making food from the respective NFL teams that were hosting playoff games that weekend.  I’ve had a lot of practice over the years with the success of Peyton Manning and the Colts seemingly always there as AFC South champions.  But I decided to do some more research of the popular foods in Indianapolis which I hadn’t done in a few years.  Fried pork loin sandwiches were something I have never tried, and I thought hard about doing that but felt it too similar to some of what we’ve already done on www.DoinThatRagu.com.  So, I went with my usual dish for Indy that I enjoy very much.

Some of you may be staring at this recipe and saying wait isn’t that Cajun food?  Shouldn’t this be for New Orleans?  Well catfish is very popular in Indianapolis and all over Indiana for that matter.  They like to coat the fish with cornmeal which is also popular in the South.  We won’t be adding any Cajun spices or other Southern twists to the meal.  This is the Midwest baby and we are just going to let good honest food for good honest folks do the talking for us.





1 cup Mayonnaise

1 TBSP German style Mustard

1 TBSP Lemon Juice

1 TBSP White Wine Vinegar

1 TSP White Wine Worcestershire Sauce

1 TSP Honey

½ TSP Hot Sauce

1 Scallion (green parts only), finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ TBSP Fresh Dill, chopped

Salt, to taste

Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste

4 Catfish fillets (6-8 oz. each)

½ cup All Purpose Flour

¼ cup Whole Milk

1 Egg

¾ cup Cornmeal

Vegetable and/or Canola Oil for frying



  1. Make the Remoulade first. In a small to medium bowl combine Mayonnaise, Mustard, Lemon Juice, Vinegar, Worcestershire, Honey, and Hot Sauce.  Stir until blended.
  2. Add the Scallion, Garlic, Dill, Salt, and Pepper. Stir together to make a sauce.  Don’t overmix.
  3. Pat dry the Catfish fillets. Season with Salt and Pepper.
  4. Place the Flour on a plate. Dredge the fillets in the Flour allowing any excess to fall back to the plate.
  5. In a small bowl beat the Egg lightly. Add the milk and stir till blended.
  6. On another plate place the Cornmeal.
  7. Dip the fillets one at a time into the Egg and Milk mixture and allow any runoff to drop back into the bowl.
  8. Dredge the fillets in the Cornmeal until covered all over. Place on a different plate.
  9. In a large frying pan heat the Oil over medium high.
  10. When the Oil is hot enough place each fillet in the pan. Fry until lightly browned (about 5 minutes) and then turn over and fry the other side until light brown (about 4 minutes).  Drain on paper towels if desired before serving.


Serves four.  Serve with Remoulade on the side.  Serve with sweet potato or sweet potato fries (also great for dipping in the Remoulade) and green beans or salad. 


WINE PAIRING:  Beer is always recommended by the local pubs in Indianapolis that serve fried catfish.  That is always a good choice.  If you are more of a wine person like me than the top recommendation would be a German Riesling to match the flavors of the Remoulade well.  Make sure it is more of a dry Riesling (Kabinett) or slightly sweet (Spatlese).

LITTLE FEAT – Dixie Chicken




This recipe is dedicated to my darling wife who puts up with me day and night and everything in between.  This was our unofficial wedding song and one of my all-time favorites.  It’s a classic tune and a great combination of blues, jazz, and southern rock and a great dancing song believe it or not.  And I danced with my one and only at our wedding.  This one’s for you dear.

I love Little Feat.  While they never really achieved stardom mostly due to the premature death of their principal songwriter and front man, Lowell George, at the age of 34.  George and Little Feat left us with some of the best soulful Southern music in Rock history.  Dixie Chicken was one of their most recognized songs along with Fat Man in the Bathtub and Willin’ just to name a few.  Little Feat kept it together in the eighties and nineties after George’s death touring and producing some pretty good music but never had the same success they had in the seventies.  They are another one of those bands you can just listen to repeatedly and hear different bits that get you humming along with your busy day.

Southern chicken gives one a lot of options.  Most people would associate it with fried chicken, but I discourage making your own.  I believe you are better off doing take out for fried chicken at a place that has the proper deep-frying equipment.  I will get a lot of disagreement I know here but this is my Yankee opinion.  Barbecued chicken is a southern tradition and that is what we are doing here.  I want to go in a different direction and do a non-tomato based sauce for y’all and one of come to enjoy recently is a white BBQ sauce well known in Alabama and Georgia.  I first learned this as I have with a lot of my ideas from Steven Raichlen the well-known master of the grill.  I will have a lot more to say about that in the weeks and months to come.  As always, I’ve doctored the sauce to my liking and passed it on to you as I would encourage everyone to do.  That’s how they do it down in Dixie and in true Southern Rock fashion “this one goes out to the one I love”.






1 cup Mayonnaise

1 TBSP freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

1 TBSP White Wine Vinegar

2 TSP prepared Horseradish

½ TBSP Clover Honey

½ TSP Liquid Smoke*

½ TSP Dry Mustard Powder

½ TBSP Salt, divided

3/4 TSP Black Pepper, divided

1/8 TSP Cayenne Powder

3 ½ lb. Fryer Chicken, separated in to 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breasts, and 2 wings)

1 ½ TBSP Paprika

1 TSP Garlic Powder

½ TSP Onion Powder

¼ TSP Celery Salt

1 TBSP Olive Oil

Handful of Hickory Chips



  1. Soak the Hickory Chips in enough water to cover for 30 minutes to 1 hour
  2. Make the BBQ Sauce first. Combine the Mayonnaise, Lemon Juice, Vinegar, Horseradish, Honey, Liquid Smoke, Mustard, ½ TSP Salt, ¼ TSP Black Pepper, and Cayenne Powder in a bowl and stir until blended.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes while you prepare the Chicken then remove from the refrigerator.
  3. Pat dry the Chicken pieces. Make the dry rub.  In a small bowl or dish combine the Paprika, 1 TSP Salt, ½ TSP Black Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, and Celery Salt and mix until evenly blended.
  4. Rub the Chicken pieces all over with Olive Oil and then the dry rub
  5. Prepare the grill for heating by oiling the grates. If you have a smoker box add the Hickory Chips.  If not wrap the Hickory Chips in aluminum foil, poke a few holes with a fork to allow smoke to escape, and place in a corner of the grill.  Heat the grill on one side to hot and the other side to the lowest setting.
  6. Place the Chicken pieces on the side of the grill on low and cook, turning occasionally, for about 40 to 45 minutes.
  7. Move the Chicken to the hot side of the grill and begin basting with the BBQ Sauce. Turning every few minutes, keep basting every turn.  Watch for flare ups and finish cooking the Chicken.  About 10 to 15 minutes.  Allow 5 minutes or more before serving.


WINE PAIRING:  If I had my choice, which I do, I opt for red wine most of the time.  This recipe allows for any of the following; beer, white wine, rose, or red.  During the cold months Beaujolais is at its peak even though most people associate it with outdoor summertime fare.  I think it’s an excellent choice for an outdoor fall picnic by a bonfire while you are munching on this delicious chicken dish.


*Liquid Smoke is a flavor enhancer for a lot of BBQ sauces available in most grocery stores.  I encourage you to use it but if you can’t find it or don’t want to use it just eliminate it.

HOUSTON – Cajun Fish Tacos with Asian Slaw





Like Cleveland a couple of weeks back I don’t really have a go to recipe for the city of Houston due to the lack of success of the pro sports teams.  Well that has finally changed and congratulations to the Astros for a magnificent season and their first championship.  My heart goes out to the citizens of Houston affected by the horrible flooding caused by the hurricanes.  I hope the World Series victory was some small reprieve for y’all.  But we are talking football here and looks like another tough season for the Texans and their devastating injuries suffered by their marquis players.  Since Houston is such a physically large city it encompasses so many different cultures I thought I would blend a few notable cuisines together to produce this one dish.  You will get a lot of that from me in the future.  Houston, because of its location, has a high percentage of Mexican influence as well as Cajun.  But the city also has a large population of immigrants from southeast Asia too so this week we are combining all those ideas into one delicious recipe.

Fish tacos have grown in popularity over the years.  You can use a lot of different types of white flaky fish.  Shrimp are also an excellent choice, but they are shellfish and have their own distinction.  I am using cod for this recipe as it’s very affordable and widely available.  Redfish, grouper, or red snapper might be more the local choice in Houston and they would work very well too.  I love pan seared or grilled fish with Cajun and/or blackening spices.  I’ve given you a basic recipe for blackening spices you can create on your own or you can buy a blend at your grocer or spice shop.  Yes, even Emeril’s blend is acceptable.  It makes an excellent combination with the sweet Asian slaw and spicy aioli.  I strongly suggest you use soft taco shells as I have this year as the hard shell is tough to keep together.  This makes a great snack for the game or a great pre-game lunch.





For the Asian slaw:

¼ head of Purple Cabbage, sliced into thin strips 3” long

¼ head Savoy Cabbage, sliced into thin strips 3” long

½ Carrot, thinly julienne sliced

½ medium Red Onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 small Red Bell Pepper, seeded and thinly julienne sliced

½ small Jalapeno or Serrano Pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 TBSP finely chopped fresh Ginger

1 TSP finely chopped Garlic

1 TBSP Olive Oil

1 TBSP Sesame Oil

½ TBSP Rice Wine Vinegar

1 TBSP Soy Sauce

1 TBSP Vietnamese or Thai style Fish Sauce

1 TSP Lime Juice

2 TBSP Dark Brown Sugar

Salt, to taste

Fresh ground Black Pepper, to taste

For the Aioli:

½ cup Mayonnaise

1 Garlic clove finely chopped

1 TSP Chipotle powder

1 TSP Lime Juice

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste

For the Fish Tacos:

8 Soft Tortillas

12 oz. Cod Fillet

2 TBSP Unsalted Butter

2 TBSP Cajun Blackening Spice Blend (recipe follows)

2 TSP Lemon Juice

2 TBSP Cilantro chopped (optional)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F
  2. Make the slaw. In a medium or large bowl combine the Cabbages, Carrot, Onion, Red Bell Pepper, and Jalapeno.
  3. In a small to medium bowl combine the Ginger, Garlic, Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, Vinegar, Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Lime Juice, and Sugar and whisk until blended.
  4. Pour the liquid over the vegetables in the larger bowl, season with Salt and Pepper, stir, and let marinade while you cook the fish and warm the tortillas.
  5. Make the Aioli. In a small bowl combine all the ingredients and stir with a spoon or fork until blended.
  6. Pat dry the Cod fillet and season all over with the Blackening Spice Blend. Let rest on a plate.
  7. Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil. Place directly in the oven and warm for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.
  8. While the tortillas warm. Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Melt the Butter in the pan.
  9. Place the Cod fillet top side down and fry for about 5 minutes
  10. Flip the Cod over and fry for 4 minutes longer. Turn off heat and squeeze the Lemon Juice over the top of the fillet.  Let stand in the pan for 1 minute.
  11. Remove the Cod from the plan to a cutting board. Chop or slice into bite sized pieces.
  12. Fold Tortilla in half into a taco and spoon in a little Aioli
  13. Add the chopped Cod and top with the Asian Slaw. Garnish with a little chopped Cilantro if desired.


Serves four as an appetizer or snack or two for lunch.  Serve with Mexican or Cajun beans and rice on the side.


WINE PAIRING:  Two options here.  I would suggest a Corona Beer that you add a lime or piece of fruit or something like it.  If you prefer wine, you can go in a few different directions, but it must be White Wine.  A dry fruity wine like a Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc is always a good choice.  A German Riesling is also a good choice but stay on the dry side like a Kabinett or Spatlese.  There are also many good Spanish table wines that work well with these flavors.


For the Cajun Blackening Spice Blend:

1 TBSP Paprika

1 TSP Garlic Powder

1 TSP Onion Powder

1/4 TSP Salt

1/8 TSP White Pepper

1/8 TSP Black Pepper

1/8 TSP Cayenne Powder

1/8 TSP Ground Mustard

1/8 TSP Cumin

1/8 TSP Ground Thyme

1/8 TSP Dried Oregano

1/8 TSP Ground Sage

1/8 TSP Celery Salt


Mix together in a separate dish and blend evenly


THE WHO – Meaty Ziti, Big and Bouncy




This great title, provided to us by one of Rock’s greatest bands of all time, The Who, gives us the opportunity to cook a classic Italian American dish, baked ziti with meatballs.  The actual title, Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, is really a greatest hits album of all the best tunes from the sixties in The Who’s early years.  The pun works perfectly for us even though the “rough boys” from England are about as far removed from Italian American food as you can get.  Nevertheless, this is still one of the all-time favorite pasta dishes and one of the legends of Classic Rock N Roll.

The Who’s body of work span so many decades and combine so many musical archetypes it’s hard to really categorize them other than superstars.  From great early hits like My Generation and Substitute, to the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, and the great classic ballads like Won’t Get Fooled Again The Who have delivered some of Rock’s greatest works.  I have found myself gravitating back and forth with them over so many years.  I was in the south of France on a fantastic culinary tour with my wife when we learned of legendary bassist John Entwhistle’s death.  I remember taking the news very hard especially when I learned Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend were going to continue their tour as The Who as planned.  Today I find myself often listening to a different Who album every now and then and hearing something different after all these years each time.  The Who will always be one of my favorite bands of all time.

With baked ziti and meatballs, you get to immerse yourself in many areas of food preparation in Italian American cooking.  I will repeat my recipe for marinara sauce that is necessary for this dish, show you how to make meatballs the way I do it, and bake the pasta which is very similar to preparing lasagna.  This is great comfort food and a great way to entertain a large crowd especially family or a great Sunday meal that you can keep eating all week.  You can also break up these instructions to use for simple spaghetti and meatballs or just plain baked ziti.  It’s a lot of time and work but very easy to assemble and perfect for this time of year.  Keep coming back to it though no matter what season it may be and keep coming back to all those great Who records you listened to in your youth.






For the Marinara Sauce:

35 oz. can peeled Italian style Plum Tomatoes

3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ cup roughly chopped Yellow Onion

4 Garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

Coarse Salt (Kosher or Sea) to taste

Red Pepper Flakes to taste

16 Basil leaves torn in half


For the Meatballs:

1 lb. Ground Beef

1/3 cup plain Breadcrumbs

1 Egg lightly beaten

1 TBSP Olive Oil

¼ cup Dry White Wine or Vermouth

4 TSP Italian Parsley finely chopped

½ cup Yellow Onion very finely chopped

1 Garlic clove very finely chopped

½ TSP Ground Thyme

½ TSP Dried Marjoram or Oregano

Salt, to taste

Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Vegetable or Canola Oil for frying


For the Baked Ziti:

1 lb. Ziti

15 oz. container Ricotta Cheese

8 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan cheese



  1. First make the Marinara Sauce. Empty the contents of the Tomato can into a large bowl and with clean hands gently crush the Tomatoes.
  2. Heat a 3-qt. sauce pan over medium heat and warm the Olive Oil
  3. Add the Onion and fry till soft (about 5 minutes). Do not let the Onion brown.
  4. Add the Garlic and fry another minute.
  5. Add the bowl of Tomatoes avoid any splattering. Increase the heat to medium high.
  6. Heat to a boil then lower heat to a lively simmer. Add Salt and Red Pepper flakes then partially cover pot and let simmer 15 minutes.
  7. Add the Basil leaves and simmer another 3 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat and let rest 30 minutes until partially cooled.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F
  10. While the sauce cools make the Meatballs. In another large bowl add all the ingredients for the Meatballs and mix together.
  11. With your clean hands roll the meat mixture into small balls no bigger than a golf ball and set aside on a plate. (This dish works best with smaller Meatballs)
  12. Meanwhile in an 8-qt. stock pot add 6 quarts of salted water and heat on high
  13. After the sauce has cooled empty the contents of the sauce pan into a food processor and pulse several times until the sauce has a smooth consistency. Return the sauce to the sauce pan.
  14. In a large frying pan add a thin layer of Oil and turn the burner on to medium.
  15. When the Oil is hot enough add the Meatballs in a single layer and fry until browned on all sides
  16. While the Meatballs cook in a large baking dish or lasagna tray grease all sides with cooking spray and add a thin layer of Marinara Sauce
  17. When the Meatballs are done begin removing them with a splotted spoon and add them individually to the sauce pan
  18. Meanwhile to the pot of boiling water add the Ziti and cook for 8 minutes or a minute less than al dente. Drain in a colander.
  19. Add half of the cooked Ziti to the baking pan and cover with half of the Meatballs and Sauce. Top with half of the Ricotta Cheese and half the Mozzarella and Romano cheese.
  20. Repeat the last step adding the remaining Ziti, Meatballs and Sauce, Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Romano cheeses. Make level and cover all surface area with a rubber spatula.
  21. Place in oven and bake uncovered for about 35 minutes or until cheese is fully melted and a bit brown and crispy. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.


WINE PAIRING:  One simple word, Sangiovese.  That is the standard for Italian or Italian American pasta dishes with meat, tomato sauce and cheese.  This is the grape of choice and it needs to come from Tuscany.  Imitations just won’t do.  There is a plethora of producers and styles from Chianti, Chianti Classico, Tuscan Red, Super Tuscan, etc.to satisfy any taste and any budget.  Tuscan reds are available in abundance.  Find your favorites and enjoy some great pasta with one of the world’s most fun wines to drink with food.


The Pittsburgh Salad




The what??  A tough as nails city like Pittsburgh, home of iron and steel, and we’re doing salad?  Yeah, I would be wondering the same thing if I hadn’t come across this a few years ago when researching food in Pittsburgh.  I admit I’ve never been to the Steel City and other than the famous black and blue Pittsburgh steak (which we will do in another series) I had no idea what the local cuisine was.  I came across this crazy idea on many websites.  I’m sure if you’re from Pittsburgh and reading this it doesn’t seem crazy at all.  Instead of 3 separate food groups we’ve all grown accustomed, meat. starch, and vegetables, why not combine them all into one dish?

That, in essence, is The Pittsburgh Salad.  A good old-fashioned steakhouse salad with French fries, shredded cheese, and ranch dressing right on top.  Many places serve it with steak or chicken too.  So, to be a little more in spirit we will add steak to our salad.  Because this is a food and wine website and because I insist on doing everything the hard way we are going to build our salad from scratch.  To save time you can do as many residents of Pittsburgh do and buy a pre-made salad or salad kit, baked frozen French fries, bottled ranch dressing and pre-cooked or leftover steak.  By doing all the steps you can learn more food preparation and be more of a purist.  And that is in the true spirit of one of America’s greatest blue-collar cities, Pittsburgh.





2 medium Russet Potatoes, washed, scrubbed, and dried

Olive Oil

Fine Sea Salt, to taste

Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste

¼ cup Mayonnaise

¼ cup Sour Cream

¼ cup Buttermilk

½ TSP White Wine Vinegar

½ TSP Dijon Mustard

1 small Garlic Clove finely chopped

1 TBSP finely chopped Yellow or White Onion

½ TBSP Italian Parsley chopped

1 TSP Chives chopped

8 oz. Hanger Steak or Flank Steak

½ TSP Garlic Powder

½ TSP Paprika

½ medium Red Onion, peeled and sliced thin

½ head of Romaine Lettuce, washed, stemmed, and cut into strips

1 cup Cherry Tomatoes

¾ cup shredded Cheddar Cheese



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees F
  2. Cut the Potatoes (leave the skin on if you like or peel) into wedges like steakhouse fries. Dry with paper towels.  Coat with a little Olive Oil and Salt and Pepper to taste.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add the Potatoes in a single layer
  4. Roast until golden brown and crispy. About 30 minutes.
  5. While the Potatoes roast prepare the dressing. In a bowl combine the Mayonnaise, Sour Cream, Buttermilk, Vinegar, Mustard, Garlic, Onion, Parsley, and Chives and stir together until smooth.  Set aside.
  6. While the Potatoes continue to roast rub a little Olive Oil on the Steak. Season with Salt, Pepper, the Garlic Powder, and the Paprika.
  7. In a cast iron frying pan if you have one heat 1 TBSP Olive Oil over medium high
  8. Add the steak and sear on the first side about 4 minutes depending on how well done you like your meat and turn over. Sear the other side for about 3 minutes and transfer to a cutting board.  Let rest a few minutes.
  9. In the same pan add more Olive Oil if necessary and heat on medium low. Add the Red Onion, Salt and Pepper to taste, and fry for about 3 minutes to get the Onions a little crispy.  Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
  10. Slice the Steak with the grain into ½ inch strips
  11. In a large salad bowl combine the Lettuce and Tomatoes. Add the onions and toss a few times.
  12. Separate into 2 salad plates and top with the Potatoes, then the Steak
  13. Drizzle your desired amount of Dressing to each plate and then top with the Cheese


Serves two as a light dinner entrée or lunch



WINE PAIRING:  This is a type of salad you could really enjoy with your favorite Beer.  If you prefer wine like me I would recommend a red over a white as this is a beef dish.  I would not go with a full-bodied red as the ranch dressing and salad will be overwhelmed.  A lighter red such as a Pinot Noir would be very nice.  Even a fruity red such as a Gamay most notably a Beaujolais would even work nicely.  As we get into the colder months those wines are just starting to peak.  A young Merlot would also be an option.

Monster Mash Potatoes





Happy Halloween everybody!  I was working in my kitchen late one night …………. OK, truth be told my kids begged me to do this one today, so this goes out to my little angels on all hallows eve.  The next recipe will have to wait till next week that I was originally going to do.  The timing is good as Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away and this classic side dish fits right in.  This is a huge portion for the holiday table hence the “monster” reference.  There are a lot of variations and additions you can do to this basic recipe for mashed potatoes.  Some suggested additions might be; garlic, bleu cheese, chives, basil, cabbage, and even lobster is very popular now.

Two very important factors in making classic mashed potatoes are the choice of potato and how you mash your potatoes.  Yukon Gold or other yellow potatoes work the best for boiling and mashing.  White potatoes or Idaho potatoes are kind of an all-purpose potato and work too but not as well.  They are more suited for baking which of course you can mash too.  Waxy potatoes like red or new potatoes retain their shape after cooking and are better suited for roasting or making scalloped potatoes.

When it comes to “mashing” I don’t recommend using an electric hand-held mixer as it’s difficult to break down the clumps you often get, and you never want to overmix the potatoes because they can get gummy.  A few lumps here and there are good.  A ricer works very well as you get a lot more consistency and it’s easy to mix with a spoon.  A hand-held masher is fine but will leave more clumps.  Like everything else in life, you must work with what you’ve got.  Just ask Dr. Frankenstein.   So, get busy in your kitchen getting your mashed potatoes ready for holiday season and don’t tell them Gordy sent you.  Tell them to visit http://www.DoinThatRagu.com!





5 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes, washed if not in a plastic bag

Kosher or Sea Salt

3 TBSP Unsalted Butter

1 cup Whole Milk

1 TSP White Pepper



  1. In a large stock pot add the Potatoes and fill the pot with enough water to cover by at least 6 inches. Add a generous amount of Salt to the pot.
  2. Heat on high to boiling. Once boiling reduce heat to a steady simmer.  Simmer Potatoes for 30 minutes.
  3. In a large colander or two to handle all the Potatoes drain off all the water and let the Potatoes rest until cool enough to handle. Do not worry if the Potatoes break up a bit when you drain them.  You will be mashing them anyway.
  4. After the Potatoes are cool enough to handle (about 30 minutes to 1 hour) peel the skin off each one with a potato peeler and/or with your clean hands. After peeling either mash if using a ricer or return to the pot for mashing with your hand-held device.
  5. Once all the Potatoes have been returned to the pot mash with your potato masher if you are not using a ricer. Add the Butter and half the Milk and turn the heat on low.
  6. Using a wooden spoon mash any additional clumps and mix the Potatoes with the Butter while it begins to melt and with the Milk.
  7. Add more Milk to the pot to get the right consistency while you stir. Add Salt to taste and the Pepper.  Continue to stir.  Do not over stir!
  8. Once the Butter is all melted and you have the consistency to your satisfaction remove the Mashed Potatoes to a serving dish and serve right away or keep warm until ready to serve


WINE PAIRING:  This is a side dish and the best part of mashed potatoes is they go with everything.  This is where the additions are most important.  Garlic or roasted garlic go well with most red wines and a lot of white too.  Bleu cheese is a classic match for Cabernet Sauvignon.  These are just a couple of examples but it all depends on what else you are serving with your mashed potatoes.  Soon I will publish some ideas of what resources you can go to for wine pairing with specific foods as a side note in addition to our recipe series.

Cleveland – Chicken Paprikash





I admit I had to do some research to come up with a dish for Cleveland.  Truth of the matter is most of the recipes in this series I have made before when that city was either hosting a playoff game or a featured game of the week.  That leaves little chance for Cleveland of late.  This city has been the butt of jokes for a very long time.  But that has changed dramatically not just because of LeBron James but mostly because of culture.  Sure, the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame has a lot to do with that, but Cleveland has a renaissance in art and food the past generation.  I have been to Cleveland, but I’ve never really been to Downtown Cleveland to witness in person the rebirth of this great city.  Cleveland boasts one of America’s great chefs in Michael Symon as those of you who watch Iron Chef on TV know very well.  His restaurant is just one of many great eateries you can now find throughout the Cleveland area.

Unlike our famous chili recipe from last week Cleveland does not really have a signature dish like Cincinnati but it does have a signature ethnic food culture and that is Eastern European food.  This is one of the more popular recipes for denizens of the greater Cleveland area and one of my personal favorites.  It is called many different names depending on the region.  In Poland it’s known as Papprykarz z Kury for instance.  A lot of people have Anglicized it to Paprika Chicken and that’s how I usually refer to it.  Virtually all recipes are the same for this dish that you will see.  The way I have always made it includes green bell peppers and tomatoes which some versions exclude.  It’s a wonderful dish that can be enjoyed with other Eastern European favorites like pierogis or dumplings.  I prefer to serve the chicken and the sauce over egg noodles with a vegetable such as green peas or green beans on the side.  There are many ways to enjoy this great recipe especially with family on the weekend just they like they do in Cleveland.





1 3 lb. Fryer Chicken separated into 8 pieces; 2 legs, 2 wings, 2 breasts, and 2 thighs

Salt, to taste

Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

4 TBSP Unsalted Butter, divided

1 Medium Onion sliced

1 Medium Green Bell Pepper, seeded and sliced

1 Large or 2 medium Garlic cloves finely chopped

3 Plum Tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped

2 TBSP Sweet Hungarian Paprika

½ cup Chicken Stock

1 cup Sour Cream

2 TBSP All-purpose Flour



  1. Pat dry Chicken pieces and then season well with Salt and Pepper
  2. In a large Dutch oven heat 2 TBSP of the Butter over medium high heat
  3. When the Butter has melted add the Chicken pieces and brown on all sides. At least 10 minutes.  You may do the Chicken in stages if not all the pieces fit at once.  Let the Chicken rest on a plate after browning.
  4. In the same pot heat the remaining Butter over medium heat
  5. When the Butter melts add the Onion and Green Pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes until soft. Scrape up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot and blend with Butter, Onions, and Green Peppers.
  6. Add the Garlic and cook 1 minute longer
  7. Add the Tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes more
  8. Add the Paprika, Salt, and Pepper and stir well for another minute
  9. Add the Chicken Stock and return the Chicken pieces back to the pot
  10. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low for 20 minutes or longer until the Chicken is cooked through
  11. When the Chicken is done remove from the pot and let rest while you finish the sauce
  12. Add the Sour Cream and the Flour and stir.
  13. Raise the heat to boil gently and reduce the sauce to your preferred level of consistency
  14. Turn off the heat and taste and adjust the seasonings adding more Salt and Pepper if needed or Paprika if desired.
  15. Return the Chicken back to the pot to coat in the sauce.


WINE PAIRING:  This is one of the rare dishes we will do that would accommodate both a red or white wine.  There are many good red wines in Eastern Europe from Austria, Hungary, Romania and elsewhere that are great with food and not so much on their own.  I am not very familiar with the regional grapes from this area so I won’t go into detail but that would be a good choice if red is your preference.  If you prefer to drink white, I would go with a dry Riesling from Germany or Austria.  Stay away from anything fruity for this recipe.

Nilsson Schmilsson Coconut Shrimp





The late Harry Nilsson was one of the greatest American songwriters in rock history.  From the late sixties to the early eighties he wrote some of the best songs of the era and yet still many people don’t have a clue who he was.  Mariah Carey’s cover of his big hit Without You, also from the Nilsson Schmilsson classic album, may be the closest the younger generations can relate.  But it is another track, Coconut, where we draw our inspiration for this week’s entry.  A lot of you may remember the oft-repeated, vintage lyric, “She put the lime in the coconut and drank it all up”, from this song.  That is just what we are going to do with our recipe.

In reality lime and coconut is nothing new to a lot of regional cuisine especially in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and other tropical places.  Most establishments serve Coconut Shrimp fried but as I’ve already indicated I am not a big fan of most fried seafood and that’s not what we will be doing here.  Our recipe has a lot of connections to Thai Cuisine but I’ve westernized it a bit.  It’s a fitting tribute to the legend of Harry Nilsson who liked to blend a lot of different styles into his somewhat unusual brand of music.  So, give a listen and a taste.





3 TBSP Olive Oil, divided

1 TBSP Coconut Oil

1 lb. Jumbo Shrimp (16-20 ct.) peeled and deveined

Salt, to taste

Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste

1 medium Onion sliced

1 small Green Bell Pepper sliced

1 small Red Bell Pepper sliced

½ TBSP finely chopped Garlic

½ TBSP finely chopped fresh Ginger Root peeled

1 small Serrano Chili Pepper seeded and finely chopped

Zest of 1 Lime

1 15 oz. can Unsweetened Coconut Milk

¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar

2 TBSP Thai or Vietnamese style Fish Sauce

Juice of 1 Lime

2 TBSP chopped fresh Cilantro



  1. Heat 1 TBSP Olive Oil and the Coconut Oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium high heat
  2. Add the Shrimp and season well with Salt and Pepper. Fry till pink on the outside.  About 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove Shrimp from wok and let rest in a bowl or on a plate.
  3. In the same wok or pan heat the remaining 2 TBSP Olive Oil over medium heat
  4. Add the Onion and the Green and Red Pepper and fry for about 5 minutes until tender
  5. Add the Garlic, Ginger, Serrano Pepper, and Lime Zest and fry for about 2 minutes longer
  6. Shake the can of Coconut Milk well before adding to the wok so the cream and clear liquid mix well together. Add the Coconut Milk to the wok and increase the heat to medium high.  Stir for a minute or two.
  7. Add the Sugar, Fish Sauce, and Lime Juice and continue to cook until the sauce thickens. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.
  8. When the sauce is thickened to the level of your preference add the Shrimp back to the wok and heat through for about 2 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and garnish with the Cilantro.


Serve over cooked Jasmine Rice.  You can also add fresh vegetables to this recipe if you like.  Some suggestions would be; zucchini, green beans, broccoli, snow peas, and/or corn


WINE PAIRING:  You will hear this a lot from me but this recipe is tailor made for Sauvignon Blanc.  I would recommend any from the Marlborough region in New Zealand as the top choice.  Shrimp, coconut, lime, and spices are the perfect marriage for this versatile grape varietal.  You will often see dishes like this one include some curry pastes or powders which are also a great match for Sauvignon Blanc.