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.

Shrimp Toasts with Sesame Seeds

Shrimp Toasts with Sesame Seeds are a dim sum-style appetizer that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser and (our secret) it is unbelievable easy to prepare.


Shrimp Toasts with Sesame Seeds
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of BonAppetit.com, May 2016)

Makes 20 appetizer servings

2 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp, any size
1/3 cup hot chili paste
1 Tbsp finely grated lemongrass
1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
Kosher salt
1 4-ounce jar toasted sesame seeds
2 scallions
10 pieces white bread, crusts trimmed
Vegetable oil

In a food processor, pulse the shrimp, chili paste, lemongrass, ginger and a pinch of salt until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

Slice scallions on a bias into 2-inch-long pieces.

Dry the bread slices in the oven at 200F for 10 minutes. Spread a heavy layer of shrimp paste on one side of each bread slice. Pour the sesame seeds onto a plate. Press the shrimp paste topped side of each bread slice into the sesame seeds.

Heat about 1 cup of oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. When oil shimmers, working in batches, place the toasts shrimp-side down in the hot oil for 2 minutes, then flip and fry for 1 minute until the toast is golden brown. Remove to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet or wire rack. Repeat until all toasts are fried.

To serve, slice diagonally and arrange them on a platter topped with the sliced scallions.

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Pale Ale Beef and Lamb Burgers

Pale Ale Beef and Lamb Burgers are really moist and juicy and the seasoning gives them a kefta kabob-like flavor. This recipe makes six 1/4-pound burgers. Once the patties are formed extras can be frozen for future use if you aren’t planning to cook them all right away.


Pale Ale Beef and Lamb Burgers
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 6

1 lb. ground chuck
1/2 lb. ground lamb
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 tsp Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup craft brewed pale ale, at room temperature

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Form six 1/4-pound patties. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the patties to firm up.

Heat grill for medium-high direct grilling. Season each of the patties with a pinch of salt. Grill for 3 minutes per side, turning once, for medium-rare. Serve immediately with your favorite toppings.

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Sixteen-Spice-Rubbed Chicken Breast with Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce

Sixteen-Spice-Rubbed Chicken Breast with Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce matches spicy grilled poultry with tangy sauce to create a flavor explosion. The sauce is basically a very rich honey-mustard vinaigrette with very coarse pepper in it. Serve with grilled vegetables or over a bed of greens.


Sixteen-Spice-Rubbed Chicken Breast with Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay’s Grill It, 2008)

Serves 4

4 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp chile powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp cayenne
Kosher salt
1/4 cup canola oil

Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce
(Makes 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
4 tsp honey
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Combine all of the sauce ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. With the processor running slowly drizzle in oil until fully combined and emulsified. Keep at room temperature if using immediately. Refrigerate for 2 – 3 days in advance. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

To make the rub: Combine all of the spices in a small bowl whisking to thoroughly combine.

Heat grill for medium-high direct grilling.

Bring chicken breasts up to room temperature and pat dry. Brush both sides of each breast with oil and season with salt. Cover both sides of each breast with the rub and let stand for 15 minutes before grilling. Grill for about 4 minutes per side, until golden brown and slightly charred. Remove to a platter and tent the chicken with foil. Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.

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Broiled Salmon and Scallions

Broiled Salmon and Scallions uses a salty, citrusy marinade to par-cook the salmon before browning them under the broiler. Using this recipe the salmon can also be grilled or cedar planked. Serve with sautéed spinach and rice or couscous.



Broiled Salmon and Scallions
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 4

4 8 oz. salmon fillets (skin-on or skinless)
Juice from 6 medium limes
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp lower sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 Fresno pepper, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1 bunch of scallions, cleaned, root end trimmed and halved lengthwise
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine lime juice, garlic cloves, soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oil, honey and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Whisk thoroughly to combine.

Bring salmon fillets up to room temperature and pat dry. Place the salmon in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pour half of the marinade over the salmon and massage to coat all sides of the fish. Press as much air out of the bag as possible. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before broiling. Meanwhile, toss the scallions with the remaining oil and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the salmon from the marinade. Season the fish with salt.

Heat broiler and set rack 4-inches below the heating element. Broil the scallions until slightly charred. Place the salmon fillets on top of the scallions and brush them with the reserved marinade. Scatter chiles over the salmon and broil until the edges of the fillets are beginning to char, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Breakfast Pizza with Dijon Mustard Sauce

Breakfast Pizza with Dijon Mustard Sauce doesn’t necessarily have to be served for breakfast but given the ingredients it certainly could be. Using Dijon mustard under the meat, greens and cheese gives this pizza a unique but somehow not strange flavor.


Breakfast Pizza with Dijon Mustard Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes (4) 12-inch-diameter pizzas

2 lbs. pizza dough divided into 4 equal pieces
8 Tbsp Dijon mustard, divided
1 lb coarsely grated Romano and mozzarella, divided
1 lb thinly sliced ham or prosciutto cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
Bunch of greens (such as, spinach leaves, flat leaf parsley, sage, and or basil leaves)
Dozen large fresh eggs
Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven and baking stone or steel for 475F convection baking.

Working in 4 batches, spread an even layer of mustard over a dough that has been rolled out to 12-inches in diameter. Top with a quarter of the ham strips, add a quarter of the greens, top with a quarter of the grated cheese. Brush the rim of the pizza dough with oil. Crack three eggs near the middle of the pizza. Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the egg whites are set. Serve warm.

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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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