Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gai Dtai Nam (Chicken Under Water)

Here we sit in the last week of December and another year's notch is about to be cut into the belt. Last Tuesday was one of my favorite nights of the year, a ritual known as "Guy's Annual Night Dinner". My group of friends started this tradition back in 1970 and this marked the 44th year of this occasion.

It actually started with just three of us having a Christmas lunch at Lincoln Del out on Highway 12. Then we started doing dinners. We'd have dinner at Jennings on Excelsior Boulevard and then hit the discos afterwards...typically Ichabod's or Rupert's. That was just the thing to do when we were in our 20's. The last few years we've been alternating between Wildfire and Olympic Hills.

Given that we're all in our 60's now, it's cocktails at 5:00, dinner at 6:00 and bed by 8:00.  There are three of us that go back to the third grade together. Sadly, three of our crew have gone on to the great diner in the sky...but they always get remembered and toasted at the dinner. It's just a great group of guys and I so look forward to these dinners every year.

Today's recipe is an Asian gem from P.J. Stoop in Houston. It's called Chicken Under Water because that is exactly how you cook it. You throw the chicken pieces in a pot and then cover the pot with a pan of ice water. This encourages rapid condensation of water and in just 50 minutes you will have incredibly moist pieces of chicken and a fantastic sauce.

The only difficult ingredient here is the kaffir lime leaves. Your closest Asian Food store is a sure bet. But if you are an Internet shopper like me, my go-to place for them is Follow this link to make your purchase: This recipe serves four.

7 cloves garlic
2 large shallots, quartered
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layer removed, sliced
1 (¼-inch) piece ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 whole chicken, cut into 16-20 pieces
1 bunch scallions, cut into 3-inch pieces
6 kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon coarsely ground white peppercorns


  1. Make curry paste: Use a mortar and pestle or a food processor to pulverize garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger and peppercorns until a coarse paste forms. 
  2. In a bowl, combine chicken with curry paste and soy sauce. Let marinate 30 minutes.
  3. Place marinated chicken in a stock pot over medium-low heat, then cover pot with a large metal bowl filled with ice water. Cook until wisps of steam begin to escape from pot, about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove bowl of ice water, add scallions and lime leaves to pot, and stir. Cover pot again with bowl of ice water, adding more ice if necessary, and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through, 30 minutes more. 
  5. Transfer chicken and sauce to a large bowl or platter. 

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tuscan Beef Stew

This recipe from Florence, Italy is exceptional. While all of the ingredients contribute to the whole, two ingredients are the stars.....Chianti and black pepper. The Chianti is critical as this recipe really needs a medium-bodied wine. Do not use a Cabernet or a will ruin the flavor. If you don't have a Chianti handy, reach for a Cotes du Rhone or Pinot Noir. 

The stew can be served naked, as it is pictured above. It also pairs nicely with polenta or a fresh baguette of crusty bread. My preferred way of serving it is over buttered pappardelle pasta. The tilemakers of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathredal Duomo created this recipe and it was published in the January issue of Cook's Illustrated. The recipe serves six to eight people.

  • 4pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 1tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1(750-ml) bottle Chianti
  • 1cup water
  • 4shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 2carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1garlic head, cloves separated, unpeeled, and crushed
  • 4sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2bay leaves
  • 1tablespoon cracked black peppercorns, plus extra for serving
  • 1tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 2teaspoons ground black pepper
    • 2teaspoons cornstarch


  1. Toss beef and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt together in bowl and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of beef in single layer and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if fond begins to burn. Stir in 2 cups wine, water, shallots, carrots, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, cracked peppercorns, gelatin, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and the remaining uncooked beef. Bring to simmer and cover tightly with sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then lid. Transfer to oven and cook until beef is tender, 2 to 2 1/4 hours, stirring halfway through cooking time.
  3. Using slotted spoon, transfer just the beef to a bowl; cover tightly with foil and set aside. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Wipe out pot with paper towels. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted liquid to pot.
  4. Add 1 cup wine and ground black pepper and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened to consistency of heavy cream, 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Combine remaining wine and cornstarch in small bowl. Reduce heat to medium-low, return beef to pot, and stir in cornstarch-wine mixture. Cover and simmer until just heated through, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve, passing extra cracked peppercorns separately. (Stew can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

Wine pairing: Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kimchi Fried Rice

When I got my flu shot in October, they told me it would protect me from 3 strains of influenza. What they did not tell me is that it would not protect against the H3N2 strain of the flu, which is what took over my body last Wednesday.

