Thursday, February 24, 2011

Best Bacon So Far....

I love bacon. I have it for breakfast every morning along with a huge helping of fresh fruit. I've tried bacon from everywhere and even joined a couple of "Bacon of the Month" clubs. Based on my 58 years of chasing bacon, the best I've tasted so far is found right here in Minnesota. It's Wild Boar bacon. And while it is pricey, I've never tasted anything else like it. Check it out here:

Surdyk's Spring Wine Sale

When it comes to wine sales, it's pretty hard to beat Surdyk's pricing. Their catalog is available by mail, in-store or you can download it from There are 56 pages of bargains in the catalog. The sale starts March 2. And if you don't want to make the trek down to 3rd and East Hennepin, delivery is available on orders over $100. Here are my picks for every day wines and also for wines you may want to cellar for the long term:

Best Buys in Every Day Wines (pricing per bottle)

  • Zinfandel: N/V Rosenblum Vinter's Cuvee XXXII @ $8.49 (regular price $13.99), Castle Rock @ $8.49 (regular price $11.99)
  • Chardonnay: Kendall-Jackson "Vinter's Reserve" @ $9.99 (regular price $14.99), Chateau St Jean @ $10.99 (regular price $14.99)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Chateau St Michelle "Indian Wells" @ $12.99 (regular price $18.99), Columbia Crest "Grand Estates" @ $7.99 (regular price $11.99)
  • Meritage: Lyeth @ $12.99 (regular price $16.99)
  • Merlot: Columbia Crest "Grand Estate" @ $7.99 (regular price $11.99), Bogle @ $7.99 (regular price $10.99)
  • Pinot Noir: Montoya "Monterey" @ $10.99 (regular price $14.99), Castle Rock "Cuvee" @ $8.49 (regular price $11.99)
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Kim Crawford @ $12.49 (regular price $17.99)
  • Malbec: Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec @ $7.99 (regular price $12.99)
  • Syrah: McManis Syrah@ $7.99 (regular price $10.99)
Best Buys in Wines for your Cellar (pricing per bottle)

  • Zinfandel: Ridge Pagani Ranch @ $29.99 (regular price $39.99)
  • Chardonnay: Grgich Hills @ $35.99 (regular price $49.99), Rombauer @ $27.99 (regular price $37.99)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Grgich Hills @ $47.99 (regular price $69.99)
  • Pinot Noir: Penner-Ash Williamette @ $37.99 (regular price $54.99), Argyle Williamette @ $19.99 (regular price $29.99)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Clarified Butter

I love the taste of butter, but when you use it for sauteing or frying, it burns far too easy. And when butter burns, it gets terribly bitter. That's why I am a huge fan of clarified butter for sauteing and frying. It never burns or scorches.

It's also great when used as drawn butter for crab or lobster. Just chop up some garlic and toss it in the melted butter,  then just add a little salt and lemon juice. It has a really long shelf life, needs no refrigeration and contains no salt. It's pure and natural concentrated butter with no artificial ingredients or preservatives.

I buy mine at A 10-ounce tub runs $5.97. Follow this link if you are interested:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spaghetti with Chorizo and Olives

Here's a great recipe from Bon Appetite that gives a nice Spanish slant to a traditional dish.

4 anchovy fillets, drained, chopped plus 1 tablespoon of oil from can
1 pound fully cooked Spanish Chorizo sausages cut into 1/2 inch slices
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
1 cup pitted green olives, halved
1/2 cup drained capers
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons dried oregano
16 ounces spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Heat oil from anchovies in heavy, large deep skillet over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add cooked Chorizo and cook until beginning to brown (about 4 minutes), stirring often.
  3. Add anchovies and garlic, stir 1 minute more.
  4. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, paprika and oregano. Stir and simmer.
  5. Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente (1 minute less cooking time than packaging calls for).
  6. Drain spaghetti. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and stir to coat noodles.
  7. Divide spaghetti among plates and top with sauce.
Wine pairing: Rioja

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weapons of Choice: Salt and Pepper

Most of my recipes call for Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Pictured above are my weapons of choice.

I like kosher salt as the salt flakes are huge. The large surface area means that I can actually use less salt than regular table salt. And of all the Kosher salt I've tried, Morton has the biggest flakes.

My pepper of choice is Whole Tellicherry Peppercorns. They are imported from southern India by Costco and sold under the Kirkland brand. These peppercorns are big, robust, pungent and fruity.

My pepper mill of choice is a Unicorn Magnum Plus. Mine is over 10 years old and performs every bit as well as the first day I took it out of the box. You can check it out here:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Mock" Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This recipe by George Stella is a family favorite and it's very healthy as it is made with cauliflower instead of potatoes. It will serve 4 and each serving is just 153 calories.

1 medium head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon of cream cheese (at room temperature)
3 tablespoons of butter (at room temperature)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
10 cloves of garlic
1/4 teaspoon of chicken base or bullion (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 tablespoon of chopped chives plus extra for garnish

  1. Set a stockpot of water to boil over high heat. Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces.
  2. Put a small amount of oil in a small fry pan (I use a quick spray of Pam). Turn on heat to medium high and add garlic cloves. Stir and turn every minute until cloves are toasted and turn dark brown.
  3. After the garlic is toasted and set aside, add cauliflower to boiling water and cook 6-8 minutes. Drain not let the cauliflower cool. Dry between 2 layers of paper towels.
  4. In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, combine all ingredients and puree until almost smooth.
  5. Plate each serving and garnish with the extra chives.

