Saturday, December 26, 2015

Red Flannel Hash

One of my favorite things about the holidays is leftovers from the big meal. Leftovers mean you are going to be enjoying the good stuff for at least a few days. I cooked a 6-pound prime rib roast yesterday and have lots of leftovers. While that is always delicious reheated, it's more fun to get creative with your leftovers.

I'm a huge fan of hash. I make hash with whatever kind of leftovers I have on hand. Prime rib hash. Turkey hash. Corned beef hash. Roasted pork hash. So I often buy more meat than I need so I have enough leftovers to make some hash. I also make quick work of the potatoes by buying Simply Potatoes Diced Potatoes.

The beauty of hash is that there are a million ways to make it. You can throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Sean, my oldest son, likes his with a healthy dollop of Sriracha. So what I am going to lay out here is a simple recipe for Red Flannel Hash (which gets it's name from the addition of beets to the dish). Just follow this for the basics and then visit your pantry to put your own creative signature on this fantastic, hearty meal. This recipe by Elise from Simply Recipes serves four. 

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped meat
1 1/2 cups diced beets
1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Heat butter in a frying pan (cast iron preferred) on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook a couple minutes until translucent.
  2. Add the meat, potatoes and beets. Stir in the pan to combine and spread out evenly in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium. Press down with a metal spatula to help brown the mixture. Don't stir, but just let cook until nicely browned on one side, then use a metal spatula to lift up sections of the mixture and turn over to brown the other side. If the mixture sticks to the pan too much, just add a little more butter to the pan where it's sticking.
  3. When nicely browned, remove from heat. Add Worcestershire sauce. Stir in fresh chopped parsley. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Serve.

Pairing: If your hash is on the mild side, I would go with a fruity red Zinfandel. If your hash is hot and spicy, I would recommend an ice-cold Pilsner.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Chicken Diavolo

I do not know enough about climate warming to understand if there is a cause and effect to what is going on in my back yard right now. But it's been fascinating to watch and I can't wait to see how it unfolds. I live next to Tierney's Woods, a 122 acre nature preserve in Bloomington. It's in the northwest corner of Bloomington, right next to the Edina and Eden Prairie border.

In the 26 years I've lived next to Tierney's Woods, I've grown accustomed to seeing lots of wildlife.  Deer, coyotes, foxes, woodchucks, raccoons, name it and we've seen it. But the most spectacular sightings are in the spring and fall, when the bald eagles make a stop on their migratory flights.

But something altered that pattern in early December. A pair of bald eagles were daily visitors to my backyard. They began pulling branches off of dead tree limbs and carrying them about 200 yards away to a nesting site high in a huge oak tree in Tierney's Woods. They worked furiously, from dawn to sunset, hauling branches and pine boughs to their nest. I have a great view of their work, thanks to a monstrous pair of 20 X 80 binoculars I bought at Cabela's years ago.

In the 26 years I've lived here, the bald eagles were always travelers...just stopping by on their way to somewhere else. But now they have taken up residence in Bloomington. They have called Tierney's Woods home and are prepared to hatch chicks in January or February. It's fascinating to watch and I am awestruck. Mister Rogers wish has come true for me:

Won't you be? 
Won't you be?
Won't you be my neighbor?

Today's recipe (The Devil's Chicken) is from Ruth Reichl and is a great way to add a little heat to your menu in December. The chicken is actually cooked in chile oil. Now you can certainly speed up the process by buying store-bought chile oil. But it's much more fun to make your own from scratch...and it will certainly taste much better than store-bought. Ruth's recipe serves four.

2 large jalapeño chiles
2 serrano chiles
¾ cup olive oil, plus more for sautéing
2 tablespoons hot paprika (or equal parts cayenne and sweet paprika)
Ground black pepper
2 ½ lemons
1 small chicken, quartered and backbone removed

  1. Make the chile oil: Chop jalapeño and serrano chiles and put them in a small saucepan with 3/4 cup olive oil. Add hot paprika and grind in a fair amount of black pepper. Steep over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Let sit overnight, or all day.
  2. Strain chile oil into a large bowl. Slice 2 lemons and add them to the bowl. Season with salt. Coat chicken with the oil, put in a zip-top bag and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to a day.
  3. Heat oven to 500º. Heat a cast-iron skillet until it’s quite hot (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the chile oil and pat it dry. Sprinkle it with salt and shower it with pepper; you need a lot. Slick the bottom of the pan with olive oil and put the chicken, skin-side down, in the hot skillet. Cook until the skin is crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the chicken skin-side up.
  4. Put the skillet in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with juice from half a lemon, shower with more pepper and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

Wine pairing: A big, fruity Zinfandel

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Broiled Flank Steak

When I was little, my grandmother used to cook steak for me in the oven. Granted, it was not a ribeye or porterhouse...but to a little kid (I still am) who loved steak (and still does) it was heaven. She called them steaks. What they actually were: the toughest, worst cuts of meat that the butcher had left over after all of the good stuff had been cut off the carcass.