Thanks to the fact I'm healthy and I did get a small dose of protection from the vaccine, it's not debilitating. It's just that it's a pain in the butt and I feel like crap. Sore throat, full sinus cavities, bad cough and really achy joints.

I just put a new 40" 4K TV (Ultra High Definition) in my office, so while I've been sick I've simply done an ass-plant and have been video bingeing while I wait for my health to improve. So in case you get sick, I'm going to share with you three of my favorite binge-worthy TV shows.

First up is The Missing.  This 6-part TV series was produced by the BBC and is available there or on Starz on demand. It's the story of an Irish couple that go on holiday to France. When their car breaks down in a small French village, they stay in an inn while they wait for their car to be repaired. The father takes the boy swimming and when he goes to get something to drink, his boy disappears.

The story is riveting as it jumps back and forth from 2006 (the year Ollie went missing) to present day. The acting is great, especially Tchéky Karyo who plays the lead inspector. It's only six episodes and it's binge-worthy (and nominated for 2 Golden Globes).

Next up is Gracepoint. This 10-episode series just ended on Thursday night. It's a compelling mystery about 2 detectives trying to solve the murder of a 12-year old boy. The plot turns are terrific and there's a great acting job done by Nick Nolte. I highly recommend it. It's available on FX On Demand or iTunes.

Next up is Marco Polo. This is a brand new show made just for Netflix. They just posted the entire first season. Now I'm only 3 episodes into it but I am absolutely hooked. Marco's warm, loving father trades his son to Kublai Khan in exchange for a trade route. The story is based on his adventures in Kublai Khan's court in 13th century China. This is the Netflix version of HBO's Game of Thrones. All of the great complex plots, violence and sex you've come to enjoy in GOT are there in Marco Polo. Done by Weinstein Company, the production values are fantastic. Available only on Netflix.

So that will satisfy your viewing pleasure while you have the flu. Remember to drink a massive amount of fluids and you must eat to keep your strength up. For eating, I strongly recommend Andrew Zimmern's recipe for Kimchi Fried Rice. It gives you will completely clear your sinuses...and it's the perfect complement to bingeing on Marco Polo. Serves six.

    1 1/2 cups short-grain Asian rice
    2 cups water
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 cups sliced roast pork
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 dried red chile
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 ounces mung bean sprouts
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups kimchi, coarsly chopped and drained, liquid reserved
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil 

  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the rice with the water and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt, cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes. Spread the rice on a large rimmed baking sheet and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
  2. In a very large skillet, heat the peanut oil until shimmering. Add the sliced pork and stir-fry over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the ginger, chile and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then push the mixture to one side of the skillet. Add the egg to the other side of the skillet and scramble just until set, about 1 minute. 
  3. Add the cold rice to the skillet and stir-fry over high heat until coated and hot, about 2 minutes. Add the kimchi, scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil and stir-fry until hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the fried rice into bowls, garnish with thinly sliced scallions and serve. 

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mulled Wine

This is a favorite Christmas drink of mine. It's best consumed when there's a chill in the air and you are planted in front of a roaring fire built with aged oak and birch. If you want your house to smell like this drink tastes, toss an apple log on that fire.

The earliest recipe of mulled wine is traced to Rome in the second century AD. It was first recorded as spiced and heated wine. As you know, the Romans undertook conquering much of Europe. They brought their recipes with them, which is why mulled wine is ubiquitous all over Europe.

