Category Archives: How-To

Recipes from the Chicago Home Theater Festival Event on 5/2/2013

I’ve got a lot to post in coming weeks with respect to the wonderful Chicago Home Theater Festival event I hosted at my home last week, but I promised to get recipes up asap, and so here they are!

But first…a few of the many great shots from the event:




The premise of the event was that the Burlesque Butcher would both be hosting and performing, and my performance involved creating meat-based passed hors d’oeuvres, a main course of roasted fresh ham sandwiches (accompanied by a demonstration on how to carve a skin-on fresh ham plus this particular ham’s “meat story”), and a small palate-cleansing dessert (necessary after all that meat!). The festival organizers paired me with three other performers (magician Tricky Ol’ Puss, burlesque dancer McKenzie Gilliam from Les Soubrettes, and singer/songwriter Dylan Wright), and McKenzie also served as my sexy appetizer-passing assistant.

Sadly we don’t have any pics of the hors d’oeuvres part of the evening (I’ve recreated a few pics below of individual appetizers à la tv), but look at all these happy eaters in my kitchen trying pieces of crispy ham skin!



The menu:

Venison-sausage crostini with fig paste and caramelized onions
Smoked whitefish salad on radish rounds with fresh dill
Prosciutto-wrapped Medjool dates
Roast fresh ham on pretzel rolls with condiment assortment (garlic-wilted spinach, red pepper jam, caramelized onions, honey mustard, mayo)
Lemon brownies


Venison sausage crostini with fig paste and caramelized onions

(This recipe is incredibly easy–it’s mostly an assemblage of separate constituents.)


–smoked venison summer sausage (or any other kind of sausage similar to a summer sausage that does not need to be cooked and can be sliced into thin slices)
–fig paste (I like the organic brand available at Whole Paycheck in the cheese section)
–small crostini (I like the 365 brand organic “party toasts” from Whole Paycheck–yes…sometimes WP is not such a bad place, they have a few good things…and so, Whole Paycheck, you do want to be a Burlesque Butcher sponsor, right?)
–3 or 4 yellow onions
–neutral oil, like sunflower
–balsamic vinegar
–salt and pepper

1) Slice sausage into small wedges no wider than the size of your crostini (I like to cut the summer sausage into wedge-shaped pieces so that you can see the onions and fig paste below on the square toast and to give visual interest in the play between the square and the wedge shapes)
2) Make the caramelized onions:
2a) Slice 3 or 4 onions in half and then into thin slices (the thinner, the quicker they will cook)
2b) Sauté over medium heat, covered, in a couple tbsps of oil; add a dash of water if they start to dry out
2c) When nearly soft, add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, a couple tsps of sugar, and some salt and pepper; keep cooking (covered) until the onions are completely soft and translucent making sure they don’t dry out
2d) Crack the lid, and cook over low heat until all the liquid evaporates (keep a close eye on them at this point to make sure you don’t burn the sugar); taste to check for a good acid level (you should be able to taste the vinegar but not too heavily) and check seasoning—cook a bit more if you need to add more vinegar so all liquid is evaporated
3) Assemble crostini:
3a) Spread toast with a thick, even coat of fig paste
3b) Top with a thin bed of caramelized onions
3c) Place a piece of venison sausage on the top

(Note: you could garnish this further with something like a wisp of roasted red pepper or, as pictured below, dried craisins.)


Smoked whitefish salad on radish rounds with fresh dill


(Note: this “made for tv” picture was mocked up using tuna fish, as all the whitefish got eaten at the event! The original was whiter in color.)

–smoked whitefish (you can use your own smoked fish or purchase some—Costco, at least around here, often has whole ones available in vacuum-sealed bags)
–finely diced celery
–good mayonaise, please no crappy soy-based mayo (I use Hain safflower oil mayonaise—my favorite brand…yes this is shameless product placement*)
–dried dill
–onion salt
–black pepper
–lemon juice
–large radishes
–fresh dill sprigs

1) Make whitefish salad:
1a) Cut off a reasonably sized portion of the fish and flake the flesh from the bones, being very careful to remove any tiny bones; place in a mixing bowl
1b) Add the celery, enough mayo to evenly coat the fish flakes and celery (kind of like tuna-fish consistency), and add spices (dried dill, paprika, onion salt, black pepper) to taste
2) Slice the radishes into rounds crosswise about ¼” thick
3) Right before assembling, add a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice to the whitefish salad and mix in (I like to wait until just before serving as the lemon juice’s brightness wears off pretty quickly)
4) Assemble hors d’oeuvres:
4a) Spread a mound of whitefish salad on a radish round
4b) Top with a generous sprig of dill

Prosciutto-wrapped Medjool dates

(This could not be easier!)


(Yes, you could make these look a bit more appetizing with a fancy toothpick and some sort of garnish, but then you end up with a bunch of toothpick garbage…and these are so delicious just as is, in their slightly homely state of being)

–Medjool dates (Costco has value-packs of these for a great price)
–Prosciutto slices

1) Pit dates (I usually just sort of break open the dates with my fingers and push the pits out, although you could do something fancier like push them out with a skewer)
2) Wrap dates in prosciutto (I usually cut the slices in half and wrap one date with a half slice for my optimal meat-to-dried fruit ratio)
3) Cut in half for bite-sized pieces (this last step is optional, obviously, but they last much longer as passed appetizers this way!)

Roast fresh ham

(Adapted from Bruce Aidell’s Complete Book of Pork)


(And just a small feminist note…this is what a real, non-photoshopped, 5′ 7″, 127 pound, size 4 to 6 body looks like. Yes, I look chubby by magazine and fashion-industry standards. Which gives you an indication of how misleading and manipulated most commercial images of women are.)

–A non-cured “fresh” ham half (this is also called “leg of pork”—you can use either the knee (aka shank) end or the hip (aka butt) end—-but I prefer the knee/shank end because you end up with more crispy skin

1) Take a very sharp knife, like a utility knife (clean before using), and score the skin on the ham into diamond patterns; then use the tip of the knife to make tiny perforations all over the skin—this is so optimal fat can bubble out and make the skin properly crispy
2) Roast at 450 for 20 minutes; then turn the heat down to 300 and roast for 2 hours more, turning the pan around halfway through
3) Keep roasting until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees (use an instant-read meat thermometer in the thickest part (check every 20 minutes or so); keep turning pan every hour or so to ensure even cooking
4) Let ham rest for at least 30 minutes before carving, if not longer, draped loosely with foil

(Note: Many fresh ham aka leg of pork recipes suggest putting an oil rub of some sort on the surface. I’ve never really found this to be necessary. IMHO, just add complimentary flavors to the pork in the condiments and/or sauce(s).)

(Also: see a future post for how to carve a fresh ham roast!!!)

You can serve this really any which way…I like to offer small rolls and a variety of condiments so people can make little sandwiches and try out different condiment combos, but you can also slice and serve as a main course with sides (mmmmmmm homemade mac ‘n’ cheese and some sort of yummy greens). You can even make a pan gravy out of the crud in the bottom of the pan (but be prepared to drain off a lot of fat to get to useable drippings).

Some condiment ideas:

–sautéed greens of any sort (see recipe below for garlic-wilted spinach)
–red pepper jam (see recipe below)
–caramelized onions (see recipe above)
–honey mustard (either purchased or just mix some dijon with honey to taste)
–mayo (see above for my favorite brand)
–barbeque sauce of any sort, homemade or purchased
–Chinese plum sauce
–sautéed peppers and onions
–very, very thinly sliced lemons, rind-on (cuts through the fat well)

The meat, in the process of being cut up, with rolls and condiment selection:


Garlic-wilted spinach:

–olive oil
–minced garlic
–rice vinegar
–salt and pepper

1) Sauté spinach in olive oil with a tiny bit of water so the leaves don’t burn or stick to the pan
2) When spinach is starting to wilt, add garlic, salt and pepper, and a few dashes of rice vinegar
3) Cook until spinach is fully wilted

Red pepper jam

–red bell peppers
–neutral oil like sunflower oil
–rice vinegar
–salt and pepper

1) Slice peppers into thin slices or small dice
2) Saute in a bit of oil over low heat until peppers are very mushy
3) Add a couple tsp of sugar (depending on how sweet the peppers are naturally), a few dashes of rice vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste
4) Cook for a couple minutes to meld
5) Let cool, then purée in a food processor; check seasoning and add more vinegar or salt and pepper if necessary

Lemon brownies

(Ever so slightly adapted from this recipe)


(Yes, I am multi-tasking drinking wine and serving dessert…a girl needs to do what a girl needs to do toward the end of a party!)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (I use Organic Valley cultured butter…makes a HUGE difference)
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs, large
2 tbsps lemon zest
2 tbsps lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar (the fair trade, slightly brown sugar gives these a better depth of flavor)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For the tart lemon glaze:
4 tbsps lemon juice
1 rounded cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish with butter and set aside.
3. Zest and juice two lemons and set aside (if they are large lemons you can get away with juicing just one of them).
4. Beat the flour, sugar, salt, and softened butter until combined.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice until combined.
6. Pour it into the flour mixture and beat for 2 mins at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
7. Pour into baking dish and bake for 23-25 mins, should turn golden around the edges.
8. Allow to cool completely before glazing. Do not overbake, or the bars will dry.
9. Filter (aka sieve) the powdered sugar and whisk with juice.
10. Spread the glaze over the brownies with a rubber spatula and let glaze set. (The original recipe calls for glazing with half the glaze, then letting that set, then glazing with the other half, and letting that set more, but I found it just fine to glaze in one step.)
11. Cut into bars and serve.

*Shameless product placement…Hain???? Care to sponsor me??? You know you will sell so much more mayo with a lingerie-clad tattooed lady actively hawking it…

(Also note: Hain’s corporate parentage got a lot better when Heinz pulled out in 2005…)


(Yes I am doing the classic advertising “cut of the model’s head so that you can put your own head on her body” thing…mostly because I didn’t like my expression in this picture! Sadly lost the magnetic letters spelling “mom” on the fridge in the cropping…see the very top picture for such hints at my suburban mom alter ego.)

Note: Many of the lovely photos in this blog post came from the talented (and very sweet) Mark Zoetrope. Follow him here and here! (All but the three appetizer photos are his.)


Standing Rib Roast: Your NYE Party Money Shot

Holiday parties deserve showcase pieces of meat. For New Year’s Eve you might want to cook what is often considered to be the money shot of cuts–the standing rib roast (aka prime rib). The high price of a quality piece of meat like this often scares people away from cooking one (especially if you’re buying organic or pasture-raised which can run upwards of $20 per lb. so it literally can hearken back to the original definition of “money shot”).

But cooking a rib roast couldn’t be easier (and it’s usually pretty quick too, depending on the size). Here’s my how-to documented when I made one of these for Christmas dinner. The most important thing with a piece of meat like this is not to do too much–let the quality of the cut shine through and be sure to buy top-quality meat.

But first…did you ever notice how much a rib roast is shaped like a breast?

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Okay…enough digression…

First you want to let your piece of meat sit at room temperature for at least a couple hours, if not more. I know, gasp, let meat sit non-refrigerated…it’s okay. Bacteria only live on the surface of the meat, and you will be annihilating anything soon (also, if you buy quality meat from a reputable small butcher or butcher it yourself as I do, especially with grassfed beef, bacterial contamination is incredibly rare). The reason you want the meat room temperature is so that you can keep a nice rare-to-medium-rare middle, without having too deep of a fully cooked band around the edges of the roast or, alternately, having a raw center.

Just look at this beautiful piece of meat, sitting waiting to be cooked…

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This is, if not obvious, a “three-rib” roast. Standing rib roasts are usually sold by number of ribs. This one weighed 4 lbs. (and so would feed four to six people depending on their appetites and how many sides you had), but keep in mind this was from a Dexter steer, and so smaller than the usual. A typical full-size three-rib roast will feed more like 6 to 8 people. Although they sell two-rib roasts, I find them a bit too small to stand properly in the pan and you don’t get a great ratio of cooked outer part to pink inside–too much cooked part, so I’d recommend a three-rib minimum (basically a two-rib roast is just a super-fat rib steak).

(And as an aside, for those of you who like to geek out on the butchery, as I do, a standing rib roast is basically a giant chunk of the rib primal, trimmed up a bit. The rib primal is the center part of a steer’s backbone (ribs 6 through 12), the chuck being at the head end of the rib and the short loin, sirloin, and round following behind it to the tail. The biggest roast you can get is a seven-rib behemoth, which will feed a lot of people. You can get boneless rib roasts, but, in my humble opinion, this is just a giant waste of money and flavor–a standing rib roast is so easy to bone post cooking and you get so many taste benefits from cooking on the bone (plus for people who like to gnaw meat off of bones, as I do, you get that wonderfulness!).

Next, you will want to make a very simple wet rub for the roast. Preheat your oven to 450F while you make the rub. I prefer minced garlic, s & p, olive oil, and either thyme or rosemary. Keep it simple. You can even use quality garlic powder (it does exist) instead of minced garlic (did I just advocate for garlic powder on a super expensive cut of meat??? the horrors!).

So: (I think photos convey these steps just fine…)

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Then you want to rub the roast all over with the rub.

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Set it in a roasting pan that’s not too big. Depending on how the roast was butchered, you may be able to stand the roast on its rib bones so they form sort of an arch with the meat on top. I feel that this position allows more fat to drain away from the meat and for air to circulate nicely creating even cooking. However, if your roast won’t stand this way, position it so that it “stands” as best it can.

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Place the roast in the oven and roast at 450F for 20 minutes to give the outside a good sear (the bacteria-annihilation stage alluded to above). Then turn the oven down to 325F and roast for 10 minutes per lb. for rare, a bit more for medium-rare. After that start checking the internal temp with an instant-read meat thermometer (essential…don’t cook an expensive piece of meat like this without one). Insert the thermometer from the top, so as to not lose any juices through the puncture hole. I like to take mine out at 115 and let it rest for a good half hour for a perfect rare-to-medium-rare. Be sure to let the roast rest–I can’t stress this enough with any piece of meat…the juices need to settle back in or you will have dry meat.

Wow…beautiful, huh?

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(Note: you can make a jus or pan gravy from a rib roast, but I’ve found that the small ones just never yield enough drippings to make it worthwhile (especially with grassfed roasts, which seem to not drip anything at all except clear fat). A standing rib roast is a very fatty cut of meat, and there is so much fat to separate from the juices, so if you do end up with enough lovely brown stuff on the bottom of your pan, be sure to use a gravy separator to degrease the sauce.)

Then carve it! There are multiple ways to carve a standing rib roast–you can cut large, steak-thickness pieces or cut thinner slices. I prefer the latter. Either way the easiest carving technique is to separate the meat from the bones and then slice through the resulting boneless roast. You can cut between the rib bones and hand them out to those who like to gnaw on bones (provided the chine bone was cut off–in butchering geek-speak this means that part of the backbone was sawed away longitudinally so that you can cut between the ribs without encountering knife-impenetrable bone).

Okay, ready to carve (standing rib roasts are fun to do tableside, as they are much, much simpler to carve than, say, a turkey…). Have two knives ready–a boning knife and a slicing knife–and a carving fork. Position the roast so that you can slide the boning knife down between the bulk of the meat and the rib bones:

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You may need to creatively reposition the roast as you go…or just get creative with your body positioning:

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This roast had the chine bone intact (I was in a lazy butchering mood–I don’t own a power bone saw), so here’s what to do: at the bottom of the rib bones pull the meat away with your non-carving hand and curve the knife around to separate the meat from the chine and feather bones (although on this particular roast, the slaughterhouse had cut through the backbone in a way that left just tiny slivers of featherbones on the rib primal, so I just sawed them off during butchering):

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(If you have a roast with the chine removed, you’d just cut off the ribs and feather bones separately if you are going for the thin-slice technique I’m describing here. The feather bones may also have been removed by your butcher.)

Then take your now boneless roast and position it for carving thin slices. Cut through parallel to the cooked ends. Give those end pieces to people who like their meat more well-done or medium.

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Voila! Carved roast ready to put on people’s plates.

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(And yes, I am channeling the ghost of Julia Child with my wine glass in the frame!)

I plated the rib roast with sides of manchego sweet potato gratin, sautéed kale with lemon, and a cannellini bean stew with walnuts (the latter because there was a vegetarian dining with us so I needed at least one side dish that could do double duty as a protein-heavy main). Yum…

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