To make sure a human could actually chew these inexpensive pieces of rubber, the butcher would cut the meat very thin. And then he would attack it with a meat tenderizer...essentially a meat mallet with prongs that would break down the tissue. They called them minute steaks because that is how long you needed to cook it under your broiler (it was so thin it only needed to broil on one side).

Over the years I kind of forgot about cooking my steak IN the oven. Pan searing and grilling remain my favorite way to cook up a steak. But I had a leftover flank steak last week ( a common occurrence when one buys in bulk at Costco). So I thought I would take a trip down memory lane by using the broiler. And OMG was it delicious and easy!

If you have an oven, it is 99.9% likely that you have a broiler. But if you are like me, you don't use it much. But it's a great way to cook. In fact, when you go out to a fancy steak house, chances are they are broiling your steak in a special broiler called a salamander. While their broiler operates at about 800º, yours will get to over 500º. But you don't need that expensive salamander. All you really need  for today's recipe is a broiler and a broiler pan.

Now what you see above is not a traditional broiler pan. What you see above is what I call a Grogs Broiler Pan. Yes, I know it is fugly. But traditional broiler pans are a giant pain in the arse to clean. The Grogs Broiler Pan is not. When done, your baking sheet is clean, you can just toss the foil in the garbage and slip the wire screen into the dishwasher. Now that makes it really easy.

Flank steak is a great broiling steak. It's thin, so it cooks fast. Yes, just 5 minutes per side. And few cuts of beef have the big bold beef taste like this does. Cook it on the rack closest to the broiler to get the edges of the steak crisp and crunchy. You will not need any seasonings...the marinade does an exquisite job of flavoring the steak.

1 flank steak (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

  1. Place all ingredients in a ziplock plastic bag and marinate for 4 to 24 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, pre-heat broiler.
  3. Remove steak from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Place on broiler pan and slide into oven under the broiler.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes. Then flip steak. Cook for 5 more minutes. Then remove from oven, tent it with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Slice against the grain and serve (see photo at top).

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Roasted Chicken Breasts

One of my favorite meals is a whole roasted chicken. I love the crisp skin...the absolute best part of the bird. I used to make it a lot when there were four of us at home. But with both boys away at college, roasting a whole chicken results in too much left over meat. But there is a way to get all of that great taste on a much smaller scale....with a press of my favorite button.

You can get all of the best of my favorite meal by simply buying two, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. The bone serves to impart great flavor to the all-white chicken meat and the skin will roast up nice and crispy, thanks to cooking at high heat (we're roasting here, not baking). And talk about easy. Slather the breasts in olive oil, then add a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Then 30 minutes in the oven and you are done.

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts*
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

*This recipe scales up or down easily. Follow the same cooking directions regardless of how many breasts you are roasting.


  1. Preheat oven to 500º.
  2. Rub olive oil on skin and then add salt and pepper.
  3. Using a broiler pan, place chicken breasts in oven, skin-side up.
  4. After 10 minutes, flip chicken breasts skin side down. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  5. After the 10 minutes, flip breasts skin side up again and cook for 10 more minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and tent breasts with foil for 5-10 minutes (this allows the juices to move from near the surface back into the meat). Then serve.

Wine pairing: White wine drinkers would be well served with an oaky Chardonnay. But I would opt for a silky Petite Sirah.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Yucatan Turkey Soup (Sopa de Lima)

Okay, I've done two nights in a row with "heavy" turkey meals. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday that always leads to a coma. Then last night was turkey leftovers.....turkey sandwiches on English muffins and Torta rolls. More stuffing....because you really cannot get enough bread calories. And then you wake up on Saturday morning feeling like the Angry Bird blimp from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

In Yucatan, they do not celebrate Thanksgiving. But they still love their turkey every bit as much as we do. Ok, maybe not quite as much as we do as they usually make it with chicken. But if you are like me, I still have a lot of turkey left over. What better way to use that turkey than in a light and incredibly delicious bowl of Sopa de Lima? This David Tanis recipe serves 4 to 6.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
½ teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon coriander seed
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 cinnamon stick, 2 inches long
 A pinch of Cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
8 cups unsalted turkey or chicken broth
Vegetable oil for frying (about 1 cup)*
4 corn tortillas, at least a day old, cut in 1/2-inch strips**
4 to 6 cups cooked turkey meat, shredded
1 or 2 firm-ripe avocados
6 scallions, chopped
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
Lime wedges

*Skip if you use Fritos. See directly below.
**If you are lazy like me and sure as hell do not want to do more cooking this weekend, screw the tortillas and frying...just throw in a couple of handfuls of Frito original corn chips.


