Saturday, January 27, 2018

Thai Flank Steak (Winter Version)

Flank steak is one of my favorite cuts of beef. It's a really lean steak with a huge, beefy flavor. And it's cheap! It always tastes best grilled over a charcoal fire...just 5 minutes per side nets you a perfectly grilled medium-rare steak.

But alas, it's winter in Minnesota and my grill is hidden under 14 inches of snow. And despite 65 winters in this climate, I hate the cold. I am not going outside to cook under any circumstance. But I still lust for flank steak and I will not be denied.

I have a trick I learned from Cook's Illustrated. It fits the bill perfectly for enjoying flank steak in January. It's called reverse searing and it guarantees a perfect medium-rare steak with a crisp pan-sear every single time.

The first step is to slice the steak in half at the middle. This gives you two, additional, vertical surfaces to better absorb the marinade and to heat the meat better in the thickest part of the steak. From there, the rest is simple. You marinate the steak. Then you heat the meat to medium-rare in a low-temperature oven. After that, it's a quick sear in a cast iron pan....and you are enjoying a magnificent Thai Flank Steak in the middle of January. Add a little Basmati rice and Asian cole slaw and life is perfect!

1 flank steak, 1-1/2 to 2 pounds
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon hot chili oil
10 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil for searing


  1. Cut flank steak in half in the middle (against the grain).
  2. Put flank steak pieces in a Ziplock bag. Combine marinade ingredients in a small bowl, mix well. Pour marinade over steak, seal bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 225ยบ. Line a sheet pan with foil and place steak pieces on sheet pan. Slide pan into the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Heat a cast iron pan over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When steak is done cooking in the oven, sear steaks in pan for 1-1/2 minutes per side.
  5. Tent steak pieces with foil and let steak rest for 5 minutes. Then slice against the grain in thin slices and serve.

Wine pairing: Only Zinfandel will do here. If you just rented your house for the Super Bowl and have the big bucks to burn, get a Rombauer or Turley. If you are just leasing the Airbnb bedroom above the garage to some stupid Philadelphian, buy a Bogle Zinfandel.

Me and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Rigatoni with Sausage in Vodka Cream Sauce

Back in 2015, we took an incredible trip to Tuscany. We rented a villa high in the mountains over Florence. The only way to get to the villa was by a single lane dirt road, made terrifying by very sharp switchbacks and precipitous cliffs. If you encountered another vehicle, one of you had to back-up to a space that would allow two vehicles to pass each other.

Because of the dangers of driving that road, we never went out at night. We would hit the market during the day, buying fresh food and incredible wine for our dinner each night. The villa had a ready abundance of ingredients...all of the shrubs were rosemary and fresh lemons grew on small lemon trees next to the pool. Every dinner was a complete joy and the company was extraordinary...Becky and I, Scott and Debbie Drill and Steve and Taffy Hirtz.

It was on this trip that I became completely addicted to San Marzano tomatoes. While we were there, we bought them fresh at the market. They are grown in volcanic soil in the area around Naples. They are remarkable because of their uniqueness. The flesh is thick...there are literally no seeds...and they are much less acidic than other tomatoes. But their crowning glory is that they are sweet.

Now I buy them from Amazon (two cases at a time). If any recipe calls for tomatoes, I only use San Marzano tomatoes. They come whole, so it is very easy to dice or puree or chop them based on what the recipe calls for. I can't imagine using ordinary tomatoes in a recipe again. They are one of life's simple pleasures that cost just a few cents more than regular tomatoes.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
2 tablespoons vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
16 ounces of rigatoni
Basil leaves, cut into ribbons
Parmesan cheese
Salt, fresh ground pepper and sugar


  1. Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. When oil starts to shimmer, add sausage, breaking and crumbling it as it cooks until no pink remains.
  2. Add garlic to sausage and cook for one minute.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add the tomatoes and their liquid to the pan with a good pinch of sugar.  Add salt and pepper to taste. breaking up tomatoes with your spatula and let them cook down for 10 minutes.
  4. In a large pot of boiling salted water, add pasta and cook until al dente.
  5. When pasta is done and tomatoes are cooked down, strain pasta and add to pan. Then toss with sausage and tomato sauce. Then add vodka and cream. Toss again.
  6. Serve with basil ribbons and parmesan.

Wine pairing: If you are over in Italy and just picked up your new Ferrari 488 GTO at the factory in Maranello, pick up a bottle of Gaja Barbaresco... a 1985 would fit the bill nicely. If you are in Florence in your rented Fiat Uno, try a Nada Fiorenzo Barbaresco.

Me and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thai Pork Fajitas

So far, I'm not enjoying January of 2018. Becky and I both came down with a virus that has kept us housebound for the entire month. While we thought it might have been the flu, a consultation with my doctor confirmed a virus. They can't do anything for a virus. So we've been Netflix bingeing, drinking copious amounts of water and sleeping a lot.

Last year, we became big fans of the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why". This week we watched a similar show called "The End of the F***king World". It's a British show about two teenagers....a boy who thinks he's a psychopath and a girl in search of her father. In fact, the boy reminds me so much of Bud Cort's character from the 1971 movie "Harold and Maude". It's funny, bizarre and we were totally hooked at the very first episode. It's only 8 episodes and each is only 20 minutes. It was so good that my only hope is that they do not ruin it by coming out with a Season 2.

We've been eating a lot of comfort food in January. This recipe is one of our favorites and we serve it up with a big helping of Basmati rice.


For the Fajitas
2 lbs ground pork
6 minced garlic cloves
2 large minced shallots
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
Juice of one lime 
2 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Sriracha (chile sauce)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped basil
Salt and ground pepper to taste
One package of 6-inch flour tortillas

Lime wedges
Scallions, chopped
Red onions, sliced thin
Mung bean sprouts
Sliced radishes
Salted peanuts
Sriracha sauce


  1. In a bowl, mix pork, garlic, shallots and jalapeno.
  2. In a separate small bowl, mix lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and Sriracha.
  3. In a skillet, heat oil. Add the pork mixture and cook over high heat, stirring to break up the meat, until no pink remains(about 5 minutes).
  4. Remove from heat and stir in lime mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes.Transfer meat to a bowl. Stir in herbs and season with salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into flour tortillas and serve with accompaniments. 

Pairing: If you are a white wine lover, pair this with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If you are partial to reds, you would be well served to pair this with a Zinfandel. But in the tradition of Thai street food, I would wash this down with a good Thai lager.

Me and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Shaking Beef

When I had my Wolf range with closed burners, I would simply cook all my stir fry meals in a cast iron skillet. I did that because closed burners do not get very hot. The cast iron skillet would retain all of the heat and did a fairly decent job as a wok substitute.

My new Capital Culanarian range has open burners....the same kind used in commercial kitchens and restaurants. And I'm here to tell you they put out heat like you would not believe. So I went all in and got the wok attachment for the range and invested in a high-quality, carbon steel wok.

I am absolutely in love with the set-up and use the wok to prepare 2 to 3 stir fry dinners a week. I found La Tourangelle Pan Asian Stir Fry Oil on Amazon. The oil is infused with onion, garlic and ginger and adds an incredible dimension to the taste of my stir fry meals.

I came across this Mark Bittman recipe in The New York Times. It's a Vietnamese dish known as Bo Luc Lac. It is called Shaking Beef because of the constant shaking of the wok while you brown the beef. I made this dinner last Wednesday for Becky and I...and we both agreed it was a keeper. The most important part of the recipe is to cook the meat in 2 batches so that the meat gets a good, crisp sear.

1-1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons of oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup rice or white wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Salt and pepper
1 red onion, peeled and sliced thin
3 scallions, trimmed and cut in 1-inch lengths
2 tablespoons butter
2 bunches of watercress (arugula works as well)
2 limes, cut into wedges


    1. Marinate meat with garlic, half the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1 tablespoon oil for about 2 hours. Meanwhile, combine vinegar, remaining sugar, wine, soy sauce and fish sauce in another bowl. Taste, and add salt and pepper if necessary. Mix about 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a third small bowl.
    2. Divide the meat into 2 portions. Put a wok over maximum heat, and add about 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil smokes, add the meat in one layer. Let it sit until a brown crust forms, and turn to brown the other side. When browned, set meat aside and brown the second batch.
    3.  When second batch of meat has been seared, return all meat to the wok.
    4. Add onions and scallions and stir for 30 seconds. Add the vinegar mixture and shake pan to release the beef. Add butter and keep shaking wok until butter melts.
    5. Serve beef over watercress, passing the salt and pepper mixture and lime wedges at the table.

    Wine pairing: We're talking steak here, so I would always go with a red. If you're getting a big refund on your 2017 taxes, I'd pick a Rombauer Zinfandel for $29.97 at Total Wine. If you have to pay Uncle Sam, choose a Bogle Zinfandel Old Vine for $7.97

    Me and Goldie, 1956