Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


The top search term bringing surfers to my site today was “Timothy Cardillo Great Chefs”.  WOW, what a blast from the past!  I mentioned that working with Chef Cardillo was a food awakening I had.  He introduced me to the world of cooking and opened my eyes to ingredients I never heard of before, like shiitake mushrooms and endive.  I left Cranwell Resort and Hotel 17 years ago and haven’t had any contact with him since. 

I wonder what caused the people to be searching for him today?  I hope it’s nothing bad, I hope he’s received a Michelin star somewhere or became Executive Chef at a famous restaurant.


November 24, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | Leave a comment


Oddly enough, though it’s been a week since my last posting, I’ve done a few postable things lately. Not that you know, because I haven’t posted anything.  That’s because my work has gone CRAZY!!  We bought a competitor on the left coast and it’s made for some long days.  Not that they’re not going to get longer, because the week after Thanksgiving I need to fly (ugh) out to California.  Y-E- freakin; A-H.

Last week we went to a chain bookstore and I went immediately to the bargain section. In there, what should I find, but a hero’s book.  What hero?  Mark Bittman.  And what book?  How To Cook Everything. No thoughts, no, ‘Should I?”,  I just bought it.


Oh, I’ve cooked from it TWICE this week, and have been a happy boy each time.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | Cookbooks/Books | Leave a comment


I finally took on the cheese squash.  As I have mentioned before, I picked up a cheese squash a few weeks ago with no idea what to do with it. I thought I might do something with it for the last Weekend Cookbook Challenge, but laziness took over and I did nothing.  Every now and then I would search the web for ideas what to do with it, not finding anything, really.  Meanwhile, it just sat there, taunting me to attempt some sort of attack. 

So, yesterday, I took my big chef’s knife to it.  I had read it was orange inside, but I was still surprised just how orange it was:


Getting the seeds out was a joy, again, just like a pumpkin.  But, I dug and dug, getting squash guts and seeds all over the counter.  I then cut it into six pieces and peeled a wedge with a knife, diced it and cooked it.  It tasted, well, squash-y, nothing special at all.  I peeled the rest of it, chopped it up and vacuum sealed it in bags to be frozen for future use.

I didn’t freeze all of it, I kept a couple pounds and made a casserole to go with dinner.


  • 2 pounds of winter squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3 Tbls. of butter
  • 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup of finely diced onion (see note)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ tsp. of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cups of buttered breadcrumbs

Boil the squash in salted water until is soft.  Mash the squash and mix in the rest of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs.  Pour the squash mixture into a buttered casserole and top with the breadcrumbs.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes.

Quoting Jamie Oliver again, easy-peesy.  The only thing I would do differently in chop the onion instead of dicing it and sautéing it for 5 or 6 minutes before adding it into the squash mixture.  The onion was bit to “bright” for the rest of the dish.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetables | Leave a comment



November 11, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | Leave a comment


Well, That Cookbook Thing II soldiers on and this time we attacked the king of all meats – the beef filet.  The recipe chosen was a classic amongst classics – Tournedos Sautés Chasseur or Filet Steaks with Mushroom and Madeira Sauce.

Now, I don’t have a friendly butcher I can go to and get a tournedo cut of the fillet.  The comes from the smaller end of a fillet, about a quarter up from the small end or the filet mignon.  I’m just happy to get any cut from the filet, so I’m not sure I made a true Tournedo Sautés Chasseur, but I do know I made a fine steak.


  • 6 crustless rounds of white bread, 2 ½ inches in diameter and 3/16 thick
  • 3 to 4 Tbls. of clarified butter (ok, I used plain butter)

Sauté bread rounds in the hot butter to brown very lightly on each side.  Reheat them in a 350 degree oven just before serving.

  • ½ pound of fresh mushrooms, whole if very small, quartered if large
  • 2 Tbls. butter
  • 1 Tbls. oil
  • 2 Tbls. minced shallots
  • Salt and pepper

Sauté mushrooms in the butter and oil for 5 minutes to brown them lightly.  Stir in shallots and cook slowly for a minute or two.  Season and set aside

  • 6 steaks, 1 inch thick and 2 ½ inches in diameter, wrapped in a strip of fat and tied
  • 2 Tbls. butter
  • 1 Tbls. oil

Dry steaks with a paper towel.  Place butter and oil in a skillet and set over medium-high heat.  When foam subsides, sauté steaks for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.  When done, remove to a platter, remove strings and place each on a bread canapé.  Keep warm while making sauce

  • ½ cup beef stock
  • 1 Tbls. tomato paste

Pour fat out of skillet; stir in stock and tomato paste.  Boil rapidly, scraping up the coagulated cooking juices, until reduced to 2 or 3 tablespoons.

  • ¼ cup Madeira mixed with ½ Tbls. arrowroot or cornstarch.
  • 2 Tbls. of minced parsley

Pour in the starch and wine mixture; boil rapidly for a minute.  Add the mushroom mixture and simmer until the flavors meld, correct seasoning.  Spread the sauce over the steaks and sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

OK, how was it?  It was wonderful, but a bit to tomato-y.  The sauce would be OUTRAGEOUS if it was made with a veal demi-glace and just ½ Tbls. of tomato paste.  Still, it was wonderful and I encourage everyone to make it.  I made a few alterations – I didn’t use any fat when I tied it and I used shiitake mushrooms because I love them so much. 

Who else has been making this?

November 10, 2008 Posted by | Main Dish, Recipe, That Cookbook Thing II | 6 Comments


I canned the sauerkraut tonight and it is FANTASTIC!  I tried it last week and found it just a tad un-krauty.  I like a real bite of lactic acid with my sauerkraut and it was just a bit dull, so I gave it another week.  Tonight, it was wonderful – just what I was looking for.

Out came the canning equipment and I started boiling water.  I filled eleven pint jars and two quarts, packing it in and topping each off with the salty, acidic brine.  Boil the pints for 20 minutes and the quarts 25 minutes.


I had about a cup or so of leftover sauerkraut, so I cooked that with wursts from Karl’s Sausage Kitchen and, dare I say it – tater tots.  It was good.

So, that’s my sauerkraut for 2008.  Happily, I can say it’s three years of great sauerkraut with no problems.  I think next year, I’m going for the big time. I’ll search for a crock and attempt A LOT next year.

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Side Dish, Vegetables | Leave a comment


OK, I’m back.  Well, maybe not as back as I want to be or as Sir Mix-A-Lot would like, but I’m back.  As I “promised” before, politics has taken over my life again.  And, as all know, the wrong person won on Tuesday, but, none the less, I congratulate Barack Obama on his historic win.  I believe it was a mistake, but democracies often make mistakes.

Food?  What food?  I’ve been making stuff like Hamburger Stroganoff, Goulash, Chicken Cutlets, etc.  When it came time to make brownies for the Birthday Committee at work, I used an industrial box.  Nothing worth posting about.

So, what now?  Well, politics still tugs me back to Fox News every day.  But, there is something in the works for this weekend and I still have that Cheese Squash!

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | 1 Comment