Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pan-Seared Chicken Breast

The game of Chicken is one of very high stakes. Two cars hurdle towards each other at high speed while straddling the white line in the middle of the road. There is no win/win in the game of Chicken. If both cars swerve, both cars lose. If both cars crash, both cars lose. If car A swerves but car B does not, you have a lose/win scenario. If car A does not swerve but car B does, you have a win/lose scenario. The game of Chicken makes for a fascinating study of game theory. Conflict or choose.

I believed that the game of Chicken had only those four outcomes. I believed that until the spring of 1987, when I actually saw a game of Chicken that had a win/win scenario. Here's how it went down. I was working at an ad agency called Bozell at the time. We were about to record a voice over for a new TV commercial we had just shot. We were at the recording studio, the talent walked in and we recorded his first take.

The guy absolutely nailed it on his first try. Normally, you do a bucket load of takes and then piece together the best performance of each individual sentence into the final voice over. But this talent was extraordinary and crushed it like the pro he was. We looked around, everyone agreed we had it...and we called it a day.

We were quite pleased with ourselves as we returned to our offices. We had the voice over on cassette and sent a messenger with the tape in hand to bring it to our client for approval. A short while later we got the call. The client did not like the voice over we sent them. They asked that we send them the outtakes so that they could pick out a version they liked better. Well, now we were really screwed as we only had the one take. If we had to book a recording studio again and bring the talent back in, we were looking at a $10,000 tab that we would have to pick up.

Then our Executive Producer had a brainstorm. He took the one take we had and dubbed it to a cassette ten times. So when the client got the cassette it would look like ten different takes, but in fact it was just a single recording repeated ten times. The tape was sent off to the client and we waited nervously to hear their verdict. The call came just a bit later. They liked takes #2, #3 and #7. They felt those three were the best and we could simply select any one of those for the TV spot. And thus I witnessed my first game of Chicken that had a win/win scenario. Conflict AND conciliation.

Pan-seared chicken breast introduces us to the study of cooking theory. If you pan-sear a skinless, boneless chicken breast, you end up with a dry piece of meat with not much flavor. If you pan-sear a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast, you will never get the middle of the meat to cook because of the unwieldy shape. So the solution is actually quite simple. You want a skin-on chicken breast so you can crisp up the skin and take advantage of that spectacular flavor. And we will simply remove the bone and pound the breast flat so that it cooks uniformly in the pan. This recipe serves four.

4 small skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Wondra or all-purpose flour (for dusting)
3 tablespoons clarified butter*


  1. Preheat oven to 400º and put a cast iron or steel pan in the oven. 
  2. Using a thin, flexible knife, cut chicken breasts away from bone, leaving skin intact.
  3. Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap (or in a gallon freezer bag) and using a mallet or heavy skillet, pound chicken until each piece is a uniform 1/4" thick.
  4. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dust with flour and shake off excess.
  5. Remove pan from oven and place on burner over medium-high heat. Melt clarified butter in pan. When butter begins to shimmer, place chicken in pan, skin side down. Cook for 6 minutes until skin is brown.
  6. Transfer pan to oven and cook for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and turn chicken breasts over in pan (skin side up). Let chicken breasts rest in pan for 1 minute.
  7. Transfer chicken to serving plates and let rest for 5 minutes. Then serve.

*Clarified butter does not burn, which makes it perfect for this high-heat sear. You can find it at most grocery stores or online:

Wine pairing: A nice oaky Chardonnay

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pan-Seared Pork Chops

Pan-searing is my very favorite way to cook a steak. Talk about easy. All you need is a good cast iron pan, five minutes on the stove top, eight minutes in the oven and you have a steak that rivals anything you can buy at Smith & Wollensky. I eat pan-seared steak at least once a week and I am a much better person for it.

So I've taken my love of pan-searing and am expanding on it. Last night I made pan-seared pork chops for my son Sean and I. What a great meal...pan-seared pork chops, garlic hash browns and a Caesar salad made from scratch.

For pan-searing, a steak needs no extra attention. Not so for pork. Today's pork ("The Other White Meat"...thank you Bert) is very lean and can dry out quickly when pan-seared. Accordingly, we are going to brine our chops before pan-searing them so that they turn out moist and delicious...just like the one in the picture you see above.

Now a word about the pan you are going to use. I prefer cast iron as no other metal holds heat like cast iron. Cast iron goes from stove top to oven without breaking a sweat and it is completely non-stick. If you don't have one, a good steel pan will do. Do not, under any circumstances, use a coated non-stick pan. You can't get a good sear with a coated non-stick pan. This recipe serves four.

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup table salt
10 garlic cloves, crushed
4 bay leaves
8 whole cloves
3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, crushed
4 bone-in rib loin pork chops, 12 ounces each, 1 1/2  to 2 inches thick
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. In gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag, dissolve sugar and salt in 2 cups hot water. Add garlic, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and 4 cups cold water; cool mixture to room temperature. Add pork chops, then seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible; refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 1 hour, turning bag once. Remove chops from brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels. 
  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place cast iron pan on oven rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. When oven reaches 450 degrees, wait five minutes, then remove pan and place on burner over high heat (yes, you'll need an oven mitt, you frigtard). Add oil and heat until shimmering, but not smoking.
  4. Place pork chops in pan and cook for 4 minutes without touching pork chops.
  5. After 4 minutes, flip pork chops and slide pan into oven. Cook for 8 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from oven and remove chops from pan. Tent chops with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
  7. Divide among serving plates and enjoy!

Wine pairing: A nice fruity Zinfandel

Bert Gardner, my Bozell co-worker who
created the line "Pork. The Other White Meat."
RIP, Bert.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Slow Cooker Buffalo Wings

I am blessed with a small group of really good friends. Most of them are from my school days, from elementary school through college. One of my closest friends is Scott Drill...we go all the way back to 3rd grade.