Germany calls it Glühwein (glow wine). The Nordic countries call it glogg. In the Netherlands it's called bisschopswijn (bishop's wine). And leave it to our dear neighbors to the north, the Canadians call it caribou. Amen to that, eh! Apparently the Romans never made it to Canada.

This recipe is from Ashley English's new book, Quench. The book contains over 100 recipes for both soft and hard drinks. I encourage you to buy the book, but more importantly, I encourage you to make this mulled wine recipe. I am certain you will find the the taste and the experience to be both uncommon and unforgettable. The recipe makes five cups.

One 750-ml bottle dry red wine (I like Cabernet Sauvignon)
1/3 cup sugar
Juice and zest from 1 orange
Peel from one lemon
2 teaspoons allspice berries
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Three 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 1/2 cups of brandy


  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the brandy in a medium size sauce pan.
  2. Bring just to the boiling point, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in brandy. Serve warm in individual mugs.

Ashley English

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Root Vegetable Fries

I've been away from CrossFit Edina for five weeks longest absence since I started there in 2009. I started physical therapy last week to start improving my range of motion. For the first four weeks after rotator cuff surgery, I had zero range of motion with my right arm. Now I can raise my hand over head....and even put on a belt by myself!

So I'm headed back to CrossFit on Monday. It will be slow going and I will be concentrating on lower body workouts. The range of motion therapy sessions end December 30th and then I start strength building in January.

Between my daily walks and CrossFit, I typically burn 400 to 800 calories a day. In the last five weeks, none of that happened. My clothes are a little snugger, so it's time to pay the piper. Back to a strict Paleo diet until I get a few extra pounds burned off. I'm a fan of fries, so I'd like to share this Food Network recipe for root vegetable fries.

1 pound carrots, cut into fries
1 pound parsnips, cut into fries
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
2 egg whites, beaten
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 400º.
  2. Toss fries with oil, salt and lemon-pepper. Add the egg whites and toss again. Add the breadcrumbs and toss again.
  3. Spread fries out on two baking sheets and place in oven. After 20 minutes, stir fries. Bake for 15 minutes more, then serve.

Wine pairing: Merlot

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Baked Hasselback Potatoes

In the 1940's, the famous Hasselbacken Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden introduced a new side dish called hasselbackspotatis. It was a new take on the baked potato. In their simplest form, they are just whole potatoes cut in such a way to resemble a fan or accordion when roasted. The outside of the potato becomes a wondrous, crispy brown while the insides remain creamy soft.

The trick to the prep is actually quite simple. You simply set a pair of wooden spoons or chopsticks  on either side of the potato when you cut it. This ensures that your cuts will not go all of the way through, leaving the potato intact. Some recipes call for slightly shaving the bottom before you make the "fan" cuts so that the potato will lay flat. I forego that step by selecting potatoes at the store that are stable on a flat surface.

There are a million ways to finish them off. You can crown them with a half a piece of bacon, like the photo up above. A dollop of sour cream with some chives will work, too. But my favorite finish is a simple blend of extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary, lemon zest and sea salt.

4 medium russet potatoes, washed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
Sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 450º. Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
  2. Place a potato on a work surface with the cut side down. Place wooden spoons or chopsticks on either side of the potato to keep your knife from slicing through. With a sharp knife, cut thin vertical slices from the top until your knife is stopped by the spoons/chopsticks.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, rosemary, lemon zest and garlic. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet and brush them all over with the infused oil.
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove from the oven and brush all over with the olive oil mixture, separating the slices slightly with a knife to get some of the mixture between the slices.
  5. Put potatoes back in oven and bake for another 30 minutes. 
  6. Remove from oven. Sprinkle the potatoes with chopped rosemary and sea salt, then serve.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Veal Piccata

Three weeks ago I underwent surgery for a rotator cuff tear. I am here to tell you that the cure is worse than the injury. My shoulder hurts all of the time and I have very limited use of my right arm. I wear workout clothes all of the time because I cannot put on a belt. I can't lift anything over 8 ounces with my right arm. But there is light at the end of the tunnel....I start physical therapy this week. They tell me that will wrap up by next March. Be still my heart.

