Saturday, December 31, 2011

Spaetzle with Kielbasa and Caramelized Onions

This is a recipe that appeared in the New York Times last week and I made it for dinner last night. It was absolutely delicious. This is one hearty dish, a sort of Bavarian, tomato-less lasagna for those cold winter nights. While the dish certainly matches up well with wine, I feel your taste buds would be better served to match it up with a Belgian Chimay ale.

This is a really easy dish to make. There are just 4 main ingredients in this recipe. The first is Kielbasa, that wonderful smoked Polish sausage that is seasoned with garlic and marjoram. It's already cooked, so all you will need to do is brown it. Next comes spaetzle, the German equivalent of pasta. Made with eggs, flour and salt, the Germans eschew the pasta word and refer to it as a dumpling. While the New York Times recipe called for making spaetzle from scratch, I have no patience for that so this recipe will be using spaetzle from a box (see photo at bottom of this post). You'll find it in the grocery store in the same aisle as pasta (Nicht pasta, Dummkopf. Dumplings, meine Damen und Herren!)

The third ingredient is onion. But you are going to turn the onion into little velvety pieces of heaven by caramelizing the thinly sliced pieces. They add incredible depth and sweetness to the dish. The crowning touch, the grand finale, is the Emmentaler cheese. I had never heard of it before this recipe and I was certain I would never find it in the cheese section at Cub I immediately searched the web for a substitute. I am here to tell you there is no substitute for this wonderfully nutty Swiss cheese. You must use Emmentaler. Low and behold, I found it on my first pass at Cub Foods!

This recipe serves six. Count on an hour to make it, from prep to finish. There's about 30 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of cooking in the oven, which gives you ample time to get those bottles of ale opened...perhaps even to down one to make sure the ale will taste OK for your dinner guests.

1 pound smoked Kielbasa, cut into 3/4 inch lengths
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
10.5 ounces spaetzle (one box of Maggi spaetzle)
1/2 pound Emmentaler cheese, grated
1/4 cup salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375º.
  2. Fill a large pot (4 quarts or larger)with water and 1/4 cup salt. Bring to a boil. Add spaetzle when boiling and cook for 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, then lightly brown the kielbasa until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Melt the butter in the skillet. Stir in the onion and thyme, and stir briefly to coat the onion with butter. Cook onion, without stirring, until dark brown, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and cook on low heat until very soft and caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons water and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer onion to the same large bowl as the Kielbasa. 
  4. When spaetzle is done cooking, drain water. Toss the spaetzle and kielbasa in the bowl with the onions, and add 1/2 cup cheese and the pepper. Spread into a 2-quart gratin dish. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the remaining cheese. Bake until golden and bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.  

Pairing: Belgian Chimay Ale 


Monday, December 26, 2011

Eva's Swedish Meatballs

If you are from Minnesota, it is considered a criminal act if you dislike Swedish meatballs. For my son Patrick, there is no meal more greatly appreciated than Swedish meatballs served over dumpling egg noodles. That's what he ordered up for his birthday earlier this month and that's what I'm making for him again this Wednesday night.

This recipe is from my longtime friend, Eva Fisher. Eva is married to my gaming partner, John Fisher. In an act of cruel and unusual punishment, Eva set up John's Xbox Live gaming account and gave him the gamertag, "Fishlips". Your gamertag is what you go by in the gaming world and we must sit through untold mudslinging and ridicule every time we enter a new game lobby and and this new crew of gamers sees this guy named Fishlips. "OMFG, this dude's name is FISHLIPS!".

Eva's recipe serves six (her recipe yields 30 meatballs, so that assumes 5 meatballs per person). I recommend serving them over dumpling egg noodles. Eva also notes that when you are forming the meatballs, having wet hands or chilling the mixture slightly first, will make the task easier.

Ingredients for the Meatballs
1 1/2 cups torn white bread
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1/4 pound ground pork
1 egg
1/4 cup parsley, chopped fine
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for the Gravy
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 beef bouillon cube
1/2 teaspoon powdered instant coffee
1 1/4 cups boiling water


  1. Soak bread in cream for 5 minutes
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet and saute onions until they are soft.
  3. Combine beef, veal, pork, cream-soaked bread, onion, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, ginger and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly until well combined.
  4. Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls.
  5. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the same large skillet and then brown meatballs in skillet. When they are browned, remove meatballs and set aside.
  6. Bring 1 1/4 cups of water to a boil. Add bouillon cube and 1/4 teaspoon powdered instant coffee. Wait until both are dissolved.
  7. To make the gravy, melt 2 more tablespoons of butter over medium heat in the same skillet you used to brown the meatballs. Then stir in flour.
  8. Slowly add bouillon/coffee mixture, whisking as you add the liquid. Cook and stir until gravy thickens and bubbles.
  9. Add meatballs back to skillet. Cover and reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes.
  10. Divide meatballs among serving plates and serve.

Wine pairing: Merlot

John and Eva Fisher

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Costco That Stole Christmas

I just got back from my Thursday Costco shopping trip and I am saddened to report that this beloved store of mine has been bitten by the greed bug. I bought some Alaskan King Crab for tonight's dinner ( I'm used to paying $14.99 a pound for crab, but alas, no. Costco's Christmas price is $19.99 per pound.

The same greed bug has infected the meat department. I'm used to paying between $5.99 and $7.99 a pound for prime rib. The new Christmas price is $9.89! I stopped at Cub Foods after Costco and Cub had it for $8.49 per pound. Now $9.89 a pound is still a heckuva lot cheaper than Byerly's $26.99, but it's the idea of a Christmas price hike that I find especially irksome. Bah humbug.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Weapon of Choice: Nut Chopper

'Tis the season when a lot of recipes call for chopped nuts. If you've ever tried to chop nuts with a chef's knife, you know a lot of those nuts end up shooting across the room like they were expelled from a Glock. Make the job easy by reaching for your apple corer. It's fast, easy and it makes your nut chopping so much more manageable. And, you won't be taking out any family members with that errant pecan. :-)

Prime Rib by Ann Seranne

As an addendum to my prime rib recipe, I recalled a "really old school" prime rib recipe I had read in the New York Times about a year ago. I did some research and tracked it down. The recipe was created by Ann Seranne back in 1966. It is, without a doubt, the easiest and most foolproof recipe for medium-rare prime rib.

This recipe is for a bone-in rib roast. You are going to leave the bones intact. You bring the roast to room temperature, roast it in a 500º oven for a brief time, then turn the oven off and let it sit for 2 hours. That's it. You're done.

One, 2 to 4 rib, prime rib roast, weighing 4 1/2 to 12 pounds
Fresh Ground Pepper

  1. Remove the roast from the refrigerator 2½ to 4 hours before cooking and let it come up to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  3. Place the roast in an open, shallow roasting pan, fat side up (bone-side down). Sprinkle with a little flour, and rub the flour into the fat lightly. Season all over with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the roast in the preheated oven and roast according to the roasting chart below, timing the minutes exactly (the timing works out to 15 minutes per rib). When cooking time is finished, turn off the oven. Do not open the door at any time. Allow the roast to remain in the oven until oven is lukewarm, for two hours. The roast will still have a crunchy brown outside and an internal heat suitable for serving as long as 4 hours after removing from the oven. Makes about 2 servings per rib.

    Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon, Amarone or Barolo

Prime Rib (New School and Old School)

Jim Arnost wrote and suggested I post a Prime Rib recipe in time for Christmas. I anguished over this as there are a million different ways to cook prime rib. It's a huge piece of meat that without the proper technique, it's all too easy to finish with a perfect crust on the outside and everything on the inside is raw. I decided to go ahead and do the post and I will cover my two favorite ways to cook prime rib. One is New School, using a convection oven to great advantage. The other is Old School, simply using a regular oven. If you want to grill, see my note at the very bottom.

Prime rib is one of my very favorite meals. Absolute nirvana. I make it a lot during the year and it is always on the table for Christmas Day dinner. Christmas Day dinner is always the same. Roasted prime rib with horseradish and au jus. Roasted baked potato ( And Caesar Salad from scratch (

Prime rib at Christmas can be an expensive proposition. If you head to Byerly's and opt for dry-aged, it will set you back $26.99 a pound. If you go to Costco, you will find spectacular USDA Choice prime rib roasts for somewhere between $5.99 and $7.99 a pound. Costco is where I always get my prime rib roasts. There is so much marbling in the Costco roasts that it makes no sense to opt for more expensive roasts. The taste difference between a $26.99 per pound dry-aged roast and $5.99 USDA Choice roast is so small as to be insignificant. Buy the cheaper cut and splurge on an extra special bottle of wine!

Next, your choices will be between bone-in and boneless. In the old days, I always opted for the former. But ever since I got a convection oven, I have gone with the simpler boneless cut. If you opt for bone-in, you'll have to do a little butchering before you cook the roast. You will need to cut the chine bones from the roast and then tie them back together (or have your butcher do that for you). A little bit of a hassle, but not insurmountable. The bone-in cut will have more flavor, but it is not a huge difference, especially if you are convection roasting. To keep things simple, I'm using boneless for both of my recipes.

There are three essential items when I make prime rib. First is the seasoning for the roast. I use Byerly's Dry-Aged Beef Seasoning. It's available at Byerly's, Lunds and online for $7.49 ( If you don't have it, use an equal blend of Kosher salt, fresh ground cracked pepper, thyme and rosemary. While it's not the same, it will do (the Byerly's seasoning just plain kicks ass). The second essential item is a good horseradish. Don't buy a creamy sauce. Buy real horseradish. And finally, you need a great au jus for dipping the meat in. Everyone in my family is a meat dipper and Johnny's Au Jus is the absolute best.

Finally, you will need a roasting pan with a rack. As this roast cooks, it gives off a lot of fat and you want that fat to drain away. A rack elevates the meat and and ensures that the every single square inch of the prime rib gets roasted. Not just roasted, but actually develops a beautiful, mouth-watering, golden crust. All right, enough discussion. Let's get cooking. These recipes serve 6-8 people (the larger roasts serve more people).


A convection oven greatly speeds up the cooking process and puts a restaurant-quality crust on your prime rib roast. It's the easiest way to cook your prime rib and will deliver perfect results every time you make your roast.

1 boneless prime rib roast, 4-6 pounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-6 tablespoons Byerly's Dry-Aged Beef Seasoning 

  1. Two hours before cooking, set roast on counter and allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Thirty minutes prior to the start of cooking, pre-heat oven. Set to Convection Roast (325º).
  3. Liberally coat roast with olive oil. Rub oil over entire surface.
  4. Sprinkle seasoning all over roast until well coated.
  5. Slide roasting pan into oven and cook for 21 minutes per pound. In my oven, this timing yields a finished roast that is medium rare. Your oven cooking times will vary. 
  6. After cooking is done, remove roast from oven and pan and place on cutting board. Tent with foil and let roast rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Slice across the grain and divide among serving plates.


Using a regular oven, this is the way our mothers made prime rib. First, you are going to brown it in a pan on top of your stove then slow cook it in a 200º oven for an extended time. This can be a bit laborious, so make sure you check out the much easier "Prime Rib by Anne Serrane" on the next blog.

