Saturday, April 30, 2016

Banh Min Sloppy Joes

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I fell in love with magazines while growing up in the Eisenhower era. My dad had returned from duty in Berlin and made the transition from Army officer to ad guy. He was an account guy with Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn in Minneapolis, creating advertising for companies like Hormel and Wonder Bread.

One of the perks of being in the advertising business in the 1950's was that all of the media gave you free stuff. Magazines were an enormous ad medium back fact, they still are. So the Gruggen household got magazines by the frigging truckload. Life, Look, The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, etc.

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I just loved reading all of those magazines back then and I'd like to think that my love of reading and writing was created by the immense amount of time I spent with those publications. Well, fast forward about 5 decades or so, I find I am still addicted to magazines. Thanks to my iPad Pro (the big one) and an extraordinary app called Texture, my magazines still get delivered to the Gruggen household by the frigging truckload. But they come in the form of bytes rather than the printed page.

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Texture is essentially Netflix for magazines. I pay $14.99 per month and get access to more than 170 magazines. And they are all of the AAA titles. In fact, you have to pick and choose, because there is just no way to get through all of them. What I find especially interesting is that there are more than a dozen food magazines. I found today's recipe in a Canadian food magazine called Ricardo. Now I have no idea why a Canadian food magazine would be called Ricardo, so I just roll with it.

Banh Min is a term used for Vietnamese sandwiches. It is thought that the French occupation of Vietnam had a lot to do with the creation of Banh Min, as a French baguette is usually considered the foundation of the sandwich. They are made with all different kinds of meats and vegetables. Ricardo's recipe is a very delicious Vietnamese take on the sloppy joe. This recipe serves six.


For the Salad
2 cups thin sliced red cabbage
2 cups bean sprouts
1 carrot, thinly julienned
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup

For the Sandwich
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sambal oelek
1 clove chopped garlic
1 pound lean ground pork
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
6 hot dog buns
Salt and pepper


  1. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, dissolve cornstarch into the broth. Add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sambal oelek and garlic. Set aside.
  3. In a large non-stick skillet over high heat, brown the meat in sesame oil, breaking it up as it cooks. Season with pepper.
  4. Add the broth mixture to the pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2 minutes until sauce thickens.
  5. Spoon the meat into the buns. Top with the salad (drained if needed). Serve with leftover salad on the side.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Buffalo Tacos with Pico de Gallo

I have two favorite taco recipes. First and foremost is my beloved Cook's Illustrated taco recipe. That's best left to rainy afternoons as it requires a shitload of cooking. If it's Taco Tuesday, I want something quick. And nothing is quicker than making salsa with two presses of the pulse button on your food processor and browning some ground meat.

But I've managed to turn Taco Tuesday into a taste treat by carefully selecting my ingredients. While you can use beef, I've found that ground buffalo adds a little deeper taste dimension. And while it is certainly leaner than beef and therefore not as moist because of the lower fat content, I add moisture to the recipe via a full can of beer.

Next up is my taco seasoning. I buy this 24.5 ounce package of Spice Islands taco seasoning at Costco for $5.69. It's the best packaged taco seasoning I have ever found. Just check out the ingredient list: corn meal, onion, sea salt, cumin, oregano, parsley, garlic, chipotle chili pepper, turbinado sugar, smoked paprika, chili pepper flakes, red bell pepper, cocoa (oh yeah!) and jalapeño pepper.

For the shells, I always use Old El Paso Stand'n'Stuff taco shells. I do that for two reasons. First, I really prefer the taste of shells made with yellow corn. Second, these taco shells are flat on the bottom, which makes them very easy to load up with ingredients.

Now I used to serve up a whole boatload of veggies with my tacos. Onions, cilantro, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. I don't any more because I have a killer recipe for Pico de Gallo salsa. The salsa has so many great ingredients that the only other thing I need for the tacos is Mexican Cheese. But to make the salsa great, you need Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes. By using fire roasted tomatoes, the salsa becomes an incredibly deep, smoky delight. Make sure you buy some tortilla chips so that not a single drop of this legendary Pico de Gallo goes to waste.
(Chef's note: When you add the cilantro to the food processor, keep the stems intact as they have a ton of flavor...even more than the leaves.)

