Bacon, Blue Cheese and Baby Red Potato Salad

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Baby Red Potato Salad | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a recipe based on a product that I [should not have] discovered at the deli counter in our local Pick ‘n Save grocery store. After trying a sample and gleefully purchasing a one-pound container, I hauled-ass home and proceeded to eat most of it in one sitting — and then spent the remainder of the day in a self-induced food coma watching M.A.S.H. reruns on TV Land.

Yeah, it’s that good.

This recipe took three tries to get right. The time spent reverse-engineering it was definitely worth the hassle. Share with friends at your next outdoor BBQ. Enjoy!



2 pounds baby red potatoes, washed and scrubbed
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese  – don’t skimp on quality here, folks
5 strips bacon, cooked crispy and then crumbled
3/4 cup mayo* (please, do this dish justice and don’t go with the low-fat version)
1/2 cup sour cream
Up to 1/4 cup peppercorn-ranch dressing, to taste*
1 tbs. white vinegar
1 tbs. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
3/4 tsp. salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. sugar
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
3 stalks scallion, finely sliced, including the greens
1/2 garden red bell pepper, finely chopped



Wash and scrub the baby red potatoes and set aside. Leave the skins on. Bring four quarts of water to boil in a stock pot. Add one teaspoon salt. Cook the potatoes for about 14-15 minutes, until fork-tender. Rinse with cold water and cut into eighths. Set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, in a separate mixing bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Add the cooked potatoes and gently fold together until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving so the flavors have time to set up. It’s best if left to sit overnight.

*You may compensate if the dressing is a bit dry by adding more mayo or peppercorn ranch.

Serves 4-6

Garden Red Bell Pepper | Culinary Compost Recipes

2017 garden bell pepper – I’ve had the best luck growing these in five-gallon buckets placed on my back patio.

Browning Bacon in a Cast-Iron Skillet | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mmmmm….. BACON.


Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Pizza

Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost

Burnt, but not forgotten….

This is a recipe loosely based on one presented by Geoffrey Zakarian of Food Network. His recipe was great, but I wanted more toppings to properly fill a 12″ cast-iron skillet. My version is in between a thin-crust and deep dish pizza with a wonderful smoked Gouda-stuffed crust.

On my first attempt, the kitchen smoke alarm went off six times, the cat hid in the basement, and the crust was slightly burnt. Lesson learned. Every oven cooks differently — and knowing how blistering hot cast-iron gets, my next attempt will be at 475°F for 20 minutes, with no preheat on the crust. I’ll update ya’ll on my progress. Overall, it had great flavor, and an intense, rich, smokey undertone from the gouda cheese. I stressed over making pizza dough from scratch for the first time, but it was easy.

This is a winning recipe. Enjoy!



For the Dough:
2 cups bread flour
1.5 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. breadmaker yeast
3/4 cup warm water + 2 tbs. (115°F)
1 tsp. honey
1 tbs. XV olive oil

For the Pizza Sauce:
2 tbs. XV olive oil
1/2 tsp. cayenne chili pepper flakes, to taste
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 can 8 oz. Contadina® tomato sauce
4-5 chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt, and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

For the Crust:
4 tbs. XV olive oil
White flour, for flouring the dough surface
4 oz. premium smoked Gouda cheese, cut into 2″ x 1/2″ slices
Cornmeal for dusting the pan
Kosher salt

Pizza Toppings:
1/4 cup crumbled, cooked bacon
1 Johnsonville® mild Italian sausage, casing removed, fried until no longer pink, crumbled and drained of fat
Premium Volpi® pepperoni sausage slices – 12-14, enough to cover the pizza
2-4 oz. premium smoked Gouda cheese, 1/4″ cubed, as preferred
1/4 cup black olives, thinly sliced and blotted dry
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 sliced red bell pepper
6-10 fresh basil leaves rough-chopped
3 large Cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced and sauteed in 2 tbs. XV olive oil for five minutes
4 oz. shredded hard Parmesan cheese



Prepare the pizza dough by adding 2 cups bread flour, kosher salt, yeast, honey and olive oil to a food processor with a dough blade.
Turn on the processor and gradually add the warm water until the dough pulls away from the sides of the work bowl. In my Breville Sous Chef processor, it only takes one minute.

Remove the dough and place on a sheet of nonstick baker’s parchment paper that has been sprinkled lightly with flour. Knead gently for one minute. Place in a greased mixing bowl covered with a damp, warm towel, and let stand for one hour. I prefer to let the dough rise in my oven with the oven light on. This is a great technique when temperatures are cooler in the winter.

Preparing the Sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and then add the chili flakes and minced garlic. Saute for five minutes, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t scorch. Add the tomato puree and basil. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with Kosher salt and pepper. Shut off the heat.

Preparing the Pizza Crust: Preheat oven to 475 or 500°F. Grease a heavy, 12″ cast-iron pan with 2 tbs. XV olive oil. Dust the bottom of the pan with a bit of cornmeal to prevent the crust from sticking.

When the pizza dough has doubled in size, punch down, then roll out on parchment paper or a floured counter top into a 14″ circle (see note below.) Carefully place in the cast-iron pan. Press the dough into the corners of the pan to prevent air pockets from forming and leave about one inch overhang for the next step. Add sliced Gouda cheese around the perimeter of the dough, and then fold and crimp the dough over the cheese, forming a rolled crust. Brush the rim of the crust with the remaining 2 tbs. of olive oil. Sprinkle the rim very lightly with kosher salt.

Add the prepared pizza sauce to the center of the dough and spread out evenly with a large spoon. DO NOT over sauce, or the crust will be soggy. Layer the toppings, finishing off with the remaining Gouda and grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake as instructed, 475-500°F, for 20 minutes, watching the crust carefully. Remove from heat, let stand for fifteen minutes in the pan to set*, and then cut and serve.

Serves 2-4.


Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost

Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost

Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost


3/12/16  UPDATE: Made a second pie and cooked it at 475°F for 20 minutes. Crust came out PERFECT. Results shown below. Experiment and have fun!

Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost


NOTE: When rolling the pizza dough, you need to give it time for the glutens to relax and reduce their elasticity. If you try immediately rolling the dough to the full diameter needed, you will tear it and not get a circular shape. After punching down the dough, roll it out into an eight to ten-inch circle. Flip over and allow to rest on the work surface for five minutes. Repeat this step after rolling it larger. Repeat again to get the final size with a bit of excess for the rolled crust. This process takes a bit more time, but your crust will be very even and easier to work with.

*Finally, the more vegetables you add, the more rendered liquid you will have in the final product. If your pizza comes out soggy, even after standing for 15 minutes, reduce the amount of peppers, onions and mushrooms. They all have very high water content.

Salsa Arriero con Ajo (Mule Driver’s Salsa with Garlic)

Salsa Arriero con Ajo (Mule Driver's Salsa with Garlic)

Grilling the serrano peppers, onion and garlic over hardwood charcoal in a griling grate.

This is a traditional Mexican salsa recipe that can be quite spicy. You can blister the serrano chilis and onion on a cast-iron comal or fire them over wood coals. Honestly, for me, it’s much easier to use a dedicated grill basket over charcoal. The salsa is traditionally ground by hand in a molcajete – a handcrafted lava-rock bowl consisting of a mortar and pestle, but you can also use a food processor with a pulse blade. Serve on fresh-toasted tortillas with shredded Queso Fresco or Monterey Jack cheese.


20 fresh serrano peppers, washed and stemmed
1 small white onion, quartered
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Kosher salt, to taste
a few tablespoons water, if needed
XV Olive oil
Shredded Queso Fresco or Monterey Jack cheese


Wash and stem the serrano peppers. Peel and quarter the onion. Peel the garlic cloves. Prepare an outdoor charcoal grill with enough hardwood coal for a small fire. When white-hot, place the grill pan over the coals and add the peppers, onion and garlic. Sear and let blacken for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, place in a food processor and pulse until rough-choppeed.  Add the cilantro and Kosher salt to taste. Add a small amount of water if needed. Stir well and let stand to incorporate.

Using a comal or cast-iron pan, heat the tortillas on medium with a bit of olive oil until lightly browned. Flip occasionally to ensure they don’t burn. Remove from heat and cut into quarters. Place the salsa and cheese on a quarter tortilla. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-8.
Heat Level: 7

Smoked Mac ‘n’ Cheese

This is a recipe loosely based on John McLemore’s recipe from Dadgum That’s Good!  I thought his version was good, but a tad dry.  I tweaked it by adding buttermilk, two extra spices, Velveeta cheese and BACON. In my humble opinion, every mac ‘n’ cheese recipe should have bacon in it. Indeed — the world is a better place with more cheese and bacon.

For this recipe I use a 30″ Masterbuilt Smoker with an electronic temperature control.  It’s pretty much idiot-proof and the result is amazing.

