Category Archives: main course

Beer Can Chicken– Does the Beer matter?

I finally got around to making Beer Can Chicken after seeing it in about 400 cooking shows, 273 cooking magazines, and 4.7 million websites. In most of those presentations I saw a common thing– the beer being used was typically a watered-down American pilsner. And I thought, “well, American Pilsner, you can make football even more entertaining with your wonderful commercials, but I doubt you can punch up the flavor of a grill-roasted chicken.” And with that in mind, I sought to find a full-flavored beer that came in a can, would lend it self well in aromatic cooking, and was worthy of getting shoved up a chicken’s butt.

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Ceviche Crab Stack

Last weekend I prepared a surf-and-turf dinner for eight with a twist. No steamed lobsters and New York strips this time around, instead a spicy, tangy journey across Central America. First, petit filet mignons with a Mexican-inspired red wine and port reduction infused with the spice and flavor of smoked jalapenos, thyme, mushrooms, and onion. For the starch, I went with fried yucca. The surf came in a stack of rice, a mixture of mango, avocado, lime juice, and jalapeno, and a top-layer mixture of swordfish ceviche and jumbo lump crab meat. Plated, it all came together like this:

(click to crabstackusize)

Building the stack was the biggest challenge of the day, fortunately a make-ahead item for this menu, as it’s served cold. Making the stacks requires a ring mold, or even a short (and, of course, clean!) section of pvc pipe from your local hardware store. I used an adjustable, plunger-style measuring cup to build the stacks, which allowed me to really give them a good squeeze that held them in one piece and keep a uniform size.

I made this for eight, so recipe-wise, I’ve tried to reduce it for four.
The rice:
1 cup jasmine rice
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2″ cube of crystalized ginger (optional)
Cook the rice using your preferred method. Let it cool, then refrigerate, as it’s easier to work with cold at assembly time.
The mango mixture middle:
1 1/2 mangoes, diced in 1/4″ chunks
1 avocado, diced
1/2 medium-sized red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
zest of 1/2 lime
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
Gently combine all ingredients until evenly mixed. Refrigerate. Onwards!
The crab and and swordfish ceviche:
1 lb fresh swordfish, diced in 1/4″ chunks
1 lb fresh jumbo lump crabmeat
juice of 1/2 lime
zest of 1/2 lime
1/2 to 1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce

Combine the lime juice, zest, and hot sauce with the swordfish. Place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes to let the acidic lime juice go to work on the swordfish. Remove from the fridge and combine with the crab meat.
And now, we stack.

(click to crabstackusize)

The first layer, the base, is the rice. Next comes the mango mixture, followed by the seafood. I did everything upside-down in the mixing cup, turned it over, gave it a good press, and then slowly lifted the mixing cup up, while pressing the rest of the plunger out. (Maybe that needs a video or something) Any how…

Measuring it out it’s about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of rice for the base, 1/3 cup of mango mixture, and 1/3 cup of the seafood.
Top it with three thin slices of cucumber and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Garnish with a spring of fresh cilantro. Consume.

Mussels with Smoked Salmon and Cream Sauce

I saw this recipe in a cook book at my mom’s house and it seemed like it would be good. It was so-so. I’ll be sticking with this one in the future.
The recipe, in case you’re looking for something different:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 clove chopped garlic
4 lbs mussels
3 oz (1/3 cup) smoked salmon
In a 5qt pot, combine first 3
Bring to a Simmer
Add mussels and salmon and cook over medium heat, uncovered 5-6 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Rosemary Grilled Chicken Thighs

Add this to your “Things-to-keep-on-hand-for-fast-and-excellent-meals” list: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs. This is one item that I try to keep bulk packs of in the freezer. Typically I buy a 16-pack and divide it in half for freezer storage. It’s easy to prepare, forgiving to overcook, has a decent amount of fat-giving flavor (just be sure to trim some off to prevent grill flare-ups), and even the free-range, organic variety is easy on the wallet. A sixteen pack typically gets me two dinners and two lunches of leftovers.
And, oh, is it versatile! Fine Cooking featured a few different recipes this past summer for grilling them and I’ve yet to be disappointed. A couple of weeks ago I tried the Rosemary Grilled recipe and it rocked.

It’s a simple rub featuring minced, fresh rosemary, brown sugar, kosher salt, and some crushed red pepper flakes for some bite. My herb garden from the summer is still kicking out rosemary despite being iced-over a few times, so I snagged a fresh sprig. I also added some chopped green onion that I happened to have on hand. Good move.

On the side is an orange marmalade, rice wine vinegar, and rosemary dipping sauce. Typically not an orange marmalade kind of guy, its sweet and sour accompaniment convinced me otherwise. It’s simple to prepare—one cup of marmalade, ¼ rice wine vinegar, and a teaspoon of minced rosemary all warmed together on the stove.
The chicken itself is easy—combine the rub, toss it with the chicken and a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and then it’s onto a medium-high grill for about five minutes per side. Done.
I served it with a side of simple jasmine rice. One little cool twist on the rice was dropping in a cube of crystallized ginger to cook with the rice. It added a light hint of ginger flavor to the rice—just enough to make you to say, “what is that?” (in a good way, really.) and proved a nice pairing to the Asian-inspired chicken.
So stock up on the thighs. And make this first. Then, follow it up next weekend with the Grilled Tandoori-Style Chicken Thighs. That was pure, curried bliss.

Fish Tacos

A favorite, summer foodie event for me is sitting out on the deck, consuming mass quantities of Fresh-Mex and cooling off with a Margarita or another choice cold beverage. Fish tacos, with fresh, grilled mahi-mahi, pico de gallo, and crème fraîche, are a perfect, zesty way to highlight that event.

Mahi-mahi is my favorite choice for this quick, easy, and very tasty dish. Between preparing the marinade for the fish and the pico de gallo, prep time is less than ten minutes. Prep the fish first, and while it’s marinating, make the pico del gallo and warm up the grill. Flour torillas can be wrapped in foil and warmed in a 200 degree oven, or tossed on a hot iron griddle if you’re doing just a few.
When I was making the video, I reached into my spice drawer for chili powder and came up empty. Whoops. I used smoked paprika instead and everything was still delicious…
The fish: 1 lb. Mahi mahi fillet, skin removed.

The 20-minute marinade:
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1 diced jalapeño pepper
1 TBL Chili Powder (or smoked paprika!)
2 TBL vegetable oil

Combine ingredients in a zip-top back, drop in the fish fillets, toss to coat, and marinate in the refrigerator for twenty minutes. Grill on medium-high heat, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Pico de gallo:
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, you guessed it: diced.
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt
Optional: 1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped

Combine ingredients. The End. Now watch:

Kabob Kubideh

Something different to do with ground beef. The dancing is optional, but it does make it taste better.

The Recipe:
1 lb Ground Beef, 80-85% lean
1 Large White Onion, grated & water drained
1 Garlic Clove, crushed
1 Large Egg, beaten or stirred
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Turmeric
1/8 tsp Black Pepper

Mix meat, onions, garlic, egg, salt, pepper and turmeric well and leave in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight.
Press the meat around long, thick metal or wood/bamboo skewers and shape evenly. Grill each side for about 5-6 minutes. If skewers are not available or grilling is not possible, kabobs can be broiled in an oven.

Serve with hot Basmati rice or on middle-eastern flatbread (naan, pita, etc.). Grilled tomato kabobs are also a nice complement.

Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs

The family recipe!
Two recipes for the price of one:
Italian Meatballs
1 to 1.5 lbs of Ground Beef (80%-85% lean)
1 Egg
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Italian-style Bread Crumbs
1 heaping tsp dried basil
1 heaping tbl dried parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Best way to do it– with your hands!
Roll mixture into golf ball-sized balls (or whatever size you’re after) and place on foil-lined baking tray.
Bake for 20 minutes. Switch oven the “broil” for the last 5 of those 20 minutes.
Quick, Simple Tomato Sauce
Too often, people over-spice the heck out of a tomato sauce. Guilty as charged! Try this simple sauce and let the tomatoes speak mostly for themselves…
1/2 Yellow onion– chopped
1 Carrot, finely shredded.
2-3 cloves garlic
2 28oz cans of crushed tomato
1 28oz can of whole Plum Tomatoes
3 tbl dried basil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
In a large pot heat 2 tbl of olive oil on medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and carrot and cook until onions are translucent.
Add garlic, cook for another minute.
Set burner to “Low.”
Add remaining ingredients and simmer 30 min, stirring occasionally. When adding each plum tomato, crush it in your hand to break it apart before adding it to the sauce. This makes for a nice chunky sauce.