Saturday, January 28, 2017

Vietnamese Baby Back Ribs

Pork is an excellent source of Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. If you are deficient in B1, you will likely experience headaches, nausea, fatigue, irritability, depression and abdominal discomfort. If you have any of these symptoms, as well as confusion or uncontrolled eye movements, make these ribs and consume them immediately.

2 medium shallots, finely chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layer removed, lightly smashed and chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon hot chili paste (like sambal oelek)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
1 tablespoon grated garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
3 to 4 pounds baby back ribs
4 scallions, chopped, for garnish
Cilantro and mint, for garnish


    1. Make the marinade: In a small bowl, put the shallots, lemongrass, soy sauce, fish sauce, chile paste, salt, sugar, five-spice powder, garlic and ginger. Mix well.  
    2. Put the meat in a deep baking dish or roasting pan and add marinade. Using your hands, coat ribs well. Let marinate, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight, well wrapped. Bring back to room temperature before proceeding.
    3. Heat oven to 450º. Add 2 cups water to the pan, cover tightly with foil and place pan in oven. Cook for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees for 1 hour more. Remove cover and return to the oven for about 15 minutes until the ribs are nicely browned.
    4. Remove ribs from pan. Pour pan juices into a saucepan and skim fat. Reduce over high heat until somewhat thickened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, divide ribs with a sharp knife and pile them onto a platter.
    5. Serve family style with steamed rice and pan juices. Garnish with scallions, cilantro and mint sprigs.

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

    Saturday, January 21, 2017

    Slow-Roasted Beef Short Ribs

    I became a Costco member 17 years ago. I first made the trek to the St. Louis Park store and later switched to the Eden Prairie store when it opened in 2004 as it was just 2 miles from my home. One of the things that really attracted me was their meat department. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool beef lover and I could not get over their selection and pricing. They do their own butchering on site, so the meat is incredibly fresh. And the stores aren't even close.

    When I first started shopping there, all of the meat was graded USDA Choice. But about 7 years ago they also started to offer USDA Prime...the highest quality beef you can buy. That's the stuff usually reserved for restaurants. While you can find USDA  Prime beef at Lund's and Byerly's, they charge twice what Costco does.

    I love steak, so that is the cut I buy most often. I also love beef short ribs, but I almost never buy them at Costco because they only sell boneless. If I'm braising or roasting short ribs, I want bone-in as it seriously amps up the flavor.

    When it comes to bone-in short ribs, there are two cuts available. The one pictured above on the left is an English cut. It consists of a large, single bone and a healthy amount of meat. The one on the right is called a flanken cut. It consists of four or five ribs attached to the meat. When I braise short ribs, I use the English cut. When I roast short ribs, I use the flanken cut as more of the beef is next to those delicious bones.

    In my 17 years of shopping Costco, they have only carried boneless short ribs. Two days ago I was at my beloved Eden Prairie Costco when the earth shifted on it's axis. There in the beef section sat flanken cut short ribs. Just when I thought it was never going to get any better than this, I picked up the package and saw the USDA PRIME label. Bone-in, USDA PRIME short ribs at just $7.49 per pound. Be still my heart.

    USDA Prime means that these short ribs have a lot more fat than run of the mill USDA Choice. Typically, when you roast beef, it's at temperatures of 400º plus. But in slow roasting, you use a much lower temperature. There is so much delicious fat and collagen in short ribs, that slow roasting gradually melts them down and intensifies that flavor in the meat. It's like beef flavor to the power of ten in each incredibly tender and moist morsel. This Chris Morocco recipe serves four.

    4 cloves garlic
    Kosher salt
    1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 teaspoons soy sauce
    1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    2-1/2 pounds flanken cut beef short ribs (4 riblets in each piece of meat)
    Fresh ground black pepper


    1. Preheat oven 275º.
    2. Process garlic in a garlic press into a small bowl. Mix in rosemary, oil, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Mix until a paste forms.
    3. Season ribs generously with salt and pepper and place in a cast iron skillet. Coat the ribs all over with garlic paste. Cover skillet tightly in aluminum foil.
    4. Place skillet in oven and cook for 2-1/2 hours. Then serve.

    Wine pairing: With the big flavor of this dish, you need a big, bold red...and only an Amarone will do!

    Saturday, January 14, 2017

    Roasted Chickpeas

    Shopping at my favorite store, Costco, is always a journey of discovery. The store changes every time I visit. One week they will feature a 32-year supply of toilet paper for just $19.99 and the next week they will offer 600 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets for $1.99. The inventory is always changing at Costco, which is why I always find something new and different every time I go there.

    Roasted chickpeas are one of my favorite snacks and Costco used to carry 18 ounce bag would set you back $9.99. Chickpeas are high in protein, fiber and vitamins...owing to the fact that they are both a legume and a vegetable. But at almost $10 per pound, that's a pricey snack. But then I was strolling through Costco last Thursday and look what I stumbled upon:

    Yep. Raw organic chickpeas. And get this....a 7-pound bag for just $9.99! I quick did the math on my iPhone and calculated that I could roast my own chickpeas for only $1.43 per pound.....a fraction of the cost of buying the finished product. So I bought a bag and headed home.

    I climbed on the Interwebs and found an Alton Brown recipe that could not have been any easier. Soak your chickpeas in water overnight and then roast them for 60 minutes. Turn off the oven and let them dry in the heat for another hour. Pull them out of the oven and then I double-dare you to not eat all of them in one sitting.

    2 pounds dried chickpeas
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    1 teaspoon kosher salt


    1. Put chickpeas in a large bowl and fill with enough water so that the top chickpeas are covered by 2" of water.
    2. Drain chickpeas in a colander and rinse well. Dry the chickpeas with a few whirls in a salad spinner. Remove the chickpeas from the salad spinner onto a paper towel lined half sheet pan. Top with another layer of paper towels and roll and pat to dry further.
    3. Preheat oven to 350º.
    4. Remove the paper towels from the sheet pan and toss the chickpeas with the olive oil and salt. Spread chickpeas on sheet pan and put in the oven. Bake the chickpeas for 60 minutes.
    5. After 60 minutes, turn oven off but leave chickpeas to dry and crisp up for 30 minutes. Serve.

    Pairing: Make a huge batch and serve it as an appetizer for the Super Bowl. So in this case, I would pair it with an ice cold pilsner!

    Saturday, January 7, 2017

    Sloppy Giuseppes

    In Minneapolis, we've been suffering through an arctic blast this past week...which always makes me yearn for comfort food. Stews...soups...pasta...and yes, Sloppy Joes. You can't imagine my delight when I came across the Chicago Tribune's Italian take on Sloppy Joes, perfectly named as Sloppy Giuseppes.

    These Joes are really rich and tomato-forward. This is the kind of recipe that ingredients really matter. For the diced tomatoes, I recommend Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes. Make sure you use Turkish oregano...not a generic oregano. The taste difference is huge. And crusty, artisan dinner rolls are an absolute must. This recipe serves six.

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1 pound ground beef
    1/2 cup hearty red wine
    1, 14.5-ounce can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, drained
    1 tablespoon tomato paste
    1 1/2 teaspoons dried Turkish oregano
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    6 slices provolone cheese
    6 crusty artisan rolls


    1. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large sauté pan. Heat pan over medium-high heat until oil begins to shimmer. Then add onion and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
    2. Stir in garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add ground beef, stirring it into the onions and breaking it up until it is browned.
    3. Add wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, pepper flakes and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until thickened.
    4. Spoon mixture into the 6 artisan rolls and top with a slice of provolone. Serve.

    Wine pairing: This hearty dish needs a big, bold red. Try a Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rioja or Super Tuscan.