Don’t be alarmed when half of your neighborhood stops over and asks what that wonderful smell is.  The combination of apple wood smoke, Gouda cheese and bacon is unbeatable.



One 16-oz. package elbow macaroni or fusilli pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup buttermilk
One 8-oz. block of cream cheese, cut into chunks
One 8-oz. block of Velveeta® cheese, cut into chunks
1 tsp. Lawry’s seasoned salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 cups extra-sharp shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
2 cups shredded Gouda cheese (divided)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, then crumbled

1 cup apple wood chips for smoking
Disposable 11 x 9.5″ aluminum baking pan



Preheat your smoker to 225° F, and ensure the wood chip holder is inserted (without wood) so the interior of the smoker box stays hot. Completely shut the top vent.

Cook the pasta until just al dente in water with a pinch of salt. Drain well and set aside.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, melt the butter and whisk the flour into the butter. Be careful not to scorch it, and stir constantly. Cook for two minutes until the sauce is bubbly and thick. Slowly whisk in the milk and buttermilk and bring to a low boil. Cook another five minutes until thickened. Add the Lawry’s salt, white pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Stir in the crumbled bacon, cubed cream cheese and Velveeta, and mix until smooth.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine one cup of the sharp cheddar and Gouda cheese and all of the Parmesan cheese, cooked pasta and the cream sauce. Stir gently, then spoon the mixture into a 11 x 9.5″ disposable aluminum baking tray coated generously with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cup of shredded cheddar and Gouda cheese.

When the smoker is preheated, load the chip holder with apple wood. Place the baking pan on the center rack, seal the door and cook for one hour. Leave the top smoke vent open only 1/4″ for full flavor.

Remove, let set five minutes and serve.

Serves 6.


Mike’s Sausage con Queso

Mike's Sausage con Queso recipe | Culinary Compost

This recipe is one of my hands-down favorites. The Chorizo sausage is rich and savory, adding just the right amount of meaty zip to round out the flavor. If you can’t find bulk ground chorizo, use the casing version by removing the casing and then browning it in a pan. Either method works well.

And my secret ingredient? Chimayo chili powder, available in bulk from many New Mexican online retailers.


8 oz. spicy bulk chorizo sausage
8 oz. block Monterey Jack cheese, cubed
8 oz. block Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 tsp. pure mild chimayo chili powder
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 poblano pepper*, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (if you need more heat)
6 dried chiltepin peppers, crushed in a mortar (if you need even MORE heat)
1 roma tomato, cored and diced
chopped cilantro leaves or scallion for garnish

Tortilla chips for dipping


Prepare the poblano pepper. In a 2.5 quart cast-iron pot or heavy sauce pan, brown the chorizo sausage until no longer pink. Remove and reserve on paper towel to absorb the fat. Drain and discard the fat drippings from the pot and add the cheese. Heat on medium-low, stirring constantly until melted. Ensure that the cheese does not scorch. Add the meat back in. Add the peppers, garlic and chimayo powder and stir well until blended. Finally, add the tomato, remove from heat and serve in a dipping bowl with scallion or cilantro as a garnish.

*Note: To roast the poblano, wash the pepper and broil in your oven until the skin blackens and starts to blister off, about seven minutes per side. Remove and place in a sealed paper bag for ten minutes. Then rinse under cold water and work the tough outer skin off. You can also *carefully* use a portable propane torch with great results.

This recipe can also be prepared in your microwave oven, but there is no substitute for slow and low on the stovetop. If you can’t find chorizo sausage, Jimmy Dean spicy breakfast sausage will work well.

Serves 4-6.

Dried Chiltepin Peppers | Culinary Compost

Dried chiltepin peppers – don’t be fooled by their tiny size. They pack intense heat, measuring 80,000 Scoville heat units.

Wisconsin Beer Cheese Dip

You can only get away with this in Wisconsin – we offer no apologies. And I must say this recipe is fantastic (thanks Jen.) I suggest using Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss for the brew.


2 8-oz. bricks of cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup of beer (hey, you want to have some left over to drink…)
1 package Ranch dressing mix (or Lipton onion soup mix)

1 cup fresh grated parmesan


Put everything except for the parmesan cheese in a blender and pulse until smooth. Pour into a serving dish and top with the grated parmesan. Serve immediately with pretzels.

Serves 4-6

Chipotle Gouda Cornbread

Chipotle Gouda Cornbread

A well-seasoned cast-iron pan is a must for cornbread. Let the pan heat in the oven before adding the batter — this will ensure a nice crust on the bottom.

The Gouda cheese and chipotle seasoning add a great, smokey undertone to this dish. A refreshing change from traditional cornbread. Moist and zippy – it’s a sure-fire crowd pleaser.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal
3 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. dry chipotle powder
1/2 cup Gouda cheese, shredded

1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbs. honey
1/2 stick butter, melted


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 12-cup muffin pan, or a 9″ cake pan or heavy cast-iron skillet, with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl mix the flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder and chipotle powder until well combined.  Add the cheese and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl mix the egg, milk, honey or corn syrup, and butter.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the liquid ingredients into it.  Fold the mixture gently, mixing until the dry ingredients are just moist.  Do not over-mix.

Scoop into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup halfway with batter, or pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes for muffins, or 25 to 30 for the cake pan.
Allow to cool in the pan for 3 minutes before turning out.

Yield: 18 muffins or one 9″ round loaf.

Arizona Baked Corn Dip

Arizona Baked Corn Dip | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a great recipe that keeps well when reheated the second day. The green chili and jalapeño add just the right amount of zip for even the pickiest guests.

And now for my helpful tip: Being the chef who actually made this stunning appetizer, you have first dibs. Strategically grab a ginormous serving spoon — or better yet, a gravy ladle. Cut to the front of the line, load up a plate and don’t worry about embarrassing yourself — you’re going to be eating that much anyway, so you might as well beat everyone else to it. Trust me, they’ll respect you for it.



1 can, 15-1/4 oz. whole kernel corn – drained
2 cans, 4 oz. each, chopped green chilis, drained
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tbs fresh chopped jalapeño pepper
1 cup mayo (please do this dish justice and don’t go with the low-fat version)
1/2 cup grated Mexican Cotija cheese (Nuestro Queso is an excellent brand) or hard Parmesan
1 4 oz. can sliced black olives, drained

Snack tortilla chips or crackers



Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a bowl, combine the corn, chilis, red pepper, Monterey Jack cheese and fresh jalapeño. Stir in the mayo and grated Cotija or Parmesan cheese. Mix well.

Transfer to an ungreased 2-qt. square baking dish and level with a spatula. Sprinkle the black olives on top. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until heated through, slightly brown and bubbly, with most of the liquid cooked off. Remove from the oven and let stand for ten minutes to set before serving.

Serve hot with tortilla chips or party crackers.

Serves 6-8.

Skillet Quiche Egg and Cheese Bake

Cast-Iron Skillet Spinach Quiche | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a smaller quiche recipe that will fill a #5 (8-inch) cast-iron skillet. It will serve four. I love the spinach in this recipe – I tried other veggies but have always come back to it.
Best served in cast iron as it ensures very even cooking.



Seasoned croutons
Chopped ham
Chopped spinach
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. dry parsley
1 tsp. dry chives

5 eggs – beaten
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste



Spray the cast iron skillet so that it doesn’t stick. Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Layer the first six ingredients in the order shown. Place enough croutons to evenly cover the bottom of the skillet. Load up the ham and spinach to your liking.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk and add the salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the base ingredients in the skillet. If the ingredients mound slightly over the top of the skillet, that’s ok; the spinach will settle a lot when baked.

Bake in the oven uncovered for 50-60 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Remove and let stand for two minutes. Quarter and serve hot.

Note: Cast-iron cooks very efficiently. Do not let it overcook.

Serves 2-4.


Cast-Iron Skillet Spinach Quiche | Culinary Compost Recipes


Large Quiche Egg and Cheese Bake

Great for breakfast or as a side dish for a large get-together. This recipe will fill a 9×13″ baking dish.


2 cups chopped spinach, green pepper or broccoli tops, cut in to small pieces
3 cups seasoned croutons
2 cups coarse-grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked ham, cut into 1/4″ cubes
8 large eggs, beaten
2-1/2 cups milk
1 large tomato, cored and cut into wedges


Preheat your oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the croutons, cheese and ham in the dish and mix well. Spread out evenly. Add the broccoli, spinach or green pepper.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Pour mixture evenly over the crouton mix. Push the tomato wedges into the mixture ensuring they are evenly spaced.

Bake uncovered 30-40 minutes until crust is golden brown. Contents should be firm and not runny when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven, let stand five minutes, cut and serve hot.

Makes 12 pieces.