Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pan Seared Pork and Peaches

The autumnal equinox was yesterday...but you wouldn't have known it in Minneapolis. Temperatures soared into the upper 90's with dew points in the upper 70's. Thankfully, we've got a big storm front coming through on Sunday night that will return us to more fall-like temperatures.

The autumnal equinox also marks the waning days for stone fruit. We've enjoyed an abundance of peaches, nectarines and plums this season. But they will soon be disappearing from our grocery stores, so grab them while you can.

I came across this recipe from the New York Times several weeks back. It is a delightful marriage of pork and peaches...and it is really easy to make. All it requires is a cast iron pan or griddle and a good ventilation system. If you don't have a good vent hood, just take your cast iron outside and plop it on a hot grill.

Francis Mallmann developed this recipe and he calls it the "uncertain edge of burnt". The pork will develop a deep, burnished crust and the peaches will turn a deep, dark brown. And you will find that it tastes so good that you will have to force yourself to stop eating....several times, most likely.

2 pounds boneless pork butt, butterflied and trimmed
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground pepper
6 fresh peaches, skin on, cut in half and pitted
4 tablespoons butter, diced


  1. Put the pork on a work surface and, using a meat mallet, pound to an even thickness of approximately 3/4 of an inch. 
  2. Combine the garlic, rosemary and 6 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl, mixing to make a rough paste. Season the pork aggressively on both sides with salt and pepper, then spread half the garlic mixture over one side and half on the other side.
  3. Place a large cast-iron pan or two-burner griddle over the heat and allow it to get hot. If using a stove or gas grill, then lower the heat to medium after your pan is hot.
  4. Brush the pan or griddle with the remaining olive oil, allow it to heat until it shimmers and is almost smoking, then place meat on the hot surface and cook, without touching, until it forms a good crust, approximately 10 minutes.
  5. While the meat cooks, surround it with the peaches, cut side down, and dot the fruit with the butter. (If you’re using two cast-iron skillets, place the peaches in their own oiled pan.) Let them cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until they are soft and slightly charred. Transfer to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
  6. When the meat is well browned on the first side, use tongs to turn it over, and cook in the remaining butter for another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the meat to a carving board and allow it to rest below a tent of foil for approximately 5 minutes. Slice the meat and serve with the peaches.

Wine pairing: Seared pork and peaches would be begging for a Merlot to hang around with. If it's going to be a special dinner, I'd grab a Rombauer Merlot. At Total Wine, that would set you back $39.99. If you are bargain shopping, Columbia Crest Grand Estate Merlot is a phenomenal choice for just $6.97.

Me and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Spicy Cucumber and Fennel Salad

I'm a huge fan of flank steak. Nice, lean cut of meat with a really big beef flavor. And I think my favorite way to prepare it is "Thai Flank Steak". You just marinate the flank steak for 6 hours. The marinade consists of 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon of chili oil and 10 cloves of crushed garlic. Grill it for 4 minutes per side over hot coals and welcome to a little bit of Thai heaven, served medium rare.

I made that dish for Sean, Becky and I on Monday night. It's always a huge hit. I typically serve it with Basmati rice. But Monday was hot and humid, so I decided to try a new salad recipe I found on Flipboard (one of my favorite iPhone apps). Flipboard is an aggregator app. You tell it everything you like and it creates a daily magazine of all your favorite topics. So I get my daily fill of Formula 1, video games, automobiles, Apple news and most

Beverly Scofield created this recipe and I think it is brilliant. Delicious, fresh cucumber with the crunch of fennel and it's taste of licorice. And despite the heat in the vinaigrette, this salad is so incredibly refreshing...especially as a complement to grilled beef. This recipe comes together very fact, just seconds, if you have a mandolin.


For the Salad
1 large English cucumber, sliced very thin
1 fennel bulb, sliced very thin
1 tablespoon fennel fronds, chopped

For the Vinaigrette
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar


  1. Add vinaigrette ingredients to a small bowl. Stir thoroughly.
  2. Place cucumber and fennel in a salad bowl. Add vinaigrette and stir well. Place salad on serving plates and sprinkle each salad with chopped fennel fonds. Serve.

Wine pairing: Thai Flank steak and Spicy Cucumber and Fennel Salad? Grab a big, fruity Zinfandel. A Rombauer, if you are really lucky.

Me and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Perfect Hash Brown Potatoes

My idea of a perfect dinner is quite simple. Grilled ribeye steak, hash browns and a Caprese salad. Becky and I are devoted hash brown lovers. In my early days, I would grate my own hash browns from whole potatoes. They tasted great but it was much too laborious. So then I started buying Simply Potatoes. They, too, tasted great. The only problem is that they are sold fresh and have a very limited shelf life.

These days, I buy my hash browns at Costco. Costco sells an 8-pack of Golden Grill Hash Browns for around 12 bucks. The potatoes are dehydrated, so they have a "use by date" equal to a nuclear half-life. Which means we can have hash brown potatoes whenever we feel like it. You just open the spout and fill the carton with hot tap water....and 10 minutes later you are ready to fry up those spuds. Easy peasy.

Making perfect hash browns requires copious amounts of fat. Sure, you could use oil or butter, but both of those ingredients burn at higher temperatures. So my fat of choice is also another Costco staple. It's ghee...also known as clarified butter. You get the great butter taste but your hash browns will not burn because ghee will not burn.

While you can cook hash browns in just about any pan, my weapon of choice is the work horse of my kitchen...a cast iron pan. But to make perfect hash browns you need a cover, so I bought an aftermarket glass pan cover to go with my cast iron pan. It serves two important purposes.

When you cook with a cover, a lot of steam is generated by the moisture released from the potatoes. The cover lets you harness the steam to cook the middle layer of the potatoes. And that is how you end up with crispy hash browns on the outside and soft, delicious potatoes on the inside. And the glass cover lets you see how your taters are progressing. If you have to pop the cover to check on your hash browns...all the steam is lost. As for seasoning my hash browns, I like to keep it simple...just a little Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper when I flip the potatoes.

1 carton of Golden Grill Hashbrowns
Hot tap water
4 tablespoons ghee
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper


  1. Fill the carton with hot tap water and seal carton. After 10 minutes, pour the contents of the carton into a strainer.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the ghee.
  3. When ghee is melted, add hash browns. Press them down into an even layer and then cover pan. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. After 5 minutes, flip hash browns and season with salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes uncovered  for 2 minutes more. Then serve.

Wine pairing: Rib eyes and hash browns? Grab a Cab!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Farfalle with Sriracha Crab Sauce

This is a recipe I've been making for almost 25 years. It's a favorite in the Gruggen household. It's simple to make and has just five sublime ingredients: pasta, butter, crab, garlic and Sriracha. I first posted this recipe in 2010 in the very first month of my food blogging. I am re-posting today because over time I have tweaked the ingredient list.

Back in 2010, I thought butter was butter. But in reality, there is butter and then there is Kerrygold butter. Kerrygold butter is made in Ireland and sourced from grass-fed cows. It's paleo and has a high fat content...hence it's nearness and dearness to my heart. I buy it at Costco. And I love the taste of it.

I also get my lump crab from Costco. I like the lump crab because it helps make this a really quick weeknight dinner (from start to finish is under 15 minutes). If you want to make this dish super-rich and amp it up to a "guests for dinner" meal, you can use Alaskan King Crab meat. It does add quite a bit of work, though, as you will need to remove the meat from the leg shells.

Back in 2010, Tabasco was my "go-to" hot sauce. These days I prefer Sriracha. I find it be be a little hotter than Tabasco and it has a lot more depth of flavor. Truth be told, you can use any hot sauce that wets your whistle....but I'm reaching for Sriracha when I open my pantry door.

Also, make sure you use a high quality semolina pasta for this dish. Whole wheat pasta would taste terrible with this combination of ingredients. This recipe serves four.

1 pound of lump crab meat
8 ounces of butter (2 sticks of regular butter or 1 stick of Kerrygold)
10 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons of Sriracha (or more to taste)
16 ounces of Farfalle 
3 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil (garlic olive oil if you have it)

  1. Fill a large pot with water. Add 3 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.
  3. When the butter is melted, adjust temperature to medium and add minced garlic. Saute until garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  4. Adjust temperature to low. Add crab and Sriracha to garlic/butter mixture. Heat for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  5. Add Farfalle to large pot and cook until al dente (about 1 minute less than what the package calls for).
  6. When cooked, drain pasta and toss with olive oil. Divide into serving bowls or plates.
  7. Place a giant helping of the hot crab sauce on top of the Farfalle on each bowl or plate and serve.

Wine pairing: The heat of this recipe makes it ideal for either a white or red wine. If you prefer white, choose a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If you are a red lover, grab a Zinfandel....a Rombauer, if you are really lucky.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Chicken with Roasted Garlic Pan Sauce

When my Wolf range died last April, I had to forego roasting chickens for over two months. This was difficult for me as I think roast chicken, fresh from the oven, is one of life's great pleasures. And nothing could be simpler: a chicken, some olive oil, salt and pepper.

I could not be happier with my new Capital Culinarian range. It's purely mechanical...there are no electronics. Just fire and gas valves. But it has forced me to learn how to cook on the stovetop all over again. Making the switch from closed to open burners is a very big leap.

On the left is a closed Wolf burner. The photo on the right is the open Capital  burner.

Most consumer stoves used closed burners. They are simple and incredibly easy to keep clean. Open burners are most common on commercial stoves (the ones they cook on in restaurants). They have a much higher heat output but they are difficult to keep clean. The first time I used the open burners, I was absolutely blown away by the heat output. I was burning and overcooking a lot of food.

On my old Wolf, it would take about 5 minutes to bring 3 cups of cold tap water to a boil. On my Capital, it takes only 60 seconds. When I cook stir fry with these new open burners, the wok gets so hot you can't hold a wooden spoon with your bare hand over the have to wear a cooking glove.

Fortunately, there has been no learning curve for the new oven. The Wolf was electric and the Capital is pure gas. Other than that, the ovens cook identically. Which means that I can get back to roasting my beloved chickens. And I did just that last Thursday night, testing out this new recipe I discovered in Food and Wine magazine. I happen to love roasted garlic and the roasted garlic pan sauce made this a "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner".

One 4-1/2 to 5 pound chicken
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
1/2 cup minced green pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
Pinch of dried thyme
2 tablespoons water


  1. Preheat convection oven* to 325º. Rub olive oil over the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in an ovenproof skillet along with the head of garlic, cut side down. Roast chicken for 90 minutes. Transfer chicken and garlic to a cutting board and tent with foil. Pour pan drippings into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, in the skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion, green pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, bay leaf, thyme and the reserved pan drippings. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the sauce and bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer over moderately low heat until slightly reduced, 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Transfer to a blender, add 2 tablespoons of water and puree until very smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  3. Carve the chicken and transfer to a platter. Serve with roasted garlic pan sauce.

*If you do not have a convection oven, use a conventional oven at 425º for 75 minutes.

Wine pairing: A big, fruity Merlot!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Southern-Style Smothered Pork Chops

September is just over the hill and will mark a return to cooking up comfort food. This Cook's Country recipe is a favorite of mine. Thick, bone-in pork chops become incredibly tender after braising in one of the most remarkable, southern-style gravies I have ever tasted. I like to serve the chops with buttered, dumpling egg noodles. (Note: Follow step #4 very carefully. To get the gravy to the correct consistency, only use 1/4 cup of fat.)

2 tablespoons Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and ground black pepper
4, 10-ounce bone in pork chops, about 1-inch thick
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 onions, quartered through root end and sliced thin crosswise
3 cups water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Combine seasoned salt, onion powder, granulated garlic, paprika, and 1 teaspoon pepper in bowl. Pat chops dry with paper towels and sprinkle each chop with 1 teaspoon spice mixture (1/2 teaspoon per side).
  2. Combine 1/2 cup flour and 4 teaspoons spice mixture in shallow dish. Dredge chops lightly in seasoned flour, shake off excess, and transfer to prepared rack.
  3. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add 2 chops to skillet and fry until deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Let excess oil drip from chops, then return chops to rack. Repeat with remaining 2 chops.
  4. Transfer fat left in skillet to liquid measuring cup. Return 1/4 cup fat to skillet and stir in remaining 1/2 cup flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until roux is color of peanut butter, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onions and remaining 4 teaspoons spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until onions begin to soften slightly, about 2 minutes.
  5. Slowly stir water into roux mixture until gravy is smooth and free of lumps. Bring to simmer and cook until gravy begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Pour half of gravy into 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Nestle browned chops in dish, overlapping slightly as needed. Pour remaining gravy over chops and cover dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 1-1/2 hours.
  6. Carefully transfer chops to serving dish. (Chops will be delicate and may fall apart.) Use wide spoon to skim fat from surface of gravy. Add vinegar to gravy and season with pepper to taste. Pour gravy over chops. Serve.

Wine pairing: It's time to be a hero and rescue some Merlot trapped in a bottle. I have found Shafer Merlot to be incredibly grateful.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Grill-Roasted Beef Tenderloin

This August has been one of the most spectacular months for grilling...ever. Temperatures in the 70's and dew points down in the middle 50's. And it's been like that every single day this month. (Thank you, Cody!)

This recipe was published last May in Cook's Illustrated. I kept it because it is a great reminder that grills are not just for grilling. They are also great for roasting. This recipe uses 2 little tricks to great advantage. First, baking soda is used in the rub. This alters the pH of the meat and makes it brown better.

The second trick is bacon. Beef tenderloin is extremely lean and therefore has little to contribute by way of drippings. By placing bacon over the hot coals, you will get those wonderful fat drippings that really go the distance to flavor the meat. This recipe serves six.

2-1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1, 3-pound center cut beef tenderloin roast, trimmed and tied at 1-1/2" intervals
3 slices bacon threaded onto a metal skewer


  1. Combine salt, pepper, oil and baking soda in small bowl. Rub mixture evenly over roast and let stand while preparing grill.
  2. Prepare your grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter two-thirds filled with charcoal briquettes (4 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
  3. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place roast on hotter side of grill and cook (covered ) until lightly browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Slide roast to cooler side of grill, arranging so roast is about 7 inches from heat source. Place skewered bacon near center of grill, above edge of coals. Bacon should be 4 to 6 inches from roast and drippings should fall on coals and produce steady stream of smoke and minimal flare-ups. If flare-ups are large or frequent, slide bacon skewer 1 inch toward roast.
  4. Cover and cook for 1 hour. Transfer roast to a carving board, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Discard twine and cut slices from roast 1/2" thick.

