Saturday, June 9, 2018

What Dad Really Wants: Steak

Thanks to the nagging of the greeting-card, flower and candy industries, Mother's Day has become etched in our collective consciousness as a holiday not to be forgotten; the guilt would be too excruciating. But Father's Day, which falls several weeks later, is often commemorated with only a card and perhaps a ubiquitous (and most likely hideous) tie (that he will never wear) to celebrate the occasion. Given all that our fathers have endured over the child-rearing years; endless gamesof catch, Christmas Eves spent sweating over the assembly a variety of gifts (with instructions in German), forced politeness toward dates with odd hairdos, and teaching us how to parallel park, Dad clearly deserves better.

So on his day, let's give him what he really wants: the chance to relax, have fun and, to top it all off, enjoy a great dinner. According to an informal poll conducted by Chef Nancy Waldeck, Dads want a big juicy steak that they cook themselves (to ensure that it is cooked to his exact taste.) So in honor of all Dads on Father’s Day, we are including grilling tips and advice for Dads everywhere to enjoy their meaty treasures:

Grilled steaks require glowing coals. No flame. Let the fire burn down till a gray-ash film covers the charcoal. If fire's too hot, you dry the meat, lose good juices. A well-made fire is the essential first step in outdoor cooking. The right fire makes barbecuing smooth and simple.

The temperature of the fire needed depends on the type of meat you are going to cook. For cuts of meat such as steaks, burgers, and kabobs which you intend to cook rapidly, use a relatively hot fire. A moderate fire is fine for roasts and larger pieces of meat. For slower cooking cuts of meat such as pork chops and spareribs, use a slow fire.

Charcoal comes in two forms: lump charcoal and briquettes. Lump charcoal is in odd-sized pieces just as they come from the charcoal kiln. It is less uniform in burning quality and more difficult to handle. Briquets are ground, lump charcoal pressed into uniform blocks. They are easier to use, burn evenly, and produce a more uniform heat. They are easier to control and burn longer than lump charcoal.

Pile the charcoal in a pyramid on the firebox of the grill. You don't need much charcoal. Beginner chefs are often too ambitious, build too big a fire. After you've built several barbecue fires, you'll be able to gauge the amount easily. Add liquid lighter to charcoal; wait a minute, then light. Do not use gasoline or kerosene. Let charcoal burn for 15 to 20 minutes until the briquets are about two-thirds covered with gray-ash. Spread the briquets evenly throughout the grill. The bed of coals should be shallow (easy to control) and just a little larger than the area of food you are cooking.

The fastest way to get a bed of cooking coals (about 15 minutes) is with an electric fire starter. Most other methods of fire starting take approximately 45 minutes. A chimney is another secret for fast take off. Make your own from a tall juice can or a 2-pound coffee can. Remove ends from can. Using tin snips, cut out triangles or circles around bottom, 1 inch apart, to allow draft. Or punch triangular holes with a church-key bottle opener and bend down for legs. (While the bottle opener is out, be sure to use it to open an icy cold beverage for Dad while he labors over the hot flames.)

Place a wad of newspaper in the base of the chimney, add 6 to 8 charcoal briquets, and then light the paper from the bottom of the chimney. When the briquets are burning, add more to the top. Allow to burn about 15 minutes, and then lift off chimney (with tongs!) and rake coals where you want them.

Don't start to cook until the fire dies down to glowing coals. Coals are ready for cooking when they look ash-gray by day, and have a red glow after dark. No flames! Don't start cooking too soon. When coals are hot, tap off the gray ash with fire tongs; ashes on the briquets insulate and retard the heat.

An easy way to tell the heat of the fire is to hold your hand over the coals at the height the food will be for cooking. Begin counting "one thousand one, one thousand two", and so on. The number of seconds you can comfortably hold your hand over the fire will tell you how hot the fire is. If you can count to "one thousand two," you have a relatively hot fire; "one thousand three" or "one thousand four" is about a moderate fire, and "one thousand five" or "one thousand six" is a slow fire.

If you are cooking a large piece of meat that requires a long cooking time, plan to replenish the coals from time to time. Add a little extra charcoal around the edges after your fire is ready for cooking. Don't top your cooking fire with cold coals; this will lower the temperature more than you think. To increase heat, add warm coals from the reserve around the fire's edge.

To slow down the fire, move hot coals out to make a larger oval; to increase heat, move hot coals in to make narrower oval. This technique helps maintain the even cooking. Fire is ready only when flames die down. In broad daylight, the coals will look ash-gray and after dark, they'll have a red glow (they burn from outside in).

If drippings do flare up during cooking, sprinkle the fire lightly with water to quench the blaze. Keep handy a clothes sprinkler filled with water close by. Use only enough water to do the trick; don't soak the coals. It will take some time for very wet coals to dry out and begin to burn again. It will also reduce the intensity of the heat of the fire.

Orders for "rare" go on the grill last. When you see little bubbles on top surface of the steaks, they are ready to turn (heat forces the juices to the uncooked surface). Flip steaks with tongs and a spatula; piercing with a fork wastes good meat juices. Cook the second side a few minutes less than the first since the second side has a head start on heating. Turn only once. For 1-inch steaks cooked medium-rare, allow 13 to 15 min¬utes total grilling time. It is always a good idea to use a meat thermometer when grilling. Insert thermometer so tip is in center of meat. Tip must not touch bone, fat, or the metal spit.

For charred crusty coat, try this: Sear one side by lowering grill top close to coals for 2 to 3 minutes, then raise grill to finish same side. Turn steak, and sear second side; again raise grill and complete the cooking.

Wait until you turn steak to salt it (same for burgers and chops.) Salt and pepper the browned side and then season the other side as you take it off the grill. If you salt uncooked meat, the juices will be drawn out and you'll lose good flavor.

It is important to know how to carve a big steak, like a porterhouse or a sirloin, so that one person doesn't rate most of the choice portions, and another person get the tag ends. First remove the bone, cutting very close to it. Now cut across the full width of the steak, making 1-inch slices and narrowing them a little on the tenderloin side. Be sure everyone gets a section of the tenderloin. If steak has a tail piece slice it last to serve for second helpings.


When the steaks are grilled to perfection, serve them sputtering hot with a pat of butter and a squeeze of lemon. With the grill already “fired” up, it's a cinch to grill a few ears of fresh corn and some thick slices of red onion that have been brushed with olive oil. With some of Dom's potato salad, peach and mozzarella salad, and delicious grilled watermelon for dessert, you will have well-rounded and must-deserved treat for Dad on his big day!
June 19, 2011

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Tunisian Tuna Salad Sandwiches

It is officially picnic season. The parks are bursting with families and summer outdoor movies and concerts are plentiful. This Tunisian Tuna Salad is incredible especially with some crunchy kettle chips and a frosty rosé.

The Tunisian "sun cuisine" is based mainly on olive oil, spices, tomatoes, seafood and lamb. Tunisian fare gets its distinctive fieriness from their Mediterranean neighbors and the many civilizations which have ruled the land now known as Tunisia; Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Turkish, French, and the native Berber people.

Because tuna, eggs, and olives feature prominently in Tunisian dishes, they make good meals for meatless Fridays during the Lenten season in which Catholics abstain from eating meat as an act of penance. This tuna salad works especially well for lunches which can otherwise be quite challenging for kids who take their lunches to school during Lent!

While this version of tuna salad is significantly more involved than just adding chopped onions, celery and pickle relish to a can of tuna, but it is well worth every extra minute. The potatoes make the tuna salad creamy and the lemon gives it a good tang.

  • 2 7-oz. cans of water-packed tuna
  • 1 large Idaho potato, peeled, cubed (½-inch pieces)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4-5 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon Lindsay black olives, sliced (optional)
  • 2 large hard-boiled Safest-Choice eggs, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Harissa (Tunisian hot chili sauce)
  • 2 crusty bâtards (short baguettes)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Cover the cubed potatoes with cold, salted water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain and let cool.

Meanwhile, cover eggs with cold water in another small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 9 minutes. Drain the eggs and cool, remove shells, slice and set aside until ready to assemble sandwiches.

In a large bowl, combine the tuna, olives, capers, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix together with a fork. Gently fold in the potatoes without mashing them too badly.

Split the bâtard(s) in half lengthwise and toast under the broiler until light brown. Spread one side of the bread with harissa and then layer the tuna salad on top and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place egg slices on top and close the sandwiches. Cut each sandwich in half crosswise and serve with crispy chips and some homemade pickles.
3/12/12


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Friday, June 1, 2018

Dom's Magical Shrimp & Cheese Grits

Outside of the Southern states, a lot of folks have never eaten grits; some have never even heard of them! Known as the "Southern oatmeal," grits were favored over oatmeal before air conditioning was invented because they could withstand the heat and humidity better. Three-quarters of the nation’s grits are still sold in the "Grits Belt;" the Southeastern coastal states stretching from the Carolinas to Louisiana.

Grits are coarsely ground (dried) corn that are traditionally cooked with butter and served as a side dish for breakfast or dinner. Their name comes from the Italian word "gruzzi" which means crushed corn. Grits are very similar to other thick maize-based porridges including the Italian polenta. Grits, however, tend to be made from white corn and are more coarsely ground than the yellow corn used in polenta.

To a true Southerner nothing compares to warm, cheesy grits topped with succulent, sweet seafood, except maybe the addition of a magical, spicy bacon sauce.

  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 2 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and brined
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of beer, room temperature
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 1 cup cheese, grated (Dom uses Gouda)
  • 2 tablespoons of Denise's peppers (optional)

Rinse shrimp in cold water and peel. Brine shrimp in salted water until ready to cook.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel to drain. Add chopped onions to the bacon grease in the pan. Depending on the amount of grease left from the bacon, add up to 1 tablespoon of olive oil as needed to coat the onions. Sauté onions until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. The term “until translucent” is commonly used to describe onions sautéed in butter or oil.  Raw onions are fairly opaque, but as they cook they slowly become almost transparent. When this happens, add spices to the pan and stir to mix.

Next, add the beer, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, stirring to combine. Coarsely chop the cooled bacon and add to the pan. Cook until the pan juices are thickened and syrupy. 

Drain shrimp and add to the pan, tossing gently to completely coat shrimp. Bring sauce back to a boil, then cover pan and remove from the heat letting the shrimp rest for about 3-5 minutes to allow shrimp to steam and fully cook.

Meanwhile, cook grits according to package directions, stir in cheese and peppers until fully melted and incorporated. Serve immediately on a platter with a mound of cheese grits with the shrimp (and the magical sauce) in the center.

And now the really magical part… watch as all the shrimp and grits disappear!

5/15/11



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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Meet Chef Darius Williams & his Jalapeno Simple Syrup

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Macy’s, however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

If you live in Atlanta and explored the Beltline then undoubtedly you have heard of Chef Darius Williams diminutive restaurant “Greens and Gravy” which opened last summer on the Westside Trail. You might be as excited as we are that Chef Darius will be sharing his stories and culinary secrets while serving up some of his delicious recipes on Thursday, June 7th at Lenox Square Mall hosted by Macy’s Culinary Council.

The Chicago-born chef and comedian is also well-known for his YouTube channel and his popular website, Darius Cooks TV. He learned to cook by watching and helping his grandmother and is not afraid to experiment with ingredients and seasonin

gs. He encourages cooks to “Embrace flavors!” which is exactly what we did when we decided to try his recipe for Jalapeno Simple Syrup.

Summertime is the perfect time to create craft cocktails; first because there is an abundance of fresh ingredients like herbs, fruits and vegetables; and, second because a refreshing cocktail is just what you need to beat the summer heat. You’ve heard the expression, “fight fire with fire,” well that’s just what we are doing by adding a spicy kick to our summertime libations!

Jalapeno Simple Syrup
2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
2 jalapenos

Cut the jalapenos into rings. Remember the more seeds that remain the spicier your syrup will be.

Bring the water and sugar to a boil. Add jalapeno rings to the pan and remove from the heat. Let it sit for about 10 minutes then strain the jalapenos and chill the syrup until you’re ready to use it!

Be sure to RSVP to receive a $10 Macy's gift card valid for June 7th when you check in at the event. And, if you spend $35 or more in Macy’s Home Department, you will receive a copy of Chef Williams' cookbook “Stories from My Grandmother's Kitchen” which he'll sign for you after the event. Also, be sure to stick around for your chance to win a $100 gift certificate to Chef Williams' restaurant Greens & Gravy! For our readers who do not live in the Atlanta area, you can learn more about Macy’s Culinary Council and upcoming events HERE.


