Saturday, March 19, 2022

Dan Dan Noodles


In Sichuan, a bamboo pole is called a "dan". Street sellers of this meal would carry a dan with 2 pots for the ingredients and one to cook them in. And that's how the name of this dish became Dan Dan Noodles. It's a delightful combination of ramen noodles and ground pork. But the broth is what really makes this recipe sing.  Chili oil, peanut butter and sesame paste are blended into the beef broth, resulting in a spicy yet creamy sensation as it crosses your tongue. It is so damn good, they should have just named it OMFG Damn Damn Noodles! This recipe makes four entree servings and I like to serve it up with some warm naan flatbread.


For the Broth
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
6 green onions, sliced
1/3 cup oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons hot chili oil
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons hot garlic chili sauce (gojuchang)
7 cups beef broth

1 pound ground pork and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil  

4, 3-ounce packets ramen noodles, cooked according to instructions (sauce packets discarded)

Chopped cilantro and green onions for garnish

  1. Combine all broth ingredients in a large saucepan. Whisk to mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Increase heat to medium just before serving.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add vegetable oil. When shimmering, add pork. Break up pork into crumbles and stir often. Cook until well browned.
  3. Divide cooked ramen between four bowls. Divide cooked pork between four bowls. Fill each bowl with broth, add garnish and serve.

Wine pairing: Zinfandel

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Sheet Pan Stroganoff and Nachos


Mash-ups are an unusual combination of ingredients that result in something unique. My first experience with mash-ups started in my teens. We used to go to a dance place called the Purple Barn in Eden Prairie, MN. One night Randy Nordquist, Mark Enger and I were headed for a night of dancing in Maureen's (Mark's mom) Ford Falcon. Mark had swiped an empty, plastic, bee-shaped honey dispenser and filled it with stolen whiskey and grape juice. We'd squeeze out a shot and then pass it around until the little bee was empty. Randy decided that the name of this mash-up should be called "Bum's Drink". That was a perfect name.

I think food mash-ups are perhaps the most interesting. My mom used to make herself a "Joey Balboa Sandwich". It was a combo of sliced bananas and peanut butter on white bread. Not my cup of tea, but it was certainly her favorite mash-up. Food author Dan Whalen recently penned a book called "Nachos for Dinner". My favorite recipe in the book is called "Stroganachos", which as the name suggests, is a mash-up of beef stroganoff and nachos. The fact that it comes together as a super-simple sheet pan dinner is an awesome bonus.

1-1/2 cups sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 pound of sirloin, cut into strips
1 bag tortilla chips (12 ounces)
8 ounces shredded jack cheese
2 green onions, sliced 

  1. In a bowl, mix sour cream, lime juice and a pinch of sea salt. Stir well to mix.
  2. Preheat oven to 400º.
  3. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté  until browned (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add the steak to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until medium rare (about 3 minutes). Turn off the heat and stir in half of the sour cream/lime mixture.
  5. Add all of the chips to a sheet pan and spread evenly
  6. Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese over the chips. Evenly add the steak and mushroom mixture, then sprinkle again with the other half of the cheese.
  7. Place pan on middle rack and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. You want the cheese to melt and the chips just starting to brown.
  8. Remove pan from the oven and top with the other half of the sour cream/lime mixture and the green onions. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Malbec

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Slow Cooker Corned Beef


My father passed away 3 years ago last month. He managed 94 great years of life before he checked out. I miss him every day. He never missed a St. Patrick's Day dinner at our house as I always served up his favorite, slow cooker corned beef. (Guaranteed: You will never find a simpler or tastier corned beef recipe.)

He had caused me many, many years of turmoil, telling me since birth that our last name should be pronounced "Grogan". He was of the belief that our last name was Gaelic and the "u" should be pronounced as an "o". The struggles I had every new school year when I got my new teachers and they insisted on pronouncing it phonetically instead of the correct Gaelic "O". As in "Oh, the horror".

Along came the set of connected pipes known as the Interwebs and then So I began researching my heritage. I found a boatload of Gruggens in England that I was able to trace back to the early 1500's. It appears their name was O'Gruggen in Ireland and apparently they dropped the "O" when they migrated to England in the 1400's. And I found 3 Gruggen brothers who left England in the early 1900's. One went to Australia. Another to Canada. And the third made his way to the United States. So today, there 4 pockets of Gruggens left in the world. England, of course, and then the final destinations of the 3 brothers....Sydney, Toronto and Minneapolis. Yes, the third brother was my grandfather, George.

Still somewhat confused about my specific heritage, I decided to have a DNA test done through I mailed the DNA sample and it came back that I was 57% Irish, 38% English and 5% Norwegian. So that makes me mostly Irish, but still confused as hell as to how my name should be pronounced. I suppose given that I've been using "Grogan" for 69 years....I might as well stick with it until  I check out. And if you want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, give my dad's favorite meal a try. Using my father's Gaelic pronunciation rules, though, it should be spelled "Sluw Cuuker Curned Beef". Oh, the horror.

1 corned beef brisket, 3-4 pounds
2 medium onions, cut into quarters (no peeling required)
5 ribs celery, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon prepared stone ground mustard 
2 cups chicken stock
12-ounces of beer (lager or pilsner)

  1. Place onions and celery on the bottom of your slow cooker. Add stock, beer and mustard.
  2. Set brisket on top of onions and celery, fat-side up. Sprinkle meat with seasoning packet (which comes packed in your brisket). Put lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 10 hours.
  3. Remove brisket. Slice and serve.

Pairing: You already knew this. Served at 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit.