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I have no story tonight, nothing much to say.  I was at work for 12 hours today and wanted something quick and low-calorie.  I located this recipe on epicurious.com a few minutes before leaving the restaurant and made a few changes.  I found the taste to be very good, it was super easy to prepare and I would make it again.  It is nothing special or crazy, just a quick weeknight meal for the four of us.  Enjoy!

Sorry for the picture, I’m trying some new things and it didn’t work out as I would have liked. 😦

Grilled Chicken Breast in Spiced Yogurt (serves six)

  • 2 1/4 cups plain yogurt (preferably whole-milk)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2  tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves

Whisk together one cup yogurt, two tablespoons oil, one tablespoon lemon juice, salt, and spices, then add chicken and turn until coated well. Marinate at room temperature 20 to 40 minutes. I marinated it for 20 minutes and would have liked to have left it for another 20 minutes so that the chicken could pick up a bit more flavor.

Prepare the grill for cooking, medium-high heat.  If using a gas grill, shoot for 400 degrees.

While the grill is heating, whisk together remaining 1 1/4 cups yogurt and 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt to taste.

Grill chicken (discard marinade), covered only if using gas grill, on lightly oiled grill rack, turning over at 7 minutes and then cooking for another 7 to 9 minutes.  The chicken is done when the internal temperature is 160 degrees.

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Well, where did I leave off. Refrigerators breaking and my body fat percentage increasing. Things seem to be going better this week so far. Business has picked up on the catering side and unfortunately I had to turn down some business because we were slammed a few days.

Many people ask me what our typical day is like and most think we work nonstop, which we don’t. Most of the time we have it made. Once every few weeks I might work a day from 6:00 in the morning until 6:00 or 7:00 at night, but I would guess on average I work from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon, which isn’t really too bad. We could definitely work more hours and make more money, but I’ve been there in the past and have come to the conclusion that family and free time is much more important that money.

So how does my average day play out? It’s not glamorous but it pays the bills. I always get to the restaurant by 7:00, the moment we open the doors. Megan gets there much earlier to get the place up and running, make the coffee, make the days soup, bake off scones and breads, etc. Next comes Lisa our sandwich maker and prep cook at 7:30, not long after Joannie our baker and Nancy come in. At 9:00 our counter person, Cassie, comes in unless it’s Wednesday in which case Sarah is our counter person.

Most of my mornings, from 7:00 to 11:30 I spend working on the caterings (making salads, putting together platters, cutting bread, etc.) along with dealing with the customers who come in the door. There are days when I don’t have time to think from the moment I walk in until the moment I leave to deliver catering orders. Other days I might spend time talking to the regulars, though I rarely spend more than a few minutes with any one customer.

From 11:30 to 12:30 I’m oftentimes out making lunch catering deliveries. Half of our revenue comes from catering orders so I really think at this stage of our business, it’s important to go out and make deliveries and see the clients and the offices. It gives me important contact with my customers and also lets me see their response to the food. Honestly it’s also nice to get out of the restaurant before the craziness of lunch starts.

By the time I get back to the restaurant the lunch rush is usually going in full swing and I then spend the next two hours working the counter, taking orders, bringing food out to tables, refilling drinks, handing out napkins and everything front of the house. If we are really busy and we get backlogged then I will head back to the kitchen and start washing dishes. Basically I do anything that needs to be done with the exception of making the sandwiches. If it’s slow I take pictures…

After we close at 2:30 I usually will do the drawer, count the money, pay out the tips and reconcile the numbers. Then many things have to be done depending on the day. I might spend a few hours on the phone working with customers on their orders or just selling new catering gigs. Other days Nancy and I have to brainstorm on new marketing ideas or talk about how to handle specific situations with customers, respond to bids or talk about how to handle situations with our employees (fortunately this part is rare). Some days I end up going to Costco, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to pick up food we don’t get from our normal suppliers. Once in awhile I just leave and go home!

Most of the time the day ends here, but once per week I spend an hour or two working on Quickbooks. To save us money I do all of the books for the business…I took two years of accounting in college so I know a bit of what I’m doing.

Lastly if something big is going on I should be spending another 5 to 10 hours per week working on projects. Currently we are getting ready to build the business plan for the new location and we need to figure out what our retail marketing plan is for the holidays in short order. All of this work has to happen outside of the normal day unfortunately, but most of the time it’s a blast!

So this last Monday I had one of those days that didn’t end too quick and I needed to make something fast that would taste good. I looked through my book of ripped out recipes from the magazines I read and found one for Chicken Shawarma from Cooking Light.

The picture doesn’t do it justice. I really need to start experiment with some other backgrounds and purchase some different plates. The meal was great and both Randy and Jacob went back more than once to fill another pita.

Here is the definition of Shawarma from Wikipedia – Middle Eastern-style sandwich usually composed of shaved lamb, goat, or chicken. Less commonly, it contains turkey, beef, or a mixture of meats. Shawarma is a popular dish and fast-food staple across the Middle East, it has also become popular world-wide.

Chicken Shawarma (serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into strips

Sauce

  • 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt – I used Fage
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Other

  • 8 pitas
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 16 tomato slices

Combine the ingredients up to the chicken in a large bowl. Add the chicken, toss to coat and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

To make the sauce combine the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, salt and garlic, combining with a whisk or a fork.

Heat grill pan on stove with medium-high heat. Alternately you can grill the chicken outside on your gas grill. Place all of the chicken on the grill pan and cook for five minutes, turn and cook for another five minutes or until internal temperature is 160 degrees.

If using a outdoor grill, place pita on rack and grill for one minutes on each side or until lightly toasted.

Assemble pita by topping with lettuce, tomato slices, chicken pieces and sauce to your liking! Devour!!

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I seem to have a backlog of recipes to write about. I did fish and chips last week and made some super cool baked eggs, baked in toast. Watch for this one – it was super easy and combined cheese, eggs, toast and bacon, with a bit of cream all in one small muffin-sized package.

First up though is the brisket I smoked on Sunday on the new Weber Smokey Mountain. This is the third brisket I’ve made in the past six months and the most successful. The first version I started on the gas grill and finished it in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil. It was good, but lacked the smoky flavor.

The second version I made on my old charcoal Weber. The idea here was to get more smoke. Somehow, maybe I was sleeping in, I like to sleep in, I started late, about 4 hours later than planned, and didn’t finish it until 10:00pm that night.  My wife now frowns a bit when I start talking about making anything that takes more than 4 or 5 hours.

The rub on this version was perfect and I will share it below. I ended up overcooking the bottom of the brisket when the grill got a bit too hot and I forgot to turn the brisket in the last few hours. It ended up with about 1/4 inch of crust, which tasted great, but was not quite what I was looking for.

The third and last version I did this past weekend. My new smoker was delivered from Amazon last week and on Saturday I pulled it out of the box and put it together (in the family room – thanks, Nancy)!

Once again, I did sleep in this time, I started late, but I figured I had plenty of time to get the brisket done, low and slow.  I filled up bottom of the smoker with a load of fresh charcoal, threw the brisket on the top grill, closed the lid and took a temperature reading….140 degrees! What, no way, has to be wrong.  I’ll wait a bit and see what happens.

15 minutes later, 135 degrees. Oh crap. I throw in another load of charcoal I had working on the side. The temp goes up to 150. Something is wrong, but I have no idea what it is. The smoke is coming out of the thing like clockwork, but the heat is not even close to the 225 I’m looking for.

20 minutes later, 150 degrees still, I thrown more charcoal in, the temp goes up to 175 and then won’t budge. At this point I have enough charcoal in the bottom of the smoker to power a small steam engine. I’m now figuring it has something to do with lack of oxygen, but all the vents are open and things should be going well.

Now I’m starting to think about the bacteria that will start growing on the meat soon if I don’t get the f$%##ing temperature up. Ok, more coals and then more coals. Finally about 75 minutes into it I have the temperature at 225. Ok now, I have some time to think so I head to the Internet to see what I can find out.

Aha, the first picture points out to me that I forgot to the put the charcoal grate down as well as the charcoal chamber. How do I run a restaurant, not sure.  Good employees I guess.  Don’t ask me what I was thinking, but basically the charcoal was getting no airflow. I had it all piled up on the bottom of the smoker! CRAP.

So what to do. Well, I couldn’t handle it, I had to fix it. So I pulled the top and middle section off the grill and then used tongs to relocate the charcoal, fix the grill, put the charcoal back, put the meat back on, and pretty much started all over again. DOH!

Well, what time did we eat you might ask? I was shooting for the brisket to be done at 7:00 and I pulled it off the grill at 9:30. Not so bad, 30 minutes faster than last time. Hahaha. The meat was great and the smoke flavor was perfect. I can’t wait to do some ribs or pork shoulder next!

Here is some helpful info:

  • The Virtual Weber Bullet – Great web site will everything you want to know about the Smokey Mountain.
  • Pick a brisket that weighs 5 to 6 pounds and has a layer of fat at least 1/4 inch thick. Don’t pick up a small trimmed brisket that has not fat. It will dry out quick.
  • If you want smoky flavor, but don’t want to spend all day cooking the brisket, start it on a grill, 250 to 275 degrees, until the internal temperature is 140 to 150 and then finish it in a 325 degree oven, wrapped tightly in heavy duty aluminum foil, for an hour and a half or until the internal temperature is 190 degrees.
  • Thinly slice the meat across the grain and make sure to let the meat rest for 20 minutes before cutting.
  • If using a gas grill it should be easy to get the temp to 250. You will most likely leave the back burner on med and turn the others off. You will want to make a smoke pouch. You can do this by placing your soaked chips on a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, cover the chips with the foil, making an enclosed pouch. Then poke holes in the top so the smoke can escape. You will place the pack on top of the burner that is producing heat.
  • When barbecuing with indirect heat using charcoal you will need to add fresh coals every 45 to 60 minutes to maintain the temperature. In the past I would add unlit briquettes to my coals but I noticed that it took too long for them to burn and put off heat which meant uneven heating. Now instead of emptying the entire charcoal starter of lite coals into the barbecue I leave 3 or 4 at the bottom, then add 10 fresh coals on top and set aside. By the time I need to replace some of the coals in the Weber these coals are ready to go.

Kansas City Brisket (serves 6 to 8)

Recipe adapted from Peace, Love and Barbecue which is a great BBQ Book with recipes and stories!

Ingredients

  • 5 to 6 pound Beef Brisket with fat cap of at least 1/4 inch

Rub

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Lawry’s season salt
  • 3 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup celery salt
  • 1/2 cup onion salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

Mustard Slather

  • 4 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons good beer

Combine all the rub ingredients and blend well. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk the mustard, vinegar and beer together until incorporated. Set aside.

Coat the brisket with the mustard slather. Season the slathered brisket, liberally, with the rub. Marinate overnight if you have the time. If not don’t stress it.

Smoke the brisket at 225 to 250 degrees for approximately one-and-a-half-hours per pound. Turn the brisket at three hours and then after another one-and-a-half hours.

Start with one cup of wood chips and then 1/2 cup every hour when you add more coals.

Cook to an internal temperature of 190 degrees. Take brisket off grill, tent with heavy duty aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes.

Here is the rub from Steven Raichlen.

Steven Raichlen Lean and Mean Texas BBQ Brisket Rub

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine them all in a bowl and mix well. Rub the brisket on all sides!

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Pulled pork, bacon, back ribs… I love them all. Last week I made pork tenderloin and all week I’ve been thinking about doing pulled pork. I think about it often, but I rarely make it because of the time commitment necessary and my lack of planning. If you have the time though, make them, it is worth it! For me, this weekend seemed like the time to try and get them done.

For the first weekend in some time we didn’t have any caterings. We did pass on a few jobs that came up so that we could have a weekend off and spend time together. As always there are a ton of things we need to do, the most important is to start working on the business plan for the new location, but we decided to take a complete break from all things Dish!

We are pretty excited/scared to death about the new location. The owner of the property is going to be breaking ground in the next few weeks and we expect the building to be completed late spring or early summer next year.

My first big project is completing the business plan so we can go out and start looking for private investments. We started Dish with all private loans so I’m hoping some of our initial investors will come back and support us again, but you never know with the current state of the economy. Since the value of our house has dropped $80,000 in the past two years, doh!, there is really no line of credit left available so raising the money is really make or break.

Many people ask us why we want to open another location and warn us of all the things that can go wrong. Ultimately it all comes down to the lack of kitchen and prep space we are faced with each day. Imagine if you can, trying to prepare food for the restaurant customers while trying to produce food for 50 to 100 people for lunch deliveries while trying to prep for a 100 person party, all in less than 100 square feet of kitchen, one half-sized convection oven and portable burners. Our home kitchen is twice the size of our restaurant kitchen! I think in the last year we have had to turn down as much business as we have taken because of the space constraints.

