Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Meal to Remember

Those are my friends Tom Bartel and Kris Henning pictured above. Tom is a liberal, and therefore, deeply flawed as a human being. However, he does have a few redeeming qualities. He's a foodie...he loves cars...and he's an extraordinary writer.

Tom and Kris did something the rest of us only dream about. In 2010 they sold their home and their worldly goods and set off on a journey to see the world. I've been living vicariously through their two blogs, and .

I'm going to connect you to Tom's most recent blog about an extraordinary meal they had in honor of Kris' birthday. It's a celebration about the kind of meal you only get to experience a few times in your existence. It's a great read: I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mark Bittman's Ultimate Super Bowl Sandwich

Mark Bittman is one of my favorite food writers. He is "The Chosen One" that gets to share his love of food with us every week in the New York Times Magazine. Last week he posted a brilliant Frankenrecipe for an extraordinary sandwich. I call it "Frankenrecipe" because he has taken body parts from other recipes and sewn them together to create this monster sandwich.

This is no ordinary sandwich. To give it perspective, let's start with a Jimmy John's sandwich...the tin standard. This sandwich is to a Jimmy John's as a Bugatti Veyron is to a '73 Plymouth Duster. This sandwich is to a Jimmy John's as a magnum of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild is to a bottle of Ripple. This sandwich is the stuff of legend. It will take a little bit of work on your part, but such is the price of greatness.

First off, let's talk bread. I'm a huge fan of the artisan loaves sold at Costco. Roasted Garlic or Rosemary Olive Oil will certainly fill the bill. Incredible crunchy crust with a moist, soft center. You get two loaves for $4.99. They sell so fast that you are all but guaranteed piping hot bread fresh from the oven.

Next up is the meat. Mark makes a great call here by selecting rare roast beef, cooked mostly with the oven off. Yes, it sounds weird, but it works to perfection. Hang with me and it will make sense to you once you get into the recipe.

Okay....we have our bread and we have our meat. Next up is the sauce: Henry Bain Sauce. You can't buy can only make it. Henry Bain (1863-1928) was one of the first employees and eventually a legendary head waiter at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, which was founded in 1881. He created his famous sauce for both steaks and local game animals. Club members liked it so much that they would bring their fresh kills to the club after a day of hunting in the nearby woods. To this day, it is served at the Club and enjoyed by its members and guests. So unless you live in Louisville and are a member of the Pendennis Club, you are required to make your own Henry Bain Sauce from scratch.

Last but not least are the sandwich condiments. For this, Mark tapped the Sandwich King of New York, Tyler Kord. Tyler owns No.7 Sub in Manhattan and Brooklyn and has come up with a unique condiment recipe he calls Pico de Lettuce. This is a marvelous combination of romaine lettuce, garlic, red onion, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil.

To complete the sandwich, you simply combine all of the Frankenparts. Here's how to make those:


One, 3-pound beef roast, top, eye or bottom round
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. Preheat oven to 500º.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes to create a paste. Rub paste all over roast. Place roast  in a roasting pan or cast iron skillet, fat-side up, and put in oven. Cook undisturbed for 15 minutes (5 minutes per pound).
  3. After 15 minutes, turn oven off. Do not open oven door. Leave roast to continue cooking, undisturbed, for 2 hours.
  4. After 2 hours, remove roast from oven. Slice thinly.


1/3 cup mango or peach chutney, best available
4 tablespoons of your favorite steak sauce
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons chili sauce
2 tablespoon ketchup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Hot sauce, to taste (start with 1 tablespoon)
4 tablespoons chopped watercress, optional  

  1. In a small pot set over medium heat, stir all the ingredients except the watercress. Heat until slightly thickened, then remove from heat. Allow to cool and refrigerate until ready to use. 
  2. Just before serving, if you like, stir chopped watercress into the sauce.


1  small head romaine lettuce (dark green leaves discarded), cut into chiffonade (long, thin strips)
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 small red onion, or half a medium-size one, peeled and sliced very thin
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
Pinch of salt   

  1. Put the lettuce into a medium-size nonreactive bowl. Set aside.
  2. In another small nonreactive bowl, combine the other ingredients and whisk to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  3. Mix together the lettuce and the dressing and allow to sit, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Drain off some of the juice that will accumulate at the bottom of the bowl. 

Pairing: An ice-cold glass of ale


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bo Kho

Tomorrow will be the coldest day in four years here in Minnesota. While the air temperature is going to hit 15º below zero, the wind chill is going to hover around 40º below zero. Needless to say, Zorro will not be getting his daily walk tomorrow.

When the weather turns cold, I like to make big, rib-sticking meals. Last week I made Hungarian Goulash, a truly hearty beef stew and the only recipe originating from Hungary that is truly worth making. Of course, there's always good old American Beef Stew or the gastronomic perfection of the French...Beef Bourguignon. The Germans have their Rindergulasch and of course there's Irish Beef Stew, made with Guiness Stout ("An Irishman is the only man in the world who will step over the bodies of a dozen naked women to get a bottle of Guiness Stout").

When you look at all those recipes, they basically have the same genealogy. They all originated in Europe, with ingredient variations so that each nationality can claim it as their own. You can't imagine my delight when I came across Andrea Nguyen's recipe for Bo Kho...Vietnamese Beef Stew. Her family was airlifted from Saigon in 1975 and, fortunately for us, her mother had committed the recipe to memory and passed it on to her daughter.

This is a totally new and refreshing take on beef stew. We still get the heartiness of beef stew, but with  a whole different slant on the flavors. Vietnamese staples like lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic and ginger bring a whole new dimension to the stew and morphs this dish into a true treat for the palate. Once you make this, your concept of beef stew will be forever changed. This recipe serves four to six people.

2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 stalks lemongrass, loose leaves discarded, cut into 3-inch lengths and bruised with the broad side of a cleaver or chef's knife
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2½ to 3 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1½ teaspoons packed brown sugar
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
1 yellow onion or 8 ounces shallot, finely chopped
1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomato in purée (1½ cups)
½ teaspoon salt
2 whole star anise
3½ cups water
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil

  1. In a bowl, combine beef, lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, five-spice powder, brown sugar and bay leaf. Mix well to evenly coat. Set aside to marinate 30 minutes. 
  2. In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, sear beef on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Each batch should take about 3 minutes total. Reserve lemongrass, bay leaf and leftover marinade.
  3. Lower heat to medium-low, add onions and cook gently, stirring, until fragrant and soft, 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt. Cover and cook until mixture is fragrant and has reduced to a rough paste, 12-14 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure tomato is not sticking to bottom of pan. If it is, stir well and splash in some water.
  4. When a paste has formed, add beef, reserved marinade ingredients and star anise. Give a big stir, then cook, uncovered, to meld flavors, about 5 minutes. Add water, bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat. Simmer until beef is chewy-tender (close to being done), about 1¼ hours. Press on a piece; it should yield but still feel firm. 
  5. Add carrots and return to simmer, adjusting heat if needed. Cook, uncovered, until carrots and beef are tender, about 30 minutes. 
  6. Before serving, taste. Add salt or a shot of fish sauce to intensify flavor, or splash in water to lighten. Remove and discard lemongrass, bay leaf and star anise. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with coriander or basil.

Wine pairing: A nice, fruity Zinfandel

Andrea Nguyen

Monday, January 14, 2013

Thai Ribeye Salad

If you're eating Paleo, here's a meal for you. If you're eating Paleo and like Thai food, you just hit the jackpot. Grilled ribeye, Boston lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, smoked almonds, mint and cilantro. And the dressing is to die for: lime juice, Red Boat fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, sugar, olive oil and Sriracha.

The beauty of this meal is that it all comes together in about 15 minutes and you would be hard pressed to come up with a healthier combination of ingredients. This entree salad recipe was created by Jamie Purviance and it serves four.

2 boneless ribeye steaks, about 12 ounces each and 1" thick
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Finely grated zest of one lime
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon fish sauce (Red Boat recommended)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 head Boston lettuce, roughly chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup coarsely grated carrot
1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup coarsely chopped smoked almonds
1/4 cup roughly chopped mint leaves
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

  1. Lightly brush the steaks on both sides with oil and season evenly with salt and pepper. Allow the steaks to stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before grilling.
  2. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F).
  3. In a small bowl whisk the dressing ingredients. Slowly add 1/4 cup oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify the dressing. Season with salt.
  4. In a large serving bowl combine the lettuce, bean sprouts, carrot, and cucumber.
  5. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the steaks over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until cooked to your desired doneness, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare, turning once or twice (if flare-ups occur, move the steaks temporarily over indirect heat). Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut the steak into 1/2-inch pieces.
  6. Whisk the dressing again and pour it over the salad. Toss well. Add the steak and any collected juices from the cutting board to the salad along with the almonds, mint, and cilantro. Mix well. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: A fruity Zinfandel

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Perfect Fried Eggs, Sunny Side Up

I hate eggs. Always have. I've made it through 60 years of life without a cooked egg ever having passed through my lips. Back in October of 2000, my doctor gave me a choice between eating a fried egg or having total hip replacement. I chose total hip replacement.

I started cooking breakfast for the boys a little while back. Patrick, our resident carbo fiend, is a breeze to make breakfast for. A little fresh fruit, some bacon and perhaps a couple of waffles. Sean, our resident protein fiend, loves fried eggs. Please take me out in a field and shoot me.

I have never in my life been intimidated by a recipe. I have really good intuition when I look at a recipe and I can tell what's right or wrong the first time I read it. However, I started reading fried egg recipes out on Al Gore's Internet and for all my effort, I felt like I was trying to read Egyptian hieroglyphics.

While I understood the mechanics of cooking the eggs, I had no sense of how they should taste. Nor would I, as I still have one good hip that I will give up if that same doctor gives me that choice again. So the only thing I could do was just start. Trial and error. Woe be my test monkey, Sean.

So start I did. The first eggs I cooked for Sean were an epic failure. While they looked OK to me, his reaction to the first bite was classic. His face contorted and grimaced like he had just smelled the worst fart of his entire life...the kind that can bring up your lunch on a warm day. Alright Sean, Dad is headed back to the drawing board.

My failures went on for weeks. I tried everything. But every first bite of every experiment ended in some sort of facial expression on Sean's part akin to the overwhelming presence of flatulence. He was far too polite to say it, but my fried eggs tasted like shit...and smelled like it, too.

Then in mid-December, Bon Appetit magazine arrived with the answer to Sean's prayers. It hit me like a ton of bricks...dawn breaking after a millennium of darkness. It was the tool, stupid.
I had been using the stove-top to achieve all forms of monumental inconsistency. Bon Appetit pointed out that if you want to achieve perfect Fried Eggs, Sunny Side Up, and be able to replicate that perfection day in and day out, you need to use the oven.

The first time I tried cooking fried eggs in the oven, Sean proclaimed them the best fried eggs he had ever tasted. Angels sang on high, their thousand voices performing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony like it had never been performed before. Götterfunken! The world's greatest piece of music and the world's greatest fried eggs, intertwined for one brief moment in my kitchen. Götterfunken! But I would still let them saw off my femur, pound a titanium ball and shaft down it, then screw a polymer cap in my hip socket...before those perfect fried eggs would ever cross my lips.

1 non-stick skillet (must be oven-proof)
2 or more fresh eggs
2 teaspoons of clarified butter*
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

*You can use regular butter, but I prefer clarified as it will not burn.

  1. Place non-stick skillet in oven and pre-heat to 350º.
  2. When oven reaches 350º, remove skillet and melt butter in skillet.
  3. Crack eggs into skillet so that they are evenly spaced.
  4. Transfer skillet back to oven and bake for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove skillet from oven, season eggs with salt and pepper and slide them out of the pan onto the plate.

Happy 88th birthday to my Dad!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Kale, Cabbage and Carrot Salad

Kale is a true superfood. Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and it's got calcium by the bucketload. Kale also contains sulforphane,  a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties.

This recipe is another lettuce-free salad. The beauty of this recipe is that it will keep in the fridge for up to three days. You can make a big batch and slowly feast on it over the course of several days....the flavor of the salad actually improves with time. The recipe is from famous Chef Michael Anthony and this salad is a featured dish at his restaurant, Gramercy Tavern in New York City.

The salad takes about twenty minutes to make and will serve  four to six people, depending upon serving size. Chef Anthony encourages you to toss the salad by hand, so that the rich dressing gets  massaged into the vegetables "to coat every last crunchy bite".

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
1 tablespoon caper pickling liquid
1 large garlic clove, pressed or smashed to a paste
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1/4 head cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2  large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into bite-size pieces
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped herbs (parsley, basil and/or dill)


  1. In medium bowl, whisk egg yolk with mustard. While whisking constantly, slowly dribble in oils. Continue whisking until oil is fully incorporated and mixture is thick and pale in color.
  2. Whisk in capers, pickling liquid, garlic and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste and add snipped chives.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all vegetables and herbs. Add dressing and toss, using both hands to mix until dressing coats all ingredients. Allow salad to marinate until vegetables soften, at least 10 minutes.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Kim Crawford recommended)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Celery Salad with Celery Root and Horseradish

I'm a big fan of lettuce-free salads. First, I like them lettuce-free just for the variety. Practically every salad you eat in restaurant is lettuce dominated, so a salad like this is a great change of pace. The second reason I like lettuce-free salads is that they will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two. Lettuce based sales tend to wilt shortly after dressing is applied, so I don't get any tasty second helpings a day later.

This recipe is from The Bristol, an American restaurant in the Bucktown Neighborhood in Chicago. It is a spectacular blend of flavors: the slight bitterness of the celery and celery root; the heat of the horseradish; the sour of the lemon juice; and the silky smooth taste of extra virgin olive oil. This recipe serves four to six people, depending on serving size.

1 medium celery root (about 1 pound)
10 large celery stalks, thinly sliced on a sharp diagonal
1/2 cup celery leaves
1 small shallot, sliced into rings
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup flat leaf-parsley leaves

  1. Peel and halve celery root. Using a mandoline, very thinly slice one half. Cut other half into matchstick-size pieces.
  2. Combine celery root, celery stalks, shallot, lemon zest, and horseradish in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Let vegetables sit for 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.
  3. Whisk oil and lemon juice in a small bowl; season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. Drizzle vinaigrette over vegetables. Add celery leaves and parsley and toss salad to combine. Divide among plates and serve.

Wine pairing: Pinot Grigio

The Bristol