Saturday, December 7, 2019

Roasted Baked Potato

To me, a perfectly baked potato is all about the skin. Sure, the insides need to be light and fluffy. But too many people undercook the potato so that the skin is, well...flaccid. Yep, there, I said it. Flaccid. Limp. Lacking firmness. Droopy. Potatile Dysfuntion.

The skin is the very best part of a potato. It's the part that has all of the vitamins and fiber in it. It's also the most flavorful part of a potato. Most baked potato recipes call for cooking the potato in moderate heat for 45 to 60 minutes....and that gets you flaccid skin.

What I am encouraging you to do is use high heat (roast it!) and take a helluva lot more time. And you have to use the right potato, for only a russet will do. Follow my recipe and you will experience potato nirvana. A crisp, seemingly deep-fried skin with a soft and creamy inside. But to accomplish this, there is an absolutely critical final step. Slice the potato open the minute you take it out of the oven. If you don't the skin will absorb steam from the inner potato and you will end up with...yep... flaccid.

4 large russet potatoes
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 450º.
  2. Wash potatoes under the faucet and dry with a cloth towel.
  3. Pierce each potato 6 times with a fork.
  4. Coat entire potato skin with olive oil, then sprinkle skin generously with Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
  5. Place potatoes in oven and cook for 2 hours.
  6. Immediately slice potatoes open and serve with your favorite fixings (mine happen to be butter, bacon and chives).

Grogs and Goldie, 1956

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is the most frenetic day of the year for cooks like me. So to take a little stress out of the day, there are 3 things I make in advance so that I can give most of my attention to roasting that 24-pound turkey.

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

The frenetic pace and challenge of getting turkey and side dishes to be served together at precisely 6pm on Thanksgiving day is exhausting. So over the years, I've been working in "make ahead" recipes that makes serving the meal a whole lot easier. Make ahead gravy. Make ahead stuffing.

This year, I added make ahead mashed potatoes. And I'm here to tell you they were the best mashed potatoes ever. First off, I avoided all of the chemistry class theatrics required of boiling potatoes from scratch with cold water. And that method requires great precision in order to serve piping hot potatoes with piping hot turkey at the same time.

And this method is foolproof. You cannot screw it up. Anyone who can read can make perfect mashed potatoes. Yes, even you, Joan.

5 pounds of russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, each potato peeled and quartered
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1-1/2 cups whole milk

8 tablespoons butter
2 cups of half & half
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Chopped chives, for garnish


  1. Peel and quarter potatoes and place in slow cooker with garlic and 1-1/2 cups of milk. Set slow cooker to high and cover. Cook for 5 hours.
  2. After 5 hours, turn slow cooker to warm. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the slow cooker.
  3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. When melted, add half & half to the pan and heat to warm (do not boil). When warm, add mixture to slow cooker. Using masher, blend potatoes with butter/half & half mixture.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste....a half of a teaspoon at a time for the uninitiated.
  5. Cover potatoes and serve whenever you want.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

Being obsessive-compulsive is actually an admirable quality if you are a cook. I find that it comes in especially handy at Thanksgiving, where micro-managing the production of an enormous feast is no small feat.

In order to handle the complexity of the Thanksgiving meal preparation, I create a very comprehensive list of every task that must be accomplished and at precisely what time to perform that task. It starts at 12:35pm with the convection roasting of the turkey. Then the schedule is set to make sure that everything gets done so that we can eat precisely at 6:00pm.

But regardless of the schedule, there are three items that always need my attention at the very last, frenetic second: the carving of the turkey; the mashing of the potatoes; and the making of the gravy. I cannot do all three at once by myself.

I'm really good at quickly carving a 25-pound turkey, so I take on that duty. The potatoes need to be mashed at the last second so that they are good and warm, which is a role my son Patrick has excelled at since he was a boy. Being a big, strong defensive back on the Macalester Football team, he is now able to execute his mashing duties in mere seconds.

Which leaves us with the gravy. I'm really anal about making turkey gravy from scratch. Use butter and flour to make a roux, then add turkey drippings and turkey stock. The problem here is that the drippings come at the end....after you've removed the turkey for carving.

But alas, Mark Bittman (food writer for the New York Times) solved my problem by creating this make-ahead gravy recipe. It can be made up to five days in advance, then re-heated just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. And the gravy still gets the flavor boost from the pan just add them in at the last second to your already "at serving temperature" gravy.

A small note here about the stock. Most grocery stores have an abundance of turkey stock on their shelves at this time of year. But if you couldn't find any or simply forgot to pick some up, chicken stock is a really good second choice.

1 stick of butter (I prefer Kerrygold)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper
4 to 5 cups warm turkey stock
Turkey drippings


    1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on the onions, stirring constantly, and cook until flour is golden to brown. Adjust heat so mixture does not burn.
    2. Gradually whisk in 4 cups stock until mixture thickens and is smooth. If it is too thick, add more stock. Cool, cover and chill.
    3. When ready to serve, reheat mixture over low heat, stirring. Scrape bottom of turkey pan and add drippings or to gravy. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.

    Thanksgiving Stuffing

    Stuffing is, without a doubt, my favorite side at Thanksgiving. And I've been making it the same way for 40+ years. The recipe is nothing's all store-bought ingredients with just a few extras thrown in. I cook my stuffing in a casserole as I am not partial to Salmonella Russian Roulette when stuffing is cooked in the cavity of the bird.

    I always start with Pepperidge Farm Sage & Onion Cubed Stuffing. I just love how that stuff tastes. It's simply toasted white and wheat bread cubes in their own special blend of spices. To that I add hot Italian sausage, celery, onion and sautéed mushrooms. I cook those up in the morning and then add the Pepperidge Farm stuffing about an hour before eating. Like I said...there's nothing extraordinary about the recipe...except for the taste. Once you try it, you are hooked for life.

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 pounds hot Italian sausage
    2  yellow onions, chopped
    6 stalks celery, chopped
    16 ounces mushrooms, chopped

    10 tablespoons butter
    4 cups chicken broth
    2, 12-ounce bags Pepperidge Farm Sage & Onion Cubed Stuffing


    1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat olive oil until it is shimmering. Then add sausage, onions, celery and mushrooms. Cook until there is no pink in the sausage and all of the vegetables have softened (about 8 minutes).
    2. In a large saucepan, heat butter and chicken broth over medium heat until all of the butter has melted into the broth.
    3. Preheat oven to 350º.
    4. In a large casserole, add the two bags of cubed stuffing. Add sausage, onions, celery and mushrooms then stir thoroughly to mix. The add broth/butter mixture and stir again to thoroughly mix.
    5. Cover casserole and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, then serve in a room that is no warmer than 68º.

    Saturday, November 16, 2019

    Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

    I posted my first Beef Stroganoff recipe on this blog in September of 2011. That recipe, from Cooks Illustrated, has always been a favorite of mine. That recipe called for using beef tenderloin. But that's a stovetop recipe that comes together quickly. This is a slow cooker recipe. My thinking has evolved over the last few years. In the past, if I was adding beef to a slow cooker, I would typically choose a chuck or arm roast. These days, if I'm tossing beef in a slow cooker, it has to be brisket.

    If you are a carnivore, brisket is the second greatest gift from the beef gods (steak, of course, is the first). Brisket cooked low and slow is a transformational experience. It has the perfect amount of fat to create extraordinary flavor. And eight hours in a slow cooker essentially converts beef brisket to something akin to literally melts right on your tongue.

    So opting for brisket is not the only change-up I'm making. My old recipe called for spooning the stroganoff over the egg noodles like a sauce. But I have seen the light. In this recipe you take the cooked egg noodles and stir them right into the stroganoff before serving. The benefit of this is that every square inch of pasta becomes coated with this incredible stroganoff gravy. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom :-)

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 pounds beef brisket, cut across the grain in 2-inch strips
    Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
    8 ounces petite mushroom caps, sliced in half
    1 medium onion, diced
    2 teaspoons minced garlic
    2 cups beef broth, divided
    3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    3 tablespoons corn starch
    12 ounces egg noodles, prepared according to package
    1 cup sour cream

    1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large pan. Season the beef with salt and pepper on all sides. Add half of the beef to the pan in a single layer. Brown for 3-4 minutes on each side. 
    2. Add the meat to the slow cooker. Repeat the browning process with the other half of the beef.
    3. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes or until browned.
    4. Add the onion, mushrooms and garlic to the slow cooker.
    5. Pour 1-1/2 cups beef broth and Worcestershire sauce into the slow cooker and stir to combine.
    6. Cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8 hours.
    7. One half hour before serving, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup beef broth with the corn starch. Pour the mixture into the crock pot and stir. Cook covered on HIGH for 20 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
    8. Uncover the crock pot and add the sour cream, stirring until a smooth sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    9. Turn off slow cooker. Add the cooked egg noodles into the slow cooker and stir until they are fully coated in the sauce. Serve.

    Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

    Grogs and Goldie, 1956

    Saturday, November 9, 2019

    Pork Chops in Lemon-Caper Sauce

    This week Toni Tipton-Martin released her new cookbook, "Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking. Sam Sifton, a New York Times food writer (and one of my personal favorites), called this recipe from Toni's book "glorious and elegant" and heralded it as his new favorite recipe. As soon as I finish this blog, it's off to my neighborhood grocery store (Jerry's) to gather the ingredients as tonight this is what's for supper in the Gruggen household!

    4 bone-in pork chops (8 ounces each)
    Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    4 tablespoons butter
    1 small shallot, minced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
    1 cup dry white wine
    1-1/2 cups chicken stock
    2 tablespoons drained capers
    2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
    1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
    2 tablespoons lemon juice

    1. Dry the chops with paper towels and season aggressively with salt, pepper and the thyme. Swirl the olive oil into a large skillet and heat over medium until the oil begins to shimmer. Add chops, and cook until well browned on each side and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a plate, and cover to keep warm.
    2. Drain the fat from the skillet, then melt 2 tablespoons of butter in it over medium heat until sizzling. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté until the aromatics soften, reducing the heat if necessary, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the wine and chicken stock, raise heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half, 7 to 10 minutes.
    3. Stir in the capers, parsley, lemon zest and juice and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until it’s melted and the sauce looks smooth. Nestle the pork chops into the sauce and allow them to warm up for a couple of minutes, then serve, pouring sauce over each pork chop to taste. Garnish with more fresh parsley.

    Wine pairing: Merlot

    Grogs and Goldie, 1956

    Saturday, November 2, 2019

    Slow Cooker Beef Ramen Soup

    It's November in Minnesota and the meteorologists are already talking about windchill. (Windchill is 22º here this morning while the ambient temperature is 33º.) Whenever I hear windchill, I think about reaching for my slow cooker and making some soup.

    This" Let's Dish" recipe is quite simple and the slow cooker makes it a breeze. But if you want to make it special, I made a couple of changes. The recipe called for stew meat, but I substituted boneless short ribs. It dramatically elevates the taste and makes for a big jump in the texture of the cooked beef (melt-in-your-mouth delicious).

     The second change I made was to the ramen noodles. The recipe called for regular ramen noodles...the kind that were the staple of our diet in our college days. But I used Lotus Foods Organic Millet and Brown Rice Ramen. They are delicious...gluten free...vegan...and loaded with 8 grams of protein. If your local grocery store doesn't carry them, they are available at both Costco and

    Blogger's Note: This recipe will make four, entree size bowls of soup. If you are using it as a side dish, this will make eight, 1-cup servings.

    2 pounds boneless short ribs, cut into 1-inch cubes
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    1 small yellow onion, diced
    6 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon fresh chopped ginger
    8 cups beef broth
    8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1 tablespoon fish sauce
    2 teaspoons sesame oil
    8 ounces snow peas
    Juice of one lime
    4 chopped scallions 
    2 cakes ramen noodles
    1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
    Chili oil (for garnish)


    1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add stew meat, working in batches so as not to crowd the pan and sear until well browned. Transfer to slow cooker.
    2. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, beef broth, mushrooms, soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil to the slow cooker with the beef. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
    3. About 30 minutes before serving, add the snow peas, lime juice and green onions to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
    4. Meanwhile, cook the Ramen noodles according to package directions. Place cooked noodles in individual bowls and ladle the soup over top. Garnish with chopped cilantro and a splash of chili oil. Serve with Sriracha Sauce on the side.

    5. Wine pairing: Zinfandel

      Grogs and Goldie, 1956

      Saturday, October 19, 2019

      Espresso-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

      “You can’t buy happiness but you can buy coffee and that’s pretty close.”

      I love the taste of a big, bold cup of dark roast coffee. And the taste of coffee really enhances the taste of grilled and roasted meats. I know because I have posted two of my favorite coffee rub recipes on this back ribs and steak.

      Coffee takes a rather bland cut of meat, pork tenderloin, to a very special place. This Sarah Karnasiewicz recipe calls for espresso powder, which I source from and always keep in my pantry. But in reality, any dark roast coffee will do. If you have beans and a grinder...get grinding. If you have Nespresso or Keurig dark roast pods, just peel off the lids and use that. Even dark roast instant coffee will work. Just don't use decaf. That stuff is a crime against all humanity.

      1 (1-1/2 pound) pork tenderloin
      3 tablespoons espresso powder
      1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon brown sugar
      1 teaspoon sweet paprika
      1 teaspoon smoked paprika
      2 teaspoons kosher salt
      1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
      2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
      1 tablespoon butter


      1. Preheat oven to 400º.
      2. Combine the espresso powder, brown sugar, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the mixture over the pork until the surface is entirely coated. Drizzle pork with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Set aside at room temperature for 10 minutes.
      3. Add the remaining olive oil and butter to a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. When skillet is hot, add the pork and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.
      4. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. 
      5. To serve, slice tenderloin into rounds and drizzle with pan juices.

      Wine pairing: Merlot

      Grogs and Goldie, 1956

      Saturday, October 12, 2019

      Chicken Cutlets with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

      click to enlarge

      October marks the start of year 11 of writing this blog. In the past, I was religious about pumping out a new blog every Saturday morning. Truth be told, I'm not compelled to do so any more because I feel the need to make sure that it is a really good recipe before I add it to this body of work.

      I'm a subscriber to Flipboard and Apple News +, both which allow you to create a fresh, daily flow of articles that appeal directly to your interests. Accordingly, I'm exposed to dozens of recipes each day. And a lot of those recipes are just "meh". (I have yet to see an "Allrecipe" recipe that even remotely looks interesting, let alone edible.)

      It's taken awhile, but after nearly 10 years of retirement, I have completely changed up the way I shop. I used to stock up on Thursdays at Costco and whatever grocery store was close by. No more, thanks to a local, sleepy grocery store that transformed last winter from a frog to an absolute jewel of a crowned prince. Jerry's grocery store is less than a half-mile from my house. Incredible organic produce, USDA prime beef, an extraordinary selection of artisan breads and a deli to die for.

      So the new me goes to Jerry's grocery store every single day. I buy only the stuff I need for that night's meal. Which also means that every meal I make is made with the very freshest ingredients. And I no longer plan out a weekly dinner menu. I decide on a dinner each day and then run to the store to get the ingredients.

      On Thursday morning I was reading Flipboard online and came across this chicken cutlet recipe from "Eating Well". It really appealed to me. So, as I always do, I decided to make it prior to posting it on this blog. So I ran to Jerry's, picked up the ingredients and made this for dinner on Thursday night. And I'm here to tell you this is a special dish. It's simple....easy to make...and the depth of the flavors are incredible. You use the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes to sauté the chicken.....and then the tomatoes in the cream sauce absolutely knocks this one out of the park.

      2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
      Kosher salt
      Fresh ground pepper
      1/2 cup slivered, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
      1 tablespoon of oil from the tomato jar
      1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
      1/2 cup dry white wine
      1/2 cup heavy cream
      2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


      1. Cut chicken breasts in half (across the middle, not the long way). Put the chicken pieces in a plastic bag and pound them with a meat hammer until they are a uniform 1/4-inch in thickness.
      2. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat sun-dried tomato oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until browned, about 6 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
      3. Add sun-dried tomatoes and shallots to the pan. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Increase heat to high and add wine. Cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the liquid has mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in cream with any accumulated juices from the chicken; simmer for 2 minutes. Add any additional salt or pepper to taste. Return the chicken to the pan and turn to coat with the sauce. Serve the chicken topped with the sauce and parsley.

      Wine pairing: Petite Sirah

      Grogs and Goldie, 1956

      Sunday, September 29, 2019

      Garlic-and-Gruyère-Stuffed Mushrooms

      Gilroy, California is home to 90% of America's garlic production. Each summer, Gilroy hosts their Garlic Festival, which features hundreds of garlic-forward recipes. This Romulo Yanes hors d'oeuvres recipe is absolutely spectacular.

      1⁄2 cup olive oil, plus more
      20 large cremini mushrooms (separate stems from caps and then roughly chop stems)
      1 small shallot, chopped
      1⁄4 cup dry sherry
      3 tablespoons chopped parsley
      2 tablespoons chopped sage
      1 egg white
      1-1⁄4 cups grated Gruyère
      1⁄2 cup panko bread crumbs

      1. Heat oven to 375°. Toss 2 tablespoons oil, the mushroom caps, salt and pepper in a ziplock bag and transfer to a baking sheet pan. Arrange stem side down; bake until tender, 30 minutes.
      2. Heat oven broiler. Heat remaining oil and the garlic in a 12" skillet over medium; cook until garlic is golden, 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer garlic to a paper towel to drain. Add chopped mushroom stems, shallot, salt, and pepper to skillet; cook until shallot is soft, 3 minutes. Add sherry; cook until evaporated, 2 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; add parsley, sage and egg white and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl; stir in reserved garlic, the Gruyère, and panko. Fill caps with 1 tbsp. filling; return to baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; broil until tops are browned, 2–3 minutes.

      Wine pairing: A Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 

      Grogs and Goldie, 1956

      Saturday, September 21, 2019

      Swordfish Poached in Olive Oil

      I'm a steak lover through and through. The only fish I will eat is tuna poached in olive oil and grilled swordfish. I can now expand my repertoire by 50%, thanks to a new recipe from the Wall Street Journal (actually, chefs Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer). Anyone who has cooked swordfish knows that it gets really dry when introduced to heat. Poaching ensures that the fish stays moist and delicate from the fat in the oil.

      2 thick center-cut swordfish steaks
      5 cups olive oil, plus more to finish
      Zest of one lemon
      12 black peppercorns
      2 cloves garlic, smashed
      1 small dried red chile
      1 bay leaf


      1. In a medium pot, arrange fish in a single layer. Cover with olive oil. Add the next 5 ingredients to the olive oil. Warm over low heat so only a few bubbles rise to the surface at a time. Gently poach fish until opaque and just cooked through....about 15 minutes. Then serve, drizzled with olive oil.

      Wine pairing: A big, oaky Chardonnay

      Grogs and Goldie, 1956

      Sunday, September 15, 2019

      Buffalo Chicken Farro Salad

      Becky came across a neat entree salad recipe from Half Baked Harvest. That recipe called for the grain to be quinoa. So I followed the recipe and we ended up not liking the meal. The quinoa made the salad bland and mushy. But the recipe had some really good bones, so a few days later I switched the recipe up and substituted farro for the quinoa. The nutty taste of the farro and the more substantial texture made the salad so much better. This is a tasty dinner meal and so easy to make!


      For the Dressing
      1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
      1/3 cup olive oil
      1 teaspoon seasoned salt (Lawry's recommended)

      For the Salad
      3/4 cup farro
      2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
      1 cup broccoli florets
      3/4 cup shredded carrots
      3/4 cup shredded cabbage
      4 green onions, chopped
      1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles


      1. Cook the quinoa in 3 cups of salted water for 30 minutes. Then drain and let cool.
      2. Heat a medium size skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of oil and chicken and cook for 5 minutes. When chicken is cooked, add 1/4 cup of the dressing and cook until chicken has absorbed the dressing. Remove from heat.
      3. In a large bowl, combine farro, chicken and vegetables with as much dressing as desired. Toss to mix and then serve on plates. Garnish with blue cheese crumbles.

      Wine pairing: Chardonnay

      Grogs and Goldie, 1956

      Saturday, September 7, 2019

      Baked Italian Mac and Cheese

      Regular readers of my blog understand my total disdain for Mac and Cheese. It was a repeat player in my mother's limited menu repertoire. Oh, the horror. To this day, I find it preferable to have a colonoscopy rather than eat Kraft Mac and Cheese.

      This weekend marks my favorite Formula 1 race of each season....the Italian Grand Prix. My joy is immense as the Monza racetrack is the fastest circuit in Formula 1. It is also the home race for one of my favorite teams...Ferrari.

      So in the interest of honoring my favorite race and giving you a really tasty alternative to the absolute worst dish in the entire world........ladies and gentlemen.........welcome, if you will....Baked Italian Mac and Cheese!

      1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
      1 large onion, diced
      2 cloves garlic, minced
      1 red bell pepper, diced
      16 ounces cavatappi pasta
      16-ounce jar marinara sauce
      Kosher salt
      1/4 cup heavy cream
      2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided


      1. Preheat oven to 350º.
      2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cavatappi and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.
      3. In a large oven-safe skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat. Keep breaking up sausage with a wooden spoon until seared and no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add onion, garlic and bell pepper. Cook, stirring until soft, 5 minutes more.
      4. Remove from heat. Stir in pasta, marinara, heavy cream and 1 cup of mozzarella. Mix well. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the skillet. Slide skillet into the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Serve.

      Wine pairing: Chianti Classico

      Thursday, August 29, 2019

      Crab Cake Pasta

      click to enlarge

      Have you ever made crab cakes from scratch? I have....and it can become a chemistry experiment gone awry in a very big hurry. It's not easy getting all those ingredients just right and formed into little hockey pucks that will not fall apart when you cook them.

      And that is exactly why I am in love with this recipe by Emma Laperruque. She uses the very same ingredients you would use to make crab cakes...and makes it totally stress-free because she is leaving out the hockey puck part. She just tosses everything together in a bowl and adds in those beautiful pasta shells that make perfect scoops for the crab cake stuff. This is genius level thinking here!

      While the recipe calls for jumbo lump crab meat, I would suggest you make the recipe even richer by using the meat from one Alaskan King Crab Leg. I buy mine in bulk from Costco for $21.99 a pound (so that I always have crab legs in my freezer).

      4 tablespoons butter, divided
      2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
      1 small yellow onion, diced
      3 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
       Kosher salt
      1/2 pound jumbo lump crab meat, drained
      2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
      1/2 pound shell pasta (Conchiglie)
      1/3 cup mayonnaise
      1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
      1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
      1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
      10 saltine crackers
      1/4 cup chopped chives


      1. Set a large pot of salted water, covered with a lid, on the stove to come to a boil.
      2. Add 2 tablespoons butter to a very large skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted and the skillet is hot, add the prepped celery, onion and scallion. Sprinkle with a big pinch of salt and stir to coat all the vegetables in the butter. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.
      3. Once the vegetables are tender, push them toward the perimeter of the pan, so there’s a big empty circle in the center. Add another 1 tablespoon butter to melt. Now add the crab meat and sprinkle with salt. Cook the crab meat for about 4 minutes, until it’s just starting to brown in places, flipping halfway through. Pour 1 tablespoon lemon juice on top of the vegetables and crab, then gently stir to incorporate. Turn off the heat.
      4. When pot of water is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente (about 8 minutes).
      5. While the pasta cooks, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Crush the Saltines with your hands, then add to the butter. Toss to coat. Toast the Saltine crumbs for about 3 minutes, or until golden-brown. Sprinkle with salt.
      6. Now, combine the mayo, Old Bay, Dijon, Worcestershire, and remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a big bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
      7. When the pasta is done, reserve ½ cup or so of pasta water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the bowl with the Old Bay sauce, give a quick toss, then add the crab-vegetable mixture, about half the chopped chives, and a tablespoon of reserved pasta water. Gingerly toss again, taking care not to break up the crab lumps.
      8. Serve immediately, with the fried Saltines and remaining chives sprinkled on top.

      Wine pairing: A big, oaky Chardonnay

      Grogs and Goldie, 1956

      Saturday, August 10, 2019

      Grilled Flank Steak with Olive Tapenade and Charred Romaine

      Many years ago, I came across a recipe for a Caesar salad that called for the romaine lettuce to be grilled over fire. I tried it and now I remember how remarkable the romaine tasted after taking a turn over fiery hot, lump hardwood charcoal.

      It had been years since I last charred romaine on the grill, but it all came rushing back last Saturday when I saw Caroline Glover's recipe in the Wall Street Journal. She serves this dish at her restaurant, Annette, in Aurora, Colorado. Thanks to her wonderful recipe, my romaine is headed back to the grill this week.


      One, 1-1/2 pound flank steak
      Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

      2 medium heads romaine, green outer leaves discarded and root end trimmed
      Olive oil

      For the Romaine Dressing
      2 shallots, skins discarded
      1/4 cup water
      1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
      1/2 cup olive oil
      Juice of 1 lemon
      Salt to taste

      For the Tapenade
      1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
      1/3 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
      3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
      3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
      Zest of 1 lemon
      1/4 cup olive oil
      Salt to taste


      1. Make the dressing. Preheat oven to 425º. Place shallots in a roasting pan and add 1/4 cup water. Cover with foil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Transfer shallots and all remaining dressing ingredients to a food processor and blend until dressing is smooth and emulsified.
      2. Make the tapenade. Combine all tapenade ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
      3. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat. Season steak with salt and pepper and grill for 6 minutes, flipping the steak halfway through. Remove from grill, tent with foil and let steak rest for 5 minutes.
      4. Brush romaine with olive oil and grill for 2 minutes, flipping the leaves halfway through.
      5. Remove leaves from grill and toss in a bowl with the dressing.
      6. Slice steak across the grain and arrange over romaine. Spoon tapenade over steak and serve.

      Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

      Grogs and Goldie, 1956

      Saturday, July 20, 2019

      Grilled Steak and Watercress Salad

      Watercress is a favorite of mine. Bright and peppery, it is a remarkable complement to grilled steak. Add in a bunch of strong Thai-influenced flavors...and you end up with an extraordinary entree salad! It's the perfect meal for a hot summer night.

      1 teaspoon hot mustard
      2 teaspoons fish sauce
      1 teaspoon brown sugar, divided
      Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
      1½ pounds boneless rib eye
      1 red Thai chili, very thinly sliced
      2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
      2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
      1 bunch watercress, tough stems trimmed (about 6 cups)
      1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced
      ¼ cup mint leaves
      ¼ cup salted, dry-roasted peanuts, lightly crushed

      1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
      2. Prepare marinade: Whisk mustard, fish sauce, ½ teaspoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon very hot water in a medium bowl until sugar is dissolved; season with salt and plenty of pepper. Add steak to bowl and turn several times to coat. Let sit while you make the vinaigrette.
      3. Make the vinaigrette: Whisk chili, lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil and remaining ½ teaspoon brown sugar in a large bowl. Set vinaigrette aside.
      4. Grill steak over high heat for 4 minutes. Then flip and grill for another 4 minutes. Remove steak from grill, tent with foil and let steak rest for 5 minutes.
      5. Add watercress, cucumber and mint leaves to bowl with reserved vinaigrette and toss to combine; season salad with salt and pepper. Top with peanuts and drizzle with olive oil. 
      6. Slice steak and serve over salad.

      Wine pairing: A big, fruity Zinfandel

      Grogs and Goldie, 1956

      Saturday, July 13, 2019

      Blond Puttanesca

      I'm a steak lover, through and through. Fish? Not so much. When I was a little kid, I got a walleye bone stuck in my throat and that episode totally turned me off to all fish with bones. I'm happy as a clam to consume aquatic shelled mollusks or crustaceans. But not fish. Well, with one exception.

      I am hopelessly addicted to Cento tuna. It is, without a doubt, the best tasting tuna on earth. I buy it by the case and use it on salads and pasta dishes every chance I get. It's cooked in extra virgin olive oil and then packed in cans with extra virgin olive oil. That results in a bigger tuna flavor and firmer texture than tuna cooked and packed in water. Garlic, anchovies and capers come together to make this extraordinary Blond Puttanesca. And Cento tuna puts it right over the top! Added bonus: no bones.

      12 ounces spaghetti
      3 tablespoons olive oil
      3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
      1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
      10 anchovies, chopped
      3 tablespoons capers
      5 ounces baby arugula
      1, 5-ounce can Cento tuna
      1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
      Fresh ground pepper
      Flaky sea salt
      Lemon wedges, for serving


        1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until it is just under al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving 1-1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water.
        2. While pasta cooks, make the sauce: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook until garlic is pale golden, about 1 minute. Add anchovies and capers and cook until anchovies have melted and capers begin to brown slightly, about 1 to 2 minutes.
        3. Turn heat to medium. Ladle 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water into the skillet and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook until mixture is reduced by about half, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in arugula and ladle in an additional 1/2 cup of pasta water, tossing together until wilted. Increase heat to medium-high and scoop pasta directly in to the skillet tossing with sauce until well coated. Add tuna to pasta and toss again until it is just warmed just through, about 1 minute. Ladle in an additional 1/4 cup pasta water or more, to loosen up sauce and toss again. Sprinkle parsley over pasta and toss again. Season with salt and pepper. 
        4. Serve in bowls, with flaky salt, a squeeze of lemon, additional parsley and some more red-pepper flakes, if desired.

        Wine pairing: An Italian Barbera

        Grogs and Goldie, 1956

        Saturday, July 6, 2019

        Grilled Rib Eye with Worcestershire Butter

        Click to enlarge

        In 1835 in Worcester, England, chemists John Lea and William Perrins created a sauce comprised of barley malt vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, cloves, soy sauce, lemons, pickles and peppers. The sauce was so strong that it was deemed disgusting and the barrel was sealed and abandoned in the basement. In 1837, looking for more space, they discovered the sealed barrel. They opened it, only to discover that the mixture had fermented and it was absolutely delicious. In 1938, the first bottles of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce were released to the public.

        The United States has the highest Worcestershire sauce consumption on planet earth. In fact, we consume two times more per capita than anywhere else in the world. To meet that demand, Lea & Perrins operates two plants. One in New Jersey to meet US demand and the original plant in Worcester to supply the rest of the world. It is still made with the original ingredients and each barrel of it is fermented for 18 months before being bottled. It is of interest that the anchovies that go into the sauce are fermented for 2 years in the Lea & Perrins when you pick up a new bottle at the store, it took some 3-1/2 years to get there.


        2 large bone-in, rib eye steaks (about 3 pounds total)

        For the Butter
        1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) softened
        1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
        1 tablespoon minced chives
        2 teaspoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
        1 garlic clove, grated or pressed
        1/4 teaspoon sea salt
        1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


        1. Prepare the butter: Combine all butter ingredients in a bowl and mash together. Spoon the butter mixture onto a piece of parchment paper, form into a log and wrap well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.
        2. Remove meat from refrigerator, season well with salt and let meat come to room temperature for one hour. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat. 
        3. Grill steaks directly over hot coals for 5 minutes (grill covered). Then flip steaks and grill for 5 minutes more (grill covered).
        4. Transfer steak to a cutting board. Slice butter into coins and place them on the steaks. Let steaks rest for 5 minutes, then serve.

        Wine pairing: Treat yourself to an Amarone

        Grogs and Goldie, 1956