Saturday, February 29, 2020

Steak au Poivre

My affinity for fine dining started at an early age, thanks to my private dick grandfather, Frank J. Dunleavy. And the center of the universe for my fine dining affinity at the ripe old age of 5 was Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale. Charlie's was my grandfather's favorite restaurant. Wait, I take that back.....his favorite bar.

He would bring me there for lunch, where I would be served a hamburger in the kitchen and he would be served a Crown Royal on the rocks....or two....or three. Then he would drive me back home to Edina. I have come to realize that safety was never foremost on his mind.

He may have been a little inebriated, but back then the police did not write up former policemen for a modest amount of swerving down the road. And his Ford Galaxy 500 had no seatbelts for him to belt us in, which made it a lot easier for me to reach the loaded .32 revolver he kept in his unlocked glove box.

I miss Charlie's. It opened in 1933 and was a Minneapolis icon for nearly 50 years. It sat at 701 4th Avenue in Minneapolis. It was torn down in 1982 and where once was Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale, now sits an anonymous blue skyscraper void of any character which the owners named, in a stroke of creative genius, 701 4th Avenue.

Once I reached legal drinking age in 1973, I began to frequent Charlie's (no easy task on my $2.75 per hour wage from selling skis and boots at Hoigaard's). I'd take my dates there to show them my appreciation for fine dining....the food and atmosphere were like nothing else in Minneapolis. An old school, white tablecloth experience the likes of what would eventually disappear. But what was really cool to me was that they had two dishes that the waiter would prepare table side. Caesar salad and Steak au Poivre.

While it was fascinating to watch the Caesar salad come together on the waiter's cart (it cost just $5.00 for 2 salads), nothing beat the spectacle of the Steak au Poivre. For the finishing flourish, the waiter would light the brandy on fire and the steak would be surrounded by bright blue flames that extinguished themselves just as you were served. So in the spirit of Charlie's, here is Cook's Illustrated Steak au Poivre, sans the fiery finish. You can thank Frank for the lessons he taught me in safety awareness.

4 tablespoons butter
1 medium shallot, minced
1 cup beef broth
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt

4 New York strip steaks, 8 to 10 ounces each
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely ground
Kosher salt


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat; when foaming subsides, add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add beef and chicken broths, increase heat to high, and boil until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 8 minutes. Set reduced broth mixture aside. Rinse and wipe out skillet.
  2. Meanwhile, sprinkle both sides of steaks with salt; rub one side of each steak with 1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns, and, using fingers, press peppercorns into steaks to make them adhere.
  3. Place now-empty skillet over medium heat until hot, about 4 minutes. Lay steaks unpeppered-side down in hot skillet, increase heat to medium-high, firmly press down on steaks with bottom of cake pan and cook steaks without moving them until well-browned, about 6 minutes. Using tongs, flip steaks, firmly press down on steaks with bottom of cake pan, and cook on peppered side, about 3 minutes longer for rare, about 4 minutes longer for medium-rare, or about 5 minutes longer for medium. Transfer steaks to large plate and tent loosely with foil to keep warm.
  4. Pour reduced broth, cream, and 1/4 cup brandy into now-empty skillet; increase heat to high and bring to boil, scraping pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Simmer until deep golden brown and thick enough to heavily coat back of metal tablespoon or soup spoon, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons butter, remaining 1 tablespoon brandy, lemon juice and any accumulated meat juices. Adjust seasonings with salt.
  5. Set steaks on individual dinner plates, spoon portion of sauce over steaks, and serve immediately.

Pairing: Crown Royal or Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Chorizo Sloppy Joes

This recipe originally appeared in The New York Times. The intention of Mathew Hyland's recipe is to make a gargantuan sandwich on a massive roll (Portuguese-style or big Hero rolls) and slice it up for a crowd. If you are cooking for a crowd, that is the way to go. But if you have a limited audience, you can go the traditional route as pictured above. I prefer the tarted-up original, shown below.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •   1½ pounds Mexican or Guatemalan chorizo or Portuguese chouriço, casings removed
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium-size red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce, preferably one of the thicker varieties, like Cholula or Frank’s
  • 4 Portuguese-style rolls or sesame-seed hero rolls
  • 8 thin slices sharp Provolone
  • ½ cup sliced pickled banana peppers
  • ½ cup pitted and chopped green olives, like Castelvetrano
  • 1 tablespoon celery seeds

  1. Make the chorizo filling for the sandwich. Set a large, high-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Swirl the oil into the pan and when it shimmers and is about to smoke, add the chorizo, breaking up the meat with a spoon. Cook the chorizo, stirring occasionally and continuing to break down its bulk, until the meat has rendered some of its fat and started to brown, approximately 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Stir in the cumin, then add the bell pepper, onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables wilt, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, 1/2 cup water and the hot sauce and bring to a simmer, using the spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom and sides of the skillet. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and the vegetables are very tender, approximately 20 minutes. Keep warm or let cool, then refrigerate and reheat when ready to use.
  3. To assemble the sandwiches, split and toast the rolls, then place 1 to 2 slices of Provolone on the bottom part of each and divide the warm chorizo filling on top. Place equal portions of the  banana peppers and olives on top. Sprinkle each sandwich aggressively with celery seeds, put the top part of the bread on and serve.

Pairing: An ice-cold Pacifico

Grogs and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Pasta with Sausage, Mustard and Basil

Nigel Slater is a British food writer and the creator of this recipe that just knocked it out of the park for me. What's not to love:? Pasta, hot Italian sausage, white wine, heavy cream, stone ground mustard, red pepper flakes and fresh basil.

And while the recipe calls for casarecce, feel free to choose any short pasta that suits your fancy: penne, ziti, rigatoni or even shells. It's the sum of the parts that make this dish and the shape of your pasta will matter not.

1 pound of casarecce, penne or other short pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 hot Italian sausages, casings removed (1-1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons stone ground mustard
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup thinly sliced basil


  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente; drain. 
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sausage and brown over moderately high heat, breaking up the sausage while it cooks, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, mustard and crushed red pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. 
  3. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the pasta and basil and toss to coat. Serve at once.

Wine pairing: Merlot

Grogs and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Garlic-Parmesan Wings

This Kelli Foster recipe is a standout in it's simplicity and the incredible flavor she bestows upon this Super Bowl staple. Leave your sauces in the pantry. This is the real deal.

2 pounds chicken wings
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and fit a wire rack inside. 
  2. Place 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine. 
  3. Pat the wings dry with paper towels. Place on the rack in a single layer and sprinkle the tops with the salt mixture.
  4. Roast until the wings are cooked through and the skin is crispy, about 50 minutes. Meanwhile, place the Parmesan cheese, parsley and garlic in the same large bowl. A few minutes before the wings are done, melt the butter. Set aside to cool slightly, then stir the butter into the Parmesan mixture.
  5. Add the wings to the Parmesan/butter mixture and toss until well-coated. Transfer the wings to a large plate or platter and top with more grated Parmesan, if desired.

Pairing: Pick your Super Bowl favorite...a Pilsner or a Merlot.

Grogs and Goldie, 1956