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!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Short Rib Sliders (cooked in beer!)

I'm not a huge football fan, but it's hard not to get sucked into the grand hoopla that is The Super Bowl. As a former ad guy, I always prefer the ads to the game. It takes the really big bucks to be a Super Bowl advertiser. With the amount of money spent on the production and media cost of Super Bowl commercials, you could easily buy the New England Patriots football team and still have leftover change for a few Bugatti Chirons.

When it comes to the Super Bowl, it seems always appropriate, if not mandatory, to provide super food to your guests. Short rib sliders certainly fall into that category...especially ones that are cooked in beer. So let's start with the cut of beef.

You can buy two cuts of short ribs. For this recipe, I prefer the English cut (shown on the left). It has a large amount of meat attached to a large, single bone. It's beautifully marbled and it's flavor is exquisite thanks to that big bone (that's what she said).

This recipe also requires onion rings. Making onion rings from scratch is a giant time suck. So I buy Alexia onion rings at the grocery store. The batter is made with craft beer and you just bake them in your oven. But you'll need to refrain from using the brand name in the vicinity of your Amazon Echo.

This recipe works great for a crowd. You can make the short ribs in advance, so the only thing you need to do at the last minute is bake the onion rings and assemble the sliders. I serve my sliders with kettle chips. This recipe was adapted from ChezUs and it serves 4.

2 pounds English cut beef short ribs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
5 garlic cloves
3 cups dark beer
2 cups beef stock
kosher salt
Black pepper
1 bag Alexia onion rings
8 mini-brioche buns, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 300º.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a large dutch oven pan and preheat over medium heat. Add the ribs and brown each side; about 3 minutes per side. Remove the ribs from the dutch oven and set aside on a plate.
  3. While the ribs are browning, peel the onion and garlic and finely mince. Add both to the dutch oven once the ribs are finished browning. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ribs to the dutch oven pan.
  4. Pour the dark beer over the ribs. Cover the pan with the lid and slide into the oven. The total cooking time is 3 hours. After each hour, stir and add some of the beef stock until all is used. After 3 hours the meat should begin to fall from the bones.
  5. The last 30 minutes, remove the lid and finish cooking. Remove from the oven and let set for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the ribs from the dutch oven. Remove rib bones from short ribs and place meat in a bowl. Shred the meat with two forks.
  7. Bake onion rings.
  8. Place the dutch oven on the stove. Over medium heat, gently reduce the broth, until thickened. This will take about 15 minutes.
  9. Spoon the thickened sauce over the ribs. Then mix to combine.
  10. Place meat in buns, add a couple of onion rings to each and serve.

Pairing: If you are serving wine with this meal, I would select a Cabernet Sauvignon. But it is the Super Bowl, after all, so my inclination would be to wash down this sandwich with a nice, cold Pilsner.