Saturday, May 28, 2016

Grilled Sriracha-Scallion Flank Steak

It's Memorial Day Weekend.....always one of my favorite weekends of the year. The car nut side of me celebrates tomorrow like a holy day of obligation. In the morning, Formula One takes to the streets of Monte Carlo in the Grand Prix de Monaco. Red Bull has stunned the world by beating out the two Mercedes cars for the pole. And then at 11am, it's time for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. There is no better day if you are a fan of open-wheel racing.

Memorial Day Weekend also marks the time that grilling season is in full swing. I've got 50 pounds of lump charcoal in reserve and a very ample supply of hickory and mesquite. So far, the weather has not been very good for that up here in Minnesota. I have two apps on my iPhone that I use to keep track of all the weather activity: Weather Bug Elite and Dark Sky. Between the two of them, it's like having an electronic Cody Matz sitting on your shoulder. Last night I was able to sneak in a grilling session between the rain drops for Sriracha Glazed Pork Kebabs.

Tonight it's going to be Grilled Sriracha-Scallion Flank Steak. It's a very easy recipe. But here, I want to remind everyone about the importance of letting your meat rest after grilling. Heat causes the juices in the meat to concentrate near the surface. If you cut the meat immediately after grilling, all of the juices will run out. By tenting the meat with foil and letting it rest after grilling, osmosis takes over and re-distributes the juices throughout your steak.

1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 pounds
3 tablespoons Sriracha
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 bunch of scallions, chopped


  1. Combine all ingredients in a zip lock bag. Seal bag and then toss to mix all ingredients thoroughly. Marinate in refrigerator for 4 hours.
  2. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  3. Remove steak from zip lock bag and pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Place steak directly over coals and cover grill. Cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Flip steak over and cover grill. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Remove steak from grill, tent with foil and let steak rest for 5-10 minutes. Then slice across the grain (see photo above) and serve.

Wine pairing: Malbec

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Spanish Pork Belly Kebabs

One of my favorite carnivore delights is bacon. To make bacon, they use pork bellies and add the magic of curing and smoking. If you want to make your own bacon, just head to the store and buy yourself a pork belly.

But making bacon is a somewhat tedious project. So I'm going to share with you a really easy way to cook up and enjoy the wonderful fat that makes the pork belly so delicious. First, pork belly is a very inexpensive cut of meat...easy on the wallet. And the prep is're just going to cut it into cubes.

The only trick to grilling pork belly is that all that fat makes it easy to burn. So you can't cook it over a screaming hot fire. Medium to medium-high is where you want your grill temperature to be. And remember to keep turning the skewers every few minutes to prevent burning and flare-ups. While the recipe calls for Spanish pimenton (and benefits greatly from it), you can substitute hot paprika. I would recommend that you serve this dish with Spanish rice. This recipe serves four.

1 1/2 pounds of pork belly cut into cubes
10 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon hot Spanish pimenton
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large ziplock bag. Seal bag and toss to combine. Place bag in refrigerator and allow the meat to marinate for 4 hours (or overnight if you desire).
  2. Prepare your grill for cooking over medium heat (for Weber charcoal grillers, this means spreading your chimney of coals across the entire lower grill).
  3. Drain meat and marinade in a colander. Brush off most of the garlic from the meat.
  4. Place pork belly cubes on metal skewers, tightly packed. 
  5. Cook, turning every couple of minutes, until skewers are brown and crispy on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.
  6. Remove skewers. Tent them with foil and let them rest for 5 minutes. Then remove skewers and serve.

Wine pairing: Rioja

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Sriracha Glazed Pork Kebabs

When I first saw this recipe, I was concerned that the heat of the Sriracha would overpower this dish. But as I checked the ingredient list, I noted that there were three packed tablespoons of brown sugar. The result is a wonderful combination of sweet and hot. The two flavors offset each other perfectly so that neither one dominates.

The cornstarch is a critical ingredient as it helps the glaze bind to the meat. And while the photo shows water-soaked bamboo skewers, I prefer to use metal skewers as they are less work and reusable. For this Cook's Illustrated recipe that serves four, you will need four, 12" skewers.


  • 2 (12-ounce) pork tenderloins, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • vegetable oil spray
  • 1/4 cup fresh minced cilantro

  1. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  2. Toss pork and salt together in large bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk sugar, Sriracha, and cornstarch together in bowl. Set aside 1 1/2 tablespoons Sriracha mixture.
  3. Add remaining Sriracha mixture to pork and toss to coat. Thread pork onto four 12-inch metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between pieces. Spray both sides of meat generously with oil spray.
  4. Place skewers directly over coals and grill until well charred, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip skewers, brush with reserved Sriracha mixture, and continue to grill until second side is well charred, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Wine pairing: A nice, fruity, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Grilled Shrimp with Charred Poblano Romesco

Romesco is a nut and pepper based sauce indigenous to Northeastern Spain. The fishermen in that part of the world created it to go with their fish. The peppers they use have a lot of heat. Jamie Purviance, who created this recipe, has swapped out the hot peppers with poblano chile peppers, a milder version from Mexico.

The sauce is actually quite salsa-like on the tongue. Besides the poblanos, check out the ingredients: cilantro, almonds, jalapeño, garlic and lemon juice. While the instructions call for grilling the poblano peppers, I actually cheated and roasted them right over my stove burners. That eliminated the need for me to have my grill going for two cooking sessions...which is a challenge when cooking with fast burning lump charcoal.

For the shrimp, it is critical that you use smoked paprika. It makes the shrimp both spicy and smokey and therefore the perfect complement to the romesco. The contrast between the shrimp and the sauce is so delightful, you will end up wishing you had made a double batch of each. This recipe serves four.


For the Romesco
2 poblano chile peppers, about 8 ounces total
½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro sprigs 
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 small jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and chopped 
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Shrimp
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound large shrimp (21/30 count), peeled and deveined, tails left on, patted dry


  1. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F).
  2. Grill the poblano chiles over direct high heat, with the lid closed, until blackened and blistered all over, 10 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to trap the steam. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the charred skin, stems, and seeds, and then coarsely chop the chiles. 
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the poblanos and the remaining romesco ingredients and process until well blended but some texture still remains. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl. 
  4. In a medium bowl whisk the oil, salt and paprika. Add the shrimp and turn to coat in the mixture. Grill the shrimp over direct high heat, with the lid closed, until firm to the touch and just turning opaque in the center, 2 to 4 minutes, turning once. 
  5. Serve the shrimp warm with the romesco sauce for dipping. 

Pairing: If you are partial to red wine, try a Zinfandel. If white's your thing, try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. For me, I'd wash this great dish down with my favorite beer!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Weapon of Choice: Non-Stick Pan

I've always been of the belief that "you get what you pay for". So when it came to non-stick pans, I spent the big bucks on ScanPan. Fabulous stuff. Built like a Sherman tank. But alas, the non-stick coating wore out. So what I was left with was an expensive, sticky pan.

It's a never ending cycle. All non-stick coated pans wear out. Cooks Illustrated did an exhaustive test of non-stick pans. The results stunned me: Life expectancy of any non-stick pans is less than 80 cooking sessions. Yep...just 80 sessions.

So you need to get your head around the concept that a non-stick pan is a disposable pan. When you get close to those 80 cooking sessions, you're gonna chuck it and get a new one. So don't spend a bucketload of money on any non-stick cookware.

Shown above is my newest non-stick pan. Just got it last Saturday from Amazon. It's a T-Fal A91082. It's a big 12" pan that holds 5 quarts. And here's the best cost just $18.71. After 80 cooking sessions, I'm not going to feel too bad tossing it in the trash.

So I'm encouraging you to go cheap on your non-stick cookware. And to get the full 80 sessions out of it, don't ever use aerosol spray oils on the pan. The chemical soup that comes out of the nozzle dissolves non-stick coatings. Keep it out of the dishwasher as dish soap also eats non-stick coatings.

Always coat your pan with a light coating of vegetable oil after you clean it. Max temp for using the pan in the oven is 350º. And never heat the pan higher than medium-heat on the burner. Follow this advice and you should get your full 80 cooking sessions out of your disposable pan.