Growing up I was lucky enough to have home-cooked meals on a regular basis. My mom made excellent casseroles, stews and roasts, and my dad could always whip up burgers or pork chops on the grill. When I go back to visit my folks we usually have dinner at home, sitting around the same table they’ve had since I was a child. The meals I remember the most were the simple, classic dishes we would take to potlucks or have at family gatherings during the holidays.
I don’t often cook just for me; dinner for one on a Sunday is a little boring. When I cook outside of work I like to do large batches of slow-cooked dishes and things I can share with family and friends. Working up a big pot of chili, roasting brisket or putting together a classic Bolognese sauce are some of my favorites.
The lasagna every year at our family Christmas started out with a pork Bolognese from my great-aunt Connie. Several years ago, we shifted to a pre-made sauce to simplify things. (Making lasagna for a crowd became a lot of work for my grandmother.) Quickly noticing the difference, I set out to locate what was left of Connie’s Secret Recipe. The next year, my aunt Donette, grandma D and I put our heads together to rebuild it.
After a few hours of work, many cups of coffee, a lot of tasting and discussing, we turned the list of ingredients back into a recipe. This is our 24th consecutive year and we now gather any available nephews, nieces and grandkids a week early to assemble lasagna for our 50-plus family members.
At work my sous chef, Rachel Rinas, and I are constantly bouncing ideas off each other. We both have an affinity for comfort foods and classic dishes—but also seek to push the boundaries. “What if” is one of the most common phrases in the kitchen at SoT, as we try to keep creativity and communication open in pursuit of a unique and seasonal spin on our favorite foods.
For me, cooking at home is about tasting, testing and trying new things. The recipes that follow came from dishes I remember from my childhood, rediscovered with my family, or came across as an adult. They are versatile, adjustable and most importantly, shareable.
Mark Dandurand’s first job out of high school was as a dishwasher at a restaurant in his hometown of Warrensburg.
“Then one night the salad guy didn’t show up and I moved up to that, then one night the grill guy didn’t show up and I moved up to that,” he says, and soon enough he was running the kitchen.
After graduating from Missouri State in Creative Writing, he decided to follow his true love and entered the culinary program at Ozark Tech. An opportunity to run the kitchen at a dude ranch in Wyoming then led to executive chef at Local Pig-Westport, which led to touring as a caterer for the Trans Siberian Orchestra.
Just as he was ready to leave on another tour, he was offered his current position as chef at SoT, where he’s developed a creative cuisine of shareable and small plates at the hip, new bar to accompany the “elevated cocktails” on the bar menu.
Aunt Connie’s Pork Neck Bolognese
Traditionally this is the sauce my family uses for our Christmas lasagna, but it also works just as well served over your favorite pasta. I recommend finishing the dish with chunks of soft goat cheese and fresh parsley, the bright creamy flavor of the cheese complements the rich meaty sauce nicely, and the parsley adds freshness to the dish.
1 pound Italian pork sausage
2 pounds pork neck bones
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups yellow onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
28 ounce can stewed tomatoes
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon ground marjoram
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons salt
1½ tablespoons ground black pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup red wine
Season the neck bones with salt and pepper. In a medium stockpot, brown neck bones and sausage in olive oil, add celery, carrot, onion and garlic, sauté until tender. Deglaze the pot with red wine. Add tomatoes, herbs, bay, brown sugar and pepper. Let simmer for 2-3 hours stirring regularly, until neck-bone meat is tender. Remove bones from sauce, remove any remaining meat from the bones and add back into the pot. Note: for a quicker (although less flavorful) variation omit the neck bones and let the sauce simmer for up to one hour.
Pork Chile Verde
This is a recipe I picked up during my time at Eaton’s Ranch in Wyoming. I would make breakfast and lunch for the family and ranchers who spent their time tending to cattle and preparing for the summer dude season. A warm meal of spicy and flavorful pork was a great way to help offset the frigid and often sub-zero temperatures found in mountains. I like to serve this dish with jalapeno/corn salsa and garnish with charred limes and fresh cilantro.
1 leek, cleaned, split, rinsed and cut into 1-inch chunks
½ yellow onion, cut into quarters
10 tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut in half
2 jalapeno peppers
1 poblano chile
8 cloves garlic
2 limes, halved
3½ pounds pork butt, bone-in or boneless, diced in 1 to 2-inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
14 ounce can green chiles
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 bunch cilantro (reserve 4 tablespoons for garnish)
Toss leek, onion, tomatillo, jalapeno, poblano chile and garlic in oil and season with salt.
Broil vegetables and limes on rimmed sheet pan in the oven on high, turning often until peppers are roasted, garlic is browned and tomatillos are soft. Season and brown diced pork butt in medium stockpot with olive oil. Under cool running water peel, de-stem and de-seed peppers.
Add leek, onion, tomatillo, pepper and garlic to food processor and pulse until smooth. Juice the lime halves and add juice, green chiles, cumin, salt and cilantro to food processor and pulse 2 to 3 times. Pour sauce into stockpot with pork and simmer one-and-a-half to two hours or until pork is tender.
2 cups sweet corn (fresh is best)
2 jalapenos, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup red onion, small dice
Juice from half of a lime
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro to taste
Sauté one cup of the corn in olive oil, add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine.
Mom’s Roast Brisket
Roasting brisket is obviously not a Kansas City tradition, however around my house as a child it’s something that made an appearance at almost every Boy Scout potluck, soccer social and family gathering. Usually sitting next to a hash-brown casserole.
3-4 pound brisket, flat
5-6 cloves garlic
Rub brisket with salt, pepper and few dashes liquid smoke. (Go easy on the liquid smoke as it is just for seasoning not to make the brisket smoky).
Place brisket on a large sheet of aluminum foil, add garlic cloves and wrap tightly with foil.
Put brisket on rimmed baking sheet and roast at 325 degrees for two-and-a-half to three hours or until tender. Let brisket rest until cool before slicing.
Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce or horseradish cream sauce.
In the summertime my folks would take us out to the farm to check on the soybean or corn crops. While my dad cleared brush and mowed fence lines with my older brothers, I would often accompany my mom hunting for blackberries. Sometimes we would come back with gallons of them and freeze them for cobbler making in the fall and eventually blackberry jelly to be given as gifts during the holidays.
8 cups fresh blackberries
1/3 cup sugar
Juice of half of a lemon
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup blackberry jelly (homemade if you’re lucky)
Toss all ingredients in mixing bowl and allow to rest 30 minutes for berries to macerate.
Drop Biscuit Topping
3 tablespoons sugar
1½ cups flour
1½ tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled butter, diced
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
Mix sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in bowl. Cut in butter with pastry cutter or pulse in food processor. Fold in milk and eggs until just combined. Butter 9-by 9-inch glass baking dish or 10-inch cast-iron pan. Add berry mixture and top with scoops of biscuit mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes or until cobbler is bubbly and biscuits are set.
I like to serve this dish with vanilla ice cream and a light drizzle of honey.