So you've got the taco, salsa and cheese. The only thing to add is a little hot sauce. Becky likes Sriracha, but I find that sauce so hot that it overpowers the taco. I prefer Cholula Sauce. It has a modest amount of heat that really complements the other flavors in the taco. The recipe below serves six people.


For the Pico de Gallo
Two, 14.5 ounce cans of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 medium onion
2 jalapeños, halved, seeds and stem removed
1/2 bunch cilantro (use the whole bunch if you are a cilantro fanboy like me)
2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (juice of one lime)
3 large cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

For the Tacos
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground buffalo
6 tablespoons Spice Island Taco Seasoning
12 ounces of beer
20 Stand 'n' Stuff Taco Shells
12 ounces Mexican Cheese


For the Pico de Gallo 

  1. Combine all ingredients into a food processor. Quickly pulse 2-3 times until you have a chunky salsa. Do not over process or you will end up with soup, not salsa.
  2. Transfer Pico de Gallo to a glass serving bowl.

For the Tacos
  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Add oil to a large skillet over high heat. Brown buffalo meat then drain excess fat.
  3. Add 6 tablespoons of taco seasoning and 12 ounces of beer to the ground buffalo. Stir to combine and then turn heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Spoon meat into taco shells and place tacos on a large cooking sheet.
  5. Slide cooking sheet into oven and let tacos cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Serve tacos with Pico de Gallo, cheese and hot sauce on the side.

Pairing: My favorite Mexican beer, of course!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Braised Artichokes

'Tis the season. Artichoke season. My very favorite vegetable of all time. They are ripe and living large in a grocery store near you. Easiest thing in the world to prepare. You just steam them for 50 minutes. Then you peel the leaves off of the artichoke, dip them in melted garlic butter and scrape that delicious meat off of the base of the leaf with your teeth.

And that is how I prepared them for decades. All that changed two weeks ago when Mark Bittman took me to the land of rainbows and unicorns and showed me how artichokes are prepared there. First, you do not cook them whole. You split them down the middle.

This actually serves two good purposes. First, it dramatically increases the surface area for cooking and gives you a flat surface to brown. Second, it allows you to remove the furry choke in advance, so you don't have to do it while you are eating. By browning and braising the artichoke, you are ramping up the flavor by a power of 10! Artichokes  pair perfectly with beef, pork, poultry or seafood.

4 medium artichokes
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1 cup chicken stock, or more as needed
Freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)


  1. Cut each of the artichokes in half; remove the toughest outer leaves, use a spoon to remove the choke and trim the stem.
  2. Put 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When it melts and foam subsides, add artichokes, cut side down. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add stock (it should come about halfway up the sides of the artichokes), bring to a boil and cover; turn heat to medium-low. Cook for about 20 minutes or until tender, checking every 5 or 10 minutes to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan, adding more stock as necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and transfer artichokes to serving platter.
  3. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a sauce. Stir in lemon  juice and remaining tablespoon butter; taste and adjust seasoning. Serve artichokes drizzled with sauce.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Chipotle Butter Rib Eye Steaks

What a let down. A month ago, Weber announced that they were coming out with their new "Summit Charcoal Grill". If you know Weber,  the Summit brand represents their top-of-the-line gas grills. They are built like Sherman tanks and are objects of envy and desire. So when I saw Summit and Charcoal used in the same brand name, I envisioned a gas/wood/charcoal grill to compete with the holy grail of backyard cooking, the Kalamazoo Grill.

Kalamazoo Grill

If you have Lamborghini money sitting idle in your bank account, you can buy what I consider to be the best grill on earth. The Kalamazoo Grill is a stainless steel piece of art that lets you cook with gas or wood or charcoal or all three at once. So I assumed that Weber was going to be reaching for the stars and come out with a competitor for those of us with idle Hyundai money sitting in our bank account. Well, it turns out they didn't reach for the stars. Instead, they laid an egg.

