Yesterday, we had a big family get together at our house – and grilled three tri-tip roasts on our Weber BBQ as one of the main courses. Roasting tri-tip in the oven is super easy – see my Lazy-S Oven Roasted Tri-Tip recipe) but it was a beautiful late Spring day and just called out for firing up the Weber and grilling instead.
For the meat, I picked up two plain tri-tips from our local meat market (Bianchini’s Market in Portola Valley) along with one of their dark, marinated versions (they sell four different tri-tip marinated versions – tough choice!) In total there was about 6 lbs of tri-tip.
For the fire, I used the local Lazzari Mesquite Charcoal – not the usual briquettes. The Lazzari is very chunky stuff – with pieces of charcoal of all sizes – and it adds great smoky flavor to the meats! I used the chimney starter to get it going and then added a couple of large chunks to the fire once I had emptied it out of the chimney starter.
The key to grilling tri-tip on the Weber is to have the coals only on one side of the grill – with the other side completely devoid of any coals. This provides a super-hot source of direct heat for searing the tri-tips and then a large area of indirect heat for finishing the grilling.
Once you’ve spread the charcoal over half of the grill, sear the roasts about 5-7 minutes on both sides. Then move them to the indirect heat area and let them cook over the indirect heat with the Weber top closed for another 20 or so minutes. Then, check the meat temperature with a meat thermometer – I removed ours yesterday at about 130 degrees – turned out just perfect for medium rare beef.
Importantly, wrap the tri-tips in foil and let them sit for another 15 minutes to allow the meat juices to reintegrate into the roast. Then slice thinly, across the grain, and serve. We had small buns for yesterday’s event – allowing mini sandwiches to be made – or not if you just wanted to taste the tri-tip by itself!
This afternoon, with family company coming, we needed to put something quick together for Saturday supper – and, as it turned out, we had a package of ground turkey in the fridge.
We also had a package of Trader Joe’s “Fire Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Butter Sauce” in the freezer. (These veggies are also our favorite as a base for a quick chicken and rice stir-fry!)
So, we tried a new variation on Elise’s Mom’s ground turkey recipe – using these ingredients we had on hand – along with an 8 oz can of Muir Glen Tomato Sauce that was in our pantry. The result was great – in about 20 mins – with a bit more liquid/sauce than in Elise’s original recipe. We served it over a package of Trader Joe’s brown rice – so easy to cook in 3 mins in the microwave. Very tasty indeed!
1 package Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Butter Sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 package ground turkey (we used 1.25 lb Foster Farms from Safeway)
1 tsp chipotle chili pepper
1 Tbsp dried Italian parsley
1 Tbsp dried cilantro
1 8 oz can of Muir Glen tomato sauce
1 packet Trader Joe’s Microwave Brown Rice
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the Fire Roasted Vegetables and cook until softened – about 5 minutes.
Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add the ground turkey to the skillet in small “chunks”, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chipotle chili powder. Add the Italian parsley and cilantro.
Cook the ground turkey until it is browned on one side, then turn over to cook on the other side. Add the tomato sauce.
When the turkey is cooked through (3-4 minutes), add back the vegetables and warm mixture. If serving with rice, cook the rice in the microwave for 3 mins.
To serve, spoon the rice into bowls and cover with the turkey/vegetable mixture.
This is a perfect recipe for a lazy Sunday afternoon! The short ribs need about 3 hours to cook – so start around 2 PM and you’ll be ready for a great dinner about 5:30 or 6 PM. Have a bottle of good Zinfandel handy – it’s a perfect match to this dish!
The inspiration for this recipe came from Giada De Laurentiis – but I made a bunch of modifications – basically to make it simpler and easier. I really don’t like recipes that use amounts that result in wasting portions of ingredients you buy in standard size packages. So, I adjusted – and simplified using some Trader Joe’s items – and the result was great!
3 Tbs olive oil
3 oz chopped pancetta (Columbus Salame package – available at Draeger’s)
2-1/2 lbs short ribs
1/4 cup flour
1 package Trader Joe’s Mirepoix (combination of chopped carrots, onions, and celery)
2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (prefer Muir Glen organic)
1 small can tomato paste (prefer Muir Glen organic)
1 Tbs Herbs de Provence
1 quart Trader Joe’s Organic Beef Broth
3/4 cup red wine
1 pound flat pasta – fettucine, tagliatelle (if you can find it), etc.
Season the short ribs with flour, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook the pancetta until golden brown – about four minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside.
Brown the short ribs in the same pot – on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Add the Mirepoix to the pot. Add the garlic and parsley. Cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables have softened a bit.
Add the diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir.
Add the Herbs de Provence, beef broth, and wine. Add back the pancetta and the short ribs. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and simmer for another 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Remove the short ribs and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season to taste.
Cook the pasta (8-10 minutes in boiling, salted water for dried pasta).
Drain pasta, combine into pot with meat and sauce. Stir.
