Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Pimiento-Collard Lasagna

© Constantine William Spyrou

One of the best ways to keep yourself thinking of new dishes and ideas is to take something you've made before and give it a new twist. It keeps things exciting and interesting, and allows you to fall back on things you know while having some innovative thought behind the dish. 

One of my favorite dishes I've ever made was the first one that ever went on this blog: the Italian Country Polenta "Sandwich". I liked this recipe because it inspired me to make more innovative fusions like the Italian-Southern blend this recipe had, whilst keeping a great balance of flavors through multiple layers in the dish. The other day, I was thinking about that dish and how good it would be as a lasagna. This led to me coming up with this recipe. 

This lasagna will have all of the elements of the original recipe, but done from scratch and with a few twists. Instead of wild arugula, however, I will be adding a vinegary and peppery note with some braised collard greens as part of the lasagna. The basil-mascarpone mixture will be substituted for a basil-ricotta-marinara spread. Instead of polenta encasing the amazing flavors, I'll be utilizing lasagna sheets and some extra Parmesean to create an irresistible dish!

Recipe for the fillings makes 3 lasagnas in a 2-quart baking dish that can each serve up to 12 people. We will be making one lasagna for this.

For the Ricotta Mixture:

3 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to season

For the Pimiento Cheese: 

1/2 pound grated Pepper Jack Cheese
1/2 pound grated White Cheddar Cheese
1/2 pound shaved/grated Parmigiano Reggiano
4 ounces diced pimientos
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Pepper to season (no salt because the parmigiano reggiano provides enough saltiness to the cheese)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Green Tabasco (or your favorite hot sauce)
2/3 cup mayonnaise

For the Collard Greens:

2 pounds collard greens
1/2 pound ham hock, whole
1/2 gallon chicken stock
Salt and pepper to season
1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup dried oregano
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 cloves minced garlic

For the Italian Sausage:

1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons coriander
Salt and pepper to season

Additional Lasagna Ingredients:

12 lasagna sheets, dried
1 cup shaved parmigiano Reggiano
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup marinara sauce


1. Combine the ingredients for the Ricotta mix together well, and set aside for lasagna construction.

2. Do the same thing for the Pimiento Cheese mixture.

3. Combine all of the ingredients for the Italian sausage, then fry off in a hot pan with some olive oil until fully cooked, about 10-12 minutes.

4. Add your chicken stock to a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add in the white vinegar, ham hock, spices for the collard greens, and collard greens, and cook down for about 45 minutes or until the ham hock is basically disintegrated and the collard greens are tender.

5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

6. Cover the baking dish with olive oil, followed by half of the marinara sauce. Add a half pound of your ricotta mixture and flatten out to fully cover the baking dish. Sprinkle a quarter pound of the Italian Sausage over the top, then place 6 lasagna sheets over the top. 6 normal lasagna sheets should cover the baking dish in this recipe.

7. Place a half pound of the Pimiento cheese over the lasagna sheet layer, flattening out once again. Add a half pound of the collard greens and a half pound of the Italian sausage over the top, then place a lasagna sheet over the top.

8. Top the lasagna sheet with a quarter pound of the ricotta mixture. Cover with the remaining marinara sauce, and dot with the halved tomatoes and parmigiano reggiano.

9. Cover the tray with tin foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover, and bake for another 20 minutes.

10. Cut the lasagna into portions, and serve with fresh basil if you wish.

This dish keeps the great elements of the Italian-Southern fusion of the polenta sandwich, but also adds some new elements such as a vinegary note from the collards to cut through the rich lasagna. The fresh and bright tomatoes and basil as a garnish also add a new acidic note to the dish, which has a good balance of salty, spicy, and savory within it.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Inside-Out Arancini

© Constantine William Spyrou

A lot of times for me, putting creative twists has included incorporating different cuisines and utilizing a fusion spin on classic dishes. However, what truly makes a dish masterful is if it is a re-conception of a dish while not adding elements of a new cuisine. This what I hope to do today with this recipe: literally inverting an Italian classic, Arancini.

Arancini are appetizers in Italian cuisine. They consist of deep fried balls of risotto with cheese and meat stuffed into the inside. In this recipe, I'll be taking the rice and placing it on the inside of a meatball instead. No deep-frying required because of the already solid outer shell of the baked meatball, this is healthier but interesting spin on this savory Italian appetizer!

Recipe makes 4 Arancini, each capable of serving one person.

For the Rice:

1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup fontina cheese, shredded
2 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, shredded
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to season

For the Meat:

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground sweet Italian sausage
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup red wine (plus another cup for the roasting tray)
2 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp toasted fennel seed
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to season
(chicken stock for the roasting tray)


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
1. Combine together all of the ingredients for the rice and set aside. This works great if the rice is still warm so that the cheese can begin to melt and thicken the mixture.
2. Combine together all of the ingredients for the meat mix well. Take about a fourth of the mixture and flatten it out in your hand.
3.  Add a fourth of the rice as a scoop into the center of the meat, then wrap the meat around the rice ball to form a ball shape. Repeat for each meatball to form 4.
4. Place the meatballs into a roasting tray. Add the cup of red wine for the roasting tray, and add chicken stock to cover about a third of the meatball.
5. Cover the roasting tray with tinfoil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the tinfoil and bake for another 15-20 minutes.
6. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce and more Parmigiano cheese as a garnish.

This takes a lot of the classic flavors in an Italian meatball and mixes it with the rich, risotto component of arancini. Balance to the richness of the dish is brought by having tomatoes in each layer to provide much-needed acidity, and steaming the meatballs in wine and chicken stock will just help deepen the flavor and melt the cheese down, creating an amazing experience!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Spicy Barbeque Chicken Sliders with Lemon-Apple-Fennel Slaw (BBQ Weekend Special, Part 4)

© Constantine William Spyrou

Being able to cook in college sometimes means taking what you have in your fridge and doing what you can to transform it into something delicious. When I came up with this recipe, I had a lot of leftover dinner rolls, some cabbage, a couple of apples, and some chicken thighs. The result was a great spin on barbeque that had an incredible balance, from the savory yet spicy chicken to the cool, refreshing slaw and sharpness of the cheddar cheese. These sliders are great to make for parties or just as a meal! In the picture at the end of this recipe, they are served with a classic potato salad, but any side dish you prefer works great with it!

Recipe makes 12-15 sliders and serves up to 5 people.

For the Slaw:

4 cups shredded cabbage
1 apple, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons toasted fennel seeds
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon English yellow mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to season

For the Sliders:

2 pounds chicken thighs, cut into 3-4 ounce pieces
1 portion Texas Dry Rub
2 tablespoons habanero hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
12-15 dinner rolls, cut in half sandwich style
1/4 pound cheddar cheese, thinly sliced


1. Rub the chicken thighs down with the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, and honey. Mix into your dry rub, then let marinate for at least 3 hours.
2. As the chicken marinates, prepare your slaw by making the vinagrette first. Whisk together your olive oil, mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, and half of your lemon juice until well combined. Season to taste, then add to your cut apples and cabbage.
3. Add in the rest of your lemon juice, the toasted fennel, and a touch more seasoning to taste, then mix well and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let the flavors come together.
4. Grill your chicken thigh pieces for about 2-3 minutes on each side, then let it rest. As the chicken rests, toast the bread on the same grill that the chicken was on to allow it to get some of the flavor.
5. Build your sliders by adding slaw to the bottom part of the roll. Place your chicken thigh piece on top, then finish with a thin slice of cheddar cheese and the top part of the roll. Serve with your favorite side dish!

The finished sliders. Delicious!

These sliders have a strong bold flavor from the chicken, but its balanced out by the sharp cheddar and cooling effect that the slaw has on the dish. Together, it makes a really delicious slider that you have to try!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe, and this entire BBQ Weekend Special! Let me know what you think and what you would change. As always, if you make any recipe at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

NEW RECIPE: Texas Style Smoked Brisket (BBQ Weekend Special, Part 3)

© Constantine William Spyrou

Smoked meat has always been of interest to me ever since I started looking into the barbeque scene a few years ago. I love the intense flavor it adds to meat and the bark that accumulates on the outer surface, which has the most amazing flavor (and therefore makes me a gigantic fan of burnt ends). Out of all of the cuts of meat that can be possibly smoked, my favorite has to be Texas-style brisket. It's got an amazing, meaty texture but is still incredibly tender. This comes from the long periods of time it spends on the smoker and the rendering of the fat cap on top that just adds so much flavor back into the brisket. 

I've played with a couple of brisket recipes in my head, and tried this one out on my family about a year ago. It was a huge success, so I've kept it as a mainstay for my barbequing recipes. This is a classic Texas approach to beef brisket, utilizing my dry rub recipe from earlier as well as basting with apple juice. 

For wood choices, I like hickory the best for this particular recipe, because it helps inject a little more sweetness into the meat. However, apple, cherry, oak, and even mesquite all work great for smoking brisket. Try playing with it to your style and see how it turns out! 

Recipe will serve up to 20 people.


1 6-pound cut of beef brisket, fat cap left on
2 cups apple cider vinegar
3 portions of Texas Dry Rub
2 cups of apple juice


1. Combine the apple cider vinegar and Texas Dry Rub together, then add to your brisket, massaging everywhere generously with the marinade. Let sit in the fridge for at least 12 hours to marinate.
2. Assemble/prepare your smoker and set it to a medium-high setting, about 200-225 degrees Fahrenheit. Place in the wood of your choice once the fire is started inside.
3. Place your marinated brisket into the smoker, and cook at the 200-225 degrees setting for 8-9 hours, or roughly an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half per pound of brisket. Check up on the smoker regularly to keep the temperature constant, and add in more wood as needed.
4. Every 2-3 hours, make sure to baste the brisket with your apple juice.
5. When the brisket is done, let it rest for 20 minutes. Remove the fat cap, carve into 1/2 inch-thick slices, and serve!

This brisket has a great level of sweetness to it from the basting of the apple juice that helps create an amazing bark. The complexity of spices makes it truly taste like barbeque, as does the intense flavor of the hickory smoke that penetrates through a good portion of the meat and gives it a unique flavor.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)