Saturday, March 30, 2013

Grilled New York Strip with Dijon and Lemon

Finally. It's March 30th and for the first time in 2013, all of the snow is off the deck. I now have a clear path to my beloved Weber Performer, which has sat cold, forlorn and untouched since last November. It's time to clear the cobwebs from the bag of charcoal in the garage and grill up some steaks! 'Nuff said. Let's get to it.

2, 16-ounce New York Strips, 1 1/2 inches thick
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 lemon, halved


  1. In a small bowl, mix mustard, garlic and red pepper flakes.
  2. Season steaks with kosher salt.
  3. Coat steaks with Dijon mustard mix. Cover and refrigerate for four hours.
  4. After four hours, remove steaks from refrigerator and let them stand at room temperature for one hour.
  5. Prepare charcoal grill for direct cooking over high heat. If you have a gas grill, turn all burners on high.
  6. For medium rare, grill steaks on the first side for 7 minutes. Then flip and grill them on the second side for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove steaks from grill and let them rest for ten minutes.
  8. Squeeze lemon juice on each steak and serve.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Kalamata Tapenade with Crostini

Pay special attention to the name of this recipe. Please note that it is Kalamata Tapenade. It is not Black Olive Tapenade. While Kalamata olives are indeed black (more of a dark purple, actually), they must not be confused with black olives sold in cans. While a Ferrari 458 Italia and a Ford Fiesta are both cars, there is a world of difference if you were to drive both.

The Kalamata olive is an epicurean masterpiece. Grown in Greece, they cannot be harvested when they are green. Instead, they must be harvested only when ripe, which requires hand picking. Then they are submerged in salted water for three months, which removes the bitterness from the olives. Your first bite into a Kalamata olive will send you over the moon. They are that good.

The black olives that are sold in cans are the Ford Fiestas of the olive world. Back in the early 1900's, there was a botulism outbreak associated with green olives sold in jars. The public was staying away from green olives because of that, so the industry found a packaging method that destroyed the botulism. Green olives were placed in large tanks with a lye solution. After 48 hours the lye was washed away and the olives turned black from the addition of oxygen. The olive was then edible, having been artificially ripened by the lye. The olives were then canned and cooked at high heat to eliminate any chance of botulism.

So in the case of the Kalamata, you have an olive grown naturally and ripened on the tree. In the case of canned black olives, you have an olive ripened with chemicals and heated to a high temperature in a metal can. Those olives are bland, with a pronounced chemical taste. The Kalamata olives taste like the earth.


1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
4 large cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes


  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse into a rough paste. Adjust seasonings to taste, pulse again and transfer to a bowl. (A small table spoon works better than a knife for spreading the tapenade on the crostini.)


1 loaf of crusty bread like ciabatta, sliced thinly as possible
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper for seasoning before toasting crostini

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Brush bread with EVOO on both sides and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange on large baking sheet and bake until crusty and brown, 10-12 minutes total. Turn halfway through baking.

Wine pairing: A nice, fruity Merlot

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bloody Mary Shrimp

Who doesn't love a spicy, delicious Bloody Mary? And who doesn't love ice cold shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce? What we are going to do here is marry the two to create one spectacular hors d'oeuvre: Bloody Mary Shrimp.

This is really quite simple. First, we are going to boil our shrimp for three minutes in a spicy broth and then stick 'em back in the fridge to chill. Then we are going to make our Bloody Mary Cocktail Sauce, the star of which is...wait for it...Vodka! This Byerly's recipe makes twelve servings.


10 cups of water
2 cups of white wine
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
4 bay leaves
8 strips lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 pounds shrimp (21-25 to a pound), peeled  and with tails on


  1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes.
  2. Return broth to a boil. Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes. 
  3. Strain shrimp and lay shrimp out on a large sheet pan to cool quickly. Then refrigerate until serving.


3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup Sriracha Chili Sauce
2 tablespoons horseradish
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons vodka (or more to taste...and don't be shy)

  1. Mix all ingredients and chill for one hour. Then serve.

Pairing: An ice cold Pilsner

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Parmesan Crisps

Any time you're at a restaurant and order a Caesar salad, you are likely to find one of these little gems on your plate. They are absolutely delicious and absolutely a breeze to make at home.

The recipe I am going to give you is the base recipe for Parmesan Crisps. You can easily add a teaspoon or two of herbs or spices to the recipe to make it your own. Consider smoked paprika, pepper, curry-coriander, scallion or even lemon zest.

1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of flour


  1. Preheat oven to 375º.
  2. Combine parmesan and flour in a medium bowl. Mix well.
  3. Make 12 mounds of the cheese/flour mixture (2 tablespoons each) on a baking sheet lined with parchment and coated with cooking spray. Flatten mounds into 4-inch rounds.
  4. Bake until golden, 8-10 minutes. While hot, gently remove with a thin spatula and let cool completely.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Thai Shrimp and Noodle Salad

I'm itching for spring, but that awful wench Mother Nature keeps dealing me a smackdown. Temperatures in Minnesota were starting to flirt with the 40's and then we get 10 inches of snow to start off the week. Depressing.

While March 1 is the start of Meteorological Spring, it also marks the start of Culinary Spring for me. I turn my attention from the stews and roasts of winter to lighter fare. And nothing says spring to me like Thai food. Lime juice and cilantro and we're talking spring.

This spectacular salad was created by Christine Hanna. She is a food writer, cooking teacher and president of Hanna Winery. I have modified her recipe to serve four adults.

For Prawns and Noodles:
1 stalk of lemongrass, white parts only
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 lb shrimp (21-25 shrimp per pound)
1 (5-oz) package bean thread (cellophane) noodles

For Dressing:
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped ginger
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

For Garnish:
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus sprigs
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
4 spring onions, chopped


  1. Peel outer layer of lemongrass and discard. Cut inner layer into very fine crosswise slices and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. In same bowl, combine lime juice, ginger, sesame oil, olive oil, garlic, lime leaf, salt, and pepper. Add prawns and toss to coat. Chill for 1 hour.
  3. In a large sauté pan over medium-high, cook prawns for 2 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Put noodles in a bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  5. Make dressing: In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients.
  6. Add noodles to dressing and toss, then add prawns. Divide among serving plates, then garnish with chopped cilantro, mint, spring onions, and cilantro sprigs.

Wine pairing: Hanna Sauvignon Blanc

Christine Hanna

Monday, March 4, 2013

Steak Cooking Guide

I hate meat thermometers. It makes no sense to me to puncture a beautiful steak while it is cooking and let the juices run out. A meat thermometer is the tool preferred by frigtard recipe writers. The minute I see a recipe that says cook steak until meat thermometer registers 125º, I know the recipe was written by an idiot and chances are the writer has never prepared the recipe at all. Any doofus can tell you what temperature to cook a steak to. An accomplished cook will give you the precise time of cooking.

When I see instructions in the recipe that are given by cooking time, I know the author has actually prepared the dish they are writing about. It also allows the reader to exactly replicate what the author did. Because now you can use a clock, timer or stopwatch to precisely execute the recipe.

Every time I cook, I map out the steps by time. That way I can make sure that all of the individual pieces will come together at precisely the right time to be presented as a complete meal. And one of the trickiest things to cook by time is steak. If steaks were uniform, it would be a breeze. But they are not. Every time the thickness of the steak changes by one-quarter inch or more, it changes the cooking time.

I've been grilling for a long time and am pretty good at eyeballing when a steak is close to being done. But I am not perfect, so that's why I prefer to cook by time. Cooking by time gives me perfect results every single grilling session. And if you are cooking for a crowd, where some want it rare and others well done, you need the clock.

Perhaps the best guide to cooking steaks that I have found comes from Omaha Steaks. Their chart is broken down into two sections: one for grilling and one for broiling. If you can read and are able to use a ruler to measure the thickness of a steak, you can now make perfect steaks every single time. My sincere thanks to Omaha Steaks for this wonderful guide (click on the chart to see it full size):

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Vietnamese Shrimp Cakes

Making crab cakes is an art form. Getting the ingredients to bind together in perfect harmony requires one part chemistry, one part luck and one part witchcraft. The recipe I am going to share with you today is the absolute opposite....a sort of "shellfish cakes for dummies".

It's not that recipe is dumb, it's the fact that it's foolproof that makes it perfect for beginner to expert cooks alike. The key is that you are going to make the cakes by creating a paste in your food processor. And by doing so, all of the alchemy required for crab cakes is removed from the equation. You just hand-form the paste into small patties and fry them up.

And while ease of making these shrimp cakes may appear to be their crowning achievement, I would beg to differ. The bright and vivid flavors of Vietnam take center stage here. Lemon grass, garlic, jalapeño, scallions, lime, sugar, cilantro and fish sauce all join forces to bring a veritable Vietnamese symphony to your palate.

This recipe was created by Melissa Clark and appeared in the New York Times this week. Their "Dining" section that appears each Wednesday is worth the price of the subscription alone. This recipe serves four. Don't let the ingredient list scare you: jump down to "Directions" and look at how easy it is to make.

1 pound shelled large shrimp, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup cornstarch, more for dusting
2 tablespoons minced lemon grass (tender inner stalk only)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 serrano or jalapeño chile peppers, seeded and minced
4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and light green part separated from dark green tops
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup fish sauce (Red Boat* from Vietnam recommended)
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
Peanut oil, for frying
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Cooked rice noodles, optional, for serving

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine shrimp, cornstarch, lemon grass, garlic, chiles, white and light green scallion bottoms, 2 teaspoons sugar and salt. Pulse until mixture forms a coarse paste.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together fish sauce, lime zest and juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and the dark green scallion tops.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Wet hands to keep shrimp paste from sticking. Form 2 tablespoons of shrimp mixture into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Dust patty with cornstarch. Repeat with remaining batter. Fry patties in batches until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve over rice noodles drizzled with fish sauce mixture and strewn with cilantro.

Wine pairing: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc