About Cooking With Vinny

Chef/Humorist Vinny Verelli says, "If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong." Vinny is, The Goomba Guru of Negativity Management®. He provides customized keynotes and hilarious conference summaries for the culinary and foodservice industry. Vinny works with groups that want to laugh while they learn. With over 15 years of professional restaurant experience and 30 years in show business Vinny is uniquely positioned to deliver your message in a way that will be fun, engaging and memorable. This real world foodservice experience gives Vinny the credibility that your audience expects. Author of, "Motivate This," Vinny has been called the Tony Soprano of motivational speakers. He also speaks to non food groups. He's on task, he's on target ...he's on parole. http://www.motivatethis.net

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Paella Valenciano

Here is My Version of an Authentic Paella.

What is authentic paella? It’s paella served in Valencia. And I’ll bet that no two Valencian restaurants prepare their “authentic paella” in the same way. Making any traditional dish requires certain givens. Paella is a rice dish seasoned with saffron smoked paprika and “other” spices along with meats or seafood or a combination of of the two. Many traditional recipes call for rabbit, too close to Easter. If your grandmother is from Spain and she taught you how to make paella, changes are that’s as authentic as you can get. If you’re board look at parts of several “authentic paella” videos on youtube. They are ALL different. So here is my take on the Classic Spanish Dish.

8 people were coming to dinner but I made enough for 10 hoping I would have left overs. There was plenty of succulent rice to allow for seconds. Everyone had a thigh, 3 shrimp and 4 slices of sausage. Rice and 2 chicken thighs were left for lunch the next day.

The only critical proportion is the ratio of rice to broth. I was using Bomba rice, an authentic paella rice from Valencia. It absorbs 3 parts liquid to one part rice instead of the usual 2 to one. You’ll be cooking the rice uncovered at a higher temperature than traditional rice so don’t skimp on the liquid. After adding the rice you want to make sure that everything in the pan is covered by the liquid.

Funny speaker for food service events

Chef/Humorist Vinny Verelli’s  version of a mixed paella.

2 cups of Paella Rice or Risotto Rice
 (If you’re not using paella rice, adjust the liquid.
8oz Spanish Style Chorizo, or other smoked sausage cut into coins
8 Chicken Thighs, skin on, bone in.
24 Large Shrimp (leaving the shells on helps to keep them from over cooking)
1 Large Yellow Onion, finely diced
6 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Can Chopped Tomatoes
 (substitute ripe tomatoes if they’re available)
1 bag frozen peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 red bell peppers – roasted and peeled. If you don’t want to take the time to roast your own peppers you can sear the strips in hot olive oil and reserve for the garnish at the end.
1 Cup white wine
5 Cups of Chicken Stock
2 Large Pinches of Saffron
1 heaping tsp of Smoked Sweet Paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
About 4 Tbsp of Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste


  • Heat oil in the pan
  • If you don’t intend to roast, sear red bell pepper strips and set aside
  • Sear shrimp in some oil and 2 cloves of minced garlic about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  • Season chicken lightly with salt and sauté until golden brown.
  • Add onions, garlic and diced bell peppers. Sauté until vegetables are tender.
  • Add the cooked sausage
  • Add chopped tomatoes and cook for another couple of minutes
  • Add dry seasonings except for salt.
  • Stir in the peas
  • Add wine and the broth.
  • Bring everything to a boil. Before adding the rice you can taste the liquid and adjust
  • Stir in the rice making sure that all ingredients are covered by the liquid.
  • Boil the mixture on high for 8 minutes,
  • Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. With a spoon push some rice aside and check to see if there is still liquid. A traditional paella will be crusty on the bottom. Crisp not burnt. If the liquid seems to be gone reduce the heat to low and..
  • Replace the shrimp around the rim of the pan to finish cooking and heat up.
  • Layer the roasted or seared red bell pepper

The pan I was using was a beautiful copper paella pan with stainless cooking surface. I brought the dish to the table so I could get all the Oos & Ahs before serving it up. A side salad and a nice chilled white was all the meal needed.

Ciao For Now
Vinny Verelli
Speaker / Chef / Humorist

National Margarita Day

What’s your Favorite Margarita Recipe?

February 22 is National Margarita Day. Why a cool refreshing drink has it’s “Day” in the middle of February is anybody’s guess. Perhaps because while it’s 33º here in North Georgia (19º in St. Paul),  It’s 77º in Cozumel. And it’s a way for people sitting on Palancar Beach sipping the chilled tart libation to taunt those of us North of the Border drinking hot chocolate and bourbon. Actually hot chocolate and bourbon is really good.

Here is a video I made two years ago. I plan later today to make a once secret recipe for the margaritas made at Crarumba, a Mexican Restaurant on 9th AV in NYC.

The story:
Last year my old friend Keith Elrod and his wife Marion stopped by on their way to visit family in Florida and Marion made us some killer margaritas. We were asked to guess the secret ingredient that gave the margarita a unique and fabulous flavor. We could not nor would we have ever guest.

For a number of years Marion was the personal assistant to Chita Rivera. The two of them use to frequent a Mexican restaurant called Carumba in 9th Avenue. They made a unique margarita. The restaurant manager gave up their secret recipe to Ms. Rivera, who gave it up to Marion who told me. Now that the restaurant is closed I figure I can give up the recipe to you without giving away a trade secret.

In your blender add equal parts:
Frozen Limeade
Beer (that’s right beer!)
Use that can of Bud that’s been sitting in your refrigerator from when you brother-inlaw came over.
Add ice and blend. You are just blending the ingredients and chilling the drink. I prefer not to make it a frozen margarita. Optional: Pour 1/2 oz of Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liqueur over top of the drink and enjoy, with or without salt.

I will make a video of this soon and post it.

Escargot in a Pesto Beurre Blanc

Another Night of, “What’s On The Shelf?”

Hand nothing planned for dinner, so I was forced to take inventory. Inventory of the shelves, cabinets and freezer. I did not search the back of the refrigerator as I figured anything that was hidden back there would be good for another 6 month.

The inventory process serves multiple functions. First you figure out what you’re going to eat, it forces you to be creative and it clears the shelf of stuff you’ll actually use before the expiration date.

PestoIn the freezer were 3 half-pints ball jars if of pesto that I put up in early September. I think this was one of the best batches I’ve made. We have sometimes made a dinner of Pesto on gluten free crackers along with 2 tins of smoked oysters. Wash it down with a nice Prosecco.

This night I knew I would use the pesto. I had some corn and quinoa elbow pasta that had been opened and needed to be used. Although pasta with pesto is pleasing is pedestrian, it’s short of a meal.

Then I saw them, peaking out from behind a large bag of non GMO blue corn chips, 2 cans of escargot. Quick, check the date. Had 7 months to go. Hey, if you are squeamish about eating snails, the recipe that follows will work great with chicken or shrimp.

I’ll try to recreate what I did in this post but I can’t be 100% sure. No cameras were rolling as wasn’t planning anything.

Put a pot of water on to boil. When the water comes to a boil go ahead and cook whatever pasta you’re going to use according to the package directions. Strain the pasta but reserve the pasta liquid. This is when it’s nice to have one of those pasta cookers, tall pot with a colander that fits into the pot. Pull the pasta out and the liquid is left in tact.

While waiting for the water to boil start preparing your sauce.

I finely chopped a medium onion and sautéed them until sweet and golden brown in a sauté pan. With the burner now on high add a ½ cup of dry white wine. I used vermouth. It boiled away and was absorbed quickly. Turning the burner down to medium low I threw in a pad of butter mixing that into the onions. When it was gone I added another Tablespoon. It was taking on the consistency of a beurre blanc. Of course with a beurre blanc you would use shallots. Alas, there was none on the shelf.

EscargotEscargot cry out for garlic butter but there wasn’t an un-sprouted garlic clove in the house. This use to be major faux pas, one does not run out of onions or garlic. But now I’ve discovered garlic powder. Not garlic salt or granulated garlic, this is a fine powder that floats into your sauces and dissolves into any warm liquid or fat. The best I’ve found is the 365 Brand from Whole Foods. Ingredients: organic garlic.

As the butter is slowly being absorbed I sprinkle on of the garlic powder and stir the pan. Then another pad of butter and two cans of escargot. You could easily use one depending on how many snails you want per person.   Cook everything on a medium low heat for about 10 minutes. During this time you can add a ¼ cup of the pasta water to the pan stirring that in. Then add some more butter and a little more pasta water. I did this as I played with the consistency. I had me a pretty nice emulsified sauce going here and it smelled divine.

Careful not to add too much I sprinkled in a small amount of salt. It should taste like, “It needs a little more salt.” But before adding any more salt, I added two heaping tablespoons of the pesto and folded it in with all the ingredients. The aroma was immense. Now you can taste and adjust if it still, “needs a little salt.” I added the pesto last as the parmesan cheese in the pesto will burn on the bottom of the pan.

Now fold in the cooked drained pasta coating it with the sauce. If you have any freshly grated parmesan put it in a ramekin and pass it at the table.

That’s it a gourmet meal from stuff I found laying around.

National Guacamole Day

This delectable dish is so good it’s got 2 Days on the food calendar. 

Chef/Humorist makes Guacamole

Simple fresh ingredients – National Guacamole Day; September 16 & November 14

Guacamole has its roots in Aztec culture as early as 500 B.C., when the native peoples would mash the avocados which were everywhere with a mortal and pestle called a molcajete. They would add tomatoes and salt to make a food accompaniment.

Of course in the last 2500 years or so there have been some variations on this recipe,  there are a million different recipes on line 90% the same some trying to be different for the sake of being different, making it hot for the sake of making it hot. Most of the stuff you add masks the subtle flavor of the avocado. Of course in the south they will use mayonnaise to add fat the fruit that has the most fat of any other. What’s up with that?

The guacamole I’m going to make has simple fresh ingredients inside and a few more on the outside that people can use to customize their experience.

I’m gonna use ripe avocado, some minced onion, some seeded and chopped tomatoes. Since I like a smoky flavor I’m just going to add a couple dashes of chipotle pepper, a dash of smoked paprika and about a tsp of adobo. Sprinkle some fresh coarsely chopped cilantro on top and turn altogether. I don’t like to mush everything, I want to see my ingredients. What you see you can taste.

A lot of recipes call for lime. Lime does help stabilize the color but again it can mask the flavor. If my avocado is not fully ripe I will add some lime as a harder avocado doesn’t have the same flavor. If you’re going to let the sauce sit, and I like to give the flavors a chance to meld, cover with cling wrap pressing the wrap onto the surface of the guac. This keeps the air out. It’s the oxidation that turns the avocado brown. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before you eat it. Remove the wrap and If anything turns brown it’s just going to be the top layer so gently stir the pot and no one will be the wiser.

One variation I do when I need to stretch the product is to incorporated roasted sweet red and green peppers. You can’t use hot peppers to increase volume cause a little bit goes a long way.

Serve the sauce with organic, gluten free non GMO chips and sides of, lime, your favorite hot sauce, and additional salt and finely chopped cilantro. Enjoy with a margarita.

Ciao For Now

Sippin Sapporo at the 2014 Atlanta Food Expo

Chef/Humorist Vinny Verelli – 

Was at the 2nd Annual Atlanta Food Expo to emcee some culinary competitions and in my free time went around the trade show floor meeting exhibitors and learning about their products and services. The best booths were the ones giving away samples. And you can’t do better than a beautiful woman pouring beer. My favorite was the Sapporo Reserve.

Taste of Clarkesville

September 27, 2014 Historic Downtown Clarkesville, GA

Yesterday I headed to the square in Clarkesville for the 5th Annual Taste of Clarkesville. It didn’t take long for the crowds to arrive and the lines to form. Oh, the lines. It could take 15 minutes to get to the food and often for tiny portions. The video gives you a taste of the Taste of Clarkesville.

You bought tasting tickets for a buck each with the proceeds join got the hats off to The Copper Pot, Hawg Wild, Yakimono Express and the Midtown Grill for realizing that events like this are a cost of doing business and you don’t try an shave costs by giving out tiny portions. The Attic was serving tasty shrimp cakes the size of a quarter. El Jinete served a nice portion of guacamole or a delicious queso with beef.

Hopefully next year they’ll have more vendors serving food so the the crowd, although having to stand in more lines, won’t have to wait as long in each line. Thank goodness they had tastes of beer as well.