This is the best pulled pork recipe I’ve ever made, hands down. I came up with it when we were trying to come up with a main dish for a barbecue we were hosting on my 36th birthday.

We were walking around Hyde Park Village when we came across a small spice shop called Fig & Julep. I had a taste for good Jamaican jerk food, though I really wanted to do a long slow cooked recipe.

While looking through the store we came across a fantastic jerk rub called Rasta Rub by Spiceologist. Rasta Rub has a ton of aroma and flavor, but surprisingly little heat. A bit more shopping uncovered Potlicker’s Pineapple Habañero Jam – bingo. Plenty of heat, a bit of acidity, and an amazing amount of flavor.

This recipe is great for anyone who likes Jamaican jerk food and has a bunch of time and guests. Like any good pulled pork, it is best cooked low and slow and over wood or charcoal if possible. The heat is adjusted almost entirely by the amount of pineapple habanero jam you use.

Drunken Jamaican Pulled Pork

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: medium
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A sweet and slightly spicy pulled pork for those who love good Jamaican jerk spice


You can adjust the amount of heat in the recipe by adding or removing some of the pineapple habanero jam. I highly recommend using Rasta Rub by Spiceologist for the jerk rub and Potlicker’s Pineapple Habañero Jam.

Ingredients


For the pulled pork

  • 1/4 c. dark spiced rum
  • 1/8 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 4 lb. pork shoulder
  • Jamaican jerk rub
  • 24 Hawaiian sweet rolls
  • Pickles
  • Fried onions

For the sauce

  • 1 c. apple butter
  • 1/4 c. pineapple habañero jam
  • 3 tbsp. granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. Jamaican jerk rub


Directions

Mix dark spiced rum, dark brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, kosher salt, and 1 tbsp. garlic powder together thoroughly to make the marinade. Pour the marinade into a gallon Ziplock bag and add the pork shoulder. Shake thoroughly and place fat side down in the refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to start cooking, set oven or pellet grill to 225˚ and let warm up. Remove pork from refrigerator and rub thoroughly with jerk rub. Place the pork in a foil pan with high sides fat side up. Pour marinade over the pork and place in the oven or pellet grill.

Every hour or so, use a spoon or baster to pour the pan juices and marinade over the top of the pork while it cooks. Typical cook time at 225 – 250˚ is about 10 hours (you’ll want to remove the pork right when it reaches 190˚).

While the pork is cooking, mix together apple butter, pineapple habañero jam, 3 tbsp. garlic powder or granulated garlic, and 2 tbsp. jerk rub. This can then be put into the refrigerator for later.

Once the pork is at 190˚ remove it from the oven or pellet grill and let it sit for 30 min. Pull the pork apart either using a pair of forks or a kitchen mixer if you have one (trust me, its way easier with the mixer). Add the sauce from the refrigerator.

For serving, provide Hawaiian sweet rolls, pickles, and French fried onions (or whatever you prefer!).


This recipe came about when our friends Jon and Austin came back from their honeymoon cruise.  We offered to make dinner since they offered to bring ingredients for blue margaritas.  This led us to thinking about what we could make that would pair well with a margarita.

What we came up with was a new chimichurri sauce which featured lime and green apple, creating a very fresh flavor.  Although this recipe uses it on calamari steak, it could just as easily be used on just about any seafood or beef.  You’ll find it has a very slight kick to it despite not having any peppers added – this comes from mixing the fresh lime and garlic together.

When we make this recipe we substitute the salt for the calamari steak with using a Himalayan pink salt block (Amazon).  These salt blocks are great for providing high direct heat and add just the right amount of salt to whatever you cook on them.  For calamari, this lets me get close to searing temperatures while using a pellet grill (Amazon) which doesn’t typically get hot enough to sear.  We could have pan seared the calamari (as the recipe calls for), but using a pellet grill adds a bit of wood smoke to the flavor.