Serve in bowls – optionally add 1 tsp shaved dark chocolate (we tried this – it was too much – we’d skip the dark chocolate!). Serve with a good Zinfandel!
For some weird reason, earlier this week I happened across an old Cooks Illustrated article about Slow-Roasted Beef (link works for those with subscriptions to their online edition).
Perhaps because of the current state of the economy or who knows why, I found the recipe particularly interesting – as it described a cooking technique for cheap beef roast cuts (eye-round, etc.) that made these normally tough roast cuts of beef turn out tender and delicious.
Earlier today we picked up a copy of one of those “Best of Fine Cooking” issues at the local market that included a recipe that caught our eye: Roast Beef with Balsamic Vegetables.
This is one of those super easy Saturday or Sunday afternoon dinner dishes. Basically, you slice a red onion, cut small red potatoes in half, mix them in some olive oil, rosemay, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and balsamic vinegar and combine with a well seasoned (kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, rosemary) beef roast in the same 9×13 Pyrex dish.
I went shopping early this afternoon for the “beef rump roast or top round roast” that the recipe called for. The butcher at our favorite local market (Bianchini’s Market in Ladera/Portola Valley) said he’d be happy to cut one of either of those for us but instead recommended their sirloin tip roast. Never one to turn down a professional’s recommendation, I bought a 3 lb sirloin tip roast and it turned out to be a great choice.
The original recipe called for fennel – but we don’t particularly like the fennel taste so we just left it out. We agreed that the next time we make it we’d either add more red onion or add shallots instead of the fennel. Not that it needed either – it was delicious the way we made it without the fennel! [Update: a friend suggests throwing in a few beets to roast as well – great idea!]
3 lb Sirloin Tip Beef Roast
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (we used Herbs de Provence instead)
Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
1-1/2 lb baby red potatoes, halved
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Thinly slice the red onion.
Wash and halve the red potatoes.
Toss onion and potatoes with 2 Tbs olive oil, 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper.
Brush the beef roast with 1 Tbs of olive oil and 1 Tbs of balsamic vinegar. Place roast into the center of a 9×13 Pyrex dish.
Spread the onion/potato mixture around the beef roast.
Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes until beef registers 125 degrees on instant-read thermometer.
Remove beef to cutting board – let rest for 10 minutes. Increase oven temp to 450 degrees and continue roasting vegetables for 10 minutes.
Thinly slice the beef and serve with the roast vegetables. A side salad goes nicely with this combination.
This baked penne dish has quickly become a favorite in our household – we first made it last weekend – and, in this modified version, again today.
It’s a great comfort food dish. Takes me about an hour to prepare it from start to serving. The inspiration for this recipe came from Lynne Char Bennett’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle titled “Dry Creek Zinfandel makes a penne-wise partner” – January 23, 2009.
I’ve modified the recipe to a) reduce the mushrooms, b) add red wine to the sauce, and c) simmering the sauce longer to reduce the extra liquid (from the wine addition) and concentrate its richness – along with some other minor tweaks. But the core of the recipe remains Bennett’s.
Olive oil (1-2 Tbsp)
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
1/2 pound lean (96/4) ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion (1 small onion)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms (cremini if available, otherwise just white)
2 tsp brandy (cheap will do fine!)
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (with basil, oregano – or Italian seasonings)
1 cup red table wine (Zinfandel preferred but any will do!)
1 tsp majoram (dried)
1 tsp oregano (dried)
1 tsp basil (dried)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Italian flat-leaf parsley (fresh, minced)
1-1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
Heat oil on large skillet over medium-high heat – I use a large, 12-inch All-Clad Stainless Nonstick Fry Pan. Brown sausage and ground beef, seasoning to taste. Break the meat up into smaller pieces as it browns.
After the meat is mostly browned, push the meat to one side of the skillet and add the onion – cook until translucent about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook briefly.
Add mushrooms to the onion-garlic mixture. Season to taste. Cook about 5 minutes until mushrooms are tender.
Stir together the meat and mushrooms. Add brandy and cook for about a minute.
Add the can of crushed tomatoes, the red wine, oregano, basil and marjoram to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. Let sauce simmer for 25-30 minutes until richer and thicker. Taste and adjust seasonings along the way.
While sauce is simmering, preheat over to 350 degrees. Boil salted water for the pasta – cook about 12 minutes in boiling water. Drain, mix into sauce along with the Parmesan cheese and the Italian parsley. Mix well together.
Spoon mixture into 9-by-13 inch casserole disk, top with the grated Gruyere cheese and bake for 15 minutes until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
A friend said he was making braised chicken for a family get together tonight – which naturally got me interested in exploring recipes for braised chicken!
I came across one – a modified Food & Wine recipe – at The Kitchen Sink. I’ve always loved apple cider – and this one looked interesting. So, we made our own version earlier this evening and really loved all of its flavors. We paired the chicken with some sauteed vegetables with a splash of balsamic vinegar and fresh lime juice – yum!