Scott is an amazing individual. Former Minnesota State Wrestling Champion. Harvard degree in economics plus an MBA in the same. Successful entrepreneur. Longtime CEO of two Minnesota companies. World-class poker player, aided considerably by a photographic memory and a knack for numbers like you have never seen. (After winning one tournament, he was given $64,000 in cash. He threw it in a paper bag, plopped it in his trunk and made the two-hour drive home...which I am reasonably certain is not a safety protocol they taught him at Harvard.) And to top it off, he looks like Glen Campbell's little brother.

But like all people, Scott has faults. While they are numerous, I would like to spend a moment on the most egregious one. Scott's biggest fault is that he likes telling jokes. All kinds of jokes. While some are funny, it is incredibly painful listening to him tell a joke. It takes him for frigging ever to tell a joke. Why? He finds his jokes so incredibly funny that he has to pause every ten seconds to laugh at just how funny he is. Let me give you an example. Here's one of Scott's favorite jokes, one he latched onto back in the early 70's:

Two guys are walking down the street when they
come across a giant, male German Shepherd lying in the
middle of the road, licking his privates in earnest. The 
first guy turns to the other and says "Gee, I wish I could 
do that". His friend turns to him and says "You better
 pat him on the head first. He looks kind of mean". 

Now I like that joke. It's quite funny when it is told quickly....a good joke teller could execute that joke in less than ten seconds. The problem with Scott is that he stretches that joke out to about five minutes. He finds it so incredibly funny that he keeps breaking into fits of uncontrollable laughter after just a few words. This laughter goes on for so long that Scott feels compelled to start the joke over from the beginning. So every time he starts to tell a joke, I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. I'm caught in an excruciating time loop, one that unfolds in slow motion, torturing me beyond belief.

I have spoken to his wife about this ad nauseam. While she agrees with me, she has been powerless to reign him in. And the real problem is if we are out in a group and someone laughs at one of his jokes, he feels compelled to share his entire repertoire. That is my idea of a slow and painful death.

If Scott were a cook, his kitchen would be incredibly simple. How complex does it need to be if the cook only has two speeds...."slow" and "stop"? If I were designing a kitchen for Scott, it would only need to be about four square feet. And there would only be two things in that kitchen: a sink and a slow cooker. Just as he does with his joke telling, all of his meals would be done low and slow.

So for Scott's first day in his new kitchen, I am going to teach him how to make Buffalo Wings the slow way. Thanks to the slow cooker, we're going to end up with incredibly juicy and tender wings with a fiery, crisp outer coating. And I must pause here to make a very important point. For the hot sauce, I emphatically recommend "Frank's RedHot". Frank's has a mellow heat and incredibly deep won't scorch the oral cavity of those you love and cherish.

6 tablespoons butter
1 cup Frank's RedHot (or other hot sauce)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne paper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 pounds chicken wings
Vegetable oil spray

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in hot sauce, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and vinegar. Transfer 1/2 cup sauce to slow cooker: reserve remaining sauce.
  2. Mix paprika, chili powder, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Add chicken wings to bowl and toss wings so that they are coated with the mixture.
  3. Transfer wings to slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
  4. Position oven rack 10 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place wire rack in aluminum-foil lined baking rack and coat with vegetable spray. Transfer wings to baking rack.
  5. Brush wings with reserved sauce and broil until lightly charred and crisp, 10-15 minutes. Flip wings, brush with remaining reserved sauce until charred and crisp on the other side, about 5-10 minutes. Serve.

Wine pairing: Sauvignon Blanc or an ice-cold Pilsner

Scott Drill

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Garlic Shrimp with Peanut-Lime Marinade

I have been remiss in my blogging. While I wanted to keep posting about my cooking, I am involved in a somewhat messy divorce that has become distracting.

Last spring, it became apparent that only one of us still embraced our marriage vows. The day after Thanksgiving, my wife moved out to pursue other interests. The boys and I are adjusting well to the bachelor life. So while I still get my daily joy out of cooking for a crowd, it's just a little smaller but, thankfully, much more loyal crowd.

This past week, Patrick turned 16. He scored 98 points out of 100 on his drivers test and is experiencing the ecstasy of wheels and freedom. I remember the that day that I got my license in 1968 like it was yesterday. My mom handed me the keys to the family's 1968 Cutlass Supreme and I drove to the Hub Shopping Center in Richfield to buy myself a new pair of white golfing shoes. There's no cure for bad taste when you are 16.

Sean, who turns 18 in February, has been driving for almost 2 years. Our poodle, Zorro, who faithfully monitors the front driveway, watches silently as Sean comes and goes. He's used to Sean and his Audi heading off to school, CrossFit and to visit his friends. But Zorro is not used to seeing Patrick drive up in his Rav 4. Zorro barks like a crazy man every time Patrick arrives home and parks in his garage stall.  I go to the door to see what all of the ruckus is about, and even I am startled to see the baby of the family flying solo behind the wheel of his truck.

As is tradition in the Gruggen household, on your birthday you get to pick any dinner you want and Dad prepares it to the birthday boy's exacting specifications. Patrick has never met a carb he does not love. Accordingly, he ordered up "Fried Pasta" for his birthday. While this is indeed a delicious meal, it is not what one would call a healthy meal.

I spend 5 days a week doing Wendler Strength Training and CrossFit. Thanks to Damian Hirtz, I've lost 35 pounds. I weigh 175 pounds....exactly the same weight I was as a college freshman. I am fanatical about eating Paleo, but when it comes to Patrick's birthday, I sucked it up and wolfed down the Fried Pasta. So for my penance, I am offering up this delicious shrimp recipe.

Shrimp is a remarkable food, extremely high in protein and very low in fat. So you can eat this meal day in and day out, knowing full well that it is contributing to growing your muscle mass. This recipe from Jamie Purviance can be executed in less than 30 minutes and serves 4-6 adults.

Marinade Ingredients
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons unsalted peanuts
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Shrimp Ingredients
 1 1/2 pounds fresh shrimp (21/30 count)
1 lime, cut into wedges


  1. In a food processor combine the marinade ingredients. Process until fairly smooth, 20 to 30 seconds. Pour into a medium, nonreactive bowl. Add the shrimp and turn to coat. Cover and set aside at room temperature for at least 20 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F).
  3. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the shrimp with the lid closed, until the shrimp are firm to the touch, lightly charred, and just turning opaque in the center, 2 to 4 minutes, turning once. Remove from the grill and serve right away with a squeeze of lime.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Perfect Turkey Gravy

I love the Thanksgiving holiday. Nothing makes me happier than a couple of days of cooking and celebrating that terrific meal with family. What's my favorite part? Roast turkey?  Hot Italian sausage stuffing? Mashed potatoes? Turley Zinfandel?

Actually, it's all of the above. But the crowning glory is always the turkey gravy that gets lovingly ladled over the turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. But it must be made from scratch. There is no more heinous crime or assault to the tastebuds  than store-bought gravy.

It's ridiculously easy to make great turkey gravy. I'm going to tell you how with Alton Brown's timeless recipe. It's made even easier if you have what is known as fat separator or degreasing cup. This handy little device has a spout on the bottom. The fat rises and the juices stay near the bottom. It looks like this:

Don't sweat it if you don't have one. Simply pour the drippings into a glass measuring cup, let it sit for a few minutes, then spoon out the fat. The other tool you will need is a whisk. Vigorous whisking as you add the broth will keep your gravy lump free.

Roasted turkey drippings
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup red wine (use a good Cabernet)
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

  1. Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and set aside to rest. Leave the drippings from the turkey in the pan and place the roasting pan over medium heat. Add the broth and wine at the same time. Whisk to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan until all of the bits have come loose. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes in order to reduce the mixture slightly.
  2. Transfer the liquid to a fat separator and let sit for 5 minutes to allow fat to separate.
  3. Return 3/4 cup of the fat to the roasting pan and place over medium-high heat. Discard any remaining fat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook, whisking continuously, until the mixture starts to thicken and become smooth, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. 
  4. Once this happens, gradually add the liquid back to the pan and whisk until smooth and you have reached your desired consistency, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Remember, your gravy should be slightly thin in the pan as it will thicken once you serve it. Add the herbs and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Wine pairing: I always serve Zinfandel at Thanksgiving. A big and bold fruit-foward wine, it goes great with all of the flavors of the Thanksgiving meal. For a special treat, see if you can score a Turley Zinfandel...truly a nectar from the gods.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New England Clam Chowder

Without a doubt, New England Clam Chowder is one of my all-time favorite soups. From 1983 to 2005, it was my regular Friday meal at The Loon Cafe. I'd order up a huge honkin' bowl after my regular noon WallyBall game at the Arena Club.

Purists will tell you that you need fresh clams to make New England Clam Chowder. I beg to differ. I like to make this for weeknight meals, so I don't want to devote a ton of time to steaming and shucking clams. I buy canned clams, either minced or chopped. The broth is so rich and tasty that I have never longed for the taste of fresh clams in my soup. Same goes for my clam juice. I buy it at the store in bottles. This means I can make the soup in about 20 minutes instead of slaving over it for hours. It's a weeknight, for Pete's sake.

Most recipes call for using four strips of bacon. I'm an unabashed bacon fiend, so I use a whole stinkin' pound in my chowder. It gives the soup a deep, smoky taste and a huge flavor boost to the pale taste of the clams. I also use red potatoes as they tend to hold up better to the heat than russets or Yukons. I serve this soup with a fresh baguette of French bread and a small salad. What a great meal! This recipe serves six.

20 ounces minced or chopped clams
6 cups clam juice
1 pound thick-sliced bacon, diced in 1/2-inch pieces
1 large white or yellow onion, diced medium
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, diced medium
1 large bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup heavy cream
Chopped fresh chives (for garnish)


  1. Fry bacon in kettle over medium-low heat until fat renders and bacon crisps, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove bacon and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. 
  2. Add onion to the two tablespoons of bacon fat; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour; stir until lightly colored, about 1 minute. 
  3.  Gradually whisk in bottled clam juice. Add potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add bacon, clams and their juice and heavy whipping cream. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat and serve. Garnish each serving bowl with chopped chives. 

Wine pairing: A nice oaky Chardonnay

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Simple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Just a few days to go before you carve those pumpkins. When you do carve them, save the seeds! They make a delicious and healthy snack. It's also incredibly easy to roast the seeds, which makes it a great Act 2 for you and your kids after creating those award-winning pumpkin designs. And you only need two ingredients besides the pumpkin seeds...just a little butter and salt.

1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 300º.
  2. Toss seeds in a bowl with the melted butter and salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown; stir occasionally.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grilled Pork Satay

I have yet to find a Thai dish that I do not love. That's why this blog is full of some of the best Thai meals I have found. And so it goes with this extraordinary entree, Grilled Pork Satay. While the pork in and of itself is sublimely scrumptious, it scales all-new heights with the addition of the Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce.

This dish is incredibly easy to prepare and it cooks on the grill in less than six minutes (If you don't have a grill, a broiler works almost as well.) This makes it a great appetizer or entree for a crowd. If I'm serving it as an entree, I plate it up with Basmati Rice and Asian Cole Slaw. You'll want 6-inch skewers for grilling, so you'll need about 24 of them. Metal skewers work best, but wood ones soaked in water will also get the job done.

Ingredients for Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 clove of garlic, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin

Ingredients for Pork Satay
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin


  1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  2. Prepare the Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce: Whisk the peanut butter and hot water together in a medium bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Set aside.
  3. Cut the tenderloin in half lengthwise and freeze it for 30 minutes.  
  4. Combine the soy sauce, oil, Sriracha sauce, brown sugar, cilantro, garlic, and scallions in a shallow glass baking dish; set aside. Remove the tenderloin from the freezer and slice each piece across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Weave the meat onto individual bamboo skewers. Dunk the meat end of each skewer in the marinade to coat; lay the skewers in the shallow dish. Refrigerate for exactly 1 hour.
  5. Spread the skewers out over hot cooking grate and grill, uncovered, until meat has cooked through and is lightly charred around edges, about 6 minutes, flipping them over halfway through grilling time. Serve immediately with peanut sauce.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Kim Crawford recommended)

Sriracha Sauce

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Cut-Proof Gloves

I use a mandolin to do a lot of my slicing. It's a spectacular tool that makes uniform cuts and slices as thin or as thick as I want. While it comes with a guide that is used to move the food over the slicing blade, often the food is too delicate. When that occurs, I use my hand to move the food over the blade.

However, mandolins are razor sharp and it would be way too easy to slice off a big chunk of flesh or a favorite finger. So when I am using my mandolin, I don these cut-proof gloves. They are made from industrial-strength fiber and are both cut and slash resistant.

I also use them with my knives when I am cutting food, especially when the cuts are thin and the danger of slicing my hand is greatest. They only cost $13.95 and that represents some of the cheapest protection out there against one of the greatest dangers in the kitchen. Check them out here:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Salad with Green Apple and Fennel

I have a massive folder in my office where I place interesting recipes that I have cut out of different publications. I'm pretty good about getting to them in short order and testing them out on my family. This recipe, however, has been languishing for two years...September 23, 2010 to be exact. That's too long, so let's get to it.

The recipe is from Andrew Carmellini, winner of two James Beard awards and owner of Locanda Verde in New York. I am really remiss here for not trying this recipe sooner, as it contains most of my very favorite varieties of produce...peppery arugula, licorice-flavored fennel, tart green apple, the sharp bite of basil and watercress...all crowned with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

This salad is an explosion of spectacular flavors. Accordingly, I'm serving it with grilled, skinless chicken breast...something more as not to conflict with this most flamboyant, fall salad. A muted hen punctiliously paired with a precocious peacock. This recipe serves four.

1 bunch arugula (about 4 cups loosely packed)
1 bunch of watercress (about 4 cups loosely packed)
8 basil leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed
1 medium green apple
3 stalks celery, trimmed
3/4 cup white raisins, soaked in warm water
1/4 cup roasted salted almonds
Juice of two lemons (6 ounces)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan


  1. Tear the basil into bite-size pieces and place in large salad bowl.
  2. Halve the fennel through its core and, if tough, discard the outer layers. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin, thinly slice (about 1/8 of an inch thick) the fennel lengthwise. Halve and core the apple. Slice it thinly. Slice the celery thin and on the bias. Strain the plumped raisins and pat them dry.  
  3. Toss the arugula, watercress and basil together. Add the fennel, apple, celery, raisins, almonds and lemon zest to the bowl. With your hands, gently toss the ingredients together and drizzle the salad with olive oil and lemon juice. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the salad evenly among the plates and top with a sprinkle of cheese.  

Wine pairing: Riesling or Pinot Grigio

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fried Spaghetti

My youngest son Patrick's favorite meal is Fried Pasta: ( He can put away enough to shame an NFL lineman. And speaking of football, Patrick scored the winning touchdown for his high school team last Thursday...beating out 2 defenders after catching the pass and running 35 yards to the end zone. To extend the celebration, he's getting Fried Spaghetti tonight for dinner.

This dish is unbelievably delicious. It's also really easy. The egg and the cheese act like glue to hold the spaghetti together and it all gets fried up into a beautiful spaghetti pancake that you simply cut into wedges and serve. This side dish serves 4-6 people.

16 ounces spaghetti
2 eggs
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon minced dried onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter


  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions and then drain. Put spaghetti in large bowl.
  2. Beat together eggs, Mozzarella cheese, Parmesan, onion, basil, salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture over spaghetti; toss to coat.
  3. Melt butter in large skillet; add the spaghetti mixture. Cook without stirring over medium heat about 10 minutes until bottom is golden brown.
  4. Turn out of skillet onto serving plate, brown side up. Cut into wedges and divide among serving plates. 

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah

Patrick eluding two defenders on his way into the end zone.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

German Onion Soup

The thermometer hit 46º in Minneapolis last night, so my mind automatically starts drifting to fall soups. I love French Onion Soup*, but to make it to perfection requires quite a few hours to totally caramelize the onions. Enter German Onion Soup, French Onion Soup's much more speedy and spontaneous cousin. From start of prep to serving, you are looking at roughly 70 minutes (and 40 of that is just simmering).

German Onion Soup is more robust than French Onion Soup. That's because we are going to add in some ingredients that will certainly fire up your taste buds. Bacon, caraway seed, whole-grain mustard, Worcestershire sauce and yes, a whole bottle of your favorite German lager.

And there is one critical element that must be included. Ignore the crostini in the photo. You absolutely must serve each bowl of soup with at least one, piping hot, soft pretzel. Head to the freezer section of your grocery and buy a box or two. They absolutely make the meal and are a must for dunking. This recipe serves six.

1 pound of thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium yellow onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 medium red onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 medium white onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1, 12-ounce bottle German lager beer (domestic beer works in a pinch)
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups beef broth
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook bacon on high heat in a Dutch oven until crisp. Put bacon pieces on a paper towel to drain and set aside. Leave bacon drippings in pan.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add onions, garlic and caraway seeds. Cover pan and let ingredients sweat for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for 40 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in beer and mustard, increase heat to high. Cook soup until beer almost evaporates, stirring often. Stir in flour and mix thoroughly. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add broths and simmer 10 minutes. Add bacon and Worcestershire Sauce to soup. Stir, taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.
  5. Divide among serving bowls and serve with piping hot, soft pretzels.

Pairing: Grab an ice cold bottle of the German lager you used to make the soup.

*For those of you with plenty of time on your hands, here's the recipe for French Onion Soup:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Basil Salt

It's that time of year when the harvest is bountiful, especially homegrown tomatoes and basil. Given that Costco is also stocking fresh Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, which is "the real deal" water buffalo mozzarella from Italy, it's the absolute best time of year to make a Caprese Salad:  (

My Caprese Salad recipe calls for using Kosher salt. But if you want to make your salad extra special, consider making your own basil salt. We have an abundant supply of basil this year in the Gruggen household, so this is a great way to put about 70 basil leaves to good use.

