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Chonchos in Ponchos

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DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

These are my gringo Mexican pigs in a blanket (choncho means “chunky” or “chubby”). I brought them to a Cinco de Mayo party one Sunday, and they disappeared in seconds. It’s a very highbrow recipe that starts with Pillsbury crescent roll dough. You know it’s classy when you start with that! Just slit some smoked sausages, stuff them with Jack cheese and jalapenos, and then wrap them in the dough. Brush with garlic butter and bake the little piggies. A final sprinkling of cheese and smoked paprika is the gourmet touch. Viva Mexico!

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri

DIFFICULTY: 3 of 5 (5 being hardest)

It’s almost comical how much I love steak. At Woodfire Grill, we inevitably have little scraps of beef left in the kitchen at the end of the night. Whoever is working the grill knows that they have to grill these scraps and give them to me. I could eat steak every day of the week. You won’t see me rushing to buy a filet mignon. I like steak with texture, like flank steak. The more work a muscle does, the more flavorful it gets. The flank or abdomen of a steer does a mountain of work holding up this half-ton animal and helping it walk. Flank has an intensely beefy flavor and a satisfying chew. Plus, it’s one of the less expensive steak cuts. But it’s critical to remember that flank overcooks really fast. If this cut goes past medium-rare, it’s completely inedible.

My favorite complement for grilled steak is chimichurri, a sort of Argentine vinaigrette with lots of herbs. I make mine a little differently than most people do. Argentineans just combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. I like to keep the vinegar away from the herbs until the last minute so that the herbs stay bright green and highly aromatic. I was a little concerned that South Americans wouldn’t like it because it’s not traditional. But one of my cooks at the restaurant is from South America, and when he tasted it he said, “This is light years better than the classic version.” To me, that’s a thumbs-up.

Sautéed Wild Salmon with Peas and Mushrooms

DIFFICULTY: 3 of 5 (5 being hardest)

In 2006, when I was cooking at Fife restaurant in Portland, Oregon, the area was just getting national recognition for its amazing local food. Wild salmon, mushrooms, hazelnuts, and ultra-fresh vegetables are iconic Northwest ingredients. This dish combines them all. I take a classic approach with the fish: It’s sautéed and finished with browned butter and lemon juice. That technique is as old-school as it gets. I cook oyster mushrooms in brown butter, too, just enough to bring out their floral aroma.

Buffalo Pork “Wings”

DIFFICULTY: 3 of 5 (5 being hardest)

In 2013, I was commissioned to serve a dish at the Georgia Dome during a Falcons game. While other chefs brought froufrou food to the football stadium, I brought something absurd: the pork wing. Chicken wings are my favorite junk food, and I figured they’d be even better with pork, especially during a football game. Here we have braised pork belly cut into chunks the size of hot wings, fried, and slathered in wing sauce. They’re ludicrous and delicious at the same time. The fans seemed to like them. As I understand it, I hold the record for highest sales among guest chefs at the Georgia Dome. I’m also the only guest chef who worked his own station.

Spicy Sausage and Kale Soup

DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

This is my mom’s all-time favorite thing that I make. If she’s sick, I get a call to make this soup. If she has a few days off at home, I get a call to make the soup. For family functions, I get the call. She first had something like it at the Olive Garden when I was a teenager. She came home and said, “Kevin, you need how to figure out how to make this!” She drove me to the Olive Garden—40 minutes away—specifically so I could taste this soup. It’s basically potato soup with sausage and greens in it. I’ve been making some version of it now since I was 15 years old. I like the soup kind of brothy. The potato just thickens it up a little bit. I also like black lacinato kale, but you could use other greens if you like.