Melting Pot #8

Chicken on the grill!


Grilled Ginger Chicken

If I have a choice between grilling or not I will generally go for the grill. Here is a quick and easy way to add some flavor to your grilling experience. You will need:

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs – about 3 per person if they are smaller pieces
  • Ground ginger (fresh)
  • Crushed garlic
  • Black pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • Soy sauce
  • White wine

Trim away any excess fat from the chicken, check for bones…mix the ginger, I usually use about 3 tablespoons for 8 or 9 pieces of chicken. Garlic, one clove per every two pieces of meat, a tablespoon or two of pepper, depending on spice level desired. Use 1/8 cup of brown sugar. Add about 1 cup of soy sauce and 1/4 cup white wine. Mix everything with a whisk or fork, put in chicken.

Let the chicken marinate for an hour or so. The chicken should be out of the fridge for a bit before going on the grill. I find that super cold meats just seem to toughen up when they are exposed to high temps right away. Heat your grill up, make sure it is reasonably clean…lay the chicken on the grill, close it and walk away. No need to constantly flip your bird! After about 3 to 5 minutes, turn the meat over and cover again. The sugar and soy sauce will give the meat a lovely dark complexion. In another 5 minutes you can remove your meat from the fire. Let it stand about 4 or 5 minutes before serving, it will be better this way.

I like to serve this with steamed rice and a fresh green salad with a miso dressing.

There will not be any left-overs…sorry…


Melting Pot #7




Sloppy Joes!!

This is one of those ultimate All American type meals. When I am feeling lazy and don’t want to work hard this is one of my go to things to make. Don’t use those instant packets at the store, there is just a mountain of salt in there.

You will need:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1 large tomato chopped up, 1 tennis ball size onion chopped up, BBQ sauce, ketchup, spicy mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt, pepper and white wine.

After everything is chopped and ready, throw the beef into a sauce pan. Get it browning and add a pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir in the onions and get them nice and translucent. Add garlic powder, maybe a teaspoon, perhaps more or less, depending on your preference. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to a low simmer. As the liquid has reduced put in 1/4 cup ketchup, tablespoon of spicy mustard (I use Chinese mustard), 1/8 cup of BBQ sauce (something with a smoky flavor) and a couple of splashes of the Worcestershire sauce.  Stir everything well, add 1/8 cup of wine. Simmer until liquid is reduced.

Serve on a hamburger bun, I like whole wheat. This goes great with coleslaw, either on the side or some people like the slaw on the bun. Also some ridged potato chips.

This will serve four of five people. To do more just up the amounts. You can add more BBQ or spicy mustard to taste. Hot sauce might be nice but the whole hot sauce thing is a bit played out.


Melting Pot #6

Irish Stew

Yummy stuff on a chilly day. Irish stew is one of those easy to mess up things. It seems super simple but if you get too carried away you can end up with something that is less than appealing.

The final product. It was delicious!

The final product. It was delicious!

Generally speaking, a stew is sort of a soup but with bigger chunks of goodness. For my version I use beef, some lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, a bottle of beer, salt pepper, corn and green beans. You can add other vegetables like turnips, celery, cabbage, etc. Avoid the sissy vegetables like cauliflower.

First, chop up two baseball size onions into a medium dice. Set them aside.

Peel and cut up two or three carrots. You want about a cup of carrots so what ever that works out to, go for it.

Get your locally sourced beef and lamb ready to go. By locally sourced I mean the super market that is closest to your house. I take the beef, usually about two pounds, and rinse it off. The lamb, usually just a couple of chops are cut up into cubes. In a deep pot I render off some bacon. Then add some oil, a few tablespoons or so.

Start browning the meat. Before you put the meat in the pot, dry it off. This helps them meat to actually caramelize and

The brownin' o' the meat...

The brownin’ o’ the meat…

not go grey and boiled looking. Add beef until the bottom of the pot is almost covered, leave enough room to turn your meat. Brown it on all sides and then remove. Do this until all the beef is browned. Do the same thing for the lamb.

After browning drain off most of the oil at the bottom of the pot. Bring the pot back to temperature and throw in your onions. Stir them around, add a pinch of salt to help break down the onions. Once they start to look a little translucent throw in your carrots. Mix everything around so it seems like you are a chef.

Vegetables simmering with beer. Meat waiting to dive in.

Vegetables simmering with beer. Meat waiting to dive in.

Turn the temperature down a little and dump in a bottle of beer. NOT one of those giant bottles of Budweiser that you can buy at the CVS for a $1.49. Use a bottle of dark something…Harp, Guinness, Sapporo…you know, something made by people who care. Use a 12 bottle. This time around I used Newcastle Browne. Simmer that down and let it reduce.

As that that is happening peel and cut your spuds. When you cut them make sure they are pretty good size chunks, about the same size as the stew beef pieces. Put them in a separate pot to cook.

Go back to the stew pot and stir, scraping all the good brown bits off the bottom. Add back the meat, including the bacon that you used to render. Stir things around a little. Add water to just cover everything. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Add some pepper and salt and a couple of bay leaves. Cover. Have a beer.

When the potatoes get to the point that they are almost done, drain them out but do not rinse them. Set the potatoes aside to cool. If you have a big pan you can spread them out on even better. As they cool they will get a starchy coat which will help them stay firm in the stew and keep a nice ‘bitey’ texture.

After about an hour check the stew. The meat should start getting softer. It may take a lot longer, maybe just a little. You want the beef to come apart under a fork. If you have to work at it there is some more cooking to be done. You may have to add a little more water, but not too much. You really want as little juice as possible.

When the beef is right fold in the potatoes. Be gentle, you don’t want mashed spuds! After this add corn and green beans. I use frozen veggies so let the temperature of the stew come back to a boil and you are ready to serve.

Serve with some bread and butter along with a nice beer and you have a meal fit for a peasant.

I am sure you will have a completely different way of making stew, but that is only because the Irish are a confused lot. I am sure however you do it is fine. Wrong, but fine.

Melting Pot #5

My Wok

Carbon Steel, Wood Handle and a simple eye-bolt to hang it up.

Carbon Steel, Wood Handle and a simple eye-bolt to hang it up.

I had been living in San Francisco for a couple of years and I had finally decided to get a wok. It was 1983, I was doing a lot of artistic metal work, playing music and generally just having fun. I realized it was time to settle down and start behaving like an adult. To me that meant cooking utensils.

I lived a few blocks from Macy’s on Union Square and had gone to the Cellar to check out their kitchen stuff. A lot of their basics cost more than I made in a week so that was out of the question. I remembered my Mother’s pots and pans: All old, dented and still useful. So I decided to look for more practical pieces that wouldn’t break the bank. Since I was (and still am) a bit of a germaphobe I couldn’t bring myself to buy used stuff at Goodwill. So I took the 38 Geary down and then hopped on the 30 Stockton to Chinatown.

In Chinatown there are the touristy places, where you can buy kung fu shoes, kimonos, dolls and other trinkets. But if you explore the side streets a little there are stores that sell the things that people really use in everyday life: Clothes, Furniture, Food (including back then live chickens, fish and turtles) and household items. I wandered around until I located a place selling kitchen items. The old lady behind the counter just gave a slightly annoyed look, I was probably one of those dumb tourists who took a wrong turn…

I picked up a plastic shopping basket and started browsing. I found a cleaver, some cooking chopsticks, a strainer and a nice spatula. A spatula for wok cooking is a little different. It has a slight curve to the front to match the side of the wok and the edges and back are raised slightly to help scooping things out. At the back of the store the woks were stacked up, face down with craft paper between each one. There were many different sizes and shapes some with round bottoms and some with flat. I chose one with a flat bottom and a nice wood handle. I liked it because you could see it was spun out of a single sheet of metal, the ridges from the spinning were still visible. After I had paid for everything and was on my way out, the lady said: ‘Enjoy your friend.’

It was a strange thing to say, but she was right. I have become friends with my wok, it always stands by, waiting patiently to be used in the creation of something delicious. When the wok was new the color was light grey and metallic. Over years the wok is now fully carbon black. The outside is nicely crusted with 30 plus years of burnt stuff. The inside is smooth and black, a natural non-stick surface.  I use the wok not only for cooking meals, but also to heat up left overs, it is my main cooking utensil and my microwave.

I protect my friend too. When I came home and a roommate had used my wok to cook tomato sauce, and had taken the patina off the inside from the acidity I kicked him out. When I got divorced, the wok was the only kitchen item I kept. The wok is 12 years older than my daughter. When I die it will be the one thing that I leave her that I KNOW she will truly value. My wok cost just $25 in 1983, it is priceless today. All the other items I bought that day have been lost or have worn out and been sent to the recycler. My wok is still there.

Today there is Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Martha and all the rest selling their stuff on QVC for hundreds of dollars. All supposed to be unique but all made in the same factory in China, they are stamped out, sprayed with non-stick chemicals and then divided into separate lines to receive the proper chefs logo and marketing materials. My wok was made by hand, in some small shop, by a person who had been making woks one at a time for years. They learned their craft from another person, who had learned from someone before them. Now I cook, teach my daughter and know that she will share the wok with her children and grandchildren. Not as glamorous as a TV chef, but real. Go out and find your own friend and start a tradition that can last another 100 years.

Melting Pot #4

Saba Shioyaki

This is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. It is essentially a grilled mackerel, but the preparation is something that is pretty straight forward and you end up with an elegant and delicious dish. It is normally cooked on a charcoal grill, but you can make this in a broiler.

To make the dish you will need:

  • A nice mackerel fillet, skin on. About 8 ounces per serving is perfect.
  • Daikon radish
  • Soy sauce
  • Japanese short grain rice

Start by preparing the rice. Gently wash the rice in cold water to remove excess starch and talc. You might have to rinse the rice 8 to 10 times, but keep going until the water is clear. Drain the rice and let it rest for about 10 minutes or so. Put the rice in your cooker or start a pot on the stove.

Shred your daikon into thin long strips, like vermicelli. I like to put it in a bowl with some cold water and salt in the refrigerator. You can do this a day ahead if you like.

The saba should be sliced through the skin side, just barely through to allow for soy sauce penetration.

Put your oven on broil. Set up a cookie sheet with tin foil. Lay the fish on the sheet skin side up. Drizzle on the soy sauce, massage it gently into the fish. Place the sheet under the broiler and let it go for about 2 minutes. Remove the sheet and turn the fish over. Drizzle again lightly with soy and put back in the broiler for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the broiler and allow to rest.

Serve with a small mound of shredded daikon.  The rice is served in a bowl next to the fish. To eat just put a little soy on the daikon and mix with the fish.

You can also cook salmon this way, sea bass can work well too. Enjoy!

I got a note asking for pictures of stuff I am making so I will start doing that. I am not a great photographer but it will get the idea across.

Melting Pot #3

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Everyone has their own recipe, there are a million ways to make it and everyone is great (almost). The worst I ever had was when a Japanese friend made it. She used ketchup and katsu dipping sauce for the spaghetti sauce…being a nice guy I ate it but later on I showed her my version.

The Meatballs

Pretty simple: Chop up one large onion to a fine dice, use about 3 pounds lean ground beef, some grated Romano cheese, bread crumbs (you can buy the pre-made ones, my mother would dry bread in the oven and crush it up.), some garlic powder, salt and pepper, two eggs. Oregano if the bread crumbs aren’t seasoned. Some fresh basil leaves.

Mix the onions and beef, add spices, add the eggs and mix by hand thoroughly. Once the mixture is fully integrated start making the meatballs. The meatballs should be about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Put the mixture in your hand and press it to make sure there are no air pockets. Form into a ball by rolling gently between your hands. Set aside and repeat until you have all the meatballs made.

Turn the oven on to 325.

Heat up a deep, large diameter pot. I use one that is 10″ diameter by about 9″ deep. Add Canola oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pot. Put meatballs in around the perimeter of the pot, maybe one in the middle. Brown the outside of the meatballs, turning them with a pair of tablespoons. When they are brown on all sides take them out and place in a flat roasting/baking pan. Repeat until all are browned.

Once the meatballs are browned and in the pan, lay a basil leaf on top of each one then cover the roasting pan with tin foil. Place in the oven for about 45 minutes.

The Sauce (Gravy)

I use the same pot that was just used to brown the meatballs.

You will need one large onion chopped, one or two green or red bell peppers cut into 1/2″ squares, red wine, two cans of diced tomatoes, 6 Roma tomatoes cut into quarters, oregano, six garlic cloves crushed and chopped fine and fresh basil leaves. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Add a little Olive Oil to the pan and throw in onions, add a bit of salt to help sweat the onions. Stir in bell peppers. After a few minutes add garlic. Pour in about 1/2 cup of red wine to deglaze and reduce down. Add oregano. I use about one tablespoon but you can use more or less to taste. Once the wine is reduced by about 2/3 add the diced tomatoes. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Lay Roma tomatoes on top and fold into sauce. Cover and let simmer, stirring every 10 minutes or so. After 30 minutes add the fresh basil. You can use whole leaves or chop them up.

Take the meatballs out of the oven and transfer them to the sauce. Do not just pour them in, there will be grease in the bottom of the pan that you don’t want to put in your sauce. Fold in and continue the simmer.

This is where you will start your pasta. I like a thicker semolina spaghetti but you can use anything you like. Just use a pot that will have plenty of room for the pasta to swim. I use about one teaspoon of sea salt per gallon of water. Cook the pasta to taste, drain and put in a serving bowl. Fold in about 1/2 cup of sauce.

Serve per person or family style with meatballs and sauce on the side.

Goes great with a nice salad, French bread and a good vegetable dish.



The Melting Pot #2

My mother was German. She grew up in New York and learned tons of great recipes from lot’s of different cultures. This is a German dish that she would make once every 2 or 3 months. It is one of those basic dishes that is easy to do and tastes great.

Rind Rouladin

A rolled beef dish, super easy. You need thin beef, bacon, diced onions and salt and pepper. You also need toothpicks for assembly. Figure enough for 3 or 4 rolls per person. This will probably give you a few leftovers.

First, take the beef and smash it thin with a mallet. The beef should be less than 1/8″ thick. You can buy thin sliced beef and pound that out. I put cling film over it to keep the juices from flying about the room.

The beef should be about 2.5 to 3″ wide by about 6″ long.

Take bacon and cut it in half. Enough to put bacon in each roll. Take two medium size onions and dice them, each piece about 3/16″ square.

Lay out a strip of beef, add a splash of salt and pepper, put on some onions and then the strip of bacon. Roll tightly from one end to the other, put a toothpick in to hold together. After you have prepared all your rolls take a deep, large pot and heat it up slowly. Throw in some chopped bacon to render the fat out. Brown the Rouladin, getting the color to a nice dark brown. After the pieces are browned remove them from the pot and set aside. Throw in the balance of the onions and sweat those down. There should be a nice crust at the bottom of the pot from browning. Once the onions are clear add a cup of white wine to deglaze the pot. Make sure to work with a spoon to scrape the bottom and get all the good bits off. Reduce the wine to about 1/3 in volume. Add back 4 to 6 cups of water. Put Rouladin back in pot, bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Let simmer for about 3 hours.

In the meantime:

Peel potatoes…usually two per person if they are medium sized. I always make more for left overs. You can add sour cream when you mash them if you like. I also put in some white pepper and garlic powder at mashing time just for a little kick of flavor (optional).

Make pickled red cabbage. Either from scratch or get a jar. Some Rouladin recipes call for a pickle in the middle of the roll. I think the pickle flavor can take over and mask all the other flavors. The pickled red cabbage on the side works perfectly well with this dish.

I also serve Corn with this and Brussel Sprouts. The sprouts I cut in half and pan roast, tossing in a little butter at the last minute as a light glaze.

So that’s it. This is a great meal for a cold or rainy day. I don’t think my mother ever served this in the summer. But I know in the winter I would have this and have plenty of energy to go out and play with my friends until she hollered for me to come in and go to bed.