So enough of Dish and my current concerns. On Saturday I made what I thought was exceptional pulled pork sandwiches. Making pulled pork is a two-day affair, but don’t be afraid. As long as you do a bit of planning the prep and method are fairly easy. The recipe presented below is a combination from America’s Test Kitchen and Steven Raichlen. The rub, sauce and the coleslaw come from Raichlen, who by the way has great grilling books that I can’t recommend more. The method, which shortens the overall cooking time comes from America’s Test Kitchen. I can’t say enough about their books. If you are just learning how to cook they are the best books to start with.

First let me share a few important tips:

  • When barbecuing with indirect heat using charcoal you will need to add fresh coals every 45 to 60 minutes to maintain the temperature. In the past I would add unlit briquettes to my coals but I noticed that it took too long for them to burn and put off heat which meant uneven heating. Now instead of emptying the entire charcoal starter of lite coals into the barbecue I leave 3 or 4 at the bottom, then add 10 fresh coals on top and set aside. By the time I need to replace some of the coals in the Weber these coals are ready to go.
  • If you are going to marinate or rub a big piece of meat, like a pork shoulder, don’t marinate it for less than 3 hours and 8 to 12 is ideal.
  • Invest in a good instant-read thermometer. I can almost tell, by touch, when my tri tip is done, but when it comes to other cuts of beef and pork, I’m very much at a loss. The best part of the thermometer is that I know for sure when something is done and I know for sure that I’m not going to make anyone sick!

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Please let me know if you make it and please share your barbecuing ideas for pulled pork. The more the merrier.

North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches (serves 4 to 6)

Rub:

  • 1 teaspoon mild paprika
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers.

Pork:

  • 1 5-6 pound Boston butt (bone-in pork shoulder roast)
  • Vinegar sauce (below)
  • 10 to 12 hamburger buns
  • Coleslaw (below)
  • 2 cups of wood chips, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
  • 1 disposable aluminum pan

Vinegar Sauce:

  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

For the vinegar sauce combine all the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and whisk until sugar and salt are dissolved. Taste, add more brown sugar and/or salt as necessary. The sauce should not be sour, but piquant.

Coleslaw:

  • 1 small head green cabbage
  • 1 cup Vinegar Sauce
  • Salt

Finely chop the cabbage by hand. Place in a large bowl and stir in vinegar sauce. Let stand for 10 minutes, then taste and add salt or sauce if desired.

Okay, on to the pork…. Rub the spices onto the pork shoulder, covering all sides. Cover it with plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least 3 hours, up to 12 hours.

Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-low. You want the temp in the grill to be 275 degrees. I lit one charcoal starter half full, about 40 briquettes for a large Weber. Open bottom vents fully. Once the coals are ready, place them on one side of the grill, 2 to 3 briquettes high, leaving 60% of the grill empty. Place 1/2 of the wood chips directly on charcoal. You need to place the other half one hour into the cooking.

If using a gas grill it should be easy to get the temp to 275. You will most likely leave the back burner on med-high and turn the others off. You will want to make a smoke pouch. You can do this by placing your soaked chips on a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, cover the chips with the foil, making an enclosed pouch. Then poke holes in the top so the smoke can escape. You will place the pack on top of the burner that is producing heat.

Unwrap pork and place in a disposable aluminum pan and place on grate opposite the side with the charcoal. Open the top vent three quarters of the way, cover. Cook, adding about 8 to 10 briquettes every hour to maintain an average temperate of 275 for three hours.

I used an oven thermometer, placed through the vent hole, to track the temperature in the grill. You can adjust the temperature by opening and closing the vents on the top and bottom of the grill. If you see the temperature on the grill going above 315 you can close the vents more on top. If you have the top fully open and the temp starts to fall to below 275 then add more briquettes.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Completely wrap the pan holding the pork with heavy duty foil. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the meat is fork tender with an internal temperature of 195 degrees. This will take 1 1/4 to 2 hours depending on how consistent the temperature was in your barbecue.

Take the foil-wrapped pan out of oven, slide into a brown paper bag. Crimp the bag shut and let it sit for 1 hour. This allows any remaining collagen to melt and is worth the wait.

Put some heavy duty gloves on, or use a fork and pull the pork into pieces, discarding bones and skin. You are looking for pieces that are 1 to 2 inches long and 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of vinegar sauce to the pork and combine.

Toast your buns, if you’d like, add some mayonnaise to one side of the bread (yum), mound the pulled pork on the bun and top with coleslaw. Devour!

