I cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.
I put at least a couple of cups of Malbec or merlot in my spaghetti sauce. As I’m sipping on a wee glass, of course. A little splash of white wine with butter and capers makes a lovely sauce for chicken cutlets. Quality control must be maintained at all times. Never put wine in food that you wouldn’t also drink. So I do. Now that Noah is home he’s helping in the kitchen. That’s cut into my wine supply quite a bit. We both like to cook with wine. It must be inherited.
Making marinades with wine is one of its highest and best uses. If you’ve bought any bottled marinades, take a look at the ingredients. You might as well make your own. Any words you can’t pronounce on the label? If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it. Bottled marinades also have a lot of sodium and some of them contain high fructose corn syrup.
But I digress. I got a 1950s itch for shish kabob the other night and broke out some filet pieces left over from breaking down a whole tenderloin. Yes, I am just that good. I butcher my own whole tenderloin. I used this red wine marinade that just deepens the beefy flavor of the meat. I believe a had a couple of sips of the red wine without all the other ingredients just to make sure it hadn’t turned to vinegar. Actually, I cannot fib. There’s never enough left over wine in my house to turn to vinegar.
Use this marinade on any cut of beef or lamb. Have a glass or two of Pinot Noir while you make it. I cook with wine.
Of course, I can’t talk about the actual competition. The series starts tonight but my episode doesn’t air until Sept. 3. So mum’s the word lest the Travel Channel pulls up to 5117 with a 54-foot moving van to take away my house.
But I can talk about the unlikely scenario that landed me on this national show to begin with.
As is many times the case, it’s not what you know but who you know and I know Danielle Dimovski. She’s a fellow Char-Broil All Star Blogger and has her own hit show on the Travel Channel – BBQ Crawl. And she sent me a message: “You ought to apply to American Grilled.”
I like grilling. Actually, I love grilling. I do it almost every night. And I love reality shows. I have never missed a single episode of Survivor and I’m not ashamed of that. So a timed competition that involves grilling? How hard could that be?
But I am probably one of 8,000 people applying for this so I do not get my hopes up as I fill out the extensive online questionnaire and hit the “send” button.
I am at the CRC warehouse, with the cement plant going full bore across the street, when the phone rings. I can barely hear the male voice on the other end. It’s some dude in New York City wanting to ask me some questions about American Grilled. They are questions that require some bravado on my part, explaining why I’m God’s gift to grilling. I fake it.
“What’s you’re favorite thing to grill?” he asks. I search my memory bank for some outlandishly difficult ingredient.
“Steak.” Really, can’t you come up with anything more impressive?
Perfectly grilled filet mignon topped with herb butter
I grill a really good steak. See? So I embellish and tell him I also make a red wine reduction. That sounds marginally better. The dude hangs up and I figure that is that.
It’s a delightful young lady in California a few weeks later. She wants to ask me more questions about American Grilled, including that annoying one about my favorite thing to grill. Steak. I say steak again. What is my issue? Nobody is going to put you on national television because you know how to grill a steak. Why didn’t I say alligator or water buffalo? She hangs up and, once again, I surmise that this will be the end of the road.
I am sitting on a bench outside the Little Brothers Shell Station in Brentwood, waiting to get my tire changed. It’s another delightful young lady in New York. “I am happy to tell you that have you have been selected to compete on American Grilled.” I am stunned. What does this actually mean? I have been told nothing about how this works other than I am expected to show up in Memphis in a few weeks. “Is there anything I need to do to prepare other than be hysterical?” I ask her. “No, that’s about it,” she says. “Oh, and don’t tell anyone you’re doing this.”
Don’t tell anyone I’m doing this?
So I haven’t until now. The producers say I can now tell my friends and family I am going to be on American Grilled. I can now tell you that I competed on my birthday and that it involved torrential rain and the very real possibility of tornadoes. And it involved grilling. Have I told you I grill a pretty good steak?
When Noah was born in 1992, we sent out birth announcements naturally (today you’d just post it on Facebook).This is what the announcement said:
Mark and Catherine Mayhew
are proud to announce the arrival
of the newest Tennessee Volunteer
“Class of 2014″
Noah Chapin Mayhew
Yesterday, my boy graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in public relations. Sometimes magic happens.
So this is my love letter to my son upon the beginning of his life as a fully functioning adult. I hated writing that by the way. It’s those “roots and wings” things.
Noah, yesterday could not have been more magical to me and not because of the birth announcement. You took Daddy and I to the Communications Building where you’d spent long hours learning and studying. We ran into the Dean and he knew you well. That speaks volumes. You do stand out in a crowd. We watched you get a Special Citation from the Russian Department for your joyful involvement in the Russian program. How many kids your age…I’m sorry, adults…know how to make pelmeni and whirl like a mad man performing Russian dances? Not a one I know about. Plus your teacher – the beautiful Masha – has pronounced you fluent in Russian.
