Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


When I was growing up, one of my favorite canned recipes that came from my Grandparents kitchen was the chili sauce (like this, but better).  The chili sauce I ate was a sweet, spiced, vinegar-y tomato sauce that was served as a side dish to beef.  This wasn’t made all the time, not every year – it was like a total afterthought to extra tomatoes.

As I got older, I realized nobody was making this but my Grandfather every once in a while.  So, I went to his house one day and asked for the recipe.  He went to an ANCIENT book with recipes taped to the pages.  He came to a page with a handwritten recipe on it called, “Mrs. Bingley’s Tomato Chili”.  The Bingley’s were a family that lived in the village of Bancroft, Massachusetts where my Grandparents lived.  Mr. Bingley even built me a little wooden chair when I was born that I have to this day – my cousin Craig refinished it and my kids still sit in it.  That recipe must be well over one hundred years old.  And today, I present it you. No strings, no copyrights, it’s for you to enjoy and if you don’t, you’re the worse for it.


  • 18 Large Tomatoes, peeled and diced (I used a #10 can of whole tomatoes)
  • 4 large onions, chopped
  • 4 large bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups of cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. of allspice
  • 1 ½ tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp. of cloves
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. of salt


Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot (8 quarts or so) and bring to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered for 3 hours until thickened. 


Can in pint jars in boiling water for 20 minutes.

It’s so good, sweet and tangy – a perfect side to almost anything, but especially beef.  It’s also a great addition to meatloaf.


March 22, 2009 Posted by | Recipe, Side Dish | 1 Comment


Pink Salt.  What an odd name.  At this point in time, pink salt means salt (sodium chloride) with a pink tinge, from Hawaii, Pakistan, Peru, etc.  For amateur cooks, it often means “a curing salt containing 6.25% sodium nitrite”, which is dyed a bright pink so as not to be confused with regular salt.


I picked some up today by going to the little hole in the wall,literally called the Sausage Source – it’s like the old office of a closed gas station.  In there, I found curing agents like the pink salts, I found meat slicers, sausage casings and more spice combinations for breakfast sausage, corned beef, jerky, etc than you can imagine.

So what?  Well, as most of my recent posts, it’s all about Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie.  In it, his recipes often reference and include pink salt.  It’s the red color we find in store bought corned beef and bacon.

Speaking of bacon, I have a small pork belly portion in the freezer and I intend to make fresh bacon with it and my new pink salt.

March 21, 2009 Posted by | Random Blather | Leave a comment


Well, my promise this Lent was to post at least three times a week and this week, that’s become a little harder because the laptop died. So, I squeeking this in from work.

A post or two ago I waxed lyrically about the wonders of homemade chicken stock. Sometimes, before the stock is made, you need to break down a chicken into it’s yummy parts and a lot of people are afraid of that. They’ve got this dead chicken in front of them with no idea where to start. Well, Mike Pardus, chef instructor at the CIA, has a three part video series that takes all the magic and fear out of breaking down a chicken. I found it fascinating.

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Random Blather | | Leave a comment


Love.  That is what the last theme of the last Weekend Cookbook Challenge is.  As I have admitted lately, I haven’t shown a lot of love.  Since last fall, my postings have been sporadic and embarrassing, a lot like my love life.  Wait, I hope I didn’t write that out loud!  The lovely and gracious Sara has hosted this piece of love for longer than I have been posting!  And, finally, she is letting it go.  Not in the, “If you love something let it go and if it doesn’t come back, hunt it down and kill it!” sense, but in the, “it’s time has come” sense, which is much more acceptable in high society. 

This is the last day and in true Mike sense, I should be slipping in my last-minute post.  But, I’m not.  Look, this isn’t about me – this is about Sara.  She has been there for all of us, a lot more than we have been there for her (except for Ruth, who is a super-hero and doesn’t count).  In my heyday, the WCC was a milestone, it was a happy goal to meet every month.  She even let me host it TWICE and especially after the embarrassingly memorable The WCC Never To Be Mentioned (with FIVE entries, including TWO from me!).  If I had more faith in myself, I would pick up this mantle and let the Weekend Cookbook Challenege live on, like the Oldest, Reliable, Permanent, Floating, Crap Game in New York! (whoops, let my Guys And Dolls personality take over there).

Anywhoo, Sara – thanks for everything!  I love ya’, kid!

March 15, 2009 Posted by | Weekend Cookbook Challenge | Leave a comment


Back at the end of August I posted about canning tomatoes.  I did 16 jars that weekend and another 12 or so I think the a few weeks after, I’m pretty sure I ended up with 28 or so jars.  I commented that it seemed like a lot of work, but I was going to enjoy them during the winter.

And so I have.

Just the other night, I opened one of my last four jars to make Fannie’s Salsa and was blown away how incredible it was to have nearly fresh tomatoes in the middle of March.  Each year, I can more and more and I can’t encourage it enough for everyone with access to fresh veggies in the fall to can and pickle for the winter.

BTW, if you followed the Salsa link, you will see Clearblogs is back from the dead again – for how long, we will see.

March 14, 2009 Posted by | Opinion | Leave a comment



I always make my own chicken stock.  Beef stock? Not so much.  I still haven’t had the best luck with that and that’s because I can’t get beef neck bones.  At least, that’s what I believe.  I really need to go to a cooking school class for this, seriously.

Chicken, I’ve got.  I make a great roasted chicken stock.  And I think you can, too.  I haven’t purchased chicken stock from a store in years.  I make a roast chicken nearly every Sunday because, heck why not?  It’s good and if you watch the flyers, it’s cheap and everyone likes it.  PLUS, you get a chicken carcass, perfect for stock.  If you’re not ready to make stock, you can freeze them for later.


  • A couple of chicken carcasses, maybe two or three
  • Two medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • One large carrot, peeled and cut into quarters
  • One large celery stalk, quartered
  • A bundle of parsley stems, 6-7 black peppercorns, a bunch of thyme and a bay leaf or two, all tied in a cheesecloth bag.  (Or loose, I’ve done that with no problem)

Put everything in a stock pot and push the bones down to not have too much empty space.  Fill with water to cover 2 or 3 inches over the bones.  Bring to a bare simmer on the stove and skim any yucky stuff off.  Set into a 190 degree oven and cook for 4-8 hours.  Remove and skim or cool until a fat raft forms and remove raft. 


I then freeze it in straight sided pint Bell jars until ready for use.

This is so much better than what you buy in the store.  It doesn’t take that much work, but it does make some great stock.  Often, you can use it in place of beef stock, so your stock buying goes down that much more.

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Recipe | 2 Comments


I can’t seem to stay away from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie!  Snooping over at his blog, I saw he had a beef jerky post from his book.  Realizing my oven has a drying setting, I figured why not try?  At the store, I had a top round roast in my hand when I went to one of the employees working the counter as she was telling another patron that the best way to make jerky was to buy one of the round roasts and have them slice thinly for her. 

“A grand idea”, I thought. 

So, when she finished with the other customer, I asked for a brisket (for corned beef – It’s St. Patrick’s Day next week!) and asked her to slice my roast for jerky.  I got the brisket and the sliced roast.  I thought they might trim the little bit of fat before slicing since it was for jerky, but they didn’t.  So, when I got home, I set about to trimming the fat from each slice.  It wasn’t too bad considering the thin, even slices I got, but next time (and there will be a next time!) I will pick out an eye of the round because that has no fat.

Michael’s post from his blog substituted chipotle powder for the chopped chipotles in the original recipe.  I happened to have some chipotle powder, along with some ancho chile powder, which is less hot and sweeter than the chipotle.  So, I modified Michael’s modified jerky recipe


  • 2 ½ ponds of lean beef (round is great), sliced thinly
  • 1 ½ Tbls. Kosher salt
  • 1 ¾ tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 ¾ tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp. Chipotle chile powder
  • 1 tsp. Ancho chile powder
  • 1 Tbls. Brown sugar

Cut the beef into thin strips about a 1/8th-inch thick and an inch wide (length is not critical).  Combine the remaining ingredients and toss to coat evenly.  Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Place strips on a rack over a pan so that all sides dry. 


Dry the beef at 90 degrees F. for 16-20 hours.  If your oven does not go to 90 deg., try the lowest setting with the door propped open, checking every so often.  The beef should be dry to the touch, dark, and very stiff.  If completely dried and stored in an airtight container this beef jerky will keep for several months or longer at room temperature.

I added the brown sugar because almost all of the other jerky recipes had some kind of sugar in them and after tasting the beef, I felt it needed just a touch of sweetness.  I’m able to lower my oven temp to 100 degrees in drying mode, but I felt the beef would dry out better with the door cracked open, so I dried the jerky at 120 degrees for 12 hours and it was perfect!  Oh, I only “marinated” the beef for 4 or 5 hours because that’s all the time I had and I don’t believe it suffered.  In fact, it may habe been the best jerky I haave ever eaten.  I’m looking forward to many more times being a jerk!


March 8, 2009 Posted by | Recipe | Leave a comment


A couple of times in my blog postings, I’ve mentioned that I had nothing to post because I wasn’t making anything special enough to post about.  Often, that’s true, but equally as often, what I’m making is still pretty good and worthy of posting.  Case in point, my kicked-up Rice Krispie Treats.

Now, who doesn’t love these?  Sticky, marshmallow-y treats, all sweet and yummy?  I’m in the habit of kicking them up by adding additional cereals to the Rice Krispie’s, like Fruity Pebbles and Fruit Loops.  I once, in a Bart Simpson Squishy moment, made a treat with ALL Fruity Pebbles.  Let’s just say it was so sweet, I woke up with the same sugar hangover Bart did.  This one was pretty good, though:


  • 3 Tbls butter
  • 1 bag of marshmallows (about 11 oz.)
  • 4 cups of Rice Krispie Cereal
  • 3 cups of Fruit Loops

Spray an 8 X 8 or 11 x 7 pan with non-stick spray.  Gather the cereal in a large bowl, ready to add.  Melt the butter in a large pot.  When butter is melted, add marshmallows and stir to melt.  Once melted, quickly add to the cereal and stir to combine.  It’s going to come together quickly and mold into a huge ball around your spoon if you don’t get a move on!  Spoon into the prepared pan and wet you hands.  Push down and mold into the pan; it will be ready to cut in 15 minutes.



March 6, 2009 Posted by | Dessert, Recipe | Leave a comment


Who doesn’t love old recipes?  Who doesn’t love combing two of them into one great new recipe? That might even be better.  I was able to buy up on ground beef, so I was looking for good ground beef recipes for dinner this week.  For inspiration, Tommy and I checked out his lunch menu from school and what should I find right at the top?  Meatball subs!  Normally, I don’t like meatball subs because they are so saucy and…well, saucy.  Figuring I could do better than that, I threw it up on the menu board for this week – Tuesday to be exact.

Firstly, I got the sauce going.  I decided I would make Mario’s basic tomato sauce.  This sauce is so good, I’m in awe every time I make it.


  • 1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • ¾ cup medium carrot, finely shredded
  • 28-ounces peeled whole tomatoes
  • Salt

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook for 5 minutes more, or until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Bring to a boil, stirring often, and then lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

OK, now to the meatballs.  There is only ONE meatball recipe in Mike’s House, that’s from my buddies at the Pacific St. Social Club.  Aside from the meatballs being the best I have ever had, I would lie just to be a part of the club. Old men, drinking wine, making meatballs….it doesn’t get better!


  • 1 cup cubed stale bread (as from an Italian loaf)
  • Milk for soaking the bread
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, such as sirloin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (I use 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese (OK, no Romano or Parmesan, so I used Monterey Jack because that’s what I had and any cheese is good cheese)
  • 2 large eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the bread with enough milk to just cover and let the bread soak for 10 minutes. Squeeze dry and chop fine.

In a bowl, combine the bread with the meat, garlic, parsley, Romano or Parmesan cheese, eggs, and salt and pepper to taste. Form into 12 to 14 meatballs, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and chill until ready to cook.

The original recipe says to brown the meatballs in olive oil and then finish cooking in homemade red sauce (Sunday Gravy).  Instead, I always cook in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes; they never fall apart on me that way.

OK, cut the meatballs in half and also cut the sub rolls in half, too.  Place 4 to 5 meatball halves on one half of the sub roll.  Cover with more shredded Monterey Jack and some basic tomato sauce.


Oh, yeah!  Oh, yeah!  Oh, yeah!

March 3, 2009 Posted by | Main Dish, Recipe | 1 Comment


I’ve been counting on Google and their cached webpages to supply me with info and recipes from my old blog hoster (is that a word) Clearblogs and the original Mel’s Diner.  As I went back for this post, I was shocked to find it gone!!  It was just there a few weeks ago, I used it for the recipe for this post!  I don’t have that recipe written down!  Fortunately, Google had a cache of my last Clearblogs page and it’s posts and at the very bottom, the last post cached was my recipe!  Saved! 

And we are very lucky for that because it’s my corned beef recipe.  And by corned beef, I mean the recipe for the brine to corn the beef.  It’s a cobbled together recipe, partly from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie (again) and partly from iliketocook’s lovely and gracious Sara’s much despised recipe for Irish Spiced Beef.  I first made it two Thanksgiving’s ago and I liked it a lot, though I found it to be too clove-y.  This time, I cut the cloves and made the best corned beef I have ever had in my Irish roots, I-eat-a-lot-of-corned-beef life!



  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 cups (1 pound) Morton’s kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 ounce (5 teaspoons) Saltpeter
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp ground cloves (down from ½ tsp in the original recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp Mustards seed, ground
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace
  • 3 dried bay leaves

Combine everything in a pot and bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Once combined, remove from heat and cool down to room temperature.  Refrigerate the cooled mixture until well chilled.  Add a 4-5 pound beef brisket to chilled mixture, weigh it down with a plate and refrigerate 5 days.  I removed the beef and, because we weren’t eating it soon, I froze it. 


That was a week and a half ago.  Saturday, I defrosted it and I cooked it yesterday.  I put the brisket in an 8 quart stock pot and covered it with about a gallon of water.  I brought it up to a boil and simmered it for 5-10 minutes.  I drained the water to rinse away any excess brine and salt from the beef and added another gallon to 6 quarts of water and brought it to a boil again.  I simmered it for 3 ½ hours, adding carrots, cabbage and potatoes near the end to cook them.  I sliced it, served it with the veggies and……WOW!



You’re welcome.  Sounds a bit vain, but, c’mon, when your right, you’re right.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | Best Of...., Main Dish, Recipe | 1 Comment