Saturday, February 22, 2014

Korean Rib Eye Steaks

Ten inches of snow on Thursday was the dagger through the heart. I hate Minnesota in winter. So I am crawling under the covers to sleep a deep sleep and dream about grilling. 'Nuff said. This taste of spring is courtesy of Jamie Purviance from Weber and it serves four.


For the steaks
8 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted and divided
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
4 boneless ribeye steaks, about 12 ounces and 1 inch thick
8 scallions

For the marinade
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sherry or sake
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup sugar
6 scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 tablespoons grated ginger
6 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce


  1. In a small bowl combine 4 teaspoons of the sesame seeds with the salt. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor or blender combine the remaining 4 teaspoons sesame seeds with the marinade ingredients. Blend until almost smooth. Pour half of the marinade into a small saucepan and set aside. Place the steaks in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the remaining marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade, place on a rimmed baking dish, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, turning the bag occasionally and massaging the marinade into the steaks. Allow the steaks to stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before grilling.
  3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  4. Brush the cooking grates clean. Remove the steaks from the bag and discard the marinade in the bag. Grill the steaks over direct high heat, with the lid closed, until cooked to your desired doneness, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare, turning once or twice. During the last 2 minutes of grilling time, grill the scallions over direct heat, turning once. Remove from the grill and let the steaks rest for 5 minutes.
  5. While the steaks rest make the sauce. Place the small saucepan with the marinade over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Boil until slightly thickened and reduced to about ½ cup, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Cut the steaks into thin slices. Drizzle with the reduced marinade and sprinkle with sesame salt. Serve warm with grilled scallions.

Wine pairing: California Zinfandel

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Marinara Sauce

When it comes to recipes, I love simple. One of my favorite recipes is Marcella Hazan's world famous red sauce ( Just four ingredients. Absolutely remarkable.

At the end of January, The New York Times published Lidia Bastianich's recipe for marinara sauce. It's simplicity captivated me. This was not a sauce that would require hours of simmering in a stockpot. In fact, Lidia's sauce only requires 15 minutes of simmering.

There are two things that are critical to her recipe. First is the tomatoes. You must use Cento's San Marzano Italian tomatoes. There can be no substitutes here. This is the heart and soul of the sauce and you must not compromise.

Second, and this is a bit of a surprise, you have to make the sauce in a skillet....not a sauce pan. This is her genius method to her madness that insures the sauce cooks evenly and quickly (just 15 minutes!). Those are the two key things to follow. The rest is simple. As Lidia says, "It takes work to get to the simplicity."

You can use the sauce by itself, or feel free to toss in some protein. Sauteed shrimp or deeply browned Italian sausage would do the trick. This recipe yields 3 1/2 cups of sauce, which is the perfect amount for one pound of pasta.

1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
Small dried whole chile, or pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large fresh basil sprig      


  1. Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato juices. Reserve.
  2. In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic.
  3. As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water. Add whole chile or red pepper flakes and salt. Stir. 
  4. Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface (like a flower). Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes.  Discard basil and chile (if using). Serve.

Wine pairing: Chianti or Sangiovese

Lidia Bastianich

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weapon of Choice: Hand Blender

This hand blender, also known as an immersion blender, is one of the most useful gadgets in my kitchen. Truth be told, I do not use it all that often for immersion blending. The only time I use it for that is when I making mock garlic mashed potatoes out of cauliflower or whipping up some gazpacho in the summer.

What I use it for practically all of the time is for dicing and chopping. I was born without a "patience" gene, so I cannot stand the tedious chore of dicing and chopping. And that's what this hand blender does so well. In the picture above, just to the right of the hand blender, is a small plastic cup with a blade at the bottom. When attached to the hand blender, it becomes a small food processor.

The Chinese Chili recipe I posted last Saturday has a lot of chopping and dicing. If you did it all by hand, we are talking a good 10 to 15 minutes. The mini-processor easily held two jalapeños, six cloves of garlic and a two-inch slice of ginger. My chopping and dicing time...10 seconds.

Now I have a "big dog" Cuisinart food processor, but I keep that stowed and only haul it out for big jobs. This little baby sits in a drawer and I can have it up and running in seconds. And, it's an absolute breeze to clean (just rinse it out under the faucet and air-dry).

The KitchenAid model shown above is my weapon of choice. Cooks Illustrated also selected that model as their winner in a performance test against all of the other brands. It sells for $59.99 at Amazon and you can check it out here:  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Chinese Chili

Such is the winter of my discontent. As of today, Twin Cities residents have endured 40 days of sub-zero temperatures this winter. That's not 40 days below freezing...that's 40 days below zero. Forty f*cking days. In a typical winter we might see 8 days of sub-zero temperatures. But we are at 40 on February 8th and there is no end in sight.

It's depressing. There's nothing to look forward to. It's like Groundhog's Day. Every morning you wake up to a room full of personal-injury lawyers who are about to perform a colonoscopy on you...without the benefit of anesthesia. There is no upside. Just unrelenting pain. And cold.

There is only one way to deal with 50-below wind chills and a landscape encrusted in snow and ice. Hunker in the bunker. We have our food supplies...carefully resting in the deep holes we dug into the earth last fall. We need only go outside to use the outhouse. Oh, to be a Minnesotan.

Nothing warms the cockles of one's heart like a rib-sticking bowl of hearty chili. But it gets old. One can only take so much chili: Texas Chili, New Mexico Chili, Pecos River Red Chili, Lone Star Chili. About the 20th day of sub-zero temperatures, the palate begins to crave variety. No more Tex Mex Chili, please. And so the New York Times answered the call by publishing this exquisite recipe for Chinese Chili.

It has all of the comfort of chili, but the flavors are astounding and remarkably complex. Soy sauce....hoisin sauce...Sichuan peppercorns...garlic and ginger... and please do not let me forget to tell you that it also has beer. Well, amber ale, to be correct. Forget the personal-injury lawyers and the colonoscopy....this dish will take away all of the cold with your very first spoonful. This recipe serves six.

2 pounds lean brisket
1/4 cup soy sauce, more to taste
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and slivered
1 habanero or other hot fresh chile, seeded and slivered
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
12 ounces beer, preferably amber ale
1 14-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese hot chile oil (or more if you want it hotter)
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro  


  1. Reserve about a tablespoon of the fat from the brisket and cut the meat in 1/2-inch dice. Lightly brown the fat on medium-high in a large sauté pan to slick the bottom. Add meat and cook until it loses its redness. Transfer meat and any juices to a bowl. Toss with soy sauce and hoisin. 
  2. Reduce heat to low, add onions, bell pepper, jalapeños, habanero, garlic and ginger and cook until softened. Add Sichuan peppercorns and five spice, stir, then add ale. Bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes. Return meat and juices to the pan. Cover and simmer an hour and a half, until the meat is tender.
  3. Stir in vinegar. Mixture should be somewhat soupy; add some water if needed. Drizzle in chile oil. Adjust salt with soy sauce. Garnish with cilantro and serve.         

Wine pairing:  Here's a surprise for you...California Syrah!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pork Chops with Shiitake Mushrooms

When it comes to cooking meat, I love pan-searing above all else. Pan-searing lets the home cook put a professional, steakhouse char on any piece of meat. To me, it's far superior to grilling. The science behind it is called the Maillard Reaction. The meat acquires a divine crust and aroma that can only happen at temperatures above 310º.

Two weeks ago, my featured recipe was for Pan-Seared Spanish Steaks. That was a recipe for the ages....just plain awesome. This week's recipe is for pan-seared pork chops. It was created by Alex Guarnaschelli for her New York restaurant, Butter. If she looks familiar, you may have seen her on Iron Chef, Chopped or many of her other Food Network appearances.

Alex Guarnaschelli

The meat is cooked unadorned, save for some salt and pepper, but the bold and complex taste of the mustard sauce with the umami of the shiitake mushrooms knocks this dish right out of the park. For pan-searing, a cast iron pan is preferred but steel will also do the trick. Do not use a non-stick pan under any circumstances (if you do, the food police will show up in your kitchen and perform a highly thorough, body-cavity search on you in front of your loved ones). This recipe serves four.

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons safflower or grape seed oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
4 bone-in pork chops (1 1/4-inch thick)
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound small shiitake mushrooms, stemmed  


  1. Heat oven to 375º. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustards, 1/2 cup of oil and sherry vinegar until thoroughly blended. Set aside.   
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon remaining oil. Meanwhile, season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside to absorb the seasoning for a few minutes.
  3. When the oil begins to smoke, add the shiitake mushrooms to the pan, brown side down, in a single layer. Cook, undisturbed, for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until the caps are seared all over. Using kitchen tongs, turn mushrooms on their other side and cook for a few more minutes until golden. Transfer mushrooms to a plate and set aside. Wipe skillet of any excess oil with a wad of paper towels and set over medium heat once again.
  4. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet. When it begins to smoke, add the pork chops in a single layer (you may have to do this in two batches). Cook the pork chops over high heat  for 7 minutes. Then flip the pork chops over and place the skillet in the center of the oven. Cook for  8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven, set chops on a serving platter and tent with foil, allowing them to rest for 5 minutes.
  5. After 5 minutes, remove foil and top the chops with the sauce and mushrooms. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir