Mai Tai—Roa Ae!

Sunday Dinner – 3 June 2018

Our neighborhood grocer had pork loins on sale, so this week’s Sunday Dinner was a Trader Vic’s inspired faux Polynesian feast.

Char Siu Plated

I began preparations on Saturday with the marinade for the pork. The Char Siu recipe comes from an old Trader Vic’s cookbook, and consists of equal parts brown sugar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and ketchup. That all went in to a ziplock bag with the pork loins.

The sides for this meal came from Rebecca Crum’s Ezra Pound Cake site. I put together the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad on Saturday evening before we left for Mass.

I still hadn’t decided on the vegetable side until Sunday morning. Finally went with an Asian-flavored slaw, based loosely on Rebecca’s recipe. It was a package of slaw shreds, some chopped roasted peanuts, and this dressing.

Asian Slaw Dressing

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • sesame seeds
  • 1/2 Tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce

Sunday morning at 9 AM maybe wasn’t the best time to perfect a Mai Tai recipe, but adversity builds character. After a couple of failed attempts (too strong, too sour) here’s the final concoction.

Mai Tai
Mai Tai

  • 1 oz Bacardi Gold
  • 1 oz Myer’s Dark Rum
  • 1 oz Orange Curaćao
  • 1 oz Crème de Almond
  • 1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime

Shook the heck out of that with crushed ice, decanted into a tumbler with cubes, and garnished with an orange wedge, a pineapple chunk and a cocktail cherry.


The appetizer recipe came from a site that, sadly, is no longer online. It’s a healthier, vegetarian version of Trader Vic’s Rumaki (chicken livers and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, smothered with brown sugar). The water chestnuts are still there for the crunch, the smoky bacon flavor comes from liquid smoke in the mushroom marinade, and pineapple chunks add some sweetness.

Veggie RumakiVeggie Rumaki

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 T white vinegar
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t powdered ginger

Pour some of the marinade over 2 cans of water chestnuts.

Add a teaspoon of liquid smoke to the remainder, and pour it over a pound of white mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces.

Let these sit in the fridge for a couple hours, then skewer them with chunks of pineapple, and cook them on the grill or in a 450°F oven for about 15 minutes. We served these while the rest of the meal was cooking


I cooked the pork loins on the Weber Kettle, over direct heat with some Hickory wood. I made another rookie mistake this week, pulling the loins off when they “looked done” instead of checking the internal temperature. So they had to go back out for another five minutes over high heat. They probably cooked for 25 minutes total. The last step was to sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top.

I also roasted some baby carrots and scallions on the Genesis gas grill while the pork was cooking.

Carrots and Scallions

The pork can be served with mustard and sweet sour sauce on a King’s Hawaiian roll as a slider.

Char Siu Slider

We had a nice bottle of Stephen Millier California Zin with the meal. I managed to sneak in a Shiner Bock or two during the afternoon as well. It’s the Cowboy Way.

For dessert, Mrs. Noe baked an Angel Food Cake, and cut it into pieces for dipping in a simple orange/chocolate fondue, along with pieces of apple, banana and strawberries. Had I not been an idiot and forgotten about the pineapple chunks we had left, we would have dipped them too.

Music for the afternoon was courtesy of Jason Croft’s Bachelor Pad Radio. I’ve been listening to his show on Friday nights for decades now, and it always delights.

Overall, it was a satisfying meal and a lot of fun. The only thing that needs work is the macaroni salad. It just didn’t have much zing. I added some soy sauce, ginger and Bacos to try to kick it up a bit, but it was still a little bland. Maybe need to add some more vinegar next time, or some cheese shreds or something. Tarragon, maybe.

Until next week, Aloha ʻOe!

Cowboy With Shiner

Souvlaki

Sunday Dinner – May 27th 2018

For this Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we had one of our favorite kabob dishes, Souvlaki (which literally means “little skewers” in Greek).