Weber Summit Charcoal Grill

A black egg, so to speak. A metal version of the Green Egg. The Green Egg is a ceramic kamado grill. If you only have room for one outdoor cooking appliance, the Green Egg is an excellent choice as it can be used as both a smoker and a grill. And now Weber has an all-metal version that can be used as a smoker and a grill. But if you are really into grilling AND smoking, I'm of the belief that your tools should be purpose-built.

The Green Egg

When you have a device that performs two functions, there has to be compromise. To me, The Green Egg/Summit Charcoal grills are analogous to all-season tires. They'll get you through all four seasons in Minnesota, but not as well as something that is purpose-built. Snow tires are made with very soft rubber that stay pliable at temperatures well below freezing. They also have hundreds of sipes that are capable of gripping in snowy and icy conditions. But if you use those snow tires in 80º temperatures, they will disintegrate right before your eyes. But in winter, they are far superior to all-season tires.

Again, if you can only have one, The Green Egg and Weber Summit Charcoal grills are very good choices.  But I believe in having the best tool for the job, which is why I have a dedicated smoker and a dedicated grill. And there is no economic argument to be made for just having the Summit Charcoal Grill. As pictured, that Weber Summit Charcoal Grill retails for $2,300. I have an electric Cookshack Smoker (thanks Jeff!) that cost $899 and a Weber Performer charcoal grill (thanks Becky!) that cost $399. So I'm all in with dedicated, purpose-built tools at $1,298...quite a bit less than the compromised Summit Charcoal Grill.

If you like the flavor of smoke in your grilled food, you are going to love the Jamie Perviance recipe I have for your today. The combination of really unique rub ingredients and chipotle butter with the grilled rib eyes is an absolute feast. This recipe serves four.


For the Butter
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Rub
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon packed brown sugar

4 rib eye steaks, each about 10 ounces and 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
Extra-virgin olive oil

  1. In a medium bowl mix the butter ingredients until evenly incorporated.
  2. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F).
  3. In a small bowl combine the rub ingredients. Lightly brush the steaks on both sides with oil and season evenly with the rub, gently pressing the rub into the meat. Allow the steaks to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.
  4. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the steaks over direct high heat with the lid closed . For medium rare, cook for 4 minutes on side 1 and 4 minutes on side 2. Remove from the grill and smear the butter on top. Tent steaks with foil and let them, rest for 5 minutes, then serve.

Wine pairing: Malbec

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Steak Diane

I was first introduced to Steak Diane at Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale. As a culinary neophyte, I thought it was so incredibly palatial to have my steak prepared table side. Better yet was the gigantic burst of flames when the waiter would flambé the dish in the grand finale (now i just think it is a horrible waste of cognac).

Today I am going to share with you Mark Bittman's Steak Diane sauce. It's a simpler and quicker prep. And while certainly less showy and absent the flambé, it is delicious and it will allow you to enjoy the cognac as a dessert rather than having it disappear into the atmosphere and enlarge your carbon footprint in such a dreadful manner.

While you could certainly grill the steaks, I'm going to encourage you to pan-sear them. This will allow you to capture the fond (all of the goodies left in the pan after searing) and incorporate it in your sauce. Pictured above is my favorite pan-searing pan, a carbon steel pan. When I got this $34 pan, it was a beautiful silver color. Now it is a deep black from many months of use. It is what as known as fully seasoned and completely non-stick. And when it comes to searing, this pan just totally kicks ass.

2  New York Strip Steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup heavy cream 
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Chopped fresh chives for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 450º and place carbon steel or cast iron pan inside oven.
  2. Season steaks with salt and pepper.
  3. Five minutes before you start cooking, remove pan from oven and heat pan over a burner at high heat.
  4. Put olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in pan. After butter melts, swirl to coat bottom of pan.
  5. Place steaks in pan and let them sear on one side for 5 minutes.
  6. After 5 minutes, flip steaks and slide pan into the oven. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  7. Remove pan from oven and remove steaks from pan. Tent steaks with foil and let rest.
  8. Add remaining butter and onion to pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cream. Add some salt and a fair amount of pepper. Stir once or twice, then taste and adjust seasoning.
  9. Add lemon juice. Stir. Spoon sauce over meat, garnish with chives and serve.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon