Saturday, June 30, 2018

Vietnamese Chicken & Noodle Bowl

It was hot in Minneapolis on Thursday. And while heat is not really a deterrent to cooking outside, humidity is. On Thursday the temp was in the 80's...the humidity was in the 90's...and worst of all, the dew point was in the 70's. So I decided I was going to cook inside.

Given the temperature, I wanted to cook something without firing up the oven. I had found a really nice looking Vietnamese noodle bowl recipe on Flipboard and so I decided to give it a go. The recipe called for marinating whole chicken breasts, then grilling them before cutting them into bite-size pieces. I did not want to go outside and grill, so I cut them into bite-size pieces before marinating and cooked them by giving them a quick spin in my wok.

As it is with most Asian recipes, this one was a little toilsome. Toilsome not so much in the cooking sense, but rather in the preparation sense. But as it always is with these kind of recipes, once the prep is done, the meal comes together quickly. It's a fabulous meal. Light. Healthy. And beyond delicious. But what isn't when we are talking about the national sauce of Vietnam...Nuoc Cham! This recipe serves four.


Lemongrass Chicken Marinade
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, tender inside part coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 lime, juiced

Chicken Noodle Bowl
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 ounces rice noodles
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch mint, chopped
1, 8-ounce bag of bean sprouts
Lime slices for garnish and squeezing

Nuoc Cham 
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek
  • 2/3 cup hot water
  • 1 medium jalapeno, halved, seeded, then finely chopped

  1. Prepare the marinade. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken and mix well. 
  2. Add the chicken to the marinade and stir well. Marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  3. Prepare the Nuoc Cham. Combine all the ingredients and stir well to dissolve sugar. Set aside at room temperature.
  4. Cook the noodles. When they are just tender, drain in a colander. Rinse with cold water until the noodles are cool. Set aside at room temperature.
  5. Remove chicken from marinade. Heat a wok over very high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the wok and then add chicken. Stir until chicken starts to brown, about 4 minutes.
  6. Build your noodle bowls. Divide the noodles into 4 servings. Top with cilantro, mint and bean sprouts. Divide the chicken and lime slices over the 4 bowls. Drizzle with Nuoc Cham and pass additional sauce along side to let everyone dress their bowls to taste.

Wine pairing: Talk about a marriage made in heaven. A well-chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from down under is the perfect remedy for the heat outdoors and the perfect complement to the spices and heat in this spectacular meal.

Grogs and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Sloppy Josés

I have a special place in my heart for Sloppy Joes. I first discovered them in the lunchroom of Wooddale Elementary School in Edina in 1960. While I loved getting them for lunch back then, I have now come to realize that they were little more than ground beef and ketchup. One must not get too nostalgic for the Eisenhower-era Federal Lunch Program.

In my eight years of writing this blog, I have featured three different Sloppy Joe recipes: Homemade Sloppy Joes (an all-time fave of mine); Sloppy Giuseppes (an Italian version) and Banh Minh Sloppy Joes (a Vietnamese version). Today I'm adding a Mexican version to my body of work.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound chorizo sausage
6 ounces tomato paste
2-3/4 cups tomato puree
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3-1/2 ounces chipotle in adobo, pureed
6 egg roll buns, toasted
6 slices pepper jack cheese (optional)


    1. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil and sauté onions until translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, for 30 seconds. Add ground beef and sausage and sauté until well browned, about 10 minutes. Break up the beef and sausage as you cook.
    2. Add tomato paste, tomato puree, chili powder, paprika, hot sauce and chipotle. Stir until blended. Raise heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to spread on a sandwich, about 30 minutes.
    3. Place a big, heaping mound of the Sloppy José mixture on the bottom half of the bun. If you are going to add the pepper jack cheese, heat a broiler. Put cheese on top of the Sloppy José mixture and place under broiler until cheese melts. Serve.  

    Pairing: If we are talking Mexican food, Pacifico would be magnifico!

    Grogs and Goldie, 1956

    Saturday, June 16, 2018

    Everyday I'm Trufflin'

    Truffles are the gods' gift to umami. The taste of truffles makes food so savory that it is nearly irresistible. Truffles are also outrageously expensive. They can't be farmed because they only grow in very specific kinds of soil inside the roots of trees. So they must be harvested in the wild. Female pigs are often used to hunt for truffles because the truffle smells like androstenol, the sex pheromone of boar saliva, to which the sow is keenly attracted.

    Truffles are the most expensive food in the world. European white truffles go for $3,600 a pound. Recently, a 2-pound truffle went for $300,000. Truffles are indeed rare and in incredibly high demand because of their ability to completely enhance the taste of food. I love truffles, but I'm not going to drop $3,600 a pound to have my food taste better. But I have found a nice little cache of products that keep me trufflin' everyday for not a lot of money.

    Truffle sea salt is by far the most important weapon in my truffle armory. I use it all the time. It's ability to transform whatever food you put it on is extraordinary. French fries get taken to a whole new level. I buy my truffle salt from This Gourmet Italian Truffle Fine Sea Salt is my favorite and a 4-ounce jar goes for $19.99.

    Truffle oil is the second most important truffle item in my pantry. I do not cook with it, but use it as a finishing oil on roasted meats and in salad dressings. Becky uses it in lieu of olive oil and pairs it with truffle sea salt on her caprese salads...and they taste like no other caprese salad you have ever tasted. This Truffle Hunter White Truffle Oil sells for $14.99 (3.38 ounces) on

    Truff Hot Sauce is a brand new addition to my truffle favorites. The sauce has a sweet heat to it along with the pronounced flavor of black truffles. I have not found anything that is not improved with a few dabs of Truff on it. A 5.6-ounce bottle goes for $14.99 and is available at

    Also a recent addition to my kitchen, Maille Black Truffle Mustard is astounding. (They've been making gourmet mustards for 270 years.) Becky and I had this on some brats I grilled up this week and we could not believe how this mustard just knocked the brats right out of the park. It's a French Dijon mustard made with Chablis wine from Burgundy and infused with black truffles from Provence. It's pricey, but worth it. A 4.4-ounce jar runs $43 and is available at Yes, it's about $10 an ounce, but keep in mind that the truffles that went into this masterpiece cost $225 per ounce.

    Saturday, June 9, 2018

    Burger au Poivre

    I like to refer to Cognac as the "Nectar of the Gods". After a nice big steak dinner, there is nothing quite as satisfying as crowning the meal with a glass of Cognac. I have three dear friends that relish this tradition: Bob Dedic, Scott Drill and Steve Hirtz.

    The French white grape used to make Cognac is Ugni Blanc, which is very dry, acidic and thin. When the grape is first pressed, it is undrinkable. So off it goes to distillation. Once distilled, the liquid is stored in oak casks. When it goes into the oak casks, it is roughly 70% alcohol. As the Cognac sits in the barrel, it evaporates at the rate of about 3% per year, slowly losing both alcohol and water.

    This evaporation is known locally as "La part des anges", or "the angel's share". By the time the Cognac is ready for blending, the alcohol level will have dropped to 40%. Each Cognac house has a maître de chai (master blender) who then blends the different aged Cognacs into what they consider to be the house style.

    Cognac is an acquired taste. It is not for those with a weak it burns all the way down. Nor is it for those with a thin wallet. If you want a 750 ml bottle (standard wine bottle) of the very best stuff, it will set you back $3,000 at Total Wine. Remy Martin's Louis XIII comes in a distinctive Baccarat Crystal decanter and the Cognac inside is comprised of a blend of 1,200 different Cognacs, ranging in age from 40 to 100 years old. 

    The French, famous for their Cognac, are also famous for their cooking. Long ago, they learned to cook their food with this wondrous spirit. Two of my favorite Cognac based French meals are made with steak....specifically, Steak Diane and Steak au Poivre.

    Along the line some genius decided to take the sauce from Steak au Poivre and splash it on a burger. And oh my gosh, what a burger it makes. But I would not suggest that you reach for a bottle of Louis XIII to make the sauce. A good bottle of XO Cognac will set you back about $30 and you will be delighted with the results!

    3 teaspoons peppercorns
    1 teaspoon salt
    12 ounces fresh ground beef
    2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 large shallot, finely diced
    4 tablespoons Cognac
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    2 egg hamburger buns, sliced and the insides toasted
    Dijon mustard (optional for garnish)
    Thin slices of tomato (optional for garnish)


    1. Crush peppercorns with mortar and pestle or grind with rolling pin.
    2. Form ground beef into 2 patties. Season both sides of each patty with salt and 1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns, reserving rest. Coat patties with grapeseed oil. In frying pan over high heat, sear both sides of patty to desired level of doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove burgers and rest on paper towel. Remove excess oil from pan, and return to medium-high heat.
    3. Add butter and sliced shallot to pan. Cook until shallot softens, about 1 minute.
    4. Remove pan from heat, and allow to cool for 30 seconds. Add Cognac and return to heat. Bring to simmer. Stir and scrape bottom of pan to deglaze and create sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes.
    5. Add cream and remaining pepper. Simmer for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. 
    6. Arrange burger on bun, and pour au poivre sauce on top. Garnish with sliced tomato and/or Dijon mustard, if desired. 

    Wine pairing: I'd reach for a big and bold Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to stand up to this powerful sauce. If you want to really feel it, try a PlumpJack.

    Grogs and Goldie, 1956

    Saturday, June 2, 2018

    Grilled Flanken-Cut Short Ribs

    Incredibly fast. Incredibly easy. And huge beef flavor for less than the price of ground beef. And, oh, what a great chew! Flanken-cut short ribs are only about 1/4 of an inch thick. They only need 2 to 3 minutes per side over the fire. And the prep is so easy, your two year-old could do it. This Williams Sonoma recipe serves four to six people .

    3 pounds flanken-cut short ribs
    Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
    2 teaspoons garlic powder
    2 teaspoons sweet paprika
    Flaky sea salt for finishing


    1. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat.
    2. Season the short ribs with kosher salt and pepper, then sprinkle all over with the garlic powder and paprika. Arrange the ribs on the grill and cook, turning once, until charred and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side.
    3. Transfer the short ribs to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Arrange the short ribs on a platter, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve. 

    Wine pairing: Beef cooked rapidly over a hot fire? Only a Cabernet Sauvignon will fit the bill. Perhaps one of Napa Valley's finest...a Far Niente?

    Grogs and Goldie, 1956