  1. Heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and let soften, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
  2. Toast the cumin, coriander and peppercorns in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute, then grind in a spice mill or mortar. Add the ground spices to the pot, along with the garlic, cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne and salt.
  3. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce to a brisk simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, then taste for salt and adjust. Keep hot, covered, over very low heat.
  4. Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 1/2 inch into a wide skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and looks wavy, add the tortilla strips and fry until barely colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  5. n a medium saucepan, heat the shredded turkey meat with a little of the hot soup. Divide the meat among 4 to 6 soup bowls and add a few slices of avocado to each. Ladle about 1 cup soup into each bowl, then garnish with tortilla strips, scallions, jalapeño slices, chopped cilantro and a generous squeeze of lime juice.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. You could also switch to Pacifica Mexican beer if you are feeling carb deprived from this healthy meal.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken

It does not get any easier than this. Less than 5 minutes of prep. Plop it in the slow cooker and your meal is ready when you are set to eat dinner. While I love oven-roasted chicken, that takes a lot more prep and timing and tending. This is an absolute no-brainer. When you remove the chicken from the slow cooker, it will have a soft, seasoned shin. If you want crisp skin, put it under your broiler for 3-5 minutes.

1 whole chicken (4-5 pounds)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
aluminum foil


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder until combined.  Rub the seasoning mix all over chicken.
  2. Roll up a few small balls of aluminum foil and place them on the bottom of your slow cooker bowl to serve as a "rack" for the chicken, so that it doesn't have to cook in the juices that will accumulate in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place the chicken on top of the aluminum foil, pressing it down a bit if need be for the lid to fit.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  3. Carefully remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Carve and serve.

Wine pairing: Merlot

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Three-Cup Chicken

In December of 1949, the Chinese civil war tipped in favor of the Communists when Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalists, fled to the island of Taiwan. A series of Communist offensives led to the defeat of the Nationalists. Mao Zedong took rule of China and Chiang Kai-shek took rule of Taiwan.

Taiwan became a democracy in 1986. It is still technically at war with China and China refuses to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation. The war rages in the culinary halls of the two countries as well. Chinese Fried Rice is considered a staple of all eight cuisine regions in China. Taiwan considers Three-Cup Chicken as their staple dish.

I'm more than happy to recognize both. In America, everyone knows about and has eaten Chinese Fried Rice. But very few people have heard of Three-Cup Chicken. So I'm going to introduce it to you here. It's ridiculously simple to make. It's delicious. And all you need to achieve perfection is to pair it with white rice.

3 tablespoons sesame oil
1, 2-to-3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into coins (approximately 12)
12 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 whole scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 pounds chicken thighs, boneless or bone-in, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ cup rice wine
¼ cup light soy sauce
2 cups fresh Thai basil leaves or regular basil leaves

  1. Heat a wok over high heat, and add 2 tablespoons sesame oil. When the oil shimmers, add the ginger, garlic, scallions and peppers, and cook until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes.
  2. Scrape the aromatics to the sides of the wok, add remaining oil and allow to heat through. Add the chicken, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is browned and crisping at the edges, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add sugar, and stir to combine, then add the rice wine and soy sauce, and bring just to a boil. Lower the heat, then simmer until the sauce has reduced and started to thicken, approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat, add basil and stir to combine. Serve.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Weapon of Choice: Wine Aerator

I'm a huge fan of letting wine breathe. Introducing oxygen to wine dramatically improves the flavor.  If you head out to any decent restaurant and order a good bottle of wine, the server will decant the wine before you drink it as it will enhance your enjoyment of the wine.

Don't let someone tell you they are going to open a bottle of wine and let it breathe before serving. That is no way to get oxygen into the wine because, at best, you'll only expose a small amount of surface area (about the size of a nickel) to the air.

I would always decant my wine to get air into it. The problem with that methodology is that there was always a decanter to wash after every meal. That gets old quick. So I started looking around for an easy to clean decanter and discovered this little gem.

This is the Vinopourer Wine Aerator. It costs a mere $13.95 and I'm here to tell you it puts the old decanter to shame when it comes to pumping oxygen into your wine. You simply open the bottle and slide the device into the bottle....then pour. The aeration that takes place is a double-action process. It aerates the wine as it exits the bottle while simultaneously pumping the wine in the bottle full of air.

It's a marvel of engineering. I've been using it for a week and it makes a world of difference in how your wine tastes. A freshly corked bottle usually yields wine that is tight and it takes awhile for the wine to open up. Use the Vinopourer and you'll be enjoying rich, smooth wine right from the get-go. Check it out here:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Simple Gravy from Scratch

I started this blog a little over five years ago. I had just retired then and thought it might be an interesting way to spend my time. I would try out recipes that look interesting to me and if they were good, I would write them up in my blog.

So 5 years later and with 385 separate blogs under my belt, I find that I am the fortunate victim of unintended consequences. While I had simply set out to write about good recipes I had found, something much more spectacular happened.

Let me digress. People who love to cook typically keep a folder or card file of their favorite recipes. Back in 2005, I attempted to build an electronic catalog of my faves. I bought a program for my Mac and started to create my own database.

I made it through 3 recipes. The software was so user unfriendly and clunky, it took me 3 hours to create the 3 recipes. Patience is not one of my finer virtues, so I discarded that software with all due haste. Back to file folders and recipe cards for me.

I started this blog in 2010 to pass the time and share good recipes. But the unintended consequence was that I created an electronic catalog of all my favorite recipes. Now when I want to call up a favorite recipe, I just go to my blog and use the search box to pull the recipe up.

And while I'm elated that I have my database of recipes at my fingertips, it's interesting to note that nearly 150,000 other people have taken advantage of the database. As of November of 2015, I'm averaging 61 page views a day. That makes me happy.

Less than 1% of the recipes in my blog are original. I like to cook, but dislike the pedantry of trial and error. So my blog is a compilation of great chefs, writers and simple home cooks like me. I can look at a printed recipe and tell right away if it will work and what it will taste like. If I like it, I make it and if it's really good, it goes in my blog.

As a cook, I prefer simple recipes. I can do elaborate but the patience issue always rears it's ugly head. So here's a spectacular gravy recipe I stumbled across. It could not be any simpler. Butter, flour, onion powder and stock.

Now a word about stock. If you're serving a beef dish, use beef stock. For chicken dishes, use chicken stock. And actually, you can experiment, as long as you keep to the two cups of stock rule. Last Sunday I made pot roast and I simply used two cups of the braising liquid run through a strainer as the stock for my gravy.

If you are going to make turkey gravy, add some of the pan drippings to the chicken stock. Just make sure you have a total of two cups of hot liquid. This is such a simple recipe to prepare and it absolutely crushes the gravy mix you get in a packet.

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup flour 
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 cups very hot stock (beef or chicken)

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add flour and onion powder. Whisk together and cook for 30 seconds, whisking as needed.
  3. Slowly add stock to flour mixture while whisking. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 minute.
  4. Pour into gravy boat and serve.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tuscan Sausage Ragu

It's been fifteen days since my hip surgery. I had a prosthesis put in way back in 2000. The prosthesis consisted of three parts: a titanium femur and ball, a titanium cup that screwed into my hip bone and a polymer liner in the cup that held the ball in place, but also allowed the ball to rotate in the cup.

After 15 years, the polymer cup wore out. So on October 16 they did the surgery. I have to say I am incredibly happy with the outcome so far. The first time I was on crutches for 6 weeks and then a cane for another 6 weeks. After this latest surgery, I used a walker for the first two weeks and am now using a cane. First time around it took me 4+ weeks to navigate stairs. This time I was going up and down stairs in just 3 days.

Polymer technology has improved dramatically in 15 years. My surgeon said that the new polymer cup will never need replacing, so I no longer need a place holder for follow-up surgery in the year 2030. I still have to take it easy for awhile...I can't go back to the gym until mid-January. Hip dislocation is the biggest threat right now as they pulled all the muscles aside to get to my hip socket. 

So I have tons of time to work on my cooking...albeit while sitting on a stool. I recently came upon this gem of a recipe by New York Chef Sara Jenkins. She grew up in Tuscany and spent her formative years cooking all over Italy. This is a simple recipe. Well not as simple as browning some hamburger and opening a jar of Newman's Own. But a little bit of work creates a sausage ragu that will instantly whisk you to Florence. Absolutely succulent.