After surgery, they put me on a pain relief regimen of morphine and oxycodone. I am here to tell you that the pills are worse than the surgery pain.  I was in an absolute fog and could not function with those meds in my body. I quit the drugs after two days and just decided to suck up the pain as a small price to pay for having a clear head.

During my recovery, cooking has been a challenge as I basically have to do everything with my left hand. Can't do pasta as I can't lift the pot. Can't use my slow cooker as I can't lift it off the shelf. So I've become expert at one-handed meals. This Williams Sonoma recipe for Veal Piccata is one of my very favorite one-handed meals. All you need is a pan and a spatula and one good hand.

You can easily substitute boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. But I really like the delicate, nuanced flavor of veal for this dish. Veal makes the dish extra special...this could easily be a special occasion dinner for company. And better yet, it takes less than 10 minutes to make. This recipe serves four and I like to serve it with steamed green beans, which I make in the microwave oven using my left hand.

8 veal scallops, about 1 1/2 lb. total, pounded about 1/4 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chervil


  1. Cook the veal: Season the veal with salt and pepper. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter. Add half of the veal and cook, turning once, until browned, about 2 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and the remaining veal. Be careful not to overcook. 
  2. Make the sauce: Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and melt over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broth and wine and cook, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom, until the sauce is reduced by about one-fourth, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the capers and simmer for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Return the veal and any juices to the pan and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Divide the veal among individual plates, spoon the sauce over it and serve immediately. 

Wine pairing: A nice California Merlot, poured with your left hand.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Break in the Action

A combination of age and genetics will sideline me for the next four weeks. The opening in my shoulder is supposed to be 11mm, which gives enough room for the rotator cuff to slide under the bone. Mine had narrowed to just 7mm, causing the rotator cuff to get caught and tear.

I had surgery yesterday to repair the tear, but the recovery requires that my right arm be immobilized for the next four weeks. This means I have no use of my right arm or hand for that period....which makes it tough for this right hander. While I found someone to help me get dressed and cook, she was adamant that she would not ghost write my blog. So, time for a break and I will see you in four weeks.

Pairing: Morphine Sulfate and Oxycodone 

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Tis the heart of October. And in Germany, it is one of the most important months of the year. Known in Germany as Wiesn, the rest of the world simply calls it Oktoberfest. It's a chance to celebrate all things German, especially beer and food. But before we get to the German food, I would like to call your attention to this German dude.

This October, he just became the highest paid athlete in the world. By a very significant margin. As of last September, the highest paid athlete was soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, who pulled in a whopping annual salary of $52,000,000. If you look at American sports, Kobe Bryant is the highest paid athlete with an annual salary of $30,500,000.

My dude has got them all beat. Meet four-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel. He's won four world championships for Red Bull Racing. But he has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out if his team does not field a competitive car. And that's what happened this year...Sebastian is languishing in 5th place because his car sucks.

So he opted out and Ferrari snatched him up. His three-year contract is worth $240,000,000....a mind-boggling $80,000,000 annual salary. So let's take a little look at how that works out per hour. Kobe will play in 82 games this year and will earn $464,939 per hour. Sebastian will participate in 19 races and earn $2,105,263 for every hour he drives. Mommas, take away that basketball and get your kids to the go-kart track!

Schnitzel is a beloved dish in Bavaria. While it is most commonly made with veal, you can find all kinds of variations using chicken and pork. I prefer the latter, as it is cheaper than veal and easier to cook. It's also got a lot more flavor. This Melissa Clark recipe serves four. Deutschland über alles!

½ cup flour
teaspoon cayenne
teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups panko or other unseasoned bread crumbs
1 ¼ pounds boneless pork cutlets, pounded to 1/8-inch thick
 Coarse kosher salt and ground black pepper
Safflower, peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
1 scallion, thinly sliced, including greens


  1. Mix flour with cayenne and nutmeg. Place flour mixture in one shallow dish, place eggs in a second dish, and place bread crumbs in a third dish. Season pork cutlets generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 1/8 inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. While oil heats, dip cutlets one by one into flour (shake off any excess), then into eggs (ditto) and finally into the bread crumbs, taking care not to handle pork more than necessary (hold meat by ends).
  3. When oil sizzles when a pinch of bread crumbs is thrown in, add as many cutlets as comfortably fit in one layer, leaving plenty of room around them. Swirl and tilt pan so oil cascades over top of cutlet in waves. When bottom is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes, flip and brown the other side, swirling pan (swirling helps create air pockets, giving you lighter schnitzel). Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking platter or baking tray and sprinkle with more salt. Repeat with remaining pork.
  4. Serve schnitzel sprinkled with sliced scallion.

Pairing: I would opt for a Märzen beer, the most popular beer at Oktoberfest. If you prefer wine, pair it with an unoaked Chardonnay. If you are Sebastian Vettel, a nice chilled bottle of Dom Perignon should do quite nicely.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thai Grilled Chicken

Back in 2003, I got a bug up my butt that I had always put up with someone else's idea of a kitchen. Despite the fact that I had worked with an architect on the last two homes I had built, I was so caught up in the overall project that I never really honed in with a laser-like focus on the kitchen. In 2003 I decided to change that.

I hired an architect to completely re-design the kitchen. There were things that were very important to me. A commercial stainless steel prep area...just like in the restaurants. A walk-in wine cellar right next to the fridge and freezer. Dual sinks and multiple dishwashers. But the heart of my kitchen was to be a dual fuel commercial range/oven combo.

So I picked out a 60" Wolf and have been over-the-top in love with it ever since it was installed in 2004. Just like golfers have their favorite clubs, hunters have their favorite guns....I have my favorite dual fuel range with two 30" ovens. And I beat the daylights out of it. It gets used and abused several times a day. I estimate in the last 10 years it has been through about 8,000 individual cooking sessions. And after 10 years, it has started to look like it was rode hard and put away wet.

The paint is chipping on the griddle and a lot of the surfaces are worn down. One of my favorite features on the stove top is the grill. When it's cold or I don't feel like going out and firing up the charcoal on my Weber, I just turn on the Wolf grill and it comes to temperature within two minutes. But, alas, after 10 years, it has some cool spots and does not work as well as when it was new. So I just had the Wolf people out and they are going to give my favorite appliance a complete overhaul and refurbish it to it's former glory.

Grilling chicken breasts on the Wolf is one of my favorites. I can completely cook a chicken breast in just 8 minutes with the Wolf grill. So I am immediately drawn to any new grilled chicken breast recipe. The one I am sharing today is from Roy Yamaguchi. He prepared this spectacular Thai dish for The 2014 Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. It serves two. I like to serve it with Basmati rice.

1/2 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons chopped scallions
5 tablespoons chopped lemongrass bottoms
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3/4 cup fish sauce (Red Boat preferred)
2 (6 to 8 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges


  1. Combine brown sugar and next 8 ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth.
  2. Combine chicken and marinade mixture in a zip-top freezer bag. Seal and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat grill. Remove chicken from marinade and season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken 8 to 10 minutes, turning once.
  4. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rigatoni with Beef and Onion Ragu

It was a blustery 40º on our walk this morning...a far cry from the balmy 83º of a week ago. Such is the weather in Minnesota. But fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. Pheasant hunting. Watching the leaves change. The switch over to a warmer wardrobe. And moving on from light summer fare to more hearty fall dishes.

Today's recipe harks from the 16th century. That was a joyous time of my youth. The cars were so different then. I got my second car during this period, which was after my first car died. It wasn't really my fault as I was unaware that engines required oil and that said fluid level needed to be checked on a regular basis.

So after my first car died, my Dad and I went to Southdale Ford. During the 16th century, Southdale Ford sat across from Southdale.....exactly where the Galleria sits today. You can see it in the lower left-hand corner of the photo above. It's the circular building with rows of cars around it. We walked the lot and my heart settled on a beautiful fire-engine red 1965 Ford Mustang. My deceased car had a V-8 with a 4-speed manual, the Ford Mustang was unfortunately equipped with a 6-banger and an automatic. But beggars cannot be choosers, so thanks to my mom and dad and $700 of their money, it  became my 16th century ride.

Back in the 16th century, cars were very different from what we see today. They had no such things as fobs back then. They had a piece of metal cut into little jags. It was called a key and you had to insert it into a hole in the door to get the car open. There were no seat belts, so you knew that any collision would turn your body into a 155 pound projectile. If you did not fly through the windshield, you were guaranteed to become horribly disfigured when your face smashed into the all-metal dash.

The car did have high and low beams, but to activate them you had to step on a mechanical metal switch located on the floor under the dashboard. The car did not have windshield washers.....which are a necessity in Minnesota during the winter. So I had to have a bladder installed under the hood. The bladder was connected to a pump handle under the dashboard. When I needed fluid, I had to lean over and pump enough air into the bladder that caused it to become pressurized and squirt some juice on the windshield.

It was a great little car that got me through college and the end of the 16th century. At the dawn of the 17th century, I became enamored with sports cars, but alas, that is another story. So let us turn our attention back to the 16th century and this fantastic pasta recipe which originated back then...the golden era of my youth.

1 (1 lb.) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, cut into 4 pieces and trimmed of large pieces of fat
Kosher salt and pepper
2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ounces salami, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 pounds onions, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
1 pound rigatoni
1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/2 cup), plus extra for serving 

  1. Sprinkle beef with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and set aside. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Process pancetta and salami in food processor until ground to paste, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add carrot and celery and process 30 seconds longer, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer paste to Dutch oven and set aside; do not clean out processor bowl. Pulse onions in processor in 2 batches, until 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces form, 8 to 10 pulses per batch.
  3. Cook pancetta mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fat is rendered and fond begins to form on bottom of pot, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until browned, about 90 seconds. Stir in 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in onions and bring to boil. Stir in 1/2 cup wine and 1 tablespoon marjoram. Add beef and push into onions to ensure that it is submerged. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, until beef is fully tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Transfer beef to carving board. Place pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is almost completely dry. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using 2 forks, shred beef into bite-size pieces. Stir beef and remaining 1 tablespoon marjoram into sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.
  5. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add rigatoni and 2 tablespoons salt and cook, stirring often, until just al dente. Drain rigatoni and add to warm sauce. Add Pecorino and stir vigorously over low heat until sauce is slightly thickened and rigatoni is fully tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve, passing extra Pecorino separately.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cuban Picadillo

Picadillo is the name of a stew that originated in Spain. The name picadillo is derived from the Spanish word picar, which basically means minced. The recipe I am going to share with you today is the Cuban I find it the most delicious of the various picadillo recipes. The taste sensation  can best be described as Spanish with strong Caribbean flavors.

The Cubans use picadillo in a wide variety of dishes. In it's simplest form, it is served as is, like a stew, typically along side a mound of white rice. It is also served in taco shells and in flour tortillas. Sometimes it's served in a bun....think of it as a Cuban sloppy joe. Another favorite use is in empanadas...which are essentially turnovers baked with picadillo inside. However you like to serve it, this Sam Sifton recipe makes for great comfort food on cool fall evening. It serves six.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2 ounces dried chorizo, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ pounds ground beef
 Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped, or one 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 bay leaves
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
cup raisins
cup pimento-stuffed green olives


  1. Put the olive oil in a large, heavy pan set over a medium-high flame, and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add onions, chorizo and garlic, stir to combine and cook until the onions have started to soften, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef, and allow it to brown, crumbling the meat with a fork as it does. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  3. Add tomatoes, vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaves, cloves and nutmeg and stir to combine. Lower the heat, and let the stew simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Uncover the pan, and add the raisins and the olives. Allow the stew to cook for another 15 minutes, then serve.

Pairing: Pacifico Mexican Beer

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

I'm both a foodie and a techie. I'm constantly in search of everything new in the food and technology worlds. I have the good fortune to have been retired for the last four years ("Every day is Saturday"). This leaves me ample time to take a full lap of the Internet each day in search of what is new.

On my lap yesterday, I stumbled on this slow cooker from Belkin. Now anyone familiar with the tech world knows Belkin makes really cool products...from smart apps to iPhone accessories to energy management devices. What Belkin does not do is make cooking products. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? But it seems that this is their first foray into the cooking world. It's a Internet connected slow cooker selling for a mind-boggling $132. There's a single on/off button on the slow cooker. All of the controls are managed by an app you download to your smartphone. This is hard for me to grasp.

This is a picture of my slow cooker, which was acquired sometime in the late 70's. Notice the really cool avocado color, which just happened to match the appliances in my condo at the time. This was acquired back in the day of disco, polyester clothing and really long hair. George Faber was ripping it up every night with Rupert's Orchestra at the hottest venue in town...Rupert's Nightclub. Drop the Corvette off at the valet....button up the three-piece suit....and every Friday night was like walking into a ladies prison with a pardon in each hand.

I only ask one thing of my slow cooker and that is to cook shit slow. It has a single button. And it works every bit as well as it did 36 years ago. It no longer matches my appliances, which may be a good thing. It cost about $12 in the day...and you can still get a perfectly good one new at Target for $14. So why in the hell do I need a $132 WiFi connected slow cooker? 

I could only come up with one scenario where it might possibly come in handy. When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, I foresee the need to travel great distances to forage for food and highly-rated, vintage red wines. Knowing that I am not going to return in time to turn on my avocado Rival Crockpot, I think it would be incredibly useful to pull out my iPhone 6+ and fire up the Belkin Slow Cooker so that we would have something warm and yummy after a hard day of foraging and slicing off zombie heads. But then that begs the question, will we have WiFi in the Zombie Apocalypse?

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, sliced into half moons
3 1/2 pounds beef brisket
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce

  1. Heat a deep sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onions and cook on medium-low to medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until the onions have caramelized lightly.
  2. While the onions are cooking, take the brisket out of its packaging and pat it dry. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat and turn on your vent or fan, if you have one. Sear the brisket until a golden brown crust appears on both sides of the meat. Remove and place in a slow cooker insert, fatty side up.
  3. Sprinkle the minced garlic over the meat. When the onions are lightly browned, pile them on top and around the meat. Mix the broth, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce, and pour into the slow cooker insert.
  4. Cover and cook in the slow cooker on LOW for 8 hours. Remove meat from slow cooker. The brisket can be sliced or shredded immediately and served with the onions and juices. 

Wine pairing: Merlot

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mexican Pot Roast

The goal of this recipe is not to serve a Mexican pot roast. The goal of this recipe to provide exquisitely flavored, shredded beef for your tacos or fajitas. The best part of the recipe, besides the taste, is that it is ridiculously easy....just dump everything into a slow cooker and walk away.

Now this will shock my readers, but I buy my pot roast at Costco. Costco sells it for $3.99 a pound. The roasts are chuck, come two to a package and they usually weigh in at 6-8 pounds (3 to 4 pounds per roast). I cook with one and freeze the other. I created a special way to freeze these large pot roasts as they are just too big to fit in my vacuum food saver bags.

Air is the enemy when causes freezer burn, which ruins the meat. So first I wrap the meat tightly in cling wrap. I do it twice by laying two large sheets of cling wrap in a cross pattern, enabling me to wrap it around the roast and then end to end. Then I do the same with heavy duty foil. Then I slide the whole thing into a freezer bag in which I have squeezed out all of the air. Works like a charm every time.

At the end of the recipe, you are going to shred the meat. You'll then remove the fat from the sauce and add the meat back to the sauce. While you can easily skim the fat off of the sauce (because fat rises to the top), I like to use a fat separator. Just pour all of the sauce into the separator and the fat will rise to the top. Because the spout exits the at the bottom of the separator, you can pour out all of the good sauce and leave the fat behind.

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 pounds)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup beef broth


  1. In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Cut roast in half; rub spice mixture over meat. Transfer to a slow cooker. Top with onion and garlic. Pour broth over meat. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. Remove meat from slow cooker; shred with two forks. Skim fat from cooking juices. Return meat to slow cooker; heat through. Using a slotted spoon, place 1/2 cup meat mixture on each taco shell or tortilla. Top with your favorite ingredients.

Pairing: Pacifico Mexican Beer.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Crispin and Bacon Brats

"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet,
to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow,
or with taper-light to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

~ William Shakespeare~

Last week I shared with you my discovery and fascination with Crispin Hard Cider. Last week's recipe used that marvelous hard cider as a marinade. This week we are going to use hard cider and bacon to create a brat that can only be described as wretched excess.

Followers of my blog know that my typical way to prepare brats is to boil them first in beer and then finish them off on the grill. This methodology has several benefits. First, it assures you that the brat is fully cooked. Second, it imparts the wonderful flavor of beer to the sausage. And finally, the excess fat is boiled away before you put the brat on the grill, eliminating flare-ups and burned brats.

The methodology will be the same here. But instead  of boiling them in beer, we are going to cook them in Crispin Hard Cider. Now I'm partial to the English Dry version of the cider, but you can feel free to use whatever flavor of hard cider you like. Once the brat is cooked, you will wrap each one with a strip of bacon and cook on the grill over indirect heat. Crispin and Bacon brats! The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

4 brats
1 small onion, thickly sliced
One 16.9 ounce can Crispin Hard Cider
4 strips thick cut bacon
4 brat buns

  1. Place the brats in a small to medium pan. Add onions and cider to the pan.
  2. Bring cider to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer brats for 20 minutes.
  3. While brats are simmering, fire up your grill. Keep coals confined to just one-half of the grill, as you will be cooking the brats over indirect heat (the side with no coals)
  4. Remove brats from pan and wrap each brat with a strip of bacon. Secure bacon to brat with toothpicks.
  5. Place brats on the side of the grill where there are no coals. Cover and cook until bacon is crisp, about 7 minutes.
  6. Remove from grill and serve.

Pairing: I would opt for an ice cold Crispin Hard Cider. But if you want to wash down your brat with wine, you must choose Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir and bacon...a marriage made in heaven.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Grilled Pork Chops, Brined in Crispin Hard Cider

Damian Hirtz, the man who owns my CrossFit gym, turned me on to one of summer's greatest pleasures: Crispin Hard Apple Cider. Served ice cold, it refreshes the palate far better than any beer can. There are different flavors out there and most of them are sweet. I don't like sweet, so I buy Crispin's Classic English Dry Cider It's crisp and smooth and very dry. So dry, in fact, that you will never have to urinate after drinking a glass or two.

So I love Crispin and I love pork chops. Pork is a very mild meat and I find it is always enhanced by brining. Fruit based brines always work well with pork, so why not try a little Crispin for my pork chops? Marriage made in heaven. Now when I'm done grilling, I like to add a little glaze. I usually add a balsamic glaze, which I typically make by reducing a half-cup of balsamic vinegar  to a quarter cup. But Costco came to the rescue with a new product they started carrying: Blaze Graze. They've taken Modena Balsamic Vinegar and reduced it to a glaze for you. Just pop the top and pour!

4 thick-cut, bone-in pork chops
1 1/2 cups Crispin Dry Hard Cider
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
5 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chunk hickory wood


  1. Place pork chops in a resealable bag, along with the cider, sugar, brown sugar, salt, thyme, bay leaves, ground mustard and juniper berries. Tightly seal and squish around to combine. Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
  2. Remove pork chops from refrigerator about 30 minutes before you're ready to cook them. Discard brine and pat meat dry using a paper towel.
  3. Light a chimney full of charcoal. When coals are white hot, spread them on the coal grate and add hickory chunk.
  4. Rub chops with olive oil. Place chops on grill over coals. Cover and cook for 5 minutes per side.
  5. When done cooking, remove chops from grill, tent with foil and let them rest for 5 minutes. Then serve with balsamic glaze (optional).

Wine pairing: A big, fruity Zinfandel