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.


Ingredients
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


Directions


    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.




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


    Directions

    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.


    Ingredients
    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)


    Directions

    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

    NOT



    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.


    Ingredients
    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
    Sriracha


    Directions

    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 marbling....as 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.


    INGREDIENTS

    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


    DIRECTIONS

    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 close...it 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.


    Ingredients
    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


    Directions

    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.


    Ingredients
    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)


    Directions

    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.


    Ingredients 
    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)


    Directions

    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!



    Ingredients
    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


    Directions
    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.


    Ingredients 
    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


    Directions
    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.





    INGREDIENTS

    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
    Sriracha


    DIRECTIONS

    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.


    Ingredients
    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


    Directions

    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.





    INGREDIENTS

    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



    DIRECTIONS

    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.


    Ingredients
    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


    Directions
    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.


    INGREDIENTS

    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


    DIRECTIONS

    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 Siena...an 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.





    Ingredients
    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


    Directions
    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 rice...it 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 utter...as well as "f*cking awesome". This Mark Bittman recipe serves four.


    Ingredients
    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:  http://terrygruggen.blogspot.com/2011_11_01_archive.html


    Directions
    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.


    Ingredients
    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


    Directions

    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.


    Ingredients
    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


    Directions

    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.