Winter Burgers

During the summer months, I like to grind my own burgers using deliciously fatty short ribs and cooking them up on the grill. Come winter, I don't grill because I hate going out in the cold.

During the winter months, I switch to Costco's ground sirloin burgers. They are made from sirloin instead of miscellaneous beef cuts. They go through Costco's beef inspection program which is far more stringent than the government's meat inspection program. They are absolutely delicious and cost only $2.67 a pound ($15.99 for a 6 pound bag).

And talk about easy to prepare! I heat up a griddle to 350 degrees and throw on two tablespoons of coconut oil (any oil or butter will do). Cook them from frozen for 5 minutes on each side. Toss on a little kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and Worcestershire Sauce and you are good to go.

Wine pairing: A nice, inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tri-Tip Roast

This is one of my favorite cuts of beef. Tri-tip is a small, boneless, triangular muscle cut from the bottom sirloin, usually weighing in at about 2.5 pounds. It's sold under two different names, although it's the same cut of beef: Tri-Tip Roast and Tri-Tip Steak.  This cut of meat has a full beefy flavor, low fat content and is relatively inexpensive ($5.79 a pound at Costco). It's also ridiculously easy to prepare.

Tri-Tip Roast (about 2.5 lbs)
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Oven Roasting Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Rub roast all over with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Place on baking sheet and place in oven for 35 minutes for medium rare. 
  4. Remove roast from oven, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice across the grain (see above photo) and serve.
Charcoal Grilling Instructions 
  1. Prepare coals. When coals are hot, spread them out on just one-half of the grill (so that you have both a direct and an indirect grilling surface).
  2. Rub roast all over with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Place roast on direct heat side (over the coals). Sear, with grill covered, for 5 minutes on each side.
  4. Move roast to indirect side. Cover grill and open vents. Let roast cook on indirect side for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Remove from grill, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice across the grain (see above photo) and serve.
Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Korean BBQ Tacos

I like quick and easy recipes. What makes this quick and easy is buying the pulled pork from Costco (see photo at bottom of this post). If you're going to make your own pulled pork, you are looking at 18 hours on the smoker. Buy this delicious, pre-cooked pulled pork from Costco and you are good to go right out of the chute.

This recipe is so delicious. My family just loves it and it's a world apart from plain old Mexican tacos. It's a very simple recipe to put together, but like many Asian dishes, there are a lot of ingredients. There's not much  cooking or prep, just a lot of combining ingredients. This recipe serves 4-6.

Main Ingredients
2 lbs Kirkland Smoked Pulled Pork
12 flour tortillas (8" diameter)

Korean BBQ Sauce Ingredients
4 tablespoons of Korean fermented hot pepper paste (gochujang)*
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar
4 teaspoons sesame oil

*You can substitute with ground fresh chili paste (sambal oelek). This is in the Asian section at Cub Foods.

Korean Taco Fillings
Korean Cucumber Pickle (recipe at bottom of this blog)
Fresh bean sprouts
Thinly sliced Napa cabbage
Green onions, cut in 1/2" pieces
Sriracha Sauce

  1. Make the BBQ sauce by whisking all ingredients together until sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  2. Heat pulled pork in microwave or on stove top per packaging instructions (or until heated through if you are using your own pulled pork).
  3. Separate pork with a fork and place in a large saucepan. Pour in BBQ sauce and mix well. Turn heat on low to warm the pork and sauce mixture.
  4. Spoon  a small amount of pork into a tortilla and let your guests add their own Korean Taco fillings.

Korean Cucumber Pickle Ingredients
1 large English cucumber, very thinly sliced (mandoline sliced is ideal) 
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Mix all ingredients. I like making it an hour in advance so that "pickles" stay crisp.

Wine pairing: Sauvignon Blanc or Zinfandel.

Buying this delicious pre-cooked pulled pork
from Costco makes this recipe super easy.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps

This dish takes about 40 minutes of prep time. While romaine lettuce can be substituted, I recommend that you use Boston lettuce. I use boneless pork chops for the meat as it adds a little (tasty) fat to the dish and I simply use my food processor to grind the meat.

2 lbs ground pork
6 minced garlic cloves
2 large minced shallots
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
Juice of one lime (plus lime wedges for serving)
2 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Sriracha (chile sauce)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped basil
Salt and ground pepper to taste
1 cup chopped salted peanuts
1 large head Boston lettuce

1. In a bowl, mix pork, garlic, shallots and jalapeno.
2. In a separate small bowl, mix lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and Sriracha.
3. In a skillet, heat oil. Add the pork mixture and cook over high heat, stirring to break up the meat, until no pink remains(about 5 minutes).
4. Remove from heat and stir in lime mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes.
5. Transfer meat to a bowl. Stir in herbs and season with salt and pepper.
6. Spoon mixture into lettuce leaves and top with peanuts.
7. Serve with lime wedges, sticky rice (recipe below) and extra Sriracha.

Foolproof Sticky Rice
2 cups of white rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups of water

1. Put rice in a small pot. Add olive oil and salt. Stir to coat rice.
2. Turn burner on high and add water.
3. When water boils, turn burner to lowest setting. Cover pot and set timer for 15 minutes.
4. At 15 minute mark, turn off burner. Leave pot in place for another 15 minutes.
5. Uncover pot and serve rice.

Wine pairing: If you like white, try an off-dry Riesling or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer red, choose a fruity Zinfandel.