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.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Drunken Spaghetti

I usually post my weekly recipes on Saturday mornings, but more important things kept me from my duty yesterday. It was a true rite of passage as I traveled the 212 miles to Ames, Iowa to see my son on his graduation day from Iowa State. It was just 4 years ago when I dropped him off and now he's done....and on to life's next great adventure. Way to go, Sean! One down and one to go...Patrick will be graduating from Macalester College in 2019.

Today's recipe hails from Florence, Italy. In Florence, it appears on the menu as Spaghetti All'Ubriaco. The translation is indeed Drunken Spaghetti, as it gets it's name from the fact that you cook the spaghetti in wine. Well, it's actually done in two stages. First you cook in water and then finish it in a pot of boiling wine. Sangiovese, to be exact. And it's that bottle of Sangiovese that turns the spaghetti red.

It's an easy recipe and it cooks up in less than 10 minutes. I'm always partial to serving up my pasta with some protein, so I grill up some hot Italian sausages and put one on each serving plate. This Saveur recipe serves four to six people.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt plus 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 bottle Sangiovese (750 ml)
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cube beef bouillon
2 teaspoons chopped oregano
2 teaspoons chopped Italian parsley


  1. Add 2 tablespoons of salt to a large pot of water and bring it to a boil.
  2. In a large, high-sided skillet, add the oil, garlic,  1/4 teaspoon salt and chile flakes. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is softened and just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Pour in the red wine (stand back as the liquid may splatter) and bring to a rapid boil.
  3. Add spaghetti to the boiling pot of water and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the spaghetti to the skillet with the boiling red wine and add the bouillon and 1 teaspoon of oregano: cook, stirring often with tongs until the spaghetti is tender, 6-8 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pasta to a platter and top with the remaining oregano and parsley. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: I would opt to keep this meal all about Florence, so I would reach for a Super Tuscan.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Sausage Gravy

I find most chicken recipes to be incredibly bland. I find this to be especially true when it comes to chicken breasts. Yes, they are healthy and yes, they are protein. But they are just slightly above cardboard when it comes to tickling my tastebuds.

So to make them tolerable for my palate, I like to grill them over lump hardwood charcoal. Charcoal is always a star when it comes to adding flavor. But still, they are not flavorful enough. Yet there is a very simple way to send grilled chicken breasts to the very top of the flavor chart...and that's thanks to breakfast sausage.

Oh gravy, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Serve this breakfast sausage gravy over your grilled chicken breasts and you will be hailed as one of the greatest culinary gods to ever walk the earth. You can ratchet that status up even more by adding some warm, fresh baked biscuits to each serving plate. Thou shalt dip.


For the Gravy
1 pound pork breakfast sausage
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

For the Chicken
4, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and black pepper


For the Gravy
  1. In a large cast iron skillet over high heat, cook sausage until crumbly and well-browned (about 10 minutes).
  2. Stir in flour and cook, stirring frequently until pan drippings have absorbed flour (about 5 minutes).
  3. Gradually stir in half-and-half. Let mixture come to a slow simmer and cook, stirring frequently until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  4. Add spices, stir and keep warm.
For the Chicken
  1. Prepare grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  2. Season breasts with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Cook chicken breasts directly over hot coals for 4 minutes. Flip breasts and cook for 4 minutes more.
  4. Remove breasts from grill and tent them with foil, letting them rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Plate chicken breasts and pour sausage gravy over each. Then serve.

Wine pairing: A big, fruity Merlot. If you're really lucky, it will be a bottle of Columbia Crest H3 Merlot.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Chardonnay Crush

This is a glass full of spring. Make two of these, grab your best bud and then go sit on the deck and watch the sun set. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Two, 1-inch thick slices of cucumber
4 blackberries
8 mint leaves
1 cup of chardonnay
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Soda Water
2 mint leaves and four lime quarters for garnish

  1. Place 1 cucumber slice, 2 blackberries and 4 mint leaves into two 8-10 oz glasses. Muddle using a pestle.
  2. Add ½ cup of Chardonnay, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and a handful of ice to each glass. Stir using a cocktail spoon for 10 seconds or until drink is cold. 
  3. Top with ¼ cup of soda and continue stirring for 5 more seconds or until combined. Garnish with mint leaves and limes.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Grilled Pastrami and Swiss on Rye

Granted....on the surface, it seems pretty unremarkable that I am featuring what appears to be a very pedestrian sandwich on my blog this week. I had the same feelings when I ran across this recipe on Flipboard, one of my favorite iPad apps. Flipboard is an aggregator app. You list things that are of interest to you and it pulls all those relative stories from across the web into one neat package.

Food and Recipes are but two of the topics I have entered into Flipboard. And that is where this seemingly unremarkable recipe popped up. But I read it anyway and found it to be remarkable for two reasons. First, the recipe calls for making this sandwich using homemade sweet onion marmalade. The addition of that ingredient takes this sandwich to infinity and beyond.

But I am not the only one who found it remarkable....and hence reason number two. The readers of Sunset Magazine voted this as one of the top 50 magazine recipes of all-time. And you have to love the simplicity: rye bread (marbled, if you are lucky), pastrami, Swiss cheese, and onion marmalade. This Jennifer Brumfield recipe makes two sandwiches.


For the Onion Marmalade
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup Zinfandel

For the Sandwiches
4 slices rye bread
2 tablespoons softened butter
8 slices pastrami
4 slices Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard


  1. Make marmalade: Melt butter with oil in a large heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper, stirring well to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened and browned, about 20 minutes. Add vinegar and wine. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and onions are soft and sticky, about 10 minutes. Let marmalade cool slightly.
  2. Make sandwiches: Evenly spread one side of each bread slice with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Spread unbuttered side of 2 slices with 1-1/2 tablespoons marmalade each, then top with pastrami and cheese. Spread mustard on unbuttered side of remaining 2 bread slices and place each, buttered side up, on pastrami and cheese-topped slices.
  3. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add sandwiches and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes total.

Wine Pairing: If it's good enough to go into your Onion Marmalade, it's good enough to wash down your sandwich! Zinfandel it is.

A tip of my hat to my Dad today, which would have been his 66th wedding anniversary. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Bolognese Sauce: The Real Deal

In September of 2015, we rented a villa in Tuscany along with our two favorite couples, Steve and Taffy Hirtz and Scott and Debbie Drill. It was a spectacular trip. One of the day trips we took was to Siena, an ancient Italian town first settled in 900 BC. Siena has an enormous plaza in the center of town which is used twice a year to run the Palio di absolutely insane horse race. Ten riders race bareback for three laps at full speed. It is not out of the ordinary for a jockey to rip a competitor from his mount and many of the horses cross the finish line with no rider. Fatalities, too, are not an uncommon occurrence.

Unfortunately, we were not there during race season. But we hit Siena on a beautiful, sunny fall day and started out with lunch at a spectacular outdoor cafe. I ordered Bolognese with Pappardelle. It was so unlike anything I had ever tasted in the U.S. I've tried a ton of different bolognese recipes and none quite compared to what I had in Siena.

I've got two bolognese recipes in this blog, but they don't hold a candle to what I ate in Italy that day. The ones I've tried in America tend to be tomato-oriented and overburdened with Italian herbs. What I had in Siena was totally different. It was first and foremost a meat sauce...all the other ingredients played a minor supporting role. But Bolognese isn't meat heavy. Bolognese is amazingly delicate, rich in umami, creamy and understated.

The recipe to make authentic bolognese is not difficult. The key is that under no circumstances can the process be rushed. The only way to get a sauce this rich is time. It takes a full four hours of simmering for bolognese to reach perfection. When finely dicing the vegetables, it is of great benefit to the sauce if the dice of all are the same, small size. As for the pasta, you need one that can handle the heft of the sauce. Pappardelle is a thick, ribbon-like pasta that completely complements the sauce. This is a Marie Asselin recipe based on the Academia Italian della Cucina recipe registered with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce.

