Sunday, March 25, 2012

Seared Scallops with Classic Beurre Blanc Sauce and Wilted Arugula

My new routine is to shop for food on Thursdays and Mondays. That way I aways have the freshest ingredients. I do Costco and Cub on Thursday and Byerly's on Mondays, although I will be switching to Whole Foods on Mondays when the new Edina store opens in April.

Last Monday I was in Byerly's and grabbed the Spring 2012 issue of their magazine, "real food". On page 28 I found an intriguing recipe. I tried the recipe last night and I absolutely fell in love with the meal. The recipe is by Jason Ross, who is a culinary instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Minnesota.

This recipe is a bit of work, but the end result is so well worth it. There are two critical things to the recipe. First, use fresh scallops: . Second, use a really hot pan to sear the scallops: . This recipe serves six.

Classic Beurre Blanc Sauce Ingredients
1 minced shallot
3 ounces white wine
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon cream
1 stick of butter, cut into 8 pats
Kosher salt 
Fresh ground pepper
Lemon juice

Seared Scallop Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds large scallops (approximately 16 per pound)
1 tablespoon of oil to coat pan
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter for pan

Wilted Arugula Ingredients
1 minced shallot
1 tomato, seeded and minced
1 head or bag of arugula (5+ ounces)
Kosher salt

  1. For the sauce, simmer shallot, wine and vinegar in a small, heavy-bottomed, steel sauce pan until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
  2. Add cream and cook until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Over medium heat, add butter, whisking constantly and vigorously until incorporated into reduction.
  4. Season with a little salt and paper and add a few drops of lemon juice. 
  5. Cover and store in a warm spot at the back of the stove, stirring occasionally.
  6. For the seared scallops, heat a heavy-duty pan large enough to fit all of the scallops over high heat. Add enough oil to coat the pan.
  7. Dry scallops well and season one side (only) with salt and pepper.
  8. Place scallops in pan, seasoned side down. Sear, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
  9. Dot pan with small pieces of butter. Season scallops lightly with salt and pepper on uncooked side and flip, pushing scallops into the melted butter. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  10. Remove and keep warm on back of stove.
  11. For the wilted arugula, add shallot to browned crust on pan and stir 1 minute. Add tomato and cook for 1 minute. Add arugula and cook until wilted. Season with salt.
  12. Serve scallops on a bed of arugula with beurre blanc sauce spooned on top.

Wine pairing: An oaky Chardonnay.

Move over, Kim Crawford

Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite summertime sipping wine. I'm especial fond of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs...our domestic wines just don't hold a candle to them. Kim Crawford has always been my champion Sauvignon Blanc. But it's a bit pricey at $17.99 a bottle...$10.99 if you can find it on sale.

I stumbled on Starborough Sauvignon Blanc and I was really impressed. It's very dry and tart. There is a delicious explosion of flavors in every sip...grass, kiwi, lemon and guava to name just a few. There's no question that this wine can go head-to-head with Kim Crawford in the ring. And then I found out it will win every fight by a knockout...I paid just $8.33 for this bottle of wine. Down goes Frazier!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Handmade Burger

Prepare to treat your tastebuds to a feast of epic proportions. A burger formed by your own hands...with meat ground only by you...carefully grilled over a charcoal fire. This will taste like no store-bought burger. This will not be a meal. This will be an astonishing experience.

Let's start with the meat. First of all, the meat you select should have a 20-25% fat content. Fat is what gives the burger it's extraordinary taste, so that's the last place you want to scrimp. While chuck roast or well-marbled sirloin will certainly do, I like to use beef short ribs. Short ribs certainly make the cut (excuse the pun) in the fat department and possesses what is certainly the most robust and pronounced beef flavor in the universe.

Next comes the grind. A meat grinder is no longer standard kitchen equipment, so we'll just pass on that altogether. Grab your food processor, one of the handiest tools in the kitchen. It's not a big'll be able to grind enough meat for four burgers in just a minute or two. You are simply going to pulse the meat with your standard steel blade. Don't overprocess the meat. You want to end up with coarsely chopped meat...not meat soup. And do it in small batches, perhaps a third at a time. That makes it easy to see that you are producing a coarse grind.

Put your coarsely ground meat into a bowl and then add Worcestershire sauce and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Please, refrain from any other ingredients. This is essentially a ground steak you are going to eat and you don't screw up a steak by adorning it with half of your friggin' pantry. Restraint is the order of the day. Once seasoned, loosely form the burgers by hand. Do not pack them overly tight. When you have them formed, they should look like the burgers in the picture above.

The beauty of these burgers is that because you ground the meat yourself, you can eat it raw (this is how they make steak tartare). Unlike the mystery meat that shows up in supermarket ground beef, you have used a quality cut and you have controlled all of the handling. It's not that you want to eat it raw, but you certainly could without worry. (I always taste it raw after seasoning to make sure the seasoning levels are perfect.) It also means that unlike store bought hamburger, you can cook your burgers to rare or medium rare without any health concerns. (This will greatly please my friend, "The King of the Bloody Carnivores", Jim Arnost.) This makes for a much juicier and tasty burger.

You want to cook these burgers over a good, hot fire. When you place them on the grill, let them sit. Do not press on them and force all of that wonderful juice onto the coals. You will only need about 3-4 minutes per side to give you a nice rare to medium-rare burger. This recipe serves four.

1 1/2 pounds of  boneless beef short ribs, coarsely ground (or another fatty cut of beef)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins recommended)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns


  1. Combine coarsely ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in a bowl. Gently form into four patties.
  2. Fill a charcoal chimney with charcoal and ignite. When coals are hot, spread over them charcoal grate and place cooking grate on top.
  3. Place burgers on grill and grill for 3-4 minutes. Flip burgers and grill for 3-4 minutes more (times are for rare to medium-rare).
  4. Remove burgers from grill, place on buns and serve.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Costco sells delicious, boneless short ribs for $3.99 per pound.
Make sure to buy the ones with the most marbling.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Charcoal

When cooking a steak or other meat that is going to cook quickly over my fire, I love lump hardwood charcoal. Great flavor and incredibly high heat. Lump hardwood charcoal would always be my choice for high-heat fires and charcoal briquets would always be my choice for low and slow BBQ.

However, my Weber sits on a wood deck which is not far from my cedar shake roof, so I just can't use lump hardwood charcoal because of all the sparks and shooting cinders it sends into the air. So when I got my Weber Performer a few years back, I had to find a reasonable alternative to lump hardwood charcoal.

Kingsford had their regular blue and white bag of charcoal briquets called "The Original". It's a good product but it has some fillers and it just did not get hot enough compared to lump hardwood charcoal. Then a few years ago Kingsford introduced "Competition Briquets".

Competition Briquets are all natural and give off quite a bit more heat than The Original. In a head-to-head test, the Competition Briquets yielded a grid level temperature of 1341º compared to 1141º for The Original. In the same test, Competition Briquets burned for 11.8 hours while The Original burned for 10.3 hours.

There's also something of interest about the Competition Briquets compared to lump hardwood can re-use it. Hardwood charcoal burns so hot and so fast it turns to ash right away. The dense Competition Briquets burn hot but slow. I find I can cook my meat and then snuff the fire by closing the vents. After the fire has cooled, I can roll the briquets around to get rid of the ash on their exterior and I still have about 50-70% of the original briquet capacity I started with, depending on how long the fire burned. This means that the cooking yield per bag is over twice as much for Competition Briquets than lump hardwood charcoal. Stated another way, your Competition Briquet cost-per-fire will be at least half the cost of a lump charcoal fire.

Most importantly for me, Competition Briquets do not spark and shoot hot cinders into the air. So Competition Briquets are my weapon of choice for grilling. Yesterday was my regular Costco day and I was able to score two, 18-pound bags of Kingsford Competition Briquets for just $15.99 ($8.00 per bag). By comparison, Home Depot has The Original priced at $7.88 for one, 18-pound bag. Enjoy the great weather we are having and get grilling!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Garlic Press

This stainless steel gem is one precision instrument. Pick up this OXO garlic press and you will be stunned by it's heft. This is no 98-pound weakling...this thing turns garlic cloves into pulp and juice with no effort whatsoever. Since I acquired this remarkable tool, I have not minced an ounce of garlic. Any recipe that calls for minced garlic gets the equivalent amount of garlic run through this garlic press.

It's incredibly easy to use. Just plop some cloves into the receptacle and squeeze the arms together. Voila! Instant pressed garlic. Reverse the arms and the self-cleaning action clears out the receptacle. Rinse under the faucet, dry it off and stick it back in the drawer for next time.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Go read the 200+ reviews on Amazon, where you can pick this gem up for just $19.99:  If you have a friend or loved one that cooks, buy them this garlic press. They will keep it forever and use it often...what could make a better gift?

And speaking of garlic, we use it by the bucketload in the Gruggen household. Our home is the last place on earth that the vampire Lestat would ever visit. But you won't catch me buying heads of garlic and spending hours peeling those silly cloves. I buy Christopher Ranch Peeled Garlic from Costco. A three-pound bag costs just $5.80. I find that a bag will keep for roughly four weeks in the fridge. You'll find this great product in the refrigerated produce section at Costco.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Grilled Pork Chops

This recipe is about as "old school" as it gets. More like something straight out of the 50's. No fancy ingredients. Just some bone-in pork chops and a couple of bottles of good stuff from your pantry.

Carl Frey used to be Executive Vice President of Marketing at Valvoline during the 80's and this was his favorite way to grill a meal. Here it is in a nutshell: marinate the meat in Italian dressing, then while you're grilling it, give it a good dousing of worcestershire sauce. That's it.

I will carry it a little bit further because I am picky about the ingredients. My Italian dressing of choice is Kraft Zesty Italian. This dressing is made with lemon juice, which adds a nice little zing to the taste. My worcestershire sauce of choice is Lea & Perrins. No other worcestershire sauce can hold a candle to that brand.

It was 77 degrees at 6:00 pm yesterday. That made it the perfect night to pour a chilled glass of Chateau St. Jean chardonnay and fire up the Weber on the deck for a little grillin'. We had these pork chops with some fresh corn on the cob* and a Caprese salad. Kickin' back old school never tasted so good.

4 bone-in pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick
8-ounce bottle Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce


  1. Place pork chops in a Ziploc bag. Shake bottle of Kraft dressing and add contents to bag. Seal bag and lay bag flat in refrigerator. Marinate for 4 hours, flipping the bag halfway through.
  2. Fill a charcoal chimney with charcoal and ignite. Build a two-zone fire in your charcoal grill so that half of the charcoal grate has hot coals and the other half is empty. (For a gas grill, turn half the burners on high, half the burners to off.)
  3. Remove pork chops from marinade and wipe them dry with a paper towel.
  4. Place pork chops over hot coals and splash on a generous amount of worcestershire sauce. Cover grill and cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Flip pork cops and splash on another generous amount of worcestershire sauce. Cover grill and cook for 3 more minutes.
  6. Move pork chops to the side of the grill that has no coals. Cover grill and cook for 8 minutes.
  7. Remove chops from grill. Tent chops with foil and let them rest for 5 minutes. Then serve.

Wine pairing: Merlot or Syrah

*While we are many months away from great Iowa and Minnesota corn, Costco has some really good corn from Mexico called Glori Ann. The corn is pre-cleaned and comes in packages of eight. You'll find it in the refrigerated produce section at Costco.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

'Tis the time of year again. Corned beef dinner. Wilted cabbage salad. Irish soda bread. Always one of my favorite meals. If you're going to cook this up for your family on St. Patrick's Day, head over here for my favorite recipes:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Roast Quail

If you are having company for dinner, save this recipe. The first reason you will want to save it is because this recipe for roast quail is absolutely delicious. Quail is an exotic bird and one typically finds quail on the menu only in the very finest restaurants. The fact that you are going to cook your guests quail lets them know they are special.

The second reason to save this recipe is that it is the epitome of simplicity. It is ridiculously easy to make roast quail. A little olive oil, a little salt and pepper and 15 minutes in the oven are all you need to do to serve your guests this world class entree. That makes it the perfect company meal as you don't end up spending half the evening slaving over meal preparation. In fact, all the prep can be done ahead of time.

If you live in the Twin Cities, you can get quail at Byerly's. If your supermarket doesn't have quail, check out D'Artagnan ( Quail are small. While I typically serve one bird per person, linebacker types may wolf down three or more. I always make sure I have ample side dishes when I serve quail. This recipe serves four, but can easily be scaled up or down...the cooking time remains the same.

4 quail
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 500º.
  2. Arrange quail, breast side up in a roasting pan (they should not touch each other). Rub oil all over the birds and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove quail from oven and serve.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Grilled Quail

Hands down, quail is my favorite bird to eat. Hands down, it's also my favorite bird to hunt. The dog goes on point...the entire covey explodes into the air...every bird goes a different direction. Quail never fly more than five feet before they change direction and they do so at such an incredible speed, it makes quail hunting a very difficult sport.

Quail are delicious. Heck, way beyond delicious. They have a light, delicate flavor with just a touch of earthiness to them. I had always roasted quail until Friday the 13th, in October of 1989. It was on that date that I was introduced to trial by fire. Someone walked up to me and said you are going to cook for 100 people. The meal is quail. They are all frozen. And dinner is in 4 hours.

At the time I had one helluva dream job.  I was an ad guy that loved cars and my main account at Bozell Worldwide was Valvoline. Valvoline dropped about $50MM a year in motor sports and the crown jewel of their efforts was the sponsorship of the Valvoline Indy car. The car was owned by Galles Racing and driven by Al Unser Jr. It was my unfortunate circumstance to have to travel around to various races and hang out in the pits during the races. This is where I got totally hooked on open wheel racing and I still religiously follow Formula One and Indy Cars to this day.

In 1989, the Indy Car season's final race was to be held at my favorite track, Laguna Seca, near Monterrey, California. I decided it was time to mix a little business with pleasure, so Ron Benza (Bozell's General Manager) and I decided to host a client hunting trip prior to the race. After some research, I picked a spot in northern California called "Red Bank Ale & Quail". (What's not to like about an enterprise that blends ale with quail?) The hunting there was done high up in the red bluffs and the quarry was the lightning quick Mountain Quail.

The hunting was spectacular. We hunted there for two full days and bagged 120 birds. The biggest issue we had to deal with were rattlesnakes. They were there by the hundreds. You had to be incredibly careful when retrieving birds as the snakes blended in perfectly with the cover and you could all too easily grab snake instead of bird. They were a real hazard for the dogs as well. The guides would only let the dogs retrieve birds that fell in the open. Any birds in the brush had to be retrieved by a human, but only after checking very carefully for snakes.

My strongest memory of the hunting trip was the skull-crushing snoring of race team owner, Rick Galles. We were sleeping dorm-style in the lodge, so there was no way to escape the assault on your ears. This guy snored louder and with more intensity than anyone I have ever heard. I am of the firm belief that he must have to file an environmental impact statement every time he falls asleep... living beings are in danger and the structural integrity of buildings are at great risk the minute he nods off.

Rick Galles, aka The Snore Monster
There were five of us in the hunting party, so Red Bluff Ale & Quail divvied up the frozen birds in five coolers and sent us on our way. We made the drive from northern California and hit Laguna Seca just after noon. It was shortly thereafter that Rick Galles and Valvoline's president, Bob Harbison, "volunteered" me to cook for the race team, the race car team sponsors and various other associated guests....100 people in total. And not only was I "volunteered" to cook, I was "volunteered" to cook the 120 quail we brought with us. The problem was that all of those quail were frozen solid and dinner was in 4 hours. Thanks, guys.

Task number one was defrosting the quail. We made a run to the local liquor store and bought two cases of Chardonnay at room temperature. Next stop was the local grocery store where we bought a case of minced garlic. We got back to the team truck and grabbed 6 garbage bags. Into each garbage bag we placed 20 frozen quail, 2 jars of minced garlic and four bottles of Chardonnay. The warm Chardonnay would thaw the birds and the alcohol would keep any bad germs from forming. Within an hour, all of the birds were thawed and soaking in our makeshift Chardonnay and garlic marinade.

We were out at the race track, so roasting 120 quail in an oven was out of the question. We commandeered six grills from some of the other race teams. We found a shears and used it to cut through the backbones of all 120 birds. We then flattened the birds with our hands. This "butterfly" technique would let the birds lie flat and make them a lot easier to cook.

We got the job done. We cooked 20 quail on each grill and managed to feed all 100 people. Most had never had quail and they really liked it. I have been a huge fan of grilled quail ever since. However, that was the first and last time I have ever cooked for 100 people. Making a meal for 100 people is foodservice. Painful. The experience cured me of any desire to ever run a restaurant. I like cooking for a small, intimate group of my family or a small group of friends. That is pure joy.

If you live in the Twin Cities, you can find quail at Byerly's. If there are no quail available where you live, you can get them online. D'Artagnan has them at They charge $13.99 for four quail. While quail are quite small, plan on one quail per person with ample side dishes. If people are starved, you could go up to two per person. As for sides, quail goes really well with wild rice or roasted mushrooms.

While you can certainly follow my Chardonnay and minced garlic recipe, the New York Times recipe below is my favorite way to grill quail. This recipe serves four.

4 quail, butterflied
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup olive oil
3 fresh thyme sprigs
Salt and fresh ground pepper

  1. The day before, combine the vinegar, oil, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large, sealable plastic bag. Add the quail, seal and refrigerate overnight.
  2. One hour before cooking, remove bag from refrigerator and let bag and contents come to room temperature.
  3. Prepare a grill to high heat. Remove the quail from the bag, pat dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill 3 minutes per side.

Wine pairing: For white lovers, an oaky Chardonnay. For red lovers, try Pinot Noir.

We left San Francisco on Monday, October 16, 1989. The very 
next day the city was struck by the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Roasting Pan

Roasting is one of my very favorite ways to cook. I absolutely loved the deep, caramelized flavors that come from slow roasting. Turkey, chicken, prime rib...they all bring me great joy when roasted in my oven. My weapon of choice for roasting is an All Clad Non-Stick Roasting Pan. If you've read my earlier postings, you know I'm a big fan of All Clad cookware. It's quality stuff and this roasting pan is no different.

What I really like about this pan is the non-stick interior. If you've ever roasted in a conventional steel pan, you know those drippings can get baked on and are an absolute bear to get clean. This non-stick interior makes clean-up a breeze. It also makes it very easy to create a pan sauce as nothing sticks to the pan. The non-stick interior also makes this pan a natural for's great for lasagna and casseroles.

While the pan is advertised as large enough to hold a 20 pound turkey, I have used it for turkeys weighing as much 24 pounds. It will easily handle all of your roasting needs. The pan is available at both Williams Sonoma and be advised that the latter has it for $50 cheaper! Check it out here:

Now I also bought a specialty roasting pan by All Clad....a chicken roaster. It's a totally unnecessary one needs to have this pan. But it's slicker than frog hair and I just had to have it. The chicken hangs by an arm in mid-air, so the entire bird is exposed to the heat. On the arm is a small trough which is used as a flavor infuser. You can fill it with wine, beer or herbs and use it to infuse flavor in the chicken from the inside out.

I like to fill the bottom of the pan with vegetables, which not only get roasted in the process, but they also get bathed in all of that sumptuous chicken fat that drips off the bird during roasting. Now that may not be the healthiest way to prepare roasted vegetables, but I'm here to tell you it is one of the most delicious ways to prepare them.

This specialty chicken roasting pan is only available at Williams Sonoma. And at $180, it's very expensive.  You don't really need it as the roasting pan on top will do the job just as well. And if it's flavor infusing you are after, you can just spend $35 and get yourself a Norpro Vertical Roaster/Infuser from Amazon or Target. But I've never met an All Clad pan that I didn't love...and how can one possibly find fault with having too many All Clad pans?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Best Roast Chicken

In January I posted a recipe called "Easy Roast Chicken"( This foolproof recipe is a great way to  roast a chicken. However, it is not my favorite way to roast a just happens to be the best way with a conventional oven.

My favorite way to roast a chicken is with a convection oven. Convection adds a beautiful, windy, desert-like atmosphere to the inside of your oven. The hot air swirls around the chicken for ninety glorious minutes. In it's wake, you are left with the most delicious, decadent and glorious chicken skin that you have ever tasted. It's incredibly crisp and tastes so good you know it's bad for you, but like the honey badger, you don't give a shit. And with skin so crisp, not a single drop of moisture leaves the meat that lies below.

So plop your chicken on a roasting rack. Bathe it in extra virgin olive oil and add a few spices and herbs. Gastronomic perfection awaits you. This recipe serves four, with enough leftovers for some more great chicken the next day.

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons cracked rosemary

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and turn oven control to Convection Roast (325º).
  2. Place chicken in a roasting rack. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub entire surface with oil. Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder and cracked rosemary evenly over chicken.
  3. Place chicken in convection oven and roast for 90 minutes.
  4. After 90 minutes, transfer chicken to carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Carve chicken and serve.

Wine pairing: If you prefer white wine, I would recommend an oaky Chardonnay. But this dish really shines when it is paired with a Pinot Noir.

In case you are the only Internet user in existence to have never seen the honey badger video: