Saturday, December 26, 2015

Red Flannel Hash

One of my favorite things about the holidays is leftovers from the big meal. Leftovers mean you are going to be enjoying the good stuff for at least a few days. I cooked a 6-pound prime rib roast yesterday and have lots of leftovers. While that is always delicious reheated, it's more fun to get creative with your leftovers.

I'm a huge fan of hash. I make hash with whatever kind of leftovers I have on hand. Prime rib hash. Turkey hash. Corned beef hash. Roasted pork hash. So I often buy more meat than I need so I have enough leftovers to make some hash. I also make quick work of the potatoes by buying Simply Potatoes Diced Potatoes.

The beauty of hash is that there are a million ways to make it. You can throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Sean, my oldest son, likes his with a healthy dollop of Sriracha. So what I am going to lay out here is a simple recipe for Red Flannel Hash (which gets it's name from the addition of beets to the dish). Just follow this for the basics and then visit your pantry to put your own creative signature on this fantastic, hearty meal. This recipe by Elise from Simply Recipes serves four. 

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped meat
1 1/2 cups diced beets
1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Heat butter in a frying pan (cast iron preferred) on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook a couple minutes until translucent.
  2. Add the meat, potatoes and beets. Stir in the pan to combine and spread out evenly in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium. Press down with a metal spatula to help brown the mixture. Don't stir, but just let cook until nicely browned on one side, then use a metal spatula to lift up sections of the mixture and turn over to brown the other side. If the mixture sticks to the pan too much, just add a little more butter to the pan where it's sticking.
  3. When nicely browned, remove from heat. Add Worcestershire sauce. Stir in fresh chopped parsley. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Serve.

Pairing: If your hash is on the mild side, I would go with a fruity red Zinfandel. If your hash is hot and spicy, I would recommend an ice-cold Pilsner.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Chicken Diavolo

I do not know enough about climate warming to understand if there is a cause and effect to what is going on in my back yard right now. But it's been fascinating to watch and I can't wait to see how it unfolds. I live next to Tierney's Woods, a 122 acre nature preserve in Bloomington. It's in the northwest corner of Bloomington, right next to the Edina and Eden Prairie border.

In the 26 years I've lived next to Tierney's Woods, I've grown accustomed to seeing lots of wildlife.  Deer, coyotes, foxes, woodchucks, raccoons, name it and we've seen it. But the most spectacular sightings are in the spring and fall, when the bald eagles make a stop on their migratory flights.

But something altered that pattern in early December. A pair of bald eagles were daily visitors to my backyard. They began pulling branches off of dead tree limbs and carrying them about 200 yards away to a nesting site high in a huge oak tree in Tierney's Woods. They worked furiously, from dawn to sunset, hauling branches and pine boughs to their nest. I have a great view of their work, thanks to a monstrous pair of 20 X 80 binoculars I bought at Cabela's years ago.

In the 26 years I've lived here, the bald eagles were always travelers...just stopping by on their way to somewhere else. But now they have taken up residence in Bloomington. They have called Tierney's Woods home and are prepared to hatch chicks in January or February. It's fascinating to watch and I am awestruck. Mister Rogers wish has come true for me:

Won't you be? 
Won't you be?
Won't you be my neighbor?

Today's recipe (The Devil's Chicken) is from Ruth Reichl and is a great way to add a little heat to your menu in December. The chicken is actually cooked in chile oil. Now you can certainly speed up the process by buying store-bought chile oil. But it's much more fun to make your own from scratch...and it will certainly taste much better than store-bought. Ruth's recipe serves four.

2 large jalapeño chiles
2 serrano chiles
¾ cup olive oil, plus more for sautéing
2 tablespoons hot paprika (or equal parts cayenne and sweet paprika)
Ground black pepper
2 ½ lemons
1 small chicken, quartered and backbone removed

  1. Make the chile oil: Chop jalapeño and serrano chiles and put them in a small saucepan with 3/4 cup olive oil. Add hot paprika and grind in a fair amount of black pepper. Steep over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Let sit overnight, or all day.
  2. Strain chile oil into a large bowl. Slice 2 lemons and add them to the bowl. Season with salt. Coat chicken with the oil, put in a zip-top bag and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to a day.
  3. Heat oven to 500º. Heat a cast-iron skillet until it’s quite hot (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the chile oil and pat it dry. Sprinkle it with salt and shower it with pepper; you need a lot. Slick the bottom of the pan with olive oil and put the chicken, skin-side down, in the hot skillet. Cook until the skin is crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the chicken skin-side up.
  4. Put the skillet in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with juice from half a lemon, shower with more pepper and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

Wine pairing: A big, fruity Zinfandel

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Broiled Flank Steak

When I was little, my grandmother used to cook steak for me in the oven. Granted, it was not a ribeye or porterhouse...but to a little kid (I still am) who loved steak (and still does) it was heaven. She called them steaks. What they actually were: the toughest, worst cuts of meat that the butcher had left over after all of the good stuff had been cut off the carcass.

To make sure a human could actually chew these inexpensive pieces of rubber, the butcher would cut the meat very thin. And then he would attack it with a meat tenderizer...essentially a meat mallet with prongs that would break down the tissue. They called them minute steaks because that is how long you needed to cook it under your broiler (it was so thin it only needed to broil on one side).

Over the years I kind of forgot about cooking my steak IN the oven. Pan searing and grilling remain my favorite way to cook up a steak. But I had a leftover flank steak last week ( a common occurrence when one buys in bulk at Costco). So I thought I would take a trip down memory lane by using the broiler. And OMG was it delicious and easy!

If you have an oven, it is 99.9% likely that you have a broiler. But if you are like me, you don't use it much. But it's a great way to cook. In fact, when you go out to a fancy steak house, chances are they are broiling your steak in a special broiler called a salamander. While their broiler operates at about 800º, yours will get to over 500º. But you don't need that expensive salamander. All you really need  for today's recipe is a broiler and a broiler pan.

Now what you see above is not a traditional broiler pan. What you see above is what I call a Grogs Broiler Pan. Yes, I know it is fugly. But traditional broiler pans are a giant pain in the arse to clean. The Grogs Broiler Pan is not. When done, your baking sheet is clean, you can just toss the foil in the garbage and slip the wire screen into the dishwasher. Now that makes it really easy.

Flank steak is a great broiling steak. It's thin, so it cooks fast. Yes, just 5 minutes per side. And few cuts of beef have the big bold beef taste like this does. Cook it on the rack closest to the broiler to get the edges of the steak crisp and crunchy. You will not need any seasonings...the marinade does an exquisite job of flavoring the steak.

1 flank steak (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

  1. Place all ingredients in a ziplock plastic bag and marinate for 4 to 24 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, pre-heat broiler.
  3. Remove steak from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Place on broiler pan and slide into oven under the broiler.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes. Then flip steak. Cook for 5 more minutes. Then remove from oven, tent it with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Slice against the grain and serve (see photo at top).

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Roasted Chicken Breasts

One of my favorite meals is a whole roasted chicken. I love the crisp skin...the absolute best part of the bird. I used to make it a lot when there were four of us at home. But with both boys away at college, roasting a whole chicken results in too much left over meat. But there is a way to get all of that great taste on a much smaller scale....with a press of my favorite button.

You can get all of the best of my favorite meal by simply buying two, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. The bone serves to impart great flavor to the all-white chicken meat and the skin will roast up nice and crispy, thanks to cooking at high heat (we're roasting here, not baking). And talk about easy. Slather the breasts in olive oil, then add a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Then 30 minutes in the oven and you are done.

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts*
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

*This recipe scales up or down easily. Follow the same cooking directions regardless of how many breasts you are roasting.


  1. Preheat oven to 500º.
  2. Rub olive oil on skin and then add salt and pepper.
  3. Using a broiler pan, place chicken breasts in oven, skin-side up.
  4. After 10 minutes, flip chicken breasts skin side down. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  5. After the 10 minutes, flip breasts skin side up again and cook for 10 more minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and tent breasts with foil for 5-10 minutes (this allows the juices to move from near the surface back into the meat). Then serve.

Wine pairing: White wine drinkers would be well served with an oaky Chardonnay. But I would opt for a silky Petite Sirah.