Then we watched you graduate. Noah Chapin Mayhew “walked.” One doesn’t graduate these days. One walks. With purpose and confidence, I might add.
And I handed you the birth announcement. A younger Noah would have winced. But an older, wiser and mature Noah knew that photo with that announcement meant everything. Have I mentioned I have now started crying, oh, seven times in the last 10 minutes. Bad Mommy.
So meanwhile, Granbunny was getting ready for the graduation party. I am hard-pressed to say who is more OCD about entertaining, but I believe I’ll give it to Noah’s grandmother. She painfully allowed plastic plates instead of china (no paper!) but stood her ground on real silverware (no plastic!). She spent the afternoon searching for a six-foot serving table (not five, not seven) and went to three different places before she found it. When Noah and his guests arrived, it was perfect.
I grilled sirloin burgers (not regular hamburgers!). We drank beer and wine. There was convivial adult conversation. It was perfect.
Granbunny, Mum, Noah and Masha
I am not saying what I want to say as eloquently as I want to say it. I’m sure every parent dreams of this moment when their child launches. When he or she has put in incredible hours and hard work to achieve. When they learn that good enough isn’t great and they want great. When the whole world is opened up to them because they’ve prepared to step into it.
Noah Balboa, your father, Granbunny and I could not be prouder of you. We could not love you more. We think we might have done a pretty good job, but the end results are all yours.
This is not your grandmother’s pressure cooker. And it can’t put your eye out. And it is the latest version of a steam digester that was invented in 1679 by French physicist Denis Papin. It is my newest toy and I am besotted.
I had not even considered getting another pressure cooker. My first one could put your eye out. But then I was watching Iron Chef America and Alton Brown or someone said the chefs who compete all use them for slow-cooking meats like pork butts and briskets in under an hour.
So King Daddy and I bought a pressure cooker. And read the instruction manual thoroughly. Even though it’s not the deadly weapon it used to be, I had some concerns about the average pressure cooker user. The booklet had a lot of warnings. YOU SHOULD NEVER ATTEMPT TO OPEN THE LID WHILE PRESSURE COOKING. Yes, it was in all caps. Why would you do that? What person does not understand the concept of pounds of pressure trapped in a pot? Or: “The Keep Warm setting should not be used for more than 12 hours.” Twelve hours? Is that the pressure cooking version of the Viagra warning to call your doctor if you have an erection that lasts more than four hours? And: “Do not operate your appliance in an appliance garage or under a wall cabinet.” What’s an appliance garage? I want one. But not for my pressure cooker. I’ve been warned.
So beautiful food photo alert. One is coming. Even though King Daddy and I completely botched my first attempt in 30 years at using a pressure cooker. I made beef stew. Browned the meat in the cooker, added onions and garlic, red wine and beef stock. Closed that baby up, hit “high pressure” and waited for the magic to happen. There was a tremendous amount of steam coming out of the top. We did not question that until 40 minutes had gone by and we realized we had the pressure limit valve in the wrong position. The possibility of completely burned beef stew was there. But it wasn’t. It was lacking a little moisture since all the broth had evaporated, but we just added more broth and wine and pressure cooked it again.
It was utterly delicious, incredibly tender and moist. I love this thing. I am my very own Iron Chef. And I am going to be out of control, I can tell. Tonight, smothered pork chops. Tomorrow, carnitas. I am going to have to start taking meat presents to the neighbors.
So back when it was bitter cold (about three days ago), I decided to make chili. What’s more comforting? And I looked up Bobby Flay’s recipe for Red Beef Chili. Something different. Something gourmet. And, as it turned out, something completely impossible for me to accomplish.
I have a short attention span and I realized that a recipe with 20 ingredients was never coming off my stove. Especially because my beloved Publix does not carry a lot of the ingredients he calls for in the recipe. It’s okay – let Bobby Flay be Bobby Flay. He’s a really great chef. But here’s what he wanted me to scour the greater Nashville area to find:
Thai bird chile: I know of one place that has them and that’s the Interasian Market. And they are growing on a tree by the check-out stand. I do not believe they are meant for the patrons to pick.
Cascabel chile powder: I have never heard of it.
Chipotle pepper puree: I can only guess at what this is. There is no recipe within the recipe for it.
Pasilla chile powder: No idea.
New Mexican chile powder: I would like to travel to New Mexico to find some but that would add another $1,239 to the cost of the ingredients what with the plane ticket and hotel room.
Plus the recipe requires an immersion blender, which I do not have. I would like one. If anyone out there wants to gift me one, I’ll go back and try this again.
However. HOWEVER. I got maybe halfway there. I used the round steak. I used the beer reducing with the beef in the pan (great idea – so many other applications). I used the chiles I could find (poblano and jalapeno). But, the good Lord forgive me, I added beans to the chili. I know, I know.
Part of creating a recipe is taking someone else’s good ideas and manipulating them into your own good idea. This chili is a good idea. King Daddy ate three bowls of it. And, always a good thing, it freezes beautifully.
1 poblano pepper, cored, seeds and veins removed and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeds and veins removed and diced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 package of mild chili seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken stock
2 15.5-ounce cans kidney beans, undrained
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Heat the oil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium high heat.
Salt and pepper the beef chunks and add them to the pot in small batches, browning all sides. Add the cumin and stir it into the beef for one minute. Add the beer and bring it to a boil. Continue boiling until the beer has been reduced to the point that it is only a thick glaze on the meat. Remove the meat and reserve.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pot and throw in the red onion, poblano pepper and jalapeno pepper. Saute until the onion is beginning to turn brown. Add the beef back to the pot along with the tomato sauce, chili seasoning, salt, chicken stock and kidney beans.
Put the pot in the oven and pot’s lid slightly ajar. Cook for 3-4 hours until the beef is fork tender and easily shreds.
First, I would just like to say that I hope the Ryman Auditorium is available for Gail Kerr’s funeral because First Presbyterian Church Downtown is not going to hold all the people who will want to attend. Side note: For those of you who don’t know, Gail was a prominent and beloved columnist for The Tennessean and tonight you can barely get a word in edgewise praising her on Facebook (for which, I am slightly certain, she would be mortified).
Second, I would like to note that this sucks. Gail would concur. The thought had occurred to her that the end might be sooner than later (we talked about it at lunch a few weeks ago). But it was not the game plan.
You will have to indulge me. I am having a glass of wine. Gail would be – and I hope is – doing the same right now. So let’s take a little stroll down Memory Lane.
1997. The Tennessean. I am the assistant managing editor for news and Gail is a team leader (she wrangled a group of 5-6 reporters). The city editor leaves and I promote Gail to city editor. It was the job of her dreams. And she was a dream of a city editor.
Dang it. I just started crying again. Stop it.
So, we were partners in crime. Human Resources would have been appalled. So many things we did not share with them. I won’t go into them here. She took that to the grave and I will, too. But I will share we had a little ritual when someone we didn’t like left the paper. They would resign, just the leave taker, me and her in my office. We would look very sad. They would exit and I would close the door. And then we had this mini-wave using just our fingers flapping toward our palms. And we would laugh and say, “Bye bye.”
We shared many a night at a local bar drinking wine. Probably ill advised. She was bawdy and smart and compassionate. And here’s the most important thing you need to know about Gail Kerr. She was loyal. After I was essentially booted out of The Tennessean, a lot of so-called friends faded away, my perceived power gone. Not Gail. It did not even cross her mind, for which I will be eternally grateful.
Did I mention Gail was a dribbler? It actually was a joke. We’d eat lunch and no matter the food or the utensil, at some point a drop of food would land on her blouse. Each and every time. She finally found those Tide instant wipe-up things and that helped enormously.
So then she got sick. And it never occurred to me that she wouldn’t get well again. The good die young? No, no, no. When we had lunch at the Turnip Truck a few weeks ago, she filled her plate and ate every scrap. I hadn’t seen her do that in two years. I was encouraged and I told her so. She said she wasn’t afraid of dying, just the process. And I told her I felt in my heart that it wasn’t her time yet. I hate to be wrong. So did she.
Gail was also a very good cook. Here’s your Gail tip: On the weekends, she would fire up the grill and cook chicken, sausage, pork chops, whatever. And then store it in the fridge to use later in the week. Smart cookie.
I wish I had a better ending to a story that has a heart-breaking end, particularly for her husband, Les. It’s nice to go on and on talking about Gail’s legacy and her professionalism on Facebook. And it’s all true. But at the end of the day, this day, one of the few people who had a truly nice, selfless and compassionate soul has flown the coop. I am glad I am a religious person, as was she. I know there’s some splatter of pulled pork on her blouse right now. Tide clean-ups not necessary.
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne powder to taste
1 green pepper, sliced into strips
1 medium onion, sliced into strips
Cut the steak into strips and brown in vegetable oil in two to three batches so the meat has room to brown and form a nice crust. Set aside.
Combine the ketchup, water, bouillon cube, soy sauce, flour and seasonings. Add that to the skillet you browned the meat in and simmer for five minutes. Add the meat back and simmer on low heat for 90 minutes. Add the green pepper and onion while you cook the rice.
Serve the pepper steak over rice.
This is a 1970s Southern Living recipe that never fails. It’s awesome – makes the house smell good, the cook can drink and watch Dancing With the Stars (Go, Donny!) while it’s cooking, it’s cheap and the round steak ends up totally tender.
I have made this for years, as did my mother and sister.
Or as we say in the South, Steak aw Poov-ree. Or some such.
We are not very good at pronouncing some things. Like instead of Versailles, Kentucky, it’s “Ver-sales.” And Lebanon, Tennessee, is “Leb-nun.” But we slap know how to light things on fire and this recipe features a spectacular flaming pan with cognac in it. And I am giving you this piece of advice right off the bat. If you have a limited height from your stove to your vent, as I do, do not attempt to light this on the stove unless you don’t care a wit about incinerating the microwave oven above it.
You’re so ’50s if you remember this recipe, but if you’ve never heard of it you need to go retro. There are few things easier to make that produce such an elegant finish. We had this for supper Friday night to reward King Daddy for a long week of sawing up a bunch of pine branches and hauling them down the hill to the road after a killer ice storm. I did not participate in that effort. Payback was slightly expensive, but it was also delicious.
Liberally sprinkle the steaks with salt on both sides, then heavily coat with the coarse black pepper.
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the steaks and sauté them until they are well browned on both sides, about four minutes or 135 degrees internal temperature for medium rare.
Remove the steaks to a warm plate and tent with foil to rest for about five minutes.
Drain any excess butter and oil from the pan but do not remove the crispy bits. Turn off the stove and take the pan to a counter protected with a wooden cutting board (unless you have granite counters). Add the cognac and ignite with the long-nosed lighter.
After the flames have disappeared, put the pan back on the stove and add the beef broth. Cook over medium high heat until the broth has reduced by half and then add the cream. Mix thoroughly and serve the sauce over the steaks.
Yes, I am well aware that St. Patrick’s Day was Monday. But I have to tell you what I was doing on Monday so you will understand my tardiness.
We move a lot of surplus inventory from the corporate world to the nonprofit world at the Community Resource Center every year. And Monday we were clearing out a three-story law office. What a zoo. The way it works is that we coordinate nonprofits coming to pick up stuff, in this case massive law office furniture. This particular office was in downtown Nashville with no loading zone. So I staggered the five nonprofits at different times.
First one came and went without a hitch. Second one screwed me up entirely by arriving four hours late, at the same time the third agency was arriving. Block entire alley. Much yelling, by me, at late agency. I make them back their truck out. They’re pissed but they want stuff so they wait.
Security guard repeats to me, oh, about 20 times that we can only turn the key in the freight elevator to load and unload. If we turn it at any other time he will take it away from us. This is in a completely vacated building with no other living souls on any of the floors. Then he comes up the passenger elevator and starts yelling at us not to use it to move out furniture because passengers need it. There are no tenants at all – not even one – in this building.
Fortunately the Sushi Nazi is located next to the building. I am warned not to go there for lunch because he is mean. I go anyway.
I know Sam is mean because King Daddy used to eat there and he told me tales. Sam is a one-man-sushi- band and when he’s busy there’s no time for niceties. You’d better know what you want and you’d better bring exact change because Sam can’t make change while he’s making sushi. “You want customer service or food?” he asks.
While Sam will tell you where to sit or, in some cases, that you’re not allowed to sit, he does require that only good people come to his establishment. There’s a sign to that effect on the door and another one that warns you that he takes his time making your order. There’s an average wait time of 15 to 30 minutes (I know that because there’s a hand-printed sign for that, too).
So the entire day I was yelled at by a crazy security guard, ran interference between competing nonprofits fighting over conference room chairs and being verbally abused by the Sushi Nazi (he did let me sit down). I did not have time to make the corned beef and cabbage. But here it is in all it’s glory and I have a few tips for you.
First of all, I don’t cook the corned beef, cabbage and potatoes in one pot. I like to season each part of the dish (that sounds too fancy, but it’s true). And you have to be patient with the corned beef. It’s done when it’s fall-apart tender. Sometimes that takes three hours and sometimes longer. And, last, most people serve corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes. I like mashed. More opportunity to incorporate insane amounts of butter and sour cream into the potatoes.
Saint Patrick’s Day is not a holiday. It’s an irritation.
First, nobody gets off work. That is one of the definitions of a holiday to me. Then there are those creepy leprechauns. And the promise of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Hogwash. And the whole idea of pinching people who don’t wear green. Beyond annoying. Green beer. Just so wrong.
However, I am quite fond of corned beef and cabbage. My mother-in-law, Bunny, makes the best corned beef and cabbage in the world. But I can confidently say that my version, made entirely on the grill, is pretty spectacular and ridiculously easy. I wrote the recipe for Char-Broil so you will need to hop on over to the Char-Broil LIVE site to get it. Just one click. It’s worth it. Go on. Get over there.