Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Old Fashioned Lemonade


The thermometer hit 87 degrees yesterday and it was really humid. While it's cooler today, the heat and humidity are going to be roaring back by the end of the week. Time to break out the recipe for Old Fashioned Lemonade.

Ingredients
2 cups fresh lemon juice•
5 cups cold water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved.
  2. Pour into individual serving glasses filled with ice.


•Note: This recipe can be made super easy (as in not having to juice lemons) by using Italian Volcano Lemon Juice: http://terrygruggen.blogspot.com/2010/10/lemon-juice.html .

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thai Buttered Shrimp

I'm a huge fan of Sriracha Hot Chile Sauce, also known as rooster sauce. This is Tabasco times two. I love it on Thai food, tacos, fajitas and oysters. It is not for the faint of heart.

My youngest son, Patrick, is no fan of spicy food. So I was shocked when he wolfed this meal down in record time with a hearty "That was really good!". The trick? I served this dish with sticky rice:  (http://terrygruggen.blogspot.com/2011/05/sticky-rice.html). To mitigate the heat, Patrick did one bite of shrimp, one bite of sticky rice. The rice acted as a perfect fire extinguisher.

This very simple recipe is by Sean Baker, head chef of Gather restaurant in Berkeley, California. Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce can be found in grocery stores everywhere, typically in the Asian section. This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
6 cloves minced garlic
20 pieces raw, tail-on shrimp (21-25 pieces per pound)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

Directions
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter.
  2. Add Sriracha sauce and whisk to mix.
  3. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Adjust heat to medium-high and add shrimp. Saute for approximately 3 minutes until all pink is gone.
  5. Add lemon juice, mint and basil. Stir until mint and basil wilt.
  6. Serve immediately with sticky rice.
Wine pairing: Sauvignon Blanc


Patrick and friend


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Grilled Romaine Hearts with Caesar Vinaigrette


I'm a voracious reader of newspapers and magazines. When I'm reading them, I always keep an Exacto knife nearby to cut out any interesting recipes I come across. I have a huge stack of "To Be Tried" recipes on the right side of my desk. I eventually get to them and they end up in one of two places after I try them: my "Keeper Folder" or the trash.

This is a recipe by Ellie Krieger that I cut out of USA Today Magazine. I tried it this week and the whole family agreed it was a "keeper". It's a really nice change from your basic Caesar salad. But I am altering it in two ways. First, her recipe for the vinaigrette was only half the amount noted below...it was not enough for 2 large hearts of romaine. Secondly, I added anchovies as I feel that anything called "Caesar" which omits anchovies has gone seriously off the tracks. Anchovies!!! Shout it out!!!

Here's Ellie's description of her salad: "This may be your first time grilling lettuce, but I'll bet it won't be your last. Here the romaine hearts retain their crispness but soften and char just enough to become luxurious."

For the Vinaigrette
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tabespoons lemon juice
2 small cloves of garlic processed through a garlic press (or finely minced)
2 anchovy filets, finely minced
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

For the Salad
2 romaine hearts, dark green outer leaves removed
4 tablespoons (or more) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil spray

Instructions
  1. Preheat grill  to medium high heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.
  3. Cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise, leaving the ends intact so each half holds together (see photo above). Spray each lightly all over with the olive oil spray.
  4. Grill until grill marks form and the lettuce wilts slightly, about six minutes, turning once or twice.
  5. Serve drizzled with the vinaigrette and sprinkled with the Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New York Times Food Writers School: Week 8 Assignment



Communist China Identified as Source of Italian Poaching

It is an unseasonably cold and wet Saturday afternoon in the month of May, 2011. I am practicing the fine art of cooking tuna submerged in olive oil. It’s the only way I will eat tuna. I had not started life this way, but I was driven to this by my encounter with the Communists.

In 1986, China had decided it was time to peek out from under its shell and take a step into the global economy. To accomplish that, they asked two, multi-national advertising agencies to create a comprehensive, multi-media campaign that would introduce China to the world. The agency I worked for at the time, Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon and Eckhardt, was asked to be one of those agencies.

We had 65 offices in 42 different countries and our management selected 10 of those offices to put together the Chinese advertising campaign. I was selected to head up the campaign and coordinate all of the work between the offices and be the liaison with the Communist Chinese government officials in Beijing.

In March of 1987, I boarded a plane with our proposed campaign on a journey to Beijing, with interim stops in Tokyo and Hong Kong. Because of the long flight, my agency had booked me first class. About 30 minutes after lift-off, the flight attendants circulated, offering fresh sushi to all of the first class passengers. I grabbed myself a couple of pieces made with raw Bluefin Tuna, the darkest and fattest and most prized of all raw tuna. Within an hour of eating the sushi, I was laying on the floor of the bathroom….deathly ill…losing prodigious amounts of body fluids every which way possible.

Twelve agonizing hours later I had made it to Narita International Airport in Tokyo, albeit in a coma-like state. From there, I flew to Hong Kong with a terminal case of the shakes and eventually made it to my room at the Mandarin Oriental. I felt like death warmed over…I had never been sicker.

The next day I was to meet with representatives from our Hong Kong office before flying into Beijing. I was far too ill to travel, so I had to simply hand off the campaign to my Hong Kong counterparts and let them take it to the mainland to present it to the Chinese government. No shoulder rubbing with the Communists for me. No Great Wall. No Forbidden City. Just phone calls to housekeeping for more toilet paper.

For 10 days I was bedridden in Hong Kong. Despite being in the care of an English doctor, I lost 14 pounds and looked like a skeleton with an ill-fitting robe of superfluous flesh. At the end of the 10 days, I was deemed just barely strong enough to travel and returned home.

From that day forward, I vowed to never again eat raw fish. I look on in horror when I see rare tuna delivered to a patron in a restaurant. So if I am going to prepare tuna, I look to the Italians for my inspiration. In Italy, they cook their tuna by gently poaching it in olive oil. It is cooked all the way through. No red. No pink. Cooked, all the way through:


POACHED TUNA 
2 pounds tuna steaks, about 2 inches thick
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 fresh thyme sprigs

Directions

1.   Season tuna with salt.

2.   Stir 3 cups oil, the lemon zest, garlic, and thyme in a medium saucepan. Add tuna and more oil to cover tuna by 1/2 inch if needed. 

3.   Set over medium-low heat. Cook, covered, until tuna is opaque, about 40 minutes. Remove from heat; let tuna cool completely in the oil.

4.   To serve, use tongs to remove tuna from cooking oil. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Flake into 2-inch pieces.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir



 Epilogue

Our work on this campaign was chronicled and turned into a 
college textbook by Dr. Jaye Niefeld. The book was titled 
"The Making of an Advertising Campaign". 
 
There was a government shake-up in early 1988. The  Communist 
Chinese government replaced their leader, Li Xiannian, with Yang 
Shangkun. The contract with our agency was terminated and the 
Chinese advertising campaign never saw the light of day. 
 
To this day, I do not eat sushi. I rarely eat fish with the exception of tuna, which, in the fine tradition of the Italians, I poach in olive oil.
To this day, I do not like Communists.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Grilling with Wood

Using wood when grilling can add incredible depth and taste to your food. And it couldn't be easier if you are cooking with charcoal...just toss a couple of chunks into the fire and you are good to go. It's a myth that you need to soak them in water before you throw them on.

Don't bother with wood chips. Those are the wrong tool for the job. You need chunks like the ones pictured above. And you don't need a lot. One, two or three, depending on size, will be more than enough to impart an incredible smoke flavor to whatever you are grilling.

Now, which wood to use for what? If you don't like reading, just skip down to "Wine Barrel". Otherwise, follow this guide:

Alder: Light, sweet flavor. Best with fish, pork and poultry.

Apple: Mild in flavor and gives food a sweetness. This is good with poultry and pork. Apple will discolor chicken skin (turns it dark brown) but doesn't impact taste.

Apricot: Great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.

Cherry: Sweet, mild flavor that goes great with virtually everything. This is one of the most popular woods for smoking.

Grape: Makes a lot of tart smoke and gives a fruity but sometimes heavy flavor. Use it sparingly with poultry or lamb.

Hickory: Adds a strong flavor to meats, so be careful not to use to excessively. It’s good with pork, beef and lamb. Try mixing with oak to tone it down a bit (two chunks oak, one chunk hickory).

Maple: Gives a sweet flavor that is excellent with poultry and ham.

Mesquite: Good for grilling, but since it burns hot and fast, it's not recommended for long barbecues. Mesquite is probably the strongest flavored wood; hence its popularity with restaurant grills that cook meat for a very short time. Great for steak, burgers and shellfish.

Nectarine: Great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.

Oak: Strong but not overpowering and is a very good wood for beef or lamb. Oak is probably the most versatile of the hard woods.

Peach: Great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.

Pecan: This is incredibly versatile, so I always have this on hand. Burns cool and provides a delicate flavor. It’s a much subtler version of hickory. I use it for pork, poultry and beef.

Plum: Great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.

Wine Barrel: This is my secret weapon. They take old oak barrels that were used to age Cabernet Sauvignon and cut them up into chunks. Use this for steak!!!! Your steak will come away with the most incredible taste of oak and Cabernet Sauvignon. If you only buy one type of wood noted on this blog, this is the one to buy.

Woods to AVOID would include: cedar, cypress, elm, eucalyptus, pine, fir, redwood, sassafras, spruce, and sycamore.

If you want to buy a small sampler to get started, I would recommend cherry, hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan and wine barrel.

I buy all of my wood at the Charcoal Store: http://www.charcoalstore.com/

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sticky Rice


Skip the rice cooker with fuzzy logic. Bypass the pressure cooker. Here's the simplest way to make Sticky Rice for your favorite Asian dishes.

Foolproof Sticky Rice
2 cups of white rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups of water

1. Put rice in a small pot. Add olive oil and salt. Stir to coat rice.
2. Turn burner on high and add water.
3. When water boils, turn burner to lowest setting. Cover pot and set timer for 15 minutes.
4. At 15 minute mark, turn off burner. Leave pot in place for another 15 minutes.
5. Uncover pot and serve rice.

Asian Cole Slaw


This is a very versatile dish. I start my Asian Cole Slaw with a prepackaged, 10 ounce bag of shredded red cabbage. That makes it really fast and easy. To that, I add another 6 ounces of veggies of my choosing. I change it every time. It might be scallions, red pepper, radishes, carrots, bok choy...whatever I have sitting in the fridge. If you want it really simple, you can just add some more cabbage.

This works well as a side salad. You can also top it with protein like beef, chicken or shellfish to make a complete entree. If you like it spicy, add 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. If you want it warm, use 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to lightly stir fry the cabbage and veggies, then add the vinaigrette.

Asian Vinaigrette Ingredients
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon of white or black pepper

Cole Slaw Ingredients
10 ounce bag shredded red cabbage
6 ounces chopped vegetables of your choice

Directions
  1. Place all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to fully blend.
  2. Place shredded cabbage and chopped vegetables in a large bowl.
  3. Add vinaigrette to large bowl. Toss and serve.


    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Teriyaki Shrimp


    I'm getting spoiled this week. The weather has been great and tonight will mark my fourth grilling night in a row. I'm almost out of charcoal, so it's good that tomorrow is Costco Friday.

    Tonight's dinner at the Gruggen household is the model of simplicity and healthy eating. Take some raw, tail-on shrimp. Marinate it it for one hour. Throw them on some skewers and grill for 4-6 minutes. Nothing could be simpler. And what makes it so healthy is that we're combining shrimp, which is 90% pure protein, with organic Sesame Teriyaki sauce from Costco. It's made by OrganicVille and, shockingly, all of the ingredients are organic. It's also gluten free and there is no added sugar.



    I'm going to serve this up with some sticky rice (http://terrygruggen.blogspot.com/2011/05/sticky-rice.html) and Asian Cole Slaw (http://terrygruggen.blogspot.com/2011/05/asian-cole-slaw.html). I allocate 5 pieces of shrimp per person using 21-25 pieces-per-pound shrimp. Serves 4.

    Ingredients
    20 raw, tail-on shrimp (21-25 pieces per pound)
    12 ounces OrganicVille Sesame Teriyaki  sauce (or your favorite Teriyaki sauce)

    Directions
    1. Place shrimp in a large Ziploc bag. Add Teriyaki sauce. Seal bag and toss to distribute marinade. Store flat in your refrigerator so that all shrimp are in contact with marinade. Marinate for one hour, flipping bag at the 30-minute mark.
    2. Meanwhile, light large chimney starter filled with  charcoal (about 2½ pounds) and allow to burn until charcoal is covered with layer of fine gray ash. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom for medium-hot fire. Set cooking rack in place, cover grill with lid, and let rack heat up, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, preheat gas grill with all burners set to medium-high and lid down until grill is hot, about 10 minutes.
    3. Remove shrimp from Ziploc bag and thread on to skewers.
    4. Grill shrimp, uncovered for charcoal, covered for gas, turning skewers once, until shrimp are barely charred and bright pink, 4 to 6 minutes. 
     Wine pairing: Sauvignon Blanc

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Simple Marinade for Grilled Steaks


    For years, scientists believed that the tongue was capable of processing just four basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. But in 1985, scientists added a fifth taste called umami. Umami is a Japanese word that means a "pleasant savory taste". Umami induces salivation and causes a "furriness" on the tongue that is very tasty and satisfying.

    Foods that are high in umami include mushrooms, cured meats, cheeses, ripe tomatoes and shellfish. In liquid form, there are two products that are virtually pure umami: Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce. These are complex blends that while very high in umami, also contain the other four tastes.

    I've never been a huge fan of marinades. They basically just coat the surface and do not penetrate deep into the meat. I saw them as a hassle and just more work in getting my meat on the grill.

    Then a couple of years ago I was reading an article on how one of my favorite, high-end steak houses preps and cooks their steaks. Low and behold, they put their steaks in a bath of Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce for 30 minutes before grilling. I tried it and talk about umami heaven....the results were to die for. The umami kick that the two sauces added were extraordinary. It took really good grilled steaks and made them great. So here's a really simple marinade recipe for 4 steaks:

    Marinade Ingredients
    1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins recommended)
    1/2 cup soy sauce

    Directions
    1. Place 4 steaks in a Ziploc bag.
    2. Add marinade. Seal bag and toss bag to distribute marinade.
    3. Place bag on counter at room temperature. Make sure four steaks are flat and in contact with marinade. 
    4. After 15 minutes, flip bag over. Marinate for another 15 minutes.
    5. Remove steaks from bag. Wipe off excess liquid with a paper towel and grill steaks.
    Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Caesar Salad (from scratch) with Homemade Croutons


    This is a summertime staple at our house. While it's a really good salad on its own, I like to grill up some protein, slice it up and add it to the top of the salad to make a complete meal. My usual choices are steak, chicken, shrimp or lobster.

    While the salad is really good, my family and company always go crazy over the homemade croutons. The trick to great croutons is a great loaf of bread. My favorite choice is the Roasted Garlic Bread from Costco. To achieve crouton perfection, you need bread with a really hard crust and a really soft, chewy interior...which is what the the Costco bread has in spades.

