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 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Slow Cooker Spiral Sliced Ham

This is what's for supper at the Gruggen household tonight. And you will be absolutely astounded how easy this meal is to prepare with a slow cooker. But before we get into that, let's talk about the ham.

I'm a huge fan of the Costco meat department. Great quality stuff at unbelievably low prices. And this hickory smoked ham is no exception. Kirkland Spiral Sliced Hams are the very best tasting hams I have found. Our family has tried them all: HoneyBaked, Smithfield, Neuske, etc. Everyone single person in my family agrees that Kirkland Spiral Sliced Hams taste the best. Now get ready for this: Costco sells them for just $2.49 a pound. That's cheaper than weiners!

If you read my recipe for Braised Short Ribs, you know that you can score a good slow cooker for starting around $14. It's an incredibly versatile kitchen appliance that no cook should be without. And with slow cookers, there are no special skills required. If you know how to put a plug in an electrical socket, you are now an expert chef!

One spiral sliced ham (7-10 pounds)
1 cup of water
Aluminum foil


  1. Remove ham from store wrapping and wrap ham tightly in aluminum foil.
  2. Add water to bottom of slow cooker, then add ham. Cover.
  3. Turn slow cooker on high for 1 hour, then low for 8 hours.
  4. When done, remove foil and serve.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

P.S. What to do with leftover ham? Make Wild Rice Soup:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Buttered Farro

Farro is an ancient, whole grain from Italy. Also known as Emmer wheat, it was used to sustain the Roman legions during their extended conquests. The grain is very high in fiber and contains significantly more protein than wheat. Farro is also high in B complex vitamins and contains both simple and complex carbohydrates.

This rustic grain has finally made it to the New World. I have bought it at both Costco and It has a delicious, nutty taste and makes a very healthy substitute for rice or potatoes. It's very easy to prepare. If you like it chewy (my favorite), it only needs to cook for 30 minutes. If you like your grains mushy, cook it for 45-60 minutes. While it can be cooked in water, I find that using chicken broth gives the farro an added depth of flavor. This recipe serves four.

1 cup farro
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted


  1. Bring broth to a boil in a large pot. Add farro.
  2. When broth starts to boil again, turn down heat to a rolling simmer.
  3. After 30 minutes, drain farro in a colander. Return drained farro to pot, add butter and stir to mix. Divide among serving plates.

Braised Short Ribs with Gravy

There is nothing more delicious in this world than a great cut of beef that has been slowly braised for 8 to 10 hours in a slow cooker. And there is no greater marriage in the culinary world than that between short ribs and the slow cooker. This cut of beef is full of collagen, that scrumptious connective tissue that melts away in a slow cooker and yields the most incredible, tender morsels to ever cavort across your tongue.

The beauty of a slow cooker is that it is incredibly easy to can't screw anything up. Everyone becomes an expert chef when you use one. A six year-old who can read and follow a recipe will turn out the exact same dish as Mario Batali. Slow cookers are the great special skills required.

If you don't own a slow cooker, shame on you. I would never be without one. I've had mine for 27 years and, if I keep exercising and eating well, it will serve me another 27 years. There are lots of them on the market and they are priced all over the map. If you don't own one, you can get one for under $20...and it will cook just as well as the $300 model. Here...check this out for just $16.84: Or jump in your car and head to Target...they sell a whole range of slow cookers starting at around $14.00.

There are several ways to buy your short ribs. One cut is called flanken. These are bone-in (cut across the bone) and slightly more fatty. Flanken short ribs are delicious but a little harder to find. If you are a Costco shopper, they sell boneless short ribs in the meat department for the bargain price of $3.79 a pound...that's cheaper than supermarket hamburger!

There's only 10-15 minutes of prep time with this recipe. Then toss everything into the slow cooker and 8-10 hours later your gourmet meal is all set to go. This recipe is from Rival, which is the company that made my Crock-Pot®. It serves 6-8 depending on which type of rib is used (boneless ribs serve more, flanken ribs less). I typically serve this meal with mashed potatoes or buttered farro:

6 pounds beef short ribs
1 cup flour plus 1/2 cup for gravy
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium onions, sliced
1/2 cups beef broth (Rachel Ray recommended)
4 tablespoons butter, melted


  1. Put sliced onions in slow cooker.
  2. Combine 1 cup of flour with salt and pepper. Mix well. Roll short ribs in this seasoned flour mix.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and brown short ribs..
  4. Place browned short ribs and beef broth in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  5. When ribs are done cooking, remove and tent with foil. Pour liquid from slow cooker into a large pot. Add 1/2 cup of flour and melted butter to pot. Stir to mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil (when it comes to a boil the gravy is ready to serve).
  6. Place short ribs on serving plates and top each serving with gravy.
Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah or Merlot

Monday, October 17, 2011

French Onion Soup

This fabulous soup is on my menu card for tonight's dinner. It's a good thing I'm retired because it takes a lot of time to make this soup correctly. For this spectacular recipe from Cook's Illustrated, you're looking at a good 3+ hours of prep and cooking time. The lion's share of the time is dedicated to making sure the onions are caramelized to absolute perfection.

Do not use sweet onions like Vidalia or Walla Walla for this makes the soup too sweet. You want six regular yellow onions. Also, make sure you use quality broths. I recommend Rachel Ray for the beef broth and Swanson Certified Organic for the chicken broth. This recipe serves six.

Soup Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
6 large yellow onions, halved pole to pole and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
table salt
2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
fresh ground pepper

Cheese Crouton Ingredients
1 small baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices
8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese


  1. For the soup: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray inside of heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. Place butter in pot and add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
  2. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.) Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
  4. For the croutons: While soup simmers, arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in 400-degree oven until bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
  5. To serve: Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Giants Sunflower Seeds

Ever since I was a little boy, sunflower seeds have been my favorite snack. In my early years, I'd bike down to the market on 54th and France in Edina where you could buy a nice big bag of Fisher salted-in-the-shell sunflower seeds for just a nickel.

My favorite brand these days is Giants. As their name implies, these sunflower seeds are huge...typically twice the size of regular sunflower seeds. They have a brand new flavor that I really like. It's called Kettle Roast. It's a low sodium version of their regular sunflower seeds that has only 3% sodium. The sodium that is there is from sea salt.

Sunflower seeds are very healthy. They contain the kind of fat that's good for you, are low in carbohydrates, high in dietary fiber and are packed with vitamins. I buy them by the case (12, 5-ounce bags for $25). Check them out here:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Joey's Italian Goulash

My mother's name was Joanne Dunleavy Gruggen. To her friends and family, she was simply known as Joey. This dish is named after her, but it is not the first dish that can make that claim to fame. Family friend Fred Nash, of Nash Finch fame,  first named a sandwich after her...The Joey Balboa. The Joey Balboa was but a simple sandwich that was comprised of bread, bananas and peanut butter. This "three ingredient" recipe structure would become the foundation of her greatest culinary moments.

The "Joey's Italian Goulash" you are going to find on this page is not the Joey's Italian Goulash of my youth. For those of you that have read my grogs4blogs profile, you will note that cooking was not my mother's forte. She was a fantastic mother, gorgeous fashion model, clothes hound extraordinaire, a great wife, a good golfer and one of the most down-to-earth, nicest individuals you could ever hope to meet. Cooking was simply an unloved chore required to keep her family alive.

TV dinners with their delicious aluminum aftertaste were popular a menu entree for her. Kraft macaroni and cheese in a box was a real favorite with her, for she reveled in it's strict, one-pot discipline. And I can't begin to count the sheer number of Mrs. Paul's fish sticks that I wadded into my napkin and threw away (because even our beloved poodle would refuse to eat those compressed crap carp sticks).

She did, however, find a recipe on the side of a jar of Ragu that she actually embraced. And, be still my heart, it required three separate ingredients and two pots! Ain't no mountain high enough.

