About The Saturday Chef

Midwest, United States
I am NOT a professional chef. I am what I affectionately dub a Saturday Chef—a weekend warrior of the culinary variety, fortified by the education I have gleaned from two high school cooking classes, the Food Network and my own gastronomical experiments. While I’m not ashamed to spend all day making bagels by hand, and proudly call myself a foodie, I’m not a food snob. I enjoy an Extra Value Meal as much as the next girl. My culinary escapades are still relegated to the weekends, but my love for cooking is stronger than ever, galvanized by more successes than failures, and the beautiful fact that the more I cook, the more people there are to feed. So please stay tuned for fun recipes, inevitable disasters and hopefully, a lot of good food.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Saturday Chef Does Beef: Decadent Braised Short Ribs

Cooking is about time and timing.  Judging by the lines at the drive-thrus on any given weeknight, Americans want food quickly.  Sometimes, that's a good thing--a pre-packaged salad, a bagel from Panera.  But other times good food needs time for flavors to marry, for fat to render and taste to blossom. 

When I started cooking, I swore I wouldn't be one of those cooks who marinated meats overnight or spent seven hours making ONE cake (that recipe coming soon, LMAO).  Then I went on the search for a beautiful, exquisite, fancy recipe for this blog, and I found one for Braised Short Ribs in the February issue "Bon Appetit."  I'd had a recipe before, but it didn't have that taste that justified the time invested. 

Then I tried the magazine's version with cheaper wines and my own touches. The result was nothing short of amazing.  I'd never thought I'd be able to make anything like this in my life.  This recipe had me seriously contemplating culinary school as I was so proud of the result. 

So, yes, this recipe is a lot of work and requires a lot of time.  But it is amazing and more importantly, it's do-able.  Make it for your man or your mother or your friends, and take the time to soak in their praises. 


Serves: 4


4 pounds or 8 to 10 short ribs
Olive oil
Salt (both kosher and table)
Dried Thyme
6 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
½ to 1 medium onion, chopped
3 to 4 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally in half-inch coins
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 ½ cup of red wine (Chianti is best)
½ cup port
3 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar
1 ½ to 3 cups of low sodium beef broth

Season all sides of short ribs with generously with kosher salt, pepper and dried thyme. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When oil is hot, add ribs, fat side down and brown on all meaty sides, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. NOTE: This process can take awhile, so I usually chop my vegetables while the meat is browning as not to rush it. You should probably work in batches of 4 to 5 ribs each.

When ribs are browned, set aside on a plate. Drain off all of all of the oil and drippings from pan except for about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Toss onions into pot over medium heat and sweat until fragrant and they beginning to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots, fresh thyme sprigs, bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes. I use the edge of my spoon and bruise the thyme sprigs to release more flavor.

Add wine and port to pot. Stir to combine, and cook until it begins to boil lightly for about 3 to 5 minutes before adding the balsamic vinegar and 1 ½ cups of broth. Let mixture come to a boil again and cook for 5 to 7 minutes to concentrate flavor. Taste mixture. It should be flavorful and well-balanced. If anything it is not to your liking, add more wine, port or broth. Adjust seasonings as you like.

Place ribs back into pan, bone side up. Nestling them together can be tricky, but try to get them into one layer. Broth should just cover the meat. If it doesn’t, add more chicken broth. Cover and simmer on low for one hour.

Check ribs. Bones may have loosened or fallen off completely. This is good! Keep them in the pot. If you can turn or flip the ribs, go ahead, just make sure bone side is still up. If the liquid has reduced a lot, add more broth. You also may want to check and adjust seasonings, sparingly. Cover and simmer for another 90 minutes.

NOTE: We’ve now entered what I call the Beef Stealer phase of this long process. This is when the house smells of delectable simmering meat, and people, like parents or even neighbors, come out of the woodwork to hover around the pot. They tell that they thought you left the pot on and IT’S GOING TO BURN! So they’ll check it and taste it for you. You know, to save it. You must guard the pot. Use your chef’s knife if you have to. The finished product will be worth it. But you, The Chef, can steal all the beef you want.

After the longest 90 minutes of your culinary life, ribs are done and braised. Taste them. They should be tremor-worthy good…so buttery soft, you can cut them with a fork. If they are still a little chewy, braise for 30 more minutes.

This is generally when you can stop for the day and put them away once the ribs have cooled—ribs in one container and the liquid and a few bones in another. I know it’s hard, but do this and your heart will thank you (If you do not want to wait until the next day, pour cooled braising liquid into a plastic container and freeze until fat solidifies. Scrape off, discard and continue).

The next day.

Remove ribs from the fridge. Pre-heat oven to 400.

Open gravy container. Here you will find an alarming layer of fat on top of the gravy. Skim off with a spoon and discard. Add the rest of the gravy to a pan over medium low-heat. Thin out with a bit of beef broth and reduce for about 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings if needed.

Place ribs onto a cookie sheet and pop into the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, turning over midway through cooking. This not only will reheat them, but it will add a light crust to the outside while leaving them succulent and juicy on the inside.

Finally, finally, serve with roasted potatoes. Drizzle with gravy.

*I've made this recipe five times and sadly, 9 short ribs serves about 3 people.  It's THAT good.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Saturday Chef's Scrumptious Chicken Pot Pie

I consider myself a modest person, but it flies out the window when I talk about this pot pie that is literally years in the making. As a meat-and-potatoes girl, I worship pot pies, from the buttery crust down to the slightly salty filling to the hearty potatoes. I have been making them for years. In college, I started buying rotisserie chickens and potatoes and I'd eat various preparations during the week (Ha! Does that explain the chicken obsession?). I'd make chicken and gravy over mashed potatoes, chicken soup, chicken sandwiches and then chicken pot pie. First, from an awesome Bisquick recipe. Then I tried frozen pie crusts. Finally, it morphed into this fantastically simple concoction that is as close to perfection as I will probably ever get without professional culinary intervention.

This version of the pot pie is simple with just a bit more time dedicated to the veggies, specifically the onions. I used to hate onions, but I found that roasting them changes the flavor, makes them sweeter.  Honestly, I could eat these like popcorn. And I generally do while I cook the rest of the pie.

Make this meal and people with love you, thank you, and beg you to make another one. That's why this recipe makes two.


4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half
2 to 3 sprigs of thyme leaves
2 cups par-boiled russet potatoes, 1 inch dice
1 lb bag frozen pearl onions
2 to 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, skin removed
1 ½ to 2 cups frozen mixed veggies (carrots, peas, green beans)
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
Salt, Pepper
Eggwash (1 egg, one tablespoon water)
Kosher salt, optional

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Let the roux cook for one to two minutes. Slowly whisk in chicken broth. Mixture will thicken quickly. Stir and season with salt and pepper.

Combine milk and half & half into a microwave-able cup. Heat in microwave until warm. Slowly whisk in warmed milk until liquid is thick and creamy. Season again with salt, pepper and the leaves of thyme sprigs.

Add potatoes and roasted pearl onions (recipe follows). Stir to combine and let sauce cook a bit until it begins to boil. Taste and adjust any seasonings. The sauce will be baked, so leave the seasoning a bit mild.

Finally, add the frozen vegetables (rinse and pat dry if there is a lot of ice) and stir. Remove from heat. Spoon into a pie plate.

Roll out thawed puff pastry sheet lightly just to remove the crease lines and stretch out dough. Carefully place over entire pie plate. Trim the extras off with a knife, making sure to leave some extra dough to accommodate for shrinkage during baking.

Brush the top lightly with egg wash, sprinkle with kosher salt. Poke a few slight in the top of pie to vent steam.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Roasted Pearl Onions

1 lb bag frozen pearl onions, thawed
Olive Oil
Dried Thyme

Rinse and pat dry onions. Pour into single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper and dried thyme.

Toss to coat.

Roast in a 400 degree oven until a golden brown.  After 20 minutes, check onions and turn over for more even roasting.  It should take about 20 to 30 minutes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Saturday Chef Original: Larry's Heart-y Chicken Chili

When I posted my Ultimate Grilled Cheese, I jokingly laughed at the traditional New Year's resolutions to lose weight.  I stand by my post, but I also know that food's first purpose is nourishment.  So "fat for fat's sake" is not the best practice, and I promise you it's not one of mine.  Thus, I try to shave needless calories from my cooking whenever I can. 

I also mentioned that I give my father food as gifts, because it's pretty much all he'll accept.  I want those edible presents to be delicious and healthy to make up for the Bears tickets and the million of other things I can't buy him.  As one of thirteen children, he thoroughly appreciates a good meal.

So for Superbowl Sunday, I provided the eats in the form of chicken chili.  Originally planned as a white chili, it quickly turned into a vibrant explosion or color and a cornucopia of vegetables!  It has a good kick of backheat, thanks to the chipotle and adobo, and it is cleverly thickened with beans, instead of a roux.  This chili is a nourishing present that is good for the heart and soul.

Oh, and apparently a good luck charm for the Saints.  Hee!



4 chicken thighs, skinned
1 leek, sliced
½ white onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, ½’’ dice
1 yellow bell pepper, ½’’ dice
½ white onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 15 oz can white beans
1 15 oz can black beans
1 15 oz can chick peas
1 clove garlic
½ to 1 chipotle in adobo (canned, whole pepper)
1 ½ cup of frozen corn
32 oz of vegetable broth
onion powder
garlic powder
house seasoning
Olive Oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season both lightly sides of chicken with salt, black pepper, cumin, paprika, cayenne, onion powder, and garlic powder. Pour approximately 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a large, hot skillet over medium-high heat. When skillet is hot, add chicken breast and cook for 3 to 5 minutes on both sides or until chicken is browned. Place the chicken onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum-foil and put into the oven for 20 minutes. When chicken is done, let it cool and rest for at least 15 minutes.

Drain oil and spices from dutch oven and reserve in measuring cup. Wipe away any burned bits.

While the chicken is roasting, dice onion, peppers, garlic, leeks, and carrots. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat and add a healthy drizzle of the reserved oil. When oil is hot, add the onions and leeks and sweat until soft and fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add bell peppers, carrots, and garlic. Cook until peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. Add vegetable broth and chiptotle with joining adobo sauce. NOTE: You can add as much as you want, but one pepper is plenty. When liquid starts to boil, turn down low. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

After chicken has rested, pull or slice chicken off of bones and shred with fingers.

Add cans of drained and thoroughly rinsed black beans, chick peas and 1/3rd of the can of white beans to pot. Take the rest of the white beans and mash with a spoon or masher. Scrape mashed beans into the chili and stir to thicken. Add chicken and continue to cook for a few minutes to let flavors marry. Add frozen corn if you wish. Taste and adjust heat to desired tolerance.

Serve with cornbread or tortilla chips.

Chefs Note: I am aware that I post a lot of recipes with chicken.  Clearly, I LOVE it.  But those who love beef need not be worried.  I am not a cluckatarian.  Beef and vegetarian recipes are on the way.  Promise. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saturday Chef's Gold Medal Cinnamon Toffee Cookies

I probably should have warned all…six (!!!) of you that I am a ridiculous, over-the-top, obsessive compulsive Olympics fan, especially the winter games. Every four years, I live to cheer on Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso and especially, Apolo Anton Ohno. Until they are over, I am useless. Instead of cooking, I watched all of the 865 hours of Olympic coverage, save a few hours for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies because not even the healthcare-lovin’, weed-smokin’ Canadians can top the awe-inspiring spectacle of China’s opening opus.

Alas, the medals have been handed out. Hockey games have been played. Dreams have been both dashed and achieved. Those stupid montages have made me cry. And all over the world, thousands of athletes are scarfing down pizza and nachos and cake. So, it’s back to all things culinary.

These little cookies deserve a gold medal of their own. I am not the biggest fan of baking as I am cooking. But a cookie is a blank canvas, a round of inspiration with its confetti of chips or nuts or candies. Chocolate chips are just the beginning of what could go into a cookie. Adding buttery toffee and spicy, cinnamon elevates a classic cookie to Olympic levels of deliciousness.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups toffee bits


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a bowl. Stir the mixture with a fork to break up any lumps.

In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping and mixing after each one. Beat in flour mixture in increments. Add toffee and mix until just combined. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in toffee.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets lined with parchment paper. The toffee is sticky and this will save you a lot of scrubbing. Also cool on racks or parchment.

Cookies will bake a bit flat. Let them bake for about 11 to 13 minutes. If cookies seem soft, leave them on the sheet for a few minutes.

Store in air tight container.

Note: The cinnamon flavor may seem subtle in the batter and immediately after cookies are baked, but it will intensify after a day or so.

Credit: Adapted from the Nestle Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe