Famous Cornell Chicken

I’ve been wanting to write a post about the Famous Cornell Chicken sauce for quite some time… but then I haven’t made any sauce or grilled any chicken in quite some time. However, since my wife leads the local Cornell Cooperative Extension and they recently had their annual Famous Cornell Chicken BBQ fundraiser (for which I volunteered 8 hours just to get my free chicken dinner) — I decided that it was high time I whipped up some sauce, got some chicken quarters, and grilled up some moist, juicy, super flavorful Famous Cornell Chicken at home!

For the uninitiated, Cornell University, an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, NY has one of the premier food science programs in the nation. The Cornell Food Venture Center and the Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship (NECFE) provide support and resources for hundreds of established and start up food processors in New York and neighboring states. (When I worked as a product developer for a local food processor I attended the Better Process Control School at Cornell to become certified in acidified and low acid food manufacturing.)

As far as the sauce goes, it was formulated 68 years ago by Dr. Robert C. Baker, Professor Emeritus and food scientist at Cornell University. Among his other innovations, Dr. Baker is credited with creating the chicken hot dog, turkey ham, and even the chicken nugget! But around here in upstate New York, Dr. Baker is most widely known for his now Famous Cornell Chicken. Dr. Baker’s original goal was to help local poultry farmers sell young chickens (known as broilers) as a source of meat since in the 50’s most people preferred to eat beef and pork while chickens were raised mainly as egg layers. 1950 Dr. Baker wrote a booklet for Cornell Cooperative Extension which in exacting detail taught people how to barbecue chicken, pork and beef using a charcoal “fireplace” to slow barbecue the chicken halves that were basted frequently with his barbecue sauce. From its introduction in 1950 to today thousands of Fire Stations, community organizations, churches, schools, and charities hold regular chicken barbecues as fund raisers based on Dr. Baker’s original plans and recipes.

The sauce itself is kind of unconventional. It isn’t tomato based like so many sauces today, and it contains raw egg which many people fear is an unsafe food practice. But because the sauce is kept under refrigeration and has so much vinegar (acid) and salt it prevents the possibility of salmonella from forming — remember this recipe was created by a famous food scientist. Another oddity is that the sauce was initially (and subsequently) used as a basting sauce only. That means that the sauce was applied frequently to the chicken during the entire cooking process. Many people, including myself, have used the sauce as a marinade before cooking, as well as a baste while cooking. My thinking is that I tend to cook the chicken quicker using my gas grill and it doesn’t have time to absorb all the flavor it would being slow barbecued and basted for more than an hour as originally intended. You should marinate for at least 4 hours up to overnight.

Also, when I make the sauce I keep 2 cups on the side and use the rest to marinate my chicken pieces. Then I can baste the chicken with fresh sauce when grilling and serve some as a dipping sauce when serving. The sauce is typically used to cook split broilers (1/2 chickens) but I prefer to cook quarters for ease in handling and portion size. Choose which ever cut of chicken works best for your family halves, quarters, breasts, thighs, drumsticks, etc. I used leg quarter because we are “dark meat” people, they’re economical, and the meat doesn’t dry out as much as breasts so it’s pretty forgiving if it gets overcooked a bit. That being said you never want to under cook your chicken — so be sure to use a instant-read or digital food thermometer to ensure the chicken has reached the safe temperature of 165 F or above.

Okay, now that you know the story and the method… time to start grilling!

Famous Cornell Chicken

Prep time:  10 minutes
Marinate time:  4 to overnight

Cook time:  45 to 60 minutes
Makes:  Enough sauce/marinade for 2 whole chickens

2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 Whole Egg
3 TBSP Salt (you can reduce salt to 1 TBSP if needed)
1/2 tsp Fine Ground Black Pepper
1 TBSP Poultry Seasoning (I only use Bell’s)
4-6 lbs. Broiler Chicken halves or quarters


