Steakhouse and Supper Club Fare

Sunday Dinner – 8 April 2018

Supper Club Relishes

This Sunday was Claudia’s parents’ wedding anniversary, so we decided to celebrate by grilling steaks.

The rest of the family went to a children’s production of our local theater group. I wasn’t interested in this particular show, so I stayed home and prepared dinner.

Wisconsin Supper Club CookbookThe main course menu was t-bones, baked potatoes, asparagus and salad, but I also decided to do a traditional “supper club relish tray.” The Easter Bunny brought me a copy of Mary Bergin’s Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, and there were several recipes I could barely wait to try.

The big hit was marinated olives from the Chippewa Inn. I drained a jar of pimiento stuffed olives, and added minced garlic, some olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, a little sugar, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes and dry vermouth.

I also fixed the cocktail mushrooms recipe from No No’s Supper Club. After blanching a pound of white button mushrooms for a couple minutes, I simmered some vinegar, sugar, garlic salt, Worcestershire and Tabasco and poured it on. These turned out just a little sweet for our taste, but Aunt Pat loved them and took the leftovers home.

The rest of the relishes were sweet cornichons, radishes (served with Lawry’s salt), pickled cherry peppers, and cold pack port wine cheese with crackers.

Sunday Dinner 040818

Our Jewel had t-bone steaks on sale, and they were each more than 3/4ths of a pound and decent thickness. The Weber Genesis was blazing hot – all four burners got it upwards of 600 °F before I killed the sear station burner – so the steaks cooked quickly. After the first two minutes I rotated them 90 degrees for quadrillage, and then flipped them after another two, turning the burners down to medium. Two more minutes and they came off to rest a bit before serving.

I’d also done baking potatoes, using our typical method of coating with olive oil spray, kosher salt and pepper before wrapping in foil to bake. We served them with whipped cottage cheese (another recipe from the Bergin book, courtesy of the White Stag Inn). It’s simply cottage cheese, chives and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt whipped up in a blender. This was another hit around the table, with several folks saying they preferred it to sour cream.

I also grilled some asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 15 minutes, and served it with doctored Knorr’s Hollandaise. Yes, I am still too timid to make the sauce from scratch. Shudder if you must. Claudia made another nice Wulff Salad to round out the meal. The wine was a 2011 Alambrado Malbec from Argentina.

Claudia’s niece, Emily, joined us this week as well, along with our usual crew, the folks and Aunt Pat. After dinner, the two older ladies had Brandy Alexanders and the two younger ones had Pink Squirrels, which are getting to be a fixture here on Sundays. Dessert was a peach pie and DQ soft serve that Pat brought.

This turned out to be a meal where I really needed (and got) a nap afterwards.

I’m still making my way through the supper club book, and look forward to trying some of the mains and sides. We’ll definitely keep this meal’s recipes in our repertoire.

Easter Brunch and Dinner 2018

Easter Brunch

We had Claudia’s folks and her sister’s family over for Easter this year. We started with Mimosas and Bloody Marys, and enjoyed a marvelous brunch including egg casserole, Kiełbasa, fresh fruits, baked goods and more.

Later in the day, we served ham, green beans, pasta and Wulff Salad.

Easter Ham

The salad, by the way, is named for Claudia’s mom’s family. She learned to prepare this simple vinaigrette growing up. It’s unique in that the ingredients are added directly to the greens, one-by-one, rather than combining in a cruet first. It includes oil (she generally uses EVOO these days, but it could be any vegetable oil), vinegar (usually balsamic or red wine), salt, pepper and a bit of sugar. Nothing is measured, so far as I can tell.

I cook the ham on the grill each year, using Jamie Purviance’s Mustard-Molasses Glaze recipe from Weber’s Real Grilling. The first time I made this glaze, Claudia commented that it smelled like her grandma’s kitchen, which is about the highest compliment one can receive. Here’s the recipe.

  • ½ cup stone-ground mustard
  • ¼ cup unsulphured dark molasses
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Combine these in a saucepan and simmer a bit.

Score a 10 pound, bone-in (butt end) cooked ham with cross hatches, and place it cut side down in a foil pan. I add a can of 7-Up or ginger ale to the pan, and grill over indirect medium heat for two or three hours, brushing with the glaze after an hour or so, and again toward the end of the cook. This year I cooked it on the Weber Genesis gas grill, adding a few chunks of apple wood to the smoker box.

Claudia had baked an assortment of sugar cookies and almond/oat cookies. And of course, there were hard boiled eggs galore.

I had been sick the prior week and had barely been eating, so I overdid with all of the delicious goodies in the morning, and didn’t really get to enjoy dinner. But the ham was wonderful for days on end. Claudia made grilled ham and Swiss sandwiches Monday evening, and we used the bone to flavor some incredible split pea soup later in the week.

The Spinning Bird

Sunday Dinner – 25 March 2018

Rotisserie Chicken with PotatoesThis week for Sunday Dinner we prepared one of our favorites, Rotisserie Chicken with Drip Pan Potatoes. Aunt Pat was having problems with her knee, and I seem to have come down with the flu, so it wasn’t the most festive meal, but Grammy and Grampy did join us, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food.

I have been cooking on a Weber Kettle for decades, but it’s really only the past few years that I’ve had any clue what I was doing. My education came in the form of a rotisserie attachment that Claudia gave me one year for Christmas. Since I had no idea how to use it, I had to do quite a bit of research. Luck brought me to a guy named Mike Vrobel, and his excellent book Rotisserie Grilling. By learning to cook with the rotisserie, I became a better outdoor cook all around. For instance, I had never used a thermometer to test for doneness before. No wonder I had inconsistent results for thirty years.

Dry brined chicken was one of the first things I learned to prepare on the rotisserie, and, though simple, it remains one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever tasted. Prep involves seasoning the bird, inside and out, with kosher salt, ground black pepper, garlic and onion powder and Herbs de Provence. Then we leave it, uncovered, in the refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight).

The grill is set up with a full chimney of charcoal, distributed in a horseshoe pattern around a foil drip pan. This time around we used a couple chunks of apple wood for smoke. The bird is trussed and skewered, and placed on the rotisserie with the legs pointing toward the closed end of the coals, breast toward the open end. This helps to cook the thighs well while not overcooking the white meat.

Claudia prepared about three pounds of potatoes, cutting them into 8ths, coating with olive oil, salt and pepper, and par cooking in the microwave for five minutes. After the chicken had spun for about half an hour, the potatoes went into the drip pan, soaking up all the nice schmaltz dripping from the bird.

This was a fairly large roaster (about 6 1/2 pounds) so I figured it would need to cook about an hour and a half. I began checking the temperature in the breast after the first hour. By the time the coals were mostly gone, it had still only reached 145 °F, so I placed it on top of the potato pan and moved everything to the Genesis gas grill to finish cooking over indirect medium heat. Once it hit 165, we brought it in and let it rest under a tent of foil.

We served this meal with steamed broccoli and lemon, and Wulff Salad. The wine was a Scott Peterson Rox Chardonnay.

Roast chicken is a Sunday Dinner classic, and you’ll never taste any better than what comes off the rotisserie. I’ve often said that if I had ever opened a restaurant, I’d want to have called it “The Spinning Bird.”

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

Sunday Brunch and Dinner – 18 March 2018

Green Flowers

Aunt Pat’s Lovely Bouquet

We had the folks and Aunt Pat over early this Sunday so we could work in a late breakfast as well as dinner. Claudia was up before 7 AM putting together her white chocolate and raspberry scones, which involved a very labor intensive process of grating frozen butter into the dry ingredients mixture. We tried using a food processor for this bit, but that didn’t work out, so she went back to the box grater, painstakingly dispensing two pounds of Irish butter. Once the dough was resting in the fridge, she headed out to Yoga while I started preparing a huge pot of veggies and corned beef.

We had Pandora’s St. Patrick’s Day station streaming as the family arrived, and Claudia baked the scones. I had some sausages and Potatoes O’Brien ready, and a fresh pot of coffee on. Claudia, Pat and Mom added a wee nip o’ Tullamore Dew to their mugs. Aunt Pat brought a lovely, festive bouquet.

Claudia had also made Shamrock Bark on Saturday evening as an additional treat.

After breakfast, the folks and Pat settled in for some games of cribbage while dinner continued to simmer. In past years, we had always cooked the corned beef in a crock pot, but this year I decided to try a recipe we’d seen in Sunset Magazine for Patrick’s Corned Beef and Cabbage. I honestly don’t know how we survived before we got a 12 quart stock pot, and toward the end of the cook, it was almost too small.

We used two point cut briskets, over seven pounds together, along with five medium onions, 2 pounds of carrots, 2 1/2 pounds of red potatoes and two full heads of cabbage. The addition of malt vinegar, Guinness and lots of whole spices to the pot added something special, but what was most notable about the recipe was that the cabbage was cooked perfectly. Instead of the limp, slimy mess that usually comes out of the crock, this still had a little firmness to it, since it was added late in the cooking.

I also tried a new soda bread recipe from BTE this year. The other recipe I’ve always used includes caraway seeds and raisins, and is a little sweeter, almost like a thick scone. This one turned out to be a much better compliment to the meal, with a dense, fluffy crumb and nice crunchy crust.

Claudia also served three varieties of Irish cheeses with the meal. The wine was a very nice Matt Iaconis Cabernet Sauvignon from 2015. Some Guinness Stout, Smithwick’s Red Ale and Tullamore Dew were also consumed, and after dinner one round of Grasshoppers with mint chocolate ice cream for dessert. :)

Sláinte Mhaith!

Asian Inspiration

Sunday Dinner – 11 March 2018

From Mrs. Noe’s Facebook:

Lest anyone think we starved today, this Sunday’s culinary adventure was Asian food!

Asian inspired salad, egg rolls, rangoons & potstickers, beef with broccoli, vegetable lo mein and Hong Kong style egg custard.

Salad was butter lettuce, julienned carrots, mandarins and snow peas with a homemade ginger garlic dressing and topped with chow mein noodles.

Appetizers were all from the store, so I can’t take any credit there.

Crockpot beef with broccoli and brown rice.

Vegetable lo mein with peppers, onions, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, water chestnuts and garlic.

Egg custard was supposed to be tarts. Note to self: you can’t substitute phyllo tart shells…really needs to be pie crust. Live and learn, at least I salvaged it.

And of course, no Chinese meal is complete without fortune cookies!

Recipes to come. The Lo Mein was especially delicious. We made Grasshoppers for Grampy and Aunt Pat, while Claudia and her niece, Emily, enjoyed Pink Squirrels.

Old School Supper Club Drinks

As long as I’ve known my father-in-law, he has occasionally asked “got anything for an after dinner drink?” I thought he meant Cognac, or something.

It turns out that there is an American Supper Club tradition of drinks made with sweet spirits and heavy cream, that people used to call “after dinner drinks.” They are sometimes made with ice cream as well. I learned about these, and the “before dinner” abomination known as the “Brandy Old Fashioned, Sweet” on a documentary called Old Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club.

This sent me down a rabbit hole. This week I’ve been researching, buying odd ingredients, and mixing up something new every night.

So far, I still prefer my Old Fashioned with Rye, and neither Mrs. Noe nor I were fond of the Brandy Alexander. But she liked the Grasshopper, fondly calling to mind the Crème de Menthe and ice cream creations from her parents’ kitchen. And both of us liked the Pink Squirrel. Who’d have ever thunk it?

Here’s the final concoction we tried, the Golden Cadillac. Both of us liked it better than the Brandy Alexander, but not as well as the other two drinks.

Recipes

For the Old Fashioned, just substitute Korbel brandy for the whiskey in your favorite Old Fashioned recipe, and top with 7 Up instead of soda water.

Here are the recipes for the creamy drinks. Use equal parts of the three ingredients for each of these, shake with ice and serve strained and up.

If making with ice cream instead of heavy cream, use 2 parts of ice cream to 1 part each of the two other ingredients and blend.

Grasshopper

Green Crème de Menthe
White Crème de Cacao
Heavy Cream

Brandy Alexander

Korbel Brandy
Dark Crème de Cacao
Heavy Cream
Garnish: Grated Nutmeg

Pink Squirrel

Crème de Noyaux
White Crème de Cacao
Heavy Cream
Garnish: Maraschino Cherry

If you have trouble finding the Crème de Noyaux, substitute Amaretto and put in a little cherry juice.

Golden Cadillac

Galliano
White Crème de Cacao
Heavy Cream
Garnish: Chocolate shavings

Cheers!

Posole

Sunday Dinner – 4 March 2018

PosoleSeveral years ago, my friend Christopher was kind enough to send me his recipe for posole, a hearty stew of hominy and pork loin that originally comes to us from the Aztecs. I experimented with it some and finally arrived at a version that maximizes authentic flavor while paring down prep time and kitchen cleanup somewhat. There’s no doubt that Chris’ original, which creates the red sauce base from stock and powdered chilies, gives you a better opportunity to control the heat and flavor. I think it would also be interesting to slake my own maiz blanco at some point. But this version does quite nicely. In fact, when we sampled the authentic posole at our parish Día de la Independencia festival a couple years ago, Claudia commented that it tasted nearly identical to mine.

We started this Sunday morning with  2 pounds of boneless pork loin that she was kind enough to cut into cubes. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, and browned it awhile in a skillet.Then it went into the bottom of the crock pot and got covered with a large can of enchilada sauce. Next I added a couple of small chopped onions, four or five cloves of minced garlic, two teaspoons of oregano, three large drained cans of hominy, and one small can of chopped green chilis.

Some folks also like to add cayenne, but I’m cooking for some older folks whose constitutions prefer we leave it out. It turned out plenty spicy anyway. I used some chicken stock to deglaze the sauté pan and added it to the crock to make sure everything was swimming in liquid. I also seasoned with just a little salt and cracked black pepper.

After cooking on high for three or four hours, we checked for doneness and to adjust spices. The stew meat was tender, but the broth was pretty spicy, so we added another can of hominy, including its liquid. Part of the thing about this dish is the interaction of the starch from the corn and the fat from the pork creating a silky gravy consistency, so the canning liquid doesn’t hurt. I also added another teaspoon of oregano. We let it finish cooking for a total of 6 hours on high in the crock.

We had shredded cabbage, cilantro, (queso fresco for Claudia) and fresh limes to squeeze on top. We also served tomato wedges, green onions, avocado slices, and tortillas on the side.

There’s really not a single thing I’d change about this recipe. It’s rich, tasty comfort food that ought to find its way into everyone’s home.

We served Sayanca Malbec with this meal, which was decent and paired nicely, especially considering that it’s dirt cheap from Aldi’s. Micheladas would also have been a good choice. :)

Mrs. Noe mixed up a batch of her awesome Mexican Brownies for dessert, using coffee as the liquid, espresso chocolate chips, plus a little bit of cinnamon and cayenne for the kick.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the posole.

2 LBS Boneless Pork Loin, Cubed – or Chop Suey Meat
1 Large Onion
4 Cloves Garlic
4 (29 oz) Cans Maize Blanco
1 (28 oz) Can Enchilada Sauce
1 Small Can Chopped Green Chilis
2 t Dried Oregano
S & P To Taste

Brown the meat, add everything to a large crockpot and cook on high for 6 hours.

Serve with tortillas, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, sliced radishes, avocado, chopped onions, etc.

Paella

Sunday Dinner – 25 February 2018

paellaSanta brought me a paella pan for Christmas this year, and we’d been waiting for decent weather to give it a try. Although it’s still fairly cold here (in the mid 40s) the forecast for Sunday was clear so we figured it was as good a time as any. I seasoned the pan well on Saturday in anticipation.

I worked from another BTE recipe.

The broth started with a sauté of five cloves of pressed garlic in a little olive oil. After a minute or so, I added 3 tablespoons of tomato paste and a teaspoon and a half of paprika. Once that started to thicken and darken, in went a bottle of clam juice, 2/3 cup of sherry and 4 cups of chicken broth to boil for a bit.

Claudia had picked up some boneless and skinless chicken thighs from Aldi. They got seasoned with garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and then grilled for about 7 minutes, and reserved.

Next, I got the pan good and hot on the Weber Genesis (all three main burners on high) and sautéed a chopped onion in a little olive oil. Then came a jar of roasted red peppers. After five or ten minutes, it was time to add the rice. There was no Bomba or Arborrio to be found here, so I used a medium grain rice from the Hispanic foods aisle at Jewel, pouring three cups over the onions and peppers, then mixing things together well, coating the rice with oil, and spreading it out evenly over the pan. The chicken pieces went around the perimeter, and the juices from the plate, plus the broth, went on top. Dollops of chorizo went on as well, and this cooked, with the grill cover down and the burners on medium, for maybe 15 minutes.

We used shrimp that had already been cooked, so they were added late in the process, along with a bag of frozen peas. I’d coated the shrimp with olive oil and seasoned with paprika, garlic, pepper and salt. From this point on, it was really just a matter of rotating the pan a quarter turn every five minutes or so to make sure things cooked evenly. Toward the end, I scraped a spoonful or two from the edge to check for seasoning and doneness.

We covered the pan with foil to rest a bit at table while enjoying a nice tossed salad, some toasted baguette slices, thin slices of Manchego cheese, olives and some small grilled red and yellow peppers that had been tossed with sherry and olive oil.

Claudia’s parents and Aunt Pat joined us again this week. Pat had eaten paella once while traveling with her daughter in Spain, and hadn’t been impressed, but she loved this batch. I honestly think that it was beginner’s luck that it turned out at all. My guess is that the main trick is to not stir the rice once you’ve added the cooking liquid. All of the ingredients were done properly, and there was a good socarrat on the bottom of the pan, which, similar to Persian tadig, is a hallmark of the dish.

We enjoyed the last bottle of Cariñena Garnacha that was in the cellar, with Pandora’s Flamenco channel streaming all afternoon to help the mood.

Claudia tried her hand at flan for the very first time as well, and it was exceptional. She used this recipe from The Spruce adding chocolate dipped espresso beans for garnish.

This meal is definitely a keeper. The only things I might change would be to use more onion, maybe add some whole garlic cloves, and perhaps add some clams (and more chorizo) to the paella. I didn’t keep precise notes on timing, so I hope we’ll be able to replicate the dish this summer. It would easily serve a dozen or more, so a party may be in order.

Honey Garlic Chicken

Sunday Dinner – 18 February 2018

Honey Garlic ChickenThis week we were attending a performance of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by our local theater group, so crock pot cookery was indicated. Claudia made Honey Garlic Chicken with potatoes, a side of steamed broccoli, a green salad and a nice apple crisp for dessert. We’ll eventually link to the full recipe, but for now I’ll just say that this was a meal worthy of Jim Harrison, in that it had 12 cloves of garlic in it.

We love cooking in the crock, and not just for the convenience. Although it may seem like a modern contrivance, cooking a variety of ingredients together at a low simmer for hours is a time honored technique that predates Rival by thousands of years. Whether fireside, on the hearth, on the range or in the oven, some of humankind’s very favorite meals are slow cooked in a closed pot.

The gravy for this dish, which used the strained drippings from the pot as the base, was absolutely delicious.

We drank a very nice Lodi Verdelho from Ana Diogo-Draper with this meal. The label says “fruit driven, well balanced, concentrated and bold.” All true. It stood up well to the deeply flavorful funkiness of the main dish.

Valentine’s Day 2018 – Penne Alla Vodka

Penne alla VodkaOur Valentine’s Day celebration came a day late this year, since Claudia was out of town for work on the 14th. I wanted to make something special to welcome her home.

I had prepared  Penne alla Vodka once before, and it had turned out badly, the typically clumsy boozy and hot mess that gave the dish a bad reputation. This time around, I used a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, and was determined to get it right.

Improvising a bit, instead of canned whole tomatoes, I used diced, blending up half of them to help form the clingy sauce. Otherwise I followed the recipe down to the last detail, and it yielded the promised results, sweet, tangy, spicy and creamy.

Since the BTE link above is behind a paywall, you can check out the recipe at Urban Drivel.

At first I was thinking about a simple green salad for the side dish, but did a little research and decided on Italian Peas with Mushrooms. I let this cook just a bit too long, but otherwise it was savory and delicious.

Claudia is the baker in our household. She’s an ace with cookies and confections of all sorts, and I rarely bake (other than simple boules and Irish Soda Bread). But I did try these 4 ingredient Red Velvet Cookies last year for Valentine’s Day and they turned out well, so I made them again this year. They will probably make an annual appearance just for novelty’s sake.

We drank our “house red” (Bota Nighthawk Black), which was a fine accompaniment, although a dry Chianti might have been even better.

We’ll definitely keep these dishes in our repertoire.

New Food Project: Our Favorite Meals

For several years now, Claudia and I have treated Sunday Dinner as an opportunity to experiment with regional cuisines from around the world, update retro classics, or simply revisit favorite family recipes. It’s an occasion to gather around the table with her parents (and, lately, Aunt Pat as well), enjoy some unique dishes and maybe try out some new wines. Friendly games of cribbage often follow dessert.

Certain meals have become traditions for particular seasons or dates on the calendar (Jambalaya for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, Saurbraten in October, etc.).

So, we’ve decided to start doing a little better job of remembering these memorable meals. We’ll be blogging photos, notes and links to recipes here, at least from time to time. Eventually we hope it will serve as our own personal cookbook of favorites.

Here’s some quick catching up for 2018 so far.

January 7th: Johnny Marzetti

I used a recipe from the Wall Street Journal for this. The wine was a Lodi cuvee, Sharon Weeks Cattoo Red.

January 14th: Salsiccia con Peperoni and Pasta

I grilled some mild Italian sausages along with onions and red bell peppers on the Weber Genesis to go with some rotini pasta and a mixed greens salad. Wine was F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Zinfandel.

January 21st: Big Night Timpano!

This is a dish that had intrigued me for years before I had the nerve to actually make it. The recipe comes from Cucina & Famiglia (from the Tucci Family). After preparing this several times now, I finally have it down. Claudia made a nice salad and antipasto platter to go along, and we drank a bottle of perhaps my favorite Italian wine Nespolino Sangiovese Rubicone from 2014.

January 28th: Burns Night Supper

Our annual feast of crock pot faux Haggis, Cock-a-leekie soup, and Cranachan. The wine was an elegant and classy David Akiyoshi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. But the star of the show was some Oban single malt Scotch. :)

February 4th: Greek Fest!

When we were in Steubenville, Ohio for the annual Dean Martin Festival years ago, it coincided with the Holy Trinity Church Greek Festival. We had Spanakopita and Moussaka for the very first time. Claudia found recipes and has since perfected them. I’ll post links or recipes once I find them. We drank a nice, inexpensive Spanish Garnacha from Volteo with this meal.

February 11th: Mardi Gras

This is another meal that Claudia prepares each year, including Jambalaya and bread pudding with Bourbon sauce. Recipes to come. We drank our last bottle of Chateuneuf du Pape, a 2012 Le Prince de Courthezon.

More To Come

That’s it for now. More to come as the year unfolds.

Cedar Planked Salmon

sunday-dinner-salmon-potatoes-asparagus

This week for Sunday Dinner we made the most of some beautiful CSA produce from Gray Farms.

I roasted some white and purple potatoes, and Mrs. Noe made a lovely vinaigrette with lots of incredibly delicious and pungent fresh basil. She made a nice green salad and I roasted asparagus and cooked salmon on cedar planks.

My process for potatoes on the grill is to cut them into relatively even sized pieces and soak them in water for awhile. After draining, into a bowl they go with a drizzle of olive oil plus some salt and pepper, and then into the microwave for about five minutes. At that point they’re ready for the heated plancha on the Genesis. This consistently turns out lovely potatoes – crunchy on the surface and creamy on the inside.