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Friday, May 11, 2018

Treat Mom to the Perfect Brunch

Each year, we all do our best to spoil our Moms on the day named just for her. We lay plans to let her sleep late and make her breakfast in bed. This year, why not go a step further and plan a brunch for the whole family replete with breakfast and lunchtime favorites accompanied by cocktails to complement the offerings. If you’re new to planning a brunch and would like to make your own this weekend, here are a few ideas that will make your brunch a treat worthy of Mom.

Eggs:
Eggs are the staple to brunch menus. Whatever you decide to cook, always include an egg recipe as either the main dish or a side dish. However, making eggs doesn't necessarily mean you have to be satisfied with the common scramble. Be creative! There are several ways you can dress up your eggs.

Herbs are a marvelous addition to accentuate their flavor. Parsley, cilantro, dill and tarragon are all good choices. One of the most common mistakes one can make when making eggs is to overcook them. Depending on how you’re making them, the perfect eggs will be creamy and buttery to the touch. A technique you can use for the perfect eggs are to turn off the burner as soon as they appear slightly under cooked  They’ll finish cooking as they rest on the pan. Another trick for better eggs is to add about a tablespoon of water into your egg mixture. This will make them airy and fluffy. Other egg dishes that lend themselves to a brunch buffet are frittatas, eggs benedict, omelets or even a south of the border classic like huevos rancheros!

Meats and Veggies:
Meat always makes an appearance at brunch. Europeans commonly serve platters of cold cuts and cheeses as part of their typical breakfast buffets.Whether it’s bacon, sausage, chorizo, pancetta or ham, meat is always a binding element that brings veggies (like red and green pepper, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, or onions) and eggs together. Meat and veggie skillets are popular side dishes for brunch, providing a savory and salty contrast.

Crepes, Waffles and Pancakes:
Another component for a successful brunch is to have breads and pastries that will contrast the hearty taste and texture of eggs. Most common brunch ideas for batter-made foods are crepes, waffles or pancakes.

Waffles and pancakes are probably the easiest to make, nevertheless the bad execution of said dishes could make them chewy or tough. A tip to keep batter from becoming dense in the pan or oven is to hold back from over mixing. The more you beat the batter the denser they’ll be, leaving you with thicker but tough pan-fried dough.

Fruit:
There is nothing more spectacular than fresh seasonal fruit to complement any brunch table! Strawberries, blueberries, a selection of melon and even pineapple are delicious on their own or served atop your pancakes, crepes and waffles.

Beverages:
There are a variety of drinks that will both quench your thirst and enhance your brunch menu. Freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice are popular favorites. These also make delicious mixers for brunch cocktails such as mimosas or grapefruit sparklers. Bloody Marys are another common brunch beverage and our personal favorite is a Creole version:

  • 4 oz. tomato juice
  • 1 ½ oz. vodka
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard (we use Zatarain’s)
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce to taste (we prefer Louisiana brand)
  • Lime wedge for garnish
  • Pickled okra (or any of your favorite vegetable condiments)

Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into your favorite glass and add lime wedge and pickled okra.

By planning ahead and getting a little creative, you can start Mom’s day with a treat she will never forget!

Originally posted 5/7/2013

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Monday, May 7, 2018

For Mom: Strawberry Shortcake on the Grill

Don’t you just hate those Mother’s Day meals where the kids have dreamed up an elaborate menu that has you cooking and cleaning on your supposed day of rest and relaxation? Well, we have you covered this year! This is a kid-friendly recipe that gets them involved, and keeps you out of the kitchen. Kids will love being able to assemble the ingredients on skewers and enjoy eating them even more.

This is the time of year when strawberries are in season and abundant in supply. Strawberry shortcake is a perennial favorite, but did you ever think of cooking it on a grill? Just like any fruit placed on the grill, strawberries get a smoky caramelized flavor that matches the toasty gooey marshmallows. We think this is going to be your new go-to dessert; impressive for guests and easy for Mom.

Grilled Strawberry Shortcake
8 – 10 large strawberries
large marshmallows
Angel food cake, cut into 2” cubes
Bamboo skewers
Chocolate sauce for serving


Preheat your grill to low. If you are using a charcoal grill, you should wait until the fire has died down after grilling your main dish.

Rinse and clean the strawberries and remove caps. Kids can help with this using a plastic knife or a straw inserted into the bottom of the strawberry and gently pushed through to the stem which pops right out cleanly. The straw method has an added bonus; the strawberry already has a hole for the skewer.

Thread the ingredients on your skewers. We allotted 2 strawberries and pieces of cake and one marshmallow per person, but there are no rules. Skewers can be uniform or freestyle – we won’t judge!

Gently place the skewers on the grill. We added an additional rack for easier removal and it added another layer between the skewers and the flame.



Turn the skewers frequently to achieve even cooking on all sides. Depending on how hot your grill is, you may be turning constantly. Keep an eye on the marshmallows as they are the most fragile of the ingredients.

When your skewers have reached the desired amount of doneness, remove them to a plate. Arrange the skewers on a serving tray and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Enjoy!

May 7, 2016

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Deviled Easter Eggs

In early Christian cultures, both meat and dairy were verboten during Lent. However, since chickens can't turn off their egg laying mechanism, they keep on laying. So eggs laid during Lent were hard-boiled to preserve them until the end of the 40-day Lenten season when they then would become part of the Easter feast.

It's Easter morning, the eggs have all been found - now what do you do with them all? The perfect addition to any Easter brunch table is deviled eggs. This recipe is a little different than the traditional deviled eggs you grew up with. The cornichons and capers add a delicious, piquant flavor to our version!

  • 6 hard-boiled Easter eggs, peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise (we prefer Duke's)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cornichons* or dill pickles, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika, for garnishing

Once the eggs are peeled, carefully slice the eggs in half from top to bottom. Scoop the yolks into a medium mixing bowl and gently lay the whites aside. Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt and sugar to the egg yolks and using a fork, stir to thoroughly combine.
Place the mixture into a zip-top plastic bag and cut a small hole at one of the corners. Pipe the mixture into each of the white halves. Chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator and sprinkle with paprika for decoration before serving.

*Trader Joe’s sells the BEST cornichons (French for pickles) on the market. They are grown in the Garonne Valley in southwestern France for their company.  They are sour and crisp, and sell for a very reasonable price.



April 24, 2011

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hot Cross Buns - A Good Friday Tradition

For some, hot cross buns are synonymous with Good Friday. Hot cross buns have a long history that goes back hundreds of years. These special sweet buns, marked with a symbolic cross in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, are a fixture on many Easter tables and are historically considered to be blessed.

Many believe that sharing a bun with a friend will bring both the giver and receiver good luck and continued friendship for the following year. These lightly-sweetened, fruit-filled treats were sold in the streets of England during the nineteenth century to the cries of "hot cross buns; hot cross buns; one a penny; two a penny; hot cross buns!” With such a diverse past, it it clear that hot cross buns are a lovely and meaningful Easter tradition.

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 5 teaspoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice or water

In a small bowl, stir together milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Let mixture stand 5 minutes, or until foamy. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine flour, spices, salt, and remaining granulated sugar and mix together with a whisk. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into bits and blend into flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Lightly beat 1 egg with the egg yolk. Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixtures, currants, raisins, and orange and lemon zest. Stir mixture until a dough is formed. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and coat lightly with oil. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 400°F and butter 2 large baking sheets. On a floured surface with floured hands knead dough briefly and form into two 12-inch-long logs. Cut each log crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk again, another 45 minutes.

While buns are rising, lightly beat the remaining egg with confectioner’s sugar to make an egg glaze. Brush buns with egg glaze before baking them in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until buns are golden brown, about 12 minutes. When done, transfer buns to a rack to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, mix together confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice or water. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the buns in a criss-cross pattern. Serve buns warm or at room temperature with softened butter and your favorite preserves. These delicious buns can be made one week ahead and frozen before being frosted, wrapped in foil and put in a re-sealable plastic bag. Thaw buns and reheat before serving.
4/18/14

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