Sunday, April 27, 2014

My first guest post

I love grilling. The smell of the charcoal, the searing meat, caramelizing barbecue sauce…you really can’t beat it.  Some people think it’s just a social activity, and talk, talk, talk, without paying attention while their food turns into a platter of hockey pucks.  Not cool.

I still remember the first time in my cognizant years when my dad grilled a steak.  The smell was something I’d never experienced (Dad was a preacher and we were very poor), but I knew immediately I wanted to taste that!  Of course he used charcoal, because as a (literally) former rocket scientist, this guy is a smart dude.  When Kay and I bought our first house, we bought a $400 gas grill and I think we have used it twice in the past 24 months.  We use our Weber religiously.

I love grilling (did I mention that?). It takes me back to some of my favorite points of my life.  1) Dad grilling said steak 2) Outside our college house grilling burgers, brats and dogs 3) Outside Kay’s apartment in St. Louis Park having a couple of cold beers and making kabobs, 4) Weekend outings on Satellite Lane grilling up all sorts of good stuff (prime rib, brisket, etc.) with the good neighbors from 231 and 233.  Miss those guys.

Ranking my favorite things to grill, at the behest of my beautiful bride, I bring you the following:
10. Bbq quarter chicken – this has been my go-to grilling option for over a decade.  People who think chicken is a dried out disaster have never had the pleasure of a juicy slow-roasted thigh and leg, coated in caramelized Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce. Mmmmm!
9. Prime rib – covered in a blanket of salt and herbs, so easy and so magnificent.  Would rank higher on this list if it weren’t nearly as easy to perfect in the oven.
8. Beer can chicken – another easy achievement on the grill, but so worth it. Cover the bird in herbs and stuff a head of garlic in its neck and a can of pilsner up its tailpipe, and you have an amazingly delectable dinner!
7. Herbs de provence burgers – thank you, Steven Raichlen, for this one.  Make a burger with a chunk of butter and a generous amount of herbs de provence smuggled in the interior, and you won’t believe you’re not in a fancy-schmancy restaurant.
6. Wings – thank you Peter/Kristen Hall for this one.  I cut my culinary teeth at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant (after a quick summer at Duane’s House of Pizza in Moorhead), but as soon as I discovered how much was added to wings by grilling them, I was in love.  Has now become one of my favorite parts of summer.
5. Fajitas – Kay came up with an amazing recipe, and I was lucky enough to be there to make it a reality.  Take a package of McCormick’s taco seasoning, put half of it on a nice sliced New York strip and the other on a sliced up green pepper, and the rest is easy and delicious. 
4. Tuna tataki – went to Lunds looking for Ponzu and they were out.  Talked to the kitchen manager and he basically gave me the house recipe.  I could tell you, but, it’s too easy and awesome so don’t want to.  Hopefully I can make it for you sometime.  If you’re lucky.
3. Jucy Lucys – Matt’s are better, I don’t dare to try to improve on perfection.  But I guarantee mine are better than those at the 5-8 Club, which are crap.  I make them with 80-20 beef, and Carr Valley cheddar in the middle, and it melts perfectly every time.  They make Phyllis smile, which is enough for me.
2. Lemon chicken – feels like summer from March until November, when you marinate chicken thighs in lemon juice and cram nearly half a lemon under the skin of each one…the smoke of the grill melds wonderfully with the lemon, and you wish you had two more hands so you could eat more quickly.  It’s still only April, right?
1. Ribeye – the best thing anyone could hope for in life.  I once hoped I’d play football for the Gophers.  Then I figured out how to grill a ribeye, with smoking chips of hickory, mesquite and cherry wood, and realized I’d found my true calling.  Throw on some grilled potatoes and I am a happy man.  Should you ever choose to come visit, I would be happy to make you my favorite grilled dish.

Monday, April 7, 2014

"I'd eat that aioli with a spoon if it was socially acceptable!"

Last Friday, Noah and I checked out of work early and made the trek up to West Fargo. We hadn't been up there since the fantasy football draft over Labor Day weekend, so to say we were anxious to get up there would be a staggering understatement. Thankfully, we've seen John and Kasey quite frequently since then, thanks to Julie's awesome wedding, the last Vikings game in the Dome, and of course our fabulous week in Cozumel. Now that I think about it, I'm amazed we're not all sick of each other. Perhaps I'm speaking for myself here. Maybe they're all sick of ME and my sarcasm and stupid half-assed jokes! Aw crap, there goes my paranoia again. Time for another shock treatment.

There are certain things that happen when we're in Fargo for a weekend. The first thing that inevitably happens is Noah's voice changes to sound exactly like his brother's. I kid you not, it is the weirdest thing ever known to man, and that includes the popularity of David Hasselhoff in Germany. The first time Jaybird experienced the phenomenon, he said "One of you two assholes needs to shut the (fudge) (but he didn't say fudge) up, I CAN'T TELL WHO'S TALKING!" Hilarious. The second thing is, we go hang out in the garage and the gang from the hood and the Murphy clan and their ilk show up, and it's super awesome. We have drinks, listen to music and have a million different loud conversations. I'd be amazed the cops haven't been called on them but John runs West Fargo and is best friends with one (hi Rhonda). Inevitably, somebody finally realizes, hey, it's like 10 and while Doritos are snacktastic and packed with real cheese flavor, most nutritionists would probably not consider them a "meal" per se. (Although I bet they've been used as an ingredient for dessert on Chopped. God I hate that show. Ted Allen talks like he's storing a large stick in a very uncomfortable place, like the back of a Volkswagen.) That's when Pizza Patrol comes to the rescue.

Pizza Patrol has good pizza. It gets the job done, ya know? It's not Pizza Luce caliber, but then again what is? However, not even Pizza Luce can top Pizza Patrol's cheesebread. It is a feat of engineering (okay it's not, I just dig that phrase). It is a riddle wrapped in an enigma stuffed with an entire log of mozzarella. A good slice of sausage and one of those and you will be good to go for round two, my friend! And you never want to miss round two in Johnny Twopickups' (long story behind that nickname) (not really - John has two pickup trucks and hence is a certified badass) garage. If you do, you risk not being there when a friend of a friend decides, at midnight, that it's an appropriate time to start playing his bagpipes in the driveway. My mother-in-law is still kicking herself for not bearing witness to that, as she should be.

Unfortunately, Sunday happened, as it tends to do on occasion, and it was time to head home. However, a trip to Fargo just isn't complete without having at least one meal at Spitfire. If you've been to Fargo recently and haven't eaten at Spitfire, please do me a favor and slap yourself as hard as you can across the face. Congratulations, you jackass, you have just deprived yourself of the best slow-cooked meat on the planet. Everything is cooked on a rotisserie over a...spitfire...and it is amazing. I got the walleye yesterday because it's Lent and I'm a non-practicing Catholic who got married in a Lutheran church. Or maybe fish just sounded good. And it was, thank you and you're welcome. Normally, I'm all about the prime rib sandwich. I always get it without cheese and I don't eat the bread, because the real appeal is the perfectly seasoned beef inside. And the skinless mashed potatoes? Changed my life. The first taste I had of the cheesy, bacony, creamy delight brought me to my knees in tears of joy (I'm assuming the rest of the patrons thought I was just drunk) (they were wrong) (that time). I can't wait to go back!