BUFFALO CHICKEN BURGERS

I love Buffalo everything. Even the Bills! Of course it started with chicken wings but those flavors are so good in other preparations. I got the idea to do a buffalo chicken burger after I watched Rachel Ray do “Chicken Patty Parmesan.” If you can make chick parm burgers, why not a buffalo chicken burger? There are a couple of tricks to making chicken or turkey burgers stay together on the grill. One is you need some kind of “binder” – in this case dried bread crumbs and the butter in the buffalo sauce. The other is a really hot grill or frying pan to sear the burger quickly so you can actually flip it.

Ingredients:

1 lb ground chicken breast

3 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs

½ cup blue cheese crumbles or 2 tbs parmesan if you’re not a fan of blue cheese

3 tablespoons buffalo wing sauce, plus more for drizzling (Recipe to follow)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Ranch or blue cheese dressing

Instructions:

Preheat your grill or skillet to high. If you’re grilling, let your grill pre-heat for about 20 minutes.

In a large bowl combine the ground chicken, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, seasoning, cheese, and buffalo wing sauce. Mix until just combined. Form into patties. I do either 3 large (1/3 pound) patties or 4 medium (1/4 pound) patties.

Grill or pan-fry patties until brown on both sides but not quite cooked through about 4 minutes on one side, 3 on the other. Remove from the grill or pan and wrap tightly with foil. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. The burgers will finish cooking, the cheese will stay inside the patties, and they will stay juicy if you do this.

To “flavor build,” spread more wing sauce on the bottom bun, dressing of your choice on the top, burger in the middle. You can also top with lettuce, tomato, and onion.

BUFFALO SAUCE RECIPE

It’s really just 1 part butter, 1part hot sauce. That’s the classic Buffalo “hot” sauce. If you want it milder or hotter, just adjust the ratio.

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter

8 tablespoons of hot sauce (Frank’s Red Hot is traditional)

2 chopped cloves of garlic (optional, not traditional but delicious)

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Off the heat, whisk in the hot sauce. Sauce is done!

MAKE-AHEAD LASAGNA

Lasagna is the ultimate comfort food and is so easy to make ahead so you don’t have to do anything when it’s dinner time besides pop it in the oven. Have you tried to do other pasta dishes where you have splattering sauce…sloshing boiling water…and everything needing to go together at the last minute? It’s not so much fun. But lasagna you can make ahead of time…even months ahead of time…and just bake when you’re ready to eat. And it’s easy to multiply the recipe to feed tons of people so easily. I love this recipe. It’s similar to your traditional lasagna but a couple of ingredients (spoiler: sausage and goat cheese) add so much flavor.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. mild Italian turkey or pork sausage, casings removed

1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1 ½ tsp. Kosher salt, divided

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper

8 oz. dry lasagna noodles

15 oz. ricotta cheese

4 oz. log of goat cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 cup for the top

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 lb. shredded mozzarella

Splash of starchy pasta water.

Instructions:

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat until cooked. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook gently for five minutes or so, until just browned.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes until thickened a bit.

Fill a large rectangular baking dish with very hot tap water. Add the lasagna noodles and soak in water for 20 minutes. Move the noodles around occasionally with a pair of tongs so they don’t stick. Drain most of the water but take care to leave a splash (1/4 cup or so) in the bottom of the baking dish. This will help the noodles to cook fully when baking and to thicken the sauce.

Place the noodles on a cutting board or baking sheet until ready to assemble the lasagna.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, egg, remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F if you’re ready to bake now.

Spoon a bit of the sauce into a 9X13-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce and pasta water over the bottom of the dish. Next layer half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and 1/2 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan.

At this point you can wrap the lasagna with plastic wrap, then foil and place in the fridge if you’re going to bake later in the same day. Or freeze for up to three months. Thaw frozen lasagna for 24 hours in the fridge before baking.

Bake, covered, for 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the noodles are tender. Optional, broil the lasagna for 1-2 minutes if you like crispy edges. Rest for 15-20 minutes before serving.

GREEK BAKED SHRIMP

This is my version of an Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) recipe. I say quite literally that watching her show on Food Network and cooking from her books has increased the quality of my food dramatically. You can tell she tests her recipes A LOT and they do work. Ina has two or three genius recipes where you bake shrimp with different flavors and just eat the dish with bread. Another one is “Baked Shrimp Scampi.” It’s so much more fun when you’re preparing a casual dinner to not even have to worry about making pasta. Just make a great saucy dish and serve it with bread. Here’s another great one that follows this playbook.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
1 ½ cups medium-diced fennel
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
¼ cup dry white wine
1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ¼ pounds (16 to 20 per pound) peeled shrimp with tails on
5 ounces good feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
1 cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Basil leaves, torn
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 lemons

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10-or 12-inch heavy ovenproof

skillet over medium-low heat. Add the fennel and saute for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fennel is tender and a bit browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with the liquid, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Arrange the shrimp, tails up, in one layer over the tomato-mixture in the

skillet. Scatter the feta evenly over the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle over the shrimp.

Bake for 10 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown.

Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp. Tear basil leaves by hand and scatter on top.

Serve hot with crusty bread and a lemon wedge.