General Tso's Chicken by Anthony Michael Contrino

 Photo by Matt Wagemann 

Photo by Matt Wagemann 

Even though Chinese New Year festivities are winding down, the celebration continues - at least in my kitchen.  With Chinese food being so affordable in the US, it's no wonder most would rather order it than make it.  So, I challenge you to make this General Tso's Chicken recipe.  It is bursting with flavor and will make you think twice the next time you go to pick up the phone to order some.


General Tso’s Chicken

Serves 6


For the chicken:

2 egg whites

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. brown sugar

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

¾ cup cornstarch

1 tsp. baking powder

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed

Vegetable oil, for frying

White rice, for serving

Scallions, sliced, for serving 


For the sauce:

¼ cup peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

¼ cup scallions, chopped

½ cup sugar

1 tsp. ginger, grated on a microplane

¼ cup chicken broth

1 tbsp. sake

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. cornstarch


In a bowl, whisk the whites until frothy.  Add the salt, brown sugar and black pepper and whisk to combine.  Add the chicken and toss to coat in the whites.  Add the cornstarch and baking powder and toss to combine.  The mixture will become tacky.

Bring 4 cups of vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan or wok.  Carefully drop the chicken pieces, one at a time, into the hot oil and cook in batches until the chicken is golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  In a small saucepant, combine the peanut oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and scallions.  Cook over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to fry. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.  Add the ginger, chicken broth, sake, soy sauce and sesame oil and stir to combine.  In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water; mix to create a slurry.  Add the slurry to the sauce and bring to a boil.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Toss the chicken in the sauce and serve over white rice.  Garnish with chopped scallions.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Caramelized Onion by Anthony Michael Contrino


If there's one question I am asked all the time, it's "Do you cook dinner when you get home from work?".  Instead of giving them a "hells, no," I usually just explain how I get home too late to even think about dinner.  Truth is, even when I'm off, I try to avoid the kitchen unless it's for testing or recipe development.  Don't get me wrong, I love cooking.  The problem is, I'm spoiled.  I usually have an assistant or dishwasher who helps clean up so that I can move onto the next thing.  There's none of that at home.  Just me.  And, no dishwasher.  So, no, I don't really cook at home unless I can throw something together quickly and with minimum clean up.

That brings me to this post.  This recipe is EASY and the clean up is a breeze.  Sometimes I'm feeling festive and finish the dish with some pomegranate seeds.  They add a pop of color and flavor, and a much needed crunch.  Toasted pine nuts are cool, too.  This dish also makes a great starter, which can easily serve 4.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Caramelized Onion //  Serves 2

8-10 ounces Butternut Squash Ravioli (I like Trader Joe's.  It comes in an 8.8 ounce package)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 Spanish onion, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons unsalted European butter

8-10 small sage leaves

1/4 cup grated pecorino, plus more for serving

2 tbsp. pomegranate seeds or toasted pine nuts, optional

Salt & freshly ground black pepper


Bring a 6 quart stock pot filled with water to a boil.  Add a generous pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and season with salt and pepper.  Sauté until they caramelize, about 10 minutes.  Add the butter and sage and swirl the pan until the butter is completely melted.  Reduce the heat to the lowest setting.

Add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.  When al dente, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta to the sauce.  Sprinkle the pecorino over the pasta.  Cook 2 minutes, tossing often.  

To plate, scoop some of the ravioli into a shallow bowl, make sure to get some onion and sage.  If using, add the pomegranate or pine nuts..  Sprinkle with some more pecorino and some freshly ground black pepper.  Serve immediately.


Special thanks to my editor, Bridgid Egan.  ;)

Gingerbread Muffins by Anthony Michael Contrino

 Photo by Matt Wagemann

Photo by Matt Wagemann

Gingerbread Muffins // Makes 1 Dozen

Every year I create a recipe to share with friends and family in lieu of a traditional Christmas card. This year, I wanted to incorporate some of my favorite winter flavors.  These muffins, laced with cinnamon, ginger and a touch of molasses, are not overly sweet and are perfect for breakfast on a cool Christmas morning.