The recipe comes from The Spruce. I found it after we attended the Annunciation Church picnic a few years ago, and loved the flavors. We’ve had these maybe half a dozen times in the years since, and they’re always delicious. We served the pork in pitas with cabbage shreds and yogurt Tzatziki, using a recipe from the same site. The Greek-inspired flavors were echoed in a pasta salad recipe from the Hamilton Beach food blog.

For dessert, I tried my hand at classic Southern banana pudding. I’ve made custards a few times in the past (mostly for homemade ice cream), but this was my first attempt at pudding proper. Although I made a rookie mistake (misreading tablespoons versus teaspoons for the vanilla), it turned out fine. Claudia made fresh whipped cream to go on top, which certainly helped. We served it in vintage Currier & Ives bowls that had belonged to Claudia’s Grandma Wulff, bringing back fond memories of her Sunday Dinners long ago.

One of the nice things about this meal is that everything could be prepared the day before. It only took about twenty minutes to grill the skewers, so the rest of the day was spent enjoying the company of our regular Sunday crew.

We opened a very nice Rosé of Pinot Noir from Evangelos Bagias before the meal, and served a hearty Scott Peterson Rumpus Chaos (a cuvée of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchset and Grenache) with the food.

Monday’s meal will be more traditional American fare including cheeseburgers, three bean salad – and one of my childhood favorites, a cherry salad that my mom used to make. Here’s wishing everyone happiness, health, peace and safety as we observe Memorial Day 2018.

First Long Cook of the Year: Spare Ribs

Sunday Dinner – Mothers Day – 13 May 2018

Weber Kettle Smoke

For dinner on Mothers Day, along with the regular Sunday Dinner crew, we were pleased to welcome Claudia’s cousin Dan and his partner who were visiting from Florida. I prepared St. Louis Style spareribs, baked beans and coleslaw. Dan brought macaroni salad and Aunt Pat made an Angel Food Cake with macerated strawberries. Claudia also prepared some nice appetizers, including skewers of fruit, veggies and cheese. We also grilled some small peppers stuffed with cream cheese filling.

I got the grill going early, around 7:30 AM, and had the ribs on the rack by 8. I’d removed the silver skin and rubbed them the night before with my usual mix of Kosher salt, black pepper, Turbinado sugar, cumin, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. The grill was set up with ten unlit coals on each side of a water pan, five lit coals on top of each side, and some chunks of apple and hickory. Bottom vents started with two open and one closed, then I damped one as needed to keep the temp at 250°F. The sweet smoke smelled heavenly as we enjoyed our morning coffee.

I had knocked out both the coleslaw and crock pot baked beans on Saturday evening, but there still seemed little time for relaxation. Attending the ribs meant monitoring the temperature, adding coals as needed, and mopping the slabs every hour with a combination of apple juice, coffee and Schlitz from a spray bottle. We also had to attend some last minute gift wrapping for the moms, and Claudia and our daughter did some tidying and cleaning to prepare for company.

The cook was a classic 3/2/1 (three hours on a rack over smoke, two hours wrapped in foil, one final hour over smoke again to finish) and the ribs turned out great. The rest of the meal was fabulous as well, likewise the conversation.

In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we failed to take food photos, so you’ll have to use your imagination. :)

We had a bottle of Alma Andina Malbec first, which was just sort of alright. Then I opened a California Zin from F. Stephen Millier. It was scrumptious.

It’s hard to beat a long cook, particularly when you’re sharing the results with good company. I’m especially appreciative of time spent with Claudia’s family, and the opportunity to honor her (and her mom) again this Mothers Day. She has created an exceptionally happy and loving home. Very literally a dream come true.

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.

Smoking Pork Shoulder

For Sunday Dinner this week, we thawed a 5 1/2 pound pork shoulder roast and smoked it.

I used the same rub as usual, but varied the process a little this time. It turned out much easier to maintain a constant temperature between 200 and 250 F.

I put ten unlit charcoal briquettes on each side of a drip pan filled 3/4 with water. Then I lit six briquettes, and put three on each side, along with some apple and hickory chunks. One bottom vent was completely closed, another was about half way open and the third was slightly open. The top vent was wide open this time. I checked the roast every hour, turning it over each time and spraying it with a mop of apple juice, cider vinegar and brewed coffee. I also added some unlit coals and a couple more chunks of wood after about two hours.

After four hours, it was up to around 130 F at the center. I wrapped it tightly in foil and put it on the gas grill over indirect low-medium heat. After another couple hours it was between 195 and 200, and ready to come off and rest for an hour before serving.

This turned out really tender, but not quite as flavorful as usual. I think this was because the roast wasn’t completely thawed until morning on the day of the cook, so I didn’t get a chance to rub it down the day before. It still had a decent bark, but needed some sauce to kick it up a little.

We served it on buns with mustard potato salad, tangy slaw, bean salad and pasta salad as sides. I’d picked up a bottle of J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon (on a great sale – only $13) and it paired well with the meal.

I’ve been wanting a Weber Smokey Mountain water smoker for quite awhile, but I’m beginning to think that it’s really not necessary. I’ll be tempted to try a beef brisket again before long.

Mini Apple and Pork Festival

Apple Glazed Pork Plated

For Sunday Dinner this week, we had our own mini Apple and Pork Festival. I used another recipe from our go-to source, Dad Cooks Dinner. This time it was boneless pork chops with apple cider brine and apple butter glaze. For sides, I cooked potatoes in a foil pan on the grill and made some wilted greens with balsamic vinegar on the stovetop. Then for dessert, I layered some thin Granny Smith Apple slices in a pan with brown sugar and cinnamon and baked it on the grill, topped with Cheddar Cheese and served with vanilla ice cream.

This is how the chops looked on the grill. They had some of the best quadrillage I’ve ever gotten.

Apple Glazed Pork Chops on the Grill

In the upper right corner of this shot, you can see my technique for getting some smoke flavor into the food on a gas grill. I simply put a chunk of wood on the grate above one of the burners. If it starts to actually flame, I move it down into the smoker box after snuffing. This seems to work better than soaking chips and putting them into the box, which is the recommended method from Weber.

Grilling Jack Daniels Pork Chops

Grilling Jack Daniels Pork Chops

For Sunday dinner yesterday, I grilled pork chops, marinated in Jack Daniels brine and finished with Jack Daniels glaze.

It’s another one of Mike Vrobel’s creations. I substituted Jack for the Jim Beam in his original recipe.

We served this with Wulff Salad, mustard potato salad and a wonderful cauliflower with mustard and cheese sauce that my wife makes.

We also had a growler of Lumpy Dog Brown ale from Rock Bottom to add to the fun.

Boston Butt on the Rotisserie

Pork RoastMy wife brought home a six pound pork roast on Saturday, and we hadn’t planned Sunday Dinner yet, so I decided to roast it on the rotisserie. I adapted the recipe from the Weber iPad App for Rotisserie Pork Roast with Bourbon Mop. As it turns out, I ended up using some leftover apple juice and vinegar for the mopping, but I did use something akin to the rub from the recipe, and it made a beautiful crust.

  • 2 t Black Pepper
  • 2 t Mustard
  • 2 T Turbinado Sugar
  • 1 t Onion Powder
  • 1 t Garlic Powder
  • 1 t Paprika
  • 1 T Kosher Salt

I trussed the roast and then spread the rub on generously, covered with plastic and put it in the fridge overnight. Here’s a shot of the roast, trussed and rubbed.

boston-butt-rubbed

Sunday around Noon, I lit an entire chimney of Kingsford and divided it into two piles on either side of the charcoal grate with an aluminum drip pan in between them. The water from soaking apple chips went in to the pan, along with some apple juice and a bottle of Schlitz. After the grill preheated, I added the chips to the coals, placed the rotisserie spit with the roast in place and started the motor.

After the first hour, I started basting the roast with my apple juice and vinegar solution, giving it a good dousing every twenty minutes or so.

After about two and a half hours, the internal temperature of the meat was around 140 F, and my charcoal was nearly gone, so I moved the roast over to a pan in the middle of the gas grill, with side burners on medium and the center burner off. I kept the temperature of the grill around 370, and once the meat was up to 180 (measured by a dual probe thermometer) I took it off to rest under a foil tent until it was time to serve.

My wife had prepared some red potatoes and some Brussels sprouts for roasting, so once the meat was off I turned up the grill a bit and roasted them with a little olive oil, salt and cracked pepper. A nice fresh salad with Wulff family vinaigrette was the finishing touch to a wonderful meal.

roasted-brussels-sprouts garden-salad-wulff-dressing

It was nice to have my sons joining us for the weekend, and for the meal. I’m hoping that one day if they decide to try their hand at outdoor cooking, I’ll be able to pass along some recipes and techniques. If nothing else, the memories of their dad standing out by a Weber Kettle ought to be fairly vivid.

Chorizo and Pork Burgers

Chorizo Pork Burgers

Here’s another recipe from Chef Purviance that I’ve grilled twice in the past few months, most recently for Sunday Dinner. I don’t make the Jalepeno slaw, but the Chorizo/Pork burgers are a delightful departure from typical burger fare. I also make some of the patties without Chorizo for my daughter and others who don’t like as much spice.

Pork Loin Char Siu

Pork Loin Char Siu

My Mother-In-Law had brought me a nice pork loin awhile back for cooking on the rotisserie, and this past week we decided to get it out of the deep freeze and cook it for Sunday dinner. I began researching recipes and ran across several for Char Siu, which is a Chinese pork barbecue. The literal translation is “fork roast” meaning roasted on a skewer. This sounded like just what I was after.

After a little refined searching, I found Trader Vic’s recipe for the dish. Although obviously Americanized (the marinade includes ketchup), it seemed easy enough to prepare with ingredients that were readily available to me, and recipes from Vic’s have always pleased my palate in the past.

The loin was about 5 3/4 pounds, so the first problem that presented itself was that I didn’t have anything large enough to marinate it in. I had seen in one of my reference books (Weber’s Way To Grill) that you can tie two pieces of loin together with butcher’s twine to make a properly sized roast for the rotisserie, so I cut the pork in half, removed much of the fat cap, and placed it in a gallon ziplock bag with equal parts ketchup, sugar, Soy Sauce and Hoisin (about half a cup of each). It marinated in the refrigerator overnight.

About an hour before cooking, I removed it from the fridge, trussed it together with the fat toward the outside and put it on the skewer, taking care to get the tines into both pieces of the roast. I cooked it over indirect high heat on the Weber Kettle with some Hickory chips on the charcoal.

Char Siu on Rotisserie

After about 50 minutes, it was getting close to 140 degrees (my target temperature was 140-150). At this point I removed it from the rotisserie, cut off the twine, and placed it fat side down in a 9×13 pan on the gas grill over indirect medium-high heat (about 450). I kept a close eye on the probe thermometer, and when the internal temperature of the meat topped 140, I removed it and brought it in to rest at room temperature. I toasted some sesame seeds and sprinkled them over the top of the roasts as a finishing touch.

We served this with mustard and sweet/sour sauce as condiments, with awesome garlic mashed potatoes and sweet corn that my wife had prepared as side dishes. She said later that it was the best pork she’d ever tasted in her life.

The flavor was quite a bit more subdued than I had anticipated. It was just sweet enough and just savory enough, with none of the strong flavors in the marinade overpowering the dish. The meat was perfectly done, juicy and tender. This is definitely a recipe that I’ll make time and again.