Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jalapeño Poppers

I was perusing the produce area of a local market where I get my chilies and ran across these jalapeño peppers and thought “Man those are some big jalapeños!” I had grabbed about a dozen of them before I had even thought what I was going to do with them poppers popped into my head. I'm not sure these qualify as poppers as they are closer to Chili Relleno size but what the heck.

What you will need
Jalapeño peppers
8 oz softened cream cheese
4 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 oz crumbled goat cheese
2 eggs beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
1 ½ cups bread crumbs
Oil for deep frying

Slice the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds. Using a pastry bag, fill the peppers with the cheese mixture and close the peppers to seal. Dip the peppers in the milk then dredge in the flour. Lightly shake the excess flour from the peppers and dip in the beaten eggs the roll in the break crumbs. Fry in 365F oil for 2-3 minutes and let drain on paper towels for a few minutes.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


People are adamant about their chili. Their style is the only way to make authentic chili and what the heck are you putting in there? Tomatoes? Man you are ruining that chili! Every one thinks their chili is the best and I think that's part of what makes it special. The hard core insist that chili contains only beef and chili powders but most of the chili champion recipes I've seen have tomato sauce in them so I guess there is some wiggle room in making great chili. I generally make chili with just beef but I like to mix it up with beans and diced tomatoes as well. I also frequently make a vegetarian chili that I really like. There are a lot of different ways to make chili so experiment and do what you like but please at least use chili powder and cumin.
This is my recipe loosely based on Debbie Ashman's championship chili recipe

Coarse ground ground beef with dumps one, two and three.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chili Powder

Good Chili starts with good chili powder so I’m going to show you how to make your own. All you need is a good source for dried chilies, an oven to dry them in and a food processor to grind them, oh and a recipe. For my base chili powder I use six dried ancho chilies, five New Mexico Chile’s, five Chile de Arbol and a tablespoon of toasted cumin seeds. The Ancho’s are a mild deep red chili that provides the base for the chili powder. The New Mexico Chilies are a lighter red and slightly hotter and finally the Chile de Arbol is small thin red chili that adds more heat and is similar to cayenne in heat. The combination of these chilies provides the depth of flavor that you will need for a good chili. The great thing about making your own chili powder is that you can experiment with different chilies to get the flavor you want. It’s also very inexpensive compared to store bought powder and you won’t be tied to grocery store chili powder and its lack of depth anymore once you start making your own.

First find a good source to buy dried chilies. Dried chilies are not brittle but are somewhat soft and pliable and can either be dried further for chili powder or rehydrated for other dishes. After you get comfortable with making your own base chili powder you can start making different powders for a variety of dishes or dumps for world class chili! Dumps are what the chili champs use to provide even more depth of flavor. Take a look at this to see what I mean.

Start by removing the stem from each chili and slicing lengthwise down the chili to open it up and remove the seeds. Lay the chilies open on a cookie sheet and place in a 300F oven for 4-5 minutes. Remove and let cool for a few minutes until cool enough to handle then break the dried chili into pieces. Place any parts of the chili that have not dried enough to break up back into the oven for about four more minutes and repeat with the remaining chilies. After your chilies are dried and broken into bits place them in a food processor and pulse on low for several seconds to get them started then process on medium for about fifteen seconds and then on high for fifteen seconds more. Toast 1 tablespoon cumin seed in a cast iron skillet until the seeds are about two shades darker than what you started with then finely grind in a coffee/spice grinder. I process only one kind of chili at a time and then at the end combine them all for about another thirty seconds. This should yield about 1 ½ cups of chili powder.

Chilies seeded and ready to be dried

Dried chiles crushed and ready for the food processor

Toasted cumin seeds

I like to make a Saturday afternoon of it and dry a bunch of different chilies. This way I can have my base chili powder and a powder of each individual chili that I can create dumps with or use in a variety of different dishes. I also like to make my own crushed red peppers out of Chili de Arbol or cayenne and leave the seeds in for some real heat.
Have fun making your own dried chili powders and be careful to wash your hands before rubbing an eye ;)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Man there must be a thousand different ways to make nachos. I found these nice little red and yellow peppers and was trying to think of how to use them and nachos seemed like a great idea so I got a flank steak and got to work. Marinate the flank steak overnight in some oil, fresh lemon juice, cumin, cilantro, minced garlic and salt and pepper. Pound the flank steak to about ¼ inch thickness, thinly slice and cook in batches in your cast iron skillet. Now slice up the peppers and sauté for a few minutes until just starting to soften a bit. Squeeze a half of a lemon over some white corn and black beans then toss with some dried oregano and you are ready to go. Layer white tortilla chips, flank steak, peppers, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, corn and beens until you have a few layers. Heat in a 350F over for about ten minutes. Top with salsa, sour cream, chopped green onions and cilantro. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Corn Fritters

I was eating some steamed frozen corn one day last week and I thought there has got to be a way liven these up a bit. Well a couple of days later while perusing the Whole Foods deli I ran across some corn fritters and picked up a couple. They were good but not quite good enough so I started thinking and looking at corn fritter recipes. The ones at Whole foods were a bit too heavy with the flour and some of the recipes I researched looked to thin. I wanted something with some body but not to thick and floury. So I came across this recipe and modified it a bit.

What you will need.
Six ears of corn
2 eggs beaten
4 scallions finely sliced
1 Tbs chopped fresh sage
1 cup cheddar cheese. I used a nice 15 month aged English cheddar I found at Whole Foods
½ cup or more all purpose flour
about ¼ cup milk
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Sweet Pepper Bruschetta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the corn and cook for four minutes after the water returns to a boil. After the corn has cooled a bit slice the kernels off of the cob then reverse the knife blade and run it down the length of the cob to milk it.
Mix the kernels with the scallions, sage, cheese and salt and pepper and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the flour, eggs and enough of the milk to make a smooth batter. Add the batter to the corn mixture and stir to mix well. Preheat your cast iron skillet for several minutes until light wisps of smoke appear then add a few tablespoons of canola oil. Drop by large spoonfuls into the hot skillet and shore up the edges of the fritter with a spatula until they hold shape. Cook about four minutes per side until golden brown. Top with sweet pepper bruschetta and enjoy!

On a side note, bruschetta has come to mean something it's not. In it's classic sense it is toasted bread with olive oil, rubbed with garlic. The garlic oils released on the hot toasted bread produce a wonderful aroma and taste. It is the best garlic bread you will ever have. Bruschetta has come to be toasted bread with olive oil and a variety of toppings and now the topping itself has acquired the name bruschetta.

Classic Bruschetta

The asparagus dish I served with the corn fritters is an easy rustic dish. Simmer the asparagus in about an inch of water for 6-8 minutes until slightly cooked but still has some snap. Shock the simmered asparagus in cold water to stop the cooking and return to the still hot pan used to cook it in. This will help evaporate the moisture on the asparagus.
Wrap the asparagus in a couple of thin pieces of prosciutto and arrange on a serving platter. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and an aged balsamic vinegar. Top with Parmesan-Reggiano and oregano and serve at room temperature. Yeah you could whip the ingredients into a balsamic vinaigrette but I like the way you get different melding of the flavors with each bite. Hence the rustic!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chili Black Bean Patties

Sometimes meat just isn't on the menu. I had this idea for black bean patties stirring around in my head for a while when I stumbled across just the right recipe from Cooking Light. I modified the recipe slightly (I always do) and came up with chili style black bean patties served with pineapple and red pepper couscous. The pineapple couscous plays well off of the spiciness of the black bean patties.

What you will need.
1 can 15oz black beans drained and rinsed.
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 tbs chili powder I used my homemade powder
½ of a red onion finely minced
1 large egg white
2oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese plus more for topping
½ cup panko bread crumbs
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
sour cream

Place 2/3 of the black beans in a bowl, season with salt, pepper, and chili powder and coarsely mash with a fork or potato masher. Place the remaining 1/3 black beans and the egg white in a food processor and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the bean puree to the mashed beans and stir to combine. Add the minced red onion and cheese to the bean mixture and stir to combine. Divide the bean mixture into four even portions and shape into ½ inch thick patties. Place the patties into the panko bread crumbs and press to coat. Fry in your favorite cast iron skillet for about 4 minutes per side. Top with the remaining Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!

On a side note, a good thing about mashing the beans is that it breaks down the fibers in the beans minimizing the production of gas. Now your friends and neighbors won't be calling you Your Flatulence!

For the pineapple couscous, cook 1 cup of couscous according to package direction. While the couscous is setting, saute 1 can of drained crushed pineapple and a cup of chopped red pepper. Make a dressing for the couscous with 1/4 cup of pineapple juice reserved from the can, 1 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs dijon or whole grain mustard, mixing well with a whisk. Fluff the couscous with a fork and add the pineapple and red pepper mixture and dressing and stir to combine.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Southern Comfort

It doesn't get more southern than this. Chicken Fried Steak with cream gravy and mashed potatoes. Originating in Texas in the 19th century from German and Austrian immigrants who brought their Wiener schnitzel style with them and created a southern classic. You can use just about any cut of beef that has been tenderized. And by tenderized I mean beaten with a rolling pin like it's your bosses face.
I used cube steak for this recipe and tenderized it with a rolling pin between plastic wrap. The technique is simple, dredge in flour, dip in an egg wash, coat with bread crumbs and fry in an iron skillet. The only caveat is that in order to keep the coating on the steak you need a light coating of flour. Too thick a coating of flour will destroy this dish. After you dredge the streak in the flour shake off the excess flour so you have a light coating, dip in the egg wash and let the excess egg drain from the steak then a nice coating of panko crumbs and your skillet will be happy. Fry for four to five minutes per side and enjoy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


You have to have a good meatball recipe committed to memory. Meatballs are so versatile that if you keep a few basic items on hand in the pantry and the fridge you can whip up a good meal on the fly without searching around for a recipe. Start with a good basic recipe and then modify it as needed to suit what you are cooking. From meatball subs and spaghetti and meatballs to Swedish meatballs, it all starts with a good base recipe. Whether its a camping trip, a weekend on the houseboat or unexpected company, you'll be ready to make a great meal on the fly and look good doing it .Oh, and it might not be a surprise that a cast iron skillet is the perfect way to cook meatballs.
Today's meatball recipe is meatball subs so I used Italian breadcrumbs, grated parmigiano reggiano and Italian seasoning. If I were making Swedish meatballs I could use my base recipe or maybe add some fresh chopped parsley and ground nutmeg.

My base recipe
1Lb Ground Round
½ C bread crumbs
½ onion minced
1 large egg
2 cloves minced garlic
Coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Szechuan Shrimp Stir-Fry

Stir-Fry is fast, fun and delicious. If you are getting a little bored with soft, steamed vegetables, try stir-frying for vegetables with some crunch and zing. Add some meat or seafood and you have an entrée. The best part is you don't have to get hung up on recipes and measuring. Once you know basic stir-fry techniques you can experiment with different combinations of vegetables and meat/seafood and come up with something unique on the fly.
Here's the basic techniques for stir-fry. Heat a cast iron wok over high heat until smoking hot. Add a small amount of oil and then the ingredients that will take the longest to cook. If your stir-fry has meat add this first as it will take the longest to cook. If you are using shrimp or fish add this after you have cooked the vegetables. If you see liquid pooling at the bottom of the pan while cooking the meat either the heat is too low or you have crowded the wok with too much meat. Don't get me started on a tirade about crowding meat and stewing! Once the meat or vegetables are cooked push them up on the side of the wok. A good wok with have indentations on the sides that will hold the food in place when you push it up the side of the wok. Once your second cooking is done stir all of the ingredients together and add your sauce and stir-fry for a couple of minutes more.. You are probably looking at seven to eight minutes total cooking time.

Szechuan Shrimp Stir-Fry

¾ lb shrimp
1 cup snow peas
½ cup shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper julienned
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tbs minced fresh ginger
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbs water and 2 tsp cornstarch mixed to a smooth slurry.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


A good steak doesn’t need much, just a cast iron skillet, a good rub and some high heat. The best steakhouses use Prime meat and a super high temp infra-red broiler. Cost keeps me from buying prime meat the majority of the time and cost definitely keeps me from buying an infra-red broiler! You can still cook a great steak at home though. Buy a good cut of Prime or Choice steak about an inch to an inch and a half thick. Stay away from Select meat. Make your own rub, heat up the oven and get your iron skillet smokin’ hot and you will be about 12 minutes away from steak nirvana. I am really spoiled cooking steaks this way. I rarely cook them on the grill anymore. After listening to Bobby Flay extolling the virtues of ancho powder numerous times I decided to try his recipe and I’m hooked! Well I tried my version of the recipe. Anyway, making the ancho powder was really easy and adds a great spicy flavor to the meat.
Fire up your cast iron skillet for a few minutes until smokin’ hot then add a splash of canola oil , the steaks and cook for about a minute on both sides. The rub should be cooked to a nice crust but not burned.
Place the skillet into a preheated 425F oven for 6 to 8 minutes until the desired doneness is reached as determined by the finger test. Enjoy!

strip steak
strip steak with morel mushrooms

What you will need for the steak rub.
• 2 TBS course ground peppercorns
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• 2 tsp ancho powder
Sprinkle the rub over the meat and press the rub into the meat with your fingers.

I’ll post soon on how to use your cast iron skillet to dry ancho chili’s to make ancho powder. Stay tuned.

home ground ancho powder

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

The lowly grilled cheese sandwich with Wonderbread and Kraft American cheese that we grew up on has grown up and is ready for prime time! With sourdough, White Mountain, Rye, cheddar, Fontina, Gouda, pickles tomatoes, pears, onion and more, you are only limited by your imagination. Whether I’m making a basic grilled cheese or a more refined Panini I love them all, except for the Brooklyn Style Grilled Cheese. That one has way too much butter, lol.

The basic technique is simple. Butter the outside slices of the bread, heat your skillet until slightly smoking, add about a teaspoon of oil and start grilling. Large slices of freshly baked breads will take about four to five minutes per side. Oh, and try not to overload the cheese so it melts out in the skillet like I did.
If you want to make panini style you can get more elaborate with various meats, cheeses and peppers and buy a panini grill to get the nice grill marks or you could just line the bottom of a smaller cast iron skillet with aluminum foil and place on top of the sandwhiches while grilling.

White Mountain bread, Cheddar, Dill Pickle and Lemon Pepper.

Sourdough, Mozzarella, Parmesan-Reggiano, Provolone and Italian marinated tomatoes. And no the cheese didn’t stick.

Occasionally you will hear about a grilled cheese sandwich that looks like the Mother Mary or Marilyn Monroe that sell for thousands on Ebay. I made one once that had a resemblance to Elvis. I wonder if I can sell it on Ebay?

Technorati Profile

Thursday, July 17, 2008


If you did indeed invent the cheeseburger Mr. Lionel Sternberger I salute you! Cheeseburgers are the near perfect food. Besides tasting great they have most of the food groups, meat, vegetables, dairy, grain and beer. Whether you fry them in an iron skillet or grill them on iron grates you will soon be enjoying a delicious piece of Americana, unless it’s the Four Year Old Cheeseburger or the Cheeseburger in a Can.

on the grill

There is a growing trend of placing the toppings on the bottom of the burger. The theory is that the rising heat from the burger will diminish the freshness of the toppings. This might be fine in a fast food restaurant but the burgers I make at home don’t sit around for long so I’m not worried about it. Even Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant is doing it. I don’t put the toppings on the bottom because I use some mayo on the bottom bun to mix with the cheeseburger juices to form a nice sauce, besides it just looks weird.

cheeseburger and fries

I guess you can tell that I like mine with lettuce and tomato….

bacon cheeseburger

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Steak Sandwiches

These steak sandwiches are very tender and flavorful. There’s nothing worse than biting into what you think is going to be a tender steak sandwich then fighting with the meat for a minute before giving up and pulling back while the piece of meat flies out of the sandwich and slaps you in the face with a “HA!” I hate it when that happens so I make sure it never does with this recipe. Even if you don’t use the tender nicely marbled Flat Iron steaks called for in this recipe you can still achieve success by using a good cut of meat, marinating it, cutting it into thin slices and cooking it quickly in batches. The reason I use thin slices is that they cook quickly and evenly and if you are using any flavor ingredients as in stir fry they will cook nicely into the meat. Cook the meat in batches so as not to crowd the pan. If you dump all of the meat in the skillet the moisture from the meat and residual marinade will cause the meat to start to stew and you can’t stew in a few minutes. Stewing is a long slow process used on less tender cuts of meat. I recommend using the ciabatta rolls for this recipe as the soft somewhat chewy ciabatta soaks up the juices nicely and holds up well for a sandwich like this.

Marinate the steaks for at least four hours or overnight. Remove the steaks from the marinade, pat dry and place in the freezer for about ten minutes prior to slicing. This will make the meat easier to cut into thin slices. Caramelize the onions in a cast iron skillet and then add the roasted red peppers to heat through and set aside in a bowl. Wipe your skillet with a paper towel to clean and re-heat until just smoking and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan. Cook the meat for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Brush olive oil on the insides of the ciabatta rolls and grill or broil for a few minutes until golden brown. Spread the Dijon mustard on the rolls; add the steak, onion and peppers and provolone cheese. Place the sandwiches on a cookie sheet and place in a 300F oven for about 5-7 minutes to heat and let the cheese melt. Enjoy!

What you will need.
• Two 1LB Flat Irons Steaks
• two onions sliced
• ½ bottle roasted red peppers drained and patted dry
• 4-6 ciabatta rolls
• Provolone cheese slices
• Olive oil
• Whole grain Dijon mustard
• Coarse Kosher salt
• Fresh ground black pepper
• ½ cup oil
• 2 TBS red wine vinegar
• 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
• Salt and pepper
• 1 TBS Oregano
• 2 cloves garlic minced

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fourth of July Weekend

The Fourth of July weekend, good friends, beef tenderloin on the Big Green Egg, a swimming pool, music and cold beverages is a beautiful thing! Kevin invited me over for beef tenderloin on the Big Green Egg and I was like “Yeah man I’m in!” That BGE is great for everything from slow cooking pulled pork at 235F overnight to cooking fine steaks at 700F so I knew this was going to be great. Plus we had the Tiki God watching over the BGE.

Big Green Egg

The beef tenderloin marinated and ready for the Egg.

Beef Tenerloin

An hour or so and it’s almost ready.

Beef Tenderloin on a Big Green Egg Beef Tenderloin on a Big Green Egg

Dana made some great baked beans kicked up with ground beef and bacon. She also made some awesome dirty rice which I didn’t get a picture of. DOH!

Baked Beans

The beef tenderloin sliced and ready to eat. The tenderloin was perfect! It was flavorful and oh so tender!

Beef Tenderloin

Kevin hands me my plate. I hope there's enough for everybody else.

Beef Tenderloin