About mkelly612

During my years of designing buildings and managing a real estate business I discovered a love of food and cooking. While I am not formally trained as a cook I have a passion for exploring different flavors. I have a great family and group of friends who are willing to test my cooking explorations. My cooking influences start with my mother, my wife, and my father-in-law and mother-in-law. I have been inspired over the years by great chefs, including Emeril, Bobby Flay, Thomas Keller, Michael Symon, and Giada DiLaurentis - to name a few. I love to travel and explore the tastes, as well as the sights and sounds, of the United States and other countries. I live in St. Charles, Illinois with my wife, Sandy, and my two grown children, Nolan and Madeline.

Smoked Chicken Wings

Smoked Chicken Wings are an alternative to the traditional fried approach to preparing wings. My Poultry Rub gives the wings a little extra zip.

Smoked Chicken Wings
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

1 dozen large chicken wings
1 cup Chicken Rub (see recipe below)
1 cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce
Blue Cheese Dressing for dipping

Poultry Rub
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 Tbsp onion powder
2 Tbsp garlic powder
4 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp lemon pepper
1 Tbsp dried sage
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried rosemary, finely crushed
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

In a large bowl toss the wings in the Poultry Rub to generously coat them.

Smoke with a combination of apple and hickory wood at low temperature (180F) for one hour. Increase temperature to 225F and smoke for an additional 2 hours.

As the wings cool a bit place them in a large bowl and toss them with the Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce and serve with a good blue cheese dressing for dipping.

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Easy Crab and Corn Chowder

Easy Crab and Corn Chowder is quick soup that is tasty and reasonably healthy. One of the great cooking hacks in this post is the method for cooking the sweet corn. You will never boil sweet corn again.

Easy Crab and Corn Chowder
(Adapted from recipe of Robin Miller, Food Network, 2017)

Serves 4

3 pre-made crab cakes (Fresh Market is our preference)
6 ears sweet corn in their husks
3 bay leaves
5 cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth (warmed to a simmer)
1 cup 2% milk
Crystal Hot Sauce to taste
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup crispy bacon lardons

Working in batches of three, cook the sweet corn by microwaving for 4 minutes. Repeat. Set the corn aside to cool before husking. When cool enough pull the husks and any remaining silk – there shouldn’t be much with this method – from the ears. Cut the kernels off of the ears and set aside.

While the broth warms, place the crab cakes in a small Dutch oven and gently break them apart. Add the corn, bay leaves, several dashes of hot sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Add the broth and bring the soup to a gentle boil, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and simmer for another 2 minutes.

To serve, ladle the chowder into large shallow serving bowls and garnish with parsley and bacon.

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Caesar Slaw

I saw a recipe for Caesar Slaw in the newspaper earlier this summer and I just had to try my own version of it. I did and it was a hit. It a little different the traditional Cole Slaw and the popular variations of Asian Slaw.

Caesar Slaw
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 4 to 6

1 head of Romaine lettuce, leaves thinly sliced crosswise
2 cups arugula
1 heads of radicchio, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
4 slices of thick cut bacon, coarsely chopped and crisped
Caesar Slaw Dressing (see recipe below) to taste

Toss the lettuce, arugula, and radicchio with Caesar Slaw Dressing in a large salad serving bowl. Chill for 30 minutes. Serve topped with Parmesan, bacon, and parsley.

Caesar Slaw Dressing

Makes about 2 cups

1/3 cup Parmesan, grated
1 large shallot, minced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Crystal Hot Sauce
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
2 tsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Kosher salt to taste
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse the shallot and garlic for a 30 seconds until finely minced. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth. Move the dressing to a large bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before mixing into the Caesar Slaw.

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Oven-Baked Garlic Fries

Oven-Baked Garlic Fries is a family favorite that I have refined over the years. These fries are perfect with a grilled burger. The most important steps in preparing these fries is to rinse away the starch and to soak them in a diluted vinegar mixture. This helps to produce crispy fries.

Oven-Baked Garlic Fries
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

4 large russet potatoes, sliced into 1/8″ x 1/8″ matchsticks
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
Cooking spray

In a large bowl rinse the potato sticks using cold water. Let stand in the cold water for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat until the water runs clear. Cover the potato sticks with cold water and pour in the vinegar. Let stand until 15 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 375F using convection.

Prepare three baking sheets by coating them with cooking spray.

Dry the potato sticks on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. This will require several layers. Working batches, toss 1/3rd of the potato sticks in a light drizzle of oil and arrange them on one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining potato sticks.

Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes rotate the baking sheets within the oven, bottom to top, top to bottom. Bake for another 20 minutes. By this time the potatoes should be getting crispy. Scrape and flip the potatoes on each baking sheet. Return to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, watching closely so that they don’t burn.

Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons of oil and the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. When the potatoes are done, put the skillet back on medium heat. Add the potatoes to the oil-butter-garlic sauce and toss to coat. Remove from heat and toss in the parsley and parmesan. Season with salt and serve warm.

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Bison Burgers with Crispy Onion Strings

Bison Burgers with Crispy Onion Strings are a juicy, crunchy delight. The lean bison meat cooked to medium rare is rich and juicy. A nice slice of blue cheese and homemade crispy onion strings are the perfect garnishes for this burger.

Bison Burgers with Crispy Onion Strings
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

1 lb. ground bison meat
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Kosher salt
Brioche hamburger buns
Blue cheese for garnish

1 large sweet onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Cooking spray

Combine the bison meat, egg, and bread crumbs in a medium bowl and form 4 quarter-pound patties. Season with salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld. Remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before grilling.

Preheat air fryer (a conventional oil fryer can be used) to 325F.

To make the Crispy Onion Strings: In a measuring cup, combine the flour and baking powder. Break the onions into separate half slices to allow the flour mixture to coat each piece. Put the onion slices in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pour half of the flour mixture over the onions. Seal the bag and toss to coat. Pour the remaining half of the flour, seal and toss again. Pour contents on to a large rimmed baking sheet. Spray with a generous coating of cooking spray. Working in three batches, place the onions in the fryer basket and spray an addition coating of cooking spray. Cook for 14 minutes, shaking after 4, 8 and 12 minutes. Raise the temperature to 360F. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, taking care not burn the strings. Dump the onion strings on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the other two batches. Set aside.

Heat the grill for medium-high indirect cooking. Place the bison patties in the middle of the grill over the unlit section. Grill for about 4 minutes, until grill marks appear. Flip and cook until internal temperature reaches 125F for medium-rare doneness, about 3 minutes. During the last 3 minutes of grilling, toast the hamburger buns.

Serve the burger while warm with a generous slice of blue cheese and the onion strings as a garnish.

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Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Quesadillas

Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Quesadillas is a little different than your typical recipe. The slow cooker-braised chicken filling sits inside a freshly pressed masa dough tortilla.

Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Quesadillas
Serves 6 – 10

For the Shredded Chicken
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup mild salsa
1/2 cup medium salsa
6 Tbsp brown sugar
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbsp Mexican chili powder
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp each – ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder
1 tsp each – smoked paprika, dry oregano, black pepper, ancho chili powder

For the Quesadillas
16 oz. prepared masa dough
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced lengthwise
16 oz. shredded Chihuahua cheese
2 Tbsp canola oil

Guacamole, sour cream, and salsa verde to garnish

To prepare the shredded chicken: In a medium bowl combine the brown sugar, salt and spices. Whisk thoroughly. Drizzle the bottom of the slow cooker vessel with half of the oil. Place the chicken in the vessel. Drizzle the remaining oil over the chicken. Pour an even layer of the rub over the chicken. Pour the diced tomatoes and diced green chiles over the chicken along with the salsas. Cook on high for 3 hours and the 6 hours longer on low. Remove the chicken from the braising mixture. Allow the chicken to cool before shredding.

To prepare the pickled red onions and jalapeños: In a medium bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the vinegar. Add the onions and jalapeños. Set aside at room temperature for at least an hour.

To prepare the quesadillas: Form eight equal sized balls of masa and press them until they are tortillas of about 10 to 12 inches in diameter. On one half of each tortilla place a layer of cheese, top is with a thin layer of chicken and finally a portion of the pickled red onions and jalapeños. Fold the tortilla in half and press the edges together to seal the filling inside. Heat the canola oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, working in batches, fry the for about 2 minutes per side. Serve warm.

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Shrimp Nachos

Shrimp Nachos is a quick dish that can be a meal or served as a part of a heavy appetizer menu.

Shrimp Nachos
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 4 – 6

2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large bag corn tortilla chips
10 ounces shredded Colby Jack cheese

Sour cream, fresh salsa, chopped jalapeno, chopped green onion, and hot sauce to garnish

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, season the shrimp with paprika and garlic powder, tossing to coat. Drizzle with oil and toss again.

Place the shrimp on a large foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Flip the shrimp over and bake for another minutes. Remove the shrimp to a room temperature bowl.

Set a rack in the oven 4 inches below the broiler element and turn on the broiler.

Re-line the baking sheet with foil. Arrange a single layer of tortilla chips on the baking sheet. Place the shrimp over the chips. Sprinkle a generous layer of cheese over the shrimp and chips. Broil, watching carefully so as not to burn the chips or overcook the shrimp, until the cheese is melted. Serve warm with you favorite garnishes and hot sauce.

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Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork makes a great filling for tacos and burritos. The slow cooker makes it a breeze to prepare. This recipe will yield a mildly spicy finished product. For a little extra kick, increase the amount of slice jalapeños and add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce to braising liquid at the start.

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Makes 10 – 12 Taco or Burrito Servings

8 lbs. pork shoulder cut into 2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 1/2 Tbsp Ancho chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 large jalapeños, stemmed and seeded, sliced 1/8-inch thick crosswise
2 limes, juiced
1 large orange, juiced
2 bay leaves
1 bottle of beer, preferably Negro Modelo

Mix the seasoning in a large bowl. The night before putting the pork in the slow cooker toss the pork pieces with the seasoning rub in a large bowl until thoroughly coated. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Six hours before serving put the seasoned pork in the slow cooker vessel and add the lime juice, orange juice, bay leaves and beer. Cover and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and just falling apart. Drain the pork, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the liquid. Put the pork back into the slow cooker and gently shred the meat. Pour the reserved cooking liquid back into the shredded pork. Keep on warm until serving.

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Slow Cooker Oil-Poached Chicken Breasts

Slow Cooker Oil-Poached Chicken Breasts is a simple way to achieve perfectly cooked, tender chicken breasts. Preparation time takes 15-20 minutes and then the slow cooker does the rest. To insure the chicken cooking within 45 minutes make sure: that you have halved the breasts, that you have allowed them to come up to room temperature, and that the poaching oil is at 200F when the chicken is placed in the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Oil-Poached Chicken Breasts
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Food and Wine, January 2017)

Serves 4

1/4 cup fine salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 lemon quartered
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 Fresh bay leaves
1 Tbsp dried thyme leaves or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
Kosher salt

In a large bowl, whisk 5 cups cold water with the fine salt and sugar until dissolved. Squeeze and add 2 lemon quarters into the bowl. Add the chicken, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.

Meanwhile, add the oil to a slow cooker along with garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns a couple of pinches of salt, and the remaining 2 lemon quarters. Cook, covered, on low until the oil registers 200F, about 1 hour. The oil can be kept on low for up to 6 hours.

At least an hour before cooking remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry; transfer to a plate and discard the brine. About 45 minutes before serving, using tongs, carefully lower the chicken into the warm oil and cook on low until the internal temperature registers 155F, about 40 – 45 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a platter. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with a fresh vegetable and crusty warm bread.

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Old Bay Shrimp with Creamy Polenta

Old Bay Shrimp with Creamy Polenta is a variation on the Southern classic Shrimp and Grits. The east coast Old Bay seasoning replaces the Cajun spices. I found using the air fryer to cook the shrimp was very successful. It seemed to intensify the flavors in the seasoning that sometimes get diluted when sautéing or baking the shrimp.

Old Bay Shrimp with Creamy Polenta
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 2

For the Shrimp
1 lb. 20-30 count shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
Kosher salt

For the Polenta
3 cups 2% milk
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat air fryer to 390F.

To prepare the shrimp: Mix the seasoning, including a pinch of salt, in a small bowl. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp in the oil to coat. Sprinkle in the seasoning while continuing to toss. In two batches, cook the shrimp for 5 minutes, shaking them halfway through.

While the shrimp are cooking, bring the milk and butter to a gentle boil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the corn meal a little at a time while constantly whisking. Cook until creamy and thick, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, add the cheese, and stir until it is melted.

To serve: Divide the shrimp and serve them over the creamy, warm polenta. Garnish with your favorite hot sauce.

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