Saturday, August 29, 2015

Beef Brisket & Corn on the Cob

I got up at 7:30am today to start my brisket in the smoker. Brisket is a really tough cut of meat and it will take 10 hours under heat to make it tender. What I am sharing with you today is actually a hybrid method of cooking the brisket. It will spend just 3 hours in my smoker and 7 hours in the oven. Because there are only two of us at home now, I chose the flat cut, which weighs about 5 pounds. But this cooking method will still work on full briskets of 10+ pounds.

While I have an electric smoker that can infuse the wood with smoke, you don't need one. I opted for the 3 hour timing as that is the amount of time it takes my smoker to use up the wood. But you can use your grill to infuse the meat. Just use indirect heat and keep your dampers almost fully shut to maintain a temperature of 225º. If you are using the grill method, plan on smoking the meat for 1 hour on the grill and 9 hours in the oven.

When it comes to smoke, less is more. You want to go really light on the wood, otherwise your meat will taste more like smoke than meat...and that's a bad thing. For smoking brisket, I prefer pecan wood. Pecan is hickory's, lighter, thinner brother. Pecan adds a wispy, delicate flavor to the meat. And you don't need much. I only used 2 ounces of pecan this morning.

So the first part of our hybrid cooking method is for the smoke. The second part is to braise the meat. Brisket cooked for 10 hours in a smoker can get really dry. So two things will help to ensure moist, tender meat. The first is to make sure the meat has a good fat cap, which serves to baste the meat. Secondly, you will be adding 12 ounces of apple juice which will braise the meat while it is in the oven.

Cooking brisket using this hybrid method is ridiculously easy. It just takes time...."low and slow" is the mantra. But now I would like to tell you about a new way to cook corn. Becky and I tried it last Wednesday and it was the most incredible tasting corn either of us had ever had. It involves a cooking method called "sous vide", which is French for "under vacuum".

I have an Anova sous vide cooker. It's basically a stick you attach to the side of a pot. You just set the temperature and the stick heats and circulates water in the pot. So what you do is seal the corn inside a vacuum bag with a big glop of butter. You set the sous vide cooker for 183º and cook the corn for 30 minutes. The vacuum bag concentrates the corn a level I had never experienced before. And when it's done cooking, the corn is self-buttered. In fact you will find butter has seeped into every little crevice in the ear of corn. Just add salt! I'm here to tell you that you have never tasted corn like this.

1 flat cut brisket, about 5 pounds, with a generous fat cap
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
2 ounces pecan wood (for smoking)
12 ounces of apple juice (beer works in a pinch)

  1. Generously add salt and pepper to both sides of the brisket, rubbing it into the surface of the meat on both sides.
  2. Preheat smoker to 225º. When smoker reaches 225º, add pecan wood and brisket. Cook for 3 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 225º.
  4. After 3 hours, remove brisket from smoker. Take 2 long pieces of aluminum foil and lay them out in a cross on your counter top.
  5. Place brisket on the center of the foil cross. Slightly curl foil around brisket so that it will hold the juice without spilling. Add apple juice.
  6. Tightly double wrap the foil around the brisket. Make sure the foil is air tight as you don't want to lose any liquid in the cooking process. Place in oven.
  7. After 7 hours, remove from oven and let the brisket rest, in the foil, for 20 minutes.
  8. Carefully open the foil and pour the meat juices into a gravy server. Slice the meat against the grain. Put meat on a platter and serve, passing the gravy server for people to add the juices to their meat.

Wine pairing: Zinfandel

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Blue Butter

"The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom."
William Blake

When it comes to steaks, I love my fat. Everyone else can have filet mignon. If I have my druthers, I'll take rib eye any day of the week. Rib eyes are thickly marbled with that delicious fat. But not all rib eyes are created equal. If you want the King of Fat, you need USDA Prime Rib Eye Steaks.

What you see above are two spectacular examples of USDA Prime rib eye steaks that I bought Thursday. They pop up at Costco near each weekend in their own, special, free-standing refrigeration unit in the Meat Department. The crème de la crème can be all yours for just $16.99 a pound at Costco. At Byerly's, you'll pay $32.99 a pound. Order them up at Manny's Steakhouse and they will set you back $60 each.

So last night I grilled them over a mesquite and charcoal fire. Just four minutes per side. I tossed on a little Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and some Chicago Steak seasoning (made by Weber and also sold at Costco). One would suppose that would have been enough fat for me....NOT. I  then crowned each steak with three pats of Blue Butter!

Blue Butter is really easy to make. You're just combining butter, blue cheese and a little thyme. But be advised that not all butter is created equal. What I am showing you here is the crème de la crème of the butter world.....Kerrygold Irish Butter. It's made from the milk of grass-fed cows on Ireland's dairy farms. It is the best tasting butter I have ever tried. I buy this from Costco as's just $6.79 for 1.5 pounds. You won't ever find butter from grass-fed cows cheaper than that. And did I mention that it has a higher fat content than regular butter? 

So I've got my steaks with extra fat. I've got my butter with extra fat. So I need one more ingredient with extra fat. You guessed it....Blue Cheese (85% fat)! You take the fattest butter with the fattest cheese and put them on the fattest steak. The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom....and also to the best tasting steak you will ever eat.

4 ounces Kerrygold butter
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 teaspoon thyme

  1. Put all 3 ingredients in a bowl and set them on the counter at room temperature for 2 hours.
  2. After 2 hours, use the back of a fork to mash all of the ingredients together. When thoroughly mixed, remove butter mixture from bowl.
  3. Place butter mixture on waxed paper. Form the butter into a log. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove Blue Butter from refrigerator and slice into small pats to be placed on cooked steaks.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cold Sesame Noodles

The heat index is going to hit 100º today in Minneapolis. That's too hot to turn on the oven. That's too hot to fire up the grill. But it is the perfect temperature to make Sam Sifton's cold sesame noodles.

1 pound Chinese egg noodles (1/8-inch-thick), frozen or (preferably) fresh
2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste, or to taste
 Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks
¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes; they should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.
  3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts.

Pairing: An ice cold Chinese beer!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tomatoes Nicoise

It's the start of tomato harvest season and August becomes the month dedicated to tomato dishes....especially tomato salads. There's nothing quite like plucking fresh tomatoes and basil from your garden and serving them minutes later at the dinner table.

My favorite tomato salad this time of year is Caprese Salad. Made with basil, tomato and mozzarella, it is simple yet extraordinary: Head to Costco for the mozzarella...they have 3 or 4 different selections this time of year. My two favorites are Mozzarella di Bufala Campana and Formaggio Fresh Mozzarella. The former is made in Italy from water buffalo milk and the latter are little fresh mozzarella balls in oil. For a little spin on the salad, substitute truffle oil for the olive oil and truffle salt for the Kosher salt.

Another great tomato salad is one I published in 2011. Jeff Pinkham's August Salad is an incredible symphony of flavors: Fresh tomatoes, onions, basil, blue cheese and an awesome Balsamic vinaigrette. If you have fresh tomatoes, you must try this salad!

Tomatoes Nicoise, a David Tanis recipe, is also a remarkably simple salad to pull together. While simple in structure, the complexity of the flavors is most unexpected. Shallots, garlic, anchovies, nicoise olives, capers, basil...and two kinds of tomatoes!

In August, I don't always eat salads. But when I do, I prefer tomatoes. Stay hungry, my friends.

1 small shallot, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, grated
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 anchovy fillets, 2 finely chopped and 6 for garnish
2 tablespoons roughly chopped black niçoise olives, plus whole olives for garnish
6 small red tomatoes
12 cherry tomatoes in assorted colors
1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed
12 basil leaves


  1. Make the vinaigrette: Put the shallot in a small bowl. Add garlic, salt and pepper and cover with red wine vinegar. Macerate 10 minutes, then whisk in olive oil, chopped anchovy and chopped olives.
  2. Cut each tomato crosswise into 2 thick slices. Place slices on a platter in one layer and season with salt and pepper. Season cherry tomatoes with salt and dress with vinaigrette. Spoon cherry tomatoes and vinaigrette evenly over tomato slices.
  3. Top each tomato slice with half an anchovy filet, then sprinkle with capers. Garnish with basil leaves and whole olives. Serve at cool room temperature.

Wine pairing: Pinot Grigio

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Slow Cooker Mushrooms

I'm back again with another recipe for my favorite side dish. While I like to roast mushrooms, I tried an experiment last night that turned out spectacular. I did not want to fire up my oven because it was 85º last night and I had the air off. On the menu were charcoal grilled rib eye steaks. So to minimize the heat in the kitchen, I pulled out the slow cooker.

You can use any kind of mushroom you like. Button mushrooms would work great. I had picked up a package of big crimini mushrooms (24 ounces for $4.49 at Costco). If you are going to use button mushrooms, leave them whole. If you are going to use big, giant crimini's, just cut them in half.

The beauty of this recipe is you just dump everything into the slow cooker and walk away. So there's minimal prep. And they taste so darn good, you won't have any leftovers (three of us downed all 24 ounces at dinner). And besides being delicious, mushrooms are full of protein and fiber. Enjoy!

24 ounces of mushrooms
6 ounces of butter ( 1 1/2 sticks)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker. Cook on low for 4 hours, stirring once at the 2-hour mark. After 4 hours, taste and adjust seasonings, remove and serve.

Wine pairing: Petite Sirah