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.