This recipe will make a little over a cup of basil salt. If you want less, cut the quantity in half...the recipes scales easily up or down. Because the recipe bakes the basil, it will keep at room temperature indefinitely. Why not make a double batch and give some to your best friend?

1 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup Kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 225º.
  2. Put salt and basil leaves in a food processor. Pulse until fine and then spread on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing half way through.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool. Pulse again in food processor. Store in a bowl or jar.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Slow Cooker Chinese Short Ribs

There are days where I like nothing better than laboring for hours in the kitchen to put together a new and exciting meal. There are also days that I don't want to spend a lot of time cooking...and this recipe fits that bill to a "T". We're talking 10 minutes of browning and then toss everything into a slow cooker and walk away. If you are feeling exceptionally lazy, you can even skip the browning part.

This is a really easy dish with great Asian flavors. The meat melts on the bone during the eight hours it braises in the slow cooker. Once you've turned your slow cooker on, the only other things required to complete the meal are white rice and a full glass of wine. If you want the meal to be completely Paleo, skip the rice and serve the short ribs with a side of of Asian Cole Slaw: This recipe serves four.

8 short ribs (about 3 pounds)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
3 star anise
1, 3-inch piece cinnamon
5 nickel-size slices of fresh ginger
1/2 large yellow onion, cut in 1/4 inch slices (or 6 scallions, chopped)
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
Cilantro or chopped scallions for garnish


  1. Add peanut oil to a large skillet and turn heat to medium high. Working in batches, brown short ribs on all sides. Put browned ribs in slow cooker.
  2. Add soy sauce, honey, anise, cinnamon, ginger, onion slices and peppercorns to slow cooker. Stir, cover and turn slow cooker to low. Cook for 8 hours.
  3. After 8 hours, taste sauce and add salt if necessary. Divide ribs among serving plates, add garnish and serve.

Wine pairing: If you prefer white wine, try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer red wine, try a fruity California Zinfandel.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Barley, Celery Root and Mushroom Salad

I was born when Harry Truman was POTUS. Dinners were old school back then. When "Give 'Em Hell Harry" sat down for dinner each night in the White House, his dinner always had three distinct parts. Meat. Vegetable. Starch. Being a product of that era, that's a formula I bought into.

But if you visit some of the trendiest and most popular restaurants these days, they have a whole new spin on that formula. The protein is still there, but the side dish is typically a fusion of vegetables and starch. But the "starch" these days is a highly nutritious and healthy whole grain of some sorts.

It's taken me a bit to catch on, but catch on I have. A couple of fine examples are the quinoa based salads I've posted in the last several months: Quinoa, Red Pepper and Cucumber Salad ( and Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Black Olives (

The recipe I am going to share with you today is by Melissa Clark. I cut it out of The New York Times last spring and just got around to it now. This is an intensely flavored dish. It rates high on the umami chart thanks to toasted barley and roasted mushrooms. And it meets our criteria of a fusion whole grain/vegetable/fungi dish that is very healthy and good for you.

Because of the intense flavors, it needs strong companion on the protein side. I would recommend  serving this incredible salad with slices of a pan-seared or grilled New York Strip steak. Please note that if you toast the barley in advance, the time needed to prepare the salad is less than an hour (and most of that time is waiting for stuff to boil or roast). The recipe serves four as a side dish.

1 cup pearl barley
1 large celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 pound mixed mushrooms, like cremini, oyster and hedgehog, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped celery leaves
1/3 cup celery stalk, finely diced
3/4 cup parsley leaves


  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spread the barley grains on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and golden, 20 minutes. Then set aside.
  2. Increase oven temperature to 400º. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the celery root with 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. On a separate baking sheet, toss the mushrooms with 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Roast both, tossing occasionally, until golden and tender, 15 to 20 minutes for the mushrooms, and 30 to 40 minutes for the celery root. Transfer to a large bowl. 
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 10 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Add the barley and simmer until tender, 45 to 50 minutes; drain. Add to the mushrooms and celery root. 
  4.  In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, scallions, celery leaves, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Whisk in 3 tablespoons oil. Toss the vinaigrette and diced celery stalk into the salad. Coarsely chop 1/4 cup parsley leaves and add to the salad. Toss in the remaining whole leaves, tearing larger leaves into smaller pieces. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spicy Glass Noodles with Crispy Pork

This is a quick, healthy meal I found on The Thai name of the recipe is  "Yum Woon Sen". While their recipe called for this as a side dish, I have beefed up the ingredient list to make it an entree for four adults.

This dish has all of the great tastes of Thai cuisine. The dressing is the epitome of Thai simplicity: lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, Sriracha sauce and sugar. The glass noodles, also known as cellophane noodles, bean threads or saifun, are incredibly soft and chewy...a terrific contrast to the crispness of the pork and vegetables.

This dish can be served warm or chilled. If you prefer the latter, refrigerate everything for 15 minutes before adding the dressing...which makes it a perfect meal for a hot summer night!


For the Dressing
4 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons fish sauce (Red Boat recommended)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce (or more to taste)

For the Main Dish
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
One, 6-ounce package glass noodles (saifun)
1 bunch scallions, sliced into thin rounds
1 bunch roughly chopped cilantro
1 bunch torn mint leaves (no stems)
1 jalapeño, halved, seeded and then finely minced
4 tablespoons chopped peanuts


  1. Make the dressing: Combine lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Whisk until sugar dissolves. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large pot of water. When water boils, remove pot from heat and drop glass noodles into water. Let noodles sit in the hot water for 15 minutes, then drain and put noodles in a medium bowl. Add a little bit of dressing to noodles to keep them from sticking.
  3. Add canola oil to a large skillet. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to break the pork into tiny crumbles. Cook pork for another 3-5 minutes, until the pork turns deeply golden brown and crispy. Drain pork and put pork in a new large bowl.
  4. To the pork bowl, add the scallions, cilantro, mint and jalapeño. Add 3/4 of the dressing and toss.
  5. Divide the glass noodles between 4 serving bowls. Divide the pork/vegetable mixture between the 4 bowls, placing it on top of the noodles. Top each dish with 1 tablespoon of the peanuts and a little extra dressing and serve.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Butterflied Chicken

"Necessity is the mother of invention"

Butterflied chicken is not my favorite way to cook a chicken. Convection roasting is actually my favorite way to cook a chicken. But in July of 2012, which was the hottest July on record in Minnesota, Butterflied Chicken became a necessity. Bear with me while I explain.

Every day in July, we had a high temperature above 80º. We had a bucketload of days that were above 100º. Even with the air conditioning on, it became a challenge to keep the house cool. The last thing I'm going to do is fire up an oven to roast a chicken and raise the temperature in the house. So July of 2012 saw a record number of days in which I cooked our meals on our Weber Performer.

Now it's easy enough to roast a chicken on a charcoal grill. You just need 110 minutes of free time...20 minutes to get the charcoal going and 90 minutes to roast the chicken on indirect heat. The problem is, I am "pattern man" and I only have 60 minutes to get dinner on the table at precisely 6:00 pm each weekday evening. The reason I only have 60 minutes is that me and my video gaming peeps hook up for 2 hours of killing every day from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. That leaves me just 60 minutes to prepare dinner.

So during July of 2012, my family was missing the taste of roast chicken. So, by necessity, I searched out a way to cook a whole chicken on a grill in less than 60 minutes. Thanks to Cook's Illustrated, the answer was quite simple...Butterflied Chicken. You simply cut the backbone out of the chicken and flatten the bird. Check this out:

Once you've flattened the bird, it cooks directly over the coals in just 30 minutes...15 minutes per side. But because we are cooking over direct heat, the bird will dry out if cooked au naturel. That's easy to remedy...brining the bird for 2 to 4 hours prior to grilling solves that problem.  This is a fast and easy way to cook a whole chicken in less than an hour and it serves four.

1 whole chicken, 3 pounds
6 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons sugar
Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Dissolve salt and sugar in 1 quart cold water in 2-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Add chicken; press out as much air as possible from bag and seal. Refrigerate until fully seasoned, at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.
  2. Light large chimney starter filled 3/4 full with charcoal (4 1/ 2 quarts should be about 75 briquettes); let burn until all charcoal is covered with layer of fine gray ash. Build single-level fire by spreading coals evenly over bottom of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and heat until grate is hot, about 5 minutes. Use grill brush to scrape cooking grate clean. Grill is ready when coals are medium-hot. 
  3. Meanwhile, remove chicken from brine, dry thoroughly with paper towels and season with pepper to taste.
  4. Place chicken, bone-side down, on grill rack. Set rimmed baking sheet or large pan on top of chicken; put 2 bricks in pan. Grill until chicken is deep brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken skin-side down. Replace sheet pan and bricks, and continue cooking 12 to 15 minutes more.
  5. Remove chicken from grill, then cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir or Syrah

Here are me and my peeps taking out the enemy.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Latins are tenderly enthusiastic. In Brazil, they throw
flowers at you. In Argentina, they throw themselves.
~Marlene Dietrich~

To achieve the taste of Argentina, we are going to grill our flank steak over a charcoal fire and toss a couple of big chunks of mesquite into the fire. Don't give me any crap about wood chips soaked in water...that's for weenies. We're going to use two big chunks of mesquite and nestle them right into the coals as is. 

Mesquite is strong stuff and really only works well when you are cooking something quickly over a fire. We're only going to have our meat over the coals for 12 minutes, so we will get the perfect amount of wood-smoke flavor in our steak. Mesquite becomes too overpowering if you are cooking something for a long period of time. And again, you want chunks, not chips. I get my chunks online, from The Charcoal Store (

Chimichurri is an incredible sauce from Argentina. The word "chimichurri" originated when British soldiers were captured after the British invasion of Rio de la Plata. The captured soldiers asked their Argentine keepers for condiments. Mixing English, aboriginal and Spanish words, "che mi curry" stands for "che me salsa" (give me condiment), or "give me curry". The word then corrupted to chimichurri.

Chimichurri sauce is a gift from the gods. It is so incredibly flavorful, made from only the freshest ingredients...and it is so magnificently rich and luxurious on the tongue. You will be absolutely amazed how well this sauce complements the mesquite grilled flank steak. And to finish our Argentine feast, make sure you serve this meal with a bottle of exquisite Argentine Malbec. Spend a little extra to make sure you get a really good one (Malbec is not very expensive). The guy behind the counter at your wine store will be glad to show you their best Malbecs. This recipe serves 4-6 people.


Chimichurri Sauce
1/4 cup hot water
2 teaspoons dried Mexican broken leaf oregano*
6 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 1/3 cups loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 flank steak (about 2 pounds)
2 large chunks of mesquite
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper


  1. An hour before cooking, remove flank steak from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Make the sauce: Combine hot water, oregano, and salt in small bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften oregano. Pulse parsley, cilantro, garlic, and red pepper flakes in food processor until coarsely chopped, about ten 1-second pulses. Add water mixture and vinegar and pulse briefly to combine. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and slowly whisk in oil until incorporated and mixture is emulsified. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour.
  3. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal (6 quarts, about 100 briquettes) and allow to burn until coals are fully ignited and partially covered with thin layer of ash, about 20 minutes. Arrange coals in single layer over entire surface of grill and, using tongs, place wood chunks directly on top of coals. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill, and heat grate until hot, about 5 minutes. Scrape cooking grate clean with grill brush. Grill is ready when coals are hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grate for just 2 seconds). 
  4. Season steak with salt and pepper. Place steak on grill, cover, and cook for 6 minutes. Uncover grill, flip steak, and cook on second side for another 6 minutes. Transfer to large plate and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes. Slice meat and divide among serving plates. Pour chimichurri sauce over slices (see photo) and serve.

Wine pairing: An Argentine Malbec

*There are two types of oregano, Turkish and Mexican. Turkish oregano is used in Mediterranean dishes like Italian sauces, Greek salads and Turkish kebobs. It has a sweet, strong flavor. What you want for this recipe is Mexican oregano. It is stronger and less sweet and goes perfect with spicy, hot, cumin-flavored dishes of Mexico. Any cook worth their weight will have both types of broken leaf oregano in their pantry. If you don't have both, you can buy them here: .

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quinoa, Red Pepper and Cucumber Salad

OK, I'll come clean. What you see at the top of the blog is not the real name of the salad. It's real name is "Quinoa, Red Pepper and Cucumber Salad with Avocado and Lime". As a lover of brevity, that's too much for me. So I shortened it. Just shoot me.

This recipe sat on my desk for a week until I was off to go shopping at Whole Foods. I wanted only the freshest ingredients for this salad....and boy, did that pay off in spades. This is one of the tastiest, freshest salads I have had in a long time. Great flavors...lime, shallot, red pepper, jalapeño and fresh garlic along with an amazing contrast in textures...avocado, cucumbers and quinoa.

The recipe calls for the vast majority of the veggies to be diced. To save time, I hauled out my food processor and pulsed the shallot/jalapeño together and followed by the red pepper/cilantro. If you have one, it saves a lot of time. This recipe serves 4-6 people.


For the Dressing
1 large clove of garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 large jalapeño, seeded and diced
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Salad
1 cup quinoa
1 medium red pepper, halved, seeded and finely diced
1 medium English cucumber, cut into 1/4" dice (dice by hand, do not use food processor for this)
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
2-3 ripe avocados, sliced


  1. Make the dressing: Put the garlic, shallot, jalapeño and lime juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and stir to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes. Add olive oil and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  2. Make the quinoa: Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add quinoa. Return water to a boil, the cover pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 12 minutes. Drain quinoa and spread out on a baking sheet to cool to room temperature. (NOTE: To save time, I actually slid the pot of the drained quinoa into the freezer for 10 minutes, stirring half-way through.This was a lot easier and less to clean up.)
  3. Arrange the sliced avocados on individual serving plates. Season avocado with salt and drizzle a little dressing over each slice.
  4. Make the salad: Put quinoa, red pepper, cucumber and cilantro in a medium bowl. Drizzle half the dressing into the bowl and mix well. Taste and add more dressing or salt as needed.
  5. Spoon the quinoa salad on and around the avocado slices. Serve.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Panzanella (Tomato and Bread Salad)

It's the time of year when our gardens start yielding that bountiful harvest of homegrown tomatoes. It starts with just a few, then it turns into a veritable the point that your kitchen is awash in those beautiful tomatoes. What to do? If you've got luscious, ripe tomatoes, here's the salad for you. It's fast, it's simple and it serves four.

1 loaf rustic Italian or French bread*, cut or torn into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and seeded and cut into 1inch pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 shallot, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

*about 6 cups


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400º. Toss bread pieces with 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ teaspoon salt; arrange bread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Toast bread pieces until just starting to turn light golden, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Gently toss tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt in large bowl. Transfer to colander and set over bowl; set aside to drain for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  3. Whisk remaining 6 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon pepper into reserved tomato juices. Add bread pieces, toss to coat, and let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  4. Add tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, and basil to bowl with bread pieces and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Pinot Gris

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Truffle Salt

Salt brightens the flavor of food. Truffle salt takes that flavor enhancement to the power of 10. You will be absolutely dumbfounded by how truffle salt transforms the flavor of your favorite foods. Popcorn, corn on the cob, french fries, omelets....all are taken to brand new heights with the addition of a little truffle salt.

It's expensive, but it is so worth every single penny. It's one of life's little luxuries that can't be missed. Casina Rosa Truffle & Salt is made in Italy and has the absolute perfect balance of truffle and sea salt (many brands skimp on the expensive truffles). Get yours here:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mussels Steamed in Chardonnay

I love this meal. I love it because it tastes great. I love it because it is insanely easy to make. With prep and cooking time, this delectable meal will clock in under 15 minutes. And this meal will always remind me of Paris.

In 2007 we took a family vacation to Europe. We explored London and Paris and had a great time. On the last day of our vacation, we were all burned out from the museums and points of interest. We found a little outdoor cafe on the Champs-Elysees, just down the street from the Arc de Triomphe. For two hours we sat and watched the people of Paris walk by. We ate a lunch of mussels steamed in white wine and washed it down with multiple glasses of a fantastic French Chardonnay. It was such a perfect way to spend a sunny, August afternoon and that day will always be burned in my memory.

The key to making this dish impeccable (because, truth be told, it is almost impossible to screw this up) is to get really fresh mussels. My favorite place to buy mussels is Costco. They stock up on them each weekend. The mussels are big, fresh and Costco sells them for an insanely low price of $1.98 a pound. They sell them in packages that typically range from four to six pounds, which is the perfect amount for four to six people.

There is one mandatory part of this recipe that you absolutely cannot leave out. You must serve this dish with slices of freshly baked French bread. If you do pick up your mussels at Costco, slide over to the bakery, where you will find a two-pack of French baguettes for just $4.99. These turn over so fast at Costco, that I always find the package is warm, having come straight from their in-store ovens. The broth from this recipe is so rich, so incredibly delicious, that you must dip your French bread repeatedly in order not to waste a single, solitary drop of it.

2 cups of Chardonnay
1/2 cup minced shallots
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves
1 bay leaf
4 pounds mussels
4 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 loaves of French bread


  1. Bring wine, shallots, garlic, parsley, and bay leaf to simmer in large pot; continue to simmer to blend flavors, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to high. Add mussels; cover and cook, stirring twice, until mussels open, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Remove mussels from liquid and place in individual serving bowls (roughly 12 per person). Discard any mussels that did not open. Swirl butter into pan liquid to make emulsified broth. When butter is melted, pour broth over mussels and serve immediately with French bread.,

Wine pairing: A nice, oaky French Chardonnay

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Seafood Tacos

After 10 days of oppressive heat, the windows are open again in the Gruggen household. We're going to celebrate the cool weather by having dinner on the deck this evening. And this will be no ordinary dinner as I 'm making seafood tacos with lobster, Alaskan king crab and shrimp.

The nice part about these tacos is that you can use whatever seafood strikes your fancy. Shellfish tend to hold up best in the bath of lime juice. Your choice is certainly not limited to the three that I have picked. Choose scallops, squid, langostinos or any firm white fish. Mix and match to your heart's content. This Emeril Lagasse recipe is easy to scale. While it yields 6 to 8 tacos, simply double everything for a larger crowd.

1 pound of assorted, cooked seafood (chilled)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
12 fresh flour tortillas

  1. Combine first nine ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2.  Mix well, then season with salt and pepper. Mix again.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Spoon seafood mixture into tortillas and serve.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (try Kim Crawford)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nam Tok (Thai Grilled Pork Salad)

In my next life, I want to be a chef in Thailand. I just love the incredible sweet/sour/hot combinations prevalent in Thai food. During the eleven years that we had our business downtown, I loved to eat at Sawatdee, which is without a doubt, the best Thai restaurant in Minneapolis. Out the back door and through the alley, my lunch there was always the same....a spicy squid salad with a fresh vegetarian spring roll.

This Nam Tok recipe, which appeared in the Wall Street journal (my very favorite newspaper), is the creation of chef Johnny Monis and his wife, Anne Marier. It hits every single note of Thai greatness. Salty fish sauce, lime juice, heat from chili paste, shallots, mint, scallions and cilantro. To cleanse the palate during the meal, I recommend serving the salad with a side of sticky rice:

This recipe calls for roasted rice powder. It will tell you how to make it. I shop at a number of Asian specialty stores online and have quite a bit of it on hand. So if you have access to the pre-made powder, use that. Otherwise just follow the simple instructions to make your own. This recipe serves four.

4 well-marbled pork shoulder steaks (1/4-inch thick, about 1 pound total)
5 tablespoons fish sauce (Red Boat recommended)
1/4 cup raw rice (jasmine or sticky)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon Thai chili paste
1 shallot, peeled and sliced thin
1 bunch scallions, peeled, trimmed and sliced thin
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 small head of green cabbage, cored and cut into quarters
1/2 English cucumber, sliced into rounds

  1. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium. Rub pork steaks with 2 tablespoons fish sauce and set aside. 
  2. Place raw rice in a small sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Toast rice until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally to ensure even toasting, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, grind rice into a coarse powder.
  3. Grill pork until just cooked through and browned, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chilies. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  5. Slice pork against the grain into thin, wide strips. Pour runoff pork juices into dressing. 
  6. In a salad bowl, toss pork with shallots, scallions, cilantro and mint. Add 1-2 tablespoons toasted, crushed rice and toss to combine. Dress with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat salad.
  7. Serve pork salad with cabbage wedges, cucumber slices and extra dressing alongside, for dipping. Sprinkle extra rice powder over top. 

Pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If you'd like to try something different, pair this dish with Singha Thai beer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Citrus Juicer

Back in the late 80's, a friend turned me onto a book called "Fit for Life". One of the main premises of the book was starting each day with significant helpings of high-water content fruits and vegetables in the form of fruit juice. I embraced the book and went from 193 pounds down to 177 pounds and was a hardcore juicer for years. I also went through a lot of different juicers.

Fast-forward to 2012 and you'll find that we have two heavy duty juicing machines in our home. Both are made by Breville. The Breville Juice Extractor doesn't get used as much as it used to as we have embraced the Whole 9 concept of eating whole fruits and vegetables to realize the benefit of the fiber. But we still use the citrus juicer for marinades and Judy's incredible Key Lime Pie.

The Breville 800CPXL Citrus Juicer (pictured above) is built like a Sherman tank. It's made of professional-grade stainless steel and has an industrial-grade motor...this beast tips the scales at 15+ pounds. It comes with two different filters that let you choose between high or low pulp for your  juice. This beast will turn out juice faster than any other citrus juicer on the market...and extract every single drop from your fruit. But greatness comes at a will set you back $200. It's available at both and Williams Sonoma.

Because it is not used every day, it does not warrant regular counter space. For light duty juicing, I don't want to always haul a 15-pound appliance out of storage, so I also own a hand juicer...the Chef'n Juicester Citrus Juicer. This little sweetheart of  a juicer weighs just ounces and is 2" X 3" X 7". It has two different reamers on the top, a small one for limes and lemons and a big one for oranges. While it takes a little elbow grease to use it, it works really well. It's a breeze to clean and then I just toss it back in the drawer. I also find the measuring marks on the base to be incredibly handy. This little gem will set you back $12.49 at Check it out here:

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I'm a huge fan of tabbouleh. But there appears to be two distinct camps when it comes to making tabbouleh. Members of the first camp prefer a "bulgur wheat forward" recipe. In their eyes, it is a grain side dish and the vegetables play but a minor, supporting role. Members of the second camp prefer a "vegetable forward" recipe...there's only a smattering of bulgur wheat in the salad.

This recipe from Cook's Illustrated (to subscribe go here: strikes the perfect balance between the two camps. It has a perfect blend of veggies and bulgur wheat to create a substantial salad. Add a little protein like chicken or shrimp to the top of the tabbouleh and you have yourself a complete entree salad.

In previous recipes, I was always instructed to plump up the bulgur wheat with boiling water. That is not the case here. Remarkably, this recipe uses tomato and lemon juice to plump up the bulgur boiling water required! This fabulous yet simple recipe serves four. It makes for a spectacular dish on a warm summer night.

3 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup medium grind bulgur wheat
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 scallions, sliced thin


  1. Toss tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Transfer to fine-mesh strainer, set strainer in bowl, and let stand for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  2. Rinse bulgur in fine-mesh strainer under cold running water. Drain well and transfer to second bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 tablespoons juice from draining tomatoes. Let stand until grains are beginning to soften, 30 to 40 minutes.
  3. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, oil, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Add drained tomatoes, soaked bulgur, parsley, mint, and scallions; toss gently to combine. Cover and let stand at room temperature until flavors have blended and bulgur is tender, about 1 hour. Toss to recombine, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Wine pairing: A nicely chilled Pinot Gris