Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Publican Bloody Mary

The Publican is a restaurant in the Windy City that specializes in pork and oysters. Patrons are seated at large, communal tables and order from a menu that is organized by the size of the dish. It was recently recognized as being one of the  20 best restaurants in America to enjoy honor due in part the their famous Bloody Mary's.

New Years day is probably the best day of the year to make a Bloody Mary. It's the perfect "hair of the dog" for those that lit their hair on fire the night before. As for me, I can barely stay up past 10pm, but I still think making a Publican Bloody Mary would make for a great way to start 2017. Try this recipe and I think you will agree with me.


The Mix
1 quart tomato juice
1/4-inch fresh horseradish, chopped
1/2 anchovy
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1/2 tablespoon Chinese hot mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1/2 lime, squeezed
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 tablespoon vodka
dash of black pepper
dash of Old Bay Seasoning
dash of celery seeds

The Drink
2 ounces vodka (I prefer Belvedere)
8 ounces Bloody Mary Mix


    1. Blend horseradish, Worcestershire, anchovies, Sriracha, mustard and spices until completely smooth.
    2. Add lemon, lime and tomato juice and blend. Taste mix and adjust spices as needed.
    3. Add tablespoon of vodka to stabilize the mix and keep juices fresh.
    4. Refrigerate and let mix marinate for 24 hours.
    5. Combine 2 ounces of vodka with 8 ounces of mix (no ice).
    6. Garnish as desired. (My favorite is a celery stalk with a Kosher garlic dill pickle spear.)

    Communal tables at The Publican.

    Saturday, December 24, 2016

    Mississippi Pot Roast

    After 64 years on planet earth, there is one thing I am very certain of: there is no such thing as a shortcut. If you've got a huge pile of rocks to get through, it needs to start with "one rock, two rocks....". Likewise, you can't take a 608-page literary masterpiece like "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle"  (my favorite novel of all time) and turn it into 5-page Reader's Digest version. Life just doesn't work that way.

    So I was very skeptical when I came across this slow cooker, pot roast recipe that sounded like it was an abridged version written for Reader's Digest. However, I did not find it in Reader's Digest. I found it in The New York Times. And the recipe has become so popular that they named it one of the top 50 recipes of 2016.

    Let me share the lowbrow ingredient list with you and see if you, too, do not share my skepticism. First, you have the chuck roast. But then get this: an envelope of powdered ranch dressing mix; an envelope of powdered au jus mix; a stick of butter and some pepperoncini. That's it. Sorry, but those four, long years you spent at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts were for naught when it comes to making a Mississippi Pot Roast.

    I made this on a Thursday night because I just had no faith that it was going to be anything special. I could certainly waste one weeknight dinner on a so-so dish. My family was quite surprised as to just how tasty this was. As was I. It's also quite a versatile dish as it would go well with egg noodles, roasted potatoes or piled high on sandwich rolls with the cooking gravy on the side.

    1 boneless chuck roast, 3 to 4 pounds
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
    3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, like canola
    1 stick of unsalted butter (4 ounces)
    1 one-ounce envelope of powdered ranch dressing mix
    1 one-ounce envelope of powdered au jus gravy mix
    10 pepperoncini, sliced into rings


    1. Place roast on a cutting board and rub salt and pepper all over it.
    2. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan set over high heat until it is shimmering. Brown roast on each side for 6 minutes (12 minutes total).
    3. Place stick of butter in the bowl of a slow cooker. Set browned roast on top of butter.
    4. Empty dressing and gravy mixes over the top of the roast. Add pepperoncini to the bowl of the slow cooker.
    5. Cover and turn slow cooker on to "low". Cook for 8 hours.
    6. Remove roast from slow cooker into a large mixing bowl. Shred meat with two forks.
    7. Return meat to slow cooker and stir to combine meat, pepperoncini and gravy. Then serve.

    Wine pairing: This dish has some really bold flavors, so I'd reach for a big-ass, fruity Zinfandel. And have yourself a very, merry Christmas!

    Saturday, December 17, 2016

    Bacon-Wrapped Tater Tots

    It's time for families to gather for holiday meals. If you want incredibly joyful people at your party, serve them an appetizer that will fly off of the serving dish...Bacon-Wrapped Tator Tots. So easy to make and who does not love bacon or tater tots?

    1 pound applewood smoked bacon
    1, 32-oz bag of Ore-Ida tater tots


    1. Place tater tot bag in refrigerator 24-hours before making the recipe (you want the tots to be thawed, not frozen).
    2. Pre-heat oven to 450º.
    3. Cut each strip of bacon into 3 equal pieces. Wrap each tater tot with the 1/3 strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick.
    4. Place a wire sheet grate over a flat cookie sheet (this allows the tots to cook all over, meaning you don't have to turn them half way through the process). Put tots on grate and slide into the oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.

    Wine pairing: Nothing goes better with bacon than Pinot Noir.

    Saturday, December 10, 2016

    Rice Pilaf

    Rice pilaf is such a simple dish. For it's simplicity, it is surprisingly so much more delicious than plain white rice. Three small things elevate the dish to a whole new level...toasting the rice...and the addition of sautéd celery and onion.

    I serve this rice every time I make shellfish. It has a nice, delicate flavor that complements crab and lobster. And as I do with all my rice dishes, I substitute chicken stock for the tap water that the recipes usually call for. It's all about the flavor.

    2 cups long grain white rice
    2 tablespoons butter
    1/2 cup chopped scallions, green part only
    1/2 cup chopped celery
    2-1/2 cups chicken stock
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/2 cup chopped parsley


    1. In a large sauce pan, melt butter on medium-high heat. When butter has melted, add rice and brown the rice, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes. 
    2. Add onions and celery and cook a few minutes longer, until onions begin to soften.
    3. Add salt, pepper and cayenne. Then add stock.
    4. Bring stock to a boil. When it is boiling, reduce heat to low (simmer), cover pan and let it sit on the stove top for 15 minutes.
    5. After 15 minutes, turn heat off under the sauce pan. Keep pan covered and let pan sit on the same burner for another 15 minutes.
    6. After second 15 minute period is over, fluff rice with a fork and stir in parsley. Serve.

    Wine pairing: If I'm serving my rice pilaf with shellfish, I want a really buttery and oaky Chardonnay. To really treat yourself, try a Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2016

    Weapon of Choice: Indoor Grilling

    My sister checked in with me the other day and was interested in my opinion of indoor electric grills. I told her I was not a fan of electric grills because they just don't get hot enough for grilling and, because of how they are constructed, they tend not to heat evenly.

    450ºF is about the best you are going to get out of an electric grill. To properly sear meat, you should always shoot for north of 550ºF. And that's pretty simple to do if you have the right tools. As in cast iron pans.

    If you have a gas stove, I recommend you get a Lodge cast iron grill pan. It costs $45 and at 20 inches by 10.44 inches, it fits perfectly across 2 burners. With two burners firing up the cast iron, you will have no problem getting north of 550º to put a fabulous sear on your steak.

    If you have an electric stove top, you'll have to make two purchases...but that can be done for less than $80. Again, the answer is a Lodge cast iron grill pan. But this is a 10.5 inch square pan. Cast iron is legendary for it's ability to retain heat and there is no drop in temperature when you put meat in it. But because your electric stovetop cannot get you north of 550ºF, you'll have to make an additional purchase.

    Pictured above is a Nuwave induction cooktop. It creates high heat thanks to it's magnetic heating element. It requires that your cookware be magnetic as well, which fortunately cast iron is. This induction cook plate sells for $69 and is capable of heating the Lodge grill pan up to 575ºF.

    If you're like me, there's no way I'm going out on my deck to grill during Minnesota winters. But it's a breeze to grill indoors if you have the right tools. And those tools don't cost much. All the items I have shown here are available at And if you're going to grill indoors, I have two tips that will guarantee you a great grilling session. First, always bring the meat to room temperature before grilling. Second, you want to put a nice coating of oil on the meat...not in the pan.

    Saturday, December 3, 2016

    Smoky Wild Rice Soup

    Last Saturday, two days after Thanksgiving, I had had my fill of leftover turkey sandwiches. I had a hankering for something different. After taking inventory of my pantry, fridge and freezer, I saw that I had the ingredients on hand to make wild rice soup.

    But the thought of that soup left my tastebuds wanting. I had just gone through two days of eating turkey....perhaps the blandest meat on earth. My Byerly's recipe for Wild Rice Soup called for minced ham, but alas, my cupboards were bare of minced ham. And I wasn't about to make a trip to the store for another bland meat.

    I had an ample supply of turkey, but I refused to put that in my soup. In the very back of my meat drawer, I had uncovered a pound of Applewood Smoked Bacon. Now wild rice soup made with bacon sounded like a real winner! And was it ever. It was the best wild rice soup I have ever had.

    My pantry was stocked with a few cans of cooked wild rice. By using pre-cooked wild rice, I could shave 35 minutes off of the prep time. This meant that from start to finish, my meal would be ready in less than 15 minutes. I was also happy to find a loaf of parmesan garlic bread...I absolutely have to dunk when I have soup. This recipe yields two large, entree bowls or four, small, cup servings.

    1/2 pound applewood smoked bacon*, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
    5 tablespoons of butter
    1 tablespoon of finely minced onion
    1/2 cup of flour
    3 cups of chicken broth 
    2 cups of cooked wild rice
    1/2 cup matchstick carrots
    3 tablespoons of slivered almonds
    1/2 teaspoon of salt
    1 cup Half and Half
    2 tablespoons dry sherry
    1 tablespoon minced chives (for garnish)

    *This is an ingredient crucial to the smoky taste of the soup. I would definitely make sure you only use Applewood Smoked Bacon.


    1. Cook bacon in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat until it is crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow bacon to rest on a paper towel. Drain pan of bacon fat, leaving one tablespoon of fat in the pan.
    2. Turn heat down to medium. Add butter to bacon fat. When butter has melted, add onions and sauté until tender.
    3. Blend in flour. Gradually add broth while stirring.
    4. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil.
    5. Stir in rice, bacon, carrots, salt and almonds. Simmer for 5 minutes.
    6. Blend in Half and Half and Sherry. Heat to serving temperature.
    7. Serve soup, garnished with chives.

    Wine pairing: Bacon and Pinot Noir are perhaps the greatest combination in heaven or on earth.

    Saturday, November 26, 2016

    Roasted Celery

    My favorite dish at Thanksgiving is stuffing. I make mine with Brownberry Sage and Onion bread cubes. To that I add turkey stock, butter, sautéed mushrooms, onion, hot Italian sausage and celery. A complete and delicious meal all in itself.

    I buy the celery at Costco. Typical of Costco, it is sold in bulk and there is more celery than I would ever need for just my stuffing. So what to do with all of the extra celery? Roast it. It's fast, easy and absolutely succulent. And it goes great with those leftover turkey sandwiches!

    1 head of celery, separated into individual stalks
    Extra virgin olive oil
    Kosher salt
    Fresh cracked pepper


    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    2. Drizzle olive oil over the stalks, then season with salt and pepper.
    3. Roast celery for 20 minutes, then serve.

    Wine pairing: If I'm serving this with a turkey sandwich, I'll have a Merlot, please.

    Saturday, November 19, 2016

    Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

    Being obsessive-compulsive is actually an admirable quality if you are a cook. I find that it comes in especially handy at Thanksgiving, where micro-managing the production of an enormous feast is no small feat.

    In order to handle the complexity of the Thanksgiving meal preparation, I create a very comprehensive list of every task that must be accomplished and at precisely what time to perform that task. It starts at 12:35pm with the convection roasting of the turkey. Then the schedule is set to make sure that everything gets done so that we can eat precisely at 6:00pm.

    But regardless of the schedule, there are three items that always need my attention at the very last, frenetic second: the carving of the turkey; the mashing of the potatoes; and the making of the gravy. I cannot do all three at once by myself.

    I'm really good at quickly carving a 25-pound turkey, so I take on that duty. The potatoes need to be mashed at the last second so that they are good and warm, which is a role my son Patrick has excelled at since he was a boy. Being a big, strong defensive back on the Macalester Football team, he is now able to execute his mashing duties in mere seconds.

    Which leaves us with the gravy. I'm really anal about making turkey gravy from scratch. Use butter and flour to make a roux, then add turkey drippings and turkey stock. The problem here is that the drippings come at the end....after you've removed the turkey for carving.

    But alas, Mark Bittman (food writer for the New York Times) solved my problem by creating this make-ahead gravy recipe. It can be made up to five days in advance, then re-heated just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. And the gravy still gets the flavor boost from the pan just add them in at the last second to your already "at serving temperature" gravy.

    A small note here about the stock. Most grocery stores have an abundance of turkey stock on their shelves at this time of year. But if you couldn't find any or simply forgot to pick some up, chicken stock is a really good second choice.

    1 stick of butter (I prefer Kerrygold)
    1/2 cup chopped onion
    1/2 cup flour
    Salt and pepper
    4 to 5 cups warm turkey stock
    Turkey drippings


      1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on the onions, stirring constantly, and cook until flour is golden to brown. Adjust heat so mixture does not burn.
      2. Gradually whisk in 4 cups stock until mixture thickens and is smooth. If it is too thick, add more stock. Cool, cover and chill.
      3. When ready to serve, reheat mixture over low heat, stirring. Scrape bottom of turkey pan and add drippings or to gravy. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.

      Wine pairing:  A Thanksgiving meal has a broad stroke of many, big flavors.  So I prefer to drink a big, fruity Merlot. One of my favorites is Columbia Crest Grand Estates. It's a 91-point wine that sells for as little as $7.47 at Total Wine.

      Saturday, November 12, 2016

      Tyler Florence's Mashed Potatoes

      I love it when someone comes up with a great "aha" moment. It's one of those, "Why did no one ever think of this before?". Kind of like the EJ Dale method of wine preservation I reported in this blog some years ago.

      The standard cooking methodology for mashed potatoes is slowly heating them in cold water until they are cooked through. Once cooked, you drain the cooking vessel,  you mash the potatoes and combine them with butter and cream.

      Tyler Florence's "aha" moment came when he realized that all of the great potato flavor was going down the sink with the cooking water. To retain that great potato flavor, he decided to try cooking the potatoes in cream right from the get-go. He found the result to be spectacular!

      The important step here is to start cooking the potatoes in cold cream. If you were to use warm or hot cream, the exterior of the potato starts to disintegrate before the interior has a chance to cook. This recipe serves four to six people.

      2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
      2 cups heavy cream, cold
      3 garlic cloves
      1 stick (4 ounces) butter, cut into chunks
      Kosher salt to taste
      Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
      Coarse sea salt, to taste


      1. Cut the potatoes into 2- to 3-inch chunks. Add them to a medium pot with the cream, garlic, butter and kosher salt to taste.
      2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.
      3. Place a colander over a bowl. Pour the potatoes through the colander, reserving the hot cream in the bowl. Shake the potatoes to drain off the excess liquid. Scoop the potatoes into a ricer (or you could mash them with a fork for a chunkier texture). Rice the potatoes, occasionally clearing the sides of the ricer with a spoon. Pour the still-hot cream over the potatoes in small increments, folding in to combine, until you achieve your desired consistency. Season with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve immediately or keep warm until ready to serve. 

      Tyler Florence

      Saturday, November 5, 2016

      Roasted Radishes

      When the summer gives way to fall, I usually change up my cooking. When it gets too cold to go out on the deck (which certainly has not happened so far in 2016), I go from grilling to roasting. Today I'm going to talk about a vegetable you don't think about roasting, but you should. Not many people know that the often overlooked radish is a super food. Consider:

      • Radishes eliminate excess mucus in the body.
      • Radishes are a natural cleansing agent for the digestive system.
      • Because of their high vitamin C content, they prevent viral infections.
      • They break down and eliminate toxins and cancer-causing free radicals in the body.
      • As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family (same family as broccoli and cabbage), radishes contain phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals that are cancer protecting.
      • With less than 20 calories in a cup of radishes, they are a great way to add nutrients, fiber and flavor to a no cost to your waistline.

      Most people relegate radishes to summer salads....a role in which they flourish. But roasting them reveals the mellow side of this delicious vegetable. Roasted radishes are a great side dish for fall and winter. When you are in the supermarket, skip the bagged radishes and go for the fresh-picked ones that still have the green leaves on them. Those radishes will be much more flavorful and nutrient rich compared to their bagged counterparts. This recipe serves four.

      1 pound of radishes, trimmed and halved
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      1 teaspoon kosher salt
      1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
      1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


      1. Preheat oven to 400º.
      2. Toss together radishes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place radishes on a baking sheet and roast them until caramelized and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
      3. When done, toss radishes with lemon juice and serve.

      Friday, October 28, 2016

      Korean Cheese Steak Sandwich

      This dish also goes by the name of Koagie...the marriage of the Philadelphia Cheese Steak Sandwich and the Korean BBQ sensation known as "bulgogi". While bulgogi is a delicious Korean street food that is typically grilled, this Olive magazine recipe, which serves four, has you stir fry the steak...which makes it incredibly easy to make.

      Make sure you use an authentic French bread baguette. I like to get mine at Costco...two piping hot baguettes for just $4.99. And while you are there, you might as well grab your two New York Strips @ $7.99 a pound. Gochujang is available in the Asian section of your grocery store, but you can always use Sriracha in a pinch.

      1 teaspoon grated ginger
      2 cloves garlic, minced
      1 teaspoon brown sugar
      2 tablespoons gochujang
      4 tablespoons soy sauce
      2 tablespoons sesame oil
      1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
      1/2 pear, peeled and cubed
      2, 12-ounce New York Strip steaks, very finely sliced
      1 French bread baguette, cut into 4 pieces
      12 slices cheddar cheese
      2 scallions, finely chopped
      sesame seeds


      1. Mix the ginger, garlic, sugar, gochujang, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar, then mash in the pear. Add the steak and leave it to marinate for 1 hour. 
      2. Halve each piece of baguette horizontally, leaving it joined at one side and add 3 slices of cheese to the base. Tip the beef and the marinade into a wok or large skillet, bring it to a simmer and stir until the meat is cooked through. Spoon some into each baguette then sprinkle on some chopped scallions and sesame seeds. Leave to sit for a few minutes for the juices to sink in before eating.

      Pairing: A sandwich with such strong flavors like this would go best with a very fruity Zinfandel. But if I were eating this sandwich, I would grab an ice cold Pilsner!

      Saturday, October 22, 2016

      Thai Meatballs

      Meatballs are a great comfort food. One immediately associates meatballs with those wonderful sausage and beef concoctions bathed in red sauce on top of a generous helping of spaghetti. But meatballs are not just indigenous to the Italians...every culture and cuisine has a unique take on meatballs.

      I think a big reason that meatballs are so ubiquitous across so many cultures is that they are so stinkin' easy to make. Heck, you just take a bucketload of ingredients....mix 'em together....then roll 'em into balls and bake 'em.

      This is Thai street food at it's best. To make these meatballs a complete meal, I like to serve them in a butter lettuce leaf. To that I add the Thai Dipping Sauce and a side dish of aromatic basmati rice. This Michael Symon recipe will serve four if you make the meatballs about the size of golf balls. If you want to serve these as appetizers, make the meatballs from one heaping tablespoon of the mixture.


      For the Thai Meatballs
      1 1/2 pounds ground pork
      1 teaspoon salt
      2 tablespoons fish sauce
      2 garlic cloves (minced)
      small jalapeño (seeded and minced)
      2 teaspoons lemongrass (chopped)
      1/2 carrot (grated)
      1- inch piece fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
      3 scallions (white and green parts; finely chopped)
      1/4 cup cilantro (roughly chopped)
      2 tablespoons mint (roughly chopped)
      1/3 cup breadcrumbs 
      White sesame seeds, for garnish

      For the Thai Dipping Sauce
      3 tablespoons chili paste (such as Sambal Oelek, Gochujang or Sriracha)
      3 tablespoons soy sauce
      1/4 cup lime juice
      2 tablespoons sugar
      3 tablespoons fish sauce


      1. FOR THE MEATBALLS: In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Roll into meatballs and place on parchment or foiled lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. When finished, garnish with sesame seeds and serve.
      2. FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Serve alongside the meatballs.

      Wine Pairing: A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

      Saturday, October 15, 2016

      Slow-Cooker Guinness Beef Stew

      Slow Cookers and the chill in the fall air are a marriage made in heaven. A slow cooker is the perfect tool to create a stew.....incredibly tender meat and melt-in-your mouth vegetables. Turn on your slow cooker and dinner is all set ten hours later.

      This is a really interesting recipe from Cook's Country. As my fellow Irishmen will attest, Guinness is probably the harshest and most bitter beer you can send over your tongue. So my first thought was that this would be a very bitter stew.

      But there is one, all-important ingredient that remedies this problem. Bittersweet chocolate. Do not buy Unsweetened, Semi-Sweet or Sweet. They will not work and your stew will not taste good. Bittersweet chocolate removes the harshness of the beer while bringing out it's complex coffee and chocolate flavors.

      Also, make sure you add the Guinness in two stages...once in the beginning and then again just before serving (mixing it with the flour). It is common to serve the stew over egg noodles. But I prefer the method of my ancestors...serve it in a bowl by itself with a loaf of hot Irish soda bread. This recipe serves six to eight people.

      4 pounds boneless chuck stew meat, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
      2 tablespoons vegetable oil
      2 onions, chopped
      4 cups chicken broth
      1 1/2 cups Guinness Draught
      1 tablespoon brown sugar
      1 teaspoon dried thyme
      1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
      2 bay leaves
      5 carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
      1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
      1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, scrubbed
      1/4 cup all purpose flour
      2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves


      1. Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook half of beef until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker and repeat with additional 2 teaspoons oil and remaining beef.
      2. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil, onions, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to skillet and cook until onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add broth, 1 1/4 cups stout (save the rest for the end), sugar, thyme, chocolate, and bay leaves and bring to boil, using wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits. Transfer to slow cooker.
      3. Add carrots, parsnips, and potatoes to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until meat is tender, 9 to 10 hours. Then set slow cooker to high. Whisk flour and remaining 1/4 cup beer in a small bowl until smooth, then stir mixture into slow cooker. Cook, covered, until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper and discard bay leaves. Serve. 

      Pairing: If I were to serve wine with this dish, I would pick a Pinot Noir. But, when in Dublin, do as the Dubliners do......

      Saturday, October 8, 2016

      Potato Nik

      In the last few months I shared a couple of my favorite potato recipes: Kitchen Sink Hash Browns and Oven Roasted Hash. The photo above is of another of my favorite potato recipes. It's a Potato Nik...kind of a giant potato latke. It's actually more like a big potato pie. Grated potatoes and onions fried up crisp and brown...then cut up into slices like a pizza.

      If you want, you can grate your own potatoes by hand or by using the grating disk on your food processor. I, however, like cutting corners, so I just pick up two, twenty-ounce bags of Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns in the refrigerated section of my grocery store. This Mark Bitman recipe will serve 4-6 people.

      I typically serve this with grilled steaks. Lately I've been marinating my steaks using an old steak house formula. I posted this 5 years ago and it is still one of my favorite ways to get great big flavor into a steak:

      2 pounds russet potatoes
      1 medium onion
      2 eggs
      Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
      2 tablespoons bread crumbs
      Neutral frying oil like corn or grape seed


        1. Grate potatoes and onion by hand or with grating disk of a food processor; drain in colander or strainer. Combine potatoes and onions in a large bowl with eggs, salt, pepper and bread crumbs.
        2. Put about 1/8 inch oil in a large, deep skillet, either nonstick or seasoned cast iron; turn heat to medium-high. When oil is hot (it will shimmer) put all the batter in pan, and smooth the top. Cook, shaking pan occasionally; adjust heat so mixture sizzles but does not burn. Continue until bottom is nicely browned, at least 15 minutes.
        3. To turn, slide cake out onto a large plate, cover with another large plate and invert. Add a little more oil to pan if necessary, and slide pancake back in, cooked side up. Cook 15 minutes or so longer, until nicely browned. Then slice and serve.

        Wine pairing: If you are serving up grilled steaks with Potato Nik on the side, you'll want a big, juicy Cabernet Sauvignon.

        Saturday, October 1, 2016

        Salisbury Steaks

        I attended Southview Junior High in Edina from 1964 through 1967. Those years were pretty much unremarkable. At some point my voice changed. Lyndon Baines Johnson, puller of beagle ears, was our president. But there are three things that really stand out for me from that era.

        First was our Physical Education classes. They were mandatory and they were hard. Had to learn to wrestle. Had to do a 30-foot rope one thought to put pads over the hardwood floors back then. But what I remember vividly is swim class, taught by the legendary Art Downey.

        Our swim classes were noteworthy due to the absence of all clothing. All 30 of us were buck naked for each class. While I didn't really think about it at the time, I can't imagine going swimming in the buff today with 30 of my peers (oh, the horror!). We were just a few years past WWII and the Korean War and I think the military mentality of the period saw it as normal operating procedure. Besides, you couldn't really reliably depend on 30, 13-year old boys to remember to bring swimsuits to school every could you?

        The second thing that I recall were the nuclear war drills the school would conduct. People much smarter than me had determined that us kids could survive an atomic bomb explosion by sitting in the school hallway with our legs crossed and our arms over our heads.

        The only other thing that really stands out for me during that period are the school lunches. Keep in mind, that during this period of my life, my mother was 100% committed to not becoming a slave to her kitchen. So meals made by the military-industrial complex were actually a huge plus for me. The only meals I disdained were Friday fish sticks during Lent. Other than that, I was living the dream.

        While I liked the days we had burgers, my very favorites were the days we had Salisbury Steak. I thanked my lucky stars for growing up in Edina where the school kids were fed steak! I was ever so grateful that my parents had achieved Edina and brought me and my sister with them.

        Overcome by all of this nostalgia this week, I combed the Interwebs to find a really good Salisbury Steak recipe. What you see here is actually a Frankenrecipe. I grabbed different parts of recipes and then sewed them all together. So I encourage you to try this recipe out. And to be period-correct, I would suggest that you consume this meal in your birthday suit while listening carefully for air raid sirens. This recipe serves four.


        For the Steaks
        1 egg
        1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
        2/3 cup finely chopped onion
        2 cloves garlic, minced
        1 teaspoon onion powder
        1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
        1/2 teaspoon  black pepper
        1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
        2  heaping tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
        1 pound ground beef
        1 tablespoon olive oil

        For the Onion Gravy
        1 onion, sliced into strips
        1 tablespoon olive oil
        4 tablespoons butter
        4 tablespoons flour
        2 cups beef broth
        1 teaspoon Gravy Master
        Salt and pepper to taste


        For the Steaks
        1. Lightly beat the egg in a large bowl. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chopped onion, minced garlic, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and stir until well mixed. Crumble the ground beef over the egg mixture and mix until everything is well combined.
        2. Shape the beef mixture into 4 patties of equal size. 
        3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and cook over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove the patties to a plate and drain any fat from the pan.
        For the Gravy
        1. In a skillet over medium high heat, sauté onions until they are soft and opaque (about 10 minutes),
        2. Remove onions from skillet and set aside. Reduce heat to low. Put butter in skillet.
        3. When butter has melted, blend in flour, stirring until smooth.
        4. Slowly add beef broth and boil gently for 5 minutes.
        5. Add Gravy Master and onions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then pour over Salisbury Steaks and serve.

        Wine pairing: To be period correct, grab yourself a bottle of Mogen David Wine...made with real Concord grapes!

        Saturday, September 24, 2016

        Skillet Pizza

        I love this recipe for two simple reasons. First, it yields an absolutely delicious, thin-crust pizza. Second, it's so stinkin' easy a 5-year old could do it. The reason it is so easy is because it eliminates dough from the equation. That chemistry lesson of flour and yeast and blah-blah-blah is gone.

        The secret? We are going to use a 12-inch flour tortilla for our crust. So from there on out it's basically throw some great ingredients on that tortilla...then heat and eat. The only caveat is that you really need a cast-iron skillet to achieve this thin-crust pizza nirvana. Cast iron skillets are legendary for heat retention and their perfect, non-stick surface.

        1, 12" flour tortilla
        1/3 cup of sauce (marinara, pesto or plain spaghetti sauce)
        1/3 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
        1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
        Your favorite toppings: pepperoni, Italian sausage, basil leaves, etc


        1. Place the top rack of your oven as close to the broiler as possible. Pre-heat broiler.
        2. Put a little oil into your skillet, then heat it on your stove top over high heat until the oil just starts to shimmer. As soon as it does, reduce the heat to low and wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. This will help crisp up the bottom, while making sure that it doesn't get greasy.
        3. There are two sides to your with small bubbles and one with big bubbles. Put the small bubble side down in the skillet (big bubbles facing up).
        4. Spread your sauce over the tortilla.
        5. Spread cheeses over tortilla.
        6. Add toppings as desired.
        7. Slide skillet under broiler and cook for 3 minutes.
        8. When done, use a thin metal spatula to gently release the crisp edges from the pan. Then shake the pan so that pizza slides freely. Slide it onto a cutting board and slice.

        Wine pairing: Merlot is always my first choice for pizza with red sauce.

        Saturday, September 17, 2016

        Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

        We've already had a few "fallish" days this September. It's that time of year when evening entrees migrate from salads to stews. I was delighted when I stumbled upon this stew recipe in the New York Times. As a lover of both mustard and cognac, I couldn't wait to try it....and I did just that last Thursday night.

        I've made a few changes to the recipe. First was the cooking methodology. This was a meal for company, so I didn't want to be cooking while my guests were here. So I made the stew at noon and then cooked it in the oven the rest of the day at 210º. No muss. No fuss. And all I had to do at dinner time was pull the Dutch oven out and serve.

        A couple of comments on ingredients. While the recipe calls for Pommery Mustard (which is all but impossible to find in stores), in a pinch you can substitute Whole Grain Mustard. But if you have the time, I would really encourage you to go to and order a jar.  Pommery mustard has been made in Meaux, France since 1632. This mustard is very thick and the whole grain mustard seeds give it a gritty texture. It is an incredible addition to your pantry and puts this dish over the top.

        And while Gravy Master was not part of the original recipe, I would never consider making a stew without a little help from Gravy Master. It gives the stew an intense, rich color and incredible depth on the tongue. It is such a fantastic product that I use it in virtually all of my stews, gravies and sauces. However, I find the 2-ounce jars annoyingly small, so I go on and buy the foodservice sizes, which come in both quart and gallon size.

        The third stool of the meal is warm, crusty bread. It is considered a mortal sin if you make a stew and have not coupled it with a baguette or two of French bread. My recommendation is Costco, where the loaves are always warm and you can score two for just $4.99. And do not forget to dip!!! This adaptation of Regina Scrambling's recipe serves four to six people.

        4 slices of bacon, diced
        1 large onion, diced
        3 shallots, chopped
        2 to 4 tablespoons butter, as needed
        2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
        2 tablespoons flour
        Salt and fresh ground pepper
        2 to 4 tablespoons butter, as needed
        1/2 cup Cognac
        2 cups beef stock
        1/2 cup Dijon mustard
        4 tablespoons Pommery mustard
        1 tablespoon Gravy Master
        4 large carrots, sliced
        1/2 pound mushrooms
        1/4 cup red wine


          1. Pre-heat oven to 210º.
          2. Place bacon in a Dutch oven over low heat and cook until fat is rendered. Remove solid pieces with a slotted spoon. Set aside. Raise heat and add onion and shallots. Cook until softened but not browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large bowl.
          3. If necessary, add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan to augment fat. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté until browned and tender. Use slotted spoon to transfer to the bowl with the onions and shallots.
          4. If necessary, add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan to augment fat. Dust beef cubes with flour and season with salt and pepper. Shake off excess flour and place half the cubes in the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until well browned, almost crusty, on all sides, then transfer to a bowl with onions. Repeat with remaining beef.
          5. Add Cognac to the empty pan and cook, stirring, until the bottom is deglazed and the crust comes loose. Add stock, Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon of Pommery mustard. Whisk to blend, then return bacon, meat, onion and mushroom mixture to pan. Add carrots. Stir to blend all ingredients. Cover dutch oven with aluminum foil and then place lid over foil. Slide pan into oven and cook for 5 hours.
          6. Remove pan from oven. Add 3 tablespoons of Pommery mustard and the red wine. Stir, taste and then adjust seasonings and serve.  

          Wine pairing: A big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon.

          Saturday, September 10, 2016

          Refrigerator Pickles

          We were out last night with our BFF's, Steve and Taffy Hirtz, to celebrate quite a milestone...their 44th wedding anniversary. I was best man in the wedding...the groom and I were but 20 years old. What a great couple....which begot a great family. And, oh, how far we've all come since that day in 1972.

          To celebrate last night, we headed down to the highly acclaimed "The Butcher and the Boar". The food was fantastic, but what really stood out for me were their homemade sausages. We had the sampler plate which was comprised of one beef sausage, one wild boar sausage and one pork and cheddar sausage. Just a little bit of heaven!

          Speaking of homemade, the best pickles in the world will be the ones you make yourself. Refrigerator pickles are quick and easy and do not require all of the preservation techniques associated with pickling. They taste a whole lot better than store-bought and you can go crazy by pickling any vegetable you want!


          For the Brine
          10 cloves garlic, peeled
          2 cups white vinegar
          6 teaspoons kosher salt
          Several sprigs of fresh dill
          1 teaspoon celery seed
          1 teaspoon coriander seed
          1 teaspoon mustard seed
          1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
          1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns (or more black if you don't have pink)

          For the Vegetables
          6 kirby cucumbers
          6 young spring carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
          1 handful of scallions or green beans
          A few pieces of cauliflower to tuck wherever they will fit
          4 small hot red chiles or 2 jalapeños


          1. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil, reduce the heat so the water simmers and add the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and salt, raise the heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt dissolves. Remove from the heat.
          2. In 2 clear 1-quart jars, place a few sprigs of dill. Divide the seeds and peppercorns between the jars. Using tongs, remove the garlic from the brine and place 5 cloves in each jar. Then pack the jars full of cucumbers, carrots, scallions or green beans, cauliflower and chiles. You want them to be tightly stuffed.
          3. Bring the brine back to a boil, pour it over the vegetables to cover completely, let cool, then cover and refrigerate. The pickles will taste good in just a few hours, better after a couple of days. And they'll keep for about 3 months.

          Happy 44th, Steve and Taffy!

          Saturday, September 3, 2016

          Warm Mushroom Salad

          I'm a fan of brevity. So I had to fix this spectacular recipe with a horrible name. I opted for "Warm Mushroom Salad" instead of the actual name of the dish: "Warm Mushroom Salad with Bacon, Sourdough Croutons and Pickled-Mushroom Vinaigrette". While the latter certainly does more to fire up your tastebuds...I still like brevity.

          I also like mushrooms. They are a great alternative to meat. I find them every bit as filling as meat. They are high in protein, fiber, vitamins and have zero cholesterol. Their taste characteristics are as variable as beef, chicken and pork. From portobellos to shiitake to white button mushrooms...each mushroom varietal has it's own, unique flavor.

          When you buy mushrooms, always buy organic as mushrooms will contain everything present in their environment. If there are toxins in the soil, there will be toxins in your organic should always be your first choice.

          You might also consider growing your will be astounded by the taste of a freshly picked mushroom. Just do an search for "grow your own mushroom kit" and you will find a huge selection of kits. This is a Rachel Wharton recipe and it makes two entree salads or four side salads.


          For the Pickled Mushrooms

          1/4 pound trumpet or oyster mushrooms, sliced 1/8 inch thick
          1/2 cup red wine vinegar
          1/4 cup water
          2 tablespoons sugar
          1 teaspoon black peppercorns
          One, 4-inch sprig rosemary
          1 garlic clove, crushed
          1 teaspoon salt

          For the Salad
          3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
          1 garlic clove, minced
          Salt and freshly ground pepper
          2 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
          1 heaping cup bite-size sourdough bread pieces, torn by hand
          2 cups mixed mushrooms (about 3/4 pound total), such as trumpet, oyster, shiitake, etc.
          4 packed cups mixed baby greens (1/2-pound total)
          Sliced radishes and fennel fonds, for garnish


          1. Make pickled mushrooms: Place mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl. Place remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring once or twice, until sugar and salt dissolve. Strain hot pickling liquid over mushrooms. Reserve 1 tablespoon pickling liquid for vinaigrette and discard peppercorns, rosemary and garlic. Cover mushrooms with plastic wrap.
          2. Make vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon mushroom pickling liquid, oil, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste until emulsified. Set aside.
          3. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon until crisp and most of fat has rendered out. Add sourdough pieces to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally and adding a little olive oil if pan seems dry, until bread begins to get crisp and golden, 7-10 minutes. Transfer bread and bacon to a bowl. 
          4. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook mushrooms in skillet, stirring frequently, until slightly browned, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and turn off heat. 
          5. Compose salad: Drain pickled mushrooms. In a large bowl, combine greens, warm mushrooms, drained pickled mushrooms, croutons and bacon. Drizzle vinaigrette to taste, tossing to coat. Adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish with radishes and fennel fronds, if using. Serve while mushrooms are still warm.

          Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

          Saturday, August 27, 2016

          White Bolognese Sauce

          Bolognese Sauce traces it's origins to the late 1790's in Bologna, Italy. The primary ingredient of Bolognese Sauce is meat...typically some combination of veal, pork and/or beef. Bolognese is typically a red sauce, thanks to the addition of tomatoes to the dish.

          I absolutely love Bolognese Sauce. But you don't find many people cooking it, or at restaurants out in the wild. It's a labor intensive dish that requires hours of simmering in order to get it right. My favorite Bolognese sauce recipe eliminates a lot of the labor, but still requires eight hours of simmering in a slow cooker. You can check it out here:

          Today's recipe is a totally different take on Bolognese Sauce. It's a tomato-free recipe served at Locanda Verde, a modern Italian taverna inside Robert De Niro's Greenwich Hotel. Chef Carmanelli simmers ground veal and pork in white wine and half-and-half, creating a velvety cream sauce to toss with the pasta. It's every bit as labor intensive as it's red sauce counterpart, but the results are well worth the effort.

          For Bolognese Sauce, any pasta will do. However, I am partial to the big wide ribbons you see in the photo. They are called pappardelle. It's not always something that grocery stores carry (it's more of a specialty item). I buy mine in bulk (Garofalo brand) from Also, this recipe calls for ground veal...which is also difficult to find at most grocery stores. You can have your butcher grind you some, or, do as I do: I find that ground, grass-fed beef is a sufficiently mild enough substitute for veal in this recipe.

          3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
          1 pound ground veal
          1/2 pound ground pork
          1/2 cup dry white wine
          1 1/4 cups half-and-half
          1 cup chicken stock
          1 thyme sprig
          1 rosemary sprig
          2 sage leaves
          1 bay leaf
          1 garlic clove, minced
          Pinch of crushed red pepper
          Pinch of nutmeg
          3 strips of bacon, chopped
          1 cup finely chopped onions
          1/4 cup finely chopped white mushrooms
          1/4 cup finely chopped celery root
          1/2 pound pappardelle 
          Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

          1. In a large casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the veal and pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the meat is nearly cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook over moderate heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the casserole, until evaporated, about 3 minutes.
          2. Add the half-and-half and chicken stock to the casserole, then stir in the thyme, rosemary, sage, bay leaf, garlic, crushed red pepper, nutmeg and a generous pinch each of salt and black pepper. Bring just to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. 
          3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring, until the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, mushrooms and celery root and cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes. 
Stir the vegetables into the Bolognese sauce, cover partially and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced just slightly, about 25 minutes longer. Discard the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and sage leaves. Season the Bolognese sauce with salt and black pepper and keep warm over very low heat. 
          5. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and cooking water to the Bolognese sauce and toss over moderate heat until the pasta 
is well coated, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pasta to a large, shallow bowl and serve right away, passing Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.

          Wine pairing: Chianti