Saturday, March 25, 2017

Vietnamese Steak au Poivre

Vietnamese Steak au Poivre with Charred Vegetables

Becky and I recently did a "foodie" vacation to Napa. It was all about the food and wine. I enjoyed it thoroughly and began thinking about what other foodie spots I would like to visit. Two cities immediately pop to mind: Bangkok, Thailand and Saigon, Vietnam.

Thai and Vietnamese cuisines are two of my favorites. I am an absolute nut for anything made with fish sauce. So it made me incredibly happy when I opened the April issue of Food and Wine and saw this recipe. Like all Thai and Vietnamese recipes, the ingredient list can be a little intimidating. However, once you have all the ingredients at hand, the cooking goes pretty fast. This Chris Sheperd recipe serves four.

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 1-1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 tablespoons fish sauce (Red Boat recommended)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1-1/2 pounds of small heads of broccoli and cauliflower
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup of yellow mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup hot sauce (Tabasco or Sriracha)
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
Four, 6-ounce center cut beef tenderloin steaks


  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, 
until softened, about 8 minutes. 
Add the cinnamon stick and 
star anise and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the fish sauce and sugar and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and simmer over moderately high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Add 
the cream and simmer until the sauce is thickened and reduced by half, about 10 minutes 
longer. Strain the sauce through 
a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl; discard the solids. Return the sauce to the saucepan and stir in the crushed peppercorns. Season with salt and keep warm.

  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet. In a large bowl, toss the 
broccoli and cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of 
the oil. Working in batches, cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over and crisp-
tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool. Cut into bite-size pieces and wipe out the bowl. In the bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the mustard, vinegar and hot sauce until smooth. Fold in the charred vegetables, the red onion and sunflower seeds and season the salad with salt. Wipe out the skillet.

  3. In the skillet, heat the remaining 
2 tablespoons of oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and cook over 
moderate heat, turning only once for 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a work surface and let rest for 
5 minutes. Serve with the peppercorn sauce and the charred-vegetable salad.

Wine pairing: A nice fruity Zinfandel. A Rombauer, if you are really lucky.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Smashed Baby Reds

I firmly believe the Obama administration wiretapped my abode and has been leaking my personal information left and right. I am both swamped and drowning in mail and phone calls as a result of these leaks. Given the volume that I am being crushed by, I have little doubt that Obama asked the British to look into my affairs as well.

The most damaging information that they have released so far is the fact that I will be turning 65 in July. Of greatest interest to my attackers is the fact that I will now be eligible for Medicare. No one will be content if I just elect to take Medicare. According to their pleas, I will be forced to walk the world, naked and in chains, if I do not opt for Supplemental Medicare or Medi-Gap Insurance.

Every insurance company in America sends me a letter each day. Rinse, repeat and they do it again the next day. My landline, which I stopped answering years ago, rings at least 6 times a day with solicitations. Should any of them find their way to my mobile phone, I instantly block them for all eternity.

I thought it would all just pertain to the Medicare issue. But no, turning 65 has even greater significance. I'm being offered special discounts on mobile chair scooters that will allow me to still shop at my beloved Costco during my golden years. And while I'm there, I can use the millions of coupons I've been given for adult diapers.

65-year olds love their coupons. By the hundreds, I've got them for erectile dysfunction pills, hemorrhoid cream, hair coloring, recliners that will push me horizontal so that I do not have to stand up on my own, walk-in bath tubs and no-tie, velcro sneakers. I had no idea that at age 65 that I would be standing at the very edge of such a steep and slippery slope.

My response to all of this hubbub is quite simple. I am going to ignore it. I will simply drink more wine. Eat more red meat. And cook side dishes like the one below that will add more cholesterol for me to enjoy in my declining years.

2 pounds baby red potatoes
4 rosemary sprigs
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary,
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place potatoes, rosemary sprigs, smashed garlic, 1/4 cup of the salt and water to cover in a 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high; reduce to medium and simmer  for 15 minutes. Drain; discard rosemary sprigs and smashed garlic.
  2. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Arrange potatoes on prepared baking sheet. Using the heel of your hand, lightly crush potatoes until they are about 1/2 inch thick. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and crisp (30 minutes). 
  3. Stir together butter, chopped parsley, thyme, rosemary, minced garlic, pepper, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Brush mixture over potatoes and serve immediately.

Pairing: Drinking a glass of good red wine has the same health benefits as an hour of strenuous exercise. Plus, I have yet to hear of anyone on death's doorstep wishing they had consumed less red wine in their time on this hallowed earth.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Napa CA

Becky and I just returned from a vacation in Napa. Not Napa Valley, but downtown Napa. I've been to Napa Valley quite a few times in the late 80's and early 90's. We would shoot a lot of commercials out in Hollywood.....and we were always making the trek to Laguna Seca for the IndyCar races. The people I traveled with from Valvoline were crazy for wine, so we always managed side trips for Napa Valley wine tours.

There are essentially three different tiers of Napa Valley wine tours. The first tier of wineries are open to the public. You drive up, pay $20 for a wine glass and take a guided tour. The problem here is each tour lasts about an hour. You get to hear how their wine is made (zzzzzzzzzzz). Only after the hour has gone past do you get to that incredibly generous 1-ounce pour. And you get to do it with throngs of people. And then you are forced to sit with Bob and Shirley from Tulsa and talk wine. Just shoot me.

The second tier of wine tours involves substantially better wine. These wineries require that you make a reservation. And they charge handsomely for that reservation. Caymus Winery charges $100 per person. You still have to put up with that hour lecture on how their wine is made. And you only get two samples of wine...a 2-ounce pour of their Cab and a 2-ounce pour of their Chardonnay. And Bob and Shirley from Tulsa are there, too. Shoot me twice, please.

The third tier of wine tours requires a really, really big wallet. For $600 you get a car and driver and the chance for a private visit with the owners of 3 cult wineries. At each winery, the owner will give you very generous pours of their best wine and chat with you for about half an hour. You are required to make a minimum purchase of one case of wine per winery. The average bottle of Napa cult wine goes for around $180 per bottle, so by the time all three wineries have been visited, your wallet will be about $7,500 lighter. That's a very expensive way to ditch Bob and Shirley.

I refuse to go on any wine tours. So the purpose of our vacation was to simply enjoy the very best wine and food we could find in downtown Napa. We stayed at a little boutique hotel (12 rooms total) right on the Napa River. While we were technically not staying in downtown Napa, it was just a 3-minute Uber ride to the heart of downtown.

One of my favorite places to hang out was the Oxbow Market. It's a huge, indoor, open market. It has everything from craft distillers, fresh organic produce, locally crafted cheese to specialty butcher shops. I think my favorite was the Five Dot Ranch. They raise organic, grass fed beef and then butcher the animals themselves. It's on display in a classic butcher shop setting. You simply step up, pick out a cut of beef and they grill it up for you.

The Oxbow Market is not to be missed. Also, scattered around the downtown, are numerous wine tasting rooms hosted by Napa wineries. If you go, this is a nice way to taste wine in a more intimate setting. If you are going to go carnivore in Napa, Cole's Chop House is fantastic. They made me one of the best bone-in, ribeye steaks I have ever tasted.

There is one place in downtown Napa that you should not miss under any circumstance: Bounty Hunter. Before I went to Napa, Bounty Hunter was a cult wine catalog I got 4 times per year. They manage to get their hands on the Napa Valley cult wines that you will never find in your local liquor store. I've bought a lot of wines from them over the years, but I never had any idea that they ran a restaurant in downtown Napa.

And what a restaurant it is! Besides offering some of the best barbecue around, they have a wall where they sell all of their catalog's cult wines. But here's the best part...they also sell those wines by the glass. You can choose between a 2-ounce sample or a full, 5-ounce glass of wine. So, all you have to do, is pull up a bar stool in this fabulous dive-bar atmosphere and sample 40 of the very best wines that Napa Valley has to offer. No lectures. No lines. No Bob & Shirley.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Irish Tacos

I'm Irish and I love St. Patrick's Day. I love it not for the revelry, but because I get to cook up one of my very favorite meals, corned beef and cabbage. Costco stores stock up on corned beef around the St. Patrick's holiday...and I'm here to tell you it is the best corned beef I have ever tasted.

I buy the biggest cuts of meat I can find. Cooking corned beef could not be any easier. You just dump all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and walk away until dinner. Here's my favorite recipe for cooking corned beef:  

If you have left-over corned beef, you're all set for the main ingredient for Irish Tacos. But feel free to cook up a corned beef brisket just to make this's that good. This Sam Sifton recipe will yield six to eight servings.

2-1/2 pounds of cooked corned beef
1 small head of green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons hot sauce (like Sriracha), or more to taste
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
12 to 16 flour tortillas, warmed
3 jalapeno peppers, sliced


  1. Warm the corned beef in it's cooking liquid or wrap it in foil and set on a sheet pan in a 350┬║ oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Make the coleslaw: mix the cabbage and carrots together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, cider vinegar, salt, pepper and hot sauce.
  4. Pour half of the sauce over the coleslaw and toss to coat thoroughly. Reserve remaining sauce.
  5. When the corned beef is hot, remove it from liquid or foil and use two forks to shred the meat. Serve with warmed tortillas, sliced jalape├▒os, the slaw, remaining white sauce and hot pepper sauce.

Pairing: Give me a break. You only get one choice for St. Patty's Day.