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.

Braised Lamb Shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks takes a few hours to prepare but they are well worth the wait. The combination of long braising time and the acidity of the braising liquid break down the connective tissue in this otherwise tough cut of meat yielding a super tender finished product. The Gremolata lends an herby, citrusy finish when used as a serving garnish.



Braised Lamb Shanks

Serves 4 to 6

8 lamb shanks 10-12 ounces each
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 strips lemon zest, each about 4 inches long
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups dry white wine
3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

For Gremolata
2 sprigs flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Pat the lamb shanks dry. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge each in flour.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Working in batches, brown the shanks on all sides. Transfer them to a plate and reserve.

In the same Dutch oven, add the onion, carrot and celery. Season with salt to help draw out moisture. Saute until the onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic cloves, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cook for 1 minute. Add wine and simmer until reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Return the lamb shanks to the Dutch oven. Add enough chicken stock to cover the lamb shanks to about two-thirds. Add the herb sprigs, bay leaves, and lemon zest strips. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover tightly and move to oven. Braise for about 2 hours, turning the shanks every 30 minutes, until the meat is fork tender.

While the lamb shanks are braising, prepare the the gremolata by mixing the herbs, lemon zest and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside.

When the lamb shanks are done, remove them from the braising liquid to a platter. Place a sieve over a large bowl. Carefully pour the braising liquid into the sieve, pressing on the solids to release as much liquid as possible. Discard the solid and return the sauce to the pan. Place the lamb shanks back into the sauce and bring to a simmer. Re-season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a lamb shank on each plate and spoon some sauce over each. Top with a spoonful of gremolata. Serve alongside risotto or on top of creamy polenta.

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Coffee Rubbed Bone-in Ribeye

Coffee Rubbed Bone-in Ribeye is an un-marinated steak that features a subtle dry rub. If you choose a prime cut, make sure to compliment it with a very good tannic red wine.


Coffee Rubbed Bone-in Ribeye
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay and Mesa Grill)

Serves 2

1 2 lb. prime bone-in ribeye

2 Tbsp chile powder
2 Tbsp finely ground coffee beans
5 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp kosher salt

Whisk rub ingredients together.

Rub all sides of the steak with the spice rub. Place on a wire rack on a baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for 3 to 6 hours. Remove from the refrigerator one hour before grilling to allow the steak to come up to room temperature.

Heat grill for medium-high direct grilling. Sear the steak for 4 minutes on both sides. Turn off middle burner and turn the two outside burners to medium and continue cooking with over indirect heat until internal temperature reaches 120F for medium rare, about 12 minutes. Allow to rest uncovered for 5 minutes before serving.

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Grilled Salmon-Tomato-Red Onion Skewers

Grilled Salmon-Tomato-Red Onion Skewers provides the home cook with an alternative to the baking, broiling or grilling the full salmon fillet. Serve along side a cold potato salad or brown rice.



Grilled Salmon-Tomato-Red Onion Skewers
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Food and Wine, October 2015)

Serves 2

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 1/2 large lemons)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 1 1/2 lb. skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
16-20 cherry tomatoes
1 large red onion, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

To prepare the vinaigrette: Whisk the oil, lemon juice and mustard together in a medium bowl and season with the rosemary, salt and pepper.

Heat grill for medium-high direct cooking. Thread the salmon, tomatoes, and red onion on to skewers. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the skewers for 6 minutes, turning once. Serve warm, drizzled with vinaigrette.

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Chicken Gyros

Chicken Gyros is healthier version of the classic Greek street food. The chicken, substituted for the lamb gyros meat, draws tremendous flavor from the yogurt-lemon-oregano marinade. The preparation is simple and leftovers are super easy because only the chicken needs to be reheated. The Tzatziki Sauce recipe makes more the enough for the 4-6 servings so you’ll have plenty left to use for a dip with baked pita chips or cut fresh peppers, celery and carrots.


Chicken Gyros

Serves 4 – 6

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin

For Marinade

3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp Greek yogurt
2 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For Tzatziki Sauce

2 medium cucumbers
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For Salad

3 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
3 cucumbers, diced
1/2 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

4-6 pita breads

To prepare the marinade: Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place chicken breasts in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken and massage and squeeze out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

To prepare the Tzatziki: Cut the cucumbers into quarters lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Coarsely grate the cucumber. Wrap the shredded cucumber in a large piece of cheesecloth and squeeze to remove excess liquid. Place the cucumber in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix to combine. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow flavors to combine, longer if possible.

Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl.

Heat grill for medium direct grilling. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Cook until golden brown and cooked through. Set aside and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting.

Warm the pitas. Top each with a generous amount of grilled chicken. Top with salad and tzatziki. Serve warm.

Cut the chicken into 1/4-inch thick slices.

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Giardiniera Dip

Giardiniera Dip is a new classic Super Bowl appetizer. Try it with chips or veggies. It is creamy and spicy. You can make this dip with hot or mild giardiniera. Alternatively, you can use Italian Olive Salad.


Giardiniera Dip
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes about 3 cups

12 oz. giardiniera, drained of excess oil, plus more to garnish
12 oz. 1/3-less fat cream cheese

Pulse giardiniera in food processor until finely chopped. Add cream cheese and pulse until smooth. Refrigerate for and hour before serving and for up to 3 days. Serve with chips and/or vegetables.

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Roasted Carrots with Sherry-Maple Glaze and Shiitakes

Roasted Carrots with Sherry-Maple Glaze and Shiitakes is another side that goes well with grilled meats.


Roasted Carrots with Sherry-Maple Glaze and Shiitakes
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 4

12 whole carrots, washed, root ends trimmed
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large shallot minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb. shiitakes, wiped clean, quartered if large
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
Sea salt

To prepare carrots: Preheat oven to 400F. Half the carrots lengthwise. Put the carrots in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil and season with kosher salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Spread the carrots out on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until tender and slightly charred. Set aside.

To prepare the glaze: Combine the maple syrup, vinegar and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and cook over medium -low heat, until the mixture is reduced and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

To prepare the mushrooms: Put a large saute pan over medium heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and the butter. When the butter is melted, add the shallot and saute until softened but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and suate, stirring frequently, until they lose their moisture, soften and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

To serve: Crisscross the carrots on serving plates. Drizzle with maple glaze and top with mushrooms. Scatter chopped parsley on top and season with sea salt.

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Bacon Hasselback Potatoes

Bacon Hasselback Potatoes are an indulgent side that is perfect with a grilled steak or pork chop.


Bacon Hasselback Potatoes
(Adapted from a recipe courtesy of BonAppetit.com)

Serve 6

4 slices thick-cut bacon, each cut crosswise into 9 pieces
Kosher salt for boiling potatoes
6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled except for a lengthwise wide strip along the bottom of each
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp, finely chopped parsley
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

Lay the bacon pieces on a bacon sheet and freeze until hard, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Using a sharp knife, make crosswise cuts in each potato, about 1/8-inch apart, stopping about 1/4-inch from the bottom. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Remove them carefully and transfer them to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, let cool slightly. Pat the potatoes dry.

Insert 6 pieces of the frozen bacon into the cuts of each potato, spacing the bacon evenly. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and brush generously over the potatoes and into the cuts. Season the potatoes with sea salt and pepper.

Transfer the potatoes to the oven and bake until the outsides are browned and crisp, about 2 hours.

When the potatoes are almost done, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and mix with the scallions, parsley and garlic. Spoon over the potatoes and roast for the final 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter and re-season with sea salt and pepper. Serve warm.

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Spinach Tasso Skillet

Spinach Tasso Skillet makes an awesome dinner, breakfast or brunch for one and is a great way to use up any Tasso left over from making gumbo. If you don’t have any Tasso on hand simple substitute cubes of ham or slab bacon.


Spinach Tasso Skillet
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 1

2 frozen hash brown patties
2 large eggs
1/4 lb. Tasso ham, cut into 3/8-inch-cubes
1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 (8 oz.) bag baby spinach
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
Canola oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Sriracha for garnish

Preheat oven to 425F. Bake the hash browns for 18 minutes on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet.

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, brown the Tasso cubes until crispy, about 5minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Add one tablespoon of oil to the skillet and saute the onions for 3 to 4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Remove onions and spinach to a bowl and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet and fry eggs to desired doneness, sunny-side up or over easy recommended.

To serve, place hash brown patties in the skillet with the spinach and onions. Add the cooked eggs. Top with tomatoes and then cheese. Broil for 2 minutes taking care not to burn the cheese. Serve immediately with a few generous dashes of Sriracha.

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Shrimp and Tasso Gumbo

Shrimp and Tasso Gumbo features a deep mahogany roux, beautiful shrimp, and smoky, spicy Tasso ham. Ample Bites got the Tasso for this recipe from Ream’s Elburn Market.


Shrimp and Tasso Gumbo
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes 8 Entree Servings

12 cups shrimp stock
1 cup canola oil, plus 2 tablespoons more for browning the tasso
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 lb. tasso ham, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup garlic, finely chopped, about 12 large cloves
1/2 lb. fresh or frozen okra, thick sliced
1 lb. Roma tomatoes, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 tsp Creole seasoning
2 thyme sprigs, tied together in a bundle with cooking twine
1 bay leaf
2 lbs. medium shrimp (31-40 count), peeled and deveined, tails on
2 Tbsp Tabasco
Brown rice, cooked and drained

Brown the tasso in a large Dutch oven in 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, about 8 minutes. Remove tasso to a paper-towel-lined bowl and set aside.

To make the roux: In the same Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the oil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the roux is a deep mahogany brown, about 40 minutes.

Stir in the onion, celery, okra, and peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tasso and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, Creole seasoning, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes. If serving soon, add shrimp and Tabasco and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Serve in a wide shallow bowl with 1/3 cup of cooked rice in the center. Garnish with additional hot sauce.

The gumbo can be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time and gently reheated. Add during reheating. Add additional shrimp to the gumbo when serving as leftovers.

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World’s Best Pizza Dough with Craft Beer

World’s Best Pizza Dough with Craft Beer substitutes craft pilsner or lager beer for the water Ample Bites uses in the other version of World’s Best Pizza Dough.


World’s Best Pizza Dough with Craft Beer
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes enough dough for (4) 12-inch diameter pizzas

3 cups farina 00 flour
1 1/4 cups craft lager or pilsner beer, at room temperature
1 (1/4-oz.) active dry yeast
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Microwave the beer in a small microwavable bowl on HIGH for 35 seconds. The beer should reach a temperature of 105-110F. Stir in the yeast and let stand for 5 minutes or until foamy. Add oil to the beer-yeast mixture. In a mixer, combine the flour with a healthy pinch of salt. Add the beer-yeast mixture to the flour and beat with a dough hook until thoroughly combined. Remove the dough to a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover with a moist towel and keep in a warm place, preferably an oven on Proof-setting at 100F. Let the dough rise for 1 – 1 1/2 hours before forming pizzas.

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