Saturday, September 30, 2017

Creamy French Mustard Chicken




I am glad to see September go. It's typically a month I love, but this year I hate it. I had to say goodbye to a very dear friend. It was a friendship spanning 47 years. I met Taffy when she was still in high school. But the friendship was not just for me. Taffy married my best friend. And Taffy's best friend is now my wife. I hang out at Taffy's son's gym all week long. I am the godfather to her daughter Alison. And my wife is godmother to her daughter Ashley. She was connected to my life in 360 degrees. I mourn her. I miss her. And life will never be the same.

So all I can tell you is hug your friends. And it seems especially appropriate to cook some comfort food. This Christine Gallary recipe fills the bill.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup diced shallots (2 medium shallots)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400ยบ.
  2. Heat the oil in a large cast iron or oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Meanwhile, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp and golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a large plate. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.
  3. Add the shallots to the pan and cook over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, and cook until evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the broth and whole-grain mustard and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken skin-side up, and add any juices accumulated on the plate to the pan.
  4. Braise in the oven uncovered until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken with tongs to a platter. Place the pan over medium-high heat, whisk the smooth Dijon mustard into the sauce, and simmer until reduced slightly, about 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. Taste and season the sauce with salt and pepper as needed. Serve the sauce with the chicken ( recommend you serve it underneath the chicken to keep the skin crisp) and garnish with parsley.



Wine pairing: A dish this refined is best complemented by a Petite Syrah. If it's a special occasion, head to Total Wine and grab a Puccioni Petite Sirah Dry Creek for $39.99 (not sure why they chose to spell Syrah with an "i"). If you are more budget-minded, let me advise you to buy what I consider one of the best bargains in the wine industry... a McManis Petite Syrah. It will only set you back $8.99 but it tastes like it should be priced at $89.99.



My wife Becky with our dearest friend, Taffy Hirtz.






Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pan Seared Pork and Peaches





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

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

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

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


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


Directions

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



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



Me and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Spicy Cucumber and Fennel Salad





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

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

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


INGREDIENTS

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

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


DIRECTIONS

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




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





Me and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Perfect Hash Brown Potatoes





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



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



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

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

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


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


Directions

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


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





Saturday, September 2, 2017

Farfalle with Sriracha Crab Sauce





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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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