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.

Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken Wings

Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken Wings are a slightly healthier version of the traditional game day food since the wings are fried without oil. The air-fryer makes the skin super-crispy. This recipe is for the well-known Buffalo sauce version of wings. After air-frying, any sauce can be used. My air-fryer is a NuWave Brio. I will tell you more about this handy kitchen device in a future post.

Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken Wings
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 2

2 lbs. chicken wings, drums and flats separated, tips discarded
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp cider vinegar
Blue Cheese Dressing to serve

Preheat air-fryer to 360F.

Combine the salt, pepper and garlic powder and mix well. Toss the chicken wings in the seasoning. In two batches, air-fry the wings for 25 minutes, shaking them about halfway through.

While the wings are cooking. Heat the wing sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the butter pieces. When the butter is melted bring the sauce up to a low boil and then set aside.

When all of the wings are cooked. Toss them in a large bowl with the warm wing sauce. Serve immediately with a generous portion of the Blue Cheese Dressing.

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Italian Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant

Italian Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant can be made with pork or turkey Italian Sausage. The stuffing can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.

Italian Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 6

3 large eggplants, halved lengthwise
3 medium zucchini, peeled, 1/4-inch dice
3 large shallots, peeled, sliced into slivers
5 large garlic cloves, minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage, browned and crumbled
6 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp dried Italian Herbs
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
2/3 cup coarsely chopped Romano cheese
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn into 3/4-inch pieces
Freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the eggplant halves on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack. Score the cut side off each eggplant 1/2-inch apart lengthwise and crosswise taking care not to cut through the skin. Season generously with salt and spray the cut side with cooking spray. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and cover loosely with foil. Allow to cool before handling.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add zucchini and season with salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir into zucchini mix. Add diced tomatoes with their juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated about 8 minutes. Add the crumbled Italian sausage, chopped Romano, and parsley and stir to combine. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Lower oven heat to 350F.

Using a spoon scoop out most of the flesh from each eggplant, leaving about 1/2-inch of skin and flesh. Fill each hollowed out eggplant with one-sixth of the Italian sausage mixture. Return to the prepared baking sheet without the wire rack. Bake for 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, dot each eggplant with the fresh mozzarella pieces.

Serve warm with Parmesan and parsley garnish.

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Crawfish Salad Pastry Puffs

Crawfish Salad Pastry Puffs is a quick, easy and festive appetizer that is perfect any holiday party. The salad can be made ahead of time and the pastry puffs can be baked ahead of time so you can assemble them just before serving. This will keep them from getting soggy.

Crawfish Salad Pastry Puffs
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Louisiana Cookin’, November/December 2016)

Makes 24

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced leek
1/4 cup minced celery
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. cooked crawfish tails
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp Creole seasoning
Kosher salt
1/2 cup minced red onion, rinsed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
4 (10-ounce) packages puff pastry shells, baked and hollowed

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add leek, celery, and garlic; cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add crawfish, bell pepper, Creole seasoning, and a pinch of salt; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Refrigerator for 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, paprika, and another pinch of salt. Add crawfish mixture and chopped cilantro.

Place about 2 tablespoons crawfish salad in each prepared pastry shell. Garnish with cilantro.

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Standing Rib Roast with Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction

Standing Rib Roast with Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction uses a reverse browning technique that I learned from BonAppetit.com.

Standing Rib Roast with Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 10-12

For the Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction:
18 oz. fresh blackberries
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 Tbsp tomato paste
6 cups beef broth
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
8 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 6-bone standing rib beef roasts (dry aged for at least one week, fat cap trimmed to 1/4″ thick
12 large garlic cloves, finely grated
12 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 cup rosemary leaves
6 Tbsp fennel seeds, finely ground
4 Tbsp dried minced onions
3 Tbsp Seasoned salt
2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
4-6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To prepare Reduction: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the blackberries and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the berries soften and release their juice. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the tomato paste and cook stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, vinegar, bay leaves, rosemary, and fresh black pepper. Mix well. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a medium saucepan pressing down on the solid with a wooden spoon. Continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half, about 45 minutes. The sauce can be made to this point and refrigerated for up to 3 days ahead of time. To finish the sauce, over low heat, whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Reseason with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Working in batches, scatter rosemary over a paper towel-lined microwave safe plate. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Check rosemary and continue to microwave for 20 second intervals, until dry and crisp. Grind the rosemary in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Add fennel seeds and dried minced onions and grind until powdered. Mix in seasoned salt and black pepper.

Trim the roasts to remove any moldy of spoiled surface meat and all but 1/4-inch of the fat caps. Score the fat caps in a crosshatch pattern spacing cuts about 1-inch apart. Rub the roasts all over with the garlic paste. Coat the roasts with the rosemary-fennel mixture. Place on a rack in a large roasting pan fat cap-side up uncovered in the refrigerator over night, up to one day. Let roasts sit a room temperature for at least 2 hours before roasting.

To cook the roasts: Preheat oven to 225F and place a rack on the lower third of the oven. Place the roasts on a rack in shallow roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss onion, carrots, garlic cloves, and celery in oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the vegetables around the base of the roasts along with the thyme sprigs. Roast the meat, rotating the pan once until an instant read thermometer reads 125F. Remove from the oven and tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. To finish: Move a rack to the top third of the oven and increase the temperature to 500F. Roast until deep brown and exterior is crisp, 8-10 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

To serve: Drizzle slices of beef with generous amounts of the Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction.

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Eggplant Parmesan Casserole

Eggplant Parmesan Casserole is gooey, cheesy version of this classic Italian dish. It takes some time to prepare but it is worth every minute.


Eggplant Parmesan Casserole
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of BonAppetit.com, 2016)

Makes 12 servings

For the Marinara:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves crushed
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry white wine at room temperature
2 28-oz. whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt

For the Eggplant and Assembly:
4 medium to large eggplants, peeled, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick
Kosher salt
3 cups Panko
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, beaten until just blended
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped basil and parsley, plus more basil for serving
6 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

To prepare the Marinara: Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium. Cook garlic, stirring often until golden, about 4 minutes. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook stirring often, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil then cook until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your hands, and their juices; add basil and oregano and stir to combine. Swirl 1 1/2 cups water in one of the tomato cans and then the other and add to the pot. Season with salt. Transfer the pot to the oven, roast the sauce uncovered for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until thick and the tomatoes are browned on top and around the edges. Allow the sauce to cool and process in a food processor until smooth. Taste and season with salt, as needed.

For the Eggplant and Assembly:
Lightly season eggplant slices all over with salt; place in a single layer on several layers of paper towel inside a rimmed baking sheet. Continue adding layers of paper towel and eggplant topping the last layer with paper towels. Place another baking sheet on top and weigh down with a heavy pot. Let the eggplant sit until it has released excess liquid, 45-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse panko, oregano, pepper, and 3/4 cup of parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a shallow bowl for dredging.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place flour in another shallow bowl and eggs in a third shallow bowl. Working one at a time, dredge eggplant slices in flour, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off. Coat in breadcrumb mixture, shake off any excess, Place on wire racks.

Heat 2/3 cup oil in large skillet or Dutch oven, over medium heat. Cook as many slices as will comfortably fit, turning once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and immediately press with more paper towel to absorb oil. Working in batches, repeat with remaining slices, adding remaining oil and wiping out skillet, as needed. Let cool. Taste and season with more salt.

Toss chopped herbs, grated mozzarella, and remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan in a medium bowl. Spread 1 cup sauce over the bottom of a 13X9 baking pan; top with a layer of eggplant (trim as needed). Drizzle 1 cup sauce over and sprinkle with one-third of cheese mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, followed by 1 cup sauce and half of the remaining cheese mixture. repeat with the remaining slices sauce and cheese mixture. Cover with foil and bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and arrange fresh mozzarella over the casserole. Increase oven temperature to 425F and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, 15-20 minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving. Top with basil leaves just before slicing to serve.

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Baked Garlic Parmesan Parsley Fries

Baked Garlic Parmesan Parsley Fries are the perfect accompaniment for your favorite burger. The trick to baking these crispy fries is to thoroughly rinse away excess starch and to let them stand in vinegar-laced water prior to drying them and baking them.



Baked Garlic Parmesan Parsley Fries
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes 4 – 6 servings

6 large baking potatoes, washed, skin-on, cut into 1/4-inch wide by 1/4-inch thick slices
8 large garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 Tbsp garlic powder
Distilled white vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
Cooking spray
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the potato slices in cold water several times until the water is no longer cloudy. Leave the potatoes in the clear water. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the water. Cover and let stand for at least an hour. Pat the potatoes dry and leave them to stand at room temperature on paper towels for at least 30 minutes more.

Preheat over to 400F.

Spray three large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl toss the potatoes in 2 tablespoons of oil and gradually mix in the garlic powder and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the potato slices on the prepared baking sheets leaving room between the potatoes. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and carefully turn the potatoes over to ensure that they brown on both sides. Bake for another 25 minutes or until the fires are golden brown.

Meanwhile in a very large non-stick skillet, melt the butter and saute the garlic for 30 seconds over medium heat. Remove from the heat. Add the baked fries to the skillet and toss in the garlic butter. Add the parsley and parmesan and continue to toss until well combined. Season with salt and serve while hot.

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Seven-Layer Smoked Salmon Dip

Seven-Layer Smoked Salmon Dip combines all of the flavors of a classic bagel and lox snack into a terrific appetizer.


Seven-Layer Smoked Salmon Dip
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Bonappetit.com, November 2016)

4 oz. 1/3-less fat cream cheese, softened
2 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
2 tsp lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
1 1/2 lb. smoked salmon, flaked
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup drained capers, chopped
3 Tbsp finely chopped chives
Bagel chips (for serving)

Line a flat bottomed bowl or Tupperware of at least 6-inches in diameter and 2 1/2 inches in depth with plastic wrap. Pulse the cream cheese, goat cheese, horseradish and lemon zest until well combined and creamy.

Press one-third of the flaked salmon into an even layer across the bottom of the mold. Spread half of the cream cheese mixture in an even layer over the salmon, smoothing the surface. Scatter the red onion over the cream cheese mixture and press down lightly into the mixture. Top with another third of salmon flakes, making an even layer. Spread the remaining half of the cream cheese mixture over the salmon, smoothing again. Top with the capers and press down slightly into the mixture. Top with an even layer of the remaining salmon flakes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour to let the dip set and the flavors to meld.

Uncover the dip and carefully invert onto a serving plate and carefully peel away the plastic. Top with chives. Serve with bagel chips.

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Roast Duck

Roast Duck with crispy skin and tender juicy meat is an Autumn treat. When served along side sauerkraut and bread dumplings with a hearty mushroom gravy you have a hearty, old school, ethnic meal.


Roast Duck
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 2

1 3 lb duck, halved
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

One day before roasting the duck halves place them on a baking sheet with a wire rack, skin-side up, and refrigerate uncovered to allow any excess blood to drain and the skin to dry out a bit.

One hour before roasting remove the duck halves and sprinkle the skin generously with salt and allow to stand at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 250F, for convection roasting, if you have that setting.

Turn the duck halves to skin-side down. Roast for 60 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 375F. Flip the ducks to skin-side up and roast for another 60 minutes or until the skin is brown and crispy and the internal temperature reaches 175F. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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Baked Parmesan-Crusted Walleye With Lemon Sauce

Baked Parmesan-Crusted Walleye With Lemon Sauce is a baked approach to preparing a fish that is often fried when served in the Northwoods.


Baked Parmesan-Crusted Walleye With Lemon Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 4

2 1 lb walleye fillets
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Cojita cheese
1 Tbsp garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Cooking spray
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine at room temperature
1/2 large lemon, juiced
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375F.

Place the walleye on a large rimmed baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray. Pat walleye dry. Brush the fish with a light coating of oil.

In a small bowl combine the Panko, cheese, garlic powder, a couple of grinds of black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Spread the cheese-breadcrumb mixture over the fish and let stand for 10 minutes before baking. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just cooked through. Move to broiler to brown the topping being careful not to burn it.

While the fish is baking, soften the garlic in oil in a small skillet. After 30 seconds, deglaze with the wine and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by half. Finish the sauce by whisking in the butter. To serve: place half of a fillet on each plate and spoon the sauce over the walleye.

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Pork Chops Pizzaiola

Pork Chops Pizzaiola derives a pizza-like flavor from its garlicky, oregano-seasoned tomato-based Pizzaiola Sauce.


Pork Chops Pizzaiola
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Michele Scicone’s “1000 Italian Recipes)

Serves 2

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 thick-cut bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Season chops with salt and pepper. Place chops in the hot skillet and brown both sides. Remove to a platter and set aside.

Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens, about 25 minutes.

Add the chops back to the sauce and cook until internal temperature reaches 140F, about 10 minutes.

To serve: Transfer chops to serving plate. Spoon the sauce over top and garnish with parsley.

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