Wine pairing: A big Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. A Ramey, if you are really lucky.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Steak 'N' Bacon Cheddar Meatballs

Costco never stops surprising me. For those of you that shop there Fridays through Sundays, they have those incredible seafood kiosks brimming with King Crab, lobster, fresh mussels, giant prawns and a complete array of fresh fish. It's quite impressive and there is always a long line of people waiting to take advantage of the great pricing.

When Becky and I were shopping there on Thursday, we found a little bit of heaven. They had taken one of those kiosks and converted it to a showcase of USDA Prime Beef...the cuts usually reserved for the finest restaurants in town. They had USDA Prime Rib Eyes, New York Strips, Porterhouse, Tomahawk Steaks and even USDA Prime Short Ribs!

Needless to say, we grabbed 3 steaks and grilled them up last night. Typical of Costco, the cuts of steak are large, so we always have leftover steak. And thanks to Julia Moskin, I have now found an incredible way to use that leftover steak to create a meal of my favorite comfort food, meatballs.

Besides cooked steak, Julia's recipe also calls for cooked bacon...8 ounces to be exact. So you can cook that up if you want, but I prefer a shortcut. Costco sells 20-ounce bags of cooked bacon bits for just $16.99. So instead of having to cook my bacon, I just dip a cup into the bag and I'm done. This recipe yields about 2 dozen meatballs, enough for 6 to 8 servings.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
8 ounces cooked bacon crumbles
1 pound cooked steak, diced
1 pound 80% lean ground beef
6 ounces sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it is translucent, about 10 minutes. Transfer onions to a plate and cool them in the refrigerator.
  2. Heat oven to 450º. Use the remaining 2 tablespoon of oil to coat a 9" X 13" baking dish.
  3. In a large bowl, combine bacon, steak, ground beef, onion, cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Mix lightly but thoroughly by hand.
  4. Roll mixture into golf-ball size balls. Place the balls into the baking dish and roast for 20 minutes. Remove dish from oven, let the meatballs cool for 5 minutes, then serve.

Wine pairing: If we are talking steak, bacon and need to reach for an Oregon Pinot Noir. If you are lucky, one from the Willamette Valley.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Skirt Steak with Shallot-Thyme Butter

The first three homes I owned were brand new. New paint, new appliances, new construction. Given that I never lived in any of those for longer than eight years, I had little to do in terms of upkeep and repairs.

But I've been in my current house for nearly 21 years...and holy shit....this was the summer to pay the piper. We've had workmen here non-stop since April. First, my roof was looking a little rough. I was offered the option of replacing it for $100,000 or having the cedar shakes refurbished for $8,300. I've always been good at math and my refurbished shakes look great.

Then my 20-year old fence fell over from rot. 265 feet of cedar fence costs a lot more today than it did back in 1996. Then I had to have the house and barn re-painted. Then my range/oven suddenly died after 13 years of very heavy use...followed shortly thereafter by one of the dishwashers.

So it's been a crazy summer...but the last of the workmen will depart this afternoon. We are looking forward to having a very serene and private August. Around 4:00pm this afternoon, I'm going to crack a Stella Artois. I'm going to go out on my deck and prepare my Weber to grill some steak. I'm going to listen to the quiet and relish the fact that it's just Becky, Zorro and me.

1/4 pound butter, softened (Kerrygold recommended)
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
10 chives, minced
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
24 ounces skirt steak, cut into 4 portions


  1. Cream the butter with a fork, adding thyme, chives, shallot, salt, pepper and vinegar.
  2. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  3. Grill the steaks for 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Season with salt and pepper as you grill.
  4. Remove steaks from grill and tent with foil, letting them rest for 5 minutes. Spread each steak with a tablespoon of butter and serve.

Wine pairing: Malbec. A Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec if you are really lucky.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Teriyaki Flank Steak

This recipe gets assigned to the category "Goof-Proof". If you can read, you already have all of the tools necessary to cook this universal crowd-pleasing dish. It's the perfect balance of salt and sweet in what is one of the best tasting cuts of beef around. This is a Jeff Gordinier recipe and it will make 4 to 6 servings.

When I make this meal, I like to pair it up with my very favorite (and oh so fragrant) white rice...basmati. It, too, could not be any easier. Put 2 cups of rice in a sauce pan along with 2-1/2 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off...leaving the pan in place. And in 15 more minutes you'll have a pan of perfect basmati rice that all you have to do is fluff and serve.

1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger,  minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 flank steak, about 1-1/2 pounds


    1. Whisk together the oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and pepper in a large bowl. With the tip of a knife, lightly score the surface of the steak in a crisscross pattern. Immerse the steak in the marinade and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours, turning it over now and then.
    2. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat. When the coals are white-hot, place the steak on the grill, shaking off excess marinade first. Cook roughly 4 minutes on each side for medium rare. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes, then slice it thinly on the diagonal.

    Wine pairing: A big fruit-bomb Zinfandel. A Rombauer, if you are really lucky.

    Saturday, July 15, 2017

    Tomahawk Steak

    This is my very favorite piece of meat to grill. It is the king of bone-in ribeye. Incredible marbling, intense beef flavor...all attached to a 20" rib bone. What a marvelous presentation it makes! My neighborhood Jerry's Market has been carrying them for years. And this summer, Costco started to sell them. In USDA Prime glory!

    Tomahawk steaks weigh in at 2-1/2 pounds and are roughly 2 inches thick. I used to cook them on the grill. I'd sear them on both sides for 4 minutes and then cook them indirect for the balance. But the results I got were somewhat uneven. But I finally found a way to guarantee medium-rare perfection every single time.

    I still sear each side of the steak over white-hot, lump hardwood charcoal for 4 minutes per side. But now I pop it into a 375º oven for 30 minutes after searing, then let it rest for 10 minutes. The steady heat of the oven yields a perfectly cooked tomahawk steak every, single time.

    The only seasoning I recommend is kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. This is, perhaps, the greatest steak experience of all time. The taste of this steak is so vastly superior to that of any other steak, you only need salt and pepper to complete the experience. So get off your butt and get to Costco and stick one of these in your cart. Each steak serves 2 to 3 people.

    One 2-1/2 pound Tomahawk Steak, 2" thick
    Kosher Salt
    Fresh cracked pepper


    1. Prior to grilling, take the steak out of the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for 3 hours.
    2. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat and pre-heat your oven to 375º.
    3. When your coals are white hot, season steak with salt and pepper and then sear over hot coals (with the grill covered) for 4 minutes per side.
    4. Remove steak from grill and place it on a sheet pan with a cooling rack (this lets the steak's entire surface have contact with the hot air). Slide it into the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
    5. Remove steak from oven, tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then slice and serve.

    Wine pairing: A Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon would make this pairing a match made in heaven.

    Saturday, July 8, 2017

    Grilled New York Strip Steaks with Jake's Rub

    I am a man who leads a very patterned life. I start each day with a cup of Italian Roast coffee while I read my newspapers. Once the newspapers are done, I take a full lap of the Internet. Right when I got to the end of the Internet yesterday morning, I came upon a recipe for Jake's rub.

    I had never heard of Jake before yesterday. I know "Jake from Omaha" from appearing in the State Farm ads. I know "Jake from Victoria" because he interlocks his exercise mat with mine while I do my Cat-Cow stretches at CrossFit. But I had never heard of "Jake from Tasting Table" until yesterday.

    What drew my attention to his rub recipe was the simplicity of it. I love simple. Especially when it comes to recipes. If I see a recipe with a long list of ingredients, my eyes glaze over. There are only 5 things that our tongues can taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory (umami). So once you reach five ingredients in a recipe, it starts to get redundant.

    Grilled New York Strip Steaks are all about savory. Especially if they are USDA Prime...brimming with all of that wonderful fat. So you combine that with Jakes Rub, which contains sweet, salty and bitter, and all you need is a squeeze of lime to hit the tastebud jackpot! You have to make this rub. It is the epitome of simple...garlic salt, smoked paprika and brown sugar.

    I made it last night, and upped the taste factor by throwing a chunk of mesquite on the white-hot coals. Just 4 minutes per side and 5 minutes of resting. The steaks were absolutely extraordinary. I'm a big fan of dry rubs and this was really something special. Becky and I washed it down with a bottle of fantastic Bordeaux.....a Chateau Brane-Cantenac Margaux...a birthday gift from the Hirtz's and the Drill's. Rest assured I will be buying more of that wine.

    1/4 cup garlic salt
    1/4 cup smoked paprika
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    2 New York Strip Steaks, 1-1/2" thick
    1 lime, quartered (optional)


    1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
    2. Combine the salt, paprika and sugar. Mix thoroughly.
    3. Apply rub generously to the steaks. Let steaks rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
    4. Grill steaks directly over hot coals for 4 minutes per side. Then remove steaks from grill and tent with foil, letting them rest for 5 minutes.
    5. Serve with quartered limes (optional).

    Wine pairing: Try a Bordeaux. A Chateau Brane-Cantenac Margaux, if you are really lucky.

    Thursday, July 6, 2017


    With the deepest gratitude to my mother and father, today marks the start of 65 complete revolutions around the sun. One of the things that makes 65 a great age is that I get to migrate from Obamacare to Medicare. I happened to love Obamacare. I've had 5 surgeries for arthritis.....and used to be branded with the dreaded "Pre-Existing Condition" label and the cost of health insurance was through the roof. Obamacare saved me about $800 a month. The switch to Medicare saves me about $1,000 a month. Thanks to Medicare, there are much higher quality wines in my future.

    In my 65 years, I like to believe I have accumulated a modest amount of wisdom. Most of it pertains to my happy place....the kitchen. So in no particular order, here are some things that I do NOT like in my kitchen.

    • WOLF RANGES: Back in 2004, I purchased a Wolf 60" dual fuel range. Beautiful to look at. Worked fine for the first 4 years. But then I discovered the fatal flaw. Most of the appliance's functions were governed by a computer. Apple makes brilliant computers. Wolf does not. In the last 9 years, I've had to have the Wolf serviced no less than 12 times. All to fix the computer. In fact, they had to replace the computer 4 separate times. Nine weeks ago the computer died again and Wolf said they would no longer repair it. In honor of my birthday, Warner Stellian will be here in 30 minutes to install a new Capital Culinarian range. It is a pure, mechanical range. No computers. Just 10 knobs that regulate the flow of gas.
    • TURKEY BURGERS: The whole reason that burgers are so legendary is that they have fat. Turkey has no fat, which is why we eat it just once a year alongside dressing made with gallons of butter and massive amounts of Italian Sausage. Turkey burgers are a crime against humanity. Ditto for Salmon Burgers. Once you have made a beef short rib burger with 35% fat content, you will know what I mean.
    • KABOBS: Some frigging idiot came up with the idea of jamming different food types on a stick. What that idiot failed to grasp is that veggies and meat have different cooking times. In 99% of the instances when you are cooking a kabob, the veggies will be overcooked and the meat undercooked. That is a ridiculous scenario and can be fatal if you are cooking chicken.
    • KALE: Worst tasting stuff ever. You should always use coconut oil when cooking kale as it will be easier to slide it into the garbage.

    My new Capital Culinarian has been installed! 

    Saturday, July 1, 2017

    Thai Lemongrass Chicken

    When it rains, I am forced to forego grilling and cook indoors. That happened on Monday this week, which gave me a chance to try out this recipe from New Zealand cook Lei. To prepare the dish, I cooked it in a hot cast iron pan. It only takes a couple of minutes to cook and I served it over Basmati rice.  I garnished it with fresh basil right from Becky's garden. This recipe serves two.

    2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
    3 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 tablespoon fish sauce
    2 tablespoons rice wine
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1/3 cup finely chopped lemongrass
    1/4 cup peanut oil
    1/2 cup shredded carrot
    1/2 cup whole basil leaves


    1. Combine the first six ingredients and let them marinate for 20 minutes.
    2. Heat a cast iron pan to medium high heat. Add oil and marinated chicken. Stir fry for a couple of minutes until chicken is sizzling and slightly caramelized.
    3. Turn off heat. Add carrot and stir.
    4.  Garnish with whole basil leaves. Serve with Sriracha on the side.

    Wine pairing: A well-chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

    Saturday, June 24, 2017

    Grilled Thai Pork Chops

    Two days ago, my friend Jeff Pinkham wrote that if he had to eat only one ethnic cuisine for the rest of his life, it would be Thai. I would have to agree with that opinion. There's just something about the mix of lime, fish sauce, garlic and chiles that is so incredibly delicious.

    I found this recipe in the New York Times this week and I made it last night. I served it up with Basmati rice. I am hear to tell you that this recipe is an absolute keeper and will become part of my regular rotation when cooking on my Weber grill.

    Make sure you use thick-sliced, center cut pork chops. They should be bone-in and have a good amount of fat is your friend....because fat equals flavor. Fat also insures that your meat will remain moist after grilling. This Melissa Clark recipe serves two.


    For the Marinade
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    The juice of 1 lime
    1 tablespoon of sambal oelek or other chili paste
    2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
    1 teaspoon fish sauce
    1 teaspoon ground turmeric

    For the Pork Chops
    2 thick sliced, center cut pork chops, bone-in and about 14-ounces each
    Scallions, thinly sliced
    Lime wedges


    1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well mixed. Place pork chops in a zip-lock bag, pour marinade over chops and seal bag. Refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.
    2. Prepare your grill for both direct (over high heat) and indirect cooking.
    3. Remove pork chops from marinade and then grill for 4 minutes per side over direct high heat (grill should be covered). Move chops to indirect side of grill, cover grill and cook for 5 minutes more.
    4. Remove chops from grill, tent with foil and let them rest 5 minutes. Then serve chops with thinly sliced scallions and lime wedges.

    Wine pairing: A big, fruity Zinfandel.

    Saturday, June 17, 2017

    Charred Sugar Snap Peas

    If you have a sweet tooth, here's a cooked vegetable that tastes better than candy. If you have a salt tooth (like me), here's a cooked vegetable that tastes better than potato chips. This recipe is so good that you can serve it as an appetizer (bet you can't eat just one) or as a side dish for a grilled rib eye steak. And check out the lucky strike extras: fiber, vitamins A and C and just 26 calories per cup.

    To get the perfect charred flavor, you are going to want to grill these puppies. Snap peas are not very big and would likely slip through the grate. So I use a grilling pan that I place right over the hot coals on my Weber. You'll want to cook these with the cover off of the grill and stay only takes about 4 minutes to put a proper char on these veggies. I cooked an 8-ounce bag of sugar snap peas last night, which was enough for 4 small side dishes. But I would double or triple the recipe if you are going to serve it as a snack. Thanks to Bon Appetit magazine for the recipe.

    One 8-ounce bag sugar snap peas
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
    Sea salt


    1. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat.
    2. In a medium bowl, toss snap peas with olive oil and kosher salt.
    3. Place snap peas in a grill pan and place the pan over the coals. Cook for 4 minutes, turning the snap peas often with tongs so that they char evenly.
    4. When cooked, return charred snap peas to the bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve.

    Wine pairing: If serving sugar snap peas as an appetizer, I'd pair them up with a big, oaky Chardonnay. If you've got $12.47 in spare change sitting about, head to Total Wine and grab a bottle of Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay.

    Saturday, June 10, 2017

    Grilled Ribeye with Blue Cheese Butter

    Grilled ribeye. Blue cheese butter. Cabernet Sauvignon. The trifecta of summer grilling. The holy trinity. It's that extraordinary moment in eating when one plus one plus one equals ten.

    Blue cheese contains mold. Specifically, the mold Pennicillium. Blue cheese tastes quite sharp and salty. Blue cheese also contains bacteria. Specifically, the bacterium Brevibacterium linens. That bacteria is what gives blue cheese it's distinct smell. Brevibacterium linens also gets credit for foot odor and other human body odors. But, oh, what it does to a grilled steak and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Grilled steak and Cabernet Sauvignon have aways been a match made in heaven. But the addition of Blue Cheese Butter makes the meal a true gift from the gods. I make my blue cheese butter with two of Costco's very best ingredients: Kirkland Creamy Blue Cheese and Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter. The former is made with sea salt and aged for 90 days while the latter is made from the milk of grass-fed cows on the Emerald Isle. This recipe will yield more butter than you need for the steaks, so keep a loaf of artisan bread within easy reach.

    1, 8-ounce stick of Kerrygold butter, softened
    1/2 cup crumbled Kirkland Blue Cheese
    4 teaspoons freshly chopped thyme
    Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
    4 ribeye steaks (1-1/2 inches thick)


    1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
    2. Combine butter, cheese, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
    3. Season steaks generously with salt and pepper. Grill for 4 minutes per side (for medium rare over lump hardwood charcoal). Remove steak from grill, add a pad of blue cheese butter to each steak,  tent with foil and let steaks rest for 5 minutes. Then serve.

    Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon. A Far Niente if you are really lucky.

    Friday, June 2, 2017

    Grilled Flank Steak with Italian Salsa Verde

    "A steak always tastes best when it's cooked over charcoal." Us charcoal grillers would like to believe this, but it simply is not true. Food cooked over charcoal actually does taste better, but not because there is a transfer of charcoal flavor to the meat.

    The flavor transferred to the meat during grilling is all about heat. The higher the heat, the better the flavor. Gas grills are actually the poorest performers when it comes to heat as their peak temperatures are in the 500º to 700º Fahrenheit range. Gas grillers would be better off using a cast iron skillet on the stove top, where it's easy to get a 1000º temperature.

    Next up the chain are charcoal briquettes. They put out temperatures of 800º to 1000º. But if you are going to grill outside, lump hardwood charcoal burns at 1400º. That ridiculously high temperature is responsible for the "great flavor" that everyone assumes is from the charcoal.

    But that flavor actually comes from the 1400º temperature. As the fat and juices drip on the coals when grilling, that temp is so high that it literally vaporizes the drippings. When the fats and juices hit 1400º coals, they turn into smoke and the smoke is what infuses the meat with that incredible flavor.

    This is a spectacular recipe from Edina cookbook author Meredith Deeds. The brightness of the lemon juice creates a perfect contrast to the salt in the anchovies. While her recipe called for creating the salsa verde in a food processor, I recommend whisking in the oil by hand. A food processor blade turns the oil into fine droplets, causing bitter-tasting polyphenols to be emphasized in the sauce. Hand whisking preserves the fruity flavor of the olive oil.

    1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
    2 tablespoons capers, drained
    2 anchovy fillets
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
    Kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon for the sauce)
    Fresh ground black pepper (1/4 teaspoon for the sauce)

    1/3 cup olive oil
    1 flank steak (about 1-1/2 pounds)


    1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
    2. Add the first eight ingredients into a food processor. Pulse quickly eight times so that ingredients are well chopped, but not pureed. Remove food processor blade and take food processor bowl off the device. Gently whisk in olive oil and set sauce aside.
    3. Season steak generously with salt and pepper. Cook for 4 minutes per side ( for medium rare using lump hardwood charcoal). Remove steak from grill and tent with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.
    4. Slice steak thinly against the grain and serve with the sauce.

    Wine pairing: Malbec

    Saturday, May 27, 2017

    Ramen & Steak Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing

    Readers of my blog know that I am a huge proponent of using lump charcoal for grilling. It burns white-hot for searing and reaches temperatures that a gas grill can only dream about. It also has another benefit in that it produces very little ash. For those of us that dislike cleaning our ash catchers, that's a huge plus.

    This week, Weber was kind enough to send me a sample of their new lump charcoal briquettes. I tried them out last night on a pair of Costco New York Strips. They burned fantastic and the heat was incredible. But alas, there was a lot more ash than when I burn plain old lump charcoal. So I'll give them an "A" for heat production but a "C" for ash residual.

    I'm a sucker for any recipe that incorporates steak, so I'd like to share this new, Bon Appetit cold salad recipe with you. While you can use the cheap ramen noodles we feasted upon in college for this recipe, I'd like to make a recommendation to my fellow Costco shoppers. When you are in the Pasta & Rice aisle, check out Lotus Foods "Millet and Brown Rice Ramen". It's fabulous stuff...both organic and gluten-free!

    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 tablespoons tahini
    1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
    1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
    1 minced garlic clove
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
    8 ounces dried ramen noodles
    Kosher salt
    12 ounces thinly sliced grilled steak (such as NY Strip)
    1 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut into matchsticks
    3 scallions, thinly sliced
    2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
    1 cup cilantro chopped cilantro with stems
    1/4 cup crushed, salted cashews
    1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes

    1. Whisk lemon juice, soy sauce, tahini, sugar, ginger, and garlic in a small bowl to combine. Gradually add vegetable oil followed by sesame oil, whisking constantly until emulsified; set aside. 
    2. Cook noodles in a large saucepan of boiling salted water according to package instructions until al dente. Drain; rinse under cold water, then drain again.
    3. Toss noodles, steak, kohlrabi, scallions, cabbage, and cilantro in a large bowl with three-quarters of reserved dressing to combine and evenly coat; season with salt. Top with cashews and red pepper flakes and drizzle remaining dressing over.

    Wine pairing: Sauvignon Blanc

    Saturday, May 20, 2017

    Grilled Flank Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce

    In Minnesota, the grilling gods are not being kind. For the last 6 days we have seen nothing but rain. My beloved Weber grill sits lonely and drenched. Unlike gas grills, you can't use a charcoal grill in the rain because the charcoal gets wet.

    I always grill my steaks over lump charcoal as the coals are a lot hotter than briquettes. I also toss in a chunk of mesquite...the smoke adds a magical taste to the beef. While grilled flank steak is delicious by itself, this gorgonzola sauce takes the meal to a whole new level.

    Just a quick note about letting your meat rest before cutting it. The heat from the grill pulls the meat juices to the surface. If you were to cut the meat right away, all of the juices would run out. Resting the meat for 5 minutes serves 2 purposes. First, and most importantly, it allows the meat juices to be redistributed evenly throughout the meat. Second, the meat will continue to cook for a few minutes after being removed from the grill and then stabilize in temperature.

    1 tablespoon butter
    1 shallot, minced
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/4 pound of crumbled gorgonzola cheese
    Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
    1 flank steak

    1. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat.
    2. Make the sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Add the heavy cream and simmer until reduced by half. Whisk in the gorgonzola until it melts. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
    3. Season steak with salt and pepper. For medium rare, grill the steak for 5 minutes per side. Remove steak, tent it with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.
    4. Slice meat across the grain and then serve with the gorgonzola sauce.

    Wine pairing: If it's steak and gorgonzola, it's gotta be a big and hearty Cabernet Sauvignon. If you have the opportunity, reach for a Raymond.

    Saturday, May 13, 2017

    Korean Bulgogi Wraps

    Bulgogi is the grilled street food that is ubiquitous in Korea. The reason it is ubiquitous is because it is just about the best tasting steak that will ever pass your lips. It's also ubiquitous because it is incredibly simple to make. You just marinate the beef and then grill it up for 6 minutes per side.

    Truth be told, this recipe is actually more like Korean fajitas. And it's really easy, because most of the other ingredients can be bought fully ready to go in the produce department. Matchstick carrots and shredded cabbage are sold in 10-ounce bags. I just throw all of the stuff onto a lazy susan and let everyone make their own Korean Bulgogi Wrap.


    For the Marinade and Beef
    1-inch piece of ginger
    2 cloves garlic
    1 teaspoon brown sugar
    2 tablespoons gochujang
    4 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 tablespoons sesame oil
    1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
    1 pear, stem removed

    1 flank steak, 1-1/2 to 2 pounds

    For the Wraps
    12 soft flour tortillas
    1 cup cooked rice, chilled
    1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
    10 ounces chopped cabbage
    10 ounces matchstick carrots


    1. Place all marinade ingredients into a blender or food processor and puree until the marinade is liquified. Put flank steak in a large ziplock bag and pour marinade into the bag. Seal and refrigerate for 8 hours.
    2. Make rice. When cooked, spread rice out on a sheet pan and cool in refrigerator.
    3. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat
    4. Remove steak from marinade and wipe clean.
    5. Grill steak for 6 minutes per side. Then tent steak with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.
    6. Cut the steak into thin slices and serve with all of the other wrap ingredients.

    Wine pairing: My first choice would always be a big fruity, Zinfandel. If all of your stars are aligned, it would be a Turley.