1. In a blender container, combine the cider vinegar, oil, egg, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Blend until emulsified. Measure out 2 cups sauce for basting and set aside.
2. Decide what cut of chicken you’ll be using. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Pierce the chicken pieces all over with a fork — this helps with the marinating.
3. Place the chicken in 1 or 2 large resealable plastic bag(s), pour in the remaining Cornell sauce, squeeze out excess air from bag and seal. Turn the bag(s) over a couple of times to distribute sauce evenly, then place in a shallow dish (to catch any possible leaks) and refrigerate for at least 4 hours up to overnight. If possible turn the bags over every couple of hours while marinating.
4. When ready to grill chicken, preheat your outdoor gas grill to medium heat and lightly oil the grates. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towels (discard used marinade).
5. Place chicken on the grill skin side down — using a brush, baste the chicken with reserved sauce. Cook for about 7 minutes until skin has started to brown. Turn chicken over, baste again with sauce, and cook for another 7 minutes.
6. Turn the burners down to low and continue to cook chicken with the grill lid down, turning every 7-10 minutes and basting with sauce on every turn, for about 45 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads at least 165 F at the thickest part of the meat near the bone. (NOTE: Since every grill is different you need to watch the cooking process and deal with any flare ups to avoid burning the chicken.)
7. When chicken reaches the safe temperature, remove from grill to a platter, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
8. Serve with your favorite sides (we did ranch beans and coleslaw). Enjoy!

There you have it, Famous Cornell Chicken. I know the cooking process takes time but it should yield moist and juicy chicken with a crispy skin and an unmistakable flavor that only comes from this easy-to-make sauce and the low-and-slow grilling process. So in the last few days of “Indian Summer” I urge you to try this Upstate New York favorite.

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”



Anyone that grew up in or around the Italian-American community surely encountered antipasto. Antipasto is traditionally the first course in an Italian meal. Antipasto most often consists of cured meats, cheeses, olives, pepperoncini (hot peppers), anchovies, mushrooms and pickled vegetables — served individually or combined into small plates or large family style platters. Antipasto can range from the simple and rustic to the extravagant.

In my family antipasto was reserved for Holidays and large gatherings. There were two ways antipasto was served…. first there was the elaborate salad presented on a large platter with a bed of greens topped with layer upon layer of salami, capicola, prosciutto, provolone, mozzarella, pepperoncini, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant, and giardiniera. (This, of course, might vary depending on what was available or the mood and budget of the preparer.) 

The other way antipasto was served was generally called “olive salad” and it was a combination of olives, pepperoncini, celery and onions, with chunks of provolone, salami or pepperoni. This salad was dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, and crushed red pepper. It was best served after a day or two of marinating… and this was one of my Dad’s favorites (and one of mine too).

At Lista’s Italian Cuisine we served a variation of the former, but rarely the latter (unless it was for a catered event). The restaurant menu featured an Antipasto Platter that was big enough to share. The original recipe card calls for a large dinner plate lined with chopped lettuce, topped with chick peas, ripe olives, pepperoncini, tomato wedges, onions, sliced beets, and eggplant then drizzled with our house made Italian dressing — this was topped with slices of pepperoni, salami, ham, mozzarella and provolone, and then it was garnished with a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano and an anchovy fillet. It was a real work of art when presented to the customer.

For this post I’m featuring the second type of antipasto or “olive salad” simply because I have recently been making this salad for my father-in-law who loves it even more than my Dad did. When I found out that my father-in-law was going to the grocery store weekly and paying about $9.00 a pound for olive salad, I decided to make it for him instead. Of course, when all is said and done I might have invested about that much myself — but the result was far superior and much more authentic to my family roots.

This recipe make a large quantity of antipasto since it calls for several components that come in 12 or 16 oz. jars (the easiest and most cost effective way to buy them). There are some fresh elements, and a couple of more expensive items — you can choose what you want to add to your version based on your own particular taste. My father-in-law and I like our antipasto on the hot and spicy side, but that can be dialed down by using little or no hot peppers.

So if you’re feeling adventurous and want to make a batch of antipasto salad for a family gathering or large dinner party try this recipe and my combination of ingredients…I think it has great flavor and balance and looks really nice presented on the table.

Dan’s Antipasto

Prep time:  30 minutes
Cook time:  15 minutes
Marinate time:  4 to 24 hours
Makes: about 12 cups

2 stalks Celery – cut into 1 inch pieces
1 Yellow Onion – peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 Carrots – peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
3-4 cloves Garlic – peeled
1/2 cup White Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
pinch Crushed Red Pepper
1 jar Pitted Kalamata Olives – drained

1 jar Pimento Stuffed Green Olives – drained
1 can Pitted Ripe Olives (California type) – drained
1 jar Pepperoncini – drained, stems removed and halved
1 jar Giardiniera Pickled Vegetables (hot or mild) – drained
1 jar Button Mushrooms – drained
1 can Quartered Artichoke Hearts – drained
1 jar Whole Roasted Red Peppers – drained and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 lb. Pepperoni Stick – cut into 1/2 inch half circles
1/2 lb. Hard Salami or Soppressata – cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 lb. Ham or Capicola or Prosciutto – cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 lb. Sharp Provolone (or Asiago) – cut  into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 lb. Mozzarella – cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Dry Oregano
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper (optional)

1. In a medium covered sauce pan combine the cut celery, onion, carrots and garlic cloves with white vinegar, salt, pinch red pepper and enough water to just cover vegetables. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and allow to stand in the hot liquid for another 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine the next 8 ingredients (the jarred olives, etc.) that have been drained. Add the cooked celery mixture and toss to combine.
3. Add the diced meats and cheeses to the vegetables and toss to combine. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano and red pepper. Pour dressing over the antipasto salad and toss to coat. Cover an refrigerate for at least 4 hours up to overnight. Stirring occasionally if possible.
4. Before serving remove from refrigerator, stir to distribute dressing, spoon antipasto into a shallow serving dish and serve with tongs or a slotted serving spoon. Leftover antipasto can be kept in refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to one week.

There you have it, my version of Antipasto — a beautiful combination of colors, flavors and textures with a spicy kick and an authentic taste. This recipe makes a lot of antipasto but it keeps in the fridge for a 7-10 days. It’s a great item to share with others. I hope you find a reason to make this salad for your family and maybe it will become one of their favorites too.

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

Zucchini “Lasagna”

So, as I may have mentioned before, I’m not much of a gardener. I have a tiny plot behind my house that we plant tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini each year hoping we’ll get a harvest. The problem is that no one in my house (including me) wants to do the work of taking care of the garden — so it gets weedy, overgrown, and just plain unruly.

Dan’s Garden September 2018

The thing is that every year we dutifully weed the bed, hand-till it, compost it, plant it, water it… and forget-about-it! Still every year we seem to get at least some produce from the untended mess of plants — so every year we vow to do better at tending and cultivating our micro-farm. This year we planted late (again) and dealt with the early summer drought (and the lack of human attention) to gain several dozen really beautiful tomatoes, zero peppers, and about eight overgrown zucchini… I mean the giant, monster squash that comes from checking the garden only once every two weeks.

With all that being said, I still like to find a way of using these overgrown summer staples.

Which brings me to today’s post Zucchini “Lasagna.” This past week I’ve had four giant zucchini taking up room on my kitchen counter and I needed to do something with them. So I tried to pass them on… but most people I know around here have their own zucchini to bestow on others, so it was up to me.

I wanted to make something with sauce and cheese, so I decided to make a “lasagna” with my zucchini. I like the idea of baking the zucchini with ricotta and mozzarella layers to hold it together — my family voted for a ground beef layer, so I made the zucchini “lasagna” in the same fashion as traditional lasagna at Lista’s Italian Cuisine (see my post Lasagna Bolognese? from July 27, 2017). After slicing the zucchini, I layered it with sauce, ricotta cheese, meat sauce, and lots of mozzarella and Romano cheeses. Then baked it for about 90 minutes — let it set for another 30 minutes and topped it with a little more sauce and a sprinkle of grated Romano. Delizioso!

Please Note: my zucchini lasagna was a bit of a fail for me. It came out very watery after it was baked (you can see it in the last photo above). The problem was I didn’t slice the zucchini thin enough and I didn’t take time to prep the zucchini “noodles” with salt or heat to dry them out. After I let it rest for 30 minutes before serving, the moisture accumulated in the pan and I was able to lift out a slice and then carefully drain much of the water out of the pan (I did this 2-3 times while serving) so the servings held up nicely and the extra moisture was minimized. And overall it was very tasty and my family enjoyed it.

So after the fact I did a little reading and found some tips to avoid the moisture problem: 1. Slice your zucchini very thin (use a mandolin slicer) perhaps lengthwise… and layer the sliced zucchini on a double thickness of paper towels and lightly salt it (salt draws out moisture) and let it sit for several minutes. Then pat the slices dry with more paper towels before assembling the lasagna.
2. Another method is to bake the thinly sliced zucchini (with or without salting it) in the oven to dry it out before making the lasagna.
3. I read one recipe where the author added some dry quinoa to the bottom of the pan which will absorb some of the moisture. This method is appealing to me since I prefer not to use salt.

If, like me, you typically cook by experimentation then give one of the methods a try… or maybe you’ll discover your own way of avoiding the excess moisture.

Dan’s Zucchini “Lasagna”

Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 60-90 minutes
Rest time: 30 minutes

Serves: 8-12

2 extra large or 4 small Zucchini – sliced thin
1 lb. Ground Beef
1/2 med Onion – finely chopped
1/2 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs (optional)
16 oz. Ricotta Cheese
2 Eggs
1 TBSP Dry Parsley Flakes
1 cup Grated Romano Cheese – divided
2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
4-6 cups Prepared Pasta Sauce – divided
Salt and Black Pepper – to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F with the rack in the center. Coat a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray (like Pam).
2. Slice the zucchini very thin and remove some of the moisture using one of the methods mentioned above — or wing it like I did.
3. In a skillet, brown the ground beef and chopped onion over med-high heat until no longer pink. Drain and return to pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add bread crumbs and 2 cups prepared sauce and stir to combine. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl scramble the eggs, dry parsley, and 1/2 cup Romano together, stir in the ricotta cheese until thoroughly combined. Season with black pepper and set aside.
5. Layer the “lasagna” in the baking pan as follows: Spread one cup prepared sauce in the bottom of the baking pan. Layer sliced zucchini overlapping as needed to cover the bottom of pan. Spread the meat sauce mixture evenly over the zucchini, and sprinkle evenly with about 2/3 cup mozzarella. Add another layer of zucchini. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture evenly over top, and sprinkle another 2/3 cup mozzarella over the ricotta. Top with another layer of zucchini, spread the last cup prepared sauce over that and sprinkle the last 2/3 cup mozzarella over that. With your hand, press down the “lasagna” layers to make sure there are no air gaps.
6. Bake the “lasagna” uncovered in heated oven for 60-90 minutes until hot and bubbly and center reaches 180 F with a thermometer. Cover loosely with foil during last half of cooking if top gets too brown.
7. Remove from oven and allow to rest about 30 minutes before serving.
8. Cut “lasagna” portions with a sharp knife and lift out with a spatula. Top with additional pasta sauce and grated Romano cheese if desired.

There you have it, my Zucchini “Lasagna” — a great way to use up those giant zucchinis in your garden (or the ones your friend tries to pawn off on you). This recipe would work just as well with yellow summer squash, eggplant, or a combination.

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

Salmon Patties with Quick Remoulade


Like many people, my family has enjoyed salmon as a regular part of our dinner menu for quite some time. Salmon has grown in popularity over the years due to its availability, sustainability, and nutritional value. A great tasting source of high quality protein and loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is one of the best choices when seeking a fish protein for your plate.

Now that my household is down to just two of us, we occasionally have some leftover cooked salmon in the refrigerator. When this happens I try to find an alternative way to serve the seconds. (It should be noted that leftover cooked fish should be eaten within 3 days.) One way I use up leftover salmon is to serve it cold over a tossed green salad with a nice lemon based vinaigrette. Sometimes I use the leftover salmon in a creamy fish chowder or add it to a coconut milk curry.

But recently I had some leftover grilled salmon in the fridge and decided to take a walk down memory lane and mixed up some delicious Salmon Patties just like my Dad, Vinnie Lista, did when I was a kid.

I can’t recall ever seeing grilled salmon on the menu at Lista’s Italian Cuisine… but I definitely remember my Dad making these Salmon Patties at home using canned salmon. In those days there were some lean times and canned salmon was a frugal way to feed our family of seven. Still we didn’t think of it as a cheap meal… to us Salmon Patties were a treat (of course anything fried was a treat for us kids). And all the more fun when the patties were topped with American cheese and served on a hamburg bun!

I pan fried my Salmon Patties and served them with a quick Remoulade sauce. The result was moist, crispy, light tasting Salmon Patties that paired perfectly with the tangy, sharp Remoulade Sauce on the side. Although I used leftover fresh salmon that I had grilled; these Salmon Patties can be made “old school” with canned salmon, but I suggest you splurge for the boneless-skinless variety — or be sure to carefully remove the skin and bones before making this recipe.

Dan’s Salmon Patties

Prep time:  15 minutes
Cook time:  15 minutes
Makes:  6-8 patties

14 oz Cooked Salmon (leftover or canned)
1/2 cup Vidalia Onion – minced
1/2 cup Dry Bread Crumbs (regular, panko or Gluten Free)
1 Egg – beaten
2 TBSP Mayonnaise
1 TBSP Chopped Parsley
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Salt & Black Pepper – to taste
1/4 cup Canola Oil – more as needed

1. Remove skin from the cooked salmon and crumble fish into a large mixing bowl (if using canned salmon pick out the skin and bones).
2. Add the minced onion, bread crumbs, eggs, mayonnaise, parsley and cayenne to the salmon and gently mix until fully combined. Season with salt and pepper if desired (this may depend on what seasoning was already on the salmon).
3. Using about 1/2 cup of salmon mixture, form into patties about 3 inches wide x 3/4 inch high. Set patties on a plate and refrigerate until ready to pan fry.
4. Heat skillet on med-high, add 1/4 cup oil and swirl to coat pan. When the oil is shimmering, carefully place salmon patties in hot oil about 1 inch apart (do not crowd pan – cook in batches if needed) and cook undisturbed about 4-5 minutes until deep brown crust forms.
5. Using a spatula/turner gently flip the patties and cook undisturbed on the other side for another 4-5 minutes.
6. Remove cooked patties from pan and place on a paper towel lined plate until ready to serve (keep warm if cooking another batch). Serve with Quick Remoulade Sauce on side.

If you are not familiar with Remoulade Sauce, it is a mayonnaise based sauce similar to the more well-known “tartar sauce” but with elevated ingredients and a distinct sharpness that goes really well with fish and seafood. Most recipes call for a crunchy element such as chopped celery, capers, or cornichons (pickles). For this “quick” version I just used what I had on hand – so I chose to minced up a dill pickle. A grainy mustard is best in this recipe, but any sharp flavor mustard will work such as creole, spicy brown or Dijon. Some people say adding horseradish is a must, but I didn’t use it for this recipe.

Dan’s Quick Remoulade

Prep time:  5 minutes
Makes:  about 1 cup

1 cup Heavy Mayonnaise (such as Hellman’s)
2 TBSP finely chopped Dill Pickle
2 TBSP Ketchup
1 TBSP Grainy Style Mustard (or other sharp mustard)
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1 dash Hot Pepper Sauce (like Tabasco)

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

There you have it, Salmon Patties with Quick Remoulade sauce. A great way to use up leftover cooked Salmon. This recipe also makes a great appetizer if you form small patties (about the size of a silver dollar). I hope you enjoy this economical and delicious “old school” way to cook Salmon.

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!” 

Dan’s BBQ Spareribs

Summer time is a great time to enjoy foods that are not only tasty but fun to eat. Ice cream, corn on the cob, hots dogs, potato salad, strawberry shortcake, and of course all the wonderful grilled foods we love — chicken, steaks, kabobs… and BBQ Spareribs!

BBQ Spareribs are one of those foods that I only make in the summer. Maybe because the local market brings the price down at that time, or maybe because it’s more fun to eat with your hands when your sitting at a picnic table. Whatever the reason, I definitely like some ribs during those dog days

With the plentiful BBQ restaurants around town, I do get to enjoy some Spareribs more often that just in the summer — but nothing compares to the Spareribs that come off my own backyard grill. I think my Spareribs are the best (of course I think everything I cook is the best).

If you’re going to make Spareribs at home you have to start with the right cut of pork. When I make Spareribs at home I like to start out with a full slab of spareribs. This means the whole bottom portion of ribs that has not been trimmed or cut into what’s known as “St. Louis style” ribs. I choose the whole slab for two reasons, first it’s the most economical (you can find packages of whole uncut ribs for a great price at many stores) and second I believe the flavor is better when you start with the whole slab because you get all the fat and bones which is where the flavor lives. Personally I also don’t bother with the more expensive “baby back” ribs — and although I do like what’s known as “country style” ribs, for barbecuing nothing beats the good ole Spareribs.

Here’s a quick rib pictorial I found on the internet:
1. Full slab spareribs (my preference)
2. St. Louis Style spareribs
3. Baby Back ribs
4. Country Style ribs


Okay, now that you get the picture (pun intended) the next important step in making great Spareribs is the seasoning or “rub.” You can try the different ones you find in the grocery stores or you can do a bunch of research online for the “prize winning” rubs — but what I find is most people have the ingredients for a great rib rub in their spice pantry and you can whip it up in no time at home.

Dan’s Basic Pork & Rib Rub

2 TBSP Paprika (regular)
1 TBSP Salt
1 TBSP Black Pepper
1 TBSP Chili Powder
2 tsp Smoked Paprika
2 tsp Ground Cumin
2 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/4 cup Brown Sugar (optional)

1. In a small mixing bowl whisk together all ingredients until fully combined. Rub into all sides of meat before cooking. I make my rub sugar free but if you like a sweet rub then add the brown sugar. Store extra rub in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to one month. Makes about 1/2 cup rub enough for one full slab; double or triple the recipe if making more ribs.

Now that you’ve picked out your ribs and made your “rub” you’re ready to get cooking. Here is my favorite way to prepare fall-off-the-bone tender Spareribs that will be the highlight of your next cookout. This method uses the oven to get that “low ‘n’ slow” tenderness that is usually found in smokehouse barbecue. Using the oven also makes it so you spend less time standing over the grill. 

Dan’s BBQ Spareribs

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 1/2 hours in oven, 30 minutes on grill
Serves: 4-6 

1 full slab Pork Spareribs (about 6 pounds)

1 batch Rib Rub (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup Prepared BBQ Sauce + 1 cup Water
Parchment Paper
Aluminum Foil

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F and set rack in center.
2. Remove ribs from packaging, rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
3. Turn ribs bone side up and remove the membrane covering the bones: Use a sharp knife to lift a corner of the membrane and then using a paper towel, grip the membrane and firmly and evenly pull it off. If it doesn’t come off in one sheet then do the process again with the rest.
4. On the counter lay out a double thickness of aluminum foil big enough to completely envelope the ribs – topped this with a double thickness of parchment paper.
5. Place the ribs meaty side up on foil/parchment and generously coat with rib rub. Turn over and coat the bone side.
6. Starting with the parchment paper, fold the paper over the ribs to completely seal them in. Then bring the foil up over the paper and completely seal the package by crimping the seams of foil.
7. On a rimmed baking sheet, lay the foil wrapped ribs seam side (bone side) down and bake in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 hours. (Ribs should be cooked to at least 185 degrees F internally.)
8. Remove pan from oven and carefully open the foil/paper packet (their may be a lot of juice so be careful). Allow the ribs to rest at least 30 minutes or refrigerate over night.
9. Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high.
10. Mix 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce with 1 cup water in a small bowl.
11. Cut the cooled (or refrigerated) ribs into 4 sections. Grill the ribs, turning frequently and 
using a brush baste the ribs  with sauce after each turn. Cook until ribs are glazed and nicely browned and heated through.
12. Serve the BBQ Ribs as is or with additional sauce.

So there you have it, my favorite summer time BBQ Spareribs. If you haven’t attempted spareribs at home — give this method a try and I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the results. Tender, meaty, and so delicious. Perfect for those Holiday cookouts, family picnics, graduation parties, or any other summer time get together. 

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

Chicken Oregano with Potatoes

Once again life in my world has been busy and unfortunately one of the things that gets set aside is my blogging. So I’m finally publishing this post that I started writing last month… thanks for your patience and thanks for reading!

June is one of those months where the weather can be so unpredictable… oh wait, that’s pretty much every month in Rochester NY. But seriously, I had some bone-in chicken quarters that I wanted to barbecue and then it rained and rained and rained — so I had to change plans (because I only grill in fair weather).

While looking at the cut up chicken on my counter, it reminded me of the years that Lista’s Italian Cuisine was one of the few full service restaurants around Brockport that also did catering. My Dad did a lot of catered events when the restaurant was in business. Everything from weddings, graduations, and corporate events to small affairs in private homes. And not everything was strictly Italian food.

Dad was well known for his catering skills and was called on often to create memorable buffets filled with hors d’oeuvres, salads, antipasto trays, carved meats, and of course Lista’s famous pasta dishes. Dad’s roast turkey, ham and prime rib were outstanding… and his attention to detail when garnishing his trays was second to none.


(This photo taken in June 1975 is from one of the catered events at Lista’s.)

One story I like to tell is how Dad would take potato or macaroni salad and mound it up on a serving tray then use heavy mayonnaise to “frost” the whole thing — then using mayo mixed with food coloring, he would fill a pastry bag and pipe on decorations just like a fancy wedding cake. It was pretty impressive!

Of course not everything was that labor intensive, in the years between 1960 and 1980 there was a very common buffet served at every party house and catering restaurant around town — I referred to it as the “Rochester Buffet” and it consisted of: Roast Beef au jus (sometimes hand-carved), Herb Roasted Chicken, Baked Ziti, Roasted Tiny Potatoes (sometimes called rissole potatoes), cooked Vegetables (usually green beans amandine or California blend), Tossed Salad, Dinner Rolls… and sometimes a big bowl of Fruited Jello!

Many wedding receptions during those years had that same buffet no matter where you went. Still I fondly remember how much I loved that herb roasted chicken (with garlic, lemon and oregano) and those tiny rissole potatoes (crisp outside and creamy on the inside) my Dad would make for those catered events.

So since it was raining and I wouldn’t grill outside, and I wanted to avoid turning on the oven and heating up the house… after all it was June! Instead I transformed the ingredients I had on hand into a delicious Chicken Oregano with Potatoes one pan meal that reminded me of those favorites from my past.

Chicken Oregano with Potatoes

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40-60 minutes
Serves: 4-6

3 lbs Chicken on the bone (Leg Quarters, Thighs or Whole cut-up)
1 1/2 lbs Red Potatoes (about 6 large) – roughly the same size, scrubbed
1/ 4 cup Olive Oil – divided
2 Fresh Lemons – one quartered, one sliced
8 cloves Fresh Garlic – roughly chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Oregano Leaves or 2 TBSP Dry Oregano
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
Salt and Pepper – to taste

1. Trim chicken pieces of excess fat, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. If using leg quarters, separate at joint between drumstick and thigh. If using a whole chicken cut into 8-10 pieces (i.e. 2 wings, 2 drums, 2 thighs, 2 breast pieces – halved if large). Season both sides with salt and pepper.
2. Scrub red potatoes and remove any “eyes” or blemishes with a paring knife. Cut potatoes in half. Set aside.
3. Heat a very large (12″-14″) deep-sided skillet or dutch oven over med-high heat. Add 2 TBSP olive oil, swirl to coat pan, and the chicken pieces – skin side down. Cook undisturbed for 8-10 minutes until fat starts to render and a nice brown crust begins to form. Turn over and cook undisturbed for another 8-10 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and pour off excess fat/oil from pan.
4. In the same pan 
over med-high heat, add the remaining olive oil, sprinkle in the crushed red pepper flakes, and chopped garlic. Cook until garlic is fragrant – about 5 minutes. Add chicken pieces back to the pan and arrange the potatoes, cut side down, around the chicken. Add the oregano and lemon slices (reserve quartered lemon) evenly over the chicken and potatoes. Allow to cook undisturbed for 10 minutes.
5. After 10 minutes, turn the potatoes and chicken pieces and redistribute so everything rests on the bottom of pan. Squeeze the lemon wedges over the chicken and potatoes. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Allow to cook for another 10-15 minutes until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through (165 degrees) and juices run clear.
6. Remove pan from heat and allow chicken and potatoes to rest 5 minutes. Gently lift portions of chicken and potatoes with a spatula (to preserve the brown crust) and serve with your favorite vegetable or green salad.

There you have it, my Chicken Oregano with Potatoes — a delicious meal that is simple to prepare and cook in one pan — that reminds me of my Dad’s catering days. Keeping with the “Rochester Buffet” theme, I served the chicken and potatoes with some California Blend vegetables (broccoli,  cauliflower and carrots) but it goes great with any fresh or frozen vegetable or a nice green salad. If you like the bright taste of fresh lemon, go ahead and squeeze a little over the chicken and potatoes just before serving. I hope you find a chance to make this dish… maybe on the next rainy day in Rochester.

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

Quinoa Patties

Quinoa is one of those nutritionally dense super foods that you either love; hate, or have never tried. A few years ago, quinoa came onto the culinary scene in a big way and is now found everywhere and in everything from appetizers to desserts.

Quinoa (pronounced “Keen-wah” not “kin-no-wa” as my mom says) is a flowering plant with edible seeds originally found in the Andean region of South America. Although the seeds have been cultivated and grown as a grain crop for thousands of years it has only been grown in the USA since 1983.

As a crop, quinoa is not a true cereal grass like wheat, corn, rice and oats — but is a non-grass pseudo-cereal like buckwheat and amaranth and is gluten free. Nutritionally quinoa’s biggest claim to fame is that it is the only plant based food that provides all nine essential amino acids, making it a source of complete protein (perfect for vegetarian and vegan diets).

You can find quinoa in almost any grocery store in white, red or black varieties, as well as, packaged blends and mixes. There is even quinoa flour for gluten free baking.

For the novice, it is important to note that quinoa seeds have a natural pest deterrent coating that contains bitter tasting saponins. Most commercially processed quinoa have been treated to remove this coating but it can still taste bitter unless you thoroughly rinse the seeds before cooking. Another trick is to lightly toast the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they just start to brown and get a nice toasty aroma — then cook in boiling water per package directions (my son swears by this method).

My own journey with quinoa started a few years back while attempting to find the right diet to combat my wife’s many food sensitivities. Because of her needs, our family stopped eating food containing gluten, yeast, dairy, sugars, and starchy foods like potatoes, corn, and rice. So it was suggested we try quinoa as a substitute for grains and potatoes. Before that time I had never eaten quinoa and really only heard of it as a “health food.”

Since then, I have made quinoa a regular part of our weekly menu and have used it in dozens of recipes. Quinoa can be a great gluten free replacement for breadcrumbs in meatloaf or meatballs — or a stand-in for rice in casseroles and stuffed peppers. Cooked in water or broth quinoa makes a delicious side for entrees and can be served under ragouts or braised items instead of rice or couscous. I’ve even used quinoa instead of bulgar to make a passable tabbouleh salad.

However, my favorite way to enjoy quinoa is to make these wonderful pan-fried patties as a side dish. Similar to a latke (potato pancake) or fritter, these quinoa patties are crispy on the outside and tender and savory on the inside. They are a perfect addition to grilled meats or broiled fish or can stand alone as a light meal alongside a green salad.

Dan’s Quinoa Patties

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: makes 10-12 patties

3 cups Cooked Quinoa – cooled to room temp
1 (10 oz) pkg Frozen Chopped Spinach – thawed & squeezed out
1/2 cup Finely Chopped Sweet Onion (like Vidalia)
3 Whole Eggs – beaten
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 TBS Flour (regular or gluten free)
1 tsp Italian Herb Seasoning
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
Olive Oil as needed for pan frying

1. Cook 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups water or broth per package directions (about 15 minutes). Pour cooked quinoa onto a large plate, spread out and let cool to room temperature.
2. Thaw frozen chopped spinach (use the microwave) and place in a strainer and squeeze as much water out as possible.
In a large mixing bowl combine the Italian seasoning, salt, garlic, pepper and flour – whisk together. Add cooled quinoa, spinach, chopped onion, eggs, and Parmesan cheese to the bowl and combine thoroughly. Using about 3/4 cup of quinoa mixture hand-form 10-12 small patties 3″ round x 1/2″ thick.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 TBS olive oil to hot pan and swirl to coat, lay patties in the pan about 1/2″ apart (cook in batches if needed). Cook patties undisturbed for about 6-8 minutes. Turn over and press down slightly with a spatula. Allow to cook undisturbed for another 5-6 minutes until patties are deep brown, crisp outside, and firm in the middle. Remove from pan and place on parchment lined plate and keep warm until all patties are done and ready to serve.
5. Serve the patties alone or as a side dish (they are really good topped with a little Greek yogurt or sour cream mixed with some sriracha sauce).

There you have it, my recipe for Quinoa Patties. A great protein packed, nutrient dense, and delicious addition to your next meal. I have used grated zucchini, or finely chopped broccoli instead of the spinach… and even grated carrot or sweet potato for a brighter taste. I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you haven’t tried quinoa yet — give it a chance and I think you’ll learn to really enjoy this versatile “super food.”


Happy Father’s Day to any of my readers that are dads. I’m forever grateful for my dad, Vinnie Lista, who was a strong influence in my life especially teaching me to appreciate great food and giving me the experience and skills to create and cook the great recipes I feature on this blog.  Thanks Dad… you are always in my heart.

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”