1 boneless prime rib roast, 4-6 pounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-6 tablespoons Byerly's Dry-Aged Beef Seasoning 

  1. Two hours before cooking, set roast on counter and allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200º.
  3.  Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Sear sides, top and bottom of roast until browned, 8 to 10 minutes total.
  4. Transfer roast, fat side up, to roasting rack and sprinkle Dry-Aged Beef Seasoning generously over roast. 
  5. Roast until meat registers 110 degrees with a meat thermometer, about 3 hours.
  6. Turn off oven; leave roast in oven, opening door as little as possible, until meat registers about 120 degrees for rare or about 125 degrees for medium-rare, 30 to 45 minutes longer. 
  7. Remove roast from oven (leave roast on roasting rack), tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 45 minutes. 
  8. Adjust oven rack about 8 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Remove foil from roast, form into 3-inch ball, and place under roast to elevate fat cap. Broil until top of roast is well browned and crisp, 2 to 8 minutes.
  9. Transfer roast to carving board. Slice across the grain and divide among serving plates.
Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon, Amarone or Barolo

Note on Ovens: Oven cooking times vary substantially. If you want your roast to be precisely the way you like it, use a meat thermometer.

Note on Grilling: If you have a Weber Kettle, you can use the New School recipe. Set up your grill for indirect cooking and keep the roast on the indirect side. Because Weber Kettles create a convection oven effect, the recipe will turn out identical as long as you maintain that 325º temperature.

Note on 3rd Method, "REALLY OLD SCHOOL". Check this out:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Grilled Pork Chops with Arugula and Grapes

Here's a recipe from that will make you wish that you have a grill pan on Santa's list ( My good friend Ron in San Francisco just went from house to condo which also necessitated a move from backyard weber grill to grill pan....and he is loving his!

This recipe is really simple, 100% Paleo (if you forego the gorgonzola) and contains the Gruggens' favorite leaf vegetable, arugula. Arugula has a rich, peppery taste. It has such a strong, exceptional flavor that it is truly one of a kind for a leafy green. It is also incredibly rich in vitamin C and potassium. It's simply amazing that something that tastes this good is also good for you!

This recipe will take only take 25 minutes from start to finish...about 15 minutes of prep and 10 minutes cooking time. Clean up is a breeze as well, especially if you have a Scanpan non-stick grill pan. This recipe serves four.

1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 pork chops (about 5 ounces each)
3/4 cup red seedless grapes, halved
4 heaping cups baby arugula
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola


  1. Combine the shallot, vinegar, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, starting with a few drops and adding the rest in a steady stream. 
  2. Put the pork chops in a shallow dish and season all over with salt. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Coat the pork and set aside to marinate for 5 minutes.
  3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the pork until cooked through but still moist, 4 to 5 minutes per side. 
  4. Add the grapes and arugula to the remaining dressing and toss to coat. Transfer the pork chops to a serving platter or individual plates; top with the salad and sprinkle with the gorgonzola.

Wine pairing: Bordeaux, Barbera or Zinfandel

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Weapon of Choice: Cast Iron Pan

I would never consider a kitchen complete without a huge honkin' cast iron pan. In fact, I own two of them. I've had them for over 25 long that the company that made them, Wagner, is no longer in business. Fortunately, a company named Lodge is still around and turning out great cast iron pans.

The beauty of a cast iron pan is it's ability to hold heat. Once you've cranked the flame up to high and let the pan heat up, this pan will hold the heat no matter how cold a piece of meat you throw on it. This makes cast iron pans perfect for searing meat. It's my pan of choice for  searing steaks ( and seafood (

Cast iron pans just get better with time. The cast iron will become totally non-stick within your first several uses.  For cleaning, you just hose them down with water and wipe them not use soap or abrasives.

I recommend that you buy a big one...both of mine are 13 1/4" and tip the scales at 9 1/2 pounds each. Amazon sells this size pan (pre-seasoned, no less) for just $31.99: ( And check out the 700+ reviews while you are there!

Cast iron pans never wear out, so if you find one you like at a garage sale or on e-bay, grab it. Doesn't matter if it's rusty and can restore it to perfect condition with only about 30 minutes of work. And if you happen to find a Wagner or a Griswold, do not let it go! They are worth big bucks in the collector market.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Korean Short Rib Soup

"Too much of a good thing can be wonderful."
Mae West

Like all cooks, I tend to go through periods of obsession. I become fixated on a particular ingredient or taste and find myself making meals around the object of my obsession. Lately it's been short ribs. Last week I made braised short ribs. Then I was going to make beef vegetable soup out of beef shanks...but Cub was out of beef shanks. So I bought short ribs and made the most incredible soup from them...but I will save that for a future post.

I was just surfing the web last week looking for short rib recipes when I came across this gem on I made it for dinner last night and it was a huge hit with the family. Both boys had enormous second helpings! And the meal was incredibly easy to make as the soup is cooked in a slow cooker.

If you are a fan of Pho Bo, the Vietnamese soup made with beef and rice noodles, you will love this soup. It's a lot like Pho Bo but with a Korean flair. The flavors are deeper and there is a hint of heat from the sambal oelek. But the crowning glory is the short ribs. They simply melt in your mouth after braising for eight hours in this incredible broth. Short ribs! Shout it out!

So grab your slow cooker and get cooking. While the recipe does not call for browning the short ribs, I always brown my meat before sliding it into the slow cooker. I like the flavor boost that browning provides. This recipe will serve six of your soon-to-be best friends.

Soup Ingredients
5 pounds beef short ribs
4 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sambal oelek (or chili garlic paste/sauce)
2 tablespoons dark (toasted) sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced (separate whites and greens)

Noodles and Garnishes
14 ounces rice noodles
1 carrot, grated
1 small Kirby cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, torn
3 limes, cut in wedges


  1. (Optional) Brown short ribs in a large skillet over high heat. Then place them in the slow cooker.
  2. Whisk together the broth, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, chili paste, sesame oil, garlic, and scallion whites. Pour over the ribs. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. About 10 minutes before serving, put the rice noodles in a bowl with boiling water to cover. Soak until tender and pliable, about 10 minutes.
  4. Divide the noodles among 6 large, shallow bowls and ladle the broth from the slow cooker over the top. (Cut the meat from the ribs if desired.) Divide the meat evenly among the bowls. Garnish with the carrots, cucumber, cilantro, lime wedges and the remaining green parts of the scallion (and more chili paste, if you'd like more heat).

    Wine pairing: Zinfandel

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Midnight Pasta

This recipe from David Tanis appeared in the New York Times last week. I liked the look of it, so I made it for the family Thursday night. It was fantastic! The concept is simple. It's late at night and you're hungry. Not just hungry...starving. Nothing quite fills the bill like a fresh plate of pasta with a few high quality ingredients: olive oil, fresh garlic, capers and anchovies. This recipe serves four. If you want to make it for two, just cut everything in half.

1 pound spaghetti
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, chopped
8 anchovy filets, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. Put the spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water and cook for one minute less than package instructions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, without letting it brown. Stir in the anchovies, capers and red pepper and cook for a half-minute more, then turn off the heat.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour in the garlic mixture and toss well to coat. Serve with grated Parmesan if desired. 

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Easy Sauce and Gravy Thickener

I like my sauces and gravies thick. They should easily coat a spoon. There are lots of ways to thicken up a sauce or gravy. Arrowroot, baking soda, corn starch, flour, etc. But they all involve a bit of chemistry and they need to mix with something (like butter or water) before you use them.

I found the easiest way to thicken a  sauce or gravy is to use potato buds. Just pour them in and stir until you get your desired thickness. There's no pre-mixing...they go right into the sauce or gravy. They are neutral in taste, so they do not alter the flavor. This is an item that no pantry should be without.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Roasted Turkey Legs

Ours is a divided nation. Always two sides to every issue. The same holds true when I host Thanksgiving (as I have done for the last 27 years). You got your white meat folk and your dark meat folk. They just want it their way. Period.

And if you are a dark meat aficionado, you only care about one thing as you go through the serving line: you want a turkey leg on your plate. The rich, dark meat of the leg is exquisite. The leg sticks out from the body of the turkey and gets a 360º roast as a result. The skin is crisp and the meat that lies below is moist and succulent. Like melt in your mouth succulent.

But someone screwed up when they designed the turkey. That frigtard went and made it a biped. You invite 20 people over for Thanksgiving and 10 of them will be dark meat lovers. How do you divide 2 legs among 10 dark meat lovers? Tapas? Whiskey tango foxtrot: no one wants tapas at Thanksgiving.

So I solve the issue every year by buying a dozen turkey legs and roasting them up in the oven. Then I have turkey legs up the wazoo and everyone is happy. The white meat folk gots their white meat. The dark meat folk gots their legs. All god's chillun be happy.

Roasting turkey legs is insanely easy. This makes it a great meal to have any time of the year...not just for Thanksgiving. Turkey legs are especially popular with kids. Not only do they taste great, you don't need utensils. You get to eat them like a caveman.

As an added bonus, turkey legs are dirt cheap. You get a lot of meat for not much money. This recipe serves 4 and can easily be scaled up or down...the cooking time remains the same.

4 turkey legs
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each leg and rub oil over entire leg.
  3. Place legs on a roasting pan or rimmed baking pan. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper.
  4. Place pan in oven and roast legs for 1 1/2 hours. 
  5. When done cooking, divide among plates and serve.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir or Merlot

Another design flaw that was 
subsequently fixed: the biped dog.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scallop Buying Guide

We had pan-seared scallops last night ( They were spectacular because they were in never frozen. They were shipped right from the sea to Byerly's with no chemical intervention by man.

Fresh scallops look like the photo above. Note that they are dry, which is precisely why they are referred to as "dry scallops". If you set them on a paper towel, they give off next-to-no liquid. When you cook them up, they are sweet. They taste like the ocean.

The scallops in the above photo are not fresh. They have been previously frozen. They are referred to as "wet scallops" and when you see them in the store they are often sitting in a white, creamy liquid. They have been treated with a preservative and whitening agent called sodium tripolyphosphate (STP). If you put them on a paper towel, they will give off a ton of liquid. STP increases the water retained by the scallop, often by as much as 30%. So frozen scallops end up being a poor value, compared to fresh, as you are paying for a lot of water.

Sodium tripolyphosphate gives the scallop an unpleasant chemical flavor. It's impossible to get rid of that taste. Your only choice is to mask it by pre-soaking the scallops in a mix of water, lemon juice and salt*. If you care about putting the best tasting and healthiest scallops in your mouth, buy only fresh. There is a world of difference and it will take you but a single bite to discover it.

*Mix 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 tablespoons salt and soak scallops for 30 minutes. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Steamed Artichokes with Melted Butter

Artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables. Most people balk at cooking them because they look ungainly and think they have to be difficult to prepare. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you can hold a knife and boil water, you have all of the skills necessary to cook an artichoke.

We're coming into the time of year when artichokes are in their prime. They're big and the base of the leaves contains prodigious amounts of the tender meat. The light, mellow flavor of artichokes goes especially well with poultry and seafood. I'm making them this evening to go along with pan seared scallops (

The prep is easy. Cut the stem off as close to the bottom of the artichoke as possible. Then cut the top off, approximately 1 inch down. The top should look like this when you are done:

Then all you need is a steamer basket and a small pot to melt the butter in and you are off to the races. This recipe serves four. Remember to put a bowl or two on the table for people to dispose of their consumed leaves.

4 whole artichokes
2 sticks salted butter*

Directions for Cooking
  1. Bring water to boil in a large steamer basket.
  2. Cut stems off bottom of artichokes and trim 1 inch off the top of the artichoke.
  3. Place artichokes in steamer basket, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
  4. While artichokes are steaming, melt butter in a small pot.
  5. When done cooking, place artichokes upright in 4 small bowls. Divide butter among four, separate small bowls and serve.
Directions for Eating
To eat, pull off a leaf and dip the large end of the leaf in melted butter. Scrape the meat off the tender end of the leaf with your front teeth. When you reach the center cone of purple prickly leaves, remove it. This is the choke that protects the heart. Now, scrape away the thistle fuzz covering the artichoke heart. The heart is the meatiest part of the artichoke. Remove it from the artichoke, dip it in butter and enjoy!

The artichoke heart

*If so desired, add some fresh lemon juice to the melted butter.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Favorite Pinot Noir

My toddler/early childhood years were spent in Richfield, MN. 6524 Irving Avenue South to be precise. It was the first house my family ever owned. We were less than a decade removed from the end of WWII and the Korean war was in full swing. But those wars meant nothing to me at the time...the focus of my entire existence was the Creek Indian War.

I spent the vast majority of my time at 6524 Irving thinking about the Creek Indian War. Every chance I got I was out on the swing set in the backyard, singing at the top of my lungs. Singing about the hero of the Creek Indian War, Davy Crockett.

In December of 1954, Disney had launched a new TV show called "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier." Starring Fess Parker, the show ran for 6 seasons and spawned a full-length motion picture. It became my obsession. I spent every waking moment playing Davy Crockett. To this day, my father talks about his memory of me swinging on the swing set, coonskin cap on my head, singing the Davy Crockett theme song, over and over and over and over. I could never get enough.

This last November, my wine cellar was running low on Pinot Noir, so I decided to pit my old favorite against eight, new Pinot Noirs that I had never tasted before. Over the course of three weeks I paired the new ones up with different dinners, hoping that a few winners might emerge.

None of them stood up to my every day favorite, Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. While Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs from Oregon have always been my favorite, it's all but impossible to find a decent one of those south of $30. The Fess Parker wine retails for $28, but I routinely get it for $23 when I buy it by the case.

Fess Parker, star of that 1950's Disney TV show, "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier", started his winery in 1987, 27 years after the series was canceled.  His 714 acre vineyard has won numerous awards through the years. He died in 2010 and the winery is currently run by his son, Eli (Fess III) and his daughter, Ashley. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife, his 2 children, 11 grandchildren, 1 great grandchild and me, his ever-adoring fan. And every time I take a sip of his exceptional wine, 57 years of memories come rushing back.

The Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir is incredibly rich and thick on the tongue. You'll taste black cherry, cranberry, mocha, vanilla and a hint of chocolate. It's aged in French oak for 10 months and the 2009 vintage is ready to drink right now. I find the wine tastes even better if you drink it while wearing a coonskin cap.

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree,
Killed him a bear when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier.

He fought single handed through the Injun war,
Till the Creeks was whipped and peace was restored.
And while he was handling this risky chore,
Made himself a legend, forevermore.
Davy, Davy Crockett the man who don't know fear.

When he lost his love, and his grief was gall,
In his heart he wanted to leave it all,
And lose himself in the forest tall,
But he answered instead, his country's call.
Davy, Davy Crockett, the choice of the whole frontier

He went off to Congress and served a spell
Fixin' up the government and laws as well.
Took over Washington, so we hear tell,
And patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell.
Davy, Davy Crockett, seein' his duty clear. (Serving his country well)

When he come home, his politickin' done,
The western march had just begun.
So he packed his gear, and his trusty gun
And lit out a grinnin' to follow the sun.
Davy, Davy Crockett, Leadin the Pioneers.

His land is biggest, and his land is best
From grassy plains to the mountain crest
He's ahead of us all in meeting the test
Followin' his legend right into the West
Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wide Frontier
King of the Wild Frontier.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chicken Breast Sauté in Chive Cream Sauce

The cream in this sauce is sour cream and it makes for one incredible sauce. While it tastes rich beyond belief, this is actually a very healthy meal. If you so desire, you can make it a little less healthy by including some crusty bread to dip in the sauce.

For those of you that have made my grilled chicken breast recipe, we are going to follow a lot of the same protocol here. The key thing is we are going to pound the kitchen breasts with a mallet to make them the uniform thickness. That makes the sautéing part a whole lot easier...each breast is uniform and requires the identical cooking time.

I found this recipe in Eating Well Magazine back in January of 2006. I often serve it with sautéed asparagus spears or  "Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes" ( This recipe serves four and takes about 35 minutes from start of prep to finish.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup flour plus 1 tablespoon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
14 ounces chicken broth
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chopped chives


  1. Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow glass baking dish and dredge the chicken in it. Discard the excess flour.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour; stir to coat. Add wine, broth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil, stirring often.
  4. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until heated through and no longer pink in the center, about 6 minutes. Stir in sour cream and mustard until smooth; turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. Stir in chives and serve immediately.

Wine pairing: I would recommend an "unoaked" chardonnay. Try Toad Hollow "Francine's Selection".

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Easy Roasted Turkey

I'm going old school this year...the way I first started cooking turkey back in the early 80's. I'm going to use a cooking bag. First, because it is just so easy. Second, because it gives you a fantastic, moist turkey without all of the problems associated with brining.

Traditional roasting of a turkey gives you that incredible mahogany skin...a thing of true beauty. But if you roast big birds like I do (20+ pounds), the turkey is going to really dry out in the oven. So to compensate for the loss of moisture associated with conventional roasting of big birds, you need to brine the turkey. I find brining a huge hassle. Great results, but a huge hassle. Consider that you will need one gargantuan vessel to brine it in. And when you are done brining, that vessel and it's liquid will be more toxic than the Love Canal.

So I'm breaking out the Reynolds Oven Bags...turkey size...made to handle 8-24 pound birds. Open the bag, toss in a tablespoon of flour, a little celery, a little onion, one huge honkin' turkey and three hours later that 21 pound turkey is done. Pop it out of the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes and then carve it up. You will be amazed at how moist and delicious the turkey is. The key?  The oven bag holds in all of the moisture during cooking.

1 turkey (12-24 pounds*)
1 tablespoon flour
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
Olive oil
2 tablespoons paprika
1 Reynolds oven bag (turkey size)


  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Shake flour in Reynolds Oven Bag; place in roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Spray inside of bag with nonstick spray to reduce sticking, if desired.
  3. Add vegetables to oven bag. Remove neck and giblets from turkey. Rinse turkey; pat dry. Brush turkey with olive oil. Sprinkle turkey with paprika. Place turkey in bag on top of vegetables.
  4. Close oven bag with nylon tie; cut six 1/2–inch slits in top. Tuck ends of bag in pan.
  5. Bake 2 to 2 1/2 hours for a 12 to 16 lb. turkey, 2 1/2 to 3 hours for a 16 to 20 lb. turkey, and 3 to 3 1/2 hours for a 20 to 24 lb. turkey. Remove from oven and let stand in oven bag 15 minutes. If turkey sticks to bag, gently loosen bag from turkey before opening oven bag. Remove bag, carve and serve.

Estimate 2 pounds per person for generous servings with leftovers.

Wine pairing: For white, I recommend a Riesling. For red, choose a Pinot Noir or Syrah.

Making the stuffing on Thanksgiving day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Peel and Eat BBQ Shrimp

I'm a big fan of Bobby Flay. I think I have seen every single "Boy Meets Grill" show that he has filmed for the Food Network. My favorites are the ones where he appears with his lovely wife, Stephanie March, of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" fame. It's not that she brings a lot to the food party, I just happen to find her much more attractive than Bobby.

This Bobby Flay recipe works great for serving appetizers to a large crowd or entree portions for 8-10. Because shrimp cook so quickly, you can easily use a grill pan to make this recipe on your stove top ( After you heat the grill pan, your shrimp are ready in just 4 minutes. However, if you are so inclined, feel free to fire up your outdoor grill and make a full-fledged production out of it. Toss on some mesquite for a smoky flavor!

Buy fresh shrimp that are 21 to 24 pieces per pound and make sure that they have the shells on. The secret to peel and eat shrimp is the "peel" part. It gets the delicious spices all over your fingers and flavors every single morsel of shrimp that you pop in your mouth. You'll also need skewers. While I prefer metal skewers, you can also use wood ones that have been soaked in water for 20-30 minutes.

1/4 cup smoked sweet paprika
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black
2 pounds shrimp (21-24 count, shell on)


  1. Whisk together the paprika, ancho powder, brown sugar, cumin, garlic, canola oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Place shrimp in a large bowl, add the spice rub and and stir well to coat each shrimp.
  3. Heat your grill pan (or grill) to high.
  4. Skewer shrimp and place on grill pan for 4 minutes, flipping skewers half way through.
  5. Remove shrimp from skewers and place on large serving platter.

Pairing:  Sauvignon Blanc or ice cold beer.

Bobby Flay and Stephanie March

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Roasted Carrots

"Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? Not just eat it, but taste it?
You can't taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie."
Astria Alauda

First, make sure the carrots are nice and dry. Wet carrots will not caramelize.  Second, pick carrots that are as close to uniform in size as possible. Trim and halve them as necessary. This will ensure even cooking and browning. Third, if available, pick baby carrots with the greens still attached. Carrots that have the greens attached are always the freshest (it means they were plucked from the earth within the last three weeks). This Cook's Illustrated recipe serves 4-6 people (go here if you'd like to subscribe to Cook's Illustrated:

1 1/2 pounds carrots, green tops removed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425º. 
  2. In large bowl, combine carrots with butter, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Transfer carrots to foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and spread in single layer.
  3. Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook, stirring twice, until carrots are well browned and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. 
  4. Transfer to serving platter and serve. 

Herb-Crusted Pork Rib Roast

This is a spectacular cut of meat. Also known as "rack of pork", it is the pork equivalent of the beef "standing rib roast" (source of prime rib and bone-in rib eye). It's incredibly easy to make and I guarantee it will be a huge hit at the dinner table.

For those of you that follow this blog, it will be no shock that I buy this cut at Costco. It's only $3.99 a pound there which compares quite favorably to the $7.99 a pound price point you will find at most grocery stores. During the holiday season, this cut is tarted up and sold as a "Crown Roast of Pork" and the price for that little bit of marketing madness will push it close to $20 a pound. Go buy it at Costco and use the savings to buy yourself a really nice bottle of wine or half-a-tank of gas.

When you serve it, you'll simply slice between the ribs and give each person a "bone-in" cut. The meat cooking next to the bone imparts incredible flavor and the "bone-in" cut makes for a spectacular plate presentation. No wonder that this is a favorite dish for company: it looks great, tastes great, it's easy to cook and easy on the pocketbook.

This is another Frankenrecipe: one I've put together from several different sources. Make sure you use a pan with a roasting rack for this want it to brown all over while it cooks. It will serve 6-8 people and it's mild flavor makes it pair really well with roasted vegetables (especially those high in sugar roasted carrots:

Roast Ingredients
1 pork rib roast, 5-7 pounds
1/2 cup Dijon mustard

Herb Rub Ingredients
1/1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 450º.
  2. Combine rub ingredients in a small bowl and stir well to mix.
  3. Rub Dijon mustard over exterior of pork roast, then sprinkle rub generously on top of the mustard coating.
  4. Place roast in a roasting rack with the bone side on top (just like the photo above).
  5. Put roast in oven and cook for 15 minutes at 450º.
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 350º and cook for another 85 minutes.
  7. Remove roast from oven, tent loosely with foil and let roast rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove foil, slice between the rib bones and serve.
Wine pairing: Pinot Noir, Syrah or Merlot

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The bad news: My good friend Sparky (Todd Marella) had a heart attack last week. The good news: He is still alive and kicking. Fortunately, Sparky likes veggies and one of his favorites is the Brussels sprout.

Cook's Illustrated was nice enough to feature a new Brussels sprouts recipe in this month's issue of their magazine and I've taken the liberty of sharing it here. This is a very heart healthy recipe, except for, perhaps, the dusting of Parmesan cheese that comes at the end. So Sparky, enjoy this recipe this week, but skip the Parmesan. Here's to your quick recovery!

Brussels sprouts first appeared in Belgium around the 13th century. They are a member of the cabbage, broccoli and kale family. They are very high in Vitamins A and C, folic acid and dietary fiber. They are also believed to protect against colon cancer because they contain sinigrin. I love them raw in salads but have developed a true liking to the nutty sweetness that this recipe yields. This recipe will serve 6 to 8 people.

2 1/4 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 3 additional tablespoons
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Toss Brussels sprouts, 3 tablespoons oil, water, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in large bowl until sprouts are coated. Transfer sprouts to rimmed baking sheet and arrange so cut sides are facing down. Cover sheet tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in 8-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook until garlic is golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Remove foil and continue to cook until Brussels sprouts are well browned and tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to serving platter, toss with garlic oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

Note: If you bought Garlic Olive Oil from Costco last summer and still have it on hand, you can basically  delete the garlic cloves from the recipe and skip step #2. Simply pour 3 tablespoons of garlic olive oil in a small pot, add red pepper flakes and then heat the oil.

Sparky's videogame avatar

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bacon Made Easy

 "Is it Bacon Day?
Homer Simpson

Cooking bacon can be a messy affair. We gave it up years ago and when we started buying Kirkland Fully Cooked Bacon at Costco. It's made by Hormel. It's thick cut, naturally wood smoked and really tasty stuff. 

Talk about fast, you can cook (i.e., heat up) ten pieces in the microwave in just 45 seconds. I usually have two pieces for breakfast each morning and that takes just 15 seconds in the microwave. There's no fuss, no muss and no having to dispose of hot bacon grease. 

The package you see above contains a pound of cooked bacon (which equals roughly 2 pounds of uncooked bacon). It sells for $10.99 and inside the resealable pouch are approximately 50 strips of bacon. A pound of good, uncooked bacon typically costs $ you basically pay $1.00 extra for the privilege of not cooking. That's a really good deal!

Emberger Royal with Fries

Back in the late 1960's, there was a chain of restaurants in Minnesota called Embers. While they managed to survive for some 30+ years past that, they are gone now. My favorite Embers used to sit at 7700 Normandale Boulevard in Edina. Time has erased any trace of the restaurant and that location now hosts a DQ Chill and Grill. Oh, the horror.

I was a student at Edina High School at the time. The Edina football program in the 60's was the equivalent of Eden Prairie today. Under the tutelage of Stav Canakes, the Edina Hornets dominated the Lake Conference. So every Friday night that Edina played a home game, there were two things that were certain. We'd see a great football game under the lights at the Edina High School field and then we'd head to Embers for an Emberger Royal with fries. While us skinny, little 146-pound soccer players could not play football, we could do our best to eat like a lineman.

The Emberger Royal was the quintessential bacon cheeseburger with BBQ sauce. While their recipe called for a quarter pound burger, we will be using a third pound burger for our homemade version. And not just any third pound burger, mind you, but the king of all third pound burgers...Kirkland Signature Sirloin Burgers from Costco. These burgers are so friggin' delicious for two simple reasons: they are made from sirloin steak and they have a 35% fat content. These are the tastiest pre-made burgers on the market today. The only way to beat the taste is to grind your own...a laborious process.

The other trick to making this great meal at home is to have really good fries. Unless you have a deep fryer and an affinity for cleaning up kitchen grease, it's hard to get restaurant quality fries at home. But I have found one product that comes really close and it's easy to make the fries as you bake them in your oven. The product is Ore Ida Extra Crispy Fast Food Fries. I've found that by cooking them on two rimmed baking pans (so they are not crowded) for 24 minutes and letting them rest for 4 minutes gives you perfect homemade fries every time.

This recipe serves four, contains no calories and is both carbohydrate and cholesterol free.

4 Kirkland Signature Sirloin Burger patties
8 strips bacon*
4 slices cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce (I like Ken Davis)
4 sesame seed buns
Salt and pepper to taste
1, 26 ounce bag Ore Ida Extra Crispy Fast Food Fries

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450º.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add bacon strips and cook until crisp. Put cooked bacon strips on paper towels. (Alternately, you could roast the bacon in your 450º oven for 6-10 minutes, depending on bacon thickness.)
  3. Use two large rimmed baking sheets (or cookie sheets) and put half of the fries on one and the other half on the other. Slide the two pans into the oven (on different racks). Switch rack positions 12 minutes into the cooking process. After 24 minutes, remove the pans and let fries rest for 4 minutes (this will crisp them up).
  4.  To cook the burgers, heat a griddle to 350º. (You may alternately use a large skillet or grill at medium high heat.) Cooking the patties from frozen, cook the first side for 5 minutes. Then flip the burgers, add salt and pepper to taste and top each burger with a slice of cheddar cheese. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  5. Place cooked burgers on sesame seed buns. Top each with two strips of bacon and 1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce.
  6. Salt the fries and divide among serving plates.  

* If you want to do bacon fast and easy, check this out:

Wine pairing: Zinfandel

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pittsburgh Blue Review (Edina)

I am a huge fan of Parasole Restaurants. Everything they do is done to an incredibly high standard and they always seem to get everything right. I am madly in love with Manny's, their celebration of all-things carnivore in the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis. Incredible selection of beef and one of the greatest wine lists in Twin Cities!

Parasole has just rolled out their latest concept, Pittsburgh Blue, in the Edina market. Located in the Galleria, it is a welcome addition to the southwest suburbs (which are inexplicably bereft of a decent steakhouse). "Pittsburgh Blue" refers to the way that Pittsburgh steelworkers used to eat their steaks: "charred black on the outside, cold and raw on the inside".

The menu is nowhere near as ambitious as Manny's. This is understandable as Pittsburgh Blue is the start of a chain of restaurants (they have one other store so far in Maple Grove) and Manny's is a one-of-kind mecca for steak lovers.The featured steak on the Pittsburgh Blue menu is filet mignon. While that's not my first love in the beef world, the uniform cut of a filet makes it a chain operator's dream. It's the easiest steak to prepare and cook to perfection every single time.

The Edina location has not been open very long. When we went last night, it was just their second weekend of operation. So far they have just had a soft opening to get things operating perfectly. This turns out to be a very good idea as what we experienced showed they are not yet ready for a hard opening. In fact, we experienced two different restaurants last night (hello Sybil). The food side of Pittsburgh Blue got everything right. The bar side of Pittsburgh Blue was a catastrophic failure.

It was a Friday night and both our boys were out, so Judy and I decided to head to the newest place in Edina. Our reservation was for 6:15pm and when we got there, it was a mob scene. What bad economy? We were seated right away and immediately placed an order for two glasses of our favorite white wine, Conundrum. It's Friday, time to relax and have a nice glass of wine. But then our waitress returned ten minutes after we placed our order and said the bar was really busy and she could not get our wine: "Would you just like to order dinner instead?" My answer was an incredulous "no".

Amazingly, she came back two more times with the same response. You know, it's Friday night....we're out on an all-too infrequent date...and we would really like to relax with some wine. How does one get a wine named Conundrum from a bar that goes by the same name? Well, finally, twenty minutes after placing our wine order, two glasses of Conundrum appeared. Fearing a similar experience with the food, we placed our food order immediately.

On the food side, there was no need for concern. Our salads appeared in very short order and they were extraordinary. Judy had the Spinach Goat Cheese Salad and I had their Caesar. So often these are constructed with pre-made foodservice dressing, but not at Pittsburgh Blue. The dressings were incredibly fresh and delicious. My Caesar dressing had the perfect balance of lemon and garlic...something I never find out in the wild.

Dinner followed right on the heels of the salads. Judy had the sea bass and I ordered the evening's special, a bone-in, dry-aged rib eye. I ordered the steak medium rare and it could not have been cooked more perfectly... a nice, deep char on the outside and a warm red center. It was a most spectacular steak and my heart leapt with joy knowing that  it was now possible to get a great steak without having to drive downtown.

Now, back to the bar called conundrum. When we placed our dinner order, I had also ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir to be served with the dinner. It did not arrive when dinner arrived. I had to remind our waitress to bring it after the food was served. One-third of the way through dinner, she came back without a bottle and asked me if I wanted the wine decanted. I told her I just wanted the wine, no need to decant. Half-way through dinner, she came with a bottle of wine...but not the one I ordered. Two-thirds of the way through dinner, she did show up with the correct wine, but she was unable to open it. She got a manager to open it and he made the first pour...just as we finished our meal.

The manager felt very bad that this had happened and picked up the cost of the wine. It was an expensive bottle of wine and I was most grateful for this kind gesture. But was I surprised? No. This is a Parasole restaurant and as I said at the beginning, they operate at an incredibly high standard and always seem to get everything right. This restaurant is still on it's shakedown cruise and they are working out the kinks to get it running in true Parasole fashion. I would have definitely preferred wine with dinner over a free bottle after dinner, but they did the right thing.

I'm here to tell you that the food side of the restaurant is fabulous. Knowing Parasole, they will get the bar side up to their usual high standard. I strongly encourage you to give it a's that good. Judy and I are headed back there at our earliest convenience. But you better get there fast, for the minute they are firing on all cylinders you won't be able to get a reservation to save your soul. And that, too, will be a conundrum.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I love roasted pumpkin seeds. You can't get them store-bought. If you want to enjoy perfection, you simply have to roast them yourself. This recipe is from Kathy Pinkham, wife of my longtime boyhood friend, Jeff Pinkham. This roasted pumpkin seed recipe has a definite Mexican slant and would probably qualify as "pepitas", the term by which they are known in Mexico.


2 quarts water
2 cups cleaned pumpkin seeds
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste*

  1. Preheat oven to 225º.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain pot and dry seeds on a paper towel.
  3. Place seeds in a large skillet over medium heat. Pour melted butter and Worcestershire sauce over seeds. Add garlic powder, cumin, basil, salt and cayenne pepper. Sauté for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Place seeds in a shallow baking pan, spreading evenly so there is no overlap. Bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Finished seeds should be golden brown and crisp.

*Cayenne pepper is very hot, so add in small, incremental measures.

Pairing: El Pacifico Mexican beer

Kathy Pinkham