Calamari Steak with Green Apple and Lime Chimichurri

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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A very fresh take on calamari with plenty of lime and green apple flavor.

Try this chimichurri sauce in other seafood recipes, with tortilla chips, on steak, or wherever you would normally use chimichurri and let us know your results!  The chimichurri can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator, but it is probably best to use it within one day to keep its fresh flavor (it will likely keep for longer, but the flavor may fade some).

Ingredients

Chimichirri Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro (remove stems)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • Kosher salt to taste (start with a couple teaspoons)

Calamari

  • 4 Calamari steaks
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

Directions

Green Apple and Lime Chimichurri

  1. Wash cilantro and trim off stems below the leaves.  Add to blender.
  2. Wash and slice green apple (removing core) and add to blender.
  3. Add all other ingredients to blender.  Blend on low until it reaches a consistency slightly thinner than guacamole.

Calamari Steaks

  1. Heat a saute pan over high heat.
  2. Season both sides of calamari steaks with garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and pepper.
  3. Once the saute pan is hot, saute each calamari steak for about 3 minutes per side.

Serve the calamari steaks with chimichurri sauce drizzled over the top.

Truffle Salt

One of our favorite tricks to adding some flavor to an everyday dish includes adding a bit of black truffle salt. Black, or Périgord, truffles are an extremely expensive ingredient typically used in very small amounts.

Lucky for us, black truffle salt is available for much less money – and a small amount of good quality truffle salt goes a long way.

When choosing your truffle salt, make sure there is a significant enough percentage of truffle included. Not all truffle salts are equal; they typically range from 1-5% black truffle. In our opinion, if you’re going to use truffle salt get a quality product like the one listed above.

If you want to try out a fantastic (and simple) recipe with your new ingredient, check out our Black Truffle Ricotta Cheese!
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Growing up in the Chicagoland area, I was a bit spoiled as a child when it came to certain foods.  The prevalence of Italian grocers and small restaurants ensured that some of the freshest Italian ingredients were readily available.  One of these ingredients was good ricotta cheese.

After moving to Florida with my family, I could only find mass produced ricotta that was closer to sour cream than the thick almost sliceable cheese I was used to.  Luckily, my wife came along and learned how to make good ricotta homemade – and its easy.

Ricotta is made by heating milk and cream to a boil, adding an acid as a curdling agent, and then separating the curds (the cheese) from the whey by hanging in a cheesecloth.  The acid and the salt makes a big impact on the flavor of the cheese ranging from a sweet dessert cheese to a savory side dish for a flavorful pasta.

In our version, we used good white wine vinegar to provide a bit of tartness and truffle salt to add a delicious savory flavor that pairs well with our pasta recipe, My Grandmother’s Spaghetti and Meatballs.  Feel free to experiment with substituting these two ingredients to create entirely different flavors!

Black Truffle Ricotta Cheese

  • Difficulty: easy
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A savory ricotta cheese recipe featuring black truffle flavor.

In our version of the recipe, we used 5% black truffle salt.  The percentage of truffle in the truffle salt will have a large impact on how much truffle flavor comes out in the final product.

The cheesecloth used will have an impact on the thickness of the cheese.  Using cheesecloth with larger holes will produce thicker, drier cheese, but less of it.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon truffle sea salt (we recommend 5% black truffle salt)
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (higher quality will improve flavor)
  • Cheesecloth

Directions

  1. Combine milk, heavy cream, and truffle salt into a saucepan
  2. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat
  3. Once boiling, turn off heat and stir in vinegar
  4. Let stand for approximately 1 minute to enable the cheese to curdle
  5. Line a colander with a cheesecloth and pour mixture into cheesecloth
  6. Allow liquid (whey) to drain
  7. Once drained, tie opposite corners of cheesecloth around a sturdy wooden spoon, hang over a tall bowl so that the cheesecloth is entirely suspended
  8. Allow to hang and dry for 1-4 hours or until it stops dripping

In my family, it is almost universally agreed upon that “Grandma Melone” was the best chef in town. After a lifetime of cooking using old world Italian techniques passed down for generations, Grandma Melone nearly perfected a number of recipes. Among these recipes was her famous spaghetti and meatballs.

One of the problems with Grandma Melone’s recipes was that she never really was a fan of putting down the measurements (in this recipe, the water was measured by filling up the tomato sauce and tomato paste cans).  This recipe lived on verbally until my mom studied its creation and was able to pass it down to me.  I have to give special thanks to my mom for not letting this recipe get lost to the sands of time.

This recipe is the perfect Sunday family meal, requiring a bit of work up front and a long simmer time to develop the flavors. Our version is heavily based on my grandmother’s recipe with a few modern twists. We added spicy Italian sausage to the meatballs, added sautéed shallots and garlic, deglazed the pan with red wine, substituted fresh herbs for dried herbs used in the sauce, and added the bay leaves and optional parmesan rind. Hopefully Grandma wouldn’t be too mad if she found out!

The most important part of this recipe is the long simmer time. To develop that rich meat sauce flavor, this sauce should be simmered without a top for around 5 hours. During this time, the water added to the recipe slowly displaces some of the flavor in the meatballs before evaporating out, leaving a thick and rich meat sauce.

My Grandmother's Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Medium
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A rich, savory, and complex meat sauce your family will love

The long simmer time is crucial in this recipe. The sauce should be simmered without a top for around 4-5 hours to enable thickening.

If possible, use San Marzano tomatoes for the tomato sauce and tomato paste. San Marzano tomatoes are grown in Italy and have a flavor that is much more conducive to Italian recipes.

The parmesan rind is optional, but adds a bit of extra richness and complexity to the sauce.

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • Canola oil (or other oil with a high smoke point)

Meat Sauce

  • 1 head of garlic, minced coarsely
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • (1) 28 ounce can of tomato puree
  • (1) 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • 6 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Chianti wine
  • 1 parmesan rind (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh basil and oregano, chopped just prior to use
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Directions

  1. Start the sauce. In a large pot over low heat, combine tomato puree, tomato paste, bay leaves, and water. If you are using a parmesan rind, add it now.
  2. Make the meatballs. Combine ground beef, Italian sausage, egg, bread crumbs, garlic powder, dried oregano, and dried basil in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Form into meatballs.
  3. Add canola oil to a large frying pan over medium high heat. The oil should be able to cover a significant portion of the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sautee minced garlic and shallots until browned. Once browned, transfer just the garlic and shallots to the pot with the sauce.
  5. If necessary, add additional oil to the frying pan to cover a large portion of the bottom. Add meatballs and brown outside. The inside of the meatballs can be a bit raw – they will be simmered in the sauce for hours and will cook through.
  6. Once browned, add meatballs to the pot containing the sauce. Increase the temperature of the sauce pot to high.
  7. Add the Chianti to the frying pan and deglaze the pan, using a utensil to remove remnants from the garlic, shallots, and meatballs. Add the wine to the pot with the sauce
  8. Once the pot with the sauce begins to boil, reduce temperature to let the sauce simmer. The sauce should be slowly bubbling.
  9. Keep the sauce simmering without a top for the next 5 hours
  10. Prepare spaghetti per instructions on the box
  11. About 5 minutes prior to serving, add the chopped oregano and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you used a parmesan rind, remove the remainder of the rind from the sauce prior to serving.

Black Pepper Garlic Beef Stew

If you like pepper, this might just be one of your new favorites.  There are a lot of different flavors going on in this recipe, but pepper is definitely the star.  I use a 5 peppercorn blend in my pepper mill which provides huge amounts of aroma and flavor.  This blend incorporates black, white, pink, and green peppercorns with allspice.

This recipe doesn’t include all of your typical beef stew ingredients (notably, there are no potatoes), but feel free to add or swap in whichever veggies you prefer.  In this version, there were already a large number of vegetables and I didn’t want to overrun the stars of the show – the beef, pepper, and garlic.

In my version, I used my Traeger grill to add some smoke flavor to the beef and carrots prior to pan searing them.  The additional smoke was definitely noticeable in the beef and added a bit more dimension to the finished product.  If you don’t have a smoker handy, this step can be omitted without impacting the final product much.

Just a warning – this recipe has a bit of a kick to it.  If spicy isn’t your thing, feel free to reduce the amount of pepper.  The heavy cream at the end definitely helps reduce the heat of the dish a bit.

Black Pepper Garlic Beef Stew

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
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A beef stew tailored for those who love pepper and garlic.

This recipe has a bit of spice to it.  If you are not a fan of very spicy dishes, reduce the amount of pepper used.  You’ll want to use a five peppercorn blend to provide complexity, such as this one available on Amazon.

Note that garlic is not crushed, but rather sliced – this is for texture.  The flavor of the garlic will blend with the stew nicely during simmer and will result in chewy garlic cloves which absorb the stew flavor and add to the overall experience nicely.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb steak (cut into small pieces)
  • 2 lb tomatoes (about 3)
  • 1/2 lb carrots (about 6)
  • 1 lb mushrooms (washed)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • beef stock
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp. Kosher salt, plus additional to taste
  • 3 tbsp. five peppercorn blend pepper, plus additional to taste

Directions

  1. Season steak with salt and pepper.  Wash and peel carrots.  Wash and stem tomatoes.
  2. Place steak, carrots, and tomatoes in pellet grill or low temperature smoker on smoke setting for 1 hour.  If you do not have a smoker, this step can be omitted.
  3. Begin heating a sauté pan on high heat with canola oil.  Cut carrots into 1/4″ slices.  Remove top and bottom of tomatoes and quarter.  Cut garlic cloves in half and slice shallots.  Slice mushrooms.
  4. Place a 4 qt stew pot on a burner and set it to high.  Add beef stock, carrots, quartered tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, kosher salt, and pepper
  5. First, add the garlic and shallots to the sauté pan.  Stir the garlic and shallots moving with a spatula until they begin to brown.
  6. Add steak to the sauté pan and brown.  Add mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce to sauté pan.  Let cook for about 1-2 minutes.
  7. Dump contents of sauté pan into stew pot.  Add red wine vinegar to frying pan and deglaze into stew pot.
  8. Bring stew pot to a boil.  Boil contents for about 3-5 minutes, then reduce to medium.  The stew pot should still remain boiling slightly.
  9. Cover stew pot and maintain a slow boil for 1-2 hours.
  10. Just before serving, stir in the heavy cream.


Thomas Keller’s Masterclass

In the culinary world, there are some very notable chefs – but few who can come close to the accomplishments of Thomas Keller.  Among many other fantastic restaurants, Chef Keller founded the famous restaurant The French Laundry – a restaurant recognized numerous times Michelin (given three stars) as well as San Pelligrino (in the 50 best restaurants in the world, although it recently fell to the top 100).  Perhaps more importantly, Thomas Keller and The French Laundry produced some of the greatest chefs in the world including Grant Achatz, founder of Alinea.

In his Masterclass, Chef Keller does a fantastic job of starting with the basics, such as picking out good quality equipment for your kitchen, and moving into the various techniques which enable you to really bring out the best in whatever it is you plan on cooking.  Sometimes a simple improvement to your technique can bring a bunch more flavor to a dish than adding loads of spices (for a great demonstration of this, try the simple recipe he proposes for his blanched asparagus).  During his class on potato puree, we learned the value of using a drum sieve instead of a potato masher or potato ricer – a technique we’re looking forward to using for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Note that this is not a promoted post in any way, I just wanted to bring light to a really great video series we came across.  We’re still only 13 lessons into his 36 lesson series, but so far I think we’ve both learned something new from just about every video.  Great work, Thomas Keller; we’re glad to have the opportunity to learn from the best.