Here’s our version of Apple Cider Braised Chicken. Our version uses skinless chicken (lower fat, healthier!) along with simplified ingredients (a whole bottle of Martinelli’s cider, a full 32-oz package of free range chicken stock, etc.). It’s a great treat for a Saturday dinner at home or a Sunday afternoon with friends and family. Serves 4 as is – add a couple more chicken pieces to serve 6.
1 bottle (25.4 oz) Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider or 2-3/4 cups apple cider
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cups organic free-range chicken stock
1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat olive oil in large skillet. Season chicken with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, add to skillet and cook over medium heat about 7 minutes. Turn and cook another 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a platter for now.
Add onions to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened – about 5 minutes.
Add sage, bay leaves, and crushed red pepper to the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden – about 5 minutes.
Add the apple cider and simmer over moderately high heat for about 25 minutes until cider is significantly reduced and syrupy.
Add the apple cider vinegar and simmer for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken stock and chopped parsley to a French oven. Transfer the onion sauce to the French oven, arrange the chicken in the sauce – ensuring its covered by sauce.
Set the French oven, uncovered, in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Roast the chicken for 50-60 minutes until cooked through.
Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover with foil.
Set the French oven over high heat on the stove and boil the sauce until the liquid is reduced – about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a serving dish to serve with the chicken.
Enjoy the flavors!
Note: about 25 minutes before the chicken was ready to come out of the oven, we sauteed a mix of fresh vegetables with chopped garlic in olive oil and added a couple of splashes of balsamic vinegar and fresh lime juice at the end.
We’ll be hosting Christmas Eve again at our house this year – and we’re handling the just main courses while the rest of the family is bringing salads, side dishes, and desserts!
Last year, we were about to head for Hawaii for another family reunion – and didn’t cook anything! But, this year, we’re back with our favorites again: a combination of honey-baked ham along with our easy Lazy-S easy oven-roasted tri-tips.
We first shared our approach to this Christmas Eve menu back in 2005 – and we’ll be following the same approach this year. The honey-baked ham is basically just a warm up exercise – nothing complicated about preparing it.
For the tri-tips, we’ll have one plain (unmarinated) tri-tip along with a couple of marinated tri-tips. Our favorite local meat market (Bianchini’s Market in Portola Valley) highly recommends their Zinfandel-marinated tri-tips – so we’ll be giving them a try this year. But, the unmarinated version – with just lots of salt and pepper several hours ahead of roasting – is pretty special too!
See the directions here for how we like to prepare the tri-tips (in the morning) and then cook them (in the late afternoon)!
This year, as the cool fall weather has moved in and the daylight is fading faster, we’ve been experimenting with various chicken soup recipes to find one that really “hits the spot.” There is something special about chicken soup – for both health and attitude! After several tries and variations, we think this one is just about perfect – and now it’s famous!
It’s a great Saturday or Sunday late afternoon treat to make in the fall and winter months. Hope you enjoy it – let us know by posting a comment!
To make it easy, you can purchase the key ingredients from Trader Joe’s and make relatively quick work out of putting the soup together. Plan on 35-40 minutes or so to get this soup ready – with some additional time afterwards to let the soup’s temperature cool down enough for eating.
1 carton of Trader Joe’s Mirapoix (14.5 oz of diced carrots, onions, celery)
1/2 package of Trader Joe’s Diced Onions (5 oz of 10 oz package)
10 oz package of cremini mushrooms
48 oz of Trader Joe’s organic free range chicken broth (1 + 1/2 32 oz. cartons)
12 oz of diced chicken breast (either prepackaged or cooked chicken tenders)
8 oz cooked of your favorite small pasta (we cook a 1 lb. package of
pasta – put half into the soup and save the other half for pasta salad, etc.)
1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 cup non-fat milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Mini-saltine crackers to accompany
Bring a large pot filled with water and 1 Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook for recommended duration – in parallel with the steps below. Strain and set aside.
In another large pot (this one ends up holding the soup!), melt 1-1/2 Tbsp butter and mix with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
Add the Mirapoix and the diced onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft (10-15 minutes)
With the Mirapoix and diced onions are cooking, in a 10-inch fry pan, melt 1-1/2 Tbsp butter and mix with 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp minced garlic.
Add the mushrooms to the fry pan and sauté over medium heat for 8-10 minutes – then add mushrooms to large pot.
When the Mirapoix, onions and mushrooms are done, stir in the Herbes de Provence and the flour.
Add the chicken broth, diced chicken, garlic powder and onion powder. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes then reduce heat to low. Add the milk, lemon juice, and cooked pasta. Bring back up to a simmer for a final 5-10 mins.
Serve in soup bowls with mini-saltine crackers. Suggestion – save your tongue: wait at least 5 minutes after serving before tasting!