Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thai Steak Lettuce Wraps

My deck is in the southwest corner of my house. It sits in sunlight now from 11am until sunset, which means the snow we got last week has completely melted. And so the rites of spring commence, including one of my favorites, cooking over charcoal.

My Weber Performer looks like it's gone 3 rounds with Brock Lesnar. About 2 years ago, I had surgery in November and forgot to move my grill away from the roof overhang. We had a huge snowfall that winter and when the melting commenced, a giant glacier of snow slid off the copper roof and crushed my poor Weber.

I just did a Rube Goldberg number on it and kept cooking. I thought about replacing it this year but now I am determined to refurbish it. It needs a new grill where the coals burn as the high heat of my fires has warped the steel grates. I'm also thinking about popping for Craycort cast iron cooking grates. Nothing sears a steak better than cast iron.

While a new Performer runs $399, I'm certain that I can refurbish and improve the performance for a Benjamin and change. The beauty of the Weber Performer is that it is so damn simple that even a complete mechanical frigtard like me can easily work on it. And the food that comes off that grill is almost indescribable. Steak infused with the smell of charcoal, oak and mesquite. There's nothing quite like it and so this is what I'm doing for dinner tonight.


For the Marinade 
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon hot chili oil
10 cloves garlic, crushed

For the Wraps
1 flank steak (16-20 ounces)
1 small chunk of mesquite and oak
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Sriracha (or other hot chili sauce)
2 tablespoons fish sauce (Red Boat recommended)
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 head butter lettuce: washed, dried and leaves separated
1 lime, cut into wedges

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients with the meat in a zip lock bag. Toss to mix and refrigerate for 4 hours.
  2. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  3. Remove steak from marinade and wipe dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Add mesquite and oak to the white hot coals. Then grill, covered, for 5 minutes per side (for medium rare). Remove steak from grill, tent with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Mix chili sauce, fish sauce and lime juice in a small bowl.
  5. Slice the steak thinly, cutting against the grain. Drizzle the sauce (from #4) over the slices. Set out the beef, lettuce, jalapeño, onion slices, cilantro, carrots and lime wedges.
  6. Use the lettuce as a wrap and add beef and toppings. Serve with the lime wedges and more Sriracha.

Pairing: If you like white wine, pick a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If you like red wine, pick a fruity California Zinfandel. But if I had my druthers, I would pick a nice, Thai lager.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Korean Noodle Salad

This salad is paleo. Now I know that seems at odds with the fact that I have used the term "noodle" in the name of the recipe. But this is not the kind of noodle one normally encounters. Most pasta noodles are made with wheat...and those are not paleo. Many Asian noodles are made with rice...and those are not paleo.

These noodles are made with....drum roll, please...sweet potatoes. They are delicious and incredibly springy. They are also known as Korean vermicelli and are available at any Asian market. However, I prefer to shop for specialty items from my office chair at home. Accordingly, you can get yours from where I get . Follow this link:

This recipe is a spectacular mixture of sweet potato noodles and julienned vegetables. It's fresh and light...a tribute to spring (which started yesterday). While it's strictly vegetarian fare, feel free to add some protein. Chef Hooni Kim created this recipe (his Danji and Hanjan restaurants are in New York City). It serves four.

½ (8 ounce) package dried Korean sweet-potato noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 medium shiitake mushrooms, julienned
1 medium white onion, julienned
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and julienned
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and julienned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup vegetable stock or water
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar


  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add noodles and cook until transparent and al dente, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. Immediately transfer cooked noodles to ice-water bath to cool and halt cooking. Drain and toss well to dry. Set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once oil and pan are hot, add mushrooms, onions, bell peppers and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir-fry until vegetables begin to soften, 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir-fry until aromatic, 3 minutes.
  3. Toss in chilled noodles and remaining ingredients. Stir-fry until vegetables are completely soft and most of cooking liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Billi Bi

Maxim's restaurant opened in Paris in 1893. Legend has it that an American businessman, William B. Leeds Sr, was so in love with their cream of mussels soup that Maxime Gaillard, owner of Maxim's, named the soup in his honor (it's actually pronounced Billy Bee).