1 pound sweet Italian sausage or bulk sausage
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with its juice
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Ground black pepper
1 pound tubular dried pasta such as rigatoni or penne
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish, optional

  1. With the tip of a small, sharp knife, slit open the sausage casings. Crumble the meat into a wide, heavy skillet or Dutch oven and set over medium-low heat. If the meat is not rendering enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan as it begins to cook, add olive oil one tablespoon at a time until the meat is frying gently, not steaming. Sauté, breaking up any large chunks, until all the meat has turned opaque (do not let it brown), about 5 minutes.
  2. Add onion, carrot, celery and parsley and stir. Drizzle in more oil if the pan seems dry. Cook over very low heat, stirring often, until the vegetables have melted in the fat and are beginning to caramelize, and the meat is toasty brown. This may take as long as 40 minutes, but be patient: it is essential to the final flavors.
  3. Add tomatoes and their juice, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands or with the side of a spoon. Bring to a simmer, then add thyme and rosemary and let simmer, uncovered, until thickened and pan is almost dry, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Mix tomato paste with 1 cup hot water. Add to pan, reduce heat to very low, and continue cooking until the ragù is velvety and dark red, and the top glistens with oil, about 10 minutes more. Remove herb sprigs. Sprinkle black pepper over, stir and taste.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pasta until just tender. Scoop out 2 cups cooking water, drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Quickly add a ladleful of ragù, a splash of cooking water, stir well and let cook 1 minute. Taste for doneness. Repeat, adding more cooking water or ragù, or both, until pasta is cooked through and seasoned to your liking.
  6. Pour hot pasta water into a large serving bowl to heat it. Pour out the water and pour in the pasta. Top with remaining ragù, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately. Pass grated cheese at the table, if desired.

Wine pairing: Chianti Classico

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Beef Short Ribs

Steak is my very favorite meal. But braised short ribs comes in a very close second. It is absolutely amazing what four hours, a cheap cut of beef, beef broth and a bottle of red wine can become. Let's spend a moment talking about this particular cut of beef. 

There are two different cuts of short ribs. My favorite, the English cut, is shown above on the left. The other cut, shown on the right, is called flanken. While they both cook up the same, I prefer the English cut because more meat is exposed to the bone (flavor) and the pieces of beef are larger. Do not, under any circumstances, buy boneless short ribs. 

To maximize flavor in the finished dish, you absolutely must take the time to brown the ribs all over. Plan on spending a good 10-15 minutes putting a rich brown crust on your ribs. If you are cooking for a crowd, plan on browning in batches. If you overcrowd the pan your ribs will steam instead of browning....and that's an enormous loss of flavor.

This is a really simple dish to prepare. You have about 15 minutes of prep work and then you pop it in the oven where it will braise for four beautiful hours. This is a Gordon Ramsay recipe and it serves two. I like to serve this with buttered farro:

 3 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
6 thick-cut, meaty beef short ribs
1 large head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 heaping tablespoon tomato purée
1 x 750ml bottle dry red wine
4 cups beef stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped flat leaf parsley, to garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Heat a deep-sided roasting tray or dutch oven on the stove and add  the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the short ribs thoroughly, then fry for 10–15 minutes to brown really well on all sides.
  2. Add the halved garlic head, cut side down, pushing it to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato purée and heat for a minute or two to cook it out. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the bits at the bottom. Bring to the boil and cook for 10–15 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half, then add stock to nearly cover the ribs (you’ll need less stock if your roasting tray isn’t very large). Bring to the boil again, basting the ribs with the juices.
  3. Cover the roasting tray or dutch oven with foil and cook in the preheated oven for 4 hours.
  4. When the short ribs are ready, remove from the oven and transfer to a serving dish. For the sauce: Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and pass through a sieve. Spoon off any excess fat from the beef cooking liquid, then strain it through the sieve and mix with the garlic. (If the sauce is too thin, reduce the cooking liquid by heating for 10–15 minutes more after straining.)
  5. Plate the ribs and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Korean Sizzling Beef

We've been enjoying spectacular fall weather here in Minnesota. Last month we broke a record....the warmest September weather ever. October has been great so far as well...lower 40's in the mornings and late afternoons in the lower 60's. That's great grilling weather!

I'm trying to cram as much grilling into October as I can. Later this month I'm in for revision hip surgery. The polymer cup they put in in October of 2000 has worn out. So I get a brand new cup and then spend the next 3 months on crutches and then a cane. My surgeon said the materials are have greatly improved and this is the last one I'll need. That's the only silver lining I can find in that cloud.

Well, that's not totally true. I won't be able to do stairs for awhile, so I'll be confined to the main level of the house. I got a new, deluxe sofa sleeper for my office and outfitted the room with a new 4K TV and an Xbox One. So I will have a ton of time for prime time video game season. The line up of new games coming out gives me thigh sweats: Halo 5 (Oct 27), Black Ops 3 (Nov 6), Rise of the Tomb Raider (Nov 10), Star Wars Battlefront (Nov 17) and then the greatest game of all, Rainbow Six Siege (Dec 1).

Alright enough of that. Let's get back to grilling. Bulgogi is a classic Korean dish of sliced beef. It's marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and garlic and then quickly seared over a hot grill...just 30 seconds per side. The red pepper flakes give the meat some heat, so I recommend serving this dish with sticky rice. This Marcia Kiesel recipe serves eight.

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
One 2 1/2-pound beef flank steak, cut across the grain into twenty 1/4-inch-thick slices
16 scallions
Vegetable oil, for rubbing

  1. In a large, shallow dish, combine the soy sauce with the sugar, white wine, chopped garlic, toasted sesame oil and crushed red pepper, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the sliced flank steak and coat thoroughly in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate the steak for at least 4 hours or overnight. 
  2. Prepare your grill for cooking over high heat (direct method). Rub the scallions all over with vegetable oil and grill them, turning once, until the scallions are just softened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.  
  3. Working in batches, grill the steak over high heat until the slices are richly browned and medium-rare, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer the steak to a serving platter and serve with the grilled scallions and steamed rice. 

Wine pairing: A big, rich tannic Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Tuscan Toast

One of the nicer aspects of our trip to Tuscany was the hospitality afforded us at the local bars. You sit down, order a bottle of wine and they slide you a plate of bread, cheese and prosciutto. It happened to us the first time when we were on our way to shop at the market in Bagno A Ripoli.

The Italians drive like madmen on incredibly narrow roads that barely accommodate two small cars. A nasty accident happened in front of us (yes, there was blood) and we had nowhere to go. There are no shoulders on the side roads in Italy. Only buildings and walls. So an accident means that all traffic stops until the ambulance and tow trucks clear the scene. We parked our car and found a little hole-in-the-wall bar. We ordered a bottle of wine to pass the time and out came the bread, cheese and prosciutto.


So we played around with some recipes back at the villa and I used what I learned to make a meal out of it last night. I purchased a 12-pack of warm flatbread at Costco for $5.99. That became the basis for our meal. The next step is to add some oil to the bread. I drizzled truffle oil on the flatbread pieces and then spread it with a brush. If you don't have truffle oil, just grab some olive oil.

Then I added some truffle salt and cracked black pepper. Again, if you don't have truffle salt use regular salt or any other seasoned salt. But just use a light dusting as there is usually a lot of salt in cured meats.

Then comes the cheese. For the first flatbread, I used sliced pecorino. Flatbread #2 got shredded provolone while the last two got shredded mozzarella. No need to be scientific by measuring it. Just eyeball it. Just pick a cheese you like and have at it.

The last step in building your Tuscan toast is to top it with cured meats. For last night's meal, I put prosciutto on two of the flatbreads and smoked Italian sausage on the other two. Again, you can choose any meat you want, but I found that cured meats work best.

I chose to grill my flatbread. But you can achieve similar results in the oven. Set your oven to 400º and place the toasts right on the oven rack for 10 minutes. If you do grill, you only need a half-chimney of charcoal. Then stack your hot coals to one side of the grill and put your toasts on the opposite side (indirect cooking). I also added some mesquite to the coals for a smoky flavor (spectacular!). Cover your grill with all the vents wide open and the toasts are ready to eat after 10 minutes.

It's an incredibly simple meal to prep and cook. If you have kids, it's great way to let them build their own Tuscan toast. It also works great for a crowd. Just set out flatbreads, cheeses and meats and let everyone build their own. As they say in Italy, "godere"!

Wine pairing: If you are having a Tuscan meal, you must wash it down with Chianti.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Choucroute Loaf

I have not posted the last two Saturdays as I had the good fortune to spend eight days in Tuscany. Our good friend Debbie Drill suggested a year ago that it would be fun for our group of three couples to rent a villa in Tuscany. After an extensive internet search, we settled on Villa Paolina. High in the Tuscan hills, it's about 40 minutes outside of Florence. While the setting and views were incredible, the furnishings and artwork simply took our breath away. Check out the photos:

Because the villa was at the top of an incredibly high hill and the only way to get there was by car on a  truly challenging, single lane road....we never ventured out at night (thousand-foot sheer drop-offs if you erred). So the six of us would hit the market by day and cook up a feast every evening. Now I know we were in the heart of Chianti country, but I was absolutely blown away by the quality and cost of the wine.

A spectacular bottle of Reserve Chianti Classico could be had for just 4€ ($4.48 US). That same bottle would set you back $20 in the states. All of the Chardonnays produced in the region are remarkable and unoaked and sell for 3€ to 5€. The village of San Donato In Collina, which sat at the base of the hill we lived on, had a wine store that sold wine just like the tap houses do here in Minnesota. You bring in an empty bottle of wine and they would fill it up for you for as little as 1€ ($1.12 US).

One of the things I picked up on our trip to Tuscany was making meals using flatbread as the base to create a number of entrees. I'm going to do that tonight and will take photos so that I can share that with you next Saturday. But today I am going to share a fascinating meatloaf recipe with you. The recipe harkens from the Alsatian region of France.

Now the French would never give their food a banal name like meatloaf. So they call this Choucroute Loaf. Let them call it what they will, this is one of the most unique and delicious meatloaf recipes I have ever tasted (hats off to chef Melanie Bernard!). Imagine ingredients like apple, smoked ham, rye bread, horseradish, mustard, beef, pork, veal and applesauce. Better yet, don't imagine. Just make it, for nothing is easier than meatloaf.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tart apple (I like Granny Smith), peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ pound smoked ham, minced
1 ¼ pound mixture of ground chuck, pork and veal
1 cup rye bread crumbs
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
cup unsweetened applesauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the onion over medium heat until it is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the apple and garlic and cook, stirring, for two minutes more. Cool the mixture for a few minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, gently combine the onion, apple and garlic mixture, meats, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of the horseradish, mustard, thyme, caraway seeds, pepper and eggs. Shape the meat into a 9-by-5-inch loaf or just pat into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, smoothing the top.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the applesauce and the remaining horseradish. Spread over the meatloaf and bake until the loaf is firm and brown, about 1 hour.

Wine pairing: Almost all of the wines of Alsace are white, which I would not want to have with this meatloaf. So I would recommend Chianti Classico.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Grilled Asparagus with Chili Lime Butter

When I'm cooking meat on the grill, I like to grill my sides at the same time for the sake of convenience. Grilled asparagus is always a favorite as it will cook up in about 5 minutes...which is the same amount of time I rest my meat after grilling.

When picking out asparagus to grill, always opt for thick spears. Skinny spears cannot stand up to the heat of the grill and will overcook. And make sure you trim the base of the spears off. The base is quite fibrous and not at all tasty. The chili lime butter recipe is a favorite of mine...I often use in for corn on the cob as well.

3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds thick asparagus spears with base trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Combine butter, chili powder, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and lime zest in small bowl. Brush asparagus with butter mixture, sprinkle with salt, and season with pepper to taste. 
  2. Grill asparagus, turning once, until just tender and caramelized, about 2 to 3 minutes per side (move asparagus as needed to ensure even cooking). Transfer asparagus to platter and serve.

Wine pairing: Unfortunately, asparagus is a pairing disaster with tannic reds and oaky chardonnays. I would select a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc if you are eating chicken or fish. If you are eating red meat, I'd recommend an ice cold Pilsner beer.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Beef Brisket & Corn on the Cob

I got up at 7:30am today to start my brisket in the smoker. Brisket is a really tough cut of meat and it will take 10 hours under heat to make it tender. What I am sharing with you today is actually a hybrid method of cooking the brisket. It will spend just 3 hours in my smoker and 7 hours in the oven. Because there are only two of us at home now, I chose the flat cut, which weighs about 5 pounds. But this cooking method will still work on full briskets of 10+ pounds.

While I have an electric smoker that can infuse the wood with smoke, you don't need one. I opted for the 3 hour timing as that is the amount of time it takes my smoker to use up the wood. But you can use your grill to infuse the meat. Just use indirect heat and keep your dampers almost fully shut to maintain a temperature of 225º. If you are using the grill method, plan on smoking the meat for 1 hour on the grill and 9 hours in the oven.

When it comes to smoke, less is more. You want to go really light on the wood, otherwise your meat will taste more like smoke than meat...and that's a bad thing. For smoking brisket, I prefer pecan wood. Pecan is hickory's, lighter, thinner brother. Pecan adds a wispy, delicate flavor to the meat. And you don't need much. I only used 2 ounces of pecan this morning.

So the first part of our hybrid cooking method is for the smoke. The second part is to braise the meat. Brisket cooked for 10 hours in a smoker can get really dry. So two things will help to ensure moist, tender meat. The first is to make sure the meat has a good fat cap, which serves to baste the meat. Secondly, you will be adding 12 ounces of apple juice which will braise the meat while it is in the oven.

Cooking brisket using this hybrid method is ridiculously easy. It just takes time...."low and slow" is the mantra. But now I would like to tell you about a new way to cook corn. Becky and I tried it last Wednesday and it was the most incredible tasting corn either of us had ever had. It involves a cooking method called "sous vide", which is French for "under vacuum".

I have an Anova sous vide cooker. It's basically a stick you attach to the side of a pot. You just set the temperature and the stick heats and circulates water in the pot. So what you do is seal the corn inside a vacuum bag with a big glop of butter. You set the sous vide cooker for 183º and cook the corn for 30 minutes. The vacuum bag concentrates the corn a level I had never experienced before. And when it's done cooking, the corn is self-buttered. In fact you will find butter has seeped into every little crevice in the ear of corn. Just add salt! I'm here to tell you that you have never tasted corn like this.

1 flat cut brisket, about 5 pounds, with a generous fat cap
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
2 ounces pecan wood (for smoking)
12 ounces of apple juice (beer works in a pinch)

  1. Generously add salt and pepper to both sides of the brisket, rubbing it into the surface of the meat on both sides.
  2. Preheat smoker to 225º. When smoker reaches 225º, add pecan wood and brisket. Cook for 3 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 225º.
  4. After 3 hours, remove brisket from smoker. Take 2 long pieces of aluminum foil and lay them out in a cross on your counter top.
  5. Place brisket on the center of the foil cross. Slightly curl foil around brisket so that it will hold the juice without spilling. Add apple juice.
  6. Tightly double wrap the foil around the brisket. Make sure the foil is air tight as you don't want to lose any liquid in the cooking process. Place in oven.
  7. After 7 hours, remove from oven and let the brisket rest, in the foil, for 20 minutes.
  8. Carefully open the foil and pour the meat juices into a gravy server. Slice the meat against the grain. Put meat on a platter and serve, passing the gravy server for people to add the juices to their meat.

Wine pairing: Zinfandel

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Blue Butter

"The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom."
William Blake

When it comes to steaks, I love my fat. Everyone else can have filet mignon. If I have my druthers, I'll take rib eye any day of the week. Rib eyes are thickly marbled with that delicious fat. But not all rib eyes are created equal. If you want the King of Fat, you need USDA Prime Rib Eye Steaks.

What you see above are two spectacular examples of USDA Prime rib eye steaks that I bought Thursday. They pop up at Costco near each weekend in their own, special, free-standing refrigeration unit in the Meat Department. The crème de la crème can be all yours for just $16.99 a pound at Costco. At Byerly's, you'll pay $32.99 a pound. Order them up at Manny's Steakhouse and they will set you back $60 each.

So last night I grilled them over a mesquite and charcoal fire. Just four minutes per side. I tossed on a little Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and some Chicago Steak seasoning (made by Weber and also sold at Costco). One would suppose that would have been enough fat for me....NOT. I  then crowned each steak with three pats of Blue Butter!

Blue Butter is really easy to make. You're just combining butter, blue cheese and a little thyme. But be advised that not all butter is created equal. What I am showing you here is the crème de la crème of the butter world.....Kerrygold Irish Butter. It's made from the milk of grass-fed cows on Ireland's dairy farms. It is the best tasting butter I have ever tried. I buy this from Costco as's just $6.79 for 1.5 pounds. You won't ever find butter from grass-fed cows cheaper than that. And did I mention that it has a higher fat content than regular butter? 

So I've got my steaks with extra fat. I've got my butter with extra fat. So I need one more ingredient with extra fat. You guessed it....Blue Cheese (85% fat)! You take the fattest butter with the fattest cheese and put them on the fattest steak. The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom....and also to the best tasting steak you will ever eat.

4 ounces Kerrygold butter
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 teaspoon thyme

  1. Put all 3 ingredients in a bowl and set them on the counter at room temperature for 2 hours.
  2. After 2 hours, use the back of a fork to mash all of the ingredients together. When thoroughly mixed, remove butter mixture from bowl.
  3. Place butter mixture on waxed paper. Form the butter into a log. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove Blue Butter from refrigerator and slice into small pats to be placed on cooked steaks.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon