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Many of my favorite recipes were either accidents, twists on something I read, or things taught to me I just couldn't help but stop and write it down. This is my Leather Bound Book.


Braciole with Flank Steak & Spinach

Coming from an Italian family I have tried many different types of dishes sitting in my great-grandmothers kitchen growing up. The smell of her tomato sauce she made every Sunday filling every room of that old farm house, or the sight of her meatballs that were almost the size of my head (or so I thought at that age). As far back as I can remember, I tasted everything she ever made in that kitchen. That was the only beauty of them not having much money. Everything was picked from their garden, and the meat came from the farm animals my grandfather would butcher. Out of all of those recipes, I never once heard the term braciole pass my ears. I couldn’t even tell you why as my grandfather remembers her making it all the time. When he and I sat down one day discussing all his memories of his mother’s cooking, he mentioned her braciole. Honestly, I had no idea what he was talking about even though I have heard the term before. Once he explained it to me, I had to come up with my own. Stuffed steak simmered in white wine and tomato sauce? It sounded like a masterpiece and I needed it in my belly. Hopefully I did Grandma Ellie proud.

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Lasagna with Wonton Wrappers

If you have ever listened to my radio show, I constantly preach about reinventing the old and making it yours. When I first started my Chef career, I basically self-diagnosed myself as a Mediterranean Chef because the majority of what I liked could have been classified as Mediterranean cuisine. Roman (Italian), Asian, and Greek cuisine all blended together in one culinary culture. Upon inspection and criticism, I have reclassified as “New-American” as I never do a dish that is entirely Asian, Italian, polish, Hungarian but I blend different techniques and flavors of each. When I was asked to do lasagna at my restaurant, there was always something I wanted to try. I love wonton wrappers because of their versatility and ease of use. This was the perfect opportunity. I was astounded by the outcome. The wontons, not exactly a noodle, not exactly a sheet, had the perfect consistency without the weight of a semolina noodle. Give it a try, and you are sure to be surprised.

Serves 4-6


Meat Layer

1lbs Ground Beef, 80/20 Chuck

1 tsp White Pepper

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Garlic Minced

1 tsp Onion Powder

1 tsp Paprika

½ tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 tsp Oregano

1 tsp Basil

4 Cups Your Favorite Red Sauce, homemade or jarred

Cheese Layer

2lbs Ricotta Cheese

1/2 tsp Paprika

1/2 tsp Onion Powder

2 tsp Minced Garlic

2-1lbs Packages Wonton Wrappers

In a medium pot heat the olive oil with the minced garlic over medium heat. Add the ground chuck and all the spices and herbs. Using a steel spoon or spatula, break up the meat while it cooks so that there are no large chunks of meat. Once the meat is cooked completely through, add your sauce and blend thoroughly. Once done, set aside. In a large bowl mix the ricotta, paprika, onion powder, and minced garlic with a whisk. Once mixed thoroughly set aside.

Spray a 9x13 pan with pan spray, Pam, or rub with olive oil. Place a layer of wonton wrappers across the bottom and sides, overlapping each by ¼ of an inch, about 36 wrappers. Apply a ¼ inch layer of the meat mixture, lay 24 wontons on top overlapping the same, and then apply ¼ inch cheese layer covered by wontons. Repeat process until all of the meat and cheese is used. In the pictures I made 40 layers. I know a little over the top, and WAY too time consuming.

My first batch was a little wonton heavy, so about 12 layers will do the trick. The top layer should be the meat layer covered by a last wonton layer, cover with red sauce and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Serve hot cut into any size you see fit. Even though this recipe has an ingredient not many people have used before, it is fairly simple to make, and absolutely delicious.


Marinated Filet Mignon with Honey Butter Toast

When I am deciding to do a recipe post here on Leather Bound, I try to think of one of those recipes in my book that I either haven’t done in years or a new inclusion I have yet to post. This one is a tried and true recipe I came up with about three months ago. In August my Sous Chef challenged me to another cook-off. I saw this as the opportunity to pull out all the guns and show my customers something they have never seen before. Anyone can do a marinated steak sandwich. Not this steak. I am not saying my recipes are the best you have ever had, but I am sure I have shown some of you something you have never seen before. Challenge made sir Sous Chef? Challenge accepted. Here is my most popular dish from my restaurants 2nd Annual Iron Chef Cook-Off.

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Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper Panini

So when I first agreed to buy the restaurant with my family I saw this as my opportunity to learn and grow on my own. I envisioned my days toiling over the flames, creating new and interesting items: Challenging the traditional methods and creating my own interesting style and creations. I figured that every day would be a new culinary challenge. Never once did I think my challenges would come at home. Normally when I ask my girlfriend what she wants for dinner I get a “Whatever you decide baby.” Since I told her I want to challenge myself at home with new foods I never expected her to catch on and actually challenge me. The first question she posed this time was, “Can you make Panini’s?” That was quickly followed with a “Oh, Eggplant and roasted red pepper Panini!” Many of you must be thinking, eggplant Lane? Not challenging at all. I would agree with you, but I HATE eggplant. To me it is a squash wishing it was a zucchini, but falling very short. So my challenge was using it as a main ingredient and having it appeal to those that dislike it. All in all, I have won the challenge.

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Lemon, Spinach, and Red Chili Pasta

A few weeks ago I mentioned in a blog post that I realized I am not that talented at Asian cuisine because of a terrible mishap with rice noodles and broccoli that I will never mention to my cooks. After days of racking my brain with what went wrong, how I could have screwed up so terribly with the amount of time I spend thinking about food. Then it hit me. Like an epiphany, but slightly more painful to my ego. I cannot follow recipes. In all the time I have spent with food, all the specials I have designed for the restaurant, every time I print out a recipe and follow it to the T it never is what I expect. I do not know if it is my inability to follow directions, or maybe I just cannot read. Who knows?

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