If you like New England clam chowder, I would like to introduce you to his older brother. Billi Bi is richer, more attractive and has impeccable taste. The best way to describe it is luxurious. It is a true celebration of elegant French cooking.

I like to get my mussels at Costco. They always have incredibly fresh mussels on Friday and Saturday at their weekend seafood carts. They are incredibly cheap ($1.99 per pound) and they come scrubbed and de-bearded.....which saves a ton of prep time.

Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey are responsible for this recipe, which they call "One of the sublime creations on Earth". This recipe will serve four as an entree or eight as an appetizer. I'd go for the entree portion....anything less will make you feel like you got screwed. And don't forget the French baguette.

2 pounds mussels
2 shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 small white onions, peeled and quartered
2 sprigs parsley, plus chopped parsley for garnish
Kosher salt
Pepper, to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup dry white wine, like pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups heavy cream
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten


  1. Scrub mussels well to remove dirt and, if necessary, remove beards.
  2. Place mussels in large saucepan or Dutch oven and add shallots, onions, parsley, salt, pepper, cayenne, wine, butter, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes, or until mussels have opened. Discard any that have not opened.
  3. Strain liquid through a colander lined with cheesecloth and reserve; this is the base for the soup.
  4. When cool enough to handle, remove mussels from shells and reserve. Discard shells and aromatics.
  5. Bring reserved liquid to a low boil in a small saucepan. Add cream and return mixture almost to a boil, then remove from heat. Let cool slightly then add egg yolk and stir to combine. Return saucepan to heat and let thicken slightly. (Do not boil.)
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning. To serve, arrange mussels in center of large soup dishes and spoon liquid over them. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Wine pairing: A nice oaky Chardonnay

Saturday, March 7, 2015

My St. Patrick's Day Meal

We are just 10 days away from St. Patrick's Day...a day when I make one of my favorite meals. I've posted these before in separate blogs. But I'm going to bring them all together for ease of reference.

First up is the very heart of the meal.....corned beef. I buy mine at Costco. And the recipe I have for it could not be any easier. Basically, you take the lid off your slow cooker and dump really good stuff in (including beer!!!). Put the lid back on, switch the slow cooker to low and you're done. Come back in 10 hours for the best corned beef you've ever tasted.

Next up is a wilted cabbage salad. I, personally, am not a fan of the traditional boiled cabbage served on St. Patrick's Day. That stuff smells like dead goat. I prefer this light and refreshing sautéed  salad made with some incredible ingredients (including bacon!!!)

The last leg of the stool is beer bread. Now I'm not a baker at all. But this bread is so simple a two-year old can make it. No chemistry lessons. Just a simple mixture of some really good ingredients (including beer!!!). Slap them together and drop them in loaf pan and you will have a wonderful, warm loaf of homemade bread.


1 corned beef brisket, 3-4 pounds
2 medium onions, cut into quarters
5 ribs celery, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon prepared mustard (stone ground preferred)
2 cups chicken stock
1 bottle of beer (12 ounces)


  1. Place onions and celery on the bottom of your slow cooker. Add stock, beer and mustard.
  2. Set brisket on top of onions and celery, fat-side up. Sprinkle meat with seasoning packet (which comes packed in your brisket). Put lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 10 hours.
  3. Remove brisket. Slice and serve.


1 pound of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch long pieces
1 medium head of red cabbage, shredded*
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

*You can make the prep of this salad really easy if you buy bags of shredded red cabbage. Dole sells 10 ounce bags of shredded red cabbage. You will need 20 ounces of shredded red cabbage to make this recipe. 

  1. Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. When skillet is hot, add bacon and cook until evenly brown.
  2. Use slotted spoon to remove bacon to a paper towel.
  3. Add onion and garlic to bacon fat until browned.
  4. Add vinegar. Bring to a simmer, then add cabbage, caraway seeds and bacon.
  5. Saute briefly and serve warm.


3 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 bottle beer (12 oz)
1/2 cup melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 375º.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and beer. Stir until lumpy.
  3. Spoon mixture into a loaf pan. Pour butter on top.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove and let bread cool for 15 minutes.
  5. Slice and serve.

Pairing: Duh!