The asparagus simply roasted on a grill pan with oil and seasoning for twenty minutes or so.

I’d soaked two cedar planks for several hours, then got them starting right over the burners while the asparagus was cooking. When the planks started smoking and popping, they were turned over and the salmon placed on the scorched surface. We seasoned with dill, salt and pepper. They were done in under fifteen minutes.

cedar-planked-salmon-on-the-grill

We don’t have this meal often enough.

Quiche!

quiche-florentine

For a simple and delicious dish it’s hard to beat the classic French custard tart. Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal had an article about Quiche, and I didn’t wait long to make one.

Since this was a quick meal on a Tuesday evening, I used a frozen pie crust, and cooked it in the oven, but I hope to make my own pastry dough and bake one in the Weber Genesis soon.

We opted for Quiche Florentine instead of the more standard Quiche Lorraine, thinking that the spinach would be a bit more healthy than bacon. I chopped up a couple cups of fresh spinach and put them in the bottom of the crust, shredded a cup of Emmental Swiss on top, and then poured the custard mixture over it. Since I didn’t have whole milk, I used three eggs and 1 1/4 cups of skim, plus a little salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence and fresh grated nutmeg. It baked at 375 F for about 40 minutes. It turned out a little watery from the skim milk, so I’d definitely use whole next time and adjust the proportions to 2 eggs and 1 1/2 cup of the milk, which is how Julia Child’s recipe goes.

It was tasty, none the less. We served it with a mixed spring greens salad and a nice glass of Spanish Rosé, the perfect rustic and elemental meal for a summer weeknight.

Calling a dish “Florentine” or “à la Florentine” dates back to 16th Century France, by the way. Catherine de Médicis, from Florence, married the French Dauphine (heir to the throne), Henri. She brought her own cooks with her, and they brought spinach seeds, which had not been grown in France prior to their arrival. So “in the style of Florence” means “with spinach.”

The folks at WSJ Off Duty also made this podcast episode about Quiche which I thought was fun.

Make America quiche again.

Jack Daniels Pork Chops With Apples

jack-daniels-pork-chops-apples

This week for Sunday Dinner I cooked Jamie Purviance’s recipe for pork chops and apples with whiskey and mustard glaze. I increased the glaze recipe by half, since we were serving five instead of four.

The tarragon added to finish the apples is something I would not have thought to do, and it was delicious.

I also made Hasselback Potatoes at my wife’s request, which is one of our favorite sides.

hasselback-potatoes

Farsi Chicken and Balal Corn

plated-sunday-dinner-farsi-chicken-corn-rice

Once upon a time, many years ago, I met a crazy man who gave me a great chicken recipe.

Richard had a Master’s Degree in English Literature, but had gone to work as an insurance agent. He was assigned to my employer’s accounts, so he sold me a life policy. He seemed perfectly normal. When we met for lunch so I could sign some papers, I casually mentioned that I was camping on the coming weekend, and foolishly mentioned the name of the campground.

That Friday evening, we were just lighting the campfire when he pulled into camp on a little Kawasaki 400, which he referred to as “the road iron.” He proceeded to drink heavily, eventually passing out in a lawn chair near the fire, but not before reciting long passages out of The Canterbury Tales from memory. Friends who arrived during the recitation were initially terrified, thinking that glossolalia had taken hold of him.

In any case, at some point he described this chicken recipe that became one of my favorites for the grill. First, the chicken pieces marinate in lemon juice for an hour or so, then they go into plain yoghurt overnight. When it’s time to cook, you wipe of the yoghurt, season simply with salt and pepper, and then grill as usual. This method produces tender, juicy chicken like no other I’ve ever tasted. It was my foolproof, go-to recipe for a decade or so, and everyone always loved it.

When my wife and I were first dating, I was so confident in the recipe that I bragged almost incessantly about it. “Some time I’ll have to grill the Farsi Chicken for you. It’s incredible. You’ll love it.” Unfortunately, after building up her expectations for weeks or months, when I finally cooked it for her I burned the chicken so badly that we may as well have just eaten the charcoal. I didn’t grill chicken of any sort for a long time afterwards, thinking that I was under some sort of jinx. The jinx was mysteriously broken when I learned to use a timer.

So for Sunday Dinner this week I made the Farsi Chicken again. Initially I looked for other Persian recipes as sides, settling on Balal corn and Tahdig rice. As it turned out, I decided that the rice was too much too attempt without a test run, and opted for another (non-Persian) rice recipe with savory mushrooms.

We also had some fennel from the CSA, and Claudia made an incredible salad with it and some mandarin oranges.

I still want to try the Tahdig at some point, and also the Persian method of dipping the roasting ears in salt water after grilling. We’d love to learn more about Persian cuisine in general too.

Before the meal I tipped my glass to Richard. I lost track of him long ago, but still imagine him burning up the backroads on the road iron, regaling and terrifying friends and strangers with recitations in Middle English and recipes from far off lands.

Ribs for Fathers Day 2016

plated-ribs-fathers-day-2016For Fathers Day this year I did another long cook. Our Jewel store had St. Louis Cut Spareribs on sale two racks for the price of one, so ribs it was.

I started the Weber Kettle early in the day, setting it up with ten unlit coals on each side of a foil pan filled about halfway with water. I added four or five lit coals to each side, along with some apple and hickory chunks. One bottom vent was wide open, one completely closed and one open about halfway. Top vent was wide open as well.

Once the temperature stabilized at around 250 F, I put the slabs on a rib rack over the drip pan. I’d seasoned them the night before with my usual rub recipe. From then on it was a matter of monitoring the temperature and spraying the ribs each hour with a mist of apple juice, cider vinegar and coffee. After three hours, I wrapped them in foil and moved them to the Genesis to finish.

kettle-smokingThere’s something magical and Zen-like about a long cook. The smell of the smoke and the sight of it wafting over the patio is an experience unto itself. It’s satisfying to know that you’ve acquired the skill necessary to maintain an even temperature over several hours of cooking, and the other fairly specific skills needed to turn out a perfect plate of ribs. The pace of the cook affords time for relaxation and proper anticipation of the delicious meal to come.

We’re in the Gray Farms CSA this year, and one of the cool things about it is that we get a lot of produce that we likely wouldn’t think to try otherwise. It’s like this lovely surprise package every week. This week, we had both turnips and collards, which neither of us had ever cooked before. We diced the turnips and roasted them on the plancha, and the collards we cooked in a Lodge cast iron Dutch Oven on the Genesis. I cooked up some onions and garlic in the pot for starters, then added the collards, a dried cayenne, some stock and a couple of smoked ham hocks and let them simmer for a long time.

These turned out really delicious and they’re something we’d definitely make again.

I also melted some Brie on a cedar plank with a little blackberry jam drizzled over the top for an appetizer.

It’s always a pleasure to cook for the folks on Sunday, but it was especially fun to do a full day of cooking for my wife’s dad on Fathers Day. Since my own father passed away when I was very young, I feel especially grateful to have a wonderful father-in-law in my life, and appreciate every chance we have to spend time with him.

Perfecting Eggplant Parmigiana

One of the things we like best about the Weber Genesis is the ability to cook a quick meal outdoors on a summer evening, and we delight in finding ways to adapt recipes that we would usually cook inside. Eggplant has turned out to be one of our favorite vegetables to  take to the gas grill. The charring and smoke add a depth of flavor to dishes like Eggplant Parmigiana without the mess and added fats of the traditional fried cooking method.

We’ve been refining this recipe for nearly three years now, and finally have it more or less perfect. The eggplant gets sliced into rounds about a quarter of an inch thick, salted on both sides and placed on a wire rack to sweat for an hour or so. This step is less about seasoning and more about drawing out some of the moisture and bitterness. We wipe off the salt, and then each slice gets a quick dip in some beaten egg before getting dredged in a mixture of seasoned Italian and Japanese breadcrumbs. The Panko crumbs add some additional crunch to the breading, which is important since we’re not frying.

Then the eggplant goes on the plancha on the pre-heated Genesis, after a little olive oil spray. It only takes a few minutes to get them nicely charred on the outside and fairly tender throughout. Then they go into a foil pan with cheese and sauce, and back out to the Genesis to finish cooking and warming through over indirect heat. We serve them with whatever pasta strikes our fancy.

The whole family agreed that this last batch we cooked was the most delicious we’d ever tasted.

Squash and Onions

squash-onion-grill

I managed to catch a wisp of smoke in this shot of yellow squash, zucchini and onions on the Genesis. We ate this over Penne Rigate. Quick, delicious and nutritious.

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Memorial Day is the day when Americans honor the fallen, and it’s also the unofficial beginning of Summer here. This year, as usual at our house, it was a weekend of cooking outside.

On Friday evening, we had some friends over and I cooked New York Strip steaks, baked potatoes and roasted asparagus on the Weber Genesis. For an appetizer, I baked a wheel of Brie with herbs and a wedge of Havarti with Blackberry Jam on a cedar plank.

Saturday we took a break from cooking and cleared out some of the delicious leftovers. Sunday morning, we drove down to Friends Creek Cemetery where my parents are buried, leaving some flowers. It was nice to see that the place is still well kept.

Sunday afternoon Claudia’s folks joined us for dinner. I used the rotisserie on the Weber Kettle for the first time this year to roast a chicken. It turned out tasty and perfect, with lots of hickory smoke flavor. The drip pan potatoes were a hit, as always, and I also grilled some roastin’ ears on the Genesis.

Monday, it was cowboy cooking. First, there was my wife’s favorite baked beans from her Aunt Nancy’s recipe. Wolfe Pit cole slaw and Hidden Valley potato wedges cooked on the plancha rounded out the side dishes. The more I cook on the plancha, the more I like it. It adds a crispy crust to everything from potatoes to burgers, and it helps to hold the heat steady on the Genesis which is great when you’re using it as an oven.

The star of the show was Grownup Sloppy Joes from Weber’s Big Book of Grilling by Jamie Purviance. This time, I seared then smoked the roast with Cherry and Hickory on the Kettle, and did the braising in a Lodge cast iron dutch oven over on the Genesis.

By the time everything was finished, I’d been on my feet all day and was pretty beat, but a nice glass of Petite Sirah from Lodi served as a fine restorative. The bold flavor was a perfect match to all the smoke and char of the barbecue. The folks joined us again and we had a lovely time. We’d been expecting my sons to join us as well, but they weren’t able to make it. I wish I could have emailed the smoky smell of the patio while the roast was on the Kettle.

The only dish from the entire weekend that needs work is the cole slaw. We eventually added some additional cider vinegar and sugar, because it ended up a little flat and salty tasting. I doubt that it’s the fault of the recipe. I cut it in half, and may have screwed up the proportions along the way.

It’s one of the joys of life to turn out a decent meal to share with people you love, and cooking outdoors is a feast for the senses from start to finish. I can’t think of any way I’d rather spend a long weekend.

Argentine Asado Style Sunday Dinner

asado-dinner

This week for Sunday Dinner I had planned to do a long smoke with a less expensive alternative to beef brisket, a chuck roast. Having recently watched an episode of Barbecue Addiction where Bobby Flay did an Argentine cookout, I decided to try Chimmichurri sauce for the first time. The rest of the meal developed from research on typical Asado sides.

On Saturday night, I prepped the 3 pound roast with my usual rub. Since chuck is similar to brisket with a lot of connective tissue, it lends itself to a low and slow cook, so the plan was to cook it the same as I would a pork shoulder, with several hours at around 225 F on the Weber Kettle, than finishing it up wrapped in foil on the Genesis.

I also baked some polenta with parmigiana in a shallow two quart dish that night. It was the first time I’d ever made it, but it turned out great. I used this recipe from Martha Rose Shulman, adding some shredded Parm before the last stir and bake.

On Sunday morning, I set up the kettle with a water pan in the middle of the bottom grate and ten unlit coals on each side of it. Then I added eight lit coals and some Hickory and Cherry chunks.

water-smoker-setup-kettle

Once the Weber was up to 200 F and the top grate was clean, I placed the roast over the water pan, and kept an eye on the temperature, adjusting vents as needed to keep the grill around 225.

smoking-temp

I opened the grill at the end of each hour, adding coals and wood as needed, and checking the internal temp of the roast. I’d planned to take it up to 165 on the kettle, then wrap it in foil and move it to the gas grill to go up to 195, but I was delayed at the grocery store during the third hour and when I got back the coals in the kettle were completely cold. The roast only registered 135, but I wrapped it and moved it anyway.

The Chimmichurri sauce was dead easy. I put one bunch of flat leaf parsley (minus the stems) in a blender, along with some fresh oregano, ten chopped garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, a little diced red onion and some salt and pepper. Once it was blended smooth, I gave it a taste and it was a little hot, so I added about another 1/4 cup of canola (we were out of EVOO) and that tamed it some. I thought that the heat was coming from the garlic and onion, but realized later that it was the oregano. If I make the sauce again, I’d use dried oregano instead.

While the roast continued to cook, I cut the polenta into squares and grilled it on the plancha in the Genesis for three or four minutes per side with a little olive oil spray.

grilled-polenta

I also cut up a red bell pepper, a couple of zucchini and yellow squash, and the rest of the red onion and grilled them in a veggie basket. This mixed grill turned out to be the best thing about the meal, for me. The only seasoning was salt and pepper, but it was really delicious.

I grilled a few Andouille sausages as well, meant to be appetizers, although we ended up eating them with the meal instead.

The final side was a hunk of Provolone cheese, melted in an iron skillet on the Genesis with some Herbs de Provence. It turned out to be a combination of gooey and crispy goodness that we spread on slices of baguette.

provoleta

Mrs. Noe made a nice salad, and I also used some of the Chimmichurri as dressing for that.

The roast was tender and flavorful, although if I’d left it cook just awhile longer it might have been a little better. I’d hoped for fork tender so we could shred it, but settled for slicing into servings and bite-size chunks. In any case there weren’t any complaints around the table.

What Asado would be complete without Malbec? We served a 2011 Alambrado Gran Seleccion that was the perfect pairing – deep and fruity with nice soft tannins.

I’ve not smoked brisket because it’s so damnably expensive, but I can’t imagine it being more flavorful or tender than the chuck roast, at nearly triple the price. Perhaps once I have the technique down pat I’ll be tempted to try one, but in the meantime roast will be my go-to cut of beef for a long cook.