It was called "Italian Goulash" and bears no resemblance to that exotic epicurean delight, "Hungarian Goulash". It consisted of just three items: a box of cooked macaroni, one pound of browned hamburger and one jar of Ragu. Combine these three magical ingredients, stir and slip it into a 350º oven for 45 minutes and your family is instantly transported to a gastronomic Sicily. Every time she made this meal we applauded her. First, because it did take some effort on her part and, secondly, we were thrilled with anything that did not taste like aluminum.

Once I left home, I continued to make "Joey's Italian Goulash". But as my skills as a cook grew, so did my desire for using top-quality ingredients and I began to modify the recipe. What you will see here is my rendition of it some 50+ years after it's inception. The picture you see above is the dish in it's naked form. I actually top the dish with a very generous helping of mozzarella cheese which browns and gives the meal a little bit of decadence. Okay, a lot of decadence. This recipe serves 8 (okay, only 6 if you have two, really hungry teenage sons that consume an amount of food in a single sitting that appears to be completely disproportionate to the size of the human digestive system). Thanks, Mom.

3 tablespoons salt
2 pounds hot Italian sausage (bulk or sausages with casings removed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped medium
6 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried Turkish oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
64 ounces tomato sauce (or your favorite prepared red sauce)
24 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Fill a large pot with water, add 3 tablespoons of salt and bring water to a boil.
  2. Preheat oven to 350º. 
  3. In a large Dutch oven, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat on high until shimmering. Add Italian sausage and brown thoroughly. Break up/crumble while cooking. When no pink remains, drain and add to a large, oven-proof casserole (must have a top).
  4. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to Dutch oven and add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until softened, about 8 minutes. Add to meat in large casserole.
  5. When water in large pot is boiling, add elbow macaroni and cook for 1 minute less than package instructions. When cooked, drain and add macaroni to meat/onion mixture in large casserole.
  6. Add the following to the casserole: fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme, basil, salt, pepper and 64 ounces of tomato sauce.
  7. Sir thoroughly to combine all ingredients. Press down to compress meat/macaroni mixture, then spread 24 ounces of mozzarella cheese on top.
  8. Cover casserole and put in oven. Cook for 60 minutes.
  9. Open oven, remove casserole cover to let cheese brown and cook for 15 more minutes.
  10. Remove from oven, divide among plates and serve.
Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah

Joey Gruggen

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oops...I Forgot to Chill the Wine!

Who has not committed this crime? Everything is ready...the meal is on arrives in half an hour and then....oops, your bottle of white wine is sitting out at room temperature. So you toss the bottle in the freezer and hope for the best. Problem is, it will take a full hour for that wine to chill down to a drinkable 50º from room temperature.

Worry have a new best friend. Your dish towel. Wrap that bottle of wine in a dish towel, slap it under the faucet for a thorough soaking and then put it in the freezer. Cooling occurs when heat is transferred away from the bottle. Water is a much more efficient conductor of heat than air. So that wet towel will quickly freeze and drop the wine from room temperature to 50º in just 30 minutes flat. Smokin'!

To release the towel from the bottle, just put it under running water for a few seconds.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

One Year Anniversary

Today is day 365 of my new blog. That's right, one full year of blogging is now under my belt. It's been very interesting and I have learned a lot.

In that year, I have had nearly 7,000 visitors (pageviews as Google calls them). Not huge numbers, but still impressive for a non-commercial blog. In the beginning I would get maybe 4-5 visitors a day (thanks, Judy!). I think I clocked around 50 visitors my first month. But traffic has definitely picked up...I had 1,182 visitors in September.

The vast majority of visitors, 88%, are from the United States. The rest are from, in descending order, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Russia, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Philipines and Colombia. A full 53% of the users are using an Apple operating system (Mac, iPhone or iPad) while 39% are still in the dark (Windows). Google search is responsible for over 50% of my traffic while Facebook delivers 6%. I also get a decent amount of referrals from both and .

Here are the most popular recipes (in descending order):

  1. Alaskan King Crab Legs:
  2. Oven Roasted Baby Back Ribs:
  3. Grilled Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions:
  4. Grilled Chicken Breasts with Roasted Garlic Butter Mushrooms:
  5. Grilled Thai New York Strip Steaks with Lime Sauce:
  6. Wild Boar Ribs:
  7. The Loon Cafe's Pecos River Red Chili:
  8. Rocket Arugula:
  9. Grilled Lobster Tail:
  10. Pan Seared Filet Mignon:

Thank you for visiting. I'm glad you came!

Szechuan Pork

I love this recipe. It's simple, fast and oh so darn tasty. The recipe belongs to Mike Murray, a very talented art director that worked at Bozell while I was there. I've been using this recipe for over 20 years and the entire family loves it.

Typical of Szechuan cooking, all of the time is in the prep. It takes only a few minutes of cook time to make the meal. At best, you are looking at 20 minutes from start to finish. How easy is that?

The critical ingredient here is the cornstarch. It serves two important purposes: it gives the pork a nice crispy finish when it is browned and it also acts as a sauce thickener. And what a spectacular sauce it is!

This recipe serves 4 and thanks, Mike, wherever you are. I serve this meal over sticky rice and you'll find that recipe here:

Szechuan Pork Ingredients
1 pound of pork tenderloin or boneless pork chops
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 cup red bell pepper, diced in 1/2" pieces
6 green onions, cut in 1/2" pieces
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 ounces sliced water chestnuts
1 cup roasted peanuts

Sauce Ingredients
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup dry vermouth
2 teaspoons sugar


  1. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve sugar.
  2. Cut pork into 2" julienne slices. Toss with cornstarch to coat.
  3. Heat oil to hot, add pork and stir over high heat until browned (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add bell pepper, crushed red pepper and water chestnuts. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add sauce. Keep heat on high and stir until sauce thickens, 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add onions, stir for 1 minute.
  7. Divide among serving plates and garnish each serving with 1/4 cup roasted peanuts.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weapon of Choice: Potato Masher

The Oxo Good Grips Wire Potato Masher is my all-time favorite for mashing potatoes. The grip gives you incredible leverage and is very comfortable in the hand. The stainless steel masher is the most efficient design I have come across and makes very quick work of mashing whole potatoes.

The force that I am able to exert with this masher also makes it my first choice for breaking apart and crumbling meats like hamburger and sausage. It's easy to clean, dishwasher safe and has the Oxo pedigree for quality. This will likely last you a lifetime. It's just $10.99 and is available here:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sgt. Preston's Roasted Garlic Meatloaf Sandwich

Here's the back story on this sandwich: . In order to make this sandwich, you are going to have to make Roasted Garlic Meatloaf. Here's how to do that: . After you cook it, let it chill in the refrigerator overnight.

When they were serving these sandwiches at Sgt. Preston's of the North back in the 70's, you'd go through a small buffet line set up in the corner of the bar where you'd get to select your bread, meat and garnishes. So what I am spelling out here is exactly as I would order it on Saturday mornings.

2 thick slices of fresh made 9-grain bread
1-2 thick slices of chilled, roasted garlic meatloaf
1/4 onion or more, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard


  1. Lay one slice of 9-grain bread on counter. Top bread with thick slice(s) of roasted garlic meatloaf.
  2. Top meatloaf with thinly sliced raw onions.
  3. Add Gulden's mustard on top of onions and spread.
  4. Top with second slice of 9-grain bread. Slice sandwich in half and serve with Salt and Vinegar Kettle Chips.
Pairing: Spicy Bloody Mary with a beer chaser

Roasted Garlic Meatloaf

Readers of my blog will recall my fond recollection of garlic meatloaf sandwiches at Sgt. Preston's of the North. Saturdays in the fall of the mid 70's were not complete without a little Tony Dungy, Coach Cal Stoll, Bloody Marys and Sgt. Preston's Garlic Meatloaf sandwich. You can read about it here: .

So yesterday I decided to get off my butt and see if I could duplicate what my palate so treasured 35 years ago. I knew I could get the "garlic" part down, but it took me another couple of hours of research out on the Internet and in my cookbooks to complete the whole picture. I spent a few hours in the kitchen putting it all together and I'm happy to say it turned out to be a resounding success. It's not just me saying that. My toughest critics, Judy and Patrick, also gave it two thumbs up. So this recipe will actually spawn two dishes. The first is the Roasted Garlic Meatloaf itself. The second is the incredible sandwich you can make with the chilled leftovers.

The most critical aspect to making this recipe work is the "Free Form Loaf Pan". When you cook meatloaf in a regular loaf pan, it percolates in it's own grease. All that grease causes the meatloaf to fall apart, so you end up with meatloaf "crumbles" instead of nice, firm slices of meatloaf. The "Free Form Loaf Pan" will actually drain away all of the grease. Secondly, when meatloaf is cooked in a loaf pan, only the top browns. When you use a "Free Form Meat Loaf Pan", fully 75% of the surface area of the meat browns. That makes it taste a whole lot better and look a whole lot more appetizing.

This recipe will make 4 entree servings with enough left over to make 4 nice sandwiches the next day. When served as an entree, I accompany it with Onion Tater Tots and a Caesar Salad. If you are going to make the recipe for just sandwiches, you will be able to get 8-10 sandwiches out of it. When served as a sandwich, I accompany it with Salt and Vinegar Kettle Chips. Here is the recipe for the sandwich: .

6 heads of garlic
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground veal
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 1/2 cups bread cubes (I use sage and onion stuffing)
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup A1 Steak Sauce
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions for the Roasted Garlic

  1. Preheat oven to 425º.
  2. Slice the top quarter off each head of garlic.
  3. Place garlic heads on large piece of foil, sliced side up. Drizzle each head with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle each with Kosher salt.
  4. Fold foil over so that garlic heads are completely enclosed. Place foil on middle rack of oven and cook for 1 hour.
  5. Remove packet from oven, remove foil and let garlic cool enough to be handled without burning (about 15 minutes)
Directions for Meatloaf

1. Preheat oven to 375º.
2. Create a "Free Form Loaf Pan".  Fold heavy-duty aluminum foil to form a 10 by 10-inch rectangle. Center the foil on a metal cooling rack and place the rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Poke holes in the foil with a skewer (about half an inch apart). Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Baking sheet with rack and foil cover.

Poke drainage holes every half inch.

3. In a large bowl, squeeze roasted garlic cloves out of each head of garlic.
4. Sautee onions in a small pan until soft (about 5 minutes). Add to bowl.
5. Add all other ingredients to bowl. Mix very thoroughly.
6. Create a loaf on top of your "Free Form Loaf Pan".

Make symmetrical for even cooking.

7. Cook for 90 minutes then remove from oven.
8. Let cool for 10 minutes then slice and serve.

Wine pairing: Syrah or Merlot ( for a special treat, try Rombauer Merlot)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tuscan Steak

This is steak in its simplest form. You are simply going to grill a porterhouse, cut the meat away from the bone, slice the meat and then drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. Once you try this, you will never want to reach for steak sauce again. While just about any good steak will suffice, I recommend the porterhouse. The porterhouse gives you both a full strip steak and a full tenderloin, cooked bone-in for maximum flavor. Serves 4.

2, 16-20 ounce Porterhouse steaks, 1 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons*


  1. Fill a charcoal chimney with charcoal and ignite. 
  2. Season each steak with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
  3. Cook the steaks, 5 minutes per side over direct heat.
  4. When done cooking, remove from grill. Tent with foil and let steaks rest 5 minutes.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut along the bone to remove the strip steak side in a single piece. Repeat for tenderloin side.
  6. Cut diagonally across the meat to create 1/2 inch slices (see small photo above).
  7. Divide slices among plates. Drizzle each serving with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and squeeze one-half lemon over each serving. Serve immediately.

    Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

    *If you are an earlier follower of my blog, you know that I use organic lemon juice from Costco in lieu of fresh lemons: A lemon yields 3 tablespoons of juice, so if you use the Italian Volcano lemon juice, use 1 1/2 tablespoons per serving for drizzling.