Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire



How many have you gone through this?  I came home the other night, had no idea what to make for dinner.  I knew I had hamburger in the freezer and I would do something with that.   I’m a 20th century man, so I pulled it out of the freezer and into the microwave to defrost.  All the while I was trying to decide what to make.  My goto was Goulash – always good, but at this point a little boring.  After maybe 15 minutes of painful concentration it hit me – Sloppy Joes!  I have hamburger, tomatoes, onions, sugar, ketchup – even sandwich rolls.

I made these from scratch many years ago and a website search of Melsdiner shows that post is one of the many lost in the great Clearblogs cleansing.  So I searched and found what looked like a really good recipe from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.  I adapted:

Sloppy Joes

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2-1/2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1/2 whole Large Onion, Diced
  • 1 whole Large Green Bell Pepper, Diced (How did I not have this?  It would have been better with it)
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced (5?  C’mon – I used 3)
  • 1-1/2 cup Ketchup
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chili Powder (I used 1 ½ of Ancho and ½ of Chipotle plus a dash of smoked Paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (more To Taste)
  • Worcestershire Sauce, To Taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (optional)
  • Tabasco Sauce (optional; To Taste) – none used.
  • Salt to Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste

Preparation Instructions

Add butter to a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain most of the fat and discard.

Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until vegetables begin to get soft.

Add ketchup, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard, and water. Stir to combine and simmer for 15 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Also add tomato paste, Worcestershire, and Tabasco if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

I served in big grinder rolls and happiness was had by all.  This is really a good recipe and kudos to Ree if she came up with it.  If she stole it, well – she stole well.


May 1, 2014 Posted by | Food Network, Main Dish, Sandwich | Leave a comment


As a cooking freak, this looks soo good!  I mean, really?  A grilled cheese with ham, bechamel AND a fried egg???!!?? I feel a post and a meal coming on……

April 6, 2014 Posted by | Main Dish, Sandwich | Leave a comment


Bill Buford talks about this and gives his recipe in his fantastic book, Heat.  He’s fairly specific, not perfect with the recipe, but close enough to make it at home.  I did the requisite Google search for the recipe and what others have done.  NEVER EVER did I find someone who followed the recipe from the book – not even the German page I had to translate.  Look for a post soon where I do the AUTHENTIC Tuscan-Buford recipe.

UPDATE: 8:20 PM Friday night.  It’s in the oven.

April 3, 2014 Posted by | Main Dish, Random Blather | Leave a comment


OK, thinking BLT stuffed tomatoes. The filling has to be loose when cooked and this is what I’m thinking:

• Bread crumbs
• Cooked Bacon
• Cheese (dare I say optional?)
• Mayo or Olive oil (Mayo gets a bit gross when warm)
Served on a bed of lettuce (maybe with mayo on the lettuce?)

What do you think?

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Appetizer, Main Dish, Side Dish | Leave a comment


I had to link to this post from one of my favorite sites, Ed Levine’s Serious Eats.  This contains two of my favorite cooking things…Cast Iron and Mac and Cheese.

October 3, 2009 Posted by | Main Dish, Opinion, Recipe | Leave a comment


I’m back.  Maybe the two most common words on Mel’s Diner, but…well, whatever…  I’ve had great plans to post…I’ve even said to myself, “Dude!  You need to post!…Gosh!”  And still, I didn’t.  Mostly it’s because I got out of the habit of posting.  Hence, Mikey has a crappy blog.

So, I’m back.  I didn’t quite know what to post about, so I thought I’d have a snack while I thought about it.  My snack?  A Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  Here, in New England, a Toasted Cheese Sandwich.  Here, in the Mulholland house, A Toasted Cheese Sandwich also has thin, sliced green peppers.  Many (OK, few) of you will remember this sandwich is the single dish that introduced me to a fun and, now pregnant, girl in Canada we all know as Sara from iliketocook.  I’d link back to that blog post, but it’s one of the many lost on Clearblogs.

What’s in a Toasted Cheese Sandwich?  Well, it’s two slices of white bread, a Wonder-type, bread, buttered.  Two slices of American Cheese, the plastic-wrapped type and a few slices of Green Bell Pepper – the salad-type.  Layer bread, cheese, pepper, cheese and bread.  Butter both outside end’s of the bread.  Fry in a pan, flip and fry the other side.  No magic.  That’s it.


Oh, it’s good!  Really, really good.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Main Dish | 2 Comments


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


The first time Clearblogs, my first blog hosting service disappeared, I said I wasn’t all that unhappy because it gave me a chance to repost all of my best recipes.  Of course, Clearblogs reappeared and I never reposted any of the great recipes.

Then, just a month or so ago, Clearblogs disappeared again and this time, it looks for good.  So, I’m taking this opportunity to repost some of what I consider my best recipes.  And one of the best is Mike’s Mac and Cheese.  This post will actually be the THIRD time it has graced the cyber-pages of Mel’s Diner.  The first post was obviously the original Mel’s Diner post and it re-appeared as a link on a Best of… post. 

I made this two times this weekend, perfecting the recipe.  I made it on Saturday for the family to eat for dinner that night and again on Sunday to bring in to work for some very deserving friends. 

As I said in the original post, what makes this Mac and Cheese so good in the Béchamel Sauce (actually an extra cheesy Mornay Sauce).  Steeping the diary in a mirepoix and bouquet garni adds a depth of flavor to the resulting cheese sauce that regular mac and cheese can never match.  Trust me, if I had this as a weapon in high school (or college), I would have had a lot more girlfriends that I did.  Chicks dig guys who can cook.

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • Bouquet Garni (bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley stems, thyme, etc.)
  • 4 cups of Light Cream
  • 2 tbs. of butter
  • 1 ½ cups of shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, muenster, etc. Must be at least half  Cheddar!)
  • ½ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano 
  • 1 1/2 Tbls. flour
  • 2/3 pound of pasta
  • nutmeg, cayenne, salt and white pepper

Make the Béchamel:

Add the onion, carrot, celery and the bouquet garni into a large pan with the milk and cream.  You can see I couldn’t find my cheesecloth, so my bouquet ended up in the pot along with the mirepoix:


Heat to a boil, turn off and allow the aromatics to steep in the dairy for thirty minutes.  After thirty minutes, strain the dairy into another pot and bring to a simmer.  While that is happening, melt the butter and add the flour.  Stir into a roux and cook the roux to a pale stage. Add the hot dairy and whisk until it comes to a boil.  After it thickens, it will be the consistency of gravy.

Make the Mac and Cheese:

Cook the pasta in another pot (I prefer small tube pasta, like macaroni) until totally done, no al dente, please.  Add the cheeses to the sauce and whisk to combine.  I used 1 cup of cheddar, one half cup of jack cheese and, of course, the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

 After the sauce is smooth, add the pasta to the sauce.  Add the nutmeg, cayenne, salt and white pepper to taste.  It is going to be VERY soupy – don’t panic.


As it cools, the pasta will soak up the sauce until it’s just right.  It seems dry, add more cream, or as I did the last time, a bit of the past water and re-taste for salt and pepper.


February 16, 2009 Posted by | Best Of...., Main Dish, Pasta, Recipe | Leave a comment


The other night, I needed to make dinner (“Oh, really?  That’s what makes you so unique and different from everyone else.” – the stove) and I had no idea what to make.  Wandering around the grocery store, I bought the polyester of the food world – boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I figured, how can you go wrong stuffing the chicken breast with cheese?  And I was right!


  • 4 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • ½ cup diced ham

Mix the cheeses and the ham together.  Using a filet knife, cut a pocket into each breast, stuff each with ¼ of the cheese and ham mixture and close with a toothpick.  Bake in a 350 degree over for 30-40 minutes, until the internal temperature hits 160 degrees.  Sauce with Béchamel.


  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • Bouquet Garni (bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley stems, thyme, etc.)
  • 1 1/4 cups of Light Cream
  • 2 tbs. of butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbls. flour

Add the onion, carrot, celery and the bouquet garni into a large pan with the milk and cream. Heat to a boil, turn off and allow the aromatics to steep in the dairy for thirty minutes.  After thirty minutes, strain the dairy into another pot and bring to a simmer.  While that is happening, melt the butter and add the flour.  Stir into a roux and cook to a pale stage. Add the hot dairy and whisk until it comes to a boil.  Oh, baby.


January 4, 2009 Posted by | Main Dish, Recipe | 1 Comment