    For the Homemade Croutons
    1 small to medium loaf of bread with a hard exterior and soft interior
    10 cloves of garlic
    4 tablespoons butter
    4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

    For the Caesar Salad
    2-3 heads romaine lettuce cut into bite size pieces (large, dark green leaves discarded; use the inner green pale leaves)
    4 anchovy fillets
    4 cloves of garlic
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
    1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
    1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
    2 egg yolks
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shavings

    Home Made Crouton Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then place bread on cutting board for slicing:


    2. Slice bread in one inch slices:


    3. Slice each piece in half length-wise, then cut in thirds:


    4. Cut 10 cloves of garlic in half and and put in a small pot with the olive oil and butter. Warm over medium heat until butter melts. Turn off heat and let pot cool for 10 minutes.


    5. Combine melted butter/oil/garlic mixture with salt, pepper and bread in large bowl and toss:


    6. Spread on jelly sheet and put in oven and bake for 20 minutes:



    Caesar Salad Directions
    1. Using a fork or a pestle, grind/mash the anchovy fillets into a paste.
    2. Use a garlic press to squeeze the 4 garlic cloves and add to the anchovy paste. If you do not have a garlic press, finely mince the garlic and then mash it into the anchovy paste with a fork.
    3. Add lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Whisk to blend.
    4. Crack egg shells and pour two egg yolks into the bowl. In a slow, steady stream, add olive oil and whisk until emulsified.
    5. Add romaine lettuce to the bowl and toss. Divide salad among serving plates. Top with Parmesan cheese shavings and croutons, then serve.
    Wine pairing for standalone salad: Sauvignon Blanc
    Wine pairing for salad with grilled steak or chicken: Pinot Noir
    Wine pairing for salad with grilled lobster: Chardonnay
    Wine pairing for salad with grilled shrimp: Sauvignon Blanc




    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    The Fountain of Youth for Produce


    Every Friday morning it's time for the weekly shopping trip, usually back-to-back stops at Costco and Cub. The vast majority of our purchases are produce...lots of fruit and vegetables. While most items have a decent shelf-life, a lot of that produce will go south fast.

    Enter Peak Fresh re-usable produce bags...the fountain of youth for produce. All produce gives off ethylene gas. This gas causes the ripening process and eventually accelerates spoiling. The more ethylene gas present, the faster the produce matures and spoils. Peak Fresh bags are made with a special film that breathes and removes ethylene gas through the bag wall into the atmosphere. The film is also treated to minimize moisture formation, which serves to inhibit mold and bacteria growth.

    This product is amazing. I've been able to keep delicate, fresh herbs like cilantro and mint good for a week. You know how that fresh cauliflower starts to get brown spots after a few days in the fridge? Won't happen if you store it in Peak Fresh. Scallions, spinach, arugula, ginger....all will last a lot longer when stored in these bags. 

    The bags are re-useable...just rinse and dry. They are $6.29 for 10 bags and they are available at Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Peak-Fresh-Re-Usable-Produce-Bags/dp/B001CPGYM0

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Apple, Romaine and Gorgonzola Salad



    I first encountered this salad at my beloved D'Amico Cucina, which, like many fine dining establishments, crashed and burned during the recession. Two weeks ago I went to Parma 8200, the newest restaurant in the D'Amico empire. Much to my delight, the D'Amico brothers have resurrected this salad and placed it on the menu. If you can't make it to Parma 8200, here's how to make it at home. Serves 4.

    For the Dijon Vinaigrette
    2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
    4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
    2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    2 small shallots, minced
    1 teaspoon dried tarragon
    1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    For the Salad
    1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
    3 tablespoons butter
    1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
    1 teaspoon sugar
    2 granny smith apples, cored and cut into thin slices
    1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

    Directions
    1. For vinaigrette, whisk together all ingredients except oil.
    2. Then add olive oil in a stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Set aside.
    3. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
    4. Add sugar and walnuts. Saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
    5. In a large bowl, mix lettuce and apples.
    6. Add walnut/butter mixture to bowl.
    7. Pour vinaigrette into bowl. Toss salad thoroughly and divide among 4 plates. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Gorgonzola over each salad and serve.

    Wine pairing for this salad: Sauvignon Blanc


    Monday, May 9, 2011

    112 Eatery: A Review

    It's week five of my New York Times Food Writers School. The assignment this week was to review a restaurant experience of note. Below is the work I turned in.





    A Review

    The historic Warehouse District in downtown Minneapolis will always be near and dear to my heart. I worked, dined and drank down there for 23 years. Nearest and dearest to my heart during that time was the Loon Café. Worn, wood plank floors and a huge, gorgeous oak bar rubbed to a beautiful patina by millions of elbows, it stood out for it’s casual atmosphere and really good bar food…especially the Burger Loon. A simple formula: ground beef, fresh sourdough bun, fried onions, your choice of cheeses and cooked to perfection.

    The Loon Café still stands. But three blocks to the north, away from the Warehouse District epicenter, sits its descendant for the new century. 112 Eatery is an incredible fusion of fine dining meets bar food. The fact that the restaurant has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef and Restaurant Award for the last four years in a row gives testament to the gastronomic delights that lie within.

    It’s off the beaten path, in the middle of a street void of other restaurants. You have to work to find the entrance. But once inside, it’s so familiar. Worn, wood plank floors and a small, gorgeous oak bar rubbed to a beautiful patina by thousands of elbows. 112 Eatery is small and the tables are jammed together. Greatness requires sacrifice and, in this case, you will sacrifice your personal space. The combination of compressed humanity along with the plethora of hard, wood surfaces creates a din that is more than deafening. It is almost impossible to hear yourself think.

    Service is slow. The glass of wine takes ten minutes to get to the table, which gives one ample time to revel in the din. It also gives one time to relish the smells wafting from the kitchen and the aromas drifting from the incredible dishes that are carried past our table. Ten minutes after the wine delivery, time to order. I’m going to ignore the rest of the incredible menu and go for the most basic of bar foods. “Yes, I’ll have the cheeseburger, medium.”

    Thirty minutes will pass. Perfection cannot be rushed…especially in a small kitchen. More time to savor the clamor. Finally, my meal arrives.

    I lift my cheeseburger and take a bite. The taste of it is deafening. The minute the flavors hit my tongue, the room goes dead silent. I cannot hear a thing.

    The burger itself is an astounding mixture of fatty ground beef, beaten eggs, onion, thyme and butter. The charred crust of the burger (thank you, butter) barely contains the delicious juices inside. The patty is topped by two thin slices of Brie which continue to melt throughout the meal. This burger-from-heaven is wedged in between two slices of a heavenly, lightly toasted English muffin. Accompanying the burger is a paper cone of incredibly thin homemade fries, which in turn are accompanied by two phenomenal house-made specialties: tarragon aioli and ketchup.

    Ten minutes later the meal is over. The tumult returns. Twenty minutes after that, I have paid the check and I am enjoying the quiet as I walk down Third Street to fetch my car. And while the tranquility is both calming and cherished, I am already plotting my return to the cacophony. 


    NOTE: I posted this blog yesterday. When I turned on the news this morning, I was elated to see that Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa was awarded the James Beard Best Chef of the Midwest last evening. I am glad to see his genius receive such deserved recognition. You will serve yourself well by visiting both establishments!

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Alaskan King Crab Legs




    Once you are past the prep, it's just 7 minutes
    under the broiler and you are ready to eat.


     It's Mother's day and Judy wanted seafood for Mother's Day dinner. I'm going with Alaskan King Crab (which also happens to be my sons, Sean and Patrick, favorite seafood). But not all Alaskan King Crab is alike, so I'll give you a simple rule to follow: "Go Big or Go Home". You want to buy the biggest crab legs you can find. Big, thick and really heavy. The reason for it is simple economics.

    Costco sells extraordinary Alaskan King Crab legs for $14.99 a pound. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find better Alaskan King Crab than at Costco. Because they are so big and meaty, they have a ratio of approximately 75% meat/25% shell. You'll be throwing away the shell, so that will leave you with an effective cost of $18.74 a pound for Costco's crab meat.

    Byerly's sells Alaskan King Crab for $19.99 a pound. But they are selling little pencil-thin legs that have a ratio of roughly 50% meat/50% shell. Again, you're throwing away the shell, so that will leave you with an effective cost of nearly $40.00 a pound for Byerly's crab meat. "Go big or go home."

    Buy the biggest legs you can and make sure they have the knuckle on them. The knuckle is packed full of delicious meat, has very little shell and you don't need to cut anything to get at the knuckle meat. The rule of thumb for buying Alaskan King Crab legs is one large leg per person, as long as the leg includes the knuckle.

    Alaskan King Crab is cooked and flash frozen before you buy it. Once thawed, all you have to do is warm it up. But if you've read my post on cooking lobster in the shell, the same philosophy applies here. You maximize flavor by reheating the crab leg in the shell. So let me explain how I like to prepare my Alaskan King Crab for cooking and ease of eating.


    Put on a pair of oven mitts. Grab a leg. Place your hands on opposite sides of each joint and twist to separate the segments. When you get done with a leg, you will have separate segments that look like this (the knuckle is in the upper left-hand corner):


     Next we will be cutting half of the shell off of each segment. While any sturdy scissors will do, the job is made super-easy with a seafood shears:


     Grip the leg and cut length-wise down the shell. We are going to remove the white side of the shell, leaving the meat intact in the orange side of the shell (more color = more flavor):


    So when we are done cutting, a finished segment looks like this, with orange shell on the bottom and the meat exposed on top for easy heating and eating:


    And when we have cut all of the legs up and placed them on our foil-lined jelly pan, it looks like the photo below. Now you only need 7 minutes of broiler time and you are ready to eat. (This is what makes Alaskan King Crab such a good "company" dinner. You can prep it earlier in the day and then just heat it for 7 minutes before eating.)


    Ingredients for 4 Servings
    4 large Alaskan King Crab legs
    3 sticks of butter
    Lawry's Seasoned Salt (optional)


    Directions
    1. Place oven rack on highest level in oven and turn on broiler. (Oven rack should be about 4.5" from broiler.)
    2. In a small saucepan, melt 3 sticks of butter.
    3. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
    4. Take each crab leg, twist and separate the pieces at each joint.
    5. Using seafood shears or scissors, cut each leg shell segment in half lengthwise. Leave the meat in the orange side of the shell while discarding the white side of the shell.
    6. Place all of the leg segments, meat-side up, on your foil-lined baking sheet.
    7. Pour off 4 tablespoons of melted butter and brush this butter over the top of the exposed crab meat. If desired, sprinkle a little Lawry's Seasoned Salt on each piece (recommended).
    8. Slide baking sheet under the broiler. Cook for 7 minutes.
    9. Serve immediately with individual bowls of melted butter.
    Wine pairing: A nice oaky Chardonnay.

    Alaskan King Crab lovers, also check out this recipe:   http://terrygruggen.blogspot.com/2010/10/farfalle-with-hot-crab-sauce.html

    Special thanks to Patrick Gruggen for photographic contributions.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Weapon of Choice: Kitchen Scale

    Pictured above is my kitchen scale, an OXO Good Grips Stainless Food Scale. This scale weighs food in 1/8 ounce increments and will weigh food up to eleven pounds. It features a ZERO button, which offsets the weight of the container so that it does not figure into the weight totals. It also has a backlight button that makes the display easy to read in dark conditions. And here's a really nice feature: many times a large bowl will obscure the display, so the display detaches for easier reading.

    It's powered by four AAA batteries. I got mine at Amazon.com for $49.99. They also sell a  five pound model for $29.89, but that model does not have a backlight.

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Pan Seared Scallops

    Here is the seafood equivalent of my pan-seared Filet Mignon recipe. This is fast, simple and very tasty. For this recipe, you will need large sea scallops (approximately 12 per pound), not small bay scallops (approximately 50 per pound). Before you shop, check out my "Scallop Buying Guide": http://terrygruggen.blogspot.com/2011/11/scallop-buying-guide.html). This recipe serves 4.

    Ingredients
    16 large sea scallops (use only the "fresh/dry" variety*)
    Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
    2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
    2 tablespoons of butter
    Lemon wedges

    Instructions

    1. Sprinkle scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in either a cast iron pan (preferred) or 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of scallops in single layer, flat-side down, and cook, without moving, until well browned, about 4 minutes.
    2. Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. Using tongs, flip scallops; continue to cook, using large spoon to baste scallops with melted butter (tilt skillet so butter runs to one side) until sides of scallops are firm and centers are opaque, about 4 minutes. Transfer scallops to large plate and tent loosely with foil. Wipe out skillet with wad of paper towels and repeat cooking with remaining oil, scallops, and butter. Serve immediately with lemon wedges or sauce.


      Wine pairing: Chardonnay



      *If you only have wet scallops available, follow these steps. Place scallops on rimmed baking sheet lined with clean kitchen towel. Place second clean kitchen towel on top of scallops and press gently on towel to blot liquid. Let scallops sit at room temperature 10 minutes while towels absorb moisture.

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Weapon of Choice: Outdoor Grill

    Some of my early memories are of my dad grilling steaks on his Weber Kettle. He concocted his own special basting sauce made from A1 Steak Sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and some secret herbs. Those charcoal grilled steaks were delicious and helped contribute  to my lifelong love of all things beef.

    When I got my first house back in 1981, I went out and bought myself a Weber gas grill. Talk about easy....flip the ignition button and ten minutes later you were ready to cook. So for the next 27 years, I was a Weber gas grill guy. When my gas grill would give up the ghost, I'd get the latest and greatest gas grill from Weber.

    Three years ago, my last gas grill died. I was sick of things always going wrong, parts needing replacement and constantly juggling propane tanks. So I decided I was going to go back to my Dad's roots...back to a Weber Kettle. And I was surprised to see the improvements they had made compared to my Dad's 1960's model.

    Pictured above is my grill of choice, the Weber Performer. The first big improvement is how easy it is to get the charcoal lit. No lighter fluid...no electric charcoal heaters. There's a small propane tank that you use to start the charcoal. Put the charcoal in a chimney and put the chimney over the flame. It takes only 5 minutes of gas to get the charcoal going and you are ready to cook just 15 minutes after that. And that little propane tank lasts an entire summer!


    There's also a really handy charcoal storage bin under the work table that folds out for easy access. If your mother named you after an evil child from the movie "The Omen" and later in life you go on to become a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and CrossFit magnate, your use of the charcoal bin would look like this:

    Higher primates will instead use the method shown below. Simply take the bag out, pour the charcoal into the chimney and then return the bag to the bin. The latter method, in addition to being speedier, also means that you will not have to wash your hands after handling 60 individual pieces of charcoal.


    Every detail on the Performer is so well thought out. There's a lid holder on the far side that let's you slide the hot cover in while you are flipping or moving food around on the grill. There's a thermometer built into the lid, which is incredibly helpful when you are doing indirect cooking.


    But I think the best part is how easy the cleaning system is. In the old days, you had to scoop ash out and that was a messy and tedious job. Now they have a One-Touch cleaning system. The ash falls into a small pail and with a quick snap, the pail detaches. You empty the pail into a bag and snap the pail back in place.

    The Weber Performer retails for $329. The grilling surface is 22.5" and it's available in green, blue and black. This is my third year of being back on charcoal and I absolutely love it. Yes, gas is easier, but food cooked over a charcoal fire tastes better. If you use a propane or natural gas device, you are not grilling...you are just cooking outside. If you want the real McCoy smokiness and an honest-to-goodness char, you have to build a fire.

    Thanks, Dad.