2 + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/4 pounds lean ground beef
1-1/4 pounds ground pork

4 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, finely and evenly diced
4 small (or 2 very large) carrots finely diced
4 stalks celery heart (or 2 large celery stalks) finely diced
4 garlic cloves, very finely diced
4-1/2 ounces diced pancetta (¼-inch cubes)
Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup Chardonnay
2 cups whole milk
1 28 ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, diced (both the liquid and the tomatoes)
1 cup beef stock

3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup grated parmigiana-reggiano cheese

  1. Heat a 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat in a large saucepan. When oil is shimmering, add beef. Stir and break up lumps. You want the meat to brown and the liquid to evaporate. When browned, remove beef and set aside.
  2. In the same saucepan, add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and when simmering, add pork. Stir and break up lumps. Cook until the meat has browned and the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add the butter to the pork. When the butter has melted, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and a good pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the diced pancetta and reserved beef and cook for a further 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened and pancetta is golden. 
  4. Over medium heat, pour the white wine into the sauce pan. With a wooden spoon, scrape all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Push the meat all around to make sure you scrape it all off. By the time you’re finished, the wine will be evaporated (2-3 minutes). Be careful not to let the meat stick again (lower the heat if necessary).
  5. Add milk, diced tomatoes and their liquid, beef stock, 1 teaspoon salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower to the lowest heat and let simmer very slowly, half-covered, for 4 hours. Stir once in a while. If your sauce starts sticking before the end of your cooking time, lower the heat (if possible) and/or add a bit of stock. In the end, the sauce should be thick, more oil than water-based and thick like oatmeal. Adjust the seasoning one last  time – don’t be afraid of adding more salt (tasting each time you add some) as it is this recipe’s key seasoning.
  6. After 4 hours, add 3 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup parmigiana-reggiano cheese. Stir thoroughly. Toss sauce with cooked pappardelle noodles and serve with additional parmigiana-reggiano cheese for your guests to grate over the dish.

Wine pairing: I strongly recommend what I consider to be not just the finest wine it Italy, but the finest wine in the world: Barolo. And the older, the better.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Grilled Miso Scallops

Miso is a Japanese soybean paste. While it seems pretty straightforward when it comes to ingredients: soybeans, salt and is incredibly complex when it hits your tongue. That's because those simple ingredients have been combined with aspergillus orzyae bacteria and aged for 3 years.

The end result is what many consider to be the very pinnacle of "umami", which the Japanese call the fifth taste (after salt, sour, sweet and bitter). Umami is described as savory. When miso is used as a marinade for the scallops, "savory" and "sophisticated" are likely the first two words you will well as "f*cking awesome". This Mark Bittman recipe serves four.

1/2 cup white miso
2 tablespoons chardonnay
1/2 cup minced onion
Salt and cayenne pepper
1-1/2 pounds scallops*
Juice of one lime

*See here for a quick primer on buying sea scallops:

  1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  2. Put miso in a bowl. Add wine. Whisk until smooth, adding more wine if needed. Stir in onion, a pinch of salt and of cayenne. Combine scallops, let sit 10 minutes. 
  3. Grill scallops, turning once after 2  minutes. Grill for 2 minutes more. Sprinkle with lime juice and serve.

Wine pairing: Chardonnay. A Ramey if you are really lucky.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Vietnamese Steak au Poivre

Vietnamese Steak au Poivre with Charred Vegetables

Becky and I recently did a "foodie" vacation to Napa. It was all about the food and wine. I enjoyed it thoroughly and began thinking about what other foodie spots I would like to visit. Two cities immediately pop to mind: Bangkok, Thailand and Saigon, Vietnam.

Thai and Vietnamese cuisines are two of my favorites. I am an absolute nut for anything made with fish sauce. So it made me incredibly happy when I opened the April issue of Food and Wine and saw this recipe. Like all Thai and Vietnamese recipes, the ingredient list can be a little intimidating. However, once you have all the ingredients at hand, the cooking goes pretty fast. This Chris Sheperd recipe serves four.

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 1-1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 tablespoons fish sauce (Red Boat recommended)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1-1/2 pounds of small heads of broccoli and cauliflower
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup of yellow mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup hot sauce (Tabasco or Sriracha)
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
Four, 6-ounce center cut beef tenderloin steaks


  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, 
until softened, about 8 minutes. 
Add the cinnamon stick and 
star anise and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the fish sauce and sugar and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and simmer over moderately high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Add 
the cream and simmer until the sauce is thickened and reduced by half, about 10 minutes 
longer. Strain the sauce through 
a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl; discard the solids. Return the sauce to the saucepan and stir in the crushed peppercorns. Season with salt and keep warm.

  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet. In a large bowl, toss the 
broccoli and cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of 
the oil. Working in batches, cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over and crisp-
tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool. Cut into bite-size pieces and wipe out the bowl. In the bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the mustard, vinegar and hot sauce until smooth. Fold in the charred vegetables, the red onion and sunflower seeds and season the salad with salt. Wipe out the skillet.

  3. In the skillet, heat the remaining 
2 tablespoons of oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and cook over 
moderate heat, turning only once for 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a work surface and let rest for 
5 minutes. Serve with the peppercorn sauce and the charred-vegetable salad.

Wine pairing: A nice fruity Zinfandel. A Rombauer, if you are really lucky.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Smashed Baby Reds

I firmly believe the Obama administration wiretapped my abode and has been leaking my personal information left and right. I am both swamped and drowning in mail and phone calls as a result of these leaks. Given the volume that I am being crushed by, I have little doubt that Obama asked the British to look into my affairs as well.

The most damaging information that they have released so far is the fact that I will be turning 65 in July. Of greatest interest to my attackers is the fact that I will now be eligible for Medicare. No one will be content if I just elect to take Medicare. According to their pleas, I will be forced to walk the world, naked and in chains, if I do not opt for Supplemental Medicare or Medi-Gap Insurance.

Every insurance company in America sends me a letter each day. Rinse, repeat and they do it again the next day. My landline, which I stopped answering years ago, rings at least 6 times a day with solicitations. Should any of them find their way to my mobile phone, I instantly block them for all eternity.

I thought it would all just pertain to the Medicare issue. But no, turning 65 has even greater significance. I'm being offered special discounts on mobile chair scooters that will allow me to still shop at my beloved Costco during my golden years. And while I'm there, I can use the millions of coupons I've been given for adult diapers.

65-year olds love their coupons. By the hundreds, I've got them for erectile dysfunction pills, hemorrhoid cream, hair coloring, recliners that will push me horizontal so that I do not have to stand up on my own, walk-in bath tubs and no-tie, velcro sneakers. I had no idea that at age 65 that I would be standing at the very edge of such a steep and slippery slope.

My response to all of this hubbub is quite simple. I am going to ignore it. I will simply drink more wine. Eat more red meat. And cook side dishes like the one below that will add more cholesterol for me to enjoy in my declining years.

2 pounds baby red potatoes
4 rosemary sprigs
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary,
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place potatoes, rosemary sprigs, smashed garlic, 1/4 cup of the salt and water to cover in a 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high; reduce to medium and simmer  for 15 minutes. Drain; discard rosemary sprigs and smashed garlic.
  2. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Arrange potatoes on prepared baking sheet. Using the heel of your hand, lightly crush potatoes until they are about 1/2 inch thick. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and crisp (30 minutes). 
  3. Stir together butter, chopped parsley, thyme, rosemary, minced garlic, pepper, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Brush mixture over potatoes and serve immediately.

Pairing: Drinking a glass of good red wine has the same health benefits as an hour of strenuous exercise. Plus, I have yet to hear of anyone on death's doorstep wishing they had consumed less red wine in their time on this hallowed earth.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Napa CA

Becky and I just returned from a vacation in Napa. Not Napa Valley, but downtown Napa. I've been to Napa Valley quite a few times in the late 80's and early 90's. We would shoot a lot of commercials out in Hollywood.....and we were always making the trek to Laguna Seca for the IndyCar races. The people I traveled with from Valvoline were crazy for wine, so we always managed side trips for Napa Valley wine tours.

There are essentially three different tiers of Napa Valley wine tours. The first tier of wineries are open to the public. You drive up, pay $20 for a wine glass and take a guided tour. The problem here is each tour lasts about an hour. You get to hear how their wine is made (zzzzzzzzzzz). Only after the hour has gone past do you get to that incredibly generous 1-ounce pour. And you get to do it with throngs of people. And then you are forced to sit with Bob and Shirley from Tulsa and talk wine. Just shoot me.

The second tier of wine tours involves substantially better wine. These wineries require that you make a reservation. And they charge handsomely for that reservation. Caymus Winery charges $100 per person. You still have to put up with that hour lecture on how their wine is made. And you only get two samples of wine...a 2-ounce pour of their Cab and a 2-ounce pour of their Chardonnay. And Bob and Shirley from Tulsa are there, too. Shoot me twice, please.

The third tier of wine tours requires a really, really big wallet. For $600 you get a car and driver and the chance for a private visit with the owners of 3 cult wineries. At each winery, the owner will give you very generous pours of their best wine and chat with you for about half an hour. You are required to make a minimum purchase of one case of wine per winery. The average bottle of Napa cult wine goes for around $180 per bottle, so by the time all three wineries have been visited, your wallet will be about $7,500 lighter. That's a very expensive way to ditch Bob and Shirley.

I refuse to go on any wine tours. So the purpose of our vacation was to simply enjoy the very best wine and food we could find in downtown Napa. We stayed at a little boutique hotel (12 rooms total) right on the Napa River. While we were technically not staying in downtown Napa, it was just a 3-minute Uber ride to the heart of downtown.

One of my favorite places to hang out was the Oxbow Market. It's a huge, indoor, open market. It has everything from craft distillers, fresh organic produce, locally crafted cheese to specialty butcher shops. I think my favorite was the Five Dot Ranch. They raise organic, grass fed beef and then butcher the animals themselves. It's on display in a classic butcher shop setting. You simply step up, pick out a cut of beef and they grill it up for you.

The Oxbow Market is not to be missed. Also, scattered around the downtown, are numerous wine tasting rooms hosted by Napa wineries. If you go, this is a nice way to taste wine in a more intimate setting. If you are going to go carnivore in Napa, Cole's Chop House is fantastic. They made me one of the best bone-in, ribeye steaks I have ever tasted.

There is one place in downtown Napa that you should not miss under any circumstance: Bounty Hunter. Before I went to Napa, Bounty Hunter was a cult wine catalog I got 4 times per year. They manage to get their hands on the Napa Valley cult wines that you will never find in your local liquor store. I've bought a lot of wines from them over the years, but I never had any idea that they ran a restaurant in downtown Napa.

And what a restaurant it is! Besides offering some of the best barbecue around, they have a wall where they sell all of their catalog's cult wines. But here's the best part...they also sell those wines by the glass. You can choose between a 2-ounce sample or a full, 5-ounce glass of wine. So, all you have to do, is pull up a bar stool in this fabulous dive-bar atmosphere and sample 40 of the very best wines that Napa Valley has to offer. No lectures. No lines. No Bob & Shirley.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Irish Tacos

I'm Irish and I love St. Patrick's Day. I love it not for the revelry, but because I get to cook up one of my very favorite meals, corned beef and cabbage. Costco stores stock up on corned beef around the St. Patrick's holiday...and I'm here to tell you it is the best corned beef I have ever tasted.

I buy the biggest cuts of meat I can find. Cooking corned beef could not be any easier. You just dump all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and walk away until dinner. Here's my favorite recipe for cooking corned beef:  

If you have left-over corned beef, you're all set for the main ingredient for Irish Tacos. But feel free to cook up a corned beef brisket just to make this's that good. This Sam Sifton recipe will yield six to eight servings.

2-1/2 pounds of cooked corned beef
1 small head of green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons hot sauce (like Sriracha), or more to taste
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
12 to 16 flour tortillas, warmed
3 jalapeno peppers, sliced


  1. Warm the corned beef in it's cooking liquid or wrap it in foil and set on a sheet pan in a 350º oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Make the coleslaw: mix the cabbage and carrots together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, cider vinegar, salt, pepper and hot sauce.
  4. Pour half of the sauce over the coleslaw and toss to coat thoroughly. Reserve remaining sauce.
  5. When the corned beef is hot, remove it from liquid or foil and use two forks to shred the meat. Serve with warmed tortillas, sliced jalapeños, the slaw, remaining white sauce and hot pepper sauce.

Pairing: Give me a break. You only get one choice for St. Patty's Day.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New England Mussel Chowder

One of my favorite meals is mussels steamed in chardonnay: I buy my mussels from Costco, where they are sold live, already cleaned and de-bearded. They sell for a ridiculously cheap $1.99 per pound, but the downside is that they are sold in 5-pound bags.

With only two of us at home now, we end up with a ton of leftover mussels after steaming them in chardonnay. Once cooked, they are not very appetizing in the shell a day later. So I've taken to shelling the leftover mussels and making New England Mussel Chowder the next day. I find mussels so much tastier than clams and it's a great way to turn the mussels into two great meals.

30+ mussels removed from shells
1 tablespoon butter
6 strips thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 leeks, tops removed, halved and cleaned and sliced into half moons
3 Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
3 cups clam broth (or 3 cups of reserved broth from mussels steamed in chardonnay)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups cream
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Oyster crackers


  1. Add butter to a large pot and turn heat to medium-low. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the bacon has started to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon from fat and set aside.
  2. Add the leeks to the fat and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and wine and continue cooking until wine has evaporated and the potatoes have just started to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add clam broth, thyme and bay leaf.
  3. Partly cover the pot and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. When potatoes are tender, add cream and stir in mussels and reserved bacon. Add black pepper to taste. Let come to a simmer and remove from heat. (Do not let chowder come to a full boil.) Fish out the thyme and the bay leaf and discard.
  5. Ladle chowder into individual serving bowls and garnish with parsley and crackers.

Wine pairing: A great big, oaky chardonnay. If you are exceptionally lucky, it will be a Rombauer.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Irish Onion Soup

This is the strangest February in my 64 years of living in Minnesota. There is literally no snow cover. My deck, and hence the path to my grill, are pristine. Yesterday it was 64º...on February Minnesota! And in honor of these great temps, I've been grilling up a storm.

Monday night I grilled a big, juicy rib eye for Steak Caesar Salad. Extremely high winds kept me indoors on Tuesday. Wednesday was T-bone night. Thursday I grilled bone-in, thick-cut pork chops. Last night I ground up some short ribs to make handmade pub burgers, which I grilled over mesquite. And tonight, thanks to Costco, I snarfed up two, USDA Prime porterhouse steaks...which I will also grill over mesquite.

While this warm spell has been great, being a Minnesotan you know that winter is going to come roaring back and spank us hard. When that happens, it's back to cooking indoors on the stove. So I will share a favorite Irish recipe that will let you do just that. The recipe is essentially identical to French Onion Soup, but differs by two ingredients...Guinness beer and Irish Cheddar. But, oh, what a difference those two ingredients make! This Katie Sweeney recipe serves six.

  1. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 5 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 3 large onions, thinly sliced with the grain
  4. 1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) thyme leaves
  5. 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  6. 2, 11.2-ounce bottles Guinness stout beer
  7. 6 cups beef stock (store bought, Rachel Ray recommended)
  8. 1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  9. 1/2 pound Irish cheddar, such as Kerrygold Kilaree, thinly sliced

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add onions and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown. Stir in thyme, vinegar, and beer. Cook until beer reduces by half. Pour in beef stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes.
  2. Preheat broiler oven setting. Ladle soup into individual ovenproof soup bowls. Top with bread slices and sliced cheddar. Broil until cheese melts and begins to brown. Serve piping hot.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Pommes Anna

I'm a carnivore, through and through. Given my druthers, I'd have steak for dinner every night. Bone-in rib eye, please. Taters on the side. French fries or hash browns, preferably. But given that I would eat steak every night, I would have to look to my taters for a little variety.

The reason I like fries and hash browns so well is they are beautifully crisp on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Ditto for Pommes Anna. But unlike fries and hash browns, this dish is an absolute work of art. A bewitching and glamorous jewel to complement that rib eye.

It's also really easy to make. The key is to have potato slices that are just thick enough to crisp up on the outside but stay soft and creamy on the inside. You could certainly accomplish that with a knife, but that's incredibly tedious and inaccurate. And few food processors have a large enough chute to accommodate a big potato.

My weapon of choice for getting perfect slices of potato is a mandoline. My sons, Sean and Patrick, gave me a new mandoline last Christmas. The Swissair Borner V-1001 Slicer is an incredible tool. It is so incredible that my bible, Cook's Illustrated, named it the best mandoline money can buy. You can jump over to and pick one up for $39.95.

Using this mandoline, every slice will be perfect and uniform. I use the thin slicing blade, which yields slices about 1/16 of an inch thick (2mm). If you make the slices any thinner, they will cook too quickly and lose the soft, creamy insides. This Gabrielle Hamilton recipe will make 4 to 6 servings as a side dish.

3 large russet potatoes, washed but not peeled
One stick of butter 
Olive oil
Kosher salt


  1. Using a mandoline, slice potatoes into 1/16" slices.
  2. In a well-seasoned cast iron pan, or a non-stick pan, heat a half-stick of butter and a healthy drizzle of olive oil over medium-low heat until butter melts and just starts to foam. Shut off heat under pan.
  3. Arrange the slices tightly, careful shingling around the pan in concentric circles starting at the outer edge of the pan and working your way into the center. Season the first layer with a little salt. Repeat with each potato until you achieve three tight and gorgeous layers.
  4. Turn the heat back on under the pan at medium. Drizzle the potatoes with a generous pour of olive oil and dot four more pats of butter around the pan of potatoes. Season with salt. As the pan starts to sizzle, you will see the fat bubbling up and spitting a bit. Put a lid on the pan and seal tightly for a minute or two, giving the potatoes a little steam bath, helping to soften and cook the flesh. Remove the lid and swirl the pan with a little muscle to see if the potatoes are binding together as their starch begins to heat up. If they slip loosely all around the pan, tuck the slices back into the tight circle using a heat-proof rubber spatula and allow to sizzle and cook longer uncovered. Bump up the flame a little if the cooking sounds and looks listless — you want to hear sizzle. When you start to smell the potatoes turning golden and crisp — like the smell of toast — swirl the pan again to confirm that the potato layers have formed a cake, and then flip* the Pommes Anna and cook on the other side also until golden and crispy. Slide onto a cutting board, season with salt, and cut into wedges.

*To flip, I like to slide the potatoes onto a dinner plate. Cover with another dinner plate, then flip it and slide it back into the pan.

Wine pairing: If you are eating Pommes Anna with a bone-in rib eye, you should be be filling your wine glass with a really big Cabernet Sauvignon. If you're lucky, a Sparkman Cabernet Sauvignon...94 points for $32!