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup candied ginger, small dice, optional
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves      
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt  
2 large eggs   
½ cup whole milk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses1 large egg white
1½ cups confectioners sugar
Sprinkles or dragées, for decorating

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-cavity cupcake mold with aluminum liners. Spread the exposed pan and liners with baking spray.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, candied ginger, cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Add the sugar, brown sugar and molasses, and whisk to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until all ingredients are combined.  

Scoop or pipe the batter into the prepared liners, filling each ¾ full.  Bake the muffins for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the muffins.  Carefully transfer to a rack and cool completely. 

To make the royal icing, combine the egg white and sugar, and stir, until a smooth, stiff frosting forms.  It should should hold a peak.  If it is too loose, add some more sugar to reach the desired consistency.  If it is too thick, add a splash of water to reach the desired consistency.  Working fast, spread the icing over the muffins and decorate with sprinkles.

Italian Wedding Soup by Anthony Michael Contrino

Nothing makes me happier than stepping outside in the morning and being jarred awake by brisk air.  If I could live in a hoodie, I'd be a happy camper.  

After a long day in the studio, I love coming home to my apartment, lighting the fireplace and warming up some leftover soup.  This is one of my favorite soups, and I make it by the vat.  If you are going to freeze the leftovers, cook the pasta separately and do not add it to the pot of soup, otherwise it will get mushy.

PS.  Sorry for the lack of a picture.  I was too hungry to set up a shot!! ;)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 1/2 cups carrot medallions, about 8 carrots

2 1/2 cups sliced celery, about 6  celery stalks

2 1/2 cups chopped white onion, about 2 large onions

10 cloves garlic, sliced

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1-1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 quarts vegetable stock

4 sprigs fresh thyme

Mini Meatballs, recipe follows

1/2 pound small pasta

1 bunch kale, stems removed, ripped to chunks

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pecorino cheese, for serving

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the carrots, celery and onion and sauté until they begin to caramelize, stirring often, about 15-20 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté and additional 2 minutes.  Add the red pepper flakes and tomato paste; stir until the paste is fully incorporated.  Add the stock and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Add the meatballs and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 1 hour.  Add the pasta and kale and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve with grated pecorino cheese.

Mini Meatballs // Makes approximately 3 dozen

1 pound 80/20 ground beef

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 egg

1/4 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until fully combined.  Roll the meat into balls the size of a gum ball. 

FOOD FINDS: Some of the Country's Best Restaurants by Anthony Michael Contrino

Travel BLOG.jpg

I've been lucky enough to work in some of my favorite cities this summer.  Whenever I travel, I make it a rule to try as many new restaurants as I can.  Luckily, I haven't been disappointed!  Here are some of my faves, ranging from no-frills breakfast joints to fine dining - there's something for everyone!


While in LA, I stayed in an AirB&B and the host left, as most do, an informative packet with local attractions, info and food recommendations,  Cafe Jane was on the list.  Featuring breakfast, lunch, and coffee options, this spot is as casual as it gets, but the food is on point.  Everything is made to order and fresh, fresh, fresh.  DO NOT skip the bacon - it's crack!! If you're not hungry, the coffee here, alone, is worth the visit.

FAVE DISH: 2x2x2 (2 eggs, your way, 2 strips of bacon and 2 pancakes)


In my opinion, the Vegas food scene is as good as it gets.  You can find whatever you want, pretty much when ever you want it.  I ventured off the strip to Desert Shores near Summerlin to try Americana.  Full disclosure:  My cousin Joe grew up with the executive chef/owner, Stephen Blandino, so we wanted to see what the Staten Island native had up his sleeve.  Having worked at some of the best restaurants in town, Chef Blandino knows his way around the kitchen.  Each dish is meticulously conceptualized, prepared and plated.  While this restaurant is by definition a fine dining establishment, eating at Americana will not set you back as much as its competitors on The Strip.   Also, contact the restaurants for specials - they'll even pick you up (on their dime) via Uber, so that you can enjoy a peaceful meal away from the strip.

FAVE DISH: Compressed Watermelon Salad with Watercress, Burrata, Heritage Tomatoes


I almost hate to share this joint with the world - it's that good!  Chris, the owner, and all-round good guy, knows how to make a pie.  After all, he did learn from his brother who owns the celebrity-filled post, Lucali.  While Lucali is AMAZING, it's not worth the crazy wait (and not always friendly waitstaff,) unless you are desperate to see Beyonce.  Anyway, the pizza is banging, but the calzone will make you hear angelic voices.  You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu, just bring cash because credit cards are a no-no here.



I came across this restaurant by accident.  Located in the Omni Hotel, Kitchen Notes is a southern-inspired restaurant serving favorites like Fried Green Tomatoes, Fried Chicken (by the bucket) and Shrimp and Grits.  Not only do they source local ingredients, this is the only joint in Nashville with a biscuit bar.  Oh, those tasty biscuits!

FAVE DISH: Rustic Meatloaf with Braised Green Beans, Whipped Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy


This is possibly my favorite restaurant in Chicago.  I need to go whenever I'm in The Windy City.  Chef Mindy Segal is a James Beard Award Winning Pastry Chef.  While her desserts (and hot chocolate, of course!) are drool-worthy, she knows her way around the savory kitchen.  The menu is seasonal and Mindy sources as many local products as possible.  The only things that seem to never vanish from the menu - because they're AMAZING - are the Mac N Cheese and Burger.

FAVE DISH: The Mac N Cheese.  Not only is it gooey goodness, it's probably the only restaurant that cooks their pasta al dente for a Mac N Cheese.  Pair with a seasonal salad and have whatever your server recommends for dessert!

Yellow Cake by Anthony Michael Contrino

So, I wasn't going to share this one on my site.  I figure, I should probably save some recipes exclusively for my cookbook, but this one is too good to shut away.  When I tell you that I have spent years trying to perfect a yellow cake recipe, I, unfortunately, am not exaggerating.  

The problem is, if it doesn't sort of taste like it came out of a box, people just don't like from-scratch yellow cake.  This yellow cake is super buttery, like pound cake, but less dense.  And, while it may be reminiscent of the boxed stuff, it surely doesn't have the chemicals, preservatives and weird aftertaste.  


2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for greasing

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 oz. European or European-style butter, softened (DO NOT skimp!), plus more for greasing

1-3/4 cups sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup whole milk

½ cup buttermilk 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt some butter and brush it generously into a bundt pan.  Coat the butter with flour and shake off any excess.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to combine.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, allowing each to incorporate before adding the next.  When all three eggs have been added, add the vanilla extract and mix to incorporate.  

Combine the milk and buttermilk.

Add half the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix on low speed.  Drizzle in the milk mixture and mix until it is almost completely combined.  Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low until all ingredients come together.  

Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Smooth the top with a small spatula and bang on the counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake until golden brown, and a cake tester comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

Cool for 20 minutes before flipping onto a cooling rack.  Cool completely.  Wrap well with plastic wrap until ready to serve.


1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons whole milk

Combine all ingredients and mix well to create a smooth glaze.  The finished product should be relatively thick, but still run slightly.  If it is too loose, add a tad more sugar.  Use glaze immediately.  Allow the glaze to set before serving.

Roasted Corn Carbonara by Anthony Michael Contrino

 Photo by Andrea Patton Photography

Photo by Andrea Patton Photography

Sit the 'eff down for this one - it's THAT yum!  When we were testing and shooting this recipe, we couldn't get enough of this creamy, but light sauce.  The roasted corn adds a subtle sweetness and smokiness that dances in your mouth with the sharp cheese, salty pancetta and earthy sage.  Dramatic, huh?  

To roast your own corn, you'll need about 4 ears.  Don't be afraid to char it up.  If you'd like to omit this step, you can find frozen roasted corn at Trader Joe's.  Be sure to fully defrost it in the fridge the night before.  It may seem like there's a lot of process going on in this recipe, but everything is quick and easy.  Be sure to toss the linguini as soon as it hits the sauce to avoid scrambled eggs.

Roasted Corn Carbonara // Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces pancetta, diced

1/4 cup fresh sage leaves

2 cups roasted corn kernels

1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving

4 large egg yolks

1 pound linguini

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until crispy.  Transfer the pancetta to a plate, leaving the hot oil in the skillet.  Add the sage and cook until crispy.  Remove the sage leaves and transfer to the plate with the pancetta.  Reserve the cooking oil and rendered fat.

Meanwhile, bring a stockpot, filled with water, to a rolling boil.  Add 2 heaping tablespoons salt and allow the water to return to a rolling boil.  Add the linguine and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, puree the roasted corn and pecorino.  When the pasta is halfway cooked,  add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water and process until creamy.  Add up to an additional 2 tablespoons of the pasta water, if needed.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and whisk.  While whisking, drizzle in the reserved oil from the pancetta.  Add the pancetta, sage and roasted corn puree and mix to combine.  

When the pasta is done, use a pair of tongs to remove the pasta and add it to the bowl with the roasted corn mixture.  Toss immediately to coat the pasta and cook the egg.  Serve with some freshly ground pepper and a sprinkling of pecorino cheese.  


Place the 



S'mores Semifreddo by Anthony Michael Contrino

 Photo by Matt Wagemann. 

Photo by Matt Wagemann. 

Someone once asked me why I was addicted to s'mores.  Honestly, I rarely eat a traditional s'more.  In fact, I am not a huge chocolate fan.  I'd rather have some graham crackers slathered in marshmallow creme.  That's why most of my s'mores recipes are light on chocolate.  In this case, feel free to double up on the chocolate chips, and go crazy with the chocolate sauce if it makes you feel better about life. 

If I was a basic bitch, I would've called this a no-churn ice cream cake, but the pastry chef in me won't allow that.  When it comes to the toasting of the 'mallows, go to town.

S'more's Semifreddo // Serves 8

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

1-3/4 cups heavy whipping cream

8 graham crackers, crumbled, divided

1 ½ cups mini marshmallows, torched, room temperature

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Chocolate sauce, for serving

Line a 9x5 loaf pan with heavy duty (or doubled up) aluminum foil on all sides.  Be sure to leave a sufficient amount of overhang.  (This is how you'll get the cake out later!)

In a large bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, vanilla and salt; set aside.

In another large bowl whip the cream to stiff peaks.  Add half the whipped cream to the condensed mixture and fold to incorporate.  Add the remaining cream, half of the graham crumbles, the marshmallows and chocolate chips and fold until all ingredients are fully combined.

To assemble, scatter half of the remaining graham crumbs in the bottom of the prepared loaf pan.  Pour the semifreddo mixture into the loaf pan.  Smooth out the top with an offset spatula and top with the remaining graham crumbs.  Freeze overnight.

When ready to serve, carefully pull the semifreddo from the loaf pan, using the excess aluminum foil.  Gently pull the foil away from the semifreddo.  Slice as you would a loaf cake.  Drizzle the top of the semifreddo with chocolate sauce.  Serve immediately.


 Photo by Matt Wagemann

Photo by Matt Wagemann



Oven-Roasted Summer Vegetables by Anthony Michael Contrino

Many people don't like to turn their oven on during the summer.  I do.  It ensures that the air conditioning will kick on, and, while my kitchen may be slightly warm, I'll be able to see my breath in the living room.

Anyways, roasting vegetables intensifies their flavor and the light caramelization brings out their sweet side.  When in the height of their prime, these vegetables do not need much, just some good extra virgin olive oil and some herbs.  

You can eat this dish hot out of the oven, warm, at room temperature, or even refrigerated.  If you can't find the mini versions of these vegetables, you can use the larger, more common size.  Try to find the smallest vegetables possible, as they'll be less seedy and bitter.  Just cut the vegetables into large batons or sticks.  Finally, if you're feeling bougie, garnish with some zucchini flowers.

Oven-Roasted Summer Vegetables // Serves 4

8 ounces baby eggplant, tops removed and halved lengthwise 

8 ounces baby zucchini, tops removed and halved lengthwise 

8 ounces mini cherry tomatoes, on the vine

1/2 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 large sprigs thyme

Salt and pepper

Parsley, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the eggplant in a casserole dish.  Add 1/4 cup of the oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the zucchini with 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Carefully coat the tomatoes with the remaining oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When the eggplant has cooked for 15 minutes, add the zucchini and thyme and toss well.  Place the tomatoes on top and roast an additional 15 minutes.  

Before serving, sprinkle with some fresh black pepper and chopped parsley.


Watermelon & Burrata Salad by Anthony Michael Contrino

I am not the biggest fan of summer.   I'm not sure why people enjoy the extreme heat, humidity, bugs and allergies.  But, since I'm stuck having to deal with it, I might as well try to make the best of it.  Cue: watermelon.  It is one of my favorite fruits, and I could easily eat a half of one.  

This salad is as refreshing as it's going to get.  Sometimes I do crazy shit, like making a chevron pattern out of fruit.  You do not need to do this.  Using a melon baller to create spheres is cool.  Even easier, cut the melon into chunks and call it a day.

Watermelon & Burrata Salad // Serves 2

4 thick slices ripe watermelon (I used a combo of golden and red, but you do you.)

1 burrata (4- or 8-ounce will work great)

1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup arugula micro greens, for serving (Baby arugula works great, too!)

Balsamic Glaze, for serving

Cut the watermelon into slices and line on a platter or large plate.  Alternatively, cut the watermelon into 3/4" cubes and place in a serving bowl.  Top the watermelon with the burrata.  Break the salt with your fingers and sprinkle it over the entire salad.  Sprinkle the pine nuts and micro greens over the salad and drizzle with some balsamic glaze.




Sangria Shooters by Anthony Michael Contrino

Red, white and blue day is almost upon us.  (I have to stop watching Sausage Party...)  If you'd like to be the poolside hero this Fourth, this recipe is for you.  

Not only are these little guys cute and fun - they are tasty AF.  And, it literally takes 5 minutes to make them.  What better way to celebrate 'Merica?!

Sangria Shooters // Makes approximately 2 dozen

1 pound mixed berries (I used blueberries, blackberries and raspberries)

1 package cherry jello

1 cup sangria or red wine

Mint, for garnish

Divide the berries into shot glass-sized plastic cups.  

In a small saucepan, bring one cup of water to a boil.  Add the cherry jello powder and whisk to combine.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the sangria; whisk to combine.

Pour the liquid over the fruit.  Refrigerate the shooters until set, at least two hours.  Serve with fresh mint.


Garden Mule by Anthony Michael Contrino

 Photo by Matt Wagemann

Photo by Matt Wagemann

Summer is around the corner.  Have you even thought about this years go-to poolside drink?  No worries; here it is.  This bad boy is as delicious as it is refreshing - just try not to drink too many!

GARDEN MULE // Makes 1 cocktail

2 heaping tablespoons blueberries

Small bunch of basil leaves

Juice of 1 lime

1 shot vodka (1 ½ fluid ounces)

½ cup ginger beer, approximately

Lime, for garnish

Basil for garnish

Blueberries, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the blueberries, basil and lime juice. Add 1 heaping cup of ice and the vodka; shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Fill a Copper Mug with ice. Strain the vodka mixture into the Copper Mug. Top with the ginger beer.  Garnish with lime, basil and blueberries.

 Photo by Matt Wageman

Photo by Matt Wageman

Calamari by Anthony Michael Contrino

 Photo by Matt Wagemann

Photo by Matt Wagemann

I'm pretty sure every single one of my family parties starts with a heaping plate of calamari - or as Sicilian-Americans call it, gah-la-mahd.  (C's are often pronounced as G's in Sicilian dialects.)  However, it is rare that we make them at home.  Aside from having to fry, they are quite possibly one of the easiest dishes to make.  Most supermarkets and seafood stores already take care of the cleaning, so all you have to do is some slicing and frying.

Fried Calamari // Serves 4 

1 pound squid with tentacles, cleaned, bodies cut into 1/2” rounds, patted dry

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Flakey sea salt, for serving

Lemons, for serving

Marinara sauce, for serving

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Canola oil, for frying

Fill a heavy bottomed stock pot with a few inches of the canola oil.  Bring the oil to 350 degrees.  (If you have a thermometer, now is the time to use it.)  

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper; mix. Toss the squid in the flour mixture. Shake off any excess.  Fry the squid in small batches until light golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer the squid onto a plate lined with paper towels.  Season the calamari with sea salt.  Plate the calamari and serve with lemons and marinara sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley.

 Photo by Matt Wagemann

Photo by Matt Wagemann

Brunch: French Toast Sundae by Anthony Michael Contrino

French Toast is one of the things my mom would make for us growing up.  She had a heavy hand when adding the cinnamon to the custard base - and so do I.  I figured, why not kick it up a notch and transform this breakfast favorite into a sundae.  It's a perfect ending to any meal!

 Photo Courtesy of Matt Wagemann

Photo Courtesy of Matt Wagemann

French Toast Sundae // Serves 6

2 cups half and half
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 loaf challah bread, sliced into 1” pieces
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Maple syrup, for serving
Chopped walnuts, for serving
Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat a griddle over medium heat.

In a large bowl, combine the half and half, eggs, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. Whisk to combine. Quickly dunk the challah slices into the egg mixture, being sure to fully submerge. Brush the griddle with some butter. Place the bread onto the griddle and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

To serve, cut two pieces of french toast in half and line in a sundae boat or bowl. Top with vanilla ice cream and some chopped walnuts. Drizzle with maple syrup and garnish with whipped cream and more maple syrup. 

 Photo Courtesy of Matt Wagemann

Photo Courtesy of Matt Wagemann

Porchetta by Anthony Michael Contrino

Looking for a showstopper to serve at your next dinner party?  This is it.  Don't be alarmed by the lengthy cooking time - there's not much to do.  Have your butcher butterfly the meat and the majority of the heavy labor is taken care of.  Serve with potatoes roasted with the same ingredients in the meat rub.  The porchetta will slice like any old pork roast.  If you want more of that pulled pork texture, drop the oven temp to 300 and cook two hours longer, adding the lager after 4 hours.


1 whole pork shoulder, bone removed and butterflied (6-7 pounds) 1/2 cup fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup garlic, minced

2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 bottles lager

Preheat oven to 325.

In a small bowl, combine the sage, rosemary, garlic, orange zest, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and 1/4 of the olive oil. stir to combine.

Place the pork shoulder onto a cutting board, skin side down. Season generously with salt and pepper. Spread the rub evenly over the meat. Roll the pork up and fasten with twine. Place the roast onto the cooking rack of a roasting pan. Drizzle the pork with the remaining olive oil and rub to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 2 hours.

Pour the lager over the pork. Cook for another 4 hours, basting every 20 minutes or so. Remove the roast from the oven; rest for 10 minutes. Pour the sauce into gravy boat. Slice the porchetta into 1/4” rounds and serve with the pan sauce. 

S'mores Icebox Cake by Anthony Michael Contrino

Icebox cake may be the most underrated dessert out there, but what's not to love - some kind of cookie layered with some kind of cream!  This version is the lovechild of fireside s'mores and old school icebox cake.  As easy as this recipe is to make, it does require time.  I recommend making the cakes the day before so graham crackers disintegrate into the marshmallow whipped cream.  While you can use store-bought chocolate fudge, I've included my recipe, which is full of chocolatey goodness.

S'mores Icebox Cake

Makes 8 Individual Cakes

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup marshmallow creme (AKA Fluff)

12 graham crackers, halved

Mini marshmallows, for garnish

Chocolate fudge, for serving, recipe follows

Whip the whipping cream and marshmallow creme in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until firm peaks form.  Transfer to a piping tip fitted with a round tip.  To assemble, pipe 12 mounds onto a graham half.  Place another half over the cream, barely pushing the cracker to keep in place.  Pipe another layer of cream and then add another graham half.  Pipe one final top layer of cream.  Repeat until all eight cakes are built.  Refrigerate at least six hours, preferably overnight.

When ready to serve, place a handful of mini marshmallows over the top layer of cream.  Use a torch to char the marshmallows, being careful to not melt the cream.  Drizzle chocolate fudge over the marshmallows and serve immediately.

Chocolate Fudge Sauce

Makes approximately 2 cups

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 ounces high quality dark chocolate (58-62%)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan combine the cream, dark brown sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup and salt.  Whisk over medium-high heat, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the saucepan, until the mixture begins to boil.  Cook for 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat.  Add the chocolate and butter and whisk until melted and glossy.  Add the vanilla and whisk to combine.  

Serve warm.  Refrigerate up to one month, warming in a microwave or water bath between uses.



Bikini-Body Deviled Eggs by Anthony Michael Contrino

Looking for a snack that won't tip the scales?  This is it!  Now, while I love me some mayo, it isn't missed in this recipe.  Each deviled egg half is only THIRTY calories.  That means, if you have two halves, it is LESS calories than a plain hardboiled egg.  You're welcome.  


10 large eggs, hardboiled, cooled and peeled

2 ounces goat cheese

1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons Fage nonfat greek yogurt

1 tablespoon chives, minced

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Generous pinch Kosher salt

Micro arugula, for garnish, optional 

Halve the eggs longways.  Gently remove the yolks.  Put 4 of the yolks into a medium sized bowl, discard the remaining yolks.  Submerge the egg white halves in cold water to remove all specks of yolk.  Drain the whites on paper towels.

Meanwhile, add the goat cheese to the bowl of yolks; use a fork to mash the two together.  Add the yogurt and combine until smooth.  Add the chives, lemon zest, pepper and salt.  Stir to combine.  Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a small star tip.  

Pipe the filling into the 20 cavities.  Garnish with micro arugula and serve.

TIP: I buy my eggs hardboiled.  You can find them in pretty much every supermarket.  They are priced reasonably, and cuts the prep time to less than 10 minutes!

DISCLAIMER: If I've said it once, I've said it before - I am no nutritionist.  I use myfitnesspal to calculate the calories.  While I am confident that the numbers are accurate, I cannot be 100% sure!

Serving Size: 2 halves

Total Calories / 60

Fat / 6 grams

Carbs / 2.6 grams

Protein / 13.8 grams


Chicken Soup by Anthony Michael Contrino

There aren’t many things that make me happier than a bowl of steaming chicken soup on a cold, blistery day.  This is my favorite version of chicken soup, but it is just a guideline.  If your supermarket carries packaged soup vegetables, it is usually cheaper than buying all the individual ingredients.  The offerings vary, but the soup will be delicious either way - just make sure you have extra carrots, celery and onions on hand.  Finally, I like to add some chicken base to the broth to intensify the flavor, but if you don't have any on hand, no worries!

Chicken Soup

For the base:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 carrots, cut into chunks

2 celery stalks, cut into chunks

1 yellow onion, skin on, quartered

1 leek, cut into chunks

1 rutabaga, cubed

1 large red potato, cubed

1 small organic chicken, 4 pounds or so

1 bay leaf

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 bunch fresh parsley 

1 bunch fresh dill

1 teaspoon peppercorns

For the soup:

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds

4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon chicken base (paste), optional

Kosher salt

Ditalini, cooked to al dente

Pecorino cheese, for serving

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large stockpot.  Add the carrots, celery, onion, leek, rutabaga and potato.  Cook until the vegetables begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes.  Shimmy the chicken into the vegetables.  Add the bay leaf, thyme, parsley, dill and peppercorns.  Add cold water to the pot until it rises one-inch above the chicken.  Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 2 hours.  

Remove the pot from the heat.  Use tongs to carefully transfer the cooked chicken to a bowl.  Strain the broth into another large pot.  Discard the vegetables, herbs and spices.  (NOTE: For me chicken soup should be light and brothy, but if you prefer a slightly thicker, heartier soup, puree a cup or two of the vegetables with a little broth using an immersion blender and add to the broth.)  Shred the chicken and add to the broth; discard the bones.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and chicken base to the broth.  Simmer, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt, to taste.  (You will need an aggressive amount!)

To serve, scoop some ditalini into a serving bowl, top with the soup and garnish with a generous sprinkle of grated pecorino cheese.  

Leftover soup can be stored in tupperware containers.  Be sure to leave an inch headroom.  Cool completely before freezing up to two months or refrigerate up to 3 days.  Warm before serving.  Do not freeze with pasta in the soup, as it will become too mushy when it is reheated.  


My Perfect Brownie by Anthony Michael Contrino

If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that brownies are one of the most iconic American desserts.  What we probably won’t agree on is whether it should be cakey, chewy or fudgy. Should it have nuts or chocolate chips?  Sprinkles?  Be swirled with peanut butter?  The debate could go on FOREVER.  

When it comes to the classics, I’m a purist - no inclusions, just a finger-licking chocolatey batter.  Since chocolate is the star, it is important that you use the best you can get your hands on.  I like to use Cacao Barry’s Favorites Me-Amère, which has a 58% cocoa content.  You don’t have to be as fancy, but please DO NOT use chocolate chips. These have additives to keep the chocolate from melting into a silky puddle.  And in case you were wondering, these brownies are a little cakey, a little chewy and a little fudgy.  

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 ounces quality chocolate, 55-62% cocoa content, cut into bite-sized pieces

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1-1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8 cake pan with aluminum foil, leaving tabs to help remove the brownies after baking.  Spray the foil with cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; mix well.  Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and butter in a large bowl, over a double boiler.  Once fully melted, remove from the heat.  Add the oil and stir to combine.  Add the sugar and light brown sugar and mix to combine.  Add the eggs, egg yolk and vanilla, and whisk for 2 minutes until the batter is glossy.  Add the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula, just long enough to combine all ingredients.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake until a cake tester shows moist crumbs, about 35 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring the brownies to a cooling rack.  Carefully remove the foil.  Cut into 9 squares.

Pastrami & Provolone Stromboli with Caramelized Onions by Anthony Michael Contrino

Stromboli, a cousin of pizza and calzones, and, in my opinion, the easiest of the three to execute perfectly.  A stromboli is pizza dough rolled with whatever you want.  WHATEVER.  YOU.  WANT.  The "traditional" is usually jam-packed with the kind of stuff you'd find in an Italian hero - ham, salami, sopressata, hot sausage, etc...  This variation pays homage to one of my favorite sandwiches - Steamed Pastrami with Provolone and Caramelized Onions.  To ace this recipe, be sure to really caramelize the onions.  The sweetness pairs perfectly with the spices of the pastrami and the mellow flavor of the cheese.  

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 medium yellow onions, sliced into thin half moons

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 store-bought pizza dough

3/4 pound pastrami

3/4 pound provolone cheese

Honey mustard sauce, for serving, optional

Make the caramelized onions.  Warm the olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Cool completely.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Stretch (or roll) out the pizza dough into a rectangle.  Be sure to stretch the ends of the dough; the entire sheet of dough should be slightly thinner than 1/4" in thickness.

With the long-end facing you, layer the pastrami, leaving a 1-inch "crust."  Sprinkle the caramelized onions over the pastrami.  Layer the cheese over the pastrami and onions.  Roll the dough longways to create a log, keeping the seam at the bottom.  Squeeze the dough at the sides to seal and trim off any excess dough.  Carefully transfer the log to a parchment lined baking sheet and twist the sides to create a crescent.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut 1-inch slits across the top of the dough, spacing each cut three inches.  

Bake until golden, about 35-40 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes.  Transfer the stromboli to a cutting board and slice into 1-inch pieces.  Serve hot, with honey mustard sauce, if desired.