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I’m a bit behind on writing this post because I’ve been pretty busy the last few days. Monday night my refrigeration guy was able to come by and I didn’t get home until 7:30, which was a 13 hour day for me. I’m not complaining though because he is always fun to talk with. Tuesday night I ended up getting home late as well and once I was done working out I didn’t have the energy to do anything. I did sit in front of the TV and watched Tori and Dean with Nancy, don’t tell anyone thought! It’s a pretty funny show. Dean cracks me up.

We’ve had a bit of a reprieve at work this week after the large caterings over the weekend. We usually do two to four lunch caterings each day, but for the past two days we’ve only had a few. It’s fortunate in one way as we all needed the rest after last week. Unfortunately the catering business is fifty percent of our revenue so all-in-all it’s bitter sweet! Nice to have a slow few days, but not so nice when you run the totals at the end of the day.

On the positive side I just booked a 200-person lunch for next week which will go a long way in making up any shortfall from this week. Part of the menu will include 80 grilled pieces of lemon-herb chicken. I will definitely have to give Megan the “Chicken Mastery” certificate after this. Hahaha.

So before I get to the recipe I did want to post a few pictures of our place. The first one is from this past weekend when we were putting together boxed lunches. I think we literally had every table in the restaurant and most of the chairs, covered with the boxes.

This one covers a little larger area. If you look to the back left you can see a storage room and the mixer. If you can believe it, I almost can’t, this is where our baker Joannie stands most of the day, in that very tiny spot and makes hundreds of cookies, dessert bars, cupcakes, crisps, pies etc.

So getting back to the reason for this post… a few weeks ago Nancy picked up some cedar planks for me because I wanted to try them out for grilling salmon. Seemed pretty easy. Nancy was going to make corn chowder and I would make the salmon. I stopped at my new favorite place, Whole Foods, and picked up a pound and a half of wild salmon and headed home.

On the back of the plank package there was a recipe for a rub that I changed because I knew it would be too salty. The recipe was super easy and it tasted great. The smoke from the plank was awesome, not overpowering at all. You can find the corn chowder recipe (it was excellent) at Nancy’s blog http://dishingup.wordpress.com.

I will definitely use the planks again with salmon. I didn’t have to worry about flipping the salmon or putting the filets in tinfoil. The flavor was great, cleanup was simple and all in all it was a keeper. I will continue to experiment with rubs and marinades though.

If you have any experience cooking with planks please share them!

Spiced Rubbed Salmon on a Cedar Plank (serves four)

Ingredients

Rub

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salmon

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh salmon filets with skin on
  • 2 cedar planks
  • Honey for drizzling

Soak the planks in water for one to two hours before starting.

Preheat your grill to 350 to 375 degrees, medium-low heat. In a small bowl combine all the rub ingredients. Rub the salmon with a moderate amount of the prepared rub and set aside.

Place the planks on the grill and heat for a few minutes. Using tongs turn over the planks and place one piece of salmon on each plank. Close the lid and cook for 13 to 18 minutes depending on thickness of the salmon. You are looking for an internal temp of 135 degrees. You can also judge by touch and sight. It will be flaky, opaque and fairly firm to the touch.

Drizzle with honey and devour immediately.

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First off, let me start by saying one word, “WOW”. Okay, one more word, “GREAT”. These are the words that sounded off at the table last night!

Being Italian I’ve made multiple versions of gnocchi in the past few years. In fact it was one of the first things I attempted to cook when I started this whole “cooking quest”. Jacob and I have made at least 4 or 5 different versions in the past year. We have baked the potatoes, with salt and without salt, boiled the potatoes, put them through a ricer and through a food mill. We have made them with bolongese sauce, with cream sauce and browned butter. So in other words, we have made our share of gnocchi.

Last year I was looking through Thomas Keller’s book “Bouchon”. I noticed a recipe for gnocchi that didn’t use any potato, but used a dough made with flour, butter and boiling water. At the time I had no idea what this was all about, but vowed to make it one day. I vaguely remember Nancy telling me then what the dough was, but I was lost in thought at the time, or maybe I wasn’t really paying attention. Sorry my love!

