Saturday, December 26, 2020

Chicken Cordon Bleu


Oh, how we love our Chicken Cordon Bleu in the Gruggen household. After steak, it is the most eaten meal on a monthly basis. And what's not to love? A spectacular chicken breast, butterflied and the interior is anointed with blended cheese slices and ham. Close it all back up and then dredge the chicken in flour, beaten egg and panko bread crumbs. Then the breasts are cooked in peanut oil for 5 minutes per side and slipped into a 325º oven until they reach an internal temperature of 165º.

Oh, how I love eating Chicken Cordon Bleu. Oh, how I hate making Chicken Cordon Bleu. While I'm a reasonably competent cook, I really dislike it when making a meal becomes tedious. I have an affinity for simple and approachable recipes. Cook a roast in the oven and your "hands-on" time is maybe 5 minutes. Make Chicken Cordon Bleu and your "hands-on" time approaches 90 minutes. I have the attention span of a gnat and my eyes glaze over when I must complete extended, tedious tasks.

So how do Becky and I enjoy such a complex meal on a regular basis? I go to the freezer section at Costco and buy a box of Pierre Chicken Cordon Bleu. It is, without a doubt, the best Chicken Cordon Bleu I have ever had. Better yet, it gets my "hands-on" time down to about 2 minutes....for all I have to do is bake it in my oven for 43 minutes. They've done all the heavy lifting and messy prep work. This Costco gem is only $12.69 and each box contains 6 perfect entrees. Try all you want to make Chicken Cordon Bleu from scratch, but it will never taste as good as what is in this box.

Wine pairing: Chardonnay or Petite Sirah

Grogs and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs


The drums have been beating for a very long time, extolling the fabulousness of cooking ribs in a slow cooker. I chose to ignore them. What could possibly be as good as smoking racks of ribs low and slow over hickory for six hours? Well, yesterday I tried slow cooker ribs and the results were fantastic. It's a totally different experience than ribs on a smoker, but Becky and I could not stop eating these ribs!

It certainly could not be any simpler. Toss an onion and garlic in a slow cooker with a half a cup of water. Apply your rib rub and drop the ribs in your slow cooker for eight hours....and out pops the most incredibly moist and tender ribs that will ever cross your lips.

I'll take a moment to comment on rib rub. For years, all I have ever used on my ribs is Famous Dave's Rib Rub. But Famous Dave has moved on, starting a new chain called Old Southern BBQ. I bought some of his new rub last week and now I am completely hooked! You can get yourself some by clicking on this link:

This recipe scales perfectly for any quantity of ribs. So depending on the size of your slow cooker, the cooking instructions are identical for 1 to 3 racks of ribs. To fit them in your cooker, wind them around the outer rim or cut each rack in half. One additional thing I did was add a teaspoon of Liquid Smoke, which gave the meat a nice hickory bite.


1 medium onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

1/2 cup of water

1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke (optional)

1 to 3 racks of baby back pork ribs

Rib Rub

BBQ Sauce


  1. Place onion, garlic and water in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Generously apply rib rub to both sides of the ribs. Then place the ribs in your slow cooker, standing them on end. Turn slow cooker to low, cover and cook ribs for 8 hours.
  3. When ribs are done, turn on your oven broiler. Place ribs on a foil-lined cookie sheet and slather them with BBQ sauce. Place ribs under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes (the ribs should be browned and the BBQ sauce caramelized). Remove from oven and slice between the bones to serve.

Pairing: A Zinfandel, or better yet, a Pilsner!

Grogs and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Braised Beef Ragu


As we slowly meander towards the shortest day of the year, the dearth of daylight and the cold temperatures make me long for a slow-cooked, rich sauce on a bed of pappardelle pasta. This is a dish from the old country, where not a single part of the cow was ever wasted.

There are two parts of the cow that are extraordinary for braising....the tail and the leg. Either one will do for this recipe, although I seem to find it so much easier to source shanks than oxtail. These cuts of beef are rich with fat, collagen and marrow...all of which melt away in a slow braise and render the beef and vegetables into the most tender and delicious, melt-in-your-mouth sauce you will ever taste.


5 pounds of oxtail or beef shanks

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Flour, for dredging

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

3 whole celery ribs, chopped

1, 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed

3 cups red wine

2 rosemary sprigs

2 thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 300º.
  2. Pat the meat dry with paper towels then dust with the flour, tapping off any excess. Season with salt and pepper on all sides.
  3. Place a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and when glistening, add the meat (metal tongs come in handy here) and sear on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding.
  4. Transfer the meat to a plate. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, garlic and nutmeg. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the meat and enough water to just barely cover meat. Return to a boil, then cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook for 4 hours, until the meat is fork tender and falling off the bones.
  6. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the pieces of meat to a plate. Skim any visible fat from the surface of the sauce. Pick the meat from the bones, pulling away and discarding any pieces of fat, and then return the meat to the pan. Pluck out the bay leaves, and sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve atop pappardelle.

    Wine pairing: Amarone

    Grogs and Goldie, 1956

    Saturday, December 5, 2020

    Lobster Spaghetti


    Lobster spaghetti dishes are ubiquitous throughout the coastal towns of Italy. The same goes for the coastal towns of Maine. A hearty blend of rich lobster meat, al dente spaghetti and tomato. I mean, look at that picture above. That gives me thigh sweats.

    The only real hassle with this recipe is that you have to cook the lobster ahead of time. I dislike cooking live lobsters, so I typically buy tails for the ease of preparation. When I'm too lazy to do that, I go online and order from Lobster Anywhere ( They are a seafood company in Maine and you can order up just about anything you can dream of. In addition to all variations of shelled lobster, they also sell just plain old lobster meat. That makes this Gordon Ramsay recipe for two a no-brainer.


    1 pound cooked lobster meat

    12 ounces spaghetti

    4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    3 garlic cloves, chopped

    1 large shallot, finely chopped

    1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste (yes, please)

    1/2 cup dry white wine

    8 ounces tomato sauce

    Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper


    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook till al dente.
    2. While the pasta is cooking, chop lobster into small pieces. 
    3. Then heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch sauté  pan over moderate heat. Add garlic, shallot and red pepper and sauté until shallot is soft and lightly brown (about 3 minutes).
    4. Add white wine to pan and reduce heat. Stir in tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes (add a little water if the sauce gets too thick).
    5. Add lobster meat to pan and then heat for 1 minute. Add pasta to pan and keep mixing everything together for another minute. Transfer lobster spaghetti to plates and serve.

    Wine pairing: A big, oaky Chardonnay

    Grogs and Goldie, 1956