A few weeks ago I was looking through the “Cafe Beaujolais” cookbook from Mendocino, California and another gnocchi recipe caught my eye. This one too had the same dough in it. What was this stuff? So yesterday I told Nancy and our baker Joannie about it and asked them for details on this mystery dough. At exactly the same time they both said in a loud voice from two sides of the restaurant, “that’s a choux pastry, a pâte à choux”. Then Joannie, who is Italian, said “Gnocchi, that’s not gnocchi! Well I guess you could call it a gnocchi,” as she made quote marks with her fingers in the air.

So I started to do some research on what a pâte à choux is. Here is what I found… It is a versatile dough of flour, water, butter and eggs distinguished by the fact that the flour is combined with the butter and water and partially cooked before the eggs are added to it. The resulting dough, which puffs when it bakes, has a light and elegant texture. It is used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, éclairs, French crullers, beignets, and gougeres.

I was excited. I get to try something new and adventurous… new dough, new fancy name, piping bag.. yeah! All I had to do was get out of the restaurant at a reasonable time so I could get home, work out and make dinner before I fell over with exhaustion and delayed my cooking for another day!

It was going to be questionable since our refrigeration guy was supposed to be coming at 4:00 to do regular preventative maintenance on all of the refrigerators and freezers and display cases. He’s a great guy and often times after he finishes we end up spending an hour hanging out and trading stories. For the record, refrigeration has been the bane of my restaurant-owning existence. If it’s not one thing breaking it’s another. There is nothing worse than coming in in the morning to find out that $500 of product has to be thrown out because a compressor froze up and stopped working overnight. Fortunately Nancy found this guy 6 months ago and he has kept everything in tip top shape since.

He is a very busy guy though and I was hoping he would call me to reschedule so I could take off and get home… fortunately or maybe unfortunately, not sure, he did and I was out of there like a rocket ship blasting off.

Nancy was going to be gone with her running group so it was going to be all me. She would get home in time to eat the results, but if something went wrong it was going to be up to me to figure it out. Fortunately nothing went wrong, in fact other than dropping a half cup of flour all over, things went smoothly.

The dish was incredibly rich, the gnocchi were light and airy. In fact the texture was what I have only dreamed of when making traditional potato gnocchi. I can’t wait until we have our next dinner party, because I’m going to make this for the first course. I think I will present them in a small ramekin with just about 12 pieces per person. What a way to start a dinner… I’ll have Nancy do the main course since I’m not sure I can top them!

All I can say is make these as soon as you can. You will love them and so will your family or guests. These as a primi, maybe Osso Bucco as the main and a tiramisu for dessert. WOW!

Baked Gnocchi with Prosciutto & Gorgonzola (serves 4)

(adapted from the Cafe Beaujolais Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 stick butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1.5 oz. chopped prosciutto (put in the freezer for 15 minutes before chopping)
  • 4 oz flavorful cheese (Stilton, Gorgonzola, Muenster) I used half Gorgonzola and half Muenster

Fill a 6 quart pan 3/4 full of water and bring to boil. You are going to par-cook the gnocchi in this water, meaning you will drop them into the boiling water for a bit, then finish cooking in the oven.

In a medium-sized pan, place 1 cup of cold water and butter and bring to a boil. You want the butter to be melted fully just as the water boils.

Add salt to flour and then add the flour/salt mixture to the water all at once. Remove the pan from the heat and beat with gusto with a wooden spoon or whisk, to make a smooth paste.

Put the pan back on the stove, with medium heat, and dry the paste by scraping it toward you with the wooden spoon or a spatula, flipping the paste over. Keep the paste moving to dehydrate it. The less water remaining, the more readily the paste will absorb the eggs. (I did this part for 2 or 3 minutes.)

The paste with steam, form a film on the bottom of the pan, and butter will glisten on the surface.

Remove pan from the heat. Add whole eggs, one at a time. Each time an egg is added, the paste with appear to separate. Continue to beat with the wooden spoon and it will come back together.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Put the finished paste in a pastry bag, cut off enough of the end so that when you push through the dough it will be about 3/4 inch thick. Hold a knife or clean scissors in one hand, the pastry bag in the other over the boiling water. Squeeze and cut after 1 inch of paste emerges. The knife or scissors may get gummy, so you can dip them in the boiling water to clean.

The dumplings will fall into the water and sink to the bottom. When they rise to the top they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon to a buttered plate.

Butter a medium-sized 8×8 inch baking dish and pour enough cream to coat bottom. Cover with the chopped prosciutto, half the cheese, then the gnocchi, then the remaining cheese and finally the remaining cream. Bake for about 1hour until cream is mostly absorbed and gnocchi turn golden. Eat right away.

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Tri Tip is one of my go-to’s when I want meat for dinner and leftovers to make sandwiches or put on a salad the next day. You can prepare it in under an hour with limited hands on time, and have a very filling and satisfying meal. Best of all, you can usually pick it up for around five dollars per pound which is much less than many other cuts of beef. If you have never tried it, then you are missing out.

Tri Tip was the first meat I was entrusted with, to cook, for the restaurant. We have many different recipes that take advantage of tri tip for our catering division and most include using a dry rub, grilling and then slicing very thin on our slicer. We constantly receive incredible feedback about our results and thus I was super stressed when Nancy asked me to grill 10 tips for a catering one night. She had to work another catering and I was pretty much the only one who had the the time to get it done.

I wasn’t worried about the rub, the recipe was written down. But I was worried about overcooking the meat. Now to be fair, I had made some at home in the past, but never with this type of pressure. To make matters worst I didn’t have access to anyone else, I was all alone.

Things ended up working out fine… mostly because I paid attention to a few important details that I want to pass along. First off, after rubbing the meat I let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes so it would warm up a bit and cook the middle faster.

Second I sometimes setup a two stage fire on the grill, with the back two burners turned to high and the front turned down to very low. This allowed me to position the tips that are thicker on one end, with the thinner portion over the low heat, thus I didn’t overcook the thin part while trying to get the thick part up to temperature. If the tip your purchased is fairly consistent in thickness, don’t worry about it!

Lastly I used an instant read thermometer. I knew that I want the meat to be 130 degrees when I pulled it off, with a target internal temp of 135 degrees after it rested. Now I will admit that I had to use that thermometer much more when I started then I do now, but I will tell you there is no shame in using it. It is much better than slicing a piece open, letting out the juices, so you can take a gander at what the inside looks like.

So with all this said, last night I decided to grill some tri tip, make some aioli and grilled corn on the cob. The tri tip recipe was inspired by the Niman Ranch Cookbook along with the aioli. The corn was out of my head, but it is pretty darn basic. I wanted to use a marinade instead of a dry rub tonight, thus the use of someone else’s recipe as my building block. I’ve still not convinced myself to let out the Dish secret rub recipe, maybe in the future.

I can tell you though that Nancy and I have eaten quite a bit of tri tip and no recipe would make it onto this blog if it didn’t past muster with both of us. This one did. The aioli was a perfect complement to the simply seasoned meat

If you follow these simple tips and practice a bit, you will soon be making some killer tri tip.

Grilled Tri Tip with Black Olive Aioli (serves 3 to 4)

  • 1 tri tip steak, approximately 2.5 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pitted oil-cured black olives
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Place steak in a small, nonreactive baking dish. Combine the olive oil, rosemary and black pepper in a small bowl and stir well. Rub the mixture evenly over the tri tip. Cover with plastic and wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or up to 24 hours. (I marinated the steak for about 1.5 hours on the counter while working out, tasted great).

Remove the tri tip from the refrigerator for 1.5 hours before cooking.

Prepare and light a charcoal grill for direct grilling, or heat gas grill on high. While the grill is warming up start the aioli.

Aioli

  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup olive oil

To make the aioli in a food processor, place the garlic and salt in the work bowl and process to chop as finely as possible. Wipe down the sides of the food processor to push the pieces back to the bottom. Add the mustard and lemon juice and pulse to combine. Add the egg yolks and, with the motor running, add the olive oil in a SLOW, thin, steady steam until all of it has been incorporated and the mixture is thick and completely emulsified.

Add the olives to the aioli, mix and season with cayenne to taste. I used a few dashes!

When the grill is ready, remove the tri tip from the marinade and season with a liberal amount of kosher salt on both sides. The more the better, don’t be shy. Place the steak on the cooking grate directly over the coals, cover the grill, and cook, turning once, for 18 to 24 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 130 degrees for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Now grill the corn.

Shuck the corn, place the corn on a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Turn to coat. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter for basting the corn as it’s cooking. I just melted the butter in the microwave, quick and easy. Place corn on the grill, grill for 6 to 8 minutes, turning every few minutes and basting with butter.

The meat should be ready to cut now. You will want to cut it into thin slices, across the grain of the meat. Serve with aioli, which was awesome!

Let me know what you guys think and how you cook your tri tip steak!

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